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About A Week: Where Is Kirklees?

Peter Hinchliffe is still unimpressed with the name chosen more than 30 years ago for the local government area in which he lives.

So there you are, holidaying in Majorca, sitting outside a bar, savouring the sunshine, sipping sangria. Another English gent plonks himself down at the next table. "This is the life, eh?" you say, eager to be friendly, indicating the sun, the sangria, the sea with an all-encompassing wave of the hand.

"This is the life," the man agrees, his mood equally benign.

The rules of chance encounter now require you to ask a question. "Where are you from?"


"I've been to Southampton. A nice place. I walked on the old city walls."

Now it's the man's turn., "Where are you from?"

Do you reply, "I'm from Kirklees?" Like heck you do!

Or if you are daft enough to reply in such a way, you face the inevitable next question: "Where's that?"

Kirklees is the name that no-one wants. A place that no-one knows.

Don't take my word for it. Some time ago I carried out an in-depth e telephone investigation well, it took all of an hour to complete - in which folk from all parts of England were asked if they knew the location of Kirklees.

Before I bring you the shock-horror results of the poll (shock-horror if you happen to be the Mayor of Kirklees or a Kirklees Councilor) allow me first to refresh your memory.

The district of Kirklees came into being as a result of the 1972 Local Government Act. Whoever drew up the proposals for this district suffered from the bizarre delusion that the Yorkshire towns of Huddersfield, Batley and Dewsbury could be roped together, then made to pull in the same direction. There was more chance of getting a cockerel and a cat to live happily in the same barrel. The Act was passed by Ted Heath's Conservative Government. National and local Labour politicians opposed the setting up of Kirklees.

The name Kirklees was a compromise, decided locally. The worthy burghers of Dewsbury and Batley refused to allow the area to be called Huddersfield. Someone wanted the name to be: Agbrigg. Fortunately, they were ignored.

Huddleybury, Batdewsfield and Dewsbathudds none of those fitted the bill. So they came up with Kirklees, the name of an estate owned by the Armytage family. Almost all of this estate is in the next-door authority, Calderdale, but when did logic rule local government?

Enough of memory refreshing. Let's get down to the results of that telephone investigation. A number of officials of local government authorities with names which also seem to owe more to whimsy than common sense were contacted.

An employee of Kerrier Council in Cornwall said, "Kirklees? Is it in Scotland?" When told it was in West Yorkshire, she said: "Well, I was close. What's a few hundred miles between friends?"

Jane Williams, public relations officer of Tendring Council in Essex: "It's in Cumbria."

Castle Morpeth, Northumberland: - "North Yorkshire?"

Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire: "Is it in Scotland?"

Wychavon, Hereford and Worcester: "I know where Kirklees is because my husband went to Huddersfield Polytechnic. Isn't the name something to do with Kirklees Priory?"

Three Rivers, Hertfordshire: "Kirklees is in the North. Too far away for us to do business with."

Hart, Hampshire: "Sunderland."

Eden, in Cumbria: "I haven't a clue."

Mole Valley, Surrey: "Up north somewhere." .

Medina, Isle of Wight: "Never heard of it. Is it in Wales? No? Must be in Scotland then."

Amber Valley, Derbyshire: "Sheffield." Erewash, Derbyshire: "Sheffield."

Test Valley, Hampshire: "Leeds."

All of which adds up to the fact that the name Kirklees is one huge joke.

No laughing matter though if your job is to persuade businessmen to bring new factories and jobs to this area. You're not getting off to a good start if you first have to give a geography lesson.

Me, Im an old reactionary. I hope Kirklees falls apart. Breaks in two. Reverts to the divisions which make sense both historically and geographically.

North Kirklees can then pick its own name. Batbury, maybe. Or Dewbat. The Huddersfield area will of course be called Huddersfield. And the name Kirklees can then be dropped into the dustbin. And you'll have no trouble at all in conveying where you're from the next time you are in Majorca.


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