Category: Ancestry (page 2 of 6)

I found it – Spink House

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

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!

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.


brother-in-law of my 1st cousin 3x removed

Stott Gibson 1855-1925

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.

Sculpture celebrating the fustian industry in Hebden Bridge Square

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!

Hole in the Wall Inn on right. Royd Terrace rear centre. Buttress Brink on left

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;

The old inn, The Hole in the Wall, at the bottom of the Buttress next to the Old Bridge prior to its demolition and eventual replacement in 1899

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. –

Higgledy piggledy tenements of Buttress Bottom

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.

Residents of Buttress Bottom outside their homes, with houses of Royd Terrace behind

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.  –

Taken from the Old Bridge looking up to the Buttress with Royd Terrace on the right. The tenememts at the bottom of the Buttress were demolished in the mid-1960 as unfit for human habitation.

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. – 

From the Halifax Courier

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

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.

Update: May 2020. I eventually found the family grave at St James’s, Hebden Bridge

Abraham Moss

Abraham Moss 

Abraham Moiss

16 Ap 1859 to 25 Jan 1917

On November 26, 2018 I climbed  the steep hill of Birchcliffe Road above Hebden Bridge. I was in search of several buildings that had been lived in, and in some cases specifically built for, my ancestors. Yes, these are quite distant ancestors, but at this gloomy time of year when it’s dark by 3:30 p.m. going in search of houses that I can walk to from my apartment is an interesting way to spend some of the daylight hours, and so then in the evening, I can research online more about what I’ve discovered during the day. So as I searched the street perched on the hillside with one of the best views in town, which I later, by the way, learned was known as Snob Row (!) I saw a sign on a gate: ‘Brooklyn. Please use the back door. These steps are dangerous.’ I’m not sure what caused me to take a photo of the sign on the gate but recently I discovered that these steps had played a very important role in the life, or rather, death of one Abraham Moss. 

The steps

Now Abraham was the father-in-law of my 3rd cousin, two times removed. As I said, a rather distant relative. He was the son of Hague Moss, (26 June, 1824- July 1870) a career fustian cutter, born at Machpelah, a section of  Hebden Bridge devoted to the fustian industry. Hague’s father was James Moss jn (1804-1868) and his wife, Mary. Fustian is a thick, hard-wearing cloth made from cotton that was once used for military uniforms and railway workers. Hebden Bridge was the centre of the fustian industry and was known sometimes as Fustianopolis. In the market square there’s a large sculpture of a fustian knife showing what a central role this industry played in the town.

Close up of the fustian knife in St George’s Square showing scenes from the fustian industry. It even shows Machpelah cottages where Abraham lived.
The fustian knife in St George’s Square

By the time Hague was four years old the family had moved to Thorn Bank, close by, where Sarah and I had stayed in an Airbnb in 2017! Coincidence number 2.

By 1841 the family were living at Garden Square and Hague’s father James is a fustian cutter. They were living next to William Wheelhouse, 45, a joiner with his wife, Mary, and 4 children. Hague Moss married Martha Sarah Wheelhouse on June 23, 1845 at Halifax minster where I once had the privilege of playing the organ, and I’ve also sung at evensong, and also in Faure’s Requiem in 2019.

The newly weds made their home in Garden Square which is now merely a car park which doubles as the outdoor market on Thursdays and the flea market on Fridays.

Garden square before demolition

8 children followed in the next 15 years, Abraham being next to the youngest. By the time Abraham was born the family were living at High Street, Bridge Lanes. The area of Bridge Lanes was mostly demolished in the 1960’s the terraced houses having been neglected and left unoccupied for many years and it had become an unsightly entrance to Hebden Bridge from the Todmorden side. Abraham’s father died  when he was only 11 years old and by that time the family had moved to Royd Terrace, at the lower end of the Buttress, the still cobbled steep road up to Heptonstall.

Royd Terrace with the cobbles of The Buttress on the left

During the battle of Heptonstall in the Civil War, 1643,  the Parliamentarian garrison of around 800 men holding Heptonstall  had rolled stones down The Buttress to prevent the Royalist forces, also numbering around 800 men. The attackers were routed but during the following 2 months  the Parliamentarian garrison evacuated the village and the Royalists were able to capture the village with no resistance.

The houses of Royd Terrace in which Abraham had lived were now built until 1848-1852 and all but one house retain their original glazing

My photo of Royd Terrace

A friend of mine lived in the only one to have double glazing installed. On his marriage, in 1881 at Heptonstall church, (where I am now on the organists’ rota) to Mary Hannah Thomas, daughter of Thomas Thomas (!) a coal merchant, the couple moved to Barker’s Terrace. Both Abraham and Mary signed their own names and Thomas Thomas signed as witness.

My photo of Barker’s Terrace

Abraham was a commercial clerk in a fustian warehouse. Three months after their wedding their first of seven children was born, a daughter, Beatrice Louise at 13 Melbourne Street.

13 Melbourne Street


13 Melbourne Street

In White’s 1887 Directory many Mosses are recorded:

Moss Abraham (Bros) h in Brunswick Terrace

Moss Bros. fustian manufacturers and cutters, Brunswick Works

Moss( G. F & C. W) h Bridge Lanes

Moss Frederick Hague (Bros) h Brunswick St

Moss George Frederick (G.F & C.W)  h Bridge Lanes

Moss James (Bros) h Pleasant Villas

Moss Mortimer (bros) h Brunswick House

The fustian factory on Brunswick street – now apartments

My the 1901 census Abraham is listed as a cotton fustian manufacturer, an employer, and later that year a daughter, Phyllis Margaret was born, seven years after the last (living) child. The 1911 mentions that one child has already died.  He is now living on Snob Row, in Brooklyn, where I’d photographed the sign on the gate. The house had 9 rooms and they had a live-in general servant. What a difference from 2 High Street. I was able to view the plans for the house at West Yorkshire Archives though each leaf fell apart in my hands as I opened it. It would appear that the plans were drawn up by John Sutcliffe, architect, on December 20, 1894 but the approval date of December 27, 1894 has been crossed out. This was the same architect who drew up the plans from Ezra Butterworth five years earlier. But what an extravagant house it was – especially compare to the houses Abraham had lived in before.

The previous level of the land, marked by the blue line, is clearly visible.
The steps are marked on the architect’s drawing of the front elevation
Brooklyn today with its fatal steps

However, sadness and tragedy were just around the corner for the family. Phyllis died, aged 13 and three years later Abraham himself died. Imagine my horror when I read in a local newspaper that he had died as a result of falling down those very steps. I do wonder, from a morbid sense of curiosity, if the people who put the notice on the steps know of Abraham’s accident. 

FATAL FALL AT HEBDEN BRIDGE. SAD END OF A WELL-KNOWN We very much regret to have to announce the death of Mr. Abraham Moss, Brooklyn, Hebden Bridge, and especially so considering the melancholy circumstances under which happened. The gentleman on Wednesday evening was found laid in an unconscious condition at the foot of the steps leading to his own house, with a deep gash on the side of his head, and from this injury he died at two o’clock yesterday morning without regaining consciousness. So far as we can gather from particulars collected from various sources the circumstances are these: Mr. Moss had been down in the town and parted from Mr. A. Moore at Top o’ th’ Hill about ten o’clock on his way home. In the course of half an hour or so, Mr. T. Fenton Greenwood was on his way home to Eiffel Street, and when he got opposite to the gate the residence Mr. Moss he heard some deep breathing, bat as he had no means of making a light and the night being very dark, he could not make out any object. Mr. Ernest Whiteoak, Eiffel St., came up almost immediately afterwards, and struck match and the light revealed Hr. Moss laid at the bottom of a flight of dosen steps, with his head resting in a large pool blood and perfectly unconscious. On the right side of his head there was a large wound from which the blood was issuing. Mrs. Moss was acquainted with the facte and her husband was carried to the house and Dr. Sykes summoned, and that gentleman found that Mr. Moss was suffering from fractured skull. Whether he had fallen from the top of the steps or not does not appear clear, but the sloping asphalt from the top of the steps was very .ppory. Judging from the position the body it would appear that Mr. Moss had fallen backward and his head had either struck the wall or the steps in his fall. The facts have been reported to the Coroner. The news of the sad occurrence created quite sensation in the town yesterday morning. * Mr. Moss was well known in Hebden Bridge and district. He was the younger son the late Mr, Haigh Moss, and many years was associated with his brothers in tile fustian manufacturing, dyeing and finishing business at Brunswick Street, Lee Mill and Bridge Boyd, up to few years ago, when he retired, and since then he has not followed any occupation. He was one the .directors of the English Fustian Association up to the time his death. For good many years he had been one of the local representatives on the Todmorden Board of Guardians. He was first elected in 1898, and remained member up to 1910. Three years later he was again elected, and had been a Guardian ever since. He took great interest the affairs of that body, and for a term was its chairman. For many years he was a very active member of the Hebden Bridge Commercial Association. He was an enthusiastic member the local Angling Club. Though he associated himself with the Constitutional Club he did not take any part in the aggressive work of the Conservative party. Free Masonry claimed a considerable portion of his time, he having filled offices in the Prince Frederick Lodge. He was one of the band of young men who received a considerable portion of their education the classes held in connection with the defunct Hebden Bridge Mechanics’ Institute. He took interest in electricity, and according to bis own story, he along with the late Mr. B. 8. Blackburn installed the first telephone in Hebden Bridge, connecting the house of one of his brothers to the firm’s premises. He was closely associated with the Particular Baptist Church, and was good supporter of that institution. His nature was kindly and sympathetic and he was ever ready to give financial assistance when occasion demanded it, and in this way he has displayed a liberal generosity. Mr. Moss, who was 67 years of age, leaves widow and five children. Two his sons are serving in the army, Walter in France and Reginald in India. The inquest will he held to-morrow afternoon.

When he died he left just short of 40,000 pounds to his wife. This was in 1917 and many of the other people on that page of the probate records had just a few hundred pounds to their name. He was initiated into the Prince Frederick Free Masons Lodge on March 3, 1890 along with Richard Redman, clothier from Pleasant Villas, and James Moss, fustian manufacturer, also from Pleasant Villas.

From The Hebden Bridge Times, January 30, 2006

WHEN the history of Fustianopolis – alias Hebden Bridge – comes to be written, it will be recorded that it died of apathy. I have now been waiting in vain for a month for somebody hereabouts to protest about the East Anglian train operator, One, banning cab drivers from wearing corduroy.

Under new licence conditions, cabbies at Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth stations must wear black trousers and black shoes with a collared or polo shirt. For women the regulations require a black skirt and blouse with a collar. No corduroy, not even black corduroy.

The company says: “Cords were included in the list of unacceptable clothing as they can look quite scruffy when they get faded. When the guidelines were being clarified, it was noticed that several drivers were wearing light coloured cords which had frayed and looked quite nasty at the knees”.

This is a bit lame. Are they objecting to corduroy or to fraying corduroy? If the latter, then they could simply have prescribed smart corduroy instead of banning it outright.

This is – or should be – of serious concern to Hebden Bridge. Nowhere has more corduroy been woven per head of population than in this town. My parents and several aunts wove miles of it on Hangingroyd at the CWS and Ashworth’s below where Foster Lane chapel once stood. My father went deaf in the service of corduroy and my aunts emerged from kissing shuttles in the CWS with a halo of cotton fuzz collected in their hair.

Corduroy was the life’s work of so many of my parents’ generation, and to think it has come to this: banned by the transport industry for being scruffy. Of course, anything can look scruffy if it is worn long enough. But that is no reason to ban corduroy that retains its rib (with musical consequences when you walk) and its sheen. Perhaps the problem is that it takes long periods of hard duty to wear thin.

Corduroy has, in fact, gone up in the world since it was the uniform of the academic, the Leftie intelligentsia, if that is not a contradiction in terms, and the wild and woolly end of the sandal-shod Liberal Democrats. It has, indeed, been on a long upward social march since it clothed the navvy and hard working man and had the likes of George Orwell, author of 1984, the Road to Wigan Pier etc, dressing, according to Malcolm Muggeridge, in the manner of the class into which he wished he had been born.

The fact that I have three pairs of corduroy trousers – the latest in a long line going back to my childhood – is no guide to the fabric’s social standing. I believe in supporting home industries and regard jeans, with their marked tendency for the backside to sag alarmingly, as thoroughly sloppy.

Which brings me back to the shameful apathy of Hebden Bridge in the face of East Anglian provocation. Corduroy is not some foreign-produced relic of Hebden Bridge’s once central position in the fustian trade. It is part of the 1m metres – otherwise 621,504 yards or 353 miles – of cloth that Brisbane Moss weaves, dyes and finishes every year at Bridgeroyd Works, Eastwood.

Hang it all, corduroy is part of our heritage. Since the middle of the 19thC, Moss Brothers – now Brisbane Moss – has been producing it along with moleskins. This company became part of the English Fustian Manufacturing Co when the local trade re-organised to meet the competition from another amalgamation of clothing and dyeing companies called the English Velvet Cord Dyeing Company.

Moss Brothers Brunswick Mill in Hebden Bridge may now be a Co-op superstore. But Bridgeroyd Works remain our link with the Industrial Revolution. And I for one do not intend to allow some obscure railway company on the Broads to disparage its Pennine products. Wear corduroy with pride – and in protest.

Just to see the contrast between the home in which Abraham was born and the one where he died shows the strength of character and determination of the man.

I pass this reference to Abraham Moss almost everyday. The bridge spans Hebden water and was constructed in 1892 and is Grade ll listed


A Morning exploring Underbank

Surprisingly it wasn’t raining when I looked out of the window this morning. It even looked a little less gloomy than I was expecting so I wanted to take advantage of this ‘fine weather.’ I spent  more than an hour planning my route – the area of steep hillside below Winters. I’d discovered more ancestors living in this area but the various maps I had seemed to have conflicting ideas about what constitutes a decent sized path. At this time of year the very steep paths are coated in slippery leaves. But even more dangerous than these are the steep cobbles of ancient roads whose moss ridden stones are a veritable nightmare, especially heading down the hillsides. 

Built into the hillside

I walked along the canal to Stubbings Square where one of my ancestors lived. Though I’d passed the entrance to this little square many times I’d never actually gone in to the ‘square’ so here was my opportunity. Rather pretty old stone buildings. 

Stubbings Square

Then on to Oakville Road which led up into the hills. As I turned a corner in the road I saw a train heading directly towards me which scared me for a moment. There was actually a wall between me and it, though if my arms had have been a tad longer I’m sure I could have touched it.  I was to take the paved Turret Royd Road, (where another ancetsor had lived at #4) pass the last building and then continue on a footpath. Hmm – no sign of a path past the last house so I had to retrace my steps and take the lower road instead.

This eventually turned into a very, very narrow track, part path, part stream. It led past old  buildings towards the main road and so I turned right over a little bridge and headed upwards again. Scattered cottages and ‘halls’ edged the path but many of them didn’t appear to have names. One fine building was built directly into the hillside, being barely 6 ft high at the back and 3 stories high at the front.

This hillside was directly opposite Stoodley Pike and the sun was trying desperately to find its way between heavy clouds. It was quite pictureque. Eventually I came across a couple heading towards me. “You seem to know where you are going” I ventured as we drew level outside Higher Underbank farm. “Yes, we live here,” came the reply. I asked for directions back down to the valley on a road that wouldn’t be too steep and slippery. “Ah, the best way would be to go through our garden, through the gate, turn right, meet a cart road and go past the mill and turn left.”

So off I went. I was very grateful for the short cut through their garden which eliminated some of the steeper, overgrown  paths. I soon came to Potball. How’s that for a name? I had seen the name on my map before I’d left home. It turned out to be an imposing building directly overlooking the Calder Valley with an uninterrupted view across to Stoodley Pike. Then down past the ruins of Jumble Hole Mill. I think I’ve only been here once before and that was on a hike in the summer before I moved to Hebden Bridge. The ivy and moss soften the jagged outlines of ruined walls and broken pillars turning everything into elfin territory where everything is a brilliant vibrant green. 

Ruins of Jumble Hole Mill

Fairy glen
The power for the mill

Soon I came to the railway tunnel and, on going under it found myself on the main road.

A little father on another tunnel was signposted Underbank House and I took a little detour to see this imposing mansion with its wrought iron gates, alarm system, cctv cameras – and trampoline! I don’t think John Gibson would have lived there in 1861. He was a plate layer for the railway – the same job as Ezra Butterworth.

It was very noisy walking along the main road back towards Hebden but I suddenly saw  above me on the left three terraces and I could just make out through the trees the sign Ingle dene on the first group. Each house had a steep flight of steps going up to the front door and I went up one of those to get a better view.

The next block was Ivy Bank, and the last block was Fern Villas but that only consisted of two houses. A man was just leaving, being taken for a walk by his dog, and I asked him about a third house. He believed that one had been demolished, and, sure enough a grassy area to the right of the terrace suggested that he was correct. 

New graffiti on the roadside mill

A morning in Winters


A week ago I hadn’t even heard of Winters. I was coming to the end of tracking the homes of the Gibsons and had become intrigued by a strain of Gibsons who kept pubs in my local area, not always successfully, and some with tragic consequences, but I thought this would be a good research project for the dark winter evenings. When I came upon the fact that one pub was located in the appropriately named Winters – well, that was a no brainer. So the first day that the weather was reasonable enough to tramp over the moors I set off to find Winters. I’d discovered a Winter’s Lane  perched high up on the hillside just below Badger Lane in Blackshaw so I caught the bus to Blackshaw Head. Other places that I’d listed as residences of the Gibson family were on my list too. I knew that I’d previously taken photos of a row of old cottages called Dry Soil just because the name amused me – and now I’d found out that a Gibson relative had lived there: John Gibson  in 1881.

He’d also lived in Cally Hall (1871 census) which was another group of cottages on Badger Lane close by. I’d taken a photo of those picturesque cottages too with their amazing view over the Calder Valley, and I remember finding out that the name Cally had come from Calico cloth. So I stopped to take another photo now that I knew John Gibson had lived there in 1871 and had died there in 1887. (He’d also lived at Underbank at the bottom of the hill in 1861, but that was for another day).

Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter – 15 April 1887

I’d taken a copy of an 1861 map with me and a current ordinance survey map and I knew I was turn off Badger Lane at Marsh Lane. I found what I thought was the correct lane – a a well-used Bridle path but there was no road sign. A man was just turning into it with no hesitation and so I called out,

“Is that Marsh Lane?’


I crossed over.

“Do you mind if I join you for a little while I’m looking for Winter’s Mill.’’

He knew the place and so we followed the well-marked bridle path down. He was from Colne and had left his car on Badger Lane, was hiking down to Hebden for coffee, and then would take the bus back up to the car.

“I’ve always wanted to move to Hebden but my wife finds it depressing,” 

I was looking for a mill pond where water would have been stored and used to keep the machinery at mill moving at dry times of the year. It was the pond’s presence on the map which had alerted me to the mill site because there’s nothing remaining of the mill today. The row of cottages marked on my 1861 map came into view and my hiking buddy mentioned that the old mill pond is now a garden at the back of the cottages.

Cottages at Winters

The only definitive remains of the mill was a picturesque arch with initials and date carved above. A well positioned bench overlooked the valley and we sat and chatted, asking him about the accessibility of some of the footpaths back down to the valley. The Pennine Way passes this way but from the map it looks very steep and wooded and  probably not a good option for today. The man agreed. 

I wanted to take a photo of the cottages but trees were blocking my view so eventually I decided to go up the steep drive and see if anyone came out. At that moment I car came upon the drive and the owner of the end house, which had obviously once been a barn rolled down the window.

“Can I help you?” I explained my presence and she was very helpful. “You can walk right through the front gardens” she said. “It’s a public right of way.” So off I went along the front of the 4 cottages. As I stopped to take photos a couple with a toddler came towards me. Again I explained my mission. “We’ve just bought the end house, but haven’t moved in yet. Would you like to come in and see it?” For whatever reason this house seemed the most likely place for John Gibson’s shop and beer retailers as listed in Pigot’s directory of 1834. This John Gibson, born in 1780 and died in 1837 was the grandfather of the Dry Soil and Cally Hall John Gibson! Before moving to Winters he had previously been innkeeper of the Black Bull at Bridge Lanes recorded in 1811, 1822 and 1829.  Inside  the house the place was amazing. All the walls were exposed stone and the rooms retained their stone flag floors. The ceilings were not more than 6’6” high and the stone fireplaces were intact, though they now had stoves inset. I immediately wondered about damp and cold penetrating into the house but it was lovely.

The lady took me out back and within 6” of the back door was a small gully running with fast water over which a stone flat led into the large garden, half of which had obviously been the mill pond. An old water pump remained at the side of the pond. Again I wondered what this must be like in heavy rain but it looked lovely. I told her that my daughter Anna would just love such a place with a bare stone interior! Her husband asked for my email and said that the cottage had come with lots of old documents. I do hope he contacts me – but I guess I can always call now I know where they live. He said the cottage was built around 1730 but isn’t a listed building. I took my leave and wandered around the area for a while trying to find any signs of the mill but many of the tracks were took steep and slippery to explore today. The couple did tell me that there is an old photo of the mill but I can’t find it on Pennine horizons or the Charlestown website even though there’s a history of the mill on the latter site. The only one I can find was taken in the 1940’s of a lady outside the building that was then used as a toilet!

According to the Charlestown history site the mill was built in 1805 by John Sutcliffe. Between 1827 and 1832 the mill was purchased by William Horsfall and it seems likely that it was at that time that it was  converted to steam power to be able to cope with competition from other manufacturers. In 1842 the mill was capable of turning raw cotton into finished cloth. It had departments for carding, spinning (4360 spindles) and weaving (90 power looms ). It was said to be the largest manufacturer of sateens and dimitie going into Manchester.

By the 1841 census there were 32 men, women and children listed as living in Winters: cotton spinners, weavers, carders, winders. The only person not engaged at the mill was Joshua Gibson, 35, and his wife Sally, 35 who were farmers.  Soon after from 1844 to 1855 Joshua and Sally and their 9 children were living in Bridge Lanes and he was a farmer of 5 acres employing an unreadable number of workers. He gave up his license in 1855 and Richard Parker took on the job of landlord at the Black Bull, Bridge Lanes.  and two years later he’s listed as a butcher. The following year he hanged himself in his slaughter house on May 30th, 1858 and was buried at Heptonstall church three days later.

View of the Calder Valley from Winters

In 1842 and 1864 two surveys were carried out regarding the value of the machinery, buildings, utensils and livestock. In 1864 the mill consisted of:

  • Blowing room
    Carding room
    Throstle Room
    Mule rooms
    New mill
    Nos. 1,2 & 3 rooms
    Beaming room?
    Storehourse, store room & office
    Boiler house, engine house
    Yard and gas piping
  • There was also a smithy and a mechanics shop.
  • The 1842 evaluation for the domestic building included: Old white cow, Red and white cow and Roan cow,The new cow, Old stable manure, Bay mare, shaft and trace, General farming utensils and 3 stable buckets, 2 pack carts, Box tubs, lumber, wheel barrow and hand barrow, 2 water tubs

One interesting entry was for articles to be found in the ‘room over the school’ so Winters had its own schoolroom in 1842! By the next census in 1851 the mill employed about 75-90 people. Some workers lived on site eg at Winters Cottages (1851 census shows 63 people living at Winters with two cottages empty),

On February 25, 1868 the mill was struck by lightning.In1877 William raised more capital by a second mortgage on the mill and Underbank, but had trouble keeping up payments to suppliers and creditors.

The name Winters

By the end of 1880 the business, now owned by William Horsfall,  was effectively Bankrupt. In March 1881 the machinery and engine boiler were sold and part or all of the mill was sold off for stone.The old part of Winters Mill used mules to spin yarn (called twist) and the newer part was used for power looms to manufacture fustian cloth In 1839 the coming of the railway meant that the mill could get raw cotton from Liverpool and send finished goods to Manchester much quicker.

Winters Lane

I returned to Winter’s Lane thinking how many more people must have lived in this vicinity both the keep the mill going and also to necessitate a shop and beer house in the 1830’s. I’d checked with the locals that my planned route was easy to follow and it was. Winter’s Lane can carry vehicles but it ends and turns into a tiny track called Dark lane. This was more like Dark River today but my new hiking boots were up to the task. Dark Lane led back onto another lane  that was just about passable by car, though very steep,  although bags of salt were stationed every ten yards in anticipation of icy weather. The sound of traffic along the Calder Valley rose up to the path and the whistle of the train blended in with the birdsong from time to time. 

Dark Lane

Eventually I came out onto Rawtenstall Bank,  a very steep road, though fully paved for cars,  with several switchbacks. I decided not to take the short cut down Cat Steps!

A few terraces are strewn along the road and they are at a crazy angle with their roof line close to 45 degrees. One of these terraces is Glenview, and in 1901 and 1911 Arthur Gibson, Joshua’s grandson,  was living at #9. Arthur was Thomas Gibson’s son. Thomas Gibson had been a butcher all his life, growing up in Winters and presumably attending the school there. At the age of 21 he married Hannah Stott and they had 9 children , the youngest being Arthur, 1873-1957. Arthur had been employed in the clothing industry all his life, first as a tailor’s apprentice then as a fustian cutter. A lady was just coming out of her house as a took a photo of the terrace. “I’m tracing my ancestors. They used to live at #9” I explained. “Ah, that’s that’s  end one.” Weird. The last one was number 8! Ah well. Perhaps the terrace was longer at one time. 


My next stop was 16 Bank Terrace, in 1911 the home of Joshua’s great granddaughter Ethel Gibson-Atack, and so the great great granddaughter of John Gibson who I had stated the day with. It is through Ethel’s husband, Harold Atack that I am related to Barbara Atack the president of the Hebden Bridge Historical society. When I first moved here and joined the society Barbara told me that her husband’s father had lived in Cheetham House where I was then living! Bank Terrace is so steep that it looks as if it’s falling down the hillside. 

I turned off Rawtenstall bank onto Oakville Road where some imposing Victorian mansions are set up high above the road. At one of these, Oak Villa another Gibson relative – Mary Gibson-Butterworth lived in 1881. Mary was Joshua’s daughter and so had lived at the shop/inn that her father kept at Winters and was 11 years old on the1841 census. I wonder if she went to the school in Winters. 10 years later, in 1851,  she was a servant at the inn in Hawksclough which I’ve not yet quite found, though I’ve been researching that too. Richard Parker was the innkeeper. Remember, a Richard Parker had taken over the license of the Black Bull at bridge Lanes from Joshua (Mary’s dad). In 1861 Mary married Ezra Butterworth a plate layer for the railway company and she was the housekeeper at the now demolished White Horse Inn in Lee’s Yard, Hebden Bridge. My 1871 they are living on Crown Street, my street, and Ezra is still an employee of the railway company but by 1881 at  the age of 51 Ezra is now a farmer with 9 ares of land and he’s living in Oak Villa just off Rawtenstall End. The houses on either side of Oak Villa each have a live-in general servant. Mary and Ezra seem to have gone up in the world. Very rapidly. I just don’t understand their rapid rise in finances.  In correspondence with author Frank McKenna, Will Thorne, a Victorian platelayer himself, stated that the platelayer was the ‘most neglected man in the service.’ (McKenna, The Railway Workers, p.35-36). ‘The railways were one of the few organisations in the Victorian period where someone from a lowly background could rise up to better their ‘lot’ in life. For many, these opportunities were small, but for the industrious they definitely existed. However, excluding women, who could not advance for obvious reasons, one group of railway employees had almost no opportunities to advance beyond their station. These were the platelayers. By 1860, W.M. Mills stated that on Britain’s 8863 miles of railway there were 8598 platelayers. Gangs of platelayers were marshalled under a foreman or ganger, and were allocated a section of line to look after. This had to be inspected twice a day and any faults in the track’s gauge, level and superelevation were to be mended by using their picks, shovels, hammers, wrenches and track gauges. They also had to maintain line side fences and keep the culverts clear, as well as retrieve any item that may have fallen from a train. All these tasks were to be done in all weathers.

Further, to this, platelayer’s working conditions were the poorest of any railway employees. For six days a week they had to be on duty between 6am and 6pm, and at the end of the day they had to make sure that the line was clear and in good working order. Naturally, if the work had not been completed by 6pm, they had to stay until it was done so. Pay was probably the worst of any railway employees, apart from women, and the hard graft was rewarded with a measly 17 to 21 shillings per week. Indeed, sickness on a Sunday would mean that a platelayer would forfeit his Monday pay.’

( the site of Dr David Turner)

I fail to see how Ezra, son of a handloom weaver, a labourer still living at Dale with his parents at the age of 24, a plate layer for the railway at 33 has amassed the money to build several houses in the centre of Hebden Bridge. In the census of 1871 his describes himself as a ‘railway contractor’ and has built, according to Grace’s bio, ‘some houses on Carlton Terrace on the site of what is now the Cooperative building.’ In Feb 1889 he commissioned an architect to draw up plans for the construction of two houses and a missal on Savile Road. The building plan, which I found in the archives, has ‘dis’ pencilled in above the ‘Date of Approval by the Council,’ therefore reading ‘disapproval.’ Hmm . . . this man is really proving to be an enigma for by 1891 he is residing there. This gentleman’s residence remains today, a showpiece of the man who made it!

Oak Villa

Oh, oh my. The very next day I thought I’d try and find out more about Ezra’s rise to the upper class and I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes. On Ancestry I found a 34 page document entitled the Life and Times of Ezra Butterworth, 1827-1898 as told by his daughter  Grace,  1863-1944,  to her four children and recounted by them to his great granddaughters, all handwritten by Barbara Moss. It had been uploaded by ‘mossquire’ who I had exchanged several emails with about the Moss family over the last few weeks and so I’d never even thought to look for Gibson’s in his info online! I read quickly through some of the pages and it turns out that Ezra sent his daughter, Grace to the Moss school on Hangingroyd Road that I’ve been delving into over the last month! Truly amazing!. There was even a photo of him in his hunting gear. I emailed mossquire to see if he’d transcribed the 34 page document but no such luck. Think I’ll have to save that job for a rainy day – or a rainy week! (Task completed)

Ezra Butterwoth – husband of aunt of husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed!!!

Ezra Butterworth 1828-
husband of aunt of husband of 1st cousin 3x removed

Mary Gibson-Butterworth 1830-1918
Wife of Ezra Butterworth

Joshua Gibson 1806-1858
Father of Mary Gibson-Butterworth

Thomas Gibson 1828-1897
Son of Joshua Gibson

Thomas Henry Gibson 1869-1947
Son of Thomas Gibson

Amelia Whitham-Gibson 1869-1949
Wife of Thomas Henry Gibson

James Farrar Whitham 1837-1901
Father of Amelia Whitham-Gibson

Father of James Farrar Whitham


JOHN NUTTON 1862-1934

Daughter of JOHN NUTTON

Jack Dean Denton 1920-1995

Heather Jacqueline Denton
You are the daughter of Jack Dean Denton

Update on Ezra’s story

June 2020

From Ezra’s story an account of the life and times of Ezra Butterworth (1827-1898) as told by his daughter Grace (1863-1944) to her four children and recounted by them to his great-granddaughter Barbara Moss I knew that Ezra had become estranged from his son, Gibson, and that he was often afflicted by drink. However, it wasn’t until today that I did some more digging in the local newspapers and found several stories corroborating both his standing of high esteem within the local community and his drunken episodes. 17 October, 1890. Ezra Butterworth, farmer, Hipping was summoned for having his dog out without a muzzle. He sent his man servant to plead guilty.—P.S. Sutherland said that on Sunday afternoon last, about 2-30, he was on duty along with P.C. Copping near Blackshawhead, and there saw defendant’s dog on the highway without muzzle. Defendant and his man-servant were with it. It was a sporting dog.—The manservant admitted the accuracy of the sergeant’s evidence, but said they were only just crossing the road. They had been into a neighbour’s field to look at two young horses—The sergeant said they were nearly a mile from Hippings, and he saw the dog and the two men travel about 100 yards along the highroad. They then left the road and went across a grass field.—Fined 1 shilling and costs 9 shillings. On the other hand in 1884 he was deemed suitable as an overseer and in 1885 he was elected Liberal councillor for Stansfield, and in 1894 a parish councillor

From the journal:

In 1890 Ezra decided against the wishes of Mary and Grace to lease Hippins farm from the Savile estate, paying an advanced payment that would secure his tenancy for the next 25 years. (Is it just a coincidence that Ezra built his residence, Oak Villa, on Savile Road?) It stood on the hillside and was 75 acres in extent. He spent a great deal of money on improvements building a new barn and putting a new inside to the house. He bought from Ireland twelve Kerry cows and a bull and settled down to a very different way of life. They hired a couple to live in the cottage, the man to run the farm and his wife to help in the house.

While still living at the farm Ezra resumed railway work and his son Gibson agreed to assist on the farm, doing bookkeeping and managing the workers on the understanding that a remuneration of 70 pounds a year should be paid to him on the sale of farm stock. When the stock was sold Gibson inquired after the money that they had agreed upon but Ezra told him that his mother had taken all the proceeds. She had left Hippings two days after the sale, having previously told her husband that unless he promised to sign the pledge and abide by it she would not stay. Ezra’s drinking bouts could last two or three weeks at a time, the newspaper recorded. The following is evidence that Ezra’s drunkenness caused problems outside the household too. In the Burnley newspaper we read that on 20th May, 1882 Ezra Butterworth, a traveller from Hebden Bridge, was summoned for being drunk whilst charge a horse and conveyance in St. James’ Street, Burnley at eleven o’clock Thursday night, the 17th ult.—Fined 10s. He did not abide by his pledge to Mary and so two days after the sale she left and went to live with her newly married daughter and husband Elias. However, when Ezra died in December of 1898 it was discovered that he had revised his will and left everything to his wife, and his daughter, Grace, and her husband textile manufacturer Elias Barker and Gibson had been left nothing. So Gibson took out a court action to reclaim what he thought was owing to him. Gibson’s relationship with his parents had not been an easy one. At one time Gibson had been turned away from the home for disobeying his parents. “Grace did a lot of heavy work about the farm when her brother would not lift a finger to help her.” In February 1900, two years after his father’s death Gibson brought a court action against his mother, Mary, and his son-in law Elias Barker claiming wages that he had earned as his father’s ‘hired servant’ at the rate of 70 per year as agreed. The report of the court case spanned three columns in the paper and then, just as Grace was brought to testify the judge adjourned the court because the proceeding had taken up so much time. As I was searching for the next episode in the saga I found the following story covered comprehensively in the Todmorden newspaper:


Can a tale be harrowing and comical at the same time? Is this story a candidate for the Darwin awards? The newspaper heading had it all: The Blackshaw Mystery – Threat with a loaded gun – Disgraceful and sickening behaviour. At the age of 71 Ezra was found in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor by the postman. With the assistance of a neighbouring farmer they two got Ezra settled in his bed but he died later that same evening. One of the witnesses at the inquest was John Whitaker a fustian cutter of Stubb, Mytholyroyd who had been staying with Ezra for the previous three weeks. One night another man joined them and, according to the newspaper report John reported “We all slept together.” Coroner: “Was it cold that night?” (Laughter) “No sir, I thought it very warm” (renewed laughter). We frequently stayed in bed together til 4 in the afternoon. I have persuaded him to stay in bed late telling him that it would save money.” About 10 days before his death the two had been drinking at the Blue Ball. On his way home Ezra fell down and John went back to the inn and the landlord’s son came to assist, and together they managed to get Ezra home, and settled him in bed. Some time during the night he fell out of bed onto the chamber pot, breaking it in two pieces and cutting himself somewhere behind. He stayed in bed for several days , John and his house cleaner bringing him a little food and drink, but eventually took up his loaded gun from the rack in the kitchen saying “I’ll shoot ’em all,” and John quickly left. A few days later he was found by the postman laying on his back on the living room floor, senseless, though still alive, undressed and without his stockings (!). The postman called for help from the farmer next door and together they got him up the stairs and in to bed. Dr Cairns from Hebden Bridge was called and described a 4 to 5 inch wound on the right thigh or buttock. He suggested that this, plus the exposure of being on the cold stone floor was the cause of death. Elias Barker, Ezra’s son-in-law was called as a witness. He had been summoned to the farm immediately the postman raised the alarm. He was asked if there was any money missing from the house, or any articles. No he responded. “Did you remove the chamber pot?” “Yes.” “What did it contain?” “I called it pure blood.” The court accepted that no foul play was involved.

As I returned into Hebden along the canal I stopped to take a photo of #1 Fountain Street which is the first house from the canal in a row of Victorian back-to-back houses.

1 Fountain Street

Annie Gibson Hart  (1866-1917) was living there in 1911. She was a grandchild of Thomas Gibson. Her parents were Thomas Gibson and Hannah Stott-Gibson. She married a fustian cutter, Cornelius Hart from Bolton. At the time of her marriage she was a fustian machinist and the newly weds were living with her parents at Old Gate. By 1901 they were living at Hebble End, childless. Hebble End was the area of Hebden Bridge that I first stayed in the summer I came by myself to research my ancestry. 1911 saw them still working in the fustian industry. Prior to his marriage Cornelius had lived and worked at Lower Lumb Mill (built 1802) with his parents and siblings. Lumb Mill School was founded in 1845 by the owners of the mill. In 1851 there was one school room, 20’ by 16’, with 34 girls and 17 boys, who were taught reading writing and arithmetic.  The children would have worked half time, with one group at school in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Somewhere in this locality the Sutcliffes opened a one-room factory school. This was because in 1845 the Factory Acts said that children had to spend a certain number of hours in education if they were to continue working in the mills. 34 girls and 17 boys were taught reading, writing and arithmetic at Lumb.Half timing ended only with the Fisher Act of 1917. The ruins of a 200-year-old cotton mill have been brought back to life, thanks to a new hydro-electricity scheme that starts generating electricity today. The hydro scheme uses the original weir and water channels that supplied the industrial-revolution-era mill when it was first built in 1802, and will produce enough clean electricity to power around 40 homes and save 60 tonnes of CO2 per year from going into the atmosphere. The 450,000 project is the brainchild of Bede and Jane Mullen, who have lived by the ruins of Lower Lumb mill in Hebden Bridge for over 30 years. My photos of Lower Lumb Mill come from a hike I took in April.

Delving into Middleton

St Leonard’s, Middleton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frederick Denton claims to be the dad!

My great great great uncle 1831-1912

Cheltenham Chronicle – Thursday 06 May 1852

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death of Thomas Denton

my great great great uncle 1821-1896

Gloucester Journal – Saturday 29 August 1896

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

Inside the Denton and Holbrooks store in Gloucester

Sally (of Lily Hall)

Did you love him, Sally,

You know, the man who lived next door?

A moment of passion

A stolen hour of comfort

That changed my life forever.

You were hardly a spring chicken

Newly widowed

Three young children

And him, newly wed

With a bairn on the way.

You took him to court

Made him pay for his deed

Support this new daughter

Miss Elizabeth Ann

Did he hear her cry in the night

Through the partition walls that divide Lily Hall?

Or did his wife’s child’s whimperings

Obliterate that constant reminder?

She took her dead father’s name

And didn’t call James  her father

Until she married for a second time

Barely clinging to the hillside

Defying gravity

Lily Hall’s window eyes survey the town

Keeping a watchful eye

On the terraces below

As they seemingly slide down the hillside

You watched the mill chimneys soar

New manufactories rise from the ashes of old

The streams diverted, the sluices opened

And the millponds enclosed.

James came from a family of builders

Plasterers, carpenters, cabinet makers

The business grew

Schools, churches, banks and factories.

Now, today, you keep your watchful eyes on me

As I explore the buildings

Where you lived, that you built,

Roads that you traversed

And paths where you once walked.

(Sally Whitham was my great great great grandma)

Samuel Gibson 1793-1849 and the naturalists of the Calder Valley

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

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

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

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

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

Gibson’s local knowledge of botany and geology was sought by the surgeon and Methodist Robert Howard, and included in his publication A history of the typhus of Heptonstall-Slack … together with a sketch of the physical condition of the hand-loom weavers (1844), a pamphlet describing the harsh living conditions of working people of the area. I managed to find a copy of this online. It’s a paper describing the ‘History of the Typhus of Heptonstall-Slack which prevailed as an endemic during the winter of 1843-4 accompanied by remarks of the Sanatory (sic) state of that village; together with a stitch of the physical condition of the ?Handloom weavers by /Robt Howard, surgeon, etc. Two letters are appended upon the geology and botany of Heptonstall hill and its vicinity by Mr. Samuel Gibson.’ What’s remarkable to me is the language of these letters. To realize that the only schooling Samuel received was likely to have been a very brief time in Sunday school, perhaps given by his father, the minister, makes the reading of these very scholarly letters remarkable. Many place names that I’ve come to know are mentioned in the letters: Midge Hole, Crimsworth, High Greenwood, Slater Bank, Eaves, Mytholm.  By 1845 Gibson himself faced destitution when he had to abandon his craft following a fall from a building. It’s strange that I can’t find any newspaper reference to this fall. If he was such a pillar of society both for his naturalist work, and as a whitesmith and blacksmith in Hebden Bridge I would have certainly expected some newspaper reference to his fall, but perhaps the seriousness of his fall and its result was not at first recognised. His injuries were considered the cause of his subsequent poor health and cantankerous nature. Following his accident, he took over an inn, the Royal Oak, in Mytholmroyd in which he established a museum. According to Richard Rainbow’s lecture the Royal Oak narrowly avoided being demolished in 2003. It’s located on a rise from the centre of Mytholmroyd known as Pismore Hill which name is, according to Richard, derived from the smell issuing from the stables attached to Sam’s pub. Others in the audience at Richard’s lecture to the Hebden Bridge historical society offered another derivation! The smell of ant hills!

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

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

Halifax Courier, Aug 12, 1939

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

Bradford daily Telegraph, Jan 7. 1899 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Chambers 1791-1829

Brother King 1837-1858

According to Malcolm Bull’s website:

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

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

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

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

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

I was at Hebden Bridge station in plenty of time. For the first time this ‘summer’ I was wearing sandals and only had a cardigan, no jacket. Under a totally blue sky sporting plane vapor trails galore, the train arrived. I boarded. So did a dog and its owner. We sat down. The train didn’t move. The dog whimpered loudly. The dog began to bark – very loudly. Still the train didn’t move. The dog’s minder apologized: we’re only going to the next stop. Eventually after 20 minutes the guard told us that Northern Rail apologized, but he couldn’t tell us what was holding us up. i thought that perhaps there was a problem with the rails to our West, but incoming trains proved otherwise. After 35 minutes, during which the dog just about deafened me, we were told to get off the train, it wasn’t going anywhere, and the next train to Manchester would be along in 15 minutes. Fortunately from then on everything went according to plan. The barking, whimpering dog, did, indeed get off, thankfully (for it and me!) In Todmorden and the ride into Manchester was uneventful. I. Now had only 10 minutes to get to the Museum for my appointment. I checked the buses, ones you pay on,  free ones, Uber rides in the locality, and eventually had to plump for a taxi which delivered me to the museum only 5 minutes b behind schedule. The building is a grand affair – Victorian architecture at its finest. It’s connected to Owen’s college somehow – where Anna spent a year when she was a student at Manchester uni. The girl on the front desk called David and soon I was following him  behind the scenes into the depths of the museum. On a table Samuel Gibson’s fossil collection was laid out, all ready for me to view. I was impressed. My experience of people’s organizational skills in my area hit rock bottom yesterday when, on my visit to a prison, the leader of our group had forgotten to email one of our volunteers of details of the day. She’d even taken the day off work in oder to volunteer! So to see the boxes of fossils all laid out ready for my attention was wonderful. Many of the exhibits were ammonite-like creatures called goniatites, precursors of ammonites with less defined whirls on them. Some of them were no bigger than a pin head. I was fascinated by how Samuel had even seen these tiny fossils. Many were labelled in his own handwriting and included the location from where he’d collection them The shales of Todmorden were mentioned frequently, and to my amazement so was Slaidburn! To think that these tiny fossils had possibly been on display in Sam’s pub/museum in Mytholmroyd between 1842 and 1849.  I can’t really imagine that they would have attracted customers to his pub. To serious collectors they would have been very important. One goniatites is named after him Goniatites Gibsonii but  it’s tiny, no larger than a 5pence piece. Some fossils were housed in tiny cardboard cylinders, less than an inch in diameter, that perhaps Samuel made himself. As I chatted with David about this collection I learned that he, too, lives in Hebden Bridge! 

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

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

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

Update: Sept 17, 2019

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

Update 2022

Richard’s exhibition featured my photos from the Manchester Museum

In August, 2022 a member of the Hebden Bridge History Society put me in contact with Richard Rainbow who was preparing an exhibition about early naturalists of the Calder Valley such as James Bolton, John Nowell and James Needham. Richard read my blog about Samuel Gibson and wished to use two of my photos of Carex Gibsoni that I’d taken at the Manchester Museum. The exhibition was staged at the town hall in Hebden and happened to be there when my daughter and grand daughter came to visit so I was able to take a photo of my photo of the fossils with my family, visiting from California.

A couple of weeks later Richard gave a lecture at the Hebden Bridge history Society so I was able to meet him in person, my photos also featuring in his presentation.

I learned a lot more about Samuel’s role in the natural history of the calder valley and see why he was such an important figure as to be featured in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. My thanks to Richard Rainbow for the following information that I learned from his lecture:

The first written record of a plant in the Calder valley was in a book published in 1666- the Pinax by Christopher Merret. It was the wintergreen pyrola at North Bridge 1/2 a mile from Halifax and it grew plentifully. Carolus Linnaeus, who is usually regarded as the founder of modern taxonomy and whose books are considered the beginning of modern botanical and zoological nomenclature, drew up rules for assigning names to plants and animals and was the first to use binomial nomenclature consistently (1758).

This classification by two words covering genus and species led to a vast increase in searching for plants all across Europe. Some divine order in the hitherto chaos of nature had been discerned. A great masterplan of nature was discoverable. This even led to Captain James Cook’s voyage of discovery on the Endeavour in 1768-1771. Walks and talks about the plant life were organised and people began to assemble herbariums, collections of preserved plant specimens and associated data used for scientific study. In 1775 The History of the Antiquities of Halifax was written by John Watson. It covered the local history of the Romans and Druids as well as much gossip. The appendix was a catalogue of plants in the Halifax area. This increased the recorded plants from 18-478! This appendix was likely written by James Bolton 1735-1791 whose parents came from Heptonstall. He lived in Warley. He travelled the countryside looking for plants and taught himself painting to be able to record his specimens. He even developed a new kind of painting on vellum in which he stained the vellum with whitener before painting the specimen with lamp black ( the soot from a candle) before he added the colours. He was probably a weaver by trade but he became one of the most celebrated artists of his time when Anna Blackburn, duchess of Portland, gave him the money to publish his book – the first British book of ferns. In the 1850s no home was complete without its ferns. Greenhouses were erected to grow them. These Victorians were voracious collectors and such was their interest that many species became lost from the valley. The lady’s Slipper, once common at Ingleton was thought to have been made extinct through over gathering until it was discovered again at Grassington in the 1930s.

Then Bolton produced another book, this time on Fungi, with patronage from the Earl of Gainsborough. “The parish of Halifax, deep dark glens, rocky precipices, rivulets, large moon of moss and heath – may be termed a natural botanic garden.” Bolton died in Warley in 1799. There’s no memorial to him and his work. We don’t know where he is buried. The only reference to him is the name of Bolton Brow in Sowerby Bridge where he sprinkled some seeds. When I’d first seen the name Bolton Brow in SB I’d wondered how it came by that name!

Sam’s pub on the left that narrowly escaped demolition

Samuel Gibson – ‘the best collector of specimens in the Calder valley – ever. He contributed to Baines’s Flora of Yorkshire. In 1840 he contributed to the Phytologist. He wanted a new specimen to be named after him – a Hawkweed genus of which there are over 200 species in the UK. It’s a yellow dandelion-like plant which he had found at Malham Cove in 1843 and also in Hebden Bridge on Sep 5th, 1843. Other naturalists identified it as the Carex pseudo paradoxa but Gibson was convinced that what he’d found was a new species. People wrote in to the Phytologist magazine and there was a ‘right Victorian ding dong.’ His neighbour Samuel King from Luddenden in 1844 was one of the dissenters. A note from the magazine’s editor said that they would be reducing any future input from Gibson. His dream of a new species was shattered. He closed his museum, sold his collection according to one, committed suicide in 1849. In 2018 the international plant names committee took another look at Sam’s Hawkweed and confirmed it as a new species- Hieracium hypochoeroides. Sam had been right!

Acceptance in 2018.

From Richard:
Dr. Wood asserted that Carex pseudo-paradoxa was the same as Carex teretiuscula, albeit a poor specimen. The editors of The Phytologist came to the same conclusion, but in a more polite fashion. Gibson really should have swallowed his pride but instead stuck by his ‘discovery’ and lashed out a number of eminent grass-experts who had given their opinion. By the end of 1844, the whole grass community had turned their backs on Gibson. He must have found this page especially cruel:

Another collector’s name in the are is John Nowell 1842-1867 who studied Mosses believing this area was one of the best places in the world. He identified 250 species in the Colden Clough valley alone. He worked in a weaving shed and there’s an obelisk at Cross Stone church dedicated to him.

Samuel Needham 1849-1913 studied the fungi of the Hebden Bridge area.

David Barraclough; the story of a bus station!

Halifax bus station – formerly the Sion Baptist church

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

An old photo of Stainland with the church tower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Policeman’s truncheon with the George lll crest

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

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

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

Gateshead Mill

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

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

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