Month: May 2020


Nov 17, 1899. Todmorden and district News:


During the breakfast half-hour Monday morning great excitement, prevailed in the neighbourhood of the Golden Lion  bridge, Todmorden, by reason report that the dead body woman had been found floating in the canal and the sensation was increased by the fact that deceased’s husband appeared on the scene before the body had been recovered. and actually assisted in getting the lifeless form out of the water. The deceased was  Rose Gibson, aged  54 years, wife Richard Gibson, millwright, of 5, Longfield Rd Todmorden. She was very well-known in Todmorden district, being at one time the landlady the York Hotel. It is stated that she was Gibson’s fourth wife, and that she herself had been previously married. The body was at once removed to 5, Longfield Rd Todmorden.. Rumours of a somewhat ugly character were freely circulated, but as nothing of the kind came out in the evidence tendered the inquest shall not refer to them in any way. Mr. W. Barstow. J.P.. held the inquest the Town Hall Tuesday, Councillor Robt. Gibson officiating as foreman of the jury. The first witness called was deceased husband, Richard Gibson, who said he last saw her alive about 5:30 or perhaps six o’clock, on Monday morning; they were then in bed together, as he did not start work until 9 on Monday mornings. He did not notice the time particularly, but thought it would about 6 o’clock when deceased got up. He asked her where she was going, and she replied that she felt a bit starved and was going make some hot cocoa. She partly dressed herself and went downstairs. He did not know whether she got the cocoa or not, but a short time afterwards she came upstairs again, and he felt her putting the clothes on him.. He did not see her again: he had no conversation with her the last time he saw her. He did not hear her leave the bedroom.When got up. about 7-30.he found she was not the house and he went in search of her. He went to her daughter, who cleans Mr. Sager’s office, but she had not been there: as far Cobden. and back again, making inquiries, but could hear nothing of her. Sergt. Nicholson observed that he met the witness by the Town Hall just after 7-30 a.m. Proceeding, witness said he then went back home, to see if she had turned up there, but she had not. He came out again, and when he got to the Golden  Lion  bridge he heard that there was woman in the canal. He went to look, and found it was his wife: he helped to get her out as several who stood never offered to give a hand. It would be about ten minutes or quarter past  eight when found her in the canal just after the factories had loosed. He knew of no reason why his wife should go out when she did. She did no  cleaning except helping her daughter occasionally and she had not been to her daughter  that morning. He identified the body while it was in the water by  deceased’s shawl and her hair. She was quite dead. The Coroner inquired if anything in the form of a letter had been found? Sergeant Nicholson: No. sir. I understand that there was  a piece of rope attached to her clothing? Witness; No, was only a piece of string on the canal bank where we laid her. The Coroner; Can you give the jury any information as to how she got into the canal at that time the day? No  I have no reason to give. —-Mr. A. Greenlees (a juryman):Was anybody  about when you got there? Yes. there were fire or six around, and they could hare got her out: I had to ask four or five times before they would put a  hand on.— The Foreman : Has she ever hinted at taking her life away, or thrown out any suggestion whatever that she would make herself away? Well, she has sometimes said she  would: she told me on Sunday that she had been a bit queer at times ever since the change of life. She has also been a hit upset about letter from a niece in Middleton. A very little put her out —The Coroner: Has she been taking too much drink lately? I can’t tell.—How was she on Saturday and Sunday ? Well, Sunday night she wanted a pint bottle  for beer, and I fetched her one from the White Hart – When did this letter come from  Middleton? At the beginning of last week. —You say it put her about ? Yes I told her not to bother about it because she could not  help it. Then the present condition of her daughter has caused her some anxiety. How far would the place  where she was found lie from your house? Perhaps about a couple of hundred yards.—The Foreman: Had some suspicions made you go out seeking her as soon as you missed her? No. I had no suspicions at all.—The Coroner; did you ever think she was not quite right in her mind ? Only that she was a bit strange now and then: she had been subject to these “low doos” ever since the change.—The Coroner; you mean depression or spirits, or  depression of mind? Yes. —Had she any pain or headache?  She had pain at  the side.—Do you know whether she made the cocoa or not ? I don’t know; she hadn’t lit  the fire, but  we have a gas stove.—l was thinking that the cocoa might be all an excuse get out ? Well, I didn’t find any pot containing cocoa; the vinegar bottle was  on the table, as if she had had a drop  of vinegar. Mary Whitehead wife of Samuel Whitehead, out-door labourer, Back Longfield-road, said she had been with her husband’s breakfast, on Monday morning, and she was coming back, about five minutes  to eight, she met the deceased just below her own house. The deceased was coming down Longfield road, which would lead her to the canal. Witness noticed nothing unusual or strange about her; she had a black shawl on her head, and was holding it with her hand. They did not speak at all. Edwin Robinson, ice cream manufacturer, Hollins Road. Walsden, said he came down the canal bank to his work on Monday morning. When got to the wharf he noticed two children in front of him and on reaching “Neddy-brig”lock they called out “Come here, there’s a woman in the cut.” He got hold of the woman’s left shoulder, and raised her up : her head immediately dropped back, and concluding that she was dead, he at once ran into the main road for assistance. He saw Mr. Moores, draper, Waterside, who went on the canal bank with another man and pulled her out while he(witness) went the police station. This would be about ten minutes past eight. In answer to the Coroner, the jury stated that it would not take deceased more than two minutes walk from where Mrs. Whitehead saw her to where the witness Robinson found her. Ellen Maria Farrar, wife of Farrar, plasterer, Cockpit, Longfield Road deposed to assisting her mother to lay out the body of the deceased on which there was no mark of  violence or injury. Witness last saw Mrs Gibson  alive on Sunday : she then seemed all right—in fact, witness had never seen her when she thought she was not all right. The Coroner,  addressing the jury, said that was all the evidence proposed called, and it would be for them to return such a verdict as they thought the evidence justified. The woman was found drowned in the canal, without mark of violence or injury. It was for the jury to say, if they could, how she became drowned. It seemed  rather strange that the woman should leave home, without any special reason at that time of the morning and within about a quarter hour of last being seen should be  found dead in  the canal—drowned  in broad daylight. Mr. G. T. Moore (a juryman): The deceased’s husband said  he left home to search for her about 7-30; Mrs. Whitehead she saw her just outside her own house, five minutes to 8. I can’t reconcile those two statements. The Foreman observed  that the deceased’s husband  seemed to be a bit muddled about the times. The Coroner: Yes, he was not very positive  about the times, but Mrs. Whitehead was positive and the witness Robinson was equally positive. The woman has evidently got into the canal at a place which is quite safe that time of the morning, any rate. It  almost looks if she had gone in purposely. But do you think there is sufficient evidence to show the state of her mind the time? Mr. Moore: Have we sufficient evidence to say that she has taken her own life ? The Coroner: Is there any other probable way of accounting for it? The Foreman asked deceased’s brother (who had entered the room short time before) could give any information as to a letter from Middleton which was said to have upset her very much ? Deceased’s brother replied that did not think any letter from Middleton had depressed her at all ; they had always been on very friendly terms. Mr. Alex. Wild (a juryman) said  he did not see that they could come to any other conclusion than that suggested by the Coroner,on  the evidence which bad been given. the —At the same time, deceased’s husband was not very clear about the Sunday : he did not say where she was or anything about her. Mr. Moore : She may hare been driven to it by something  we know nothing all about. Mr. A. Greenlees (juryman) suggested an open verdict of  “found drowned.” The Coroner, however, said that an open verdict was very unsatisfactory; it found nothing. Did the jury not think that in all probability it was a case of suicide ? The Foreman, pressed by the Coroner to express an opinion, said had no doubt that the woman had deliberately gone from home to  the canal. Mr. Wild remarked that deceased was only partly dressed. He understood that had nothing on but a shawl and a skirt—no underclothing. After further conversation the jury unanimously agreed to verdict “Found drowned, without mark of violence or injury, having probably drowned herself, but not sufficient evidence to show the state her mind the time.” On the initiative of Mr. Walter Ratcliff the jury unanimously agreed that their fees amounting to 12s.. should be handed to  some local fund in aid the wives and families of the reservists called out to war.

Rose had been married for a little over a year to Richard Gibson who took his own life in 1910 by hanging himself in his house at 17 Union Street, Todmorden. Richard’s father, Joshua Gibson, had also committed suicide in the slaughter house of his pub, the Bull inn, Bridge Lane, Hebden Bridge (see previous blog post). Before his marriage to Rose Richard had been married at least three time, the last marriage before Rose being to Mary Ann Whitaker who was formerly Holt. She was living at the Golden Lion in Todmorden at the time of the marriage in 1894 – either as husband to the landlord (?) or as a live in servant. After Rose’s death in 1899 I can next find Richard as a boarder at the Masonic hall opposite the White Hart inn in Todmorden.

It was opened in 1862 and is a Grade ll listed building. I posted a question on the Todmorden history Facebook page but no-one had ever heard of people living in the building. I was disappointed but then, a couple of weeks later Paul Rigg sent me this message:

My Dad had an office in the Masonic Hall from around 1964 until about 1976. There was a corridor when you went in and various offices until you got to the end where the stops went up to the “Masonic” bit. Beyond there was a kitchen and some living accommodation. At that time the lady who lived there was a Mrs Howell. She acted as cleaner and I think she catered for the Masons. Later they knocked down the internal walls and made a function room. It was very gloomy when you walked in and actually people though it was haunted. The front doors had no keys and if it was locked you had to clamber across a grill and go down a passage at the left hand side of the building. Then you let yourself in through the side door and walk down the corridor to unbolt the front door from the inside! All a bit spooky. My dad had the right hand offices. Roland Sutcliffe had the left hand ones. I think he was a textile agent. It was all a bit Dickensian.

Today as I looked at it for the first time I see that is a very substantial building but it looks disused. I walked around to the rear and it’s possible that another building has been added to it. A couple were sitting in their garden next door enjoying the unseasonably hot weather and they told me that the masons still use it occasionally for functions.

The White Hart has featured in my family history before, being the scene of the court session in which my great great great grandma claims child support from James Wrigley, her neighbour at Lily Hall. It’s also a place I had lunch with Sarah before I knew the Lily Hall connection. Now today, I find it is the place where Richard went to buy a beer for Rose the night before she died.

I’ve never been in the Golden Lion pub but I see that it’s been repainted since I last saw it – bright yellow on one side. It had a little stall of used clothing that people could take home and I was surprised to see that the beer garden was in full use, this still being lockdown time. Across from the Golden Lion is Cockpit, where Ellen Maria Farrar lived. She assisted in the laying out of the body of the deceased. A lady was gardening and explained my story.

She was fascinated and we discussed whether in fact Rose’s death was a suicide. number 5 Longfield no longer exists though there is a section of canal bank almost adjoining the Golden Lion which may have had some houses on it. It currently sports a huge Kindness sign.

I crossed the main road and was immediately at the lock which is adjacent to the road bridge. It had taken me a while to discover that this was once known as Neddy Bridge after one of the former landlords of the Golden Lion – such is the benefit of posting questions on Facebook history sites! I realised that overlooking the lock is the garden of House des Lowe, a cafe I frequent in ‘normal’ times which is owned by my textile teacher and her husband! I’ll never be able to sit enjoying my coffee in the garden without thinking about Rose.

On the right is House des Lowe cafe, adjacent to the lock where Rose was found, with the Golden Lion painted yellow. You can just make out the Kindness sign to the left of the pub which may have been the location of Rose and Richard’s house.

Update, November 23, 2020

Shortly after writing this I found a wonderful book of photographs called Todmorden Now and then in which Daniel Birch has superimposed old photos of Tod with current photos taken from the same place. Daniel brought the book over to me and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found this photo. It shows the corner of the Golden Lion and behind it are the cottages in exactly the places where I thought that Rose’s house must have been. I’d found Rose’s house!

Withens Clough Reservoir

The climb up from Cragg Vale had been long and hard, the path mostly exposed in the intense sunshine so rare in these parts. I’d passed the Victorian church so aptly named St John’s in the Wilderness, and since that point I had climbed into a stark wilderness, devoid of trees, rejoicing in its sharks’ teeth of broken walls, fields yellow with buttercups and the air rejoicing in the baas from the spring lambs. As I crested the hill Withens reservoir stretched out before me, a silent crystal of lapis lazuli nestling in the lap of the moors.

Above me a few wispy translucent clouds had been joined by a con-trail, a rare site in this period of lockdown. I could see for miles as I recalled my first visit to this spot almost three years ago when Sarah and I hiked up to Stoodley Pike from here. I stopped and remembered the ruined farms we’d passed, the steepness of the climb and the joy of reaching our goal that day. Now I was alone, with not another person in sight, and I revelled in that.

I was crossing the dam, looking forward to my first walk around the reservoir when I saw them – a couple on the left bank, behaving rather oddly. They were both bending over and the man had in his hand something long and narrow that he was jiggling up and down. I stopped, unsure of whether to proceed, since my path, the only path, would bring me to them. I had no alternative. The path was on a narrow raised bank between the shore of the reservoir which fell away steeply to my right, while on my left was a ditch, about 10 ft deep and 5 ft wide which encircles the entire south side of the lake.

As I neared the couple I could make out that the long thin object in the man’s hands was a fishing rod. Ah, I thought with some relief. But then I thought a little more. I didn’t know you could fish in a reservoir. Suddenly the woman knelt down and the man launched his fishing line  – into the culvert! “Grand day for it,” I greeted them.

“You’re probably wondering what we’re doin’” she offered. I smiled encouragingly. “Ah were walkin’ ‘ere last Wednesdy when me ‘at blew off intert ditch, so we’ve cum back wi’ th’ fishin’ rod to catch it.” I peered into the depths of the culvert. Sure enough something wet and bright blue was lurking there in the depths. At that very moment the man managed to embed the hook into the hat and it took flight onto the path. I couldn’t resist capturing this on camera and I asked if it was ok to take a photo. “Yer can purrit on Facebook if yer like an’ all” he laughed.

Once landed the hat was hastily bagged into a plastic container obviously brought especially for the occasion. “Yer not from round ‘ere. Yer from America?” “Ee, no,” I chirped back. “I’m from Bolton,” but I could see from the expression on their faces that more explanation was expected – even anticipated. So after the usual explanation (which, by the way, I should record and play back on demand since I have to tell the same story to everyone I speak to) she followed up with, “So what yer doin’ ‘ere this mornin’?”

I explained that I’m trying to visit as many houses where my ancestors lived as possible during the lockdown and so far I’ve walked to 82. “Last night I found that one of my ancestors, a Greenwood, had lived at Withens.” At first I’d thought it might be near Haworth since Top Withins is thought by some to be the prototype of Wuthering Heights but from the 1851 census I could see that ‘my’ Withens was somewhere on the moors above Cragg Vale. “Did you put a posting on Cragg vale history page on Facebook last night?” the woman asked. “Errrr, yes!” I hesitated. This is crazy. I’d put a posting on Facebook asking for information about Withins and today I meet someone who had read that posting. Someone had responded to my posting saying contact Roger  Halliwell. I’d written back saying “How?” since he didn’t appear to have been a member of the page. I didn’t receive a response but the responder should have said ‘Go to Withens reservoir tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Look for was man trying to catch a hat with a fishing line. That’ll be Roger.’ It’s these coincidences that make me feel connected to the place, to this landscape. They invited me to their home when lockdown is over and they obviously  have a good knowledge of the history of the area and are keen to share it with others. It turned out that Roger has Greenwoods in his ancestry too. We might be related!

As I continued on my way I could see the silhouette of one ruined farmhouse on the horizon reminding me of my hike with Sarah where we had passed many sheep pens. An information board at the dam told me that 17 households formed the hamlet of Withens that is now beneath the water. Other farms on the watershed had been compulsorily purchase by the water board to prevent either human or animal contamination of the water supply. Also on the information board is a haiku about the place – written by someone who is in a creative writing group that I attend – and she was also the head of English in my high school in Bolton!

Heading back down into the valley I passed the piglets again. On my way up this morning I’d smiled when I saw them. When I’d caught the bus to Cragg Vale the two ladies boarding before me had both paid with ten pound notes. Since all the shops now aks for payment by  contactless cards  only it’s virtually impossible to get change for  bus fares. “Are you going to give me a tenner too?” the driver had said. “No, I raided my piggy bank this morning,” I replied.

And now here I was face to face with six little piggies, all spotlessly clean and rollicking in the morning sunshine. As I though about the coincidences of the day I passed a parked car with ‘California’ emblazoned on its rear. I smiled again. Ah well, only another  4 ½ miles home.

Roadside stand in Cragg Vale from where Jane supplies me with strawberries


Today I set out to find 2 houses where my ancestors had lived, both on Burlees lane.

Looking across the Calder valley and up into Cragg Vale

The name is recorded as Byrehmley [1301] – meaning cottage meadow or clearings near the cottage -, Burlghes [1393], Burleghs, Burelees [1643], and Burley.

Sky above Burlees Lane – with buttercups

I’d passed the entrance to Burlees Lane a couple of times when I’d taken Wadsworth Lane from Heights Road but I’d never ventured down it.  So today I went prepared with a current map in hand and historic maps in my head. Because of the lockdown I knew that it would be a tough walk up Birchcliffe, a hill so steep that even the little zippy bus that goes up there often has difficulty. I’d never hiked ‘up’ before. But on my way I was rewarded by catching a glimpse of a sign on a group of buildings – Birchcliffe Villas.

I recognized that name as another ancestral home. I must have passed the sign before but because I was always heading downhill at this point I’d never noticed it before.

Gertrude Ann Eastwood was born at Birchfield Villas. Her father Daniel was a wholesale fustian clothing man and his wife was Jane. Next door was Edward, presumably his brother, also in the same business. Her father Daniel died at Stoodley Range  in 1940.  She was still living there in 1910 when she married Edward Binney Gibson at Birchcliffe chapel, just across the street from her house. He was living at croft Terrace a couple of houses away from where I write.  She was a pupil teacher at the time of her marriage, and Edward was a dentist.  It appears that they moved into Vine Cottage on their marriage and there is currently a blue plaque in the window of Vine Cottage commemorating the fact that they lived there in 1916 – a project done in Hebden Bridge to put signs on house windows to say who was living there during the first world war. 

I’d found Vine Cottage a couple of years ago and a wonderful photo of Edward’s father and wife in the first horseless car in Hebden Bridge but although the photo said it was taken in the grounds of Vine Cottage I couldn’t find the spot.

Thomas Binney Gibson and his wife at Vine Cottage

The cottage front was directly onto Birchcliffe Road and I couldn’t see over the wall at the end. . . . Until last week when I was trying to find Primrose cottage, close by, and a couple on their patio expressed both interest and knowledge. I mentioned the photo and they showed my a steep flight of steps from where I could see the courtyard where the photo was taken! By 1939 the couple had moved to Stoodley Range which I had located for the first time last week since it has been renamed Nab Scar. Edward Binney Gibson was one of the primary citizens of Hebden Bridge and his story requires its own post.

Vine cottage courtyard now has a garage

Finding that and stopping to take a couple of photos gave me a moment to catch my breath, and it was with a spring in my step that I headed upwards again. I soon passed the top of Chiserely estate and the road flattened a little and Burlees Lane followed the contour to my right. I liked it immediately – the feeling of open space, the view of the Calder Valley, and the lane itself had a grassy centre and looked delightful, edged by  a variety of spring flowers, and the field above me was yellow with buttercups that have come into flower the last couple of days.

Great Burlees was clearly signposted off to my right and though the track headed downwards I decided to take it. Many times a footpath with run through the farmyard so it makes it easy to explain my presence but no such luck here, and there was no one around to talk to apart from a man whose top half was under a camper van from where a lot of hammering sounds were issuing. I didn’t want to startle him so I took a couple of photos and returned to the lane passing a beautiful level garden with pond. The view over the valley was amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d never discovered this idyllic place, not had I ever heard anyone mention the area.

Hello to you too

So who am I related to that lived in this idyllic spot? And would it have been so idyllic if they lived there pre car, pre supermarket, pre internet, pre telly?

Great Burlees

Steps for mounting my horse

Eliza Crabtree died there in 1928, a spinster. Her father was Lewis Crabtree a farmer, originally from Birchcliffe. Crabtree is a very common name in this vicinity. There are hundreds of Crabtrees buried at Heptonstall and so far I haven’t seen anything  exceptional in Eliza’s ancestry to have pointed towards such a large property.

Great Burlees

She lived there with two unmarried siblings, Mary Hannah and Lewis. This in itself is most unusual.  The farm was built in the late 16th century as a yeoman clothier’s house and the main door has a stone, possibly from an earlier barn inscribed WMC 1691 for William and Mary Cockcrofy (yet another very common name). There is a stained-glass window in the kitchen with figures and dated 1680 for William and his wife. A lead spout is dated 1727. The laithe here is dated 1859.

A perfect view across the valley to Old Chamber and Spencer Lane

Rejoining the lane a looked to my left and through some optical illusion it appeared that the lane headed in a perfectly straight line to Heptonstall church. The next dwelling I’d come to find was Stephenson House. This was the last house on road, on my right and there was no indication of its name on the property. It’s front faced the Calder valley with the same amazing views and its back was built into the hillside below the road. From that point on the road became a very step path through the fields, looking rarely used. I decided to backtrack rather than go on.

Heptonstall church in the distance

Stephenson House – My ancestor here was James Clark and he lived there in 1904. His grandfather, James Wade was a retired clogg manufacturer born in Hebden Bridge in 1816. I can’t find any records for him or his business. In 1881 he was living in Stephenson house with his son, William Clark , a farmer of 10 ½ acres with his wife (born in Preston)  and 6 children, one of whom was James. 1871 they were at park which I now realize must be Park Lane since it’s next to Stubb on the census , a walk I’ve discovered since lockdown.

Stained glass at Stephenson House

Yes, that’s correct. I’ve followed the route of the census man and now that I’ve been doing all this exploring I can make sense of his route. James was born in 1875 and baptized at Mytholmroyd church. He was living at ‘The Park’  – now Park Lane. Presumably it’s called the Park because this was once part of the Erringden deer park.  Erringden’s origins can be traced back to the Vikings when it was known as Heyrikdene which means Valley of Erik or the Valley of the High Ridge (Norse). In 1106 Norman Earl de Warren fenced it in as a deer park. 

Stephenson House

By 1881 the family are at Stephenson house and he continued to live there after his marriage to Marianna Gibson in 1904. Her great granddad was Samuel Gibson, the fossil man! At the time of her marriage she was living at Oxford House, where her father, Thomas,  was a dentist. On his marriage certificate James is a fustian manufacturer. I can’t find them on the 1911 census, or indeed, anything about his fustian company,  but by 1939 they are installed at Machpelah House, close to the railway station. James and Marianne were buried at Heptonstall close to east window. The inscription reads “ James Gibson. RDS Machpehlah house. Also his wife Elizabeth who died at Southport of Machpelah house. Also Marianne wife of James Clark, and James Clark died Jan 24, 1958 aged 82.” There’s a very ostentatious marble plinth.

Grave at Heptonstall church

Exploring Charlestown

Yesterday I finished reading a very unusual book called ‘Break.up’  (her punctuation) by Joanna Walsh which I really enjoyed and so this morning I began to reread a book by Billy Holt called ‘I Haven’t Unpacked’ that Freda and Chris had given me as a birthday present last year. They live in Hawdon Hall, where some of my ancestors lived and they’ve done a pile of research into their property. As Chris was showing me some documents one day I kept seeing I haven’t unpacked written in the margin. I thought it meant he had more information that he hadn’t unpacked yet!

So today I started to reread the book thinking that with a year’s extra knowledge of the area I would enjoy the book even more. The first chapter describes his early life when his father ran a brewery from a small stone terrace on Stoney Lane, Charlestown. Now I’d found Stoney lane a couple of weeks ago as I walked to find Mulcture Hall, so I thought I’d go that way again for my walk . To prepare I looked at the Charlestown history site and noticed that Billy Holt’s brewery is mentioned on a walk, complete with map and description of historical sites along the way so off I trotted.

In this terrace was Holt’s brewery

On the way there I passed Stubbins Wharf pub and thought I’d see if I could locate Stubbin House. I looked for it a couple of times but this time I found it, right next to the canal just beyond Stubbins Wharf pub. How many times must I have passed it, unknowing of its connection with my family, walking along the canal. Charles Lord lived there in 1901 and 1911.  In 1886, he went into partnership with Johnathan Stansfield at Hebden Bridge producing fustian and other materials. He became sole proprietor of the business in 1895.He was a member of Hebden Bridge UDC and a member of the Todmorden RDC [1895] and a Guardian of the Todmorden Union.

Born at Old Chamber in 1856 to John Lord, a butcher and farmer, and his wife Catherine the family had moved to Lee’s yard and were on the census in 1861 and 1871. He married Charlotte Ann Gibson, and it is through this union that I am related to Charles Lord. Charlotte had been born, along with 4 other siblings, in Russia when her dad, William, an engineer/mechanic was there from 1851-1860. 1881 find Charles in Albert street and  from 1891 to 1901 he is living with his family  in some comfort, presumably, at Stubbin House.

Stubbin House

It is now split into two houses, and there is a large addition to the side and rear. It’s currently up for sale at £475,000, which is really high for Hebden Bridge! A 4 bedroom period semi detached with large, well maintained garden, and parking for 2 cars – unheard of in the centre of Hebden Bridge! By 1911 he was back at old Chamber where he had been born.

(Update: Oct 7. On Monday I was taking a walk along the canal and as I passed Stubbin House a lady – with doggy – was just coming out from the garden. I’d noticed a few weeks ago that the For Sale signs had disappeared, so I asked her if she lived there. “I will, beginning Friday,” she cheerfully responded. I explained my interest in the house and she said that life up a the top of Cragg Vale had become too difficult. I joked about there being llamas that seem to enjoy the high altitude. “Oh, those are my llamas. Alpacas, too.” My friend had stayed at her Airbnb llama farm back in 2017. Small world!)

Stubbin House

I did indeed find the row of cottages in which the brewery was located and discovered that I had taken a photo of the end house a couple of weeks ago because there was a trampoline placed above a garage!

Jumble Hole Mill

I stopped for a little picnic in the ruins of Jumble Hole mill . Opposite me some ivy covered ground where believe it or not there were ten dwellings. A few collapsed walls  are all that remains of the five storey Spa Mill that started life as a water-mill.

I then took a short detour that the guide book recommended to see an amazing flight of well worn steps that the mill workers would take to the mill. My question, therefore, is where did they live? The remains of Cow Bridge Mill can be seen on the far side of the river (late 18th century, used for worsted and cotton spinning).

Step t’th’ mill

I was now retracing the steps that I’d taken a few weeks ago, following the Pennine Way. On that occasion I’d taken the very steep high road up to Winters. This time I carried on straight eager to see the ruins of Mt Olive chapel. I couldn’t believe I’d passed so close to it the first week without seeing it. I guess that’s what guide books are for!

All that remains of Mt Olive chapel

From the side I was approaching from all I could see was an old wall, maybe 10 ft high with a semi boarded up window, but when I came around to the front I saw a steep path, still with its iron railings in place, and then several gravestone, some quite ornate.

As it once was

There were no buildings close by, just an amazing view over the valley (and the sewage works) across to Stoodley Pike. A chair and table – with boots – were set in place for the weary traveller.  From the Charlestown history page: The chapel opened in 1842 after occasional services were held in the area since 1836. The chapel was an offshoot of mount Zion at Heptonstall. Some extracts from the Underbank Mill Sunday school minute book record:

The only remaining wall of the chapel
  • The first entry in June 30th 1845 “School meeting held at the hall?, Samuel Smith in the chair”
  • 1846 “The name of the building Mount Olivet to be inscribed on stone on the front of the building”
  • The minister receives 10 shillings a week
  • “1866 Looking for a teacher for the day school and a preacher”
  • On 19th april 1868, John Uttley, a well known temperance veteran, died at Naze Bottom residence. He was one of the oldest abstainers in existence, being one of the founders of teetotalism and at one time a colleague of the famous Joseph Livesey (Tod. Almanac 1871)
  • 9th November 1872, “9 people to be baptised in the lodge owned by Mr. Stead at Jumble Hole”
  • In 1876 there were 58 members
  • In 1885 the minister was Rev.J.H.Smith

In 1909 the Chapel was moved down to the Halifax road with the old chapel being demolished after the war. Every year the old chapel used to have an anniversary celebration with brass band. Ah, this must be the brass band I wrote about in an previous post.

 I continued on my way remarking on the good quality of the stone sets paving the road and soon I came to Nabby Nook cottage where is little stone sign recorded there laying of the stone sets in 2014.

Stone sets on Nabby Lane

Today Nabby Nook, with its bright blue and white painted walls and windows looked almost Mediterranean under this morning’s clear blue sky. A couple of times the track led down cobbled paths so steep that I could hardly negotiate them!

Nabby Nook

Eventually I arrived at the flatter land with its scattered mansions, Higher Underbank, and Knott Hall. “The main dwelling is Higher Underbank House which was thought to have been built about 1612, but around 1770 a new frontage was added. This is a fine example of a yeoman clothier’s house where spun wool would have been brought to and sent out for weaving and the finished product then sent out to market. On the rear wall you can see the blocked up intake door where goods would have been hoisted up.” I found this too from Dr David Harrison: “The family of Christopher Rawdon – a nineteenth century philanthropist who is the subject of my next book – once owned much of the valley around Underbank Hall, and a walk along the wonderfully named Jumble Hole Clough reveals an array of derelict mill, lost graveyards and workers cottages.”


The present site of the Air Training Corps is the original site of Charlestown. On this incredibly small site there were 14 back to back dwellings. Two pieces from the Todmorden Almanac report that in July 1830 a child was born with four legs! and in 1880, “scarlatina of a malignant type broke out causing two fatal cases, the origin was undiscovered”.
We don’t know the date the terraces were built were built at present.

  • In the 1851 census 68 people living there with 7 vacant houses
  • In the 1920s several houses were empty.
  • In the 1920s one of the dwellings was a cobblers shop run by Teddy Speak who was also known as peg leg
  • A Mrs Johnston ran a bakers from her house making onion and potato cakes and who used to supply dinners for Callis Mill.
  • There was a sweet shop that was run from someone’s front room
  • Old Charlestown was demolished in the mid 1950s and became lock-up garages. – from the Charlestown history site.

Site of Old Charlestown
The sign above the door is ‘Temple.’

I passed ‘Temple.’ I’ve seen that I had ancestors living here but I can’t find out anything about the derivation of this strange name. As I returned to Hebden along the main road I saw the ‘new’ Naze Bottom Chapel which is now a private residence.

The ‘new’ Naze Bottom chapel replaced Mt Olive

The chapel was built to replace Olivet Chapel on the hillside. In November 1906 “a grand bazaar was held in the Co-operative Hall, Hebden Bridge, whereby a sum exceeding £700 was raised in aid of the Nazebottom scheme”. The first sod was cut in July 1908 and was opened in March 1909 by Mrs E.J.Crossley of Royd House.

The opening of Naze Bottom chapel in 1909.

Of corpses and lilies

Corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses, often from remote communities, to cemeteries that had burial rights, such as parish churches and chapels of ease. These latter churches were built to lessen the distance people had to travel to the parish church. Until the building of a church in Heptonstall, between 1256 and 1260  people from the entire Calder Valley had to travel to Halifax for baptisms, marriages and funerals. The Church of St John the Baptist in Halifax was built around 1095. It was meant to provide for the whole Parish, which was the largest in England at 150 square miles. It was the only place to have your child baptised, to marry and be buried, to say nothing of regular worship. Hardly surprising that children went unbaptised and marriages happened in the market place, ( the “brush” marriage).  Corpse roads connected outlying locations wih their mother churches, in this case Halifax, which alone held burial rights. This meant that some corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain. Only wealthy people could afford transportation so the corpses had to be carried. In parts, the track is paved to a breadth of 7-8ft, wide enough for a coffin cart or two people walking abreast with a load between them; large blocks of stone beside the path may have been resting stones for those who could not afford a carrier. It is walled and embanked where appropriate to maintain an approximately steady gradient.

I hadn’t set out to walk along the corpse road. I’d set off to visit a house I can see from my window, perched high on the Heptonstall hill. I knew it must be somewhere off the Heptonstall road, so I went to find it. As luck would have it a couple there were working on their garden and I chatted to them and told them of my mission. I could see that the narrow road that led to their house became a footpath and I asked if it led to the church. No, it didn’t but if I followed it I would eventually come out higher on the Heptonstall road, so off I went. It was a well used footpath, bounded on the right by an old wall, and I could see underfoot that it had once been a well cobbled track. Then as I approached Lily Hall it suddenly dawned on me that this was none other than the Corpse Road that I’d read about.  The original derivation of Lily Hall’s name is not known but the well known local historian John Billingsley who has helped me with my Lily Hall research has suggested that there may be a possibility that its name is connected with the corpseways (both the Buttress and Mytholm routes meet at this point).

Approaching Lily Hall, home of my Wrigley and Whitham ancestors

“Lilies are widely associated with the soul, and traditionally feature in funerals, “where they symbolised the soul of the departed, shriven from the sins of the world”. By extension from this symbolism white lilies came to be considered unlucky indoors (as they might incur a death), though in the garden they were a protection against ghosts. It might be that Lily Hall relates to this custom, perhaps as somewhere lilies were conferred or purchased for the final entry into Heptonstall village, though more information would be required to support this suggestion,” he writes. 

An unlikely connection to Charlotte Bronte

  1. My connection with the Bronte family – circuitous perhaps –  but genuine!
Mulcture Hall

Rev Sutcliffe Sowden  was a friend of Arthur Bell Nichols who married Charlotte Bronte . He presided at their wedding  on 29th June 1854 and conducted Charlotte’s funeral less than a year later on  4th April 1855. His brother, Reverend George Sowden,   completed his time at Magdalen college Cambridge University as his brother Reverend Sutcliffe Sowden had done. Arthur Bell Nicholls was ordained at Ripon Cathedral at the same time as George Sowden before becoming one of Patrick Bronte’s curates at Haworth in 1845. Arthur got to know Sutcliffe through his brother. George was curate at Stainland, Yorks., 1845-53. As the parish marriage record shows . (Update, Jan 2024: George Sowden baptised my ancestor Eli Shaw at Stainland in 1850). She had already published her novels The Professor, Villette, Jane Eyre, and Shirley. Apparently not long after the marriage Rev. George Sowden stayed with the Arthur and Charlotte at Haworth Parsonage. Again Rev. Sutcliffe Sowden travelled to Haworth to take the funeral service for Charlotte Nicholls.

Rev Sutcliffe Sowden presided at my ancestor Hannah Gibson’s baptism in 1853 when she was 17 years old.

Hannah Gibson’s baptism performed by Sutcliffe Sowden

And then on  9th August 1861 in the Halifax Guardian  newspaper I found this:

 Clergyman Drowned At Hebden Bridge: Yesterday morning the whole of Hebden Bridge and its district was thrown into a state of great excitement and sorrow by the news spreading rapidly that their incumbent the Rev. S Sowden had met with his death by drowning. The sad news proved but to be true. The body was discovered by Superintendent Tucker, of the West Riding Police Force, in the canal just below the iron bridge, opposite Mr Whitley’s mill. We learn that early in the morning two young women were going in the direction of Todmorden along the canal side when they saw what they thought to be the body of a dog in the water and passed on. Not many yards further they found a book with a paper cover, and an umbrella laid beside it. They picked them up and proceeded to Todmorden. On reaching that town they found the Reverend gentleman’s name in the book and one of the girls returned with it. Meanwhile Mr Sowden was missed, and the search resulted as above. The body was in an upright position and bore about it no marks of violence. From enquiries we learn that on Thursday night Mr. Sowden had visited Mr.Edwin Binns, at Mulcture Hall, which is on the opposite hill to where his residence is, up Heptonstall Bank, the canal running in the valley that intervened. He left to go home about half past ten o’clock, and Mr Binns accompanied him part of the way as far as Sand bed. The night was a dark one, and the wind blew from the west in strong violent gusts. That the unfortunate clergyman intended to get home by a short cut is evident. By the bridge some alterations are going on, and a quantity of loose stone and rubble were left about. One inference is that in stepping among these he stumbled and fell into the water, and, by his struggles and the force of the wind, was carried down the water to the place where he was he found,a distance of thirty yards. Another is that he was seized with a fit of dizziness, to which he was known to be subject. This strengthened by the statement of the Rev T Sutcliffe, late incumbent of Heptonstall, at whose house Mr Sowden had been that day, and who noticed him being rather absent in his manner. However, be that as it may, the painful result was that in a sudden a sad manner the Rev gentleman met with his death. It was half past five o’clock in the morning when he was found. His watch had stopped at a quarter past eleven, thus showing as near as possible the hour when the sad event occurred. His remains were removed to the Neptune Inn, and afterwards to his home. It is not needful to launch into any eulogy of this worthy clergyman, whose untimely death has cast gloom over the whole district. Mr Sowden was about 48 years of age and was first incumbent of St James Church built in 1835. Of a quiet and somewhat retiring disposition, he won the esteem of all churchmen and dissenters alike. In him the Church has lost a diligent servant, and the poor a generous friend. Of a philosophical turn of mind, Mr Sowden was noted as a geologist and an ardent lover of nature. Excursionists into the deep and lovely valleys of this secluded district looked forward to his company with much anticipation and delight. The intelligence of his sad end will cause regret to many distant friends. The inquest was held on the body last night at the Neptune Inn.

Published 17th August 1861 Halifax Courier page 4. Hebden Bridge The Rev, George Sowden, MA, of Magdalene Collage, Cambridge, curate of Houghton-Le-Spring in the county of Durham, and formally curate of Stainland in this parish, has been appointed by the archdeacon Musgrave to the incumbency of Hebden Bridge Church, vacant by the death of his brother; the Rev Sutcliffe Sowden, MA , who was accidentally drowned on the 8th inst., to the great grief of his parishioners and friends.

I found a possible photo of the vicar, though he looks considerably older than 44 to me.

 For the Results of the Inquest Read on…………. THE LATE SUTCLIFFE SOWDEN, MA On Friday evening, at the Neptune Inn Hebble End an inquest was held before Mr J.R. Ingram, deputy coroner over the body of the late Rev gentleman. After a somewhat lengthy consultation, an open verdict, ” Found Drowned, but they believed accidentally,” was returned. The jury, through their foreman, expressed their admiration of the deceased’s character and activity in the performance of his clerical duties, and their deep regret at the sad occurrence . The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon. Many of the principle shops were closed. The procession numbered upwards of 300 persons. First in order of the procession were the public officers, namely the police, the church wardens, and the postmen; next came the lighting and paving committee, of which deceased was a member; next came the committee of the mechanics Institute and gentry of the neighbourhood; following these the congregation of St James’s, and preceding the scholars, and next in succession to the congregation were the clergy, the scholars carried in their hands each a small bouquet, which they afterwards threw into the grave of their departed minister and friend; next came the hearse with three of the elder male scholars walking on each side as the bearers; following the hearse were the mourners existing of the deceased’s relatives and the family of Mr Thomas of Hangingroyd, the residence of the deceased. The funeral obsequies were performed by Mr Sowdens most intimate friend, the Rev. A. B. Nicholls of Haworth. Mr Sowden’s ministerial labours at Hebden Bridge have extended over a period of upwards of 19 years. He was a man beloved by all. The improvement of the people morally and socially was his perpetual aim; he was an indefatigable teacher and minister, and a consistent Christian; he was a companion and guide of youth, and the nurse and protector of age. He commenced on his education at Hipperholme; from there he removed to Oxford, where he graduated and received the title of Bachelor of Arts. His death is deeply lamented by all who knew him, and the scene of sorrow witnessed at St James’s on the day of his funeral, speaks to the fact of the deep hold he had taken in the affections of all.

So yesterday I set out to find Mulcture Hall. It’s situated above Jumble Hole Mill which I’ve visited a couple of times since the lockdown. The hall is built into the steep hillside and has its name clearly emblazoned on the gates. I though, hoped, that someone would come out of the building and so I could explain my presence but no-one appeared. To the rear of the building a couple of cottages, one obviously a converted barn, make up the entirety of this hamlet called Mulcture. From the Charlestown history society page I gleaned the following information: Mulcture Hall is a small hamlet on the North hillside above Jumble Hole Clough. The main house was built in about 1800 by the Stead family, owners of Jumble Hole Mill and Spa Mill. The house frontage is of a later date. The Stead family have occupied the house until the present day.

From the back

Behind the big house are two dwellings. One has been converted from the old coach house, the other was formally two back to back cottages knocked together. The Coach house was used by Naze Bottom band for practice! I wonder when. It’s a pretty steep climb up to this isolated dwelling. From Charlestown : We have very little information about the band and are not sure the date and location of the photograph.

Naze Bottom band

One Story recounts that they won a band competition and marched back to the chapel late at night playing and waking everyone up as they went. The conductor, Walter Mitchell,  was born in Tod 28th July 1874. He was the third generation of bandmasters, – his father of the Todmorden Old Band and his grandfather of the Lob mill Band. He joined the Todmorden Band at the age of 17 and in September of the same year became conductor of the Nazebottom Band.