To people approaching Halifax from the Calder Valley a curious structure on the hilltop at King Cross has always given rise to comment and conjecture.
This is Wainhouse Tower, sometimes referred to as the 'Tower of Spite.' There are various tales as to its origin and use, it is said it was built as a chimney to disperse smoke from the dye works lower down the hill.
John Edward Wainhouse, who owned the mill, was a keen advocate for the case of smoke prevention and decided that a high chimney on the top of the hill would be beneficial for the townspeople. He was also interested in architecture and insisted that the chimney should have architectural merit.
Unfortunately, he sold the dye works before the chimney was completed and as the buyer had no desire to take over the half-built structure he was left with it on his hands.
His response to this was to have the chimney finished off as a tower. The flue had already been encased in a stone outer wall with steps inside and narrow window slits, and he completed the tower by adding a striking cupola to the top with two galleries around the outside.
The whole took four years to build, 1871-75. Because of Wainhouse's conflict with his neighbour, Sir Henry Edwards (1812-86), over water rights a feud had grown up between them which has led some people to think that Wainhouse had built the tower in order to overlook Edwards' land.
In due course the tower was taken over by Halifax County Borough Council and is open to visitors at certain times of the year. Its height is 253 feet from the doorway to the top of the cupola, and at the back the building drops away a further 24 feet to the level of the sloping ground below. Anyone who climbs to the top of the tower will find there are 403 steps.