Several months ago when planning my trip I’d come across a book by Jean Illingworth describing her childhood in the small village of Sowerby, a mile above Sowerby Bridge. Today we had arranged to meet and she was to give me a personal guided tour of the town. Since so many of my ancestors were married and baptized in Sowerby Bridge they probably knew Sowerby. They may have lived there.
Jean, who worked in the media library at the Halifax Courier was waiting for me at St Peter’s church after my train and bus journey and immediately we were off, she as eager to share her knowledge as I was to learn about the small town. She’d brought old photos of the center of the town so I could see the destruction of the old buildings in order to make room for 1950s and 1960s ugly buildings. Where the side streets remained intact the place felt very much like Heptonstall. In fact the relative location of Heptonstall to Hebden Bridge is identical to that of Sowerby and Sowerby Bridge. St Peter’s church is the third to stand on that site and it was built by a Halifax stonemason called John Wilson and based on Holy Trinity Church in Leeds — opened in Jan 1763 – tower added in 1781. It certainly is unusual architecture for a small northern church. A brand new house totally out of character has recently been built on the main street. Jean is known by everyone in the center of the village and we were able to take a peek into stunning gardens, the village wash house, slaughter house, even a two seater toilet! Jean’s book received accolades from 2 local residents: MP Austin Mitchell (lives at Long Field, Dean Lane) and Sir Ernest Hall who was responsible for the redevelopment of Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. We went to see their homes.
“Congratulations on doing such an important job!”
Sir Ernest Hall
“Brings Sowerby to life, and I love the photos”
Austin Mitchell, MP
A council estate was built, shops created and many of the original building subsequently lost their views of the hills. Jean showed me where she was born, where she currently lives and her schools. Here is the rare Georgian house, Field House, that belonged to the Stansfeld family. Sir Ernest Hall bought the Field House estate in the mid 1980’s but now lives in Lanzarote.
Returning to Sowerby Bridge by bus because I didn’t have the time to walk back down as I would have wished but I got a very nice ham, cranberry and brie sandwich and tea and went to sit by the canal. And then it was time for meeting #2.
Marion Barraclough had come to my attention on Ancestry.com. Her husband is a Barraclough and we were both tracing the same line of Barracloughs, so she drove over from Burnley with her daughter and grandson and we arranged to meet in the Innovation
Cafe. She’d told me that she’d be instantly recognizable because she has purple hair. It speaks realms that the first woman I approached with purple hair wasn’t Marion! She’d brought some family photos and some paper from her research that she’s been working on for around ten years. She married a Barraclough, and had a son and daughter, and then divorce him and married his brother. They had a son and a daughter too, and they’ve been married for over 20 years. One of her grandsons is just about to go to college in Guilford as a . . . music major (guitar). She also has twin granddaughters. It transpired that her mother’s family were Waddingtons (same as mine but her family came from Briarfield!). We had a lovely time, and if my Nutton and Barraclough families intersect as I think they do, Marion’s daughter and grandson would be my blood relatives, though distant.
In the evening the Proms were dedicated to David Bowie and had a wonderful anthology of new arrangements of his songs – quite magical.