This morning I went in search of Longtail. Well, actually I just wanted a good reason to take another walk along Edge Lane, having enjoyed my first two walks along the lane. In 1881 The Pack Horse Inn was the scene of an altercation between a group of thugs and the landlord, my ancestor, John Wolfenden. When the vandals reappeared at the inn the following day two policemen were summoned from Hebden Bridge and during a scuffle, as they were being marched back to Hebden, some of the men broke free and headed off in the direction of Longtail Beer House.
So today I went to find it. I knew that it is now a private residence and as I drew close to the building set above the road with a panoramic view of the Upper Colden valley I was delighted to see that one of the residents was doing some gardening by the roadside. We chatted and I learned that the building is now divided into three cottages. I told him of my mission and he recalled the story of a murder at Longtail beer house, but I’ve not been able to find any reference to this yet.
I carried on along the lane, passing Spink House where my ancestor John Sunderland lived, and the former workhouse and soon I passed through the gate at the end of the car track and found myself on open moorland. There’s a grand view of Gorple reservoir and the three Walshaw Dean reservoirs.
The Pack Horse Inn was the only building in sight in any direction. I sat on a grassy bank to admire the view and as I did so I soon began to be the object of attention of several curlews who obviously wanted me out of the way. I was able to take a nice video of them swirling about my head, making a call just like a car alarm. For a minute two birds were calling in unison and I felt as though I was being treated to surround sound. I wondered if the track was made when the reservoirs were constructed or if it is an ancient track over the moors but my phone didn’t get any signal way out here so I couldn’t check the historic maps. (I later found that there was some evidence of the track marked on the 1851 map). So I headed back along the stoney track passing some friendly sheep. I even caught a glimpse of an owl, sitting atop a gatepost, eying me suspiciously.
On the way up I’d called in at May’s farm shop which I hadn’t been in before. An elderly lady – May? – related the story of her mother babysitting for a couple on a farm close by as a young teen and then the farmer killed his wife, but again, I can’t any reference to that in the local papers of the time. On my way back I called in at the shop and purchased a pasty to take home.
Digging up more information online later that day was I surprised to learn that Longtail had once been the residence of a lady who wrote Helen of Four Gates. Oo, that might be fun to read, I thought, especially if it’s set in this area. But before I could order the book online I found that it had been made into a silent movie in 1920, and that the author, Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, had been an important working class social activist and feminist.
Her story had even been the subject of someone’s Phd thesis, available to read online. Born in Lancashire, she began work at the cotton mill aged eleven as a part-timer, working full-time from the age of thirteen. In an article for The Woman Worker (which she edited for six months in 1909) she described the factory worker as ‘practically a beggar and a slave’, declaring all workers ‘dependent on the whims of a master class.’ Her first publications were poems, collected in Rhymes from the Factory in 1907. Two further volumes followed: Songs of a Factory Girl (1911) and Voices of Womanhood (1914). All were produced under difficult circumstances – between serving customers at the draper’s shop her mother had taken in Little Harwood, between lectures at Owens College, Manchester, where she registered as a non-degree student from 1911 to 1913, and between the creative writing classes she taught at Bebel House in 1913 and 1914. What a coincidence that my daughter attended Owens College at Manchester Uni too! She lived at Longtail from 1919-1921.
But the story doesn’t stop there. The director of the film
was Cecil Hepworth one of the founding pioneers of the British film industry.
He created the first film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. By 1910, Hepworth
was also the inventor of Vivaphone, an early sound on disk system for adding
sound to motion pictures and he was one of the first people to recognize the value
of film stars, both human and animal. His Rescued by Rover, 1905 had a collie
dog in the title role and was a huge financial success. Following the international success in 1919 of
Alf’s Button Hepworth’s company went public but failed to raise the necessary
capital and the company went bankrupt. All of the original film negatives in
Hepworth’s possession were melted down by the receiver in order to sell the
silver, and his feature films have 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 film maker Nick Wilding. Back in 1920, cinema-goers packed
into the Co-op Hall in Hebden Bridge, eager to see a new film; a harrowing,
heart-rending story shot in the countryside around their town. After a little
detective work, Nick discovered it was Ethel Carnie Holdsworth who persuaded
Cecil Hepworth to use Hebden Bridge as a location. There are scenes of the
countryside around the town, including the beauty spot of Lumb Falls.
“She took Hepworth up the moor,” says Nick. “He writes in
his autobiography about being taken there. He had a good look around and
decided where he was going to film.” In June 2010 the film, with live music as
was originally intended was shown at the Hebden bridge Picture House, directly
across the road from where I write, as part of the town’s celebration of the
500th anniversary of the town’s pack horse bridge – it’s first public
showing in 90 years. So, my story both begins and ends with a Pack Horse!
All were produced under difficult circumstances – between serving customers at the draper’s shop her mother had taken in Little Harwood, between lectures at Owens College, Manchester, where she registered as a non-degree student from 1911 to 1913, and between the creative writing classes she taught at Bebel House in 1913 and 1914. She lived at Longtail 1919-1921.
The remote farm of Greave was the scene of a murder in 1827 that made headlines in newspapers all across the country. A policeman was even sent from London to solve the gruesome crime. The most comprehensive account of the ‘horrid murder’ was in the Manchester Mercury, June 5, 1827. The details give both a detailed description of the character of the victim and conjures up the remoteness of Greave, the farm where the murder took place. The farming community of Greave which comprised 2, possibly 3 farmsteads has been in the possession my Shackleton ancestors since 1790 that I can trace directly, but there were Shackletons living there four centuries ago. A 1604 survey of the Savile estate lists 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth, 14 of which were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions 2 at Good Greave. A detailed website belonging to John Shackleton documents the story of the Shackletons of Widdop, putting them into their historic context. John has been helpful in my quest to discover more about my Shackleton ancestry. How does this tie in with my family tree? Well, Gibson Butterworth married Isabella (nee Wolfenden) following the death of her first husband Thomas Shackleton(1842-1890), one of the Shackleton dynasty. Isabella had been living with her parents John and Hannah Wolfenden in one of the Greave farms and so, after her marriage, at the age of 16, she moved in with ‘the man next door’ – to another of the Greave farms.
HORRID MURDER, WADSWORTH, NEAR COLNE. In one of the wildest
and most sequestered spots in Yorkshire, distance about 13 miles from Halifax and
7 from Colne, and within 2 or 3
miles of the Lancashire border in a
district celebrated for majestic scenery. In this nook of the country, a place called Good Greave in
the township of Wadsworth, is situated; the former is the scene of this horrid
crime; it consists of only four houses, two them separated from the rest by a distance of about a quarter of a mile
and the nearest them within a mile of
the Halifax and Colne road. Stretching towards Colne, Haworth, or to
Blackstone-edge in different directions, the
township of Wadsworth consists of
heaths and the deep ravines running between them. Nearly the foot of
steep aclivity, and within short distance of one of the gullies which carry off
the waters from the mountains lived James Shackleton, an old man in the 7lst
year of his age. In the dwelling where his existence was at last prematurely
terminated, he first drew breath; that and the surrounding acres, were his
paternal estate, and by careful habits
and moderate desires, he had rendered himself a man of considerable substance.
Satisfied with much less of the good things of this life than he had the
ability to purchase, in what he did enjoy a brother and sister, also advanced
in years, but younger than himself, participated; the three having chose a life of celibacy, they were restricted so far
as regards family and social intercourse, to themselves, except, indeed, their
nephew, residing just at hand, who had a wife and three children.
On the night of Wednesday the 23rd ult. about half past nine
o’clock in the evening, the unfortunate victim, James Shackleton and and a man
named Richard Smith, an aged house-carpenter dwelling in the house until had
completed a few jobs, were sitting over a cheerful fire of peat, waiting the
return of Thomas Shackleton, the old man’s brother, who had gone a short
distance from home, on some business, relative
to the formation of a new road. The sister Mary Shackleton had gone to
bed, when six men entered the house, armed with bludgeons, and one of
them, going up to James Shackleton, said
“he wanted to purchase a cow.” This
excited some astonishment in the old man, who replied that “that was a
very odd time to come on such a business.”
A demand instantly followed for his money, with which the old man
hesitating to comply, the carpenter, Smith, said, “James, if you have any
money, pray give it them.” Two cur-dogs in the house barked most furiously at the
villains who struck them with their bludgeons. James requested them to desist
doing so, and he would quiet the dog. They, however, still continuing hark, one
of the men, with a knife or some other sharp instrument, made a desperate blow
at the larger intending cut his throat,
but he only made a deep incision in the
neck the animal. The men insisting immediate compliance, James rose from
his seat, and proceeded to a chest of
drawers, from whence he took out two
purse*. These, the villains said, only contained copper, to which he answered
that there was both gold and silver in them. They then told him that had £lO,
in the house, which he had received for a cow that he had sold. This he denied,
as, if the cow was sold, he had not yet received payment. The villains then
struck the old man and the carpenter with bludgeons, but particularly the
former, and demanded all he had, while some of the party took down two hams,
and gun and pistol, which were hung up in the house. The carpenter, being
alarmed for his own and his employer’s safety, got up and proceeded towards the
door, to call the nephew, but was interrupted by two men at the doorway, armed
with pistols, who declared that, if he stirred a step, they would blow his
brains out. He then returned to the house, and the men were preparing to
retreat, after the old man had surrendered his all. Fearing, from their ill
treatment, that they would take his life, the old man had risen up, and gone
towards the window, which had no open casement, and was calling for his nephew.
From this circumstance, and the yelling of the wounded dog, it is probable a
sudden fear seized the murderers. On their rather hastily retiring a voice was
heard to exclaim “d–n him, shoot
him,” and one of them, armed with a gun,
seemed return to complete their crime, for on arriving at the end the passage,
from whence he had a view of the man at the window, he levelled his piece, and
shot him under the left shoulder blade, the shot penetrating through the body
and coming out at the breast. He instantly
fell, covered with gore, and having been laid abed on the floor of the
house, the purple flood continued to flow until life was extinct. This closed
the unfortunate man’s life, within half hour after the occurrence. Medical aid
was sought soon as any one dared to stir out, but found, it was in vain. The nephew,
John Shackleton, first became alarmed hearing one of the dogs make an unusual
noise (probablv when the wound was inflicted upon him) and laying down the pipe
which he was smoking, he proceeded towards the house to inquire the cause. On
approaching it, he saw a man standing in the passage, and supposing it to be
his uncle Thomas who might have just returned home, shouted ‘ hallo’. To this
no answer was returned. He then retraced his steps, and entered his own house;
but not satisfied with what he had seen,
he returned immediately, after locking the door of his house, for his own
family’s security. Having again sallied forth, the man in the passage ran at
him, as he approached, and exclaimed “I’ll kill the devil,”
inflicting, at the same time, a severe blow on one of his shoulders. It was then that the nephew
became sensible of the danger. When precipitately retreating, he heard the cry of “d–n him, shoot
him,” and instantly saw the flash of gun in the house. He ran to loose a
bull dog which was tied up on his own premises, and while so engaged, the
villains appear have left the house, for, on his again coming forth he heard
nothing but a kind of murmuring noise, as if from the voices men, ascending the
declivity, nearly at the foot of which the house was situated. The men were
only about ten or fifteen minutes in the house, and on leaving it. went in a
direction towards Haworth, over the moors, but this, no doubt, was a feint to
Four days later in the Sheffield Examiner we read ‘The body
of the unfortunate James Shackleton has been opened by a surgeon, who states
that the wound was not inflicted by small shot, as was reported, since, in the
course of his inquiry, he found two slugs, which had apparently been cut off from
the handle of a spoon.” Someone was taken into custody but discharged and
according to the obituary of James’s brother, Thomas, the murderers were never
So how does this story relate to my ancestors? The murder victim was the great great uncle of Thomas Shackleton, the first husband of Isabella Wolfenden, who married Gibson Butterworth after Thomas died.
It all began with one man and his dog. The man, Edward, was a shepherd. I didn’t catch the name of his sheepdog but she was having a jolly old time swimming around in an old bath tub in the sheep field as I chatted to her master. I was on Edge Lane, between Heptonstall and Colden, and had just arrived at Spink House where my ancestor Giles Sunderland was living in 1891. As I paused to take photos of the building Edward came into view. I thought perhaps he lived there, but no. He was just walking along the tack to his sheep field. We chatted for a while and as we parted he said, “If you are interested in history make sure you find out about Raistrick Greave.”
Hmm. . . A couple of days later, quite by chance I found a video of someone’s hike to the ruins of Raistrick Greave, a farmhouse in a very isolated spot way up on Heptonstall Moor above Widdop. Its name reminded me of Greave farm where Gibson Butterworth was living in 1901 so I decided to do a bit more digging online. With 20 or more ‘hints’ on the Ancestry website, Gibson looked like a ‘person of interest.’
Until a couple of days ago Gibson Butterworth was just another name on my Nutton family tree, one of over 2000 names. I knew he and his sister Grace had been born at Weasel Hall, a building high on the hillside that dominates the view from my desk where I write this.
A few months ago I’d been given the handwritten account of the life of his father Ezra Butterworth, along with some wonderful photos from James Moss, someone on Ancestry.com whose family had also married into the Butterworths.
The son of Ezra Butterworth and Mary, (nee Gibson) he was assigned his mother’s maiden name as his forename, a very common occurrence in these parts. Indeed my dad’s middle name was Dean, in memory of a family surname. Gibson was born in 1863, the same year that Cheetham House sewing factory in Hebden Bridge was built. I’d lived there for the first 18 months after my return to England, in an upper room where huge iron wheels from the pulleys that powered the machines still graced my ceiling.
According to the journal that Grace kept “Gibson was a great disappointment to Ezra. He was highly intelligent but perhaps in- herited too much of his mother’s temperament. He was educated first at Heptonstall Grammar school and later went as a boarder to a school at East Keswick. Though he wanted to be an engineer he never seemed to settle down. Ezra started him in the clothing business in Hebden Bridge but after two years he threw it over in disgust and became a wanderer. After forty years he retuned from New Zealand and settled in a cottage in Hebden Bridge. Even in his old age he was a very gifted speaker and would draw people to his cottage just to listen to him.He and Grace seemed to have been very close to one another but while Grace accepted her mother’s domination Gibson would not. So there grew a fierce hatred between Mother and Son which lasted as long as they lived.Maybe that was the cause of his differences with his father.
Gibson was educated in Heptonstall grammar school, that fascinating building which first opened its doors in 1642, the year before that the town was directly involved in the Civil War, when the battle of Heptonstall took place in the remote hilltop community. The parliamentarians of Heptonstall did battle with the Royalists of Halifax. In 1871 Gibson was a young 8 year old, living on Crown street (my current address) with his family. His dad, Ezra was a railway contractor held in quite esteem according to the written account of his life. “He was responsible for the laying and upkeep of many of the lines of the Lancs and Yorks Railway. He was a perfectionist and the train drivers always knew when they were on his lines, they were so smooth.” So recounted his daughter, Grace. I’ve been trying for 2 years to work out which buildings various branches of my family lived on Crown Street, but to no avail. By 1881 Gibson’s family appear to have moved up in the world judging by the fact that they are now living at Oak Villa,a house built especially for the Butterworths and Ezra is a farmer with 9 acres. See my blog about Ezra. http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/?s=ezra
In 1890 his Ezra his wife, Mary, and daughter Grace had moved to Hippins farm, which Ezra leased from Lord Savile’s estate. It was a 75 acre farm set high on the hill top above Todmorden . In the 1891 census Gibson is still at Oak Villa where he is living with his Uncle, Thomas Butterworth, another plate layer for the railway and his wife Mary Ann. This in itself is perhaps insignificant but new paper reports fill in the back story of a major rift in the family. Indeed, the newspaper article is entitled: Unhappy Family Differences – painful disclosures. Ezra had deleted Gibson from his will and so Gibson was claiming financial compensation by taking his mother and sister’s husband, Elias Barker, to court to claim what he believed was owing to him. The court decided on a nominal sum.
Sharing Hippins farm in 1891 was the Wolfenden family, John William Wolfenden, his wife Jane, and three young children, one of whom was named Isabella, aged 3, so born in 1888. There just HAD to be a connection, since Gibson had married an Isabella Wolfenden, born in 1857. It took me into the early hours of the next day before I’d cracked it. John William was Isabella’s brother. And just to complicate matters still further John William Wolfenden’s wife’s Jane was a Butterworth, Jane Butterworth, born in 1856! I guess the families living in the remote hilltop farms would gather together and mingle and perhaps meet their future spouses at stock sales and other farm related activities.
Two years after Ezra died 1898, a tragic death, caused by an injury sustained by falling onto his chamber pot in a drunken stupor, Gibson married Isabella Wolfenden, a second marriage for the widowed bride. The marriage took place at Slack Chapel. The present building was constructed in 1879, replacing the earlier building of 1808 where the opening ceremony was attended by seven hundred people. More than a thousand were at the Dedication service on the following Sunday.
It’s no longer a chapel but when I’d visited it in the August 2017 it appeared that some building or renovation work was in progress. I’d even chatted to a man that came out of the building to find out what I was doing. But three years later the place looks in the same unfinished condition. In July 2015 a picnic was planned on Popples Common to discuss the building’s future. Plans for it to become a halfway house for those recovering from drug abuse were dropped after objections from local residents. I chatted to the current owner, Holly, as she tended the gravestones that make up her front garden. “You can’t live here if you have a nervous disposition” she quipped. So now let’s find out more about Gibson’s wife.
Isabella was from Paythorne, a picturesque village on the River Ribble, in the Forest of Bowland, and her dad, John, was an agricultural labourer. By the time Isabella was 10 years old the family had moved to Good Greave, a farm on Heptonstall Moor, a farm that has been in the Shackleton family for a long time. I mean, a really long time! In the 1604 survey out of 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth 14 were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions 2 at Good Greave. There was a Richard ‘elder’ and Richard ‘younger’ at Good Greave in the Court Roll of 1603 and in documents of 1605 but not on the Savile tenants lists as ‘they’ had bought their farm in 1600.
A more remote spot on the moorland is hard to find. Indeed, it took me a while to be able to pinpoint the exact location of Good Greave on a map. I enlisted the help of various Facebook pages and although I had several responses it was still proving difficult to find the location so Greave and Good Greave, both of which are now in ruins, with nothing but ill-defined tracks through the peat bog. One photo purporting to be of Good Greave shows a stone doorway and lintel, all that survives of this remote farm.
Isabella was one of 5 children and the oldest daughter. Her 3 younger siblings had been born in Barnoldswick. Up on the moors living next door, if such it can be called, at Greave, was Thomas Shackleton, a farmer aged 28 , living with his widowed aunt, Jane Uttley aged 67, a retired farmer, and his sister Sarah Ann and two servants. On December 14, 1873 the 16 year old Isabella married the 31 year old Thomas Shackleton at Halifax minster and Isabella moved to Greave to live with her new husband .
Questions floated around in my head. Where did the Shackletons buy food? Would Isabella have had another woman to help her in childbirth? They were 4 miles from Heptonstall amidst some of the most barren and windswept places in Yorkshire. But the Shackletons appeared to flourish.10 months after their wedding James was born, to be followed by 6 more children, approximately every 2 years. Two died within their first year and one, James, the firstborn when he was 7.
But what happened to Isabella’s father after his daughter married and moved out? Some time between Isabella’s marriage in 1873 and the 1881 census John Wolfenden had taken over as landlord of the Ridge inn on Widdop Road, now known as the Pack Horse. It claims to be the highest and most isolated pub in the Upper Calder Valley and in January 2004, the pub won the National Civic Pride gold standard award, as the most scenic pub in Britain, beating 200 other pubs.
From the Hebden Bridge Newsletter, 29 July, 1881
“IRISH LAWLESSNESS AT WIDDOP. EXTRAORDINARY SCENES. on Wednesday last a report spread rapidly throughout the district that in an Irish affray at Ridge, Alcomden one or more lives had been sacrificed , and in Hebden Bridge particularly the rumour caused some uneasiness and dismay. Happily, as it turned out there was no fatality, but conduct of a most extraordinary character took place at the place named, which, but for the discreet conduct of the police, might readily have led to serious and possibly fatal consequences. It appears from all we can gather, that on the afternoon of the preceding day, two young Irish mowers, John Devine and Patrick Fox, went to the Pack Horse lnn, Ridge, now kept by Mr. Wolfenden, (Isabella’s dad) and them began is create a disturbance. An Englishmen who was present managed to overcome them, and into the bargain gave them ” a good hiding” (to use a local expression).
Next morning the two returned to the inn along with a number of their fellow-countrymen, and it is presumed they came hoping to find the Englishman and to have their revenge upon him for his victory of the previous day. He was not there, however, and the gang at once began to abuse and insult the landlord and his family. Eventually they turned Mr. and Mrs. Wolfenden, and their daughters, (these would be Mary Ellen, 13, and Annie Jane, 9) out of the house and having become for the time masters of the situation, made use of their opportunity to feast and be merry at the expense of someone else. They helped themselves it is said, to the estables which were in the house, also to the beer, spirits and cigars, and to give greater variety to their enjoyment began to break glasses, windows etc. During these orgies one of the men, as we are informed, took off all his clothes except the fragments of a shirt which he was wearing, and in that condition went outside and exposed himself to the female members of Mr Wolfenden’s household. Fox and Devine were the ringleaders in the affair, and as soon as the attendance of the police could be obtained – which was not until afternoon as the inn is about 5 miles from Hebden Bridge, (on horseback) these two were given into the custody of P.C.s Shaw and Slee who had been sent to the scene. The charges on which they were taken into custody were for refusing to quit and willful damage. The prisoners were handcuffed together and conducted towards Hebden Bridge by the officers followed for a time at a distance by seven men who had taken part in the affair. (So the procession begins the 5 mile trek back to Hebden police station).
At Blakedean the officers and their prisoners were overtaken and the gang began to threaten the officers what they would do if they did not liberate the two prisoners.
There was some struggling and shoving about and one of the men took up a top-stone from a wall (I see the wall on the photo) and threatened to knock P.C Shaw’s brains out if he did not loose the handcuffs and set Devine and Fox free. Seeing, at last, that they would be overpowered and that there was no chance to land their prisoners safely at Hebden Bridge, the officers let the prisoners go, but carefully noted the direction which the gang took with a view of following them when they had obtained further assistance. Shaw and Slee made haste to Hebden Bridge while the gang made in the direction of Colden. About quarter to six P.C’s Shaw and Slee along with P. C Eastwood, P.C’s Norton and Taylor and two civilians set off to try to find the men. At Popples, Heptonstall, the officers separated into two companies, Slee going in one direction and Shaw with the other.
Shaw’s section went first to Longtail beerhouse, (this is on Edge lane and is now terraced cottages) tolerably confident of finding some of the men there, but were disappointed. They learnt however, that some of the men had passed the house previously going towards Colden. The officers then made in that direction and at Old Smithy or Hudson Lane met 4 of the party including Devine and Fox. The other two were Samuel Easterbrook and Thomas Castle and were apprehended on a charge of assisting to procure the rescue of Fox and Devine. Castle made an attempt to escape but was run down and caught. The four men were handcuffed together and led off to the police station at Hebden Bridge. Their arrival created unusual attention as at that time rumours of a murder having been committed were still current. some of the prisoners were bruised and disfigured about their faces and all acted with considerable bravado as they marched through the streets. One of them, it is said, was the ringleader in a row which took place at Bridge-gate on Sunday week. The rest of the gang were not captured. The 4 prisoners were brought up yesterday morning at West riding Court, Halifax before Capt Rothwell and Dr Alexander. Devine and Fox pleaded guilty to a charge of being drunk and disorderly on the previous day. . .The men were strangers. They had left their native country being afraid of the Coersion Act. (an act of parliament which allowed the internment without trial for anyone suspected of involvement with the Land War, whereby tenant farmers would gain a fair rent and fixity of tenure) .Fox had left Ireland 8 years before, and Devine 5 years before. The bench imposed upon each prisoner a penalty of 10s and 14s 2d costs with the alternative of 14 days in prison. Easterbrook and Castle were ordered to pay one pound and 14s 2d costs or go to Wakefield for one month with hard labour.”
June 15, 1883 DEAD body found in Widdop reservoir – Queer feelings in Hebden Bridge.
The water bailiff found a dead body floating in Widdop reservoir. The body belonged to a man aged around 55 and his coat, cap and scarf had been neatly laid on the bank. Judging from the fragments of newspaper in his coat pocket it was surmised that the dead man had come from Burnley, and that he had been taking a wash when he fell, possibly seized with a fit, rather than having deliberately taken his own life, because, the inquest reasoned, he would not have place his clothes so neatly. A boat was taken onto the reservoir and the dead man was taken by cart to the Pack Horse, Widdop to await identification and inquest.
Some Folk in Hebden Bridge immediately began to revert to using well water believing that their running water would have been contaminated by the body, which, judging by its condition, had been in the water for a considerable time. Other stories abounded included people imagining they had seen” bits of toe nails” coming down their pipes. The inquest took place at the house of Mr John Wolfenden at the Packhorse Inn, Ridge. The jurymen viewed the body and then listened to the evidence. By chance a friend of the deceased’s wife saw a newspaper article about the discovery of a body in Widdop reservoir. He knew that his friend’s husband, Mrs William Whitehead had been missing from home and so they made arrangements to come to hebden Bridge. Apparently they missed the train and had to take a pony trap over the hills from Burnley and arrived at the police station in hebden bridge just as the police officer was returning from The Pack Horse with the clothing recovered at the scene. Mrs Whitehead immedaitely identified them as belonging to her husband. He had been missing from home for three weeks and “had been in a desponding state of mind for some time. Five years before he had attempted suicide by cutting his throat.” An open verdict was returned. After the inquest what must have been a very badly deteriorated body was placed in a coffin and transported to Heptonstall for burial but due to some misunderstanding no grave had been prepared for the burial. “The man in charge of the hearse was in a bit of a quandary but eventually he was allowed to deposit his freight in the church porch.’ From where the deceased’s wife collected it around midnight, placed it in a hearse and took it to Burnley at 7:30 the following morning.
Isabella’s father, John Wolfenden, died at the Pack Horse Inn Widdop on January 27, 1886 .
Four years later on May 16, 1890 Isabella’s husband, Thomas, died at the age of 58. He was buried at Blakedean Chapel the following day, which seems rather unusual. The headstone now lies prostrate on the grass. I visited the spot on June 15, 2020, two days after a tremendous thunderstorm in which there was a reported tornado only a couple of miles from this very spot.
At first I couldn’t find the grave but at last I saw a grave stone holding water and could read that this was the family grave where Thomas and his sons, John, James, Robert Kay and Richard William Foster were laid to rest. What a wonderfully tranquil place. I tried to figure out where the chapel had been. It was built in 1820 as an offshoot of Slack Baptist chapel. All that remains now is the Sunday School which was used as a scouting retreat after the church closed in 1959. My mind raced. Where did the people come from to worship here? Because of the lie of the land being so steep the gallery was accessed by steps from the road above. At the time of her husband’s death Isabelle’s youngest child was 8 months old and now, at the age of just 32 she was already a widow. The census of the following year shows Isabella as the head of household and a farmer. Her oldest son, Richard, aged 14 is the ‘farmer’s assistant.’ Her other children are aged 6, 3, 1 other children and her 52 year old sister-in -law is an assistant housekeeper and another Shackleton lady relative, aged 50, is ‘living here own means.’ Both these ladies had both been born at Good Greave.
It took 10 years for Isabella to remarry, and that’s when
she becomes part of my family’s story marrying Gibson Butterworth at Slack
Chapel on March 27, 1900. Isabella was nine years older than Gibson. How did
they meet? OK. It took my a couple of hours to figure it out but Glory Be! I
figured out how they met! In 1891 when Ezra Butterworth, Gibson’s dad was
living at Hippins he was sharing the large house with John William Wolfenden
who, it transpires was none other than Isabelle’s brother.
By the 1911 census the family are living in Nelson – just over Hepstonstall Moor from Good Greave, and Gibson is a . . .builder of canal boats. Wow. That was unexpected! From the middle of a moor in one of the most remote parts of England and he becomes a canal boat builder. This is so funny. Yesterday I was in Heptonstall and I was taking another look at the sign in a back street that’s falling apart. It says Boats for Rent. An ‘old timer’ saw me looking and I struck up a conversation. “Boats for hire? Heptonstall is on top of a hill! Where could you sail a boat?” I asked. “Well now. There are reservoirs around here, Gorple, Widdop, Walshaw,” came his response.
As we chatted further it turned out that he knew the dentist that had his office in my living room – Donaldson was his name. That’s the second person I’ve met who remembers my apartment being a dentist’s office. The first was a lady in her 90’s at the Mytholmroyd Community Christmas in 2018. This man in Heptonstall was proud to tell me he is in his 80s. Gibson appears to be a boat builder and working for his son-in-law, Thomas Whitaker from Barnoldswick who is an employer of canal boat builders. How interesting! Isabella died at Moor Lodge, Oakworth near Keighley but is buried at Blakedean. Today it’s a country retreat and from 2003 to 2015 it held international sheepdog trials raising almost 30,000 pounds for the air ambulance.
After Isabella died Gibson
had planned to emigrated to New Zealand. He boarded the ship called the
Shropshire at Liverpool, part of the Federal Line. He was 56 and planned to be
a farm hand and was bound for Auckland. 25th Feb 1921. However, he
arrived back in England, at London from Wellington 30 Nov 1922 on the
Corinthic, part of the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company Ltd. He is 57 describes
himself as a carpenter.
It was a Winnie the Pooh day, blustery, with a distinct promise of rain, as I set off to visit Stonesheygate, on Widdop Road. It was apt that I wearing my new hat, which arrived yesterday, a birthday present from Rachel. Apparently it had been sitting in the post office for several weeks and last night Rachel had apologized for it being ‘unseasonable.’ However, as I braved the open moors on Widdop Road I could envisage similar winds battering the slopes of Mt Everest. My new beanie was from Peter Hilary’s new range of high end outdoor wear and this was a very special present from Rachel because a couple of years ago Rachel had gone to Everest with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund!
I’m still on my pilgrimage to visit as many houses where my ancestors lived as I can during this crazy summer. I think I’m over the 100 mark at the moment, and all within either walking distance, or a 5 minute bus ride.
In 1891 John Sunderland, 1826-1903, was the 65 year old head of one of 4 families living at Stoneshey Gate. He was the great-grandfather of the wife of my 3rd cousin 2x removed. (I’m so glad that Ancestry.com figures that out!). Only 5 minutes walk past Slack Baptist church (you can’t beat that name) I came to a collection of cottages marked Stoneshey Gate, adjacent to a very grand looking building which I late found out has a datestone of 1794 and is Grade ll listed building.
It wasn’t easy to get a good photo from the road since the house is screened by rhododendron bushes, today in full flower, though being severely battered by the wind gusts. But I spied a footpath sign that led to a very narrow stone paved track past the back of the building, appearing to disappear into shrubbery leading steeply down to Hardcastle Crags and from there I saw what an imposing building this is.
It’s perched on top of the ridge above the valley below where Abraham Gibson had built his mill, now THE local tourist destination. Abraham Gibson, who had donated Gibson Mill to the National Trust, had lived at Greenwood Lee, just a few minutes’ walk from Stoneshey Gate and a couple of years ago I was given a grand tour of the building and grounds, complete with peacocks, because it was up for sale. Two years later it still is. See previous blog which caused the son of the current owner to contact me. http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/2018/03/05/my-story-of-greenwood-lee/#comment-1226
Indeed, I found a business connection between the two men: 19 December 1884 Between Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee (The Liquidator of the Colden Cotton and Commercial Co Ltd in voluntary liquidation) vendor and Gamaliel Sutcliffe of Stoneshay Gate cotton manufacturer, William Gibson of Stoneshay Gate cotton manufacturer, William Mitchell Sutcliffe of Heptonstall Grocer, purchasers – agreement on sale and purchase of the Company’s Estate and Effects. Recently burnt down mill called Jack Bridge Mill and the remains thereof with the Weaving Shed, Warehouse buildings cottages engine house engines boilers shafting mill gear and millwright work etc. Gameliel Sutcliffe married Susannah, daughter of Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee – virtually next door neighbours.
The view over the valley of Hardcastle Crags is fantastic and above the valley is Shackleton Hill, with the small hamlet of Shackleton barely managing to cling to its position halfway up the ‘mountain.’ Last month I climbed up to Shackleton and was rewarded with views across to Slack and Widdop Road where I was now standing.
According to the 1891 census Stoneshey was occupied by four
households: two farmers, (one being my John Sunderland), a coachman and a widowed
housekeeper. Yet on the electoral roll of 1894 both Gameliel Sutcliffe and John
Sunderland are listed as living at Stoneshey, and qualify to vote as ‘Land and
In 1891 John was 65, his wife Grace, 61 and his daughter Susannah, 32. By 1901 John is a widower, still living with his daughter but they have moved to ‘New Houses’ where John is listed as a retired farmer and his daughter Susannah, now 41, has been lured by the industrial age and is now a machinist in a fustian factory. I wonder where? New Houses is a small terrace set close to and beneath the road, with a row of outhouses across the street, some of which are numbered to show which cottage they belong to. No wonder people used potties for calls of nature in the middle of the night, especially in a raging storm.
A lady had just driven up to the cottages and was walking to her door. I explained my presence and they fact that I was taking photos but she hurried indoors. I didn’t realise until I got home that this terrace was originally called New Houses because the sign on the terrace today says Craggside.
So what about John’s earlier life? John had married Grace Crabtree in 1849 at Heptonstall church. At that time he was living at Hawdon Hole, where my friends Freda and Chris live and which I’ve had the good fortune to visit and see inside. He was an overlooker and the following year he was still an overlooker but is now living on Smithwell Lane which extends from the centre of Heptonstall towards Jack Bridge. Their son Abraham was born the following year, with Eliza, James and Susannah following in quick succession. James died at the age of 4. From 1861-1881 the family remained living on Smithwell Lane and John was a cotton throstle overlooker. This was someone who supervised the throstle doffers! Throstle doffers would removed the full bobbins from the cotton spinning machines and replace them with empty ones. What a contrast to become a farmer – even though Stonesheygate was no more than 10 minutes walk away. I wonder what prompted that decision. John died in 1903 at the grand old age, at that time, of 77 and he’s buried at Heptonstall church. His wife Grace had died 5 years before him. Two years after her father died Susannah married John Helliwell, a widower, at the ripe old age of 47 – most unusual. John, a stone mason, was living at New Houses at the time of his marriage and Susannah had moved to Acre farm. They set up house together at New Houses, most likely in John’s home and 1920 finds her at 5 Knowl top. They are all buried at the Baptist cemetery at Slack.
As I researched the buildings at Stoneshey Gate the following morning I came, quite by chance, upon a document that had been sent to me by James Moss last month. His father had spent years at Halifax library reading the Hebden Bridge Times and Halifax Courier picking out pertinent stories. James wrote, “We used to pull his leg that it was a perfect hobby, sitting in a library reading the newspaper. I suspect it can be done by electronic word search but then he went through it page by page. When I was working from Halifax Police Station I occasionally called in the Library and the staff remembered him as ‘the toffee man’ because he always had toffees with him and would always offer the staff one.”
One of these articles mentioned Stoneshey Gate as being the residence of Gameliel Sutcliffe, a man of some importance, so, of course, that set me off on a whole new direction and many more hours of ‘diggin.’ I knew that Sutcliffe was a very prolific name in the Heptonstall area. There’s a large area in the cemetery surrounded by an elaborate wrought iron fence containing many Sutcliffe tombstones, and I’d seen a few of ‘my’ family marry Sutcliffes but I’d never pursued that link of research because I knew that it would be too overwhelming and confusing. But in Stoneshey gate I have not a family member, but a Sutcliffe who was living at the property at the same time as John Sunderland. If the date stone on the building is correct, sometimes they can be marking a rebuild or an extension, the property appears to have been built for Gamwell Sutcliffe 1718-1803 since he was born at Lee, Heptonstall and his family moved to Stoneshey Gate. He was obviously a man of some substance for he is recorded as overseer of the poor in Heptonstall, a person who responsible for the relief of poor people in the township. He also is recorded as having occupied Rooms 20 and 21 in the Colonnade gallery of the Piece hall in Halifax in 1787 one of 320 people listed in the newly built cloth hall which had opened 8 years previously. His son, Gamaliel, 1750-1840, lived at Stoneshey Gate and is listed as a stuff manufacturer. On the Power in the Landscape website I found the following: 1789 DRAFT BOND OF INDEMNITY dated 30th September 1789 – Robert Thomas of Blackshaw Royd in Stansfield, p. Halifax gentleman only surviving brother and heir of Richard Thomas, late of same, gentleman deceased who died intestate) to Gamwell Sutcliffe of Heptonstall p. Halifax, gentleman. The said Gamwell Sutcliffe has contracted to buy a messuage with buildings closes etc. called Stoneshay Gate within Heptonstall for the sum of £700 now in occupation of said Gamwell Sutcliffe. And whereas John Thomas the eldest brother of said Richard Thomas went abroad, beyond seas (as supposed) about 40 years ago and hath never since been heard of but no certain proof can be found of his death. Hebden Bridge Lit Sci Society.
He made his will in 1803 and is buried at Heptonstall Church in the old church in the nave. Gamaliel, 1750-1840 was member of a committee supporting those affected by the Luddites. On Wednesday, 12th May 1813, James Knight, Constable of Halifax, chaired a Meeting of a numerous and highly respectable Public Meeting of Inhabitants of the Town and Parish of Halifax, called by the Constables of Halifax, to take into Consideration the Services of those Gentleman who so meritoriously exerted themselves during the late Luddite disturbances in the West Riding of the County of York, at the White Lion Inn Halifax. In the early 1790s he built Bob Mill, Lower Colden and in 1800 he built the two Lumb Mills. Another member of the family confusing also called Gameliel Sutcliffe (!), the son of George Sutcliffe had owned Brearley Hall in 1920 and had travelled to Australia and America and wrote journals of his travels. It was THIS Gamaliel Sutcliffe that James Moss’s father had mentioned in his articles from Halifax library.
In 1927 another Gamaliel Sutcliffe of Stonesheygate died in the house in unfortunate circumstances. A two column article in the newspaper detailed his death, his standing in the community and lists the mourners at his funeral. He had been a Justice of the Peace for 40 years,a supporter and regular attender at Heptonstall church and it was he that had donated the land which is now name the ‘new’ cemetery, and paid for its enclosure by a “substantial stone fence and massive gates at considerable cost. He was always ‘good company’ with his numerous reminiscences of his travels abroad.” Apparently he wrote a journal of his travels, even venturing as far as Australia but I haven’t located it – yet.
Another interesting reference to Stoneshey gate was its connection with John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists. On 24th May (which just happens to be my birthday) 1738, he experienced a religious awakening – which he referred to as feeling his heart strangely warmed – and which profoundly changed his life. His brother, Charles, had experienced the same spiritual conversion just 3 days earlier. In 1747, he visited the Upper Calder Valley for the first time at the request of William Darney. He preached at Stoneshey Gate on 5th May 1747, The crowd were gathered in the yard at the house and others sat on a wall. During the sermon, the wall collapsed and all fell down at once. The people just sat where they fell and continued to listen to Wesley’s sermon. In 1764 the Heptonstall methodist chapel opened constructed to an octagonal plan that Wesley himself had suggested. The first octagon was Norwich in 1757, followed by Rotherham in 1761, Whitby in 1762 and Heptonstall in 1764. Wesley said: “All our houses should be of this shape if the ground allow.” Local historians Chapman and Turner later wrote: “Wesley had obviously been impressed by the roof at the Rotherham Octagon, he had the same man construct the roof in Heptonstall. The sections were brought by the most direct, though hazardous, road over Mount Skip, the people meeting the procession of pack horses and singing hymns of joy. Men and women laboured with their hands to build the chapel with the most primitive of tools.”
Kate Lycett, a wonderful
artist who currently lives in a building in the centre of Hebden Bridge that
once was the Bull Inn where my ancestor, Joshua Gibson was landlord, has done a
painting of Stoneshey Gate showing its view overlooking the valley of
And just think . . . 24 hours ago all I knew of the place was an entry on my excel spreadsheet with name Stoneshey Gate and the name of a distant ancestor who had lived there on the census map of 1891. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, I currently have 235 dwellings on that spreadsheet!!! Over 200 are within walking distance or a 10 minute bus ride.
Two days ago I was thrilled to find a blog which mentioned Scammerton, Pry and Erringden Grange farms, all farms that had been lived in at various times by one or more of my ancestors. https://landscapestory.co.uk/2020/04/27/april-spring-solace/Like me the writer records chatting to the current farmers. Not only that but the blog was really well written and was obviously the work of someone who is inspired and enthralled by the landscape of this area as much as I am. As I read further I found that to my amazement he visited the ruins of one farm, Dale, even having a picnic in what had once been the living room and when he got back home he went on Ancestry and found out who was living there in 1851: my ancestor, Thomas Butterworth! Now I’d had a few excursions onto this hillside, primarily to look at Winters, a tiny settlement where one of my ancestors had kept a beerhouse, and I knew from old maps where Dale was located, but it wasn’t clear how to get there. Although paths are marked on old maps I have no idea how steep they are, whether they are still in use, whether I need to climb stiles, or walls, or whether they consist of vertical stairways. )
So today off I went armed with current maps, old maps – and a picnic. When I boarded the bus to Blackshaw head the driver asked, “Do you live there? We’re not taking walkers, you know.” Well, no, I didn’t know that, and I’m still not sure that’s the official line, but I was one of two passengers on the bus so it was hardly crowded.
I headed off down Marsh Lane, knowing that led down to Winters and once in the little hamlet I found a diagonal track going steeply towards Dale – in fact, it was so steep and slippery with dry sandy soil that I did a few Heather specials – sitting down and sliding down the path on my rear end. The view across the valley was lovely and for the first time I notice the bulge of Erringden Moor between me and Stoodley Pike. It almost looked like a glacial drumlin. I knew from the map that this path was only about half a mile but its steepness made it seem much longer. I was too scared of losing my footing and dropping my phone to take photos of the path but I saw a tiny building on my left that I recognized from the Charlestown history site. It appears to be an outside loo with a stream running through it.
This building pictured above is referred to as the Cludgie (name for a toilet), but we are unsure what its original use was. The person on the photo was known as ‘owd Betsy who lived in the cottages.
And then suddenly another path crossed me hugging the contour of the hill and there was Dale – within an arm’s distance. The outside walls of the farm was about 3 ft high and the fireplace and some stone shelving was pretty intact. I welcomed a sit down on the wall after taking photos and was just contemplating setting up my phone for a distanced selfie when someone appeared on the path.
I asked her which was the least steep road back down into the valley and she told me about a set of steps that go all the way down after crossing a little wooden bridge. She seemed in no hurry and so I told her of my reason for visiting the site, how I’d found a blog about it. “Oh, that’s probably Paul’s” she responded. She lives in the valley and had great knowledge about local history resources. She even took my photo and emailed it to me so I didn’t have to bother with the distanced selfie!
Finishing my picnic I followed her directions and crossed the wooden bridge over Dale Clough and the stairs awaited me.
At the top of the stairs was another ruined building, Higgin House and I stopped to take a couple of photos but it was impossible to step within its walls because it’s completely overgrown by large trees. Then I tackled the steps. From looking at contour maps it would seem that they ran vertically for almost 500 ft, but fortunately for much of the time there was either a wall, or an iron railing to steady myself.
As I eventually reached level ground I found myself at Knott Hall which I’d ‘discovered’ a few weeks ago from another path. I followed Oakville Road, avoiding the main road and retracing my steps from 2 days ago. I knew that a row of terraced houses here once housed a non-alcoholic brewery in the cellar. It was owned by Billy Holt’s father. I’d reread Billy Holt’s autobiography during the lockdown. He had once lived at Hawdon Hall and the current owners of that place that given me the book as a birthday present last year. Small world! I’d wondered which house had been the brewery. At that moment a lady came from round the back of the cottages so I asked her if she knew the answer to my question. She pointed to a separate cottage and told me that the beer cellar had now been filled it. It was the house that I’d taken a photo of and sent to my daughters a little while ago because there’s a trampoline on the garage roof! http://www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk/charlestown/oakville.html#old
Of Thomas Butterworth
The first time I can locate Thomas with any degree of certainty is when he married Alice Jackson at Heptonstall church on October 20, 1811. They are both from Stansfield. There is a possibility that Thomas was baptized 6 June 1792 at Warley. I selected ‘that’ Thomas because his father was Ezra, and Thomas named one of his sons Ezra. In 1813 the first of their 7 or possibly 8 children was born, a daughter, Charlotte. 6 of the children were baptised at Myrtle Grove chapel on the same day, June 25, 1837. This meant that Charlotte was 24 when she was baptized, Richard 20, Sarah 17, Abrahma 15, Thomas 13 and Ezra 10. William was born in 1841 after a 10 year gap – strange. Last autumn when the leaves fell I noticed for the first time a cemetery close to the road to Todmorden and a few days later I overheard a conversation in which someone else was remarking on the fact that they’d never noticed the cemetery before. Apparently this is all that remains of Myrtle Grove chapel, Eastwood. From the Charlestown history site: By the early 1800s, with the coming of industrialisation, the population was moving from the tops into the valley bottom. Discussions about moving the chapel began in about 1805 and local gentry settled endowments for the new chapel to be built. The new chapel opened in the summer of 1807 was called Myrtle Grove and stood on the site that later became Eastwood Railway station. It had a capacity of 500 people.
The congregation again declined from about 1820. In 1838 the railway petitioned to include the site of the Chapel and it was purchased by the railway company in the following year. A view of the Eastwood population at this time but there’s no source given:
“It must not be imagined from what has been written so far, that the inhabitants of Eastwood were all upright and honest citizens. there were evildoers in those days as there are now, and laws against theft or damage to property were much more drastic. Tradition has it that representatives of the village were sent as convicts to Australia. Stealing was by no means uncommon and occasionally cloth was taken from the handlooms. Hand weaving persisted for a long time after the coming of the power loom, and the weavers sometimes took precautions against theft by tying the warp ends to their feet before retiring for the night……The less reputable amongst the population indulged in such sports as cock fighting, rabbit coursing, clog fights or wrestling for wagers. The Non Conformists on the other hand, still strongly under the influence of puritan tradition, looked askance at such pleasures and regarded them as enticements of the Devil”. A new chapel was built and opened in 1840 so it would have been at the old chapel that Thomas and Alice had their children baptized.
(from the Charlestown
Another snippet which
amused me was this: A few years ago one of the group was taking stuff to the
tip at Eastwood and saw a small wooden model in a skip. She rescued it and
later we discovered that it was of Eastwood Chapel. The three photos below show
the level of detail on the model. Who made it, when or why, we don’t know.
Back to Thomas and his growing family. In 1841 the
Butterworths were one of four families living at Higgin House, and Thomas is a
worsted weaver. Yesterday, after I’d left the ruins of Dale I passed another
ruin and took a photo of the place. This turns out to be Higgin House! It’s
perched directly at the top of that steep flight of stairs. According to the
Charlestown site it was once part of the Horsfall estate. (Leave that for a
rainy day!) I wonder if the ‘sled road’ mentioned below was the
steep stepped path I walked down yesterday:
The Rebuilding of
Underbank House The building of the New House that
replaced the Great House at Underbank. John Lister Horsfall’s account book
records the pulling down and building of the present day Underbank house (short
of the Thomson’s modifications of course). The following is a summary.
First a sled road was made to allow stone to be pulled from Castle Hill
to Underbank. Work began on March 10 and finished on March 20, 1834. This stone
was used for “fronting” and for rebuilding some field walls. The road
was then brought across the Higgin house and the Orchard field. This
required 5 people and another to cut trees and cost 2 pounds, 18 shillings and
1851 find the Butterworth at Dale and by 1861 Thomas and
Alice, both woolen weaver have moved to Underbank and their son, Ezra, has
taken on the role of head of household, a plate layer for the railway line and
a widower at the age of 33. However, there was less than 6 months between his
first wife Sarah Horsfall. (Higgin House
was part of the Horsfall’s estate!)
dying and his marriage to Mary Gibson, daughter of the innkeeper of the
Bull Inn, Hebden Bridge, who hanged himself in this slaughter house – see other
postings in my blog). According to the handwritten account of Ezra’s life Sarah
died in childbirth. “At some time he married, but, unfortunately his wife was a
kleptomaniac, and was always taking home things she did not need and had not
paid for. While this was a great worry to Ezra, it did not raise the problems
at that time, in such a small community as Hebden Bridge then was, as it would
today. Ezra just returned the goods to the under- standing shopkeepers and that
was the end of the matter. She died early in married life on the birth of her
first child. Ezra then met and married Mary Gibson. She was also born on a
small farm called Winters at Eastwood on 5th September 1830. She was the fourth
child and first daughter and always said she was unwanted as her mother
disliked girls. However other daughters were born and they were accepted. Mary
ran away from home when she was eight years old to her grandmother who kept a
coaching inn in Bridge Lanes, The Bull. She spent a happy childhood there and
had many tales to tell of people who frequented the inn. She was a good teller
of tales and one which made a great impression on us was of the young woman who
was poor and sold things from door to door. On being asked why she was doing
this she said, “When I was young a well-to-do old man wanted to marry me but I
loved a young man who was poor. We married but soon he died.” She added “But
many’s the time I’ve rued that day for the old man’s brass ‘ud a bought a new
pony.” It was this grandmother who when Mary was young, once pointed to the
smoke of a house chimney and said solemnly “Mary, whenever there’s a neck
As a young girl she was apprenticed to Molly Day, a
dressmaker. where she learned to sew most beautifully making voluminous dresses
of the time entirely by hand. She and Ezra must always have known one another
though it was not until June 1860 that they were married. Her brothers had
warned her of Ezra’s drinking habits like many others associated with the
railways in their early days. It was his great weakness.
They started married life at Weasel Hall, which is still there and can be seen on the hill- side from the main street in Hebden Bridge. (In fact that is the very view that I currently have as I sit at my desk in my living room). There on the 29th January Grace was born and two years later Gibson.”
Thomas died at the grand old age of 75 in 1868 and he’s buried at St James’s in Hebden Bridge (where I sometime play the organ for services) but I’ve been unable to find him on the burial plot map.
P.S – Crazy fact from the Charlestown history site that I found while researching this page : The Rochdale canal at Charlestown was crossed by an iron bridge which by 1934 was showing serious signs of wear. In 1939 track subsidence made it necessary for the bridge to be replaced. The job was given to Dorman Long who also built Sydney Harbour Bridge. What?????
Crazy coincidence: 2 days after writing about my trip to Dale I received a message about the website that took me to Dale – from the Heptonstall Historical Society of which I am a member:
I’m going to carry on sharing items of online interest that have come my way for the lockdown period. Let’s start with an absolutely gorgeous website of photographs and writing about our local landscape and its history put together by Paul Knights. Enjoy: https://landscapestory.co.uk/
TODMORDEN DROWNING CASE PROBABLE SUICIDE. THE CORONER’S INQUIRY
During the breakfast half-hour Monday morning great excitement, prevailed in the neighbourhood of the Golden Lion bridge, Todmorden, by reason report that the dead body woman had been found floating in the canal and the sensation was increased by the fact that deceased’s husband appeared on the scene before the body had been recovered. and actually assisted in getting the lifeless form out of the water. The deceased was Rose Gibson, aged 54 years, wife Richard Gibson, millwright, of 5, Longfield Rd Todmorden. She was very well-known in Todmorden district, being at one time the landlady the York Hotel. It is stated that she was Gibson’s fourth wife, and that she herself had been previously married. The body was at once removed to 5, Longfield Rd Todmorden.. Rumours of a somewhat ugly character were freely circulated, but as nothing of the kind came out in the evidence tendered the inquest shall not refer to them in any way. Mr. W. Barstow. J.P.. held the inquest the Town Hall Tuesday, Councillor Robt. Gibson officiating as foreman of the jury. The first witness called was deceased husband, Richard Gibson, who said he last saw her alive about 5:30 or perhaps six o’clock, on Monday morning; they were then in bed together, as he did not start work until 9 on Monday mornings. He did not notice the time particularly, but thought it would about 6 o’clock when deceased got up. He asked her where she was going, and she replied that she felt a bit starved and was going make some hot cocoa. She partly dressed herself and went downstairs. He did not know whether she got the cocoa or not, but a short time afterwards she came upstairs again, and he felt her putting the clothes on him.. He did not see her again: he had no conversation with her the last time he saw her. He did not hear her leave the bedroom.When got up. about 7-30.he found she was not the house and he went in search of her. He went to her daughter, who cleans Mr. Sager’s office, but she had not been there: as far Cobden. and back again, making inquiries, but could hear nothing of her. Sergt. Nicholson observed that he met the witness by the Town Hall just after 7-30 a.m. Proceeding, witness said he then went back home, to see if she had turned up there, but she had not. He came out again, and when he got to the Golden Lion bridge he heard that there was woman in the canal. He went to look, and found it was his wife: he helped to get her out as several who stood never offered to give a hand. It would be about ten minutes or quarter past eight when found her in the canal just after the factories had loosed. He knew of no reason why his wife should go out when she did. She did no cleaning except helping her daughter occasionally and she had not been to her daughter that morning. He identified the body while it was in the water by deceased’s shawl and her hair. She was quite dead. The Coroner inquired if anything in the form of a letter had been found? Sergeant Nicholson: No. sir. I understand that there was a piece of rope attached to her clothing? Witness; No, was only a piece of string on the canal bank where we laid her. The Coroner; Can you give the jury any information as to how she got into the canal at that time the day? No I have no reason to give. —-Mr. A. Greenlees (a juryman):Was anybody about when you got there? Yes. there were fire or six around, and they could hare got her out: I had to ask four or five times before they would put a hand on.— The Foreman : Has she ever hinted at taking her life away, or thrown out any suggestion whatever that she would make herself away? Well, she has sometimes said she would: she told me on Sunday that she had been a bit queer at times ever since the change of life. She has also been a hit upset about letter from a niece in Middleton. A very little put her out —The Coroner: Has she been taking too much drink lately? I can’t tell.—How was she on Saturday and Sunday ? Well, Sunday night she wanted a pint bottle for beer, and I fetched her one from the White Hart – When did this letter come from Middleton? At the beginning of last week. —You say it put her about ? Yes I told her not to bother about it because she could not help it. Then the present condition of her daughter has caused her some anxiety. How far would the place where she was found lie from your house? Perhaps about a couple of hundred yards.—The Foreman: Had some suspicions made you go out seeking her as soon as you missed her? No. I had no suspicions at all.—The Coroner; did you ever think she was not quite right in her mind ? Only that she was a bit strange now and then: she had been subject to these “low doos” ever since the change.—The Coroner; you mean depression or spirits, or depression of mind? Yes. —Had she any pain or headache? She had pain at the side.—Do you know whether she made the cocoa or not ? I don’t know; she hadn’t lit the fire, but we have a gas stove.—l was thinking that the cocoa might be all an excuse get out ? Well, I didn’t find any pot containing cocoa; the vinegar bottle was on the table, as if she had had a drop of vinegar. Mary Whitehead wife of Samuel Whitehead, out-door labourer, Back Longfield-road, said she had been with her husband’s breakfast, on Monday morning, and she was coming back, about five minutes to eight, she met the deceased just below her own house. The deceased was coming down Longfield road, which would lead her to the canal. Witness noticed nothing unusual or strange about her; she had a black shawl on her head, and was holding it with her hand. They did not speak at all. Edwin Robinson, ice cream manufacturer, Hollins Road. Walsden, said he came down the canal bank to his work on Monday morning. When got to the wharf he noticed two children in front of him and on reaching “Neddy-brig”lock they called out “Come here, there’s a woman in the cut.” He got hold of the woman’s left shoulder, and raised her up : her head immediately dropped back, and concluding that she was dead, he at once ran into the main road for assistance. He saw Mr. Moores, draper, Waterside, who went on the canal bank with another man and pulled her out while he(witness) went the police station. This would be about ten minutes past eight. In answer to the Coroner, the jury stated that it would not take deceased more than two minutes walk from where Mrs. Whitehead saw her to where the witness Robinson found her. Ellen Maria Farrar, wife of Farrar, plasterer, Cockpit, Longfield Road deposed to assisting her mother to lay out the body of the deceased on which there was no mark of violence or injury. Witness last saw Mrs Gibson alive on Sunday : she then seemed all right—in fact, witness had never seen her when she thought she was not all right. The Coroner, addressing the jury, said that was all the evidence proposed called, and it would be for them to return such a verdict as they thought the evidence justified. The woman was found drowned in the canal, without mark of violence or injury. It was for the jury to say, if they could, how she became drowned. It seemed rather strange that the woman should leave home, without any special reason at that time of the morning and within about a quarter hour of last being seen should be found dead in the canal—drowned in broad daylight. Mr. G. T. Moore (a juryman): The deceased’s husband said he left home to search for her about 7-30; Mrs. Whitehead she saw her just outside her own house, five minutes to 8. I can’t reconcile those two statements. The Foreman observed that the deceased’s husband seemed to be a bit muddled about the times. The Coroner: Yes, he was not very positive about the times, but Mrs. Whitehead was positive and the witness Robinson was equally positive. The woman has evidently got into the canal at a place which is quite safe that time of the morning, any rate. It almost looks if she had gone in purposely. But do you think there is sufficient evidence to show the state of her mind the time? Mr. Moore: Have we sufficient evidence to say that she has taken her own life ? The Coroner: Is there any other probable way of accounting for it? The Foreman asked deceased’s brother (who had entered the room short time before) could give any information as to a letter from Middleton which was said to have upset her very much ? Deceased’s brother replied that did not think any letter from Middleton had depressed her at all ; they had always been on very friendly terms. Mr. Alex. Wild (a juryman) said he did not see that they could come to any other conclusion than that suggested by the Coroner,on the evidence which bad been given. the —At the same time, deceased’s husband was not very clear about the Sunday : he did not say where she was or anything about her. Mr. Moore : She may hare been driven to it by something we know nothing all about. Mr. A. Greenlees (juryman) suggested an open verdict of “found drowned.” The Coroner, however, said that an open verdict was very unsatisfactory; it found nothing. Did the jury not think that in all probability it was a case of suicide ? The Foreman, pressed by the Coroner to express an opinion, said had no doubt that the woman had deliberately gone from home to the canal. Mr. Wild remarked that deceased was only partly dressed. He understood that had nothing on but a shawl and a skirt—no underclothing. After further conversation the jury unanimously agreed to verdict “Found drowned, without mark of violence or injury, having probably drowned herself, but not sufficient evidence to show the state her mind the time.” On the initiative of Mr. Walter Ratcliff the jury unanimously agreed that their fees amounting to 12s.. should be handed to some local fund in aid the wives and families of the reservists called out to war.
Rose had been married for a little over a year to Richard Gibson who took his own life in 1910 by hanging himself in his house at 17 Union Street, Todmorden. Richard’s father, Joshua Gibson, had also committed suicide in the slaughter house of his pub, the Bull inn, Bridge Lane, Hebden Bridge (see previous blog post). Before his marriage to Rose Richard had been married at least three time, the last marriage before Rose being to Mary Ann Whitaker who was formerly Holt. She was living at the Golden Lion in Todmorden at the time of the marriage in 1894 – either as husband to the landlord (?) or as a live in servant. After Rose’s death in 1899 I can next find Richard as a boarder at the Masonic hall opposite the White Hart inn in Todmorden.
It was opened in 1862 and is a Grade ll listed building. I posted a question on the Todmorden history Facebook page but no-one had ever heard of people living in the building. I was disappointed but then, a couple of weeks later Paul Rigg sent me this message:
My Dad had an office in the Masonic Hall from around 1964 until about 1976. There was a corridor when you went in and various offices until you got to the end where the stops went up to the “Masonic” bit. Beyond there was a kitchen and some living accommodation. At that time the lady who lived there was a Mrs Howell. She acted as cleaner and I think she catered for the Masons. Later they knocked down the internal walls and made a function room. It was very gloomy when you walked in and actually people though it was haunted. The front doors had no keys and if it was locked you had to clamber across a grill and go down a passage at the left hand side of the building. Then you let yourself in through the side door and walk down the corridor to unbolt the front door from the inside! All a bit spooky. My dad had the right hand offices. Roland Sutcliffe had the left hand ones. I think he was a textile agent. It was all a bit Dickensian.
Today as I looked at it for the first time I see that is a very substantial building but it looks disused. I walked around to the rear and it’s possible that another building has been added to it. A couple were sitting in their garden next door enjoying the unseasonably hot weather and they told me that the masons still use it occasionally for functions.
The White Hart has featured in my family history before, being the scene of the court session in which my great great great grandma claims child support from James Wrigley, her neighbour at Lily Hall. It’s also a place I had lunch with Sarah before I knew the Lily Hall connection. Now today, I find it is the place where Richard went to buy a beer for Rose the night before she died.
I’ve never been in the Golden Lion pub but I see that it’s been repainted since I last saw it – bright yellow on one side. It had a little stall of used clothing that people could take home and I was surprised to see that the beer garden was in full use, this still being lockdown time. Across from the Golden Lion is Cockpit, where Ellen Maria Farrar lived. She assisted in the laying out of the body of the deceased. A lady was gardening and explained my story.
She was fascinated and we discussed whether in fact Rose’s death was a suicide. number 5 Longfield no longer exists though there is a section of canal bank almost adjoining the Golden Lion which may have had some houses on it. It currently sports a huge Kindness sign.
I crossed the main road and was immediately at the lock which is adjacent to the road bridge. It had taken me a while to discover that this was once known as Neddy Bridge after one of the former landlords of the Golden Lion – such is the benefit of posting questions on Facebook history sites! I realised that overlooking the lock is the garden of House des Lowe, a cafe I frequent in ‘normal’ times which is owned by my textile teacher and her husband! I’ll never be able to sit enjoying my coffee in the garden without thinking about Rose.
The climb up from Cragg Vale had been long and hard, the path mostly exposed in the intense sunshine so rare in these parts. I’d passed the Victorian church so aptly named St John’s in the Wilderness, and since that point I had climbed into a stark wilderness, devoid of trees, rejoicing in its sharks’ teeth of broken walls, fields yellow with buttercups and the air rejoicing in the baas from the spring lambs. As I crested the hill Withens reservoir stretched out before me, a silent crystal of lapis lazuli nestling in the lap of the moors.
Above me a few wispy translucent clouds had been joined by a con-trail, a rare site in this period of lockdown. I could see for miles as I recalled my first visit to this spot almost three years ago when Sarah and I hiked up to Stoodley Pike from here. I stopped and remembered the ruined farms we’d passed, the steepness of the climb and the joy of reaching our goal that day. Now I was alone, with not another person in sight, and I revelled in that.
I was crossing the dam, looking forward to my first walk around the reservoir when I saw them – a couple on the left bank, behaving rather oddly. They were both bending over and the man had in his hand something long and narrow that he was jiggling up and down. I stopped, unsure of whether to proceed, since my path, the only path, would bring me to them. I had no alternative. The path was on a narrow raised bank between the shore of the reservoir which fell away steeply to my right, while on my left was a ditch, about 10 ft deep and 5 ft wide which encircles the entire south side of the lake.
As I neared the couple I could make out that the long thin object in the man’s hands was a fishing rod. Ah, I thought with some relief. But then I thought a little more. I didn’t know you could fish in a reservoir. Suddenly the woman knelt down and the man launched his fishing line – into the culvert! “Grand day for it,” I greeted them.
“You’re probably wondering what we’re doin’” she offered. I smiled encouragingly. “Ah were walkin’ ‘ere last Wednesdy when me ‘at blew off intert ditch, so we’ve cum back wi’ th’ fishin’ rod to catch it.” I peered into the depths of the culvert. Sure enough something wet and bright blue was lurking there in the depths. At that very moment the man managed to embed the hook into the hat and it took flight onto the path. I couldn’t resist capturing this on camera and I asked if it was ok to take a photo. “Yer can purrit on Facebook if yer like an’ all” he laughed.
Once landed the hat was hastily bagged into a plastic container obviously brought especially for the occasion. “Yer not from round ‘ere. Yer from America?” “Ee, no,” I chirped back. “I’m from Bolton,” but I could see from the expression on their faces that more explanation was expected – even anticipated. So after the usual explanation (which, by the way, I should record and play back on demand since I have to tell the same story to everyone I speak to) she followed up with, “So what yer doin’ ‘ere this mornin’?”
I explained that I’m trying to visit as many houses where my ancestors lived as possible during the lockdown and so far I’ve walked to 82. “Last night I found that one of my ancestors, a Greenwood, had lived at Withens.” At first I’d thought it might be near Haworth since Top Withins is thought by some to be the prototype of Wuthering Heights but from the 1851 census I could see that ‘my’ Withens was somewhere on the moors above Cragg Vale. “Did you put a posting on Cragg vale history page on Facebook last night?” the woman asked. “Errrr, yes!” I hesitated. This is crazy. I’d put a posting on Facebook asking for information about Withins and today I meet someone who had read that posting. Someone had responded to my posting saying contact Roger Halliwell. I’d written back saying “How?” since he didn’t appear to have been a member of the page. I didn’t receive a response but the responder should have said ‘Go to Withens reservoir tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Look for was man trying to catch a hat with a fishing line. That’ll be Roger.’ It’s these coincidences that make me feel connected to the place, to this landscape. They invited me to their home when lockdown is over and they obviously have a good knowledge of the history of the area and are keen to share it with others. It turned out that Roger has Greenwoods in his ancestry too. We might be related!
As I continued on my way I could see the silhouette of one ruined farmhouse on the horizon reminding me of my hike with Sarah where we had passed many sheep pens. An information board at the dam told me that 17 households formed the hamlet of Withens that is now beneath the water. Other farms on the watershed had been compulsorily purchase by the water board to prevent either human or animal contamination of the water supply. Also on the information board is a haiku about the place – written by someone who is in a creative writing group that I attend – and she was also the head of English in my high school in Bolton!
Heading back down into the valley I passed the piglets again. On my way up this morning I’d smiled when I saw them. When I’d caught the bus to Cragg Vale the two ladies boarding before me had both paid with ten pound notes. Since all the shops now aks for payment by contactless cards only it’s virtually impossible to get change for bus fares. “Are you going to give me a tenner too?” the driver had said. “No, I raided my piggy bank this morning,” I replied.
And now here I was face to face with six little piggies, all spotlessly clean and rollicking in the morning sunshine. As I though about the coincidences of the day I passed a parked car with ‘California’ emblazoned on its rear. I smiled again. Ah well, only another 4 ½ miles home.
Today I set out to find 2 houses where my ancestors had lived, both on Burlees lane.
The name is recorded as Byrehmley  – meaning cottage meadow or clearings near the cottage -, Burlghes , Burleghs, Burelees , and Burley.
I’d passed the entrance to Burlees Lane a couple of times when I’d taken Wadsworth Lane from Heights Road but I’d never ventured down it. So today I went prepared with a current map in hand and historic maps in my head. Because of the lockdown I knew that it would be a tough walk up Birchcliffe, a hill so steep that even the little zippy bus that goes up there often has difficulty. I’d never hiked ‘up’ before. But on my way I was rewarded by catching a glimpse of a sign on a group of buildings – Birchcliffe Villas.
I recognized that name as another ancestral home. I must have passed the sign before but because I was always heading downhill at this point I’d never noticed it before.
Gertrude Ann Eastwood was born at Birchfield Villas. Her father Daniel was a wholesale fustian clothing man and his wife was Jane. Next door was Edward, presumably his brother, also in the same business. Her father Daniel died at Stoodley Range in 1940. She was still living there in 1910 when she married Edward Binney Gibson at Birchcliffe chapel, just across the street from her house. He was living at croft Terrace a couple of houses away from where I write. She was a pupil teacher at the time of her marriage, and Edward was a dentist. It appears that they moved into Vine Cottage on their marriage and there is currently a blue plaque in the window of Vine Cottage commemorating the fact that they lived there in 1916 – a project done in Hebden Bridge to put signs on house windows to say who was living there during the first world war.
I’d found Vine Cottage a couple of years ago and a wonderful photo of Edward’s father and wife in the first horseless car in Hebden Bridge but although the photo said it was taken in the grounds of Vine Cottage I couldn’t find the spot.
The cottage front was directly onto Birchcliffe Road and I couldn’t see over the wall at the end. . . . Until last week when I was trying to find Primrose cottage, close by, and a couple on their patio expressed both interest and knowledge. I mentioned the photo and they showed my a steep flight of steps from where I could see the courtyard where the photo was taken! By 1939 the couple had moved to Stoodley Range which I had located for the first time last week since it has been renamed Nab Scar. Edward Binney Gibson was one of the primary citizens of Hebden Bridge and his story requires its own post.
Finding that and stopping to take a couple of photos gave me a moment to catch my breath, and it was with a spring in my step that I headed upwards again. I soon passed the top of Chiserely estate and the road flattened a little and Burlees Lane followed the contour to my right. I liked it immediately – the feeling of open space, the view of the Calder Valley, and the lane itself had a grassy centre and looked delightful, edged by a variety of spring flowers, and the field above me was yellow with buttercups that have come into flower the last couple of days.
Great Burlees was clearly signposted off to my right and though the track headed downwards I decided to take it. Many times a footpath with run through the farmyard so it makes it easy to explain my presence but no such luck here, and there was no one around to talk to apart from a man whose top half was under a camper van from where a lot of hammering sounds were issuing. I didn’t want to startle him so I took a couple of photos and returned to the lane passing a beautiful level garden with pond. The view over the valley was amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d never discovered this idyllic place, not had I ever heard anyone mention the area.
So who am I related to that lived in this idyllic spot? And
would it have been so idyllic if they lived there pre car, pre supermarket, pre
internet, pre telly?
Eliza Crabtree died there in 1928, a spinster. Her father was Lewis Crabtree a farmer, originally from Birchcliffe. Crabtree is a very common name in this vicinity. There are hundreds of Crabtrees buried at Heptonstall and so far I haven’t seen anything exceptional in Eliza’s ancestry to have pointed towards such a large property.
She lived there with two unmarried siblings, Mary Hannah and Lewis. This in itself is most unusual. The farm was built in the late 16th century as a yeoman clothier’s house and the main door has a stone, possibly from an earlier barn inscribed WMC 1691 for William and Mary Cockcrofy (yet another very common name). There is a stained-glass window in the kitchen with figures and dated 1680 for William and his wife. A lead spout is dated 1727. The laithe here is dated 1859.
Rejoining the lane a looked to my left and through some optical illusion it appeared that the lane headed in a perfectly straight line to Heptonstall church. The next dwelling I’d come to find was Stephenson House. This was the last house on road, on my right and there was no indication of its name on the property. It’s front faced the Calder valley with the same amazing views and its back was built into the hillside below the road. From that point on the road became a very step path through the fields, looking rarely used. I decided to backtrack rather than go on.
Stephenson House – My ancestor here was James Clark and he lived there in 1904. His grandfather, James Wade was a retired clogg manufacturer born in Hebden Bridge in 1816. I can’t find any records for him or his business. In 1881 he was living in Stephenson house with his son, William Clark , a farmer of 10 ½ acres with his wife (born in Preston) and 6 children, one of whom was James. 1871 they were at park which I now realize must be Park Lane since it’s next to Stubb on the census , a walk I’ve discovered since lockdown.
Yes, that’s correct. I’ve followed the route of the census man and now that I’ve been doing all this exploring I can make sense of his route. James was born in 1875 and baptized at Mytholmroyd church. He was living at ‘The Park’ – now Park Lane. Presumably it’s called the Park because this was once part of the Erringden deer park. Erringden’s origins can be traced back to the Vikings when it was known as Heyrikdene which means Valley of Erik or the Valley of the High Ridge (Norse). In 1106 Norman Earl de Warren fenced it in as a deer park.
By 1881 the family are at Stephenson house and he continued to live there after his marriage to Marianna Gibson in 1904. Her great granddad was Samuel Gibson, the fossil man! At the time of her marriage she was living at Oxford House, where her father, Thomas, was a dentist. On his marriage certificate James is a fustian manufacturer. I can’t find them on the 1911 census, or indeed, anything about his fustian company, but by 1939 they are installed at Machpelah House, close to the railway station. James and Marianne were buried at Heptonstall close to east window. The inscription reads “ James Gibson. RDS Machpehlah house. Also his wife Elizabeth who died at Southport of Machpelah house. Also Marianne wife of James Clark, and James Clark died Jan 24, 1958 aged 82.” There’s a very ostentatious marble plinth.