Walter Crabtree was the husband of my 3rd cousin twice removed! OK. He’s quite a distant ancestor. BUT he lived here:
At the moment I’m not sure how long he lived in Stansfield Hall, Todmorden, but he died there in July 1956, the year after I was born. So this cloudy Saturday morning I decided to go and check out the place. I knew that it had been added to and altered many times since it was built in 1610 for James Stansfield. A large extension was added in 1862 in the Gothic Revival style by John Gibson( oh, no, not ANOTHER GIBSON!) For Member of Parliament, Joshua Fielding. Of the original 17th century house only a cross-wing survives.
I’d never been to this area of Todmorden before and the approach across a small footbridge over the railway was rather – colorful. I climbed up the steep hillside and soon came to Stansfield Hall Road. The entire right hand side of the road was bordered by an impressive stone wall, too high for me to peek over but I could see the tops of trees of what was obviously an extensive and well cared for garden. I’d seen online the impressive gateposts leading into the curving driveway and, knowing that the building was now used as apartments I had anticipated that there might be a security gate that I wouldn’t be bale to negotiate.
But, no security gate so I ended the gardens, up the drive and the Hall came into sight, but I was seeing the rear of the building. To my right spacious manicured lawns, flower beds and treed areas were occasionally dotted with tables and chairs, and the odd child’s toy.
I felt awkward at imposing on the residents’ Saturday morning and taking photos from the lawn but my attention was drawn to the sound of a a leaf blower, and turning the corner I saw its owner. I approached and he switched off the noisy contraption. I explained my quest and he pointed out for me the oldest part of the building – the cross-wing of the original 1610 house. He had heard of the Crabtree family. I asked his permission to go onto the lawn and take photos. He said that would be fine. Because of its elevated position and sloping grounds there were several stairs and hidden paths through the trees.
The man pointed out what had once been a snooker room, connected to the main building by a covered gantry. Once at the front of the house I could take in its vast expanse. There was also a nearby cottage, perhaps for servants? I think there had also been a gatehouse at one time but that has been demolished. The gardens were immaculate, and as I left I mentioned this to the man and asked if he was responsible for the entire grounds. “No, just outside my bit of the building,” he replied. Ah, he lives here, whoops! As I left I heard a train pass by just below the garden. At one time there was a station at Stansfield, named appropriately enough Stansfield Hall railway station which opened in 1869. ‘ A train drew up there, unwontedly – it was late June’ – from Adelstrop, by Edward Thomas, one of the poems I remember from my childhood.
So who was this man who lived here? Born in 1875, and baptized at Cross Stone church high above Todmorden, he was living with his parents Charles and Ellen at 1 Cross Street, Todmorden, aged 6 on the 1881 census. His father’s occupation is given as Cotton Spinner and Manufacturer, employing ?114 hands (though it’s difficult to read). His older sister, Betsy, is a pupil teacher, aged 15. Walter had 5 siblings. I can’t locate Cross Street. He was still there in 1891. He was 15 but he is a ‘scholar.’ This is significant since children were working long before their 15th birthday. For example, in the next street, Myrtle, which is in the centre of Todmorden, Willie Brocock, aged 11, is a throstle spinner. On the day the census was taken in 1901 Walter is a noted as a visitor at the home, North Road, Ripon, Yorkshire, of Dr Arthur C. A. Ludgrove, a physician and surgeon from Sevenoaks in Kent. Walter Crabtree is now listed as a physician and surgeon himself. He was educated at Owens College, Manchester and took his MB ChB in 1899. He was a house physician at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and later an honorary radiologist at Reedyford Hospital, Nelson. 5 years later he married Edith Wrigley, my 3rd cousin, twice removed, at Cross Lanes chapel, on the way up the hill from Hebden Bridge to Heptonstall. The chapel has long gone but I’ve wandered around the cemetery which has a spectacular view over Hebden Bridge. Several Wrigleys are buried there. At the time of their marriage Walter was living at 125 Netherfield Road, Nelson, in Lancashire, a surgeon. He was 31. Rather late for a marriage at that time. Edith, a spinster, was 28, living at 9 Halifax Road, Todmorden, daughter of Thomas Henry Wrigley, house painter. In 1911 he was living with his wife, and a live-in servant, Jane Halliday, 19 years old. In 1939 he was living at 87 Barkerhouse Road, Nelson. When he died at Stansfield Hall he left over 8000 pounds to his widow. Quite a fortune at that time.