Remembrance Day

I was surprised to see sun when I opened the curtains this morning. I mist was hanging like a curtain over the valley, swishing this way and that – one minute obscuring Weasel Hall across the Calder Valley, and the next minute Weasel Hall was in full sunlight and Heptonstall was obscured by clouds. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get out on’t’tops and I jumped onto the first bus up to Blackshaw Head, 600ft above me. There was another reason I wanted to go up there for today was Remembrance Day and one of my ancestors, Giles Sunderland, who lived on that exposed moor and was killed during WWl is remembered on the memorial stone in the chapel’s cemetery.

By the time the bus reached the scattered village, however, there was a lot more low dense cloud than swirling mist and sunshine, and I knew that it wasn’t the morning for stunning photography that I had anticipated.

My watercolour of trees in the winter always reminds me of the WWl trench warfare

I stayed on the bus at the turnaround and alighted at the wonderfully named Slack Bottom. I peeked into the lane leading down to Lumb Bank, now a writers’ retreat that had been purchased by Ted Hughes. It wasn’t until I attended the last zoom meeting of Hebden Bridge History Society last week that I learned that Ted’s parents lived in Slack Bottom and it was there that Sylvia Plath visited them, thus leading to eventual burial in Heptonstall Cemetery, a long way from her birthplace in Massachusetts, where, as it happens, my own children were born.

As I emerged from the lane back onto the main road a car pulled up and it wasn’t until “Heather!” came through its window that I saw that it was one of the Heptonstall residents. I’d painted a watercolour of poppies for the poppy display in Heptonstall church and the lady had been responsible for coordinating it. I’d dropped it off at The Cross a couple of evenings ago and now she was explaining to me where it could be found.

However, when I arrived at the church the door was locked, it still being quite early. However, the Tea Room was already open and I called in for a couple of their delicious cakes to take home with me.

Approaching Heptonstall from Slack Bottom

Back down in Hebden I passed St James’s church where I’ve been in to practice the organ in readiness for the Remembrance service on Sunday. I hadn’t been in the building for two years let alone played any music there. A group of people had been putting up a display there, an enormous blanket of knitted poppies , a painted sheet of poppies and displays about the lives of local residents who had lost their lives in WWl. Three brothers were commemorated, and they were related to me. I’d already researched their story and found their memorial in the cemetery but today three balloons had been placed on the headstone. They are buried in Europe where they fell.

My watercolour of the poppy fields

100 years of movies in Hebden Bridge

If I’d have looked out of my living room window any day between 1912 and 1921 I would have found myself looking directly onto The Royal Electric Theatre. In 1921 the ‘new’ picture house opened just a few hundred yards away and this cinema is currently celebrating its 100th year – the only cinema in England to have achieved that milestone.

‘In the late 1960s, when many of the mills had closed, the Picture House nearly suffered the fate of so many town cinemas and was very close to becoming a carpet warehouse. It was saved for the town by the actions of the then Hebden Royd Urban District Council who purchased the Picture House from its private owners for the sum of about £6,000. The cinema passed into Calderdale Councils control with local government reorganisation in 1973, and CMBC oversaw a subsequent refurbishment in 1978, removing half of the seats and leaving the current 492 seats with their often praised generous legroom.’ (From the cinema’s website).

I read that there was on open day at the Picture House yesterday and so off I went. It took me exactly 2 minutes – and most of that time was spent waiting to cross the road! First order of the day was to witness a demonstration of one of the old projection devices which currently has pride of place at the back of the stalls. The current projectionist explained that there would have been 2 such contraptions originally. It actually looks like something from a sci fi movie!

Next we were treated to a 1924 silent movie of Hebden Bridge band Carnival film. The local brass band had a stellar reputation (see my blog about my ancestor Stott Gibson who played in it: http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/?s=stott+gibson

but they were in financial difficulties. Travelling to far venues for competitions was costly so a carnival was planned. Pathe film company would film the event, hopefully including many of the crowd watching the parade. The parade itself was over a mile in length, and there was a fancy dress competition at the end of the day. Money would be raised by people attending a viewing of the movie at the cinema, hoping to see themselves on camera. The venture was so successful that it was repeated the following year. Though only 12 minutes long the movie gives a wonderful insight into people’s everyday life – their sense of fun, their eagerness to dress up in crazy outfits (the spectators as well as those entering the fancy dress competition), their ‘normal’ daily clothes, transportation, and a sense of fun that was being mirrored as I watched by the Pink Pride Picnic that was taking place in the park just outside.

After the movie there was a Q and A with Ben Burrows, the composer of the music that he been written to accompany the silent film. The Treske Ensemble had recorded the music in London. A pity about the rather large spelling error on the banner behind him. Diana Monahan from the local history society had done research into the carnival and had mapped out the route that the floats had taken.

A corner of the cinema had been given over to a wonderful model of the original electric theatre and I chatted with its maker, Ray Barnes.

He had chosen that particular scale because it’s used in model railways and so he was able to purchase the figurines, but he had to repaint them with appropriate attire. The projection box was upstairs at the front of the building. People in the expensive seats – 3d – entered at the front. Those bound for the cheap seats went in through a side entrance.

It was designed by Henry Cockcroft, a Hebden Bridge architect who had been responsible for designing the trestle bridge at Blake Dean from which one of my ancestors fell (see blog about Ada Harwood: http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/2021/03/01/adas-tragic-death/

Then, to my surprise, Ray took off the roof of the model and I saw its interior, with many people enjoying a film. The men’s toilet was outside, but there was a ladies’ toilet inside the cinema and he’d even recreated this, with a woman going about her business!!! What a wonderful Lockdown project Ray had created.

You can watch the 1924 silent film for free via the Yorkshire Film Archives

https://www.yfanefa.com/record/11947

The Streets in the Sky

‘Nestled above the hustle and bustle of Halifax Borough Market are two secret streets that are so well hidden that you may not even know about them.’ How many times have I walked around the stalls of the market and not known that above me were two streets with houses – and even a hotel!

These streets are some of Halifax’s most unique houses that run alongside the roof of the market and also look out onto the streets of the town. They used to be home to the market workers, who could then access their stalls below from their own homes. The street of terraced houses was also home to an old Victorian hotel above the high roof of the market.

The tour was part of the Halifax cultural exhibition and the guide was a man who had lived and breathed the markets of Calderdale for over 40 years. He even lives in a house perched high above the market stalls, and accessed, as he was careful to point out, by 47 steps! Talk about living on the job! He oversees Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Brighouse, Elland and Halifax Markets. He explained how the Halifax Market is being revamped, with ideas for evening openings and even a small live performance venue being incorporated. Under his supervision Elland market has grown from just a couple of stalls to over 20. However, it looks as if Sowerby bridge market is definitely on its last legs.

Access to the streets was by a simple door adjacent to the large original historic gates into the Victorian market. A market has been in Halifax since the 1200s when it first gained a charter. There are hopes that the houses in the sky can eventually be restored and reoccupied. Two of them currently hold small offices but the rest have been empty since the 1990s but the decor was SO 60s. The colours were utterly amazing. It was wonderful and so totally unexpected. We were able to go and explore two of the houses. One was a 5 bedroomed affair.

Textiles in Halifax Minster

While at Dean Clough last week I picked up information about the upcoming Halifax Heritage Festival. There were lots of interesting events and exhibitions and the first one I attended was an organ recital in Halifax minster. I arrived early to view the exhibition put on by the Piecemakers of Elland. The 21 individually designed panels reflect the mythology, folklore and distinctive features of the native trees of Great Britain as depicted in the Celtic Ogham, an ancient alphabet and calendar including trees such as the Oak, Apple, Willow and Ash.


The Piecemakers Artistic Lead, Annie Lancaster said: “Each panel depicts one tree featuring the letter and number of the tree plus details relating to mythology, history, botany, pharmacology and religion of that tree and also highlights the importance of bees in pollination.” One panel was devoted to Heather so naturally that took a lot of my attention. The details of the workmanship and the creativity of the design of the panels was inspiring. I’ve been working on many of my own fabric panels during lockdown so it fascinating to see what other people have been working on.



My Taylor ancestors

It’s been a while since I posted any ancestral info on this blog but here’s another branch of my family who kept pubs in Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall.

Sheep at Old Chamber

Living just a couple of  houses away from William Wilkinson at Old Chamber in 1841 was a slater named John Taylor, his wife Mary and their seven children. At the time there were eighteen households in this tiny hamlet and so everyone must have known each other well.

Cottages at Old Chamber

In fact the Wilkinson and the Taylors had two of their children baptized at Heptonstall church on the same day, December 29, 1836  –   Rachel Taylor and Sarah Jane Wilkinson. The towers of both the old church and the new church that was  built in the early 1850s are visible from Old Chamber today though now they peak out above trees that shroud the packed gravestones, a place that was then bereft of trees. Did the two families share a ride to Heptonstall church in a cart?

View of Heptonstall church from Old Chamber

 Born in the parish of Warley in 1801, John had been a plasterer by trade when he married Mary Greenwood also of Warley at St John’s Halifax in the summer of 1822. I wonder why they didn’t marry at St Mary’s  church in Luddenden which served Warley parish.  Mary had been born in the hilltop village of Midgley in 1804.  During the following 23 years the couple would have ten children. The older children were baptized at St Mary’s church, Luddenden, so it was in  Luddenden that I began my day with the Taylors. It was Easter Sunday, 2021 so armed with a couple of Cadbury’s creme eggs in case I got peckish on my travels I took the ten minute bus ride to Luddenden Foot and then followed the course of Luddenden Brook upstream. After about ten minutes I passed the ancient Kershaw House which I think always looks ill at ease , surrounded on all sides by an interwar and postwar housing development. Kershaw House, now a Grade l listed building predates these more recent homes by a staggering three hundred years and there was a house on the site for two hundred years before that. During the building boom of the 1960s the rambling mansion with its many windows and its unique Tudor rose stained glass window with unusual diamond shaped lights was converted to an inn and though I’d have welcomed a beer there today, as I’ve done before,  it is of course currently closed. As I stopped to take a photo of the side of the building I noticed a sign pointing to a building at the rear of the inn’s car park – Little Foot Day nursery.

Luddenden with St Mary’s church

Seeped by the American folklore tales of the ape-like creature that inhabits the forests of North America known as Big Foot I couldn’t help but smile. I followed the river walk, the sides of the valley coming ever closer, and arrived in the heart of the village with its beautiful cottages today bedecked in their finest Spring colours despite the fact Luddenden is so deep in Calderdale that the sun does not find it after October7.[1]

With its old stone houses all huddled together on various levels of the hillsides and its waterfall and sixteenth century bridge in the centre of the village many artists and photographers have made it the subject of their work. Poet laureate Simon Armitage made it the subject of the  poem ‘Full moon’ in which he makes up words to rhyme with the strangely named village. Pink blossoms of flowering cherry trees fell gently onto the stone flags on which I walked while tubs of daffodils, narcissus and aubreita radiated their colours in the multitudinous nooks and crannies between the houses bearing  testament the village’s gold medal award in Yorkshire in Bloom competition in 2012. These Luddendenites are rightly proud of their beautification of the village.

Luddenden

Even the trash bin on the riverside walk is embossed with a date – 1989, alongside  a Yorkshire rose. Four hundred years ago  Luddenden Valley was one of the richest places in the country, as yeoman clothiers sold textiles all over England and exported to Europe. They built some of the finest houses in the Luddenden area during this time.[2] In fact, there are said to be more houses of 17th and 18th century origin in the Luddenden Valley than any other comparable area in the country.[3] I was fortunate enough to be a guest of the High Sheriff of West Yorkshire at one of these houses, Peel House,  for a Christmas eve celebration in 2019. Built in 1598 it is the oldest known house still in use in Luddenden and its interior preserves many of its original features.

Peel House

 I passed the Lord Nelson pub where a library was in use from 1776-1917. It is particularly of note because of its association with Branwell Bronte, who used to frequent it when working as a booking clerk at Luddendenfoot station, and living at Brearley Hall, another home of my ancestors whose story can be found in another chapter. Four years ago The Lord Nelson had provided much needed sustenance for Sarah and myself following our climb to Stoodley Pike, but of course it is now closed.  Following the river, whose roar gives the village its Anglo Saxon name  – a clearing in the valley of the loud river – I came to St Mary’s church where some of the Taylor children were baptised. A path around the gothic style church is made up of gravestones dating back to the 1700s and in places stairs have been made, also out of gravestones. Part of the cemetery wall has gravestones propped up against it. Little remains of the original church, built here in 1536 but it was demolished in 1814 and rebuilt, opening in 1817.  The only fabric surviving from this building are some window mullions incorporated into the interior nave walls of the present building, and also three human mask corbels set into the West boundary of the churchyard. So when John, son of James Taylor, a plasterer by trade, and his wife Mary was baptised in  Luddenden it would have been at the old church but by the time John’s own children were baptised the ceremony  would have taken place in the newly erected church.  Today I was surprised to see the church door open. Not only that but someone inside greeted me with “Hello, do come in.” Once inside I was handed a palm cross, reminding me that it was in fact Palm Sunday. At Turton church as a child I would be given a palm cross in the service – a tradition I’d completely forgotten about until this moment. I remarked that Luddenden isn’t on the tourist trail in the same way that Heptonstall is, a village of a similar size. “We like it that way,” came the immediate response.   I looked for the memorial to Rev. William Grimshaw, buried here in 1763, by the side of his first wife. I keep crossing paths with him in my research.  His brother John had been incumbent at Cross Stone church where many of my ancestors were married and buried, before taking up that position at  Luddenden.

The magical allotment

I carried on along the track above Luddenden Brook passing the remains of former mills and long flights of well worn stairs leading from them up the near vertical hillside to the workers’ houses.

Well worn by many clogs

Interspersed between the ruined walls of Peel House mill was an allotment. But this was no ordinary allotment. I could barely believe what I was seeing. A conglomeration of wooden sheds, one of which was invitingly named the Bug Hotel, were surrounded by neatly stacked wood piles which had taken on more the guise of elaborate sculptures than mere repositories for wood.  An old caravan was surrounded by soft velvet sofas and a leather arm chair. A terracotta house chimney was set out on the lawn,  filled with an attractive display of dried grasses while green wheelbarrows stood proudly against a red shed, newly painted.

Amidst all this chickens pecked and geese strutted, evidently eyeing up this stranger. It reminded me that I was feeling peckish too so I took out a chocolate egg to munched on.  At that very moment a man walked up the track towards me but before I could say hello he had turned off and yes, he was opening the gate into the allotment. He invited me in and told me his story. A dry stone waller by profession he’s kept the allotment for twenty years, nurturing its every need. He repaints all the sheds every year and has several fire pits strewn around the property for warmth in winter.  When I took my leave of  —- and his  – –  — – my two Cadbury’s eggs had been consumed but had been replaced with half a dozen eggs supplied by the residents of the Bug Hotel.

As I retraced my steps passing St Mary’s I thought of Paul Taylor being baptized there in the depths of winter, on December 20, 1829, Anna’s birthday. By 1832 the family had moved to Old Chamber as seen by the baptism record of Paul’s brother James. By the next census two more children had been born, Greenwood (his mother’s maiden name) and Betty. It appears that John has given up being a slater and is now a farmer of 18 acres and the census specifically states that he has no labourers suggesting that this would be rare. Hannah, is a servant, Paul and John are plasterers, James is a scholar- at 19? Rachel is a factory labourer, Henry is an agricultural labourer, Greenwood and Betty are scholars and visiting  them  is Mary’s mother, Hannah Greenwood, now 64 and  also born in Midgley.

On 2nd April 1854 Paul married Sarah Ann Gibson at St John’s, Halifax, and it’s through her that I am connected to the Taylor family. Her brother Thomas, a butcher, was a witness at their wedding.  Sarah Ann is Joshua Gibson’s daughter and had grown up at The Bull Inn where her father was the landlord until he took his own life in 1858. During the next 16 years Paul and Sarah Ann had ten children. At some point, perhaps when they got married, they moved down into the valley and settled in Hebden Bridge  for in 1861 they are running a beerhouse on Bridge Lanes just steps away from The Bull Inn. Besides running the pub Paul is also a slater, just like his father.  Living with them is Sarah’s brother Richard Gibson, a machinist and millwright, who, like his father, would take his own life, as  would his wife Rose causing  the newspaper to headline the column  ‘Is suicide hereditary? ‘ [4] In the 1871 census Paul is listed as both  a beershop keeper and slater – reflecting his previous and current businesses. Their son John, 16,  is a cotton weaver and  daughter Sarah, now  14,  is a sewing machinist. This is highly significant because she would marry Richard Redman because she played a pivotal role  in the establishment of Redman empire, a highly successful international sewing company whose story is told in another chapter.  Richard, 12, mule piecer as is his brother Willie, aged 9!

Fox and Goose

But which pub were Paul and Sarah Ann keeping? The tightly packed community known as Bridge Lanes was a conglomeration of streets connected by stone steps on the West end of the town centre, demolished in the 1960s and there is little left of details of the area. However, the earliest reference to a named pub that the Taylors ran was in 1875 when they were keeping The Fox and Goose. Oh my. When the floods of February 2020 in Hebden prevented me from accessing my home after playing the organ for the service at Heptonstall church I sought refuge in The Fox and Goose, primarily because its location is slightly elevated from the centre of town and was therefore above water! Along with other refuge seekers, some visiting the town on holiday, I was provided with warm food and as much tea as I could cope with. I was so grateful. What a surprise to find that my ancestors had been the landlord here 145 years before. I hope they were as kind and inviting to their customers as today’s landlord is. I later found a reference in a local paper that the Taylors had been running the Fox and Goose for 42 years when the article was written in 1899, placing the Taylor family as residents there from 1857. [5]

I retraced my steps along Luddenden Brook and jumped on a bus heading back into Hebden Bridge, alighting at the turning circle at the bottom of Heptonstall Road. Now that I knew of my family connection to the Fox and Goose I was eager to pay that hostelry another visit.  West Yorkshire’s first community owned pub and Calderdale’s pub of the year in 2019 has a couple of benches outside the front door and a man who I took to be connected with the business was sitting, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. I explained my mission and asked if he knew anything about the history of the building or its former landlords. “Well, it was built as an inn in the early 1300s according to the documents held in Wakefield but I don’t know much else until the 60’s” “The 1360s?’ I inquired. “No, the 1960s.” He invited me to forward anything I found out about the pub’s history to him.

As I took my leave he looked forward to welcoming me into the pub when it reopens. As  I thanked him I recalled an incident when landlord Paul may have ben a little too welcoming.

 In 1875 Paul was charged with permitting drunkenness on his premises between 10 and 11 pm. When two bobbies entered the premises they found Paul Taylor in the taproom, along with James Clayton, the blacksmith, with a mug of beer in front of him and ‘another man in who was fresh.’ Paul was fined 20s. In the same year it appears that the same two bobbies were again on Paul’s trail. This time Paul and another man were spotted by the two plain clothed bobbies  playing cards ‘on the Lord’s day’ at Rawtenstall wood, the very steep hill that rises directly above the pub,  – and gambling. Greenwood was captured on the spot but Taylor ran off but took his cap off and looked back. One bobby said “That’s Paul Taylor, the landlord.” Greenwood was taken to the lock up. Taylor denied being there and called others as witnesses who supported his claim and his case was adjourned. I’ll never be able to wander around that wood just above Bridge Lanes again without looking out for those plain clothed bobbies!

While this incident had a comedic element to it in today’s world five years later tragedy befell Paul and his wife when their six year old son, Frank, drowned on his way home from school, St James’s, Mytholm.  It was the depths of winter, February 1880.  Frank was dismissed from school at 4:10. It would have been  totally dark by that time but there was a lit gaslight close by. Frank clambered over the wall opposite the school and climbed down to the river where the school children were known to like to slide on the frozen dam.  Below the dam, was the ‘panhole’ – a hole four feet deep, with no fencing around it, just below a small waterfall.  Frank balanced on some ice on the frozen Colden Beck and reached into the panhole to gather some ice. Someone on the bridge saw him fall into the panhole and Richard Mellor, the schoolmaster was summoned and was quickly on the scene. Mellor could just see the top of Frank’s head peeking above the hole.  He managed to retrieve Frank but his attempts to resuscitate him failed.

Frank’s body was taken to his home at the Fox and Goose, just five minutes walk from the school. His dad was out feeding the pigs at the time but within minutes a doctor was called for, but his efforts too were in vain. The shock for his parents and five siblings is unfathomable. They had already lost one son, Gibson, who had died a few months short of his second birthday.  At the inquest into Frank’s death held at the Bull Inn, Frank’s mother’s former home, in giving evidence the schoolmaster commented that  “If P.C. Eastwood would visit the school and give a warning to the scholars it would no doubt frighten them for a time.” The school lies just a few hundred yards up Church Lane and I crossed over the Colden River on Bankfoot bridge where, in the Taylor family’s day stood Bankfoot Mill, spinning and weaving.  St James’s church where I sometimes play the organ for services was to my right and directly behind it is the school that Frank attended. The school was established in 1870 and funded by public subscription- …”a school shall be established for the education of children and adults or children only of the labouring, manufacturing, and other poorer crafts of the ecclesiastical district of Hebden Bridge…”[6] Originally it was a single storey building and all the children were taught together. However, in 1880, the year of the tragedy,  it was decided to separate the ‘Mixed’ from the ‘Infants’ with Richard Mellor head of the mixed and Mrs Mellor head of the infants. In 1888 a second storey was added for the needs of the growing population and I’m proud to say that my Wrigley ancestors were employed to carry out the painting. So from the Fox and Goose I headed to St James’s school and the scene of Frank’s death. Passing the former site of Bankfoot Mill, a spinning and weaving mill that would have been a hive of activity at the time but which was demolished in 1971. Mytholm school lies directly behind St James’s church, The site for both had been donated by James Armitage Rhodes of Mytholm Hall. He had reserved a piece of triangular land behind the church. “I reserved it for a School: but I subsequently thought that it was too dark – as light is essential to the well conducting a School.”[7] A low stone wall, barely two feet surrounds the perimeter of the school and directly below the ground drops vertically to the river. I could make out a weir, which is probably ‘the waterfall’ referred to in the inquest into Frank’s death as I stood on the bridge, probably standing in the very spot from where the schoolmaster could see Frank’s head peeking above the hole.

By the time of the 1881 census Paul’s children Richard, John and Sarah had all married and set up homes close by. The most interesting of these marriage from my family history’s perspective is that of Sarah who had married Richard Redman in the summer previous to Frank’s death. This means that Sarah is connected to me twice over! Sarah was a sewing machinist, as were her sisters Annie and Mary,  and her pivotal role in the development of  her husband’s clothing manufacturing business, which developed into an international concern is the subject of another chapter.  But I was to come across the name of the school master who had tried to save Frank’s life again in my research, finding that I am, in fact, a distant relative. Paul’s daughter, Mary married the school master’s son, Thomas Cooper Mellor in 1892 at, where else, but St James’s church. Their marriage certificate bears their two signatures but it also includes the signature of Richard Mellors, a witness to their marriage and school teacher to Paul’s children. 

Meanwhile back at the ranch Paul was having problems with the privy. Back in 1878 Paul had been required to undertake the drainage and completion of closets to his houses at newgate end as per plans submitted to the board. But four years later it was reported in the Todmorden Advertiser that ‘ there is a continual nuisance in and about the privy belonging to Paul Taylor, Newgate end  which is caused by the defective drains of the 2 cottages belonging to Thomas Sutcliffe.’  Eight years later Paul and his sanitary conditions was still making the newspaper columns when

1890 building and nuisance committee abate a nuisance arising from a defective urinal. But ten years later Paul’s connection with another story in the paper is no laughing matter. By this time their daughter Ellen is 35 and living at home, as are her sister Mary, a fustian tailoress and brother James, a clerk for a courier. Ellen had no occupation listed on the census of 1891 which is very unusual. She ‘helped around the house’ we are told by her father. Following a serious bout of influenza she had been afflicted with much pain in her head and back and had been attended to by the local doctor. Shortly after her brother Richard and his wife went away on holiday to Blackpool for a few days and had given their house key to Ellen so that she could look after the cat, the dog and the bird while they were away. During this period Ellen had left the Fox and Goose but didn’t return that night. Her parents were not anxious. They thought that she’d gone up to Heptonstall to help her sister look after a boy who was ill for  Annie was now keeping  the White Lion in Heptonstall with her husband, John Butterworth. When Richard returned from his holiday he called in at the Fox and Goose to get his key back from Ellen but found that she hadn’t been home the previous  night. When the family checked with her sister and found that she hadn’t been to the White Lion they went to Richard’s house, broke down the door, it being barred on the inside. Laid out on the bed, fully clothed was Ellen, a handkerchief tied around her head is if to reduce the pain there. The door crevices had been filled with brown paper and  her petticoat had been stuffed at the bottom of the door. The gas tap was open at full. “I should say she had been driven crazy with pain,” stated Mr Clay at the inquest and a  verdict was returned –  that she had suffocated herself with coal gas while in an unsound state of mind.” Perhaps the first thing that came to mind when I read this was the suicide of Sylvia Plath, wife of the poet laureate Ted Hughes whose demise has been recounted in detail in several films and biographies. A much less detailed account was the attempted suicide of my grandmother’s second husband, Harry Hall, just days after their marriage.  He survived and lived for four more years dying of natural causes –  in the county mental hospital.

Ellen’s sister Anniewand her husband John Butterworth ran the White Lion in Heptonstall

Nine months after Ellen’s death a temporary transfer of the beer license took place between John Butterworth, Annie’s husband, at the White Lion and Paul Taylor of the Fox and Goose. So Paul and Sarah Ann move up to run the White Lion and two months later Paul’s next appearance in the newspaper is something very close to my own heart. At Todmorden petty sessions Paul applies for an extension of the inn’s opening hours for a very special occasion: the Heptonstall Brass band contest. He is granted  ‘an occasional license’ which allowed him to open the pub from 2-8p.m. on that one Saturday for the event. 14 brass bands entered from as far away as Derbyshire but two didn’t show up. The contest, lasting 4 hours, at which it was noted that ‘at least one female watched the contest for the whole 4 hours.’ [8] took place on a grassy field close to the school and ‘the weather was beautiful and the green pasture land for miles around afforded an admirable spectacle for visitors. ‘ [9]’At the end of the performances the crowd gathered around the enclosure to await the decision of the judge. When the first prize was awarded to Rochdale public band the decision was ‘received with uproarious shouting.’ After the contest a gala was held when, according to the rules, the winning band played until dusk. Unfortunately Rochdale public band had failed to bring any other music apart from the contest music with them. I wondered if they thought they had no chance of winning, or whether it was merely an oversight.  However, Heptonstall band, who had not participated in the contest, came to the rescue and provided music and the dancers were kept alive til 8 o’clock. The District News then reprints the judge’s remarks for all the bands in their entirety.  As I read phrases such as ‘in the Cantabile section the trombone should try to kill that nervousness’ and ‘euphonium did not play bar 4 correct’ ‘crescendo in bar 9 too abrupt,’  ‘accompaniment not in sympathy with the melody,’  and ‘accompaniments not dead in tune: a little wolfy,’ I laughed out loud. Nothing has changed in 120 years! My experience as both a classical music critic for newspaper and magazines, an evaluator for piano exams and my time playing and composing works for concert band makes me relish these descriptions.  

With my headphones I listened again to a CD of band music recorded  in 2018 by Halifax Concert band on which I was a participant I girded my loins for the steep climb to Heptonstall. Passing the overgrown wasteland that once was home to the thriving community of Bridge Lanes and then passing Lily Hall, the genesis of my story, I arrived at the cobbled street in the centre of Heptonstall. To my left the tower of the church where  . . . .  and passing The Cross pub on my right I arrived at The White Lion, the inn operated by Paul’s son-in-law John Butterworth, and then for a brief time by Paul himself during the band contect.  As I sat on the picnic table outside the pub, the penultimate piece on the CD, settled themselves in my ears: ‘Once Upon a Time in America,’ by Ennio Morricone.

I retraced my steps down Heptonstall Road where the last building on the right is the Fox and Goose where three years after the excitement of the brass band contest Paul was fined 5s for being drunk in charge of a horse and cart. Once the Butterworths had taken over its running Paul and Sarah Ann lived out the rest of their lives at 3 Heptonstall Road. I have an inkling that it may have been on the site that is now the pub’s beer garden, elevated high above the road, from where an overgrown track leads through Rawtenstall Woods.

Paul died in 1904 and Sarah Ann, seven years later, living at 3 Heptonstall Road.  Finding 3 Heptonstall Road was more tricky than I anticipated, but there were clues. The pub is now numbered #7 Heptonstall Road yet it’s the first building on the street. I returned to the pub several months later when the pandemic restrictions had been lifted. It’s a lovely old world pub exuding a feeling of community with its area divided into small rooms with quaint signs indicating their names. The small room next to the toilets is ‘The Waiting Room.’ Historical photographs line the uneven stone walls , interspersed with historic beer mats and framed certificates for Best pub of the Year. A photo of the inn dated 1960s showed rubble adjoining the left side of the pub on the almost vertical hillside and to its left the end of what appeared to be a terrace of houses, taller than the pub. To the left of the pub today is the elevated beer garden, access being gained from a flight of very step stairs within the pub. Below the beer garden a fenced area hides a small yard where the rubbish bins are stored. In another room an older photo shows just the glimpse of a four storey building that was once attached to the pub. Outside in the front street hangs a line of washing. The photo is titled ‘Fox and Goose 1905 when Whittakers “cock o’ the north” brewery from Halifax took over the pub.

Paul Taylor had died the previous year while living at 3 Heptonstall Road, the running of the pub having been transferred to his son-in-law John Butterworth. Sarah Ann remained at #3 until her death in September, 1911, so the washing outside the house was hers! I headed up the steep stairs carefully balancing my glass of cider and found a seat in the beer garden, now sporting a rainproof roof, a sign of the changing times. I was sitting in the very spot that housed Sarah Ann and Paul in their retirement, imbibing a cool  drink from the pub that they’d operated for over forty years.

I completed my day with the Taylors in the cemetery where Paul and Sarah Ann are buried along with Paul’s parents John and Mary who remained living at Old Chamber until their deaths in 1879 and 1883. Also buried in the same plot are Mary’s parents, Paul and Hannah Greenwood of Old Chamber.



[1] Lilian Robinson (ed.), The Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield from October 1651

     to September 1652 (1990) quoted: http://midgleywebpages.com/midgleywest.html#settlements

[2] https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/sites/default/files/luddenden-appraisal.pdf

[3] https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/sites/default/files/luddenden-appraisal.pdf

[4] https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0001940/19100729/050/0003?browse=False

[5] https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0001940/18990811/084/0005?browse=False

[6] http://www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk/charlestown/mytholm.html#school

[7] http://www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk/charlestown/mytholm.html#school

[8] https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001940/19000601/077/0003

[9] https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002124/19000601/066/0007

5 days in Skipton

I’d not spent a night away from home for 18 months, so it felt like a big deal to spend 4 nights in Skipton, even though its only 21 miles from where I live. I booked a cottage in the middle of a l -o -n-g terrace of houses that retained a lot of their charm, not to mention their coal bunkers, outside loos and wheelie bins by the score.

Blackshaw Head moors, the Upper Colden Valley, and a connection I didn’t expect

On the last day of March 2021 I had made my first exploration of the hillside between Blackshaw head and the Upper Colden valley and a week later I had the opportunity to revisit the area – with a friend – with a car. I wasn’t sure of the terrain and whether the paths would be clearly visible or whether a footpath sign would point randomly to an open field and there’d be no sign of a path. This was the area I’d been looking at from my various trips to Edge Lane on the other side of the Colden Valley so we set off following a cart track called Moorcock Lane,from the Long Causeway.

Picnic spot

Almost immediately we had to reverse a considerable distance to let two cars pass on the single track path. At Moorcock farm the track became significantly less passable for a car and I noticed that there was a postbox at the side of the track, presumable for a farm further along that even the postman didn’t venture to drive to.

Greenland Road

We found ourselves on a well maintained track (at least for walking) sunken between two walls and so we didn’t get the views we had hoped for. The walls were fragmented in places and had been reinforced by wooden posts and barbed wire. This gave us glimpses into the fields beyond where we saw baby partridges and could see an hear curlews calling out. Just like the previous evening there was an amazing sky and when we arrived at the top of the track, rightly named Four Gates, the view was spectacular. We were on top of the world and in the 360 degrees before us the only buildings were the ones clinging to Edge Lane on the other side of the valley. One of the gates leading to High House Farm was blocked by a large digger which seemed to have been there for a considerable amount of time. In fact it’s in the exact same position on Google Earth!

Is this just blocking the gate or trying to take the gate away?

We took the next track to our left , Dukes Cut,in the direction of a group of pine trees which have obviously been planted. In their midst was a strange contraption like something from a science fiction movie and I discovered that that’s almost what it is. It’s a device that assists planes in changing direction! Wow.

We could see a hiker taking a much narrower, steeper path down towards the river and when I followed his progress I could see two ruined farm buildings. From Edge Lane I had seen a couple of isolated buildings on this hillside but couldn’t tell from that distance if they were still in use or ruined. I was also interested in finding two farms, one called Scotland and one called Greenland since I’d already located Egypt on the Edge Lane side of the valley.

The hilltop above Edge Lane appeared to have several standing stones popping up against the wonderful clouds and my map showed that the hill is actually called Standing Stone Hill. That’s convenient – and also confirmed my map reading skills. Then I spotted a series of turquoise markers on the moor immediately to my right so I set off to have a closer look. Each had a letter painted on and the ‘floor’ consisted of a plastic pallet with a raised wooden fence around three sides.

Grouse hide

There were about 15 of them all in a straight line close to a long wall. Before the first one there was what looked the remains of a ruined sheepfold but it was very small. We sat on the wall and consumed our lunchtime snacks. These were grouse hides, showing that grouse shooting is still live and well on these isolated moors. One of my ancestors, Ezra Butterworth, was a game keeper on Lord Savile’s estate which is only a few miles from where these hides were. Close to the sheepfold – or could it have been the remains of an older hide that the wooden ones – was a large very rusted metal container which, on further examination seemed to have a fire- retardant fabric. This may have been the ammunition box, just left in place next to the first in the line of hides.

Ammunition cache?

As we retraced our steps we were overtaken by a hiker who had hiked from Cornholme and was ending her walk in Mytholmroyd. She was able to answer some of my questions about the whereabouts of Greenland and the names of the ruins I could see – Noah Dale. She also told me that what we had taken for standing stones on the moor top are in fact, isolated trees. But presumably there was one standing stone which gave the hill its name.

Heading off into the unknown

An hour later as we sat in the park enjoying our well deserved bacon butties it started to hail, and in fact, before midnight it snowed quite heavily and I awoke the next morning to sun a sunny morning making the covering of snow glitter and shine.

Hmm. Next time I need a brush I’ll know where to find one

Of course, I’d spent the evening finding out more about what I’d see, in particular Noah Dale, and though I hadn’t yet seen it – Scotland.

I began with the two ruined farm houses that I’d seen. One was called Noah Dale, as my fellow hiker had mentioned, the other was Pad Laithe. Noah Dale is a stream that flows through Noah Dale. Around 1806 Gamaliel Sutcliffe and James King constructed a dam in Noah Dale. Hmmm. Gamaliel Sutcliffe: I’ve met him before. He lived at Stoneshey Gate on Widdop Road. as for James King he built Mytholm Mill and rebuilt Mytholm Hall. Only this very morning I walked past the site of Mytholm mill. The site is being cleared for proposed housing causing quite an amount of controversy in Hebden Bridge at the moment. Mytholm mill was fed by Colden Water, the name given to Noah Water further down the valley. A catastrophic collapse of the neglected dam at the head of Colden Water in the 1930s carried the core of the dam downstream. The story of this disaster was told by David Smalley in a Hebden Bridge History Society lecture in 2015:

“The dam itself was built between 1805 and 1810 so that water supply could be guaranteed to the spinning mills of the Colden Valley. Dave has established that the original dam was well built but it was shallow and could not hold enough water to supply all the mills. The owners took an enormous loan of £7000 in 1810 but in 1826 needed to invest in making the dam bigger. This raised the wall using rather shoddy engineering and was probably the cause of the dam’s ultimate failure.

Examination of the landscape shows that the original dam had made use of existing landscape features, but had diverted the course of the Colden. The odd knoll is not a ‘floating plug’ but just  part of a larger mound that was cut through by the navvies to keep the Colden flowing well.

A century later there were concerns about dam safety and new regulations demanded that the dam be kept in good repair. Those responsible were loath to spend more money on this, paying a waterman just £5 a year to inspect and maintain the structure. A report found a gap in the wall of the dam that had been raised, a fault that would cost £2000 to put right. The failed dam was left to decay further.

Stories have always suggested that the dam burst because of a serious rain storm – but the rainfall statistics don’t support this theory. It seems that after a steadily wet year in 1938, the reservoir was beginning to hold water again, and the owners decided to dismantle it, probably by collapsing a tunnel. All the archaeology seems to support this surmise.”

One of the mills for which the dam would supply and ensure a consistent water power was Land Mill. I hadn’t heard of Land Mill before but last year I had taken a new route back from Edge Lane and passed Land Farm. Close to the farm and almost obliterated by ivy was the base of a mill chimney. Now I searched for a photo of Land Mill and though the building is long gone the photo shows it with a dwelling house attached. Built in 1796 by John Greenwood for cotton spinning. In 1851 it employed 15 people. In the 1860s the mill was still in the Greenwood family and had been extended to include a weaving shed and warehouse.

Chimney at Land Mill

“In 1811 Land Mill was included in Samuel Crompton’s survey of cotton mills with four mules and 960 spindles. Samuel Crompton had invented a spinning machine which he called a ‘mule’ because it combined the principles of Hargreaves’ spinning jenny and Arkwright’s water frame, both invented a little earlier. Because Crompton had never patented his invention a large number of variations on the mule were used, all based on his design. Crompton travelled through the north of England in 1811 and was eventually voted a pension by Parliament.” (http://www.powerinthelandscape.co.uk/mills/col_val_mills_up.html)

Now Samuel Crompton had lived very close to where I grew up. It’s now a museum, Hall i’th’ Wood and in 2017 Sarah and I had visited his birthplace in Firwood Fold, Bolton. When Crompton’s family moved to the mansion it was in a state of decay. His father died when he was 5 years old and so he was set to work spinning yarn by hand. He supplemented his income by playing the violin in the Bolton theatre. The spinning mule he invented could spin both hard and soft fibres and used 48 spindles, a six fold improvement on the spinning jenny invented by Richard Arkwright. https://aboutmanchester.co.uk/manchesters-heroes-samuel-crompton-the-inventor-of-the-spinning-mule/

Firwood Fold, birthplace of Samuel Crompton

Back at Land Mill – by the 1870s the mill was owned by William Barker who lived at Scotland, the farm I’d hoped to be able to see from my walk. In 1861 Barker was living at Wood Top (a frequent favourite walk passes the flock of goats there) and his wife and two daughters began to sew clothes by hand.

Wood Top goats

 He has been described as the Father of ready made clothing. He leased first Hudson Mill (where my ancestor Giles Sunderland lived) then Mayroyd, ( where I spent a summer in 2016) and then also Land Mill where he wove fustian cloth.

When I looked up Scotland – which I had thought was a ruined farm I couldn’t have been farther away from the truth. It’s a 6 bedroom, 4 bathroom holiday let with a hot tub! I wonder what William Barker would have thought of that.

https://www.booking.com/hotel/gb/the-long-view-hebden-bridge.en-gb.html

Late afternoon in Mankinholes and Lumbutts

It had been cold and overcast in the morning but mid afternoon the sun came out and the hilltops beckoned. Again, my theme was gateposts but rusting farm machinery and abandoned building were, as ever, high on my list of what to photograph. I suppose these derelict buildings and implements are the closest I can get to the ghost towns of the South Western American desert, my favourite place to spend my vacations when I lived in the U.S.

Withins Clough Reservoir

http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/IMG_1673.mov

View from my picnic /writing spot

This is mine, all mine. Not a person in sight. I sit on the bank, close my eyes and listen to the silence. Suddenly the zzzz of a bee rushes past my ear, intent upon its search for nectar. The silence returns until I hear a soft low drone. It takes me a moment to realise that it’s a plane passing. I’m so unused to planes in the sky these days. Where’s it going? Who is it taking? As it’s gentle drone fades voices are carried to me across the silent water, borne to me on a barely susceptible zephyr. I see two dots climbing up the path leading to Stoodley Pike, a path that took Sarah and I for our first visit to the monument in 2017. the two dots are quietly locked in conversation yet I can hear them clearly across the water. A moment later two Canada geese perform their mating ritual in the water only a few feet from my feet. Are they oblivious to my presence or are they demonstrating their prowess? A butterfly lands close beside me, the second one I’ve seen this week – this year.

The landscape before me is still wearing its autumn colours – gold, brown, tan, orange indicating the boggy patches of reeds. The walls criss crossing the moorland are mostly derelict now, unwanted, superfluous, jaded, but they tell of a time when this was prime sheep rearing land, when adjacent farmers needed to keep their fields separated from each other for there were 17 farmsteads that once lay under this reservoir. One of them belonged to an ancestor of mine. (See previous blog: http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/?s=withins)

The teeth of these unkempt walls are jagged and tumbled as they outline each nook and cranny of the hillside, but the teeth of the wall around the reservoir are carefully and precisely manicured, the product of some master orthodontist.

I can see two buildings in the entire 180 degrees of my vision. One is Pasture farm, close to the dam and though the house is occupied and its garden a painter’s paradise of Spring colour the adjacent barn with its circular unseeing eyes always gives me the creeps.

The other house farther up the hill is totally derelict and when Sarah and I passed close to it on our return journey from The Pike we could see that the tops of its walls have been topped with stones, preserving the building in a state of arrested decay. The spirits of the farmers and their families still live on in the skeletal trees that dot the landscape, in the bone-like reeds that sway in a ghost -like dance that will never cease.

Not perhaps ‘La cathedrale Engloutie’ but ceratinly ‘Les Fermes Engloutie’

http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/IMG_1636.mov

Exploring the moorland of Blackshaw Head – Brown Hill?

Since my first walk along Edge Lane Colden I’ve gone back several times to walk its length. My Sunderland ancestors lived at Spink House on Edge Lane. It’s quite a long way. You end up in Egypt – no kiddin’. On the other side of the Colden valley there’s Scotland and Greenland too. But for several months I’ve been wanting to explore the other side of the valley. I could pick out a couple of VERY isolated farms, perhaps only skeletal ruins remaining, or perhaps they are still occupied by hardy sheep farmers. I’d been putting off exploring the north side of the valley not just because of the inclement weather but because you never know in what condition the paths are just by looking at the map. Yes, I can find out if they hug the contour or rise steeply but they are many many tracks on this moorland and it’s easy to get lost, or find that the path just disappears into farm land. But for the past week I’ve been out walking 2-3 hours and so I decided today was going to be THE day to explore.

When I got off the bus at Blackshawhead terminus I was surprised by the weather. It was warm. I was not getting blown over by a gale force wind. Most unusual for this exposed hilltop. It turned out that it had been the warmest March day in 1968! I followed the Long Causeway out of the village and made my first turn onto a track marked with a public footpath sign. A few minutes later I came to a five barred gate with a ‘Due to Coronavirus this footpath is now closed.’ Hmmm. not an auspicious beginning to my hike. Luckily a farmer was tending to a tractor. ‘Yer allreet, lass. Cum on through.’ And that was that. I was on my way. ‘Most people tek t’other path farther up t’ road. Got left at t’ next gate and yull be reet.’ I thanked him for his help and did just that. When I turned left at the next gate my map told me that I was on Higher Back Lane. It parallels the Long Causeway, and is just a few feet higher. I really felt as if I was on top of the world. To my right I could see right along the Colden valley. I could pick out Edge Lane clearly. Sheep with their new lambs crossed my path constantly. Much of the moorland glowed an orangey brown – a colour more connected with autumn than spring. It stemmed from the rushes signifying the boggy sections of moorland – places to keep away from at this time of the year – still.

I took a path heading off at right angles to my path and it led steeply down between two walls, barely passable because of the water running down its length. I could see that it was heading for a building and soon I found myself at Strines Clough.

My luck was in and a couple were doing some serious renovations to their front yards. We were chatting when the lady’s grandma joined us just as the postman arrived in his little red van, bringing back memories for me of the way our post was delivered at Third Bungalow by the time I was at Bolton School. Previously the postman had hiked down to us through three fields. In fact, I mentioned to the people that this place’s isolation but with its spectacular hill top moorland scenery reminded me of Affetside. I saw a date stone and asked them if they knew anything about the history of the building, since it didn’t look particularly old. The present residents only moved there last July and a neighbour had lent them a book of photographs of the building. She went inside and soon came back with the book. Until 1984 when the previous owners rebuilt it the house had been completely derelict. They asked if I’d share with them anything I could find about the history of the house or any of its previous residents. (A nice job for a rainy day, methinks.)

I took my leave and headed down the Brown Hill track towards Jack Bridge. The track was bordered on either side by trees and looking back I would have thought it was the track to my childhood home now bordered by large trees that my dad planted when they were less than one foot tall.

It wasn’t until that moment that I connected my comment about the brown vegetation on the hillside with the name of the track. I passed another farm appropriately called Brown Bottom farm.

Looking across the Colden Valley to Edge Lane

The building itself was barely visible form piles of ‘stuff’ piled up outside – which was there when Google maps did their mapping. two abandoned cars graced the field.

But what particularly took my attention was a very tall contraption- at least two storeys tall – it reminded me of the fighting machines from War of the Worlds. I have no idea what it was. At first I thought it was perhaps a wind pump. Again, memories of Third Bungalow when the dwelling next to ours had had a wind pump to bring up water from a deep well. Perhaps it was an art installation. I’d love to know!

The track led to the very sharp curve on the main road and here i stopped to have my first picnic of the year. It was also the first time I’ve worn my cap with sun visor this year, ditching my Everest beanie (from Rachel) which has been in daily use all year. I sat on the grass, watching over by a horse with the sound of bleating lambs as my sound track.

From Jack Bridge I followed Hudson Mill Road down to Hebden, a frequent hike in all seasons.

As I reached the school by the church it was ‘home time’ for the students and so I had the benefit of the lollypop man to aid me across the road from where I followed the canal tow path, crossing the spot where Colden Water, which I’d followed all through the hike, meets the River Calder.

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