Category: Uncategorised (page 1 of 12)

Bin sketchin’

I moved back to England 3 years ago today!

Cliviger Gorge – again

So I set off to walk a section of the A646 through Cliviger Gorge that I’d only driven along before, just a couple of days ago. by walking I see much more. I got the bus to Walk Mill and intended to walk back towards Todmorden, probably as far as Cornholme. It was overcast and for 5 minutes of my bus journey the rain came down quite heavily. I’d not been walking for more than a few minutes when I found a very helpful notice-board providing the answer to several questions that my recent visits to the area had generated.

First I wanted an explanation of the geology that caused this narrow, steep valley lined with hummocks, and, sure enough here was the reason: Cliviger gorge is a geological fault and the hummocks are rock slides caused by the slippage of unstable land.

Next stop was another visit to the church of St John the Divine where I’d failed to find the grave of Sir James York Scarlett.

This time I found it straight away. Then on to The Ram Inn. Having parked the car in the car park at the rear of the building last week I hadn’t really noticed the painted sign of the Ram, nor the mounting block – which itself is Grade ll listed.

Next I found a little fold with a ruined barn, now used for storage, but each window and unused door was brimming with summer colours.

Next I came upon a blue plaque commemorating the founder of the TV series One Man and His Dog. I remember watching this program about the work that sheep dogs do in assisting the shepherds. We took our children to see the sheepdog trials on one of our visits to England. I’ll have to consult my journals as to when and where! As I looked down the valley I could actually see this happening right in front of me.

A few fields away I chatted to a couple of shepherds who were shearing the rear end of a group of a dozen sheep, cleaning their flanks and tails of poop. They explained that the poop attracts flies to that area of their body, the flies lay eggs and soon the sheep’s wool is full of maggots. Guess I learn something every day!

Just at that moment an air ambulance flew above the valley, turned around and flew along the valley again. A couple of minutes later 4 police cars came along at great speed, sirens blaring, heading in the direction I was walking. All traffic came to a standstill and within a few minutes many car were turning round, their way blocked by a police car. I could see that even a couple of bicycles were being turned around. Of course I was the only one on foot and I approached the policeman with some concern. As I anticipated I was not allowed to go any further. He was most helpful as to what my options were – climb 600 ft and hike 8 miles along Long Causeway? – no! Call someone to come and pick me up by car? – I don’t know anyone available. Call a taxi? Obviously all the buses had been stopped. “How long is the road likely to be blocked for?” I asked. “Could be several hours. This is a major incident.” I could see the air ambulance had landed in a field close by. As he turned around car after car I decided the only thing for it was to hitch a lift with someone heading for Todmorden and after a couple of tries a couple offered me a ride – via Bacup. It probably took 20-25 minutes to get back into Todmorden and I was very grateful for the ride.

Back in Tod I called in at the market for some black embroidery floss. I would work on my textile project. Walking through Cliviger Gorge will have to wait for another day.

St John the Divine & The Ram Inn!

So, inspired by another video from Nick, I set off to find St John the Divine church in Holme Chapel, situated in the Cliviger Gorge:

This was to be my third trip exploring the valley and on a previous bus ride I’d noticed a pub at Holme Chapel with tables set out at the rear giving great views of the opposite side of the valley, so I planned to have lunch there with Jane and then we’d see what there was to see at the chapel itself. There’s no actual village of Cliviger – it’s the name given to the collection of 5 villages that constitute the parish of Cliviger.

In 1588, the queen Elizabeth I gave to her principal surgeon, Robert Balthrope, a coal mine in Cliviger. This was later transferred toJohn Towneley of Towneley Hall. TLimestone was mined at Shedden Clough in the 17th century and lead mining was attempted at Thieveley in the early 17th and mid 18th centuries.  Also near Pot Oven Farm, there are the remains of a blast furnace constructed around 1700 for the Spencer partnership. I seem to remember learning about blast furnaces in science lessons at school! Although it had become a pottery by 1760, it is thought to be the first blast furnace built in Lancashire. During the mid-18th century, Cliviger produced worsted woollen pieces for the neighbouring town of Burnley. Open cast coal mining took place in the 1940s and 50s above Thieveley Scout and on Deerplay Moor.

I’d read that close to the pub and chapel was Holme House which had once been the home of a man who had written a famous history of Whalley and he’d enlisted the artistic talents of one J. W. Turner to illustrate it. Wow! Then I read that his old home had recently burned down, or a least a large wing of it had been destroyed. When I mentioned the fire Jane immediately knew which house it was and we turned off onto a short drive and there was the old manor house, now fully functional, and converted into flats. It’s still an imposing building but looks rather new. Holme Hall dates back to 1340 when Richard de Whitacre arrived in Cliviger from High Whiteacre (Padiham). In 1431, The Holme, then a manor house of 40 rooms, was referenced in connection with Thomas Whitaker. The process of converting the original wooden structure into stone began in 1603 and was completed 1717 with west wing. The Whitakers built an extension to the rear in 1854. The land once belonged to the Tattersall family and housed a chapel which lent its name to the neighbouring village of Holme Chapel.

Holme House: from here to Chesapeake Bay in 1611

And then I discovered something so unexpected it stopped me in my tracks. Rev Alexander Whitaker, 1576-1617 sailed with Sir John Dale in 1611 to the colony of Virginia in Chesapeake Bay, becoming known as The Apostle of Virgina. My goodness. From here to the U.S (or at least what would eventually become the U. S.) in 1611!!! 2 years later Pocahontas, the daughter of the native American chief, was captured and placed under Whitaker’s care where he was taught English and the Christian religion. She was given the honorary title ‘Princess’ and it is generally believed that this minister from Holme House officiated at her baptism and eventual marriage to John Rolfe, the founder of the Virginian Tobacco Industry. Little did I think that there would be any connection to the U.S on my visit to this little village today. My daughters learned the story of Pocahontas in their American history lessons, but I certainly had never heard of her until then. Whitaker drowned while crossing the James River in 1616.

Then it was over the road for lunch in the lovely gardens of the ancient Ram Inn. Like Holme House it’s a Grade II building. It has a lovely stone roof and mullioned windows and a mounting block for getting on your horse.

We enjoyed our lunch, going with the traditional sausage and mash – excellent.

Then it was merely a few steps across the main road leading to Burnley and we were at the lychgate leading to the church St John the Divine. Besides the church being unusual for a small rural parish being constructed in the Classical style I had wanted to take photos of it for a specific reason. I’m currently taking an online art class in architectural drawing and I thought that church would give me a good subject to work from. Yet another Grade ll listed building it was built between 1788 and 1794, replacing a small chapel, and is in simple Classical style.

Above the west front is a bell turret with an octagonal cupola, and inside the church are carved oak stalls, moved from a demolished church, which include a poppyhead and misericords. All this talk of Grade II listed building reminds me of the house we lived in in Bedfordshire, Wet Manor in the village of Milton Ernest which was a Grade II building, built just before 1600. Not surprisingly the church wasn’t open though it is still a functioning church with regular services. But I was disappointed not to be able to walk around the exterior of the church – it was fenced off, so I contented myself by wandering round the very well maintained graveyard. I was on the lookout for the grave of Captain Scarlett, who led the Charge of the Heavy Brigade during the Crimean War. When I first heard this mentioned by Nick in his video I though it was a joke . . . I mean, everyone’s heard of the Charge of the Light Brigade, right? According to the Household Cavalry Museum’s website: In 1854, the Royals were the first British regiment to deploy abroad as part of a joint Anglo-French army that journeyed to the Crimea in support of the Ottoman Empire in its war with the Russians. The Royals achieved military success in a display of what cavalry were capable of at the Battle of Balaclava where, in the engagement known as the ‘Charge of the Heavy Brigade’, a force of 800 British cavalry, with the Royals at their heart, routed a force of 3000 Russian light horseman in an engagement that lasted barely eight minutes. Unfortunately, this triumph has been somewhat overshadowed by the disaster at the same battle which was the Charge of the Light Brigade. So how on earth did this highly decorated military gentleman come to be buried in this tiny village in Lancashire? Son of a Baron he’d been educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1835 he had married Charlotte Ann Hargreaves a coal heiress from Burnley and from then on he made Burnley his home. After his military career he became a conservative member of parliament and on retirement he stood again as a member for Burnley but was narrowly defeated. When he died in 1871 and estimated 60,000 people lined the streets of Burnley for his funeral procession. There was a General Scarlett pub in Burnley named after him and in 2016 it became the Scarlett Tea Rooms. As I wandered around the tiny village it was hard to match this quiet enclave with the vigour and bravery shown by Capt. Scarlett.

Our final stop was at the Singing Ringing Tree, a panopticon overlooking the Cliviger Gorge, and with a gentle breeze blowing it sang to us. The sky had cleared of its earlier clouds and so we could see way into the distance. I think I could see Ingleborough. A diagram of the points of interest would have been very useful!

Looking forward to exploring more of the valley soon.

Shore baptist chapel

So having watched a YouTube video about the ruined Shore Baptist chapel I was eager to visit the site. I couldn’t find it on a current map but I kew it was up a very steep road out of Cornholme so with a friend’s willing assistance we set off by car. We took a couple of wrong turns but that was ok because our view was fantastic – almost on a par with the drone footage of the Cliviger Gorge I’d watched online the previous evening. There is a small village of Shore clinging to the hillside and outside one of the houses I saw a resident working in the garden and she gave me directions to the site of the church – along Pudding Lane (!) and Shore Green Lane, and we were there. From the roadside it’s nothing special so without having seen the video I wouldn’t have looked twice at it – but I knew what lurked behind the unimposing wall.

So I spent the next half hour or so scrambling round the building which once held the church and the adjacent Sunday School. I’d found an old film made in 1971 about a year at this church showing people arriving by taxi (yes, the road is REALLY steep) , singing in the ladies’ choir, the children’s choir, the Sunday school prize giving, tea parties, the annual coach trip (in this case to Cliffe Castle, Keighley which, as it happens, was my last day out before lockdown). The roof of the chapel fell in years ago, after the church had been declared unsafe because of dry rot. With a bit of prodding the wrought iron gate opened (it was just held closed by a large stone) and I was able to see inside the chapel since the front wall has gone.

As it was. It certainly made a statement. As Les Marshall wrote in the booklet about the church ‘The blackened front of the church looks defiantly over the wooded valley and distant rolling hills.’ Today trees cover the hillside and the church’s prominent setting is obscured.

Someone had made a bonfire of their rubbish in what had once been the nave. The coving around the light fittings could clearly be seen and the wooden planks strewn over the floor had once been pews. The whole site is now overgrown with trees and so taking photos was difficult because so much of the building was obscured by the trees and also where I could see the building everything was in dark shade.

I’d read about a flight of stairs at the West side of the chapel. The church is perched right on the edge of the cliff and so the extensive graveyard appears to be falling down the hillside. 122 steps with an iron rail still present in places goes down to the Wattenstall River and, this being a Methodist church, people went down the steps to be immersed in the River as part of their baptism ceremony. Then they would climb back up the stairs for the service in the church. The General baptist Repository and Missionary observer of 1865 records that on June 10th Mr Gill baptised 41 people, 21 men, 20 women, the youngest candidate being 15, the oldest being 77. Some baptisms took place on Christmas Day when the ice on the stream had to be broken. It wasn’t until 1871 that the Baptistry was installed inside the church!

The church was founded in 1777 (just 2 years before the Piece Hall opened) by 7 people inspired by Dan Taylor from Birchcliffe Chapel, Hebden Bridge – which now serves as the area’s archive repository. (A couple of days later I was taking a walk along the steep Wadsworth Lane high above Birchcliffe when I noticed this plaque on a house):

The house

In 1833 and again in 1871 the church was considerably enlarged reflecting the growth of the cotton industry in Cornholme. When the centenary was celebrated in 1877 the church had 265 members but by 1970 dry rot had set in and all services were being conducted in the adjacent Sunday School. In 1985 a decision was made by the church members that it should be demolished. However, that didn’t happen and 35 years later, here I was in the ruins. At length i found a newish looking sign posted on a door:

I’m so pleased that I visited when I did. Who knows when the council will take it upon themselves to demolish the place. From the notice it could be any day starting yesterday!

The video of a year in the church, 1971:     Watching this made me think I was back at Affetside Sunday school, singing in the choir and I still have the books I was given at prize givings there. This is filmed at the Sunday school after the church had to be closed for good as being unsafe. My absolute double is in the children’s choir. Can you spot her?
Then watch a bit of this – minute 25-35 shows the church and seeing this was the catalyst that made me want to go and explore the church:

I also found a booklet at Todmorden visitors’ centre called the Story of Shore General Baptist Chapel’ by Les Marshall and George Lambert published in 2016 which includes this hymn written by Rev. J. Maden, minister of Shore 1868-1875

‘How rugged are thy paths, O Shore!

And yet we climb them more and more

Up to the sacred hill.

Thousands have gained that rocky height,

And gazed around them with delight

But we are pilgrims still.”

(Why is Shore called Shore?). A couple of days later I found the answer in a booklet called ‘The Story of Shore General Baptist Chapel’ which I purchased at Tod visitors’ centre. Shore is an old English name for river bank or precipitous slope! The booklet tells of the anger and problems arising from a demolition order made in 1985 that has never been carried out.

Birchcliffe Chapel

Exploring a new valley

It’s been a while since I last posted. I could blame many things: the inclement weather, lethargy, started working on a book, getting back into some more serious piano practice, the concern about the fires back in Santa Cruz, the realisation that Covid 19 is here to stay for a while, etc., etc.

The hills encroach on the road

But last week I just happened to watch a YouTube video of a guy hiking in the Cliviger Gorge, the valley the connects Todmorden to Burnley. I’d watched a couple of his homemade videos before, mostly around the Calder Valley, so this was a new area for me, and it showed a ruined chapel at Shore, near Cornholme. The roof is off, walls are missing, it’s perched on the edge of a cliff, and it’s difficult to get to. What more could I ask? The perfect place for exploration.

Former mill in the valley bottom

So my first step into the valley came last week when I took the Burnley bus as far as Cornholme and then just followed the road back down into Todmorden. Though I’d travelled along this 8 mile valley by train and bus before I’d never walked through it. A few derelict mills are wedged in the valley bottom which, like the Calder Valley forms a very narrow channel for a road, a railway line, a river, and a few small communities.

All that remains of Cornholme church

In fact the lower end of the valley is narrower than the Calder valley in Hebden Bridge and some of the terraces of houses are only around 4 houses long on either side of the main road. Unlike Hebden Bridge few houses are perched on the valley sides because the land here is notoriously unstable. The valley sides appear to be full of hummocks, caused by landslides over the millenia. A little coal mining was done, some iron smelting and then the textile mills took over during the industrial revolution. I passed a lane heading steeply upwards signposted to Shore but I wanted to do more research before heading up to the ruined chapel.

Colour in the garden

Arriving back on the outskirts of Tod I came to an imposing gateway leading into a densely wooded area. Big signs saying police cameras, dog patrol, hazardous to your health, razor wire made me inquisitive and on researching when I got home I found that the drive once led to Todmorden’s most famous hotel which was the victim of arson and now lies derelict.

I passed the Hare and Hounds and Jack’s Place, 2 pubs that my ancestors had kept years ago, then past Centre Vale Park, one of the few flat areas of land in the area. The River Calder rises in the hills above the Cliviger Gorge, part of it heading into Yorkshire and past into Lancashire. Bob Gaunt and Annie Harrison who I worked with on the aging Project at Manchester Uni are currently tracing the Yorkshire Calder from its source to the sea.

A victim of Covid 19?

What lies beyond? Scaitcliffe Hall Hotel & Restaurant Originally the seat of the Crossley dynasty, Scaitcliffe Hall can be traced to the middle of the fourteenth century. The Crossleys, local landowners and latterly magistrates, remodeled the hall over five centuries, constructing the present hall in 1821. The Scaitcliffe armoury and museum was a Lancashire country house museum, formed by two generations of the Crossley family of Scaitcliffe Hall, Todmorden c.1810–40, and dispersed at auction in Leeds in 1892. But details of the works in the collection, bound into seven folio volumes, along with an index volume to the entire collection, survived in collateral descent until 2011 when the last owner died. 

Built in a Tudor fashion with a porch, mullions and leaded lights, the building still incorporates some of its earlier materials, in particular the numerous stained-glass windows in the Garden Room and the large rear window of the main stairwell. More info and photo of the house in its heyday:

The long tale of Longtail



This morning I went in search of Longtail. Well, actually I just wanted a good reason to take another walk along Edge Lane, having enjoyed my first two walks along the lane. In 1881 The Pack Horse Inn was the scene of an altercation between a group of thugs and the landlord, my ancestor, John Wolfenden. When the vandals reappeared at the inn the following day two policemen were summoned from Hebden Bridge and during a scuffle, as they were being marched back to Hebden, some of the men broke free and headed off in the direction of Longtail Beer House.

Current resident of Longtail

So today I went to find it. I knew that it is now a private residence and as I drew close to the building set above the road with a panoramic view of the Upper Colden valley I was delighted to see that one of the residents was doing some gardening by the roadside. We chatted and I learned that the building is now divided into three cottages. I told him of my mission and he recalled the story of a murder at Longtail beer house, but I’ve not been able to find any reference to this yet.

Lots of construction at Longtail

I carried on along the lane, passing Spink House where my ancestor John Sunderland lived, and the former workhouse and soon I passed through the gate at the end of the car track and found myself on open moorland. There’s a grand view of Gorple reservoir and the three Walshaw Dean reservoirs.

Lonely Pack Horse Inn with the 3 Walshaw Dean reservoirs behind

The Pack Horse Inn was the only building in sight in any direction. I sat on a grassy bank to admire the view and as I did so I soon began to be the object of attention of several curlews who obviously wanted me out of the way. I was able to take a nice video of them swirling about my head, making a call just like a car alarm. For a minute two birds were calling in unison and I felt as though I was being treated to surround sound. I wondered if the track was made when the reservoirs were constructed or if it is an ancient track over the moors but my phone didn’t get any signal way out here so I couldn’t check the historic maps.  (I later found that there was some evidence of the track marked on the 1851 map). So I headed back along the stoney track passing some friendly sheep. I even caught a glimpse of an owl, sitting atop a gatepost, eying me suspiciously.

On the way up I’d called in at May’s farm shop which I hadn’t been in before. An elderly lady – May? – related the story of  her mother babysitting for a couple on a farm close by as a young teen and then the farmer killed his wife, but again, I can’t any reference to that in the local papers of the time. On my way back I called in at the shop and purchased a pasty to take home.

Digging up more information online later that day was I surprised to learn that Longtail had once been the residence of a lady who wrote Helen of Four Gates. Oo, that might be fun to read, I thought, especially if it’s set in this area. But before I could order the book online I found that it had been made into a silent movie in 1920, and that the author, Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, had been an important  working class social activist and feminist.

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth

Her story had even been the subject of someone’s Phd thesis, available to read online.  Born in Lancashire, she began work at the cotton mill aged eleven as a part-timer, working full-time from the age of thirteen.  In an article for The Woman Worker (which she edited for six months in 1909) she described the factory worker as ‘practically a beggar and a slave’, declaring all workers ‘dependent on the whims of a master class.’ Her first publications were poems, collected in Rhymes from the Factory in 1907. Two further volumes followed: Songs of a Factory Girl (1911) and Voices of Womanhood (1914). All were produced under difficult circumstances – between serving customers at the draper’s shop her mother had taken in Little Harwood, between lectures at Owens College, Manchester, where she registered as a non-degree student from 1911 to 1913, and between the creative writing classes she taught at Bebel House in 1913 and 1914. What a coincidence that my daughter attended Owens College at Manchester Uni too! She lived at Longtail from 1919-1921.

But the story doesn’t stop there. The director of the film was Cecil Hepworth one of the founding pioneers of the British film industry. He created the first film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. By 1910, Hepworth was also the inventor of Vivaphone, an early sound on disk system for adding sound to motion pictures and he was one of the first people to recognize the value of film stars, both human and animal. His Rescued by Rover, 1905 had a collie dog in the title role and was a huge financial success.  Following the international success in 1919 of Alf’s Button Hepworth’s company went public but failed to raise the necessary capital and the company went bankrupt. All of the original film negatives in Hepworth’s possession were melted down by the receiver in order to sell the silver, and his feature films have been considered lost for many decades. However, an original 35mm. print of his 1920 film Helen of Four Gates  was located in a film archive in Montreal, Canada in 2008 by film maker Nick Wilding. Back in 1920, cinema-goers packed into the Co-op Hall in Hebden Bridge, eager to see a new film; a harrowing, heart-rending story shot in the countryside around their town. After a little detective work, Nick discovered it was Ethel Carnie Holdsworth who persuaded Cecil Hepworth to use Hebden Bridge as a location. There are scenes of the countryside around the town, including the beauty spot of Lumb Falls.

“She took Hepworth up the moor,” says Nick. “He writes in his autobiography about being taken there. He had a good look around and decided where he was going to film.” In June 2010 the film, with live music as was originally intended was shown at the Hebden bridge Picture House, directly across the road from where I write, as part of the town’s celebration of the 500th anniversary of the town’s pack horse bridge – it’s first public showing in 90 years. So, my story both begins and ends with a Pack Horse!

The entire movie is available to watch:

Someone has also a 4 minute movie about her life

All were produced under difficult circumstances – between serving customers at the draper’s shop her mother had taken in Little Harwood, between lectures at Owens College, Manchester, where she registered as a non-degree student from 1911 to 1913, and between the creative writing classes she taught at Bebel House in 1913 and 1914. She lived at Longtail 1919-1921.


Greave Murder

The remote farm of Greave was the scene of a murder in 1827 that made headlines in newspapers all across the country. A policeman was even sent from London to  solve the gruesome crime. The most comprehensive account of the ‘horrid murder’ was in the Manchester Mercury, June 5, 1827. The details give both a detailed description of the character of the victim and conjures up the remoteness of Greave, the farm where the murder took place.  The farming community of Greave which comprised 2, possibly 3 farmsteads has been in the possession  my Shackleton ancestors since 1790 that I can trace directly, but there were  Shackletons living there four centuries ago.  A  1604 survey of the Savile estate lists 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth, 14 of which were owned by Shackletons and the document specifically mentions 2 at Good Greave. A detailed website belonging to John Shackleton documents the story of the Shackletons of Widdop, putting them into their historic context. John has been helpful in my quest to discover more about my Shackleton ancestry. How does this tie in with my family tree? Well, Gibson Butterworth married Isabella (nee Wolfenden) following the death of her first husband Thomas Shackleton(1842-1890), one of the Shackleton dynasty. Isabella had been living with her parents John and Hannah Wolfenden in one of the Greave farms and so, after her marriage, at the age of 16, she moved in with ‘the man next door’ – to another of the Greave farms.

HORRID MURDER, WADSWORTH, NEAR COLNE. In one of the wildest and most sequestered spots in Yorkshire, distance about 13 miles from Halifax and 7 from Colne, and within 2  or 3 miles  of the Lancashire border in a district celebrated for majestic scenery. In this nook of  the country, a place called Good Greave in the township of Wadsworth, is situated; the former is the scene of this horrid crime; it consists of only four houses, two them separated from the rest  by a distance of about a quarter of a mile and the nearest them within a mile of  the Halifax and Colne road. Stretching towards Colne, Haworth, or to Blackstone-edge in different directions, the  township of Wadsworth consists of  heaths and the deep ravines running between them. Nearly the foot of steep aclivity, and within short distance of one of the gullies which carry off the waters from the mountains lived James Shackleton, an old man in the 7lst year of his age. In the dwelling where his existence was at last prematurely terminated, he first drew breath; that and the surrounding acres, were his paternal estate, and by  careful habits and moderate desires, he had rendered himself a man of considerable substance. Satisfied with much less of the good things of this life than he had the ability to purchase, in what he did enjoy a brother and sister, also advanced in years, but younger than himself, participated; the three having chose a  life of celibacy, they were restricted so far as regards family and social intercourse, to themselves, except, indeed, their nephew, residing just at hand, who had a wife and  three children.

On the night of Wednesday the 23rd ult. about half past nine o’clock in the evening, the unfortunate victim, James Shackleton and and a man named Richard Smith, an aged house-carpenter dwelling in the house until had completed a few jobs, were sitting over a cheerful fire of peat, waiting the return of Thomas Shackleton, the old man’s brother, who had gone a short distance from home, on some business, relative  to the formation of a new road. The sister Mary Shackleton  had gone to  bed, when six men entered the house, armed with bludgeons, and one of them, going up  to James Shackleton, said “he wanted to  purchase a cow.” This excited some astonishment in the old man, who replied that “that was a very odd time to come on such a business.”  A demand instantly followed for his money, with which the old man hesitating to comply, the carpenter, Smith, said, “James, if you have any money, pray give it them.” Two cur-dogs in the house barked most furiously at the villains who struck them with their bludgeons. James requested them to desist doing so, and he would quiet the dog. They, however, still continuing hark, one of the men, with a knife or some other sharp instrument, made a desperate blow at  the larger intending cut his throat, but he only made a deep incision in the  neck the animal. The men insisting immediate compliance, James rose from his seat, and proceeded to  a chest of drawers, from whence he  took out two purse*. These, the villains said, only contained copper, to which he answered that there was both gold and silver in them. They then told him that had £lO, in the house, which he had received for a cow that he had sold. This he denied, as, if the cow was sold, he had not yet received payment. The villains then struck the old man and the carpenter with bludgeons, but particularly the former, and demanded all he had, while some of the party took down two hams, and gun and pistol, which were hung up in the house. The carpenter, being alarmed for his own and his employer’s safety, got up and proceeded towards the door, to call the nephew, but was interrupted by two men at the doorway, armed with pistols, who declared that, if he stirred a step, they would blow his brains out. He then returned to the house, and the men were preparing to retreat, after the old man had surrendered his all. Fearing, from their ill treatment, that they would take his life, the old man had risen up, and gone towards the window, which had no open casement, and was calling for his nephew. From this circumstance, and the yelling of the wounded dog, it is probable a sudden fear seized the murderers. On their rather hastily retiring a voice was heard to exclaim “d–n  him, shoot him,” and one of them, armed with a  gun, seemed return to complete their crime, for on arriving at the end the passage, from whence he had a view of the man at the window, he levelled his piece, and shot him under the left shoulder blade, the shot penetrating through the body and coming out at the breast. He instantly  fell, covered with gore, and having been laid abed on the floor of the house, the purple flood continued to flow until life was extinct. This closed the unfortunate man’s life, within half hour after the occurrence. Medical aid was sought soon as any one dared to stir out, but found, it was in vain. The nephew, John Shackleton, first became alarmed hearing one of the dogs make an unusual noise (probablv when the wound was inflicted upon him) and laying down the pipe which he was smoking, he proceeded towards the house to inquire the cause. On approaching it, he saw a man standing in the passage, and supposing it to be his uncle Thomas who might have just returned home, shouted ‘ hallo’. To this no answer was returned. He then retraced his steps, and entered his own house; but not  satisfied with what he had seen, he returned immediately, after locking the door of his house, for his own family’s security. Having again sallied forth, the man in the passage ran at him, as he approached, and exclaimed “I’ll kill the devil,” inflicting, at the same time, a severe blow on one  of his shoulders. It was then that the nephew became sensible of the danger. When precipitately retreating,  he heard the cry of “d–n him, shoot him,” and instantly saw the flash of gun in the house. He ran to loose a bull dog which was tied up on his own premises, and while so engaged, the villains appear have left the house, for, on his again coming forth he heard nothing but a kind of murmuring noise, as if from the voices men, ascending the declivity, nearly at the foot of which the house was situated. The men were only about ten or fifteen minutes in the house, and on leaving it. went in a direction towards Haworth, over the moors, but this, no doubt, was a feint to elude detection.

Four days later in the Sheffield Examiner we read ‘The body of the unfortunate James Shackleton has been opened by a surgeon, who states that the wound was not inflicted by small shot, as was reported, since, in the course of his inquiry, he found two slugs, which had apparently been cut off from the handle of a spoon.” Someone was taken into custody but discharged and according to the obituary of James’s brother, Thomas, the murderers were never discovered.

Sixty years later the murder was still a hot topic in the local press and it was still on the lips of people in the community. The writer, one Tattersall Wilkinson,  obtained his information from “old Sally Walton” who eked out a living in a two storey cottage close to the road at the bottom of Widdop pass. “Witch and boggart tales she thoroughly believed—and many a happy hour has your humble servant passed by the turf fire side listening to the tales of yore told by the venerable dame.” According to Sally the area around Crimsworth Dean and Pecket Well was “infested with a gang of desperadoes – poachers and house breakers. Sally tells us more about the carpenter – Richard Smith known as “Old Dick o’ Whittams” who lived at “Th’ ing Hey” near Roggerham Gate. I find these names so priceless and so evocative of their time. Adding further fuel to the drama, the robbers who had ‘blackened faces,’ finding no ammunition for Shackleton’s  gun “in a most deliberate manner took a leaden spoon from off the table and cut it into slugs.” The oft-repeated story has caused a thrill of horror to pass through the mind of the listeners at many a winter’s fire-side, and although seventy years have passed away since the occurrence took place, many old people still live in the neighbourhood who remember the affair who give mysterious hints as to who were the actors in this fearful drama.

So how does this story relate to my ancestors? The murder victim was the great great uncle of Thomas Shackleton, the first husband of Isabella Wolfenden, who married Gibson Butterworth after Thomas died.

Stoneshey Gate

It was a Winnie the Pooh day, blustery, with a distinct promise of rain,  as I set off to visit Stonesheygate, on Widdop Road. It was apt that I wearing my new hat, which arrived yesterday, a birthday present from Rachel. Apparently it had been sitting in the post office for several weeks and last night Rachel had apologized for it being ‘unseasonable.’ However, as I braved the open moors on Widdop Road I could envisage similar winds battering the slopes of Mt Everest. My new beanie was from Peter Hilary’s new range of high end outdoor wear and this was a very special present from Rachel because  a couple of years ago Rachel had gone to Everest with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund!

I’m still on my pilgrimage to visit as many houses where my ancestors lived as I can during this crazy summer. I think I’m over the 100 mark at the moment, and all within either walking distance, or a 5 minute bus ride.

Stoneshey Gate

In 1891 John Sunderland,  1826-1903, was the 65 year old  head of one of 4 families living at Stoneshey Gate. He was the  great-grandfather of  the wife of my 3rd cousin 2x removed. (I’m so glad that figures that out!). Only 5 minutes walk past Slack Baptist church (you can’t beat that name) I came to a collection of cottages marked Stoneshey Gate, adjacent to a very grand looking building which I late found out has a datestone of 1794 and is Grade ll listed building.


Kate Lycett’s painting of Stoneshey gate

It wasn’t easy to get a good photo from the road since the house is screened by rhododendron bushes, today in full flower, though being severely battered by the wind gusts. But I spied a footpath sign that led to a very narrow stone paved track past the back of the building, appearing to disappear into shrubbery leading steeply down to Hardcastle Crags and from there I saw what an imposing building this is.

The side overlooking Hardcastle Crags

It’s perched on top of the ridge above the valley below where Abraham Gibson had built his mill, now THE local tourist destination. Abraham Gibson, who  had donated Gibson Mill to the National Trust, had lived at Greenwood Lee, just a few minutes’ walk from Stoneshey Gate and a couple of years ago I was given a grand tour of the building and grounds, complete with peacocks, because it was up for sale. Two years later it still is. See previous blog which caused the son of the current owner to contact me.

Greenwood Lee, once the home of Abraham Gibson

Indeed, I found a business connection between the two men:  19 December 1884 Between Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee (The Liquidator of the Colden Cotton and Commercial Co Ltd in voluntary liquidation) vendor and Gamaliel Sutcliffe of Stoneshay Gate cotton manufacturer, William Gibson of Stoneshay Gate cotton manufacturer, William Mitchell Sutcliffe of Heptonstall Grocer, purchasers – agreement on sale and purchase of the Company’s Estate and Effects. Recently burnt down mill called Jack Bridge Mill and the remains thereof with the Weaving Shed, Warehouse buildings cottages engine house engines boilers shafting mill gear and millwright work etc. Gameliel Sutcliffe married Susannah, daughter of Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee – virtually next door neighbours.

The view over the valley of Hardcastle Crags is fantastic and above the valley is Shackleton Hill, with the small hamlet of Shackleton barely managing to cling to its position halfway up the ‘mountain.’ Last month I climbed up to Shackleton and was rewarded  with views across to Slack and Widdop Road where I was now standing.

View across the valley to Stoneshey gate from Shackleton

According to the 1891 census Stoneshey was occupied by four households: two farmers, (one being my John Sunderland), a coachman and a widowed housekeeper. Yet on the electoral roll of 1894 both Gameliel Sutcliffe and John Sunderland are listed as living at Stoneshey, and qualify to vote as ‘Land and tenament’.

In 1891 John was 65, his wife Grace, 61 and his daughter Susannah, 32. By 1901 John is a widower, still living with his daughter but they have moved to ‘New Houses’ where John is listed as a retired farmer and his daughter Susannah, now 41, has been lured by the industrial age and is now a machinist in a fustian factory. I wonder where? New Houses is a small terrace set close to and beneath the road, with a row of outhouses across the street, some of which are numbered to show which cottage they belong to. No wonder people used potties for calls of nature in the middle of the night, especially in a raging storm.


A lady had just driven up to the cottages and was walking to her door. I explained my presence and they fact that I was taking photos but she hurried indoors. I didn’t realise until I got home that this terrace was originally called New Houses because the sign on the terrace today says Craggside.

New Houses

So what about John’s earlier life?  John had married Grace Crabtree in 1849 at Heptonstall church. At that time he was living at Hawdon Hole, where my friends Freda and Chris live and which I’ve had the good fortune to visit and see inside. He was an overlooker and the following year he was still an overlooker but is now living on Smithwell Lane which extends from the centre of Heptonstall towards Jack Bridge. Their son Abraham was born the following year, with Eliza, James and Susannah following in quick succession. James died at the age of 4. From 1861-1881 the family remained living on Smithwell Lane and John was a cotton throstle overlooker. This was someone who supervised the throstle doffers! Throstle doffers would removed the full bobbins from the cotton spinning machines and replace them with empty ones. What a contrast to become a farmer – even though Stonesheygate was no more than 10 minutes walk away. I wonder what prompted that decision. John died in 1903  at the grand old age, at that time, of 77 and he’s buried at Heptonstall church. His wife Grace had died 5 years before him. Two years after her father died Susannah married John Helliwell, a widower,  at the ripe old age of 47 – most unusual. John, a stone mason,  was living at New Houses at the time of his marriage and Susannah had moved to Acre farm.  They set up house together at New Houses, most likely in John’s  home and 1920 finds her at 5 Knowl top.  They are all buried at the Baptist cemetery at Slack.

Slack chapel

As I researched the buildings at Stoneshey Gate the following morning I came, quite by chance, upon a document that had been sent to me by James Moss last month. His father had spent years at Halifax library reading the Hebden Bridge Times and Halifax Courier picking out pertinent stories. James wrote, “We used to pull his leg that it was a perfect hobby, sitting in a library reading the newspaper. I suspect it can be done by electronic word search but then he went through it page by page. When I was working from Halifax Police Station I occasionally called in the Library and the staff remembered him as ‘the toffee man’ because he always had toffees with him and would always offer the staff one.”

Octagonal rear of the chapel. I could easily mistake this for Heptonstall Methodist chapel

One of these articles mentioned Stoneshey Gate as being the residence of Gameliel Sutcliffe, a man of some importance, so, of course, that set me off on a whole new direction and many more hours of ‘diggin.’  I knew that Sutcliffe was a very prolific name in the Heptonstall area. There’s a large area in the cemetery surrounded by an elaborate wrought iron fence containing many Sutcliffe tombstones, and I’d seen a few of ‘my’ family marry Sutcliffes but I’d never pursued that link of research because I knew that it would be too overwhelming and confusing. But in Stoneshey gate I have not a family member, but a Sutcliffe who was living at the property at the same time as John Sunderland. If the date stone on the building is correct, sometimes they can be marking a rebuild or an extension, the property appears to have been built for Gamwell Sutcliffe 1718-1803 since he was born at Lee, Heptonstall and his family moved to Stoneshey Gate. He was obviously a man of some substance for he is recorded as overseer of the poor in Heptonstall, a person who responsible for the relief of poor people in the township. He also is recorded as having occupied Rooms 20 and 21 in the Colonnade gallery of the Piece hall in Halifax in 1787 one of 320 people listed in the newly built cloth hall which had opened 8 years previously. His son,  Gamaliel, 1750-1840, lived at Stoneshey Gate and is listed as a stuff manufacturer. On the Power in the Landscape website I found the following: 1789 DRAFT BOND OF INDEMNITY dated 30th September 1789 – Robert Thomas of Blackshaw Royd in Stansfield, p. Halifax gentleman only surviving brother and heir of Richard Thomas, late of same, gentleman deceased who died intestate) to Gamwell Sutcliffe of Heptonstall p. Halifax, gentleman.
The said Gamwell Sutcliffe has contracted to buy a messuage with buildings closes etc. called Stoneshay Gate within Heptonstall for the sum of £700 now in occupation of said Gamwell Sutcliffe.
And whereas John Thomas the eldest brother of said Richard Thomas went abroad, beyond seas (as supposed) about 40 years ago and hath never since been heard of but no certain proof can be found of his death. Hebden Bridge Lit Sci Society.

On your horse!

He made his will in 1803 and is buried at Heptonstall Church in the old church in the nave. Gamaliel, 1750-1840 was member of a committee supporting those affected by the Luddites. On Wednesday, 12th May 1813, James Knight, Constable of Halifax, chaired a Meeting of a numerous and highly respectable Public Meeting of Inhabitants of the Town and Parish of Halifax, called by the Constables of Halifax, to take into Consideration the Services of those Gentleman who so meritoriously exerted themselves during the late Luddite disturbances in the West Riding of the County of York, at the White Lion Inn Halifax. In the early 1790s he built Bob Mill, Lower Colden and in 1800 he built the two Lumb Mills. Another member of the family confusing also called Gameliel Sutcliffe (!), the son of George Sutcliffe had owned Brearley Hall in 1920 and had travelled to Australia and America and wrote journals of his travels. It was THIS Gamaliel Sutcliffe that James Moss’s father had mentioned in his articles from Halifax library.

Lumb Mill on Hudson Mill Road

In 1927 another Gamaliel Sutcliffe of Stonesheygate died in the house in unfortunate circumstances. A two column article in the newspaper detailed his death, his standing in the community and lists the mourners at his funeral. He had been a Justice of the Peace for 40 years,a supporter and regular attender at Heptonstall church and it was he that had donated the land which is now name the ‘new’ cemetery, and paid for its enclosure by a “substantial stone fence and massive gates at considerable cost. He was always ‘good company’ with his numerous reminiscences of his travels abroad.” Apparently he wrote a journal of his travels, even venturing as far as Australia but I haven’t located it – yet.

Another interesting reference to Stoneshey gate was its connection with John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists.  On 24th May (which just happens to be my birthday)  1738, he experienced a religious awakening – which he referred to as feeling his heart strangely warmed – and which profoundly changed his life. His brother, Charles, had experienced the same spiritual conversion just 3 days earlier. In 1747, he visited the Upper Calder Valley for the first time at the request of William Darney. He preached at Stoneshey Gate on  5th May 1747,  The crowd were gathered in the yard at the house and others sat on a wall. During the sermon, the wall collapsed and all fell down at once. The people just sat where they fell and continued to listen to Wesley’s sermon. In 1764 the Heptonstall methodist chapel opened constructed to an octagonal plan that Wesley himself had suggested.  The first octagon was Norwich in 1757, followed by Rotherham in 1761, Whitby in 1762 and Heptonstall in 1764. Wesley said: “All our houses should be of this shape if the ground allow.”
Local historians Chapman and Turner later wrote: “Wesley had obviously been impressed by the roof at the Rotherham Octagon, he had the same man construct the roof in Heptonstall. The sections were brought by the most direct, though hazardous, road over Mount Skip, the people meeting the procession of pack horses and singing hymns of joy. Men and women laboured with their hands to build the chapel with the most primitive of tools.”

Kate Lycett, a wonderful artist who currently lives in a building in the centre of Hebden Bridge that once was the Bull Inn where my ancestor, Joshua Gibson was landlord, has done a painting of Stoneshey Gate showing its view overlooking the valley of Hardcastle Crags.

And just think . .  . 24 hours ago all I knew of the place was an entry on my excel spreadsheet with  name Stoneshey Gate and the name of a distant ancestor who had lived there  on the census map of  1891. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, I currently have 235 dwellings on that spreadsheet!!! Over 200 are within walking distance or a 10 minute bus ride.

Week 6 and 7

Of Dale House and Higgin House – and the Butterworths

Ezra Butterworth

Two days ago I was thrilled to find a blog which mentioned Scammerton, Pry  and Erringden Grange farms, all farms that had been lived in at various times by one or more of my ancestors. me the writer records chatting to the current farmers. Not only that but the blog was really well written and was obviously the work of someone who is inspired and enthralled by the landscape of this area as much as I am. As I read further I found that to my amazement he visited the ruins of one farm, Dale, even having a picnic in what had once been the living room and when he got back home he went on Ancestry and found out who was living there in 1851: my ancestor, Thomas Butterworth! Now I’d had a few excursions onto this hillside, primarily to look at Winters, a tiny settlement where one of my ancestors had kept a beerhouse, and I knew from old maps where Dale was located, but it wasn’t clear how to get there. Although paths are marked on old maps I have no idea how steep they are, whether they are still in use, whether I need to climb stiles, or walls, or whether they consist of vertical stairways. )

So today off I went armed with current maps, old maps – and a picnic. When I boarded the bus to Blackshaw head the driver asked, “Do you live there? We’re not taking walkers, you know.” Well, no, I didn’t know that, and I’m still not sure that’s the official line, but I was one of two passengers on the bus so it was hardly crowded.

I headed off down Marsh Lane, knowing that led down to Winters and once in the little hamlet I found a diagonal track going steeply towards Dale – in fact, it was so steep and slippery with dry sandy soil that I did a few Heather specials – sitting down and sliding down the path on my rear end. The view across the valley was lovely and for the first time I notice the bulge of Erringden  Moor between me and Stoodley Pike. It almost looked like a glacial drumlin. I knew from the map that this path was only about half a mile but its steepness made it seem much longer. I was too scared of losing my footing and dropping my phone to take photos of the path but I saw a tiny building on my left that I recognized from the Charlestown history site. It appears to be an outside loo with a stream running through it.

This building pictured above is referred to as the Cludgie (name for a toilet), but we are unsure what its original use was. The person on the photo was known as ‘owd Betsy who lived in the cottages.

And then suddenly another path crossed me hugging the contour of the hill and there was Dale – within an arm’s distance. The outside walls of the farm was about 3 ft high and the fireplace and some stone shelving was pretty intact. I welcomed a sit down on the wall after taking photos and was just contemplating setting up my phone for a distanced selfie when someone appeared on the path.

I asked her which was the least steep road back down into the valley and she told me about a set of steps that go all the way down after crossing a little wooden bridge. She seemed in no hurry and so I told her of my reason for visiting the site, how I’d found a blog about it. “Oh, that’s probably Paul’s” she responded. She lives in the valley and had great knowledge about local history resources. She even took my photo and emailed it to me so I didn’t have to bother with the distanced selfie!

Bridge over Dale clough

Finishing my picnic I followed her directions and crossed the wooden bridge over Dale Clough and the stairs awaited me.

At the top of the stairs was another ruined building, Higgin House and I stopped to take a couple of photos but it was impossible to step within its walls because it’s completely overgrown by large trees. Then I tackled the steps. From looking at contour maps it would seem that they ran vertically for almost 500 ft, but fortunately for much of the time there was either a wall, or an iron railing to steady myself.

The way down

As I eventually reached level ground I found myself at Knott Hall which I’d ‘discovered’ a few weeks ago from another path. I followed Oakville Road, avoiding the main road and retracing my steps from 2 days ago. I knew that a row of terraced houses here once housed a non-alcoholic brewery in the cellar. It was owned by Billy Holt’s father. I’d reread Billy Holt’s autobiography during the lockdown. He had once lived at Hawdon Hall and the current owners of that place that given me the book as a birthday present last year. Small world! I’d wondered which house had been the brewery. At that moment a lady came from round the back of the cottages so I asked her if she knew the answer to my question. She pointed to a separate cottage and told me that the beer cellar had now been filled it. It was the house that I’d taken a photo of and sent to my daughters a little while ago because there’s a trampoline on the garage roof!

Billy Holt’s dad’s brewery ( with trampoline)

Of Thomas Butterworth

The first time I can locate Thomas with any degree of certainty is when he married Alice Jackson at Heptonstall church  on October 20, 1811. They are both from Stansfield. There is a possibility that Thomas was baptized 6 June 1792 at Warley. I selected ‘that’ Thomas because his father was Ezra, and Thomas named one of his sons Ezra. In 1813 the first of their 7 or possibly 8 children was born, a daughter, Charlotte. 6 of the children were baptised at Myrtle Grove chapel on the same day, June 25, 1837. This meant that Charlotte was 24 when she was baptized, Richard 20, Sarah 17, Abrahma 15, Thomas 13 and Ezra 10. William was born in 1841 after a 10 year gap – strange. Last autumn when the leaves fell I noticed for the first time a cemetery close to the road to Todmorden and a few days later I overheard a conversation in which someone else was remarking on the fact that they’d never noticed the cemetery before.  Apparently this is all that remains of Myrtle Grove chapel, Eastwood. From the Charlestown history site: By the early 1800s, with the coming of industrialisation, the population was moving from the tops into the valley bottom. Discussions about moving the chapel began in about 1805 and local gentry settled endowments for the new chapel to be built. The new chapel opened in the summer of 1807 was called Myrtle Grove and stood on the site that later became Eastwood Railway station. It had a capacity of 500 people.

The congregation again declined from about 1820. In 1838 the railway petitioned to include the site of the Chapel and it was purchased by the railway company in the following year. A view of the Eastwood population at this time but there’s no source given:

“It must not be imagined from what has been written so far, that the inhabitants of Eastwood were all upright and honest citizens. there were evildoers in those days as there are now, and laws against theft or damage to property were much more drastic. Tradition has it that representatives of the village were sent as convicts to Australia. Stealing was by no means uncommon and occasionally cloth was taken from the handlooms. Hand weaving persisted for a long time after the coming of the power loom, and the weavers sometimes took precautions against theft by tying the warp ends to their feet before retiring for the night……The less reputable amongst the population indulged in such sports as cock fighting, rabbit coursing, clog fights or wrestling for wagers. The Non Conformists on the other hand, still strongly under the influence of puritan tradition, looked askance at such pleasures and regarded them as enticements of the Devil”. A new chapel was built and opened in 1840 so it would have been at the old chapel that Thomas and Alice had their children baptized.

Description: yrtle Grove

(from the Charlestown history site).

Another snippet  which amused me was this: A few years ago one of the group was taking stuff to the tip at Eastwood and saw a small wooden model in a skip. She rescued it and later we discovered that it was of Eastwood Chapel. The three photos below show the level of detail on the model. Who made it, when or why, we don’t know.

The model of Myrtle Grove chapel

Back to Thomas and his growing family. In 1841 the Butterworths were one of four families living at Higgin House, and Thomas is a worsted weaver. Yesterday, after I’d left the ruins of Dale I passed another ruin and took a photo of the place. This turns out to be Higgin House! It’s perched directly at the top of that steep flight of stairs. According to the Charlestown site it was once part of the Horsfall estate. (Leave that for a rainy day!) I wonder if the ‘sled road’ mentioned below was the steep stepped path I walked down yesterday:

The Rebuilding of Underbank House
The building of the New House that replaced the Great House at Underbank. John Lister Horsfall’s account book records the pulling down and building of the present day Underbank house (short of the Thomson’s modifications of course). The following is a summary.

First a sled road was made to allow stone to be pulled from Castle Hill to Underbank. Work began on March 10 and finished on March 20, 1834. This stone was used for “fronting” and for rebuilding some field walls. The road was then brought across the Higgin house and the Orchard field. This required 5 people and another to cut trees and cost 2 pounds, 18 shillings and 6 pence.

1851 find the Butterworth at Dale and by 1861 Thomas and Alice, both woolen weaver have moved to Underbank and their son, Ezra, has taken on the role of head of household, a plate layer for the railway line and a widower at the age of 33. However, there was less than 6 months between his first wife Sarah  Horsfall. (Higgin House was part of the Horsfall’s estate!)  dying and his marriage to Mary Gibson, daughter of the innkeeper of the Bull Inn, Hebden Bridge, who hanged himself in this slaughter house – see other postings in my blog). According to the handwritten account of Ezra’s life Sarah died in childbirth. “At some time he married, but, unfortunately his wife was a kleptomaniac, and was always taking home things she did not need and had not paid for. While this was a great worry to Ezra, it did not raise the problems at that time, in such a small community as Hebden Bridge then was, as it would today. Ezra just returned the goods to the under- standing shopkeepers and that was the end of the matter. She died early in married life on the birth of her first child. Ezra then met and married Mary Gibson.
She was also born on a small farm called Winters at Eastwood on 5th September 1830. She was the fourth child and first daughter and always said she was unwanted as her mother disliked girls. However other daughters were born and they were accepted. Mary ran away from home when she was eight years old to her grandmother who kept a coaching inn in Bridge Lanes, The Bull. She spent a happy childhood there and had many tales to tell of people who frequented the inn.
She was a good teller of tales and one which made a great impression on us was of the young woman who was poor and sold things from door to door. On being asked why she was doing this she said, “When I was young a well-to-do old man wanted to marry me but I loved a young man who was poor. We married but soon he died.” She added “But many’s the time I’ve rued that day for the old man’s brass ‘ud a bought a new pony.”
It was this grandmother who when Mary was young, once pointed to the smoke of a house chimney and said solemnly “Mary, whenever there’s a neck there’s trouble.”

As a young girl she was apprenticed to Molly Day, a dressmaker. where she learned to sew most beautifully making voluminous dresses of the time entirely by hand.
She and Ezra must always have known one another though it was not until June 1860 that they were married. Her brothers had warned her of Ezra’s drinking habits like many others associated with the railways in their early days. It was his great weakness.

They started married life at Weasel Hall, which is still there and can be seen on the hill- side from the main street in Hebden Bridge. (In fact that is the very view that I currently have as I sit at my desk in my living room). There on the 29th January Grace was born and two years later Gibson.”

My painting of Grace – from a photo

Thomas died at the grand old age of 75  in 1868 and he’s buried at St James’s in Hebden Bridge (where I sometime play the organ for services)  but I’ve been unable to find him on the burial plot map.

P.S – Crazy fact from the Charlestown history site that I found while researching this page :
The Rochdale canal at Charlestown was crossed by an iron bridge which by 1934 was showing serious signs of wear. In 1939 track subsidence made it necessary for the bridge to be replaced. The job was given to Dorman Long who also built Sydney Harbour Bridge. What?????

Crazy coincidence: 2 days after writing about my trip to Dale I received a message about the website that took me to Dale – from the Heptonstall Historical Society of which I am a member:

I’m going to carry on sharing items of online interest that have come my way for the lockdown period. Let’s start with an absolutely gorgeous website of photographs and writing about our local landscape and its history put together by Paul Knights. Enjoy:

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