Almondbury is one of Yorkshire’s oldest villages dating back to at least the 10th century. After the Norman Conquest, which began in 1066,William the Conqueror ordered a great survey of his new kingdom. The Domesday Book was published in 1086 and the village is recorded as ‘Almondeberie’.
Until the 17th century, Almondbury’s Monday market was the biggest for miles around, and its church stood at the centre of Christian activity in the area, its parish taking in the whole of the Holme valley and including nearby villages of Linthwaite, Lockwood, Honley, Holmfirth and Meltham. Almondbury was owned by the powerful De Lacy family, whose owned a huge area of Yorkshire and who founded both Nostell and Kirkstall Priories. The family’s name lives on in the village’s De Lacy Avenue.
Castle Hill, which overlooks Almondbury from the south, is a classic Motte And Bailey Fort with a Victorian Folly on the top. Archaeologists believe the hill has been in use for 4,000 years since humans first climbed the hill and began living in the forests that then covered its slopes. Iron Age man left his mark there with wooden pallisades, banks and ditches and by 1140 the De Lacy family had established a castle on the top.
Once the castle became obsolete the hill became a local leisure spot with a hotel/pub, a bowling green, and there are records of prize-fights and rallies held there. The Victoria Tower was planned in 1897, and opened two years later. It cost £3,298 and was built by the firm of Ben Graham and Sons, of Folly Hall, using stone from Crosland Hill. The tower stands 106ft high, which means the top it is 1,000ft above sea level. It’s windy up there, and that has prompted another leisure pursuit on Castle Hill – kite flying, and to make that easier, overhead power cables were taken down and laid underground in 2006.
In Almondbury village the prominent All Hallows Church is one of the finest in Yorkshire, nobody is certain exactly when it was built but is has been place of worship for more than 900 years. The West Yorkshire Archaeology Service believes All Hallows dates from the first half of the 12th century, and the original building was on the site of the present chancel. The church was added to as the centuries passed, with windows dating from the late 13th century and architectural features from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The Victorians carried out further internal extensions and restorations.
The local school, King James’s, is famous in the area as its roots lie deep in Almondbury’s history. There has been a school in Almondbury since 1547, and in 1608 it obtained a charter from James I. King James’s has played an important part in sporting history as well as the story of the village. Its headmaster from 1878 to 1895 was the Rev Francis Marshall, a passionate rugby fan, who was such a vocal opponent of the professionalisation of the game that his opponents met at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, to found the new code of Rugby League.
King James’s famous old boys include runner Derek Ibbotson, actor Gorden Kaye, who is best known for his role as Rene in “‘Allo, ‘Allo”, and cricketer Ryan Sidebottom. One famous son of Huddersfield was not bright enough to get in but Harold Wilson went on to serve as Prime Minister. The Old Almondburians’ Society has some 800 members all over the world, every November, a dinner is held to mark the granting of the school’s charter, followed by a Founders Day service at All Hallows.
Wormald’s Hall is one of only six surviving Tudor buildings in the Huddersfield area. The Grade II listed building is now Almondbury Conservative Club. The building dates from the mid 1500s, but takes its name from owner Isaac Wormald, who had the ground floor clad in stone in 1631 to fit in with the style of the times. and hence the initials IWM carved over the door. Wormald’s Hall is widely considered the best example in West Yorkshire of its style of construction.