Since my first walk along Edge Lane Colden I’ve gone back several times to walk its length. My Sunderland ancestors lived at Spink House on Edge Lane. It’s quite a long way. You end up in Egypt – no kiddin’. On the other side of the Colden valley there’s Scotland and Greenland too. But for several months I’ve been wanting to explore the other side of the valley. I could pick out a couple of VERY isolated farms, perhaps only skeletal ruins remaining, or perhaps they are still occupied by hardy sheep farmers. I’d been putting off exploring the north side of the valley not just because of the inclement weather but because you never know in what condition the paths are just by looking at the map. Yes, I can find out if they hug the contour or rise steeply but they are many many tracks on this moorland and it’s easy to get lost, or find that the path just disappears into farm land. But for the past week I’ve been out walking 2-3 hours and so I decided today was going to be THE day to explore.
When I got off the bus at Blackshawhead terminus I was surprised by the weather. It was warm. I was not getting blown over by a gale force wind. Most unusual for this exposed hilltop. It turned out that it had been the warmest March day in 1968! I followed the Long Causeway out of the village and made my first turn onto a track marked with a public footpath sign. A few minutes later I came to a five barred gate with a ‘Due to Coronavirus this footpath is now closed.’ Hmmm. not an auspicious beginning to my hike. Luckily a farmer was tending to a tractor. ‘Yer allreet, lass. Cum on through.’ And that was that. I was on my way. ‘Most people tek t’other path farther up t’ road. Got left at t’ next gate and yull be reet.’ I thanked him for his help and did just that. When I turned left at the next gate my map told me that I was on Higher Back Lane. It parallels the Long Causeway, and is just a few feet higher. I really felt as if I was on top of the world. To my right I could see right along the Colden valley. I could pick out Edge Lane clearly. Sheep with their new lambs crossed my path constantly. Much of the moorland glowed an orangey brown – a colour more connected with autumn than spring. It stemmed from the rushes signifying the boggy sections of moorland – places to keep away from at this time of the year – still.
I took a path heading off at right angles to my path and it led steeply down between two walls, barely passable because of the water running down its length. I could see that it was heading for a building and soon I found myself at Strines Clough.
My luck was in and a couple were doing some serious renovations to their front yards. We were chatting when the lady’s grandma joined us just as the postman arrived in his little red van, bringing back memories for me of the way our post was delivered at Third Bungalow by the time I was at Bolton School. Previously the postman had hiked down to us through three fields. In fact, I mentioned to the people that this place’s isolation but with its spectacular hill top moorland scenery reminded me of Affetside. I saw a date stone and asked them if they knew anything about the history of the building, since it didn’t look particularly old. The present residents only moved there last July and a neighbour had lent them a book of photographs of the building. She went inside and soon came back with the book. Until 1984 when the previous owners rebuilt it the house had been completely derelict. They asked if I’d share with them anything I could find about the history of the house or any of its previous residents. (A nice job for a rainy day, methinks.)
I took my leave and headed down the Brown Hill track towards Jack Bridge. The track was bordered on either side by trees and looking back I would have thought it was the track to my childhood home now bordered by large trees that my dad planted when they were less than one foot tall.
It wasn’t until that moment that I connected my comment about the brown vegetation on the hillside with the name of the track. I passed another farm appropriately called Brown Bottom farm.
The building itself was barely visible form piles of ‘stuff’ piled up outside – which was there when Google maps did their mapping. two abandoned cars graced the field.
But what particularly took my attention was a very tall contraption- at least two storeys tall – it reminded me of the fighting machines from War of the Worlds. I have no idea what it was. At first I thought it was perhaps a wind pump. Again, memories of Third Bungalow when the dwelling next to ours had had a wind pump to bring up water from a deep well. Perhaps it was an art installation. I’d love to know!
The track led to the very sharp curve on the main road and here i stopped to have my first picnic of the year. It was also the first time I’ve worn my cap with sun visor this year, ditching my Everest beanie (from Rachel) which has been in daily use all year. I sat on the grass, watching over by a horse with the sound of bleating lambs as my sound track.
From Jack Bridge I followed Hudson Mill Road down to Hebden, a frequent hike in all seasons.
As I reached the school by the church it was ‘home time’ for the students and so I had the benefit of the lollypop man to aid me across the road from where I followed the canal tow path, crossing the spot where Colden Water, which I’d followed all through the hike, meets the River Calder.
Ever since I visited Hebden Bridge in 2015 and it subsequently becoming my home in 2017 I’ve been drawn to and fascinated by Old Town. It’s a small settlement up on the hill above Hebden yet quite different in character from Heptonstall. From Hebden the outline of Old Town Mill , sometimes known as Prospect Mill, sits atop the ridge and not much else of the small town can be seen. Over the last couple of years I’ve visited the shell of the empty mill and witnessed the construction for new apartments behind it. Much of the ‘town’ is made up of new housing developments, one making up the area called Chiserely, mainly council housing built probably in the 1960s. Apart from the remains of Acre Mill and ‘The Pig and Chickens’ as I call ‘The Hare and hounds’ pub (for obvious reasons) I’d not much interest in the town.
Here are some of my favourite photos I’ve taken of the town:
Also in Old Town was Acre Mill and two days ago I discovered that it was one of my family who had actually built Acre Mill. It was a distant connection, through a late second marriage but the connection was there none-the-less and so, with sunshine forecast for the afternoon, really making me believe that Spring had sprung, I set off to explore the hilltop town in a little more detail. For the dreadful story of Acre’s mill and asbestos contamination read:
Taking the zippy bus to the top of the hill, about 1000ft above sea level the town is the same height as Heptonstall. I took the little path adjoining Old Town Mill and notice of the first time three stone plaques on the opposite wall. I guess it was the way the sun was catching their outline on the wall. The plaques told of the former stream that ran under the wall supplying water to the mill.
I’d wondered how a mill could have survived on the hilltop since mills were fed by water power, and I’d once chatted to a lady who lives in the former home of the mill manager who had told me that the hike up to the reservoir that supplied the water power was an easy hike. (Update Aug 2021. I spent a wonderful half hour chatting to the manager of the construction at old Town Mill and he pointed out that what I had been told was the manager’s house had been downstairs an engine room and below ground was a tunnel where the coal from the archway on the mill accessed the engine room. He showed me the place on the outside of the house where the sliding doors of the engine room attached).Well, the weather looked good for the challenge.
Although from the Calder valley it appears that Old Town sits on top of the hill there is, in fact, a further hill above Old Town. It’s open moorland, covered in heather and I didn’t think there were any buildings on this moor. The narrow track led up from the playground opposite the mill and I saw a van coming down the hillside in front of me. that was a good sign because that meant that the road would be passable. I soon found myself on a concrete paved road that led steeply up and I could see the flat topped outline of the reservoir.
Just before reaching it I came to a farm with formal gateposts which turned out to be Allswell equestrian centre. However, on old maps it’s marked Bog Eggs. In fact the entire hilltop here is name Bog Eggs! I couldn’t access the reservoir or walk around it.
There’s both a barbed wire fence around it and one of those easily recognisable reservoir walls, but it really felt like being on top of the world. I could even see a couple of other very isolated farm buildings on the moors though I couldn’t see pathways marked to them on the map.
Returning down the track I had fantastic views , looking down on Old Town Mill and beyond. My next objective was to find Chiserley Hall where Thomas Dent Hall was living in 1898. He was 6th of 10 children of James Hoyle who had established Acre Mill in 1855. When I’d discovered my connection to Chiserley Hall the previous evening I’d tried most unsuccessfully to find out anything about the place. Nothing. I knew of its location from the map of 1851 but realised that if it still existed at all today it was completely surrounded by a modern housing estate. Since I couldn’t find anything I presumed that it had been demolished. But with street map in hand and one photo of a tiny footpath which the author that said ‘needs a haircut’ which showed a glimpse of ‘Chiserley Hall barn’ at its end. I found the track and could catch glimpses of an old blackened hall through the trees which definitely needed more than a major trim.
At last I found a cluster of buildings, the most formal of which was approached by a large semi circular arch. I entered the courtyard hoping that the resident would come out but no. I was, however, able to find a date stone with 1617 William Mitchel. Mitchell Brothers bought out Acre Mill and have their name emblazoned in the wrought iron gates at the mill. I’d taken a photo of these enormous rusting gates several times. I expect the 1617 Mitchel is an ancestor of the Mitchell brothers.
My next quest was to find ‘Summerfield’, a large formal building, looking quite Victorian which had been home to two of James Hoyle’s children, Abraham and John and their wives and families. Again it wasn’t clear from the map how to access the property. It appeared to be a large mansion in its own grounds but with the help of a lady walking her dog she led me down a small track from Chiserley Hall which turned out to be a short cut to Walker Lane, just by Summerfield House. Two imposing gate posts flanked the drive and I walked up to take a photo.
Directly across Walker Lane from Summerfield is Ibbotroyd where James was living in 1861 with his wife Jane and 6 children. In the census James’s profession is given as Master cotton spinner and his son, Abraham, aged only 20, is a Master Cotton Manufacturer. The family also had a live in servant, 20 year old Emma Mitchell. I wonder if she was connected with the Mitchell Brothers of Acre Mill.
As I walked back into the Calder Valley I looked back at Old Town. The distinctive mill chimney and several storey mill was on the skyline on the far left, to it right was Ibbotroyd house and on the far right was Summerfield. ‘If a picture paints a thousand words . . .’
So far I haven’t explained the Hoyle’s relationship to my family tree. James’s youngest child was Miriam. Her father died before her 6th birthday. Her mother continued to live at Ibbotroyd. She was sent to a boarding school at Bilton near Harrogate, a sign of her social status. I have still to discover more about her life but at the age of 69 she married Richard Redman, a prominent cotton manufacturer in Hebden Bridge and the two lived at Byclough House in Mytholmroyd which I have walked to and photographed.
Richard Redman is the father-in-law of my 3rd cousin 2x removed!
They following morning someone had posted a photo of the stone plaque about the water course which fed the mill on a local history Facebook page!
A useful page about Chiserley with photos by Humphrey Bolton:
1374 The Black Death (bubonic plague) killed
about 40% of people in Luddenden.
1600s Luddenden Valley was one of the richest places in the country, as yeoman clothiers sold textiles all over this country and exported to Europe. They built some of the finest houses in the Luddenden area during this time.
The present building is dated 1634 GCP (Gregory Patchett). It is constructed of rendered stone, with a stone slate roof and an L-shaped plan with rear wing. It is particularly of note because of its association with Branwell Bronte, who used to frequent it when working as a booking clerk at Luddendenfoot station, because of the very early library there, which existed from 1776 until 1917.
CHARLES CRABTREE – manufacturer – and his son, Walter of Stansfield Hall
There are certain family names in the Calder Valley that are so ubiquitous that people researching their family history pray that they won’t find them in their family tree. Greenwood is one. Sutcliffe is another. A third is Crabtree, so it was with some trepidation that I embarked upon digging into the roots of Walter Crabtree. Walter’s parents, Charles and Ellen, are a perfect example of the confusion such names can cause the genealogist. They were married on April 6th, 1865. Ellen’s maiden name was Crabtree. She married Charles Crabtree. Both their fathers were named Abraham Crabtree! Charles’s father was a greengrocer. Ellen’s father was a farmer. And to further confuse matters on June 16th 1867 an Abraham Crabtree of Chapel House, a grocer and farmer drowned in a dam at Cockpit, Todmorden. (annals of Tod) p24. This didn’t bode well, but I knew that a certain Charles Crabtree, who was a distant relative of mine was a man who had made his mark in Todmorden, both as a mill owner and a benefactor, so perhaps I would be able to distinguish this particular Charles from all the other Crabtrees in the vicinity. He is connected to my family through Edith Wrigley who married his son, Walter Crabtree in 1906.
Charles’s obituary dated 1912 reads “Beginning life in a humble way, with no apparent advantages over his fellows, he rose by industry and enterprise to a position of a large employer of labour.” Charles was born in 1832 at Upper Eastwood, a small cluster of houses centred around Eastwood old hall that I’d explored last year. Apart from the group of buildings around Eastwood Old Hall with its datestone that reads John Eastwood, 1630, the hillside leading up to Great Rock is criss- crossed with paths and dry stone walls amongst which are scattered isolated homesteads with only rough cart tracks leading to them even today. Sitting high on the hillside with uninterrupted views across the Calder Valley to Stoodley Pike is one of these isolated dwellings, Greystone, where Charles aged 9 was living with his parents, Abraham, a worsted weaver and his mother Ann in 1841. From Greystone a track leads through two fields to two adjoining cottages named Chapel Houses.
As its name suggests this building was originally a chapel, Benthead Chapel constructed in 1719 and capable of holding 200-300 people. I still find it mind blowing that on such a remote hillside a chapel capable of holding so many people was required.
According to the Charlestown history page “ From the mid 18th century, the chapel went into decline due to the ‘exceptional mortality in the district’. Hmmm. I wonder what caused this ‘exceptional mortality” in this area. Could it possibly have been caused by inbreeding? On one page in the 1851 census 14 out of 19 people listed are Crabtrees. The congregation dropped to a handful of people” and the building was subsequently divided into cottages. On the 1851 map the lane connecting these three locations, Eastwood, Greystones and Chapelhouses, all closely associated with my Crabtree ancestors was marked Crabtree Lane! A description of the place on the Charlestown history site which the site states was probably written in the 1840s reads: “It must not be imagined from what has been written so far, that the inhabitants of Eastwood were all upright and honest citizens. There were evil doers in those days as there are now, and laws against theft or damage to property were much more drastic. Tradition has it that representatives of the village were sent as convicts to Australia. Stealing was by no means uncommon and occasionally cloth was taken from the handlooms. Hand weaving persisted for a long time after the coming of the power loom, and the weavers sometimes took precautions against theft by tying the warp ends to their feet before retiring for the night……The less reputable amongst the population indulged in such sports as cock fighting, rabbit coursing, clog fights or wrestling for wagers. The Non Conformists on the other hand, still strongly under the influence of puritan tradition, looked askance at such pleasures and regarded them as enticements of the Devil”.
It was the beginning of March, 2021. We’d had a few consecutive days of Spring weather – meaning it hadn’t poured with rain and the temperature had stayed above 32F, so I set out find Greystones where Charles, a boy of 9 was living with his father Abraham, a worsted weaver and mother Ann in 1841. As I took the bus up to Blackshawhead the sun won the battle with the clouds and by the time I got off at the bus terminus 1000ft above sea level it was a lovely sunny Sunday morning. Opposite the bus terminus is the former Blue Ball pub where Ezra Butterworth had rather too much to drink one night and staggered home down Davey Lane to his home at Hippens, where he went to bed, fell out again in a drunken stupor breaking the chamber pot and dying from his wounds. His story is told on another page of this blog. I followed Davey Lane with its wonderful views across the Calder Valley across to Stoodley Pike, passed the scene of Ezra’s demise. Today I noticed an ancient paved trail leading West from Hippens bridge alongside Hippens Clough which looked interesting to explore some other time.
I reached Great Rock which I’d noticed is marked as Grisly Stone on the 1851 map. Sometimes it’s been known as Devil’s Rock. It’s an outcrop of millstone grit that’s been weathered into a fantastical shape, similar to Bridestones which is close by. I even found my maiden name etched into it along with dozens of others.
At Great Rock I took a pathway of Eastwood Lane. It’s surface reminded me of a patchwork quilt of stones and bricks obviously constructed, reconstructed and patched over many many years, centuries.
To my right a smaller track was signposted to Greystone Farm (only) and I could see a long stone building across the field. I headed for the farm which faces Stoodley Pike and though I stopped to take photographs for several minutes no-one came out to talk to me. I was disappointed.
According to Historic England the earliest deed of the property is 1675 and the single storey gabled porch bears date 1789. The farmhouse is to the left, then comes the barn which still has its semi circular cart entry and then on the far right the cottage has a higher roof line. On an 1851 map I’d traced a track to the side of Greystones which led to Chapelhouses, but I’d not bargained for such difficult walking conditions. The path was sunken between two walls and was really no more than a stream. That would have been OK if the stream had had stones at its bottom. My boots are waterproof. The problem was mud! Mud in which my boots almost disappeared, so deep was it. It was very sticky too, and trying to lift up my foot out of its clutching grasp was no easy thing. I found myself clutching at various branches and grasses to steady my slips but all that resulted in was getting hands full of blackberry thorns. Luckily this track only lasted for 15 minutes. I wondered if was an ancient holloway like Bow Lane which connected Hudson Mill Road to Blackshawhead where the amount of that path has sunk is commensurate with its age.
I found myself in a more open area and adjacent to the gable end of a building. If I was correct this should be Chapelhouses, originally Benthead chapel. My luck was in. A couple were enjoying the sunshine in their garden and I explained my presence. There are two buildings now, one Chapelhouses and next door Chapelhouse Farm. Both buildings are Grade ll listed and it was the building on the left that was one Charles’s home. According to Historic England it was built in the late 17th or early 18th century and was used for non-conformist worship in the mid 18th century and was converted into four cottages in the mid 19th century.
They were interested in my Crabtree story and soon went to find the person next door who lives in the part of the building that was actually the chapel. I learned that around 1900 the building had been left empty and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that it was restored and made into four dwellings. (Just like Lily Hall). I was able to take photos of the building and just make out the datestone by the door though it’s impossible to decipher. Apparently these is an old photo before the renovation but I haven’t been able to find in online. There is no mains water still here, and water is obtained from a nearby spring.
By 1851 Charles was listed as a cotton weaver living with his parents in Eastwood, though in this census the names of many of the houses are not specified. But six homes away in the old Bentwood Chapel which was being shared by 6 families was another Abraham Crabtree, a grocer, with his wife Mary and three daughters, Mary Ann, 20, a cotton weaver, Ellen, 18, a dressmaker and Betty, 16. Also living with them was Young Barker a grandchild, aged 10. Being ten years old Young Barker is obviously not the illegitimate son of one of Abraham’s daughters which is usually the case. (see wikitree). It was almost a case of marrying the girl next door because two days before Christmas in 1852 Charles and his betrothed Mary Ann Crabtree made what must have been a cold journey into Halifax to be married at St John the Baptist church. They were one of seven couples who were married there that day. After their marriage they set up home in one of the sections of Chapel houses – now the home of five different Crabtree households! The first ten years of their married life saw the birth of a son, Barker, and a daughter Ann, named after her grandmother. But not only that, Charles had become a cotton manufacturer, employing seven men, a major step up from the weaver he was on his marriage certificate. Everything seemed to be going well for the young family but then Mary died. She was just 33. The couple had had two children and I wondered if she died in childbirth. Just over a year later he married Ellen Crabtree at St John’s in Halifax, the same church as his first wedding. Not only that but and together they had five children. Charles, Mary Ann and Ellen all had fathers named Abraham Crabtree! This is why I was reluctant to begin any research into my Crabtree ancestors! It took me a while to figure out that Ellen was none other than Mary Ann’s younger sister. I think that the writer of the register was as confused as I was, because in the margin he has added Chapelhouses, which convinces me that I have the correct people! Together Ellen and Charles had five children. Perhaps my suggestion of inbreeding possibly causing the usually high incidence of mortality in this vicinity was not too far from the truth.
Charles’s family demonstrates succinctly the development of the textile trade in the Calder Valley. His father, Abraham, had been a handloom weaver living at Greystones high on the hill above Eastwood but by the time Charles was 18 his family had moved down the hill into the small community of Eastwood and both father and son were employed in cotton manufacturing. In fact a cotton manufacturer, Thomas L. Sutcliffe was their immediate neighbour in Eastwood and it’s likely that it was in Sutcliffe’s cotton spinning mill in Eastwood that the father and son earned their living. Eastwood Shed was built between 1833 and 1848 for cotton weaving. The addition of this weaving shed to the spinning at Upper Mill created an integrated cotton manufacturing unit. An earlier small water powered cotton spinning mill in Higher Eastwood. The mill had been built by the Eastwood family and then leased to a number of manufacturers over the years, one such being the Sutcliffe Brothers.
Two years ago I’d taken a hike up the
steep road to Eastwood and seen all that remains of the mill today. A friendly
resident of Rose cottage was, of course, pruning his roses and offered to show
me round. The three storey mill shed, which once housed the waterwheel is now
used as a cow shed. I peeked in to see the heavily worn stone steps of a spiral
staircase, its rusted handrail, the peeling whitewashed walls – all very
spooky. The man led me above the mill site to view the original mill ponds now
the site of some lovely gardens. This
was later replaced by a horizontal Lancashire steam boiler which was dragged up
the hillside from the bottom by 12 chained horses. Though Edward Cartwright had
invented the weaving machine in 1784 several decades of refinement were
necessary and it wasn’t until 1842 that
the semi-automatic Lancashire Loom came into being taking weaving from a
home-based artisan activity to a steam driven factories process.
In December 1860 Charles Crabtree launched out as an employer running a business with John Marshall, operating a few looms at Burnt Acres on the valley floor employing 7 people. So the employment – just like the chapel, has moved from the hillside in Eastwood to the valley bottom, giving access to the canal for both the shipment in of raw materials and the shipment out of finished goods, as well as the river to power looms before the advent of steam power. This mill was to be my first stop on my ‘Crabtree day.’
The site of Charles Crabtree’s mill was easy to locate being sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the Calder River and the Rochdale Canal in Eastwood but the mill that occupies the site now is not the original Crabtree mill. Charles gradually increased his business and he moved with Ellen into the centre of Todmorden. Unfortunately their home on Dale Street hasn’t survived. In 1884 he acquired Ferney Mill with 614 looms.
I continued along the canal towpath, reminding myself of its important role in Charles’s business, and once in Todmorden I took the road out towards Burnley. Only a mile from the town centre I located Ferney Mill Road but the mill itself is no longer there.
I put a posting on Todmorden Past and Present Facebook page and received the following response from Rebecca Marshall: “My father bought the mill and demolished it and built the houses there now. However I did find a career poster dated around 1950 to attract workers. At that time about 400 operatives were working at Ferney Mill: “Good wages, good conditions and good employee services are proffered for employees while engaged in the manufacture of Florentine and Satin Drills and ring Weft yarns specially spun for the local drill trade. There is a weaving school and a training school covering the spinning processes, a research and welfare department, cricket and sports clubs and social committee. As an added incentive Tea and sandwich service is available for the morning and afternoon rest breaks!” I wandered around this area in Todmorden where vast areas of wasteland surrounded by ruined walls topped with razor wire are all that remain of the huge textile mills that once covered this valley. Today many are used as dumping grounds and one had an amazing array of unwanted children’s furniture and toys including a large pink and white unicorn. Farther along Ferney Lee Road a former mill building had been converted into a suite of studios and workshops and the name Grumpy’s Mill was emblazoned in fancy ironwork. Was this part of Charles’s mill I wondered? When I got home I ran this question on the Todmorden Past and Present Facebook page and within a few hours I got the following response; I wasn’t aware of ‘lee’ being in the name but certainly Ferney Mill. Its mine!” And from a lady “I worked at Crabtree Mill when I left school.”
Charles appears to have been well liked by his employees and when he died in 1912 his obituary read: Last year, on the attainment of his jubilee as a manufacturer, Mr. Crabtree gave a treat to his employees, and they in return made a presentation to him of a walking stick, and of an umbrella to Mrs. Crabtree. For a long number of years, Mr. Crabtree attended Heptonstall Parish Church and officiated as sidesman for Stansfield. He was also identified with St. Paul’s Church, Cross Stone, and he had close ties with Myrtle Grove Congregational Church, Eastwood where he had been baptised. I was keen to visit the chapel but like so many others in this ‘Valley of a Hundred Chapels’ (the title of Amy Binns’s book) so many of them have been demolished or are used for secular purposes. The only thing remaining of the chapel is its graveyard. From the Charlestown history site: By the early 1800s, with the coming of industrialisation, the population was moving from the tops into the valley bottom. Discussions about moving the chapel began in about 1805 and local gentry settled endowments for the new chapel to be built. The new chapel opened in the summer of 1807 was called Myrtle Grove and stood on the site that later became Eastwood Railway station. It had a capacity of 500 people. The congregation again declined from about 1820. In 1838 the railway petitioned to include the site of the Chapel and it was purchased by the railway company in the following year. Another of my ancestors, Thomas Butterworth and his wife Alice (nee Jackson) had their 6 children baptised together at Myrtle Grove chapel just two years after Charles.
Though not able to view the actual chapel itself I was able to get a good three dimensional view of the 1840 chapel from a very unexpected source which rather amused me. Again, from the Charlestown history site: A few years ago one of the group was taking stuff to the tip at Eastwood and saw a small wooden model in a skip. She rescued it and later we discovered that it was of Eastwood Chapel. Who made it, when or why, we don’t know. It’s a three storey stone building. .
After Charles’s second marriage in 1865 he and Ellen went on to have five more children, the youngest being Walter who was born in 1875. Cross Street where Walter was raised was in the centre of Todmorden but is now partly a car park and partly a garden area, from where I’ve watched the Lantern festival. It leads to the imposing Market Hall which was built in 1879. But I thought I’d pay a visit to where it once stood, to see if anything remained.
A double fronted house numbered 37 with a small iron railing around a flagged area barely two feet wide on the main Halifax Road seemed to be positioned close to where Cross Street once was, and, yes, lo and behold, on the side of the house high on the wall was an old street sign – Cross Street. A similar sized building had been added to the rear of the building and the side was adjacent to the car park. Could this possibly have been number 1, Cross Street, home of Charles Crabtree for at least the last 32 years of his life? When I got home I was eager to find if anyone could verify that number 37 Halifax Road was once 1 Cross Street, the home of the Crabtrees. I posted my question onto the Todmorden Past and Present FaceBook page and within 24 hours I’d had over 40 responses, two from former residents of the building. I learned that the house had once been called Galen House and after the Crabtrees left it had variously been the office for a local plumber, a toy shop, and the home of a family who operated a taxi business. One former resident, Sam Woodworth-Barnstone wrote “I always wanted to rip off the Cross Street sign when we left but always came round to the thought it’s been there over 100 years. Let’s see how many more years it can survive.” He then describes the inside of the house: “The best room was the attic. No-one ever looked up there but after everyone had moved out I had a peep. It extended the full size of the house with four original stone pillars in the middle with a skylight looking down on Halifax Road.” Charles and Ellen would remain living at Cross Street for the rest of his life, Charles dying in 1912 at the age of 80 and Ellen in 1919 at the grand old age for the time of 86. They are both buried at Cross Stone church high above Todmorden.
At the far end of Cross Street is the river with a footbridge. I crossed the bridge and found myself in a park with a children’s playground. It surely takes the Darwin award for the best park name: Tipside.
By 1891 two of the 5 Crabtree children were teachers, one was a warehouseman in a cotton factory – I wonder if it was his dad’s factory – and one was a dye machine maker – presumably an engineer. Walter was still a scholar at the age of 15, when most young men of his age at that date in time would have been earning a wage. In fact, on the same street in the 1891 census there is Willie Brocock, throstle spinner in a cotton factory, aged 11, Tom Halliday, a moving carrier aged 14, Emily Sparks, cotton spinner aged 12, and yes, another Crabtree family containing John, 13, a cotton weaver. I think it’s interesting that my Crabtree family is living cheek by jowl with their employees, rather than in a manufacturer’s mansion up a hill and away from the smoke and grime of the town. That this area of Todmorden, known as Roomfield, was not all sweetness and roses is born out by thus 1876 Nuisances inspector’s report. “In the first place I would remind you that Miss Sutcliffe, has a drain made up on her property in Roomfield Lane, and the house slops and refuse water are flowing on the street. At the same place, Stansfield Gibson, butcher, (another ancestor who I write about) has a very offensive midden on the side of the street leading up to the back houses, and be is also in the habit of slaughtering sheep and lambs in a place behind his house, which has not been registered as a slaughterhouse. Sarah Horsfall, of York street, has a privy on her premises with a defective box in, and the liquid runs on the door and out at the door bottom, and is very offensive.”
Walter enrolled at Owens College, Manchester, an institution that had been founded in 1851, named after a textile merchant, John Owens who had gifted almost 100,000 pounds for is establishment. Owens college eventually became the University of Manchester. What an amazing coincidence. My daughter, Anna, decided to study abroad for a year while she was pursuing a psychology degree at the University of California in Santa Cruz. The University she selected was Manchester and she was housed at Owens College, where I visited her in 2009. I love the following quotation from Wikipedia: Since the later 1800s many notable people have worked and studied at University of Manchester as, for example, Benedict Cumberbatch. Unlike Cumberbatch Walter studied not drama but medicine and in 1899 he received his MB ChB, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. He became a house physician at Manchester Royal Infirmary and on October 30, 1906 he married into my family by taking as his bride Edith Wrigley, the daughter off Thomas Henry Wrigley, whose granddad had lived at Lily Hall in 1841 and whose great great granddad was none other than James Wrigley, my great great great great granddad.
A distressing account was to be found in the Todmorden newspaper on Dec 23, 1904 when Walter was at the home of his future wife as her mother was getting ready to go to chapel. At the inquest held at Todmorden Town Hall Edith related the story, “I was the sitting-room (upstairs) when I heard a bang. I went with Dr. Crabtree to see what was the matter, and we found my mother laid at the bottom of the attic stairs. She was lying face downward, with her feet on the bottom step. She was conscious, and said” I think I must have gone dizzy.” My father was not at home at the time. The stairs are not very steep. We lifted her on to the bed.” Walter takes up the story: I found she was paralyzed below the shoulders. I came to the conclusion that the spine was severely injured, probably with dislocation or treatise. Dr. Currie was, sent for, and with him I made an examination. I found the two lowest cervical vertebra and probably one or two of the dorsal vertebra displaced. Under such circumstances recovery was scarcely ever known. Death occurred rather suddenly at the last. The jury returned a verdict of ‘ Death from injury to the spinal cord, caused by accidentally falling downstairs.” The house where this happened was almost adjacent to the Town Hall, on part of Halifax Road that was known as York Street at the time of the accident. She was buried at Cross Lanes Chapel where, two years later Walter and Edith were married.
It’s one of the many churches which no longer exists, though the cemetery remains, barely clinging to the steep hill overlooking Hebden Bridge. The newspaper article seems to imply that there was an element of secrecy to it: An interesting wedding was solemnised on Tuesday afternoon at Cross Lanes chapel. It was kept as quiet as possible but many friends watched the ceremony . The contracting parties were Dr. Walter Crabtree, of Nelson, youngest son of Mr. Charles Crabtree. cotton manufacturer, Todmorden. and Miss Edith Wrigley eldest daughter of Mr. T. H. Wrigley (Messrs Wrigley and Sons, painters and paperhangers, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden). The bride, who was smartly attired in brown silk crepe de chine, with cream velvet hat, was attended by her sister (Miss Annie Wrigley). and was given away by her father. Mr. H. Cockcroft. of Woodlands. acted as best man. The newly-married couple afterwards left for London and Bournemouth to spend their honeymoon. They have received many handsome wedding gifts.
The couple settled in Nelson, Lancashire and three years after their wedding war broke out. As a medical man Walter’s expertise saw him involved in some of the fiercest fighting of that war. He offered his services to the war effort and in December 1915 he was granted a commission as lieutenant. According to the Todmorden Advertiser Six weeks after leaving Nelson he was at an advanced dressing station in France, and has been so engaged ever since except for a short period, when he was attached to one of the battalions of the Scottish Rifles. He was at one of the advanced dressing stations in the Somme operations. Wounded men would be sent to an Advanced Dressing Station after receiving an initial diagnosis at their front line Regimental Aid Post The ADS was normally run by a Field Ambulance, the name given to a mobile medical unit, not a vehicle. It was better equipped than the RAP, but could still only provide limited medical treatment. More serious cases would be referred to a Casualty Clearing Station, a larger and better-equipped facility that normally provided medical care for an entire division. In 1918 serving with the 93rd field ambulance in France Walter was promoted to Major and in July 1919 he was awarded the military cross, in recognition of his distinguished and meritorious service in battle situations. His father had died in 1912, and his mother in March 1919. What a pity they couldn’t have known about his military recognition. At the age of 48 Walter’s wife, Edith died and three years later he remarried. I am indebted to Jane Hall, the great great niece of Janet Junor Mackenzie, Walter’s second wife for the following information. Apparently Walter and Janet met on a cruise and were married at the Palace Hotel in Inverness on April 29, 1926. Janet was a lecturer in needlework, possibly at Aberdeen Teacher training College. Walter and Janet travelled a great deal throughout Europe before the second world war broke out and she kept a diary of their travels. Jane remembers visiting Walter & Janet at Stansfield Hall.
After Walter’s death in the summer of 1956 Janet moved back to the village of Avoch in the Black Isle Scotland, she moved into Rose Cottage the house where she was born, and she lived there until she died in 1968. Walter left 8000 pounds , close to 200,000 in today’s money.
Now I found that Ada’s mother had her own interesting story. Sally Worsick was born in 1829 at Holderness in Cragg Vale a building hugging the lower end of what is billed as the longest continuous gradient in England 968 feet over 5.5 miles.
It wasn’t until lockdown that I’d begun to explore this steep valley whose river, the Cragg Brook, once powered several mills and where the employment of children caused the vicar of Cragg Vale to comment “If there is one place in England that needed legislative interference it is this place; for they work 15 and 16 hours a day frequently, and sometimes all night. Oh! it is a murderous system and the mill owners are the pest and disgrace of society…!” (These are the reported words of ‘Revd Devine’, actually Revd Thomas Crowther, vicar of Cragg Vale from 1821 to 1859 in George Crabtree’s ‘A Brief Description of a Tour Through Calder Dale printed at Huddersfield in 1833.’ )
The church of St John in the Wilderness lies at river level way below the main road. It’s a quiet place, now of course closed, but I’d have liked to see inside. The population of Cragg Vale today is around 600 but the church speaks of more populous times when the surrounding mills were working flat out. Thomas Crowther was its first vicar in 1821 and he campaigned tirelessly until his death in 1859 to reduce the long and guelling hours worked in the mills by the children for which he was harrassed repeatedly by the mill owners. In more recent times the church was the scene of much notoriety when its honorary church warden who raised thousands of pounds for the church was none other than Jimmy Saville – who frequently parked his caravan at the Hinchcliffe Arms, the picturesque pub in the village named after the mill owner whose home Cragg Hall used to lie just above the river. Built between 1904 and 1906 it burned down in 1921 and remained a burned out shell until the 1950s when it was rebuilt using some of the original stonework.
After Savile’s death it came to light that the one time DJ and major fundraiser for various charities, including several thousands of pounds for Cragg Vale church, where he was a Churchwarden and would sometimes preach sermons from the pulpit, had been a prolific sex offender.
Sally Worsick’s birthplace, Holderness, is today an immaculate 5 bedroomed home with expansive views across wooded Cragg Vale, now bereft of its mills. What were once subsistence level hillside farms during the nineteenth century have been converted into expansive residences. As I viewed the map I saw that from Holderness it might be possible to see Bell House, home of the coiners. In fact the welcoming sign on the main road into this small town is ‘Mytholmroyd, Coiners Country.’
The Cragg Vale Coiners were a band of counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement the small incomes from hand loom weaving. The leader of the gang was David Hartley who lived at Bell House. Back in March I’d walked almost to Bell House through Clough Nature Reserve after reading ‘The Gallows Pole’, Ben Myers’s story of the desperate rise and ultimate fall of the coiners gang and the gruesome murders that were perpetrated by them in this rural landscape that he knows and describes so well.
The closest building to Bell House is Frost Hole, a mere three fields away. Overlooking the little valley of Frost Hole Clough the farm was built in the early 1600s and around 1840 it became Sally’s home. Her father Henry Worsick was a farmer and the family shared the home with the Sutcliffes, a family of hand loom weavers. It’s highly likely that Henry’s wife Ann Sutcliffe is part of this Sutcliffe family.
In the 1851 census 19 out of the 20 persons listed on page 24 are Worsicks. The Worsicks appear to have been firmly rooted in this locality but not only that, they were prolific. Sally’s grandfather Richard Worsick and his wife Mary (nee Spencer) and their ten children lived at . . . oh my . . . Bell House, former home of ‘King’ David Hartley, the mastermind behind the coiners who was eventually hanged at Tynburn near York in 1770. So Ada’s grandfather, Henry, born at Burnt Acres in 1797had been brought up at Bell House. As I’d turned my attention to Ada’s parents this morning I’d never thought I’d ended up in Coiners Territory!
In 1854 Sally married George Townsend, a dyer and son of a woodturner who specialised in making wooden shuttles for weaving. It’s interesting that Ada’s future husband was a shuttle tip maker and lost his life through an accident in that industry. They had four daughters in their first five years of married life, Ada being the third child, born in 1859. By 1861 the family have moved down into the Calder Valley, just as most of the people were moving from the isolated upland farms as industry was developing the valleys using water to power machinery. The family were now living right on the banks of the River Calder at Heppens End, where George is now a cotton stiffener and finisher.
Heppens End is a terrace of four cottages close to the river in Hawksclough between Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. Today the cottages are the only buildings that remain in what is now a large industrial estate, just across the River Calder from the now levelled Walkley Clog Factory which burned down in August 2019.
I pass the cottages at least once a week on my walks along the valley and I’d taken a photo of the greenhouse planted neatly on top of the garage. By the time Ada was 12 in 1871 the family had moved into the centre of Hebden Bridge to Carlton Street, next street to Crown Street where I live and her father George is a furniture broker and fustian finisher. That’s an interesting combination. Ada’s two older sisters are tailoresses. By the age of 22 Ada is now a ‘shopwoman’ and living with the family is a draper and milliner from Leeds by the name of Edith Miles, nine years older than Ada. The next time I find Ada she’s still living with her parents and Edith but they have moved to Market Street where they occupy two houses, presumably one being a drapers/milliners/tailoresses shop. Perhaps next door is Ada’s dad’s furniture brokerage. Ada was 36 when she married Edgar Harwood, just a year older than her and it must have been presumed by friends and family that she was a confirmed spinster by that time. After their marriage they moved to Hurst Dean.
Ada’s widowed mother, 71, moved in with them, and Edith Miles, Ada’s business partner also continued to live with them. Today it’s an impressive 5 bedroomed stone house and is testimony to Edgar’s successful business as a shuttle tip maker. The tips of the wooden shuttles were made from forged steel and were then fitted on the wooden shuttles to prevent the wearing down of the wood and causing them to snag on the yarn. The steel tips then had to be smoothed on a rotating grindstone to iron out any tiny imperfections that would prevent the shuttle from flying through the yarns from one side of the loom to the other. I own a shuttle that I bought at an antiques centre many years ago and it wasn’t until I learned about Edgar’s occupation that I actually picked up my shuttle and noticed the two metal shuttle tips, almost bullet like at their point. Ada’s grandfather, James Townsend had been a wood turner and shuttle maker in the 1840s and 50s, so I wonder if it was through the shuttle making business that she met her husband-to-be Edgar Harwood. James had lived at Pot House, just a couple of steps across the River Calder from Heppens House but it’s no longer there. James Townsend had also lived at White Houses in 1851. This is an oddly named terrace of blackened stone cottages whose front is directly on the main Burnley Road.
“Seldom has the district of Hebden Bridge been so greatly moved as it was last Saturday evening by the news of a terrible tragedy which happened at Blakedean whereby a well known local lady lost her life.” On May 28, 1909. Mrs. Ada Harwood, with her husband Edgar, her 16 year old nephew George A. Smith, and her friend Miss Milnes, her partner in the dressmaking and millinery business they conducted in Hebden Bridge had driven up to High Greenwood earlier in the day to stay with Mrs. Priscilla Clayton for a few days. A 66 year old widow from Shropshire Priscilla ran the 9 roomed boarding house with the help of a live in 22 year old Alice Maud Redman, a local woman whose job is given on the 1911 census as ‘servant’ waiter. After a few days stay in Heptonstall the family were looking forward to taking a ‘pleasure trip’ to Norway, land of the midnight sun, with some friends. From the newspaper account I read: “After tea they went for a walk in the direction of the trestle bridge, only a few minutes walk from the house. Mrs. Harwood and her nephew were a little apart from the others, and, as hundreds have done before, they stepped into one of the recesses to better enjoy the view. The youth doubted the safety of the place. It struck him as being rather flimsy. “Do you think it safe, auntie?” he asked. She replied that it was, having no knowledge of the awful danger which lurked under her feet: and sprang on tiptoe, or, as one might say, “prised” on tiptoe, to make a little test of the platform’s strength. And at that instant the tragedy was upon them they could not avert it, though only a foot’s space from safety. The wood cracked and gave way beneath their feet, Part of it went hurling down to the bed of the stream far below, and Mrs. Harwood fell with it. Overcome by the shock, her nephew found himself clinging to the railing, with no foothold. His walking stick fell through the gap into the gulf. How be got back to the comparative safety of the permanent way he does not remember. One can understand what a fearful shock it was to him as, clinging there and looking down, he saw his relative falling into that great depth to certain death. Mrs. Harwood was beyond help. Her lifeless body lay on a grassy plot just clear of the stream. Her injuries were fearful. They were, in fact, indescribable. Her head and body had apparently struck the framework of the bridge directly after disappearing through the hole, and probably instant death or merciful insensibility was caused before the ground was reached. In a second or two this peaceful valley had been transformed, for the watchers, into a scene of painful tragedy. Pending the arrival of the ambulance the remains of the unfortunate victim of the disaster were reverently conveyed to a spot near the stepping-stones at Blakedean, being carried thence under difficulties by P.C. Matters, and others. Bad news travels fast, and this news was all over the district soon after eight o’clock. From that time the main streets of the town were occupied with hundreds of people discussing the sad event.”
It was now May 2020 as I stood in the valley looking at the enormous stone stanchions that once formed the based of the trestle bridge 103 ft above. Blake Dean Railway had been built to take men, equipment and raw materials from Heptonstall to the site of three dams that were under construction at Walshaw Dean to provide water for the rapidly expanding town of Halifax. The trestle bridge had been designed by local Hebden Bridge architect and surveyor William Henry Cockcroft, and though I have Cockcrofts in my family tree I don’t presume to be related to this particular man. He and his two sons were passengers on the first truck to go over the bridge upon its completion so he was obviously convinced of its safety.
High up on the hillside to my left I could see a track running along the contour. A nearby quarry, Hell Holes, presumably supplied the stone for the stanchions, and the level track on the hillside held tracks that brought the stone from the quarry to the bridge site. It needed little imagination to conjour up the dreadful scene on that sunny May day over one hundred years ago. day. The railway serving the construction site had opened just eight years before and the Blake Dean trestle bridge had become one of the ‘must see’ sites of the Hebden Valley, along with the rocky outcrops of Hardcastle Crags. In the Hebden Bridge history society’s archives I’d found a fragile copy of ‘A Guide to Hardcastle Crags and neighbourhood’ compiled by an unacknowledged author in 1879 and published by W. Ashworth & Sons.
It had become a common practice for tourists to walk on the bridge for the sensation of looking down from so great a height. At the inquest into Ada Harwood’s death the contractors’ foreman said that notices had been put up at both ends of the bridge saying ‘Notice: no person allowed on these works or tramway except workmen on business. Others will be prosecuted. But visitors constantly pulled the warnings down. No criminal negligence was found but the jurors recommended that the signs should be replaced and if possible to erect barricades at the weekends when there were no works’ trains. My attention was drawn to the fact that the chairman of the jury was none other than Abraham Moss, one of my family members, who was to come to his own extraordinary and untimely death just eight years later.
I climbed up from the valley floor and followed the Widdop road along the hillside towards Heptonstall, passing High Greenwood, where the Harwoods had been enjoying their mini break. It is a beautiful stone building set just off the lonely Widdop Road, built in the late 1700s. It’s a building that tells of wealth and privilege with its symmetrical façade centred on a front door made all the more impressive by the triangular pediment above.
Today it’s surrounded by a well- maintained lawn and has expansive views in all directions. Close to the front door is a weeping willow tree causing me to wonder if the person who planted it knew of the association of the house and its unfortunate overnight guest. There’s a feeling of vast expanse up here on the moors heightened by the calls of the curlews who seemed to follow my progress along the hillside. Their bleak, windswept calls as they sweep and glide above me mirror my sentiments this spring morning. It doesn’t surprise me that in 1920 this very spot was the filming location of a silent movie, Helen of Four Gates, written by Heptonstall resident Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, an important working class social activist and feminist.
The raw scenery and the hard life of the local farmers is beautifully portrayed by pioneer film maker Cecil Hepworth, and it was to this very spot that Ethel brought Cecil to show him this remote location with its scattered farms and persuaded him to shoot the movie here. Its grainy black and white images heighten the hardships of the isolated life for these hilltop residents as the heroine battles against the abuse she receives at the hands of her family as well as those inflicted by the elements. Back in 1920, cinema-goers packed into the Co-op Hall in Hebden Bridge, eager to see a new film shot in the countryside around their town. Hepworth’s film career went public but failed to raise the necessary capital and the company went bankrupt and all of the original film negatives in Hepworth’s possession were melted down by the receiver in order to sell the silver. His feature films had been considered lost for many decades. However, an original 35mm. print of his 1920 film Helen of Four Gates was located in a film archive in Montreal, Canada in 2008 by Calder Valley film maker Nick Wilding and in 2010 Nick organized a screening of the silent movie at the Picture House in Hebden Bridge, probably the only screening of the movie since its release ninety years before. A little beyond High Greenwood I glimpsed Dick Booth Farm, the filming location used as Four Gates farm in the movie. In 1910 Dick booth was owned by Gameliel Sutcliffe and lived in by Wlliam Sutcliffe. (see blog about Gameliel).
Keeping the steep and heavily wooded valley enclosing the famed beauty spot of Hardcastle Crags on my left I soon came to Draper Lane. I was heading back in time to the site of Dawson City, home of the builders who had constructed the trestle bridge necessary for the building of the three reservoirs. I’d been fascinated by this story of this shanty town since first seeing photos of it in the White Lion in Heptonstall on my summer visits to the area. Perhaps it caught my attention because I’d visited the ‘real’ Klondike in Alaska myself in 2005. I even composed a song about this place, ‘Where are the ghosts of Walshaw Dean?’ Wooden huts for the workers were built at Whitehill Nook, just below Draper Lane in Heptonstall/Slack and it became quickly known as Dawson City, since it is said that some of the navvies had actually worked in the Klondike gold rush.
The construction of Heptonstall’s Dawson City commenced in October 1900 and by the spring of 1901 there were 22 huts to accommodate about 230 men with large dormitories and wash houses provided for single men. As wives and children joined their husbands the impact was felt by the local community of Heptonstall and a spare room in the school master’s house was brought into service for the additional thirty children living in Dawson City. Sanitation in the new city was obviously going to be a major problem and when outbreaks of typhoid and smallpox broke out a tent was set up to serve as a field hospital capable of caring for fourteen patients but it blew down in a gale! The gently sloping fields on either side of me today bear no trace of this fleeting community which, at its zenith consisted of living accommodation, workshops, storerooms, a locomotive shed, a tank for supplying the engines with water, a sawing machine, a mission room, a Sunday School and social club. By 1902 Hepton Rural Council was drawing attention to the “disgraceful state of things” at Dawson City, where children were dying soon after birth, drainage at the lodging houses was deplorable and “shebeening” (sale of alcohol without a license) was a growing scandal.
However, by the autumn of 1905 around 540 navies were living at Dawson City being taken to and from work in the “paddy mails” for their 12 hour shifts at the reservoirs. When the reservoirs were completed in 1908 the workers moved away and Dawson city became a ghost town, its site soon to be indistinguishable from the surrounding moorland. When Ada fell from the bridge in 1909 the trestle had become a tourist destination though it was still used by the railway until 1912.
Only two months after the tragedy Ada’s niece, Bertha Moss, married Claude Redman of Pleasant Villas and the bride was given away by her uncle, Edgar Harwood, Ada’s grieving husband. What mixed emotions must have been in evidence on that day of rejoicing. A few days after my excursion to the scene of the tragedy I set out for Pleasant Villas, two semi detached homes at the top of Hangingroyd Road, one of the front doors having ‘Pleasant’ engraved in stone above the door and the other one having ‘Villas’ above.
At the turn of the twentieth century the two homes were lived in by two of the most successful textile manufacturers in the area, the Moss family and the Redman family, and when Bertha Moss married Richard Redman the two families became linked by marriage, not just business.
Later that same year another incident in this story stopped me in my tracks. Less than three months after his wife’s death Edgar married Mary Ann Edith Milnes, none other than Ada’s business partner in their dressmaking and millinery business!