Banner of Horbury Bridge Post Office as used by John Olsen and Shirley Olsen
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Photo of Horbury Bridge Post Office Another Photo of Horbury Bridge Post Office
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The left picture was taken a couple of years after the right one

Horbury Bridge is situated on the River Calder on the main Huddersfield / Wakefield road. There has probably always been a bridge across the Calder at this point, but the first mention of one was in 1473. Presumably a settlement was established at this crossing. The deeds to the land on which the post office is built go back to 1653 when a Sir Gervaise Clifton gave the land to the Horbury Common Lands Trust, which is still in existance today. In 1958 the Trust sold the freehold to the land and it is now in my possession.

Prosperity of Horbury Bridge started with the building of the canal. The River calder is only navigable as far as Wakefield, but the canal linked Horbury and Horbury bridge in particular into the water ways to the North Sea. Initially it was coal and lime that was transported. In fact the Post office is built on the site of old lime kilns. But it was the advent of the woollen trade that enabled Horbury Bridge to really prosper. The canal now brought in coal for the new woollen mills that were being built and in return carried away the mill products.

Of course workers were needed by the mills and the workers needed houses. And so Horbury bridge grew and prospered. The Post ofice was built in 1860 as a shop. However with such rapid growth, law and order was sadly lacking. The people were a vigourous and rough generation.They worked very hard and played very hard. They played knur and spell, flew pigeons (they still do), fought cocks, coursed rabbits with whippets, gambled on anything and everything and drank prodigiously. There were, and still are, three pubs within a hundred yards of each other, but no place of worship whatsoever. The bridge was the meeting place. At night it was the 'red light area'. On Sunday mornings the men met to arrange dog races or cock fights and bet on the result. Theses matches took pace in the fields between the river and the canal. Although one Sunday morning it wasn't cocks but two women fighting. They'd had a domestic argument and met in the ring to settle the matter. By all accounts it was hot and exciting; they pulled out handfulls of hair and scratched each other's faces with their nails. It isn't recorded who was the winner.

And so it was to this place that a young curate, called Sabine Baring-Gould, arrived on the Monday after Whit Sunday in 1864. Accommodation was hard to find, but he managed to rent a small cottage next to a shop. He converted the downstairs room into a night school, and the bedroom into a chapel. In later years the cottage and the shop were made into one house. Part of the shop was converted into the Post office. The little church grew and grew until the Sunday services filled the whole house. In 1865 it was agreed that all the children should attend the parish church in Horbury on the Whit Sunday. And so Baring-Gould decided to write a processional hymn for the long march up Quarry Hill to Horbury. And so was written one of the finest hymns, 'Onward Christian Soldiers'.

While Baring-Gould lived in the cottage, he started a Savings Bank for the local people. This tradition is still maintained in the Post Office today. Much use is made of the National Savings Bank and also the Giro Bank. Other services are offered at the office now, including travel insurance and foreign currency, bill paying, as well as the normal postal services.

But what of Horbury Bridge itself? Well, gone are all the mills. But they have been superceded by all manner of light industry. From printing to computers to small specialised garages to sheet metal works to you name it, and we probably have it. One of the newest enterprises is a sauna. And the people? More sedate and godly than their ancestors, but still fiercely independent, proud of Horbury Brig, friendly and warm hearted. But these days there is a lot of new housing development, making the village larger again. And many of these new people are actually those, both old and young, who once left the village but have returned.

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