Thomas Kershaw – architect

During my online research into the Halstead branch of my family I came across two Thomas Kershaws, one the grandnephew of the other who was destined to become a well known architect in the Calderdale area. Could this be ‘my’ Thomas Kershaw? I noticed that David Cant, a local historian who had helped me solve several puzzles in my ancestry research was responsible for the section about Thomas on the Malcolm Bull website and as it happened he attended the Hebden Bridge historical society meeting I was to attend that evening so afterwards, in Old Gate, when a few of the members went for a drink I asked David about his entry about Thomas and he got back to me a couple of days later with a copy of his notes. Handel’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann Halstead had married Thomas Kershaw in January 1882 in the registration district of Todmorden though I haven’t been able to find a marriage certificate online. In 1881 Elizabeth Ann was living on Bridge Street, Hebden Bridge and was a dressmaker along with her 2 sisters Mary and Clara. Thomas meanwhile was living at ‘Air View, Wadsworth’ in 1881 as an architect’s clerk. His father, John (born 1834) was a stone mason, a widower. John’s father, also Thomas (born 1807) states his occupation on his marriage certificate in 1831 as weaver but ten years later on the 1841 census he, too, gives his occupation as stone mason. So this interest in masonry and architecture goes back several generations.

Ayre View in the village of Old Town, above Hebden Bridge

Now the name Air View rang a bell immediately. Just to the West of Old Town is the adjacent community of Wainsgate and when I’ve walked along Akroyd Lane the little stone terrace with the most amazing views of Heptonstall and further to Stoodley Pike has always caught my attention. The River Aire is nowhere near here! How could this terrace be named Air View?

View from Akroyd Lane

Besides which, the sign on Air View terrace is spelled Ayre. This strange anomaly is why I’d noticed it. The next terrace is Hebden View – and yes, there’s a perfect view over Hebden Water. Both yesterday and today I’d expected to wake up to snow and ice and though dull, dreary and cold looking when I opened the curtains I decided to go up to Ayre View just to take a photo. I got off the little bus on Akroyd Lane and approached the terrace. Wouldn’t you just know it! Two stone masons were working on some pointing at the right hand house in the terrace, the one I’d determined must have been Thomas’s because it was closest to Wainsgate Lane on the 1881 census.

Current stone masons working on what was, in 1881, the home of the Kershaws, a family of stone masons.

I chatted with the stone masons for a few minutes. It was obvious that they’ve been doing some renovation on various bits of the stonework. And then the front door opened and out popped David, the current owner of the property. Despite the freezing temperature we spent some time talking about the building which has been his home for two years ‘mainly because of the view’ but he didn’t know anything about the history of the property – not even the date when it was built. He did tell me that he’d once been told that it probably dated from 1905 because the next terrace – Waterloo – was built in 1905. He’d been told that Ayre View terrace was ‘a step up’ from Waterloo. I pointed out the leaf carvings on the door lintels. ‘Ah’ he said, ‘I’ve never noticed them before.’ He suggested I came back sometime to chat with the man on the left of the terrace who has lived there since the 1950s and ‘knows all that’s to know.’

Air View is made up of 3 identical stone cottages on the corner of Wainsgate Lane that leads to the chapel where I’ve spent many an enjoyable hour at the annual concert series that now take place in the chapel that is no longer used for worship.

Wainsgate Chapel heritage day. The stark exterior gives no idea of what treasure are to be found inside
Darius Battiwalla playing the organ at heritage day, 2023

The cottages adjoin a taller building that protrudes from the cottages, and then 2 older looking cottages complete the row. In 1881 Thomas was living with his widowed dad, John and his 5 sisters who were all employed in the cotton industry as weavers, winders and spinners. Next door but one was the home of John’s parents, Thomas (stone mason) and Judith, and his unmarried brother, Jonas, also a stone mason and contractor. The next house on the 1881 census is the home of John and Ann Parker, both in their 30s with their 6 year old son John William. Surely they must be related to Thomas senior’s wife whose maiden name was Parker?

So, with 3 generations of the same family living in such close proximity up at Old Town, all pursuing careers as stone masons and building contractors I wanted to find out more about them, and find out more about Old Town, this small village perched on a narrow terrace between open moorland to one side and the steep drop into Hebden Bridge on the other. Dominating the view of the current one thousand residents of the village is the huge chimney built for the Mitchell Brothers mill which was opened in 1851. The mill itself is currently being converted into flats – see my blog:

Old Town Mill from the reservoir

In 1841 there were 14 households at Boston Hill, an area of Old Town. Two of the families who were to become very important in the story of Old Town, the Mitchells and the Cousins, were living there, cheek by jowel with Thomas Kershaw and his wife Judith Parker who he had married on May 5, 1831 across the valley in Heptonstall. In fact, the tower of the new church in Heptonstall dominated the view across the Hebden Valley. The Kershaws must have witnessed its construction as the tower rose up above its predecessor’s.

Boston Hill cottages today

In fact, in 1851 Thomas Kershaw was at number 7 and numbers 8, 9 and 10 were the homes of the Cousins and the Mitchells who built Old Town Mill that very year. In the 1841 census Thomas was 35, a stone mason, his wife, Judith, also 35 was a weaver and they had three children Sarah, 10 John, 8 and Jonas 1.

Map dated 1910 showing Boston Hill House, home of the later Mitchells, built c 1910.
Boston Hill House. Perhaps one of the adjacent cottages had been home to the Kershaws. All the buildings have been demolished and the pond is now the cricket pitch!

In 1851 Thomas was continuing as a stone mason, Judith was a worsted weaver. Sarah, now aged 19 was a reeler in the cotton factory, while John, 17, and Jonas, only 11 years old was registered as a stone mason too. Next door were Mitchells (worsted manufacturer) and next door to the Mitchells were the Cousins (land proprietor).

By 1861, still working as a stone mason, Thomas had moved his family down the field to Fearney Field Farm where he combined farming with his masonary work. The farm was divided into three homesteads and Thomas’s son John had married Mary Ann and they lived in cottage number 3. Between father and son was Nimrod Haigh and his family. He was named Nimrod almost 60 years before Elgar named his Nimrod Variations! Nothing much had changed by the 1871 census except that John’s family had grown to 7 children – all born in the first 12 years of their marriage. The oldest was Thomas, aged 12, a factory operative. At the bottom of the valley, living close to Hebden Water was Thomas Gibson, another of my ancestors whose story can be found in a previous blog, who was operating a photography studio at Dog Bottom at the same time! Chances are that they knew each other being adjacent on the path of the census taker.

But by 1881 Thomas was living at Aire View on the main road through Old Town. I presume that these were new houses at the time. There must have been a strong family connection between father Kershaw and his sons because living next door but one, just as they had been at Fearney farm was his son, John Kershaw, already a widower at age 44, and John’s son Thomas and his 5 sisters. Aged only 22, Thomas is already described as a ‘clerk/architect, surveyor’ – suggesting he is a clerk to an architect. His academic prowess and determination was evident at an early age and he’d already been mentioned in three articles in the newspaper by this time. In 1875, aged 16, he’d taken machine construction and drawing in the Old Town Science Classes, gaining a 2nd class pass in the elementary class. The following year Thomas passed plane and solid geometry advanced stage 2nd class, machine construction and drawing advanced stage 2nd class (self taught) and inorganic chemistry elementary stage first class. In 1878, aged 19 he’d taken exams in Plane and solid geometry scoring A1, and also Magnetism and electricity E1. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out more about these Old Town science classes but I presume they were on a par with mechanics’ institutes. Indeed the next article in the newspaper were of the results of the science classes at Heptonstall’s Mechanics Institute. But it would appear that Thomas was still busy with his day job for an article in the 1878 paper states that it is “Resolved, that Thomas Kershaw be allowed to get sets in Skip-hill quarry at 2s 6d per yard, and boulders at ls. per yard.” There are many former quarries on Midgley Moor but I think the one near Mr Skip at the top of Wadsworth Lane is probably the one being referred to.

The next big event was his marriage at Slack Chapel to Elizabeth Ann Halstead, daughter of Handel Halstead, a shuttle manufacturer and sometime organists at Slack Chapel whose own story can be found on another page in my blog.

Slack Chapel is now someone’s home.

Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of their marriage certificate but their only child, a daughter named Florence Evaline, was born on June 13, 1882. In 1912 she was to marry Arthur Dobson, a gas engineer living at Stannary Hall in Halifax. Unfortunately the account of their wedding in the newspaper is poorly reproduced and difficult to decipher: The marriage took place this afternoon at Halifax Parish Church of Mr. Arthur eldest son of Mr. Wm Dobson,of Stannary Hall and Miss Florence Eveline Kershaw, only daughter ofMr. Thomas Kershaw, Trinity Place. . The bride, who was given away by her father wore a beautiful gown of ivory satin Oriental, having a full length train falling from the waist caught up at bottom with . . .

Thomas had been initiated into the Lodge of Probity, the oldest in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1901, and I was curious to know if the Freemasons’ Hall in St John’s Place where his daughter’s wedding reception was held still existed. And yes, it did, in a rather unique way.

This was what it looked like when Florence and Arthur held their wedding reception there

And here is a current view. The Halifax Civic Trust urged the Department of the Environment to block the demolition of the hall, a listed building and subsequently although the rest of the building was demolished in 1988 the front facade was incorporated into offices of the Halifax Building Society.

A number of the Dobson family lived at “Stannary Hall” in Lewis st, Halifax. Originally from Barnard Castle, Durham, Nicholas, Matthew, Graham, and William Dobson were all managers at Crossley Mills. But I’ll save my research into the Dobsons of Stannary Hall for another day.

In the same year that Florence and Arthur were married Thomas submitted plans for the erection of 4 dwelling houses on the Hangingroyd estate in Hebden Bridge. Three years later a similar plan for 4 dwelling houses on Brunswick Street was also passed.

Brunswick Street

By 1891 Thomas, his wife and child had moved from the wild open moorland of Old Town to the built up area of Halifax known as King Cross.

15 Queen’s Road, Halifax where Thomas and his family were living in 1891

In the census of that year he gives his profession as architect’s assistant. By 1900 his skill as an architect was beginning to be recognised and he was responsible for the design of some large buildings in the centre of Halifax that I’ve often looked at but had no idea of my connection to their designer. Take for instance the bus stop on George Street where I’ve spent many a time waiting for the bus back to Hebden from Halifax. Directly across the street from the bus stop is a large ornate four storey building on the ground floor being occupied by a building society and a bank. It’s a perfectly symmetrical building with a central arched doorway with the words District Bank Chambers engraved in marble. In 1908 this building housed Thomas’s architect’s office. He had been engaged in the redevelopment of George street in 1900, removing a whole street of buildings to open up the street into a ‘square’ with gardens providing a picturesque entrance to the town from the West.

George Street before its redevelopment

The central street of houses were demolished to make the garden square.

In 1908 he is recorded to have a practice at Bank Buildings on Commerical Street, the main street of Halifax. There are several ornate bank buildings on that street and it took me a while to discover that the building where Thomas worked belonged to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank and is now occupied by Harvey’s, an upscale clothing and department store. I thought it would be appropriate if I purchased my mother-of-the-bride’s outfit from there, so off I went and found my perfect outfit for Anna’s upcoming wedding.

Harvey’s on the corner of Commercial and Rawson Streets where Thomas had offices in 1908

In 1904 Thomas announced plans to build 13 houses at Scarbottom in Mytholmroyd. I haven’t found them. Did he build them?

I found a reference a project back in his home village of Old Town in the middle of November 1905. In fact, it was on the very street where he had lived. Aire View is on the corner of the unpaved lane leading to Wainsgate Chapel. The graveyard at Wainsgate Chapel was fast running out of available space for new graves and so an additional acre and a quarter was added, fenced in along gentle slopes, enough room for an additional 1000 graves, 8 ft by 4ft each. The ceremonial opening of the gates to the new graveyard was performed by two of the Redman siblings whose connection to the chapel go back 5 generations. My family married into the Redmans too! The minister, Rev James Jack assured the gathered crowd that there was nothing sorrowful or pathetic about the ceremony but much to rejoice over. After opening the gate which was secured by a strand of vari-coloured ribbon each Redman was given a bible donated by Miss Mitchell of Boston Hill. Following a short meeting in the chapel the chairman of the extension committee, Mr Redman, presented the financial statement of the project, naming the architect as Thomas Kershaw who received  £21-2s 1d for his work. However, when all the contractors had been paid for their work there was still a  £210 deficit in spite of various contributions from various benefactors. But with 1000 grave spaces bringing in revenue of  £1 per grave he was confident that the scheme would redeem itself.

Inside Wainsgate chapel

Another church project was his work on the complete renewal of Heywood Chapel in Northowram in 1908, a chapel that had been in existence since 1673 when Oliver Heywood, a popular but controversial minister, first established a chapel in his parlour at Northowram House.

Photos from Alan Burnett. Heywood Chapel

Yorkshire Industrial heritage site has an article and photos of a very different building that Thomas designed just four years later. Wellington Mills on Quebec Street in Elland, a town halfway between Halifax and Huddersfield had two steam-powered cotton-spinning mills. A five-storeyed thirteen-bay built in 1860 burned down in 1875 as did the four-storeyed fifteen-bay mill built in 1868. In 1912 both mills were rebuilt both of fireproof construction to the designs of Thomas Kershaw,

Wellington Mills, Elland

Thomas’s next big project was to design a cinema in King Cross, just above Halifax. I’m amazed by the diversity of this man’s projects: a cemetery, a cinema, a church and a huge mill! From I read that The palladium cinema opened on 30th March 1914 and was designed by a local Halifax architect, a Mr Kershaw. It seated 895 patrons in stalls and most unusual balcony. This occupied only two thirds of the width of the building and barely projected over the stalls. It had the appearance of a giant private box but contained approximately 7 rows of seats. Sightlines cannot have been great as the ceiling above the main hall was lower than that of the balcony and an interesting lions head plaque decorates the drop wall from balcony to stalls ceilings. It must have given the effect of watching a film through a letterbox opening. It had a tiny foyer and a wide, clearly altered for cinemascope, proscenium opening. A barrel vaulted and segmented ceiling over stalls with muted decorated plaster bands.Owned by Star Cinemas from around 1944/45 it was re-named New Palladium Cinema. It closed on 18th April 1962 with Bobby Darin in “Come September” and went over to use as a bingo club. It is substantially intact and in a fair condition although the façade has been altered and the glass canopy removed.

I went along to look at Thomas’s former cinema. Downstairs is now a much used Cash and Carry, which always has its forecourt strewn with errant trolleys and crates of empty bottles.

It appears to do a roaring trade. However, upstairs is very different. It’s a fabric and yarn store stocking the most beautiful sari fabrics of silks, cottons and synthetic fibres. I climbed the stairs thinking about all the footsteps that must have trodden these stairs before me. It’s one huge room now with nothing to identify it as a former cinema. I chatted to the couple in charge and they knew all about the building’s former life as a cinema. What an array of buttons, threads, ribbons, and trimmings. It felt very appropriate that one of my ancestors was now connected with fabric art, a craft that both my daughter, Rachel, and I engage in prolifically!

Thre’s obviously a lot more research needed into Thomas’s architectural accomplishments. In March 2023 I set off to find Thomas’s grave. It wasn’t difficult. Slack Top cemetery is well maintained and has a beautiful view over Hardcastle Crags to Shackleton Hill. Thomas’s grave stone is an elaborate affair in keeping with his status in society.

From the centenary souvenir of Heptonstall Slack Baptist church 1807-1907 I found the poem and photograph of the church. As I prepare to play at Heptonstall Methodist church for a Christmas gathering it seems fitting to include this photo of a church that played such an important role in the lives of the Kershaws and the Halsteads.

A day with Mortimer Moss

A day with Mortimer Moss. 1846-1899

Mortimer and his siblings, shared with me by James Moss

On the 29th of March 1846 Mortimer Moss entered the world, the son of Hague Moss and his wife Martha who had married at St John’s Halifax exactly 9 months before. Hague was 20 and Martha 21 when they married, typical ages for marriage in the mid nineteenth century. The couple would go on to have at least seven more children. The family set up home in Garden Square in Hebden Bridge, an area now occupied by the Town Hall that was once the garden attached to The Hole in the Wall pub. There’s no evidence of a ‘garden square’ in the centre of Hebden Bridge now but I found this reference to it. In 1927 an article in the Hebden Bridge Times contains the following reminiscence: “Going up Lower Scout one is reminded of the narrow strip of land and Pitt Street where a few cottages and a smithy stood between the old bridge and St George’s Bridge. Then a fine garden, full of fruit trees, extended from the old buildings  by the Council Offices right on to Messrs. R. B. Brown’s works. It was a picture to see, but even that was once darkened by tragedy, for while the gardener  and some of his children were in the garden someone threw a stone from the Scout, killing one of his sons.”

Hague was a fustian cutter, by profession, as was his father, James, before him. On July 6, 1851 Mortimer was baptised in Heptonstall church along with his sister Mary Hannah, and brother James. Mary Hannah was 3 years old at the time and James was just a few days short of his first birthday. It was a common occurrence for several children from one family to be baptised at the same time. By the time of their christening the family had moved to Machpelah where Mortimer’s great grandfather, James Moss, had set up a fustian making business in an upper room which I had the fortune of visiting recently when the property went up for sale.

Photo showing the long line of windows necessary to bring light into the fustian cutting room.

By 1861 Mortimer’s family had moved yet again, this time to live in the tightly packed area of High Street now demolished, and his father Hague was now listed as an employer of one man and two boys as fustian cutters. On the same census Mortimer, now aged 15, is a cotton fustian cutter so it’s possible that one of Hague’s employees was his own son. During their time living on High street two of Mortimer’s brothers had died. John Whittaker was 16 months old and he died 11 months before his brother, Abraham was born. Another brother, Samuel, was 3 years old when he died in 1864 but his mother was 38 at his birth and would have been classed as a geriatric mother and she didn’t have any more children after him.

On April 14, 1869 Mortimer married Mary Harwood in the same place that his parents had married. Mary was the first of nine children born to James Harwood and his wife Mary Ann nee Ashworth. James was a whitesmith living at Foster Clough, a cluster of half a dozen houses high above the Calder Valley near Midgley. By 1851 James had added ‘shopkeeper’ to his whitesmithing business and by 1861 the family had moved to Stocks House Midgley.

The rear garden of Stocks House

One weekend in 2021 I’d been to the Midgley Open Gardens and had the pleasure of wandering around the rear gardens of Stocks House.

Stocks House from the main road

The year following their marriage the first of Mortimer and Mary’s eleven children were born. At first the family lived at Wood Bottom close to Foster Mill. Mortimer was a fustian cutter, a skilled job, but by 1881 the family had moved into the centre of Hebden Bridge and were living on Brunswick Street and Mortimer is listed as a fustian manufacturer although the word ‘employing’ has been crossed out. The 1881 census mentions that 3 houses were under construction on Brunswick Street and 6 were newly built. 5 more children would be born. 2 were twin baby boys who died during their first year, born when their mother, Mary was 41. How amazing it is that when my own twin daughters came to visit in November 2022 bringing my granddaughter to meet me for the first time they selected a place to stay on Brunswick Street, having no knowledge of our ancestral connection to the street. A few doors along from Mortimer’s family was the family of Handel Halstead, another ancestor whose story is to be found on another chapter in this blog.

Houses on Brunswick Street

An incident in the Spring of 1880 illustrates the level of achievement Mortimer had reached within the Hebden Bridge community while at the same time shows the plight of many of the workers in the town, especially the prevailence of misfortune due to intoxication. Mortimer was foreman of the jury into an inquest into the death of George Crabtree whose dead body was found in Colden Beck. Presumed he fell down a steep scar at Ragley above Eaves Bottom mill while in a state of intoxication. The body was washed down the clough the next day there being an unusually strong current and was recovered at Eaves Bottom and from there removed to the Bull Inn. Evidence given by PC Eastwood (the same policeman who had dealt with the drowning of Paul Taylor’s son in Colden Beck just a month before) ‘Only last week I was cautioning him I told him that he would some day be either getting killed or drowned if he continues to come home from Hebden Bridge the worse for drink. The road from valley up to the hilltop village of Blackshawhead runs along the side of a valley which is precipitous, the road being unfenced in places. A witness on Bridge Lanes saw him ‘badly drunk. He was staggering.’ A woman was wringing some clothes by the window when she saw the body in the river. She alerted some men at Eaves Bottom silk mill and the men pulled him out.

Colden Beck at Eaves Bottom

George, a widower, had worked as a scutcher tenter . According to a website explaining the various jobs in a cotton mill “Scutching is the separation of the valuable fibres from the woody seeds of the raw cotton. Considered one of the worst jobs in the mill – very low status!”

Later that year on the 6th of August 1880 6 year old Alfred Cobbe was found drowned in the canal at Hebble End wharf. Alfred had been playing with his a 6 year old friend James Heap around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Alfred had a syringe and as he knelt down to fill it he overbalanced and fell into the canal. James ran to tell Alfred’s mum but when they got back to the canal they couldn’t see him. While they were searching for him Mortimer came upon them and learning of the situation he turned back for the grappling irons and started to search. He was on the opposite side of the canal from the tow path and the 4th time of casting in the grapples brought the body to the surface. The body would have been in the canal for ¼ of an hour. An inquest held at the Bull Inn, the same inn that George Crabtree’s inquest had been held in, returned a verdict of accidental death.

The former Bull Inn, now the home of artist Kate Lycett

The cafe at Hebble End is often where I can be found in the early evening on sunny summer days, sitting outside the cafe overlooking the canal with a glass of cider reading a book while keeping one watchful eye on the geese while a large flamingo stares down at me!

Afternoon relaxation at Hebble End

The building is part of Hebble End Mill and now houses some small shops and art studios, along with the cafes. In the Spring, during mating season the geese are aggressive and will actually attack the unsuspecting person out for a gentle stroll but by May the goslings hatch and one such evening I sat and watched 6 furry goslings trying to fit beneath their mummy’s wing. Once I learned of young Alfred’s unfortunate demise in this very spot I found myself always remembering his early death when I sit by the canal.

View from my table at Hebble End

From Hebble End it’s only a five minute walk to Brunswick Street where Mortimer was living in 1880, having been living at Wood Bottom since his marriage to Mary Harwood. Opposite the terraced houses is a large four storey former fustian factory that’s been converted into apartments. This was Brunswick Mill, built in 1883 owned and operated by the Moss Brothers. In the National Archives I found the following description: “The business started about 1867 although the Moss family were engaged in the neighbourhood for some time prior to that date. Mr H Moss died in 1870 and from that point the firm was known as Moss Brothers. The original site of the business was at Hebble End, Hebden Bridge, between the canal and the River Calder. (The current site of the Coop). In c1881, however, as business improved they acquired 3-storey premises in Brunswick St for their warehouse and a factory in Market St and dye works at Bridgeroyd, Eastwood, Todmorden (the building is still there and used as a warehouse). They produced a variety of fabrics including corduroy and moleskins. By 1890 they employed over 200 people and traded with America, South America, New Zealand and Europe. They also had a London Office at 1 Trump St, King St.” The upper floors of Brunswick Mill are accessed by the street above and so I pulled myself up to Melbourne Street. As I reached Melbourne Street the clouds which had looked threatening earlier in the day had decided to release their rain. There was a long row of houses on my left, their front doors opening directly onto the street and since there are no back doors the wheelie bins and recycling bags were strewn along the pavement. Flower pots and garden ornaments strove in vain to obscure next week’s contribution to the nearest landfill. I was in search of number 13, Abraham Moss’s home. I made my way past identical houses – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. But there the regularity stopped and a long low building, designated Melbourne House had two doors with buzzers alongside for several apartments. I was so disappointed. I looked further along the street and recognized the spot where I’d taken a photo of a man standing on a wall hanging out his washing when I’d stayed on the next street in 2016. I’d ended up composing another movement for my piece for concert band – Liquid Sunshine, so I headed towards this inspirational washing line! What I found surprised me, but it was unconnected with the washing line. The houses on my left began again, this time beginning with number 13, and yes, the door was open! I tried calling ‘hello,’ a few times into the darkened hallway but though I could hear voices inside I didn’t get any reply. As I turned to leave I noticed a man tending a small plot of land on the other side of the street. I explained my quest and he told me that the long low building between the houses had once been a mill and had been converted into apartments around 2005. Ah, that was making sense. I’d found the upper entrance to Brunswick Mill with its main entrance on the Brunswick street, the street below. I thanked him and returned to number 13 where, after a few more hellos into the darkness a man came to the door. He was interested in my quest, especially when I showed him a photo of Abraham Moss. “Just a minute. I’ll go and get the house deeds.” A few minutes he returned with papers in hand showing that the building had been built in 1883 and had belonged to Mortimer Moss, Abraham’s eldest brother. I think the man was quite surprised by the yelp I let out realizing that I’d just found Abraham’s house, and Brunswick Mill, the family’s first mill and the beginnings of the English Fustian Association. For a few moments the man was distracted less by my yelp than by his mother-in-law coming out to tell him to put on some shoes, since he was in stockinged feet and the rain was now quite relentless. Just as I took my leave a young man carrying some shopping bags came up the street. “When was the mill converted?” asked my man directing his question to the newcomer. “Well, me and me mates used to play around in there when it were derelict – and I’m 28 now. Eee, we ‘ad a reet ol’ time in there!” Living next door to Abraham at number 15 was his brother, Frederick, also a fustian manufacturer. It made perfect sense that the owners of the mill were living literally next door to it, and Mortimer just across Brunswick Street.

The current owner with the house’s deeds in hand

An 1885 report in the Todmorden and District News was very pertinent to the Covid pandemic of 2020 when four families were brought before the Todmorden petty sessions because they had not had their children vaccinated. Members of three of the families appeared before the sessions, raising conscientious objections, and pointing out how their previous children had previously suffered after receiving vaccinations. They were ordered to get their children vaccinated and pay the costs. In the case of Mortimer Moss, who did not appear at the sessions, a fine of 5/- and costs was imposed. Mortimer’s brother James, who was present at the sessions said, “I shall not have my child vaccinated, and I will pay all the fines you put on me.” In 1867 it had became law that all children under the age of 14 needed to receive the smallpox vaccine but there was much resistance to this law. For some Victorians these laws marked an infringement of civil liberties for the sake of improving public health and mass demonstration were held in many places throughout England. In 2021 several times I looked from my window in the centre of Hebden Bridge to see people gathering in the street below with placards urging people not to get vaccinated against Covid.

Nutclough House with Eiffel Street behind

In several issues in February and March 1889 of the Todmorden advertiser a detached house was advertised to let with or without stable and coach house. This was Nutclough House. In Bryan Moss’s extensive research he states that it was taken by Hague Moss but by 1891 Mortimer’s family had moved in back to the Nutclough area which was above the smoke and grime of the factory chimneys in the valley bottom.

1891 November 13 Arthur Wood farm labourer of Ferney Lee Midgley was charge with stealing game without a license to do so. According the the report in the newspaper Mortimer Moss’s wife, Mary testified –the defendant came to my house and wanted to sell her a brace of grouse. He wanted 5/6 for them and she gave the money to him and her took the grouse out of his pocket. No gun license. Said he had found the birds. Had tried the landlord of the White Swan and also to a game dealer in HB but they wouldn’t give him the asking price. Fine of 10s for each bird and 15/6 costs. The original Nutclough cotton spinning mill was built in 1797with water from the stream known at Ibbotroyd Clough providing the power. By the mid nineteenth century firms of dyers and finishers were taking over fustian cutting, which was still a hand craft, but meant that fustian cutters were losing their independence. A group of local fustian cutters, including Joseph Greenwood and James Moss were keen to start a cooperative workshop, becoming first signatories of the rules of the Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Society registered in 1870. The Manchester Co-operative Congress had taken place shortly before this, and this influenced Greenwood and others who were already supporters of the principle of profits to labour. Having set up their first workshop in Crown Street, they were very active in persuading cooperative stores in the valley to give them orders. In 1873 Nutclough Mill was purchased by the growing Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Society. HIn the 1880s and the 1890s it was extended and converted to steam power. As I passed the imposing building today I noticed for the first time a sign on the door The Nutclough Hotel.

Nutclough House was a hotel

I knew that it had become a hotel after the Moss family left but I’d never see the sign before. It’s a large two storey detached house on the Keighley Road, close to the river running through Nutclough woods and the reservoir that once provided the water for Nutclough mill directly opposite.

It still retains the name on the front door

Behind the house is a retaining wall, taller than the building, above which are up and over 4 storey houses on Eiffel Street. I went up to Eiffel Street to see if I could see into the rear garden of Nutclough house since I had found many references to Mortimer’s wife being a successful gardener. In 1892 she won 5/- for hand bouquet of wild flowers that she entered in the Hebden Bridge floral and horticultural annual show. Two years later it was Mary’s turn to present the prizes at the Hebden Bridge Sports Day, accompanied by music provided by the Black Dyke Mills band for whom I have a special affinity having seen them in rehearsals and concerts during one of which the conductor introduced me to the audience as a ‘rich Californian!’

With pictures of Mary’s beautiful colourful prize winning flowers in my mind’s eye I was fortunate to find a resident of Eiffel Street attending the potted plants outside her front door. She told me that the houses on Eiffel Street were built in 1898, and I thought of the difficulty of building these four story houses on the near vertical hillside. I jested with her that these retaining walls must have been well built unaware that in the very same year the retaining wall at the rear of Nutclough’s garden shunted into the yard.

Looking down on Nutclough House from Eiffel Street

As the newspaper reads: “October1898 For some time the wall had been noticed to be giving way but how to remedy it was a difficult problem. When the collapse came happily there was no one in the way although only a few minutes before several children had been walking on the new burr wall which was almost completed and partly railed. The collapse is described by an eye witness as terribly startling. This can easily be imagined seeing that tons upon tons of debris including stones weighing several hundredweight fell many feet. If any of the occupants of the house had happened to be passing they must have been killed outright and buried. The debris filled the yard behind crashing down four or five hen cotes and damaged 700 or o winter bulbs which were laid ready for potting. The only living things sacrificed were poultry; it was at first feared that a valuable dog had been buried in the rubbish but the animal was found to have been elsewhere at the time. A rough estimate of the damage put it at from £200-300.”

The following month in a further landslip Nutclough house was again the receptacle of several carts of soil. It was noted that ‘Mr Fleming, his groom, made good his escape.’ Presumably the construction of the houses on on Eiffel Street had destabilised the ground and after heavy rains in the autumn the weight of the water-soaked soil caused the landslides.

The same man, Mr J. E. Fleming, had, on Tuesday evening, February 4th, narrowly avoided being drowned. He was at Nutclugh feeding the hens and a pullet had got into a slam. Fleming tried to reach it and in doing so slipped and fell into the water himself. Fleming tried to reach it and in doing so slipped and fell into the water himself. He screamed out for help and Mr Harwood Moss, Mortimer’s son, tried to effect a rescue by means of a broom handle. This Fleming pulled into the water but Mr Moss managed to recover it and as Fleming rose for the second time was successful in leading him to the shallow part so that he could get out.

By 1894 it appears that Mortimer has entered the property market. An article in the local newspaper reads: ” The plots submitted by Mr. Mortimer Moss for the intended erection of 10 dwelling houses on the Hangingroyd estate, are rejected, on the ground that they do not conform to the Board’s bye-laws with regard to the width of new streets.” But by the following year, 1895, Mortimer had successfully purchased the vacant land on Hangingroyd lane from Mr J Sutcliffe, the Lee. 1100 yards – paid 1 pound per yard. “Various rumours have been circulated as to what Mr Moss purposes o do with the land but nothing is known”. Three years later Mortimer was the owner of Eaves Wood at the lover end of the Colden Valley. Five Hebden Bridge lads were charged with setting fire to it and were fined at Todmorden petty sessions.

Later the same year, 1898 one of the sons of late Mr Mullens, a water diviner, was engaged in searching for water in the same Eaves Wood for Mortimer.

One of the most famous British water diviners. He was born at Colerne, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, on November 12, 1838, into a family of 11 children. His father was a stone mason and Mullins followed the same trade. At the age of 21, while employed by Sir John Ould to build a house in Gloucestershire, a dowser (water diviner) was employed to locate a water supply. Various people present tried their hand with the divining-rod, including Ould’s daughter, who was frightened when the rod suddenly turned over violently. An abundant water supply was found at the spot. Ould was most impressed and later asked all the workmen on his estate, about 150 men, to try divining with a rod. When Mullins tried, the rod moved so violently it snapped in two. Thereafter Mullins was considered a dowser, although he continued in his trade as mason. He married in 1859 and continued his trade as a mason, however he devoted the last twelve years of his life to dowsing and well-sinking. He was immensely successful, locating over five thousand sources of water. After his death in May 1894, his business was carried on by his sons, one of whom was a dowser, although not so successful as his father. The firm of John Mullins & Sons was one of the most famous businesses of its kind, claiming royal patronage. (from So John Mullens’s son came to Hebden Bridge and sought a water supply in Eaves Wood. “He succeeded in spotting 14 or 15 places where water could be found and none of them at no great depth below the surface. The system employed was the same as that adopted by his late sire – the forked hazel twig.”

1912 March 22- Eaves estate had been purchased for 3500pounds from the executors of late Mortimer Moss by a number of persons who found themselves out of employment during the cotton strike of 1907 with the idea of starting a manufacturing concern on co-partnership lines to be named Eaves Self-Help Limited. It is proposed to erect a weaving shed behind the larger mill. A large portion of the site is suitable for dwelling houses, there being stone quarries on the site for building purposes. Pennine Horizons tells of the fate of the self help concern: The Eaves Mills, Upper and Lower, had been silk mills but ceased trading early 20th century and were taken over by a workers co-operative for weaving but the venture failed and the mills were eventually demolished after the First World War and the site became a housing estate.

By the time he was 45 Mortimer is listed as a fustian manufacturer in his own right. Like most of the leading industrialists that I’ve researched not only was Mortimer a leading business owner but he made significant contributions to other areas of society, for, after all, his employees deserved looking after. Like many of the business men Mortimer was a free mason, as was my own father. In 1889 Mortimer had taken a leading position in Littleborough being installed as worshipful master at the Littleborough masons Benevolence lodge, an acting master of the lodge. Also of note is the strong affiliation that many of these business owners had with the masonic lodges, though it must be a mere coincidence that the school building that the Moss family constructed on Hangingroyd Lane later became a masonic hall – and is currently up for sale for £150,000, less than a one bedroom apartment sells for in Hebden Bridge, because it’s been deemed structurally unsafe. (Update: Summer 2023. It’s been purchased by a developer and is being converted into apartments.)

The former Moss School on Hangingroyd Road that later became the Masonic Hall

I find it remarkable that every one of these men are related to me in some way – but then again, perhaps it’s not so remarkable since all the leading fustian families in the town intermarried. On December 10 1894 five Fustian Manufacturers stood for the Council as Temperance Candidates including Mortimer, his brothers Abraham and James, and two relatives by marriage Richard Redman and Charles Lord. The wives of these prominent figures in town were also hard at work and highly visible in the life of the community. The summer of 1895 saw the fifth annual gathering of united choirs from the particular baptist churches of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Hope Street Sunday school (now the town’s library) was kindly lent for tea purposes and more than 500 friends turned up. “The visitors were highly pleased with their tea and the ample manner in which they had been served. Heading up The trayholders were Mrs Mortimer Moss, Mrs James Moss, Mrs Fred Moss, Mrs Abraham Moss,” along with another nine ladies. After tea they should have adjourned to Zion Chapel but it was too small for the 500 attendees so they obtained permission to use Hope Chapel for their renderings of pieces from Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation. This chapel, less than a minute’s walk from where I live is still the venue for many performances. I’m currently looking forward to seeing The Spooky Men’s Chorus perform there next week.

Spooky Men’s chorus performing in Hope Chapel in 2022

On September 2nd 1895 Notice was given that the partnership between the four Moss brothers, Mortimer, James, Frederick Hague, and Abraham Moss carrying on the business as Fustian Manufacturers, Merchants, Dyers, and Finishers at Brunswick Works Hebden Bridge, at Bridgeroyd Dyeworks, Eastwood, and at No 1 Trump Street, in the city of London (!) and elsewhere under the name of ‘Moss Brothers’, was dissolved by mutual consent so far as regards the said Mortimer Moss, who retires from the firm. All said businesses will for the future be carried on by the said James, Frederick Hague, and Abraham Moss, under the name Moss Brothers. Mortimer was just 49 when he retired which suggests ill health, and sure enough four years later he died at the family residence of Nutclough Clough house on March 25, 1899. He died somewhat unexpectedly though the local newspaper mentions that during the previous few days he had suffered from bronchitis. The cortege left Nutclough House, bound for Wainsgate Baptist Chapel high on the hillside in Old Town.

Wainsgate Chapel – An unassuming exterior gives little idea of the extravagant decoration inside

According to the chapel’s website: Today the chapel is a Grade 2* listed building hidden away amongst the trees and hills above Old Town. It is home to various artists who have their studios or workshops in the adjacent Sunday School building, whilst the main Sunday School room is currently used as a rehearsal space, part-time art gallery and as a venue for community events. It is also available for hire. The Chapel itself seats up to 300 and is used for special events, the occasional funeral and for an annual series of concerts held between April and October.

The intricate marble pulpit in Wainsgate chapel

(Update: I attended one last weekend and am looking forward to the history open day tomorrow, especially since I’ve recently discovered that one of my Kershaw ancestors was responsible for the extension and redevelopment of the graveyard adjoining the chapel).

The walls are in desperate need of repair

The newspaper account of Mortimer’s funeral read: In front of the hearse walked members of the Littleborough Benevolence Masonic Lodge followed by seven mourning coaches. As the cortege passed many of the neighbours showed respect by drawing their blinds. The coffin was pitch pine and walnut, with heavy brass furnishings. His fellow masons bore the body into the chapel and to the grave side. The Rev. Joseph Smith, pastor of Zion Particular Baptist church, read the 90th Psalm, after which the Rev. W. Jones of Hope church, offered few remarks. concluding with prayer. At the grave side Mr. Smith addressed the company concluding with prayer. The Freemasons filed past the grave, each dropping a spray of acacia on the coffin. It was finding Mortimer’s memorial at Wainsgate Chapel quite by chance in June 2022 that led me to find out more about this man whose estate at the time of his death was worth £20, 108 2s 5d, an equivalent of almost £3 million.

The grave of Mortimer, his wife and his daughter.

Just three weeks later Mortimer’s only surviving son Harwood, named after his mother’s maiden name, died at Nutclough House. Harwood was in business with his father on Crown Street working as a bookkeeper – the street I currently live on. Apparently they had a warehouse at 11 Crown Street. The building currently holds Weighsted, a sustainable food product shop, and Blue Sky Bakery. According to the newspaper “The deceased who was 26 years old had had a severe cold for several weeks. On Monday night, feeling rather worse than usual, he went to bed early. The following morning be began to be delirious and he continued in that state until his death.” His death certificate records the cause of death as Inflammation of the lungs and pneumonia. Like his father he was buried at Wainsgate Chapel and his name was added to his father’s memorial.

Harwood’s memorial

Mary found herself head of the household, still living at Nutclough House with her four daughters. Her brother, Wallace, moved in, perhaps to give support to the family. He was carrying on the Harwood family tradition of whitesmithing. However, Wallace passed away just three years later at the age of 42.

By 1909 Mary was living at Ibbotroyd, an imposing mansion on the steep road to Old Town, when she attended the funeral of Ada Harwood, her brother Edgar’s wife, who had fallen to her death from the trestle bridge at Blakedean.


Abraham Moss, her brother-in-law had been the foreman of the inquest jury. Ibbotroyd had been the home of the Hoyle family for at least two generations – another family I can trace back in my own ancestry. By 1911 Mary has moved to Heath Hall, Mythom, an imposing stone building divided into two dwellings. In one, a 7 roomed dwelling, lived Mary and her unmarried daughter Florence, now aged 36. In the other half of the house, containing a massive 13 rooms, lived John Crowther, a retired wholesale fustian clothier and his family of a wife, two daughters and also two domestic servants. One half of the house, presumably Crowther’s, with its 7 bedrooms and 3 reception rooms recently came up for sale for £550,000.

On March 31, 1918 Mary died, aged, aged 70. According to probate records she was living at Sandy Gate, on the road from Old Town into Hebden Bridge. Today Sandy Gate comprises a Victorian-looking terrace of 6 houses and a much older building, now painted white, containing 2 dwellings. Both

Sandy Gate

She left her money to her daughter Florence – all £46 15s 1d of it. That’s equivalent of just less than £3,000. Where did the rest of the money go? Mortimer’s £3 million had been left to Mary and her brother James Harwood. Hmm, when James, a shuttle tongue maker died he left £730 in his will to his wife. Where had all Mortimer’s money gone? That’s the million dollar question! Or perhaps it’s the 3 million dollar question.

Pencil note on the back says Sandy Gate 1880s-1900

But what had made me started thinking about Mortimer yesterday? With rain forecast for the next few days I wanted to take full advantage of the sunny but windy morning so I headed out to Old Town with thoughts of sitting in the cafe and reading a book (Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon) for an hour and then walking back down to Hebden. Once on’t’tops I decided to have a wander around the cemetery at Wainsgate chapel. I had read that many of my ancestors are buried there but I’d not come prepared with a plot chart or indeed trowels or brushes to help with deciphering inscriptions. As it happened the first inscription that I recognised was that of Mortimer Moss inscribed on an elaborate plinth along with several members of his family. So with the expected rain pounding on my windows the following day, renewing my regard for the accuracy of British weather forecasting, I sat down to write the story of Mortimer Moss, focusing not on his manufacturing concerns which can be found in other sources, but on his family.

Destined to be leaders of the community here are the multi millionaires to be!

His name was Eastwood

On the occasion of his golden wedding anniversary in 1928 the Todmorden and District news wrote the following account of Daniel’s life. He was born in 1854 at Lane Side, Wadsworth, being one of family of ten children, and spent the early portion of his life in that village. As far as I can ascertain from early maps Laneside was a terrace housing three families adjacent to the spot where Walker Lane Wesleyan chapel was built in 1872.

In the extended note that Ted Hughes included in his Remains of Elmet book of poetry he writes “The men who built the chapels were the same who were building the mills. They perfected the art of perching their towering, massive, stone, prison-like structures on drop-offs where now you would only just graze sheep.”1 How right he was. Before the chapel was built in 1872 there was a Sunday School. From what I learned from a lengthy article celebrating a quarter century of the school’s foundation, and sandwiched between pieces about a letter received by a county magistrate purporting to be from Jack the Ripper, and a progress report on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal marking the first anniversary of the first sod being cut, that non other than James Hoyle, another of my ancestors, had funded the building of this Sunday school in 1863. It was ‘established on Sunday morning, October 4th, 1863, through the kindness and benevolence of the late Mr. James Hoyle, Ibbotroyd, who fitted it up at his own expense at a cost of over £50 and not merely begun it but supported him until his death. It began on the first Sunday with 50 scholars and gradually increased to over 100 with over 20 teachers and officers. . . . as years rolled on the numbers increased and further space was needed and the late Mr Isaac Hoyle built the current sanctuary. A library was opened in connection to the school in 1864 and currently has 508 volumes ‘compare favourably with my other Sunday school library in the district. Singing class, choir, Young Mens Mutual Improvement Class but we are sorry to say that there is not as much interest in it as they would have liked. ““2 From 1863 until the building of the chapel in 1872 services were held at Club Houses, Old Town.

1 Remains of Elmet, Ted Hughes, 1979, p.71


Wesleyan chapel (now apartments) and the trees to its right was the location of Laneside. Photo taken from the garden outside Clubhouses.

Daniel was one of 10 children born to Thomas and Ann Eastwood. When they married in the mid 1840s Thomas was a worsted weaver, no doubt working at his home loom but by 1861 he was working for the railway, illustrating perfectly the abandonment of their traditional lifestyle of the home weavers and their seduction into the industrial age. Thomas went on to be a railway porter, a job he continued for the rest of his life.

Clubhouses, with the third storey weaving shop, May 2023

By 1871 the family have moved just across the street, Walker Lane, to Clubhouses. They must have watched the construction of the chapel from their windows. From 1863 until the building of the chapel in 1872 services were held at Club Houses, Old Town. This must have been when the Eastwoods were living in one of the six cottages that make up Clubhouses. This strangley named little terrace of six early 19th century lay just across Walker Lane Lane Side. They were built as an investment by a local funeral club, hence their unexpected name. Some of the houses are two storeys, and others are three.

Originally the upper storey was used as a communal weaving shop and each cottage had an internal communicating door on each floor. In 1871 Daniel was 16 and a cotton weaver. Of his other siblings three were employed as throstle spinners, 3 as cotton weavers, one as a grocer’s shop boy and one as a railway clerk who presumably went into Hebden with his father, the railway porter. The station had opened in 1840 when it was the Western terminus of the line from Leeds.

By the following year when Summit tunnel was completed trains ran between Leeds and Manchester, stopping in Hebden Bridge just a they do today. The current station buildings date from 1893.

The track going past the front of clubhouses down to Hebden Bridge. This would have been the path that Thomas his son took to work at the railway station 150 metres below.

Although his educational facilities as boy were very meagre, he has constantly sought extend his knowledge many ways. In early boyhood he attended day school taught by Mr. James Parker in the club room at Walker Lane. When he became nine years age commenced work in the mill half-timer,” his weekly contribution of 1s. 8d. to the family coffers being considered at that time a valuable addition their income. At 13 years of age he commenced working full time. For brief period attended the evening classes the Mechanics’ Institute, Hebden Bridge.’

On 24 July 1878, at the age of 24 Daniel married 23 year old Jane Stell a throstle spinner living with her widowed mother and 4 siblings at Carrs farm on Rowland Lane , a cart track in Old Town which I often walk along for its expansive views. An outbuilding is now Piglet’s House b&b. It’s less than ½ a mile from Clubhouses where Daniel was living until his marriage. The name of the adjacent farm has always intrigued me – Stray Leaves! The couple were married at Birchcliffe Chapel where I currently volunteer in the Pennine Heritage Centre but that building wasn’t built until 1898. Daniel and Jane were married at the old Birchciffe Chapel on Sandy Gate. The first Birchcliffe Chapel was built in 1764 but the origins of the church can be traced to a building on Wadsworth Lane – Higher Needless. Don’t you just love these crazy names? An independent group were worshipping here when Dan Taylor, a young man born in Halifax, joined in 1762 and became its leader. He had become convinced about the Baptist position, but local ministers would not baptise him because of differing views about salvation. He found a group in Nottinghamshire willing to baptise him and later returned to Calderdale to baptise his congregation, which formed the Baptist church. A plaque on the wall records this fact. I’d seen this plaque on the wall before but had no inkling of my family’s connection with it, for it was actually Daniel Eastwood who was responsible for having the plaque erected and he performed the unveiling ceremony in 1913.

Higher Needless with the plaque unveiled by Daniel

The credit of the conception and execution of the work belong largely to Mr. Daniel Eastwood. Mr, James Harwood, the owner and occupier of the property, old Birchcliffe scholar whose misfortune it now is to be blind, readily gave the required permission, his only regret being that he would never himself able look upon it. THE UNVEILING CEREMONY now in question was fixed for last Saturday after, noon, and, although the weather was wild and threatening and the place is exposed almost every wind that blows, not a few enthusiasts, ladies as well as gentlemen, climbed the heights and braved the elements order to pay tribute to the memory of the immortal founder of their church. Dan Taylor would on many a Sunday preach at Birchcliffe in the morning, at Heptonstall in the afternoon, walk forward to Burnley there to conduct evening service, and return home to Wadsworth on foot at the end of it aIL Like the tentmaker, Paul, he ministered to his personal needs with bis own hands, keeping a school and even shop and farm rather than in any sense burdensome to his flock, tramping about the country to raise money for the cause he had ever at heart, and preach, ing and writing constantly. It was in recognition of this strenuous and noble career and this historic character that the representative company undertook Saturday’s pilgrimage despite the adverse weather. The rain curtailed the proceedings in the open air, and necessitated adjournment to the school room. Mr. William Thomas presided at both meetings, and the unveiling was performed by Mr. Daniel Eastwood. It would be a lasting object to arrest the attention and arouse the curiosity of passers-by; for the inscription was of such a character that it would not easily be erased. Probably but for Mr. Eastwood it would never have been provided. (Applause.) Mr. D. Eastwood, stepping forward in response the Chairman’s call, said they had thought it wise to that, so that children going that way and seeing the inscription, might have their gratitude for the past and love of the work stimulated and that the interest of the people at large might be aroused- After a few further remarks, Mr. Eastwood unveiled the tablet, disclosing the following inscription: 4 Original meeting house of Birchcliffe Baptist Church, founded the Rev. Dan Taylor others, A.D. 1763.” (Loud applause).

Plaque instigated by Daniel

Dan Taylor’s original 13 yds x 10 yds Birchcliffe chapel was replaced in 1825 and it was in this place that Daniel and Jane were married. It took me quite some time to find the location of the old chapel but eventually I did but nothing remains of it because in 1934, a new Sunday School was built behind the present Birchcliffe chapel using stone from the original chapel.

The old Birchcliffe chapel where Daniel and Jane were married in 1878

Again, Daniel had much to do with this event. In the first part of the 20th century, the church was well-known for its musical tradition, the involvement of its members in the civic life of the area and for thriving social and cultural organisation. The church closed in 1974 and the premises were bought by the Joseph Rowntree Trust.

The second Birchcliffe chapel built in 1898

Springs on the Birchcliffe hillside supply water to houses in parts of the town. A small part of the gathering area for the water is the burial ground of the chapel – hence the comment: ‘Good stuff this Birchcliffe water. Plenty of body in it’. The water was the cause of many local disputes. As young man, Mr. Eastwood devoted much of his time and energy to the welfare Birchcliffe Baptist Chapel, with which he has life-long connection. During his long association with the chapel he has held almost every office open to layman. As teacher, superintendent and assistant superintendent he has been associated with the Sunday school for over half century. For the past thirty years he has been superintendent and assistant superintendent. At various times he has taught the whole of the classes, whilst he was in charge the infants’ class for 22 years. During his period of office about 300 scholars have been under his care. Mr. Eastwood retains an excellent memory, and his reminiscences of the early days of the church make him interesting conversationalist. He was one of those who urged for many years the erection a new chapel. When the present handsome edifice was erected, Mr. Eastwood laid one of the corner stones. He also unveiled memorial tablet in the church. He remembers no less than eight pastors, from Mr. Lockwood to the Rev. A. Windsor. For a few years he has been deacon of the church. He has been prominently associated with Birchcliffe Y.M.C.A. since its formation, and at present holds the office president. For a long period Mr. Eastwood has been keen temperance advocate and a valued worker behalf of the Band Hope movement. Joining the Birchcliffe Band of Hope Society about 60 years ago, he soon became member the committee, and for a time acted secretary. He has also held the position of president. Mr. Eastwood has for many years been a member of the executive of the Hebden Bridge Band of Hope Union, and as public speaker has done valuable work for the temperance cause. He was one of the originators of the annual treat for the blind and cripples the district organised by the Union, and his zeal and hard work has done much to establish the event as popular annual excursion. Mr Eastwood took a leading part in the musical festivals arranged by the Band of Hope some years ago. He originated the ‘Pleasant Sunday Evenings’ which attracted huge audiences in the Cooperative hall many years ago. He took a great interest in the work of the local branch of the anti Opium league and spoke at many of the meetings. He has also a long connection with the local Free Church Council of which he was secretary and president. He was a member of the Local Board and was deputed to purchase the first ambulance for the district. He was one of the founders of the Hebden Bridge Nursing Association. His determine efforts to improve his education at length met with their rewards and he became a partner in the firm of Messrs. Eastwood Bros., clothing manufacturers on Albert Street and along with other manufacturers in the district he helped form the Hebden Bridge Commercial association 43 years ago. One of their achievements was to create a better approach to the Railway Station, improved facilities for passenger and parcels. For his efforts he was presented with a clock. As a young man he was manager of the old cocoa house on Market Street.

manufacturing and croft mill

Daniel was one of the founders of the Calder Valley poets’ society and was its first president.

a meeting of the society in December 1920 was held in King Cross, Halifax with Daniel presiding.On his retirement from that position he was presented with a book recording the history of the society. He was a keen student of nature and written many beautiful poems. He wrote a poem to celebrate their golden wedding which is reprinted. In January 1923 his poem about the passing of the previous year was reprinted in the paper.

Later poems have as their subject the first world war, one particularly poignant one about shell holes. At a meeting of the society held in Greetland in 1932 Daniel wrote of his plane ride, perhaps the first ever poem to have been written in a flying machine!
In 1932 Sir Alan Cobham started the National Aviation Day displays – combining aerial stunts with joyriding. It toured the country, calling at hundreds of sites, some of them regular airfields and some just fields cleared for the occasion. Generally known as “Cobham’s Flying Circus“, it was hugely popular, giving thousands of people their first experience of flying, and bringing “air-mindedness” to the population. So this must have been what Daniel participated in.

My connections with the Lord Nelson

Ben Meadowcroft’s daughter, Annie married Herbert Halstead, the nephew of Handel Halstead. I found that Ben made his living as an innkeeper keeping one of the pubs in Hebden Bridge, close to my home.

Shoulder of Mutton, Halloween

The Shoulder of Mutton is in the very centre of Hebden Bridge. In fact I often think of it as ‘being the centre of Hebden Bridge.’ Spanning one entire side of St George’s square it’s where the tourists throng on summer afternoons, its outside tables bedecked in men minus their shirt but plus their beer guts, seemingly attempting to catch so much sun as to appear lobster red so that they can show their workmates on Monday morning what a good time they’ve had over the weekend.

Shoulder of Mutton and the old mill in St George’s Square

In 2017 Sarah and I had spent a great couple of weeks in Hebden, staying at Thorn Bank, which, unbeknownst to us at the time, had been a boarding school that our Moss ancestors used to run. After two weeks Sarah was flying back to the US and I was staying on for a few more weeks by myself. My journal of that trip reads: The weather matched out mood as Sarah began packing for her journey home. Sarah was so sad about leaving England and I was anxious about how I was going to deal with being alone in England for 8 weeks. (It seems strange to be copying that sentence in November after making the decision to move to England). We had lots of clean up to do at Thorn Bank so I suggested we got it done and then wander into Hebden Bridge for a final drink. It was still raining hard and we were unsure which pub to go in but after passing a few and looking in the windows we decided on The Shoulder of Mutton where we’d gone on our first night. Then it had been packed and there had been standing room only. Now there were only a couple of tables in use and by the time we left at 10 p.m. we were the only ones left. Talk about a lack of atmosphere – and what a contrast to Saturday night. Where was everybody tonight?

I’ve only been in a couple of times since then but now that I know that one of our ancestors was the landlord in 1901 until his death 3 years later I need to pay another visit.

But before that off I went – metaphorically speaking – into Ben’s life story. I found myself learning about the local sport of knur and spell in which Ben excelled and locating the location of a now demolished pub in Luddendenfoot with the unusual name of the Chatburn and Jennings but was locally known as ‘The Bug Trap.’ I even managed to find a photo of his brother, Spencer, online.

Born in 1858 to Reuben, an outdoor labourer, and his wife Hannah, Ben was the 9th out of 10 children. The family had been living at Thorpe House for at least 7 years by the time Ben was born. I wondered if he got his name as a shortened form of Reuben. One interesting fact that I had at first overlooked was that Hannah’s maiden name was Thorpe and . . . . they named one of their children Thorpe. Could it have been a coincidence that they lived at Thorpe House? I needed to find out more about their home. In 1851 there were 4 families living in Thorpe House on Hand Carr Lane above Luddenden. Reuben was an outdoor labourer, and his sons were a joiner, a mason’s labourer, a labourer in a cotton mill, and the rest were cotton weavers and worsted spinners – all manual jobs. Living next door in Thorpe House were the Crowther family – and, oh my goodness the head of the family was called Thorp Crowther (who ‘declined work’). His son, also called Thorp was a worsted weaver! What is this Thorp thing going on here? Next door to them was a stone mason and his family and lastly a farmer of 8 acres who was also a stone mason. So altogether there were 28 people living in Thorpe House in 1851. In 1988 it became a listed building though unfortunately there are no photographs of the property in the listing. Searching further I found that the property is now Willow Royd Stables and Equestrian centre which recently came up for sale at just over one million pounds.

The former Thorpe House, Ben’s birthplace

Ben Meadowcroft married Mary Nicholl at Halifax minster in 1878. He was 20 and she was 19. The couple set up home at Middle Hathershelf above Scout Road. I looked up the location on Google Earth. Even today the lane is barely wide enough for a car to travel along. It’s in a very exposed position with amazing views over the Calder valley on the same side of the valley as Sowerby. And then I remembered something! I’ve walked down that very lane. I quickly pulled out my Ordinance survey map on which I mark routes that I have hiked and yes, Hathershelf Lane was marked in pink. (Thank you, Sarah, for the set of marker pens).

By coincidence I found this photo, taken from the Lord Nelson, showing Hathershelf farm!

I found the location of Middle Hathershelf farm on an 1851 map. Something was still ringing a bell inside my head, so I check my photos to see when I’d walked down that lane. The answer – November 18, 2019 and yes, you’ve guessed it – I’d taken a photo of a very picturesque ancient farmhouse that was – – – Middle Hathershelf farm.

Middle Hathershelf farm where Ben and Mary lived

Ben was making his living as an engine tenter, stretching out woollen cloths to dry using a machine in a mill. I wonder which mill. His house was 600ft above the valley floor where I presume the nearest mill would have been at Luddendenfoot.

No mills remain in Luddenden Foot today.

But by 1885 the family had migrated into the valley bottom and Ben had taken up a new occupation. He was the landlord at the now demolished Chatburn and Jennings Hotel. The inn had received its license in 1861 and closed in 1923 due to ‘redundancy.’

Chatburn and Jennings hotel

Wow! What a name for a pub. I read in a newspaper article that the name had come about because of a family dispute between the two families but by the locals it was known as The Bug Trap. As Stephen Gee writes in his Halifax Pubs book about The Bug Trap ‘and we’ve all known a few of them.’ For me it brought back memories of a trip to Romania when  Ceaușescu was still in power, and being eaten alive by bed bugs in the hostel I was staying in. Ben’s pub, however, was situated not in an Eastern European country but on the corner of Station Road and Burnley Road in West Yorkshire but was closed due to ‘redundancy’ in 1923 and public toilets were built on the site. I’ve spent many hours waiting for a bus at this junction, little knowing of my connection with its past residents.

Station Road, Luddenden Foot this week
The 4 storey mill and white gable end building are clearly visible. The Chatburn and Jennings was the building just to the left of the 4 storey mill with its gable end adjacent to the road.

10 years later Ben was still running the pub, his 12 year old daughter, Annie, already being employed in the mill as a worsted operative. By then his daughters Lizzie and Beatrice were aged 5 and 3.

By 1899, however, I found the family installed in the Shoulder of Mutton in the centre of Hebden Bridge, where I started out my story. When Ben died in 1904 at the age of 46 it appears that Mary was missing the ‘high life’ and she moved back to the hill tops, this time to the South side of the Calder Valley and she took over the running of The Lord Nelson at Midgley (license transferred Oct 6, 1905 from B. Bailey) 1905, 1908 Malcolm Bull). The pub opened as the Black Rock inn in 1755 and changed its name to The Lord Nelson after the battle of Trafalgar according to Other sites state that the Black Rock was actually housed in the cottages close to the current Lord Nelson which have since been demolished. The elevated position of the pub made it a favourite with walking groups and in 1884 it featured in a ramble of the Cragg Vale botanical society as they explored the flora of Hill House Clough (Hill House being the scene of the murder/suicide of another of my ancestors). After a pleasant tea in the pub the men displayed their specimens on a table and a man from Littleborough named them. In 1887 the Lord Nelson was in the news again for a much more gruesome reason. A young woman from the village, Sarah Ann Shackleton aged 23, had been seen making her way to the outdoor privy. A neighbour asked her “Art thou poorly” and she replied that she had a bowel complaint. A few minutes later the neighbour saw her going up the cobbled lane back to her house, holding on to the wall for support. She then appeared to drop something and hastily put it under her shawl. A few steps later she stumbled again and was seen holding onto the wall for support before she fainted. Two days later a doctor was called to her home on Towngate, Midgley, where she lived with her father. At first she denied having given birth to a baby but finally she admitted that she had, and that she had buried the baby on the moor. Constable, P. C Person was called and Sarah Ann told him exactly where she had buried the baby. A search was made and the baby was found buried on the moor, 2 miles above the village. The baby girl taken to the Lord Nelson inn where a doctor carried out an autopsy. Sarah Ann was sent for trial at the York assizes.

No longer a pub but a private residence I passed it last week as I went to watch a performance by the Midgley Pace Eggers – again, unaware of my connection with its former residents. Mary was the licensee in 1905 and 1908.   The pub closed as an Inn for good on 27th December 1932. (information from Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale Companion). In July 1908 Mary left the Lord Nelson and moved back to the Chatburn and Jennings. 1911 finds Mary and daughters Lizzie and Beatrice there. Rather unusually those two daughters, now aged 25 and 23 were still unmarried. Annie had married Herbert Halstead.

Mary was still running the pub in 1922.

However, in May 1923 it was clear that its days were numbered. Members of Luddenden Foot district council toured the highways and byways of the district to the accompaniment of sunshine and showers.

So Mary was forced to sell the furnishings and effects from the inn and her home. So far I’ve been unable to find out where she moved to. But what could I discover about what these ancestors liked to did in their spare time? I turned to my main source – the local newspapers of the day. Somehow it didn’t surprise me that Ben’s first mention in the newspaper was drink related. I’ve seen this in so many of my ancestors, especially those who were running pubs. Take Paul Taylor for example, who was running the Fox and Goose in Hebden Bridge. In 1875, aged 17, he was charged with allowing drinking on his premises after hours and also gambling on the Lord’s day. The following year Paul’s brother John, landlord of the Stubbing Wharf was charged with being drunk in his own establishment. In 1882 ‘two men were charged with being drunk whilst being in charge of a horse and trap in Hebden Bridge. Ben Meadowcroft of Brearley was charged with drunkenness at the same time and place. The evidence of P.C. Smith went to show that at about 7 o’clock on the evening named, he saw the defendants and four others driving furiously down Bridge-lanes. He signalled to them to stop, but one of the party called out–” Drive over the b—r.” He caught hold of the trap behind, and jumped on, and after some trouble got the defendants’ names. The defendants were all drunk. Midgley and Fielding drove.–Paul Taylor, beerseller, Newgate-end, was called by the police to prove that two of the defendants were so drunk that he refused to serve them immediately before they encountered the police. Fielding was, however, not so drunk, and was served. Several witnesses were called for the defendants, who positively swore that when they arrived home about 7.30, they were not drunk.—P.S. Eastwood stated that the defendants’ party drove through Hebden Bridge at about 3 p.m., and again in the evening on the 19th ult., one of the party playing a concertina, and others singing.–Midgley was ordered to pay a fine of 20/- and the costs 11/9; Fielding a fine of 20/- and costs 9/6 ; and Meadowcroft a fine of and costs 9/6.’

Driving a horse-drawn carriage under the influence of alcohol is not a good idea – 1896

I find it pretty amazing that it was Paul Taylor who had refused to serve them. I wonder which one of the people charged was playing the concertina!

In 1898 Ben did not appear at Todmorden petty sessions to defend himself on a charge of allowing his dog to roam the streets unmuzzled from his home at the Shoulder of Mutton. He was fined 2/6 and 7/6 costs.

But Ben features in the newspaper in 1886 for more positive reasons too.

KNUR AND SPELL for £50.—There were quite two thousand persons assembled Halifax Racecourse on Saturday, when Ben. Meadowcroft of Luddenden Foot and Fred. Moore of Halifax, met to contest the best of 30 rises each, level, with wood knurs, for £25 a side. Speculation was of a heavy character, closing at 30 to 20 on Moore. At the first five rises each man registered 51 score, but from this point Moore gradually forged ahead.

Ben was more successful however at a Knur and Spell competition in Wakefield that was recounted in the Yorkshire Post in 1893.’KNUR AND SPELL CONTEST AT WAKEFIELD.— There was a very large attendance at the City Grounds, Wakefield, Saturday afternoon. The men engaged were Ben Meadowcroft, of Luddendenfoot, and Harold Dyson, Huddersfield, who agreed to play 30 rises each, with wood heads and knurs for £5O a side. Betting ruled 25 Meadowcroft. Dyson opened very badly, having a miss at the third rise, and the first five rises gave the favourite a lead score, which was increased score after half-time. Meadowcroft played regular stroke, whilst Dyson was very uneven, and was badly beaten by 22 score, the totals being Meadowcroft 287, Dyson 265.

Two years later in 1895 we read that On Saturday a match was played on the grounds of the Lightcliffe Gun Club, between Ben Meadowcroft. of Luddenden-foot, and Fred Moore, Kavensthorpe, for £25 side. Meadowcroft was the winner by 18 score.

But what on earth IS this game? I mean £5O was a year’s wages at the time. I’d never heard of it until I moved here and read about a Knur and Spell ground in the Popples area of Heptonstall. The principle of the game was to strike a small hard ball called the knur. The knur was either thrown up or suspended in a loop of cord, with a specially constructed stick called the spell. The aim was to drive the ball as far as possible. Shots of up to 300 yards have been recorded. The match was decided by the longest knock, or the best average in an agreed number of knocks. The course was marked with vertical pegs at intervals of 20 yards to facilitate measurements, which were taken over walls, huts or other obstructions. Matches were normally between twenty and thirty knocks, with each player taking five consecutive shots in turn. A referee supervised the contest and the rules were observed rigidly. The game was often called “poor man’s golf” and was a popular pub sport in West Yorkshire, especially in the Calder Valley.

To watch a knur and spell that took place in 2015 watch:

A game in 1932:

But knur and spell was not the only string to Ben’s bow. He was also a keen pigeon shooter. In 1898 he participated in a competition at Lane ends, with John Thomas. Wadsworth, Thomas killed seven and Meadowcroft six out of nine.

He was 46 years old

To be continued . . . perhaps I’ll research more members of the Meadowcroft family. It takes me to the Luddenden Valley which was quite magical when I visited this week on a sunny morning. It also gives me a reason to explore further the hillside between Sowerby and Luddenden Foot.

So I’m related to George Frederic Handel

I discovered this startling fact just a few weeks ago, and despite my life being filled with coincidences this one took my by surprise. OK, OK. I haven’t told you the full story – not quite. What happened was this: I discovered that one of my ancestors was named George Frederic Handel Halstead and he was born in 1848 at Marsh, a farm high on the hill above Hebden Bridge, just a little below the village of Blackshaw Head. The week after I discovered this fact one of my blog followers informed me that Marsh farm is currently for sale – for 975,000 pounds! There were 30 photos of the property including views across to Stoodley pike and also the inside of the barn with its original framing.

Marsh Farm, early 18th century house with barn added mid 19th century

George didn’t live to see his first birthday, dying when he was just 11 months old, 90 years after the composer Handel had died. But just his name had me hooked on finding more about him and his family. Was there a music connection amongst my Halstead ancestors, I wondered. I’ve traced my lineage from many branches of my family but until I found this little boy I’d never researched the Halstead branch, so off I went spending many an hour online looking through ancestry websites and old newspaper archives.

Marsh farm is close to Winters

George’s father was named Handel Halstead, Handel not being a name I’d encountered before in my family’s story, despite my having documented over 7000 people in my family tree. He was born December 15, 1823 and was baptised in Heptonstall 6 months later. Interestingly on the baptismal register his name is written as Andal but there’s an * by the side and at the bottom of the page it’s corrected to Handel, so perhaps even the vicar was unacquainted with the name Handel.

Handel’s father also had a somewhat unusual name: Bannister, born 1781. I’m guessing that this was an ancestral surname being used as a forename. Bannister’s father, William, was born around 1750 and apart from knowing where he died and the fact that he was buried at Cross Stone church in Todmorden on June 25, 1799 I know next to nothing about him other than on his son Bannister’s marriage certificate he gives his occupation as a weaver. William died at Old Royd, Langfield, just off Kilnhurst Lane where Billy Holt had lived.

Old Royd, Todmorden

So it’s possible that Bannister had lived there too. At the age of 26 Bannister married Sarah (or Sally) Chatburn at Heptonstall church. On the record of the marital banns Bannister’s name has widow in the place where the occupation is usually given. All the other men on the page are weavers. Their marriage took place on December 27, 1807. I can easily conjure up the snow, ice, heavy rain, gale force wind that they might have experienced getting married in the old church in Heptonstall. The newly weds set up home at Rough Head on Kilnshaw Road (or Kilnhirst) and Bannister, in 1808, is recorded as a shuttle maker. In quick succession 1809-1823 – seven children were born – John, Elizabeth, Henry, James, Bannister, Amelia and finally Handel. Henry and James, 1813 and 1816 were recorded as having been born at Machpelah, the row of cottages in Hebden Bridge that my Moss ancestors also lived in later. In 1818 son Bannister was born at Weasel Hall, the hall clinging to the hillside to the south of Hebden and visible from the window above my desk where my ancestor Ezra Butterworth had also lived. In 1834 Pigot’s Directory lists Bannister as a shuttle maker at Bridge Lanes in Hebden Bridge where he lived for the rest of his life, dying in October 1853 at the considerably old age of 71. Following the death of his wife Sally Chatburn he had remarried, aged 60 – unusual for that time – Sarah Walton, the marriage taking place in Halifax minster. On their marriage register it states that Sarah is a factory woman and he is a shuttle maker. It brought to mind the true story of John Fielden of Todmorden, a prominent mill owner who fell in love with a factory girl who promised to marry him if he built her a castle, which he duly did above Todmorden, in the 1860s, and which I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and have an impromptu guided tour. Sarah outlived Bannister by 25 years. But back to the Halstead story.

On to the exploits of Bannister’s children. 3 of his sons set up a shuttle making company under the name of James, Bannister and Handel Halstead making shuttles. According to the Malcolm Bull website ‘The partnership was dissolved in February 1853 as far as regards Handel Halstead.’

Handel Halstead & Sons were manufacturers at Bridge Street Shuttle works, Hebden Bridge, John and William being his sons and business partners. The partnership was dissolved in January 1887. The business was carried on under the same name by John and William and was still at Bridge Street in 1905. John and William were the older brothers of George Frederick Handel Halstead. In 1891 John and his wife Mary Elizabeth (from Walsden) were living at 58 Market Street. His brother William was living next door at 56 Market Street. So a couple of days ago I called in at 56 Market Street. It’s a 2 minute walk from my apartment. It’s now a shop and workroom called Hat Therapy where the current milliner Chrissie King designs and makes hats and accessories.

She didn’t know of the Halstead living there more than a hundred years ago but she pointed me to an alley running at the back of the shop and to a flight of step stone steps running up to Brunswick Street. Wow! That’s the street where my two of my daughters stayed in an Airbnb when they brought my granddaughter to England for the first time last November. Chrissie pointed to a long white painted building on Brunswick Street overlooking her shop.

Rear of 56 Market Street. was the white building on the left Halstead’s shuttle making workshop?

‘That was once a dance hall that burned down. It was subsequently used as an undertakers who built a separate garage for their hearse. ‘ I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The building my family stayed in was called ‘The Garage’ and we had all thought what an odd place to build a garage – and how large it was for a garage. I mean none of the terraced houses in this town have garages. How amazing! I wonder if the ‘dance hall/undertaker’s was once the workroom for the Halstead shuttle making business. I posted a photo of the building on Facebook to see if anyone knew anything about the building but nothing of interest came forth. By 1901 John Halstead had moved from Market Street and was living in a substantial Victorian house on Garnett Street with his wife and family called Uplands. Wait a minute! I’ve found references to Uplands before in my family research.


Another ancestor, Willie Wrigley, an architect had lived in the underdwelling below Uplands. I looked back in my notes and found this: ‘Willie Wrigley and his wife Charlotte had been given notice to quit after the repeated altercations with their neighbours and their landlady Mrs Halstead who lived in the over dwelling, Uplands. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that this overdwelling is visible from my own bedroom window. The overdwelling is called, appropriately, Uplands and is a large double front house, symmetrical and divided into two dwellings. Obviously built for a Victorian business owner even today it has an imposing presence.’ So the lady who evicted Willie Wrigley was none other than the wife of John Halstead who was the brother of George Frederick Handel Halstead who had been the catalyst for my research into the Halstead branch of my family tree. Willie eventually ended up in Wakefield gaol.

Willie’s home below Uplands

His story and especially his problems with Mrs Halstead can be found in my blog:

But the main focus of my enquiry was the name George Frederick Handel Halstead. Surely there must have been a music connection. He was given that name by his parents so I decided to look through the newspapers to see if I could find any reference to Handel Halstead and music. And there it was! In 1898 I found a newspaper article entitle ‘Organ’s final services.’ After being there for 20 years the organ at Slack Baptist church was to be overhauled, extended and improved. A special service was held to mark the occasion when the organ would be removed and many former members of the church were invited to the service which was to be more than ordinarily musical. One ‘notable personage’ was Mr Handel Halstead who was formerly the church organist there. ‘He presided during the singing of the greater portion of the hymns and though he has passed 75 years of age and has been long out of practice he still possesses a considerable amount of executive skill.’ The pastor, Rev A.K. Archer delivered an address on organs and the references to that instrument in the bible.

Rev. Archer delivered the address in 1898 for the organ’s final service before refurbishment. Handel played the organ at the service.

Amidst the glowing accounts of organs and how they work one damming sentence caught my eye: ‘In that vast abode of stagnation which we call China a sort of prehistoric organ is still to be found.’

Then just yesterday I received the following email from the Hebden Bridge Local History Society in reply to my query about any musical Halstead: In our archives: R HEPB1 S Centenary Souvenir Heptonstall Slack Baptist Church by E G Thomas 1907 – I have noted down that November 1857 dedication of organ at Slack. Mr Handel Halstead appointed organist. John Gibson of Greenwood Lee took over as treasurer from William Marshall in 1862 (he died in 1867 and Handel Halstead took over). 1865 Three elders above were reappointed plus David Dearden, Handel Halstead and John Sutcliffe of Slatering.’ So Handel was not just the organist but had been a treasurer of the church and also an elder.

The church is now a private house. I first visited it on August 14, 2017, before I moved to Hebden Bridge. I was staying in Hebden during the summer and on one of my days out exploring the vicinity and took the bus to Slack. The church and the Sunday school behind it appeared to be in bad state of repair but there was evidence of work in progress. I carefully opening the gate with a path leading to the church entrance.

To both sides were graves. A workman appeared from nowhere, no doubt wondering what the heck I was doing but he offered to take my photo. In 2020 I stopped by again and found that the church had been converted into a home and the resident was working in her garden -cum-graveyard and I chatted with her.

Visit in 2020 with the resident

The history of the building is interesting to me. A small barn built in or before 1617 became the second place of worship for the Protestant Dissenters in the Calder Valley, the first being Rodwell End which I’d already visited in the course of my family research. In 1807 some 40 people who had attended the Birchcliffe Chapel in Hebden Bridge withdrew to found their own place of worship, which they opened at Slack in 1808 at a ceremony attended by seven hundred people. More than a thousand were at the Dedication service on the following Sunday. James Taylor, nephew of Dan Taylor , was the first Minister and he had the Church enlarged in 1819. By 1822 The Church at Slack was the 5th. largest of the 130 general Baptist Churches in the country and the General Assembly was held there. Experience Meetings were being held in 18 different houses.

There were over 500 members by the middle of the Century but there was then something of a decline as the handloom industry suffered and members left to work in factories away from the area. A new schoolroom was opened on January 1st 1864 after much time and effort and money had been spent in obtaining gas!  “The spacious new room, its brilliant sunlight, composed of thirty gas jets, won the admiration of all”. At this time an organ was introduced and house meetings were revived.

1878 saw the complete rebuilding of the Church and it is this building that I visited in 2020. Guess which business was employed to do the slating, painting and plastering of the new church. Yes, my Wrigley painting and decorating ancestors! A special service was held to mark the beginning of this rebuild during which the four corner stones were placed in position. “The mallets (very handsomely turned and finished were made by Mr Handel Halstead.”

Photo from the centenary booklet 1807-1907

2014 – Heptonstall parish website: “The chapel was sold by the Baptists several years ago and is currently owned by an evangelical Christian group, however services have had to be moved because of problems renovating the building. Suggestions to use it as a halfway house for those recovering from drug abuse were dropped after objections from local residents. Could the chapel become a community centre, or could there be other uses for the building? All are welcome to this picnic to talk and find out more.”

But if Handel Halstead had been named Handel by his father would it not therefore follow that his father had some connection with music? It took many hours of trolling through old newspapers online but I eventually found a clue. In the Lancaster Gazette of February 7, 1818 there is a reference to one Bannister Halstead, living somewhere close to Halifax. The date matched with what I had discovered about Handel’s father, Bannister: born 1781 in the Todmorden area, so by 1818 he would have been 37 years old. But not only that – wait for it. . . The article is about his music connection. Here it is in full – it’s too melodramatic and unexpected for me to retell it in my own words. It would reduce its impact.”It is with pleasure we inform our readers, that Mr. Whiteley, the constable of Sowerby, having, through his persevering exertions, obtained knowledge of a secret depot for receiving stolen goods, he immediately obtained a search warrant, and, on Thursday night, took along with him Mr. Brierley. constable of Halifax, and Mr. Wilson, constable of Heptonstall, in order to execute the same. Having arrived at David Wilcock’s house, at Bolton in Holland, near Gisburn, an immediate search commenced, when they discovered upwards of £200 worth of stolen goods, concealed in the false floor, belonging to Wilcock, which they seized and took possession of. It appeared that Wilcock, and his gang, had made a large opening into the false floor, and there concealed the property, having afterwards curiously plastered over the same to prevent discovery, till an opportunity arrived of a removal. It is to be hoped that officers, searching after stolen goods, should be aware of this circumstance. The stolen goods here alluded to, appear to belong to Mr. Dyson, of Barkisland Hall; Mr. Garside, of Elland, and Mr. Hirst of Huddersfield. There was also found during their search, a violin, supposed to belong to one Bannister Halstead, who has lately absconded from Hebden Bridge. On Sunday week, as Mr. W (Whiteley) was returning home by himself, after a very fatiguing march of several days in searching for those five notorious villains who have lately absconded, he met with two of them, Shaw and Dyson, on the turnpike-road leading over Blackstonedge, about six o’clock in the evening : the constable, without giving the least alarm, instantly seized Shaw by the throat, and Dyson by the handkerchief round his neck, which unfortunately giving way, he escaped ; finding himself at liberty, he immediately turned round and snapped a pistol at the constable, which fortunately missed fire; at that instant several gentlemen on their way down Blackstonedge, came to the assistance of the constable. A number of wood skewers, a quantity of packing cord, a flint, lead bullet, and a large knife, were found on him. He has since been committed to the House of Correction at Wakefield, on strong suspicion of being concerned in those extensive robberies that have so greatly alarmed the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Halifax. This is the fourth time of the apprehension of Shaw on suspicion of felony, besides having been once tried at Leeds Sessions for a similar offense. We understand that in consequence of Shaw’s uncommon resistance, by the constable grasping him so violently on the throat, it was some time before he came to himself, and he complains much of the part being very sore.” I found it amazing that the only reference I can find to Bannister Halstead, is in connection with his violin. But then another question is raised. Why had Bannister recently absconded from Hebden Bridge? So far I’ve been unable to answer that particular question. He’d been married for 10 years, had 4 children and one on the way. The family had been living at Machpelah but by 1818 the family were living at Weasel Hall which I can see from the window overlooking my desk as I write. So Bannister Halstead, violin player, had named his son Handel, who in turn named his own son George Frederick Handel. ‘What’s in a name?’ you ask. A heck of a lot!

Note to self: George Frederick Handel’s niece, Florence Gertrude married George Haigh Moss jn

Cut out tickets

Building close to Manchester Victoria station- July 14, 2019
Concert, Leeds Town Hall
Midland Hotel, Manchester, October 2, 2019
Concert at Bolton School Girls’ Division
Statue of Ghandi, Manchester, July 26, 2021
Rear view IOU at the Piece Hall, Halifax
Jardin Nelson Mandela, Paris, January 26, 2020
Ticket to The Catacombs, Paris
Sinclair’s oyster bar, Manchester, November 10, 2017
Leeds International Piano Competition, 2018. Leeds Town Hall

Harvey Nichols, Manchester, August 11, 2017
BBC Proms, Leeds Town Hall

Statue taken from Castle Carr, now in Trevelyan Square, Leeds, January 19, 2020
The movie, Fleabag, Hebden Bridge Picture House
Henry Moore gallery, Leeds, November 15, 2017
Turn of the Screw, Opera North, Leeds
Busy bee, Chinatown, Manchester, September 14, 2018
Square Chapel, Halifax
Frederich Engels, Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, March 8, 2018
Rick Wakeman’s piano Odyssey tour, Victoria Theatre, Halifax
Oxford Road Station approach, March 8, 2018
Milton Jones – Is Out There, Victoria Theatre, Halifax
Marsax, Malta, October 18, 2019
Boarding pass from flight to Malta
Open gardens in Midgley, Calderdale, August 1, 2021
Ardal O’Hanlon, Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Statue First Street, Manchester, March 20, 2019
Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester

Castlefield Manchester, March 20, 2019
Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s music, Hebden Bridge Town Hall

Organ recitals or ‘the back of people’s heads.’

During the last few months I’ve been attending lunchtime organ recitals in Bradford and Leeds Cathedrals and Halifax Minster. While enjoying the music I’ve been making little sketches of my fellow audience members on my train tickets.


WALTER EDWARD MOSS 1888-1940 Abraham’s fourth child, Walter Edward first attended Stubbins Junior School, just steps away from Brooklyn but whose position halfway down the incredibly steep Birchcliffe hill appears to defy gravity.

Walter with his father Abraham

He was subsequently sent to a boarding school just outside Leeds. The name of Fulneck Boarding school may not be as recognisable as Eton or Harrow but it can number in its role both a future prime minister – H.H. Asquith, and a future Avenger – Diana Rigg. As would have been expected Walter subsequently joined the family’s thriving fustian business. Germany was the centre of new advances being made in the development of synthetic dyes and so, in 1906, Walter went to Germany to learn dyeing at the Leopold Cassella Company of Frankfurt, a company which, by the outbreak of the war had 3000 employees and was the world’s largest producer of synthetic dyes. On leaving Cassella Walter was presented with a gold watch which is still in the family’s possession. I obtained a photo of it from Walter’s son Geoff and the inscription reads “In commemoration of your stay at the factory of Leopold Casella & Co Frankfurt am Main.”

By 1904 the Moss family was running Lee Mill for weaving, dyeing and finishing and it was there that Walter worked on his return to England becoming the head dyer in the Moss textile company by 1911.

Lee Mill (courtesy of Pennine Horizons Digital Archive)

Initially the weaving looms were housed on the fourth floor of the mill but Mrs Moss read a novel by Thomas Armstrong,‘The Crowthers of Bankdam’ about a mill owning family who had looms on the top floor of a mill.50 Tragedy struck when the mill collapsed under the weight and it was only then that the Moss family built a separate weaving shed. The Moss family also had an expansive dye works at Bridgeroyd situated conveniently for the workforce between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. It was managed by Walter’s uncle, Fred.

Bridgeroyd Mill

When not at work Walter and his brother Reginald were heavily involved with the Caldene Hockey Club for which they played until 1914 when they were called up for military service. Crowds gathered to see local territorials march off to Halifax through Hebden Bridge and brass bands gave the recruits a true Yorkshire send off. But today there was no brass band accompanying my walk back into Hebden today. Walter served in France throughout the war and Reginald was posted to India. In April of 1916 he wrote a letter home from somewhere undisclosed in France, describing vividly his first hand experiences of aerial combat. “On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a German aeroplane brought down. The guns that brought it down had only fired 6 shots when down came the aeroplane with such a smash. Needless to say the two Huns were killed outright and the machine was like so much old scrap iron. There was a great rush to the place for souvenirs, and hundreds of soldiers collected round but another aeroplane came and tried to drops bombs on the crowd. Luckily he missed his mark. They were both officers in the aeroplane one being a colonel and the other a major so it was a fine bag. . . Last night we were wakened up suddenly by a hooter and bells ringing. It was a warning to be prepared for a gas attack. We closed the windows and got our gas masks ready for use. However, when the gas came along it was very weak. But many put their helmets on. The madame and children at the house where we stay got the ‘wind up’ properly and were walking about all night with their helmets on. The weather is beautiful and hot now and we all wish we wore kilts. The Scotties are all right this sort of weather. I understand Blackpool has been very busy during Easter.” In another letter “I have had a letter from Reggie and he seems all right in India, and got settled down to the different life. I should not mind being out there. Fritz sent a few shrapnel shells over last night and this morning. One burst over the building a few of us were in and the slates came rattling down on top of us. However, nobody in our lot got hurt but a few fellows lower down the street were wounded.”

Walter in uniform

The juxtaposition of his lighter comments about holidays in Blackpool and Scottish kilts with tales of being gassed and bombed is poignant. His son told me that his father suffered from the effects of a gas attack. My own paternal grandfather did too, but as was common, such injuries were very rarely spoken of within the family. And his glee of the bringing down of the German plane reflects the attitude of wartime combat. How ironic that he had spent time in Germany in 1906, learning the craft of dyeing from the experts. Living in a large detached house whose steep gables rise proudly above the serried ranks of terraced rooftops and only a couple of minutes’ walk from Brooklyn, was one of the leading business owners of the town, John Edward Wrigley, of Wrigley & Sons Painters and Decorators. His three daughters were all to make prestigious marriages, two to wholesale clothing manufacturers and one to a bank manager. One cold dark afternoon in January 2022 I met up with the wife of Walter’s great nephew. Liz Moss had already shared with me many photographs of the Moss family and she had something special to gift to me. It was a bible that had belonged to Phylis Wrigley, one of John Edward Wrigley’s daughters, signed in her own hand, May 17, 1908. She would have been 15 at the time, living with her family on New Road, unaware of her future life with Walter. The announcement of Phyllis’s wedding in the Leeds Mercury on January 23, 1919 says it all; The wedding took place yesterday at Salem Wesleyan Chapel. Hebden Bridge, of trooper Walter Moss, Brooklyn, and Miss Phyllis Wrigley, Beech Mount, representatives of two of the best-known families in the district.”

The now demolished Salem church where Walter and Phyllis were married (Courtesy of Pennine Horizons Digital Archive)

The Todmorden Advertiser gives a little more detail of what would have been a very grand affair. Headed ‘Khaki Wedding’ it reads: ‘The bridegroom is home on short leave from Germany so a short notice wedding! The bride was given away by her father in white charmeuse and Georgette with chenille embroideries. The bride had a wreath, veil and carried a sheaf of lilies and chrysanthemums. The luncheon was held at the White Horse Hotel and the couple honeymooned in London.’ Unfortunately both the chapel and the reception buildings no longer exist. After the marriage the couple set up home at Stoodley Range, Hurst Road, Hebden Bridge and it was only a ten minute walk from Brooklyn for me on this gloomy afternoon. I’d had a hard time locating this house since it’s since been renamed Nab Scar but today impressive stone gate posts taller than me with curlicue lettering carved atop an imposing wrought iron gate assured me that I was in the right place.

Nab Scar/Stoodley Range

The gate was open so I peeked in. Recently it was put up for sale with the following description ‘ unique gentleman’s residence: six bedrooms. Rarely does an opportunity to rent such an exceptional residence present itself and the only true way to appreciate the accommodation is via an internal viewing.” Ah, if only. I secretly hoped that the current resident would come out and ask me my business, but no such luck today. I later learned that until recently it had been the home of Little Hill People, a business specializing in ‘Edgy Urban Tribal Fashion wear made from Fairtrade Handloom and Genuine Leather.’ I wonder what Phyllis would have thought of that. It was here at Stoodley Range that their son Peter Edward was born the following year. Only a couple of minutes’ walk from Stoodley Range is my next stop in the family’s story, Cliffe House where the family lived from 1925-1932, and where their second son, Geoffrey, was born in 1931.

Courtesy of Geoff Moss

It was from Geoff, who passed away in 2021, that I gained much information about the Moss Family and in whose possession his mother’s bible had been. I followed a footpath leading through a dense wood which, on early maps is named John Wood, but by 1934 for some unknown reason it became Joan Wood. The path came out close to the entrance of the long private drive to Cliffe House. I’d passed these imposing gateposts several times during lockdown. One afternoon I’d even looked up the name of the house chiselled into the stone, Arnsbrae, thinking no, that’s where Cliffe House should be. What drew my attention to the opposite post this rainy afternoon I don’t know. Perhaps it was the sodden stone reflecting the light differently but there, etched into stone but only just discernible were the words Cliffe House.

I followed the wide drive up and around the hill. This area of Hebden Bridge is called Wood End, and I verily wished that the wood would end so that I could catch a glimpse of Walter’s former home. I came at last to the end of the drive and the house came into view but it was tucked away behind more gateposts and walls. The front of the house was facing away from me, with a bird’s eye view of the town below. Just visible high above the town, peeking out from the trees I could just make Lily Hall, its weavers’ windows reflecting the rain which was now coming down in earnest. I stood at the side of the Cliffe House with a two storey arched window opening onto a cobbled courtyard bounded on three side by other large buildings, one looking as if it could have been a possible stables long ago.

Cliffe House

This courtyard must have been where Walter housed his car after its sad encounter with a dog in the summer of 1929. ‘The defendant, Walter Edward Moss (41), dyer, Cliffe House, Hebden Bridge, was summoned by the police for driving his motor car in Todmorden Road, Burnley, on June 8th, at a speed dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances. He pleaded not guilty. The defendant’s saloon car rounding the bend below Brooklands Road at a speed which he estimated at 35 to 40 miles hour. As the car was coming round the bend a mongrel dog was crossing at the same place as Greenwood, and the motorist ran straight into the dog, and carried it about ten yards before slowing up. Then the dog got free from the car, and went into Brooklands Road and died. The fact that the dog was killed was in itself no evidence of excessive speed. In these days there were so many accidents due to motorists swerving to avoid dogs, that a great number of them would not swerve for dogs, on account of the risk to the lives of passengers.’ Today two bright yellow sports cars were in occupation in the house’s forecourt. 15 ft above them a large iron bell hung, swaying silently in the driving rain. A semicircular drive fronted the house from which there was an uninterrupted view of the terraced top and bottom houses in the valley built for the mill workers. Walter would have been able to see Nutclough House, the detached home of his uncle, Mortimer Moss, another family member who made his fortune as a fustian manufacturer. By 1933 Phyllis, Walter and their two young sons had moved to a house with perhaps even more curb appeal than Cliffe House, and certainly with much more history for they have moved three miles East to Brearley Hall.

Brearley Hall

This beautiful stone mansion set in spacious grounds above the little village of Brearley is believed to date from 1621, encasing a much earlier timber framed structure which can still be seen in the rare timberwork in the open hall’s sling-brace roof, which according to the Halifax Antiquarian Society goes as far back as the 14th Century. In 1913 Arthur Comfort described this building in his book The Ancient’ Halls of Halifax: ‘Few homesteads are more pleasantly situated than Brearley Hall, which stands on an eminence between Mytholmroyd and Luddenden Foot. Dr John Fawcett, Baptist Minister, lived here for 20 years, and ran his private academy from here training future Ministers.’ Branwell Bronte, brother to his more famous sisters, lodged here when he was ‘clerk –in-charge’ at Luddendenfoot railway station. * branell statueWhen it was advertised for sale in 1928 the house was described as a ‘Fine old Residence with entrance hall, reception hall, dining, drawing, breakfast and billiard rooms, 8 bedrooms, w.c., bath, cottage, etc., with or without farm, about 18 acres.’ And now Walter, Phyllis and their son Edward, now a wholesale clothing manufacturer in his own right, are living in this mansion along with two other wellto-do families, one headed by a solicitor and the other by a civil and structural engineer.

I obtained the following recollections of living in the house from Walter’s son Geoffrey; “As for Brearley Hall we must have moved there in 1932 or 1933. We occupied the central and larger part. Our part had the main entrance, the back staircase, four bedrooms of which one was generally used by the maid, the drawing room, the dining room, kitchen, cellar, scullery, larder.” It was in this place of seeming peace and tranquility that Walter died on the 19th of July 1940, aged just 52, when he fell out of his toilet window. It is believed that he was leaning out in order to clear a blockage in the waste pipe from the bath or sink. The bathroom window did not open so Walter was leaning out of the toilet window and was using a stick to prod the waste pipe. According to the newspaper account while his wife was making breakfast Walter was in the bathroom shaving.She called out to him and on receiving no reply she looked out of the window and saw her husband lying on the path, unconscious. A doctor was summoned from Hebden Bridge which must have taken a considerable time and after receiving medical attention he was taken to hospital in Halifax where he died. He had suffered a fractured skull in his fall. Walter’s son Geoffrey shared with me his personal recollections. “This month July 2020 being the 80th anniversary of my father’s death on Friday July 19th, when I was only 9 years old, I have tried to recollect the happenings at that time. I was still at school in Birkdale Southport, Bickerton House School. I should have been collected by my parents and taken home on the 26th. I was informed by the headmaster that they could not fetch me. No reason given. As the headmaster had a caliper on one leg he did not drive and it was arranged that he would hire a taxi and take me to Huddersfield where we would be met. I have a vague recollection of being met by Mother and Peter who was home on compassionate leave from the RAF. I now assume that while we were travelling to Huddersfield the funeral was taking place at Rochdale crematorium. From what I can make out between Friday the 19th and Friday the 26th a considerable amount must have been hastily arranged: post mortem, inquest on the 22nd, and cremation.”

In January 2022 I found Walter’s grave in the cemetery at Wainsgate church near Pecket Well, along with his father, Abraham, and wife Phyllis.

Brearley Hall along with its 44 acres of formal gardens and woodland and paddocks. was purchased in 2019 as a children’s home providing specialist care and education for disadvantaged children. Phylis survived Walter by twenty seven years, spending her final years at Westfield Cottage in Mytholmroyd.

Westfield cottage in 2022

RAMBLES THROUGH MY FAMILY – 15 Untimely Deaths – Chapter 12 – ABRAHAM MOSS

Edgar’s sister ,Mary Harwood, married Mortimer Moss, a fustian manufacturer who lived at Nutclough House. How interconnected all these prominent families of Hebden Bridge were. Indeed. Only 2 months after Ada’s tragic death Edgar’s niece Bertha Moss, Mortimer’s daughter, married Claude Redman eldest son of Richard Redman The English Fustian Manufacturing Company had been founded in 1870 by Joseph Greenwood and alongside Redman Bros and Moss Bros ‘it earned a national and even international reputation as the most successful example of co-operative production in late Victorian Britain.’ Wow. That really is some accolade. It was a worker’s cooperative with each worker having an ownership stake in the business and the mill. Redman Bros manufactured the cloth and the Moss bros dyed it.


Abraham Moss

The patriarch of the Hebden Bridge Moss family was James, Mortimer’s grandfather, a former silk weaver, who had moved from Manchester across the Pennines in 1791. Over the course of his two marriages he fathered 15 children several of whom became prominent school teachers operating several educational establishments in the Upper Calder Valley, while the other children followed in their father’s footsteps of working with textiles, developing the fustian manufacturing business and building up an empire that would see their fabrics shipped all over the world. Fustian is a thick, hard-wearing cloth made from cotton and was once the staple fabric used for military and railway workers’ uniforms. There are many varieties of fustian ranging from corduroy to moleskin but it is all characterized by a soft velvety nap or raised pile. The basic cloth had extra looped wefts woven in as it was made. The rolls of cloth were then sent to specialist fustian cutters who were highly skilled craftsmen. In a well-lit room the cloth was pulled tight over benches up to 150 yards long and stretched with rollers at either end. The cutters would then insert a sharp knife with a long guide into the loops cutting the loops in a sweeping movement as they walked the length of the cloth, thus walking many miles each day. Hebden Bridge became synonymous with the manufacture of this hard wearing cloth and was often referred to as Fustianopolis. A fustian knife is the theme of a sculpture in the town square.

Fustian knife in Hebden Bridge’s town square

In 2021 one of the buildings closely associated with the fustian industry came up for sale and so I was able to take a step back in time as I climbed the steep narrow steps to the top floor of a three storey dwelling close to the railway station in Hebden Bridge. Bare stone walls lined the huge room which was well lit even on this rainy winter’s day. The end wall had fifteen long windows specially made to give as much light as possible to the fustian cutters.

The many lighted gable of Machpelah

I realised that I was standing in the very spot where Abraham’s great grandfather James Moss, a fustian cutter, developed his fustian business. From 1806 onwards his children’s baptism records give their residence as Machpelah and according to British Listed Buildings this was built in 1805. The 1805 date is taken from the Guardian Royal Exchange Fire Mark numbered 218779 which belongs to No. 12. This policy was registered 29th September, 1805 when the houses belonging to Rev. Richard Fawcett were described as “4 houses at present empty”, presumably of recent construction. Mortimer began his career as a fustian cutter before setting up as a fustian manufacturer himself, while his brother Abraham became involved in the family business first as a commercial clerk and then as a manufacturer.

Abraham and his siblings

Abraham’s father, Hague Moss, died when Abraham was only 11 years old and by that time the family had moved to Royd Terrace and so that is where I started my morning tracing Abraham’s life story.

Royd Terrace today

Situated at the lower end of the Buttress, that unbelievably steep cobbled pack horse road up to Heptonstall some of the houses in Royd terrace are three storeys tall on the street, yet only the top storey rises above the hillside behind, the lower two storeys actually being built below ground level. This makes the buildings extremely damp and dark. One of the cottages was for sale so I was able to go and see for myself the small dark rooms imbued with an intense sense of claustrophobia. ‘Every man needs a good woman in his life’ so the saying goes. Abraham’s life saw his business flourish, so I think it’s fitting that that lady whom he shared his married life with deserves further comment. Abraham’s chosen partner was Mary Hannah Thomas, a tailoress, and daughter of Thomas Thomas, a coal merchant. I have his photo labelled Grandpa Thomas.

(Courtesy of Elizabeth Thomas)

He sports an unusual beard known as a chin strap where a ruff of facial hair from the sideburns continues underneath the chin. There is no moustache. This gives him a very distinguished air, further enhances by his high buttoned morning coat. Hannah had been born at Royd Terrace in 1860, the same terrace that Abraham was living in in 1870. It’s quite possible that the two families were living in the terrace at the same time and that Hannah and Abraham could have known each other as children, playing together in the street since there was only a year age difference. When I’d first learned that Hannah’s grandfather and father had been coal merchants I’d thought what lowly beginnings she came from, referencing my own great grandfather, a coal merchant with a very humble lifestyle. So I felt somewhat surprised that Hannah had ultimately married one of the most prominent and wealthy men in the district, but then I’d forgotten my history lessons. Hannah’s father lived from 1831-1905, a period spanning the industrial revolution in the Calder Valley. The railway line from Manchester to Leeds had opened in 1841 with 5 trains per day stopping in Hebden Bridge. The railway was both a mode of transport that required coal to power it but it also enabled coal to be brought to the valley to provide steam power for the growing number of factories. The railway brought supplies for the manufacture of the textiles and provided a means of transport for the distribution of the finished products. So to be a coal merchant was to be on the forefront of the industrial revolution. When Abraham’s father, Hague died in 1870 his sons Abraham, James and Frederick Hague took over the business and from that point the firm was known as Moss Brothers. By 1881 Moss Brothers’ business had grown considerably and they had acquired a 3-storey building in Brunswick St for their warehouse. Just three months after their wedding in 1881 the first of seven children was born, a daughter, Beatrice Louise at 13 Melbourne Street situated just above Market Street. Today by the time I reached Melbourne Street the clouds which had looked threatening earlier in the day had decided to release their rain. There was a long row of identical houses on my left, their front doors opening directly onto the street and since there are no back doors the wheelie bins and recycling bags were strewn along the pavement. Flower pots and garden ornaments strove in vain to obscure next week’s contribution to the nearest landfill. I was in search of number 13, where Abraham and Mary Hannah set up home together. I made my way past a terrace of identical houses – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 that were over buildings. The underdwellings were accessed from Brunswick Street. But at number 11 the regularity stopped and I found myself confronted by a long lower building housing several apartments designated Melbourne House. I was so disappointed but I kept going. After Melbourne House the houses on my left began again, this time beginning with number 13, and yes, the door was open!

13 Melbourne Street

I tried calling ‘hello,’ a few times into the darkened hallway but though I could hear voices inside I didn’t get any reply. As I turned to leave I noticed a man tending a small plot of land on the other side of the street. I explained my quest and he told me that the long low building, now 49 Melbourne House, had once been a mill and had been converted into apartments around 2005. Ah, that was making sense. I’d found the upper entrance to Brunswick Mill with its main entrance on the Brunswick street, the street below. I thanked him and returned to number 13 where, after a few more hellos into the darkness a man came to the door. He was interested in my quest, especially when I showed him a photo of Abraham Moss. “Just a minute. I’ll go and get the house deeds.” A few minutes he returned with papers in hand showing that the building had been built in 1883 and had belonged to Mortimer Moss, Abraham’s eldest brother. I think the man was quite surprised by the yelp I let out realizing that I’d just found Abraham’s house, and Brunswick Mill, the family’s mill and the beginnings of Moss Brothers. For a few moments the man was distracted less by my yelp than by his mother-inlaw coming out to tell him to put on some shoes, since he was in stockinged feet and the rain was now quite relentless. Living next door to Abraham at number 15 was his brother, Frederick, also a founder of Moss Bros. It made perfect sense that the owners of the mill were living literally next door to it. By 1890 they employed over 200 people and traded with America, South America, New Zealand and Europe. They also had a London Office at 1 Trump St. 47 In 1901 they expanded and diversified, taking on dyeing and finishing, opening a dye works at Bridgeroyd at Eastwood between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden.

Bridgeroyd Dye Works

In the summer months Bridgeroyd would employ 70 people, whereas in the winter it employed 150. It was said that workers were willing work this seasonal pattern because Moss brothers were consider[ed] to be good payers.48 In 1902 Bridgeroyd became part of a group called the English Fustian Company Ltd. A workers’ cooperative which had been formed in 1870. By 2004 it was the last remaining mill in England making fustian and corduroy, employing just 8 people and in July 2004, Prince Andrew visited the company to present a Queen’s Award for enterprise in international trade to the company. I walked back into the centre of town and followed the course of Hebden Water as it flowed beneath the ancient packhorse bridge. Just beyond this ancient footbridge built in stone around 1510 I could see the familiar structure of St George’s Bridge, its elaborate cast ironwork painted cream and red supported by several carved stone piers with bratished stone caps. This Grade ll listed structure was built in 1892 with public subscription bridge.

Abraham’s name on St George’s Bridge

One of the panels reads “St George’s bridge erected by public subscriptions with the aid of a grant from the West Riding county council committee – John Crowther, George Pickles, Abm Moss, Joseph Greenwood, J B Brown Sec.’ So Abraham was not only busy with the family fustian business he was highly involved with the running of the town and a member of the council. By the 1901 census Abraham is listed as a cotton fustian manufacturer, an employer and later that year a daughter, Phyllis Margaret was born, the last of seven children, born when both parents were in their forties. Their previous daughter, Vera, born seven years previously had died aged two. By this time the family had moved to ‘Brooklyn’ on an elevated street of large Victorian residences called Birchcliffe Road though known locally as ‘Snob Row.’


Brooklyn had nine rooms and the family had a live-in general servant. What a difference from Abraham’s early life on High Street in the densely packed housing. Soon after I moved to Hebden Bridge one afternoon I had climbed the steep hill of Birchcliffe Road. I don’t use that manner of motion flippantly. An indication of the steepness of the hillside is that its former name was Burstcliffe suggesting that there may have been a landslip there in former times. I had been in search of several buildings that had been lived in by, and in some cases specifically built for, my ancestors. So as I searched the street perched on the side of the hill with one of the best views in town, located above the smoke and smog of the valley I saw a sign on a gate: ‘Brooklyn. Please use the back door. These steps are dangerous.’ I’m not sure what caused me to take a photo of the sign on the gate but I was to find that these steps had played a very important role in the life, or rather, death of Abraham Moss.

All the other imposing houses in the row had names like Hebden Hey, Riverdale, Oakleigh so perhaps it was the American name on this gate that had drawn my attention. The multicoloured stained glass panels in the front door glowed radiantly from an interior light. The bay window of the parlour extended to the upper storey and the view from the front extended over the Hebden Valley as Lily Hall peeked out at me from behind the trees. Through I contacted some descendants of Abraham Moss and from his grandson I received this email: “I was given to understand that Abraham travelled to America sometime during the 1890s. It was after this visit that he named his house Brooklyn.” Not long after this exchange a copy of the photograph appeared in my inbox. There on the ship’s deck sits a moustachioed Abraham gazing out to sea from a cane deckchair.

(Courtesy of Geoff Moss)

Like the other men around him he’s wearing a thick woollen or tweed suit with waistcoat, a pocket watch peeking out, and the peak of his tweed cap is shading his eyes from the sun. I had been able to view the architect’s plans for Brooklyn at West Yorkshire Archives though each leaf fell apart in my hands as I opened it.

Architect’s plan for Brooklyn – showing the steps

It would appear that the plans were drawn up by John Sutcliffe, the same architect who had drawn up the plans for Ezra Butterworth’s house, Oakville, five years earlier. However, sadness and tragedy were just around the corner for the Moss family. Abraham’s daughter Phyllis died, aged 13. She had been taken ill at the boarding school she attended in Skipton, had been brought back home by motor car and had recovered well enough to have a ‘pleasant sojourn at Blackpool’ but succumbed to influenza shortly afterwards. Just three years later Abraham himself died, aged fifty seven. Imagine my horror when I read in a local newspaper that he had died as a result of falling down those very steps I had photographed. I do wonder, from a morbid sense of curiosity, if the people who put the notice on the steps know of Abraham’s accident. “Fatal fall at Hebden Bridge. Sad end of a well-known gentleman. We very much regret to have to announce the death of Mr. Abraham Moss, Brooklyn, Hebden Bridge, and especially so considering the melancholy circumstances under which happened. The gentleman on Wednesday evening was found laid in an unconscious condition at the foot of the steps leading to his own house, with a deep gash on the side of his head, and from this injury he died at two o’clock yesterday morning without regaining consciousness. So far as we can gather from particulars collected from various sources the circumstances are these: Mr. Moss had been down in the town and parted from Mr. A. Moore at Top o’ th’ Hill about ten o’clock on his way home. In the course of half an hour or so, Mr. T. Fenton Greenwood was on his way home to Eiffel Street, and when he got opposite to the gate the residence Mr. Moss he heard some deep breathing, but as he had no means of making a light and the night being very dark, he could not make out any object. Mr. Ernest Whiteoak, Eiffel St., came up almost immediately afterwards, and struck match and the light revealed Mr. Moss laid at the bottom of a flight of dozen steps, with his head resting in a large pool blood and perfectly unconscious. On the right side of his head there was a large wound from which the blood was issuing. Mrs. Moss was acquainted with the fact and her husband was carried to the house and Dr. Sykes summoned, and that gentleman found that Mr. Moss was suffering from fractured skull. Whether he had fallen from the top of the steps or not does not appear clear, but the sloping asphalt from the top of the steps was very slippery. Judging from the position the body it would appear that Mr. Moss had fallen backward and his head had either struck the wall or the steps in his fall. The facts have been reported to the Coroner. The news of the sad occurrence created quite sensation in the town yesterday morning. Mr. Moss was well known in Hebden Bridge and district. He was the younger son the late Mr Haigh Moss, and many years was associated with his brothers in the fustian manufacturing, dyeing and finishing business at Brunswick Street, Lee Mill and Bridge Boyd, up to few years ago, when he retired, and since then he has not followed any occupation. He was one the directors of the English Fustian Association up to the time his death. He took great interest the affairs of that body, and for a term was its chairman. For many years he was a very active member of the Hebden Bridge Commercial Association. He was an enthusiastic member the local Angling Club. He took interest in electricity, and according to his own story, he along with the late Mr. S. Blackburn installed the first telephone in Hebden Bridge, connecting the house of one of his brothers to the firm’s premises. Mr. Moss, who was 67 years of age, leaves widow and five children. Two his sons are serving in the army, Walter Edward in France and Reginald in India.” I thought of Mary Hannah. Both sons were miles away from home serving in the first world war and her husband had died suddenly and tragically on his own doorstep.

Abraham with his son Reginald (Courtesy of Geoff Moss)

She continued to live at Brooklyn for the rest of her life, outliving Abraham by 30 years and their daughters Beatrice Louise and Edith Martha both remained unmarried, living with their mother at Brooklyn until their deaths in 1955 and 1961 respectively. Marian married Joseph Redman, a raincoat manufacturer, who had also grown up on Snob Row. In later life they moved to Ilkley where, in honour of their earlier life they named their house “Hebden.” Reginald, returning from India became a cotton manufacturer and was an accomplished pianist.

Gunner Moss WW l

He lived with his wife Francis in Mytholmroyd. When Abraham died he left just short of £ 40,000 to his wife. Today that money would have be worth about £ 3 million.

RAMBLES THROUGH MY FAMILY – 15 Untimely Deaths – Chapter 11 – EDGAR HARWOOD

Ada’s grandfather, James Townsend had been a wood turner and shuttle maker in the 1840s and 50s, so surely it was no coincidence that her husband-to-be Edgar Harwood was a shuttle tip maker. The tips of the wooden shuttles were made from forged steel and were then fitted on the wooden shuttles to prevent the wearing down of the wood and causing them to snag on the yarn. The steel tips then had to be smoothed on a rotating grindstone to iron out any tiny imperfections that would prevent the shuttle from flying through the yarns from one side of the loom to the other. I own a shuttle that I bought many years ago and it wasn’t until I learned about Edgar’s occupation that I looked closer at my shuttle and noticed the two metal shuttle tips, almost bullet-like at their point.

Edgar’s family had been whitesmiths for several generations dating back to his great great grandfather John, 44 born in 1730, making Edgar a fifth generation whitesmith. The Harwoods had all lived and worked on the appropriately named Heights Road which runs almost at the top of the Midgley Moor on the North side of the Calder Valley. At a dizzying 1000ft above the valley this road is the home of spectacular views of latticed farmland with seams of dry stone walls, some well maintained and in current use while others stand neglected and ruined but still speak of the hands that placed stone upon stone centuries ago.

View from Heights Road

“If I pay the roots of the heather

Too close attention, they will invite me

To whiten my bones among them”

( from Sylvia Plath’s poem Wuthering Heights)

Houses are scattered along the road and when I first explored this area I was amused by a building named Rough Bottom and it wasn’t until I began to research my family connections to this windswept moor that I discovered that Rough Bottom had once housed the Harwood family, and the attached building that projects from the Western end was the whitesmith’s smithy.

Rough Bottom

The land behind the building is open moorland, ‘Rough’ to distinguish it from the managed farm fields, and above the building is Rough Top farm.

Rough Top Farm

The next group of buildings span Foster Clough, a fast moving stream. Foster Clough was home of the Harwoods until Edgar’s father moved into the centre of Midgley village, opening a grocer’s shop after his marriage in 1847. It was at that time that he established James Harwood and Sons, whitesmiths.

Stocks House

By 1861 he was living in Stocks House, a beautiful roadside cottage with his nine siblings until the family moved down into Hebden Bridge, part of the migration to the valley bottoms for the faster mills and by 1871 they were living on my street, Crown Street. In 1891 they were at 11 Crown Street and along with his brothers they have specialized their whitesmithing business and are now registered as shuttle tongue and tip makers. The tongue is that part of the shuttled that is hinged like a pocket-knife, so that it projects out from the mortise when inserting a fresh cop of yarn. Meanwhile Edgar’s shuttle tip business continued to flourish. His father built Malvern House on Crown Street, across the street from me which now houses Boots chemist.

Malvern House’s name engraved in the stonework of the current Boots chemist, Crown Street

In 1892 it moved to larger premises close to Foster Mill retaining the name Crown Street Works. There were 35 employees and they exported to many parts of the world. As many of the successful manufacturers Edgar played a prominent role in the Hebden Bridge community. He headed up the masonic lodge was the worshipful master and was a leading member of the liberal association. He was a member of Birchcliffe choir and was a deacon the chapel for six years, the beautifully preserved building where he married Ada, just across the road from their marital home at Hurst Dene. He served on the Hebden Bridge council for eleven years becoming the chairperson, an office which his father had held before him, being termed “mayor” in the local newspaper. During the first world war he sat on the military tribunal and in 1923 he swore the Oath of Allegiance as a Justice of the Peace in Todmorden Town Hall. But there was time for relaxation too in Edgar’s busy life. Judging from the prizes he won in the Hebden Bridge Horticultural shows over several years Edgar was a keen gardener, his fine aspidistra and plate of tomatoes gaining him two first places.

Halifax fair

In the summer of 1922 Edgar and his second wife took a cruise from Liverpool to New York on the Laconia, a ship that would be sunk after a torpedo attack by a German U-boat in 1942 with a loss of over 1800 lives of soldiers and prisoners.

In 1927 Edgar was killed at work when a grindstone burst at the Crown Street works. His brother James who worked there was the first on the scene of the accident. Edgar had been grinding peg points on a large sandstone grindstone. There was no fencing around the rotating stone because the men had to have easy access to it. Apparently Edgar had fitted a new pulley to make the grindstone rotate quicker just a minute before the accident when a large crack was heard. An eye witness related: “Mr Harwood was lying on the ground. He had been killed instantaneously, part of his skull was blown away and part of his right hand.” An inquest revealed that the grindstone had been operating at 75% above a safe working speed but nevertheless a verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury. The funeral service at Birchcliffe Chapel was conducted by the Rev A. Windsor who had been a close friend of the Harwoods. Indeed he proffered that ‘nobody else knew him better. ‘ He described Edgar as ‘an unpolished diamond’ ‘There was a mixture of strength and tenderness in him.’ The shock had been so intense for his wife, that she was unable to attend the funeral though the list of mourners and floral tributes took up an entire column in the newspaper.

One grim February afternoon with snow still clinging to the roads and a heavy cloud of fog obscuring even the closest hills I came across a photograph of the former Crown Street Works online taken ten years ago. It’s entitled ‘Former Crown Street Iron Works, Spring Grove, Hebden Bridge,’ and it was with a jolt that I realized that I knew the place. The skeleton of this large building had attracted me since moving to the town and I found several photos of it that I’ve taken of it over the past few years.

All that remains of Edgar’s Crown Street works where he was killed

Something about it had intrigued me. It’s on a small piece of derelict land, roofless and for the past year has had a ruined car with smashed windscreen and flat tyres just outside one of the doors. The wide double door at the side was usually firmly closed and locked, presumably to prevent people wandering in and coming to some harm but one day the doors were open and I was able to see inside. There’s not much of interest, just piles of odd pallets and boxes Adjoining the building are the derelict stables which are currently for sale. Last year I had even made a piece of fabric art from the photograph I took of the stables. As I took a closer look at the stables a man emerged from a house opposite. He owns the stables which once served Foster Mill and he showed me photos of the cottages that once stood on the site of the modern houses which now form Spring Grove. My thoughts when I pass this place in future will now be filled with Edgar’s ghost wandering in this ruin while his wife’s ghost floats above Blakedean Bridge.

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