Boredom v creativity

It was a Sunday

At least for the first few moments of my morning stroll

Then it became a Rainday.

Along the towpath Everyman and his dog

Not to mention his wives and children

Were heading towards Whitely Arches,

This elegance in iron, The   grandeur of its architecture

Its graceful outline spanning the canal.

You don’t agree?

Well, it was constructed by the same company who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge

No kiddin’.

I negotiate the puddles

Being careful not to kick the bucket

And brush aside the Danger of Death warnings.

To my left I catch a fleeting glimpse of foxes wearing green gloves

As they join battle for wall space

While Daisy and Fern cheerfully wave in the breeze.

But ‘just like the ivy I’ll cling to you.’

My Fairy Lady atop her barge meows

And goes in search of  Owl

So they can both ‘go to sea in a beautiful pea green boat.’

She doesn’t have far to look and I stop for a moment’s Indulgence

And draw up a chair to the sewing table, so neatly placed

But the Craft Snail has beaten me to it, so, feeling cross stitched

I repair to a stone bench and sink into  its mossy arms.

The sign tells me I’ve still 25 miles to go so I stop to hitch a ride.

If I were brave

I could paddle my own canoe to New Zealand,

But I’m not.

I spy a nearby car

And try to attract the driver’s attention ‘but answer came there none.’

So I’ll ‘sail away for a year and a day to the land where the Bong tree grows.’

It eyes me steadily and I retreat

And head for the Promised Land at the end of the rainbow

But like everything else at the moment it’s in shreds.

A walk through Time

Weaving is interwoven into the very landscape of this narrow sunless valley.

Not so long ago here in the mills limbs were wrenched from bodies,

Young bodies bent, misshapen, gnarled,

Old before their time.

Those who sought escape were confined – horribly.

Indoor sanitation in the town was non existent.

Death came early.

No wonder Hell Hole Rocks look down on such a scene.

Even the Town Hall has its skeletons, not locked in the cupboard where they should be

But happily displayed in the window for all to see.

Today the wicked lady

Casts her multiple eyes about her

A wrecked Mercedes sulks beneath the weaving shed

Now adorned with vibrant colours.

The once deafening clatter of  its looms  now silent

Allowing birds to build perfectly formed nests atop abandoned trees.

A jelly fish high in another tree captures the wicked lady’s attention.

She wonders if she needs a self testing kit to test her sanity

So she stops for sustenance at the bakery.

There’s as much chance of seeing blue sky today as there is of seeing pie in the sky.

‘I’m not a cactus expert but I know a prick when I see one’

Whispers the Santa hatted bottle

But she hurries onwards,

While a bemused Cheshire cat looks on with a twinkle in his eye

Wondering what on earth the elephants are doing.

A rare morning of blue sky

A serendipitous day out in Haworth

A balloon, a circus, 2 pubs and a wizard.

A balloon, a circus, 2 pubs and a wizard.

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 mansion in Centre Vale Park once home to ‘Honest’ John Fielden who bought the estate in 1842.

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.

My sketch of Jack’s Place

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.

By 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 Charlotte Bronte.

 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.

You can see the outbuilding at the rear where the hounds were kept

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.”

Today’s landlord showing the old entrance to the barn

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.

The pony’s grave, Kilnhirst

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.

2 West Street, home of William Ingham and his family from 1880-1901

 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.

Burnley Road opposite Centre Vale Park, the park entrance can be seen on far left.

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 home of the Fielden family. The castle was built for John Fielden between 1866 and 1869 at a cost of £71,589. In the mid-twentieth century it became an approved school, then a Buddhist Retreat and is currently used as an Activity Centre for Primary School Groups.

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.’

Photo showing Hare and Hounds inn and the grand marquee for the fair – or the circus. This must have been taken before 1907 when Mos Mill was built

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. 

Sanger’s circus parades through Todmorden. Notice the clothes of the spectators

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.

Passing the Golden Lion !!!!

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.

Hare Mill on Burnly Road was built for the Hare Spinning Company and was completed in 1910. It passed to the Mons Mill COmpany and was renamed Mons Mill after the First World War battle. Textile production ceased in 1968 and the mill was demolished in 2000.

 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.

Brick terrace built for workers at Mons Mill

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.

Dwarfed! (Photos from Pennine Horizons Digital Archive)

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.

The side street is West Street courtesy of Daniel Birch

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.

Same view today.

A walk that made me smile

Note the name of the cottage!


Weird

Beautiful colours

OK. I added the eyebrows and the mouth – and then superimposed myself
The notice says Please stick to the pathway. In all that mud I wouldn’t have much option to do otherwise

Dahlias growing in Mature lime putty bucket

I wonder when this last saw a car


Should I eat it or play with it in the bath?


Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air


Printing on fabric with real leaves

Bin sketchin’

I moved back to England 3 years ago today!

Cliviger Gorge – again

So I set off to walk a section of the A646 through Cliviger Gorge that I’d only driven along before, just a couple of days ago. by walking I see much more. I got the bus to Walk Mill and intended to walk back towards Todmorden, probably as far as Cornholme. It was overcast and for 5 minutes of my bus journey the rain came down quite heavily. I’d not been walking for more than a few minutes when I found a very helpful notice-board providing the answer to several questions that my recent visits to the area had generated.

First I wanted an explanation of the geology that caused this narrow, steep valley lined with hummocks, and, sure enough here was the reason: Cliviger gorge is a geological fault and the hummocks are rock slides caused by the slippage of unstable land.

Next stop was another visit to the church of St John the Divine where I’d failed to find the grave of Sir James York Scarlett.

This time I found it straight away. Then on to The Ram Inn. Having parked the car in the car park at the rear of the building last week I hadn’t really noticed the painted sign of the Ram, nor the mounting block – which itself is Grade ll listed.

Next I found a little fold with a ruined barn, now used for storage, but each window and unused door was brimming with summer colours.

Next I came upon a blue plaque commemorating the founder of the TV series One Man and His Dog. I remember watching this program about the work that sheep dogs do in assisting the shepherds. We took our children to see the sheepdog trials on one of our visits to England. I’ll have to consult my journals as to when and where! As I looked down the valley I could actually see this happening right in front of me.

A few fields away I chatted to a couple of shepherds who were shearing the rear end of a group of a dozen sheep, cleaning their flanks and tails of poop. They explained that the poop attracts flies to that area of their body, the flies lay eggs and soon the sheep’s wool is full of maggots. Guess I learn something every day!

Just at that moment an air ambulance flew above the valley, turned around and flew along the valley again. A couple of minutes later 4 police cars came along at great speed, sirens blaring, heading in the direction I was walking. All traffic came to a standstill and within a few minutes many car were turning round, their way blocked by a police car. I could see that even a couple of bicycles were being turned around. Of course I was the only one on foot and I approached the policeman with some concern. As I anticipated I was not allowed to go any further. He was most helpful as to what my options were – climb 600 ft and hike 8 miles along Long Causeway? – no! Call someone to come and pick me up by car? – I don’t know anyone available. Call a taxi? Obviously all the buses had been stopped. “How long is the road likely to be blocked for?” I asked. “Could be several hours. This is a major incident.” I could see the air ambulance had landed in a field close by. As he turned around car after car I decided the only thing for it was to hitch a lift with someone heading for Todmorden and after a couple of tries a couple offered me a ride – via Bacup. It probably took 20-25 minutes to get back into Todmorden and I was very grateful for the ride.

Back in Tod I called in at the market for some black embroidery floss. I would work on my textile project. Walking through Cliviger Gorge will have to wait for another day.

St John the Divine & The Ram Inn!

So, inspired by another video from Nick, I set off to find St John the Divine church in Holme Chapel, situated in the Cliviger Gorge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Zln5clYTg&list=WL&index=54&t=1968s

This was to be my third trip exploring the valley and on a previous bus ride I’d noticed a pub at Holme Chapel with tables set out at the rear giving great views of the opposite side of the valley, so I planned to have lunch there with Jane and then we’d see what there was to see at the chapel itself. There’s no actual village of Cliviger – it’s the name given to the collection of 5 villages that constitute the parish of Cliviger.

In 1588, the queen Elizabeth I gave to her principal surgeon, Robert Balthrope, a coal mine in Cliviger. This was later transferred toJohn Towneley of Towneley Hall. TLimestone was mined at Shedden Clough in the 17th century and lead mining was attempted at Thieveley in the early 17th and mid 18th centuries.  Also near Pot Oven Farm, there are the remains of a blast furnace constructed around 1700 for the Spencer partnership. I seem to remember learning about blast furnaces in science lessons at school! Although it had become a pottery by 1760, it is thought to be the first blast furnace built in Lancashire. During the mid-18th century, Cliviger produced worsted woollen pieces for the neighbouring town of Burnley. Open cast coal mining took place in the 1940s and 50s above Thieveley Scout and on Deerplay Moor.

I’d read that close to the pub and chapel was Holme House which had once been the home of a man who had written a famous history of Whalley and he’d enlisted the artistic talents of one J. W. Turner to illustrate it. Wow! Then I read that his old home had recently burned down, or a least a large wing of it had been destroyed. When I mentioned the fire Jane immediately knew which house it was and we turned off onto a short drive and there was the old manor house, now fully functional, and converted into flats. It’s still an imposing building but looks rather new. Holme Hall dates back to 1340 when Richard de Whitacre arrived in Cliviger from High Whiteacre (Padiham). In 1431, The Holme, then a manor house of 40 rooms, was referenced in connection with Thomas Whitaker. The process of converting the original wooden structure into stone began in 1603 and was completed 1717 with west wing. The Whitakers built an extension to the rear in 1854. The land once belonged to the Tattersall family and housed a chapel which lent its name to the neighbouring village of Holme Chapel.

Holme House: from here to Chesapeake Bay in 1611

And then I discovered something so unexpected it stopped me in my tracks. Rev Alexander Whitaker, 1576-1617 sailed with Sir John Dale in 1611 to the colony of Virginia in Chesapeake Bay, becoming known as The Apostle of Virgina. My goodness. From here to the U.S (or at least what would eventually become the U. S.) in 1611!!! 2 years later Pocahontas, the daughter of the native American chief, was captured and placed under Whitaker’s care where he was taught English and the Christian religion. She was given the honorary title ‘Princess’ and it is generally believed that this minister from Holme House officiated at her baptism and eventual marriage to John Rolfe, the founder of the Virginian Tobacco Industry. Little did I think that there would be any connection to the U.S on my visit to this little village today. My daughters learned the story of Pocahontas in their American history lessons, but I certainly had never heard of her until then. Whitaker drowned while crossing the James River in 1616.

Then it was over the road for lunch in the lovely gardens of the ancient Ram Inn. Like Holme House it’s a Grade II building. It has a lovely stone roof and mullioned windows and a mounting block for getting on your horse.

We enjoyed our lunch, going with the traditional sausage and mash – excellent.

Then it was merely a few steps across the main road leading to Burnley and we were at the lychgate leading to the church St John the Divine. Besides the church being unusual for a small rural parish being constructed in the Classical style I had wanted to take photos of it for a specific reason. I’m currently taking an online art class in architectural drawing and I thought that church would give me a good subject to work from. Yet another Grade ll listed building it was built between 1788 and 1794, replacing a small chapel, and is in simple Classical style.

Above the west front is a bell turret with an octagonal cupola, and inside the church are carved oak stalls, moved from a demolished church, which include a poppyhead and misericords. All this talk of Grade II listed building reminds me of the house we lived in in Bedfordshire, Wet Manor in the village of Milton Ernest which was a Grade II building, built just before 1600. Not surprisingly the church wasn’t open though it is still a functioning church with regular services. But I was disappointed not to be able to walk around the exterior of the church – it was fenced off, so I contented myself by wandering round the very well maintained graveyard. I was on the lookout for the grave of Captain Scarlett, who led the Charge of the Heavy Brigade during the Crimean War. When I first heard this mentioned by Nick in his video I though it was a joke . . . I mean, everyone’s heard of the Charge of the Light Brigade, right? According to the Household Cavalry Museum’s website: In 1854, the Royals were the first British regiment to deploy abroad as part of a joint Anglo-French army that journeyed to the Crimea in support of the Ottoman Empire in its war with the Russians. The Royals achieved military success in a display of what cavalry were capable of at the Battle of Balaclava where, in the engagement known as the ‘Charge of the Heavy Brigade’, a force of 800 British cavalry, with the Royals at their heart, routed a force of 3000 Russian light horseman in an engagement that lasted barely eight minutes. Unfortunately, this triumph has been somewhat overshadowed by the disaster at the same battle which was the Charge of the Light Brigade. So how on earth did this highly decorated military gentleman come to be buried in this tiny village in Lancashire? Son of a Baron he’d been educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1835 he had married Charlotte Ann Hargreaves a coal heiress from Burnley and from then on he made Burnley his home. After his military career he became a conservative member of parliament and on retirement he stood again as a member for Burnley but was narrowly defeated. When he died in 1871 and estimated 60,000 people lined the streets of Burnley for his funeral procession. There was a General Scarlett pub in Burnley named after him and in 2016 it became the Scarlett Tea Rooms. As I wandered around the tiny village it was hard to match this quiet enclave with the vigour and bravery shown by Capt. Scarlett.

Our final stop was at the Singing Ringing Tree, a panopticon overlooking the Cliviger Gorge, and with a gentle breeze blowing it sang to us. The sky had cleared of its earlier clouds and so we could see way into the distance. I think I could see Ingleborough. A diagram of the points of interest would have been very useful!

Looking forward to exploring more of the valley soon.

Shore baptist chapel

So having watched a YouTube video about the ruined Shore Baptist chapel I was eager to visit the site. I couldn’t find it on a current map but I kew it was up a very steep road out of Cornholme so with a friend’s willing assistance we set off by car. We took a couple of wrong turns but that was ok because our view was fantastic – almost on a par with the drone footage of the Cliviger Gorge I’d watched online the previous evening. There is a small village of Shore clinging to the hillside and outside one of the houses I saw a resident working in the garden and she gave me directions to the site of the church – along Pudding Lane (!) and Shore Green Lane, and we were there. From the roadside it’s nothing special so without having seen the video I wouldn’t have looked twice at it – but I knew what lurked behind the unimposing wall.

So I spent the next half hour or so scrambling round the building which once held the church and the adjacent Sunday School. I’d found an old film made in 1971 about a year at this church showing people arriving by taxi (yes, the road is REALLY steep) , singing in the ladies’ choir, the children’s choir, the Sunday school prize giving, tea parties, the annual coach trip (in this case to Cliffe Castle, Keighley which, as it happens, was my last day out before lockdown). The roof of the chapel fell in years ago, after the church had been declared unsafe because of dry rot. With a bit of prodding the wrought iron gate opened (it was just held closed by a large stone) and I was able to see inside the chapel since the front wall has gone.

As it was. It certainly made a statement. As Les Marshall wrote in the booklet about the church ‘The blackened front of the church looks defiantly over the wooded valley and distant rolling hills.’ Today trees cover the hillside and the church’s prominent setting is obscured.

Someone had made a bonfire of their rubbish in what had once been the nave. The coving around the light fittings could clearly be seen and the wooden planks strewn over the floor had once been pews. The whole site is now overgrown with trees and so taking photos was difficult because so much of the building was obscured by the trees and also where I could see the building everything was in dark shade.

I’d read about a flight of stairs at the West side of the chapel. The church is perched right on the edge of the cliff and so the extensive graveyard appears to be falling down the hillside. 122 steps with an iron rail still present in places goes down to the Wattenstall River and, this being a Methodist church, people went down the steps to be immersed in the River as part of their baptism ceremony. Then they would climb back up the stairs for the service in the church. The General baptist Repository and Missionary observer of 1865 records that on June 10th Mr Gill baptised 41 people, 21 men, 20 women, the youngest candidate being 15, the oldest being 77. Some baptisms took place on Christmas Day when the ice on the stream had to be broken. It wasn’t until 1871 that the Baptistry was installed inside the church!

The church was founded in 1777 (just 2 years before the Piece Hall opened) by 7 people inspired by Dan Taylor from Birchcliffe Chapel, Hebden Bridge – which now serves as the area’s archive repository. (A couple of days later I was taking a walk along the steep Wadsworth Lane high above Birchcliffe when I noticed this plaque on a house):



The house

In 1833 and again in 1871 the church was considerably enlarged reflecting the growth of the cotton industry in Cornholme. When the centenary was celebrated in 1877 the church had 265 members but by 1970 dry rot had set in and all services were being conducted in the adjacent Sunday School. In 1985 a decision was made by the church members that it should be demolished. However, that didn’t happen and 35 years later, here I was in the ruins. At length i found a newish looking sign posted on a door:

I’m so pleased that I visited when I did. Who knows when the council will take it upon themselves to demolish the place. From the notice it could be any day starting yesterday!

The video of a year in the church, 1971:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ystOsI6Kss&list=WL&index=68     Watching this made me think I was back at Affetside Sunday school, singing in the choir and I still have the books I was given at prize givings there. This is filmed at the Sunday school after the church had to be closed for good as being unsafe. My absolute double is in the children’s choir. Can you spot her?
Then watch a bit of this – minute 25-35 shows the church and seeing this was the catalyst that made me want to go and explore the church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeOaBq2jlmg

I also found a booklet at Todmorden visitors’ centre called the Story of Shore General Baptist Chapel’ by Les Marshall and George Lambert published in 2016 which includes this hymn written by Rev. J. Maden, minister of Shore 1868-1875

‘How rugged are thy paths, O Shore!

And yet we climb them more and more

Up to the sacred hill.

Thousands have gained that rocky height,

And gazed around them with delight

But we are pilgrims still.”

(Why is Shore called Shore?). A couple of days later I found the answer in a booklet called ‘The Story of Shore General Baptist Chapel’ which I purchased at Tod visitors’ centre. Shore is an old English name for river bank or precipitous slope! The booklet tells of the anger and problems arising from a demolition order made in 1985 that has never been carried out.

Birchcliffe Chapel
« Older posts