Today I set out to find 2 houses where my ancestors had lived, both on Burlees lane.
The name is recorded as Byrehmley  – meaning cottage meadow or clearings near the cottage -, Burlghes , Burleghs, Burelees , and Burley.
I’d passed the entrance to Burlees Lane a couple of times when I’d taken Wadsworth Lane from Heights Road but I’d never ventured down it. So today I went prepared with a current map in hand and historic maps in my head. Because of the lockdown I knew that it would be a tough walk up Birchcliffe, a hill so steep that even the little zippy bus that goes up there often has difficulty. I’d never hiked ‘up’ before. But on my way I was rewarded by catching a glimpse of a sign on a group of buildings – Birchcliffe Villas.
I recognized that name as another ancestral home. I must have passed the sign before but because I was always heading downhill at this point I’d never noticed it before.
Gertrude Ann Eastwood was born at Birchfield Villas. Her father Daniel was a wholesale fustian clothing man and his wife was Jane. Next door was Edward, presumably his brother, also in the same business. Her father Daniel died at Stoodley Range in 1940. She was still living there in 1910 when she married Edward Binney Gibson at Birchcliffe chapel, just across the street from her house. He was living at croft Terrace a couple of houses away from where I write. She was a pupil teacher at the time of her marriage, and Edward was a dentist. It appears that they moved into Vine Cottage on their marriage and there is currently a blue plaque in the window of Vine Cottage commemorating the fact that they lived there in 1916 – a project done in Hebden Bridge to put signs on house windows to say who was living there during the first world war.
I’d found Vine Cottage a couple of years ago and a wonderful photo of Edward’s father and wife in the first horseless car in Hebden Bridge but although the photo said it was taken in the grounds of Vine Cottage I couldn’t find the spot.
The cottage front was directly onto Birchcliffe Road and I couldn’t see over the wall at the end. . . . Until last week when I was trying to find Primrose cottage, close by, and a couple on their patio expressed both interest and knowledge. I mentioned the photo and they showed my a steep flight of steps from where I could see the courtyard where the photo was taken! By 1939 the couple had moved to Stoodley Range which I had located for the first time last week since it has been renamed Nab Scar. Edward Binney Gibson was one of the primary citizens of Hebden Bridge and his story requires its own post.
Finding that and stopping to take a couple of photos gave me a moment to catch my breath, and it was with a spring in my step that I headed upwards again. I soon passed the top of Chiserely estate and the road flattened a little and Burlees Lane followed the contour to my right. I liked it immediately – the feeling of open space, the view of the Calder Valley, and the lane itself had a grassy centre and looked delightful, edged by a variety of spring flowers, and the field above me was yellow with buttercups that have come into flower the last couple of days.
Great Burlees was clearly signposted off to my right and though the track headed downwards I decided to take it. Many times a footpath with run through the farmyard so it makes it easy to explain my presence but no such luck here, and there was no one around to talk to apart from a man whose top half was under a camper van from where a lot of hammering sounds were issuing. I didn’t want to startle him so I took a couple of photos and returned to the lane passing a beautiful level garden with pond. The view over the valley was amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d never discovered this idyllic place, not had I ever heard anyone mention the area.
So who am I related to that lived in this idyllic spot? And would it have been so idyllic if they lived there pre car, pre supermarket, pre internet, pre telly?
Eliza Crabtree died there in 1928, a spinster. Her father was Lewis Crabtree a farmer, originally from Birchcliffe. Crabtree is a very common name in this vicinity. There are hundreds of Crabtrees buried at Heptonstall and so far I haven’t seen anything exceptional in Eliza’s ancestry to have pointed towards such a large property.
She lived there with two unmarried siblings, Mary Hannah and Lewis. This in itself is most unusual. The farm was built in the late 16th century as a yeoman clothier’s house and the main door has a stone, possibly from an earlier barn inscribed WMC 1691 for William and Mary Cockcrofy (yet another very common name). There is a stained-glass window in the kitchen with figures and dated 1680 for William and his wife. A lead spout is dated 1727. The laithe here is dated 1859.
Rejoining the lane a looked to my left and through some optical illusion it appeared that the lane headed in a perfectly straight line to Heptonstall church. The next dwelling I’d come to find was Stephenson House. This was the last house on road, on my right and there was no indication of its name on the property. It’s front faced the Calder valley with the same amazing views and its back was built into the hillside below the road. From that point on the road became a very step path through the fields, looking rarely used. I decided to backtrack rather than go on.
Stephenson House – My ancestor here was James Clark and he lived there in 1904. His grandfather, James Wade was a retired clogg manufacturer born in Hebden Bridge in 1816. I can’t find any records for him or his business. In 1881 he was living in Stephenson house with his son, William Clark , a farmer of 10 ½ acres with his wife (born in Preston) and 6 children, one of whom was James. 1871 they were at park which I now realize must be Park Lane since it’s next to Stubb on the census , a walk I’ve discovered since lockdown.
Yes, that’s correct. I’ve followed the route of the census man and now that I’ve been doing all this exploring I can make sense of his route. James was born in 1875 and baptized at Mytholmroyd church. He was living at ‘The Park’ – now Park Lane. Presumably it’s called the Park because this was once part of the Erringden deer park. Erringden’s origins can be traced back to the Vikings when it was known as Heyrikdene which means Valley of Erik or the Valley of the High Ridge (Norse). In 1106 Norman Earl de Warren fenced it in as a deer park.
By 1881 the family are at Stephenson house and he continued to live there after his marriage to Marianna Gibson in 1904. Her great granddad was Samuel Gibson, the fossil man! At the time of her marriage she was living at Oxford House, where her father, Thomas, was a dentist. On his marriage certificate James is a fustian manufacturer. I can’t find them on the 1911 census, or indeed, anything about his fustian company, but by 1939 they are installed at Machpelah House, close to the railway station. James and Marianne were buried at Heptonstall close to east window. The inscription reads “ James Gibson. RDS Machpehlah house. Also his wife Elizabeth who died at Southport of Machpelah house. Also Marianne wife of James Clark, and James Clark died Jan 24, 1958 aged 82.” There’s a very ostentatious marble plinth.
Yesterday I finished reading a very unusual book called ‘Break.up’ (her punctuation) by Joanna Walsh which I really enjoyed and so this morning I began to reread a book by Billy Holt called ‘I Haven’t Unpacked’ that Freda and Chris had given me as a birthday present last year. They live in Hawdon Hall, where some of my ancestors lived and they’ve done a pile of research into their property. As Chris was showing me some documents one day I kept seeing I haven’t unpacked written in the margin. I thought it meant he had more information that he hadn’t unpacked yet!
So today I started to reread the book thinking that with a year’s extra knowledge of the area I would enjoy the book even more. The first chapter describes his early life when his father ran a brewery from a small stone terrace on Stoney Lane, Charlestown. Now I’d found Stoney lane a couple of weeks ago as I walked to find Mulcture Hall, so I thought I’d go that way again for my walk . To prepare I looked at the Charlestown history site and noticed that Billy Holt’s brewery is mentioned on a walk, complete with map and description of historical sites along the way so off I trotted.
On the way there I passed Stubbins Wharf pub and thought I’d see if I could locate Stubbin House. I looked for it a couple of times but this time I found it, right next to the canal just beyond Stubbins Wharf pub. How many times must I have passed it, unknowing of its connection with my family, walking along the canal. Charles Lord lived there in 1901 and 1911. In 1886, he went into partnership with Johnathan Stansfield at Hebden Bridge producing fustian and other materials. He became sole proprietor of the business in 1895.He was a member of Hebden Bridge UDC and a member of the Todmorden RDC  and a Guardian of the Todmorden Union.
Born at Old Chamber in 1856 to John Lord, a butcher and farmer, and his wife Catherine the family had moved to Lee’s yard and were on the census in 1861 and 1871. He married Charlotte Ann Gibson, and it is through this union that I am related to Charles Lord. Charlotte had been born, along with 4 other siblings, in Russia when her dad, William, an engineer/mechanic was there from 1851-1860. 1881 find Charles in Albert street and from 1891 to 1901 he is living with his family in some comfort, presumably, at Stubbin House.
It is now split into two houses, and there is a large addition to the side and rear. It’s currently up for sale at £475,000, which is really high for Hebden Bridge! A 4 bedroom period semi detached with large, well maintained garden, and parking for 2 cars – unheard of in the centre of Hebden Bridge! By 1911 he was back at old Chamber where he had been born.
I did indeed find the row of cottages in which the brewery was located and discovered that I had taken a photo of the end house a couple of weeks ago because there was a trampoline placed above a garage!
I stopped for a little picnic in the ruins of Jumble Hole mill . Opposite me some ivy covered ground where believe it or not there were ten dwellings. A few collapsed walls are all that remains of the five storey Spa Mill that started life as a water-mill.
I then took a short detour that the guide book recommended to see an amazing flight of well worn steps that the mill workers would take to the mill. My question, therefore, is where did they live? The remains of Cow Bridge Mill can be seen on the far side of the river (late 18th century, used for worsted and cotton spinning).
I was now retracing the steps that I’d taken a few weeks ago, following the Pennine Way. On that occasion I’d taken the very steep high road up to Winters. This time I carried on straight eager to see the ruins of Mt Olive chapel. I couldn’t believe I’d passed so close to it the first week without seeing it. I guess that’s what guide books are for!
From the side I was approaching from all I could see was an old wall, maybe 10 ft high with a semi boarded up window, but when I came around to the front I saw a steep path, still with its iron railings in place, and then several gravestone, some quite ornate.
There were no buildings close by, just an amazing view over the valley (and the sewage works) across to Stoodley Pike. A chair and table – with boots – were set in place for the weary traveller. From the Charlestown history page: The chapel opened in 1842 after occasional services were held in the area since 1836. The chapel was an offshoot of mount Zion at Heptonstall. Some extracts from the Underbank Mill Sunday school minute book record:
In 1909 the Chapel was moved down to the Halifax road with the old chapel being demolished after the war. Every year the old chapel used to have an anniversary celebration with brass band. Ah, this must be the brass band I wrote about in an previous post.
I continued on my way remarking on the good quality of the stone sets paving the road and soon I came to Nabby Nook cottage where is little stone sign recorded there laying of the stone sets in 2014.
Today Nabby Nook, with its bright blue and white painted walls and windows looked almost Mediterranean under this morning’s clear blue sky. A couple of times the track led down cobbled paths so steep that I could hardly negotiate them!
Eventually I arrived at the flatter land with its scattered mansions, Higher Underbank, and Knott Hall. “The main dwelling is Higher Underbank House which was thought to have been built about 1612, but around 1770 a new frontage was added. This is a fine example of a yeoman clothier’s house where spun wool would have been brought to and sent out for weaving and the finished product then sent out to market. On the rear wall you can see the blocked up intake door where goods would have been hoisted up.” I found this too from Dr David Harrison: “The family of Christopher Rawdon – a nineteenth century philanthropist who is the subject of my next book – once owned much of the valley around Underbank Hall, and a walk along the wonderfully named Jumble Hole Clough reveals an array of derelict mill, lost graveyards and workers cottages.”
The present site of the Air Training Corps is the original site of Charlestown. On this incredibly small site there were 14 back to back dwellings. Two pieces from the Todmorden Almanac report that in July 1830 a child was born with four legs! and in 1880, “scarlatina of a malignant type broke out causing two fatal cases, the origin was undiscovered”.
We don’t know the date the terraces were built were built at present.
I passed ‘Temple.’ I’ve seen that I had ancestors living here but I can’t find out anything about the derivation of this strange name. As I returned to Hebden along the main road I saw the ‘new’ Naze Bottom Chapel which is now a private residence.
The chapel was built to replace Olivet Chapel on the hillside. In November 1906 “a grand bazaar was held in the Co-operative Hall, Hebden Bridge, whereby a sum exceeding £700 was raised in aid of the Nazebottom scheme”. The first sod was cut in July 1908 and was opened in March 1909 by Mrs E.J.Crossley of Royd House.
Corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses, often from remote communities, to cemeteries that had burial rights, such as parish churches and chapels of ease. These latter churches were built to lessen the distance people had to travel to the parish church. Until the building of a church in Heptonstall, between 1256 and 1260 people from the entire Calder Valley had to travel to Halifax for baptisms, marriages and funerals. The Church of St John the Baptist in Halifax was built around 1095. It was meant to provide for the whole Parish, which was the largest in England at 150 square miles. It was the only place to have your child baptised, to marry and be buried, to say nothing of regular worship. Hardly surprising that children went unbaptised and marriages happened in the market place, ( the “brush” marriage). Corpse roads connected outlying locations wih their mother churches, in this case Halifax, which alone held burial rights. This meant that some corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain. Only wealthy people could afford transportation so the corpses had to be carried. In parts, the track is paved to a breadth of 7-8ft, wide enough for a coffin cart or two people walking abreast with a load between them; large blocks of stone beside the path may have been resting stones for those who could not afford a carrier. It is walled and embanked where appropriate to maintain an approximately steady gradient.
I hadn’t set out to walk along the corpse road. I’d set off to visit a house I can see from my window, perched high on the Heptonstall hill. I knew it must be somewhere off the Heptonstall road, so I went to find it. As luck would have it a couple there were working on their garden and I chatted to them and told them of my mission. I could see that the narrow road that led to their house became a footpath and I asked if it led to the church. No, it didn’t but if I followed it I would eventually come out higher on the Heptonstall road, so off I went. It was a well used footpath, bounded on the right by an old wall, and I could see underfoot that it had once been a well cobbled track. Then as I approached Lily Hall it suddenly dawned on me that this was none other than the Corpse Road that I’d read about. The original derivation of Lily Hall’s name is not known but the well known local historian John Billingsley who has helped me with my Lily Hall research has suggested that there may be a possibility that its name is connected with the corpseways (both the Buttress and Mytholm routes meet at this point).
“Lilies are widely associated with the soul, and traditionally feature in funerals, “where they symbolised the soul of the departed, shriven from the sins of the world”. By extension from this symbolism white lilies came to be considered unlucky indoors (as they might incur a death), though in the garden they were a protection against ghosts. It might be that Lily Hall relates to this custom, perhaps as somewhere lilies were conferred or purchased for the final entry into Heptonstall village, though more information would be required to support this suggestion,” he writes.
Rev Sutcliffe Sowden was a friend of Arthur Bell Nichols who married Charlotte Bronte . He presided at their wedding on 29th June 1854 and conducted Charlotte’s funeral less than a year later on 4th April 1855. His brother, Reverend George Sowden, completed his time at Magdalen college Cambridge University as his brother Reverend Sutcliffe Sowden had done. Arthur Bell Nicholls was ordained at Ripon Cathedral at the same time as George Sowden before becoming one of Patrick Bronte’s curates at Haworth in 1845. Arthur got to know Sutcliffe through his brother. George was curate at Stainland, Yorks., 1845-53. As the parish marriage record shows . She had already published her novels The Professor, Villette, Jane Eyre, and Shirley. Apparently not long after the marriage Rev. George Sowden stayed with the Arthur and Charlotte at Haworth Parsonage. Again Rev. Sutcliffe Sowden travelled to Haworth to take the funeral service for Charlotte Nicholls.
Rev Sutcliffe Sowden presided at my ancestor Hannah Gibson’s baptism in 1853 when she was 17 years old.
And then on 9th August 1861 in the Halifax Guardian newspaper I found this:
Clergyman Drowned At Hebden Bridge: Yesterday morning the whole of Hebden Bridge and its district was thrown into a state of great excitement and sorrow by the news spreading rapidly that their incumbent the Rev. S Sowden had met with his death by drowning. The sad news proved but to be true. The body was discovered by Superintendent Tucker, of the West Riding Police Force, in the canal just below the iron bridge, opposite Mr Whitley’s mill. We learn that early in the morning two young women were going in the direction of Todmorden along the canal side when they saw what they thought to be the body of a dog in the water and passed on. Not many yards further they found a book with a paper cover, and an umbrella laid beside it. They picked them up and proceeded to Todmorden. On reaching that town they found the Reverend gentleman’s name in the book and one of the girls returned with it. Meanwhile Mr Sowden was missed, and the search resulted as above. The body was in an upright position and bore about it no marks of violence. From enquiries we learn that on Thursday night Mr. Sowden had visited Mr.Edwin Binns, at Mulcture Hall, which is on the opposite hill to where his residence is, up Heptonstall Bank, the canal running in the valley that intervened. He left to go home about half past ten o’clock, and Mr Binns accompanied him part of the way as far as Sand bed. The night was a dark one, and the wind blew from the west in strong violent gusts. That the unfortunate clergyman intended to get home by a short cut is evident. By the bridge some alterations are going on, and a quantity of loose stone and rubble were left about. One inference is that in stepping among these he stumbled and fell into the water, and, by his struggles and the force of the wind, was carried down the water to the place where he was he found,a distance of thirty yards. Another is that he was seized with a fit of dizziness, to which he was known to be subject. This strengthened by the statement of the Rev T Sutcliffe, late incumbent of Heptonstall, at whose house Mr Sowden had been that day, and who noticed him being rather absent in his manner. However, be that as it may, the painful result was that in a sudden a sad manner the Rev gentleman met with his death. It was half past five o’clock in the morning when he was found. His watch had stopped at a quarter past eleven, thus showing as near as possible the hour when the sad event occurred. His remains were removed to the Neptune Inn, and afterwards to his home. It is not needful to launch into any eulogy of this worthy clergyman, whose untimely death has cast gloom over the whole district. Mr Sowden was about 48 years of age and was first incumbent of St James Church built in 1835. Of a quiet and somewhat retiring disposition, he won the esteem of all churchmen and dissenters alike. In him the Church has lost a diligent servant, and the poor a generous friend. Of a philosophical turn of mind, Mr Sowden was noted as a geologist and an ardent lover of nature. Excursionists into the deep and lovely valleys of this secluded district looked forward to his company with much anticipation and delight. The intelligence of his sad end will cause regret to many distant friends. The inquest was held on the body last night at the Neptune Inn.
Published 17th August 1861 Halifax Courier page 4. Hebden Bridge The Rev, George Sowden, MA, of Magdalene Collage, Cambridge, curate of Houghton-Le-Spring in the county of Durham, and formally curate of Stainland in this parish, has been appointed by the archdeacon Musgrave to the incumbency of Hebden Bridge Church, vacant by the death of his brother; the Rev Sutcliffe Sowden, MA , who was accidentally drowned on the 8th inst., to the great grief of his parishioners and friends.
I found a possible photo of the vicar, though he looks considerably older than 44 to me. https://www.lightcliffechurchyard.org.uk/
For the Results of the Inquest Read on…………. THE LATE SUTCLIFFE SOWDEN, MA On Friday evening, at the Neptune Inn Hebble End an inquest was held before Mr J.R. Ingram, deputy coroner over the body of the late Rev gentleman. After a somewhat lengthy consultation, an open verdict, ” Found Drowned, but they believed accidentally,” was returned. The jury, through their foreman, expressed their admiration of the deceased’s character and activity in the performance of his clerical duties, and their deep regret at the sad occurrence . The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon. Many of the principle shops were closed. The procession numbered upwards of 300 persons. First in order of the procession were the public officers, namely the police, the church wardens, and the postmen; next came the lighting and paving committee, of which deceased was a member; next came the committee of the mechanics Institute and gentry of the neighbourhood; following these the congregation of St James’s, and preceding the scholars, and next in succession to the congregation were the clergy, the scholars carried in their hands each a small bouquet, which they afterwards threw into the grave of their departed minister and friend; next came the hearse with three of the elder male scholars walking on each side as the bearers; following the hearse were the mourners existing of the deceased’s relatives and the family of Mr Thomas of Hangingroyd, the residence of the deceased. The funeral obsequies were performed by Mr Sowdens most intimate friend, the Rev. A. B. Nicholls of Haworth. Mr Sowden’s ministerial labours at Hebden Bridge have extended over a period of upwards of 19 years. He was a man beloved by all. The improvement of the people morally and socially was his perpetual aim; he was an indefatigable teacher and minister, and a consistent Christian; he was a companion and guide of youth, and the nurse and protector of age. He commenced on his education at Hipperholme; from there he removed to Oxford, where he graduated and received the title of Bachelor of Arts. His death is deeply lamented by all who knew him, and the scene of sorrow witnessed at St James’s on the day of his funeral, speaks to the fact of the deep hold he had taken in the affections of all.
So yesterday I set out to find Mulcture Hall. It’s situated above Jumble Hole Mill which I’ve visited a couple of times since the lockdown. The hall is built into the steep hillside and has its name clearly emblazoned on the gates. I though, hoped, that someone would come out of the building and so I could explain my presence but no-one appeared. To the rear of the building a couple of cottages, one obviously a converted barn, make up the entirety of this hamlet called Mulcture. From the Charlestown history society page I gleaned the following information: Mulcture Hall is a small hamlet on the North hillside above Jumble Hole Clough. The main house was built in about 1800 by the Stead family, owners of Jumble Hole Mill and Spa Mill. The house frontage is of a later date. The Stead family have occupied the house until the present day.
Behind the big house are two dwellings. One has been converted from the old coach house, the other was formally two back to back cottages knocked together. The Coach house was used by Naze Bottom band for practice! I wonder when. It’s a pretty steep climb up to this isolated dwelling. From Charlestown : We have very little information about the band and are not sure the date and location of the photograph.
One Story recounts that they won a band competition and marched back to the chapel late at night playing and waking everyone up as they went. The conductor, Walter Mitchell, was born in Tod 28th July 1874. He was the third generation of bandmasters, – his father of the Todmorden Old Band and his grandfather of the Lob mill Band. He joined the Todmorden Band at the age of 17 and in September of the same year became conductor of the Nazebottom Band.
all within a walk from my apartment
When I set off for a walk I had no intention of climbing up to Stoodley Pike but I was enjoying myself so much I just kept going: 7 miles.