Today, the majority of the population travels to work outside the district, but how different it was before the two car family became the norm. Once almost exclusively agricultural, Ripponden developed its own cottage industries, largely based on weaving, during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Ryburn and its associated streams provided the power for watermills that assisted the growth of the industry producing fine woollens for both the home and overseas markets. By the turn of the 19th century, the industrial revolution had made its impact and cotton became king in the area. Nine mills were established to complement those built further along the valley and into nearby Sowerby Bridge. This influx of job creation eventually promoted a mixture of the early Victorian version of the commuter and the settler. Some travelled to and from their hillside homes to work in the mills, while others moved closer to their places of employment and came to live in the valley bottom. As well as cotton, there was some silk spinning and paper manufacture. The coming of the railway, bringing coal to the valley and transporting goods, helped maintain its status as an important industrial centre. The first passengers left from Ripponden for Sowerby Bridge in 1878, with an extension of the line to Rishworth being completed three years later.
In keeping with the demise of the textile industry everywhere else, the 20th century saw a decline and, one by one, the mills closed. Those buildings that remain nowadays have been converted into flats or taken over by other businesses. The railway has long gone. The last passenger bought a ticket in 1929, though a goods service limped along for nearly another 30 years. The track was taken up and its bed is now used by ramblers enjoying one of the many delightful walks in and around the village.
Much of the flavour of old Ripponden can still be tasted by visiting the area close to the parish church of St Bartholomew. The present church was built in 1868, but there were places of worship on this site as far back as the 15th century. Next to the church is a packhorse bridge, across which beasts would carry their burdens to market. The village stocks once stood near here, close to the inn that has connections with drinkers who were raising their tankards on this site in the 14th century. Several of the cottages in the vicinity, in and around the cobble-stoned area, have obvious antiquity and the old school building, operational until just over 20 years ago, still stands on the spot it has occupied since 1843. The main road here was part of the old turnpike road system and had a toll house at the crossroads where a jeweller now trades.