There are many local historical references connected to drift mining. It was first recorded in 1307 and also mentioned by Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, in his 1727 book ‘A Tour Of Great Brittain’. On the western flank of the village is a long straight ridge, which constitutes the remains of a gravity railway that was last used to transport coal in 1920 to the municipal gasworks by the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Brighouse.
There are also intriguing historical connections such as America Lane, the fever hospital and Clifton ‘airport’ used by Sir Alan Cobham’s Air Circus between the two world wars. The remains of the village well can be seen opposite the school.
At the easterly edge of the village is the 16th-century Kirklees Hall, whose grounds contain the reputed grave of Robin Hood. It was the model for ‘Nunwood’ in Charlotte Brontë’s novel ‘Shirley’. At the northerly end of the village, there remains evidence of strip farming, also known as ‘open field system’. Originally, there were 32 strips of land and families would work two or three. Beyond were fields known as the Doles, common grazing land.
Doles Lane, a public right of way, still exists and starts (as Well Lane), opposite the Black Horse Inn a meeting place for Luddites, the machine wreckers, in the early 19th century. Highley Hall (formerly Crosse Hall), near the war memorial, was a farm until the 1990s. Originally the family home of Richard de Hileagh, constable of the village in the mid-14th century; it is now again a private residence.
In 1892 a smallpox epidemic began at Clifton. Only 56 days later the isolation hospital was built and opened. 300 people in total contracted the disease, 29 died; Brighouse became a ‘ghost town’.