It was a Winnie the Pooh day, blustery, with a distinct promise of rain, as I set off to visit Stonesheygate, on Widdop Road. It was apt that I wearing my new hat, which arrived yesterday, a birthday present from Rachel. Apparently it had been sitting in the post office for several weeks and last night Rachel had apologized for it being ‘unseasonable.’ However, as I braved the open moors on Widdop Road I could envisage similar winds battering the slopes of Mt Everest. My new beanie was from Peter Hilary’s new range of high end outdoor wear and this was a very special present from Rachel because a couple of years ago Rachel had gone to Everest with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund!
I’m still on my pilgrimage to visit as many houses where my ancestors lived as I can during this crazy summer. I think I’m over the 100 mark at the moment, and all within either walking distance, or a 5 minute bus ride.
In 1891 John Sunderland, 1826-1903, was the 65 year old head of one of 4 families living at Stoneshey Gate. He was the great-grandfather of the wife of my 3rd cousin 2x removed. (I’m so glad that Ancestry.com figures that out!). Only 5 minutes walk past Slack Baptist church (you can’t beat that name) I came to a collection of cottages marked Stoneshey Gate, adjacent to a very grand looking building which I late found out has a datestone of 1794 and is Grade ll listed building.
It wasn’t easy to get a good photo from the road since the house is screened by rhododendron bushes, today in full flower, though being severely battered by the wind gusts. But I spied a footpath sign that led to a very narrow stone paved track past the back of the building, appearing to disappear into shrubbery leading steeply down to Hardcastle Crags and from there I saw what an imposing building this is.
It’s perched on top of the ridge above the valley below where Abraham Gibson had built his mill, now THE local tourist destination. Abraham Gibson, who had donated Gibson Mill to the National Trust, had lived at Greenwood Lee, just a few minutes’ walk from Stoneshey Gate and a couple of years ago I was given a grand tour of the building and grounds, complete with peacocks, because it was up for sale. Two years later it still is. See previous blog which caused the son of the current owner to contact me. http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/2018/03/05/my-story-of-greenwood-lee/#comment-1226
Indeed, I found a business connection between the two men: 19 December 1884 Between Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee (The Liquidator of the Colden Cotton and Commercial Co Ltd in voluntary liquidation) vendor and Gamaliel Sutcliffe of Stoneshay Gate cotton manufacturer, William Gibson of Stoneshay Gate cotton manufacturer, William Mitchell Sutcliffe of Heptonstall Grocer, purchasers – agreement on sale and purchase of the Company’s Estate and Effects. Recently burnt down mill called Jack Bridge Mill and the remains thereof with the Weaving Shed, Warehouse buildings cottages engine house engines boilers shafting mill gear and millwright work etc. Gameliel Sutcliffe married Susannah, daughter of Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee – virtually next door neighbours.
The view over the valley of Hardcastle Crags is fantastic and above the valley is Shackleton Hill, with the small hamlet of Shackleton barely managing to cling to its position halfway up the ‘mountain.’ Last month I climbed up to Shackleton and was rewarded with views across to Slack and Widdop Road where I was now standing.
According to the 1891 census Stoneshey was occupied by four households: two farmers, (one being my John Sunderland), a coachman and a widowed housekeeper. Yet on the electoral roll of 1894 both Gameliel Sutcliffe and John Sunderland are listed as living at Stoneshey, and qualify to vote as ‘Land and tenament’.
In 1891 John was 65, his wife Grace, 61 and his daughter Susannah, 32. By 1901 John is a widower, still living with his daughter but they have moved to ‘New Houses’ where John is listed as a retired farmer and his daughter Susannah, now 41, has been lured by the industrial age and is now a machinist in a fustian factory. I wonder where? New Houses is a small terrace set close to and beneath the road, with a row of outhouses across the street, some of which are numbered to show which cottage they belong to. No wonder people used potties for calls of nature in the middle of the night, especially in a raging storm.
A lady had just driven up to the cottages and was walking to her door. I explained my presence and they fact that I was taking photos but she hurried indoors. I didn’t realise until I got home that this terrace was originally called New Houses because the sign on the terrace today says Craggside.
So what about John’s earlier life? John had married Grace Crabtree in 1849 at Heptonstall church. At that time he was living at Hawdon Hole, where my friends Freda and Chris live and which I’ve had the good fortune to visit and see inside. He was an overlooker and the following year he was still an overlooker but is now living on Smithwell Lane which extends from the centre of Heptonstall towards Jack Bridge. Their son Abraham was born the following year, with Eliza, James and Susannah following in quick succession. James died at the age of 4. From 1861-1881 the family remained living on Smithwell Lane and John was a cotton throstle overlooker. This was someone who supervised the throstle doffers! Throstle doffers would removed the full bobbins from the cotton spinning machines and replace them with empty ones. What a contrast to become a farmer – even though Stonesheygate was no more than 10 minutes walk away. I wonder what prompted that decision. John died in 1903 at the grand old age, at that time, of 77 and he’s buried at Heptonstall church. His wife Grace had died 5 years before him. Two years after her father died Susannah married John Helliwell, a widower, at the ripe old age of 47 – most unusual. John, a stone mason, was living at New Houses at the time of his marriage and Susannah had moved to Acre farm. They set up house together at New Houses, most likely in John’s home and 1920 finds her at 5 Knowl top. They are all buried at the Baptist cemetery at Slack.
As I researched the buildings at Stoneshey Gate the following morning I came, quite by chance, upon a document that had been sent to me by James Moss last month. His father had spent years at Halifax library reading the Hebden Bridge Times and Halifax Courier picking out pertinent stories. James wrote, “We used to pull his leg that it was a perfect hobby, sitting in a library reading the newspaper. I suspect it can be done by electronic word search but then he went through it page by page. When I was working from Halifax Police Station I occasionally called in the Library and the staff remembered him as ‘the toffee man’ because he always had toffees with him and would always offer the staff one.”
One of these articles mentioned Stoneshey Gate as being the residence of Gameliel Sutcliffe, a man of some importance, so, of course, that set me off on a whole new direction and many more hours of ‘diggin.’ I knew that Sutcliffe was a very prolific name in the Heptonstall area. There’s a large area in the cemetery surrounded by an elaborate wrought iron fence containing many Sutcliffe tombstones, and I’d seen a few of ‘my’ family marry Sutcliffes but I’d never pursued that link of research because I knew that it would be too overwhelming and confusing. But in Stoneshey gate I have not a family member, but a Sutcliffe who was living at the property at the same time as John Sunderland. If the date stone on the building is correct, sometimes they can be marking a rebuild or an extension, the property appears to have been built for Gamwell Sutcliffe 1718-1803 since he was born at Lee, Heptonstall and his family moved to Stoneshey Gate. He was obviously a man of some substance for he is recorded as overseer of the poor in Heptonstall, a person who responsible for the relief of poor people in the township. He also is recorded as having occupied Rooms 20 and 21 in the Colonnade gallery of the Piece hall in Halifax in 1787 one of 320 people listed in the newly built cloth hall which had opened 8 years previously. His son, Gamaliel, 1750-1840, lived at Stoneshey Gate and is listed as a stuff manufacturer. On the Power in the Landscape website I found the following: 1789 DRAFT BOND OF INDEMNITY dated 30th September 1789 – Robert Thomas of Blackshaw Royd in Stansfield, p. Halifax gentleman only surviving brother and heir of Richard Thomas, late of same, gentleman deceased who died intestate) to Gamwell Sutcliffe of Heptonstall p. Halifax, gentleman.
The said Gamwell Sutcliffe has contracted to buy a messuage with buildings closes etc. called Stoneshay Gate within Heptonstall for the sum of £700 now in occupation of said Gamwell Sutcliffe.
And whereas John Thomas the eldest brother of said Richard Thomas went abroad, beyond seas (as supposed) about 40 years ago and hath never since been heard of but no certain proof can be found of his death. Hebden Bridge Lit Sci Society.
He made his will in 1803 and is buried at Heptonstall Church in the old church in the nave. Gamaliel, 1750-1840 was member of a committee supporting those affected by the Luddites. On Wednesday, 12th May 1813, James Knight, Constable of Halifax, chaired a Meeting of a numerous and highly respectable Public Meeting of Inhabitants of the Town and Parish of Halifax, called by the Constables of Halifax, to take into Consideration the Services of those Gentleman who so meritoriously exerted themselves during the late Luddite disturbances in the West Riding of the County of York, at the White Lion Inn Halifax. In the early 1790s he built Bob Mill, Lower Colden and in 1800 he built the two Lumb Mills. Another member of the family confusing also called Gameliel Sutcliffe (!), the son of George Sutcliffe had owned Brearley Hall in 1920 and had travelled to Australia and America and wrote journals of his travels. It was THIS Gamaliel Sutcliffe that James Moss’s father had mentioned in his articles from Halifax library.
In 1927 another Gamaliel Sutcliffe of Stonesheygate died in the house in unfortunate circumstances. A two column article in the newspaper detailed his death, his standing in the community and lists the mourners at his funeral. He had been a Justice of the Peace for 40 years,a supporter and regular attender at Heptonstall church and it was he that had donated the land which is now name the ‘new’ cemetery, and paid for its enclosure by a “substantial stone fence and massive gates at considerable cost. He was always ‘good company’ with his numerous reminiscences of his travels abroad.” Apparently he wrote a journal of his travels, even venturing as far as Australia but I haven’t located it – yet.
Another interesting reference to Stoneshey gate was its connection with John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists. On 24th May (which just happens to be my birthday) 1738, he experienced a religious awakening – which he referred to as feeling his heart strangely warmed – and which profoundly changed his life. His brother, Charles, had experienced the same spiritual conversion just 3 days earlier. In 1747, he visited the Upper Calder Valley for the first time at the request of William Darney. He preached at Stoneshey Gate on 5th May 1747, The crowd were gathered in the yard at the house and others sat on a wall. During the sermon, the wall collapsed and all fell down at once. The people just sat where they fell and continued to listen to Wesley’s sermon. In 1764 the Heptonstall methodist chapel opened constructed to an octagonal plan that Wesley himself had suggested. The first octagon was Norwich in 1757, followed by Rotherham in 1761, Whitby in 1762 and Heptonstall in 1764. Wesley said: “All our houses should be of this shape if the ground allow.”
Local historians Chapman and Turner later wrote: “Wesley had obviously been impressed by the roof at the Rotherham Octagon, he had the same man construct the roof in Heptonstall. The sections were brought by the most direct, though hazardous, road over Mount Skip, the people meeting the procession of pack horses and singing hymns of joy. Men and women laboured with their hands to build the chapel with the most primitive of tools.”
Kate Lycett, a wonderful artist who currently lives in a building in the centre of Hebden Bridge that once was the Bull Inn where my ancestor, Joshua Gibson was landlord, has done a painting of Stoneshey Gate showing its view overlooking the valley of Hardcastle Crags.
And just think . . . 24 hours ago all I knew of the place was an entry on my excel spreadsheet with name Stoneshey Gate and the name of a distant ancestor who had lived there on the census map of 1891. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, I currently have 235 dwellings on that spreadsheet!!! Over 200 are within walking distance or a 10 minute bus ride.