Engineers & Chocolatiers


At the end of June this year I shall be holding a new exhibition at Bankfield Museum in Halifax. I was invited as part of ‘Culturdale’ – a celebration of all things Calderdale.

We played around with all sorts of titles and themes. ‘The Industrialists’ – too formal. Too much about what’s gone. ‘Legacy’ – was met with much scoffing. “Too much mentioned in wills”. I was trying to come up with a title that was unique to Calderdale and what shaped it. One day I jokingly said “Okay – how about ‘Engineers and Chocolatiers”. That’s all the mills, all the bridges and the canals, and the factories. Toffee was invented in Halifax. Sweets are made in Elland. And they all laughed and said “YES!”. Who wouldn’t want to come and see an exhibition with chocolate in the title?

So… ‘Engineers & Chocolatiers” it is.

I have a big map of Calderdale on my studio wall and have spent months trying to find a way in to the project. The hall at Bankfield is big and daunting, and I have to fill it. I want the paintings to be about the whole of Calderdale; from Todmorden at one end to Brighouse at the other.

Here’s Todmorden. I tried to find all the landmarks – places that were important – and patchworked them together in some kind of logical order. The Town Hall always seems to be at the heart of the town, and everything else wraps around it. There’s the canal and the legendary Golden Lion. The market, the churches, Water Street.

I was at a Christmas concert at the Unitarian Church in December. My twins play in the junior band and they, along with many other groups, were there to raise money for the building. It was so cold (we all bought hot water bottles and blankets), but it was such a vast and joyful gathering. It was the whole of the community under one, leaky roof. But filled with singing and mulled wine and candles and fairy lights.

Next up was Halifax. For me The Piece Hall is the heart of the town. It’s a rare and beautiful thing, and it’s currently putting Halifax back on the map. Seriously – who’d have imagined a Marvel Movie, or Blondie and Bryan Adams coming to Halifax?

And then there are the buildings that are less loved but still so beautiful, like the old Art School on Queens Road. I think this may be the most complicated painting I’ve ever done. There were just so many incredible buildings to get in. Obviously the chocolate factory is important – and with the Quality Street association, I wanted an Elmer style patchwork of wrappers to form tiles at the bottom. There will be many places I’ve missed, but I did manage to get the Shay Stadium in there, and Eureka!, at the insistence of my children.

The Shay, in the arch on the left. Eureka. The Old Art School.

Christmas in my family is never quiet. We’re a big, close family, but we’re spread about. So after hosting Christmas in Hebden Bridge, we travelled around a lot, visiting family and friends. We spent a few days visiting an old haunt from my childhood. The last time we were there was pre-Covid and it seemed to be thriving. Definitely ‘on the up’ as they say. But I was horrified at how desolate it’s become in the last 4 years. 65% of the shops empty. Building projects begun and abandoned. It was so sad. And walking to the heart, I saw how no one cared about where they lived any more.

I know I’m an outsider. I’m an ‘offcumden’. But sometimes it takes an outsider to notice. Calderdale is spectacular. Being proud of where you live is so important. I decided, driving back North after Christmas, that this whole exhibition is about being proud of where we live.

Now, I know my corner of Calderdale well, but I need some help identifying where is important to the communities of towns I know less well. I would really appreciate some help. I’m planning paintings of the following places and would love some suggestions:


Sowerby Bridge


Greetland and Elland

Rishworth and Ripponden

As well as the towns, i would like to paint the moors as well, so If anyone has suggestions for

Heptonstall Moor

Luddenden Dean

The Shibden Valley

Norland Moor

Elland Moor

Either comment, or email me. I’d be very grateful.

I’m taking this Halifax painting to a school in Shelf this afternoon. I want to see how many places they recognise.

16 thoughts on “Engineers & Chocolatiers

  1. Hi Kate

    I grew up in Queensbury just above the Shibden Valley and some stand out landmarks for me are the Shibden Mill Inn, Scout Hall (a calendar house and impressive building), the old pack horse trails and impressively high dry stone walls. It’s also a very green valley with meadows, woodland and water.

    I hope that helps!

  2. Rishworth and ripponden
    Ripponden Bank
    Bridge Inn
    The church
    Baitings Dam plus the 2 bridges in drought.
    Rishworth School
    The old railway line
    Rishworth Moor
    Soyland Town

  3. Norland moor is wonderful. Gives outstanding views of surrounding areas
    Shibden Valley also picturesque and synonymous with Gentleman Jack of course
    Elland and Brighouse both have interesting history. Not sure what your approach would be

  4. Hi Kate, here’s my twopenneth!
    Field House in Sowerby Bridge/Triangle is beautiful
    The Puzzle Hall Inn / Sowerby Bridge our oldest pub!
    The Church in the centre of Sowerby Bridge
    I’ve not seen any statuary in your work, but there’s a delightful little statue of a man and boy opening the lock gates near to Wharf Garage.

    I’m delighted that you’re using your wonderful talent to showcase our area.
    Best regards

  5. Thank you so much Linda! I will find these places – definitely. Though the church is in already. I want to put that amazing magnolia with it too. It’s such a highpoint of Spring. x

  6. Thank you Rachael. I need to do some research. I only know Ripponden from the Calderdale Way. I need a warmer day and a sketch book, and a trip. x

  7. I’ve never seen the calendar building, though I’ve been told about it. Thank you for this. Come on spring – i need walking weather. x

  8. Elland of course has the lovely Hullenedge Park with his soldier statue, and lovely trees, plus the Rex Cinema – renowned all over Halifax, and the Overgate hospice which is a lovely building with beautiful gardens, plus some lovely hills around with sheep! There is a cricket club with many a match played there plus football pitches galore….In addition of course is Dobsons sweet factory and the newly forming market square with its old fountain. (should be finished by February apparently). There is the old town hall which is in disrepair but is a lovely landmark by the roundabout and we have our very own BookSwap telephone box.
    Definitely worth a visit even if it doesnt have the rugged beauty of Tod and Hebden Bridge. Good luck – your paintings so far look beautiful!! Love your work!

  9. Hello, Kate,
    Love ‘Engineers and Chocolatiers ’ so much!

    How about a painting with several Anne Lister and Ann Walker properties that they resided, owned, walked along, worshipped, visited, and shopped at all around Halifax.
    It could be easy to get the list together from Listers’ journals. I’d be happy to help. I already have images of at least twenty locations I’d be happy to share with you. Also, I’m obsessed with Anne’s wax seals. They would make a lovely border. Okay…I’ll stop! And yes…I would definitely buy the original painting!! ?? But, I have a feeling Sally Wainwright might want it as well! ?

    Looking forward to seeing your exhibit at Bankfield in June. Absolutely love your art!
    Carla from Portland, Maine

  10. I love this idea for a future project Carla Gill. I can absolutely picture it – specially with the wax seals as tiles.

  11. Hi Kate, I’ve been hoping for ages you might paint the Saddleworth Road area of Greetland – there are some amazing viewpoints up there and the long drive up to Barkisland is so picturesque as it breaks out in to the countryside. A wintry picture there would be amazing (hopefully the same size as our Cloud Inversion print!!!!!) 🙂

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