I had set my new alarm clock for 4:50 and my phone for 5 a.m. I’m not used to getting up at this time! I set off at 5.25 and the taxi across the street was waiting for me. It took exactly 55 minutes to Manchester airport. There was no traffic as we passed through streets lined with frost covered cars. Most of the houses were still in total darkness. It was really nice being dropped off at the terminal. It’s the first time I’ve used a taxi, and like going business class for the first time it’s something I could get accustomed to! It took 45 mins to get through security – after they had tasered my 4 tubes of watercolour paint. It was probably a busy day for people to travel, the day after New Year’s Day and even at this time the airport was bust but there was no line at Guernsey Airline check-in desk. A was surprised, a little aghast, and rather excited to see that I was to fly on a plane with propellers for the first time. A tiny little plane, 3 seats per row, one bathroom and two flight attendants. Even the pilot was female! Apart from the noise level as we took off and landed I didn’t find any significant difference in the flight. I know Rachel has taken propeller flights on her travels but ‘no vom-vom’ as Sarah so succinctly put it.
We flew over Wales where it was less cloudy and the mist hovering about the rivers in the frosty countryside was very beautiful. The next thing I could see was the rocky coastline as we came to land in Guernsey. There was no time to look at the little airport as my host, H, was waiting with my name on a sign. It was about 20 paces to her car – so different from the big airports like Manchester and San Francisco where you have to take a bus to the parking lot. She took me ‘the long way round’ to Vazon cottage, meaning that it took about 25 minutes. The roads were very narrow and when two vehicles need to pass one automatically pulls onto the sidewalk continuing at the same speed. There are no street lights, so they are not in danger of running into a light! The road hugged the coast the whole time and then the first thing H did on arrival on my new home for 4 nights was to make me tea while I made friends with Jasmine, the friendly kitty. H had bought the house in 2007 and had added an addition. She had worked in a ceramic business and she’d made the flooring herself from concrete and recycled coloured glass – quite unique. Her son, who I met, works in China teaching English and her daughter is in the UK working as an upper class Mary Poppins. She invited me to walk around the reservoir (where she picks up litter) but I was in need of some food so I wandered over to the busy Vista café on the sea front for a delicious crab sandwich. Feeling much refreshed I headed out along the headland towards the German bunker. The Channel Isles were the only British territory to be occupied by Germans during WWll.
I had the beach entirely to myself, and though heavily overcast it wasn’t too cold, or windy. I found the bunker very disturbing – this concrete monstrosity in this beautiful coastal landscape. As I looked around I could see dozens of these German fortifications built during World War 2. I noticed signs everywhere on the island. There seemed to be a lot of rules – about everything. There was up to a £1000 fine for not cleaning up after your dog. After an hour or so exploring, and finding cuttlefish skeletons (thank you Michael) I jumped on a bus to ‘town’ as St Peter Port is known as. There were lots of shops on the cliff above the harbor but at this time of the year there were no ships sailing, just row upon row of docked yachts. I could see the castle on the rocky promontory and I took a little look in the church that was decorated in dozens of Christmas trees just like Halifax minster. Someone was practicing the organ but the console was curtained off otherwise I would love to have played. I popped into the Visitors’ Centre and though the lady was very helpful it was disappointing to find that many of the attractions are closed for the winter season. I got a take-out coffee from a tiny coffee house where I was the only customer and then, seeing M&S I popped into to buy food supplies.
I took the bus back and despite it only being 3.30 I had to really fight to stay awake. I read the brochures I’d picked up to get the lie of the land and ate some cocoanut prawns in an effort to wake up. H has a roommate, L, who has been there a couple of years. I asked L if there was a friendly local pub I could walk to later that evening and she offered to go with me! H and her son were going out for an Indian before he flies back to China so he dropped L and I off at a hotel in the town to our north, Cobo. As we drove there it seemed an awfully long way to walk back after our drink. There was a public bar showing the footy and the lounge bar which was packed with family groups at long tables with children glued to ipads to keep them quiet. I had a sample of a couple of the local ales and L got stuck into the gin and tonics as we secured comfy chairs by the fireside. L had worked in a Guerney knitwear factory knitting and finishing Guernsey jumpers, and she’d recently completed a complicated cross stitch picture.
Our walk back was in the total darkness, there being no street lights, and we used our phone flashlights to assist. We took a short cut over the hump of the hill rather than going back along the winding coast road and we were back in no time. I couldn’t believe it was still only 8.30 but I went up to my room to explore it. In the bathroom were the usual supplies of soaps and shampoos that previous guests had left for other guests to use, but this was the first time I’d seen a foil of durex in an Airbnb. I joked with my daughters about this thinking about the song by Gabriel Kahane. Anna said wouldn’t it be embarrassing because the host would know who had used it. I relayed this to H and L later, and H commented that she hoped whoever used it looked at the expiration date: it’s been there a while. I recalled leaving something important – a set of keys? – in the bedside table at the Izaak Walton on my honeymoon and asking if they’d mail the contents of the drawer back to me – completely forgetting that the drawer also contained some little foil packets! One episode of QI was enough to send me straight to sleep by 10 p.m.
I was up at 8 to make a cuppa and begin reading Engleby that I’d borrowed from the library at Northlight Studio. Then I painted for an hour in the kitchen overlooking the bird feeder and the pond and then headed up to explore. First on my list was the chapel of St Appoline on La Grande Rue. So far I’d come across very little in the way of history predating WWll but this little chapel seating just 14 people was constructed in1392 by Nicholas Henry and contains a 14th fresco of the Last Supper. It was an hour’s walk, first along the beach but then along little lanes, bust with traffic. I found it absolutely impossible to tell the dates of the house. They are almost all single storey detached bungalows, stone built, some with the stone left exposed and others in which the stone has been painted delicate pastel colours – quite unlike the fishermen’s cottages in Ireland and Scotland where strong vivid colours are the order of the day. But on Guernsey some houses dates from the late 1770’s while others were from the 1970’s the I couldn’t tell one from another. Vazon cottage had outer walls 2 feet thick but was built in the early 1900’s. It gives the impression of being much older. Of course, I was the only visitor at the little church, and neither H nor L had been there. It’s dedicated to the patron saint of dentists, and since two of my Hebden bridge Gibson ancestors were dentists I thought it very fitting that I should visit this church.
Leaving the church I headed back towards the coast. All the roads are lined with houses. There is no open space apart from fields for cows and greenhouses, so apart from the bit of land close to the cliffs there are no viewpoints. I waited for a bus and, without a timetable I just jumped on the first that came by. There’s a great system of any bus rid being 55p and since there are many bus routes that both criss cross the island and go all the way round the coast road you can pretty much get on any bus and end up at the town Terminus at St Peter Port. This articular bus was going to the north of the island which is basically one huge golf club.
After a late lunch in a café of a cheese toastie in a café overlooking the jetty with the castle at its end I walked out on the jetty. The castle, which was first built to protect the island from Napoleon was closed for the season but there were several fishermen who had caught long eel looking things that were gasping for air on the jetty. Rachel send a photo to Michael and he identified them as needlenoses. One of them squirmed away as I was taking a video. I guess he was camera shy! I could see France from the lighthouse at the end of the jetty.
Next I headed inland to try and find the Guernsey tapestry museum. H had made several quilts entirely by hand including the one on my bed, and she had a quilting frame in a corner of the living room with another one on the go. She told me it takes about 4 years to create one. I was in a much older part of town here with nooks and crannies set at odd angles rather like Hebden Bridge. It was growing dark by this time and so I changed my goal to that of finding Victor Hugo’s House. I did find it but it’s now a private house and he only lived there for a year or so. I learned later that there’s another house he lived in but that’s closed for extensive renovations at the moment. I passed some terraced gardens on the steep hillside that must look wonderful in the summer time. There were even a few daffodils out in full bloom. In Hebden Bridge the spring flowers are just beginning to poke their heads through the soil. It probably looks quite like the Amalfi coast in the summer.
I was quite thirsty with all that hill climbing so I took the bull by the horns and entered into the semi darkness of the Albion Bar. It’s in the Guiness book of records as having the closest bar to a church. There was only me, one man and the bar tender in. I thought it would be busy with holiday visitors as the street seemed to be. I ordered a Thatcher’s Haze, which I actually enjoyed better than my usual order of Thatcher’s Gold (I found it at the Co-op when I got home). As I left the music on tap was the Eagles’ Hotel California – how appropriate.
A couple of minutes away was the bus station with various destinations written on the bus stop. I boarded a bus that came to the ‘Grand Rouques, Cobo, Vazon’ stop and followed the route (it was now entirely dark) on my GPS. It took 45 minute to get to Cobo on the North West coast (where I’d walked home from the pub) but then imagine my surprise when it headed NOT to Vazon but back to the bus station. But now the castle was looking splendid in its floodlights. Arriving back there an hour later I saw that the places written on the bus stop had a tiny ‘OR’ between them. I inquired of people waiting at the bus stop what time the next bus to Vazon was and they assured me it would be at 5:30. It was now 5:00. Just to be on the safe side I crossed to the bus inquiries office and they told me there would be a bus to Vazon at 5:15. So back outside I went. It was very cold waiting. 5:15 came and went but no bus did the same thing. I went back into the office. They tried to reach the driver of the 5:15 on the walkie talkie but he didn’t answer. Then the guy on the front desk said ‘Hang on a moment. I can hear him. He’s in the canteen.’ He should have been driving the 5:15, so he came running out, picked up a parked bus and soon we were on our way! Oh, well, I wasn’ t in a hurry to get to anywhere and it had only cost me £1.10!
Because there are no street lights even when I got off the bus in Vazon bay (I could see Vistas bistro lit up) I couldn’t actually see my road but with the help of my phone flashlight I got back safely. I ate my frozen dinner and spent the evening looking through the books in my room tucked up in another handmade quilt, and was in bed again by 10pm.
I started the morning by painting again. Why can’t I do this at home? Then I got the 10.25 correct bus (!) to the German Occupation museum. I’ve done very little in the way of museum visiting during the last few years but the impression of these German bunkers along the entire coastline of this island had got me intrigued. And what an amazing place it was. I think I expecting some modern steel framed glass affair but no, this was in a typical Guernsey farmhouse. I was one of 3 visitors and the man who took my £6 was the owner and curator. He opened the museum in 1966. I watched 2 short movies about the occupation of which I knew nothing until getting to the island. St Peter Port had been bombed with the loss of 33 civilian lives and the following day the Germans had invaded. Over half the population had been evacuated. During the 5 year occupation both the people of Guernsey and the German soldiers had faced starvation. All cars and radios were taken by the Germans and so only horse drawn carts were available for transportation. The Germans brought in ‘slaves’ ie prisoners of war to build the bunkers, lookout towers, batteries and underground hospital and these men lived on the brink of starvation too. There was a women’s bicycle on display with the tires made from hose pipes, and people had to get written permission to purchase anything, even such a small thing as a bar of soap. The upper floor had been turned into a Guernsey Street with mannequins – all quite realistic. Much of the German clothing on display had been left behind in situ when they signed the armistice and the soldiers left. The building was incredibly cold and I was looking forward to a free cuppa and mince pie in the little tea shop, just to warm up. But the owner introduced me to a man and his wife, also having a cuppa. He was 90 and had lived through the occupation and he spent the next hour telling me first hand about his experience being 9-14 years old including how his family had befriended a German soldier whom he had kept in contact with for many years after the war was over. Boiling broccoli stumps to stave off starvation, making a crystal radio, finding his dad’s gun hidden under some hay in the barn – all the while the soldier saying ‘Verboten.’ I think that was the first word I learned on my first trip abroad to Switzerland in 1975! It was very visible on the trains.
By now I was seriously hungry – and cold – so I asked for recommendation for somewhere to eat. They suggested The Deerhound in the village. He even offered me a ride. 90, and still driving on these roads?!? Hot soup and a pear cider were just the ticket, though I did send the ice in my glass back to the bar. I chatted with the French bartender who has a friend in Bradford.
Next stop was Moulin Huet, bay that Renoir had painted several times when he’d stayed in St Peter Port for a month. There was a real windmill minus its sails where I got off the bus, and, following my GPS I headed along a lane in the direction of the coast. I soon found myself at the end of the lane and in the garden of an enormous mansion. As luck would have it someone was just taking their car out of the property and a young girl was holding the gate open for the car to pass through. I asked for directions which she gave me in great detail and off I went. The path followed a small stream, walled in on both sides, and was muddy, slippery and very steep in places. I met another path, turned left at the toilets that were, of course, closed for the winter (as if no-one needs to pee when it’s winter!) and headed down into the bay. It was a lovely scene with jagged rocks littered in the bay. Three pastel coloured cottages made the scene quite idyllic even in the gathering gloom of a wintery afternoon. I followed an easier path back to the bus stop and found myself in Iceland – well, at ‘an’ Iceland. I’d never been in to one of these chain stores and since I needed food for dinner I went in to explore and came out with a frozen dinner. I got a bus back to St Peter Port and since I had a little time to wait for the bus I called in at the beer and wine store that L had recommended beneath the Albion Hotel where I managed to find a couple of tiny bottles of Jack Rabbit Chardonnay from California. Just the ticket for the next two evenings at home. I did some more painting and then H and L invited me to share in the crab dinner they were preparing together. Apparently H has taught L to cook, and delicious it was, with roast potatoes cooked in some special electric contraption, and avocado salad.
I’d purposefully left my final day on the island open. I painted in the morning and then L offered to take me to the fairy ring, After a little drive we parked in a bay close to a lighthouse. Above us was a lookout point where the lighthouse keeper’s wife would communicate with him by semaphore. The fairy ring itself was constructed in the 17th or 18th century. I commented on the lack of boats around the island but L pointed out that in the winter most of them are taken indoors. We could see two tractors doing just that. Then we drove to the Tiny chapel built by a monk. There was a large a catholic school close by where the monks had taught and one of them set up this tiny chapel constructed from broken pottery and clinker (what’s left when you burn coal to heat a greenhouse. It looks just like lava). One million pounds needs to be raised to preserve the site, give wheelchair access, add café and toilets.
Home for lunch and then some more painting. I was just about to go out for another walk before it started to get dark when H asked me if I’d like to accompany her on a trip to the north of the island. She collects litter on open spaces and so I went with her to the Common. On the way back we stopped at a farm to pick up some bags of logs and I ended up chatting to the farmer about the ruined greenhouses. There are 4 acres of glass that used to be a freesia farm until the farmer died and his wife could no longer carry on the business and so they just got overgrown. Back home I was invited to have dinner. A friend, Maxine, was picking up a Chinese takeaway in St Peter Port and they knew it would be 12 minutes before it arrived! I’d already purchased my dinner but we all ate together. Maxine was French and Judith had met her last New Year. After dinner we all played Jenga and I pinched myself as to how much fun I was having – 4 divorced ladies of a ‘certain’ age playing games. After they went to watch Bargain Hunt where they make it into a game between them but I need to go and pack for my journey home.
I slept til 4 a.m. but I know I never sleep properly before a journey if I have to get up very early. H was ready and waiting to take me to the airport at 7:30. It seemed really weird to think that we were leaving the house only 15 minutes before check-in time at 7:45, but I put myself in her hands and we made it. It’s a tiny airport with two conveyer belts at security, and only one was in operation. I bought a cup of tea but then found that I wasn’t allowed to take it on the plane. The lady at the check-in desk suggested I just stay in the lounge until I’d finished my tea and then I’d see the people in line beginning to go out onto the tarmac and I could join them. Fair enough! I found myself sitting next to someone on row 7 and since the window seat in row 6 (the one I’d sat in on my outbound flight) was available I asked to move. Fine. Now I had that perfect seat to watch the propeller.
Flight time was an hour and 10 minutes so I was in Manchester by 10 a.m. How weird is that! For most of the last 30 years every flight has been across the Atlantic, being in the air at least ten hours.
Manchester airport, train to Piccadilly, tram to Victoria, where, with a little run I made it to a train earlier than the one I expected to catch. It was raining, of course, as I walked from the station in Hebden Bridge but I was back in my apartment by 12:30. I spent the rest of the day resting, washing clothes, emptying my case and writing up my journal.
Today, Dec 13, 2018, I’d planned to take a short stroll into Hardcastle Crags – mostly because it wasn’t raining and there was a hint of blue sky. I’d spent yesterday in the archives, the first time in 6 months. For the previous few days I’d been finding out interesting things from an interactive historic map of Calderdale and had come up with the idea of printing out a map and marking on all the houses in the area (basically the ones I could walk to from my apartment) that my ancestors had lived in, and those they had built. From this I’d discovered the whereabouts of Foster Mill. And wouldn’t you know it! It occupied the space on which a row of newish houses has been built, as far as I can tell the only new houses to have been built on flat land in Hebden Bridge since 1900. When Anna was here in May we’d gone to have a look at a house for sale on that very street – Spring Grove. Foster mill had been worked on extensively by my Wrigley builder ancestors. In 1842 the mill chimney had been plastered by Thos. Jas. & Geo Wrigley for Wilm & Jas Saga – 14.5 days work.
Bedding boxes form part of the Community garden. Was the building behind part of the Foster Mill complex?
In 1890 they had rebuilt the mill after a devastating fire and in 1908 Foster Mill shed and cottages had been painted outside. Only two days ago I’d gone out after a storm and taken photos of an old building close to the site of Foster Mill and had chatted to a guy who uses it to house a car repair business. I’d remarked on the number of quirky decorations on the buildings close by – very Hebden Bridge. So today, outside this old building a man was planting some bedding plants in some waste ground. On impulse Iasked if he knew if the building had once been connected with Foster Mill. “Perhaps,” he said. “That very old on the left, just before the bridge was the stables for the mill.” I’d taken several photos of that building since I’d moved to the town, simply because it had some great doors with flaking paint – one of my specialities. “There used to be a row of cottage where we’re standing. I have a photo of them. Would you like to come in and see it?” and with that he led the way over to one of the houses on Spring Grove. The photo was framed and on display in his living room. One of my ancestors lived in a cottage at Foster Mill. I wondered if it could have been one of these. I commented on his piano, where music for a Chopin Nocturne and the obligatory Fur Elise were on the music stand. I mentioned that I teach piano and we exchange info with the possibility of him taking lessons. It turned out that we had met once before in that connection when I was looking for a space to teach piano!
From Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale companion:
Next to Hebden Vale Iron Works on Victoria Road / Foster Lane, Wadsworth.
There was a corn mill, then a fulling mill [in the 17th century]. Around 1808, it was converted to a worsted spinning mill. In 1851, it was described as 6-storeys and was driven by an iron waterwheel 36 ft in diameter and 14½ ft wide, a 23 hp engine, and a 16 hp engine. The mill was destroyed by fire on 1st December 1828, 14th December 1853, and 17th May 1888 In 1888, it was one of the largest cotton spinning mills in the valley. After the fire, the mill was rebuilt by Redman Brothers. On 27th April 1891, photographs of the neighbourhood were taken from the top of 168-foot high chimney by R. S. Blackburn. The day was dull and the negatives not very clear. The building was demolished in 1985. The base of the mill chimney is still visible.
I took my leave of Mr ____ and carried on, over the bridge, which only this week I discovered is named Foster Mill Bridge. It’s similar to Hebden Bridge being very very steep, narrow, cobbled and with very low parapets. This was because the horses that used these Pack horse bridges were laden with bolts of woven fabric which clear the height of the parapets. It was built in the 17th century
Today, now that I knew its precise location, I could clearly make out Dog Bottom house and even see the progress of the stone wall since chatting with the mason two days ago. My friendly blue heron was nowhere to be seen today but I did take notice of a sign that I must have passed before. Well, I’d read it before but since I didn’t recognise the names of the places the sign mentioned, or the lay of the land in the vicinity, it hadn’t meant anything to me. Today I understood it all – yeah! Just another day of feeling connected to the landscape.
Today I went in search for Dog Bottom. Well, with a name like that who wouldn’t! Thomas Gibson was living there in 1861with his wife, Sally, nee Wrigley, who was living in Lily Hall at the time of her marriage in 1838. In 1841 Thomas and Sally, my great great great great aunt and uncle were living at Lily Hall too.
Thomas was a well known local photographer. When I first found his address on the 1861 I discovered that Dog Bottom was the name given to a small area of flat land on the way to Hardcastle Crags, just across Hebden Water from Hebden Bridge Bowling club. I often walk along here just to get out and about. Recently I’ve been making friends with a blue heron that often stands right on the weir just past Dog Bottom. This morning, through looking at some historic maps I found that there is an actual building named Dog Bottom so I set off to find it. Soon I encountered a couple who were letting their dogs swim in Hebden Water, despite the chill in the air. I chatted with them and asked if I could take a photo of their dog in ‘Dog Bottom.’ She gladly agreed and I explained why! “Ah, you can see Dog Bottom house through the trees if you go a little further,” she suggested. “They’re having a lot of building done there. I’d love to go inside. It’s a really old house,” she continued.
So, having looked for my heron, unsuccessfully, probably because it was so late in the day I headed across the river and soon came to a sign. Well, at least I know I’m in the right place. Masses of new building work was under construction and after taking a few photos of the original house I got into conversation with one of the builders who was laying a stone wall. He told me that the name Dog Bottom is derived from a pack of wild dogs that used to roam the area. First of all I asked if the owners were friendly – and explained my interest. He was eager to tell me all he knew about the owner – none other than Siegmund Freud’s great grandson! Wow. That was a turn up for the books. The psychologist’s grandson was Lucian Freud the famous artist who owned to fathering 14 children, though friends put the estimate at around 40, and the current owner of Dog Bottom is one of those 14 children: From the Daily Mail https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5094559/Artist-Lucian-Freud-s-legacy-sex-sorrow.html
Growing up, Francis Eliot, 45, considered himself the son of Perry, the raffish 10th Earl of St Germans, although it was an open secret that he was the issue of Jacquetta’s long affair with Freud. Francis Eliot was named after artist Francis Bacon. It was an open secret that he was Lucian Freud’s son. He was named after Freud’s fellow artist Francis Bacon, giving rise to a sardonic joke from Perry, who knew he was not the boy’s biological father: ‘How do you like your bacon ? Freud?’
Francis is married with two children and lives in an artistic community in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. He is an expert whirling dervish, the eastern dance practised by Islamic mystics, and teaches dance in the 5 Rhythms method, combining movement and meditation.
I rather think my photographer ancestor would have appreciated this story! This was not the outcome that I’d anticipated when I set off for my little stroll this afternoon!
Lucian Freud Biography: https://www.who2.com/bio/lucian-freud/
Lucian Freud was a German-born British painter known mostly for bold and realistic portraits and nudes. His 1995 painting of a nude, obese woman, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold in 2008 for $33.6 million, a record high price for the work of a living artist. The grandson of Sigmund Freud, his background was primarily in drawing, and he was a tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art in London in the late 1940s and ’50s. Freud began getting recognition in the early 1950s, making his mark as a new kind of realist, with muted colors and heavy brushstrokes that emphasized the flesh. Freud was known to spend thousands of hours on a single portrait; he often painted people he knew who were willing to endure months of sitting under the gaze of a probing eye. A retrospective exhibit in 1987 and 1988 in Paris, Washington and London helped make Freud an international star. By the end of his career, Lucian Freud was among a handful of painters described as the world’s best, and the value of his painting began to soar. The National Gallery of Australia bought Freud’s After Cézanne (2000) for $7.4 million in 2001, and in 2011, a few months after Freud’s death, his Boy’s Headsold for nearly $5 million.
As his business card tells us Thomas had a studio on Crown Street, Hebden Bridge. I have yet to find out which building his studio occupied, but I currently live adjacent to Crown Street!
I visited their grave a while back – a very imposing memorial – in Heptonstall cemetery. I must visit it again now that i know a little more about them.
Blue-butted sheep clinging to the hillsides are woollen smudges on green felt
Faintly mottled with age and growing decrepitude.
Fragments of ancient walls crisscrossing the quilted landscape
Are half finished seams defining and redefining the juxtaposition of fabrics.
Hand embroidered backstitches create paths through the panorama
While roads are unravelled seams bordered by messy ditches to be constructed, moved and rethought time after time.
The motorway looming below is an ugly fray, brutally ripped open, causing mayhem to the surrounding countryside
Xs mark the placement of buildings clustered in their cross-stitched confusion along
A trailing blue ribbon slip-stitched in meandering waves through darkened valleys of worsted cloth.
It’s late afternoon and the winter light is fading.
In my workspace I turn on the overhead light causing the sun to break through brocade clouds
Bringing a luminescence to the tightly woven silken threads.
Circles of shining sequins sowed like seeds over the felt
Are reservoirs feeding thirsty machines and people
Living in their cross-stitched villages, in the shadows of their buckram chimneys,
Connected by their ribbon river and their running stitched roads
And tonight, secure in their blanket stitched beds.
Set in stone?
On viewing the West wall of Manchester Cathedral
A first view:
Scored by aeons of weather
Scared by centuries of man.
Man and horse struggled
Through the penetrating precipitation
Of a Mancunian winter to carry that once-golden stone
Masons left their marks
Gauged with chisels, struck with hammers, polished it until smooth.
Set in stone implies ‘forever’
Yet here the ravages of time, be they made by man or Nature’s serendipity
Have destroyed those chiseled lines,
Blurred those straight edges,
Roughened those smooth surfaces until
Only scattered remnants of fine tracery peak out with blinded eyes from beneath its wretched face.
And now, like an ancient mummy the once-smooth skin is black and pitted,
A volcanic crater of aging epidermis.
A second viewing, now informed by a Father
Garbed in mockery of the knights that lie prostrate beneath our feet.
That ancient wall that spoke to me of medieval masons
Whose marks I’d traced with hesitant fingers,
Yearning to connect across the centuries,
Its marks are mutilations, wounds wrought by virtuous Victorians
Intentional disfigurements of medieval craftsmanship
By prim men in straight-laced garb
Yearning to cover the ancient disorder with modern clarity of line.
This wall, with its pock marks and scuffs bore witness to my forefathers,
Their birth, their love, their demise.
Music shrouds their spirits for
Without them I wouldn’t exist.
“That wall needs a face lift.
Cover the blemishes, obliterate the scars,” the renovators had said.
Today that white wash has flaked away into its own oblivion
Leaving the pitted West wall to conjure its own convoluted saga.
The 12:27 to Leeds
“The next train to depart from platform one will be the 12:27 to Leeds
Calling at Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax, Bradford Interchange, New Pudsey and Leeds.”
The contralto’s opening recitative sends ‘shivers down my spine.’
This platform change has me running Prestissimo beneath the bridge passage synching my pulse to the finale of the William Tell Overture.
I slip for a moment on the wet cobbles but managing to avoid a fully fledged glissando,
I run up the stairs in whole steps and, with the leap of a tritone, like the Devil I jump aboard.
The iron Lion growls and lets out a roar as this Carnival of human Animals settles back in its seat to enjoy this Short Ride in a Fast Machine.
The Water Music to our left softly serenades with Tales from Vienna Woods
While the Ash Grove placidly sits on the hillside above soulfully singing Dido’s Lament over a ground bass provided by lowing cows.
Below me Mytholmroyd church still manages to keep its asymmetrical head above water
But with much more rain it’ll become La Cathédrale Engloutie.
But for now in these green quilted fields Sheep May Safely Graze
Farther along the valley abandoned factories resound to the rhythm of Bolero
As ghosts perform a Danse Macabre on the skeletal remains of neglected buildings.
Through a dense mist of atonal fog Britten’s Night Mail performs an accelerando through the entire Four Seasons
Coming at last to a rest in Winter at Sowerby Bridge
Where the platform is humming to the Waltz of the Flowers as Eidelweiss pirouttes with Roses from the South
But at this time of year all respectable Bumble Bees have already taken Flight.
Continuing at a tempo moderato the train goes ‘past cotton grass and moorland boulder’ and eventually
Rows of saw-toothed weaving sheds climax in Halifax’s phallic folly
As, through the rustling leaves of Der Lindenbaum, I glimpse The Lark Ascending.
Heading over Coley viaduct a phrase of staccato raindrops bounce off Satie’s umbrellas keeping dry the heads of men intently involved in Le Golf
As, high above them, marching with Pomp and Circumstance, huge pylons stomp across the course con moto like Martian fighting machines.
At length a dolce phrase from a Bach Suite greets our arrival After Eight in Halifax, home to Mackintosh and Quality Street.
And several crochets climb aboard accompanied by small quavers stoically holding hands.
They scale the half steps and jump eagerly onto the two lined staff stretching across the page
While white haired minims and legless semibreves prop up the bar.
Subito, we plunge into the blackness of the Hall of the Mountain King,
Where sparsely orchestrated Catacombs lurk at ever diminishing intervals
“Where’s our Lux Aeterna when we need one?” I ask the ripieno gathered around me
‘But answer came there none’
For a grand pause was written into the score and everyone was silent.
Back under the Nuages Gris and ever onward past Jardins sous la pluie
We pause for a brief fermata at Bradford station
Where the train suddenly goes into retrograde motion for the remainder of the trip.
As we make a controlled ritardando into New Pudsey
The vast expanse of Asda’s car park is revealed as a Land of Hope and Glory
Wherein ‘the machine of a dream’ vies for space with a mercury Queen.
Ponies scatter on the sodden field dreaming of a life in the sun in Copland’s Rodeo
While at the Major’s poultry farm I spy a Ballet of Unhatched Chicks
Caused by a sharp cat wandering into the flat yard
And causing havoc in The Hut on Hen’s Legs.
“Oh puss, get out” I cry to myself, sotto voce,
But my voice is lost in a cacophony of cell phones
As aleatoric pings Come Together in a final cadenza
Heralding not The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba into Leeds railway station
But a Fanfare for the Common Man.
James Wrigley – my great great great grandfather – therein lies a tale.
Between 1809 and 1811 James and Mally Wrigley moved from their home on Toad Lane Rochdale to Heptonstall. Toad Lane Rochdale is famous all over the world for being the home of the Cooperative movement. In fact, I went to a lecture last night given by the Hebden Bridge Local History Society about the origins of the first cooperative mill, Nutclough Mill which just happens to be in in Hebden Bridge, and how it was eventually bought out by the Cooperative Wholesale Society. It brought back memories for me of going to the Coop in Bolton, not just for food, but I had my elocution lessons in a room upstairs, was a member of the verse speaking choir (which is why I can recite so many poems) and the singing choir. Verse speaking and elocution festivals were held in the ballroom about the food store. I also went to the Coop dentist and Coop opticians in that building. The first coop on Toad Lane Rochdale is now a museum which I visited during my summer trip to England last year. The site of the museum at 31 Toad Lane was where the ‘Pioneers’, 28 working people opened a co-operative store on the 21st December, 1844.
I’d discovered, surprisingly, that James and Mally Wrigley are my great great great great grandparents. It’s from my connection with them that I am related to the Wrigley builders of Hebden Bridge, and the Gibsons of Hebden Bridge. Between the birth of their fourth and fifth sons the growing Wrigley family moved from Rochdale to Heptonstall. I don’t know where they lived immediately but by 1840 they were living in Lily Hall. Lily Hall is pivotal in my family history.
But for the Wrigleys of Lily Hall I wouldn’t have the ancestors in Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge that first brought me to stay in this area with Rachel in the summer of 2015 which eventually led to me moving to Hebden Bridge in Sept 2017 after 32 years in the U.S.
When James (junior) was married at St Thomas’s, Heptonstall on March 15, 1840 he was living with his parents James and Mally in Lily Hall. His occupation is given as a white limer, one who paints walls and fences with white lime, and his father is a cabinet maker. James’s new bride is Mary Pickles of Rochdale. James and Mary both made their mark in lieu of signature so they were probably illiterate. A witness to their marriage is Thomas Gibson, a 20 year old whitesmith who was living next door at Lily Hall. Sometime the following year in 1841 Mary gave birth to a son, Thomas, who soon died and was buried at St Thomas’s on July 15, 1841. In 1843 Sarah was born and a year later Martha in 1844. In 1847 Mally was born – named after her grandma. By the census in 1851 James and Mary were living at Town Gate Heptonstall and James is a head plasterer, thus carrying on the family tradition of being connected with the building trade. In 1852 James’s wife Mary died at the age of 37. She’s buried at St Thomas’s: Plot #V1 9 Flat In memory of MARY the wife of JAMES WRIGLEY of this Town who died June 12th 1852 aged 37 years Also of JAMES WRIGLEY her husband who died Sept 2nd 1886 aged 75 years. Two years, 2nd July 1854 later he married another Mary, Mary Ackroyd, a widow whose maiden name had been Pickup. The following month (!) their daughter Mary Ann was born on August 21st. The next 3 censuses 1861, 1871, 1881 have the family living at Millwood, an area between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden near the Shannon and Chesapeake pub (which I noticed yesterday is closed and up for sale for £195,000). Mary died in 1876 and James lived to the grand old age of 75 and was buried with his first wife (!) at St Thomas’s.
So, how does all this tie in with MY family tree. Well, here’s an article I wrote explaining just that. It was published in the Calderdale Family History Journal:
Elizabeth Ann Whitham
In the summer of 2016 I spent seven weeks in Calderdale researching my maternal grandmother’s ancestry. Though born and raised in the tiny village of Affetside in Lancashire I now live in Northern California and I was eager to make this trip to find out more about my heritage. For the previous seven years I had been doing as much research online as possible but I had come upon a puzzling fact: my great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Whitham had been married twice, but had given the name of two different fathers on her two marriage certificates. First Elizabeth Ann married Ishmael Nutton at St John the Baptist church in Halifax on April 27, 1861. His residence at the time of marriage was Skircoat and Ishmael’s occupation was woolsorter. Ishmael’s father, James Nutton gives his occupation on the marriage certificate as woolsorter too. Elizabeth Ann, whose residence was Halifax, gives her father’s name as William Whitham with the space for his occupation left empty. In the 1861 census an Elizabeth Ann Whittam (born Heptonstall, 1841) is a cook at a large boarding school on Hopwood Lane, Park House. So far, so good. The school was run by the Farrar family. John Farrar (1813-1883) born at Heptonstall (just like Elizabeth Ann) was the “schoolmaster: Classical, commercial and mathematical.”(1861 census). Interestingly the road that joins Shaw Hill in Skircoat is Farrar Mill Road.
Ishmael died from alpaca poisoning (sorting alpaca wool) on March 17 1876. I found his grave at Christ Church Mt Pellon. Elizabeth Ann, now 40, was now head of the household living at 20 Haigh Street, Halifax, with her sons Charles 18, John 17 and William 14. She also has a lodger, James Hainsworth Leeming, eleven years younger than her. In 2016 I went to find her house. Haigh Street is still there, partially, but as ill-luck would have it the part I wanted has been demolished. It’s a street sandwiched between factory buildings, many of them derelict. Five years later Elizabeth Ann married James Leeming, a widower, originally from Horton near Bradford. But here, things get a little more complicated because she gives the name of her father not as William Whitham but as James Wrigley, a plasterer. Try as I might I just couldn’t figure this out. She’d given two different names for fathers on her two marriages. The simplest explanation is that I’d got the ‘wrong’ Elizabeth Ann, but that didn’t seem likely since the birth years were about the same and they’d both been born in Heptonstall. Completely at a loss I just happened to find a person online offering to help with people’s ancestral brick walls in Calderdale. I emailed Roger Beasley of the CFHS one evening in August, giving details of my predicament and, lo and behold by the time I woke up the next morning he had solved my mystery. He wrote: “I think I may have worked out why Elizabeth Ann Whittham gave both William Whittham and James Wrigley as her father. Her mother, Sally Farrar, daughter of James Farrar, married William Whittham in 1822. Their children were: Hannah (b.1828), Farrar (b.1831), John (b.1833), James Farrar (b.1837). William Whittham died in 1837. In the 1841 census there was a James Rigley, plasterer, living next door to the widow, Sally. It seems possible that Elizabeth Ann Whittham was the illegitimate daughter of Sally Whittham and James (W)rigley. I couldn’t find a baptism for Elizabeth Ann Whittham which was common for children born out of wedlock. However, I did find the record of her birth in 1840 on FreeBMD.” Perhaps Elizabeth Ann herself wasn’t aware of her true father when she married for the first time. But Roger Beasley’s email also contained two other very important facts. I’d been unable to trace Elizabeth Ann’s mother. Roger found her to be Sally Farrar of Heptonstall. When I got the church records for St Thomas’s Heptonstall there are 190 Farrar baptisms recorded! Roger did find a birth record of Elizabeth Ann in 1840 on FreeBMD in which she’s registered in Todmorden. When her birth certificate arrived from England I found that, sure enough, as Roger had surmised there is no father named on it. Her mother’s name is Sally Whitham nee Farrar and Elizabeth Ann was born at Lily Hall. I can’t help wondering if James Wrigley and his wife knew that Sally was giving birth to James’s daughter literally in the next room – in Lily Hall.
So in September 2016 I embarked upon some research into the family of James Wrigley. After all, if these facts are correct he is my great, great, great grandfather! I found two online Wrigley family trees with the correct James Wrigley, of Heptonstall. I contacted both tree owners and they both live in New Zealand. James was one of eight children. One of his brothers was Abraham and remarkably there was a photo of Abraham taken with his own son John. From Grace Hanley in New Zealand I found out that “John came to NZ in 1863, Edmund in 1865 and Hannah, James and their mother Sally arrived in NZ, 1883.” James Wrigley, Elizabeth Ann’s biological father had married Mary Pickles on March 15th 1840. One of James and Mary’s children was Mally Wrigley. She married James Barker of Water Barn, Rossendale on July 14, 1866 in Heptonstall. Mally and James were both weavers when they married but by 1871 and 1881 he was a cotton operative.
I will return to Calderdale this summer to further my research and would love to meet up with people who may have recognized some of their ancestors in my story.
With many thanks to Roger Beasley.
So, just two months after James married his first wife Mary Pickles, his next door neighbor gave birth to James’s child, Elizabeth, who took as her surname her mother’s married name of Whitham. On June 11th 1840 just 3 weeks after Elizabeth Ann was born at a petty sessions held at the White Hart in Todmorden in front of 2 justices of the peace James was acknowledged as Elizabeth Ann’s father and ordered to pay 4s 6p to the Overseers of the Poor in Heptonstall for the maintenance and support so far incurred and he is ordered to pay weekly 1s 6p weekly until the child reaches 7 years of age. When Sarah and I had lunch in the White Hart we’d no idea of how significant a role this building had been in our family’s history.
Through a couple more years of research, especially when I moved to Hebden Bridge I found out more about the Wrigley family. They continued to expand their building business, building some of the largest buildings in Hebden Bridge and surrounding area. But that’s for another post on my blog. Sally had already given birth to six children when she had Elizabeth. Their early deaths make very sad reading. Her first two children died less than a year old. Her third, Hannah, outlived her, dying at 66, then Farrar died aged 5 and John aged 2, then she had James Farrar (1837-1901) and 7 months later her husband, William Whitham died. No wonder she was living back with her parents in Lily Hall in 1840.
Ever since I received a photo of my great uncle Thomas from a new-found relative on Ancestry.com I’ve been haunted by his gaunt face, staring out. It’s a face that tells of hardship and sorrow so I decided to delve a little more into his background, and perhaps find out if what I was reading in his face was born out by what I could find out about his life.
Sure enough I find that by the date of his baptism at Halifax minster, August 12, 1863 twelve days after his birth on July 28, his mother, Mary nee Peel, had already died. Within 2 years his father George remarried, this time to Charlotte Haigh. The turbulence of their marriage and George’s various prison sentence have been described in my chapter about George. However, Thomas’s middle name has puzzled me for a while now. It surely is a surname, possibly indicative of his ‘real’ father. And then I found ‘the missing link.’ I’ve just noticed that on the 1881 census that when Sarah Gledhill was living at 51 Battison St in Halifax the next door neighbour at # 61 was James Gledhill Wardle. There MUST be some significant connection here. It can’t be a coincidence. So possibly James was Thomas’s biological father. OK. But why does James have Gledhill as a middle name? Argh! The plot thickens. That requires more delving. So I spent an entire evening finding out about the life of James Gledhill Wardle, born in 1843 to mother Isabella who was born in Soyland, Halifax. I traced him from 1861 until his death in 1919 and there’s no accounting for his middle name being Gledhill. I do know that he was christened with that name but none of his siblings have that as a middle name. So I’m none the wiser. Getting back to Thomas Wardle Gledhill George and Charlotte subsequently had two children Abraham, born 1866 and Sarah, born 1868. Did they realize the biblical significance of these names?
By the time he was 8 years old Thomas was living with his grandparents John and Harriet Gledhill at 1 and 2 Regent’s Court, Orange Street in Halifax. This is now a car park though Orange Street still parallels a new road by the Orange Street roundabout. At 61 and 58 years old his grandparents were quite elderly to deal with an 8 year old. Their own children John 18, and Maria 15 were working. John as a drayman like his father, and Maria as a worsted twister.
On Aug 31, 1876 there is a record of Thomas being employed at Crossley carpets, one of 6 children between 13 and 18 years of age who took up employment that day in what was then the largest carpet manufacturer in the world, employing 5000 workers. John Crossley (1772 – 1837) founded the firm at Dean Clough in Halifax. By 1837 the firm had 300 employees and the fourth largest mill in Britain. Following the death of their father, the firm was inherited by his three sons, John, Joseph and Francis.
Francis Crossley (1817 – 1872) was responsible for the company’s rapid expansion throughout the mid-nineteenth century. He pioneered the development of steam-powered carpet manufacturing, which gave the company an enormous advantage in terms of cost of production. Licensing the use of their patents to other carpet manufacturers brought in substantial revenues from royalties alone. Unusually for the time, Francis Crossley operated a policy of paying women equal wages to men for doing the same job. Many of the Crossley family values were inspired by their Congregationalist faith.
By 1862 Crossley & Sons was the largest carpet manufacturer in the world. In 1864 the firm became a joint-stock company, with the primary aim of allowing its 3,500 employees to become shareholders. 20 percent of the company was sold to the employees at preferential rates. They were perhaps the first large industrial employer to profit share with their employees.
In 1868 John Crossley & Sons was the largest publicly quoted industrial company in Britain, with an ordinary share capitalization of £2.2 million (about £220 million in 2014). 5,000 people were employed. By 1872 the company had annual carpet sales of £1.1 million, including exports to the United States valued at nearly £500,000. The buildings at Dean Clough Mill covered 20 acres, where concentration of production at a single site lowered costs.
By the time of the next census in 1881 Thomas was living with the Thomases: his aunt Rachel and uncle George in Milk Street, Halifax. Milk Street was part of ‘the City.’ The City was a densely populated area at Cross Fields bounded by John Street to the south, Great Albion Street to the north, Orange Street to the east, and St James’s Road to the west.
It was built at the beginning of the 19th century, and became a slum area with a higher death rate than the rest of the district. There were an estimated 780 people living in a maze of back-to-back houses, courtyards, dimly-lit shops, and narrow streets. On 27th February 1926, the Ministry of Health approved the demolition of the area. The property was demolished in 1926. The site remained empty until 1938, eventually making way for the bus station and the Odeon. Thomas’s job appears to be ‘printer in carpets.’
In Feb 6 1888 at Halifax Minster he married a widow Ruth Dean (nee Bates) both of Crossfield Halifax, another part of ‘the City.’ Thomas’s hand look very unsteady on his marriage certificate. I wonder if he was literate. The 1891 census finds the family at John Street, another part of ‘the City.’ Thomas is a tin plate worker. They had two children, Willie and Minnie but five years after their marriage Ruth died in 1893 at the age of 30 and a year later on 19th August 1894 Thomas married Sarah Jane Veal at St Thomas’s church in Charlestown, Halifax. Thomas was 31 but at 32 it was a very late first marriage for Sarah. However Sarah had already given birth to a son Frederick Horsfall Veal who was baptized on 12 Nov 1884 at All Souls, Haley Hill, Halifax. That’s the church where my great aunt Lil and her husband Bart are buried and Sarah and I went to find their grave in the summer of 2017. There is no father indicated on the baptism record meaning that Sarah wasn’t married. Presumably Frederick’s biological father’s surname was Horsfall.
Thomas was living in Fleet Street, and Sarah in Pitt street at the time of their marriage. Both streets are in the slum area of ‘the City.’ A year later their first daughter was born, Gladys (18895-1962). 1901 sees Thomas and his family at 10 James Street, also in ‘the City.’ His occupation is given as ‘scavenger’ (corporation) with three children Willie 13 and Minnie 10. Ten years later, 1911, the family are at the same address and Thomas is now a labourer on the road (corporation). Now Sarah Jane’s son by a previous relationship Frederick Horsfall Veal is living with them. He’s 26 and a fish fryer! Frederick went on to become a private, 2nd/6th Bn. in the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment, was killed in action on 3 May 1917 and is commemorated at Arras memorial cemetery in France. From army records I believe he saw action in France, Belgium, Germany and Gallipoli.
10 months later Thomas himself died, aged 54, at 20 Grant Street in the centre of Halifax and is buried at St James’s church in Salterhebble. It’s odd to realise that this man was my grandma Florence’s uncle, her mum’s step-brother, just like it’s so difficult to realise that Thomas’s father, George (of Wakefield jail fame) was my grandma’s granddad. There was always tension at family get togethers between my mum’s mum and my dad’s mum. My dad’s mum lived in a semi and my mum’s mum lived in a terraced house but I was also aware that my mum’s mum thought that her sister-in-law lived ‘above her station.’ I wonder if she knew about George’s prison time and the poverty that affected Thomas’s family.
The White Rabbit offers his pocket watch to me
As Alice looks on bemusedly.
Bobbins of spun cotton fill the coal scuttle that adorns my table
As jostles for air between cake and cappuccino.
Through glass, spotlessly clean, a crisp winter light pours in,
But, with eyes wide open I dim this light, cloud this glass, drown the music
And I’m in a dark forbidding place, a basement, where deafening thuds,
Piercing whistles and earth-shaking stomps
Transport me to a former time.
I glimpse a young boy, ten years old, flat-capped,
With thread-bare overcoat and scuffed clogs trampling along the shit drenched cobbles
Barely awake, barely cognizant of his surroundings
Where he s dwarfed by buildings so tall
That the sun never reaches the ground
Even in those times when, just for a brief moment,
It penetrates the ubiquitous smog and grime.
A surgeon signed his papers – he’s fit for work.
But he doesn’t stay long, and next time I meet him
He’s a gunner
Taking aim at other young men from factories and farms and homes
Where anxious loved ones await them.
Ishmael returned home,
Was he devastated?
Did he scream in nightmares in the living daylight?
In a gallery above me a striking wreath takes my breath away:
The dead eyes covered with pennies
The kit-box stenciled with numbers
Beyond my comprehension.
My great uncle Ishmael worked at Dean Clough carpets which was, at the time, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world. Today it houses, art galleries and the Loom Café, decorated with Alice in Wonderland paraphenelia.