Author: hmcreativelady (page 1 of 31)

Stansfield Hall

Walter Crabtree was the husband of my 3rd cousin twice removed! OK. He’s quite a distant ancestor. BUT he lived here:

The front elevation from the garden

At the moment I’m not sure how long he lived in Stansfield Hall, Todmorden, but he died there in July 1956, the year after I was born. So this cloudy Saturday morning I decided to go and check out the place. I knew that it had been added to and altered many times since it was built in 1610 for James Stansfield. A large extension was added in 1862 in the Gothic Revival style by John Gibson( oh, no, not ANOTHER GIBSON!)  For Member of Parliament, Joshua Fielding. Of the original 17th century house only a cross-wing survives. 

The cross-wing on the right is part of the original 1610 building

I’d never been to this area of Todmorden before and the approach across a small footbridge over the railway was rather – colorful. I climbed up the steep hillside and soon came to Stansfield Hall Road. The entire right hand side of the road was bordered by an impressive stone wall, too high for me to peek over but I could see the tops of trees of what was obviously an extensive and well cared for garden. I’d seen online the impressive gateposts leading into the curving driveway and, knowing that the building was now used as apartments I had anticipated that there might be a security gate that I wouldn’t be bale to negotiate.

What an entrance!

But, no security gate so I ended the gardens, up the drive and the Hall came into sight, but I was seeing the rear of the building. To my right spacious manicured lawns, flower beds and treed areas were occasionally dotted with tables and chairs, and the odd child’s toy.

Front door not too bad either

I felt awkward at imposing on the residents’  Saturday morning and taking photos from the lawn but my attention was drawn to  the sound of a a leaf blower, and turning the corner I saw its owner. I approached and he switched off the noisy contraption. I explained my quest and he pointed out for me the oldest part of the building – the cross-wing of the original 1610 house. He had heard of the Crabtree family. I asked his permission to go onto the lawn and take photos. He said that would be fine. Because of its elevated position and sloping grounds there were several stairs and hidden paths through the trees.

The man pointed out what had once been a snooker room, connected to the main building by a covered gantry. Once at the front of the house I could take in its vast expanse. There was also a nearby cottage, perhaps for servants? I think there had also been a gatehouse at one time but that has been demolished. The gardens were immaculate, and as I left I mentioned this to the man and asked  if he was responsible for the entire grounds. “No, just outside my bit of the building,” he replied. Ah, he lives here, whoops! As I left I heard a train pass by just below the garden. At one time there was a station at Stansfield, named appropriately enough Stansfield Hall railway station which opened in 1869. ‘ A train drew up there, unwontedly – it was late June’ – from Adelstrop, by Edward Thomas, one of the poems I remember from my childhood. 

The current railway track – Manchester to Leeds.

So who was this man who lived here? Born in 1875, and baptized at Cross Stone church high above Todmorden, he was living with his parents Charles and Ellen at 1 Cross Street, Todmorden, aged 6 on the 1881 census. His father’s occupation is given as Cotton Spinner and Manufacturer, employing ?114 hands (though it’s difficult to read). His older sister, Betsy, is a pupil teacher, aged 15. Walter had 5 siblings. I can’t locate Cross Street. He was still there in 1891. He was 15 but he is a ‘scholar.’ This is significant since children were working long before their 15th birthday. For example, in the next street, Myrtle, which is in the centre of Todmorden, Willie Brocock, aged 11, is a throstle spinner. On the day the census was taken in 1901 Walter is a noted as a visitor at the home, North Road, Ripon, Yorkshire, of Dr Arthur C. A. Ludgrove, a physician and surgeon from Sevenoaks in Kent. Walter Crabtree is now listed as a physician and surgeon himself. He was educated at Owens College, Manchester and took his MB ChB in 1899. He was a house physician at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and later an honorary radiologist at Reedyford Hospital, Nelson. 5 years later he married Edith Wrigley, my 3rd cousin, twice removed, at Cross Lanes chapel, on the way up the hill from Hebden Bridge to Heptonstall. The chapel has long gone but I’ve wandered around the cemetery which has a spectacular view over Hebden Bridge. Several Wrigleys are buried there. At the time of their marriage Walter was living at 125 Netherfield Road, Nelson, in Lancashire, a surgeon. He was 31. Rather late for a marriage at that time. Edith, a spinster, was 28, living at 9 Halifax Road, Todmorden, daughter of Thomas Henry Wrigley, house painter. In 1911 he was living with his wife, and a live-in servant, Jane Halliday, 19 years old. In 1939 he was living at 87 Barkerhouse Road, Nelson. When he died at Stansfield Hall he left over 8000 pounds to his widow. Quite a fortune at that time.

Of fossils and flora

I’d set up a meeting with David Gelsthorpe, curator of The Earth Science Collection at the Manchester Museum, to view Samuel Gibson’s collection of fossils and flora. I’d been looking forward to this opportunity for a couple of years – ever since I’d first discovered online that one of my ancestors was a famous collector of fossils. I remembered my own first foray into that interest: my mum had taken me Youth Hostelling for the first time, to Slaidburn Youth Hostel, and we’d taken a walk around Stocks reservoir, where I’d found fossils corals, showing me, at first hand, so to speak, that at one time this part of Lancashire was a tropical seabed. That blew my mind. I think I was 11 at the time. I seriously considered becoming a paleontologist but my understanding of science was poor and by the time I came to do my ‘O’ levels I’d dropped the idea altogether and taken up music as my life’s work. When I left the U.S 18 months ago I placed a lot of my fossil collection in the garden, but I think some it it still remains in the storage unit in California. Some pieces I took to the Bolton Museum and was told they were fossil ferns in the shale/coal deposits. On a trip to the south of England  with my mum and dad  when I was 14, I was responsible for the  planning and so a trip to Lyme Regis was high on the list of ‘must sees’ and I came home with many ammonites. Aust Cliff, under the Severn Bridge, also reaped rewards. Two books which remained on the bookshelf above my bed at Affetside were Fossils and Geology. I may still have the Fossils book. 

The imposing facade of Manchester Museum
The tiny fossils that were named after my ancestor, Samuel Gibson – his handwriting

I was at Hebden Bridge station in plenty of time. For the first time this ‘summer’ I was wearing sandals and only had a cardigan, no jacket. Under a totally blue sky sporting plane vapor trails galore, the train arrived. I boarded. So did a dog and its owner. We sat down. The train didn’t move. The dog whimpered loudly. The dog began to bark – very loudly. Still the train didn’t move. The dog’s minder apologized: we’re only going to the next stop. Eventually after 20 minutes the guard told us that Northern Rail apologized, but he couldn’t tell us what was holding us up. i thought that perhaps there was a problem with the rails to our West, but incoming trains proved otherwise. After 35 minutes, during which the dog just about deafened me, we were told to get off the train, it wasn’t going anywhere, and the next train to Manchester would be along in 15 minutes. Fortunately from then on everything went according to plan. The barking, whimpering dog, did, indeed get off, thankfully (for it and me!) In Todmorden and the ride into Manchester was uneventful. I. Now had only 10 minutes to get to the Museum for my appointment. I checked the buses, ones you pay on,  free ones, Uber rides in the locality, and eventually had to plump for a taxi which delivered me to the museum only 5 minutes b behind schedule. The building is a grand affair – Victorian architecture at its finest. It’s connected to Owen’s college somehow – where Anna spent a year when she was a student at Manchester uni.

The girl on the front desk called David and soon I was following him  behind the scenes into the depths of the museum. On a table Samuel Gibson’s fossil collection was laid out, all ready for me to view. I was impressed. My experience of people’s organizational skills in my area hit rock bottom yesterday when, on my visit to a prison, the leader of our group had forgotten to email one of our volunteers of details of the day. She’d even taken the day off work in oder to volunteer! So to see the boxes of fossils all laid out ready for my attention was wonderful. Many of the exhibits were ammonite-like creatures called goniatites, precursors of ammonites with less defined whirls on them. Some of them were no bigger than a pin head. I was fascinated by how Samuel had even seen these tiny fossils. Many were labelled in his own handwriting and included the location from where he’d collection them The shales of Todmorden were mentioned frequently, and to my amazement so was Slaidburn!

To think that these tiny fossils had possibly been on display in Sam’s pub/museum in Mytholmroyd between 1842 and 1849.  I can’t really imagine that they would have attracted customers to his pub. To serious collectors they would have been very important. One goniatites is named after him Goniatites Gibsonii but  it’s tiny, no larger than a 5pence piece. Some fossils were housed in tiny cardboard cylinders, less than an inch in diameter, that perhaps Samuel made himself. As I chatted with David about this collection I learned that he, too, lives in Hebden Bridge! 

After taking photos and getting to hold some of the fossils myself  David took me to meet Lindsay who is the curator of the Flora collection. We walked along corridors filled with deep green boxes which contain 650,000 specimens. Apart from Kew gardens and the British Museum in London Manchester’s collection ranks with those of Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge in the size of the collection. I spent the next hour in the company of  Samuel’s collection of plants as Lindsey Loughtman, Curatorial assistant, Botany, and her PhD student gave me their undivided attention.

Lindsey had sent me an email: We have several thousand Samuel Gibson specimens, possibly more as we’re still cataloguing the collection. Around 2000 microscope slides of seeds, and 160 lichen, with fewer British wild flowers and ferns.  There are three algae exsiccatae too.

We were in a lovely sunny room and at the long table a few volunteers were working on preserving some plant collections – herbariums. I had thought that a herbarium was a place – like a conservatory – but it means a collection of plants, either pressed on paper and catalogued in books, or pressed between glass to make glass slides. I was told the amazing story of how, in 2016, a large red corrugated box was discovered in the the midst of the 650,000 specimens and Lindsay asked her assistant to clean all the slides (8 boxes each containing 150 slides)  and catalogue  them. This took her from September til December. Along with the slides there are small glass boxes in which there are seeds which can move around in the box. Then, already set out on the long tables, ready for my perusal were Samuel Gibson’s books of pressed mosses and lichens. Each was labelled in his own hand, and again, like the fossils, one was named after him! The museum had obtained at least some of the collection from the Royal Museum and Library at Peel Park in Salford, so I need to find out more about that. It was wonderful to hold the slides with his tiny  handwriting  identifying the specimens. It reminded me of the juvenile  Bronte books written in the tiniest of lettering. Many of the names of the specimens were printed and Lindsay suggested that these labels had been cut from books and/or magazines. I wondered how Sam’s dates filled in with those of Mary Anning, the fossil collector from Lyme Regis whose discoveries turned the idea of God creating the world and all living creatures in 6 days on its head. I had noticed that at the end of the two papers that Sam had appended too the Heptonstall Slack typhus epidemic that he makes reference to God’s world, demonstrating his faith. 

After lots more photos I was taken to meet Dave Earl, one of the volunteers, who recently discovered a previously unnamed raspberry bramble. He’s had its DNA tested by someone in the Czech republic and lo and behold Dave had named it in honor of my ancestor – Gibsonii. I suggested it might be appropriate to plant it on Samuel’s grave if we can find it under the years of leaves and brambles at Butts Green Chapel. Wouldn’t it be  amazing if that particular bramble was actually already growing in that cemetery? Dave travels all over this area in search of specimens and so he’ll be heading out to Warley sometime soon! 

In Search of the Wrigleys of Rochdale – and the finding of a school friend?

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been on the trail of the Gibsons, specifically Samuel Gibson, collector of flora and fossils. I’d spent Tuesday in the company of this eminent self-taught ancestor as I viewed his herbarium and fossil collection at Manchester Museum. The Gibsons married into the Wrigleys. The Wrigleys had moved from Rochdale to Hebden Bridge and on one of my summer trips July 2017 I had visited St Chad’s in Rochdale where some of these Wrigleys were baptized, married and buried. During that visit I’d had a beer in a strangely named pub, The Baum, on Toad Lane, home of the Cooperative  movement. I’d spent an hour in the museum there, opposite a large imposing church situated on a small piece of high ground. This turned out to be St Mary’s in the Baum. According to records online there were two grave stones bearing inscriptions to my Wrigley ancestors.

Knowing that most churches are kept locked I did my usual search for times when the church would be open – for a coffee morning, perhaps. I discovered that the church is a big venue for music and a series of lunchtime concerts was posted. This Wednesday was the turn of the Rochdale Retirement choir, conducted by ‘well known soprano Freda Farnworth.’  I did a double take. A Freda Farnworth was in my class, 3K, at Bolton School in my first year. She had an excellent voice and I remembered that she left school early to attend Chetham’s music School in Manchester. Could this be her? I tried to find her on social media, and through the chorus, but no bio or photo was forthcoming. Well, I guess I have to go to the concert. I decided to take the long route, going by bus just so that I could she what the route had to offer in the way of scenery. Nothing spectacular but you do see more traveling by bus rather than train because it’s so much slower.

When I arrived at the church and had paid my £5 I was really disappointed to see that Freda would not be conducting today due to a family bereavement. So I paid my 50p for tea and cake and joined about 20 more people at tables in the church. I overheard the ladies on the adjacent table talking about Freda so I explained my connection, and they thought that she had trained at Chetham’s. They would pass my business card on to Freda. Perhaps the choir would even perform my songs sometime! They pointed me in the direction of someone who could help me find the Wrigley gravestones but the information she gave me was again disappointing. This church only dated from 1866 and in 1966 the graves had been moved to another venue, Rochdale cemetery. Only a few flat gravestones had been kept at St Mary’s and they now formed a pathway around one side of the church. “But they all belong to previous ministers of this church,” she said.

The choir sang for an hour, conducted by a last minute replacement, an aging vicar who kept things rolling merrily, not to mention beginning the wrong songs, and the audience of around 30 souls obviously enjoyed it. “Well, where else can you get pie and peas, a piece of cake, a cup of tea and a concert for £5,” I overheard.

Concert done, the church soon emptied and I went to look at the pathway made of gravestones. As the lady had said, most of them were former ministers of this church or yeomen or manufacturers – obviously people of importance in the community. But I kept looking, somehow knowing I would find it.  And there it was! The gravestone of my great great great great great grandmother, Mary Wrigley (nee Wilkinson) who died in 1805. Her 5 year old son, John, died in 1789 and 2 year old  daughter, Martha, 1792. However, Mary’s husband Arthur is not named on the gravestone. But it certainly looks as if a space has been left for his name.

When I got home I tried to find his burial place and it would seem to be St Chad’s, St Mary’s sister church. ‘The Church of St Mary’s-in’the-Baum, Rochdale, originated in 1738 when a subscription deed outlined the need for a ‘chapel of relief’ in Rochdale due to the growing number of parishioners. The resulting chapel and associated churchyard was largely gifted by Samuel Chetham of Castleton Hall, who supplied the land and £500. The chapel opened for worship in 1742. It was a modest, brick-built, rectangular building of six bays with round-headed windows.
By 1905 the church was suffering from cracks and a sinking apse. The decision was made to build a new church, though the C18 building was well-loved by the parishioners and there was a clear desire to retain some of its character in the new design. A challenging design brief was drawn up including improved ventilation and light within the mill-ridden neighbourhood, greater interior decoration, greater capacity (682 persons was specified in one document), and also the retention of the character of the original chapel. The architect was Ninian Comper whose design for the new church sensitively addressed the brief.’

I finished my adventure my calling in at The Baum. I ordered a veggie chili and rice and was happy to see that they had Leffe on tap, something I haven’t seen before. I’d finished my half by the time my food arrived . . .45 minutes after ordering it. But it’s a nice pub and I had a good book with me, Millstone Grit by Glyn Hughes. I’d discovered it mentioned in a ‘Literary Calderdale’ flier, had ordered it from the library and picked it up from there before I had set off to Rochdale. It’s a fascinating glimpse of life in Calderdale in the mid 1970’s and one chapter is about the self-taught scientists of the Calder Valley. Sam Gibson doesn’t get mentioned by name but the milieu in which he gained his knowledge is written about very well.

As I headed back to the bus station this little collection in a shop window caught my attention.

Guided Tour of Manchester’s northern Quarter and Annie Augusta Denton

Guided Tour of Manchester’s northern Quarter and Annie Augusta Denton

My great great aunt, Annie Augusta denton was born on August 40, 1874. I wonder if that’s why she was given the middle name of Augusta – a rather unusual name and not one that I’ve found previously in the Denton family tree. Her parents were Samuel Denton, the organist and professor of music, and Johanna Nash Denton. They lived in Stroud Gloucestershire until sometime between 1877 and 1880 when the family moved to the Manchester area and settled in Broughton, Salford. When the 1901  census was taken on April 1 Annie was living at 3 Hyde Road, south Manchester who h was a residence for shop girls who worked at Affleck and Brown and large department store, housed in an imposing building in the Northern quarter of Manchester. 

A couple of days ago I saw that a guided tour of the Northern quarter was being run by Jonathan Schofield, THE guide to Manchester, who has been a tour guide in the city since 1996. The tour included a back-stage tour of Affleck and Brown building which is now an emporium of private shops, and we would be able able to down into the bowels of the store by way of the haunted staircase! And see what had once been the flat on the top floor.

About 20 people showed ups for the tour and we wandered round the northern quarter – the artsy district of the city. Vimto was invented here by a man trying to keep people from the demon alcohol. It gets its name from a corruption of Gin and Tonic – and it’s also an anagram of vomit! We began the tour in Stevenson square which acted as speakers’ corner in the early days and Mrs Pankhurst spoke there. There are still a few weavers’ cottages in the area, recognizable by the narrow windows on the upper story but most of them were pulled down during the industrial revolution when the area saw the building of many warehouses for the cotton industry. It was also the venue of many markets. The imposing facade of the fish market remains and after the tour I visited the current craft market. A few Georgian houses remain, with their imposing porticos, and they are now used as designer studios and professional offices. I also learned that Forsyth’s Music store is the oldest family owned shop in the city, and Wayne Rooney’s wife purchased a grand piano there for 90,000 pounds because, every though she doesn’t play, she thought it would look nice in a corner of the house. 

Then to Affleck and Brown. That company bought out Lomas and in fact it was the Lomas building which gave us the behind the scenes tour. Hilary Mantel, whose autobiography I recently read, describes the building in ‘Flud.’ When I told one of the guides in the building about my connection  to it he wanted details of how to find the census online so that he can have it printed and mounted for display. The place is huge. Three storeys and a veritable warren. Brightly colored stone stairwells lead to shops varying from tattoo parlors to vintage clothing stores. Lady Gaga purchased a dress from one of the stores when she was in town to give a concert. Many of the interior walls are adorned with painting which appear to be a cross between frescoes and graffiti. There was even an American snack shop where I saw for the first time in England Arizona ice tea for sale. It was a pity it’s too heavy to carry home. After the tour I had a bagel in the top floor cafe with spectacular views over the city. As I came out a group of guys asked me to take photos of them outside the. building. It was a stag party. It had turned into a lovely sunny day, even though rain had been forecast, and for a while I toyed with the idea of taking a ride on a canal boat,  but couldn’t find a suitable one that didn’t need to be booked in advance, so I headed off back to Hebden Bridge where it started to rain just as I got off the train – and it bucketed down for an hour, then cleared into a lovely sunny evening. 

Easter Monday

Heather Morris

The weekend had been hot. In fact, for Northern England, specifically Calderdale, it had been a scorcher. Crowds of scantily clad people had descended on Hebden Bridge. Everyone wanted to sit in the sun, so unused are they to seeing this flaming ball high in the sky. Men tore off their shirts. Their skin, used to its normal coating of worsted and waterproofs, rebelled and assumed the colour of boiled lobster.

The Wavy Steps

And STILL they sat in outside, in the full sun, outside the pubs in the town square. The womenfolk, chameleon-like, have shed their epidermis of boots, jeans, jumpers, jackets and beanies, where the only flesh visible is the tip of the proboscis, and now strut about like a tank -topped Barbie in cotton mini and heels. And what heels! Negotiating the cobbles, the stone steps, the pavements ‘under construction’ in these stilts is an art in itself – an art form that many have not yet conquered in the limited amount of sun-time available. Motorcyclists revved their engines at the traffic lights on Bridgegate. Convertibles raced down Crown Street, like cows let out to pasture for the first time after a winter in the barn, only to be halted in their progress by giant purple hippopotamuses, otherwise known as buses, slowly and pedantically negotiating their way around the line of people queuing at the Royd’s ices van, and spilling onto the road like melted 99s.


Faced with this scene from my favourite perch in my new apartment I opted for a weekend out of town. No, not a weekend mini break to some equally packed city but a chance to spend time on the moors above Calderdale. But I decided to spend part of Easter Monday on a trip to Todmorden, 20 minutes by bus, and hunt for houses my ancestors had lived in. I now have over 8000 people in my family tree but doesn’t provide a way to search your tree by place, so I’ve started to make my own list based on places rather than names. I’d found 8 addresses in Todmorden where my relatives had lived so this seemed a good day for Ancestor Hunting.

My first address was on Pitt Street, a street running at right angles to Burnley Road, on the East side of the town centre. Number 17 had been, in 1891 and 1901, the home of my great great great aunt, Sarah Duckworth, nee Wrigley, and her husband George, a labourer in a cotton mill. They had married in 1873 at Heptonstall church, on April the 12th. I wondered, idly, if it had been such a warm day as today for their wedding. George had been born in Rawtenstall in Lancashire, one of my mum’s favourite place for a ‘run out’ in the car and I’d been there with Rachel on our famous, or should I say, infamous, Irwell valley sculpture trail! The stone terrace was typical of the mill workers’ houses. Part of the terrace has been demolished, number 17 having gone, but as I paused to take a photo of the street sign a man came out of the first house. I told him my story and he related to me the story of a young child who, in 1963, disappeared from outside her home, number 1, and was found much later beneath the ice in the frozen canal. The canal is close to Pitt Street but she couldn’t have walked so far by herself. Perhaps I can find the story in a local newspaper.

A couple of streets away was Derby Street where the Duckworths were living in 1881 prior to their move to Pitt Street. The houses were identical but I did notice that from their back yards there was a good view of Stoodley Pike. Derby Street led to Russell Street which has been completely rebuilt. In 1881 Eliza Wrigley, my first cousin 4 times removed was a cotton weaver. She’d been born in Hebden Bridge and baptized in Heptonstall. Now, at the age of 33 she was living with her cousin, John Bowden, a warehouse man, and his wife, Mary, a sticker of pieces.

The next street was Back Der Street where Eliza had moved to and was living in 1891, 1901, with her cousin Mary. Probably John had died. Mary is now a charwoman, a drop in status, but at 60 she’d probably had enough of mill work. I’d presumed at Back Der Street would have been a back-to-back house with Der Street, but no, the houses on both streets have both front and back doors. Derlane Mill was at the bottom of the street. 1911 sees Eliza, still single, living alone at 9 Der Street and her occupation is a cotton hank winder. She died two years later.

9 Der Street

Derdale Mill, built in 1861, was another attempt at co-operative manufacturing under the management of the Todmorden (Derdale) Cotton and Commercial Company. The rearing party was held in April 1862, but by November 1869, the Company was bankrupt. The shareholders held an extraordinary general meeting in Sobriety Hall where it was resolved to wind up the concern. This was probably as a direct result of the Cotton Panic caused by the American Civil War, resulting in a severe downturn in trade for all cotton manufacturing businesses. On 9th February 1870, Caleb Hoyle and Henry Maden of Rockcliffe House, Bacup, purchased the mill for £9,120. The mill was safe, and continued in the production of textiles until about 1996.

Derlane Mill in its heyday
Its owner, Caleb Hoyle

The next place on my list was (number deleted for privacy) Thorn Place. I had to cross the Rochdale Canal to get to Kilnhirst Road.

The canal with Stoodley Pike in the distance

I’d never been to this part of Todmorden before, under Stoodley Pike. It’s quite lovely – away from the busy Burnley Road, and very green and leafy. I was in search of the home of Ethel feel, nee Wrigley, who lived there from 1930 until her death in 1963. At first I couldn’t find the street. A street sign seemed to be quite misleading, taking me to the back door, but two helpful window cleaners came to my rescue. I told them my story and they asked if I was looking for a part in a play. ??? Apparently a ‘high up man at the Todmorden Hippodrome” lives in Thorn Place. They encouraged me to knock on the door on number 1 telling me that they knew which numbers had ‘nice people’ behind them – and which didn’t! The lowest house on the steep slope was built by the builder of the rest of the terrace, after he had completed his street. I eventually located the front of the street all of which had large front garden, unlike the mill workers’ cottages on Pitt and Derby street. This was obviously a step up. The garden looked lovely on this sunny day, and the front door was slightly ajar. I was grateful for the advice the window cleaners had given me asI called “Hello” and knocked on the door. A lady appeared and on telling my story she immediately invited me in. The interior decor felt as if it was something from a stage set. It was a lovely period piece with all the trimmings of the fireplace, the bay window, anaglypta, cornices and picture rail. She told me that the house had been built around 1910 and she’d lived in it for 20 years. Coming from the streets around Pitt and Der it had indeed been a step up. Her mother, who had lived next door may have known Ethel Seel, and she’d contact me if so. Ethel, my 3rd cousin, 2x removed, had been born in 1898 in Hebden Bridge. Her mother, who died when Ethel was 6, had been buried at Crosslanes Chapel. Aged 24 she married Gilbert Riley Steel, a bank clerk, at Cross Lanes chapel. I have other Wrigley ancestors buried there. They had one daughter, Elinor M. and Ethel was buried at Christ Church, Todmorden Jan 3, 1964.

Thorn Place

Heading towards the town I passed Myrtle Street, Dale Street, Brook Street and Roomfield Lane where other ancestors lived but where the actual terraces have been demolished. Returning to Hebden Bridge the annual duck race had just finished – a fundraiser where you pay for a plastic duck and then all the ducks are thrown into Hebden Water and the first duck to reach the finish line wins the lucky owner a trip to somewhere or other! Crowds of people were heading to find the nearest pint after all that excitement in the sun. I headed back to my place and viewed it all from my eyrie while sipping a nice cup of Darjeeling.

Update: I did, in fact, find newspaper references to the the little girl who went missing:

Snow Hampers Hunt

Todmorden Times Feb15,  1969

 Police mounted a massive house-to-house check in Todmorden to-day in an effort to trace three-year old Dawn Fielder missing from her Derby Street home since Thursday afternoon. More than 100 men and women from the West Yorkshire police reported to Todmorden police station early to-day. Scores of civilians from a wide area around Todmorden were calling at the Burnley Road station to day to offer their services. More than five inches of snow fell during the night and the whole area is now covered with a thick blanket of snow. “The snow has made things difficult.” said a senior police officer to-day. ” But we shall continue to use parties of volunteers to go over the whole area again.” Throughout yesterday and last night the control centre at Todmorden was kept busy dealing with reports that Dawn had been seen. But checks have failed to confirm any reports Dawn was last seen in Pitt Street, just 40 yards from her home, at 4 o’clock on Thursday by her grandfather, Mr. Fred Harcourt.

Feb 17

Dawn The search for three years-old Dawn Louis Fielder, who has bees missing since Thursday from her home In Russel Street, Todmorden, was resumed to-day. More than 100 strong volunteers and police—set off early to-day to mane the search. Some will concentrate on house -to – house inquiries, while others check the banks of the hale-long canal which runs through the centre of Todmorden. A police spokesman at Todmorden said to-day: “The searcher are keen and we are still hoping the girl will be found alive.” The spokesman said they were unable to use police skin-divers to search the canal because of a four-inch thick layer of ice.

March 6

MISSING GIRL, 3, DEAD IN CANAL Three – year – old Dawn Fielder, who has been missing since February 13, was found dead yesterday in a canal 200 yards from her home at Todmorden, Yorks. Police said last night that crime is not suspected.

A Daffodil Weekend

Not quite Wordsworth but . . .

I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with this weekend. It ‘s the anniversary of my mum’s death, nine years ago, and I had planned to participate in an alumni weekend at Sheffield University. I’d gone last year and had thoroughly enjoyed the Music department’s alumni get together of rehearsals, meals and good conversation culminating in my participation in a wonderful concert in Firth Hall, scene of my graduation ceremony. But a couple of weeks ago I got word that the weekend’s events had been cancelled – so what to do?

Last year on April 6th I had surprised myself by setting out from my apartment to go to the Coop in town to buy some pasta, and had somehow found myself climbing up to Stoodley Pike. 8 miles later I did, in fact, call in at the Coop for some pasta. I had decided on that rather strenuous hike that I would celebrate my mum’s life each year by going on a hike.

Now my mum loved taffies, as she affectionately called the, and she was never prouder than when her daffies in her font garden in Tottington came in to flower, so I decided it would be very appropriate to go a ‘Daffy Hike.’ Fortunately it was a glorious sunny day and I decided to re-travel my steps through the Colden Valley, a walk I’d first done last Autumn when the fall colors were at their height. I had ancestors that lived at Hudson Mill so I took the bus to New Delight and retraced my steps in search of some daffodils. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and found lots of flowers seemingly planted at random along the old pack horse trail or scattered like yellow stars in the woods lining the track. High above Jack bridge I stopped to watch a couple of hikers crossing the narrow slab bridge and thought that next time it would be fun to be on the far side of the Colden Beck. The path was lined by trees and stumped that were covered in a feathery almost neon green moss that was so long it gently wafter in the little breeze. It reminded me of something from a Tolkien story, As I grew close to the two chimneys of Lumb Mill I decided to go and have a closer look. I was able to get right up to the base of the towering chimneys and even reach out to touch them. There’s a lot of building work being done there. It looks like a sizable house is under construction in the remains of the former mill. There were several picturesque bridges and fantastically shaped trees, and even a large spider’s web that was half concealed under a bridge.

Tolkien land

Reaching Mytholm I took a wander around St James’s churchyard, where many of the graves were bedecked in lots of daffodils in pots and jam jars.

Colden Mill
Bridge at Colden

Sunday dawned dull and dreary and although I had planned to possibly go on a guided walk about transportation in Sowerby Bridge the overcast morning didn’t inspire me to get up and go. So I settled for a while, engrossed in Enduring Love by Ian McEwan which I’d begun yesterday, and found was a real page turner. However, by 1 o’clock the sun was shining and I had itchy feet to be out and about. I got the bus to Blackshaw Head and headed along Davy Lane, a new path for me, so one I would mark on my OS map in pink when I got home. Blackshaw Head, as its name suggests is perched on t’tops and so I had extensive view in all directions. I could see Pry Farm and Scammerton Farm where some of my ancestors had lived and one, Giles Sunderland, had left the farm in during World War 1, never to return.

I thought she had twins, but then I saw lamb number three hiding

I passed by lots of newborn lambs. It’s usual for sheep here to give birth to twins, but occasionally triplets will be born. Next into view across the valley was a field of alpacas – yes, alpacas. You can take an alpaca trail – that might be fun!

Next came Great Rock – hmm, that’s its name. It’s a huge single boulder of granite. On bonfire night I came to Great Rock farm from where I could see other bonfires across the valley, but it was totally dark and I didn’t quite know where Great rock itself stood, but now I found it. Of course it’s covered in graffiti because it’s close to the road, but at least it’s antique etched graffiti rather than spray painted. I was enjoying being on t’tops so rather than take the track down to Eastwood I continued along the top road. I one point it dropped down sharply to cross a stream, then climbed up again. I could just see the top of Cross Stones church where I have ancestors buried. I’d only been on this moor once before (apart from bonfire night) and the views are fantastic, right across to Stoodley Pike. I could clearly pick out the trail that we’d used when my daughters came to see me last May.

Eventually I came to Martin’s Lane, marked on the map as a Public Bridleway and it was very well maintained as it led down towards the Calder Valley. I was most surprised when I came to the back of a large building with three arched doorways, now closed with iron doors but it looked very much like a church. Sure enough as I rounded the corner and the front of the building came into view I could see the house name was Chapel House. A man was gardening and I asked him about the building. apparently the first chapel on the site was built,t in 1707 but this one dates from the 1890’s. At various times it’s been both a Quaker and a Methodist chapel. But who attended? I was halfway up a hillside with no – I mean no – buildings around. Hmmmm. Something for a rainy day’s research!

The former Rodwell Lane chapel

The bridleway petered out at the chapel but the man assured me that the narrow track in front of me continued down into the valley. Oh, but my. it was soooo steep. I edged my way very slowly being careful not to slip on the loose stones. At one point there was a small memorial garden just off the path with several Bury Football Club scarves wrapped around the overhanging tree. Just below the site was the railway line and the path regained the main road by way of a tunnel underneath the track. I had planned to get the bus back to Hebden but I was so enjoying my adventure that I decided to walk back to Hebden Bridge by way of the canal towpath. It took me a little while to figure out an access point for for a little while I was on the far side of the canal but I was able to cross a bridge in Eastwood and returned to Hebden along the towpath. It was so warm that I had to take off my jacket for the remainder of the walk home, around 3 miles. When I reached the Coop where I’d planned on buying something for dinner greeter at the door informed me that they were closing in line one minute – at 5 o’clock.

It wasn’t until I took this photo after my hike that I realized the tulip socks I bought in Amsterdam match my sneakers!

5 miles yesterday, 6 miles today.

City break to Holland

The idea of this trip came from a few ladies in a Meetup group that I’d joined last year. We decided we’d like to travel together for a few days, somewhere within easy reach. We all put forward a list of choices and we decided upon Amsterdam. Unlike the others I’d never been to Holland. When I’d lived in England before moving to the U.S we’d always spent vacations in far away, exotic places, knowing that we’d be more comfortable travelling to places closer to England when we were older . . . little did we know that I’d end up living in the U.S for 32 years . . . but now that I’ve moved back to England here’s a wonderful opportunity to visit those places closer to home.


And just how close is Amsterdam from where I live now? Well, I had breakfast at home in Hebden Bridge, and elevenses in Holland! We flew together from Leeds/Bradford airport, a 45 minute drive from home, and the flight was 50 minutes. It was a lovely sunny day as we left but I didn’t get much of a view from my aisle seat on the plane either going or coming back home.

Our hotel was in Zaandam, a 20 minute train journey from the airport and only 12 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam. I knew that Zaandam was famous for some crazy architecture but that was about the extent of my knowledge. My trip to the U.S and moving apartments a few days after I’d returned had taken up my time and I’d done zero preparation for the Holland adventure.

The amazing hotel opposite mine!

We checked into Easy hotel which is on the floors above Primark! My room was on the 10th floor and I could see a large portion of Zaandam below me. It’s population is around 76,000 and the amazing thing is that apart from one elevated road in the distance I couldn’t see a single car! But almost every street had its own canal. We went to explore the city with its narrow buildings, all different and brightly colored, though I was surprised by the lack of blooming flowers in the city. I’d seen far more daffodils driving from Hebden Bridge to the airport than I could see in Zaandam. The same comment was to be made in Amsterdam too. We found the town square and parked ourselves in a bar there to people watch but it was rather chilly to sit outside. A large statue of a ship builder dominated the square and I was surprised to see that the name below was written in Russian. I needed to find out why – and who this person was. We found the main sluice gate to the main canal with its ornate stone columns and date stones and a new rusty iron sculpture of a sinking bridge has been added. I even found a Mozartstrasse. What’s Mozart got to do with Zaandam? We had dinner in an Italian restaurant where large black and white portraits of old Italian movie stars decorated the walls. By 9 o’clock we were ready to turn in for the night.


A day in Amsterdam.

We found a little coffee/pancake shop opposite the hotel to have breakfast it it became ‘our’ breakfast place each morning of the trip. It had rained during the night but there was lots of blue sky as we crossed the canal to get our morning tea – but it was decidedly chilly. Nowhere in Holland did we find pots of tea, and since our hotel, though excellent in many other ways, didn’t have a kettle in the room, we were constantly on the look-out for tea as we wandered around all day.

Pancakes for breakfast

We spent the day in Amsterdam, traveling there by train in 12 minutes from Zaandam. I was excited to step foot in the city but I soon realized that my idea of Amsterdam in my imagination was nothing like the vibrant modern city that I was seeing. It seems primarily a city made up of people in their 20’s but perhaps that can be said of most capital cities, and probably reflects more my age than anything else. Fast moving bicycles were a devil to negotiate, making me realize just how much I rely on my hearing to cross roads normally. Here silent bikes charge towards you, suddenly appearing from around corners at crazy speeds. Dodging between the trams outside the train station also took some skill. Canals were everywhere, not just the four main canals but a veritable fabric of interwoven watery threads bordered by immaculate four story houses painted in beautiful colors but often perched at crazy angles as though they are falling over – and that comment was made before I’d had my first beer at lunch time! Who built them? When? Why? My head was filled with questions. But then, that’s one of the reasons I enjoy traveling to new places.

Bikes on the ferry

Leaving the station, where the mirrors on the ceiling had the interesting effect of portraying everyone upside down, taking our life in our hands we crossed the tram tracks, moved swiftly to avoid bicycles and jumped on the free ferry across to the A’Dam centre. It was very, very windy and the water was choppy on the ferry. There seemed to be just as many bicycles as people! The A’Dam tower is a high rise building housing clubs, restaurants, a music school, a lookout tower and a crazy swing that swings you over the edge of the top of the building. Rising 100 meters in 22 seconds, complete with light show, we found ourselves in a bar with spectacular views, but even better was the outdoor platform where the booming sound of the wind was amazing. Several times we were almost blown over, and I couldn’t imagine how the swing was still allowed to operate in such windy conditions.

Atop the A’Dam tower

Heading past 100s, probably 1000s of bikes on racks at the station I found myself wondering how people remember where they’ve parked their bikes. I mean, who hasn’t forgotten which floor they parked their car on in a multi story car park? There are around 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam and on average between 12,000 and 15,000 are pulled out of the canals each year. Amsterdam also has 4 full time divers who are on 24 hour standby to pull out occupants of the cars which fall into the canals – about one per week! The three main canals were built in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age when the Dutch were exploring and colonizing many places around the world and were becoming one of the most important trading nations. Even the Tzar of Russia came to learn the tricks of the trade from the Dutch . . . no, not from the famous Red Light district but from their ship building experts. But more of that later.

Even Primark had gotten into the spirit of the scenery!

Nice one!

We had lunch in a loverly little cafe bar and continued exploring the large square with their imposing buildings. Most of the paths and squares are surfaced in brick tiles, sometimes in intricate patterns. Apparently because the ground surface is so marshy macadam roads would disintegrate but the brick absorbs the water and makes the paths quiet stable. The same can’t really be said of the oldest houses in the cities. The oldest I saw dated from 1590 but many proudly sported date stones in the 1600’s. To find stable ground to form the foundation of a building wooden poles had to be sunk to find the stable sand and these formed the footings of the buildings. Because stable, dry land was at such a premium buildings tended to haver a space footprint and so extended upwards rather than outwards. Merchants built their warehouse adjacent to their home. Overhanging winches were used to get the wares into the warehouses and apparently these winches are often updated and still used to enable large piece of furniture to be taken up onto the 3rd and 4th floor apartments.

Black clouds promised rain but there was only a sprinkle

Westerkerk spire

The Prince’s canal was began in 1612 and during the 50 years it took to complete the population of Amsterdam had grown from 50,000 to 200,000 making it the 3rd biggest city in the world after London and Paris. Built in 1630 the Westerkerk has the highest spire in Amsterdam and Rembrandt is buried somewhere in the church although the exact location has been lost.Very close to the church is the Anne Frank house and the spire with its clock face was visible from the attic and Anne described in her diary the chiming of its carillon as a source of comfort. There is a photo in Anne’s house of the Nazi troupes driving right past the church.

Anne Frank’s House

We’d booked our tickets to Anne Frank’s house before we left England and we had been lucky to get tickets at such short notice. We’d got the final time slot of the day, yet even so it was packed. I’ve never read her diary, but Anna had visited the house a few years ago so I knew it was worth going to. I think the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the silence. Yes, everyone was given a listening commentary and so everyone was intent on listening to the commentary so no-one was chattering to their friends and family. The journals Anne kept reminded me so much of my journals which I wrote at around the same age – and still have – filled with little sketches. The posters that her father had put on her wall I found very poignant. Only Anne’s father Otto, survived out of the 8 people who were in the house, and I found his interview much later in his life very hard to watch.

We’d planned on having dinner in the Grand cafe at Amsterdam’s grand central station situated in the former 1881 waiting room with impressive Art Nouveau decor. We hadn’t made reservations and we were fortunate to get a table, but it was very busy and when I asked our waiter to take a photo of us enjoying our meal he told is flatly that no, he was too busy. We had already noted and commented on the rather brusque service we’d had in several cafes and bars and I read an interesting interpretation of this characteristic. Holland is flat. The landscape is bare, open. There’s nowhere to hide. Perhaps this accounts for the forthright demeanor of the Dutch: they say it like it is. No gratuitous smile masking the real feeling that is so often the order of the day in other countries. Maybe there’s something in that. One of the more bizarre residents of this restaurant is a white cockatoo by the name of Elvis!

We’d planned on having dinner in the Grand cafe at Amsterdam’s grand central station situated in the former 1881 waiting room with impressive Art Nouveau decor. We hadn’t made reservations and we were fortunate to get a table, but it was very busy and when I asked our waiter to take a photo of us enjoying our meal he told is flatly that no, he was too busy. We had already noted and commented on the rather brusque service we’d had in several cafes and bars and I read an interesting interpretation of this characteristic. Holland is flat. The landscape is bare, open. There’s nowhere to hide. Perhaps this accounts for the forthright demeanor of the Dutch: they say it like it is. No gratuitous smile masking the real feeling that is so often the order of the day in other countries. Maybe there’s something in that. One of the more bizarre residents of this restaurant is a white cockatoo by the name of Elvis!

Elvis looking very grand in the Grand Cafe


The next morning we were to go exploring rural Holland and we began our day by going to Zaanse Schans where restored and reconstructed windmills still operate, but now primarily for tourists. Our journey didn’t quite work out as we expected since we got off at the wrong station but not to worry. We figured it out. There’s a comfort in being with a group, even when we all get it wrong! Eventually we back tracked on a bus and found a student who was going our way and was happy to walk with us to the village. We had to wait to cross a draw bridge which was just being raised to let a couple of boats through, and then it got stuck going down, but eventually we were able to cross and soon found ourselves confronted by several picturesque windmills. It dawned on me that this is what I’d been expecting in Amsterdam! Yes, crazy, I know, but in my imagination Holland is Monet and Van Gogh’s paintings of the country – pre-industrial revolution. It’s this ubiquitous tulip strewn landscape, dotted with windmills and clog wearing millers that Holland promotes to tourists, and I had fallen for it hook, line and sinker – ha! But now we were firmly in tourist land and I set off to explore by myself arranging to meet the others for lunch later.

I set off along the canal bank to the farthest windmill, stopping to take lots of photos, and ultimately decided on visiting the saw mill that was hard at work. An interesting movie showed the rebuilding of this windmill. So many moving parts – amazingly intricate. The sound of the sawing was interesting too and I stopped to watch the sawdust piling into clear bags in layers. Another of the mills grinds spices and another grinds pigments for paint. One had a date stone of 1667. I was surprised to see that the body of some of the mills were thatched. At the height of its power around 1720 there were 600 mills in this area. Traditionally, the wood processing and food industries have been the most important industries in the Zaan region. In the 17th and 18th centuries, along the banks of the Zaan there were weaving mills, forges and various other processing industries (tobacco, cocoa, paper, paint, candles), but also shipbuilding and maritime shipping were well represented. Almost every village in the Zaan region participated in whaling. In 1697 almost 80 Greenland sailors sailed on the Zaan at the same time, with no fewer than 40,000 barrels of whale bacon!

A cheese shop showed the cheese making process (something that I’d seen for the first time in Sicily last year) and the servers were dressed in traditional costume. We explored some of the local merchants’ houses, very pretty 17th to 19th century, with swans gliding along the small canals and then we had lunch in D’Swarte Walvis. 20 years ago it lost its Michelin star but at least that means it’s now within my price range. we had a lovely window seat and were occupied by watching workers preparing the gardens and courtyard for the upcoming summer season – power washing everything.

As we returned to the station we could smell chocolate coming from a large cocoa factory, another tradition of this region.

The gardens of Keukenhof were next on our itinerary. It had been overcast in Zaanse Schans but here at Keukenhof it was decidedly chilly too, and it felt a little weird to be wandering around these lovely gardens in such weather. In fact the gardens only opened a couple of days ago for the season so they probably weren’t looking quite their best. What I found quite lovely however, were the 6 or so buildings featuring amazing floral displays. Around 7 million bulbs are planted annually. It opened in 1950 in the grounds of a former castle dating back to the 15th century. The theme of this year’s displays is Flower Power and the displays were inventive, colorful and amusing at times. I particularly enjoyed the orchid building, and reading the names of the tulips. I tried to find names of people I know: I found a Marie Jo and a Danny – and Oracle! There was even a Pleyel piano bedecked with flower pots.

We headed back to Zaandam after a full day of beautiful colors and experiences, not to mention 8 miles of walking! We had dinner in a bar in Zaandam and were alarmed to find shards of glass on the table. We moved tables and were even more alarmed to find shards of glass on that table too! Walking back I noticed Tulip Vodka for sale – hmmm.


Haarlem was our destination this morning. The railway station had the most beautiful gift shop which, if my understanding of the Dutch sign above the entrance served me correctly, used to be the first class waiting room. But I was anxious to get my first glimpse of the city and we spent a lovely three and a half hours wandering the streets and taking in the sights. It seemed a more more approachable place than Amsterdam. Most of the bikes here were more like people carriers with carriages for children attached at the front. The window displays in the shops were incredible, and I thought of Paul McCartney whose goal in life was to be a window dresser! A bakery caught my eye, where the window was filled with suspended bread rolls. The entrance to a cannabis shop was guarded by a fierce, good looking policeman who posed with me for a photo! A boutique with brightly colored dresses invited more exploration and I found a dress that Sarah would have loved – every color! For myself I couldn’t resist buying a lacey pale blue shirt. it will look good with my newly purchased tulip socks and windmill earrings!!! The coffee shop that George Clooney advertises looked like no coffee shop I’ve ever seen before. I even found a variety called Arpeggio. Street art graffiti was tasteful, and reminded me of the colorful walls in Reykjavik. The town square is dominated by the Grote Kerk. The church is dedicated to St Bavo who died in 653AD. After fires damaged the original church the current church was built between 1370 and 1538. The organ was built by Christian Muller between 1735 and 1738 and underwent extensive renovation in the early 1960’s. It is a stunning piece of craftsmanship consisting of over 5000 pipes, 68 registers and is almost 30 meters high, but I wasn’t able to see the three manual organ console. Mozart played this organ when he was 10 years old and Handel played it too. There was quite a lot of modern art too, stained glass, sculpture, painting, reminding me of Blackburn cathedral, but here it complements the ancient artwork too.

For once it was warm enough to have lunch at cafe overlooking the square. I had a lovely Thai chicken skewer and a Belgian beer – delightful. Town squares and streets in general are set with bricks rather than macadam so that they don’t buckle with the dampness of the underlying soil. A line of espalier trees provided resting places for birds but I’m glad our table wasn’t directly beneath!

Next we were off to the seaside – or Overveen – Amsterdam’s beach. It didn’t take long to get there by bus and we were lucky that the weather was so good. Beautiful blue sky and a long almost deserted beach to explore. Thousands of razor shells were washed up and walking on them made a wonderful scrunchy sound. We could see high rise buildings of Zandvoort in the distance through the sea mist.

Back in Amsterdam we were bound for an hour and a half’s cruise on the canal. I was anxious that we too late in the day for good light for taking photographs but it was fine. Occasionally we passed by a gap in the rows of merchants’ houses and the low sunlight was able to skim the canal surface – very pretty. I elected not to listen to the running commentary on the headset and just soak in the picture in front of me – beautiful. We passed the dock where the Viking river boat cruise liners dock. They are huge! In the Amstel district we saw the row of houses called the Dancing Ladies because they are now situated at rather weird angles as they sink into the wet soil. Yet all these picturesque houses are immaculately maintained. Apparently there’s a city ordinance requiring this.Also in the Amstel district is the modern opera and ballet hall, built onto the canal, its location and architecture again reminding me of Reykjavik.

It was getting dark by the time our cruise was complete and we headed to the Red Light district which was busy with people my age eager to see what the fuss is all about. The sex toy shops were doing a roaring business. I expected seeing scantily clad girls beckoning guys into the blue movie houses or girls posing seductively in red lighted windows as was the case in Brussels. Perhaps it was just too early in the evening.

Back in Zaandam we tried to ‘go Thai’ but the restaurant didn’t look particularly inviting (lighting makes such a big difference to the ambiance of a place) so we ended up at the nice Italian place for a second night, hungry after another full day of sight seeing and walking 8 miles.


We had planned to spend the morning exploring more of Zaandam before our mid afternoon flight home. I began the day by trying to find postage stamps for the postcards I’d written. This was easier said than done. The first concierge I spoke to didn’t know where I could buy stamps. The second suggested I try the supermarket. No luck there, but a helpful assistant suggested I should try the bookstore. Hmmm. So I set off in search of the book store. Success. Then I asked where I could post my postcards sporting their new stamps. “Ah,” she said, “You need to go to another book store.” This time her instructions of how to locate the bookstore with the mail box was less than accurate, but at least I was having a good time exploring the streets of Zaandam. Having given up and retraced my steps I found the bookstore and, hey presto, there was even a mail box for my postcards!

Crazy angle in Tzar Peter’s house

Next was a visit to Tzar Peter’s house, one of the oldest buildings in Holland. This is the building in which Tzar peter de Grote stayed in 1697. he came to Zaandam in order to learn the trade of ship building. At the time Russia was a country that was way behind the Netherlands in its industry, exploration of the world, and transportation and so Tzar Peter came, incognito, to learn the shipwright’s trade. Incognito was difficult for him because he was 6’8″. The Russian tzars and Dutch monarchs realised that the house needed protection from the elements and in the 19th century a building was built around the wooden house to protect it.

A death mask of Tzar Peter is on display. The windows are completely covered in scratched signature spanning several centuries, and the subsidence causes everything to learn at a precarious angle. it was a great place to take photos and since there were only another couple of people touring the site I was able to take lots of pictures. The were even bottles of Russian Imperial stout for sale, named, of course, Czar Peter.

Back in the town centre I had half an hour to wait for the rest of the group so I indulged myself at a lovely cafe, which was named an ‘American’ cafe. the deserts looked amazing , and I was disappointed that this was the wrong time of day for such extravagance! Still, the place provided me with the best cup of tea on the trip.

Our next port of call was the Monet Atelier located in a house right above the canal. Monet lived for 4 months in Zaandam in 1871 and painted 25 works. He was just in time to capture the old Zaandam, the one that I’d pictured in my mind. The Industrial Revolution, which had taken hold throughout most of Europe, and the advent of the steam engine, would within a few years irrevocably change the characteristic landscape of the Zaandam area, dotted with windmills, as Monet saw it. The small building contains replicas of all 25 paintings and its wonderful to see these all gathered in one small room, when, in actual fact, they are scattered around the world in museums and private collections.

It was time to set off on our journey home and our flight was delayed an hour but Schiphol airport is not a bad place to spend a little extra time. The flight was only 45 minutes and we landed in a lovely sunlit Yorkshire. I took the bus to the centre of Leeds passing Kirkstall Abbey. Perhaps it warrants a day out now that I know it’s quite reachable by public transport. From Leeds a train took me back to Hebden Bridge where I called in at the Chinese to take home some dinner.

3 weeks back in the U S of A

Impulsive trip to Guernsey

Omg, it’s a propeller plane


Coming down into St Peter Port

I had set my new alarm clock for 4:50 and my phone for 5 a.m. I’m not used to getting up at this time! I set off at 5.25 and the taxi across the street was waiting for me. It took exactly 55 minutes to Manchester airport. There was no traffic as we passed through streets lined with frost covered cars. Most of the houses were still in total darkness. It was really nice being dropped off at the terminal. It’s the first time I’ve used a taxi, and like going business class for the first time it’s something I could get accustomed to! It took 45 mins to get through security – after they had tasered my 4 tubes of watercolour paint. It was probably a busy day for people to travel, the day after New Year’s Day and even at this time the airport was bust but there was no line at Guernsey Airline check-in desk.  A was surprised, a little aghast, and rather excited to see that I was to fly on a plane with propellers for the first time. A tiny little plane, 3 seats per row, one bathroom and two flight attendants. Even the pilot was female! Apart from the noise level as we took off and landed I didn’t find any significant difference in the flight. I know Rachel has taken propeller flights on her travels but ‘no vom-vom’ as Sarah so succinctly put it.

We flew over Wales where it was less cloudy and the mist hovering about the rivers in the frosty countryside was very beautiful. The next thing I could see was the rocky coastline as we came to land in Guernsey. There was no time to look at the little airport as my host, H, was waiting with my name on a sign. It was about 20 paces to her car – so different from the big airports like Manchester and San Francisco where you have to take a bus to the parking lot. She took me ‘the long way round’ to Vazon cottage, meaning that it took about 25 minutes. The roads were very narrow and when two vehicles need to pass one automatically pulls onto the sidewalk continuing at the same speed. There are no street lights, so they are not in danger of running into a light! The road hugged the coast the whole time and then the first thing H did on arrival on my new home for 4 nights was to make me tea while I made friends with Jasmine, the friendly kitty. H had bought the house in 2007 and had added an addition. She had worked in a ceramic business and she’d made the flooring herself from concrete and recycled coloured glass – quite unique. Her son, who I met, works in China teaching English and her daughter is in the UK working as an upper class Mary Poppins. She invited me to walk around the reservoir (where she picks up litter) but I was in need of some food so I wandered over to the busy Vista café on the sea front for a delicious crab sandwich. Feeling much refreshed I headed out along the headland towards the German bunker. The Channel Isles were the only British territory to be occupied by Germans during WWll.

I had the beach entirely to myself, and though heavily overcast it wasn’t too cold, or windy. I found the bunker very disturbing – this concrete monstrosity in this beautiful coastal landscape. As I looked around I could see dozens of these German fortifications built during World War 2. I noticed signs everywhere on the island. There seemed to be a lot of rules – about everything. There was up to a £1000 fine for not cleaning up after your dog. After an hour or so exploring, and finding cuttlefish skeletons (thank you Michael) I jumped on a bus to ‘town’ as St Peter Port is known as. There were lots of shops on the cliff above the harbor but at this time of the year there were no ships sailing, just row upon row of docked yachts. I could see the castle on the rocky promontory and I took a little look in the church that was decorated in dozens of Christmas trees just like Halifax minster. Someone was practicing the organ but the console was curtained off otherwise I would love to have played. I popped into the Visitors’ Centre and though the lady was very helpful it was disappointing to find that many of the attractions are closed for the winter season. I got a take-out coffee from a tiny coffee house where I was the only customer and then, seeing M&S I popped into to buy food supplies.

I took the bus back and despite it only being 3.30 I had to really fight to stay awake. I read the brochures I’d picked up to get the lie of the land and ate some cocoanut prawns in an effort to wake up. H has a roommate, L, who has been there a couple of years. I asked L if there was a friendly local pub I could walk to later that evening and she offered to go with me! H and her son were going out for an Indian before he flies back to China so he dropped L and I off at a hotel in the town to our north, Cobo. As we drove there it seemed an awfully long way to walk back  after our drink. There was a public bar showing the footy and the lounge bar which was packed with family groups at long tables with children glued to ipads to keep them quiet. I had a sample of a couple of the local ales and L got stuck into the gin and tonics as we secured comfy chairs by the fireside. L had worked in a Guerney knitwear factory knitting and finishing Guernsey jumpers, and she’d recently completed a complicated cross stitch picture.

Our walk back was in the total darkness, there being no street lights, and we used our phone flashlights to assist. We took a short cut over the hump of the hill rather than going back along the winding coast road and we were back in no time. I couldn’t believe it was still only 8.30 but I went up to my room to explore it. In the bathroom were the usual supplies of soaps and shampoos that previous guests had left for other guests to use, but this was the first time I’d seen a foil of durex in an Airbnb. I joked with my daughters about this thinking about the song by Gabriel Kahane. Anna said wouldn’t it be embarrassing because the host would know who had used it. I relayed this to H and L later, and H commented that she hoped whoever used it looked at the expiration date: it’s been there a while. I recalled leaving something important – a set of keys? –  in the bedside table at the Izaak Walton on my honeymoon and asking if they’d mail the contents of the drawer back to me – completely forgetting that the drawer also contained some little foil packets! One episode of QI was enough to send me straight to sleep by 10 p.m.

Left over from the German occupation

Rusty door frame on German bunker

I was up at 8 to make a cuppa and begin reading Engleby that I’d borrowed from the library at Northlight Studio. Then I painted for an hour in the kitchen overlooking the bird feeder and the pond and then headed up to explore. First on my list was the chapel of St Appoline on La Grande Rue. So far I’d come across very little in the way of history predating WWll but this little chapel seating just 14 people was constructed in1392 by Nicholas Henry and contains a 14th fresco of the Last Supper. It was an hour’s walk, first along the beach but then along little lanes, bust with traffic. I found it absolutely impossible to tell the dates of the house. They are almost all single storey detached bungalows, stone built, some with the stone left exposed and others in which the stone has been painted delicate pastel colours – quite unlike the fishermen’s cottages in Ireland and  Scotland where strong vivid colours are the order of the day. But on Guernsey some houses dates from the late 1770’s while others were from the 1970’s the I couldn’t tell one from another. Vazon cottage had outer walls 2 feet thick but was built in the early 1900’s. It gives the impression of being much older. Of course, I was the only visitor at the little church, and neither H nor L had been there. It’s dedicated to the patron saint of dentists, and since two of my Hebden bridge Gibson ancestors were dentists I thought it very fitting that I should visit this church.

Leaving the church I headed back towards the coast. All the roads are lined with houses. There is no open space apart from fields for cows and greenhouses, so apart from the bit of land close to the cliffs there are no viewpoints. I waited for a bus and, without a timetable I just jumped on the first that came by. There’s a great system of any bus rid being 55p and since there are  many bus routes that both criss cross the island and go all the way round the coast road you can pretty much get on any bus and end up at the town Terminus at St Peter Port. This articular bus was going to the north of the island which is basically one huge golf club.

After a late lunch in a café of a cheese toastie in a café overlooking the jetty with the castle at its end  I walked out on the jetty. The castle, which was first built to protect the island from Napoleon was closed for the season but there were several fishermen who had caught long eel looking things that were gasping for air on the jetty. Rachel send a photo to Michael and he identified them as needlenoses. One of them squirmed away as I was taking a video. I guess he was camera shy! I could see France from the lighthouse at the end of the jetty.

Next I headed inland to try and find the Guernsey tapestry museum. H had made several quilts entirely by hand including the one on my bed, and she had a quilting frame in a corner of the living room with another one on the go. She told me it takes about 4 years to create one. I was in a much older part of town here with nooks and crannies set at odd angles rather like Hebden Bridge. It was growing dark by this time and so I changed my goal to that of finding Victor Hugo’s House. I did find it but it’s now a private house and he only lived there for a year or so. I learned later that there’s another house he lived in but that’s closed for extensive renovations at the moment. I passed some  terraced gardens on the steep hillside that must look wonderful in the summer time. There were even a few daffodils out in full bloom. In Hebden Bridge the spring flowers are just beginning to poke their heads through the soil. It probably looks quite like the Amalfi coast in the summer.

I was quite thirsty with all that hill climbing so I took the bull by the horns and entered into  the semi darkness of the Albion Bar. It’s in the Guiness book of records as having the closest bar to a church. There was only me, one man and the bar tender in. I thought it would be busy with holiday visitors as the street seemed to be. I ordered a Thatcher’s Haze, which I actually enjoyed better than my usual order of Thatcher’s Gold (I found it at the Co-op when I got home). As I left the music on tap was the Eagles’ Hotel California – how appropriate.

A couple of minutes away was the bus station with various destinations written on the bus stop. I boarded  a bus that came to the ‘Grand Rouques, Cobo, Vazon’ stop and followed the route (it was now entirely dark) on my GPS. It took 45 minute to get to Cobo on the North West coast (where I’d walked home from the pub) but then imagine my surprise when it headed NOT to Vazon but back to the bus station. But now the castle was looking splendid in its floodlights. Arriving back there an hour later I saw that the places written on the bus stop had a tiny ‘OR’ between them. I inquired of people waiting at the bus stop what time the next bus to Vazon was and they assured me it would be at 5:30. It was now 5:00. Just to be on the safe side I crossed to the bus inquiries office and they told me there would be a bus to Vazon at 5:15. So back outside I went. It was very cold waiting. 5:15 came and went but no bus did the same thing. I went back into the office. They tried to reach the driver of the 5:15 on the walkie talkie but he didn’t answer. Then the guy on the front desk said ‘Hang on a moment. I can hear him. He’s in the canteen.’ He should have been driving the 5:15, so he came running out, picked up a parked bus and soon we were on our way! Oh, well, I wasn’ t in a hurry to get to anywhere and it had only cost me £1.10!

Because there are no street lights even when I got off the bus in Vazon bay (I could see Vistas bistro lit up) I couldn’t actually see my road but with the help of my phone flashlight I got back safely. I ate my frozen dinner and spent the evening looking through the books in my room tucked up in another handmade quilt, and was in bed again by 10pm.

Le trepied megalithic burial tomb, St Saviour

I started the morning by painting again. Why can’t I do this at home? Then I got the 10.25 correct bus (!) to the German Occupation museum. I’ve done very little in the way of museum visiting during the last few years but the impression of these German bunkers along the entire coastline of this island had got me intrigued. And what an amazing place it was. I think I expecting some modern steel framed glass affair but no, this was in a typical Guernsey farmhouse. I was one of 3 visitors and the man who took my £6 was the owner and curator. He opened the museum in 1966. I watched 2 short movies about the occupation of which I knew nothing until getting to the island. St Peter Port had been bombed with the loss of 33 civilian lives and the following day the Germans had invaded. Over half the population had been evacuated. During the 5 year occupation both the people of Guernsey and the German soldiers had faced starvation. All cars and radios were taken by the Germans and so only horse drawn carts were available for transportation. The  Germans brought in ‘slaves’ ie prisoners of war to build the bunkers, lookout towers, batteries and underground hospital and these men lived on the brink of starvation too. There was a women’s bicycle on display with the tires made from hose pipes, and people had to get written permission to purchase anything, even such a small thing as a bar of soap. The upper floor had been turned into a Guernsey Street with mannequins – all quite realistic. Much of the German clothing on display had been left behind in situ when they signed the armistice and the soldiers  left. The building was incredibly cold and I was looking forward to a free cuppa and mince pie in the little tea shop, just to warm up. But the owner introduced me to a man and his wife, also having a cuppa. He was 90 and had lived through the occupation and he spent the next hour telling me first hand about his experience being 9-14 years old including how his family had befriended a German soldier whom he had kept in contact with for many years after the war was over. Boiling broccoli stumps to stave off starvation, making a crystal radio, finding his dad’s gun hidden under some hay in the barn – all the while the soldier saying ‘Verboten.’ I think that was the first word I learned on my first trip abroad to Switzerland  in 1975! It was very visible on the trains.

By now I was seriously hungry – and cold – so I asked for recommendation for somewhere to eat. They suggested The Deerhound in the village. He even offered me a ride. 90, and still driving on these roads?!? Hot soup and a pear cider were just the ticket, though I did send the ice in my glass back to the bar. I chatted with the French bartender who has a friend in Bradford.

Next stop was Moulin Huet, bay that Renoir had painted several times when he’d stayed in St Peter Port for a month. There was a real windmill minus its sails where I got off the bus, and, following my GPS I headed along a lane in the direction of the coast. I soon found myself at the end of the lane and in the garden of an enormous mansion. As luck would have it someone was just taking their car out of the property and a young girl was holding the gate open for the car to pass through. I asked for directions which she gave me in great detail and off I went. The path followed a small stream, walled in on both sides, and was muddy, slippery and very steep in places. I met another path, turned left at the toilets that were, of course, closed for the winter (as if no-one needs to pee when it’s winter!) and headed down into the bay. It was a lovely scene with jagged rocks littered in the bay. Three pastel coloured cottages made the scene quite idyllic even in the gathering gloom of a wintery afternoon. I followed an easier path back to the bus stop and found myself in Iceland – well, at ‘an’ Iceland. I’d never been in to one of these chain stores and since I needed food for dinner I went in to explore and came out with a frozen dinner. I got a bus back to St Peter Port and since I had a little time to wait for the bus I called in at the beer and wine store that L had recommended beneath the Albion Hotel where I managed to find a couple of tiny bottles of Jack Rabbit Chardonnay from California. Just the ticket for the next two evenings at home. I did some more painting and then H and L invited me to share in the crab dinner they were preparing together. Apparently H has taught L to cook, and delicious it was, with roast potatoes cooked in some special electric contraption, and avocado salad.



I’d purposefully left my final day on the island open. I painted in the morning and then L offered to take me to the fairy ring,  After a little drive we parked in a bay close to a lighthouse. Above us was a lookout point where the lighthouse keeper’s wife would communicate with him by semaphore. The fairy ring itself was constructed in the 17th or 18th century. I commented on the lack of boats around the island but L pointed out that in the winter most of them are taken indoors. We could see two tractors doing just that. Then we drove to the Tiny chapel built by a monk. There was a large a catholic school close by where the monks had taught and one of them set up this tiny chapel constructed from broken pottery and clinker (what’s left when you burn coal to heat a greenhouse. It looks just like lava). One million pounds needs to be raised to preserve the site, give wheelchair access, add café and toilets.

Home for lunch and then some more painting. I was just about to go out for another walk before it started to get dark when H asked me if I’d like to accompany her on a trip to the north of the island. She collects litter on open spaces and so I went with her to the Common. On the way back we stopped at a farm to pick up some bags of logs and I ended up chatting to the farmer about the ruined greenhouses. There are 4 acres of glass that used to be a freesia farm until the farmer died and his wife could no longer carry on the business and so they just got overgrown. Back home I was invited to have dinner. A friend, Maxine, was picking up a Chinese takeaway in St Peter Port and they knew it would be 12 minutes before it arrived! I’d already purchased my dinner but we all ate together. Maxine was French and Judith had met her last New Year. After dinner we all played Jenga and I pinched myself as to how much fun I was having – 4 divorced ladies of a ‘certain’ age playing games. After they went to watch Bargain Hunt where they make it into a game between them but I need to go and pack for my journey home.


I slept til 4 a.m. but I know I never sleep properly before a journey if I have to get up very early. H was ready and waiting to take me to the airport at 7:30. It seemed really weird to think that we were leaving the house  only 15 minutes before check-in time at 7:45, but I put myself in her hands and we made it.  It’s a tiny airport with two conveyer belts at security, and only one was in operation. I bought a cup of tea but then found that I wasn’t allowed to take it on the plane. The lady at the check-in desk suggested I just stay in the lounge until I’d finished my tea and then I’d see the people in line beginning to go out onto the tarmac and I could join them. Fair enough! I found myself sitting next to someone on row 7 and since the window seat in row 6 (the one I’d sat in on my outbound flight) was available I asked to move. Fine. Now I had that perfect seat to watch the propeller.

Flight time was an hour and 10 minutes so I was in Manchester by 10 a.m. How weird is that! For most of the last 30 years every flight has been across the Atlantic, being in the air at least ten hours.

Manchester airport, train to Piccadilly, tram to Victoria, where, with a little run I made it to a train earlier than the one I expected to catch. It was raining, of course, as I walked from the station in Hebden Bridge but I was back in my apartment by 12:30. I spent the rest of the day resting, washing clothes, emptying my case and writing up my journal.

Recreation of a Guernsey street during the occupation
Chatting to a man who lived through the occupation
The road down to Renoir’s beach
My favourite wall – all made from cut logs

Foster Mill

Circa 1900. Foster Mill, owned by Redman Bros, was part of the Hebden Estate Company. William Henry Cockroft designed the Methodist Chapel. Moss Lane on the hillside leads to Heptonstall Road. Top left is Cross Lanes Chapel with the Manse on the right. The group of houses, right of centre, is Slater Bank.
Both chapels and the mill all now demolished.



Foster Mill

The building over the bridge was the stables for the mill

Photo of Foster mill cottages , and in the background the side of the stables and the bridge

Today, Dec 13, 2018, I’d planned to take a short stroll into Hardcastle Crags – mostly because it wasn’t raining and there was a hint of blue sky. I’d spent yesterday in the archives, the first time in 6 months. For the previous few days I’d been finding out interesting things from an interactive historic map of Calderdale and had come up with the idea of printing out a map and marking on all the houses in the area (basically the ones I could walk to from my apartment) that my ancestors had lived in, and those they had built. From this I’d discovered the whereabouts of Foster Mill. And wouldn’t you know it! It occupied the space on which a row of newish houses has been built, as far as I can tell the only new houses to have been built on flat land in Hebden Bridge since 1900. When Anna was here in May we’d gone to have a look at a house for sale on that very street – Spring Grove. Foster mill had been worked on extensively by my Wrigley builder ancestors. In 1842 the mill chimney had been plastered by Thos. Jas. & Geo Wrigley for Wilm & Jas Saga – 14.5 days work.

Bedding boxes form part of the Community garden. Was the building behind part of the Foster Mill complex?

In 1890 they had rebuilt the mill after a devastating fire and in 1908 Foster Mill shed and cottages had been painted outside. Only two days ago I’d gone out after a storm and taken photos of an old building close to the site of Foster Mill and had chatted to a guy who uses it to house a car repair business. I’d remarked on the number of quirky decorations on the buildings close by – very Hebden Bridge. So today, outside this old building a man was planting some bedding plants in some waste ground. On impulse Iasked if he knew if the building had once been connected with Foster Mill. “Perhaps,” he said. “That very old on the left, just before the bridge was the stables for the mill.” I’d taken several photos of that building since I’d moved to the town, simply because it had some great doors with flaking paint – one of my specialities. “There used to be a row of cottage where we’re standing. I have a photo of them. Would you like to come in and see it?” and with that he led the way over to one of the houses on Spring Grove. The photo was framed and on display in his living room. One of my ancestors lived in a cottage at Foster Mill. I wondered if it could have been one of these. I commented on his piano, where music for a Chopin Nocturne and the obligatory Fur Elise were on the music stand. I mentioned that I teach piano and we exchange info with the possibility of him taking lessons. It turned out that we had met once before in that connection when I was looking for a space to teach piano!

Foster Mill packhorse bridge built to connect Heptonstall to the fulling mill

From Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale companion:

Next to Hebden Vale Iron Works on Victoria Road / Foster Lane, Wadsworth.

There was a corn mill, then a fulling mill [in the 17th century]. Around 1808, it was converted to a worsted spinning mill. In 1851, it was described as 6-storeys and was driven by an iron waterwheel 36 ft in diameter and 14½ ft wide, a 23 hp engine, and a 16 hp engine. The mill was destroyed by fire on 1st December 182814th December 1853, and 17th May 1888 In 1888, it was one of the largest cotton spinning mills in the valley. After the fire, the mill was rebuilt by Redman Brothers. On 27th April 1891, photographs of the neighbourhood were taken from the top of 168-foot high chimney by R. S. Blackburn. The day was dull and the negatives not very clear. The building was demolished in 1985. The base of the mill chimney is still visible.


I took my leave of Mr ____ and carried on, over the bridge, which only this week I discovered is named Foster Mill Bridge. It’s similar to Hebden Bridge being very very steep, narrow, cobbled and with very low parapets. This was because the horses that used these Pack horse bridges were laden with bolts of woven fabric which clear the height of the parapets. It was built in the 17th century

Today, now that I knew its precise location, I could clearly make out Dog Bottom house and even see the progress of the stone wall since chatting with the mason two days ago. My friendly blue heron was nowhere to be seen today but I did take notice of a sign that I must have passed before. Well, I’d read it before but since I didn’t recognise the names of the places the sign mentioned, or the lay of the land in the vicinity, it hadn’t meant anything to me. Today I understood it all – yeah! Just another day of feeling connected to the landscape.


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