Author: hmcreativelady (page 1 of 31)

Wentworth Castle

A week’s residential Creative Writing Course


Wangedrocht
Body of stone slate
Sixteen strong legs of sandstone
What goes through your head?
English perfection
Perfect symmetry
Pigeon netted portico
Eyes oblivious

A week of freebies

Last Saturday I attended the BrassPass UK Brand Band competition. This involved listening to the 9 best bands in Britain and trying to pick a winner. The competition ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the judges’ decision and award ceremony followed. I opted out of the evening concert that started at 8 p.m. You can have too much of a fine thing. Between each set there was a 15 minute break for the next band to set up so I was able to get some fresh air and see the bands arrive in coaches, just like in Brass Off. I’d presumed that most of the audience would seat through a couple of bands and then leave, but no. As far as I could see from my vantage point in the gallery behind the band most people appeared to stay for the entire day. it hadn’t realised until I got the programme that this is the first time this competition has been held. I chatted to a couple of people between sets, one lady being the mother of the timpani player from the Brighouse and Rastrick. Another couple are performers themselves and they attend competitions all over Europe. With the exception of two pieces I’d never heard of any of the composers. and all the composers appeared to be contemporary. Each band had to include a solo performance, and most bands had 4 or 5 people playing a whole variety of percussion including a wind machine and a gong that was struck and then slowly lowered into a tub of water. The competition wasn’t a freebie but I thought 12 pounds for an entire day’s entertainment was very good value – and I was delighted when I picked the same band to win as the judges did. Cory Band from Wales.

On Wednesday I went to see Young Shorts at Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, a spectacular selection of short plays written by primary school children and performed by talented young actors from Beacon Actors Company and Calderdale Theatre School. Calderdale Young Shorts is a project delivered in partnership by Square Chapel, Calderdale Theatre School, Beacon Actors Company, four local primary schools and Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. It celebrates the talents and imaginations of children aged 8-11yrs and hopes to inspire them to perhaps become the playwrights, writers or directors of the future! From May – June, young actors from Beacon Actors Company are delivering play-writing workshops in four schools: Scout Road Academy, St Mary’s Catholic Primary, Sacred Heart Catholic Primary and Hebden Royd CE Primary. Children are writing their own short plays and a selection of them are performed in a fabulous, mad-cap, cabaret performance. With outrageous characters, innovative costumes, fantastical plots and lots of laughs this was a great evening – and free!

The weather forecast for Thursday was for sun – wow! My goodness! I’d been wanting to go on a boat on the Manchester Ship Canal for a while and I’d see that there was the premier of a new movie being shown at Manchester Central Library at 5 p.m. with a question and answer session with the cast and director. It was about Sam Bamford a radical reformer, poet, writer and handloom weaver who, on 16 August 1819, led 6,000 people on a peaceful human rights march from Barrowfields in Middleton to St Peter’s Field, Manchester, which left 18 people dead and six hundred injured at the hands of the cavalry. He was arrested on the day and spent a year in Lincoln Jail, writing poems and songs that became anthems, including ‘Song of the Slaughter’ which was sung all over the north of England, as Sam Bamford became nationally known. His funeral in 1872 was one of the biggest public events in Middleton’s history; a memorial obelisk was put up in Middleton Graveyard and stands to this day. My great, great great grandparents were living in Middleton at that time and in 2015 Rachel and I went to visit the little town and spent a morning looking at the quite remarkable church, though it wasn’t open. As always, we spent some time wandering around the extensive graveyard. The movie which involved mostly people from Middleton was only 50 minutes long so it seemed a good opportunity to combine the cruise and the movie.

I was surprised that I could get by train (Salford Central) to within a few steps of the Raili Quay, and I searched online for a place to have lunch before I boarded for the one hour cruise. I found a place, Menagerie, specialising in – yes! American food, and I have to admit it was one of the best chicken cobb salads I’ve ever eaten, even though it didn’t look like its counterparts in U.S. It was quite a fancy place in a building overlooking the River Irwell, called One. I would have eaten outside but it was too hot in the sun and because of nearby construction the restaurant had had to remove their patio umbrellas.

A couple of steps to the Quay, in an area called The Left Bank. Only about a dozen people were on board. I was amazed to see so much new construction in the area – new high rise apartments, cranes everywhere. From the River Irwell we joined the Manchester ship canal and arrived at the Lowry Centre with its spectacular buildings including the Imperial War museum North, and many swing bridges. I hadn’t realised that you could get off the boat the the Lowry: another time perhaps.

Next was a visit to the People’s History Museum – free, where I learned more about Peterloo. There was an exhibition of banner of various Trade Unions.

I had coffee on the outdoor patio overlooking the River Irwell and headed for the library, only a ten minute walk away. I was a little early so sat at a table in the cafe to wait. Next to me a man was drawing portraits. he’d obviously been there for some time judging by the number he’d drawn and painted. When the movie began I realised that this was the man who had played Sam Bamford. Much of the film was filmed in St Leonard’s cemetery where I’d visited with Rachel, and the People’s History Museum featured too. And the movie was Free!

This morning I went for an early morning walk. I knew the forecast was for record high temperatures to reach Hebden Bridge but I didn’t expected to be woken at 6:45 a.m. by a rather strange noise. I sounded as if it was coming from directly outside my bedroom window. Hmmm . . . . I took a look. A man was cleaning my windows! Because of the high temperature overnight I had my windows open, so water was pouring in through the open windows since the man was at street level and only his ‘equipment’ was at my window level!

So, now awake I went for a walk to see how the town was preparing for its record temperature.

At lunchtime I went to see the premier of another local movie – Calder Valley Suite, a collaboration between film-maker, Jason Elliott, and multi-instrumentalist, Colin Robinson, part of the 2019 Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. Each of the six short films focuses on a small element of the local area and has a duration of between 4 and 5 minutes making a total of 28 minutes when run consecutively. The music and the imagery act in a complimentary way to each other, ensuring that the whole is greater than the two parts in each case, helping the viewer into a closer relationship with their surroundings. Beautiful photography and it was free! Perhaps I should try and get my ‘Searching for my Yorkshire Roots’ movie and music programmed somewhere in town. Last night I had my first ‘Heather’s At Home’ evening. I was delighted that ten people showed up in my apartment to chat, eat, drink and play music together. I used to host these in Santa Cruz but this is my first one here as I gradually get to know people around me.

My first visit to Kirkstall Abbey

A day out in Liverpool

Albert Dock
Museum of Liverpool and the Liver Building
The Tate, Liverpool
Statue in honor of the emigrants – I was one!
Imagine Peace

My mum, Gandhi & Beatrix Potter!



People who don’t know me look with unabashed incredulity when, in answer to their question, ‘Where are you from?’ referring of course to my accent which I like to consider ‘mid-Atlantic’ to borrow  Mark Twain’s description, I tell them that after 32 years in the U.S I have decided to move back to England. Their eyes tend to pop out of their sockets even more when I mention that for most of those years I lived in California, for the last 14 years within 5 minutes walk of the Pacific Ocean. 

But for those I know better, or wish to, I explain that in England I find connections which make me feel part of the country, part of the landscape, and townscape.

Take today for example. 

It all started off a couple of weeks ago when I saw a flier entitled Literary Calderdale, listing books about and by local authors. I decided that borrowing some of these from the library might make an interesting project, so I began to read Millstone Grit, written in 1975,  by a local lad, Glyn Hughes. Todmorden, Sowerby Bridge, Millbank, Hebden Bridge, all places that I am now familiar with and frequent weekly feature prominently. Hughes makes reference to a ‘character’ by the name of Billy Holt, who, with his pony, Trigger travelled extensively in Europe. He wrote about this travels and there were photos of Billy lying under Trigger, reading a book! Three days later I discovered that Billy Holt lived at Hawdon Hall, just above Hardcastle Crags, a place that one of my ancestors had lived in. In April I’d been invited to visit the place because the music director of the Little Theater choir, of which I am now the accompanist, lives there with Freda, a writer of note, having worked for many years on How We Used to Live, and wrote scripts for a long running local series, Heartbeat. When I mentioned to Freda that I was reading the Glyn Hughes book she asked me if I knew of Billy Holt, and within a matter of days his autobiography appeared as a birthday present. I’ve only read part of it, nothing relating to Hawdon Hall yet, but I have found a passage in which  he visits his grandparents at 10 Der Street, Todmorden. Now, I have ancestors who lived at 9 Back Der Street and a couple of weeks ago I went to take photos of their house! 

Oasis and Elizabeth Gaskell on one street!

Back to Glyn Hughes’s Millstone Grit. He quotes a passage from Elizabeth Gaskell’s book, Mary Barton. I’ve had a copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s book about the Life of Charlotte Bronte for a while but I just couldn’t get into it. It’s still on my bookshelf. But last year I had discovered that Gaskell’s house in Manchester has been restored and in 2014 it reopened, decorated as much as possible as it would have been when Elizabeth lived there, 1848-1865. Charlotte Bronte visited her there  several times, and so it had been on my list of what to do on a rainy day. Today was the day! I found that her home was close to the Manchester Museum where I’d been to visit Samuel Gibson’s fossil and flora collection and so I thought I’d pop in there for a coffee b before heading off to the Gaskell house. As I entered the museum I thought I’d gate crashed a children’s party. The noise of lots of school children echoed through the halls – for this is half tear. The place was packed with babies, push chairs, toddlers, grandparents. The rooms containing the animals exhibits were packed. Over children were holding clipboards and doing treasure hunts. A room housing an  exhibition about the Amritsar Massacre, however, was peaceful in decibels, but heart-wrenching in content, but since I’ve been to Amritsar I thought I’d take a look. Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence brought back memories my mum seeing him at Bolton railway station, and his teaching of Satyagraha had me seeing visions of Philip Glass’s opera of the same name. 

https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/6235999.the-day-gandhi-came-to-town/

India’s leader Mahatma Gandhi was on a secret visit to the North-west and the nervous young journalist was dispatched to Bolton’s Trinity Street railway station with orders from his editor to interview The Great Man.

It was September 25, 1931, and years later, Frank Singleton recalled his late-night rendezvous with The Father of India on the deserted, rain-soaked platform.

Earlier, he “bribed” the station porter with the currency of the day – a cigarette – to determine the timetable for a visit surrounded by the utmost security, given Gandhi’s continuing conflict with the British Government over independence for his homeland.

The train arrived at a desolate, windswept station right on time and Singleton, writing in the Bolton Evening News in 1961, described how, as he stood alone in anticipation, he “beheld history in the making”.

“Gandhi, from his corner window seat, blinked at me through his iron-rimmed spectacles and smiled. My excitement mounted when he turned down the window. This, of course, was the moment that was to be vital in my career – whatever it was in his.

‘Sir’, I said resolutely, notebook at the ready, pencil poised, heart beating . . . ‘have you any message for the people of Bolton?”‘

As the train slowly chugged away, with Singleton in pursuit, Gandhi leaned out of the window, smiled, blinked again and, through a cloud of choking black smoke, replied: “No.” Singleton’s “brief encounter” at Trinity Street station nearly 75 years ago was the prelude to Gandhi’s very secretive arrival in the nearby village of Edgworth, where he met northern mill owners at the Victorian mansion Greenthorne, off Broadhead Road, the home of Miss Annie Barlow.

Miss Barlow was a member of the philanthropic Barlow family whose head, her older brother, Sir Thomas Barlow, was physician to Queen Victoria, and was one of the siblings responsible for establishing the present Barlow Memorial Institute in the village. My mum and dad held their wedding reception in the Barlow’s institute and I’ve been there with my own daughters over the last few years. 

Then on to Elizabeth Gaskell’s house. It’s an imposing place and when she and her minister husband rented it it took half his salary. Here she entertained Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, John Ruskin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (whose home I’ve been to in Massachusetts). I sat at the table in the dining room where she wrote. Actually Mary Barton was written two years before she moved here, but I purchased a copy so that I can scrawl all over it and return my current copy to the library. I have to say that I found the docents some of the most knowledgeable and approachable volunteers that I’ve ever encountered in such a place. I spent well over two hours there and was even allowed to play the piano. It is a John Broadwood salon grand. When the last of Elizabeth’s children died there in 1913 much of the furniture was put up for auction, the piano being included. Apparently the current piano is on ‘permanent loan.’ I left my card with one of the docents who is going to find out if there is a record of the serial number of the piano at the auction. I have visions of the story of ‘Mr Langshaw’s Square Piano,’ a non-fiction book I reviewed for the state magazine of the Music Teachers’ Association of California, in which a square piano, which had been turned into a chicken coop was purchased in Preston, Lancashire, and when the author eventually traced the serial number it turned out that the piano had belonged to non other than Charles Wesley, composer of hymns and brother to Methodist founder Charles Wesley. 

At her writing desk

Mr Langshaw’s Square piano: Review published in the California Music Teacher magazine.

By Heather J Morris

Madeline Goold. First publ by Corvo 2008 in England. 2009 publ BlueBridge, 2009

Two chance encounters: my taking a  short cut from the parking lot to Pacific Avenue. through Logos, a used book store in Santa Cruz and halfway across the world a woman’s search for a used harpsichord that took her to an auction where she purchased a square piano that had been abandoned long ago and subsequently used as a chicken coop. The story of this square piano and its restoration just happened to unfold less then twenty miles away from my hometown in northern England and the timing just happened to coincide with the beginnings of my own search for the first piano to reach California. Once purchased and installed in a barn on her property Goold becomes intent on her mission: restoring the piano. Finding a number engraved in copperplate numerals two centimeters high she was confident that she now had the serial number that would be a key to this very instrument’s history. With this in hand, and the nameboard ‘Broadwood  and Sons, Piano makers to Her Majesty and the Princess, Great Putney Street, Golden Square, London 1807’ she finds a restorer, David Winston,  who is willing to take on the project ‘if no one else had had a go at it.’ (p 23).John Broadwood’s son had visited Beethoven in Vienna and a year later he presented the composer with a six-octave grand piano (which is now in the Beethoven house in Bonn). With a tenacity worthy of Sherlock Holmes Goold digs out the dispatch record showing the date that this piano began its journey by boat and wagon from  Broadwood’s  yard in Great Putney Street to a Mr J. Langshaw, Organist, Lancaster. Langshaw was a man of means in what was  then a major port – Lancaster in the northern county of Lancashire. Born in London he had studied with Charles and Samuel Wesley. Charles was the brother of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, and Charles today is remembered primarily for the over 6000 hymns he wrote. Goold took herself of to Lancaster, met up with a descendent of Langshaw.

The book is both an entertaining and easily accessible study of the social structure of England at the turn of the nineteenth century, focusing on the Langshaw family,  and a scholarly dissertation on  keyboard makers of that period, a time when   new inventions were being incorporated into the very fabric /structure of the piano. Great little place for a cake, coffee and a catch up. Lovely that it is a little bit tucked away, meaning you lose some of the hustle and bustle sometimes associated with Lancaster on a sunny day.The music room is now a self catering place owned and renovated by the Landtrust.

One of the Gaskell’s neighbors was Charles Halle and he came to the house to give piano lesson to the children, at one guinea per lesson, and outrageously high price for that date.

Playing the lovely Broadwood piano inn the sitting room

One photo in the house drew my particular attention. It shows Mr Gaskell with a very young Beatrix Potter. Now my first holiday I ever took was with my mum to the Lake District and we stayed at Youth Hostels. We visited Beatrix Potter’s house in Hawkshead. Somewhere, I think I have the drawing I did of her cottage. And I distinctly remember my mum saying that as a 20 something, at the height of her Youth Hostelling years she had visited the cottage and Beatrix Potter was there in her garden!

As I left the building, once known as the Pink House, but now restored to its original warm stone color, I sat in the garden and ate my picnic, watching as groups of school children excitedly entered the house, perhaps from a day care centre, this being half term. In the original servants’ quarters a groups of elementary children were dressed as servants and were being given tasks to do. What a wonderful learning experience. 

Even the post man looks bemused. It’s a very fine edifice for a Chinese takeaway.


David Barraclough; the story of a bus station!

Halifax bus station – formerly the Sion Baptist church

I can trace  the Barraclough side of my family with a fair degree of certainty to Abraham Barraclough who was born in 1640. He was my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Someone in Calgary Canada has done extensive research on the Barracloughs of West Yorkshire and it’s published online as ‘A Family Orchard.’ Abraham was 63 at the time of his death and he’s buried at St. Peter’s churchyard, Sowerby. However, there’s no record of that grave on Find a Grave. When I first learned of my connection with the Barracloughs of Sowerby, when I visited in the summer of 2016 I was eager to go to the village and see the church. I found, online, a book about growing up in Sowerby by one Jean Illingworth. I arranged to meet with her. She gave me a wonderful guided tour of this tiny hilltop village overlooking the Calder Valley. She’d arranged with the church warden to be there and open the church for us. Outside it’s a rather unusual building and it reminded me of a prison! Inside the ornate plasterwork is some of the finest examples of that craft outside London. I have yet to find Abraham Barraclough’s gave. 

An old photo of Stainland with the church tower

Abraham’s great great grandson was David Barraclough, born  in 1767, and baptized at St. Peter’s Sowerby on December 18, 1767- son of John.  The next time he pops up is on his marriage to Mary Hirst on July 24, 1792 in Halifax minster at the age of 25. According to Malcolm Bull Mary came from Sowerby. They had 5 children: Jemima 1796-1855, Joseph, b. 1798, David, born 1800, Elizabeth born 1801 and James b 1802. His father died two years later  and his mother the following year. In 1838 there’s a possible marriage, according to Malcolm Bull,  but it seems unlikely. He’s 78, a wool sorter and a bachelor at the time of this marriage. According to Malcolm Bull Sarah came from Leeds, they had two children Eliza, born 1805,m and Susan, bornt 1806 who married James Satchwell. The family lived at Croft House, Stainland.’I walked straight past it yesterday without knowing that! However, by the 1841 census he is 78, a minister, living with Sarah Barraclough , 55 and Eliza Barraclough, 35. Unfortunately the 1841 does not list the relationships of people living together. Living with the Barracloughs at this time are James Satchwell, 25,tailor, Susan Stachwell, 30 and Eliza Satchwell, 3. This set up would suggest that Susan Satchwell is David or Sarah’s daughter. SURE ENOUGH I FIND A MARRIAGE OF JAMES SATCHWELL (tailor) TO SUSEY BARRACLOUGH AT HALIFAX MINSTER ON JULY 1, 1836. 

Outside St Andrew’s church where David Barraclough was minister – or was he?

Now according to Find a Grave’s reliable website David was a ‘prominent clergyman of the Wesleyan methodist faith in both England and Ireland. Pastor at Stainland old independent chapel.’ According to the Malcolm Bull website: ‘This chapel  was built in 1814 by a group who had left Stainland Independent church after there had been a disagreement over the reading of prayers. Another site  says that in 1792 he was a preacher in the parish of Charlmont, Armargh, Ireland. The chapel in Wade Street, Halifax, was built for him. He left the Methodists at South Parade chapel and became minister at St Andrew’s, Stainland in 1806.’ HOWEVER, according to the genuki.org.uk in The Stainland Congregational church history up to 1868 ‘a chapel was erected here about the year 1755, and a congregation was formed comprehending christians of different denomination, principally wesleyans and Independents. The first minister known was Rev S Lowell who left Stainland for Brighouse in 1782. The next was Rev John Bates who removed to Mixenden in 1793. To him succeeded Rev Samuel Barraclough who afterwards joined the new connection.(oh oh! A different Barraclough).( Malcolm Bull has ‘Samuel Barraclough 1756-???, son of John. 1726-1794) who was son of  Abraham who married Martha Wrigley.)

 ‘He was a pioneer Methodist preacher who marrried Mary Crossley on Feb 20, 1776.  Rev Mr Hanson followed. He removed to Shelley in 1812.’ From the Appendix to Congregationalism in Yorkshire by James C. Miall, 1868.  

So, back to the chapel at Wade Street. It was built as an independent chapel for a group of people who had formerly been Wesleyan Methodists, with David Barraclough as their leader. They left and set up shop in Stainland.

A photo of St Andrew’s before it became a C of E

The church there, which is now St Andrew’s, was built as an independent chapel in 1755, a simple rectangular building with 4 plain bays with rounded arched long windows. The pulpit would have been on the South side of the church. A fireplace was in the north corner.  The church was enlarged, the chancel added, and a tower added to the designs of Charles Child in 1840, when the church was taken over by the Church of England. The present vicar described the tower as an ‘animal made up by a variety of people, like an elephant.’They also covered the lower part of the windows because the long windows reeked of methodism. There is a balcony on the west end. It’s a grade 2 listed building.

Fr Rodney Chapman brought out photos for me to see what the church would have looked like before it became C of E. It’s a perpetual curacy which means that the church cannot close while Fr Rodney is the incumbant. However, as he told me,  when he retires . A lady approached the organ and I chatted with her. She’d been the organist at the church for many years  but had resigned six years ago.She’s now practicing for her organ diploma. 

I had chosen to visit the church on Community Cafe day, a monthly activity where ‘full breakfasts, light bites and home bakes’ could be enjoyed. The welcoming smell of bacon was wafting through the doorway as I approached and I when I saw others tucking in I couldn’t resist. It was the best bacon I’ve had in ages! It was nice to see many mums and toddlers at the breakfast. A play area had been set up for the kiddies and one little boy is going to be a great percussion player when he gets older!

Policeman’s truncheon with the George lll crest

One of the ladies I chatted to now lives in the old vicarage. Fr Rodney then brought out a mace with George lll’s coat of arms (king 1760-1820)— and a matching truncheon – a policeman’s? He sportingly allowed me to take his photo wielding both! 

The morning’s church activities drew to a close at 11.30 and I set off to explore the area. This is an area I don’t know at all. I’ve only driven through Stainland a couple of times on the way to my clarinet choir, and on the 901 bus to Huddersfield which goes over the hilltops from Hebden Bridge. It’s 3 1/2 miles from Halifax and 5 from Huddersfield. Apparently Stainland’s beginning is  very much like that of Heptonstall and Sowerby: a hilltop town, primarily handloom weaving and farming, which dwindled in size during the industrial revolution when the mill was built in the valley, powered by water. In 1848 there were 2 mills for making pasteboard used in woollen manufacture.There were 3 coal mines in the area and some extensive stone quarries. Stainland was built on a pack horse route and its name means stoney ground. The name appears in the Domesday book as Stanland. It’s essentially a linear village, all of the principal buildings facing the road which forms a central spine. Just across from the church is an ancient medieval  cross but its age and original function are lost in the aeons of time. Perhaps it was a preaching post. Or it could have been a boundary marker. 

I intended folllowing a printed walker’s map given to me by a colleague and I set off along a path bordered with clouds of cow parsley which led past allotments. The next valley, Black Brook Valley,  soon opened up beyond me and before I headed down the steep side I paused to look at the outcrop of rocks, Eaves Top quarry. The path led across Halifax Golf course on which a few golfers could be seen in action. I checked to make sure no stray balls were hurtling towards me before heading across one of the greens towards a small wood. Here the path became increasingly steep. It was almost one of the ‘sit down’ scrambles that I’m famous for! However, I managed to keep upright, just, before coming to an open field. I couldn’t see a path anywhere across it so I followed some tractor tire marks to a wall, but there was no way over the wall, so I followed the wall until I came to a gate. This was obviously a gate into a private garden of a large house, but I reckoned that there’d be an exit to the garden on the other side  where a could see a paved pathway. No sooner had I entered the garden but an “Oi, you!” came wafting across the garden from the garage. A man appeared, “Good job the dogs didn’t go fer yer, luv!” “I’m lost.” “Ee, I can see thee are.” I drew out my map and pointed out that I couldn’t find the footpath across the field so I’d followed the tire tracks. “What yer doin’ on yer own out ‘ere?” “Walking,” I suggested. “Ee thee’s a gam lass an all!” He pointed me in the right direction and off I went.  Just at the bottom of the field was Gateshead mill, now undergoing major reconstruction. Believe it or not it was at this mill that the first transatlantic cable was manufactured!

Gateshead Mill

My intended walk followed Black Brook for a little while before climbing steep back into Stainland via Beestonely, but, number one, the riverside path was full of cows, and two, I didn’t fancy climbing back up that hill. That would definitely have been a ‘hand and knees’ job. Why, oh why, don’t descriptions of walks around here give some idea of the steepness of the terrain? This pamphlet had been produced by the Friends of Calderdale’s Countryside.  Instead, I followed a path up the other side of the valley and waited half and hour for a bus into Halifax. It took me through some lovely countryside with sweeping vistas over the valley – definitely worth another ride sometime. 

As I waited for the bus back to Hebden Bridge I took a closer look at Halifax bus station. After all, it was built in the shell of my gt gt gt gt uncle’s church. It was built as an independent chapel for a group of people who had formerly been Wesleyan Methodists, with David Barraclough as their leader. Sion Congregational Chapel was an Independent chapel built in 1819, with seats for over 1000 and a schoolroom in the basement. New school buildings were added in 1846 and 1866. David Livingstone gave a sermon and a lecture here in 1857. In 1959, the chapel and the school closed. The building was dismantled in 1984 and rebuilt with the facade included in the new Halifax Bus Station!!


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. 

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