Shibden Hall is one of the numerous historic houses in Yorkshire and it is probably one of the most interesting. It is just outside Halifax, 1mi from the town centre. Shibden Hall is built on the top of a hill and it is surrounded by woods so it looks as if it were in the middle of the countryside. It can be reached by foot from Halifax station, or by bus (many buses stop on the main road to Halifax which is a bit downhill, including 508 and 255 from Leeds). Full-price admission £5.00, closed on Fridays, see website for details.
Entrance to the grounds is free. The park around the house is quite interesting, with nice views on the valley below. There is a lake, a café and a display of dry-stone buildings showing the techniques used in the area.
The house itself is not very big and it is very typical of the English Tudor house, with its timber framing and its not-so-symmetical appearance. It was built in several phases and it was later enlarged in Victorian times – from the outside the result is quite odd if not ugly. Nonetheless the main half-timbered front dates back to the Tudor period.
The inside is much more beautiful and charming. The entrance hall opens on a series of small rooms, covered with dark wooden panels. Each room is very quaint, with antique furniture and an intimate feeling. The original atmosphere was kept, and even though the house has belonged to the local council for many decades, it still looks as if the family were still around. The beams and wooden floors are quite wonky and creaky, which adds to the charm of the place. Almost all the rooms can be visited, from the kitchens to the bedrooms and the dining room.
A small exhibition presents the history of the house and its owners. Shibden Hall’s most famous resident was Anne Lister, an independent woman of the early 19th century who explored the Alps, Scandinavia and the Caucasus, and wrote long diaries about her trips and her lesbian relationships. Unfortunately, her library set in the odd Neogothic tower is the only part of the house that is closed to the public.
At the rear of the manor, visitors can explore the former outbuildings, with the stables, the servants’ quarters and a series of workshops – basketwork, cooperage, saddler. There is also a servants’ house. The main barn hosts a wonderful exhibition of old carriages – there are the local family’s vehicles, a sedan chair, a hearse and a gyspsy caravan.
Around Shibden Hall: