DISCORD AMONGST MUSICIANS : Stott Gibson

brother-in-law of my 1st cousin 3x removed

Stott Gibson 1855-1925

Son of Thomas and Hannah Gibson. Thomas was a butcher on Bridge Lanes, Hebden Bridge and had also lived at Winters (see post). As was common at that time their first son was given Hannah’s maiden name, Stott as his Christian name. He was baptised on May 6, 1855 at the parish church in Hebden bridge. 8 siblings were to follow. 1861 sees the family living in Bridgegate, the house before the White Lion on the census route. By 1871 the family have moved to Old Gate and while his dad continued to run the butcher’s shop Stott has now joined the vast numbers of fustian cutters employed in the town.

Sculpture celebrating the fustian industry in Hebden Bridge Square

On September 24, at the age of 19 Stott married Sarah Ellen Thomas at Halifax minster. Only her mother is named and on her marriage certificate there is a blank space for her father. If her father had been deceased he would have been named and then ‘deceased’ added. Stott and Sarah had 10 children. A month after their marriage they had a son who was baptised in October but died the following month. He’s buried at St James’s.

Two years after their marriage Stott gets caught up in a fight that appears to have been sparked by rivalry between the Heptonstall and the Hebden Bridge brass bands!

Hole in the Wall Inn on right. Royd Terrace rear centre. Buttress Brink on left

Todmorden & District News – Friday 29 September 1876

DISCORD AMONGST MUSICIANS —UTTLEY V. SUTCLIFFE—Mr. Craven appeared for plaintiff, and Mr. Ashworth (Rochdale) far defendant. Mr. Craven in opening the case said the matter arose out of an affray between the members of two local bands.- His Honor: Two bands of music ?—Mr. Craven: Yes, but on this occasion not of a very  harmonious character—Mr. Ashworth: There was too much drumming for much harmony. (Laughter).— Mr. Craven, continuing, said that on  the 22nd July certain parties connected with the Heptonstall and Hebden-bridge brass bands were at the Shoulder of Mutton inn, and a dispute arose about the musical abilities of each band. On leaving the Shoulder Mutton Inn a fracas took place amongst some of them. Soon after this the defendant got hold of his client, and threw him a distance of four or five yards, the result of which was that his ankle was dislocated; whilst on  the ground the defendant got upon him and struck him in the face. His client claimed  6.11s.6d damages; he was stone mason, and was away from work two weeks; his wages were 32s a week; he paid 7s 6d. for medical assistance, and claimed 3 pounds for the pain and suffering which he had undergone. –

 Plaintiff on being examined said: I was at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn on the night of the  22nd of July; I had  one glass of beer there, and I had previously had two glasses of porter and a bottle of cider during the day. When I left the Shoulder Mutton Inn I was making my way home, and went over the Old bridge with James Simpson and Thos. Sutcliffe, whom I accompanied to Buttress Bottom. I did not see the defendant; there were a great number of people about. The Heptonstall band had been to a  demonstration at Todmorden; there was  a majority of the band at the Shoulder  of Mutton Inn. I had been in company with a man of the name of Stott Gibson, and when I got to Buttress-bottom I saw him on the door-step of his house, and someone was bothering him, and I was going to protect him when the defendant got hold of me  by the collar and threw me a distance of four five yards to the ground; he then got on top of me, and gave pair of black eyes; he hit me with his fist when I was down, and there were three or four persons kicking me at the same time.I never saw the defendant after. I went home  by  the roadside as best I could, and on the morning following I called in a doctor, who said the ankle was put out.  I was kept sway from work two weeks in consequence of that injury. I paid my doctor 7s 6d.  I had very much pain during the time of my illness. -I strictly followed out the  doctor’s orders. I can swear that defendant was the man who threw me.—

 By Mr. Ashworth; I had been at the Shoulder of Mutton about twenty minutes; I had one glass there. I had been at the Hole-in-the-wall and the Swan Inn before going there;

The old inn, The Hole in the Wall, at the bottom of the Buttress next to the Old Bridge prior to its demolition and eventual replacement in 1899

I had  two glasses of porter and a bottle of cider. I went work that day at half past seven, and worked til 12 o’clock  during which time I never tasted intoxicating drink. Stott Gibson had been with me at the Hole-in-the-wall and the Swan Inn, and he  to went to the Shoulder of Mutton with me. He  was stirred in drink at the  last-named place, but not drunk. I play in  Hebden Bridge band; Stott Gibson also plays in the same band. The defendant is not a musician that I am aware of; he lives at  Nutclough.  When the Heptonstall band came up my friend did not make any remark that I heard; he did not say  he would have  a “b—row.” He left the public house when I did. There was a row outside, which took place  on the other side of the  bridge. It was not one continuous fight from the Shoulder Mutton to the  bottom of Buttress. Within 5 or ten minutes after that the row between the defendant and myself began.  I was going to where the row was taking place. I did not hear defendant complain  of someone striking him; I had  not struck him. We  were both on the  ground together. He threw me four or five yards, and followed close upon me; I never struck or offered  to strike anybody. I got home without any assistance a  little after 11 o’clock. I took no part to the general scuffle.  The scuffle was between the members of the Heptonstall and the members  of the  Hebden-bridge bands; I am a  member of the  latter, and so is Stott Gibson, but I took no part the scuffle. “Straight-up” was having a  row with Stott Gibson. I attended a brass band contest at Todmorden on the following Saturday, but I was not able to work; I went to the contest in a spring cart.  I was  never drunk during the time of my illness.  I did not throw on to  any club.—By Mr. Craven: I went to try to work on the Monday following, but I could not stand at the bench. I received no additional Injury through attending the contest.—Thomas Naylor was called in supporting the plaintiff’s evidence, and spoke to seeing the parties at the Shoulder Mutton Inn, and afterwards seeing Stott Gibson home; there were lots of scufflings going on but he could not swear to the assault committed upon the plaintiff as he  did not recognise either  of the parties in the  general scuffle. -Mary Hannah Southwell said: I know Thomas Uttley; I saw him  on the night of 22nd  of July at the  bottom of Buttress between half past 10 and 11 o’lock.there were a good many people about. I saw a young man take hold of Uttley and throw him sideways; I did not see him again that night. I did not know who it was that there him – should I know him if i saw him again; I cannot swear that it was the defendant. I knocked down  accidentally in the affray. –

Higgledy piggledy tenements of Buttress Bottom

By Mr Ashworth: There was a good deal of jostling and fitting going on; they did not seem to be behaving like Christians to one another. – Jonathan Whitely said: I was at sale on the Monday following the affray, and defendant was there. I called him one side and asked him about it, and he said he had thrown Uttley down, but Uttley struck him first. I told him what in jury Uttley had sustained and he expressed sorrow. – This being the plaintiff’s case Mr Ashworth addressed the court for the efense, after which he called upon the defendant Richard Sutcliffe, who said: On 22nd of July I was at the shoulder of MuttonInn, and that day there had been a demonstration at Todmorden where the Heptonstall band had been engaged. . I went to the Shoulder of Mutton Inn at 10 o’clock. I was quite sober. The plaintiff Thomas Uttley was there, and appeared to be sober.I did not see Uttley leave the house. I saw him near Stott Gibson’s house: he was then rushing towards Gibson and I stopped him and was going to tell him that Gibson’s wife was in charge of him when he turned round and struck me in the chest. I then got hold of him and we both went to the ground together. No-one separated us. I never was on top of him. I left him at the end of Royd Terrace.

Residents of Buttress Bottom outside their homes, with houses of Royd Terrace behind

I saw Whitely on the Monday following and he told me of Uttley’s in juries but I did n to express my sorrow. I told him that Uttley struck me in the breast and then got hold of him. I did not know that he was hurt until whitely told me. Uttley struck as hard as he could.  –

Taken from the Old Bridge looking up to the Buttress with Royd Terrace on the right. The tenememts at the bottom of the Buttress were demolished in the mid-1960 as unfit for human habitation.

By Mr Craven: I got up and left him lying on the ground. I did not wait to see whether he got up or not – I was not aware that I had injured him. Stott Gibson shouted the Heptonstall band whilst playing. (?) I am n to a member of the Heptonstall band but my sympathies are with that band. I stopped Uttley to tell him who it was who was getting Gibson into the house. The blow was intentionally given to me; I did not strike to to my recollection whilst on the ground. – 

From the Halifax Courier

William Sutcliffe corroborated defendant’s evidence as to the plaintiff striking first. Mr Ashworth intimated that he had other witnesses to call if his Honor was not  satisfied. His Honor said he did. Not think the plaintiff had any right of action against the defendant, and ordered a nonsuit. 

The family were now, 1881 living at Buttress Bottom, Hebden Bridge and in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 census they are #6 Buttress Brink.

Sarah died in 1917 and so far the only Stott Gibson’s death record I can find is in Conway, Wales in 1925 but that seems unlikely. I did, however manage to locate photos of Stott’s children from a relative on Ancestry.com

Stott’s son, Arthur, was killed in WW l in 1916 the day after his brother, William was killed. 8 months later their brother Ben was also killed. Today I was invited to go to see the new Oscar nominated movie ‘1917’ but I declined.

Grave of Stott and his family in Hebden Bridge

Abraham Moss

Abraham Moss 

Abraham Moiss

16 Ap 1859 to 25 Jan 1917

On November 26, 2018 I climbed  the steep hill of Birchcliffe Road above Hebden Bridge. I was in search of several buildings that had been lived in, and in some cases specifically built for, my ancestors. Yes, these are quite distant ancestors, but at this gloomy time of year when it’s dark by 3:30 p.m. going in search of houses that I can walk to from my apartment is an interesting way to spend some of the daylight hours, and so then in the evening, I can research online more about what I’ve discovered during the day. So as I searched the street perched on the hillside with one of the best views in town, which I later, by the way, learned was known as Snob Row (!) I saw a sign on a gate: ‘Brooklyn. Please use the back door. These steps are dangerous.’ I’m not sure what caused me to take a photo of the sign on the gate but recently I discovered that these steps had played a very important role in the life, or rather, death of one Abraham Moss. 

The steps

Now Abraham was the father-in-law of my 3rd cousin, two times removed. As I said, a rather distant relative. He was the son of Hague Moss, (26 June, 1824- July 1870) a career fustian cutter, born at Machpelah, a section of  Hebden Bridge devoted to the fustian industry. Hague’s father was James Moss jn (1804-1868) and his wife, Mary. Fustian is a thick, hard-wearing cloth made from cotton that was once used for military uniforms and railway workers. Hebden Bridge was the centre of the fustian industry and was known sometimes as Fustianopolis. In the market square there’s a large sculpture of a fustian knife showing what a central role this industry played in the town.

Close up of the fustian knife in St George’s Square showing scenes from the fustian industry. It even shows Machpelah cottages where Abraham lived.
The fustian knife in St George’s Square

By the time Hague was four years old the family had moved to Thorn Bank, close by, where Sarah and I had stayed in an Airbnb in 2017! Coincidence number 2.

By 1841 the family were living at Garden Square and Hague’s father James is a fustian cutter. They were living next to William Wheelhouse, 45, a joiner with his wife, Mary, and 4 children. Hague Moss married Martha Sarah Wheelhouse on June 23, 1845 at Halifax minster where I once had the privilege of playing the organ, and I’ve also sung at evensong, and also in Faure’s Requiem in 2019.

The newly weds made their home in Garden Square which is now merely a car park which doubles as the outdoor market on Thursdays and the flea market on Fridays.

Garden square before demolition

8 children followed in the next 15 years, Abraham being next to the youngest. By the time Abraham was born the family were living at High Street, Bridge Lanes. The area of Bridge Lanes was mostly demolished in the 1960’s the terraced houses having been neglected and left unoccupied for many years and it had become an unsightly entrance to Hebden Bridge from the Todmorden side. Abraham’s father died  when he was only 11 years old and by that time the family had moved to Royd Terrace, at the lower end of the Buttress, the still cobbled steep road up to Heptonstall.

Royd Terrace with the cobbles of The Buttress on the left

During the battle of Heptonstall in the Civil War, 1643,  the Parliamentarian garrison of around 800 men holding Heptonstall  had rolled stones down The Buttress to prevent the Royalist forces, also numbering around 800 men. The attackers were routed but during the following 2 months  the Parliamentarian garrison evacuated the village and the Royalists were able to capture the village with no resistance.

The houses of Royd Terrace in which Abraham had lived were now built until 1848-1852 and all but one house retain their original glazing

My photo of Royd Terrace

A friend of mine lived in the only one to have double glazing installed. On his marriage, in 1881 at Heptonstall church, (where I am now on the organists’ rota) to Mary Hannah Thomas, daughter of Thomas Thomas (!) a coal merchant, the couple moved to Barker’s Terrace. Both Abraham and Mary signed their own names and Thomas Thomas signed as witness.

My photo of Barker’s Terrace

Abraham was a commercial clerk in a fustian warehouse. Three months after their wedding their first of seven children was born, a daughter, Beatrice Louise at 13 Melbourne Street.

13 Melbourne Street

 

13 Melbourne Street

In White’s 1887 Directory many Mosses are recorded:

Moss Abraham (Bros) h in Brunswick Terrace

Moss Bros. fustian manufacturers and cutters, Brunswick Works

Moss( G. F & C. W) h Bridge Lanes

Moss Frederick Hague (Bros) h Brunswick St

Moss George Frederick (G.F & C.W)  h Bridge Lanes

Moss James (Bros) h Pleasant Villas

Moss Mortimer (bros) h Brunswick House

The fustian factory on Brunswick street – now apartments

My the 1901 census Abraham is listed as a cotton fustian manufacturer, an employer, and later that year a daughter, Phyllis Margaret was born, seven years after the last (living) child. The 1911 mentions that one child has already died.  He is now living on Snob Row, in Brooklyn, where I’d photographed the sign on the gate. The house had 9 rooms and they had a live-in general servant. What a difference from 2 High Street. I was able to view the plans for the house at West Yorkshire Archives though each leaf fell apart in my hands as I opened it. It would appear that the plans were drawn up by John Sutcliffe, architect, on December 20, 1894 but the approval date of December 27, 1894 has been crossed out. This was the same architect who drew up the plans from Ezra Butterworth five years earlier. But what an extravagant house it was – especially compare to the houses Abraham had lived in before.




The previous level of the land, marked by the blue line, is clearly visible.
The steps are marked on the architect’s drawing of the front elevation
Brooklyn today with its fatal steps

However, sadness and tragedy were just around the corner for the family. Phyllis died, aged 13 and three years later Abraham himself died. Imagine my horror when I read in a local newspaper that he had died as a result of falling down those very steps. I do wonder, from a morbid sense of curiosity, if the people who put the notice on the steps know of Abraham’s accident. 

FATAL FALL AT HEBDEN BRIDGE. SAD END OF A WELL-KNOWN We very much regret to have to announce the death of Mr. Abraham Moss, Brooklyn, Hebden Bridge, and especially so considering the melancholy circumstances under which happened. The gentleman on Wednesday evening was found laid in an unconscious condition at the foot of the steps leading to his own house, with a deep gash on the side of his head, and from this injury he died at two o’clock yesterday morning without regaining consciousness. So far as we can gather from particulars collected from various sources the circumstances are these: Mr. Moss had been down in the town and parted from Mr. A. Moore at Top o’ th’ Hill about ten o’clock on his way home. In the course of half an hour or so, Mr. T. Fenton Greenwood was on his way home to Eiffel Street, and when he got opposite to the gate the residence Mr. Moss he heard some deep breathing, bat as he had no means of making a light and the night being very dark, he could not make out any object. Mr. Ernest Whiteoak, Eiffel St., came up almost immediately afterwards, and struck match and the light revealed Hr. Moss laid at the bottom of a flight of dosen steps, with his head resting in a large pool blood and perfectly unconscious. On the right side of his head there was a large wound from which the blood was issuing. Mrs. Moss was acquainted with the facte and her husband was carried to the house and Dr. Sykes summoned, and that gentleman found that Mr. Moss was suffering from fractured skull. Whether he had fallen from the top of the steps or not does not appear clear, but the sloping asphalt from the top of the steps was very .ppory. Judging from the position the body it would appear that Mr. Moss had fallen backward and his head had either struck the wall or the steps in his fall. The facts have been reported to the Coroner. The news of the sad occurrence created quite sensation in the town yesterday morning. * Mr. Moss was well known in Hebden Bridge and district. He was the younger son the late Mr, Haigh Moss, and many years was associated with his brothers in tile fustian manufacturing, dyeing and finishing business at Brunswick Street, Lee Mill and Bridge Boyd, up to few years ago, when he retired, and since then he has not followed any occupation. He was one the .directors of the English Fustian Association up to the time his death. For good many years he had been one of the local representatives on the Todmorden Board of Guardians. He was first elected in 1898, and remained member up to 1910. Three years later he was again elected, and had been a Guardian ever since. He took great interest the affairs of that body, and for a term was its chairman. For many years he was a very active member of the Hebden Bridge Commercial Association. He was an enthusiastic member the local Angling Club. Though he associated himself with the Constitutional Club he did not take any part in the aggressive work of the Conservative party. Free Masonry claimed a considerable portion of his time, he having filled offices in the Prince Frederick Lodge. He was one of the band of young men who received a considerable portion of their education the classes held in connection with the defunct Hebden Bridge Mechanics’ Institute. He took interest in electricity, and according to bis own story, he along with the late Mr. B. 8. Blackburn installed the first telephone in Hebden Bridge, connecting the house of one of his brothers to the firm’s premises. He was closely associated with the Particular Baptist Church, and was good supporter of that institution. His nature was kindly and sympathetic and he was ever ready to give financial assistance when occasion demanded it, and in this way he has displayed a liberal generosity. Mr. Moss, who was 67 years of age, leaves widow and five children. Two his sons are serving in the army, Walter in France and Reginald in India. The inquest will he held to-morrow afternoon.

When he died he left just short of 40,000 pounds to his wife. This was in 1917 and many of the other people on that page of the probate records had just a few hundred pounds to their name. He was initiated into the Prince Frederick Free Masons Lodge on March 3, 1890 along with Richard Redman, clothier from Pleasant Villas, and James Moss, fustian manufacturer, also from Pleasant Villas.

From The Hebden Bridge Times, January 30, 2006

WHEN the history of Fustianopolis – alias Hebden Bridge – comes to be written, it will be recorded that it died of apathy. I have now been waiting in vain for a month for somebody hereabouts to protest about the East Anglian train operator, One, banning cab drivers from wearing corduroy.

Under new licence conditions, cabbies at Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth stations must wear black trousers and black shoes with a collared or polo shirt. For women the regulations require a black skirt and blouse with a collar. No corduroy, not even black corduroy.

The company says: “Cords were included in the list of unacceptable clothing as they can look quite scruffy when they get faded. When the guidelines were being clarified, it was noticed that several drivers were wearing light coloured cords which had frayed and looked quite nasty at the knees”.

This is a bit lame. Are they objecting to corduroy or to fraying corduroy? If the latter, then they could simply have prescribed smart corduroy instead of banning it outright.

This is – or should be – of serious concern to Hebden Bridge. Nowhere has more corduroy been woven per head of population than in this town. My parents and several aunts wove miles of it on Hangingroyd at the CWS and Ashworth’s below where Foster Lane chapel once stood. My father went deaf in the service of corduroy and my aunts emerged from kissing shuttles in the CWS with a halo of cotton fuzz collected in their hair.

Corduroy was the life’s work of so many of my parents’ generation, and to think it has come to this: banned by the transport industry for being scruffy. Of course, anything can look scruffy if it is worn long enough. But that is no reason to ban corduroy that retains its rib (with musical consequences when you walk) and its sheen. Perhaps the problem is that it takes long periods of hard duty to wear thin.

Corduroy has, in fact, gone up in the world since it was the uniform of the academic, the Leftie intelligentsia, if that is not a contradiction in terms, and the wild and woolly end of the sandal-shod Liberal Democrats. It has, indeed, been on a long upward social march since it clothed the navvy and hard working man and had the likes of George Orwell, author of 1984, the Road to Wigan Pier etc, dressing, according to Malcolm Muggeridge, in the manner of the class into which he wished he had been born.

The fact that I have three pairs of corduroy trousers – the latest in a long line going back to my childhood – is no guide to the fabric’s social standing. I believe in supporting home industries and regard jeans, with their marked tendency for the backside to sag alarmingly, as thoroughly sloppy.

Which brings me back to the shameful apathy of Hebden Bridge in the face of East Anglian provocation. Corduroy is not some foreign-produced relic of Hebden Bridge’s once central position in the fustian trade. It is part of the 1m metres – otherwise 621,504 yards or 353 miles – of cloth that Brisbane Moss weaves, dyes and finishes every year at Bridgeroyd Works, Eastwood.

Hang it all, corduroy is part of our heritage. Since the middle of the 19thC, Moss Brothers – now Brisbane Moss – has been producing it along with moleskins. This company became part of the English Fustian Manufacturing Co when the local trade re-organised to meet the competition from another amalgamation of clothing and dyeing companies called the English Velvet Cord Dyeing Company.

Moss Brothers Brunswick Mill in Hebden Bridge may now be a Co-op superstore. But Bridgeroyd Works remain our link with the Industrial Revolution. And I for one do not intend to allow some obscure railway company on the Broads to disparage its Pennine products. Wear corduroy with pride – and in protest.

Just to see the contrast between the home in which Abraham was born and the one where he died shows the strength of character and determination of the man.

I pass this reference to Abraham Moss almost everyday. The bridge spans Hebden water and was constructed in 1892 and is Grade ll listed

Day out in Skipton

Underbank

A Morning exploring Underbank

Surprisingly it wasn’t raining when I looked out of the window this morning. It even looked a little less gloomy than I was expecting so I wanted to take advantage of this ‘fine weather.’ I spent  more than an hour planning my route – the area of steep hillside below Winters. I’d discovered more ancestors living in this area but the various maps I had seemed to have conflicting ideas about what constitutes a decent sized path. At this time of year the very steep paths are coated in slippery leaves. But even more dangerous than these are the steep cobbles of ancient roads whose moss ridden stones are a veritable nightmare, especially heading down the hillsides. 

Built into the hillside

I walked along the canal to Stubbings Square where one of my ancestors lived. Though I’d passed the entrance to this little square many times I’d never actually gone in to the ‘square’ so here was my opportunity. Rather pretty old stone buildings. 


Stubbings Square

Then on to Oakville Road which led up into the hills. As I turned a corner in the road I saw a train heading directly towards me which scared me for a moment. There was actually a wall between me and it, though if my arms had have been a tad longer I’m sure I could have touched it.  I was to take the paved Turret Royd Road, (where another ancetsor had lived at #4) pass the last building and then continue on a footpath. Hmm – no sign of a path past the last house so I had to retrace my steps and take the lower road instead.

This eventually turned into a very, very narrow track, part path, part stream. It led past old  buildings towards the main road and so I turned right over a little bridge and headed upwards again. Scattered cottages and ‘halls’ edged the path but many of them didn’t appear to have names. One fine building was built directly into the hillside, being barely 6 ft high at the back and 3 stories high at the front.

This hillside was directly opposite Stoodley Pike and the sun was trying desperately to find its way between heavy clouds. It was quite pictureque. Eventually I came across a couple heading towards me. “You seem to know where you are going” I ventured as we drew level outside Higher Underbank farm. “Yes, we live here,” came the reply. I asked for directions back down to the valley on a road that wouldn’t be too steep and slippery. “Ah, the best way would be to go through our garden, through the gate, turn right, meet a cart road and go past the mill and turn left.”

So off I went. I was very grateful for the short cut through their garden which eliminated some of the steeper, overgrown  paths. I soon came to Potball. How’s that for a name? I had seen the name on my map before I’d left home. It turned out to be an imposing building directly overlooking the Calder Valley with an uninterrupted view across to Stoodley Pike. Then down past the ruins of Jumble Hole Mill. I think I’ve only been here once before and that was on a hike in the summer before I moved to Hebden Bridge. The ivy and moss soften the jagged outlines of ruined walls and broken pillars turning everything into elfin territory where everything is a brilliant vibrant green. 

Ruins of Jumble Hole Mill

Fairy glen
The power for the mill

Soon I came to the railway tunnel and, on going under it found myself on the main road.

A little father on another tunnel was signposted Underbank House and I took a little detour to see this imposing mansion with its wrought iron gates, alarm system, cctv cameras – and trampoline! I don’t think John Gibson would have lived there in 1861. He was a plate layer for the railway – the same job as Ezra Butterworth.

It was very noisy walking along the main road back towards Hebden but I suddenly saw  above me on the left three terraces and I could just make out through the trees the sign Ingle dene on the first group. Each house had a steep flight of steps going up to the front door and I went up one of those to get a better view.

The next block was Ivy Bank, and the last block was Fern Villas but that only consisted of two houses. A man was just leaving, being taken for a walk by his dog, and I asked him about a third house. He believed that one had been demolished, and, sure enough a grassy area to the right of the terrace suggested that he was correct. 

New graffiti on the roadside mill

A morning in Winters

Winters

A week ago I hadn’t even heard of Winters. I was coming to the end of tracking the homes of the Gibsons and had become intrigued by a strain of Gibsons who kept pubs in my local area, not always successfully, and some with tragic consequences, but I thought this would be a good research project for the dark winter evenings. When I came upon the fact that one pub was located in the appropriately named Winters – well, that was a no brainer. So the first day that the weather was reasonable enough to tramp over the moors I set off to find Winters. I’d discovered a Winter’s Lane  perched high up on the hillside just below Badger Lane in Blackshaw so I caught the bus to Blackshaw Head. Other places that I’d listed as residences of the Gibson family were on my list too. I knew that I’d previously taken photos of a row of old cottages called Dry Soil just because the name amused me – and now I’d found out that a Gibson relative had lived there: John Gibson  in 1881.




He’d also lived in Cally Hall (1871 census) which was another group of cottages on Badger Lane close by. I’d taken a photo of those picturesque cottages too with their amazing view over the Calder Valley, and I remember finding out that the name Cally had come from Calico cloth. So I stopped to take another photo now that I knew John Gibson had lived there in 1871 and had died there in 1887. (He’d also lived at Underbank at the bottom of the hill in 1861, but that was for another day).

Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter – 15 April 1887

I’d taken a copy of an 1861 map with me and a current ordinance survey map and I knew I was turn off Badger Lane at Marsh Lane. I found what I thought was the correct lane – a a well-used Bridle path but there was no road sign. A man was just turning into it with no hesitation and so I called out,

“Is that Marsh Lane?’

“Yes.”

I crossed over.

“Do you mind if I join you for a little while I’m looking for Winter’s Mill.’’

He knew the place and so we followed the well-marked bridle path down. He was from Colne and had left his car on Badger Lane, was hiking down to Hebden for coffee, and then would take the bus back up to the car.

“I’ve always wanted to move to Hebden but my wife finds it depressing,” 

I was looking for a mill pond where water would have been stored and used to keep the machinery at mill moving at dry times of the year. It was the pond’s presence on the map which had alerted me to the mill site because there’s nothing remaining of the mill today. The row of cottages marked on my 1861 map came into view and my hiking buddy mentioned that the old mill pond is now a garden at the back of the cottages.

Cottages at Winters

The only definitive remains of the mill was a picturesque arch with initials and date carved above. A well positioned bench overlooked the valley and we sat and chatted, asking him about the accessibility of some of the footpaths back down to the valley. The Pennine Way passes this way but from the map it looks very steep and wooded and  probably not a good option for today. The man agreed. 

I wanted to take a photo of the cottages but trees were blocking my view so eventually I decided to go up the steep drive and see if anyone came out. At that moment I car came upon the drive and the owner of the end house, which had obviously once been a barn rolled down the window.

“Can I help you?” I explained my presence and she was very helpful. “You can walk right through the front gardens” she said. “It’s a public right of way.” So off I went along the front of the 4 cottages. As I stopped to take photos a couple with a toddler came towards me. Again I explained my mission. “We’ve just bought the end house, but haven’t moved in yet. Would you like to come in and see it?” For whatever reason this house seemed the most likely place for John Gibson’s shop and beer retailers as listed in Pigot’s directory of 1834. This John Gibson, born in 1780 and died in 1837 was the grandfather of the Dry Soil and Cally Hall John Gibson! Before moving to Winters he had previously been innkeeper of the Black Bull at Bridge Lanes recorded in 1811, 1822 and 1829.  Inside  the house the place was amazing. All the walls were exposed stone and the rooms retained their stone flag floors. The ceilings were not more than 6’6” high and the stone fireplaces were intact, though they now had stoves inset. I immediately wondered about damp and cold penetrating into the house but it was lovely.

The lady took me out back and within 6” of the back door was a small gully running with fast water over which a stone flat led into the large garden, half of which had obviously been the mill pond. An old water pump remained at the side of the pond. Again I wondered what this must be like in heavy rain but it looked lovely. I told her that my daughter Anna would just love such a place with a bare stone interior! Her husband asked for my email and said that the cottage had come with lots of old documents. I do hope he contacts me – but I guess I can always call now I know where they live. He said the cottage was built around 1730 but isn’t a listed building. I took my leave and wandered around the area for a while trying to find any signs of the mill but many of the tracks were took steep and slippery to explore today. The couple did tell me that there is an old photo of the mill but I can’t find it on Pennine horizons or the Charlestown website even though there’s a history of the mill on the latter site. The only one I can find was taken in the 1940’s of a lady outside the building that was then used as a toilet!

According to the Charlestown history site the mill was built in 1805 by John Sutcliffe. Between 1827 and 1832 the mill was purchased by William Horsfall and it seems likely that it was at that time that it was  converted to steam power to be able to cope with competition from other manufacturers. In 1842 the mill was capable of turning raw cotton into finished cloth. It had departments for carding, spinning (4360 spindles) and weaving (90 power looms ). It was said to be the largest manufacturer of sateens and dimitie going into Manchester.

By the 1841 census there were 32 men, women and children listed as living in Winters: cotton spinners, weavers, carders, winders. The only person not engaged at the mill was Joshua Gibson, 35, and his wife Sally, 35 who were farmers.  Soon after from 1844 to 1855 Joshua and Sally and their 9 children were living in Bridge Lanes and he was a farmer of 5 acres employing an unreadable number of workers. He gave up his license in 1855 and Richard Parker took on the job of landlord at the Black Bull, Bridge Lanes.  and two years later he’s listed as a butcher. The following year he hanged himself in his slaughter house on May 30th, 1858 and was buried at Heptonstall church three days later.

View of the Calder Valley from Winters

In 1842 and 1864 two surveys were carried out regarding the value of the machinery, buildings, utensils and livestock. In 1864 the mill consisted of:

  • Blowing room
    Carding room
    Cellar
    Throstle Room
    Mule rooms
    New mill
    Nos. 1,2 & 3 rooms
    Beaming room?
    Storehourse, store room & office
    Boiler house, engine house
    Yard and gas piping
  • There was also a smithy and a mechanics shop.
  • The 1842 evaluation for the domestic building included: Old white cow, Red and white cow and Roan cow,The new cow, Old stable manure, Bay mare, shaft and trace, General farming utensils and 3 stable buckets, 2 pack carts, Box tubs, lumber, wheel barrow and hand barrow, 2 water tubs

One interesting entry was for articles to be found in the ‘room over the school’ so Winters had its own schoolroom in 1842! By the next census in 1851 the mill employed about 75-90 people. Some workers lived on site eg at Winters Cottages (1851 census shows 63 people living at Winters with two cottages empty),

On February 25, 1868 the mill was struck by lightning.In1877 William raised more capital by a second mortgage on the mill and Underbank, but had trouble keeping up payments to suppliers and creditors.

The name Winters

By the end of 1880 the business, now owned by William Horsfall,  was effectively Bankrupt. In March 1881 the machinery and engine boiler were sold and part or all of the mill was sold off for stone.The old part of Winters Mill used mules to spin yarn (called twist) and the newer part was used for power looms to manufacture fustian cloth In 1839 the coming of the railway meant that the mill could get raw cotton from Liverpool and send finished goods to Manchester much quicker.

Winters Lane

I returned to Winter’s Lane thinking how many more people must have lived in this vicinity both the keep the mill going and also to necessitate a shop and beer house in the 1830’s. I’d checked with the locals that my planned route was easy to follow and it was. Winter’s Lane can carry vehicles but it ends and turns into a tiny track called Dark lane. This was more like Dark River today but my new hiking boots were up to the task. Dark Lane led back onto another lane  that was just about passable by car, though very steep,  although bags of salt were stationed every ten yards in anticipation of icy weather. The sound of traffic along the Calder Valley rose up to the path and the whistle of the train blended in with the birdsong from time to time. 

Dark Lane

Eventually I came out onto Rawtenstall Bank,  a very steep road, though fully paved for cars,  with several switchbacks. I decided not to take the short cut down Cat Steps!

A few terraces are strewn along the road and they are at a crazy angle with their roof line close to 45 degrees. One of these terraces is Glenview, and in 1901 and 1911 Arthur Gibson, Joshua’s grandson,  was living at #9. Arthur was Thomas Gibson’s son. Thomas Gibson had been a butcher all his life, growing up in Winters and presumably attending the school there. At the age of 21 he married Hannah Stott and they had 9 children , the youngest being Arthur, 1873-1957. Arthur had been employed in the clothing industry all his life, first as a tailor’s apprentice then as a fustian cutter. A lady was just coming out of her house as a took a photo of the terrace. “I’m tracing my ancestors. They used to live at #9” I explained. “Ah, that’s that’s  end one.” Weird. The last one was number 8! Ah well. Perhaps the terrace was longer at one time. 

Glenview

My next stop was 16 Bank Terrace, in 1911 the home of Joshua’s great granddaughter Ethel Gibson-Atack, and so the great great granddaughter of John Gibson who I had stated the day with. It is through Ethel’s husband, Harold Atack that I am related to Barbara Atack the president of the Hebden Bridge Historical society. When I first moved here and joined the society Barbara told me that her husband’s father had lived in Cheetham House where I was then living! Bank Terrace is so steep that it looks as if it’s falling down the hillside. 

I turned off Rawtenstall bank onto Oakville Road where some imposing Victorian mansions are set up high above the road. At one of these, Oak Villa another Gibson relative – Mary Gibson-Butterworth lived in 1881. Mary was Joshua’s daughter and so had lived at the shop/inn that her father kept at Winters and was 11 years old on the1841 census. I wonder if she went to the school in Winters. 10 years later, in 1851,  she was a servant at the inn in Hawksclough which I’ve not yet quite found, though I’ve been researching that too. Richard Parker was the innkeeper. Remember, a Richard Parker had taken over the license of the Black Bull at bridge Lanes from Joshua (Mary’s dad). In 1861 Mary married Ezra Butterworth a plate layer for the railway company and she was the housekeeper at the now demolished White Horse Inn in Lee’s Yard, Hebden Bridge. My 1871 they are living on Crown Street, my street, and Ezra is still an employee of the railway company but by 1881 at  the age of 51 Ezra is now a farmer with 9 ares of land and he’s living in Oak Villa just off Rawtenstall End. The houses on either side of Oak Villa each have a live-in general servant. Mary and Ezra seem to have gone up in the world. Very rapidly.

Oak Villa

Oh, oh my. The very next day I thought I’d try and find out more about Ezra’s rise to the upper class and I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes. On Ancestry I found a 34 page document entitled the Life and Times of Ezra Butterworth, 1827-1898 as told by his daughter  Grace,  1863-1944,  to her four children and recounted by them to his great granddaughters, all handwritten by Barbara Moss. It had been uploaded by ‘mossquire’ who I had exchanged several emails with about the Moss family over the last few weeks and so I’d never even thought to look for Gibson’s in his info online! I read quickly through some of the pages and it turns out that Ezra sent his children to the Moss school on Hangingroyd Road that I’ve been delving into over the last month! Truly amazing!. There was even a photo of him in his hunting gear. I emailed mossquire to see if he’d transcribed the 34 page document but no such luck. Think I’ll have to save that job for a rainy day – or a rainy week!

Ezra Butterwoth – husband of aunt of husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed!!!

Ezra Butterworth 1828-
husband of aunt of husband of 1st cousin 3x removed

Mary Gibson-Butterworth 1830-1918
Wife of Ezra Butterworth

Joshua Gibson 1806-1858
Father of Mary Gibson-Butterworth

Thomas Gibson 1828-1897
Son of Joshua Gibson

Thomas Henry Gibson 1869-1947
Son of Thomas Gibson

Amelia Whitham-Gibson 1869-1949
Wife of Thomas Henry Gibson

James Farrar Whitham 1837-1901
Father of Amelia Whitham-Gibson

WILLIAM WHITHAM 1792-
Father of James Farrar Whitham

ELIZABETH ANN WHITHAM-NUTTON-LEEMING 1840-1905 (of Lily Hall)
Daughter of WILLIAM WHITHAM

JOHN NUTTON 1862-1934
Son of ELIZABETH ANN WHITHAM-NUTTON-LEEMING

FLORENCE NUTTON-DENTON 1895-NaN
Daughter of JOHN NUTTON

Jack Dean Denton 1920-1995
Son of FLORENCE NUTTON-DENTON

Heather Jacqueline Denton
You are the daughter of Jack Dean Denton

As I returned into Hebden along the canal I stopped to take a photo of #1 Fountain Street which is the first house from the canal in a row of Victorian back-to-back houses.

1 Fountain Street

Annie Gibson Hart  (1866-1917) was living there in 1911. She was a grandchild of Thomas Gibson. Her parents were Thomas Gibson and Hannah Stott-Gibson. She married a fustian cutter, Cornelius Hart from Bolton. At the time of her marriage she was a fustian machinist and the newly weds were living with her parents at Old Gate. By 1901 they were living at Hebble End, childless. Hebble End was the area of Hebden Bridge that I first stayed in the summer I came by myself to research my ancestry. 1911 saw them still working in the fustian industry. Prior to his marriage Cornelius had lived and worked at Lower Lumb Mill (built 1802) with his parents and siblings. Lumb Mill School was founded in 1845 by the owners of the mill. In 1851 there was one school room, 20’ by 16’, with 34 girls and 17 boys, who were taught reading writing and arithmetic.  The children would have worked half time, with one group at school in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Somewhere in this locality the Sutcliffes opened a one-room factory school. This was because in 1845 the Factory Acts said that children had to spend a certain number of hours in education if they were to continue working in the mills. 34 girls and 17 boys were taught reading, writing and arithmetic at Lumb.Half timing ended only with the Fisher Act of 1917. The ruins of a 200-year-old cotton mill have been brought back to life, thanks to a new hydro-electricity scheme that starts generating electricity today. The hydro scheme uses the original weir and water channels that supplied the industrial-revolution-era mill when it was first built in 1802, and will produce enough clean electricity to power around 40 homes and save 60 tonnes of CO2 per year from going into the atmosphere. The 450,000 project is the brainchild of Bede and Jane Mullen, who have lived by the ruins of Lower Lumb mill in Hebden Bridge for over 30 years. My photos of Lower Lumb Mill come from a hike I took in April.

Malta – Day 7

He must have thought I was a peahen

A lovely day for my final day in Malta. First port of call was costa’s famous basilica,  famous for its survival after a bomb fell through the roof in 1942 but failed to explode. An Italian pilot was lightning his load and accidentally dropped it on the church but, as Maria quipped, since it was Italian in didn’t behave as it should have done, and failed to explode, fortunately since 300 people were attending mass inside the church. A replica of the bomb is on display – rather odd to see in a church.  The Ro

Unexpected sign in a church

man Catholic Church was built in 1833-1860 and is based on the Pantheon in Rome. Leaving the church we only were allowed 25 minutes to climb up to the balcony in the dome, visit the WW ll bunkers and/or get morning coffee.

Cannons and religion

I opted for the bunkers, just outside the basilica and saw reconstructions of the life that the people seeking safety lived. Lace making, hairdressing equipment and sewing machines were all part of life underground. 

Then we were off to visit the San Anton Gardens in Attard. Because the towns in Malta are so densely populated every inch of land in the towns is taken up with building, apart from the few designated gardens which are open to the public. In fact apart from palm trees there are no trees on Malta and so there is no wood at all for building material.

The gardens surround a palace that was originally built in the early 17th century and is now the residence of Malta’s prime minister. As I wandered around there numerous walkways I came to a gate manned by a soldier and at that moment a cavalcade of vehicles drew up and the soldier saluted. I guess the prime minister was in the car! The walled gardens were opened to the public in 1882 and it was lovely to see so much color in the flowers. I hadn’t realized until then how much I’d missed seeing colorful blooms. Of course the Maltese kitties were enjoying sunning themselves in the plant pots too. Several trees with the spiky and bottle-shaped trunks that I’d seen in Sicily were present and peacocks were strutting their stuff beneath them. 

The president arrives – off camera!

Lunch was at the coastal village of Marsaxlokk which is described as a typical fishing village, but the restaurants and street vendors have moved in and nowadays it’s a tourist haven  too. Still, it was very very pretty with the traditional highly colored fishing boats and there were shoals of fish chomping on pieces of bread. Fishermen had their nets strewn along the quayside and on the menu for one outdoor restaurant, alongside the fried rabbit was octopus stew. I’d been holding out for a dish of mussels until I found a good place by the ocean so here was my opportunity since we were all free to find our own lunch. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon on a tour of the three cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua whose fortifications were built by the Knights of St John. Streets almost narrow enough for people on opposite balconies to shake hands were the order of the day with peeling paint and weathered stone – just my sort of place. The week after I’d got back from my trip I saw a quote from L.S. Lowry in the Manchester Art Gallery: “I seem to have a strong feeling towards decayed houses in deteriorated areas ….” Preparations were being made for the Superleague Triathlon event the next day and tents, camera men and portable toilets and barricades were being set up along our route. In the church of St Lawrence in Valletta there were several clothed skeletons reminding me of the catacombs in Palermo. 

Our final dinner with the group was back in Sliema, at Piccolo Padre, a lovely ending to an interesting trip full of surprises. 

Final dinner

The next morning I left Malta, bound for Leeds/Bradford airport along with another member of the group, and had a trouble-free trip back to Hebden Bridge where the all the colours of Autumn had come to the town in the week that I’d been gone.

Malta – Day 6

As I looked out from my window this morning a flock of birds were circling and soaring around the half built tower blocks. Later I showed my video of their antics to our group but no-one could identify what species they were. 

First on the agenda were two temples – Hagar Qim and Mnajdra. First we were treated to a three D movie about the history of the temples. Perched at the edge of the cliff it brought to mind the Temple of Sounion in Greece that I’d visited way back in 1976. The temples here predate Stonehenge by 1000 years, and they were built before Skara Brae in Orkney too, though I could see many similarities. Hagar Qim is the oldest free standing structure on earth and has now been shielded from the devastating effects of weathering by being covered in a giant tent – a protective canopy. It really looks like an alien space station! The lower temple was down a steep track and golf carts were available for anyone who didn’t want to walk. I took the opportunity of this so that I could have a few minutes back up at the top to wander along the cliff top by myself before the others arrives and we continued on our way.

Next was a short minibus ride to  The Blue Grotto for a 20 minute boat ride into the various sea caves, marveling at the turquoise color off the water as we went. I bought a couple of calendars at the wayside gift shop on my way back to the bus.

As we made our way in yet another mini bus and a new driver Maria mentioned that until about 20 years ago women did not work outside the home in Malta. It would have been seen as a failure of the man to provide for his family. Now women work, which means they have less time to shop at local stores. She, herself, stocks up on groceries at the supermarket once a month. So locally soured products are suffering.

Lunch at the farm

We were on our way to Malta Sunripe to meet an entrepreneurial farmer and his wife who are eager to share their love of farming with tourists. Alongside their 4 enormous greenhouses, each contain 9800 tomato plants they run a farm kitchen where they produce jams and wines, and also have a restaurant featuring their home grown produce. Delicious!

In the wine cellar

We were taken to see the wine cellar that the farmer and his family had carved into the bedrock themselves only a few years ago. After lunch we were shown a film about their work and then we got to tour one of the greenhouses.

8 members of the family farm the tomatoes which means they have to take it in turns to go on vacation because the plants need daily work – planting, tying, applying fertilizer, keeping bumble bees that pollinate the plants. In the summer they paint the roof of the glass house with chalk to stop the sun burning the plants. By the time the rain arrives later in the year the sun is not so hot and the chalk dissolves. Very clever!

On the way back to Sliema we saw the huge building project funded by the EU of 6 new flyovers. One had been completed. Work goes on there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Maria mentioned that newly weds tend to purchase  their homes. If they can’t meet the 10% down payment the government steps in and gives them an interest free loan. Wow! People generally live with their parents until they get married, and the average age of marriage is just over 30.

For an interesting take on the problems with the Maltese economy take a look at the first 10 minutes of this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bnb6vc/mediterranean-with-simon-reeve-series-1-episode-1

Today’s kitty

We were back at the hotel by 5:30 for a ‘free evening’ but I didn’t want a free evening. This was when I think a WhatsApp idea for those who wanted to partner up with someone else from the group would have been a good idea: get the ferry over to Valletta after dark, relax at an oceanfront bar, go beach combing. I didn’t want to eat in. A restaurant alone and though I thought about taking a nap I was too excited to sleep, so I headed out along the oceanfront to explore the peninsula. A map had promised Victorian Baths, but I didn’t find them. Still, it was nice to potter about on the rocks for a while. I went back to the mini market which had been closed on the first night and was surprised to find how good it was. It was the only food store I’d been into, or even seen on the trip. 

Malta – Day 5

Day 5

I was woken intermittently during the night by rumbles of thunder in the distance and it was rather overcast when I look out of my window, carefully screening myself from the guys already hard at work on the construction site opposite.

Roof-top kitty

I began the day by walking along the seafront for half and hour or so, checking out the kitties in the playground, and noticing that every second business was selling real estate. 

After breakfast we headed out for our 90 minute boat trip in Malta’s Grand Harbour. Maria had told us that the only way to really appreciate the vastness of the harbour was to see it by boat, and though this sounded decidedly like a marketing ploy – Boy! Was that true. There are 5 ‘fingers’ to this natural  harbour and it’s still a hub of activity with its cranes, oil rigs, high end yachts, dry docks for ship building and fishing vessels. I saw a huge crane that was shaped like a head and neck of a giraffe in the distance, and, lo and behold, when our boat drew close, the rigging of the crane had been painted in the brown and yellow spots of the giraffe. Our of our group explained to me that the oil rigs were just there for storage, they weren’t drilling.

She was from Aberdeen and working in that industry. There were lots of small boats adjusting their sails as they travelled. They were practicing for a big yacht race this coming weekend. The five star formation of the fort was easier to see from the ocean and its fortress walls seemed impenetrable. I could also see the hospital and appreciate its long length and how amazing its unsupported ceiling must have been when it was built. 

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Then onto Mdina where Maria pointed out various places we could have lunch from our central point outside the cathedral. As we approached the central square through the narrow streets I could hear a symphonic band playing songs from Jesus christ Superstar – one of my family’s favourite musicals. I couldn’t wait to see them close up. Four of us headed for a very pleasant lunch in the courtyard of a former palace. We asked our waiters for help with translation of the menu but its was difficult. They were Albanian and Sicilian.

I chose to be adventurous and selected the monkfish carpaccio with the best roast potatoes in the world. Despite the ‘relaxed’ rate of service I still had an hour after lunch to explore the city alone, and found myself taking lots of photos of door knockers. These were a symbol of your social status, and some were very elaborate – daily with a nautical theme.

Like Murano Mdina is noted for its glass and I took a look in a couple of the glass studios. I found some lovely pieces but didn’t fancy my chances about getting them home, or the the U.S in one piece. 

Glass octopus

When we met up again, at the British phone box (they look as though they’ve been planted by mistake – along with the British post boxes) we visited a Roman villa with intact mosaic floors and then on to the catacombs. I must admit I was a little disappointed with these at first. After visiting the amazing catacombs in Palermo last year where the skeletons and both posed and clothed, just seeing holes hacked into the bedrock where the corpses would have lain was not as mind blowing. 

We arrived back at the hotel at 5:30 and met up for dinner an hour later, organized by Maria, at Gululu about 20 minutes walk along the waterfront.

Rabbit is the featured local food but I had clam and aubergine pasta, my first pasta dish of the trip. It was delicious. Our talk at dinner was mainly about places our group had visited –  Cambodia, Egypt, Morocco. I think everyone had been to India at some time in their lives. This is so different from conversation in America where the topic might included visiting a second home at Lake  Tahoe, or a beach holiday in Florida. Malta had 2 1/2 million tourists last year and 30% of the GDP is tourism. Malta can only provide 23% of its own food. The rest has to be imported, much of it from Sicily. Legislation states than new factories must employ native Maltesers and private schools teach English as their first language. Speaking English is a status symbol so the Maltese language is on the decline. All medical treatment is free, though you can take out health insurance to gain faster service. It only costs 20 Euros for a home visit from your family GP.  There is 3% unemployment. The only natural resource on the island is stone, and the original 50 quarries are now down to 3. Most families have a ‘Sunday only’ car in addition to 2 ‘regular’ cars. Sunday cars have a different colored license plate and can only be driven on Sundays so they only pay 1/7 of the road tax and insurance. As you can see – we had a very informative conversation over dinner. I’d not seen any drunken Brits on this trip as I had expected to, or anyone drunk or homeless. The expensive areas are being bought up by Chinese and Russians and there’s a big gaming industry on the island. No property tax either.

 I walked back along the seafront alone and stopped to watch a men’s waterpolo match in a swimming pool at the ocean’s edge.

Dinner with the group
View as I walked back to the hotel

Malta – Day 4

New hat

A 9 a.m. departure to spend the entire day in Valletta. It was to be a hot day, entirely outdoors so I donned my new hat (bought at a street vendor’s yesterday) and my new pink dress that I’d purchased on my trip to Whitby with Anna. It was only a half hour drive to Valletta. The entire town is a UNESCO site and is laid out on a grid system with very narrow streets to provide shade. 

Even though it was not yet 10 o’clock we had to queue to enter the city through the grand gate and the gardens with the wonderful look out were teaming with tourists.

Three cats were sitting contentedly on the counter of the cafe1 I soldier in uniform was preparing the cannons for their twice daily firing  – for the tourists’ benefit, I hasten to add. and on our left is the new building known as the ‘cheese grater’ but which is, in fact, the new parliament building. The prime minister’s house/office s an old building with two historical cannons outside. There was no police presence and kids were climbing on the cannons to have their photos taken. A sand coloured statue of a man sitting cold by caught my attention and I asked on of our group to the my photo as I headed to sit down on his lap – just as I had with the statue of Oscar Wilde in Dublin. I got the fright of my life when the statue moved and I realized it was a real man! 

And then he moved!

St John’s Cathedral was our goal. It’s amazingly ornate inside with its 8 chapels, one for each nationality of the knights of St John. Each chapel is highly decorated with mausoleums and elaborate walls of carved limestone topped with gold leaf. Each chapel tried to outdo the others in the wealth of artwork. The marble tombstones on the floor were wonderful, and they looked as if they were specially designed for Hallowe’en with their grinning portrayal of Death. We were told that’s because the knights looked forward to death, such was their religious belief. There were loads of tour groups vying for space especially in front of the two famous paintings by Carravaggio. Each person was issued  a headset so that we could listen to our own our guide.

In our free time I chose to go to a concert in a less elaborate church on the square that I’d seen was to hold a flute duet recital. This meant that I had to skip lunch, but it was a lovely opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town, and listen to music that was composed around the time the church was built. It was a husband and wife duo and they’d both studied at the Royal college of music in London.

The reverb was magical. Above the altar was a dome, unusual in the fact that the paintings were in shades of grey only, but it definitely had a three dimensional look.  We were free for the rest of the day and while Maria headed back home the rest of us headed towards the fortress at the end of the peninsula. ‘The Malta experience’ was showing a movie about Malta’s history and most of the group headed in that direction – to get away from the ‘stand and shuffle’ routine we’d had for the rest of the day. It was excellent and afterwards we were given a tour of  the hospital of the Knights. I’d never connected the St John’s Ambulance service in England with the Maltese Knights of St John, who were originally a medical service provided for all the pilgrims who went to Jerusalem, but they eventually became a military unit of some severity. It was a long, two story building and features the longest unsupported ceiling in Europe(?).

Each bed had its own toilet built into the wall and  air vents in the walls  led directly to the garden so that the perfume from the citrus plants would scent the ward. Amazing. Presidents bush and Gorbachev met in this very room in 1989 for a press conference at the end of the cold war. Downstairs was the ward for the poor, with 4 people to each bed and toilet. The remains of frescoes can still be made out on the walls above the beds. What was once the garden is now a 1500 seat theatre.

I happened to come out of the building with Marion and we spent the rest of the day together while others from our group heads for the extensive War Museum in the fort. We wandered around the back streets where the wonderful balconies were strewn with washing, and even those apartments without balconies had some sort of contraption whereby they could hang washing outside their window. The balconies originated in the Moslem East when women were not able to leave the house alone, but the protruding balcony gave them access to whatever was going on in the street. We opted for Soul Food for an al fresco early dinner. My salmon salad was delicious but there’s no way I would have guessed that that was what it was from its appearance.

As we headed back to find the bus station I was apprehensive that we wouldn’t recognize our stop, but fortunately we bumped into two more people from our group and we arrived back at the Plaza Regency safely. The buses on the island are well utilized and ours  was packed with people. Back at the hotel I went up to the rooftop bar to have a shufti at the ‘entertainment.’ It turned out to be a good singer, but her ‘stage’ was inadequate and not even lit. 

Day 3 Malta

The day began with a 15 minute boat ride – optional – in Dwejra Bay – where the water was so clear I could easily pick out the bright orange coral. Our trip took us into sea caves clouded with bright purple seaweed. The main attraction was, until 2017 the Azure Window, a sea arch. Well, we had Natural Bridge in Santa Cruz! The location was used for the filming of Game of Thrones – which I’ve never seen.

Then it was a short drive to the Ta Pinu Sanctuary noted for its mosaics both inside and outside the church. Situatd in open countryside near the village of Gharb there are some wonderful views from the plaza which has modern mosaics surrounding it. Though the date of the original church on the site is lost in history this new church was built 1922-1932 in the Neo-Romantic style, and it’s a much visited site since pope John Paul ll celebrated mass here. 

We walked down a steep hill from Zebbug and its tower built by the Knight of Malta to the Salt Pans of Xwejni Bay. This was my favorite sight seeing stop of the day. The limestone rocks here look like frozen waves, made from golden sandstone.

Occasional sections of blood red stone is apparently caused by the oxidation of the limestone. Salt was a very important commodity. Roman soldiers were paid in salt and the crafty officers made sure they paid out on a humid day when the salt would be heavier. From the word saline comes the word salary. I never knew that! I sat down on a ‘frozen wave’ and all around me were fossilized sand dollars. My sitting spot felt a bit lumpy and I found that I’d been sitting on a fossilized sea urchin.

Fossilised sea urchin

Wonderful!  

As our group chatted over lunch in Marlsfornabout the scarcity of good salads in England, and good greens in particular, I made the crazy comment that in the U.S rocket just never took off! We visited a man who has worked in the salt pans all his life and he has a little dug out where he takes his siestas every day.

In fact, there were several doorways into the chambers that have been carved into the solid rock. Pretty neat. 

Today we moved from Gozo to Malta, to the Plaza Regency hotel, right on the waterfront in Sliema. Maria had keeping reiterating g that we would find Sliema very different from Victoria and indeed it was. The waterfront was a mass of real estate shops, clubs, bars and restaurants. The harbor was the home of hundred and top range yachts.

This is how I had pictured Malta – as a destination for Brits in package holidays supping up Watney’s red barrel and turning in to lobsters as they sunbathed on the beaches. As I opened the door into my room on the 7th floor I could see three men pouring concrete almost within arm’s length of my balcony.

View from my window for the next 5 nights

I had a room at the back, facing the building works. No sea view for me. Although there was full kitchen with stove top, microwave and  fridge they were of little use. No mini bar, and what’s more important to me – no milk for my tea! The Wifi was somewhat intermittent and the choice of TV stations was far m ore limited than in Gozo. The only channel I could find in English was a French 24 hour news channel. 

Lookout tower built by the Knights of St John

The group had dinner together in the Neapolitan bar adjacent to the hotel. I was sorry not to be able to watch the England v Bulgaria soccer at the bar across the street but later on the news on the radio I heard about the game being held up twice because of racial slurs directed at some of the English players. At dinner I sat next to Maria and asked her about her interest in tourism and her particular interest in history and archaeology. Apparently she’d wanted to be a tour guide since being very young and had thus specialized in languages and history before going to college to study tourism.  All education, including university is free here, as is all health care. Maira directed me to a minimarket up a dark street, deserted street, ignorer to procure some milk, but it had closed early. So she managed to get the hotel kitchen to sell me a carton. Brilliant. 

View from the roof top bar and pool
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