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Why Hoodezfield is the best town in England

The Independent logo The Independent 08/10/2018 Lauren Cocking
a castle on top of a building © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

If you’re from Huddersfield, you’ll be closely acquainted with the phrases “near Leeds” or “close to Manchester”. Rare is the person who really knows where Huddersfield is. Perhaps for that very reason, I never saw myself penning (or rather, needing to pen) a passionate and wholly un-ironic celebration of my hometown.

And yet here we are. The last time Huddersfield made headlines was in 2017, when our football team made it to the Premier League and suddenly everyone became a Huddersfield Town fan overnight. Now, Huddersfield is once again enjoying its 15 minutes of fame, thanks to “Sh*t lass” Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who), and the inept subtitler who turned Huddersfield – sorry, Hoodezfield – into meme-material.

What better time to get on my soapbox and tell everyone just why Huddersfield is the best town in England?

Homegrown talent is surely a strength, with Skelmanthorpe-born Whittaker being the latest in a long line of impressive Huddersfieldians who’ve gone on to (literally) fantastical things. Cersei Lannister was raised here – Lena Headey may have been born in Bermuda, but she was brought up in Shelley – and we even claim Professor Xavier/Captain Picard as our own, despite Patrick Stewart having been born down the road in Mirfield.

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Over in the sporting arena, former England cricketer Ryan Sidebottom is from Huddersfield, while ex-Rugby League star Eorl Crabtree has lived in Meltham since he was a child. There’s even an ex-prime minister among our ranks, thanks to Harold Wilson, now immortalised in bronze outside the Huddersfield Train Station. Which, by the way, has its own (very famous) cat.

Huddersfield though? Really? I get it. My town, once full of textile mills, doesn’t exactly exude cool – even the name is vaguely bovine, especially when it rolls off the tongue of a local: Uddersfield – but I don’t think it needs to.

a group of people in front of a building: Hoodezfield © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Hoodezfield

Our town centre, lacklustre-looking at first glance, wasn’t once called “the handsomest” of all Yorkshire and Lancashire factory towns for nowt. After all, Huddersfield is, on the sly, overflowing with protected buildings (3,000, apparently), including many Victorian and Georgian examples. And once you get off piste and escape the rather ordinary high street, there are a handful of independent spots that even the biggest Huddersfield sceptic will enjoy: take Coffee Evolution, the artsy Byram Arcade or the well-hidden restaurant, Thai Sakon.

The outlying reaches of Huddersfield are criminally underrated too, buried in the Yorkshire rhetoric that paints Leeds as the saviour of the north. Call us “the new Leeds” at your peril though. Spliced-by-a-canal Slaithwaite (don’t follow Northern Rail’s example and sound out every syllable – it’s pronounced Slawit) is home to charming cafes and the best restaurant in Huddersfield, Om is Where The Heart Is. Meanwhile, Marsden has some of the most impressive moorland in the area.

a stadium full of people: Hoodezfield © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Hoodezfield

As a kid growing up in Huddersfield, I was convinced my hometown embodied the sentiment of “it’s grim up north”. Now, I find my eyeline forever drifting upwards, in the direction of those Wuthering Heights hills. Even when it’s grey and overcast, the emerald greens and bracken browns stay beautiful and true, the blackened stone of the houses harking back to Huddersfield’s industrial past. Even if it does piss it down 154 days out of the year, it’s far from grim.

I’m not getting misty-eyed though. I know as well as anyone that Huddersfield has its fair share of idiosyncrasies, including (but not limited to) the once-weirdly perpetuated, seemingly collective belief that it was the largest town in England. This “fact” – which I’ve heard and repeated many times – is just so desperately untrue. We actually don’t even break the top 10 of biggest towns, currently coming in at number 11.

a large green field with trees in the background: Hoodezfield © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Hoodezfield

Our most famous landmark is… a hill. Castle Hill, to be precise, a grassy knoll topped, not with a castle, but a Victorian tower. The name may be far grander than the reality, but the panorama over Huddersfield from Castle Hill is anything but anticlimactic. (Fun fact: our other most famous landmark – the Emley Moor Mast – is actually the UK’s tallest freestanding structure.) Our football team’s mascot is a yappy terrier. Although, the ridiculousness of having a petite puppy mascot is eased somewhat by the fact that Huddersfield Town is the only Yorkshire team in the Premier League.

a large green field with trees in the background: Hoodezfield © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Hoodezfield

Huddersfield also lies within West Yorkshire, England’s most overachieving county, the undisputed best of the Yorkshires. It’s a county that produced the Brontë sisters, Helen Fielding, Alan Bennett and more Olympic gold medallists than you can shake a stick at. Nevertheless, we’re savvy enough to stay in our lane. Unlike a few other Yorkshire destinations –*cough* Bradford and Halifax *cough* – we won’t be making a bid to dub our town as the “Shoreditch of the north” anytime soon. No, Huddersfield certainly can’t be accused of trying to be something it’s not. Well, except the largest town in the UK, anyway.

Next time someone asks me where I’m from then, I’ll keep it short: I’m from Hoodezfield. Haven’t you heard of it?

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