Sowerby Bridge is a small market town in the Upper Calder Valley, where the Calder and Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal meet on the edge of the Pennines. It was at the centre of the textile industry boom, when raw and processed cotton was delivered to and from the mills by canal, and was a vital link in the chain of waterways stretching from the Humber to the Mersey.
Down by the wharf in the heart of this lovely Yorkshire town you’ll find two bronze figures that celebrate this industrial heritage. One is a life-size sculpture of Richard Tiffany, who was a popular local character and the town’s lock keeper for many years. Dressed in an old coat and cloth cap, he’s leaning back against the lock arm, pushing his booted feet against the raised cobbles on the ground. By his side is a young bronze boy helping him push the lock, modelled on Tiffany’s great grandson.
The figures were sculpted by artist Richard Burnett in 2009, with money raised by local residents and businesses as part of restoration work on the Grade II-listed canal basin. The basin, flanked by the original canal buildings, is very much in use, with colourful narrowboats passing through to change from one canal to the other, or to be refitted or repaired on the water’s edge.
While it’s wonderful to see the wharf bustling with trendy pubs, cafes and shops that occupy the old canal buildings, it’s heartening to see these two handsome bronze figures among the passersby and leisure boaters; a very moving depiction of the long lost industrial past of Sowerby Bridge.
Plan your visit to Sowerby Bridge Wharf with our guide.