Category: Ancestry (page 1 of 5)

Delving into Middleton

St Leonard’s, Middleton

I’d first visited Middleton with Rachel in the summer of 2015, having discovered that some of my ancestors had associations with that town, and several were  baptised, married and buried there. We only visited the church and it was closed sir we wandered around the overgrown graveyard. The church is situated on a hill overlooking some of the industrial sprawl of Oldham. We were both intrigued by the rather strange wooden tower which tops the stone tower. Here’s the writing from my journal about our visit: Wed July 22. ‘It was 3 pm by the time we set out to do a little more ancestry hunting – this time to Middleton and Heywood, which require going around a lot of roundabouts several times! St Leonard’s in Middleton is perched alone today on a spot which used to be the centre of this silk weaving town. The adjacent cemetery was very overgrown. In the porch was a plaque saying that one of the Hopwood family donated a silver chalice. I think we have a Hopwood from this church in our ancestry.’

Middleton would have looked very different today had it not been for the famous architect Edgar Wood, an influential proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement. He sent his life reshaping the town and designed more than 60 buildings in Middleton and its vicinity. St Leonard’s Parish Church, Queen Elizabeth Free Grammar School, The Olde Boar’s Head and the Edgar Wood Centre, Long Street Methodist Church all form part of the Golden Cluster.

Middleton gained its market charter in 1791. In the late 18th century Middleton was a village with 20 houses, and yet it boasted a grammar school. Like many other villages and towns in the area, the 1780s began to see a growth in population and trade. Middleton was a centre for silk manufacturing at that time, and silk weaving was still described as the chief trade in 1901, alongside a fast growing cotton trade, with its calico printing, bleaching and dying. Middleton handloom weavers were depicted by the artist Frederick W Jackson. Frederick W Jackson (1859–1918) was born at Middleton Junction, Oldham in 1859.

Jackson, Frederick William; The Last of the Hand Loom Weavers

Then last autumn I’d visited with Ed and again the church was closed but we’d taken a walk through the town centre, gone into the library and seen some of the buildings designed by Edgar Allen. It was in the library that I’d seen a flier for Lost  in Manchester Found in Vegas. 

I’d exchanged a few emails with Moira from the church office who, when I had mentioned that I had Hopwoods of Middleton in my ancestry had responded – Are you related to Hopwood Dupree? I’d never heard of him so looked him, up and he’s a descendent of the Hopwoods of Hopwood Hall. He’s currently trying to restore the place. 

I was taking up the opportunity to go to Middleton – train to Rochdale, train to Mills Hill, bus to Middleton because the weather forecast was predicting a rain-free day and it wasn’t until I got up and saw a sunny sky that I decided on the spur of the moment to go. But by the time the train and passed through the pennine tunnel it was sprinkling with rain and as I arrived in Middleton it was pouring down. It was market day  and I sheltered for a moment under some awning  but then decided to continue up the hill to the church. I’d look around the market on the way back. 

Moira had told me to ring the bell of the church office and I was glad to know that there was someone inside, to not only let me in, but be on the premises while I looked around. Moira handed me a guide book, asked me to sign the guest register (which aids in funding)  and then left me to it. I spent a leisurely hour and a half taking in as much as I could but I really feel I barely scratched the surface. It’s a Grade 1 listed building. I could hear the rain pounding on the roof above the exposed wood, a sound I’m not familiar with in churches. Apparently it’s because the roof is stainless steel rather than lead. Vandals were forever stealing the lead so it’s been replaced and makes a hell of a racket when it rains heavily. The guide book is entitle “ The church with over a thousand years of history.” In 1890 the Rev C B Ward said, “The people of Middleton are distinguished above all the people I have ever met, for the peculiarly fervent love that they have for their parish church.” Around 870 a Saxon church stood on this site, replaced by a Norman church around 1100. This was replaced by the Langley church in 1412. Thomas Langley 1363-1437 became prince Bishop of Durham and served terms as chancellor to King Henry iv, v, and vi. It’s documented at Durham Cathedral that the body of St Cuthbert stayed in Middleton, and with him the Lindisfarne and Stonyhurst gospels. In Cuthbert’s day Lancashire was still largely Welsh speaking (Cumbric) with a British/Celtic identity. The Norman church measured 40’ x 20’. It’s dogtooth molding above the arch was later reused in the pointed tower arch and in the arch over the pulpit. What is now the tower arch was once the principal door of the Norman church. The weathered columns are evidence that it once faced the elements outside.

Thomas Langley was born in Middleton and he built a new church at his own expense in 1412 , and around 1510 Sir Richard Assheton, lord of the manor and hero of the Battle of Flodden, 1513, extended and rebuilt parts of the church, raising the height of the roof and adding the clerestory. The wooden belfry was added in 1666.

The parish of Middleton included Great Lever, Ainsworth, ash worth, Birtle-cum-Bamford, Pilsworth, Hopwood, Thonham and Middleton. Markets and fairs were held in the square. A blue plaque now marks the site. The current pews dated from 1867 and many gravestones were removed to the churchyard. The south porch shows evidence of sword and arrow sharpening on the external moulding. The main south door is attributed to Langley and the large wooden door with its wicket and drawbar is possibly from Langley’s time. The medieval font was recurved in 1847 by church architect George Shaw and around its rim are lead infills indicating where the locks and hinges once were. The portable harmonium, probably used at choir practice was purchased in 1889 for 6 pounds. Prior to the reformation mass was celebrated for the Hopwoods in their chapel. The pew was enclosed during the Jacobean period c. 1620. It was wonderful Tudor linen fold panelling and elongated barley twist spindles. Hopwood burials took place beneath their pew. The famous Assheton memorial brasses ‘the finest in Lancashire’ are by the altar. On top of the parclose (screen) is the Assheton funerary helmet adorned with the boar’s head, the family’s crest. The helmet was stolen from the church in the 1960’s but was recognized by a London antique dealer and it was returned. In 1911 the chancel was refurbished by parishioners. The 19th century choir stalls were replaced and the floor tiled. The flooded window is 500 years old and shows Sir Richard and Lady Anne Assheton and their squire together with the named – amazing –  contingent of Middleton archers and chaplain who would have accompanied Sir Richard to Flodden field – Sept 9, 1513. They look like individualized portraits. The oldest brasses , by the altar, are those of Sir Richard  Assheton and Isabel Talbot, 1507. Finest in the north of England according to the Brass Memorial Society. Facsimiles of the brasses are available for brass rubbing. The medieval rood screen avoided destruction during the reformation because the carvings were entirely secular. Cardinal Langley provided endowments for two priests to ‘teach one grammar school free for the poor children of the parish.’ The school continued here until 1586 when a new school was built – the Grammar school. Memorial window to Middleton men who fought in the Boer war, designed by George F Bodley, 1827-1907. The illustrated faces are those of some of the soldiers who went to South Africa. The present shallow pitch name roof of 1907 designed by Edgar Wood. The ‘leger’ stones  in front of the screen included Wrigley (Langley Hall). There are 9 bells from 1614-1891. The Nowster was rung every evening from 9.50-10.00 to warn people to get off home. This tradition began as a curfew bell at the time of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and continued until the outbreak of WW ll.

From the church I took a walk in the cemetery where a man with green and pink hair approached me. At first I was a little apprehensive. There was no-one else in site and he made a bee line for me crossing several flat stone graves to reach me. He was out walking his dog. He presumed I was in search of Samuel Bamford’s grave and he was eager to guide me to it. I’d been to see a movie about Sam Bamford at Manchester Museum, and i’d seen the Peterloo movie, made to coincide with the 200th anniversary of that massacre. I’d discovered that my ancestors were living in Middleton at the time of the Middleton Luddite riots in 1812 and so I presume that my ancestors who were weavers just like Sam Bamford could well have participated, or at least, were eye witnesses of the burning of Burton’s mill in Middleton. As it happened I’d just come to the end of reading Glyn Hughes’s ‘The Rape of the Rose’ and the final section describes the burning of that mill. It was reading that chapter that had led me to Middleton this particular day.

After exploring the cemetery I crossed the road and had lunch at the old Boar’s Head pub, where, quite by chance, i ended up sitting in the Sam Bamford room, decorated with photos of Sam and his family and other associated items.

Frederick Denton claims to be the dad!

My great great great uncle 1831-1912

Cheltenham Chronicle – Thursday 06 May 1852

“Rival Parentage.
The bench was engaged for upwards of two hours and a half in the investigation of an affiliation case, which created a considerable degree of interest from the very novel circumstance of linen draper’s shopman, of the name of Denton, in the employ of Messrs. and Holmes, voluntarily coming forward to claim being the putative father of an illegitimate child in rivalry to the supposed real father. Mr. Pilkington remarked it was a most novel proceeding, for he generally found that young men were only too anxious to get rid of the burden of maintaining an illegitimate offspring. The case was as follows: Jane Challenor v. W. Gardner. Mr. Chesshyre appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Pruen for the defendant. Jane Challenor, a good looking and apparently respectable young woman, stated that William Gardner, late assistant to Mr. Whitcombe, carver and gilder, Clarence Street, was the father of her illegitimate child, which was born on the 12th May, 1851, and that he allowed her 5s per week for its support until the child was four or five months old. Several low letters, written by the defendant, were then put in and read, the contents of which created no little merriment. The complainant, on being cross- examined by Mr. Pruen, said that the defendant was the only person that she had been on terms of intimacy with, had promised her marriage, and it was not until he deserted her and transferred his love to another that she took the present proceedings. She never charged any other person with being the father of her child. She had never written a letter to a person of the name of Denton, shopman to Messrs. Ponting and Holmes. The letter now produced was not her hand-writing, but will not swear whether it is or not. Never left the child with Mr. Denton in his employers’ shop, has she ever received any money towards its support from Denton. After the examination of the complainant’s mother, brother, and another witness in support of the case, Mr. Pruen called Mr. Frederick Denton, who gave his evidence in the most flippant manner, and was continually laughing, for which indecorous conduct he was severely rebuked by the Bench. He said he was a shopman to Ponting and Holmes, linen drapers, and he knew the complainant, with whom he had been on the most intimate terms. He received the letter now produced from the complainant, which is in her handwriting, and in consequence of that letter he had an interview with her, near St. Paul’s Church. He then told her that she had better write him word to say what sum money she would take to say nothing about the child. He had seen the complainant with the child in his employer’s shop, and told her if it was his child he should feel it a great honour to pay. [The witness here again commenced laughing.]

Mr. Pilkington—Witness, I must again request you not to make such flippant observations, and while in that box to behave with little decorum. In answer to some further questions on the subject, the witness said that the purport of the letter which wrote to Miss Challenor was, that having heard that she stated he was the father of her child, he thought it would be better to enter into some arrangement respecting it, and something like £10 would satisfy her, he would pay that amount, and that he would meet her any place she thought proper to name, to arrange the matter. The witness then said that he had paid 3s. 6d. towards the support of the child. (Roars of laughter.)

Cross-examined by Mr. Chesshyre—And so, after having offered £10, you come down to the liberal sum of 3s. 6d., is that so ?

Witness—l paid 3s. 6d. for one week. I paid it about six months ago.

Mr. Chesshyre—How did you become acquainted with the poor girl Witness—By serving her in the shop.

Mr. Chesshyre—And so you always serve your female customers in this manner Witness—l always serve them so if can. [The effrontery of this flippant answer caused no little surprise and indignation.] 1 have met the complainant dozens of times; I have met her every week until near the birth of the child. When the complainant brought the child, called my fellow-shopmen to look at it, believed I was the father of the child until one night I met the defendant Gardner, when he said he was the father, and I immediately replied, ” Oh, no, am the father; it is my child!” (Loud laughter.)

Mr. Pilkington—He certainly is most anxious to claim the honour, regardless of all shame. After the examination of another witness and the defendant, who was called to prove the hand-writing of complainant, Mr. Chesshyre said he should make no observations, but leave the matter for the Bench to decide. Mr. Pilkington said he hoped it would be a long while before they had such another case before them, when there were two claimants for one honour. After a brief consultation with Mr. Barnett, the worthy Chairman said the case was dismissed. The young lady said she was not satisfied, and applied, by the advice of Mr. Chesshyre,, for another summons, which was granted.”

(When Thomas Denton, my gt gt gt uncle, silk mercer and linen draper of Wootton Lawn, Gloucester, died in 1896 he left a considerable sum of money to Henry Ponking, silk mercer and linen draper. Thomas Denton was son of my gt gt gt gt grandparents: Daniel b. 1779 and Hannah. Thomas’s brother, Daniel, b 1804 and his wife Elizabeth had a son, Frederick. So I think this article is about ‘that’ Frederick. That would make Frederick the nephew of Thomas the linen draper, and therefore highly likely to have been working in his uncle’s shop. Thomas was joint owner of Denton and Holbrooks.
My gt gt gt uncle, Frederick Daniel Denton, was born in 1831 in Stroud. His parents were Daniel and Elizabeth.

Death of Thomas Denton

my great great great uncle 1821-1896

Gloucester Journal – Saturday 29 August 1896

GLOUCESTER JOURNAL, SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 1896. DEATH OF MR. THOMAS DENTON, J.P. regret to record the death of Mr. Thomas Denton, J.P., the well-known firm of Denton and Holbrook, drapers, a, Northgate-street, Gloucester, which occurred on Wednesday at his residence a 6 Wotton, 12.35 am. Deceased, who was 74 years of age, had been in failing health for some weeks past, suffering with an affection the heart, and the end had been expected at any moment. Mr. Denton had been prevented from attending to business since the middle of June, but previous to this he had bad rather severe illness. During his last attack deceased had received the best of medical skill, and he was attended by Dr. Batten, Mr. E. D. Bower, and Mr. Cuthbert, whilst last Saturday week Dr. Saunby, a specialist from Birmingham, was called in. The untiring efforts of both medical and nursing skill, however, eventually proved unavailing, the end coming stated above. The deceased gentleman was native of Thrupp, Stroud, and was in business as a draper in the latter town previous to coming to Gloucester in the early fifties. Mr. Denton first commenced business the city with a Mr. Aldred, but the partnership was dissolved after about two years, and the deceased carried on the business alone until the spring of 1887, when he was joined by his son-in-law, Mr. O. Holbrook. Mr. Denton was appointed a Justice of the Peace some few years ago, and held the office of City High Sheriff in 1881. It is, perhaps, by the local Wesleyans that the deceased’s Ices will be chiefly mourned, he being generally looked upon as the head of that body in Gloucester. For over 40 years deceased has identified himself with the work at the Northgate Church, and took the greatest interest in all that tended to help on the cause of Nonconformity in the city. Twenty years ago the present handsome chapel was erected a cost of £9,000, and mainly through the energy of the debt was cleared off 12 months ago, the fact being especially gratifying to the deceased. activity was so readily recognised by the local Wesleyans, that he was several times elected to the office of church steward, and he held every appointment in the Connection open to a layman. His home was always open to visiting ministers, all of whom have testified to the kind hospitality shown them. Deceased, who had been thrice married, leaves a widow, and four children by his first wife —Mrs. Holbrook, Mrs. Weston (whose husband is a Wesleyan minister Blackpool), the Rev. Sidney Denton, curate at Leamington, and Mr. Walter Denton, who is associated with the business. A t the Gloucester Police-court on Wednesday reference eras made to the death of Mr. Denton. The Chairman ( Trevor Powell) said: One of our most honoured and respected magistrates has this morning passed away, and I wish to express my deepest sympathy and that of the magistrates with the widow and family in their bereavement. Mr. Denton has been one of the most respected tradesmen in this city, and for his integrity he was greatly esteemed. He held several public offices in the city. Besides being a magistrate he one time filled the office of Sheriff.” Mr. D.C.C. Philpott said he wished to say that there was no magistrate for whom he entertained greater respect than for the late Mr. Denton. Pearce, Miss Lottie Pearce, Col. and Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Janet Slatter, Col. and Mrs. Seddon and family, Mr. and Mrs. Grimes, Mr. J. 0. Richards, Mr. and Mrs. Maitland, Trustees of Northgate-street Wesleyan Church, Mr. and Mrs. David Jones, Mr. W. E. Vinson, Mrs. Charles O. Grimes, the Misses Weston and Mias West, Mr, Percy M. Weston, Mr. Charles Davies, Mrs. Stafford Herbert, Mrs. Dainton, Miss Smith, Mrs. R. James, Miss F. Brookes, Messrs, J, B. Williams and Co., Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Carrington, Mrs. Castle, Mr. James Smart, Nurse Walsh, and Elizabeth (the housemaid). The funeral arrangements ware under the superintendence of Mr. F. E. Davenport, from the establishment Messrs. Denton and Holbrook.

Inside the Denton and Holbrooks store in Gloucester

Sally (of Lily Hall)

Did you love him, Sally,

You know, the man who lived next door?

A moment of passion

A stolen hour of comfort

That changed my life forever.

You were hardly a spring chicken

Newly widowed

Three young children

And him, newly wed

With a bairn on the way.

You took him to court

Made him pay for his deed

Support this new daughter

Miss Elizabeth Ann

Did he hear her cry in the night

Through the partition walls that divide Lily Hall?

Or did his wife’s child’s whimperings

Obliterate that constant reminder?

She took her dead father’s name

And didn’t call James  her father

Until she married for a second time

Barely clinging to the hillside

Defying gravity

Lily Hall’s window eyes survey the town

Keeping a watchful eye

On the terraces below

As they seemingly slide down the hillside

You watched the mill chimneys soar

New manufactories rise from the ashes of old

The streams diverted, the sluices opened

And the millponds enclosed.

James came from a family of builders

Plasterers, carpenters, cabinet makers

The business grew

Schools, churches, banks and factories.

Now, today, you keep your watchful eyes on me

As I explore the buildings

Where you lived, that you built,

Roads that you traversed

And paths where you once walked.

(Sally Whitham was my great great great grandma)

Samuel Gibson 1793-1849

It’s bank holiday Monday and I was looking forward to going on a guided hike to Lumbutts and Mankinholes. I mean, you have to give it to these Yorkshire folk. They sure know how to name a village! A blue sky had allowed the sun to shine in the early morning and the town soon filled up with holiday makers, dawdling along the pavements as they window shopped, making it virtually impossible for residents on a mission to pass them on the narrow sidewalks. A bouncy castle had appeared in the park a couple of days ago in readiness for the festive occasion and loudspeakers carried muffled voices to my windows.  By 8 a.m. the ice-cream van was already parked outside my apartment anticipating good business. But I had seen the weather forecast. In fact, I had followed the weather forecast hourly and there was 80% chance of rain my 1 p.m. and so I abandoned my plan for the hike since those two wonderfully named villages lie way high up on the moors above Todmorden, highly exposed to wind gusts. Just before 1 the rain arrived in the valley and I could only suppose that on the hillsides it was falling horizontally. So I opted for a day of quiet contemplation – ancestry stuff and another embroidered door for my current textile project. 

For the last two weeks I’ve been on the trail of Samuel Gibson, 1793-1849. Who’s he? Well, if you must know he’s  the father-in-law of my 4th great aunt. Are you any the wiser? A few weeks ago in April 2019 I was invited to a friend’s house in Warley and as I hiked back down the steep hill to Burnley Road I went in search for Butts Green cemetery. Yes, I know: another wonderfully named place. I recalled that one of my ancestors had been laid to rest there but certainly couldn’t remember which one which didn’t surprise me since I have over 8000 people in my family tree. I knew that the chapel which once stood adjacent had long since vanished but I did manage to find the cemetery almost hidden by brambles and years of tree debris. In fact, if I hadn’t have noticed the elaborate wrought iron gates, invitingly ajar, I probably would have missed the cemetery all together. It’s completely overgrown now. I doubt if anyone ever enters its silent recesses. I glanced at the names on the upright plinths to see if any jogged my memory. All the flat stones were covered with mosses and dead leaves. I took a couple of photos and thought the iron gate might inspire a panel in my door project.

When I arrived home I discovered that the name of the ancestor buried there is Samuel Gibson, and so I set about finding out more about him than the scant information I’d already entered on his profile on ancestry.com.  I knew that he’d been a collector of fossils and  mosses and that at one time he’d opened an inn/museum in Mytholmroyd (yep, another interesting name) where he showed off his collection. Even that wonderful source of  information about Calderdale, Malcolm Bull’s site, asks, ‘Does anyone know the name of the pub?’ So I set about trying to answer this call for help. I discovered that Sam’s collection had been a vast, that he was renowned throughout the North of England, and beyond, that his collection in now housed in the Manchester Museum, that he hobnobbed with the leading British collectors of his day, that there were over a dozen articles about him in newspapers of his day, and that there was even an entry about him in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography! Italics are extracts taken from this dictionary:

Gibson, Samuel (1793–1849), smith and naturalist, was born at Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire. His father was a whitesmith and Methodist preacher at Butt Green chapel. Ah, ha. I only knew that his father was a Mr Gibson, minister.I found a book listed in Halifax archives listing the events at Butts Green Chapel and have an appointment to go and view it tomorrow. Gibson attended Sunday school briefly before beginning to work as his father’s apprentice. He soon became a skilled whitesmith and mechanic, and in 1814 was employed by a maker of spindles and flies in nearby Hebden Bridge. Hmm, I think I know what a spindle is but I’m not sure about a fly. As I dug around online to find out what these devices were used for and what they looked like I came across the Queen Street textile Mill in Burnley and decided I’d take a trip there. I checked and it was possible to get there by bus, and a day out in Burnley travelling over the Pennines seemed a good idea. As it turned out a planned walk had to be cancelled due to the nasty weather – again – so I spent a wonderful two hours at the museum where, apart from one school group, I had the undivided attention of the two docents who had both worked in the weaving mill, as had their parents. I found out a lot about weaving, fascinating, but on asking about spindle and flies I was told that they belonged to the spinning mills, not the weaving shed. Hmm. My mum worked in a spinning mill. She’d have known.  He set up his own whitesmith’s shop in 1820 and was established as a ‘tinman’ in Hebden Bridge when Richard Spruce first consulted him about the botany of mosses in the late 1830s. Mr Spruce (1817-1893) spent 15 years exploring the Amazon from the Andes to its mouth. Wikipedia lists 11 publications that he penned from 1841-1850, and he corresponded with some of leading biologists of the nineteenth century. My ancestor was indeed in elevated company. Later, Gibson was more commonly described as a blacksmith. He married in 1812 and had a family of nine children.

Gibson became interested in botany in 1813 and pursued it his entire life, keeping, in later years, a much used and grimy copy of William Jackson Hooker’s British Flora (1830) on his workbench. Mr Hooker was none other than the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London. One of his collecting trips took him to Iceland in 1809. On the trip back the ship caught fire and all his notes and specimens were lost but his prodigious memory allowed him to still write about his findings. He soon established himself as an excellent discriminator of plants, particularly the difficult groups of sedges and mosses, as well as of insects and fossil shells. Gibson’s skill was primarily manifested in his large collections. He was a lively and sometimes controversial contributor to the popular botanical magazine The Phytologist (1841–4). Most of his discoveries, however, were encompassed in the works of others, notably John Phillips’s Illustrations of the Geology of Yorkshire (part 2, 1836); Henry Baines’s Flora of Yorkshire (1840); Thomas Brown’s ‘Description of some new species of fossil shells’, Transactions of the Manchester Geological Society (1, 1841, 212–35); Edward Newman’s History of British Ferns (1844); and Richard Buxton’s Botanical Guide (1849).

Gibson’s local knowledge of botany and geology was sought by the surgeon and Methodist Robert Howard, and included in his publication A history of the typhus of Heptonstall-Slack … together with a sketch of the physical condition of the hand-loom weavers (1844), a pamphlet describing the harsh living conditions of working people of the area. I managed to find a copy of this online. It’s a paper describing the ‘History of the Typhus of Heptonstall-Slack which prevailed as an endemic during the winter of 1843-4 accompanied by remarks of the Sanatory (sic) state of that village; together with a stitch of the physical condition of the ?Handloom weavers by /Robt Howard, surgeon, etc. Two letters are appended upon the geology and botany of Heptonstall hill and its vicinity by Mr. Samuel Gibson.’ What’s remarkable to me is the language of these letters. To realize that the only schooling Samuel received was likely to have been a very brief time in Sunday school, perhaps given by his father, the minister, makes the reading of these very scholarly letters remarkable. Many place names that I’ve come to know are mentioned in the letters: Midge Hole, Crimsworth, High Greenwood, Slater Bank, Eaves, Mytholm.  By 1845 Gibson himself faced destitution when he had to abandon his craft following a fall from a building. It’s strange that I can’t find any newspaper reference to this fall. If he was such a pillar of society both for his naturalist work, and as a whitesmith and blacksmith in Hebden Bridge I would have certainly expected some newspaper reference to his fall, but perhaps the seriousness of his fall and its result was not at first recognised. His injuries were considered the cause of his subsequent poor health and cantankerous nature. Following his accident, he took over an inn in Mytholmroyd in which he established a museum.

Although living in an isolated area, Gibson associated with gentlemen and artisan naturalists from Manchester as well as from nearby Todmorden and Halifax. He also corresponded with several eminent botanists. The Manchester Geological Society elected him an honorary member in 1843. He had become more widely known to men of science in the previous year, when his fossil shells were exhibited at the Manchester meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which Gibson was allowed to attend, but in 1847 he was forced to sell this collection to the Manchester Natural History Society because his pub–museum failed to attract sufficient customers.

This sale allowed Gibson to leave the inn and move to a nearby cottage in early 1848. Probably suffering from heart disease, he soon became bedridden and during a long illness had to sell all his specimens of fossils, land and fresh-water shells, and birds. Edward William Binney, geologist and warm supporter of artisan naturalists, became aware of Gibson’s plight in May 1849 and immediately made appeals for his support. By the end of the month Adam Sedgwick, William Buckland, and Lord Fitzwilliam had sent contributions and Binney was investigating ways of selling Gibson’s remaining collections. EDWARD BINNEY was born on December 7, 1819, and died in December, 1881. He was three times president of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, was president of the Manchester Geological Society, and in 1856 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.Samuel’s grandson had been  named Thomas Binney Gibson. I had been a little confused by the Binney name since it sounded like a surname. I suspected it had been his mother’s maiden name but I knew that wasn’t the case. In my notes a see that Barbara Atak of the Hebden Bridge Historical Society had told me that Thomas was given that middle name because of a family friend. Now I know that it was none other than the founder of the Manchester Geological Society. Again, these are the circles in which this unschooled ancestor thrived. In August 1849 Gibson’s almost complete British herbarium was bought for £75 by Mark Philips, MP for Manchester from 1832 to 1847; his entomological collection, consisting of thirty-four boxes of insects, was retrieved by Binney (with Sedgwick’s help) from a clergyman who had bought them from Gibson’s wife for £2, and was resold for £45. These funds became Gibson’s bequest to his family for he had died in Mytholmroyd on 21 May 1849; he was buried at Butt Green four days later.

Halifax Courier, Aug 12, 1939

SPRUCE VISITS SAM. GIBSON. Not all working: men were politically minded, and by way of contrast to the Chartists, there is a contemporary glimpse, though it is only at second or third hand, of the naturalist workingman in the person of Samuel Gibson, of Hebden Bridge. The district has bred a good many of them. Anyone who knew James Needham can recognise the type. Gibson’s visitor and friend was Richard Spruce, who later gained fame as a naturalist-traveller in South America. When twenty or so he was teaching mathematics in and near York, and sought help from Gibson in the first stages of his study of botany. His Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes were put into shape after his death by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1908; and in a slight sketch of Spruce, he pieces together these few fragments. The visit may be dated about 1839-40. 1839-1840—He tells in letter to Mr. Borrer that Samuel Gibson was his first adviser on the study of mosses. This Gibson was a whitesmith, or tinman,” at Hebden Bridge . . . and Spruce probably visited him during: his first residence near York, since Gibson soeaks of him as his friend in 1841. Spruce told Mr. Slater that he had seen Gibson in his workshop with Hooker’s “British Flora” on the bench by his side, and that it was in parts so begrimed and blackened to be almost illegible.

Bradford daily Telegraph, Jan 7. 1899 

AN HOUR IN HALIFAX MUSEUM At this season of the year, when comparatively little can be done by the naturalist out of doors, few places arc more fascinating than a museum of natural history but unfortunately for the Bradford student, should be desirous of consulting a collection of birds, fossils, plants, insects, shells, etc., available to the public, must visit some other town, such as Leeds, Huddersfield, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester or Halifax. For an important city like Bradford this is by no means a satisfactory state of affairs, especially in view of the approaching visit of the British Association; but probably ere that time arrives something will be done, and there will no longer need of complaint in this direction. During the recent holidays – we spent a pleasant hour the public museum at Belle Vue, Halifax, and were pleased to find that good progress has been made towards making it useful institution. As yet, it must be remembered that the museum is only in its infancy; in fact a few years ago most of the specimens were mouldering in the dust in the museums of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society, who generously offered the whole of the collections the town, on condition that suitable home be found for them. The offer was accepted, and the specimens have been overhauled, and now form a good nucleus towards a permanent educational natural history museum. Especially rich is the geological collection, which contains a beautiful series of fossil plants. from coal pits and quarries in the neighbourhood, in addition to examples of local erratics from Elland and Mirfield. There is also a good variety of interesting fossils from the Silurian chalk, oolite, lias. and other formations. The specimens are somewhat cramped for want of room, and were arranged by the late well- known geologist, Mr. J.Spencer F.G.S. A small room adjoining contains the botanical specimens, which include the âLeyland Herbarium, a large and almost complete collection of British plants; the âKing Herbarium.â valuable on account of the local examples It contains, and the Gibson Herbarium.â The latter was formed by Samuel Gibson, of Hebden Bridge, an eminent naturalist of 60 years ago. On his death a large portion of his collection was acquired for the Salford Museum where may now be seen. His herbarium ultimately fell into the Lady Trevelyan, who recently presented it to the Museum. 

So yesterday I spent an hour at the archives in Halifax. The room opened last year after major reconstruction. It was once a church and it retains the bare stone walls and the amazing tracery on the rose window. It’s a nice place to study! I was looking at the book about Butts Green chapel. The first entry in the book is 1784 and read ‘In 1778 several persons in and about Halifax dissatisfied with the Doctrines and Ideas of Professors in general’ made it known and ‘Mr Johnson a minister in Liverpool made acquaintance with our situation.’ Malcolm Bull: A Baptistsect founded in the 18th century by John Johnson [1706-1791], a Baptist minister of Liverpool. In 1783 William Hill, a member of the church at Norwich came over from Manchester. St Albons was for sale at the time. Mr Hill stayed some months. A letter was sent from Roylshead to John Chambers on June 12, 1791, from signed by Abraham Dawson, John King, Joseph Robinson, Joseph Laycock, Betty Whitaker and. John Broadbent. John Chambers replied from Halifax on June 18, 1791 and on July 20, 1791 John Chambers was made minister and Abraham Dawson was made Deacon by the laying on of hands by Samuel Fisher, a minister from Norwich, being at Liverpool. But Abraham Dawson died Sept 30, 1791, John Broadbent died Dec 10, 1792, Betty Whitaker March 30, 1800 and Joseph Robinson Sept 26, 1800. “About this time the people called Methodists assembled at their meeting house in Luddenden, but the numbers had ‘dwindled to so very few that they are determined to give up their meeting house and also sell their pulpit and pews. They approached us to buy them. Accordingly that it being so very cold meeting at Roylshead (in the Wakefield manor book of 1709 Thomas Turner paid 1shilling and 11 pence to rent a messuage called Roylshead in Warley. It’s also mentioned in The Coiners connection. went down to Jos. Shaw’s and in his way thither was overtaken by Robt. Thomas 

who was coming down Gibbet Lane, and asked to do a Penny at Jos. Shaw’s, saying 

he had some Law to stop for some sort of a fellow. Tliat this was between 7 and 8 

o’clock at Night and they went into Jos. Shaw’s and had 4 or 5 pints of Ale, then 

came away about 8 o’clock, came both togeth’er up Gibbet Lane, over Roylshead to 

Newland Gate|| then parted a little below, and this Examt, went over at Luddenden 

Foot and directly Home. in the winter time that many of us were catching cold and being indisposed that it will be better for us to take the meeting house and purchase pews and pulpit.  When the congregation at Luddenden increased they wanted to have their old meeting house back but we refused to leave it.” Members of Luddenden  went to Pennystone (1 Hammerhead found at Robia Hood’s Penny Stone, Warley. by J. R. Edwards – from the Coners book) On Saltonstall moor […] Soon after I had left the moor, on the right side of the road leading to the village of Luddenden, I saw what is generally called Robin Hood’s Penny-stone, for the country people here attribute every thing of the marvellous kind to Robin Hood, as in Cornwall they do to king Arthur. Thus, for instance, he is said to have used this stone to pitch with at a mark for amusement; and to have thrown the standing stone in Sowerby off an adjoining hill with a spade as he was digging; but I confess, that some of the common people will smile when they relate these stories; they are not quite so credulous now as their great grandfathers were. This last mentioned remain is a stone of several tons weight, laid upon a massy piece of rock, with a large pebble of a different grit between them, which is wedged so fast, that it is very plain it was put there by human art, or strength. I could not learn whether this [p. 28:] would ever rock or not, (meeting with but one person to converse with,) but if it did, probably it was poised on this pebble, and might some time or other have been thrown off its center. (See No. 6. of the plate.)[9]to John Mills, the owner of the place, and offered him a great price without telling him that it was now the home of the ‘Butts Green’ congregation. The place at Roylshead had already been let as a cottage so they couldn’t return. So the people applied to James Bradley of Halifax who was willing to lend 2/3 of the sum a new place would cost to build, and they agreed to pay him 5% of the money he would lend us. We applied to Richard Whitworth of Saltonstall (steward of John Dearden esq.) to sell us Buts Field which is opposite Buts Green in Warley for 50 pounds. They began to get stone and build in May 1805. “During this time we continued meeting at Luddenden til June 1805 when the Methodists utterly refused us any further meetings there.” So on November 10, 1805 there was the first meeting with John King. On October 8, 1808 William Gibson (is he related to MY Gibsons?) Was received into this church by the laying on of hands and he received the supper. He had been baptized before he came to us.” On Feb 4, 1829 John Chambers, the pastor for 38 years died. That meant he became pastor in 1791. Where does this leave Samuel Gibson’s father who I understood to have been pastor when Samuel was a boy. Samuel was born in 1793! Brother King was offered the post. He turned it down at first, in a letter dated June 11, 1837 protesting his unreadiness for such an important position but then took up the position at the urging of the congregation. When he died on February 15, 1858 various visiting pastors took the services. When he died, aged 88, he been pastor for 21 years. 

John Chambers 1791-1829

Brother King 1837-1858

According to Malcolm Bull’s website:

John Chambers [1791] Mr Gibson [1790s] John King [1838-1858  

There’s a noticeable change in the handwriting in the book I was consulting. Chamber’s is a beautiful copperplate. King’s is barely legible in places. 

The next day I spent the afternoon in the archives at Hebden Bridge historical Society assisted by the ever helpful Diana Monahan and David Cant who often leads guided history walks in the area. The archives had a copy of the Flora of Halifax, by Crump and Crossland, a book published in 1904. “ Gibson left  large botanical collections. Some appear to be lost now, but the Royal Museum, Peel Park, Salford, contains his collection of seeds and seed-vessels of British and Foreign plants, mounted between glass slips of examination under the microscope. His herbarium of British flowering plants, said to have been valued at 75 pounds, was purchased after his death by Mr Mark Philips, M.P for Manchester. I was fortunate enough a few years ago to trace it to the possession of his daughter, Lady Trevelyan, of Welcombe, Stratford-on-Avon, and shortly afterwards, Lady Trevelyan, acting on my suggestion, presented it to the Halifax Corporation, and it was deposited in the Belle Due Museum in 1897. (This is none other than the Crossley House famous for its conservatory. It was built for Crossley of Crossley carpets – now dean Clough. My great Auntie Lil worked there. Elizabeth Ann Whitham, of Lily Hall,  my gt gt grandma was a servant there. It was sold to Halifax corporation was was used as a library and in 1897 it became the Belle Vue Museum)This had enabled me to examine and re-arrange the herbarium and to record all the local records in this Flora. These  represent about 230 species, gathered between 1823 and 1848.The specimens as a whole are in a fair state of preservation, but are not so well mounted, being merely preserved loose between sheets of paper, not so well labelled as King’s and Leyland’s.” The third herbarium at Belle Vue was formed by Samuel King. The youngest son of John King, he was born at Lane House, Midgley, on June 12th, 1810. Lane House was then a Harmon the way from Luddenden Foot to Luddenden and John King also carried on there the manufacture of plush cloths by hand loom. Samuel King looked after the farm in his younger days, but being passionately fond of flowers and wild plants, he made a nursery garden between the house and the brook, and used to show herbaceous and alpine plants at the flower show at Pye Nest. Ay new time he was gardener at the Hollins, Warley, when tulips were still in favor (‘!’) And the collection under his care was a valuable one. The nursery at Lane House he handed over to his nephews, William and Charles Eastwood, in the year 1860, as he was becoming incapacitated for work through failing eyesight. Eventually he became blind but in spite of his he remained for many years minister at Butts Green Baptist Chapel, Warley. Shortly after giving up the nurses King went to live at Bank Bottom, Luddenden. His Herbarium was presented to the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society.” There follows a letter he wrote to the society. 

David Cant pointed me in the direction  of a publication by the Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1960, p. 15-22 about H. W. Harwood, a whitesmith like Samuel Gibson – A family of Smiths. John Smith 1786-1875 had a smithy at Rough Bottom. David told me that this is on the road between Old Town and Midgley where I’ve walked frequently. It was situated at the westerly bottom corner pf Rough Fields and Harwood lived in the one on. The left. The smithy was at the eastern end of the buildings, somewhat recessed, parallel with Heights Road (at Foster Clough). There was a suicide who was buried at Four Lane Ends. Edgar Harwood’s wife died falling off the trestle at Walshaw Dean. I went to the stanchions of the trestle last September. The trestle was designed by Cockcroft. 

I’d set up a meeting with David Gelsthorpe, curator of paleontology 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. 

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 Lindsay and her PhD student gave me their undivided attention. 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! 

Mrs Gaskell’s ‘Mary Barton’ :”There is a class of men in Manchester, unknown even to many of the inhabitants, and whose existence will probably be doubted by many, who yet may claim kindred with all the noble names that science recognizes. I said “in Manchester” but they are scattered all over the manufacturing districts of Lancashire. In the neighborhood of Oldham there are weavers, common hand-loom weavers, who throw the stubble with unceasing sound – Mathematical problems problems are received with interest and studied with absorbing attention by many a broad-spoken, common-looking factory hand. It is perhaps less astonishing that the more popularly interesting branches of natural history have their warm devoted followers amongst this class. There are botanists among them, equally familiar with with the Linnaean of the Natural system, who know the name and habitat of every plant within a day’s walk from their dwellings; who steal the holiday of a day or two when any particular plant should be in flower, and tying up their simple food in their pocket handkerchiefs, set off with single purpose to fetch home the humble-looking weed. There are entomologists who may be seen with a rude-looking net, ready to catch any winged insect, or a kind of dredge with which they rake the green and slimy pools; practical, strewn, hard-working men, who pour over every specimen with real scientific delight.” From Millstone Grit by Glyn Hughes p 20-21.

Update: Sept 17, 2019

I’d read conflicting statements as to where Samuel was buried. According to the wonderful Malcolm Bull website Samuel was buried at Halifax Minster. There’s even a photo of his grave on the site but other sources say that he’s buried at Butts Green Chapel, Warley, so today i went to the archives in Halifax to discover the truth. Fortunately one of the historical societies have made a book of all the transcriptions at the now abandoned Butts Green and sure enough Samuel’s gravestone is recorded – and it’s the same one as pictured on the Malcolm Bull website. There was even a map of the plots so I can go and take a look to see if I can find it!

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 – Samuel Gibson’s collection at Manchester Museum

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. 

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.

 

Older posts