A morning in Winters


A week ago I hadn’t even heard of Winters. I was coming to the end of tracking the homes of the Gibsons and had become intrigued by a strain of Gibsons who kept pubs in my local area, not always successfully, and some with tragic consequences, but I thought this would be a good research project for the dark winter evenings. When I came upon the fact that one pub was located in the appropriately named Winters – well, that was a no brainer. So the first day that the weather was reasonable enough to tramp over the moors I set off to find Winters. I’d discovered a Winter’s Lane  perched high up on the hillside just below Badger Lane in Blackshaw so I caught the bus to Blackshaw Head. Other places that I’d listed as residences of the Gibson family were on my list too. I knew that I’d previously taken photos of a row of old cottages called Dry Soil just because the name amused me – and now I’d found out that a Gibson relative had lived there: John Gibson  in 1881.

He’d also lived in Cally Hall (1871 census) which was another group of cottages on Badger Lane close by. I’d taken a photo of those picturesque cottages too with their amazing view over the Calder Valley, and I remember finding out that the name Cally had come from Calico cloth. So I stopped to take another photo now that I knew John Gibson had lived there in 1871 and had died there in 1887. (He’d also lived at Underbank at the bottom of the hill in 1861, but that was for another day).

Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter – 15 April 1887

I’d taken a copy of an 1861 map with me and a current ordinance survey map and I knew I was turn off Badger Lane at Marsh Lane. I found what I thought was the correct lane – a a well-used Bridle path but there was no road sign. A man was just turning into it with no hesitation and so I called out,

“Is that Marsh Lane?’


I crossed over.

“Do you mind if I join you for a little while I’m looking for Winter’s Mill.’’

He knew the place and so we followed the well-marked bridle path down. He was from Colne and had left his car on Badger Lane, was hiking down to Hebden for coffee, and then would take the bus back up to the car.

“I’ve always wanted to move to Hebden but my wife finds it depressing,” 

I was looking for a mill pond where water would have been stored and used to keep the machinery at mill moving at dry times of the year. It was the pond’s presence on the map which had alerted me to the mill site because there’s nothing remaining of the mill today. The row of cottages marked on my 1861 map came into view and my hiking buddy mentioned that the old mill pond is now a garden at the back of the cottages.

Cottages at Winters

The only definitive remains of the mill was a picturesque arch with initials and date carved above. A well positioned bench overlooked the valley and we sat and chatted, asking him about the accessibility of some of the footpaths back down to the valley. The Pennine Way passes this way but from the map it looks very steep and wooded and  probably not a good option for today. The man agreed. 

I wanted to take a photo of the cottages but trees were blocking my view so eventually I decided to go up the steep drive and see if anyone came out. At that moment I car came upon the drive and the owner of the end house, which had obviously once been a barn rolled down the window.

“Can I help you?” I explained my presence and she was very helpful. “You can walk right through the front gardens” she said. “It’s a public right of way.” So off I went along the front of the 4 cottages. As I stopped to take photos a couple with a toddler came towards me. Again I explained my mission. “We’ve just bought the end house, but haven’t moved in yet. Would you like to come in and see it?” For whatever reason this house seemed the most likely place for John Gibson’s shop and beer retailers as listed in Pigot’s directory of 1834. This John Gibson, born in 1780 and died in 1837 was the grandfather of the Dry Soil and Cally Hall John Gibson! Before moving to Winters he had previously been innkeeper of the Black Bull at Bridge Lanes recorded in 1811, 1822 and 1829.  Inside  the house the place was amazing. All the walls were exposed stone and the rooms retained their stone flag floors. The ceilings were not more than 6’6” high and the stone fireplaces were intact, though they now had stoves inset. I immediately wondered about damp and cold penetrating into the house but it was lovely.

The lady took me out back and within 6” of the back door was a small gully running with fast water over which a stone flat led into the large garden, half of which had obviously been the mill pond. An old water pump remained at the side of the pond. Again I wondered what this must be like in heavy rain but it looked lovely. I told her that my daughter Anna would just love such a place with a bare stone interior! Her husband asked for my email and said that the cottage had come with lots of old documents. I do hope he contacts me – but I guess I can always call now I know where they live. He said the cottage was built around 1730 but isn’t a listed building. I took my leave and wandered around the area for a while trying to find any signs of the mill but many of the tracks were took steep and slippery to explore today. The couple did tell me that there is an old photo of the mill but I can’t find it on Pennine horizons or the Charlestown website even though there’s a history of the mill on the latter site. The only one I can find was taken in the 1940’s of a lady outside the building that was then used as a toilet!

According to the Charlestown history site the mill was built in 1805 by John Sutcliffe. Between 1827 and 1832 the mill was purchased by William Horsfall and it seems likely that it was at that time that it was  converted to steam power to be able to cope with competition from other manufacturers. In 1842 the mill was capable of turning raw cotton into finished cloth. It had departments for carding, spinning (4360 spindles) and weaving (90 power looms ). It was said to be the largest manufacturer of sateens and dimitie going into Manchester.

By the 1841 census there were 32 men, women and children listed as living in Winters: cotton spinners, weavers, carders, winders. The only person not engaged at the mill was Joshua Gibson, 35, and his wife Sally, 35 who were farmers.  Soon after from 1844 to 1855 Joshua and Sally and their 9 children were living in Bridge Lanes and he was a farmer of 5 acres employing an unreadable number of workers. He gave up his license in 1855 and Richard Parker took on the job of landlord at the Black Bull, Bridge Lanes.  and two years later he’s listed as a butcher. The following year he hanged himself in his slaughter house on May 30th, 1858 and was buried at Heptonstall church three days later.

View of the Calder Valley from Winters

In 1842 and 1864 two surveys were carried out regarding the value of the machinery, buildings, utensils and livestock. In 1864 the mill consisted of:

  • Blowing room
    Carding room
    Throstle Room
    Mule rooms
    New mill
    Nos. 1,2 & 3 rooms
    Beaming room?
    Storehourse, store room & office
    Boiler house, engine house
    Yard and gas piping
  • There was also a smithy and a mechanics shop.
  • The 1842 evaluation for the domestic building included: Old white cow, Red and white cow and Roan cow,The new cow, Old stable manure, Bay mare, shaft and trace, General farming utensils and 3 stable buckets, 2 pack carts, Box tubs, lumber, wheel barrow and hand barrow, 2 water tubs

One interesting entry was for articles to be found in the ‘room over the school’ so Winters had its own schoolroom in 1842! By the next census in 1851 the mill employed about 75-90 people. Some workers lived on site eg at Winters Cottages (1851 census shows 63 people living at Winters with two cottages empty),

On February 25, 1868 the mill was struck by lightning.In1877 William raised more capital by a second mortgage on the mill and Underbank, but had trouble keeping up payments to suppliers and creditors.

The name Winters

By the end of 1880 the business, now owned by William Horsfall,  was effectively Bankrupt. In March 1881 the machinery and engine boiler were sold and part or all of the mill was sold off for stone.The old part of Winters Mill used mules to spin yarn (called twist) and the newer part was used for power looms to manufacture fustian cloth In 1839 the coming of the railway meant that the mill could get raw cotton from Liverpool and send finished goods to Manchester much quicker.

Winters Lane

I returned to Winter’s Lane thinking how many more people must have lived in this vicinity both the keep the mill going and also to necessitate a shop and beer house in the 1830’s. I’d checked with the locals that my planned route was easy to follow and it was. Winter’s Lane can carry vehicles but it ends and turns into a tiny track called Dark lane. This was more like Dark River today but my new hiking boots were up to the task. Dark Lane led back onto another lane  that was just about passable by car, though very steep,  although bags of salt were stationed every ten yards in anticipation of icy weather. The sound of traffic along the Calder Valley rose up to the path and the whistle of the train blended in with the birdsong from time to time. 

Dark Lane

Eventually I came out onto Rawtenstall Bank,  a very steep road, though fully paved for cars,  with several switchbacks. I decided not to take the short cut down Cat Steps!

A few terraces are strewn along the road and they are at a crazy angle with their roof line close to 45 degrees. One of these terraces is Glenview, and in 1901 and 1911 Arthur Gibson, Joshua’s grandson,  was living at #9. Arthur was Thomas Gibson’s son. Thomas Gibson had been a butcher all his life, growing up in Winters and presumably attending the school there. At the age of 21 he married Hannah Stott and they had 9 children , the youngest being Arthur, 1873-1957. Arthur had been employed in the clothing industry all his life, first as a tailor’s apprentice then as a fustian cutter. A lady was just coming out of her house as a took a photo of the terrace. “I’m tracing my ancestors. They used to live at #9” I explained. “Ah, that’s that’s  end one.” Weird. The last one was number 8! Ah well. Perhaps the terrace was longer at one time. 


My next stop was 16 Bank Terrace, in 1911 the home of Joshua’s great granddaughter Ethel Gibson-Atack, and so the great great granddaughter of John Gibson who I had stated the day with. It is through Ethel’s husband, Harold Atack that I am related to Barbara Atack the president of the Hebden Bridge Historical society. When I first moved here and joined the society Barbara told me that her husband’s father had lived in Cheetham House where I was then living! Bank Terrace is so steep that it looks as if it’s falling down the hillside. 

I turned off Rawtenstall bank onto Oakville Road where some imposing Victorian mansions are set up high above the road. At one of these, Oak Villa another Gibson relative – Mary Gibson-Butterworth lived in 1881. Mary was Joshua’s daughter and so had lived at the shop/inn that her father kept at Winters and was 11 years old on the1841 census. I wonder if she went to the school in Winters. 10 years later, in 1851,  she was a servant at the inn in Hawksclough which I’ve not yet quite found, though I’ve been researching that too. Richard Parker was the innkeeper. Remember, a Richard Parker had taken over the license of the Black Bull at bridge Lanes from Joshua (Mary’s dad). In 1861 Mary married Ezra Butterworth a plate layer for the railway company and she was the housekeeper at the now demolished White Horse Inn in Lee’s Yard, Hebden Bridge. My 1871 they are living on Crown Street, my street, and Ezra is still an employee of the railway company but by 1881 at  the age of 51 Ezra is now a farmer with 9 ares of land and he’s living in Oak Villa just off Rawtenstall End. The houses on either side of Oak Villa each have a live-in general servant. Mary and Ezra seem to have gone up in the world. Very rapidly. I just don’t understand their rapid rise in finances.  In correspondence with author Frank McKenna, Will Thorne, a Victorian platelayer himself, stated that the platelayer was the ‘most neglected man in the service.’ (McKenna, The Railway Workers, p.35-36). ‘The railways were one of the few organisations in the Victorian period where someone from a lowly background could rise up to better their ‘lot’ in life. For many, these opportunities were small, but for the industrious they definitely existed. However, excluding women, who could not advance for obvious reasons, one group of railway employees had almost no opportunities to advance beyond their station. These were the platelayers. By 1860, W.M. Mills stated that on Britain’s 8863 miles of railway there were 8598 platelayers. Gangs of platelayers were marshalled under a foreman or ganger, and were allocated a section of line to look after. This had to be inspected twice a day and any faults in the track’s gauge, level and superelevation were to be mended by using their picks, shovels, hammers, wrenches and track gauges. They also had to maintain line side fences and keep the culverts clear, as well as retrieve any item that may have fallen from a train. All these tasks were to be done in all weathers.

Platelayers at Portsmouth station about 1908-from Roger Birch’s Todmorden Album

Further, to this, platelayer’s working conditions were the poorest of any railway employees. For six days a week they had to be on duty between 6am and 6pm, and at the end of the day they had to make sure that the line was clear and in good working order. Naturally, if the work had not been completed by 6pm, they had to stay until it was done so. Pay was probably the worst of any railway employees, apart from women, and the hard graft was rewarded with a measly 17 to 21 shillings per week. Indeed, sickness on a Sunday would mean that a platelayer would forfeit his Monday pay.’

(Turniprail.blogspot.com: the site of Dr David Turner)

I fail to see how Ezra, son of a handloom weaver, a labourer still living at Dale with his parents at the age of 24, a plate layer for the railway at 33 has amassed the money to build several houses in the centre of Hebden Bridge. In the census of 1871 his describes himself as a ‘railway contractor’ and has built, according to Grace’s bio, ‘some houses on Carlton Terrace on the site of what is now the Cooperative building.’ In Feb 1889 he commissioned an architect to draw up plans for the construction of two houses and a missal on Savile Road. The building plan, which I found in the archives, has ‘dis’ pencilled in above the ‘Date of Approval by the Council,’ therefore reading ‘disapproval.’ Hmm . . . this man is really proving to be an enigma for by 1891 he is residing there. This gentleman’s residence remains today, a showpiece of the man who made it!

Oak Villa

Oh, oh my. The very next day I thought I’d try and find out more about Ezra’s rise to the upper class and I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes. On Ancestry I found a 34 page document entitled the Life and Times of Ezra Butterworth, 1827-1898 as told by his daughter  Grace,  1863-1944,  to her four children and recounted by them to his great granddaughters, all handwritten by Barbara Moss. It had been uploaded by ‘mossquire’ who I had exchanged several emails with about the Moss family over the last few weeks and so I’d never even thought to look for Gibson’s in his info online! I read quickly through some of the pages and it turns out that Ezra sent his daughter, Grace to the Moss school on Hangingroyd Road that I’ve been delving into over the last month! Truly amazing!. There was even a photo of him in his hunting gear. I emailed mossquire to see if he’d transcribed the 34 page document but no such luck. Think I’ll have to save that job for a rainy day – or a rainy week! (Task completed)

Ezra Butterwoth – husband of aunt of husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed!!!

Ezra Butterworth 1828-
husband of aunt of husband of 1st cousin 3x removed

Mary Gibson-Butterworth 1830-1918
Wife of Ezra Butterworth

Joshua Gibson 1806-1858
Father of Mary Gibson-Butterworth

Thomas Gibson 1828-1897
Son of Joshua Gibson

Thomas Henry Gibson 1869-1947
Son of Thomas Gibson

Amelia Whitham-Gibson 1869-1949
Wife of Thomas Henry Gibson

James Farrar Whitham 1837-1901
Father of Amelia Whitham-Gibson

Father of James Farrar Whitham


JOHN NUTTON 1862-1934

Daughter of JOHN NUTTON

Jack Dean Denton 1920-1995

Heather Jacqueline Denton
You are the daughter of Jack Dean Denton

Update on Ezra’s story

June 2020

From Ezra’s story an account of the life and times of Ezra Butterworth (1827-1898) as told by his daughter Grace (1863-1944) to her four children and recounted by them to his great-granddaughter Barbara Moss I knew that Ezra had become estranged from his son, Gibson, and that he was often afflicted by drink. However, it wasn’t until today that I did some more digging in the local newspapers and found several stories corroborating both his standing of high esteem within the local community and his drunken episodes. 17 October, 1890. Ezra Butterworth, farmer, Hipping was summoned for having his dog out without a muzzle. He sent his man servant to plead guilty.—P.S. Sutherland said that on Sunday afternoon last, about 2-30, he was on duty along with P.C. Copping near Blackshawhead, and there saw defendant’s dog on the highway without muzzle. Defendant and his man-servant were with it. It was a sporting dog.—The manservant admitted the accuracy of the sergeant’s evidence, but said they were only just crossing the road. They had been into a neighbour’s field to look at two young horses—The sergeant said they were nearly a mile from Hippings, and he saw the dog and the two men travel about 100 yards along the highroad. They then left the road and went across a grass field.—Fined 1 shilling and costs 9 shillings. On the other hand in 1884 he was deemed suitable as an overseer and in 1885 he was elected Liberal councillor for Stansfield, and in 1894 a parish councillor

From the journal:

In 1890 Ezra decided against the wishes of Mary and Grace to lease Hippins farm from the Savile estate, paying an advanced payment that would secure his tenancy for the next 25 years. (Is it just a coincidence that Ezra built his residence, Oak Villa, on Savile Road?) It stood on the hillside and was 75 acres in extent. He spent a great deal of money on improvements building a new barn and putting a new inside to the house. He bought from Ireland twelve Kerry cows and a bull and settled down to a very different way of life. They hired a couple to live in the cottage, the man to run the farm and his wife to help in the house.

While still living at the farm Ezra resumed railway work and his son Gibson agreed to assist on the farm, doing bookkeeping and managing the workers on the understanding that a remuneration of 70 pounds a year should be paid to him on the sale of farm stock. When the stock was sold Gibson inquired after the money that they had agreed upon but Ezra told him that his mother had taken all the proceeds. She had left Hippings two days after the sale, having previously told her husband that unless he promised to sign the pledge and abide by it she would not stay. Ezra’s drinking bouts could last two or three weeks at a time, the newspaper recorded. The following is evidence that Ezra’s drunkenness caused problems outside the household too. In the Burnley newspaper we read that on 20th May, 1882 Ezra Butterworth, a traveller from Hebden Bridge, was summoned for being drunk whilst charge a horse and conveyance in St. James’ Street, Burnley at eleven o’clock Thursday night, the 17th ult.—Fined 10s. He did not abide by his pledge to Mary and so two days after the sale she left and went to live with her newly married daughter and husband Elias. However, when Ezra died in December of 1898 it was discovered that he had revised his will and left everything to his wife, and his daughter, Grace, and her husband textile manufacturer Elias Barker and Gibson had been left nothing. So Gibson took out a court action to reclaim what he thought was owing to him. Gibson’s relationship with his parents had not been an easy one. At one time Gibson had been turned away from the home for disobeying his parents. “Grace did a lot of heavy work about the farm when her brother would not lift a finger to help her.” In February 1900, two years after his father’s death Gibson brought a court action against his mother, Mary, and his son-in law Elias Barker claiming wages that he had earned as his father’s ‘hired servant’ at the rate of 70 per year as agreed. The report of the court case spanned three columns in the paper and then, just as Grace was brought to testify the judge adjourned the court because the proceeding had taken up so much time. As I was searching for the next episode in the saga I found the following story covered comprehensively in the Todmorden newspaper:


Can a tale be harrowing and comical at the same time? Is this story a candidate for the Darwin awards? The newspaper heading had it all: The Blackshaw Mystery – Threat with a loaded gun – Disgraceful and sickening behaviour. At the age of 71 Ezra was found in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor by the postman. With the assistance of a neighbouring farmer they two got Ezra settled in his bed but he died later that same evening. One of the witnesses at the inquest was John Whitaker a fustian cutter of Stubb, Mytholyroyd who had been staying with Ezra for the previous three weeks. One night another man joined them and, according to the newspaper report John reported “We all slept together.” Coroner: “Was it cold that night?” (Laughter) “No sir, I thought it very warm” (renewed laughter). We frequently stayed in bed together til 4 in the afternoon. I have persuaded him to stay in bed late telling him that it would save money.” About 10 days before his death the two had been drinking at the Blue Ball. On his way home Ezra fell down and John went back to the inn and the landlord’s son came to assist, and together they managed to get Ezra home, and settled him in bed. Some time during the night he fell out of bed onto the chamber pot, breaking it in two pieces and cutting himself somewhere behind. He stayed in bed for several days , John and his house cleaner bringing him a little food and drink, but eventually took up his loaded gun from the rack in the kitchen saying “I’ll shoot ’em all,” and John quickly left. A few days later he was found by the postman laying on his back on the living room floor, senseless, though still alive, undressed and without his stockings (!). The postman called for help from the farmer next door and together they got him up the stairs and in to bed. Dr Cairns from Hebden Bridge was called and described a 4 to 5 inch wound on the right thigh or buttock. He suggested that this, plus the exposure of being on the cold stone floor was the cause of death. Elias Barker, Ezra’s son-in-law was called as a witness. He had been summoned to the farm immediately the postman raised the alarm. He was asked if there was any money missing from the house, or any articles. No he responded. “Did you remove the chamber pot?” “Yes.” “What did it contain?” “I called it pure blood.” The court accepted that no foul play was involved.

As I returned into Hebden along the canal I stopped to take a photo of #1 Fountain Street which is the first house from the canal in a row of Victorian back-to-back houses.

1 Fountain Street

Annie Gibson Hart  (1866-1917) was living there in 1911. She was a grandchild of Thomas Gibson. Her parents were Thomas Gibson and Hannah Stott-Gibson. She married a fustian cutter, Cornelius Hart from Bolton. At the time of her marriage she was a fustian machinist and the newly weds were living with her parents at Old Gate. By 1901 they were living at Hebble End, childless. Hebble End was the area of Hebden Bridge that I first stayed in the summer I came by myself to research my ancestry. 1911 saw them still working in the fustian industry. Prior to his marriage Cornelius had lived and worked at Lower Lumb Mill (built 1802) with his parents and siblings. Lumb Mill School was founded in 1845 by the owners of the mill. In 1851 there was one school room, 20’ by 16’, with 34 girls and 17 boys, who were taught reading writing and arithmetic.  The children would have worked half time, with one group at school in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Somewhere in this locality the Sutcliffes opened a one-room factory school. This was because in 1845 the Factory Acts said that children had to spend a certain number of hours in education if they were to continue working in the mills. 34 girls and 17 boys were taught reading, writing and arithmetic at Lumb.Half timing ended only with the Fisher Act of 1917. The ruins of a 200-year-old cotton mill have been brought back to life, thanks to a new hydro-electricity scheme that starts generating electricity today. The hydro scheme uses the original weir and water channels that supplied the industrial-revolution-era mill when it was first built in 1802, and will produce enough clean electricity to power around 40 homes and save 60 tonnes of CO2 per year from going into the atmosphere. The 450,000 project is the brainchild of Bede and Jane Mullen, who have lived by the ruins of Lower Lumb mill in Hebden Bridge for over 30 years. My photos of Lower Lumb Mill come from a hike I took in April.


  1. Gabby Bob

    Thanks, for your update dated 6/20/20. So sorry for him. We reap what we sow.
    Also, have you listened to” “Beegie Adair”? I want an answer!

  2. Peter Turner

    Hello – Re. Ezra Butterworth (my great great grandfather)

    I sent the following message to you via the Ancestry website earlier on today, but then thought that, of course, there’s no guarantee when you might next be using the site….. so here it is again (& apologies if you’ve already read it!). I will try to write again with more background as soon as I can.

    My name is Peter & I’ll be sending you a longer message (- later today – hopefully! – & probably to your website) concerning Ezra & the document giving his life story. Briefly, the document was actually not written by Barbara M. , but rather by Barbara’s aunt (& my grandmother) Edna May Thornton (née Barker), the fourth & youngest child of Grace & Elias. For reasons I’ll go into later, producing the account was quite a labour of love for Edna (or Teddie as she was known – she really didn’t like the name Edna!) – and she handwrote 3 copies: one for Barbi (with whom she had a v.warm & close relationship) and one each for her children: my mother Delia Turner, and my uncle David Thornton. I’d been taking a rather long Ancestry-break until yesterday & I’ve not as yet been in touch with mossquire, who I think must be one of Barbi’s nephews (- she never married). I’d come across his posting of the document a few months ago and, in consultation with my Mum, we think maybe he’s James, the son of Barbi’s late brother Bryan – and we’re pretty sure he would have been unaware that there are 2 other copies, and perhaps may not know that the story had been written by his great aunt Teddie. At the time Mum felt it best that she should contact him directly – but, as is the way of things, life sort of got in the way & she hadn’t got round to doing so. Anyhow, I’ve got a few things I must go & get on with – so I’ll be in touch again soon (if not later today, then tomorrow). All the best, Peter.

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