Now I found that Ada’s mother had her own interesting story. Sally Worsick was born in 1829 at Holderness in Cragg Vale a building hugging the lower end of what is billed as the longest continuous gradient in England 968 feet over 5.5 miles.
It wasn’t until lockdown that I’d begun to explore this steep valley whose river, the Cragg Brook, once powered several mills and where the employment of children caused the vicar of Cragg Vale to comment “If there is one place in England that needed legislative interference it is this place; for they work 15 and 16 hours a day frequently, and sometimes all night. Oh! it is a murderous system and the mill owners are the pest and disgrace of society…!” (These are the reported words of ‘Revd Devine’, actually Revd Thomas Crowther, vicar of Cragg Vale from 1821 to 1859 in George Crabtree’s ‘A Brief Description of a Tour Through Calder Dale printed at Huddersfield in 1833.’ )
The church of St John the Divine lies at river level way below the main road. It’s a quiet place, now of course closed, but I’d have liked to see inside. The population of Cragg Vale today is around 600 but the church speaks of more populous times when the surrounding mills were working flat out. Thomas Crowther was its first vicar in 1821 and he campaigned tirelessly until his death in 1859 to reduce the long and guelling hours worked in the mills by the children for which he was harrassed repeatedly by the mill owners. In more recent times the church was the scene of much notoriety when its honorary church warden who raised thousands of pounds for the church was none other than Jimmy Saville – who frequently parked his caravan at the Hinchcliffe Arms, the picturesque pub in the village named after the mill owner whose home Cragg Hall lies just above the river.
Dating from 1617 It’s definitely one of the most impressive and well preserved yeoman’s homes in the valley.
After Savile’s death it came to light that the one time DJ and major fundraiser for various charities, including several thousands of pounds for Cragg Vale church, where he was a Churchwarden and would sometimes preach sermons from the pulpit, had been a prolific sex offender.
Sally Worsick’s birthplace, Holderness, is today an immaculate 5 bedroomed home with expansive views across wooded Cragg Vale, now bereft of its mills. What were once subsistence level hillside farms during the nineteenth century have been converted into expansive residences. As I viewed the map I saw that from Holderness it might be possible to see Bell House, home of the coiners. In fact the welcoming sign on the main road into this small town is ‘Mytholmroyd, Coiners Country.’
The Cragg Vale Coiners were a band of counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement the small incomes from hand loom weaving. The leader of the gang was David Hartley who lived at Bell House. Back in March I’d walked almost to Bell House through Clough Nature Reserve after reading ‘The Gallows Pole’, Ben Myers’s story of the desperate rise and ultimate fall of the coiners gang and the gruesome murders that were perpetrated by them in this rural landscape that he knows and describes so well.
The closest building to Bell House is Frost Hole, a mere three fields away. Overlooking the little valley of Frost Hole Clough the farm was built in the early 1600s and around 1840 it became Sally’s home. Her father Henry Worsick was a farmer and the family shared the home with the Sutcliffes, a family of hand loom weavers. It’s highly likely that Henry’s wife Ann Sutcliffe is part of this Sutcliffe family.
In the 1851 census 19 out of the 20 persons listed on page 24 are Worsicks. The Worsicks appear to have been firmly rooted in this locality but not only that, they were prolific. Sally’s grandfather Richard Worsick and his wife Mary (nee Spencer) and their ten children lived at . . . oh my . . . Bell House, former home of ‘King’ David Hartley, the mastermind behind the coiners who was eventually hanged at Tynburn near York in 1770. So Ada’s grandfather, Henry, born at Burnt Acres in 1797had been brought up at Bell House. As I’d turned my attention to Ada’s parents this morning I’d never thought I’d ended up in Coiners Territory!
In 1854 Sally married George Townsend, a dyer and son of a woodturner who specialised in making wooden shuttles for weaving. It’s interesting that Ada’s future husband was a shuttle tip maker and lost his life through an accident in that industry. They had four daughters in their first five years of married life, Ada being the third child, born in 1859. By 1861 the family have moved down into the Calder Valley, just as most of the people were moving from the isolated upland farms as industry was developing the valleys using water to power machinery. The family were now living right on the banks of the River Calder at Heppens End, where George is now a cotton stiffener and finisher.
Heppens End is a terrace of four cottages close to the river in Hawksclough between Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. Today the cottages are the only buildings that remain in what is now a large industrial estate, just across the River Calder from the now levelled Walkley Clog Factory which burned down in August 2019.
I pass the cottages at least once a week on my walks along the valley and I’d taken a photo of the greenhouse planted neatly on top of the garage. By the time Ada was 12 in 1871 the family had moved into the centre of Hebden Bridge to Carlton Street, next street to Crown Street where I live and her father George is a furniture broker and fustian finisher. That’s an interesting combination. Ada’s two older sisters are tailoresses. By the age of 22 Ada is now a ‘shopwoman’ and living with the family is a draper and milliner from Leeds by the name of Edith Miles, nine years older than Ada. The next time I find Ada she’s still living with her parents and Edith but they have moved to Market Street where they occupy two houses, presumably one being a drapers/milliners/tailoresses shop. Perhaps next door is Ada’s dad’s furniture brokerage. Ada was 36 when she married Edgar Harwood, just a year older than her and it must have been presumed by friends and family that she was a confirmed spinster by that time. After their marriage they moved to Hurst Dean.
Ada’s widowed mother, 71, moved in with them, and Edith Miles, Ada’s business partner also continued to live with them. Today it’s an impressive 5 bedroomed stone house and is testimony to Edgar’s successful business as a shuttle tip maker. The tips of the wooden shuttles were made from forged steel and were then fitted on the wooden shuttles to prevent the wearing down of the wood and causing them to snag on the yarn. The steel tips then had to be smoothed on a rotating grindstone to iron out any tiny imperfections that would prevent the shuttle from flying through the yarns from one side of the loom to the other. I own a shuttle that I bought at an antiques centre many years ago and it wasn’t until I learned about Edgar’s occupation that I actually picked up my shuttle and noticed the two metal shuttle tips, almost bullet like at their point. Ada’s grandfather, James Townsend had been a wood turner and shuttle maker in the 1840s and 50s, so I wonder if it was through the shuttle making business that she met her husband-to-be Edgar Harwood. James had lived at Pot House, just a couple of steps across the River Calder from Heppens House but it’s no longer there. He’d also lived at White Houses. This is an oddly named terrace of blackened stone cottages whose front is directly on the main Burnley Road. But go to their rear, built right up to the river and they are very picturesque with their weavers mullioned windows. I could see beamed ceilings and exposed stone walls inside one of the cottages and I’d noted a For Sale sign on one of the cottages last week but their proximity to a part of the River Calder notable for its flooding especially on this stretch of its course makes the cottages hard to sell – but tempting! It’s advertised as “a splendid period cottage residence only a short walk to Hebden Bridge & Mytholmroyd Centres. A Lovely old place been very atmospheric in our valuers’ opinion (sic). An internal appointment to view is essential to appreciate its character & charm.”
“Seldom has the district of Hebden Bridge been so greatly moved as it was last Saturday evening by the news of a terrible tragedy which happened at Blakedean whereby a well known local lady lost her life.” On May 28, 1909. Mrs. Ada Harwood, with her husband Edgar, her 16 year old nephew George A. Smith, and her friend Miss Milnes, her partner in the dressmaking and millinery business they conducted in Hebden Bridge had driven up to High Greenwood earlier in the day to stay with Mrs. Priscilla Clayton for a few days. A 66 year old widow from Shropshire Priscilla ran the 9 roomed boarding house with the help of a live in 22 year old Alice Maud Redman, a local woman whose job is given on the 1911 census as ‘servant’ waiter. After a few days stay in Heptonstall the family were looking forward to taking a ‘pleasure trip’ to Norway, land of the midnight sun, with some friends. From the newspaper account I read: “After tea they went for a walk in the direction of the trestle bridge, only a few minutes walk from the house. Mrs. Harwood and her nephew were a little apart from the others, and, as hundreds have done before, they stepped into one of the recesses to better enjoy the view. The youth doubted the safety of the place. It struck him as being rather flimsy. “Do you think it safe, auntie?” he asked. She replied that it was, having no knowledge of the awful danger which lurked under her feet: and sprang on tiptoe, or, as one might say, “prised” on tiptoe, to make a little test of the platform’s strength. And at that instant the tragedy was upon them they could not avert it, though only a foot’s space from safety. The wood cracked and gave way beneath their feet, Part of it went hurling down to the bed of the stream far below, and Mrs. Harwood fell with it. Overcome by the shock, her nephew found himself clinging to the railing, with no foothold. His walking stick fell through the gap into the gulf. How be got back to the comparative safety of the permanent way he does not remember. One can understand what a fearful shock it was to him as, clinging there and looking down, he saw his relative falling into that great depth to certain death. Mrs. Harwood was beyond help. Her lifeless body lay on a grassy plot just clear of the stream. Her injuries were fearful. They were, in fact, indescribable. Her head and body had apparently struck the framework of the bridge directly after disappearing through the hole, and probably instant death or merciful insensibility was caused before the ground was reached. In a second or two this peaceful valley had been transformed, for the watchers, into a scene of painful tragedy. Pending the arrival of the ambulance the remains of the unfortunate victim of the disaster were reverently conveyed to a spot near the stepping-stones at Blakedean, being carried thence under difficulties by P.C. Matters, and others. Bad news travels fast, and this news was all over the district soon after eight o’clock. From that time the main streets of the town were occupied with hundreds of people discussing the sad event.”
It was now May 2020 as I stood in the valley looking at the enormous stone stanchions that once formed the based of the trestle bridge 103 ft above. Blake Dean Railway had been built to take men, equipment and raw materials from Heptonstall to the site of three dams that were under construction at Walshaw Dean to provide water for the rapidly expanding town of Halifax. The trestle bridge had been designed by local Hebden Bridge architect and surveyor William Henry Cockcroft, and though I have Cockcrofts in my family tree I don’t presume to be related to this particular man. He and his two sons were passengers on the first truck to go over the bridge upon its completion so he was obviously convinced of its safety.
High up on the hillside to my left I could see a track running along the contour. A nearby quarry, Hell Holes, presumably supplied the stone for the stanchions, and the level track on the hillside held tracks that brought the stone from the quarry to the bridge site. It needed little imagination to conjour up the dreadful scene on that sunny May day over one hundred years ago. day. The railway serving the construction site had opened just eight years before and the Blake Dean trestle bridge had become one of the ‘must see’ sites of the Hebden Valley, along with the rocky outcrops of Hardcastle Crags. In the Hebden Bridge history society’s archives I’d found a fragile copy of ‘A Guide to Hardcastle Crags and neighbourhood’ compiled by an unacknowledged author in 1879 and published by W. Ashworth & Sons.
It had become a common practice for tourists to walk on the bridge for the sensation of looking down from so great a height. At the inquest into Ada Harwood’s death the contractors’ foreman said that notices had been put up at both ends of the bridge saying ‘Notice: no person allowed on these works or tramway except workmen on business. Others will be prosecuted. But visitors constantly pulled the warnings down. No criminal negligence was found but the jurors recommended that the signs should be replaced and if possible to erect barricades at the weekends when there were no works’ trains. My attention was drawn to the fact that the chairman of the jury was none other than Abraham Moss, one of my family members, who was to come to his own extraordinary and untimely death just eight years later.
I climbed up from the valley floor and followed the Widdop road along the hillside towards Heptonstall, passing High Greenwood, where the Harwoods had been enjoying their mini break. It is a beautiful stone building set just off the lonely Widdop Road, built in the late 1700s. It’s a building that tells of wealth and privilege with its symmetrical façade centred on a front door made all the more impressive by the triangular pediment above.
Today it’s surrounded by a well- maintained lawn and has expansive views in all directions. Close to the front door is a weeping willow tree causing me to wonder if the person who planted it knew of the association of the house and its unfortunate overnight guest. There’s a feeling of vast expanse up here on the moors heightened by the calls of the curlews who seemed to follow my progress along the hillside. Their bleak, windswept calls as they sweep and glide above me mirror my sentiments this spring morning. It doesn’t surprise me that in 1920 this very spot was the filming location of a silent movie, Helen of Four Gates, written by Heptonstall resident Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, an important working class social activist and feminist.
The raw scenery and the hard life of the local farmers is beautifully portrayed by pioneer film maker Cecil Hepworth, and it was to this very spot that Ethel brought Cecil to show him this remote location with its scattered farms and persuaded him to shoot the movie here. Its grainy black and white images heighten the hardships of the isolated life for these hilltop residents as the heroine battles against the abuse she receives at the hands of her family as well as those inflicted by the elements. Back in 1920, cinema-goers packed into the Co-op Hall in Hebden Bridge, eager to see a new film shot in the countryside around their town. Hepworth’s film career went public but failed to raise the necessary capital and the company went bankrupt and all of the original film negatives in Hepworth’s possession were melted down by the receiver in order to sell the silver. His feature films had been considered lost for many decades. However, an original 35mm. print of his 1920 film Helen of Four Gates was located in a film archive in Montreal, Canada in 2008 by Calder Valley film maker Nick Wilding and in 2010 Nick organized a screening of the silent movie at the Picture House in Hebden Bridge, probably the only screening of the movie since its release ninety years before. A little beyond High Greenwood I glimpsed Dick Booth Farm, the filming location used as Four Gates farm in the movie. In 1910 Dick booth was owned by Gameliel Sutcliffe and lived in by Wlliam Sutcliffe. (see blog about Gameliel).
Keeping the steep and heavily wooded valley enclosing the famed beauty spot of Hardcastle Crags on my left I soon came to Draper Lane. I was heading back in time to the site of Dawson City, home of the builders who had constructed the trestle bridge necessary for the building of the three reservoirs. I’d been fascinated by this story of this shanty town since first seeing photos of it in the White Lion in Heptonstall on my summer visits to the area. Perhaps it caught my attention because I’d visited the ‘real’ Klondike in Alaska myself in 2005. I even composed a song about this place, ‘Where are the ghosts of Walshaw Dean?’ Wooden huts for the workers were built at Whitehill Nook, just below Draper Lane in Heptonstall/Slack and it became quickly known as Dawson City, since it is said that some of the navvies had actually worked in the Klondike gold rush.
The construction of Heptonstall’s Dawson City commenced in October 1900 and by the spring of 1901 there were 22 huts to accommodate about 230 men with large dormitories and wash houses provided for single men. As wives and children joined their husbands the impact was felt by the local community of Heptonstall and a spare room in the school master’s house was brought into service for the additional thirty children living in Dawson City. Sanitation in the new city was obviously going to be a major problem and when outbreaks of typhoid and smallpox broke out a tent was set up to serve as a field hospital capable of caring for fourteen patients but it blew down in a gale! The gently sloping fields on either side of me today bear no trace of this fleeting community which, at its zenith consisted of living accommodation, workshops, storerooms, a locomotive shed, a tank for supplying the engines with water, a sawing machine, a mission room, a Sunday School and social club. By 1902 Hepton Rural Council was drawing attention to the “disgraceful state of things” at Dawson City, where children were dying soon after birth, drainage at the lodging houses was deplorable and “shebeening” (sale of alcohol without a license) was a growing scandal.
However, by the autumn of 1905 around 540 navies were living at Dawson City being taken to and from work in the “paddy mails” for their 12 hour shifts at the reservoirs. When the reservoirs were completed in 1908 the workers moved away and Dawson city became a ghost town, its site soon to be indistinguishable from the surrounding moorland. When Ada fell from the bridge in 1909 the trestle had become a tourist destination though it was still used by the railway until 1912.
Only two months after the tragedy Ada’s niece, Bertha Moss, married Claude Redman of Pleasant Villas and the bride was given away by her uncle, Edgar Harwood, Ada’s grieving husband. What mixed emotions must have been in evidence on that day of rejoicing. A few days after my excursion to the scene of the tragedy I set out for Pleasant Villas, two semi detached homes at the top of Hangingroyd Road, one of the front doors having ‘Pleasant’ engraved in stone above the door and the other one having ‘Villas’ above.
At the turn of the twentieth century the two homes were lived in by two of the most successful textile manufacturers in the area, the Moss family and the Redman family, and when Bertha Moss married Richard Redman the two families became linked by marriage, not just business.
Later that same year another incident in this story stopped me in my tracks. Less than three months after his wife’s death Edgar married Mary Ann Edith Milnes, none other than Ada’s business partner in their dressmaking and millinery business!
In 1847 Edgar’s father, James Harwood 1825-1881, had established a whitesmith business, James Harwood and Sons. James’s father, William, Edgar’s grandfather 1794-1868 had also been a whitesmith, as had his great grandfather John 1753-1803 and his great great grandfather John born in 1703. For at least five generations the family had lived on Height Road, in a smaller cluster of houses comprising Foster Clough. Heights Road hugs the 300 metre contour line and Foster Clough is a small but active stream that bustles down the hillside. The stream is mirrored on the other side of the valley by Cragg Brook. In fact Foster Clough is exactly opposite Frost Hole and Bell House on the same contour. I took advantage of the only day in the weather forecast to not be either snowing or raining heavily to take another trip up to Heights Road now that I knew of its connection with my family’s story.
Taking the zippy bus up the steep 600 ft gradient from the valley to Heights Road I alighted to what feels like an aerial view of the Calder valley with its spectacular views across the neighbouring moorland for over 30 miles.
The valley’s narrowness at Hebden Bridge widens out into the gentler area around Mytholmroyd which means a clearing where two rivers meet in Old English. The first building on my left is Mt Skip, now a B and B and the owner was working on the garden as I passed. We chatted for a few minutes about the impact of the pandemic on her business and I mentioned that I’d love to stay there when it was eventually possible.
Mount Skip was built in 1718 as a drovers inn, serving the pack horse and mule drovers who took wool and cloth on the journey to and from the markets in Halifax. It served as a hostelry for around 200 years until it closed as a pub in 1999. Where did its customers come from? There’s no village, or even other houses close by. With the advent of the motor car I can understand that people would like ‘a run out’, to a place with such a magnificent view, especially in the evenings. But how did it survive pre motor car? It wasn’t until I reached home that I discovered that for more than 50 years, beginning around 1850 the innkeepers of Mt Skip had been three members of the Harwood family. It seemed to be too much of a coincidence that the Mt Skip innkeepers could be anything other than members of ‘my’ Harwood family. Was this entire area inhabited by Harwoods? Indeed. In the 1851 census of the seven households closest to Mt Skip six of them were lived in by Harwoods! I followed Heights Road eastward. To my right a few sheep were huddling together to keep warm on this icy afternoon. In the next field a Highland cow said Hello to me.
Below them the hill dropped steeply to Raw Lane and then Burlees Lane, paralleling Heights Road and then a steeper descent through the woods led to the valley floor. To my left however, a more gradual slope leads to the top of Wadsworth Moor, its outcrops of sandstone standing like sentinels above the smooth lawns of Mt Skip golf course. This area is scattered with delphs, the local word for quarries, and a new word for me which I learned while chatting to the owner of Foster Clough farm a few minutes later. But first I came to the next group of two adjoining cottages. When I’d first seen the house’s name on a sign by the entrance on a walk along Heights Road two years ago I’d stopped to take a photo, as, I’m sure many people do. Of course, it was named Rough Bottom to distinguish it from Rough Top, the farm just a few metres away and about 50 ft higher.
There was a lovely garden in full bloom that day and I saw that the garden was listed in the Open Gardens event at the Hebden Bridge festival in 2006. In 1841 the two cottages were the home of John Harwood, a whitesmith, his wife Martha and their six children ranging in age from 20 to 5. The far east end of the building is recessed and David Cant two years ago when I asked him about the job of a whitesmith in connection with Samuel Gibson told me that this had been the site of the smithy itself. High Rough farm still stands on the hill above Rough Bottom and in 1841 this was the home of Mary Harwood, a 55 year old farmer of 14 acres, with her daughter Mary Greenwood, 30, a dressmaker and 2 year old Heaton Greenwood. In the 1861 census Rough is uninhabited. I followed the path up towards the farm. It’s surrounded by outbuildings, sheds, tractors and carts holding a variety of farm implements but I couldn’t see anyone around so I decided not to go right up to the farm building.
Rough Bottom and High Rough lie a mile to the west of the ancient hilltop village of Midgley but before I reached the village I came to a bridge crossing Foster Clough, a turbulent stream, bordered by trees. Adjacent to the bridge on my left was a house right on the roadside but hidden a little by the trees.
This was Foster Clough House. It even has a red postbox inserted into its wall. In 1841 this lovely house was the home of William and Mary Harwood. William had been born in 1794 at High Rough, the son of John and Betty (nee Jackson) of Rugh. (Note the spelling) William, a whitesmith, had married Mary Wormwald in 1816. They had ten children between 1821 and 1840. I looked around at this isolated hilltop home of the Harwood and tried to imagine giving birth and raising ten children in such a place. I thought it quite amusing that the last two sons had been named Marmaduke and Ethelbert and it was as if the parents had run out of ‘normal’ names!
As a stopped to take a few photos of the house I noticed a beautiful wrought iron railing along the top of the garden wall. it had obviously seen better days but I thought it was lovely as it is with the early Spring sunshine bringing out the colours of the rust and moss. Then I noticed a little path to the right of the house and I thought I might be able to get a good photograph from there. I was hoping that someone from the house might come out and accost me but no such luck. What I did find, however, was quite magical. I found a walled secret garden with just one opening. I checked to see that there wasn’t a No Trespassing sign, and I wandered in. I felt as if I had fallen down a rabbit hole and found myself in a cross between Wonderland, the Secret Garden and The Shire. The photos give you an idea of the place.
In 1851 William was still running his whitesmithing business from this house. Son Adam, 21, had followed in the family trade, while Fred, 19, was a woolsorter, and Adam, 16, was a shoemaker. Meanwhile James, who had been born in 1825, the third son, had got married to Mary Ann Ashworth, the daughter of Wiliam Ashworth, a farmer, in 1847. They would have nine children in the next 13 years. They moved into the village of Midgley, about half a mile from Foster Clough.
I found myself double checking the spelling of this hilltop village.. No wonder! Halifax parish church records 28 different spellings of this name. The village lay on the Roman Road from Manchester and was mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. It’s situation as a hilltop village is similar to that of Heptonstall. Once the home of at least six pubs they have all gone but a village shop is maintained by volunteers. James, moved into the centre of Midgley village, opening a grocer’s shop after his marriage in 1847. It was at that time that he established James Harwood and Sons, whitesmiths. By 1861 he was living in Stocks House, a beautiful roadside cottage where I had taken photos of the current family enjoying a summer afternoon amidst their colourful flower garden, little knowing that I’d discover an ancestral connection to the property. I put a posting on Facebook and within a couple of hours I’d been contacted by someone who had lived at Stocks Farm from 1954-1972. By 1871 the whole family had moved down into the valley, right into the centre of Hebden Bridge, right onto the street where I live!
It was in this house that Edgar lived with his nine siblings until the family moved down into Hebden Bridge and by 1871 they were living on Crown Street, where I currently live. Industrial revolution migration to the valley bottoms for the mills. Edgar, only 13, and his brother James, 17, and their father were whitesmiths employing one man and two boys. Edgar was still living there in 1881 and brothers Wallace and Herbert had joined the family whitesmith business. In 1891 they were at 11 Crown street and along with his brothers they have specialized and are now shuttle tongue and tip makers. The tongue is hinged like a pocket-knife, so that it projects out from the mortise when inserting a fresh cop of yarn. I had passed this sign etched into the stonework every day for the last couple of years but I didn’t ‘see’ it until today.
Meanwhile Edgar’s shuttle tip business continued to flourish. Having first been located on Crown Street in 1892 it moved to larger premises close to Foster Mill but still known as Crown Street Works.
There were 35 employees and they exported to many parts of the world. Edgar was also a figure of some standing in the community as chairman of the Hebden Bridge urban district council. In 1927 Edgar was killed at work when a grindstone burst at the Crown Street works. His brother James who worked there was the first on the scene of the accident. Edgar had been grinding peg points on a large sandstone grindstone. There was no fencing around the rotating stone because the men had to have easy access to it. Apparently Edgar had just a minute before fitted a new pulley to make the grindstone rotate quicker when a large crack was heard. An eye witness related: “Mr Harwood was lying on the ground. He had been killed instantaneously, part of his skull was blown away and part of his right hand.” An inquest revealed that the grindstone had been operating at 75% above a safe working speed but nevertheless a verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury. The funeral service at Birchcliffe Chapel was conducted by the Rev A. Windsor who had been a close friend of the Harwoods. Indeed he proffered that ‘nobody else knew him better. ‘ He described Edgar as ‘an unpolished diamond’ ‘There was a mixture of strength and tenderness in him’ The shock had been so intense for Mrs Harwood that she was unable to attend the funeral though the list of mourners and floral tributes took up an entire column in the newspaper.
One grim February afternoon with snow still clinging to the roads and a heavy cloud of fog obscured even the closest hills I came across a photograph of the former Crown Street Works online taken ten years ago. It’s entitle ‘Former Crown Street Iron Works, Spring Grove, Hebden Bridge,’ and it was with a jolt that I realized that I knew the place. It was the skeleton of a building that had attracted me since moving to the town and I found several photos of it that I’ve taken of it over the past few years. Something about it had intrigued me. It’s on a small piece of derelict land, roofless and for the past year has had a ruined car with smashed windscreen and flat tyres just outside one of the doors.
The wide double door at the side was usually firmly closed and locked, presumably to prevent people wandering in and coming to some harm but one day the door were open and I was able to see inside. There’s not much of interest, just piles of odd pallets and boxes but the week after when I passed a large architectural drawing of a smart office building adorned the main door.
Adjoining the building are the derelict stables which are currently for sale. I even made a piece of fabric art from the photograph I took of the stables. As I took a closer look at these a man emerged from a house opposite. He owns the stables which once served Foster Mill and he showed me photos of the cottages that once stood on the site of the modern houses which now form Spring Grove. My thoughts when I pass this place in future will now be filled with Edgar’s ghost wandering in this ruin while his wife’s ghost floats above Blakedean Bridge.
Confined to base for much of 2020 I turned to my textile work and in November I finished Lockdown Scapes, 27 panels of embroidery, cross stitch, needlepoint felting, applique, leaf printing, rust staining and other various techniques to produce my second textile book.
This is Jimmy Perez’s house on the ocean in Lerwick in the Shetland Isles. I’d been watching the TV detective series, Shetland, based on the books by Ann Cleeves. Douglas Henshall’s accent was so strong that sometimes I had to watch it with subtitles! But I fell in love with the landscape of Shetland and booked to go on a small group trip in the summer of 2017. Taking the overnight ferry from Orkney I was met at Lerwick Harbour by James, a wonderful guide, and the first place he showed me was this house, used as Jimmy Perez’s home in the TV series. I painted the sky and added fabrics. Some of the yarn that I use to make the splashes are from a bookmark that Anna made for me. I ‘rusted’ the title fabric by allowing rusty nails to colour the fabric.
This is the entrance to Butts Green cemetery in Warley, where Samuel Gibson, one of my ancestors is buried, though I’ve yet to find his grave. The place is completely overgrown. I used the same rusting method to colour the background fabric and the ground is felted. The grave stones are felt cut outs. For the gate I used wire, painting it for a weathered effect.
I wrote this poem in 2018. The background fabric shows the Piece Hall in Halifax and I purchased it in the quilting store in Halifax from the lady who had designed it.
The 12:27 to Leeds is my poem about what you can see from the train window in the 40 minute journey to the centre of Leeds.
This poem is a take off of The Old Sedan chair, a poem by Henry Austin Dobson that had to memorise for elocution lessons when I was a child. On a walk to Copley along the Rochdale canal I found a wrecked bench in the churchyard and this poem came to mind. I used a template for the embroidery of the lady sitting on the bench and then added the ‘real’ Copley church tower and apse.
Lily Hall, situated on the road to Heptonstall plays an integral part in my family’s connection to Calderdale. My great great grandma was conceived out of wedlock and born in Lily Hall, fathered, literally by the man who lived next door to her widowed mother. Around the fabric of the ancient building I embroidered a lily, the wonderful views of the hills that would have been visible to the occupants, totally unchanged since their time. Lily Hall’s position on the hillside means that it looks out on the valley, and watches me as I walk the hills – hence the embroidered eye.
A felted seascape from my trip to Iona in 2018, adding a sea pebble and a shell for decoration.
A cross stitched embroidery of Staithes, a lovely couple of days with Anna when she came to visit in 2018. Up until this time my own encounter with cross stitching had been following other people’s pattern, using either counted cross stitch patterns or, preferably a printed pattern. Then one day I found a roll of cross stitch fabric in a market stall and I realized that I could design my own! This was one of the first I did. The location is significant in that it’s s version of a print by Kate Lycett, a local Hebden Bridge artist who lives in a home that one of my ancestors kept as an inn. Kate used the print as a note book cover which I gave to Anna and so when we went to Staithes we found the precise spot and I took Ann’s photo there, holding the notebook.
A felted landscape with applique fabric showing the scar of the M62 motorway as seen from the bus to Huddersfield. I found the rusty metal leaves in a bag of old beads for sale at the Friday Hebden Bridge market. The inspiration was a photo of Windy Hill, the highest point on the M62, a photo in Andrew Bibby’s book ‘Backbone of England.’
My poem describing my ‘discovery’ of Crow Nest Wood during the pandemic is shortly to be published in an anthology by the Wednesday Writers, a creative writing group that I participate in . In 2019 I read one of my pieces, about Todmorden market, at the Todmorden book festival, quite a prestigious affair with Simon Armitage participating. The embroidery is simply illustrating my walk through the wood in Springtime, with a daffodils as a tribute to my mum, who would have just turned 100 this week.
A poem recounting my participation in the remembrance day service at Halifax minster as part of the Halifax concert band. I found it very moving to remember the people who had lost their lives during wars in this setting where so many of my ancestors were married and baptized. Later that day I went up to Blackshaw head where a bonfire was lit, part of a whole range of bonfires lit on top of the hills around the Calder Valley. In Blackshaw Head, and commemorated on the war memorial at the chapel, lived one of my ancestors, Giles Sunderland, who lost his life in the first world war. My poem is printed on a tablecloth from a charity store and uses a music ribbon to recall the last post.
It wasn’t until I embarked on this cross stitch picture that I realized how long it takes to stitch even such a small picture. This is the view from my living room window and shows nature in all its spring colours. The house is Holme House, now apartments and beyond is the former mill where I spent my first summer alone in Hebden Bridge in 2016. ‘A Room with a View’ refers to E. M Forster’s novel of 1908.
A cross stitched landscape and a reference to Under the Sky, my signed copy of a book of poetry by Pete Sinfield, cofounder and lyricist of King Crimson. The beads and metal leaves come from bags of broken jewelry purchase at Hebden Bridge market. The scene is Heights Road above Mytholmroyd from a photo I took on October 27, 2019.
I stitched this poppy pattern during my trip to California in February 2019. It was during the purchase of this kit that I found the roll of Aida and realized that I could begin designing my own pattern. I have lovely memories of sitting in the historic Hinds House in Santa Cruz and in Anna’s apartment in Oakland, working on this piece. I added three pieces of origami paper that Rachel had sent me and I folded it into flowers.
One of my favourite places to visit in Halifax is Dean Clough Mill, once the largest carpet manufacturing mill in the world, but now a collection of art galleries, studios, apartments, restaurants. I’ve taken all my daughters at various times to explore there and usually we’ve stopped in at the Loom Café, decorated with themes from Alice in Wonderland. This poem was inspired by an ancestor of mine who had worked in the factory from the age of ten, and also of an exhibition about the soldiers’ lives in World War one. The embroidery of the white rabbit in the teacup is based on one of the wall paintings in the café and the cut out card motifs were sent to me by Anna, thinking they might come in useful for one of my craft projects.
In September, 2019, I spent five days staying at a hostel in Kendal in the Lake District. One of my walks took me along a stream in Grasmere with this sign Deep Water, which I recreated with cross stitch. Cold Earth is a reference to the 7th book by Ann Cleeves in the Shetland series. The metal leaf again comes from random bags of beads and jewelry.
Wuthering Depths is a felted landscape of Baitings dam, Ripponden which I walked around for the first time in March, 2020. ‘Wuthering Depths’ by Bette Howell, 1989, tells the story of a Yorkshire family, the Hawkweeds and their attempt to convert their historic old mill into a tourist attraction. I purchased the fabric on which I’ve embroidered the title from a shop in Paris where I spent five days with Anna in January, 2020. The beads in the water come from a bracelet that Anna gave me which eventually fell apart through prolonged wear!
One of the first piece in which I painted the sky on the felt background, and added embroidery to the felted flowers. A metal chain and the brown/orange edging suggests a framed picture hanging on a wall. The ‘sky’ border fabric came from a quilting store that recently moved from Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd. I was able to schedule a half hour time slot to select my fabrics, being the only customer in the store.
This piece started off life as a cross stitched piece but I soon realized just how much stitching that would take, so I painted the rocks in the foreground, added netting and various yarns being the splashing waves. The view is from a photo of the lighthouse in Santa Cruz that I took on my visit in February 2019. This place was ten minutes’ walk from my home for 10 years in Santa Cruz. Love of Country is a book by Madeleine Bunting, subtitled A Journey through the Hebrides. The book was a gift from a friend of Keith’s who gave it to me during a wonderful afternoon tea at her home in Bath because she knew that Keith and I were bound for our trip to Iona a few weeks later.
The cross stitched scene here is a view on Iona of a gate into a garden at the bottom of which is the ocean and the hills beyond the bay. It was an idyllic view. The gate is applique felt pieces and the rest is cross stitched. The poem Knit 2, Purl 2 recounts my love of knitting. I rarely watch television without my knitting in hand and for the past ten years I’ve knitted baby blankets to donate to various charities. Only this week I volunteer from Mothershare collected another 20 baby blankets from me. I found the idea for the design of the balls of wool on Etsy.
A felted landscape with the addition of netting for the trees and bushes, various yarns and pieces of clingfoil to create the reflections in the water. Lower Laithes reservoir between Haworth and Stanbury with the moors atop which are the pylons which always remind me of the Martians in H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. I took the photo on December 27, 2019. It’s a special place for me because I celebrated my birthday in 2018 with all my daughters visiting from California at ‘The Friendly” in Stanbury, crossing the dam on this reservoir.
One of the first felted landscapes I created. Waiting for the Sun refers to the third album of The Doors. The scene is from a day trip I the Southern Lakes and this photo was of a misty hike at Hutton Roof near Kirby Lonsdale on September 26, 2018.
In this poem I imagine a bus ride being recreated in fabric. I wrote it in my old apartment on Cheetham Street, converted from a sewing factory and which still had the huge wheels attached to the ceiling which held the pulleys which powered the sewing machines, a fitting place to create works of textile art.
The ghost town of Rhyolite in Nevada, one of my family’s favourite places to visit. I’d heard someone in my textile class mention that you could sew on paper with a sewing machine. I’d never heard of this before but I rushed home to experiment. This is a photo that I took for one of the ruined buildings in Rhyolite and printed onto paper. Then I stitched it onto the background fabric and stitched over some of the details like the railing and window frames. The outer fabric is the rust stained cotton and I’ve employed the Japanese technique of Boro, running stitch lines on patched cloth, another technique that I learned from my textile teacher at Northlights studio, Emma Wilkinson.
Last year I played with some Autumn leaves by painting on the back of them and then printing them on paper, so this year I tried pressing them onto fabric. I used Autumn colours and I liked the effect. I then embroidered their veins and their outlines. I thought again about by ancestor, Samuel Gibson, whose collection of pressed palnts and fossils I’d gone to see in the Manchester museum. There’s even a fossil named after him: Gibsonii. It’s a tiny sea creature looking a bit like an Ammonite so I decided to add spiral shapes to the leaves to represent ammonites. I rusted beer bottle caps and then embroidered th spirals. Just to make them stand out from the leaves I added a little stuffing so that they are three dimensional. I’d bought some handmade paper which included flower petals and I added a few of these to finish the page.
During lockdown I’d taken a couple of urban sketching art classes online and my first project had been to draw and colour the Innovation Mill in the centre of Hebden Bridge. There’s been a mill in that spot since the 1300s. I sat on the café patio behind the town hall for several mornings and within a few days I was asked if I wanted ‘the usual café mocha’ as soon as I walked in. This is the result and the title These Darkening Days is indicative not just of the season but my interest in the books of Ben Myers, who lives close by and sets his books in the local area.
The back cover uses hedgehog fabric that I’d purchased in Oban, the hedgehog being my mum’s spirit animal! I completed the final page on 11.11.2020 and I thought it was a fun date to write. I sewed all the pages together and completed the project the week that my mum would have turned 100. I set up a little Día de los Muertos table in her honour, and filled it with hedghogs – of course!
It was the week before Halloween, a day of brief rays of sunshine punctuated by heavy downfalls of rain. I was on my way to find two pubs 1/3 of a mile apart on the Burnley road ten minutes walk from the centre of Todmorden just across the River Calder from Centre Vale Park. Centre Vale House, an imposing residence with gardens, stableblock, coach house, and outhouses was built in 1821 for Thomas Ramsbotham a cotton manufacturer from Manchester who owned the water powered Ewood Mill where dimity and fustian was made.
Centre Vale House subsequently became the home of John Fielden, MP for Oldham and his descendants. His most notable campaign as an MP led to the Ten Hours Act of 1847, which limited women’s work to ten hours a day and inevitably, due to the division of labour, also reduced men’s and children’s working day. He wrote “I well remember being set to work in my father’s mill when I was little more than ten years old. Of my associates then only a few of them are now alive; some dying very young; others living to become men and women; but many of those who lived have died off before they attained the age of fifty having the appearance of being much older, a premature appearance of age which I verily believe was caused by the nature of the employment in which they were brought up.”
The property stayed in the Fielden family until 1910 when it was sold to the Borough council and opened as a spacious public park of 75 acres in 1912. During the first world war the house served as a temporary hospital for wounded and convalescent soldiers in 1914, a fitting tribute to a family who were such great benefactors to the town, both in the erection of public buildings but also in the care and concern they had for the mill workers of the town. I looked in vain for the house but by 1947 dry rot had set in and sadly the building was demolished in 1953. But I did find the statue of John Fielden, created in 1869. He was known as Honest John. Hmm. My writing group meets in a pub in the centre of Todmorden called Honest John. I always wondered to whom it referred! It’s just across the road from the imposing Town Hall which was built with money donated by his three sons and is the most well known and visually arresting of the works carried on by this philanthropic family devoted to the betterment of Todmorden. Other works which he funded including improving the town’s drainage, the construction of a town workhouse, housing for workers, and the building of the Unitarian Church.
Five years after Centre Vale House was built one of my ancestors, Thomas Ingham, became landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton at just 23 years of age. The pub is one of the oldest establishments in the area dating back to the 1600s and originally incorporated a farm, a slaughterhouse and a brewery and like many pubs it is recorded that, in 1817, it also housed a library. For over 75 years the Ingham family, first Thomas Ingham, then his son William and finally his grand daughter Ann ran the pub: In the Todmorden Almanac I found that ’Mr Thos. Ingham commenced selling drink at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Toad Carr, Dec 12, 1826. So, it was to this pub that I was bound. Following the perimeter of Centre Vale Park I almost walked straight past my destination because it’s been renamed.
It’s now Jack’s House, a name it adopted when it was refurbished by one Jack Brook in 1974. I’d read that in 2014 it had been awarded Pub of the Week by the Lancashire Telegraph and I’d called the pub in the morning to make sure it would be open. I found only one other table occupied. Inside it was an interesting mixture of ancient and modern. It’s got a good reputation for live music but this morning a big screen TV was showing some reality daytime show while slot machines lay dormant along the walls. These up to date furnishings were housed in a cosy lounge, with wood floors, exposed stone walls some coated in rough plaster, open fireplaces and a low beamed ceiling. In one corner a few guitars hung on the wall, available to anyone who wants to have a strum. Small latticed leaded windows looked out onto the park and old pictures of the town were displayed on the uneven walls. The tiny snug room has a stone, barrel-vaulted ceiling inches above my head. Many years ago the local bobby, Sergeant John Heap, lived next door and found ‘the hold’ most convenient to house the area’s rascals while they awaited judgement from the travelling magistrate. Today it’s strewn with fairy lights but its stones are bulging with history.
So this was the pub that remained in the Ingham family from
1826-1910, Thomas’s daughters Ann and Ellen eventually taking over the tenancy
from their father. I took a seat in the ‘new bit’ (added in the 1700s) where
Bella the pub pooch was lying on her bed in front of the fire as I chatted with
the family that make Jack’s Place their home today. Landlady Sue was eager to
share her knowledge about the building itself and how the building and
rebuilding of the Burnley Road directly outside the front has impacted the
place. As the road has gradually been rebuilt its got higher and higher so now
the pub floor is below the road level making it subject to flooding, a constant
problem in the Calder Valley.
It was here that William was born in 1827, the eldest of 4
children born to Thomas, the innkeeper and his wife Sally.
the age of 24 William was a butcher, still living here with his family, in the
rooms above the inn. In 1858 he married Hannah
Gibson, and it is through her that I trace my connection to the Inghams.
Hannah’s father had been the butcher and innkeeper of The Bull Inn in Hebden
Bridge until he killed himself in his slaughter house just 2 months after
Hannah’s marriage. I found that she had been baptized at St James’s in Hebden
Bridge by Sutcliffe Sowden who had presided at both the marriage and funeral of
Exactly 14 days after William and Hannah were married at Halifax minster their first child was born, a daughter, Sarah Ann, the first of 6 children. Their wedding took place on the 3rd of March. I wonder what the weather was like. There could easily have been snow on the ground as they travelled the 12 miles to Halifax. Surely they must have travelled by horse and cart. They would have taken the turnpike road through Hebden Bridge. William and Hannah set up home in Blind Lane, about two minutes walk from the pub, where William kept a butcher’s shop.
Then, by 1870, William 43 and Hannah 34 were following in their parents’ footsteps and were innkeepers at The Hare and Hounds , just five minutes walk away up Burnley Road. There they had six children. I read that ‘A cow in the possession of William Ingham of the Hare and Hounds Inn near Todmorden began frisking at Hartley Royd and thereby threw itself on its head and broke its borns and its neck. It was immediately slaughtered. The cow was worth $19.’ In another incident recorded in the Todmorden Almanack in 1877 Mr George Ormerod aged 63 ‘fell on the floor of the Hare and Hounds and died the same night. Three of his ribs were broken. A verdict of ‘Death through misadventure’ was given. My sense of the macabre put a spring in my step as I followed the channelled River Calder along the perimeter of Centre Vale Park to the Hare and Hounds. I’d called in there once before I knew the details of its connection with my family. A large car park fronts the old stone building on this rare piece of flat land. I couldn’t help but smile at the Strictly No Ball Games notice, for this was once the home of a bowling green I am reliably informed from someone on the Todmorden Past and Present Facebook page.
Like the Shoulder of Mutton the inn dates back to the 17th century and still retains many of its original features. I’m sure William and Hannah would have felt quite at home here. Today at the rear of the building a beer garden backs on to the railway embankment but originally this was the home of the kennels housing the hounds of the Todmorden hunt. It must have been a noisy place to live but it would appear that William was a member of the hunt himself for it is said that William’s favourite hunting horse was buried in that embankment. The horse’s stirrups and bit were kept for many years at the pub. Today the door was open and only one other table was occupied, by the inn’s present family. The walls are full of old photos, one being of a charabanc filled with Todmorden landladies on their way to their annual picnic. I asked the current landlady if she knew anything about William’s horse. “The inside of the pub was covered in horse brasses when we moved in but the brewery took them all down and carted them away.” I was disappointed. “What about where William’s horse was reputed to have been buried?’ Well, the locals used to call the embankment at the back the pet cemetery. We’ve dug it out and came across a few bones, probably dogs, and lots of tyres, but we’ve made it into a beer garden now.” “Is there anything left of the kennels that belonged to the hunt?” I asked. “It’s just a big building where we keep our stuff. I’ll have my husband take you out there if you like.”
A few minutes later I found myself being beckoned through the big double doors to the left of the pub and into the family’s inner sanctum. The yard still has its old cobbles and in the rain today they were decidedly slippery. The landlord pointed out the original arched doorway in the pub building showing where it had once been an attached barn, and there, built into the embankment was a large low building that had once been the kennels.
It’s very satisfying to have read about something and then finding that there are remnants of it that I can still see 200 years later, especially when it belonged to my relatives. High above the inn is the silhouette of Whirlaw, a rocky outcrop abounding in myths and legends. I’d taken a hike to that exposed spot in June 2016, with the same leader as the hike which led me to Dobroyd Castle.
Just as we reached the rocks on top of the hill a torrential rainstorm blew through the region and I have a photo of me cowering beneath the stones. I think we must have disturbed the Wizard. During lockdown I obtained a signed copy of ‘The Wizard of Whirlaw Stones’ by Todmorden author, traveller, broadcaster, man extraordinaire, Billy Holt and on one of my hikes I just happened to stumble on the grave of his beloved horse Trigger on whose back he rode to Italy and back.
As I left the Hare and Hounds I thought about the Todmorden hunt who housed their dogs in that building, now used for general storage. In 1883 the first in a series of farmer’s dinners given by gentlemen comprising the Todmorden hunt and a few friends came off at the Hare and Hounds. A company of about 50 farmers and others spent a most agreeable evening.’ Feb 1883. In 1886 the sale by auction of the famous Todmorden pack of harriers at the kennels adjoining the Hare and Hounds was mentioned in the town’s almanac: ‘The pack consists of 35 hounds realising 78 ½ guineas.’ In more recent times in 2018 the pub was the location for an Extraordinary Meeting of the Fielden Society, a group who wish to keep the history of the Todmorden part of the Fielden family intact for later generations to see. The meeting had been called to consider winding up the society due to the low level of support but I was pleased to learn that a new committee was elected and the society is still going strong.
In 1879 Hannah died and William retired and moved to 2 West Street with 6 children. He remained living there for the rest of his life and it was here that he died in 1901. I noticed that by this time William is 52 years old and on the census he is reported as ‘retired.’ That’s unheard of in my research. People just basically worked until they died. It’s also extremely old to be the father of a two year old daughter. Or was he?
At first I thought that perhaps his wife had died in childbirth. She was, after all 44 years of age when Hannah Elizabeth was born. I did a little, actually a lot, more searching and finally I found the answer to the puzzle. On October 13, 1878 a baby, Hannah Elizabeth, had been baptized at Heptonstall church. She’d been born on June 13, and her mother was a spinster, Sarah Ann Ingham. What clinched the fact that I’d got the right Hannah Ingham is that her address is Gandy Bridge, Todmorden. When I looked up Gandy Bridge online the first photo to pop up was of the old tearoom at the corner of West Street, showing Harry King’s bread and grocery shop. So, William appears to have passed off his daughter’s child as his own, at least for the prying eyes of the census taker. Sarah Ann would have been 20 years old when her daughter was born and eleven years later at All Saints Church, Harley Wood, she married a joiner, John Scholfield, seven years her junior – again, quite unusual for that period.
In a couple of minutes I arrived at 2 West Street. It’s a taxi business now, the first building on West Street off Burnley Road and the front of the building is Park End café, where remarkably I’d had lunch on the first organized hike that I’d done in Todmorden in 2016 when I spent the summer in Hebden Bridge. The highlight of the hike for me had been a visit to Dobroyd Castle, high on the hill above Centre Vale Park, built by John Fielden, the son of the John Fielden who had built Centre Vale House.
The castle has 66 rooms, 17 stables and cost 71 thousand pounds to build and the couple moved in in 1869. From my 2016 journal: ‘It’s now an outward bound school for kids from all over England. We passed a group of students from Wolverhampton. Our hike leader’s daughter had attended classes there only last week but Moy herself had never been inside. We knocked on the door and were told that because they are responsible for children they couldn’t let us in. I put on my best American accent and said that I’d “come all the way from California and would just looooove to see inside an English castle.” The door opened and we were able to step inside and look at the amazing statues, marble columns, intricate stone friezes, crystals chandeliers. A knight in full suit of armour stood guarding the staircase. Of course this ‘castle’ is a folly, but the opulence of the decoration was amazing.’
On Aug 21 and 22, 1891 an event occurred so close to West Street that it’s difficult to imagine William and his children, and his sisters Ann and Ellen who were running the Shoulder of Mutton not being caught up by the excitement. The children of the town had been given a half day off from school to participate in a grand parade and from Roomfield Board school in the centre of town the children marched in procession accompanied by the Todmorden brass band. They were heading to the large field adjacent to the Hare and Hounds for this was the 32nd annual exhibition of the Todmorden Floral and Horticultural Society, with both pony racing and human racing as well as an ‘unusually spacious marquee’ housing the flowers and vegetables to be judged. From the Todmorden newspaper account: ‘Friday was the better day of the two. There was no heavy rain in the afternoon though it came on smartly during the evening. Saturday proved very inclement from the outset; consequently the ground already pretty well saturated by the downfall of the previous night was speedily reduced to the conditions of a quagmire but the programme was stoically gone through as planned.’
Now it takes an awful lot of rain for people of the Calder Valley to complain about soggy conditions but here ‘unpropitious weather had a good deal to do with the paucity of attendance.’ Yet between two and three thousand children still attended over the course of the two days despite the inclement weather. Since moving back to England three years ago I’ve attended the Halifax county fair with its white coated, tweed capped judges, clipboard in hand making their decisions on the best cow, flower arrangement, and prize winning turkey with the gravest expression on their weather-beaten faces. One of my mum’s proudest moments was when she won ‘3 duck eggs, any colour’ in the local fair in Tottington. I still have her certificate, dating from the early 1960s. The newspaper account of the Todmorden show, taking up a whole page of the newspaper, duly listed the many categories and the names of the winners but it was what the winners won that fascinated me. I’m sure in my mum’s day you were just awarded a certificate. Back in 1891 the winner for a plate of tomatoes or a plate of peas was awarded 2/6, but for a bunch of grapes the winner was awarded a walking stick or pipe valued at 5 shillings. I tried, unsuccessfully, to imagine anyone in Todmorden successfully growing grapes and decided that such an achievement would be well worth a walking stick. The children’s sporting events featured a three legged race for boys, a 50 yard egg and spoon race for girls and an obstacle race for boys. My dad was a champion egg and spoon racer and I have a photo of him doing just that. The first prize for the obstacle race for boys under 18 was a six bottle dinner cruet and the second prize was a flower stand. Hmmm. I rather think it was their mums who were being thanked. For the 120 yard race the first placed winner won a tea and coffee service, the second won a six cup egg frame and spoons. One of the grandest prize of all was awarded to the winner of the 440 yard race: a buff leather Gladstone bag and the second placed winner came away with a China salad bowl and server. However on the Saturday ‘a number of the athletes decided not to compete when they saw the wretched state of the track owing to the heavy rain.’ On the horse track a pair of trousers and a vest was awarded to the winner of the carters’ race and the second placed winner got a whip! Perhaps he’ll come first next year if he uses it. The winner of the 2 mile pony race took home a black marble clock and the second placed winner had a handsome case of cutlery to share with his family. The sports concluded at about 6:30 and ‘then Miss DeVoy went up in a balloon and descended by parachute into a nearby field.’ Wow! That got my full attention. Dressed in a dark closefitting costume and light blue cap she climbed into the bucket suspended below the balloon and as she released the balloon from its moorings she rose almost vertically climbing to a high altitude but within a minute was lost from view ‘all the time rain pouring in torrents and streamed in bucketfuls as she ascended in the bucket.’ She was out of sight of the earth, somewhere around 7000-8000ft above the ground when she took the leap from the bucket. ‘In her descent she and the parachute swayed about like a pendulum.’ She landed in a field at Shurcrack and was conveyed back to the field in a trap, describing her experience has having been ‘half blinded by rain.’ ‘Large numbers (of people) had remained in the showfield while the hillsides and streets of the town and suburbs were dotted, in some places thronged, with knots of people watching for her ascent and descent. I’m sure the Inghams were there. This was her 34th jump and when finally safe on the ground she commented that today it had taken an ‘unusually long time before the parachute opened owing to its wet condition.’ What makes this jump so remarkable is that thirteen days earlier her husband, ‘Professor’ Higgins had been killed during a similar feat in Leeds. A tear had appeared in the balloon which caused it to trail against some telegraph wires, dislodging Higgins who fell 35 ft to his death.
But of course, there were no health and safety laws in those days that could have applied to this feat or that of the performers, both human and animal, who performed in Sanger’s circusan annual event also taking place in the field adjacent to the Hare and Hounds. A newspaper account reporting the circus says that in April 1894 ‘A few of the horses had been watering at the Hare and Hounds Inn when of the animals broke loose on returning to the field, and whilst galloping knocked four children down, injuring them rather seriously.’ Annals p137. Billed as ‘the grandest and most inspiring pageant ever witnessed by the eye of mortal man the procession covered two miles of oriental magnificence’ as it established itself on Holme Field Sanger’s circus consisted of a staff of 240 with 300 animals. The company travelled with its own blacksmith, wheelwright, tent makers, saddler and cooks.
Two and four horse chariot teams headed the procession followed by monkey, ostrich and camel teams, ‘llamas driven by Natives, Western Wild and Prairie life with genuine Mexican rangers and Texas cowboys, a genuine camp of Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Sioux and Pawnees Indians,’ ten huge performing elephants, a band of musical elephants and pugilistic boxing elephants.’ 1905 Three big elephants ambled heavily along, displaying little apparent interest in their surroundings. Other features of the procession included an antiquated. uncomfortable-looking carriage, whites aim stated to have been the property of the late President Kruger. Another car, bearing high up on its top a lion, come very near to fulfilling the Biblical prophecy that the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, only in this case the lamb, which was in reality a full grown sheep, stood up all the way, separated from the king of beasts by only a couple of men. The lion, which was chained to the coach, ‘was a particularly fine specimen. with a grand head and mane. ‘John Sanger’s circus was billed as ‘The largest show in the entire world.’ It had even been bidden to Windsor Castle to perform for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria from whom John Sanger had received a diamond pendant.
But in 1907 Holme Field was destined to become the new home, not of elephants and ostriches but an enormous spinning mill, Mons Mill. Building began in 1907 and it was completed in 1910, so Ann Ingham, Thomas’s daughter who was still at the pub when she died in 1910 would have witnesses its building. I wonder what she thought of such a huge building overshadowing the Hare and Hounds.
It was constructed of red Accrington brick, standing out like a sore thumb in this valley where stone is the ubiquitous building material, and was similar in design to that used in Lancashire cotton mills, causing the district in Todmorden where it stood to be nicknamed Little Oldham. My mum worked in such a spinning mill, Swan Lane mill, in Bolton and from my bedroom window at Affetside I could see many such mills spread across Bolton. It was anticipated that this new mill in Todmorden would provide work for 600 people and new housing for 400 workers was built consisting of several streets of terraced brick millworkers houses, which I could still see today on the left of the old stone inn.
The mill was seven storeys tall and it was famous for the logo of a white hare on the mill chimney. There were six directors of the company and one just happened to be Frederick Hague Moss, another of my ancestors who owned a dye works at Bridgeroyd on the East side of Todmorden. The mill and its chimney were demolished in 2000 and the site is now a grassy bank on which is Asquith Hall, a residential care home and blocks of apartments.
As I walked back towards the bus station a photograph in an estate agent’s window caught my attention. Alongside the usual glossy photos of properties for sale was an old photo of three horse drawn carts, emblazoned with ‘King, borough bakery, Todmorden.’ On the back of horse number two rides a young boy, maybe five years of age bedecked in his little Lord Fauntleroy suit for a photograph was a special occasion.
They were posing outside a three storey building with a sign ‘Teas’ high up on the wall. I immediately recognised the street at the side of the building – West Street – and I could just make out the street sign confirming my suspicion. There was no credit given on the photo but on enquiring in the office I was told it had come from the photo collection of Roger Birches. I found the collection online and within hours his son had emailed me a high resolution copy of the photograph but probably dates from around the turn of the century.