I moved back to England 3 years ago today!
So I set off to walk a section of the A646 through Cliviger Gorge that I’d only driven along before, just a couple of days ago. by walking I see much more. I got the bus to Walk Mill and intended to walk back towards Todmorden, probably as far as Cornholme. It was overcast and for 5 minutes of my bus journey the rain came down quite heavily. I’d not been walking for more than a few minutes when I found a very helpful notice-board providing the answer to several questions that my recent visits to the area had generated.
First I wanted an explanation of the geology that caused this narrow, steep valley lined with hummocks, and, sure enough here was the reason: Cliviger gorge is a geological fault and the hummocks are rock slides caused by the slippage of unstable land.
Next stop was another visit to the church of St John the Divine where I’d failed to find the grave of Sir James York Scarlett.
This time I found it straight away. Then on to The Ram Inn. Having parked the car in the car park at the rear of the building last week I hadn’t really noticed the painted sign of the Ram, nor the mounting block – which itself is Grade ll listed.
Next I came upon a blue plaque commemorating the founder of the TV series One Man and His Dog. I remember watching this program about the work that sheep dogs do in assisting the shepherds. We took our children to see the sheepdog trials on one of our visits to England. I’ll have to consult my journals as to when and where! As I looked down the valley I could actually see this happening right in front of me.
A few fields away I chatted to a couple of shepherds who were shearing the rear end of a group of a dozen sheep, cleaning their flanks and tails of poop. They explained that the poop attracts flies to that area of their body, the flies lay eggs and soon the sheep’s wool is full of maggots. Guess I learn something every day!
Just at that moment an air ambulance flew above the valley, turned around and flew along the valley again. A couple of minutes later 4 police cars came along at great speed, sirens blaring, heading in the direction I was walking. All traffic came to a standstill and within a few minutes many car were turning round, their way blocked by a police car. I could see that even a couple of bicycles were being turned around. Of course I was the only one on foot and I approached the policeman with some concern. As I anticipated I was not allowed to go any further. He was most helpful as to what my options were – climb 600 ft and hike 8 miles along Long Causeway? – no! Call someone to come and pick me up by car? – I don’t know anyone available. Call a taxi? Obviously all the buses had been stopped. “How long is the road likely to be blocked for?” I asked. “Could be several hours. This is a major incident.” I could see the air ambulance had landed in a field close by. As he turned around car after car I decided the only thing for it was to hitch a lift with someone heading for Todmorden and after a couple of tries a couple offered me a ride – via Bacup. It probably took 20-25 minutes to get back into Todmorden and I was very grateful for the ride.
Back in Tod I called in at the market for some black embroidery floss. I would work on my textile project. Walking through Cliviger Gorge will have to wait for another day.
So, inspired by another video from Nick, I set off to find St John the Divine church in Holme Chapel, situated in the Cliviger Gorge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Zln5clYTg&list=WL&index=54&t=1968s
This was to be my third trip exploring the valley and on a previous bus ride I’d noticed a pub at Holme Chapel with tables set out at the rear giving great views of the opposite side of the valley, so I planned to have lunch there with Jane and then we’d see what there was to see at the chapel itself. There’s no actual village of Cliviger – it’s the name given to the collection of 5 villages that constitute the parish of Cliviger.
In 1588, the queen Elizabeth I gave to her principal surgeon, Robert Balthrope, a coal mine in Cliviger. This was later transferred toJohn Towneley of Towneley Hall. TLimestone was mined at Shedden Clough in the 17th century and lead mining was attempted at Thieveley in the early 17th and mid 18th centuries. Also near Pot Oven Farm, there are the remains of a blast furnace constructed around 1700 for the Spencer partnership. I seem to remember learning about blast furnaces in science lessons at school! Although it had become a pottery by 1760, it is thought to be the first blast furnace built in Lancashire. During the mid-18th century, Cliviger produced worsted woollen pieces for the neighbouring town of Burnley. Open cast coal mining took place in the 1940s and 50s above Thieveley Scout and on Deerplay Moor.
I’d read that close to the pub and chapel was Holme House which had once been the home of a man who had written a famous history of Whalley and he’d enlisted the artistic talents of one J. W. Turner to illustrate it. Wow! Then I read that his old home had recently burned down, or a least a large wing of it had been destroyed. When I mentioned the fire Jane immediately knew which house it was and we turned off onto a short drive and there was the old manor house, now fully functional, and converted into flats. It’s still an imposing building but looks rather new. Holme Hall dates back to 1340 when Richard de Whitacre arrived in Cliviger from High Whiteacre (Padiham). In 1431, The Holme, then a manor house of 40 rooms, was referenced in connection with Thomas Whitaker. The process of converting the original wooden structure into stone began in 1603 and was completed 1717 with west wing. The Whitakers built an extension to the rear in 1854. The land once belonged to the Tattersall family and housed a chapel which lent its name to the neighbouring village of Holme Chapel.
And then I discovered something so unexpected it stopped me in my tracks. Rev Alexander Whitaker, 1576-1617 sailed with Sir John Dale in 1611 to the colony of Virginia in Chesapeake Bay, becoming known as The Apostle of Virgina. My goodness. From here to the U.S (or at least what would eventually become the U. S.) in 1611!!! 2 years later Pocahontas, the daughter of the native American chief, was captured and placed under Whitaker’s care where he was taught English and the Christian religion. She was given the honorary title ‘Princess’ and it is generally believed that this minister from Holme House officiated at her baptism and eventual marriage to John Rolfe, the founder of the Virginian Tobacco Industry. Little did I think that there would be any connection to the U.S on my visit to this little village today. My daughters learned the story of Pocahontas in their American history lessons, but I certainly had never heard of her until then. Whitaker drowned while crossing the James River in 1616.
Then it was over the road for lunch in the lovely gardens of the ancient Ram Inn. Like Holme House it’s a Grade II building. It has a lovely stone roof and mullioned windows and a mounting block for getting on your horse.
We enjoyed our lunch, going with the traditional sausage and mash – excellent.
Then it was merely a few steps across the main road leading to Burnley and we were at the lychgate leading to the church St John the Divine. Besides the church being unusual for a small rural parish being constructed in the Classical style I had wanted to take photos of it for a specific reason. I’m currently taking an online art class in architectural drawing and I thought that church would give me a good subject to work from. Yet another Grade ll listed building it was built between 1788 and 1794, replacing a small chapel, and is in simple Classical style.
Above the west front is a bell turret with an octagonal cupola, and inside the church are carved oak stalls, moved from a demolished church, which include a poppyhead and misericords. All this talk of Grade II listed building reminds me of the house we lived in in Bedfordshire, Wet Manor in the village of Milton Ernest which was a Grade II building, built just before 1600. Not surprisingly the church wasn’t open though it is still a functioning church with regular services. But I was disappointed not to be able to walk around the exterior of the church – it was fenced off, so I contented myself by wandering round the very well maintained graveyard. I was on the lookout for the grave of Captain Scarlett, who led the Charge of the Heavy Brigade during the Crimean War. When I first heard this mentioned by Nick in his video I though it was a joke . . . I mean, everyone’s heard of the Charge of the Light Brigade, right? According to the Household Cavalry Museum’s website: In 1854, the Royals were the first British regiment to deploy abroad as part of a joint Anglo-French army that journeyed to the Crimea in support of the Ottoman Empire in its war with the Russians. The Royals achieved military success in a display of what cavalry were capable of at the Battle of Balaclava where, in the engagement known as the ‘Charge of the Heavy Brigade’, a force of 800 British cavalry, with the Royals at their heart, routed a force of 3000 Russian light horseman in an engagement that lasted barely eight minutes. Unfortunately, this triumph has been somewhat overshadowed by the disaster at the same battle which was the Charge of the Light Brigade. So how on earth did this highly decorated military gentleman come to be buried in this tiny village in Lancashire? Son of a Baron he’d been educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1835 he had married Charlotte Ann Hargreaves a coal heiress from Burnley and from then on he made Burnley his home. After his military career he became a conservative member of parliament and on retirement he stood again as a member for Burnley but was narrowly defeated. When he died in 1871 and estimated 60,000 people lined the streets of Burnley for his funeral procession. There was a General Scarlett pub in Burnley named after him and in 2016 it became the Scarlett Tea Rooms. As I wandered around the tiny village it was hard to match this quiet enclave with the vigour and bravery shown by Capt. Scarlett.
Our final stop was at the Singing Ringing Tree, a panopticon overlooking the Cliviger Gorge, and with a gentle breeze blowing it sang to us. The sky had cleared of its earlier clouds and so we could see way into the distance. I think I could see Ingleborough. A diagram of the points of interest would have been very useful!
Looking forward to exploring more of the valley soon.
So having watched a YouTube video about the ruined Shore Baptist chapel I was eager to visit the site. I couldn’t find it on a current map but I kew it was up a very steep road out of Cornholme so with a friend’s willing assistance we set off by car. We took a couple of wrong turns but that was ok because our view was fantastic – almost on a par with the drone footage of the Cliviger Gorge I’d watched online the previous evening. There is a small village of Shore clinging to the hillside and outside one of the houses I saw a resident working in the garden and she gave me directions to the site of the church – along Pudding Lane (!) and Shore Green Lane, and we were there. From the roadside it’s nothing special so without having seen the video I wouldn’t have looked twice at it – but I knew what lurked behind the unimposing wall.
So I spent the next half hour or so scrambling round the building which once held the church and the adjacent Sunday School. I’d found an old film made in 1971 about a year at this church showing people arriving by taxi (yes, the road is REALLY steep) , singing in the ladies’ choir, the children’s choir, the Sunday school prize giving, tea parties, the annual coach trip (in this case to Cliffe Castle, Keighley which, as it happens, was my last day out before lockdown). The roof of the chapel fell in years ago, after the church had been declared unsafe because of dry rot. With a bit of prodding the wrought iron gate opened (it was just held closed by a large stone) and I was able to see inside the chapel since the front wall has gone.
Someone had made a bonfire of their rubbish in what had once been the nave. The coving around the light fittings could clearly be seen and the wooden planks strewn over the floor had once been pews. The whole site is now overgrown with trees and so taking photos was difficult because so much of the building was obscured by the trees and also where I could see the building everything was in dark shade.
I’d read about a flight of stairs at the West side of the chapel. The church is perched right on the edge of the cliff and so the extensive graveyard appears to be falling down the hillside. 122 steps with an iron rail still present in places goes down to the Wattenstall River and, this being a Methodist church, people went down the steps to be immersed in the River as part of their baptism ceremony. Then they would climb back up the stairs for the service in the church. The General baptist Repository and Missionary observer of 1865 records that on June 10th Mr Gill baptised 41 people, 21 men, 20 women, the youngest candidate being 15, the oldest being 77. Some baptisms took place on Christmas Day when the ice on the stream had to be broken. It wasn’t until 1871 that the Baptistry was installed inside the church!
The church was founded in 1777 (just 2 years before the Piece Hall opened) by 7 people inspired by Dan Taylor from Birchcliffe Chapel, Hebden Bridge – which now serves as the area’s archive repository. (A couple of days later I was taking a walk along the steep Wadsworth Lane high above Birchcliffe when I noticed this plaque on a house):
In 1833 and again in 1871 the church was considerably enlarged reflecting the growth of the cotton industry in Cornholme. When the centenary was celebrated in 1877 the church had 265 members but by 1970 dry rot had set in and all services were being conducted in the adjacent Sunday School. In 1985 a decision was made by the church members that it should be demolished. However, that didn’t happen and 35 years later, here I was in the ruins. At length i found a newish looking sign posted on a door:
I’m so pleased that I visited when I did. Who knows when the council will take it upon themselves to demolish the place. From the notice it could be any day starting yesterday!
The video of a year in the church, 1971:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ystOsI6Kss&list=WL&index=68 Watching this made me think I was back at Affetside Sunday school, singing in the choir and I still have the books I was given at prize givings there. This is filmed at the Sunday school after the church had to be closed for good as being unsafe. My absolute double is in the children’s choir. Can you spot her?
Then watch a bit of this – minute 25-35 shows the church and seeing this was the catalyst that made me want to go and explore the church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeOaBq2jlmg
I also found a booklet at Todmorden visitors’ centre called the Story of Shore General Baptist Chapel’ by Les Marshall and George Lambert published in 2016 which includes this hymn written by Rev. J. Maden, minister of Shore 1868-1875
‘How rugged are thy paths, O Shore!
And yet we climb them more and more
Up to the sacred hill.
Thousands have gained that rocky height,
And gazed around them with delight
But we are pilgrims still.”
(Why is Shore called Shore?). A couple of days later I found the answer in a booklet called ‘The Story of Shore General Baptist Chapel’ which I purchased at Tod visitors’ centre. Shore is an old English name for river bank or precipitous slope! The booklet tells of the anger and problems arising from a demolition order made in 1985 that has never been carried out.
It’s been a while since I last posted. I could blame many things: the inclement weather, lethargy, started working on a book, getting back into some more serious piano practice, the concern about the fires back in Santa Cruz, the realisation that Covid 19 is here to stay for a while, etc., etc.
But last week I just happened to watch a YouTube video of a guy hiking in the Cliviger Gorge, the valley the connects Todmorden to Burnley. I’d watched a couple of his homemade videos before, mostly around the Calder Valley, so this was a new area for me, and it showed a ruined chapel at Shore, near Cornholme. The roof is off, walls are missing, it’s perched on the edge of a cliff, and it’s difficult to get to. What more could I ask? The perfect place for exploration.
So my first step into the valley came last week when I took the Burnley bus as far as Cornholme and then just followed the road back down into Todmorden. Though I’d travelled along this 8 mile valley by train and bus before I’d never walked through it. A few derelict mills are wedged in the valley bottom which, like the Calder Valley forms a very narrow channel for a road, a railway line, a river, and a few small communities.
In fact the lower end of the valley is narrower than the Calder valley in Hebden Bridge and some of the terraces of houses are only around 4 houses long on either side of the main road. Unlike Hebden Bridge few houses are perched on the valley sides because the land here is notoriously unstable. The valley sides appear to be full of hummocks, caused by landslides over the millenia. A little coal mining was done, some iron smelting and then the textile mills took over during the industrial revolution. I passed a lane heading steeply upwards signposted to Shore but I wanted to do more research before heading up to the ruined chapel.
Arriving back on the outskirts of Tod I came to an imposing gateway leading into a densely wooded area. Big signs saying police cameras, dog patrol, hazardous to your health, razor wire made me inquisitive and on researching when I got home I found that the drive once led to Todmorden’s most famous hotel which was the victim of arson and now lies derelict.
I passed the Hare and Hounds and Jack’s Place, 2 pubs that my ancestors had kept years ago, then past Centre Vale Park, one of the few flat areas of land in the area. The River Calder rises in the hills above the Cliviger Gorge, part of it heading into Yorkshire and past into Lancashire. Bob Gaunt and Annie Harrison who I worked with on the aging Project at Manchester Uni are currently tracing the Yorkshire Calder from its source to the sea.
This morning I went in search of Longtail. Well, actually I just wanted a good reason to take another walk along Edge Lane, having enjoyed my first two walks along the lane. In 1881 The Pack Horse Inn was the scene of an altercation between a group of thugs and the landlord, my ancestor, John Wolfenden. When the vandals reappeared at the inn the following day two policemen were summoned from Hebden Bridge and during a scuffle, as they were being marched back to Hebden, some of the men broke free and headed off in the direction of Longtail Beer House.
So today I went to find it. I knew that it is now a private residence and as I drew close to the building set above the road with a panoramic view of the Upper Colden valley I was delighted to see that one of the residents was doing some gardening by the roadside. We chatted and I learned that the building is now divided into three cottages. I told him of my mission and he recalled the story of a murder at Longtail beer house, but I’ve not been able to find any reference to this yet.
I carried on along the lane, passing Spink House where my ancestor John Sunderland lived, and the former workhouse and soon I passed through the gate at the end of the car track and found myself on open moorland. There’s a grand view of Gorple reservoir and the three Walshaw Dean reservoirs.
The Pack Horse Inn was the only building in sight in any direction. I sat on a grassy bank to admire the view and as I did so I soon began to be the object of attention of several curlews who obviously wanted me out of the way. I was able to take a nice video of them swirling about my head, making a call just like a car alarm. For a minute two birds were calling in unison and I felt as though I was being treated to surround sound. I wondered if the track was made when the reservoirs were constructed or if it is an ancient track over the moors but my phone didn’t get any signal way out here so I couldn’t check the historic maps. (I later found that there was some evidence of the track marked on the 1851 map). So I headed back along the stoney track passing some friendly sheep. I even caught a glimpse of an owl, sitting atop a gatepost, eying me suspiciously.
On the way up I’d called in at May’s farm shop which I hadn’t been in before. An elderly lady – May? – related the story of her mother babysitting for a couple on a farm close by as a young teen and then the farmer killed his wife, but again, I can’t any reference to that in the local papers of the time. On my way back I called in at the shop and purchased a pasty to take home.
Digging up more information online later that day was I surprised to learn that Longtail had once been the residence of a lady who wrote Helen of Four Gates. Oo, that might be fun to read, I thought, especially if it’s set in this area. But before I could order the book online I found that it had been made into a silent movie in 1920, and that the author, Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, had been an important working class social activist and feminist.
Her story had even been the subject of someone’s Phd thesis, available to read online. Born in Lancashire, she began work at the cotton mill aged eleven as a part-timer, working full-time from the age of thirteen. In an article for The Woman Worker (which she edited for six months in 1909) she described the factory worker as ‘practically a beggar and a slave’, declaring all workers ‘dependent on the whims of a master class.’ Her first publications were poems, collected in Rhymes from the Factory in 1907. Two further volumes followed: Songs of a Factory Girl (1911) and Voices of Womanhood (1914). All were produced under difficult circumstances – between serving customers at the draper’s shop her mother had taken in Little Harwood, between lectures at Owens College, Manchester, where she registered as a non-degree student from 1911 to 1913, and between the creative writing classes she taught at Bebel House in 1913 and 1914. What a coincidence that my daughter attended Owens College at Manchester Uni too! She lived at Longtail from 1919-1921.
But the story doesn’t stop there. The director of the film was Cecil Hepworth one of the founding pioneers of the British film industry. He created the first film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. By 1910, Hepworth was also the inventor of Vivaphone, an early sound on disk system for adding sound to motion pictures and he was one of the first people to recognize the value of film stars, both human and animal. His Rescued by Rover, 1905 had a collie dog in the title role and was a huge financial success. Following the international success in 1919 of Alf’s Button Hepworth’s company went public but failed to raise the necessary capital and the company went bankrupt. All of the original film negatives in Hepworth’s possession were melted down by the receiver in order to sell the silver, and his feature films have 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 film maker Nick Wilding. Back in 1920, cinema-goers packed into the Co-op Hall in Hebden Bridge, eager to see a new film; a harrowing, heart-rending story shot in the countryside around their town. After a little detective work, Nick discovered it was Ethel Carnie Holdsworth who persuaded Cecil Hepworth to use Hebden Bridge as a location. There are scenes of the countryside around the town, including the beauty spot of Lumb Falls.
“She took Hepworth up the moor,” says Nick. “He writes in his autobiography about being taken there. He had a good look around and decided where he was going to film.” In June 2010 the film, with live music as was originally intended was shown at the Hebden bridge Picture House, directly across the road from where I write, as part of the town’s celebration of the 500th anniversary of the town’s pack horse bridge – it’s first public showing in 90 years. So, my story both begins and ends with a Pack Horse!
The entire movie is available to watch: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-helen-of-four-gates-1920-online
Someone has also a 4 minute movie about her life
All were produced under difficult circumstances – between serving customers at the draper’s shop her mother had taken in Little Harwood, between lectures at Owens College, Manchester, where she registered as a non-degree student from 1911 to 1913, and between the creative writing classes she taught at Bebel House in 1913 and 1914. She lived at Longtail 1919-1921.
The remote farm of Greave was the scene of a murder in 1827 that made headlines in newspapers all across the country. A policeman was even sent from London to solve the gruesome crime. The most comprehensive account of the ‘horrid murder’ was in the Manchester Mercury, June 5, 1827. The details give both a detailed description of the character of the victim and conjures up the remoteness of Greave, the farm where the murder took place. The farming community of Greave which comprised 2, possibly 3 farmsteads has been in the possession my Shackleton ancestors since 1790 that I can trace directly, but there were Shackletons living there four centuries ago. A 1604 survey of the Savile estate lists 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth, 14 of which were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions 2 at Good Greave. A detailed website belonging to John Shackleton documents the story of the Shackletons of Widdop, putting them into their historic context. John has been helpful in my quest to discover more about my Shackleton ancestry. How does this tie in with my family tree? Well, Gibson Butterworth married Isabella (nee Wolfenden) following the death of her first husband Thomas Shackleton(1842-1890), one of the Shackleton dynasty. Isabella had been living with her parents John and Hannah Wolfenden in one of the Greave farms and so, after her marriage, at the age of 16, she moved in with ‘the man next door’ – to another of the Greave farms.
HORRID MURDER, WADSWORTH, NEAR COLNE. In one of the wildest and most sequestered spots in Yorkshire, distance about 13 miles from Halifax and 7 from Colne, and within 2 or 3 miles of the Lancashire border in a district celebrated for majestic scenery. In this nook of the country, a place called Good Greave in the township of Wadsworth, is situated; the former is the scene of this horrid crime; it consists of only four houses, two them separated from the rest by a distance of about a quarter of a mile and the nearest them within a mile of the Halifax and Colne road. Stretching towards Colne, Haworth, or to Blackstone-edge in different directions, the township of Wadsworth consists of heaths and the deep ravines running between them. Nearly the foot of steep aclivity, and within short distance of one of the gullies which carry off the waters from the mountains lived James Shackleton, an old man in the 7lst year of his age. In the dwelling where his existence was at last prematurely terminated, he first drew breath; that and the surrounding acres, were his paternal estate, and by careful habits and moderate desires, he had rendered himself a man of considerable substance. Satisfied with much less of the good things of this life than he had the ability to purchase, in what he did enjoy a brother and sister, also advanced in years, but younger than himself, participated; the three having chose a life of celibacy, they were restricted so far as regards family and social intercourse, to themselves, except, indeed, their nephew, residing just at hand, who had a wife and three children.
On the night of Wednesday the 23rd ult. about half past nine o’clock in the evening, the unfortunate victim, James Shackleton and and a man named Richard Smith, an aged house-carpenter dwelling in the house until had completed a few jobs, were sitting over a cheerful fire of peat, waiting the return of Thomas Shackleton, the old man’s brother, who had gone a short distance from home, on some business, relative to the formation of a new road. The sister Mary Shackleton had gone to bed, when six men entered the house, armed with bludgeons, and one of them, going up to James Shackleton, said “he wanted to purchase a cow.” This excited some astonishment in the old man, who replied that “that was a very odd time to come on such a business.” A demand instantly followed for his money, with which the old man hesitating to comply, the carpenter, Smith, said, “James, if you have any money, pray give it them.” Two cur-dogs in the house barked most furiously at the villains who struck them with their bludgeons. James requested them to desist doing so, and he would quiet the dog. They, however, still continuing hark, one of the men, with a knife or some other sharp instrument, made a desperate blow at the larger intending cut his throat, but he only made a deep incision in the neck the animal. The men insisting immediate compliance, James rose from his seat, and proceeded to a chest of drawers, from whence he took out two purse*. These, the villains said, only contained copper, to which he answered that there was both gold and silver in them. They then told him that had £lO, in the house, which he had received for a cow that he had sold. This he denied, as, if the cow was sold, he had not yet received payment. The villains then struck the old man and the carpenter with bludgeons, but particularly the former, and demanded all he had, while some of the party took down two hams, and gun and pistol, which were hung up in the house. The carpenter, being alarmed for his own and his employer’s safety, got up and proceeded towards the door, to call the nephew, but was interrupted by two men at the doorway, armed with pistols, who declared that, if he stirred a step, they would blow his brains out. He then returned to the house, and the men were preparing to retreat, after the old man had surrendered his all. Fearing, from their ill treatment, that they would take his life, the old man had risen up, and gone towards the window, which had no open casement, and was calling for his nephew. From this circumstance, and the yelling of the wounded dog, it is probable a sudden fear seized the murderers. On their rather hastily retiring a voice was heard to exclaim “d–n him, shoot him,” and one of them, armed with a gun, seemed return to complete their crime, for on arriving at the end the passage, from whence he had a view of the man at the window, he levelled his piece, and shot him under the left shoulder blade, the shot penetrating through the body and coming out at the breast. He instantly fell, covered with gore, and having been laid abed on the floor of the house, the purple flood continued to flow until life was extinct. This closed the unfortunate man’s life, within half hour after the occurrence. Medical aid was sought soon as any one dared to stir out, but found, it was in vain. The nephew, John Shackleton, first became alarmed hearing one of the dogs make an unusual noise (probablv when the wound was inflicted upon him) and laying down the pipe which he was smoking, he proceeded towards the house to inquire the cause. On approaching it, he saw a man standing in the passage, and supposing it to be his uncle Thomas who might have just returned home, shouted ‘ hallo’. To this no answer was returned. He then retraced his steps, and entered his own house; but not satisfied with what he had seen, he returned immediately, after locking the door of his house, for his own family’s security. Having again sallied forth, the man in the passage ran at him, as he approached, and exclaimed “I’ll kill the devil,” inflicting, at the same time, a severe blow on one of his shoulders. It was then that the nephew became sensible of the danger. When precipitately retreating, he heard the cry of “d–n him, shoot him,” and instantly saw the flash of gun in the house. He ran to loose a bull dog which was tied up on his own premises, and while so engaged, the villains appear have left the house, for, on his again coming forth he heard nothing but a kind of murmuring noise, as if from the voices men, ascending the declivity, nearly at the foot of which the house was situated. The men were only about ten or fifteen minutes in the house, and on leaving it. went in a direction towards Haworth, over the moors, but this, no doubt, was a feint to elude detection.
Four days later in the Sheffield Examiner we read ‘The body of the unfortunate James Shackleton has been opened by a surgeon, who states that the wound was not inflicted by small shot, as was reported, since, in the course of his inquiry, he found two slugs, which had apparently been cut off from the handle of a spoon.” Someone was taken into custody but discharged and according to the obituary of James’s brother, Thomas, the murderers were never discovered.
Sixty years later the murder was still a hot topic in the local press and it was still on the lips of people in the community. The writer, one Tattersall Wilkinson, obtained his information from “old Sally Walton” who eked out a living in a two storey cottage close to the road at the bottom of Widdop pass. “Witch and boggart tales she thoroughly believed—and many a happy hour has your humble servant passed by the turf fire side listening to the tales of yore told by the venerable dame.” According to Sally the area around Crimsworth Dean and Pecket Well was “infested with a gang of desperadoes – poachers and house breakers. Sally tells us more about the carpenter – Richard Smith known as “Old Dick o’ Whittams” who lived at “Th’ ing Hey” near Roggerham Gate. I find these names so priceless and so evocative of their time. Adding further fuel to the drama, the robbers who had ‘blackened faces,’ finding no ammunition for Shackleton’s gun “in a most deliberate manner took a leaden spoon from off the table and cut it into slugs.” The oft-repeated story has caused a thrill of horror to pass through the mind of the listeners at many a winter’s fire-side, and although seventy years have passed away since the occurrence took place, many old people still live in the neighbourhood who remember the affair who give mysterious hints as to who were the actors in this fearful drama.
So how does this story relate to my ancestors? The murder victim was the great great uncle of Thomas Shackleton, the first husband of Isabella Wolfenden, who married Gibson Butterworth after Thomas died.
It all began with one man and his dog. The man, Edward, was a shepherd. I didn’t catch the name of his sheepdog but she was having a jolly old time swimming around in an old bath tub in the sheep field as I chatted to her master. I was on Edge Lane, between Heptonstall and Colden, and had just arrived at Spink House where my ancestor Giles Sunderland was living in 1891. As I paused to take photos of the building Edward came into view. I thought perhaps he lived there, but no. He was just walking along the tack to his sheep field. We chatted for a while and as we parted he said, “If you are interested in history make sure you find out about Raistrick Greave.”
Hmm. . . A couple of days later, quite by chance I found a video of someone’s hike to the ruins of Raistrick Greave, a farmhouse in a very isolated spot way up on Heptonstall Moor above Widdop. Its name reminded me of Greave farm where Gibson Butterworth was living in 1901 so I decided to do a bit more digging online. With 20 or more ‘hints’ on the Ancestry website, Gibson looked like a ‘person of interest.’
Until a couple of days ago Gibson Butterworth was just another name on my Nutton family tree, one of over 2000 names. I knew he and his sister Grace had been born at Weasel Hall, a building high on the hillside that dominates the view from my desk where I write this.
A few months ago I’d been given the handwritten account of the life of his father Ezra Butterworth, along with some wonderful photos from James Moss, someone on Ancestry.com whose family had also married into the Butterworths.
The son of Ezra Butterworth and Mary, (nee Gibson) he was assigned his mother’s maiden name as his forename, a very common occurrence in these parts. Indeed my dad’s middle name was Dean, in memory of a family surname. Gibson was born in 1863, the same year that Cheetham House sewing factory in Hebden Bridge was built. I’d lived there for the first 18 months after my return to England, in an upper room where huge iron wheels from the pulleys that powered the machines still graced my ceiling.
According to the journal that Grace kept “Gibson was a great disappointment to Ezra. He was highly intelligent but perhaps in- herited too much of his mother’s temperament. He was educated first at Heptonstall Grammar school and later went as a boarder to a school at East Keswick. Though he wanted to be an engineer he never seemed to settle down. Ezra started him in the clothing business in Hebden Bridge but after two years he threw it over in disgust and became a wanderer. After forty years he retuned from New Zealand and settled in a cottage in Hebden Bridge. Even in his old age he was a very gifted speaker and would draw people to his cottage just to listen to him.He and Grace seemed to have been very close to one another but while Grace accepted her mother’s domination Gibson would not. So there grew a fierce hatred between Mother and Son which lasted as long as they lived.Maybe that was the cause of his differences with his father.
Gibson was educated in Heptonstall grammar school, that fascinating building which first opened its doors in 1642, the year before that the town was directly involved in the Civil War, when the battle of Heptonstall took place in the remote hilltop community. The parliamentarians of Heptonstall did battle with the Royalists of Halifax. In 1871 Gibson was a young 8 year old, living on Crown street (my current address) with his family. His dad, Ezra was a railway contractor held in quite esteem according to the written account of his life. “He was responsible for the laying and upkeep of many of the lines of the Lancs and Yorks Railway. He was a perfectionist and the train drivers always knew when they were on his lines, they were so smooth.” So recounted his daughter, Grace. I’ve been trying for 2 years to work out which buildings various branches of my family lived on Crown Street, but to no avail. By 1881 Gibson’s family appear to have moved up in the world judging by the fact that they are now living at Oak Villa,a house built especially for the Butterworths and Ezra is a farmer with 9 acres. See my blog about Ezra. http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/?s=ezra
In 1890 his Ezra his wife, Mary, and daughter Grace had moved to Hippins farm, which Ezra leased from Lord Savile’s estate. It was a 75 acre farm set high on the hill top above Todmorden . In the 1891 census Gibson is still at Oak Villa where he is living with his Uncle, Thomas Butterworth, another plate layer for the railway and his wife Mary Ann. This in itself is perhaps insignificant but new paper reports fill in the back story of a major rift in the family. Indeed, the newspaper article is entitled: Unhappy Family Differences – painful disclosures. Ezra had deleted Gibson from his will and so Gibson was claiming financial compensation by taking his mother and sister’s husband, Elias Barker, to court to claim what he believed was owing to him. The court decided on a nominal sum.
Sharing Hippins farm in 1891 was the Wolfenden family, John William Wolfenden, his wife Jane, and three young children, one of whom was named Isabella, aged 3, so born in 1888. There just HAD to be a connection, since Gibson had married an Isabella Wolfenden, born in 1857. It took me into the early hours of the next day before I’d cracked it. John William was Isabella’s brother. And just to complicate matters still further John William Wolfenden’s wife’s Jane was a Butterworth, Jane Butterworth, born in 1856! I guess the families living in the remote hilltop farms would gather together and mingle and perhaps meet their future spouses at stock sales and other farm related activities.
Two years after Ezra died 1898, a tragic death, caused by an injury sustained by falling onto his chamber pot in a drunken stupor, Gibson married Isabella Wolfenden, a second marriage for the widowed bride. The marriage took place at Slack Chapel. The present building was constructed in 1879, replacing the earlier building of 1808 where the opening ceremony was attended by seven hundred people. More than a thousand were at the Dedication service on the following Sunday.
It’s no longer a chapel but when I’d visited it in the August 2017 it appeared that some building or renovation work was in progress. I’d even chatted to a man that came out of the building to find out what I was doing. But three years later the place looks in the same unfinished condition. In July 2015 a picnic was planned on Popples Common to discuss the building’s future. Plans for it to become a halfway house for those recovering from drug abuse were dropped after objections from local residents. I chatted to the current owner, Holly, as she tended the gravestones that make up her front garden. “You can’t live here if you have a nervous disposition” she quipped. So now let’s find out more about Gibson’s wife.
Isabella was from Paythorne, a picturesque village on the River Ribble, in the Forest of Bowland, and her dad, John, was an agricultural labourer. By the time Isabella was 10 years old the family had moved to Good Greave, a farm on Heptonstall Moor, a farm that has been in the Shackleton family for a long time. I mean, a really long time! In the 1604 survey out of 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth 14 were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions 2 at Good Greave. There was a Richard ‘elder’ and Richard ‘younger’ at Good Greave in the Court Roll of 1603 and in documents of 1605 but not on the Savile tenants lists as ‘they’ had bought their farm in 1600.
A more remote spot on the moorland is hard to find. Indeed, it took me a while to be able to pinpoint the exact location of Good Greave on a map. I enlisted the help of various Facebook pages and although I had several responses it was still proving difficult to find the location so Greave and Good Greave, both of which are now in ruins, with nothing but ill-defined tracks through the peat bog. One photo purporting to be of Good Greave shows a stone doorway and lintel, all that survives of this remote farm.
Isabella was one of 5 children and the oldest daughter. Her 3 younger siblings had been born in Barnoldswick. Up on the moors living next door, if such it can be called, at Greave, was Thomas Shackleton, a farmer aged 28 , living with his widowed aunt, Jane Uttley aged 67, a retired farmer, and his sister Sarah Ann and two servants. On December 14, 1873 the 16 year old Isabella married the 31 year old Thomas Shackleton at Halifax minster and Isabella moved to Greave to live with her new husband .
Questions floated around in my head. Where did the Shackletons buy food? Would Isabella have had another woman to help her in childbirth? They were 4 miles from Heptonstall amidst some of the most barren and windswept places in Yorkshire. But the Shackletons appeared to flourish.10 months after their wedding James was born, to be followed by 6 more children, approximately every 2 years. Two died within their first year and one, James, the firstborn when he was 7.
But what happened to Isabella’s father after his daughter married and moved out? Some time between Isabella’s marriage in 1873 and the 1881 census John Wolfenden had taken over as landlord of the Ridge inn on Widdop Road, now known as the Pack Horse. It claims to be the highest and most isolated pub in the Upper Calder Valley and in January 2004, the pub won the National Civic Pride gold standard award, as the most scenic pub in Britain, beating 200 other pubs.
From the Hebden Bridge Newsletter, 29 July, 1881
“IRISH LAWLESSNESS AT WIDDOP. EXTRAORDINARY SCENES. on Wednesday last a report spread rapidly throughout the district that in an Irish affray at Ridge, Alcomden one or more lives had been sacrificed , and in Hebden Bridge particularly the rumour caused some uneasiness and dismay. Happily, as it turned out there was no fatality, but conduct of a most extraordinary character took place at the place named, which, but for the discreet conduct of the police, might readily have led to serious and possibly fatal consequences. It appears from all we can gather, that on the afternoon of the preceding day, two young Irish mowers, John Devine and Patrick Fox, went to the Pack Horse lnn, Ridge, now kept by Mr. Wolfenden, (Isabella’s dad) and them began is create a disturbance. An Englishmen who was present managed to overcome them, and into the bargain gave them ” a good hiding” (to use a local expression).
Next morning the two returned to the inn along with a number of their fellow-countrymen, and it is presumed they came hoping to find the Englishman and to have their revenge upon him for his victory of the previous day. He was not there, however, and the gang at once began to abuse and insult the landlord and his family. Eventually they turned Mr. and Mrs. Wolfenden, and their daughters, (these would be Mary Ellen, 13, and Annie Jane, 9) out of the house and having become for the time masters of the situation, made use of their opportunity to feast and be merry at the expense of someone else. They helped themselves it is said, to the estables which were in the house, also to the beer, spirits and cigars, and to give greater variety to their enjoyment began to break glasses, windows etc. During these orgies one of the men, as we are informed, took off all his clothes except the fragments of a shirt which he was wearing, and in that condition went outside and exposed himself to the female members of Mr Wolfenden’s household. Fox and Devine were the ringleaders in the affair, and as soon as the attendance of the police could be obtained – which was not until afternoon as the inn is about 5 miles from Hebden Bridge, (on horseback) these two were given into the custody of P.C.s Shaw and Slee who had been sent to the scene. The charges on which they were taken into custody were for refusing to quit and willful damage. The prisoners were handcuffed together and conducted towards Hebden Bridge by the officers followed for a time at a distance by seven men who had taken part in the affair. (So the procession begins the 5 mile trek back to Hebden police station).
At Blakedean the officers and their prisoners were overtaken and the gang began to threaten the officers what they would do if they did not liberate the two prisoners.
There was some struggling and shoving about and one of the men took up a top-stone from a wall (I see the wall on the photo) and threatened to knock P.C Shaw’s brains out if he did not loose the handcuffs and set Devine and Fox free. Seeing, at last, that they would be overpowered and that there was no chance to land their prisoners safely at Hebden Bridge, the officers let the prisoners go, but carefully noted the direction which the gang took with a view of following them when they had obtained further assistance. Shaw and Slee made haste to Hebden Bridge while the gang made in the direction of Colden. About quarter to six P.C’s Shaw and Slee along with P. C Eastwood, P.C’s Norton and Taylor and two civilians set off to try to find the men. At Popples, Heptonstall, the officers separated into two companies, Slee going in one direction and Shaw with the other.
Shaw’s section went first to Longtail beerhouse, (this is on Edge lane and is now terraced cottages) tolerably confident of finding some of the men there, but were disappointed. They learnt however, that some of the men had passed the house previously going towards Colden. The officers then made in that direction and at Old Smithy or Hudson Lane met 4 of the party including Devine and Fox. The other two were Samuel Easterbrook and Thomas Castle and were apprehended on a charge of assisting to procure the rescue of Fox and Devine. Castle made an attempt to escape but was run down and caught. The four men were handcuffed together and led off to the police station at Hebden Bridge. Their arrival created unusual attention as at that time rumours of a murder having been committed were still current. some of the prisoners were bruised and disfigured about their faces and all acted with considerable bravado as they marched through the streets. One of them, it is said, was the ringleader in a row which took place at Bridge-gate on Sunday week. The rest of the gang were not captured. The 4 prisoners were brought up yesterday morning at West riding Court, Halifax before Capt Rothwell and Dr Alexander. Devine and Fox pleaded guilty to a charge of being drunk and disorderly on the previous day. . .The men were strangers. They had left their native country being afraid of the Coersion Act. (an act of parliament which allowed the internment without trial for anyone suspected of involvement with the Land War, whereby tenant farmers would gain a fair rent and fixity of tenure) .Fox had left Ireland 8 years before, and Devine 5 years before. The bench imposed upon each prisoner a penalty of 10s and 14s 2d costs with the alternative of 14 days in prison. Easterbrook and Castle were ordered to pay one pound and 14s 2d costs or go to Wakefield for one month with hard labour.”
June 15, 1883 DEAD body found in Widdop reservoir – Queer feelings in Hebden Bridge.
The water bailiff found a dead body floating in Widdop reservoir. The body belonged to a man aged around 55 and his coat, cap and scarf had been neatly laid on the bank. Judging from the fragments of newspaper in his coat pocket it was surmised that the dead man had come from Burnley, and that he had been taking a wash when he fell, possibly seized with a fit, rather than having deliberately taken his own life, because, the inquest reasoned, he would not have place his clothes so neatly. A boat was taken onto the reservoir and the dead man was taken by cart to the Pack Horse, Widdop to await identification and inquest.
Some Folk in Hebden Bridge immediately began to revert to using well water believing that their running water would have been contaminated by the body, which, judging by its condition, had been in the water for a considerable time. Other stories abounded included people imagining they had seen” bits of toe nails” coming down their pipes. The inquest took place at the house of Mr John Wolfenden at the Packhorse Inn, Ridge. The jurymen viewed the body and then listened to the evidence. By chance a friend of the deceased’s wife saw a newspaper article about the discovery of a body in Widdop reservoir. He knew that his friend’s husband, Mrs William Whitehead had been missing from home and so they made arrangements to come to hebden Bridge. Apparently they missed the train and had to take a pony trap over the hills from Burnley and arrived at the police station in hebden bridge just as the police officer was returning from The Pack Horse with the clothing recovered at the scene. Mrs Whitehead immedaitely identified them as belonging to her husband. He had been missing from home for three weeks and “had been in a desponding state of mind for some time. Five years before he had attempted suicide by cutting his throat.” An open verdict was returned. After the inquest what must have been a very badly deteriorated body was placed in a coffin and transported to Heptonstall for burial but due to some misunderstanding no grave had been prepared for the burial. “The man in charge of the hearse was in a bit of a quandary but eventually he was allowed to deposit his freight in the church porch.’ From where the deceased’s wife collected it around midnight, placed it in a hearse and took it to Burnley at 7:30 the following morning.
Isabella’s father, John Wolfenden, died at the Pack Horse Inn Widdop on January 27, 1886 .
Four years later on May 16, 1890 Isabella’s husband, Thomas, died at the age of 58. He was buried at Blakedean Chapel the following day, which seems rather unusual. The headstone now lies prostrate on the grass. I visited the spot on June 15, 2020, two days after a tremendous thunderstorm in which there was a reported tornado only a couple of miles from this very spot.
At first I couldn’t find the grave but at last I saw a grave stone holding water and could read that this was the family grave where Thomas and his sons, John, James, Robert Kay and Richard William Foster were laid to rest. What a wonderfully tranquil place. I tried to figure out where the chapel had been. It was built in 1820 as an offshoot of Slack Baptist chapel. All that remains now is the Sunday School which was used as a scouting retreat after the church closed in 1959. My mind raced. Where did the people come from to worship here? Because of the lie of the land being so steep the gallery was accessed by steps from the road above. At the time of her husband’s death Isabelle’s youngest child was 8 months old and now, at the age of just 32 she was already a widow. The census of the following year shows Isabella as the head of household and a farmer. Her oldest son, Richard, aged 14 is the ‘farmer’s assistant.’ Her other children are aged 6, 3, 1 other children and her 52 year old sister-in -law is an assistant housekeeper and another Shackleton lady relative, aged 50, is ‘living here own means.’ Both these ladies had both been born at Good Greave.
It took 10 years for Isabella to remarry, and that’s when she becomes part of my family’s story marrying Gibson Butterworth at Slack Chapel on March 27, 1900. Isabella was nine years older than Gibson. How did they meet? OK. It took my a couple of hours to figure it out but Glory Be! I figured out how they met! In 1891 when Ezra Butterworth, Gibson’s dad was living at Hippins he was sharing the large house with John William Wolfenden who, it transpires was none other than Isabelle’s brother.
By the 1911 census the family are living in Nelson – just over Hepstonstall Moor from Good Greave, and Gibson is a . . .builder of canal boats. Wow. That was unexpected! From the middle of a moor in one of the most remote parts of England and he becomes a canal boat builder. This is so funny. Yesterday I was in Heptonstall and I was taking another look at the sign in a back street that’s falling apart. It says Boats for Rent. An ‘old timer’ saw me looking and I struck up a conversation. “Boats for hire? Heptonstall is on top of a hill! Where could you sail a boat?” I asked. “Well now. There are reservoirs around here, Gorple, Widdop, Walshaw,” came his response.
As we chatted further it turned out that he knew the dentist that had his office in my living room – Donaldson was his name. That’s the second person I’ve met who remembers my apartment being a dentist’s office. The first was a lady in her 90’s at the Mytholmroyd Community Christmas in 2018. This man in Heptonstall was proud to tell me he is in his 80s. Gibson appears to be a boat builder and working for his son-in-law, Thomas Whitaker from Barnoldswick who is an employer of canal boat builders. How interesting! Isabella died at Moor Lodge, Oakworth near Keighley but is buried at Blakedean. Today it’s a country retreat and from 2003 to 2015 it held international sheepdog trials raising almost 30,000 pounds for the air ambulance.
After Isabella died Gibson had planned to emigrated to New Zealand. He boarded the ship called the Shropshire at Liverpool, part of the Federal Line. He was 56 and planned to be a farm hand and was bound for Auckland. 25th Feb 1921. However, he arrived back in England, at London from Wellington 30 Nov 1922 on the Corinthic, part of the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company Ltd. He is 57 describes himself as a carpenter.
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.