Every so often I’ll read a novel, become engrossed by it, and then read other books by the same author: recent examples being Benjamen Myers and Sebastien Faulks whose books I picked up at random, usually in free book swaps. But I don’t read a lot of fiction. Last week I was reading Ranulph Fiennes autobiography in preparation for going to see him but who knows whether this event will take place now.
Last week I was browsing in a second hand book store in Todmorden and my eye alighted on a book by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. But next to it was a book – How to be a failure and succeed. It was the author’s name that attracted my attention – Sir Ernest Hall and I realised that it had been written by the father of someone I know who I’d met in a creative writing class in Hebden Bridge. I’d been invited to spent Christmas Eve with her family in a wonderful old hall dating from the 17th century. In one room was a grand piano. The book shop was closed and when I went again the following week although the shop was open the window display had changed.
It’s one of those wonderful old book stores where the assistant sits on a stool surrounded by battered boxes overflowing with books. I explained my mission, talked briefly about ‘the virus’ and its impact on small businesses, and was told that if they could locate it they’d call me. On the very day I finished the Fiennes book Sir Ernest Hall’s book arrived in the post. Quickly scanning the chapters I learned he grew up in the same town as me, Bolton, that his father worked in the same cotton mill as my mum and her dad, Swan Lane Mill, that his father had the same job in that mill as my grandad!
Then Ernest went on to study piano at the Northern College of Music in Manchester. I couldn’t believe the parallels between his life and mine and I called his daughter to share the story, and she called him to tell him! Over the following few days as I read about the similarities of his school experiences to mine I became absorbed in the book. He’d mention districts and streets that I knew well as a child.
Coming from a tiny village school in Affetside where there were 30 children in the entire school, divided into two classrooms and entering a large school with over 750 students when I was 11 was so overwhelming for me that i never came to terms with it. Coupled with the fact that for me to get to school each day I had to walk through three fields, usually full of cows, (in my wellies which I then changed for my ‘school shoes’, leaving my wellies in the porch of an obliging lady who lived next to the bus stop) then catch two buses, while many of the girls arrived at school in elegant cars, often driven by nannies.
It had been almost a year since I’d been on The Long Causeway, a road running along the top of the ridge from Blackshaw Head. I’d taken my daughters there and we’d had a grand old time exploring Bridestones, outcrops of millstone grit rocks and boulders which are ½ a mile long. Amongst these rocky outcrops are a number of odd-shaped formations that have been caused by weather-related erosion over thousands, if not millions of years. One huge boulder in particular, known as ‘The Great Bridestone’ is fantastically shaped at its base, looking like an up-turned bottle, as if it might topple over at any moment. There are a number of myths and legends associated with The Bridestones, many of these going back to the mists of time. More recently, perhaps, there are a number of local traditions that have become connected to the place and its many, strange-shaped rocks and boulders. However, today I wasn’t going to explore the stones, which necessitates a diversion from the road.
Again, it was another sunny day, and a couple of times on the hike I felt positively warm! Starting from Blackshaw Head Bridestones can be see in the far distance, it it looked a mighty long way. There were great views over the Calder Valley to Stoodley pike and there were a few newborn lambs enjoying the sunshine too. At one point I decided to take a cart track, clearly marked on my map but it soon petered out into a narrow footpath heading steeply down so I backtracked, something which I don’t like doing, and kept to the road. Very few cars passed, a few bicycles, no other walkers, but someone on a pony came along and then galloped off into a field.
I was taking this walk because of the virus and of course that was on my mind as I took some photos of things in nature that resembled the diagrams of the virus itself which pervades our news screens incessantly at the moment:
I passed several old halls before arriving in the little community of Cross Stones. It’s dominated by a church which can be seen from Todmorden perched high above the town. I have several ancestors buried in the cemetery. There has been a church here since about 1450 and it was built as a Chapel of Ease for Heptonstall Parish to serve the townships of Stansfield and Langfield. A chapel of ease was specifically built for the convenience of those parishoners who could not easily get to the main church. It is built high up on the hills above the Todmorden valley, with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. But it’s a very steep climb and it must have been quite a task to get a coffin up there on a snowy day in winter. It wouldn’t have been very pleasant for the mourners either, who would probably have had to walk to the graveyard. In recent times the fabric of the building became unsafe and the church was closed and converted to a private house. As I approached I saw a for sale sign – hmmm, church of sale, but no, it was the old school next door that was for sale.
A few years after 1713 a man named Pilling collected £65 from friends in London and with local help as well, he built a schoolhouse near Cross Stone Church. It was maintained by the chapelry and in 1743 the interest on the money made £3 a year, which paid for the free instruction of six poor children. The teacher was the chapelry clerk and he was paid by the parents of the 30-40 schoolchildren for instructing them in reading and writing. A William Greenwood says that he held school on Sunday mornings and up to twenty children attended. They were charged one penny a week. Quills cost half a penny, copy books two pennies, a reading easy was sixpence and “rithmetic” was one shilling and eight pence. The top room housed the school and the bottom served as the jail, whilst the far right hand end of the house was the home of the schoolmaster.
A few gravestones surround the actual church but a large graveyard is across the street and it is still in use. One of the original entrance post is still intact but the other one is prostrate but its cap has been incorporated into the wall.
Close by I came across a ceramic frog in someone’s garden and I took a photo of it for an art project I’m working on. Then just around the corner I saw the following road sign.
I’d been to Baitings reservoir a couple of times before, once with a hiking buddy, once with friends Jean and John when Anna came to stay but though I’d walked across the dam I hadn’t walked around the entire reservoir. So, bus up Cragg Vale on t’th’ tops and then a walk around the dam.
It only took ab out 45 minutes to walk around the reservoir, about the same time as walking round Lafayette reservoir so I decided to walk into the little town at the foot of the valley, Ripponden. This required passing through the ‘Dam Car Park.’
There’s a new series of Last Tango in Halifax airing at the mom ent and in last week’s episode there was a scene in which sheep were being herded across the old bridge in Ripponden. Perhaps that was what reminded me of the little town and brought me to it today. Rather than follow the main road down I headed off across to the other side of the Ryburn valley and followed Blue Ball Road.
I was enjoying the lovely Spring sunshine so I decided to extend my walk to Soyland, a tiny upland village which I haven’t been to before. My reason was that one of my ancestors kept a pub there. Just as I arrived at the village a man walking his dog came into view. “Are you local?” I asked. Yes, he was and so I asked him about the pub, the White Hart. He told me that there was once a pub in the village and he remembered it. “You’ll see a big stone flag attached to the wall by the front door. That used to be the urinal!” I thanked him for this interesting snippet of information and walked on. “Oh, by the way,” he called after me. “There’s a White Hart Fold” about a mile up from Ripponden on the Rochdale road. There used to be a pub there.” Sure enough just around the bend I found what must have been an former pub with the stone slab for the urinal! But whether this wasw, or was not The White Hart that one of my ancestors used to run I have not yet been able to ascertain. “License of the White Hart, Soyland, transferred from Mr.John Bell to Mr.Henry Redman of Heptonstall. License of the Black Bull, Heptonstall, transferred from Mr.Henry Redman to Mr.George Greenwood. (Halifax Courier, 12th May 1855)” This was the same man who had been the licensee of Handle Hall Inn, Calderbrook, Littleborough which I’d visited a couple of days ago.
The road eventually became very steep as it headed into Ripponden and I made a beeline for the Bridge Pub for some much needed refreshment. It was far less busy than usual and I sat at a table well removed from others, keeping my distance.
Strategies for dealing with the collapse of the world as I know it:
Go for a hike
Take pretty pictures
Find some connection with my ancestry
Do some research
Write a blog
Arthur Moss, one time owner of the Sportsman was related to me.
Arthur was born in Garden Square, Hebden Bridge, an area in the centre of town that no longer exists. He was one of 8 children born to Joseph Moss, a fustian cutter and in time Arthur entered the same business. The family lived for a time at Buttress Bottom, a collection of ramshackled dwellings. Milltown Memories describes it thus:
Most problematical of all was Buttress Brink, where occupants had to walk through a gloomy ground floor tunnel still lit by gas lamps, climb steep steps set into an almost vertical hillside, then cross bridges spanning the gaps between hillside and property. Needless to say the homes within boasted no modern amenities such as bathrooms and toilets; the kitchens, small and cramped, had only a single cold water tap over a stone sink.
By the time Arthur was 8 the family had moved just across the street to Royd Terrace. Arthur lived there until he married Mary Ann Sutcliffe at St John’s Halifax in 1893. 1895 sees Arthur and his new family, two children, in Mytholmroyd. 1904-1908 they were at 1 Bottom Laithe, Mytholmroyd
Relationship to me!!!
Arthur Moss 1869-1927 1st cousin 1x removed of husband of 3rd cousin 2x removed
My Saturday plans had fallen through due to “social distancing” and so a friend had suggested a walk around Hollingworth Lake. However, the weather was a bit iffy – heavy clouds and intermittent rain, so we drove around the countryside, exploring no end of country lanes that petered out into footpaths or were barred, literally, by sturdy gates: a perfect Saturday afternoon in the countryside.
Out circuitous driving took us over the Pennines from Yorkshire into Lancashire. We spent some time in the Littleborough area where she had lived for a while, exploring the tiny hamlet of Whittaker with its lovely Heather Mount cottage.
I was surprised by the steepness of the single track lanes rising out of the valley, and several times we had to back a considerable distance in order to pass oncoming traffic. Another area new to me was Ealees. As we were driving around the Calderbrook area I suddenly recognised an ancient building on the roadside. It was built directly onto the road and was a long building adjoining a barn. It was named Handle Hall Inn, Calderbrook, although it’s now a private dwelling. Last year, as I was doing some ancestry research, I’d found an old photo of this place when it was still an inn, thanks to the Rochdale History Society Facebook page, and driving past it I’d recognised the building. We stopped so I could take a couple of photos but when I got home it took me a couple hours to find my family’s connection to the place. But what else was I to do on a Saturday night now that Match of the Day’s been cancelled for the foreseeable future.
We stopped to have lunch at Rebecca’s, a little cafe in the centre of Littleborough. I’ve walked along the canal through the town several times, and have stopped for a drink in The Wheatsheaf once while waiting for a train but I’ve never explored the little town, population 7500. It owes its origins to being at the junction of two ancient road over the Pennines, one being a Roman Road – Blackstone Edge. I have a very early memory of a drive out with my mum and dad along Blackstone Edge on a very foggy day. When they told me it was an old Roman Road I was quite scared because I expected to see a Roman centurion appearing out of the mist from the hillside. By the end of the Middle Ages Littleborough consisted of a church, a cluster of cottages and the primary occupation was hand loom weaving and sheep farming. Merchants passed through the town on their way to markets in Halifax and Rochdale. It’s interesting that the Wrigley part of my family, my gt gt gt gt grandfather, James Wrigley, moved from Rochdale to Heptonstall between 1809 and 1811. During the industrial revolution cotton became the major industry and mills, houses for the workers and mansions for the mill owners appeared both in the town and in the surrounding hills and hamlets. In 1804 the Rochdale Canal over the Pennines was finished, necessitating a tunnel over ‘Summit.’ The first time I walked the tow path of the canal over the summit, April 2018, I thought I was going to have to walk through a tunnel! Hollingworth Lake was built to provide a steady water supply for the canal. It was one of my mum’s favourite trips out after she moved to Tottington and she took my family there on one of our visits to England. In 1841 the Manchester and Leeds railway followed a similar route to the canal, and also necessitated a long summit tunnel. There is a ruined mill on the canal bank which always attracts my attention when I walk the tow path, and a beautiful old hall, still lived in is close by.
Henry was baptised at Heptonstall church on Christmas day, 1836. His parents were William and Mary. Along with Henry, who was born on Aug 12, 1806, his two siblings were also baptised, Richard, who had been born on April 16, 1809 and Elizabeth, who had been born on April 27, 1816. It wasn’t particularly unusual for several siblings to be baptised on the same day, but what is unusual was for them to be so old: Henry was 30 years old.
If I hadn’t seen a facsimile of the actual church record on Ancestry.com I wouldn’t have believed it! In fact it would seem that henry was already married before he was baptised since his children were Elizabeth (1834-1897-, John (1838-1881) and Sarah Ann (1841-1881). William was born 1843 and Hamlet in 1847.
In the 1841 census the family are living at Back Lane Heptonstall where Henry is a reed maker. A reed, in weaving terms, is rather like a comb and is used to push the weft yarn into place once the shuttle has pulled it through the warp threads on the loom. This would tie in nicely with Heptonstall being a village of handloom weavers at this time. Also living with them is Richard Redman, aged 25, a tin plate worker, someone who made or repaired tinware.
The 1851 census has the family living at, yes, Lily Hall, where Henry is still a reed maker, and now also a farmer of 7 acres. but by 1851 the Wrigleys, the Farrars and the Whithams, all ancestors of mine are no longer living at Lily Hall. In a newspaper of 1855 I found: License of the White Hart, Soyland, transferred from Mr.John Bell to Mr.Henry Redman of Heptonstall. License of the Black Bull, Heptonstall, transferred from Mr.Henry Redman to Mr.George Greenwood. (Halifax Courier, 12th May 1855).
This seems to imply that Henry gave up the Black Bull at Heptonstall and took over the White Hart in Soyland. On July 22, 1854 Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth had married George Greenwood, a painter from Heptonstall so it would appear that Henry signed the Black Bull over to his son-in-law, and he moved to Soyland. Both pubs are now private residences. The White Hart closed in the 1990s. The Black Bull closed in the 1920s though it was used as a working men’s club until 1972.
The next time I find Henry is as the landlord of the Handle Hall inn in Calderbrook, Littleborough, the building I recognised on my drive yesterday. Apart from Elizabeth, who is now running the Black Bull, his wife and all his children remain with him. In the listed building register it is described thus: The rebuilding of a house of 1610, with the barn added in the 1840s, they are in stone with a stone-slate roof. The house has quoins and eaves, cornice, two storeys and three bays. There are two doorways with ogee-headed lintels and hood moulds and the windows are mullioned, those in the ground floor with hood moulds. Above a door is an inscribed and dated plaque. The barn to the right has a round-arch wagon entrance and round windows. I’d contacted a Facebook page about Rochdale pubs past and present in December of last year and I’d had 18 responses, one of which gave me a link to a study that Rochdale Local Studies group had done on the pub complete with photos, a map and general information. Someone even responded that their gt gt gt grandparents had kept the pub. Henry lists his occupation as farmer and innkeeper but by 1871 he is a retired farmer living at #4, Wilderness. this presented me with an interesting problem: Where is ‘Wilderness’? Again Facebook to the rescue: Wilderness was an area of Summit Littleborough around the Royal Oak (later The Huntsman Inn) on Todmorden Rd. Henry Redman was the licensee of The Queen Anne Inn between 1858 and 1861. OK the dates aren’t quite accurate but now I know where Wilderness is.
Another responder also goes on to say: Just had a look on Google Earth to see if any of the terraces at Summit have Wilderness on them but no luck. So it would appear that there are some terraces near the Summit which Henry and Ann lived in but 1881 find them in Maden’s Square, right in the centre of Littleborough. No doubt life at the summit was difficult for a couple now in their mid 70’s. Henry died in 1884 and was buried at Heptonstall church on March 10th.
I couple of weeks ago during a rehearsal of my chamber music group we happened to sight read through an arrangement of Ketelbey’s ‘In a Persian Market.’ This brought back memories of my childhood when my dad used to give me music for birthday and Christmas presents. The pieces were usually ones that he had grown up with, and one of them was ‘In a Persian Market.’ I’m pretty sure I still have the sheet music he gave me. When it was first published, in 1920, in a version for piano, it was advertised as an “educational novelty”. It had an orange and back cover and at one point there are words: A chorus of beggars sings: “Baksheesh! baksheesh Allah;” passers-by sing “Empshi” (“get away”). One of our group commented on how such words are now politically incorrect and ‘you certainly couldn’t sing that now where I live.’ On further conversation I ascertained that he lives in Keighley, a town close to Haworth, which I can get to easily by bus, over t’ tops, one of my favourite bus rides in fact. ‘Is there anything in particular i should see in the town?’ I asked. ‘Well, there’s Cliffe Castle about 15 minutes walk from the bus station.’
So here I am, on a beautiful sunny day, scatterings of snow clinging to the bases of the walls on the moors for their very existence. Dropping down into Keighley I decided to explore the town if I had time on my way back but for now I walked up the hill for 15 minutes, past a large park, and saw from the neat castellated wall that I must be close to the castle. I’d checked the opening hours, and the fact that it had a cafe and housed a museum, but apart from that I didn’t know anything about the place. I headed for the cafe, housed in a large conservatory, and settled down to look around me.
From this vantage point on the hill the grounds of the ‘castle’ were laid out with lake and fountains, winding pathways, and on the other hillside across the valley were the barren moors. At one time a series of conservatories connected this building to the main house but some have been removed. A winged dragon tops a roof of the main house while a tall turret looms over the rest of the house in a most imposing manner.
I explored the conservatories, one having a really wonderful collection of cacti and succulents, beautifully arranged, and, as aa feature I always remark upon, there are boards and comments set up to delight children – another example of the way in which British children are ‘educated’ for free. For yes, entrance to this entire complex is free!
In this case children (and adults!) are asked to find 6 hedgehogs that are hiding amongst the cacti. One of the glass houses now hosts a small collection of birds and rodents.
Then on to the main house. I was met by a helpful docent and given a map and off I went to explore. He suggested I start in a room containing a timeline. It also acted as the lunch room for visiting school parties, one of which had deposited their backpacks there as they went on tour.
Cliffe Hall was built by Christopher Netherwood between 1828 and 1833, and designed by George Webster of Kendal a gothic revivalist. The Butterfields, a textile manufacturing family, bought Cliffe Hall in 1848. Henry Isaac Butterfield transformed the building by adding towers, a ballroom and conservatories from 1875 to 1880, and renamed it Cliffe Castle in 1878. He decorated the building with the griffin motif, which he had adopted as a heraldic crest. Cliffe Castle was originally the home of Victorian millionaire and textile manufacturer, Henry Isaac Butterfield. Completed in the 1880s the building was funded by the Butterfield family’s industrial empire which included wool textile mills and a shipping business that took British goods to Europe, America and China.
The completed house was a showpiece of international art and French decoration. It was the scene of many glittering social events. Butterfield family connections included the Roosevelt’s of America and members of the court of Napoleon III. By 1887, the Cliffe Castle Estate had around 300 acres. The son of Henry Isaac Butterfield (1819–1910) was Sir Frederick William Louis Butterfield (1858–1943). In 1916, Sir Frederick became Major of Keighley and held that title until 1918 when he hosted a visit to the town by King George V and Queen Mary on 29 May of that year.
In the 1950s the Castle was bought by Sir Bracewell Smith, a local man who became Lord Mayor of London. Sir Bracewell used architect Sir Albert Richardson to turn Cliffe Castle’s gardens into a grand public park and remodelled the Castle to be a free museum for the people of the district.
The 4 living rooms contained a wealth of sumptuous statues, fabrics, furniture and painting, way beyond what I had anticipated. One room was designed as a music room with a Bluthner grand piano. When I left the house the helpful docent asked if I’d be interested in coming to a music performance there. I offered to give a performance and gave him my card!
Part of the house is a museum. In recent years Cliffe Castle has undergone a major restoration. Visitors can see sparkling Victorian rooms and furniture, paintings, and decorative art. Special galleries deal with natural history, archaeology and social history, all of which can be seen on your visit along with the internationally important display of stained glass by Morris and Co.
The Airedale Gallery explores the fascinating geology of the district from the birth of Earth through to the formation of the underlying rocks that define the district and on to the shaping of the landscape during the last Ice Age. The gallery explores the Carboniferous Coal Measures and Millstone Grit that are famous for fuelling the Industrial Revolution that led to the birth of industrial towns & cities like Keighley, Bradford & Leeds. Throughout the gallery the visitor can view a myriad of ancient fossils from the familiar ammonites and ichthyosaurs of the Jurassic to the internationally important holotype of the early tetrapod Pholiderpeton scutigerum.
Another section explores the geology of rocks and minerals where visitors can learn how to identify different minerals and rocks or just enjoy the colourful beauty of what has been described by the former head of the Geology Museum as ‘…probably the best, as regards the range and quality of its minerals and its design, outside the major national museums’. There’s a natural history section too!
After a couple of hours I was overloaded with information and headed back to the cafe, had lunch and then explored the grounds which were just coming into their major Spring displays with crocuses and daffodils on the banks. Getting back into the town I did a bit of wandering, finding a street of Victorian buildings glistening a warm gold in the late afternoon sunshine. The street reminded me of Harrogate – not two town normally uttered in the same breath. I also saw an imposing building with Keighley Cycling Club etched in stone, and a large building, home to Keighley library, the first public library in England. Amazing!
Then last night on Radio 4 I suddenly heard ‘Keighley’ and it turned out to be a documentary about this man: Asa Briggs, Baron Briggs was an English historian. He was a leading specialist on the Victorian era, and the foremost historian of broadcasting in Britain. Briggs achieved international recognition during his long and prolific career for examining various aspects of modern British history. Apparently he was one of the leaders who tried to preserve the Victorian buildings of Keighley during the 1960s when towns were stripped of their beautiful old buildings in an attempt to ‘modernise.’