AS WE battle the coronavirus in an unprecedented lockdown of the country, consider the effects of the Black Death in days gone by.

This deadly disease, also known as the Pestilence, Great Bubonic Plague, Great Plague or the Plague, first reached Yorkshire in 1349. By December of that year it has already wiped out a third of the population of Britain.

Following further epidemics in 1369 and 1375, it is thought that there were only around 220 people left in Halifax.

It did not help that Yorkshire as a whole had been affected by famine between 1315 and 1322, due to very poor weather affecting the harvests. So people would have been in a weakened state and therefore more susceptible to catching any disease going.

Sadly, plague returned to Halifax several times over the next few centuries, claiming more than 500 lives in 1645.Things got so bad that year that £66 13s and 4d was allocated to the town to help alleviate the situation for poverty-stricken survivors.

These interesting facts - which are especially pertinent today - are among many recorded in the A-Z of Halifax by local author Trish Colton.

The book looks at the places, people and history that have made the town what it is. It is full of details that most people, even those living in the town, will not be aware of.

For instance, did you know that the land upon which Halifax sits was once located south of the equator?Amazingly, had the town existed 20 million years ago roughly, it would have sat in a part of the world where South Africa is now.

And in 1913 a grizzly bear and a Russian bear escaped from Halifax Zoo. The Russian bear was captured but the grizzly made a dash for freedom pursued by the head keeper and staff. After an hour and a half it made its way down to the canal. It was eventually captured and unceremoniously hauled over a wall and popped into a waiting van.

And did you know that Halifax was once associated with cutting and polishing diamonds? During World War Two an engineering firm in the town played a vital role in Britain’s war effort by preparing industrial diamonds for use in the manufacturing of aircraft parts and armaments.

Among this engaging tour around the town across the centuries, Trish looks at subjects including literary links, railways, vagabonds and beggars, the River Calder and nature reserves.

Film and TV locations are also covered. On the small screen, Halifax is now more famous for a last tango than Paris. The former mill town is well-known as the key location of the popular TV drama Last Tango in Halifax.

This is not the only TV drama that has brought Halifax and the surrounding area into prominence.

The period drama Gentleman Jack - based on the story of local woman Anne Lister - focused upon the historic house Shibden Hall, bringing tourists from far and wide. And the British crime drama Happy Valley was filmed and set in the Calder Valley.

All three dramas were written by Sally Wainwright, who grew up in the area.

Looking back over time, Halifax area has provided locations and ideas for many films. Alan Bennett wrote his first play for TV in 1969 which was broadcast by the BBC in 1972. A Day Out looked at a Halifax cycling club’s trip to Fountains Abbey.

Film and TV locations are among the many interesting places featured in a new book A-Z of Halifax.

Over the centuries manufacturing and textiles brought wealth to Halifax. The town’s impressive Grade l-listed Piece hall, built in the 18th century and recently restored, was the place where handloom weavers gathered to sell the woollen cloth they had produced.

The book embraces a wide variety of subjects which will be of interest to both residents and visitors. From the buildings and streets to the famous - and infamous - sons anddaughters, this is a fascinating portrait of Halifax, revealing well-known and hidden aspects of its heritage.

Readers can discover the road safety invention that was the brainchild of Halifax man, and learn more about the 900-year-old minster, the industrial heritage, urban regeneration, commerce and culture of this Yorkshire town.

The book describes how Chartists were dispersed by gunfire and a sabre charge near North Bridge and details how severely thieves and other criminals were punished - being beheaded by the gibbet. This gruesome, sharp bladed device can be seen in the town’s Bankfield Museum.

Trish Colton lived and worked in Germany, Bahrain, Botswana, South Africa and across England before settling down in Yorkshire 32 years ago. After 20 years writing general interest articles and editing a wildlife magazine in Zimbabwe, she retired and began to write books, mostly about local history. She lives just outside Halifax.

*A-Z of Halifax, Places-People-History by Trish Colton is published by Amberley Publishing priced £14.99.