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Halifax is a minster town within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire; it is located in the south-eastern corner of the moorland region called the South Pennines; its major waterway is the Hebble Brook, which joins the River Calder at Salterhebble; it is well-known as a centre of England's woollen manufacture from the 15th century onwards.

Its name may have originated from "holy flax" (Hair), the second "l" having been subsequently lost by dissimilation; an alternative explanation for the name of the town could have come from a corruption of the Old English words Hay and Ley; anecdotal evidence for this alternative and plausible explanation can be seen in the presence of Haley Hill, the nearby hamlet of Healey, another corruption; the fact that the surnames Hayley/Haley which are derived from Hay and Ley, for 'hay' and 'clearing' or 'meadow' respectively and are most abundant around the Halifax environs, also gives credibility for this explanation; another theory is that "Halifax" came from Anglo-Saxon halh-gefeaxe = "nook of land - head of hair", where "hair" is used to mean "(patch of) coarse grass".

Local legend has it that the head of John the Baptist was buried here after his execution; the legend is almost certainly medieval rather than ancient, though the town's coat of arms still carries an image of the saint and Halifax Minster, parts of which go back to the 12th century, has always been dedicated to St John the Baptist; the Minster's first organist, in 1766, was William Herschel, who went on to discover the planet Uranus.

Halifax was notorious for the Halifax Gibbet, an early form of guillotine used to execute criminals by decapitation, last used in 1650; a replica of the gibbet has been erected on the original site in Gibbet Street; the original gibbet blade is on display at Bankfield Museum, Halifax; punishment in Halifax was notoriously harsh, as remembered in the Beggar's Litany by John Taylor (1580 to 1654), a prayer whose text included "From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell, ‘tis thus, From all these three, Good Lord deliver us.".

Halifax was a busy industrial town and the town's 19th-century wealth came from the beer, carpet, cotton, wool and machine tools industries and like most other Yorkshire towns had a large number of weaving mills, many of which have been lost or converted to alternate use; the Crossley family began carpet manufacture in modest premises at Dean Clough, on the banks of the Hebble Brook; the family was philanthropic and Joseph and Sir Francis Crossley built and endowed almshouses for their workers, which exist to this day and are run by volunteer trustees.

Halifax has strong associations with confectionery and is internationally famous for its Mackintosh chocolate and toffee; John Mackintosh and his wife, Violet, opened a toffee shop in King Cross Lane in 1890; Violet herself formulated the toffee's recipe and John became known as "The Toffee King"; a factory was opened on Queens Road in 1898 and a new factory at Albion Mill, at the current site near the railway station, opened in 1909.

John died in 1920 and his son Harold not only continued the business but took it to the present size and range of confectionery it has today; their famous brands, including Rolo, Toffee Crisp and Quality Street of chocolate and confectionery are not just popular in the UK, but around the world including the USA; in 1969 John Mackintosh & Co Limited merged with the York-based Rowntree Limited to form Rowntree Mackintosh; this was, in turn, purchased by Nestlé in 1988.

Halifax, and in particular the Victoria Theatre, originally the Victoria Hall, is home to the oldest continually running amateur choral society in the country and possibly the world; Halifax Choral Society was founded in 1817 and has an unbroken record of performances; the Choral Society has a strong rivalry with the equally eminent nearby Huddersfield Choral Society.

The Victoria Theatre contains a large concert organ built by William Hill & Sons that was installed in 1901; during the 1960s, when the hall was converted into the theatre, the organ was re-located to the back of the stage; the original console was replaced with a Rushworth and Dreaper unit, which consists of three manuals and a 32 note pedal board; a complete rewiring of the organ to add a second touch facility and a hydraulic lift was done, so it could be lowered and stored under the stage; the organ was rarely used, being played for a few orchestras and the choral society's Messiah; but the instrument is still playable and is occasionally used for private practice; the Theatre seats 1,568 people or 1,860 for a standing concert, and hosts a variety of performances.

As well as conventional cultural attractions, the Calderdale area has also become a centre for folk and traditional music; the Traditions Festival, held at the Halifax Piece Hall in the town centre, is a celebration of traditional music and dance from around the world, whilst the Rushbearing, held in Sowerby Bridge and the surrounding villages, is a traditional festival which was restarted to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee and attracts Morris dancers from all around the country.

Halifax is also home to:
Halifax plc which started as a building society in the town; Halifax is now a trading name of HBOS, as part of Lloyds Banking Group.
Suma Wholefoods, which was established in 1975 and is the largest workers co-operative in the UK.
Eureka! The Museum for Children, which was inspired and opened by Prince Charles in the summer of 1992 and is located in part of the railway station.
Shibden Hall, once the home of the diarist Anne Lister, located just outside Halifax in the neighbouring Shibden Valley.


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