History of Clifton

“In 1565 John Armytage bought the land of Kirklees Priory (where Robin Hood is said to have been buried)”

Clifton is a small village near Brighouse in West Yorkshire, England. It is situated on the ridge on the north side of the River Calder.

The village has written records from 1086 when it was recorded in the Domesday Book. The entry reads ‘In Cliftone Escelf has seven carucates of land…where four ploughs may be…’The manor was one of two hundred manors granted by William the Conquerer to the Norman noble, Ilbert de Laci. The early Lords of the Manor lived at Clifton Hall (which was down Well Lane) and Cross Hall (later called Highley Hall). Remnants of the early ‘strip’ farming remain in the fields known as ‘The Acres’.

In 1565 John Armytage bought the land of Kirklees Priory (where Robin Hood is said to have been buried). He lived at Kirklees Hall to the east of Clifton and over the next century his descendants acquired almost all the adjoining land in Clifton and Hartshead. Members of the Armytage family were the Lords of Clifton for over 300 years.

The Armytages chaired many of the local committees and established charities for education and welfare. In the 18th century they established a ‘dole’ charity for needy tenants and a boarding school with free places for boys from the village; in the 19th century they built almshouses and later gave the land and stone for the building of St John’s Church, the vicarage and the school; in the 20th century they gave the land for the War Memorial and opened the Hall and grounds for village celebrations and garden parties.

For over two centuries the townships of Clifton and Hartshead were one parish with St Peter’s at Hartshead as the parish church. Clifton became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1887.

Clifton developed essentially as an agricultural village but was at one time a centre for wire-drawing, leather tanning and card-making for the production of woollen cloth. Surface coal was collected in the village from the 14th century but from the 1840s to the 1920s  this activity expanded and Clifton became a mining village with six coal mines and a complicated tramway system taking coal to the canal basin in Brighouse and Low Moor Ironworks. Miners came to live here from other parts of Yorkshire and beyond.

As people began to have more leisure time sport, music and concerts became important and centred around the church, the chapel and the three pubs, the Armytage Arms, the Black Bull and The Black Horse. The bowling, cricket and football teams were in local and county competitions. Clifton Band (later the Clifton and Lightcliffe band) and the Clifton Handbell Ringers were formed. Villagers made their own music and sometimes their own instruments and the tradition of faffen fuffen bands was started.

The Clifton Parish Council was abolished in 1937 and Clifton became part of the Borough of Brighouse. In 1974 Brighouse became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale.

Further Information


A history of the farms, Inns and Halls of Clifton, a West Yorkshire Village

Margaret Sharp, 2012


Glimpses of the History of Clifton, a West Yorkshire Village

Margaret Sharp, 2009