Ben Meadowcroft’s daughter, Annie married Herbert Halstead, the nephew of Handel Halstead. I found that Ben made his living as an innkeeper keeping one of the pubs in Hebden Bridge, close to my home.
The Shoulder of Mutton is in the very centre of Hebden Bridge. In fact I often think of it as ‘being the centre of Hebden Bridge.’ Spanning one entire side of St George’s square it’s where the tourists throng on summer afternoons, its outside tables bedecked in men minus their shirt but plus their beer guts, seemingly attempting to catch so much sun as to appear lobster red so that they can show their workmates on Monday morning what a good time they’ve had over the weekend.
In 2017 Sarah and I had spent a great couple of weeks in Hebden, staying at Thorn Bank, which, unbeknownst to us at the time, had been a boarding school that our Moss ancestors used to run. After two weeks Sarah was flying back to the US and I was staying on for a few more weeks by myself. My journal of that trip reads: The weather matched out mood as Sarah began packing for her journey home. Sarah was so sad about leaving England and I was anxious about how I was going to deal with being alone in England for 8 weeks. (It seems strange to be copying that sentence in November after making the decision to move to England). We had lots of clean up to do at Thorn Bank so I suggested we got it done and then wander into Hebden Bridge for a final drink. It was still raining hard and we were unsure which pub to go in but after passing a few and looking in the windows we decided on The Shoulder of Mutton where we’d gone on our first night. Then it had been packed and there had been standing room only. Now there were only a couple of tables in use and by the time we left at 10 p.m. we were the only ones left. Talk about a lack of atmosphere – and what a contrast to Saturday night. Where was everybody tonight? ”
I’ve only been in a couple of times since then but now that I know that one of our ancestors was the landlord in 1901 until his death 3 years later I need to pay another visit.
But before that off I went – metaphorically speaking – into Ben’s life story. I found myself learning about the local sport of knur and spell in which Ben excelled and locating the location of a now demolished pub in Luddendenfoot with the unusual name of the Chatburn and Jennings but was locally known as ‘The Bug Trap.’ I even managed to find a photo of his brother, Spencer, online.
Born in 1858 to Reuben, an outdoor labourer, and his wife Hannah, Ben was the 9th out of 10 children. The family had been living at Thorpe House for at least 7 years by the time Ben was born. I wondered if he got his name as a shortened form of Reuben. One interesting fact that I had at first overlooked was that Hannah’s maiden name was Thorpe and . . . . they named one of their children Thorpe. Could it have been a coincidence that they lived at Thorpe House? I needed to find out more about their home. In 1851 there were 4 families living in Thorpe House on Hand Carr Lane above Luddenden. Reuben was an outdoor labourer, and his sons were a joiner, a mason’s labourer, a labourer in a cotton mill, and the rest were cotton weavers and worsted spinners – all manual jobs. Living next door in Thorpe House were the Crowther family – and, oh my goodness the head of the family was called Thorp Crowther (who ‘declined work’). His son, also called Thorp was a worsted weaver! What is this Thorp thing going on here? Next door to them was a stone mason and his family and lastly a farmer of 8 acres who was also a stone mason. So altogether there were 28 people living in Thorpe House in 1851. In 1988 it became a listed building though unfortunately there are no photographs of the property in the listing. Searching further I found that the property is now Willow Royd Stables and Equestrian centre which recently came up for sale at just over one million pounds.
Ben Meadowcroft married Mary Nicholl at Halifax minster in 1878. He was 20 and she was 19. The couple set up home at Middle Hathershelf above Scout Road. I looked up the location on Google Earth. Even today the lane is barely wide enough for a car to travel along. It’s in a very exposed position with amazing views over the Calder valley on the same side of the valley as Sowerby. And then I remembered something! I’ve walked down that very lane. I quickly pulled out my Ordinance survey map on which I mark routes that I have hiked and yes, Hathershelf Lane was marked in pink. (Thank you, Sarah, for the set of marker pens).
I found the location of Middle Hathershelf farm on an 1851 map. Something was still ringing a bell inside my head, so I check my photos to see when I’d walked down that lane. The answer – November 18, 2019 and yes, you’ve guessed it – I’d taken a photo of a very picturesque ancient farmhouse that was – – – Middle Hathershelf farm.
Ben was making his living as an engine tenter, stretching out woollen cloths to dry using a machine in a mill. I wonder which mill. His house was 600ft above the valley floor where I presume the nearest mill would have been at Luddendenfoot.
But by 1885 the family had migrated into the valley bottom and Ben had taken up a new occupation. He was the landlord at the now demolished Chatburn and Jennings Hotel. The inn had received its license in 1861 and closed in 1923 due to ‘redundancy.’
Wow! What a name for a pub. I read in a newspaper article that the name had come about because of a family dispute between the two families but by the locals it was known as The Bug Trap. As Stephen Gee writes in his Halifax Pubs book about The Bug Trap ‘and we’ve all known a few of them.’ For me it brought back memories of a trip to Romania when Ceaușescu was still in power, and being eaten alive by bed bugs in the hostel I was staying in. Ben’s pub, however, was situated not in an Eastern European country but on the corner of Station Road and Burnley Road in West Yorkshire but was closed due to ‘redundancy’ in 1923 and public toilets were built on the site. I’ve spent many hours waiting for a bus at this junction, little knowing of my connection with its past residents.
10 years later Ben was still running the pub, his 12 year old daughter, Annie, already being employed in the mill as a worsted operative. By then his daughters Lizzie and Beatrice were aged 5 and 3.
By 1899, however, I found the family installed in the Shoulder of Mutton in the centre of Hebden Bridge, where I started out my story. When Ben died in 1904 at the age of 46 it appears that Mary was missing the ‘high life’ and she moved back to the hill tops, this time to the South side of the Calder Valley and she took over the running of The Lord Nelson at Midgley (license transferred Oct 6, 1905 from B. Bailey) 1905, 1908 Malcolm Bull). The pub opened as the Black Rock inn in 1755 and changed its name to The Lord Nelson after the battle of Trafalgar according to Halifaxpeople.com. Other sites state that the Black Rock was actually housed in the cottages close to the current Lord Nelson which have since been demolished. The elevated position of the pub made it a favourite with walking groups and in 1884 it featured in a ramble of the Cragg Vale botanical society as they explored the flora of Hill House Clough (Hill House being the scene of the murder/suicide of another of my ancestors). After a pleasant tea in the pub the men displayed their specimens on a table and a man from Littleborough named them. In 1887 the Lord Nelson was in the news again for a much more gruesome reason. A young woman from the village, Sarah Ann Shackleton aged 23, had been seen making her way to the outdoor privy. A neighbour asked her “Art thou poorly” and she replied that she had a bowel complaint. A few minutes later the neighbour saw her going up the cobbled lane back to her house, holding on to the wall for support. She then appeared to drop something and hastily put it under her shawl. A few steps later she stumbled again and was seen holding onto the wall for support before she fainted. Two days later a doctor was called to her home on Towngate, Midgley, where she lived with her father. At first she denied having given birth to a baby but finally she admitted that she had, and that she had buried the baby on the moor. Constable, P. C Person was called and Sarah Ann told him exactly where she had buried the baby. A search was made and the baby was found buried on the moor, 2 miles above the village. The baby girl taken to the Lord Nelson inn where a doctor carried out an autopsy. Sarah Ann was sent for trial at the York assizes.
No longer a pub but a private residence I passed it last week as I went to watch a performance by the Midgley Pace Eggers – again, unaware of my connection with its former residents. Mary was the licensee in 1905 and 1908. The pub closed as an Inn for good on 27th December 1932. (information from Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale Companion). In July 1908 Mary left the Lord Nelson and moved back to the Chatburn and Jennings. 1911 finds Mary and daughters Lizzie and Beatrice there. Rather unusually those two daughters, now aged 25 and 23 were still unmarried. Annie had married Herbert Halstead.
Mary was still running the pub in 1922.
However, in May 1923 it was clear that its days were numbered. Members of Luddenden Foot district council toured the highways and byways of the district to the accompaniment of sunshine and showers.
So Mary was forced to sell the furnishings and effects from the inn and her home. So far I’ve been unable to find out where she moved to. But what could I discover about what these ancestors liked to did in their spare time? I turned to my main source – the local newspapers of the day. Somehow it didn’t surprise me that Ben’s first mention in the newspaper was drink related. I’ve seen this in so many of my ancestors, especially those who were running pubs. Take Paul Taylor for example, who was running the Fox and Goose in Hebden Bridge. In 1875, aged 17, he was charged with allowing drinking on his premises after hours and also gambling on the Lord’s day. The following year Paul’s brother John, landlord of the Stubbing Wharf was charged with being drunk in his own establishment. In 1882 ‘two men were charged with being drunk whilst being in charge of a horse and trap in Hebden Bridge. Ben Meadowcroft of Brearley was charged with drunkenness at the same time and place. The evidence of P.C. Smith went to show that at about 7 o’clock on the evening named, he saw the defendants and four others driving furiously down Bridge-lanes. He signalled to them to stop, but one of the party called out–” Drive over the b—r.” He caught hold of the trap behind, and jumped on, and after some trouble got the defendants’ names. The defendants were all drunk. Midgley and Fielding drove.–Paul Taylor, beerseller, Newgate-end, was called by the police to prove that two of the defendants were so drunk that he refused to serve them immediately before they encountered the police. Fielding was, however, not so drunk, and was served. Several witnesses were called for the defendants, who positively swore that when they arrived home about 7.30, they were not drunk.—P.S. Eastwood stated that the defendants’ party drove through Hebden Bridge at about 3 p.m., and again in the evening on the 19th ult., one of the party playing a concertina, and others singing.–Midgley was ordered to pay a fine of 20/- and the costs 11/9; Fielding a fine of 20/- and costs 9/6 ; and Meadowcroft a fine of and costs 9/6.’
I find it pretty amazing that it was Paul Taylor who had refused to serve them. I wonder which one of the people charged was playing the concertina!
In 1898 Ben did not appear at Todmorden petty sessions to defend himself on a charge of allowing his dog to roam the streets unmuzzled from his home at the Shoulder of Mutton. He was fined 2/6 and 7/6 costs.
But Ben features in the newspaper in 1886 for more positive reasons too.
KNUR AND SPELL for £50.—There were quite two thousand persons assembled Halifax Racecourse on Saturday, when Ben. Meadowcroft of Luddenden Foot and Fred. Moore of Halifax, met to contest the best of 30 rises each, level, with wood knurs, for £25 a side. Speculation was of a heavy character, closing at 30 to 20 on Moore. At the first five rises each man registered 51 score, but from this point Moore gradually forged ahead.
Ben was more successful however at a Knur and Spell competition in Wakefield that was recounted in the Yorkshire Post in 1893.’KNUR AND SPELL CONTEST AT WAKEFIELD.— There was a very large attendance at the City Grounds, Wakefield, Saturday afternoon. The men engaged were Ben Meadowcroft, of Luddendenfoot, and Harold Dyson, Huddersfield, who agreed to play 30 rises each, with wood heads and knurs for £5O a side. Betting ruled 25 Meadowcroft. Dyson opened very badly, having a miss at the third rise, and the first five rises gave the favourite a lead score, which was increased score after half-time. Meadowcroft played regular stroke, whilst Dyson was very uneven, and was badly beaten by 22 score, the totals being Meadowcroft 287, Dyson 265.
Two years later in 1895 we read that On Saturday a match was played on the grounds of the Lightcliffe Gun Club, between Ben Meadowcroft. of Luddenden-foot, and Fred Moore, Kavensthorpe, for £25 side. Meadowcroft was the winner by 18 score.
But what on earth IS this game? I mean £5O was a year’s wages at the time. I’d never heard of it until I moved here and read about a Knur and Spell ground in the Popples area of Heptonstall. The principle of the game was to strike a small hard ball called the knur. The knur was either thrown up or suspended in a loop of cord, with a specially constructed stick called the spell. The aim was to drive the ball as far as possible. Shots of up to 300 yards have been recorded. The match was decided by the longest knock, or the best average in an agreed number of knocks. The course was marked with vertical pegs at intervals of 20 yards to facilitate measurements, which were taken over walls, huts or other obstructions. Matches were normally between twenty and thirty knocks, with each player taking five consecutive shots in turn. A referee supervised the contest and the rules were observed rigidly. The game was often called “poor man’s golf” and was a popular pub sport in West Yorkshire, especially in the Calder Valley.
To watch a knur and spell that took place in 2015 watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfNV6ChcMtw
A game in 1932: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KH_Xs_8SKI
But knur and spell was not the only string to Ben’s bow. He was also a keen pigeon shooter. In 1898 he participated in a competition at Lane ends, with John Thomas. Wadsworth, Thomas killed seven and Meadowcroft six out of nine.
To be continued . . . perhaps I’ll research more members of the Meadowcroft family. It takes me to the Luddenden Valley which was quite magical when I visited this week on a sunny morning. It also gives me a reason to explore further the hillside between Sowerby and Luddenden Foot.
I discovered this startling fact just a few weeks ago, and despite my life being filled with coincidences this one took my by surprise. OK, OK. I haven’t told you the full story – not quite. What happened was this: I discovered that one of my ancestors was named George Frederic Handel Halstead and he was born in 1848 at Marsh, a farm high on the hill above Hebden Bridge, just a little below the village of Blackshaw Head. The week after I discovered this fact one of my blog followers informed me that Marsh farm is currently for sale – for 975,000 pounds! There were 30 photos of the property including views across to Stoodley pike and also the inside of the barn with its original framing.
George didn’t live to see his first birthday, dying when he was just 11 months old, 90 years after the composer Handel had died. But just his name had me hooked on finding more about him and his family. Was there a music connection amongst my Halstead ancestors, I wondered. I’ve traced my lineage from many branches of my family but until I found this little boy I’d never researched the Halstead branch, so off I went spending many an hour online looking through ancestry websites and old newspaper archives.
George’s father was named Handel Halstead, Handel not being a name I’d encountered before in my family’s story, despite my having documented over 7000 people in my family tree. He was born December 15, 1823 and was baptised in Heptonstall 6 months later. Interestingly on the baptismal register his name is written as Andal but there’s an * by the side and at the bottom of the page it’s corrected to Handel, so perhaps even the vicar was unacquainted with the name Handel.
Handel’s father also had a somewhat unusual name: Bannister, born 1781. I’m guessing that this was an ancestral surname being used as a forename. Bannister’s father, William, was born around 1750 and apart from knowing where he died and the fact that he was buried at Cross Stone church in Todmorden on June 25, 1799 I know next to nothing about him other than on his son Bannister’s marriage certificate he gives his occupation as a weaver. William died at Old Royd, Langfield, just off Kilnhurst Lane where Billy Holt had lived.
So it’s possible that Bannister had lived there too. At the age of 26 Bannister married Sarah (or Sally) Chatburn at Heptonstall church. On the record of the marital banns Bannister’s name has widow in the place where the occupation is usually given. All the other men on the page are weavers. Their marriage took place on December 27, 1807. I can easily conjure up the snow, ice, heavy rain, gale force wind that they might have experienced getting married in the old church in Heptonstall. The newly weds set up home at Rough Head on Kilnshaw Road (or Kilnhirst) and Bannister, in 1808, is recorded as a shuttle maker. In quick succession 1809-1823 – seven children were born – John, Elizabeth, Henry, James, Bannister, Amelia and finally Handel. Henry and James, 1813 and 1816 were recorded as having been born at Machpelah, the row of cottages in Hebden Bridge that my Moss ancestors also lived in later. In 1818 son Bannister was born at Weasel Hall, the hall clinging to the hillside to the south of Hebden and visible from the window above my desk where my ancestor Ezra Butterworth had also lived. In 1834 Pigot’s Directory lists Bannister as a shuttle maker at Bridge Lanes in Hebden Bridge where he lived for the rest of his life, dying in October 1853 at the considerably old age of 71. Following the death of his wife Sally Chatburn he had remarried, aged 60 – unusual for that time – Sarah Walton, the marriage taking place in Halifax minster. On their marriage register it states that Sarah is a factory woman and he is a shuttle maker. It brought to mind the true story of John Fielden of Todmorden, a prominent mill owner who fell in love with a factory girl who promised to marry him if he built her a castle, which he duly did above Todmorden, in the 1860s, and which I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and have an impromptu guided tour. Sarah outlived Bannister by 25 years. But back to the Halstead story.
On to the exploits of Bannister’s children. 3 of his sons set up a shuttle making company under the name of James, Bannister and Handel Halstead making shuttles. According to the Malcolm Bull website ‘The partnership was dissolved in February 1853 as far as regards Handel Halstead.’
Handel Halstead & Sons were manufacturers at Bridge Street Shuttle works, Hebden Bridge, John and William being his sons and business partners. The partnership was dissolved in January 1887. The business was carried on under the same name by John and William and was still at Bridge Street in 1905. John and William were the older brothers of George Frederick Handel Halstead. In 1891 John and his wife Mary Elizabeth (from Walsden) were living at 58 Market Street. His brother William was living next door at 56 Market Street. So a couple of days ago I called in at 56 Market Street. It’s a 2 minute walk from my apartment. It’s now a shop and workroom called Hat Therapy where the current milliner Chrissie King designs and makes hats and accessories.
She didn’t know of the Halstead living there more than a hundred years ago but she pointed me to an alley running at the back of the shop and to a flight of step stone steps running up to Brunswick Street. Wow! That’s the street where my two of my daughters stayed in an Airbnb when they brought my granddaughter to England for the first time last November. Chrissie pointed to a long white painted building on Brunswick Street overlooking her shop.
‘That was once a dance hall that burned down. It was subsequently used as an undertakers who built a separate garage for their hearse. ‘ I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The building my family stayed in was called ‘The Garage’ and we had all thought what an odd place to build a garage – and how large it was for a garage. I mean none of the terraced houses in this town have garages. How amazing! I wonder if the ‘dance hall/undertaker’s was once the workroom for the Halstead shuttle making business. I posted a photo of the building on Facebook to see if anyone knew anything about the building but nothing of interest came forth. By 1901 John Halstead had moved from Market Street and was living in a substantial Victorian house on Garnett Street with his wife and family called Uplands. Wait a minute! I’ve found references to Uplands before in my family research.
Another ancestor, Willie Wrigley, an architect had lived in the underdwelling below Uplands. I looked back in my notes and found this: ‘Willie Wrigley and his wife Charlotte had been given notice to quit after the repeated altercations with their neighbours and their landlady Mrs Halstead who lived in the over dwelling, Uplands. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that this overdwelling is visible from my own bedroom window. The overdwelling is called, appropriately, Uplands and is a large double front house, symmetrical and divided into two dwellings. Obviously built for a Victorian business owner even today it has an imposing presence.’ So the lady who evicted Willie Wrigley was none other than the wife of John Halstead who was the brother of George Frederick Handel Halstead who had been the catalyst for my research into the Halstead branch of my family tree. Willie eventually ended up in Wakefield gaol.
His story and especially his problems with Mrs Halstead can be found in my blog:
But the main focus of my enquiry was the name George Frederick Handel Halstead. Surely there must have been a music connection. He was given that name by his parents so I decided to look through the newspapers to see if I could find any reference to Handel Halstead and music. And there it was! In 1898 I found a newspaper article entitle ‘Organ’s final services.’ After being there for 20 years the organ at Slack Baptist church was to be overhauled, extended and improved. A special service was held to mark the occasion when the organ would be removed and many former members of the church were invited to the service which was to be more than ordinarily musical. One ‘notable personage’ was Mr Handel Halstead who was formerly the church organist there. ‘He presided during the singing of the greater portion of the hymns and though he has passed 75 years of age and has been long out of practice he still possesses a considerable amount of executive skill.’ The pastor, Rev A.K. Archer delivered an address on organs and the references to that instrument in the bible.
Amidst the glowing accounts of organs and how they work one damming sentence caught my eye: ‘In that vast abode of stagnation which we call China a sort of prehistoric organ is still to be found.’
Then just yesterday I received the following email from the Hebden Bridge Local History Society in reply to my query about any musical Halstead: In our archives: R HEPB1 S Centenary Souvenir Heptonstall Slack Baptist Church by E G Thomas 1907 – I have noted down that November 1857 dedication of organ at Slack. Mr Handel Halstead appointed organist. John Gibson of Greenwood Lee took over as treasurer from William Marshall in 1862 (he died in 1867 and Handel Halstead took over). 1865 Three elders above were reappointed plus David Dearden, Handel Halstead and John Sutcliffe of Slatering.’ So Handel was not just the organist but had been a treasurer of the church and also an elder.
The church is now a private house. I first visited it on August 14, 2017, before I moved to Hebden Bridge. I was staying in Hebden during the summer and on one of my days out exploring the vicinity and took the bus to Slack. The church and the Sunday school behind it appeared to be in bad state of repair but there was evidence of work in progress. I carefully opening the gate with a path leading to the church entrance.
To both sides were graves. A workman appeared from nowhere, no doubt wondering what the heck I was doing but he offered to take my photo. In 2020 I stopped by again and found that the church had been converted into a home and the resident was working in her garden -cum-graveyard and I chatted with her.
The history of the building is interesting to me. A small barn built in or before 1617 became the second place of worship for the Protestant Dissenters in the Calder Valley, the first being Rodwell End which I’d already visited in the course of my family research. In 1807 some 40 people who had attended the Birchcliffe Chapel in Hebden Bridge withdrew to found their own place of worship, which they opened at Slack in 1808 at a ceremony attended by seven hundred people. More than a thousand were at the Dedication service on the following Sunday. James Taylor, nephew of Dan Taylor , was the first Minister and he had the Church enlarged in 1819. By 1822 The Church at Slack was the 5th. largest of the 130 general Baptist Churches in the country and the General Assembly was held there. Experience Meetings were being held in 18 different houses.
There were over 500 members by the middle of the Century but there was then something of a decline as the handloom industry suffered and members left to work in factories away from the area. A new schoolroom was opened on January 1st 1864 after much time and effort and money had been spent in obtaining gas! “The spacious new room, its brilliant sunlight, composed of thirty gas jets, won the admiration of all”. At this time an organ was introduced and house meetings were revived.
1878 saw the complete rebuilding of the Church and it is this building that I visited in 2020. Guess which business was employed to do the slating, painting and plastering of the new church. Yes, my Wrigley painting and decorating ancestors! A special service was held to mark the beginning of this rebuild during which the four corner stones were placed in position. “The mallets (very handsomely turned and finished were made by Mr Handel Halstead.”
2014 – Heptonstall parish website: “The chapel was sold by the Baptists several years ago and is currently owned by an evangelical Christian group, however services have had to be moved because of problems renovating the building. Suggestions to use it as a halfway house for those recovering from drug abuse were dropped after objections from local residents. Could the chapel become a community centre, or could there be other uses for the building? All are welcome to this picnic to talk and find out more.”
But if Handel Halstead had been named Handel by his father would it not therefore follow that his father had some connection with music? It took many hours of trolling through old newspapers online but I eventually found a clue. In the Lancaster Gazette of February 7, 1818 there is a reference to one Bannister Halstead, living somewhere close to Halifax. The date matched with what I had discovered about Handel’s father, Bannister: born 1781 in the Todmorden area, so by 1818 he would have been 37 years old. But not only that – wait for it. . . The article is about his music connection. Here it is in full – it’s too melodramatic and unexpected for me to retell it in my own words. It would reduce its impact.”It is with pleasure we inform our readers, that Mr. Whiteley, the constable of Sowerby, having, through his persevering exertions, obtained knowledge of a secret depot for receiving stolen goods, he immediately obtained a search warrant, and, on Thursday night, took along with him Mr. Brierley. constable of Halifax, and Mr. Wilson, constable of Heptonstall, in order to execute the same. Having arrived at David Wilcock’s house, at Bolton in Holland, near Gisburn, an immediate search commenced, when they discovered upwards of £200 worth of stolen goods, concealed in the false floor, belonging to Wilcock, which they seized and took possession of. It appeared that Wilcock, and his gang, had made a large opening into the false floor, and there concealed the property, having afterwards curiously plastered over the same to prevent discovery, till an opportunity arrived of a removal. It is to be hoped that officers, searching after stolen goods, should be aware of this circumstance. The stolen goods here alluded to, appear to belong to Mr. Dyson, of Barkisland Hall; Mr. Garside, of Elland, and Mr. Hirst of Huddersfield. There was also found during their search, a violin, supposed to belong to one Bannister Halstead, who has lately absconded from Hebden Bridge. On Sunday week, as Mr. W (Whiteley) was returning home by himself, after a very fatiguing march of several days in searching for those five notorious villains who have lately absconded, he met with two of them, Shaw and Dyson, on the turnpike-road leading over Blackstonedge, about six o’clock in the evening : the constable, without giving the least alarm, instantly seized Shaw by the throat, and Dyson by the handkerchief round his neck, which unfortunately giving way, he escaped ; finding himself at liberty, he immediately turned round and snapped a pistol at the constable, which fortunately missed fire; at that instant several gentlemen on their way down Blackstonedge, came to the assistance of the constable. A number of wood skewers, a quantity of packing cord, a flint, lead bullet, and a large knife, were found on him. He has since been committed to the House of Correction at Wakefield, on strong suspicion of being concerned in those extensive robberies that have so greatly alarmed the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Halifax. This is the fourth time of the apprehension of Shaw on suspicion of felony, besides having been once tried at Leeds Sessions for a similar offense. We understand that in consequence of Shaw’s uncommon resistance, by the constable grasping him so violently on the throat, it was some time before he came to himself, and he complains much of the part being very sore.” I found it amazing that the only reference I can find to Bannister Halstead, is in connection with his violin. But then another question is raised. Why had Bannister recently absconded from Hebden Bridge? So far I’ve been unable to answer that particular question. He’d been married for 10 years, had 4 children and one on the way. The family had been living at Machpelah but by 1818 the family were living at Weasel Hall which I can see from the window overlooking my desk as I write. So Bannister Halstead, violin player, had named his son Handel, who in turn named his own son George Frederick Handel. ‘What’s in a name?’ you ask. A heck of a lot!
Note to self: George Frederick Handel’s niece, Florence Gertrude married George Haigh Moss jn
Yesterday I ventured into the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in the deserts of the American South West, exploring former mining towns that today are marked by the desolate ruins of mining camps but I’ve never had a personal connection with someone who actually lived there. Today I was to visit “one of the wildest and most sequestered spots in Yorkshire,” as the newspaper described it in 1827. For here in that far off year one of my distant ancestors had been murdered. I’d come to see the very spot in which the crime was committed, and perhaps to stand even in the very room that this heinous deed was done.
I’d been eager to visit the place for the past three years ever since learning of my family’s connection with this event but I knew that it was difficult to reach and had, in fact, been warned off attempting to go by myself by someone who had been there before. Paths that petered out, peat bogs that suck in the unsuspecting hiker, sudden fogs that blanket the moor so that you cannot see your own hand in front of you. Such are the hazards of hiking this moorland. However, last week my blog had generated a response from someone who had been there recently and offered to guide me to the site. Luckily the weather had been unusually lacking in rain for the last week or so and with the forecast to be reasonably warm and sunny yesterday we made the trip.
Parking opposite Widdop reservoir, just beyond the Pack Horse Inn, the moorland of Widdop moor stretched out before me. After climbing 1000ft from Hebden Bridge once on the tops the moorland is fairly flat, with gentle undulations across the peat, and the occasional stream. You can see for miles in every direction, and there’s not a single building in sight apart from the occasional glimpses of the inn. Today vapour trails from aircraft drew lines across the blue sky, curlews and lapwings flew above us and my eagle eyed guide even spotted a kestrel. From time to time the jagged teeth of ancient walls broke up the peat bogs and stone gate posts spoke of long-gone paths and human life here centuries ago.
In the early years of the 20th century the three reservoirs of Walshaw Dean were constructed and the path we were to take was one of the maintenance roads for the reservoirs. Indeed the only people that we saw on our walk were from a construction lorry using the road.
After passing a forest we headed upward, across Greave Pasture and, if it had not been for the presence of a solitary tree marking the spot the pile of stones that had once been Good Greave farm was barely distinguishable from the moorland amidst the long tussock grass. It was obvious that many of the stones had been removed from the site but why? Who lived in such an isolated spot? Where did they buy food? How did they give birth? Early maps show a path to the farm that follows a more direct route to the farm but that path, though shown on the OS map no longer exists.
In 1827 a remote farm on this moor had been the scene of a horrific murder that made headlines in newspapers all across the country. A policeman was even sent from London to attempt to solve the gruesome crime on this lonely moor. The victim was 71 year old James Shackleton. This area already had its reputation as a God-forsaken place. “Our moors put you in fear o’being stabbed in the back! We are without cultivation except for kicking one another to death in clog fights o’ the long dark winter nights. This is a godless place, dark and inhospitable.” So comments Mary Lockwood in the fictionalized account of Rev. Grimshaw’s life written by local author Glynn Hughes and set a hundred years before the Greave murder. 1 the Hell-fire Methodist preacher Grimshaw is considered to be one of the founders of the Methodist faith along with the Wesley brothers and was vicar of Haworth church before Rev. Patrick Bronte.
I’d met up with John Shackleton, a descendant of the victim in June, 2020, and I learned of his recent attempt to reach the site of Good Greave farm for himself. “I went up to Good Greave last year; there’s a track up from the Yorkshire Water road which goes up to Walshaw Reservoirs. Of the site of Near Good Greave farm where there were several buildings show little remains. If one persists and goes further you can see the ruins of the Far Good Greave farm but it’s exceedingly difficult to access.” He urged me not to try and access the site by myself but showed me a photo which show a door frame and lintel, all that remains of man’s presence in a peat ridden landscape with not a road or building in sight.
On his website John documents the story of the Shackletons of Widdop, putting them into their historic context. “The farming community of Greave which comprised two, possibly three farmsteads has been in the possession my Shackleton ancestors since 1790 that I can trace directly, but there were Shackletons living there four centuries ago. A 1604 survey of the Savile estate lists 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth, fourteen of which were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions two at Good Greave.” 2 Indeed, in an article entitled ‘Travellers not made but born” the Todmorden and District News of February 1910 holds that “residents of Hebden Bridge show great determination and grit and a better exemplification of it could not be found than in the person of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who it was known had descended from old family which originated at Shackleton-hill on the Wadsworth side.”3 Perhaps that particular connection was wishful thinking on the behalf of the author. *
comprehensive account of the ‘horrid murder’ of James Shackleton
was in the Manchester Mercury, June 5, 1827. The article not only
gives a detailed description of the character of the victim but
conjures up the remoteness of the area around Greave farm and is
worth recounting in its entirety.
Wadsworth, near Colne in one of the wildest and most sequestered
spots in Yorkshire, distance about 13 miles from Halifax and 7 from
Colne, and within 2 or 3 miles of the Lancashire border in a
district celebrated for majestic scenery. In this nook of the
country, a place called Good Greave in the township of Wadsworth, is
situated; the former is the scene of this horrid crime; it consists
of only four houses, two them separated from the rest by a distance
of about a quarter of a mile and the nearest them within a mile of
the Halifax and Colne road. Stretching towards Colne, Haworth, or to
Blackstone-edge in different directions, the township of Wadsworth
consists of heaths and the deep ravines running between them. Nearly
the foot of a steep aclivity, and within short distance of one of the
gullies which carry off the waters from the mountains lived James
Shackleton, an old man in the 7lst year of his age. In the dwelling
where his existence was at last prematurely terminated, he first drew
breath; that and the surrounding acres were his paternal estate, and
by careful habits and moderate desires, he had rendered himself a man
of considerable substance. Satisfied with much less of the good
things of this life than he had the ability to purchase, in that he
did enjoy a brother and sister, also advanced in years, but younger
than himself, participated; the three having chose a life of
celibacy, they were restricted so far as regards family and social
intercourse, to themselves, except, indeed, their nephew, residing
just at hand, who had a wife and three children.
On the night of Wednesday the 23rd about half past nine o’clock in the evening, the unfortunate victim, James Shackleton and a man named Richard Smith, an aged house-carpenter dwelling in the house until had completed a few jobs, were sitting over a cheerful fire of peat, waiting the return of Thomas Shackleton, the old man’s brother, who had gone a short distance from home, on some business, relative to the formation of a new road. The sister Mary Shackleton had gone to bed, when six men entered the house, armed with bludgeons, and one of them, going up to James Shackleton, said “he wanted to purchase a cow.” This excited some astonishment in the old man, who replied that “that was a very odd time to come on such a business.” A demand instantly followed for his money, with which the old man hesitating to comply, the carpenter, Smith, said, “James, if you have any money, pray give it them.” Two cur-dogs in the house barked most furiously at the villains who struck them with their bludgeons. James requested them to desist doing so, and he would quiet the dog. They, however, still continuing bark, one of the men, with a knife or some other sharp instrument, made a desperate blow at the larger intending cut his throat, but he only made a deep incision in the neck the animal. The men insisting immediate compliance, James rose from his seat, and proceeded to a chest of drawers, from whence he took out two purses. These, the villains said, only contained copper, to which he answered that there was both gold and silver in them. They then told him that had £lO, in the house, which he had received for a cow that he had sold. This he denied, as, if the cow was sold, he had not yet received payment. The villains then struck the old man and the carpenter with bludgeons, but particularly the former, and demanded all he had, while some of the party took down two hams, and gun and pistol, which were hung up in the house. The carpenter, being alarmed for his own and his employer’s safety, got up and proceeded towards the door, to call the nephew, but was interrupted by two men at the doorway, armed with pistols, who declared that, if he stirred a step, they would blow his brains out. He then returned to the house, and the men were preparing to retreat, after the old man had surrendered his all. Fearing, from their ill treatment, that they would take his life, the old man had risen up, and gone towards the window, which had no open casement, and was calling for his nephew. From this circumstance, and the yelling of the wounded dog, it is probable a sudden fear seized the murderers. On their rather hastily retiring a voice was heard to exclaim “d–n him, shoot him,” and one of them, armed with a gun, seemed return to complete their crime, for on arriving at the end the passage, from whence he had a view of the man at the window, he levelled his piece, and shot him under the left shoulder blade, the shot penetrating through the body and coming out at the breast. He instantly fell, covered with gore, and having been laid abed on the floor of the house, the purple flood continued to flow until life was extinct. This closed the unfortunate man’s life, within half hour after the occurrence. Medical aid was sought soon as any one dared to stir out, but found, it was in vain. The nephew, John Shackleton, first became alarmed hearing one of the dogs make an unusual noise (probably when the wound was inflicted upon him) and laying down the pipe which he was smoking, he proceeded towards the house to inquire the cause. On approaching it, he saw a man standing in the passage, and supposing it to be his uncle Thomas who might have just returned home, shouted ‘ hallo’. To this no answer was returned. He then retraced his steps, and entered his own house; but not satisfied with what he had seen, he returned immediately, after locking the door of his house, for his own family’s security. Having again sallied forth, the man in the passage ran at him, as he approached, and exclaimed “I’ll kill the devil,” inflicting, at the same time, a severe blow on one of his shoulders. It was then that the nephew became sensible of the danger. When precipitately retreating, he heard the cry of “d–n him, shoot him,” and instantly saw the flash of gun in the house. He ran to loose a bull dog which was tied up on his own premises, and while so engaged, the villains appear have left the house, for, on his again coming forth he heard nothing but a kind of murmuring noise, as if from the voices men, ascending the declivity, nearly at the foot of which the house was situated. The men were only about ten or fifteen minutes in the house, and on leaving it went in a direction towards Haworth, over the moors, but this, no doubt, was a feint to elude detection.”4
Four days later in the Sheffield Examiner we read ‘The body of the unfortunate James Shackleton has been opened by a surgeon, who states that the wound was not inflicted by small shot, as was reported, since, in the course of his inquiry, he found two slugs, which had apparently been cut off from the handle of a spoon.”5 Someone was taken into custody but discharged and according to the obituary of James’s brother, Thomas, the murderers were never discovered.
Sixty years later the murder was still a hot topic in the local press and it was still on the lips of people in the community. One local writer who was intrigued by the story was Tattersall Wilkinson, known as ‘Owd Tat.’ The youngest of twenty one children from Worsthorne near Burnley, the village where my mother-in-law grew up, he took an interest in astronomy, archaeology, geology and natural history. He spent some time with “old Sally Walton” who eked out a living in a two storey cottage close to the road at the bottom of Widdop pass. “Witch and boggart tales she thoroughly believed—and many a happy hour has your humble servant passed by the turf fire side listening to the tales of yore told by the venerable dame.” According to Sally the area around Crimsworth Dean and Pecket Well was “infested with a gang of desperadoes – poachers and house breakers. Sally tells us more about the carpenter who was staying at Greave– Richard Smith known as “Old Dick o’ Whittams” who lived at “Th’ ing Hey” near Roggerham Gate. I find these names so priceless and evocative of their time. Adding further fuel to the drama, the robbers who had ‘blackened faces,’ finding no ammunition for Shackleton’s gun “in a most deliberate manner took a leaden spoon from off the table and cut it into slugs.” 6 An inquest was held upon the body of of James Shackleton, at the Ridge public house, before Mr Stocks and a very respectable Jury. * The former Ridge pub, now the Pack Horse, Widdop Mr H. Thomas of Hebden Bridge, surgeon, stated that the deceased died of a gun-shot wound which injured the lungs, heart and pericardium.
And after all the evidence had been heard the Jury returned a verdict of ‘Wilful Murder against divers persons to the Jury unknown’. A substantial reward was offered but the murder remains unsolved. The gun, however, according to Eric Shackleton, a descendent who contacted me from New Zealand, is in the possession of his brother. I needed to put to rest the gruesome story and so I sought out James’s burial record. Usually only the name, age and location of a person’s home is given here seven lines of minute text carefully squeezed into the column recording James’s burial at Heptonstall showing the devastating effect that this murder had on the community.: ‘Six men went to his house on purpose to rob – demanded his money-accordingly he delivered two purses to them – and they went out of his house after they had received them. He went to look out at the window. One of the robbers turned back into his house and shot him with slugs out of a gun so that he was both robbed and murdered in his own house about 9 o’clock at night, May 23, 1827.’
The inquest took place at The Ridge pub, now known as The Pack Horse. By law inquests had to be carried out in a public place and so inns were frequently used. I’ve been in the inn several times, most recently to say hi to the new landlord who recently moved there from The Cross Inn in Heptonstall. As I’d sat in the lounge six weeks ago I’d looked out at the open moorland and thought about the murder of my distant ancestor, hoping that I would have the opportunity to reach his farm.
On January 25, 1906 the license of the Pack Horse was transferred to husband and wife Gibson and Isabella Butterworth. Isabella’s first husband was Thomas Shackleton, the murdered man’s great great nephew.
In front of me, on the wall, was a photo of the trestle bridge, built to transport supplies and men during the building of the reservoirs. Ada Harwood, another ancestor, fell to her death from the bridge in 1909 on a sight seeing excursion. Her story, and that of her husband who was killed when the grinding stone he was using to grind a shuttle exploded, will be told on a future page.
Where I used to play on the green. Glynn Hughes, p.8
Less than a week later a chance encounter jogged my memory of a poem written by one of my ancestors about James Shackleton’s murder. I was attending an exhibition and slide presentation of photographs taken by local people in response to The Crossings project – “Our aim was simple: encourage people to explore our wonderful local landscape, by themselves or on a group walk, and think creatively about what they encountered, on the theme of Crossings, snapping photos as they went.”
I had submitted a few photos and these were shown in the exhibition. I was absorbed in the 2 hour slide show when a voice in my ear whispered my name. I looked up to see a dad with a young son. It turned out that we had exchanged several emails about our respective blogs about visiting off the beaten track places in Calderdale but had never met. He and his son both had photos in the presentation. When I arrived home I looked up our email exchanges and – don’t you know it – one was about whether he had ever hiked to Greave farm. He hadn’t. I mentioned a poem written by one of my ancestors about the murder. I’d forgotten about it when I’d visited the farm. It was written by Joseph Hague Moss who founded a school in Hebden Bridge and was the founder of a dynasty of teachers in the area. Joseph died in 1861 and his son collected his poems and had them published the following year.
James of The Greave
Where the wild game in summer the heath flowers among,
Invite the bold sportsman to range o’er the moor;
And where deep rugged dells roll the echo along,
There has stood an old mansion a century or more;
Where far from the gay world, unskill’d to deceive,
Contented and happy dwelt “James of the Greave.”
In his lambs and his sheep, and the moorland close by,
He took great delight, and increased in wealth;-
A harmless old man, with a glance in his eye,
And a glow on his cheek, that gave picture of health;
And he might have sunk gently, like sunset at eve,
Had others been harmless as “James of the Greave.”
But the sportsman may chase the wild game on the moor,
And the innocent lambkins may bleat in the fold:
The man that beheld them with pleasure before,
Is wantonly murder’d at seventy years old:-
And long from the bosom remembrance shall heave
The wild note of sorrow for “James of the Greave.”
For photos of Isabella and Thomas who lived at Good Greave: http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/2020/06/18/unhappy-family-differences-a-drowning-death-by-chamber-pot-irish-lawlessness-at-widdop-and-this-is-just-part-one/
According to Affetside’s resident historian Jim Francis just after World War I
three wooden chalet type bungalows were built on the open ground in front of the
Pack Horse. Number 1 was built around 1923 by Mr. Blenkinship, number 2 in the
1920’s for Jim Yates and his family, and number 3, ours, was built for a Mr Dunkerly
on the site of Lower Nuttalls Farm, and modified, still exists today.
The date stone on the ‘barn’ is 1824. There was formerly a farmhouse on this site named on early maps as Wickenly House. I remember a huge inglenook fireplace in the barn, so I think our ‘barn’ was the farmhouse.
My parents bought the house on June 19th, 1953 from Joseph Daniels, a warehouseman and his wife Sarah Ann Daniels for £395-cash. My parents looked at 2 other properties that they could buy with cash – Salt Pie Cottage, a remote building with land, on the moors off the road to Edgworth, and a terraced house in Tottington’s Cann Row, but this
latter one was up a steep hill from
the village and not a good prospect
given my dad’s poor health. I have
the deeds to 3rd Bungalow. I also
have papers describing Lot 28-no
date- ‘Lower Nuttalls’ or ‘Wickenly
House’ – a small holding containing
17 acres, 1 rood and 3 perches statue
measures or thereabouts, in the
occupation of Thomas Holt, yearly
tenant. It consisted of 4 fields.
In the 1841 census Lower Nutalls is
occupied by James Scholes, plasterer,
Mary 35, Ann 20, Wright 15, Betty 8,
and James, 3. However, there’s a second Lower Nuttalls on the same census – James
Scholes, 30,a painter, Ann, 30, Alice 11, Mary 9, Nancy 5, Ann 3, and Thomas 7
months. I found these and downloaded them.
In the 1871 census we have at Lower Nuttalls Thomas Lowe, 46 farmer of 9 acres, born at Harwood, his wife Margaret, John, 19, quarryman, James 15, joiner’s laborer, Andrew 12, and Alfred 6. There is also David Mills father-in-law – widower Aged 66 a wheelwright.
The front porch is built but there is no garage. The roof is the original. The former army land rover was painted aqua blue
Higher Nuttalls is visible on the right. Photo around 1920. The
barns are collapsing creating the gap for the future ‘Rocket’
From ‘Memories of People I have met during the last few years – approx 20 years,’ by Hilda Denton: Gwen Holt called today – Sunday, August 1984. She told us she used to live in a caravan
situated behind our barn (so that it was sheltered from the high winds etc). Her and
her mother lived there a few years. She attended Affetside day school. This was before
the last war. Later she went to Folds Road central school. They moved to another
caravan situated on the field on the left going down Black Lane behind Watling Street.
Her father kept a farm down Riding Gate. Her married name is Mrs Dyson, 31
Sycamore Road, Tottington. She remembers a man and his wife living in 3rd bungalow
aged about 28, Milton Hulme. He kept a corn millers store on Bradshaw road near the
Crofters pub. It is still there – a corrugated place – and it has remained empty ever
since he hanged himself in the shop whilst he lived at 3rd bungalow. His wife had a 6
week old baby at the time. Gwen remembers to two policemen coming down the fields
and asking her where the bungalow was so that they could tell his wife
the news. Later his wife went back to where she was brought up, Staffordshire.
Life could be difficult at 3rd Bungalow: My mom’s diary – December 29, 1993. Jack
was taken up the fields on a stretcher at 1-1.30 a.m. and admitted to hospital in Bury.
After my visit in February, 1994 when it became apparent that she needed to move to somewhere easier to live now that she was living there alone Mom had the house surveyed for sale on April 14, 1994 and it was listed for £110,000. She moved to 14 Laburnum Avenue, Tottington, a street with a lovely view of Holcombe Hill with the Peel monument on top, close to Holmwood nursing home was my dad was a resident.
The path to the village: Photo taken in February 1994 . You had to be careful not to stand in the ploffs:
After his health necessitated his early retirement from teaching high school Dad spent his time rebuilding and remodeling the house. Here the front porch, dining room and second bedroom have been completed. There is no garage yet.
Life was tough at Affetside: My mom’s journal- December 29, 1993: Jack was taken up
the fields on a stretcher at 1-1.30 a.m. and admitted to hospital in Bury. They were both
73 years old at the time. I think this was the last straw that eventually persuaded her that
she had to move. I visited her in February of 1994. She was living alone there. Dad had
moved to Holmwood nursing Home in Tottington the week before. It was bitterly cold in
Affetside at that time of year. She used little electric fires but only in the room she was
actually sitting in. So while the living room might have reached a cozy 75F (the fires
didn’t have thermostats) the bathroom and kitchen and bedroom were still in the mid
40’s. I checked these temperatures with her thermometer.
From my journal about the trip:
‘I arrived at the house around 8p.m. The taxi driver didn’t mind driving down the fields
but as I opened the middle gate I was sliding around in mud. All was quiet at the house. It
was clear night, cold and breezy, and the lights of Bolton flickering in the distance were
an amazing sight. I used to look at this view every night through my bedroom curtains
before I fell asleep. I used to think of them as fairy lights. (No wonder Gary Neville,
captain of Manchester United built his 14 bedroom mansion in the next field. He was
paying for that view!) The next morning my mom woke me up with a cup of tea at 7.20 –
so eager to talk to me! Her first job every morning was to venture outside to feed the
birds (twopence per bag – as in Mary Poppins – mom always liked that song). There are
two robins and a female blackbird that have become tame through constant feeding –
chopped bread for the blackbird and chopped nuts for the robin. Mom even goes to a
special shop in Bury to purchase the nuts. The birds flew down to the front doorstep as
soon as she opened the door, and in the evenings, just at dusk, they come and perch on a
tree outside the lounge window as if to say Goodnight.
The next day, being Sunday there were no buses so we had to stay in. There was some sun
in the morning but heavy showers in the afternoon. I donned my raincoat, waterproof
trousers and willies and went for a walk down the fields. It was very hard climbing the
stile: goodness knows how my mom does it carrying her shopping and bottles of milk. The
old gully, dug out by open cast coal miners in the 1800’s (or possibly by the Roman
according to some sources) has been filled in. The two huge stone gate posts which
always lay down behind the barn have been taken up to another field and planted like a
miniature Stonehenge (I don’t recall that). Feb 8th. It was bitterly cold and raining hard
as we crossed the fields coming back from a trip to the solicitors – not my idea of fun. The
following day a friend took us around tottington to look at a possible new house for my
mom. Back on the Affetside bus we had to stop for a cow on the road. It was blowing a
gale right into our faces as we walked down the fields: my forehead hurt with the
coldness of the wind-chill. I remembered this exact feeling from being a child coming
home from school. Feb 12th As we crossed the field there was a bitterly cold East wind.
The ground was frozen and the grass was driven white. As we reached Ramsbottom it was
bright and sunny but I can’t remember when I was last as cold as that. Feb 13:. It was
bitterly cold with a heavily laden sky and flurries of sow. Mum couldn’t put the birds’
water out because it would freeze straight away. Feb 14: On the train going back to
Manchester airport at each station I saw huddles masses of frozen people with red faces,
blue noses and purple lips. They were even commenting on the coldness of the morning. I
was later to learn that it had been the coldest morning for 44 years. At Bolton station I
shivered all over – even my knees were knocking together. The snow was blowing onto the
platform and there was nowhere to shelter. On the plane I had a window seat and had
wonderful views of Iceland with its towering cliffs dropping into the sea. The snow shone
a beautiful pink color in the sunset. When I got home I came down with a cold – not
surprising really! She had the house surveyed for sale on April 14th, 1994 and it was listed for £110.000.
She moved to 14 Laburnum Avenue Tottington, within walking distance of the nursing
Yesterday I met up with 4 people, who, like me, are descendants of Stansfield Gibson. They and their spouses had lunch, chatted, shared books of photographs and family tree charts and generally had an amazing time, all in the Moorcock pub that had been operated by Stansfield’s son Herbert in 1901. Before lunch I had been invited to visit Fielden farm close to the hilltop pub where Herbert had lived as a farmer after giving up the pub until his death in 1932. It’s an isolated farm and today, like every day on Blackstone Edge moor it was blowing a gale. Ominous clouds scudded across the sky but managed to hold onto their contents until I reached home!
One name that takes
up more newspaper columns than anyone else in my Calder Valley
family. It that of Stansfield Gibson. He was a butcher and innkeeper
like his father, and like his father he took his own life. But in
that life he married five times, fathered seven children, was
accused of child molestation, purchased a chapel and owned a prize
It can’t have been an easy start in life for Stansfield, the 8th out of 9 children. His mother, Sally, whose maiden name he was name after, died when he was fifteen and his father, Joshua, hanged himself three years later. Just six months after this tragedy on November 2, 1858 Stansfield, then aged 19, married Harriet Walker at St James’s church in Hebden Bridge. I sometimes provided the music there for services and I often think about the significant events that took place in the building as I’m seated at the organ.
Harriet was not from the Calder Valley but from Liversedge, a full 13 miles away. It was quite a rarity in my family for people to marry someone from outside the Upper Calder Valley at this time. She was the daughter of a wire drawer, someone who pulled hot metal through different size template holes to produce wire of varying thicknesses, a dirty and highly dangerous job. By the time she was 13 Harriet was a live in servant for a cardmaker (someone who made combs for carding wool) in Hartshead, the village where Patrick Bronte had met his wife Maria Branwell in 1811, when he was parson of the church there. The Bronte’s two eldest daughters Maria and Elizabeth were born there but today there’s little focus on its Bronte connection, Haworth being the main focus of Bronte mania. Indeed, today Hartshead is primarily known for the Hartshead Moor Service Station on the M62. It seemed, however, as if Harriet Walker was following in the steps of the Bronte family because when Harriet married Stansfield Gibson at St James’s church in Hebden Bridge, the marriage was performed by Sutcliffe Sowden. Rev Sutcliffe Sowden had been a friend of Arthur Bell Nichols, Charlotte Bronte’s husband, and had presided at their marriage and at Charlotte’s funeral less than a year later. Rev Sutcliffe Sowden had baptized Stansfield, then aged 17 and his brother Richard aged 15 on the same day June 24, 1855 at St James’s, less than three months after he had conducted Charlotte’s funeral service.
Stansfield was to
follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps being first a
butcher and later a butcher-cum-innkeeper, a common dual occupation
providing a ready source of food for guests at the inn. This
necessitated a slaughter house being situated close to the inn, and
in Joshua’s case his tragic demise. In Stansfield’s case it was
the presence of the slaughter house that was to caused conflict with
several of his neighbours.
After their marriage Stansfield and Harriet continued living on Bridge Lanes where he had grown up. Its main street was known as High Street because of its elevation, not for its commercial prominence. When the entire development was demolished in the 1960s the foundations of those buildings were just left in place leaving an ugly scar at the west entrance to the town but through voluntary community efforts a landscaping project was undertaken and I can now stroll through this place along a reasonable footpath bordered by wildflowers. In fact, I saw my first bluebell of 2020 in this shaded spot.
By 1870 the family had moved to Meadow Bottom, close to the railway in Todmorden and it was here that Harriet died of tuberculosis on July 28, 1870 aged just 33 years of age. She was buried at Heptonstall church. With the death of his wife Stansfield became the sole parent of six daughters, the eldest being Louisa Ann who was just eleven years old. On the census of 1871 the word scholar after her name has been crossed out and next to it is written and ‘half time Fustian Operator,’ meaning Louisa went to school part time, and worked in the fustian factory part time.
No wonder so many children fell asleep at work and were injured by machinery. It was imperative that Stansfield find a new wife and stepmother for the girls and so just 9 months after Harriet died he married a widow, Susannah Greenwood, whose maiden name was also Stansfield, just to confuse matters!
The couple were married at St Paul’s church, Cross Stone, in the township of Stansfield (!) on April 17, 1871. The church had been rebuilt in 1833, with money from the so-called Million pound act. With the increase in population during the industrial revolution two acts of parliament in 1818 and 1824 had funded the building of churches.
The rebuilding of Cross Stone church was testament to the growth and success of Todmorden’s textile industry in the first half of the nineteenth century. But there had been a church on the site since 1450 when it was erected as a chapel of ease for Heptonstall church. As such it provided a church more readily accessible for parishoners living a long distance from the church. But this ‘chapel of ease’ like its mother church lies atop a very steep hill standing 300 ft above the valley floor. Today a road leading towards it is name Phoenix street which I’ve always thought as amusing, especially since that street peters out as if it’s found the climb up to the church so steep that it can’t make itself rise from the ashes. How on earth coffins or grieving mourners, many of them elderly, reached the cemetery on snowy days in winter, I can’t imagine.
I decided that the church would be a good starting point for my day with Stansfield but I decided to approach it from above walking first along the hilltops from the bus terminus at Blackshaw Head. It’s a wonderful walk – in fine weather that is – with amazing views over the Calder valley. Many days when the sky above the valley is dull, pewter-bellied clouds seem to hang suspended barely above my head, pushing me down, lowering my spirits. If I can persuade myself to venture out I climb out of the valley, by foot or bus and suddenly I’m above those clouds, in a world of ever-changing light, with glorious vistas spread out before me, making me feel like as if I’m getting my own private viewing of the beauty stretched out before me. As I have become more familiar with the area I can now pick out many more districts and buildings associated with my family.
The wonderfully named villages of Lumbutts and Mankinholes are perched on the shelf on the opposite side of the valley. On my journey I’d passed the picturesque Hippins Farm, scene of Ezra Butterworth’s ‘Death by Chamber Pot,’ – a story told in another chapter. So steep is the hillside here at Cross Stone that the roof of the church is on a level with the road. It’s an unlikely spot for another Bronte connection but there is one. In 1829, a certain John Fennel was vicar here but before he got the Cross Stone appointment, he was the first head teacher in 1812, at Woodhouse Grove Wesleyan School from where he was dismissed for spending too much time arranging picnics for his niece Maria Branwell, who was to become Mrs. Patrick Bronte. When Charlotte visited her uncle John Fennel in 1829 at Cross Stone he was living in the old parsonage house in the chapel grounds. She wrote to her “dear papa” that the house was “nearly in ruins.” Six years before her stay Fennel had collected subscriptions amounting to over £200 in order to repair the parsonage. Either the repairs were not carried out or they were not successful if Charlotte’s letter reflected the situation correctly1.
Ten years after Stansfield and Susannah were married at Cross Stone the church itself closed for repairs, but then in 1894 dry rot set in and although it continued to function for some time it has now closed permanently and converted into a house. As I approached it a large For Sale sign dominated the site but on closer observation I realized that it was the adjacent building, not the church, that was for sale.
This large two storey building which also has a roof level with the roadway has its own interesting history. Built as a school in the early 1800s it provided free schooling for six poor children in the town and the teacher’s income was provided by the parents of the 30-40 students who paid for tuition in reading and writing. A William Greenwood says that he held school on Sunday mornings and up to twenty children attended. They were charged one penny a week. Quills cost half a penny, copy books two pennies, a reading easy was sixpence and “rithmetic” was one shilling and eight pence. 2 While the far right hand side of the house was the home of the schoolmaster the bottom storey served as the jail, a daily reminder of the fate awaiting unruly behavior if ever there was one. Today wrought iron railings preventing the unwary pedestrian from falling into the house’s yard had been freshly painted judging by the drip mats beneath them, and were proudly sporting their new shiny black paintwork.
I left the site of
Stansfield and Harriet’s wedding and walked down the steep hill
into Todmorden town centre to see if I could visit other places
connected with Stansfield’s story.
He moved his new family to Roomfield Lane, now the main Halifax Road in the centre of Todmorden town where he pursued his occupation of butcher. An article in the local paper on June 26, 1874 gives a momentary glimpse into everyday life for the people of Todmorden. “On Saturday forenoon last, as Marshall Sutcliffe was driving a galloway at Pavement, Todmorden, in a small butcher’s cart belonging to Stansfield Gibson, the galloway began to kick. There were in the trap two females, whose safety, with that of the driver, was a matter of concern to numerous spectators. The galloway, still kicking and plunging, got its head against Mr. W. Uttley ‘s butcher’s shop. It was then laid hold of by one or more persons, but continued kicking and plunging. The trap was upset, one of the young women slid off the side of the conveyance, and the other was taken from it by bystanders. After a sharp tussle with the pony to bring it to a standstill, it was finally subdued. The body of the trap kicked off, and the harness rent in various parts. 3
Lane is the impressive structure of Todmorden market hall built in
only eight months in 1879 and situated close to Stansfield’s shop.
It’s one of my favourite markets but sadly today in the lockdown
the marketplace was as empty as a ghost town. But lovely as the
Victorian market was the living conditions of the surrounding
residents were appalling as was borne out by the report of the
sanitary committee on August 11, 1876:
“If the following
complaints are not rectified the ‘inspector of nuisances’ will
take legal proceedings against the following parties: I would remind
you that Miss Sutcliffe has a drain made up on her property in
Roomfield Lane, and the house slops and refuse water are flowing on
the street. At the same place, Stansfield Gibson, butcher, has a very
offensive midden on the side of the street leading up to the back
houses, and he is also in the habit of slaughtering sheep and lambs
in a place behind his house, which has not been registered as a
What a shambles! In
fact the term shambles originally
referred to a street or area in a city where the butchers lived, and
has come to mean chaos or mess from the highly unsanitary conditions
of waste disposal used there.
Judging by several
reports in the local newspaper reports Stansfield was not an easy man
to get along with, both in his professional life and also in his
private life. As a butcher Stansfield would have
raised the animals that he sold as meat in the shop and he farmed his
own sheep and poultry. In January 1878 Stansfield was taken to
court by the farmer of an adjacent field who claimed that
Stansfield’s sheep had damaged his land. Two
years later Stansfield encountered more problems caused by his
business. In a column in the local newspaper entitled ‘Rival
Poultry Keepers’ the reporter described an incident in which
Stansfield and his 18 year old daughter Sarah Ann were summoned on a
charge of aggravated defamation against a neighbour, one James
Crowther. In court Crowther said that “about three months since he
bought some poultry, and since that time he had had nothing but
bother with the defendant, who had been continually buying fresh
cocks to kill his. Stansfield said he would have another cock;
Crowther replied, Thou can get as many cocks as thou likes, but keep
that cayenne pepper off.” Sarah Ann reportedly called James’s
wife “a nasty b___” and added that she was continually abused by
the whole family and on one occasion sent their cousin Oliver
Stansfield to abuse her. She was almost afraid to stay in the house
by herself. One day Mrs Crowther was standing at the shop door
serving the hens. Stansfield’s cock came and began to eat along
with the hens. She shooed it off and Stansfield said “Throw a stone
at it and I’ll take you to Todmorden”- meaning the court which
was held in the town hall mere stone’s throw from the scene of the
altercation. When Mr Crowther appeared on the scene Stansfield
challenged him to come out and he would give him a good hiding. Sarah
Ann and Stansfield were fined 5 pounds, bound over to keep the peace
for 6 months and ordered to pay the costs.5
did not keep the peace as instructed or maybe the neighbours had had
enough of the Gibson family for his landlady gave him notice to
vacate the shop and house. Only two years later in the Spring of 1882
Stansfield along with three other butchers from Todmorden was fined
under the cattle diseases act 10s for moving bullocks without a
license. Animal identification and traceability
was and still is important for disease control and public confidence
in farm produce and a license is still required in Calderdale
if you want to move even just one animal.
But it wasn’t just
issues in his business ventures that made newspaper headlines. There
were family problems too. In 1883 Stansfield’s daughter, Sarah
Jane, then aged 21 charged Bentley Fielden with the paternity of her
daughter, born on Christmas day, 1882. Bentley denied being the
father of the child and said that he had stopped seeing Sarah Jane
because she had asked him to marry her. However the court ruled that
Bentley should pay 3 shillings weekly for the upkeep of the child and
ten shillings for the cost of the midwife who had attended baby
Harriet’s birth. An interesting follow up to the story is that two
years later Sarah Jane gave birth to another daughter, Alberta, and
three years after that Sarah Jane married , yes, Bentley Fielden at
Heptonstall church! But a happy marriage it was not. In 1897 Bentley
was convicted of aggravated assault on his wife and a separation
order was issued. Sarah Jane and Harriet moved in with her father,
Stansfield, having received not one penny in support from Bentley
during that time. After an incident when Bentley showed up at
Stansfield’s house just as Stansfield had arrived bringing in a
duck for their Sunday dinner Bentley seized Stansfield, hit him
several times about the face and neck with both fists. Sarah Jane and
her aunt, who was acting as Stansfield’s housekeeper managed to
restrain Bentley while Stansfield ran off to find a policeman. In
court Bentley accused Stansfield of having taken Sarah Jane to those
dens of iniquity, Blackpool and Scarborough and slept with a child
thirteen years of age. Stansfield denied this and no further action
against Stansfield was taken. Bentley, on the other hand, was
sentenced to one month in prison with hard labour.
In the spring of 1885 Stansfield decided to follow in his family’s footsteps and became landlord of the New Inn just across the main road from his butcher’s shop.
Stansfield’s children Emily and Herbert assisted with work in the pub and it was from his work there that Herbert learned the job of being a landlord, a profession he was ultimately to take up himself. But soon after the family moved to the New Inn Herbert was involved in a serious accident when “sustained severe injuries by being thrown from a horse. He appears to have struck the wall heavily with his head, and was so stunned as not to recover consciousness until next morning.6
I felt concerned for the young lad and I checked the newspapers for any update, worried that I might find a dreadful ending to the story. What I found surprised me, happily. Following his marriage to Elizabeth Lumb, herself the daughter of an inn keeper, the couple took over the Moorcock Inn on Blackstone Edge, that ancient paved road connecting Lancashire and Yorkshire, thereby becoming a third generation innkeeper. I’d ventured to the inn several times to sit it the beer garden high above Littleborough. The views into Lancashire are unrivalled and on clear days the high rise buildings in central Manchester are visible.
The New Inn that Stansfield had taken over in 1885 in a busy part of Todmorden was a 3 storey property almost next door to two more inns, the Rope and Anchor and the York Hotel but the area was full of mills and foundries, all with workforces that needed a pint after work. Indeed, within 250 yards more than one hundred houses had been erected during the previous ten years, and there were at least 500 people living there. This was a time when the word ‘inn’ actually meant that it had rooms for rent and under a previous landlord by the wonderful name of Robert Crook the business prospered and he had around twenty lodgers living there. An added bonus for both residents and visitors was the presence of a resident pianist, an Irish girl named Dina who provided music for the nightly sing songs. The site of the New Inn is now the car park at Todmorden health centre and as I stood there 136 years to the day that Stansfield took over the pub I imagined the faint sound of a piano being played – Dina was on top form. Long after Dina’s music had faded into the mists of time on Friday the 13th October 1972, the building collapsed and fell down.
I’m sure the New Inn would have done a roaring trade on the day of the 1889 annual Todmorden Floral and Horticultural Show and Athletic Festival, a show still in existence. With prizes awarded for everything from ‘Two cauliflowers and 2 cabbages’, to ‘12 white gooseberries’ and ‘2 cock chickens’ the festival was a big attraction. For the 2 mile race for ponies six competitors turned up. Luke Greenwood’s pony led for the first mile, but was then passed by R. Cropper’s “Daisy” and Stansfield Gibson’s “Polly.” Gibson’s Polly got behind but at the mile and a half had regained second place. Stansfield took home with him a gentleman’s travelling bag worth £ 1/ 6 shillings as runner up. 7 I wonder if Polly had been the pony who had thrown Herbert from her back just three years before.
wife Susannah died a couple of days after Christmas in 1894 the
newspaper carried this memorial to her:
‘She is gone, she
is gone to the region of light
She was with us
today, she’s in heaven tonight
Though to part with
our mother was a trial severe
Yet it is better
that she should be yonder than here.’
She was buried on New Year’s Eve high above Todmorden at Cross Stone church, the scene of her wedding to Stansfield. I wonder what the weather was like for the cortege to make its way up the steep hill. Less than a year later, in the summer of 1895 Stansfield married another widow, Fanny Walters, 18 years younger than himself who had been widowed the previous year. They were married at Heptonstall church 1895 and later that year Stansfield took over the license of the Railway Hotel in Littleborough, a town on the West of the Pennines that had grown up around the industry enabled by the building of the Rochdale canal and the trans Pennine railway. Stansfield’s pub still overlooks the canal but it is now known as The Waterside, an upscale restaurant and bar.
Six years later
Stansfield was widowed for the third time and soon after a notice in
the local newspaper on February 8th 1901 instructed that
all Stansfield’s household possessions were to be sold at auction
because he was leaving the district. I find it fascinating to see
Stansfield’s wordly possessions itemized and feel they need to be
listed in their entireity since it gives an insight into both his
standard of living and also gives us a snapshot of his day to day
existence. I wonder if he could play the piano himself or if it was
an instrument that others would play in the pub. I had to smile at
the commode disguised as a small chest of drawers.
“Dining room suite upholstered in saddle bag style including Couch, 2 easy and 6 single chairs, a noble 5ft walnut sideboard, with carved back having 3 bevelled plate-glass mirrors drawers, and cellaret complete; a brilliant toned cottage pianoforte, in walnut case, with panelled front and candelabra by Schuppinser and sons, London, oval walnut centre table; Milners’s patent fireproof safe, 26in. by 20 in by 20 in., brass curb, with fixed dogs: set of fire brasses: brass ash pan; pollard oak and brass-mounted coal vase, bamboo occasional table, tapestry bordered carpet square. 12ft. by 10ft., Axminster hearth rug, oil paintings: spirit decanters in E.P. Frame, F.P. Cruet, case of cutlery, flower vases and plaques, Chinese idol and stand; quantity of small Chinese figures and ornaments, Opera glass, glass dishes, wines and tumblers. Handsome walnut bedroom suite including 4 ft wardrobe, with centre mirrors, dressing table, with bevel plate glass mirror, washstand, with towel airer, marble top and back; and 3 upholstered chairs; stained dressing table, with mirror affixed; stained washstand, with tiled back, brass and iron Parisian bedstead, with tapestry hangings, woven wire, wool, and straw mattresses, feather beds, bolsters, and pillows, tapestry carpet square, 13ft. 4in. by 21ft 9in, toilet services, capital mahogany night commode to imitate small chest of drawers. KITCHEN: Polished birch longsettle and cushions, stained square table, with deal top, Pembroke table, 3 bentwood chairs, wringing machine, wash tubs, clothes horses and dolly, dinner service, 2 copper kettles, fender and fire irons together with the usual kitchen and culinary requisites. Also a capital wicker work bath chair with cushions, etc., complete, nearly new. But why was he selling all his possessions? Less than a year after Fanny’s death he was getting married for a fourth time, to a widow named Maria Ann Winfindale. Her husband had been the landlord of The Falcon Inn in Scarborough on the coast in East Yorkshire and around 100 miles from Littleborough and so he was selling up and moving East.
In July 2022 I headed out to Scarborough for a few days to escape the record temperatures expected throughout England. It seemed that Scarborough would be about 20F cooler than Hebden Bridge so off I went. As I was wandering around the town I suddenly caught sight of The Falcon Inn in quite a prominent place in the town, at the back of a town square filled with coffee drinkers from the local cafe. And I suddenly recalled that this place was connected to Stansfield. At first glance it appeared to be closed up. The front door was securely closed but a sign read ‘Please ring the bell. Don’t knock.’ I did as I was bid but to no avail. Some of the windows on the upper floors were open so perhaps it’s not closed permanently. But this chance encounter led me to do some research into Maria Ann who seemed to make a habit of marrying beer merchants and brewers.
Only four years after his marriage to Maria Ann (whose second marriage it was) Stansfield was widowed again.
The call of the Calder Valley appears to have stretched the entire width of Yorkshire because Stansfield moved back and I find Stansfield mentioned in the newspaper in perhaps the most unexpected of all his appearances. In June 1908 Stansfield bought a chapel! “A fairly good company assembled at the Dusty Miller Inn on the occasion of the premises formerly used as a chapel and school by the Primitive Methodists being offered by public auction. After some spirited bidding £151 was reached. And Mr John Greenwood was the purchaser. Yesterday John Greenwood resold the property to Stansfield Gibson at a nice profit.’ Now whether he bought it merely as a financial investment I have been unable to ascertain and it took many hours of research both online and wandering around the streets of Mytholmroyd before I located the building – or rather, the site of the building for it no longer exists.
A chapel and school had been built at Sunny Bank by the primitive Methodists in 1837 but when the congregation grew larger a New Chapel, Mount Zion, was built, which opened in 1888. This second chapel was an enormous building almost at the bottom of Midgley Road and overshadowed the houses around it. The poet laureate Ted Hughes was brought up in one of those homes
But it was the earlier, former chapel that Stansfield purchased and at the end of Sunny Bank terrace there is an area of unkept grass. I clambered over a wall onto the grass and above me I could discern the outline of a roof on the gable end of the existing terrace of cottages which would have been the chapel or school roof. I was standing inside Stansfield’s chapel. From the lack of further references to the building or Stansfield’s connection with it I presume that he purchased it as a financial investment.
The following year, 1909-1910 Stansfield was living in a rented house 14 Brook Street in the centre of Todmorden. From the site of the New Inn it was only a minute’s walk to Brook Street. No houses remain on that road now just a post office , a discount store and a charity shop. But by 1911 Stansfield, now 73, was living at 1 Anchor Street, just a couple of minutes walk away.
The census firmly states that he is living apart from his wife but with a housekeeper, Mary Dearden, ‘a widowed servant’ aged 69. 1 Anchor street is the middle section of a three storey building, the front of which, facing the main road now houses Buttylicious snack bar which must have been Stansfield’s butcher’s shop, so I called in for a cup of tea to takeaway with me as I went to take vintage sepia photographs of the various back streets less then 8 feet wide housing a confusion of wheelie bins and recycling baskets.
In 1914 while living at Halifax road he was entitle to vote in the elections of Mytholmroyd the description of his qualifying property being Mount Zion! Five years later Stansfield decides to shut up shop for the last time and on 18 Aug 1916 the following advertisement appears in the local paper:
‘To let or sell –
Butcher’s shop and house #139 Halifax Road, Todmorden; suitable for
any business. Apply S. Gibson, King Street, Hebden Bridge.’
The following year Stansfield was making headlines in the newspaper again, and again for a disturbing reason. He was living at 40 Cameron Street, Burnley, with his son-in-law, a home close to the canal and in the middle of one of the long rows of terraced stone houses that characterise the town. The newspaper article on 17 November, 1917 makes sad reading: ”Old Man’s Attempted Suicide. Old man, named Stansfield Gibson was charged with attempting commit suicide by cutting his throat with a table knife about 2-30 a.m. on Saturday, November 6th, 40, Cameron-street, where he lived with his son-in-law.
At the time the occurrence the son-in-law heard a noise downstairs. Going down found the prisoner crouched the bottom. He asked him what was the matter, and prisoner said: ” I have cut my throat,” The son-in-law picked him up, put, him chair, and sent for the police. The police rendered first-aid and took the man straight away to the hospital, where he had been until that morning when was discharged. Supt. Hillier said that the prisoner had become depressed through failing the eyesight, and his home had been broken up at Todmorden about three months ago. The case was dismissed on the prisoner promising not to attempt anything of the kind again. Three weeks later, however, Stansfield passed away, perhaps from his injuries. In August 2021 I went into Burnley to find 40 Cameron Street. It’s in an area of densely packed terrace houses. The paint around the door was peeling off and the stonework has been painted cream. A black taxi cab was parked outside, perhaps the driver lives at number 40. I took a stroll around the back street and immediately stepped back in time at least 50 years. The street is close to the ruins of a mill, possibly Cameron Street mill and the Leeds Liverpool canal lies at the end of the street.
He died at 112 Bridge Lanes in Hebden Bridge, near the bluebell and he’s buried at Todmorden Christ church – a very sad end to a man who lived a ‘thrilling’ active lived life to the full etc.
Note: 11 Ap 1891 On the 11th inst at the Parish church Heptonstall by the Rev E P Powell vicar, Mr Stansfield Gibson of Mt Pleasant Todmorden to Miss Annie Howarth of Bank bottom Todmorden. Died 1894.
The Grimshaw Family by F. Baker – Halifax Antiquarian Society
transactions, 1945, p.55
Yesterday I received the delivery of a stone. It measures 14″ x 28″, is 2″ thick and weighs a ton. Well, maybe not quite a ton, but I certainly can’t move it, let alone pick it up, but the stone mason who delivered it managed to carry it up the stairs and plant it against the wall in my music room.
So, what’s the story? Well, it all began on rainy November day last year, November 2nd to be precise. I was out for a walk trying to pick a time between the showers, and find a path that wouldn’t be knee deep in mud, so I walked along the towpath and along Mayroyd road towards the railway station. On the approach to the bridge over the River Calder a pile of large blackened stones had been gathered supporting a big red sign- Road Closed: use Palace House Road.
Ah, I thought, there must be a safety issue preventing vehicles from using the bridge. But then I noticed that the top most stone had some writing carved into its upper surface: ‘This memorial stone was laid by Joshua Hoyle, Esq, Moorlands, Bacup, June 14th 1890.’ That’s interesting, I thought.
I have a Joshua Hoyle in my family tree, who also issued from Bacup, a small town in Rossendale, 10 miles from where I was standing in Hebden Bridge. I wonder if it could possibly be the same person. Close to the bridge is Whittaker’s stone mason’s workshop so I poked my head into the door and was soon chatting with Richard Whittaker. His father and grandfather had owned the business and he recalled that they worked on a demolition job in Bacup! but he had no idea how or when the stone had made its way from Bacup to Mayroyd Bridge but he told me that the stone could be cut down in size, made much thinner and he would even deliver it to my apartment. I told him that I’d have to do more ancestry research to see if this Joshua was ‘my’ Joshua. The upshot was its delivery yesterday, but the story even involved many many hours of research, and I felt as if I was getting more and more mired into the mud. The primary problem being that there were two Joshua Hoyles who lived almost next door to each other in Bacup and they were both owners of textile manufacturing companies! The story does have its own royal ending because there’s a connection with Camilla Parker-Bowles, yes – Mrs Prince Charles – who I saw at an event in the Piece Hall in Halifax in 2018.
As I set out to find my possible connection to Joshua Hoyle of Moorlands I was contacted by member of the Hoyle family through Ancestry.com. I asked if she knew anything about a Joshua Hoyle living at Moorlands. “Hello, regarding Moorlands, my Gt grandfather, Joshua Craven Hoyle sold the business in 1919 due to the damp weather in Lancs and he was recommended to move south. He moved to South Devon. On leaving he gave the house and gardens to the council. I guess it was them that decided that the house (a very unattractive monstrosity) was to be knocked down and the gardens made into the park.” She added “I happened to be in Bacup in the early 1980’s when they knocked down either India or Plantation mill and I picked up some bricks.” So she too, like me now, has a physical piece of the Hoyle’s empire.
So what was the Hoyle Empire? Joshua Hoyle and Sons was a firm of cotton spinners and manufacturers, originally founded by Joshua Hoyle in 1834 at Plantation Mill in Bacup. In 1854 his two youngest sons, Edward and Isaac, took over the family’s mills and its Manchester business respectively, Joshua dying in 1862. The company (motto: ‘no test like time’) gained a reputation for benevolent management and in 1873 its workers were given the opportunity to buy shares. In 1891 the firm had five mills operating 101,000 spindles and 3,000 looms. Brooksbottom Mill was then their principal production site with 61,560 spindles and 1,082 looms. In 1906 they moved the Manchester headquarters from Mosley Street to a new purpose-built steel-framed warehouse, National Heritage List for England (‘List’) entry 1271127.
‘My’ Joshua Hoyle was the son of Edward and Frances Craven – hence the Craven name. By the age of 24 he was living with his cousin, William Hoyle, 26 in Ramsbottom, a small town dear to my family’s heart, and they are listed in the 1891 as cotton manufacturers. 2 years later he married Mary Beatrice Law Schofield at the parish church in Rawtenstall and the new family lived at Oak House in Bacup. With the death of his father in 1897 it seems that Joshua and Mary moved into Moorlands, Edward’s home. Edward’s will shows that he left 147,000 pounds to family members including Joshua. That’s around 16 million pounds in today’s money.
During the first world war Joshua saw service in Egypt (embarked as Lt Col 9/9/1914 with the East Lancs Regiment) From Joshua’s grand daughter I learned that “in 1919 Joshua, his wife Mary Beatrice and my grand mother, Frances, moved down to South Devon – to Gnaton Hall, a house I knew well. It was sold in 1978ish, and became to family home of one of Lord Roborough’s sons. His son married Camilla Parker-Bowles daughter. They now live there. I guess Camilla would visit.”
Hawthorn House Hawthorn House is situated on the road to Bacup across the road from what most people will know as E Sutton & Son’s Riverside works. The house was built by Edward’s father, Joshua – senior – between 1844-1849, (not to be confused with Joshua Hoyle of Olive House). If the walls could talk the house could tell the tale of the building and demolition of India Mill.
Joshua the son of Abraham and Sarah Hoyle was born in 1796. In 1834, he went into business with John Maden at Midge Hole, building Throstle Mill two years later. By 1841 Joshua had built Plantation Mill living across the road from the mill until the completion of Hawthorn House. Joshua and his wife Elizabeth had four sons, James, John, Isaac and Edward (Moorlands House) and one daughter Alice. Joshua died at the house in 1859: India Mill wasn’t built until three years after his death. Both Edward and Isaac took a keen interest in the welfare of their employees and by 1873 the workforce held one-fourth of the concern as partnership shares.
The story of the Hoyle manufacturing empire is beyond the scope of this page in my blog. It’s a complex story and there is so much information that I find it overwhelming, but the Grace’s guide is a good place to start, with lots of posters advertising the business.
The former warehouse of Joshua Hoyle and Sons stood derelict for many years until it was converted and extended and opened as the Malmaison Hotel in 1998. 
What building the stone that started off my research was actually commemorating is probably lost in the mists of time. For my own connection with the Hoyles see a former page in my blog: http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/2021/03/31/my-new-connection-with-old-town/
Many thanks to Ann for sharing the family photos.
Update: August 21, 2022
At last the day arrived when I would visit the site of Moorlands and see if anything remained. It was mid afternoon when I took the bus to Todmorden and then the bus to Bacup. It had been raining until lunchtime and I’d given up my idea of hiking in the hills so, when the sun came out, I decided to visit Moorlands.
An impressive gate heralded the entrance of Stubbylee and Moorlands park on the outskirts of Bacup. The park was well signposted with maps showing children’s playgrounds, rose gardens, woodland, cafe, duck pond and there were lots of people enjoying the open space on this Saturday afternoon. I came to a large building housing council offices and a citizen’s advice centre but the building looked much more impressive than its current function.
A lady and grandchild were sitting on a bench enjoying the view of the duckpond and i asked her if she knew anything about the origins of the building. She didn’t but suggested I asked at the cafe. The cafe was just closing for the day but the staff referred me to several information boards on the side of the old aviary and there I found what I was looking for.
The entire park has extensive plans including some working involving Moorlands.
I went in search of the sunken garden which was close by the now demolished house and by following a few little paths through the woodland I came across piles of used stone, some carved into formal shapes, looking very much as if they were from some elegant building, perhaps even parts of fireplaces.
Then I found a large retaining wall barely visible in the undergrowth. Returning to the information boards, sure enough, the stones are on the site of the original moorland house, and, what’s more, there are plans to ‘clear away some vegetation and expose areas of wall from the original hall that stood here – The Moorlands.’ Also ‘interpretation relating to the house,’ and ‘opportunities for archaeological digs.’ Perhaps they would be interested in the stone in my music room!
In May 2023 I learned from someone who had read my blog about my connection with Moorlands that the lintels above the door frames and window frames on Moorlands Terrace had been made from the demolished hall.
It all began with one man and his dog. The man, Edward, was a shepherd. I didn’t catch the name of his sheepdog but she was having a jolly old time swimming around in an old bath tub in the sheep field as I chatted to her master. I was on Edge Lane, between Heptonstall and Colden, and had just arrived at Spink House where my ancestor Giles Sunderland was living in 1891. As I paused to take photos of the building Edward came into view. I thought perhaps he lived there, but no. He was just walking along the tack to his sheep field. We chatted for a while and as we parted he said, “If you are interested in history make sure you find out about Raistrick Greave.”
Hmm. . . A couple of days later, quite by chance I found a video of someone’s hike to the ruins of Raistrick Greave, a farmhouse in a very isolated spot way up on Heptonstall Moor above Widdop. Its name reminded me of Greave farm where Gibson Butterworth was living in 1901 so I decided to do a bit more digging online. With 20 or more ‘hints’ on the Ancestry website, Gibson looked like a ‘person of interest.’
Until a couple of days ago Gibson Butterworth was just another name on my Nutton family tree, one of over 2000 names. I knew he and his sister Grace had been born at Weasel Hall, a building high on the hillside that dominates the view from my desk where I write this.
A few months ago I’d been given the handwritten account of the life of his father Ezra Butterworth, along with some wonderful photos from James Moss, someone on Ancestry.com whose family had also married into the Butterworths.
The son of Ezra Butterworth and Mary, (nee Gibson) he was assigned his mother’s maiden name as his forename, a very common occurrence in these parts. Indeed my dad’s middle name was Dean, in memory of a family surname. Gibson was born in 1863, the same year that Cheetham House sewing factory in Hebden Bridge was built. I’d lived there for the first 18 months after my return to England, in an upper room where huge iron wheels from the pulleys that powered the machines still graced my ceiling.
According to the journal that Grace kept “Gibson was a great disappointment to Ezra. He was highly intelligent but perhaps in- herited too much of his mother’s temperament. He was educated first at Heptonstall Grammar school and later went as a boarder to a school at East Keswick. Though he wanted to be an engineer he never seemed to settle down. Ezra started him in the clothing business in Hebden Bridge but after two years he threw it over in disgust and became a wanderer. After forty years he retuned from New Zealand and settled in a cottage in Hebden Bridge. Even in his old age he was a very gifted speaker and would draw people to his cottage just to listen to him.He and Grace seemed to have been very close to one another but while Grace accepted her mother’s domination Gibson would not. So there grew a fierce hatred between Mother and Son which lasted as long as they lived.Maybe that was the cause of his differences with his father.
Gibson was educated in Heptonstall grammar school, that fascinating building which first opened its doors in 1642, the year before that the town was directly involved in the Civil War, when the battle of Heptonstall took place in the remote hilltop community. The parliamentarians of Heptonstall did battle with the Royalists of Halifax. In 1871 Gibson was a young 8 year old, living on Crown street (my current address) with his family. His dad, Ezra was a railway contractor held in quite esteem according to the written account of his life. “He was responsible for the laying and upkeep of many of the lines of the Lancs and Yorks Railway. He was a perfectionist and the train drivers always knew when they were on his lines, they were so smooth.” So recounted his daughter, Grace. I’ve been trying for 2 years to work out which buildings various branches of my family lived on Crown Street, but to no avail. By 1881 Gibson’s family appear to have moved up in the world judging by the fact that they are now living at Oak Villa,a house built especially for the Butterworths and Ezra is a farmer with 9 acres. See my blog about Ezra. http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/?s=ezra
In 1890 his Ezra his wife, Mary, and daughter Grace had moved to Hippins farm, which Ezra leased from Lord Savile’s estate. It was a 75 acre farm set high on the hill top above Todmorden . In the 1891 census Gibson is still at Oak Villa where he is living with his Uncle, Thomas Butterworth, another plate layer for the railway and his wife Mary Ann. This in itself is perhaps insignificant but new paper reports fill in the back story of a major rift in the family. Indeed, the newspaper article is entitled: Unhappy Family Differences – painful disclosures. Ezra had deleted Gibson from his will and so Gibson was claiming financial compensation by taking his mother and sister’s husband, Elias Barker, to court to claim what he believed was owing to him. The court decided on a nominal sum.
Sharing Hippins farm in 1891 was the Wolfenden family, John William Wolfenden, his wife Jane, and three young children, one of whom was named Isabella, aged 3, so born in 1888. There just HAD to be a connection, since Gibson had married an Isabella Wolfenden, born in 1857. It took me into the early hours of the next day before I’d cracked it. John William was Isabella’s brother. And just to complicate matters still further John William Wolfenden’s wife’s Jane was a Butterworth, Jane Butterworth, born in 1856! I guess the families living in the remote hilltop farms would gather together and mingle and perhaps meet their future spouses at stock sales and other farm related activities.
Two years after Ezra died 1898, a tragic death, caused by an injury sustained by falling onto his chamber pot in a drunken stupor, Gibson married Isabella Wolfenden, a second marriage for the widowed bride. The marriage took place at Slack Chapel. The present building was constructed in 1879, replacing the earlier building of 1808 where the opening ceremony was attended by seven hundred people. More than a thousand were at the Dedication service on the following Sunday.
It’s no longer a chapel but when I’d visited it in the August 2017 it appeared that some building or renovation work was in progress. I’d even chatted to a man that came out of the building to find out what I was doing. But three years later the place looks in the same unfinished condition. In July 2015 a picnic was planned on Popples Common to discuss the building’s future. Plans for it to become a halfway house for those recovering from drug abuse were dropped after objections from local residents. I chatted to the current owner, Holly, as she tended the gravestones that make up her front garden. “You can’t live here if you have a nervous disposition” she quipped. So now let’s find out more about Gibson’s wife.
Isabella was from Paythorne, a picturesque village on the River Ribble, in the Forest of Bowland, and her dad, John, was an agricultural labourer. By the time Isabella was 10 years old the family had moved to Good Greave, a farm on Heptonstall Moor, a farm that has been in the Shackleton family for a long time. I mean, a really long time! In the 1604 survey out of 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth 14 were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions 2 at Good Greave. There was a Richard ‘elder’ and Richard ‘younger’ at Good Greave in the Court Roll of 1603 and in documents of 1605 but not on the Savile tenants lists as ‘they’ had bought their farm in 1600.
A more remote spot on the moorland is hard to find. Indeed, it took me a while to be able to pinpoint the exact location of Good Greave on a map. I enlisted the help of various Facebook pages and although I had several responses it was still proving difficult to find the location so Greave and Good Greave, both of which are now in ruins, with nothing but ill-defined tracks through the peat bog. One photo purporting to be of Good Greave shows a stone doorway and lintel, all that survives of this remote farm.
Isabella was one of 5 children and the oldest daughter. Her 3 younger siblings had been born in Barnoldswick. Up on the moors living next door, if such it can be called, at Greave, was Thomas Shackleton, a farmer aged 28 , living with his widowed aunt, Jane Uttley aged 67, a retired farmer, and his sister Sarah Ann and two servants. On December 14, 1873 the 16 year old Isabella married the 31 year old Thomas Shackleton at Halifax minster and Isabella moved to Greave to live with her new husband .
Questions floated around in my head. Where did the Shackletons buy food? Would Isabella have had another woman to help her in childbirth? They were 4 miles from Heptonstall amidst some of the most barren and windswept places in Yorkshire. But the Shackletons appeared to flourish.10 months after their wedding James was born, to be followed by 6 more children, approximately every 2 years. Two died within their first year and one, James, the firstborn when he was 7.
But what happened to Isabella’s father after his daughter married and moved out? Some time between Isabella’s marriage in 1873 and the 1881 census John Wolfenden had taken over as landlord of the Ridge inn on Widdop Road, now known as the Pack Horse. It claims to be the highest and most isolated pub in the Upper Calder Valley and in January 2004, the pub won the National Civic Pride gold standard award, as the most scenic pub in Britain, beating 200 other pubs.
From the Hebden Bridge Newsletter, 29 July, 1881
“IRISH LAWLESSNESS AT WIDDOP. EXTRAORDINARY SCENES. on Wednesday last a report spread rapidly throughout the district that in an Irish affray at Ridge, Alcomden one or more lives had been sacrificed , and in Hebden Bridge particularly the rumour caused some uneasiness and dismay. Happily, as it turned out there was no fatality, but conduct of a most extraordinary character took place at the place named, which, but for the discreet conduct of the police, might readily have led to serious and possibly fatal consequences. It appears from all we can gather, that on the afternoon of the preceding day, two young Irish mowers, John Devine and Patrick Fox, went to the Pack Horse lnn, Ridge, now kept by Mr. Wolfenden, (Isabella’s dad) and them began is create a disturbance. An Englishmen who was present managed to overcome them, and into the bargain gave them ” a good hiding” (to use a local expression).
Next morning the two returned to the inn along with a number of their fellow-countrymen, and it is presumed they came hoping to find the Englishman and to have their revenge upon him for his victory of the previous day. He was not there, however, and the gang at once began to abuse and insult the landlord and his family. Eventually they turned Mr. and Mrs. Wolfenden, and their daughters, (these would be Mary Ellen, 13, and Annie Jane, 9) out of the house and having become for the time masters of the situation, made use of their opportunity to feast and be merry at the expense of someone else. They helped themselves it is said, to the estables which were in the house, also to the beer, spirits and cigars, and to give greater variety to their enjoyment began to break glasses, windows etc. During these orgies one of the men, as we are informed, took off all his clothes except the fragments of a shirt which he was wearing, and in that condition went outside and exposed himself to the female members of Mr Wolfenden’s household. Fox and Devine were the ringleaders in the affair, and as soon as the attendance of the police could be obtained – which was not until afternoon as the inn is about 5 miles from Hebden Bridge, (on horseback) these two were given into the custody of P.C.s Shaw and Slee who had been sent to the scene. The charges on which they were taken into custody were for refusing to quit and willful damage. The prisoners were handcuffed together and conducted towards Hebden Bridge by the officers followed for a time at a distance by seven men who had taken part in the affair. (So the procession begins the 5 mile trek back to Hebden police station).
At Blakedean the officers and their prisoners were overtaken and the gang began to threaten the officers what they would do if they did not liberate the two prisoners.
There was some struggling and shoving about and one of the men took up a top-stone from a wall (I see the wall on the photo) and threatened to knock P.C Shaw’s brains out if he did not loose the handcuffs and set Devine and Fox free. Seeing, at last, that they would be overpowered and that there was no chance to land their prisoners safely at Hebden Bridge, the officers let the prisoners go, but carefully noted the direction which the gang took with a view of following them when they had obtained further assistance. Shaw and Slee made haste to Hebden Bridge while the gang made in the direction of Colden. About quarter to six P.C’s Shaw and Slee along with P. C Eastwood, P.C’s Norton and Taylor and two civilians set off to try to find the men. At Popples, Heptonstall, the officers separated into two companies, Slee going in one direction and Shaw with the other.
Shaw’s section went first to Longtail beerhouse, (this is on Edge lane and is now terraced cottages) tolerably confident of finding some of the men there, but were disappointed. They learnt however, that some of the men had passed the house previously going towards Colden. The officers then made in that direction and at Old Smithy or Hudson Lane met 4 of the party including Devine and Fox. The other two were Samuel Easterbrook and Thomas Castle and were apprehended on a charge of assisting to procure the rescue of Fox and Devine. Castle made an attempt to escape but was run down and caught. The four men were handcuffed together and led off to the police station at Hebden Bridge. Their arrival created unusual attention as at that time rumours of a murder having been committed were still current. some of the prisoners were bruised and disfigured about their faces and all acted with considerable bravado as they marched through the streets. One of them, it is said, was the ringleader in a row which took place at Bridge-gate on Sunday week. The rest of the gang were not captured. The 4 prisoners were brought up yesterday morning at West riding Court, Halifax before Capt Rothwell and Dr Alexander. Devine and Fox pleaded guilty to a charge of being drunk and disorderly on the previous day. . .The men were strangers. They had left their native country being afraid of the Coersion Act. (an act of parliament which allowed the internment without trial for anyone suspected of involvement with the Land War, whereby tenant farmers would gain a fair rent and fixity of tenure) .Fox had left Ireland 8 years before, and Devine 5 years before. The bench imposed upon each prisoner a penalty of 10s and 14s 2d costs with the alternative of 14 days in prison. Easterbrook and Castle were ordered to pay one pound and 14s 2d costs or go to Wakefield for one month with hard labour.”
June 15, 1883 DEAD body found in Widdop reservoir – Queer feelings in Hebden Bridge.
The water bailiff found a dead body floating in Widdop reservoir. The body belonged to a man aged around 55 and his coat, cap and scarf had been neatly laid on the bank. Judging from the fragments of newspaper in his coat pocket it was surmised that the dead man had come from Burnley, and that he had been taking a wash when he fell, possibly seized with a fit, rather than having deliberately taken his own life, because, the inquest reasoned, he would not have place his clothes so neatly. A boat was taken onto the reservoir and the dead man was taken by cart to the Pack Horse, Widdop to await identification and inquest.
Some Folk in Hebden Bridge immediately began to revert to using well water believing that their running water would have been contaminated by the body, which, judging by its condition, had been in the water for a considerable time. Other stories abounded included people imagining they had seen” bits of toe nails” coming down their pipes. The inquest took place at the house of Mr John Wolfenden at the Packhorse Inn, Ridge. The jurymen viewed the body and then listened to the evidence. By chance a friend of the deceased’s wife saw a newspaper article about the discovery of a body in Widdop reservoir. He knew that his friend’s husband, Mrs William Whitehead had been missing from home and so they made arrangements to come to hebden Bridge. Apparently they missed the train and had to take a pony trap over the hills from Burnley and arrived at the police station in hebden bridge just as the police officer was returning from The Pack Horse with the clothing recovered at the scene. Mrs Whitehead immedaitely identified them as belonging to her husband. He had been missing from home for three weeks and “had been in a desponding state of mind for some time. Five years before he had attempted suicide by cutting his throat.” An open verdict was returned. After the inquest what must have been a very badly deteriorated body was placed in a coffin and transported to Heptonstall for burial but due to some misunderstanding no grave had been prepared for the burial. “The man in charge of the hearse was in a bit of a quandary but eventually he was allowed to deposit his freight in the church porch.’ From where the deceased’s wife collected it around midnight, placed it in a hearse and took it to Burnley at 7:30 the following morning.
Isabella’s father, John Wolfenden, died at the Pack Horse Inn Widdop on January 27, 1886 .
Four years later on May 16, 1890 Isabella’s husband, Thomas, died at the age of 58. He was buried at Blakedean Chapel the following day, which seems rather unusual. The headstone now lies prostrate on the grass. I visited the spot on June 15, 2020, two days after a tremendous thunderstorm in which there was a reported tornado only a couple of miles from this very spot.
At first I couldn’t find the grave but at last I saw a grave stone holding water and could read that this was the family grave where Thomas and his sons, John, James, Robert Kay and Richard William Foster were laid to rest. What a wonderfully tranquil place. I tried to figure out where the chapel had been. It was built in 1820 as an offshoot of Slack Baptist chapel. All that remains now is the Sunday School which was used as a scouting retreat after the church closed in 1959. My mind raced. Where did the people come from to worship here? Because of the lie of the land being so steep the gallery was accessed by steps from the road above. At the time of her husband’s death Isabelle’s youngest child was 8 months old and now, at the age of just 32 she was already a widow. The census of the following year shows Isabella as the head of household and a farmer. Her oldest son, Richard, aged 14 is the ‘farmer’s assistant.’ Her other children are aged 6, 3, 1 other children and her 52 year old sister-in -law is an assistant housekeeper and another Shackleton lady relative, aged 50, is ‘living here own means.’ Both these ladies had both been born at Good Greave.
It took 10 years for Isabella to remarry, and that’s when
she becomes part of my family’s story marrying Gibson Butterworth at Slack
Chapel on March 27, 1900. Isabella was nine years older than Gibson. How did
they meet? OK. It took my a couple of hours to figure it out but Glory Be! I
figured out how they met! In 1891 when Ezra Butterworth, Gibson’s dad was
living at Hippins he was sharing the large house with John William Wolfenden
who, it transpires was none other than Isabelle’s brother.
By the 1911 census the family are living in Nelson – just over Hepstonstall Moor from Good Greave, and Gibson is a . . .builder of canal boats. Wow. That was unexpected! From the middle of a moor in one of the most remote parts of England and he becomes a canal boat builder. This is so funny. Yesterday I was in Heptonstall and I was taking another look at the sign in a back street that’s falling apart. It says Boats for Rent. An ‘old timer’ saw me looking and I struck up a conversation. “Boats for hire? Heptonstall is on top of a hill! Where could you sail a boat?” I asked. “Well now. There are reservoirs around here, Gorple, Widdop, Walshaw,” came his response.
As we chatted further it turned out that he knew the dentist that had his office in my living room – Donaldson was his name. That’s the second person I’ve met who remembers my apartment being a dentist’s office. The first was a lady in her 90’s at the Mytholmroyd Community Christmas in 2018. This man in Heptonstall was proud to tell me he is in his 80s. Gibson appears to be a boat builder and working for his son-in-law, Thomas Whitaker from Barnoldswick who is an employer of canal boat builders. How interesting! Isabella died at Moor Lodge, Oakworth near Keighley but is buried at Blakedean. Today it’s a country retreat and from 2003 to 2015 it held international sheepdog trials raising almost 30,000 pounds for the air ambulance.
After Isabella died Gibson
had planned to emigrated to New Zealand. He boarded the ship called the
Shropshire at Liverpool, part of the Federal Line. He was 56 and planned to be
a farm hand and was bound for Auckland. 25th Feb 1921. However, he
arrived back in England, at London from Wellington 30 Nov 1922 on the
Corinthic, part of the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company Ltd. He is 57 describes
himself as a carpenter.
Phyllis Wrigley married Abraham Moss’s son Walter Edward. Walter had been born at 13 Melbourne Street in 1888. In 1914 his sister Phyllis Moss died at Brooklyn aged 12 years. By 1911, at the age of 22, Walter is head dyer of fustian, still living at Brooklyn, and he’s still at Brooklyn in 1918. On March 19, 1919 he married Phyllis Wrigley, daughter of John Edward Wrigley of Rose Grove, Oak Leigh and Beech Mount.
John Edward died at Oak Leigh on Oct 17, 1929 and his funeral was at Heptonstall. He left 7096pounds in his will – painter and paper hanger?
Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter – Friday 23 August 1929
So yesterday I explored Edge Lane, high above the Colden Valley. I’d circled a building on my OS a while ago. It didn’t have a name but last night I figured it out. On early maps the collection of building is named Spink House. On my current OD map it’s called Halstead Farm! I found a photo online and I remember passing that farm yesterday as I was talking with the ‘lady with hat.’ I’d also passed a building called Workhouse. At the time I’d thought it was an odd place for a workhouse, stuck in this tiny community of scattered farm dwellings. I’d also recalled from my earlier research that there was a chapel close by, at the time my ancestors lived at Spink House. So now the task is to piece it altogether. Recently someone commented that I live in the past. I see it more as detective work!
In 1881 Abraham Crabtree Sunderland was living at Spink House, Edge Lane. He was the paternal grandfather of the wife of my 3rd cousin 2x removed! He was born in Heptonstall in 1850 to John Sunderland and his wife Grace Crabtree. Until his marriage he lived on Smithwell Lane, Heptonstall. That’s the main street that I painted when I was 14! Abraham was a commercial clerk when he married at St John’s Halifax in 1875. By 1881 they had 3 children, John, James and Benjamin and the census specifies that Abraham was a commercial clerk in the cotton trade. 5 families were sharing the buildings, and several were related by marriage. The family were still at Spink House 10 years later and now there are 6 children, the youngest being Giles. In the 1891 census there are still 5 households named living in Spink House. In this census, however, the house is situated next to the chapel. By 1901 Abraham was a widower and the family had moved to Mytholm Lane, in the Calder valley on the outskirts of Hebden Bridge. Abraham is now an insurance agent. (Giles was later to die in Flanders in 1916) There are 3 former posts about Giles Sunderland in this blog.
Now onto the unexpected ‘Workhouse’. With a bit of digging online I found out that yes, indeed, there was a workhouse here on Edge Lane. The Heptonstall workhouse opened in 1754. From workhouses.co.uk:
Sunderland is a common name in this area but what a coincidence: the overseer (no date given) was a Sunderland, just like my ancestor who lived on the same remote lane 100 years later.
Update: May 29, 2020
So today I set out to see Spink House and the workhouse for myself. The weather forecast said that it would get to 70F so I knew that unless I left first thing I wouldn’t go, so I caught the 9:10 bus up to Edge Lane. It was already warm and for the first time this summer I didn’t even carry a light jacket with me. So armed with sunglasses, sun hat, two bottle of water, an apple and a tangerine off I trotted up Edge Lane. Now this was my second time on this lane and since that first time I had explored New Lane which runs parallel to the river Colden from the New Delight and then climbs steeply to Scotland! From Edge Lane I could see that route clearly, and Stoodley Pike above.
On current maps Spink House is now called Halstead Green farm so it was with great delight that I saw a sign on the first house in the farm buildings saying Spink House. So this is the place where Abraham Crabtree Sunderland lived from at least 1881-1891 and where his six children were born. It was a delightful stone cottage with a colourful garden and as I turned off the road towards the house to take photos I hoped that someone would come out and I could explain my presence. It’s always a great thrill for me to chat with current residents, many of whom are keen to know something of their antecedents. At that moment a shepherd and his dog came along the lane and I asked “Do you live here?” ‘No I’m going going into the field to get my sheep.” We ended up chatting while his dog took a bath, in the old water-filled bath in the field. He has 300 sheep and his land extends to the common land on Heptonstall Moor above us. It must be a tough job in the winter up here, 1100ft above sea level. He asked me if I’d heard of Raistrick Greave farm – an impressive ruin. I hadn’t. “Look it up when you get home.” A week later a home movie had popped up on Youtube about Shibden Valley. A guy hikes with a selfie stick and visits some of the ruins. I enjoyed it – even though I felt a little sea sick by the end of it. I noticed that he has made another one called Heptonstall moor and I watched that too. I didn’t even knit which I watched it! Pretty rare for me. I soon found myself traveling along with ‘Nick’ up the Colden valley, to the new delight, and then onto New Lane which i just discovered a couple of weeks ago. he passes the old pack horse bridge that I was fascinated by, Lane Farm gardens with its mill chimney covered in ivy – and they he Heather Hops, as he calls it, to Raistrick Greave. It looked very difficult to get to, but very, very impressive – SO isolated! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EihAVFiXe04&t=10sh
He pointed me in the direction of the Workhouse and off I went, much further along Edge Lane. The Workhouse was set off the road on a cobbled track leading down the hill and again I hoped to find someone working for this was very obviously a working farm. As luck would have it the farmer was just getting down from the trailer and he was happy to chat with me for while. He’s lived there since the 1970’s and before he moved in the farm had been derelict for 30 years. He pointed out a stone on the gable end showing that the house and barn had been rebuilt by John Mitchell in 1828. This meant that the building was not the workhouse building because the workhouse had moved to Popples Common in 1810, but the vista that the people who lived in the workhouse would have looked out on must be completely unchanged and its name remains. He pointed out some of the farms, one of which he had owned and sold recently. Another mere shell of a former farm had provided the roof for the workhouse farm. I told him I’d been to Scotland (the name of a farm off New Lane) but I hadn’t yet made it to Egypt (a farm above Edge Lane). He told me there was Greenland too!
I hadn’t reread my previous post before I went there today and so wasn’t looking for the site of a former chapel, though now I see that there were two chapels here on the old map. That’ll wait for another day. It’s a beautiful area and I’m so glad I ‘discovered’ it.
Rather than retrace my steps along Edge Lane I wanted to explore a new path leading down to the river and just at that moment Edward the shepherd appeared in the adjacent field and he pointed out the path to me. It was signposted Jack Bridge – just where I wanted to get. Just over the bridge, hidden by trees was a large stone house with a beautiful garden and as I stopped to take a photo I suddenly noticed a mill chimney completely covered in ivy and almost hidden by trees. I’d not expected to find a mill here, though much further down stream there are several mills, now derelict. Update: April 2021. Read about Land Mill:
There are connections to this remote with Samuel Crompton of Hall i’th’ wood, Bolton, and William Barker of Wood Top and Mayroyd Mills – Scotland in the Colden Valley. After a couple of signposts the path divided and of course, there was no sign post now. I took the ‘one less travelled by’ – shaded and level and a couple of stiles later I found myself in a field of buttercups and lambs where the path was barely discernible. I headed for another stile and sat down to eat my picnic. The view was amazing. I could see across the valley to Edge Lane and all the way down to Heptonstall’s church tower. A voice brought me out of my reverie, “I’m coming over the stile.” I moved to the side to let a woman and her dog negotiate the stile. “Heather?” I looked at her. It was none other than Jenny, a director from the Little Theatre and a member of the Little Theatre choir that I accompany. I knew she lived in this area but was amazed to see her at this lovely spot in the middle of sheep and buttercups. We both sat down on the grass and chatted while I finished my picnic. Very lovely.
Son of Thomas and Hannah Gibson. Thomas was a butcher on Bridge Lanes, Hebden Bridge and had also lived at Winters (see post). As was common at that time their first son was given Hannah’s maiden name, Stott as his Christian name. He was baptised on May 6, 1855 at the parish church in Hebden bridge. 8 siblings were to follow. 1861 sees the family living in Bridgegate, the house before the White Lion on the census route. By 1871 the family have moved to Old Gate and while his dad continued to run the butcher’s shop Stott has now joined the vast numbers of fustian cutters employed in the town.
On September 24, at the age of 19 Stott married Sarah Ellen Thomas at Halifax minster. Only her mother is named and on her marriage certificate there is a blank space for her father. If her father had been deceased he would have been named and then ‘deceased’ added. Stott and Sarah had 10 children. A month after their marriage they had a son who was baptised in October but died the following month. He’s buried at St James’s.
Two years after their marriage Stott gets caught up in a fight that appears to have been sparked by rivalry between the Heptonstall and the Hebden Bridge brass bands!
Todmorden & District News – Friday 29 September 1876
DISCORD AMONGST MUSICIANS —UTTLEY V. SUTCLIFFE—Mr. Craven appeared for plaintiff, and Mr. Ashworth (Rochdale) far defendant. Mr. Craven in opening the case said the matter arose out of an affray between the members of two local bands.- His Honor: Two bands of music ?—Mr. Craven: Yes, but on this occasion not of a very harmonious character—Mr. Ashworth: There was too much drumming for much harmony. (Laughter).— Mr. Craven, continuing, said that on the 22nd July certain parties connected with the Heptonstall and Hebden-bridge brass bands were at the Shoulder of Mutton inn, and a dispute arose about the musical abilities of each band. On leaving the Shoulder Mutton Inn a fracas took place amongst some of them. Soon after this the defendant got hold of his client, and threw him a distance of four or five yards, the result of which was that his ankle was dislocated; whilst on the ground the defendant got upon him and struck him in the face. His client claimed 6.11s.6d damages; he was stone mason, and was away from work two weeks; his wages were 32s a week; he paid 7s 6d. for medical assistance, and claimed 3 pounds for the pain and suffering which he had undergone. –
Plaintiff on being examined said: I was at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn on the night of the 22nd of July; I had one glass of beer there, and I had previously had two glasses of porter and a bottle of cider during the day. When I left the Shoulder Mutton Inn I was making my way home, and went over the Old bridge with James Simpson and Thos. Sutcliffe, whom I accompanied to Buttress Bottom. I did not see the defendant; there were a great number of people about. The Heptonstall band had been to a demonstration at Todmorden; there was a majority of the band at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn. I had been in company with a man of the name of Stott Gibson, and when I got to Buttress-bottom I saw him on the door-step of his house, and someone was bothering him, and I was going to protect him when the defendant got hold of me by the collar and threw me a distance of four five yards to the ground; he then got on top of me, and gave pair of black eyes; he hit me with his fist when I was down, and there were three or four persons kicking me at the same time.I never saw the defendant after. I went home by the roadside as best I could, and on the morning following I called in a doctor, who said the ankle was put out. I was kept sway from work two weeks in consequence of that injury. I paid my doctor 7s 6d. I had very much pain during the time of my illness. -I strictly followed out the doctor’s orders. I can swear that defendant was the man who threw me.—
By Mr. Ashworth; I had been at the Shoulder of Mutton about twenty minutes; I had one glass there. I had been at the Hole-in-the-wall and the Swan Inn before going there;
I had two glasses of porter and a bottle of cider. I went work that day at half past seven, and worked til 12 o’clock during which time I never tasted intoxicating drink. Stott Gibson had been with me at the Hole-in-the-wall and the Swan Inn, and he to went to the Shoulder of Mutton with me. He was stirred in drink at the last-named place, but not drunk. I play in Hebden Bridge band; Stott Gibson also plays in the same band. The defendant is not a musician that I am aware of; he lives at Nutclough. When the Heptonstall band came up my friend did not make any remark that I heard; he did not say he would have a “b—row.” He left the public house when I did. There was a row outside, which took place on the other side of the bridge. It was not one continuous fight from the Shoulder Mutton to the bottom of Buttress. Within 5 or ten minutes after that the row between the defendant and myself began. I was going to where the row was taking place. I did not hear defendant complain of someone striking him; I had not struck him. We were both on the ground together. He threw me four or five yards, and followed close upon me; I never struck or offered to strike anybody. I got home without any assistance a little after 11 o’clock. I took no part to the general scuffle. The scuffle was between the members of the Heptonstall and the members of the Hebden-bridge bands; I am a member of the latter, and so is Stott Gibson, but I took no part the scuffle. “Straight-up” was having a row with Stott Gibson. I attended a brass band contest at Todmorden on the following Saturday, but I was not able to work; I went to the contest in a spring cart. I was never drunk during the time of my illness. I did not throw on to any club.—By Mr. Craven: I went to try to work on the Monday following, but I could not stand at the bench. I received no additional Injury through attending the contest.—Thomas Naylor was called in supporting the plaintiff’s evidence, and spoke to seeing the parties at the Shoulder Mutton Inn, and afterwards seeing Stott Gibson home; there were lots of scufflings going on but he could not swear to the assault committed upon the plaintiff as he did not recognise either of the parties in the general scuffle. -Mary Hannah Southwell said: I know Thomas Uttley; I saw him on the night of 22nd of July at the bottom of Buttress between half past 10 and 11 o’lock.there were a good many people about. I saw a young man take hold of Uttley and throw him sideways; I did not see him again that night. I did not know who it was that there him – should I know him if i saw him again; I cannot swear that it was the defendant. I knocked down accidentally in the affray. –
By Mr Ashworth: There was a good deal of jostling and fitting going on; they did not seem to be behaving like Christians to one another. – Jonathan Whitely said: I was at sale on the Monday following the affray, and defendant was there. I called him one side and asked him about it, and he said he had thrown Uttley down, but Uttley struck him first. I told him what in jury Uttley had sustained and he expressed sorrow. – This being the plaintiff’s case Mr Ashworth addressed the court for the efense, after which he called upon the defendant Richard Sutcliffe, who said: On 22nd of July I was at the shoulder of MuttonInn, and that day there had been a demonstration at Todmorden where the Heptonstall band had been engaged. . I went to the Shoulder of Mutton Inn at 10 o’clock. I was quite sober. The plaintiff Thomas Uttley was there, and appeared to be sober.I did not see Uttley leave the house. I saw him near Stott Gibson’s house: he was then rushing towards Gibson and I stopped him and was going to tell him that Gibson’s wife was in charge of him when he turned round and struck me in the chest. I then got hold of him and we both went to the ground together. No-one separated us. I never was on top of him. I left him at the end of Royd Terrace.
I saw Whitely on the Monday following and he told me of Uttley’s in juries but I did n to express my sorrow. I told him that Uttley struck me in the breast and then got hold of him. I did not know that he was hurt until whitely told me. Uttley struck as hard as he could. –
By Mr Craven: I got up and left him lying on the ground. I did not wait to see whether he got up or not – I was not aware that I had injured him. Stott Gibson shouted the Heptonstall band whilst playing. (?) I am n to a member of the Heptonstall band but my sympathies are with that band. I stopped Uttley to tell him who it was who was getting Gibson into the house. The blow was intentionally given to me; I did not strike to to my recollection whilst on the ground. –
William Sutcliffe corroborated defendant’s evidence as to the plaintiff striking first. Mr Ashworth intimated that he had other witnesses to call if his Honor was not satisfied. His Honor said he did. Not think the plaintiff had any right of action against the defendant, and ordered a nonsuit.
The family were now, 1881 living at Buttress Bottom, Hebden Bridge and in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 census they are #6 Buttress Brink.
Sarah died in 1917 and so far the only Stott Gibson’s death record I can find is in Conway, Wales in 1925 but that seems unlikely. I did, however manage to locate photos of Stott’s children from a relative on Ancestry.com
Stott’s son, Arthur, was killed in WW l in 1916 the day after his brother, William was killed. 8 months later their brother Ben was also killed. Today I was invited to go to see the new Oscar nominated movie ‘1917’ but I declined.