Month: May 2019

Stansfield Hall

Walter Crabtree was the husband of my 3rd cousin twice removed! OK. He’s quite a distant ancestor. BUT he lived here:

The front elevation from the garden

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. 

The cross-wing on the right is part of the original 1610 building

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.

What an entrance!

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.

Front door not too bad either

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. 

The current railway track – Manchester to Leeds.

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.

Of fossils and flora

I’d set up a meeting with David Gelsthorpe, curator of The Earth Science Collection at the Manchester Museum, to view Samuel Gibson’s collection of fossils and flora. I’d been looking forward to this opportunity for a couple of years – ever since I’d first discovered online that one of my ancestors was a famous collector of fossils. I remembered my own first foray into that interest: my mum had taken me Youth Hostelling for the first time, to Slaidburn Youth Hostel, and we’d taken a walk around Stocks reservoir, where I’d found fossils corals, showing me, at first hand, so to speak, that at one time this part of Lancashire was a tropical seabed. That blew my mind. I think I was 11 at the time. I seriously considered becoming a paleontologist but my understanding of science was poor and by the time I came to do my ‘O’ levels I’d dropped the idea altogether and taken up music as my life’s work. When I left the U.S 18 months ago I placed a lot of my fossil collection in the garden, but I think some it it still remains in the storage unit in California. Some pieces I took to the Bolton Museum and was told they were fossil ferns in the shale/coal deposits. On a trip to the south of England  with my mum and dad  when I was 14, I was responsible for the  planning and so a trip to Lyme Regis was high on the list of ‘must sees’ and I came home with many ammonites. Aust Cliff, under the Severn Bridge, also reaped rewards. Two books which remained on the bookshelf above my bed at Affetside were Fossils and Geology. I may still have the Fossils book. 

The imposing facade of Manchester Museum
The tiny fossils that were named after my ancestor, Samuel Gibson – his handwriting

I was at Hebden Bridge station in plenty of time. For the first time this ‘summer’ I was wearing sandals and only had a cardigan, no jacket. Under a totally blue sky sporting plane vapor trails galore, the train arrived. I boarded. So did a dog and its owner. We sat down. The train didn’t move. The dog whimpered loudly. The dog began to bark – very loudly. Still the train didn’t move. The dog’s minder apologized: we’re only going to the next stop. Eventually after 20 minutes the guard told us that Northern Rail apologized, but he couldn’t tell us what was holding us up. i thought that perhaps there was a problem with the rails to our West, but incoming trains proved otherwise. After 35 minutes, during which the dog just about deafened me, we were told to get off the train, it wasn’t going anywhere, and the next train to Manchester would be along in 15 minutes. Fortunately from then on everything went according to plan. The barking, whimpering dog, did, indeed get off, thankfully (for it and me!) In Todmorden and the ride into Manchester was uneventful. I. Now had only 10 minutes to get to the Museum for my appointment. I checked the buses, ones you pay on,  free ones, Uber rides in the locality, and eventually had to plump for a taxi which delivered me to the museum only 5 minutes b behind schedule. The building is a grand affair – Victorian architecture at its finest. It’s connected to Owen’s college somehow – where Anna spent a year when she was a student at Manchester uni.

The girl on the front desk called David and soon I was following him  behind the scenes into the depths of the museum. On a table Samuel Gibson’s fossil collection was laid out, all ready for me to view. I was impressed. My experience of people’s organizational skills in my area hit rock bottom yesterday when, on my visit to a prison, the leader of our group had forgotten to email one of our volunteers of details of the day. She’d even taken the day off work in oder to volunteer! So to see the boxes of fossils all laid out ready for my attention was wonderful. Many of the exhibits were ammonite-like creatures called goniatites, precursors of ammonites with less defined whirls on them. Some of them were no bigger than a pin head. I was fascinated by how Samuel had even seen these tiny fossils. Many were labelled in his own handwriting and included the location from where he’d collection them The shales of Todmorden were mentioned frequently, and to my amazement so was Slaidburn!

To think that these tiny fossils had possibly been on display in Sam’s pub/museum in Mytholmroyd between 1842 and 1849.  I can’t really imagine that they would have attracted customers to his pub. To serious collectors they would have been very important. One goniatites is named after him Goniatites Gibsonii but  it’s tiny, no larger than a 5pence piece. Some fossils were housed in tiny cardboard cylinders, less than an inch in diameter, that perhaps Samuel made himself. As I chatted with David about this collection I learned that he, too, lives in Hebden Bridge! 

After taking photos and getting to hold some of the fossils myself  David took me to meet Lindsay who is the curator of the Flora collection. We walked along corridors filled with deep green boxes which contain 650,000 specimens. Apart from Kew gardens and the British Museum in London Manchester’s collection ranks with those of Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge in the size of the collection. I spent the next hour in the company of  Samuel’s collection of plants as Lindsey Loughtman, Curatorial assistant, Botany, and her PhD student gave me their undivided attention.

Lindsey had sent me an email: We have several thousand Samuel Gibson specimens, possibly more as we’re still cataloguing the collection. Around 2000 microscope slides of seeds, and 160 lichen, with fewer British wild flowers and ferns.  There are three algae exsiccatae too.

We were in a lovely sunny room and at the long table a few volunteers were working on preserving some plant collections – herbariums. I had thought that a herbarium was a place – like a conservatory – but it means a collection of plants, either pressed on paper and catalogued in books, or pressed between glass to make glass slides. I was told the amazing story of how, in 2016, a large red corrugated box was discovered in the the midst of the 650,000 specimens and Lindsay asked her assistant to clean all the slides (8 boxes each containing 150 slides)  and catalogue  them. This took her from September til December. Along with the slides there are small glass boxes in which there are seeds which can move around in the box. Then, already set out on the long tables, ready for my perusal were Samuel Gibson’s books of pressed mosses and lichens. Each was labelled in his own hand, and again, like the fossils, one was named after him! The museum had obtained at least some of the collection from the Royal Museum and Library at Peel Park in Salford, so I need to find out more about that. It was wonderful to hold the slides with his tiny  handwriting  identifying the specimens. It reminded me of the juvenile  Bronte books written in the tiniest of lettering. Many of the names of the specimens were printed and Lindsay suggested that these labels had been cut from books and/or magazines. I wondered how Sam’s dates filled in with those of Mary Anning, the fossil collector from Lyme Regis whose discoveries turned the idea of God creating the world and all living creatures in 6 days on its head. I had noticed that at the end of the two papers that Sam had appended too the Heptonstall Slack typhus epidemic that he makes reference to God’s world, demonstrating his faith. 

After lots more photos I was taken to meet Dave Earl, one of the volunteers, who recently discovered a previously unnamed raspberry bramble. He’s had its DNA tested by someone in the Czech republic and lo and behold Dave had named it in honor of my ancestor – Gibsonii. I suggested it might be appropriate to plant it on Samuel’s grave if we can find it under the years of leaves and brambles at Butts Green Chapel. Wouldn’t it be  amazing if that particular bramble was actually already growing in that cemetery? Dave travels all over this area in search of specimens and so he’ll be heading out to Warley sometime soon! 

In Search of the Wrigleys of Rochdale – and the finding of a school friend?

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been on the trail of the Gibsons, specifically Samuel Gibson, collector of flora and fossils. I’d spent Tuesday in the company of this eminent self-taught ancestor as I viewed his herbarium and fossil collection at Manchester Museum. The Gibsons married into the Wrigleys. The Wrigleys had moved from Rochdale to Hebden Bridge and on one of my summer trips July 2017 I had visited St Chad’s in Rochdale where some of these Wrigleys were baptized, married and buried. During that visit I’d had a beer in a strangely named pub, The Baum, on Toad Lane, home of the Cooperative  movement. I’d spent an hour in the museum there, opposite a large imposing church situated on a small piece of high ground. This turned out to be St Mary’s in the Baum. According to records online there were two grave stones bearing inscriptions to my Wrigley ancestors.

Knowing that most churches are kept locked I did my usual search for times when the church would be open – for a coffee morning, perhaps. I discovered that the church is a big venue for music and a series of lunchtime concerts was posted. This Wednesday was the turn of the Rochdale Retirement choir, conducted by ‘well known soprano Freda Farnworth.’  I did a double take. A Freda Farnworth was in my class, 3K, at Bolton School in my first year. She had an excellent voice and I remembered that she left school early to attend Chetham’s music School in Manchester. Could this be her? I tried to find her on social media, and through the chorus, but no bio or photo was forthcoming. Well, I guess I have to go to the concert. I decided to take the long route, going by bus just so that I could she what the route had to offer in the way of scenery. Nothing spectacular but you do see more traveling by bus rather than train because it’s so much slower.

When I arrived at the church and had paid my £5 I was really disappointed to see that Freda would not be conducting today due to a family bereavement. So I paid my 50p for tea and cake and joined about 20 more people at tables in the church. I overheard the ladies on the adjacent table talking about Freda so I explained my connection, and they thought that she had trained at Chetham’s. They would pass my business card on to Freda. Perhaps the choir would even perform my songs sometime! They pointed me in the direction of someone who could help me find the Wrigley gravestones but the information she gave me was again disappointing. This church only dated from 1866 and in 1966 the graves had been moved to another venue, Rochdale cemetery. Only a few flat gravestones had been kept at St Mary’s and they now formed a pathway around one side of the church. “But they all belong to previous ministers of this church,” she said.

The choir sang for an hour, conducted by a last minute replacement, an aging vicar who kept things rolling merrily, not to mention beginning the wrong songs, and the audience of around 30 souls obviously enjoyed it. “Well, where else can you get pie and peas, a piece of cake, a cup of tea and a concert for £5,” I overheard.

Concert done, the church soon emptied and I went to look at the pathway made of gravestones. As the lady had said, most of them were former ministers of this church or yeomen or manufacturers – obviously people of importance in the community. But I kept looking, somehow knowing I would find it.  And there it was! The gravestone of my great great great great great grandmother, Mary Wrigley (nee Wilkinson) who died in 1805. Her 5 year old son, John, died in 1789 and 2 year old  daughter, Martha, 1792. However, Mary’s husband Arthur is not named on the gravestone. But it certainly looks as if a space has been left for his name.

When I got home I tried to find his burial place and it would seem to be St Chad’s, St Mary’s sister church. ‘The Church of St Mary’s-in’the-Baum, Rochdale, originated in 1738 when a subscription deed outlined the need for a ‘chapel of relief’ in Rochdale due to the growing number of parishioners. The resulting chapel and associated churchyard was largely gifted by Samuel Chetham of Castleton Hall, who supplied the land and £500. The chapel opened for worship in 1742. It was a modest, brick-built, rectangular building of six bays with round-headed windows.
By 1905 the church was suffering from cracks and a sinking apse. The decision was made to build a new church, though the C18 building was well-loved by the parishioners and there was a clear desire to retain some of its character in the new design. A challenging design brief was drawn up including improved ventilation and light within the mill-ridden neighbourhood, greater interior decoration, greater capacity (682 persons was specified in one document), and also the retention of the character of the original chapel. The architect was Ninian Comper whose design for the new church sensitively addressed the brief.’

I finished my adventure my calling in at The Baum. I ordered a veggie chili and rice and was happy to see that they had Leffe on tap, something I haven’t seen before. I’d finished my half by the time my food arrived . . .45 minutes after ordering it. But it’s a nice pub and I had a good book with me, Millstone Grit by Glyn Hughes. I’d discovered it mentioned in a ‘Literary Calderdale’ flier, had ordered it from the library and picked it up from there before I had set off to Rochdale. It’s a fascinating glimpse of life in Calderdale in the mid 1970’s and one chapter is about the self-taught scientists of the Calder Valley. Sam Gibson doesn’t get mentioned by name but the milieu in which he gained his knowledge is written about very well.

As I headed back to the bus station this little collection in a shop window caught my attention.

Guided Tour of Manchester’s northern Quarter and Annie Augusta Denton

Guided Tour of Manchester’s northern Quarter and Annie Augusta Denton

My great great aunt, Annie Augusta denton was born on August 40, 1874. I wonder if that’s why she was given the middle name of Augusta – a rather unusual name and not one that I’ve found previously in the Denton family tree. Her parents were Samuel Denton, the organist and professor of music, and Johanna Nash Denton. They lived in Stroud Gloucestershire until sometime between 1877 and 1880 when the family moved to the Manchester area and settled in Broughton, Salford. When the 1901  census was taken on April 1 Annie was living at 3 Hyde Road, south Manchester who h was a residence for shop girls who worked at Affleck and Brown and large department store, housed in an imposing building in the Northern quarter of Manchester. 

A couple of days ago I saw that a guided tour of the Northern quarter was being run by Jonathan Schofield, THE guide to Manchester, who has been a tour guide in the city since 1996. The tour included a back-stage tour of Affleck and Brown building which is now an emporium of private shops, and we would be able able to down into the bowels of the store by way of the haunted staircase! And see what had once been the flat on the top floor.

About 20 people showed ups for the tour and we wandered round the northern quarter – the artsy district of the city. Vimto was invented here by a man trying to keep people from the demon alcohol. It gets its name from a corruption of Gin and Tonic – and it’s also an anagram of vomit! We began the tour in Stevenson square which acted as speakers’ corner in the early days and Mrs Pankhurst spoke there. There are still a few weavers’ cottages in the area, recognizable by the narrow windows on the upper story but most of them were pulled down during the industrial revolution when the area saw the building of many warehouses for the cotton industry. It was also the venue of many markets. The imposing facade of the fish market remains and after the tour I visited the current craft market. A few Georgian houses remain, with their imposing porticos, and they are now used as designer studios and professional offices. I also learned that Forsyth’s Music store is the oldest family owned shop in the city, and Wayne Rooney’s wife purchased a grand piano there for 90,000 pounds because, every though she doesn’t play, she thought it would look nice in a corner of the house. 

Then to Affleck and Brown. That company bought out Lomas and in fact it was the Lomas building which gave us the behind the scenes tour. Hilary Mantel, whose autobiography I recently read, describes the building in ‘Flud.’ When I told one of the guides in the building about my connection  to it he wanted details of how to find the census online so that he can have it printed and mounted for display. The place is huge. Three storeys and a veritable warren. Brightly colored stone stairwells lead to shops varying from tattoo parlors to vintage clothing stores. Lady Gaga purchased a dress from one of the stores when she was in town to give a concert. Many of the interior walls are adorned with painting which appear to be a cross between frescoes and graffiti. There was even an American snack shop where I saw for the first time in England Arizona ice tea for sale. It was a pity it’s too heavy to carry home. After the tour I had a bagel in the top floor cafe with spectacular views over the city. As I came out a group of guys asked me to take photos of them outside the. building. It was a stag party. It had turned into a lovely sunny day, even though rain had been forecast, and for a while I toyed with the idea of taking a ride on a canal boat,  but couldn’t find a suitable one that didn’t need to be booked in advance, so I headed off back to Hebden Bridge where it started to rain just as I got off the train – and it bucketed down for an hour, then cleared into a lovely sunny evening.