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Exploring Luddenden Valley and coming home with 6 eggs!

1374 The Black Death (bubonic plague) killed
about 40% of people in Luddenden.

1600s Luddenden Valley was one of the
richest places in the country, as yeoman
clothiers sold textiles all over this country and
exported to Europe. They built some of the
finest houses in the Luddenden area during
this time.

The present building is dated 1634 GCP
(Gregory Patchett). It is constructed of rendered stone,
with a stone slate roof and an L-shaped plan with rear
wing. It is particularly of note because of its association with Branwell Bronte, who used to frequent it when working as a booking clerk at Luddendenfoot station, because of the very early library there, which existed from 1776 until 1917.

Sarah writing her journal in the Lord Nelson, June 22, 2017, after we’d climbed up to Stoodley Pike for the first time.

Blackshaw Head to Cross Stones

Heptonstall musings

A marriage made in heaven

Do my limbs embrace or strangle you?

Will my arms caress, enfold, comfort

Or tear you apart?

There you stand erect, sculpted,

Head rising high above me

Bare, exposed, unable to hide.

Your angles set in stone.

But my curvaceous  body

Grows, matures, ages.

Though my skin is wrinkled and pitted

Winter’s goddess applies moss,

Filling and blurring with its green softness

My deepest fissures,

Shadows hiding my darkest secrets.

But you, you stand upright, tall, proud, stately,

Light revealing your every stone

Majestic yet vulnerable.

They say lightning never strikes twice. . .

But eventually you too will crumble like your ancestor– dust to dust –

And over time I will silently tear you asunder, stone by stone

As my branches force their way between your walls,

Embedding themselves in your aisles, penetrating your holy places.

(The previous church was struck by lightning and the current church was built)

My Crabtree connection

Stoodley Pike from Upper Eastwood, home of the Crabtree family

CHARLES CRABTREE – manufacturer – and his son, Walter of Stansfield Hall

Charles Crabtree 1832-1912

There are certain family names in the Calder Valley that are so ubiquitous that people researching their family history pray that they won’t find them in their family tree.  Greenwood is one. Sutcliffe is another. A third is Crabtree, so it was with some trepidation that I embarked upon digging into the roots of Walter Crabtree. Walter’s parents, Charles and Ellen, are a perfect example of the confusion such names can cause the genealogist. They were married on April 6th, 1865. Ellen’s maiden name was Crabtree. She married Charles Crabtree. Both their fathers were named Abraham Crabtree! Charles’s father was a greengrocer. Ellen’s father was a farmer. And to further confuse matters on June 16th 1867 an Abraham Crabtree of Chapel House, a grocer and farmer drowned in a dam at Cockpit, Todmorden.  (annals of Tod) p24. This didn’t bode well, but I knew that a certain Charles Crabtree, who was a distant relative of mine was a man who had made his mark in Todmorden, both as a mill owner and a benefactor, so perhaps I would be able to distinguish this particular Charles from all the other Crabtrees in the vicinity. He is connected to my family through Edith Wrigley who married his son, Walter Crabtree in 1906.

 Charles’s obituary dated 1912 reads  “Beginning life in a humble way, with no apparent advantages over his fellows, he rose by industry and enterprise to a position of a large employer of labour.” Charles was born in 1832 at Upper Eastwood, a small cluster of houses centred around Eastwood old hall that I’d explored last year. Apart from the group of buildings around Eastwood Old Hall with its datestone that reads John Eastwood, 1630, the hillside leading up to Great Rock is criss- crossed with paths and dry stone walls amongst which are scattered isolated homesteads with only rough cart tracks leading to them even today. Sitting high on the hillside with uninterrupted views across the Calder Valley to Stoodley Pike is one of these isolated dwellings, Greystone, where Charles aged 9 was living with his parents, Abraham, a worsted weaver and his mother Ann in 1841. From  Greystone a track leads through two fields to two adjoining cottages named Chapel Houses.

1851 map showing Grey Stone, Crabtree Lane, Eastwood cotton mill, Chapel House and Mount Pleasant
Little has changed

As its name suggests this building was originally a chapel, Benthead Chapel constructed in 1719 and capable of holding 200-300 people. I still find it mind blowing that on such a remote hillside a chapel capable of holding so many people was required.

According to the Charlestown history page “ From the mid 18th century, the chapel went into decline due to the ‘exceptional mortality in the district’. Hmmm. I wonder what caused this ‘exceptional mortality” in this area. Could it possibly have been caused by inbreeding? On one page in the 1851 census 14 out of 19 people listed are Crabtrees. The congregation dropped to a handful of people” and the building  was subsequently divided into cottages. On the 1851 map the lane connecting these three locations, Eastwood, Greystones and Chapelhouses, all closely associated with my Crabtree ancestors was marked Crabtree Lane! A description of the place on the Charlestown history site which the site states was probably written in the 1840s reads:
“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 evil doers 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”.

It was the beginning of March, 2021. We’d had a few consecutive days of Spring weather – meaning it hadn’t poured with rain and the temperature had stayed above 32F, so I set out find Greystones where Charles, a boy of 9 was living with his father Abraham, a worsted weaver and mother Ann in 1841. As I took the bus up to Blackshawhead the sun won the battle with the clouds and by the time I got off at the bus terminus 1000ft above sea level it was a lovely sunny Sunday morning. Opposite the bus terminus is the former Blue Ball pub where Ezra Butterworth had rather too much to drink one night and staggered home down Davey Lane to his home at Hippens, where he went to bed, fell out again in a drunken stupor breaking the chamber pot and dying from his wounds. His story is told on another page of this blog. I followed Davey Lane with its wonderful views across the Calder Valley across to Stoodley Pike, passed the scene of Ezra’s demise. Today I noticed an ancient paved trail leading West from Hippens bridge alongside Hippens Clough which looked interesting to explore some other time.

I reached Great Rock which I’d noticed is marked as Grisly Stone on the 1851 map. Sometimes it’s been known as Devil’s Rock. It’s an outcrop of millstone grit that’s been weathered into a fantastical shape, similar to Bridestones which is close by. I even found my maiden name etched into it along with dozens of others.

Devil’s Rock

At Great Rock I took a pathway of Eastwood Lane. It’s surface reminded me of a patchwork quilt of stones and bricks obviously constructed, reconstructed and patched over many many years, centuries.

To my right a smaller track was signposted to Greystone Farm (only) and I could see a long stone building across the field. I headed for the farm which faces Stoodley Pike and though I stopped to take photographs for several minutes no-one came out to talk to me. I was disappointed.

Greystones from the back
Front of Greystones.

According to Historic England the earliest deed of the property is 1675 and the single storey gabled porch bears date 1789. The farmhouse is to the left, then comes the barn which still has its semi circular cart entry and then on the far right the cottage has a higher roof line. On an 1851 map I’d traced a track to the side of Greystones which led to Chapelhouses, but I’d not bargained for such difficult walking conditions. The path was sunken between two walls and was really no more than a stream. That would have been OK if the stream had had stones at its bottom. My boots are waterproof. The problem was mud! Mud in which my boots almost disappeared, so deep was it. It was very sticky too, and trying to lift up my foot out of its clutching grasp was no easy thing. I found myself clutching at various branches and grasses to steady my slips but all that resulted in was getting hands full of blackberry thorns. Luckily this track only lasted for 15 minutes. I wondered if was an ancient holloway like Bow Lane which connected Hudson Mill Road to Blackshawhead where the amount of that path has sunk is commensurate with its age.

I found myself in a more open area and adjacent to the gable end of a building. If I was correct this should be Chapelhouses, originally Benthead chapel. My luck was in. A couple were enjoying the sunshine in their garden and I explained my presence. There are two buildings now, one Chapelhouses and next door Chapelhouse Farm. Both buildings are Grade ll listed and it was the building on the left that was one Charles’s home. According to Historic England it was built in the late 17th or early 18th century and was used for non-conformist worship in the mid 18th century and was converted into four cottages in the mid 19th century.

The original Benthead Chapel

They were interested in my Crabtree story and soon went to find the person next door who lives in the part of the building that was actually the chapel. I learned that around 1900 the building had been left empty and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that it was restored and made into four dwellings. (Just like Lily Hall). I was able to take photos of the building and just make out the datestone by the door though it’s impossible to decipher. Apparently these is an old photo before the renovation but I haven’t been able to find in online. There is no mains water still here, and water is obtained from a nearby spring.

Chapel houses

By 1851 Charles was listed as a cotton weaver living with his parents in Eastwood, though in this census the names of many of the houses are not specified. But six homes away in the old Bentwood Chapel which was being shared by 6 families was another Abraham Crabtree, a grocer, with his wife Mary and three daughters, Mary Ann, 20, a cotton weaver, Ellen, 18, a dressmaker and Betty, 16. Also living with them was Young Barker a grandchild, aged 10. Being ten years old Young Barker is obviously not the illegitimate son of one of Abraham’s daughters which is usually the case. (see wikitree). It was almost a case of marrying the girl next door because two days before Christmas in 1852 Charles and his betrothed Mary Ann Crabtree made what must have been a cold journey into Halifax to be married at St John the Baptist church. They were one of seven couples who were married there that day. After their marriage they set up home in one of the sections of Chapel houses – now the home of five different Crabtree households! The first ten years of their married life saw the birth of a son, Barker, and a daughter Ann, named after her grandmother. But not only that, Charles had become a cotton manufacturer, employing seven men, a major step up from the weaver he was on his marriage certificate. Everything seemed to be going well for the young family but then Mary died. She was just 33. The couple had had two children and I wondered if she died in childbirth. Just over a year later he married Ellen Crabtree at St John’s in Halifax, the same church as his first wedding. Not only that but and together they had five children. Charles, Mary Ann and Ellen all had fathers named Abraham Crabtree! This is why I was reluctant to begin any research into my Crabtree ancestors! It took me a while to figure out that Ellen was none other than Mary Ann’s younger sister. I think that the writer of the register was as confused as I was, because in the margin he has added Chapelhouses, which convinces me that I have the correct people! Together Ellen and Charles had five children. Perhaps my suggestion of inbreeding possibly causing the usually high incidence of mortality in this vicinity was not too far from the truth.

Charles’s family demonstrates succinctly the development of the textile trade in the Calder Valley. His father, Abraham, had been  a handloom weaver living at Greystones high on the hill above Eastwood but by the time Charles was 18 his family had moved down the hill into the small community of Eastwood and both father and son were employed in cotton  manufacturing. In fact a cotton manufacturer, Thomas L. Sutcliffe was their immediate neighbour in Eastwood and it’s likely that it was in Sutcliffe’s cotton spinning mill in Eastwood that the father and son earned their living. Eastwood Shed was built between 1833 and 1848 for cotton weaving. The addition of this weaving shed to the spinning at Upper Mill created an integrated cotton manufacturing unit. An earlier small water powered cotton spinning mill in Higher Eastwood. The mill had been built by the Eastwood family and then leased to a number of manufacturers over the years, one such being the Sutcliffe Brothers.

Two years ago I’d taken a hike up the steep road to Eastwood and seen all that remains of the mill today. A friendly resident of Rose cottage was, of course, pruning his roses and offered to show me round. The three storey mill shed, which once housed the waterwheel is now used as a cow shed. I peeked in to see the heavily worn stone steps of a spiral staircase, its rusted handrail, the peeling whitewashed walls – all very spooky. The man led me above the mill site to view the original mill ponds now the site of some lovely gardens.  This was later replaced by a horizontal Lancashire steam boiler which was dragged up the hillside from the bottom by 12 chained horses. Though Edward Cartwright had invented the weaving machine in 1784 several decades of refinement were necessary  and it wasn’t until 1842 that the semi-automatic Lancashire Loom came into being taking weaving from a home-based artisan activity to a steam driven factories process.

In December 1860 Charles Crabtree  launched out as an employer running a business with John Marshall, operating a few looms at Burnt Acres on the valley floor employing 7 people. So the employment – just like the chapel, has moved from the hillside in Eastwood to the valley bottom, giving access to the canal for both the shipment in of raw materials and the shipment out of finished goods, as well as the river to power looms before the advent of steam power.  This mill was to be my first stop on my ‘Crabtree day.’

The site of Charles Crabtree’s mill  was easy to locate being sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the Calder River and the Rochdale Canal in Eastwood but the mill that occupies the site now is not the original Crabtree mill. Charles gradually increased his business and he moved with Ellen into the centre of Todmorden. Unfortunately their home on Dale Street hasn’t survived. In 1884 he acquired Ferney Mill with 614 looms.

I continued along the canal towpath, reminding myself of its important role in Charles’s business, and once in Todmorden I took the road out towards Burnley. Only a mile from the town centre I located Ferney Mill Road but the mill itself is no longer there.

I put a posting on Todmorden Past and Present Facebook page and received the following response from Rebecca Marshall: “My father bought the mill and demolished it and built the houses there now. However I did find a career poster dated around 1950 to attract workers. At that time about 400 operatives were working at Ferney Mill: “Good wages, good conditions and good employee services are proffered for employees while engaged in the manufacture of  Florentine and Satin Drills and ring Weft yarns specially spun for the local drill trade. There is a weaving school and a training school covering the spinning processes, a research and welfare department, cricket and sports clubs and social committee. As an added incentive Tea and sandwich service is available for the morning and afternoon rest breaks!” I wandered around this area in Todmorden where vast areas of wasteland surrounded by ruined walls topped with razor wire are all that remain of the huge textile mills that once covered this valley. Today many are used as dumping grounds and one had an amazing array of unwanted children’s furniture and toys including a large pink and white unicorn. Farther along Ferney Lee Road a former mill building had been converted into a suite of studios and workshops and the name Grumpy’s Mill was emblazoned in fancy ironwork. Was this part of Charles’s mill I wondered?  When I got home I ran this question on the Todmorden Past and Present Facebook page and within a few hours I got the following response; I wasn’t aware of ‘lee’ being in the name but certainly Ferney Mill. Its mine!” And from a lady “I worked at Crabtree Mill when I left school.”

At work in Ferney Lee mill

Charles appears to have been well liked by his employees and when he died in 1912 his obituary read: Last year, on the attainment of his jubilee as a manufacturer, Mr. Crabtree gave a treat to his employees, and they in return made a presentation to him of a walking stick, and of an umbrella to Mrs. Crabtree. For a long number of years, Mr. Crabtree attended Heptonstall Parish Church and officiated as sidesman for Stansfield. He was also identified with St. Paul’s Church, Cross Stone, and he had close ties with Myrtle Grove Congregational Church, Eastwood where he had been baptised. I was keen to visit the chapel but like so many others in this ‘Valley of a Hundred Chapels’ (the title of Amy Binns’s book) so many of them have been demolished or are used for secular purposes. The only thing remaining of the chapel is its graveyard. 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. Another of my ancestors, Thomas Butterworth and his wife Alice (nee Jackson) had their 6 children baptised together at Myrtle Grove chapel just two years after Charles.

Though not able to view the actual chapel itself I was able to get a good three dimensional view of the 1840 chapel from a very unexpected source which rather amused me. Again, from the Charlestown history site: 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. Who made it, when or why, we don’t know. It’s a three storey stone building. .

After Charles’s second marriage in 1865 he and Ellen went on to have five more children, the youngest being Walter who was born in 1875.  Cross Street where Walter was raised was in the centre of Todmorden but is now partly a car park and partly a garden area, from where I’ve watched the Lantern festival. It leads to the imposing Market Hall which was built in 1879. But I thought I’d pay a visit to where it once stood, to see if anything remained.

A double fronted house numbered 37 with a small iron railing around a flagged area barely two feet wide on the main Halifax Road seemed to be positioned close to where Cross Street once was, and, yes, lo and behold, on the side of the house high on the wall was an old street sign – Cross Street. A similar sized building had been added to the rear of the building and the side was adjacent to the car park. Could this possibly have been number 1, Cross Street, home of Charles Crabtree for at least the last 32 years of his life? When I got home I was eager to find if anyone could verify that number 37 Halifax Road was once 1 Cross Street, the home of the Crabtrees. I posted my question onto the Todmorden Past and Present FaceBook page and within 24 hours I’d had over 40 responses, two from former residents of the building. I learned that the house had once been called Galen House and after the Crabtrees left it had variously been the office for a local plumber, a toy shop, and the home of a family who operated a taxi business. One former resident, Sam Woodworth-Barnstone wrote “I always wanted to rip off the Cross Street sign when we left but always came round to the thought it’s been there over 100 years. Let’s see how many more years it can survive.” He then describes the inside of the house: “The best room was the attic. No-one ever looked up there but after everyone had moved out I had a peep. It extended the full size of the house with four original stone pillars in the middle with a skylight looking down on Halifax Road.”  Charles and Ellen would remain living at Cross Street for the rest of his life, Charles dying in 1912 at the age of 80 and Ellen in 1919 at the grand old age for the time of 86. They are both buried at Cross Stone church high above Todmorden.

At the far end of Cross Street is the river with a footbridge. I crossed the bridge and found myself in a park with a children’s playground. It surely takes the Darwin award for the best park name: Tipside.

By 1891 two of the 5 Crabtree children were teachers, one was a warehouseman in a cotton factory – I wonder if it was his dad’s factory – and one was a dye machine maker – presumably an engineer. Walter was still a scholar at the age of 15, when most young men of his age at that date in time would have been earning a wage. In fact, on the same street in the 1891 census there is Willie Brocock, throstle spinner in a cotton factory, aged 11, Tom Halliday, a moving carrier aged 14, Emily Sparks, cotton spinner aged 12, and yes, another Crabtree family containing John, 13, a cotton weaver. I think it’s interesting that my Crabtree family is living cheek by jowl with their employees, rather than in a manufacturer’s mansion up a hill and away from the smoke and grime of the town. That this area of Todmorden, known as Roomfield,  was not all sweetness and roses is born out by thus 1876 Nuisances inspector’s report. “In the first place I would remind you that Miss Sutcliffe, has a drain made up on her property in Roomfield Lane, and the house slops and refuse water are flowing on the street. At the same place, Stansfield Gibson, butcher, (another ancestor who I write about) has a very offensive midden on the side of the street leading up to the back houses, and be is also in the habit of slaughtering sheep and lambs in a place behind his house, which has not been registered as a slaughterhouse. Sarah Horsfall, of York street, has a privy on her premises with a defective box in, and the liquid runs on the door and out at the door bottom, and is very offensive.”

Walter enrolled at Owens College, Manchester, an  institution that  had been founded in 1851, named after a textile merchant, John Owens who had gifted  almost 100,000 pounds for is establishment. Owens college eventually became the University of Manchester. What an amazing coincidence. My daughter, Anna, decided to study abroad for a year while she was pursuing a psychology degree at the University of California in Santa Cruz. The University she selected was Manchester and she was housed at Owens College, where I visited her in 2009.  I love the following quotation from Wikipedia: Since the later 1800s many notable people have worked and studied at University of Manchester as, for example, Benedict Cumberbatch. Unlike Cumberbatch Walter studied not drama but medicine and in 1899 he received his MB ChB, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. He became a house physician at Manchester Royal Infirmary and on October 30, 1906 he married into my family by taking as his bride Edith Wrigley, the daughter off Thomas Henry Wrigley, whose granddad had lived at Lily Hall in 1841 and whose great great granddad was none other than James Wrigley, my great great great great granddad.

A distressing account was to be found in the Todmorden newspaper on Dec 23, 1904 when Walter was at the home of his future wife as her mother was getting ready to go to chapel.  At the inquest held at Todmorden Town Hall Edith related the story,  “I was the sitting-room (upstairs) when I heard a bang. I went with Dr. Crabtree to see what was the matter, and we found my mother laid at the bottom of the attic stairs. She was lying face downward, with her feet on the bottom step. She was conscious, and said” I think I must have gone dizzy.” My father was not at home at the time. The stairs are not very steep. We lifted her on to the bed.” Walter takes up the story: I found she was paralyzed below the shoulders. I came to the conclusion that the spine was severely injured, probably with dislocation or treatise. Dr. Currie was, sent for, and with him I made an examination. I found the two lowest cervical vertebra and probably one or two of the dorsal vertebra displaced. Under such circumstances recovery was scarcely ever known.  Death occurred rather suddenly at the last. The jury returned a verdict of ‘ Death from injury to the spinal cord, caused by accidentally falling downstairs.” The house where this happened was almost adjacent to the Town Hall, on part of Halifax Road that was  known as York Street at the time of the accident. She was buried at Cross Lanes Chapel where, two years later Walter and Edith were married.

Cross Lanes chapel – long demolished

It’s one of the many churches which no longer exists, though the cemetery remains, barely clinging to the steep hill overlooking Hebden Bridge. The newspaper article seems to imply that there was  an element of  secrecy to it: An interesting wedding was solemnised on Tuesday afternoon at Cross Lanes chapel.  It was kept as quiet as possible but many friends watched the ceremony . The contracting parties were Dr. Walter Crabtree, of Nelson, youngest son of Mr. Charles Crabtree. cotton manufacturer, Todmorden. and Miss Edith Wrigley eldest daughter of Mr. T. H. Wrigley (Messrs Wrigley and Sons, painters and paperhangers, Hebden  Bridge and Todmorden). The bride, who was smartly attired in brown silk crepe de chine, with cream velvet hat, was attended by her sister (Miss Annie Wrigley). and was given away by her father. Mr. H. Cockcroft. of Woodlands. acted as best man. The newly-married couple afterwards left for London and Bournemouth to spend their honeymoon. They have received many handsome wedding gifts.

The couple settled in Nelson, Lancashire and three years after their wedding war broke out. As a medical man Walter’s expertise saw him involved in some of the fiercest fighting of that war. He offered his services to the war effort and in December 1915 he was granted a commission as lieutenant. According to the Todmorden Advertiser Six weeks after leaving Nelson he was at an advanced dressing station in France, and has been so engaged ever since except for a short period, when he was attached to one of the battalions of the Scottish Rifles. He was at one of the advanced dressing stations in the Somme operations. Wounded men would be sent to an Advanced Dressing Station after receiving an initial diagnosis at their front line Regimental Aid Post The ADS was normally run by a Field Ambulance, the name given to a mobile medical unit, not a vehicle. It was better equipped than the RAP, but could still only provide limited medical treatment. More serious cases would be referred to a Casualty Clearing Station, a larger and better-equipped facility that normally provided medical care for an entire division. In 1918 serving with the 93rd field ambulance in France Walter was promoted to Major and in July 1919 he was awarded the military cross, in recognition of his distinguished and meritorious service in battle situations. His father had died in 1912, and his mother in March 1919. What a pity they couldn’t have known about his military recognition. At the age of 48 Walter’s wife, Edith died and three years later he remarried. I am indebted to Jane Hall, the great great niece of Janet Junor Mackenzie, Walter’s second wife for the following information. Apparently Walter and Janet met on a cruise and were married at the Palace Hotel in Inverness on April 29, 1926. Janet was a lecturer in needlework, possibly at Aberdeen Teacher training College. Walter and Janet travelled a great deal throughout Europe before the second world war broke out and she kept a diary of their travels. Jane  remembers visiting Walter & Janet at Stansfield Hall.

After Walter’s death in the summer of 1956 Janet moved back to the village of Avoch in the Black Isle Scotland, she moved into Rose Cottage the house where she was born, and she lived there until she died in 1968. Walter left 8000 pounds , close to 200,000 in today’s money.

For an account of my visit to Stansfield hall:

Ada Townsend’s mum, Sally Worsick, and her connection to the Cragg Vale Coiners.

And more about Ada’s life.

 Now I found that Ada’s mother had her own interesting story. Sally Worsick was born in 1829 at Holderness in Cragg Vale a building hugging the lower end of what is billed as the longest continuous gradient in England 968 feet over 5.5 miles.  

Holderness farm yesterday, Sally’s birthplace

It wasn’t until lockdown that I’d begun to explore this steep valley whose river, the Cragg Brook, once powered several mills and where the employment of children caused the vicar of Cragg Vale to comment  “If there is one place in England that needed legislative interference it is this place; for they work 15 and 16 hours a day frequently, and sometimes all night. Oh! it is a murderous system and the mill owners are the pest and disgrace of society…!” (These are the reported words of ‘Revd Devine’, actually Revd Thomas Crowther, vicar of Cragg Vale from 1821 to 1859 in George Crabtree’s ‘A Brief Description of a Tour Through Calder Dale printed at Huddersfield in 1833.’ )

St John the baptist in the Wilderness on my first visit in March of 2020

The church of St John in the Wilderness lies at river level way below the main road. It’s a quiet place, now of course closed, but I’d have liked to see inside. The population of Cragg Vale today is around 600 but the church speaks of more populous times when the surrounding mills were working flat out. Thomas Crowther was its first vicar in 1821 and he campaigned tirelessly until his death in 1859 to reduce the long and guelling hours worked in the mills by the children for which he was harrassed repeatedly by the mill owners. In more recent times the church was the scene of much notoriety when its honorary church warden who raised thousands of pounds for the church was none other than Jimmy Saville – who frequently parked his caravan at the Hinchcliffe Arms, the picturesque pub in the village named after the mill owner whose home Cragg Hall used to lie just above the river. Built between 1904 and 1906 it burned down in 1921 and remained a burned out shell until the 1950s when it was rebuilt using some of the original stonework.

The original New Cragg Hall built 1904-6 burned down in 1921
Spring 2020 Hinchcliffe Arms pub when I sat at a picnic table enjoying a beer. Savile often parked his caravan here.

I took this photo of the rebuilt Cragg hall last May, my first visit to the area

After Savile’s death it came to light that the one time DJ and major fundraiser for various charities, including several thousands of pounds for Cragg Vale church, where he was a Churchwarden and would sometimes preach sermons from the pulpit, had been a prolific sex offender.  

Jimmy Savile at Cragg Vale church

Sally Worsick’s birthplace, Holderness,  is today an immaculate 5 bedroomed home with expansive views across wooded Cragg Vale, now bereft of its mills. What were once subsistence level hillside farms during the nineteenth century have been converted into expansive residences. As I viewed the map I saw that from Holderness it might be possible to see Bell House, home of the coiners. In fact the welcoming sign on the main road into this small town is ‘Mytholmroyd, Coiners Country.’

The Cragg Vale Coiners were a band of counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement the small incomes from hand loom weaving. The leader of the gang was David Hartley who lived at Bell House. Back in March I’d walked almost to Bell House through Clough Nature Reserve after reading ‘The Gallows Pole’, Ben Myers’s story of the desperate rise and ultimate fall of the coiners gang and the gruesome murders that were perpetrated by them in this rural landscape that he knows and describes so well.

 The closest building to Bell House is Frost Hole, a mere three fields away. Overlooking the little valley of Frost Hole Clough the farm was built in the early 1600s and around 1840 it became Sally’s home. Her father Henry Worsick was a farmer and the family shared the home with the Sutcliffes, a family of hand loom weavers. It’s highly likely  that Henry’s wife Ann Sutcliffe is part of this Sutcliffe family.

Frost Hole. This was where Sally was living with her parents in 1841 when she was 12 years old

In the 1851 census 19 out of the 20 persons listed on page 24 are Worsicks. The Worsicks appear to have been firmly rooted in this locality but  not only that, they were prolific. Sally’s grandfather Richard Worsick and his wife Mary (nee Spencer)  and their ten children lived at  . . . oh my . . . Bell House, former home of ‘King’ David Hartley, the mastermind behind the coiners who was eventually hanged at Tynburn near York in 1770. So Ada’s grandfather, Henry, born at Burnt Acres in 1797had been brought up at Bell House. As I’d turned my attention to Ada’s parents this morning I’d never thought I’d ended up in Coiners Territory!

Bell House, former home of the King of the Coiners

In 1854 Sally married George Townsend, a dyer and son of a woodturner who specialised in making wooden shuttles for weaving. It’s interesting that Ada’s future husband was a shuttle tip maker and lost his life through an accident in that industry. They had four daughters in their first five years of married life, Ada being the third child, born in 1859. By 1861 the family have moved down into the Calder Valley, just as most of the people were moving from the isolated upland farms as industry was developing the valleys using water to power machinery. The family were now living right on the banks of the River Calder at Heppens End, where George is now a cotton stiffener and finisher.

Heppens End is a terrace of four cottages close to the river in Hawksclough between Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. Today the cottages are the only buildings that remain in what is now a large industrial estate, just across the River Calder from the now levelled Walkley Clog Factory which burned down in August 2019.  

I pass the cottages at least once a week on my walks along the valley and I’d taken a photo of the greenhouse planted neatly on top of the garage. By the time Ada was 12 in 1871 the family had moved into the centre of Hebden Bridge to Carlton Street, next street to Crown Street where I live and her father George is a furniture broker and fustian finisher. That’s an interesting combination. Ada’s two older sisters are tailoresses. By the age of 22 Ada is now a ‘shopwoman’ and living with the family is a draper  and milliner from Leeds by the name of Edith Miles, nine years older than Ada. The next time I find Ada she’s still living with her parents and Edith but they have moved to Market Street where they occupy two houses, presumably one being a drapers/milliners/tailoresses shop. Perhaps next door is Ada’s dad’s furniture brokerage.  Ada was 36 when she married Edgar Harwood, just a year older than her and it must have been presumed by friends and family that she was a confirmed spinster by that time. After their marriage they moved to Hurst Dean.

Ada’s widowed mother, 71, moved in with them, and Edith Miles, Ada’s business partner also continued to live with them. Today it’s an impressive 5 bedroomed stone house and is testimony to Edgar’s successful business as a shuttle tip maker. The tips of the wooden shuttles were made from forged steel and were then fitted on the wooden shuttles to prevent the wearing down of the wood and causing them to snag on the yarn. The steel tips then had to be smoothed on a rotating grindstone to iron out any tiny imperfections that would prevent the shuttle from flying through the yarns from one side of the loom to the other. I own a shuttle that I bought  at an antiques centre many years ago and it wasn’t until I learned about Edgar’s occupation that I actually picked up my shuttle and noticed the two metal shuttle tips, almost bullet like at their point. Ada’s grandfather, James Townsend had been a wood turner and shuttle maker in the 1840s and 50s, so I wonder if it was through the shuttle making business that she met her husband-to-be Edgar Harwood. James had lived at Pot House, just a couple of steps  across the River Calder from Heppens House but it’s no longer there. James Townsend had also lived at White Houses in 1851. This is an oddly named terrace of blackened stone cottages whose front is directly on the main Burnley Road.

Ada’s tragic death

Edgar Harwood’s wife

“Seldom has the district of Hebden Bridge been so greatly moved as it was last Saturday evening by the news of a terrible tragedy which happened at Blakedean whereby a well known local lady lost her life.” On May 28, 1909. Mrs. Ada Harwood, with her husband Edgar, her 16 year old nephew George A. Smith, and her friend Miss Milnes, her partner in the dressmaking and millinery business they conducted in Hebden Bridge had driven up to High Greenwood earlier in the day to stay with Mrs. Priscilla Clayton for a few days. A 66 year old widow from Shropshire Priscilla ran the 9 roomed boarding house with the help of a live in 22 year old Alice Maud Redman, a local woman whose job is given on the 1911 census as ‘servant’ waiter. After a few days stay in Heptonstall the family were looking forward to taking a ‘pleasure trip’ to Norway, land of the midnight sun, with some friends. From the newspaper account I read: “After tea they went for a walk in the direction of the trestle bridge, only a few minutes walk from the house. Mrs. Harwood and her nephew were a little apart from the others, and, as hundreds have done before, they stepped into one of the recesses to better enjoy the view. The youth doubted the safety of the place. It struck him as being rather flimsy. “Do you think it safe, auntie?” he asked. She replied that it was, having no knowledge of the awful danger which lurked under her feet: and sprang on tiptoe, or, as one might say, “prised” on tiptoe, to make a little test of the platform’s strength. And at that instant the tragedy was upon them they could not avert it, though only a foot’s space from safety. The wood cracked and gave way beneath their feet, Part of it went hurling down to the bed of the stream far below, and Mrs. Harwood fell with it. Overcome by the shock, her nephew found himself clinging to the railing, with no foothold. His walking stick fell through the gap into the gulf. How be got back to the comparative safety of the permanent way he does not remember.  One can understand what a fearful shock it was to him as, clinging there and looking down, he saw his relative falling into that great depth to certain death. Mrs. Harwood was beyond help. Her lifeless body lay on a grassy plot just clear of the stream. Her injuries were fearful. They were, in fact, indescribable. Her head and body had apparently struck the framework of the bridge directly after disappearing through the hole, and probably instant death or merciful insensibility was caused before the ground was reached. In a second or two this peaceful valley had been transformed, for the watchers, into a scene of painful tragedy. Pending the arrival of the ambulance the remains of the unfortunate victim of the disaster were reverently conveyed to a spot near the stepping-stones at Blakedean, being carried thence under difficulties by P.C. Matters, and others. Bad news travels fast, and this news was all over the district soon after eight o’clock. From that time the main streets of the town were occupied with hundreds of people discussing the sad event.”

 It was now May 2020 as I stood in the valley looking at the enormous stone stanchions that once formed the based of the trestle bridge 103 ft above. Blake Dean Railway had been built to take men, equipment and raw materials from Heptonstall to the site of three dams that were under construction at Walshaw Dean to provide water for the rapidly expanding town of Halifax. The trestle bridge had been designed by local Hebden Bridge architect and surveyor William Henry Cockcroft, and though I have Cockcrofts in my family tree I don’t presume to be related to this particular man. He and his two sons were passengers on the first truck to go over the bridge upon its completion so he was obviously convinced of its safety.

Remains of the stanchions

High up on the hillside to my left I could see a track running along the contour. A nearby quarry, Hell Holes, presumably supplied the stone for the stanchions, and the level track on the hillside held tracks that brought the stone from the quarry to the bridge site. It needed little imagination to conjour up  the dreadful scene on that sunny May day over one hundred years ago. day. The railway serving the construction site had opened just eight years before and the Blake Dean trestle bridge had become one of the ‘must see’ sites of the Hebden Valley, along with the rocky outcrops of Hardcastle Crags. In the Hebden Bridge history society’s archives I’d found a fragile copy of  ‘A Guide to Hardcastle Crags and neighbourhood’  compiled by an unacknowledged  author  in 1879  and published by W. Ashworth & Sons.

It had become a common practice for tourists to walk on the bridge for the sensation of looking down from so great a height. At the inquest into Ada Harwood’s death the contractors’ foreman said that notices had been put up at both ends of the bridge saying ‘Notice: no person allowed on these works or tramway except workmen on business. Others will be prosecuted.  But visitors constantly pulled the warnings down. No criminal negligence was found but the jurors recommended that the signs should be replaced and if possible to erect barricades at the weekends when there were no works’ trains. My attention was drawn to the fact that the chairman of the jury was none other than Abraham Moss, one of my family members, who was to come to his own extraordinary and untimely death just eight years later.

I climbed up from the valley floor and followed the Widdop road along the hillside towards Heptonstall, passing High Greenwood, where the Harwoods had been  enjoying their mini break.  It is a beautiful stone building set just off the lonely Widdop Road, built in the late 1700s. It’s a building that tells of wealth and privilege with its symmetrical façade centred on a front door made all the more  impressive  by the triangular pediment  above.

High Greenwood – one time boarding house. It was from here that Ada set off on her fatal walk

Today  it’s surrounded by a well- maintained lawn and has expansive views in all directions. Close to the front door is a weeping willow tree causing me to wonder if the person who planted it knew of the association of the house and its unfortunate overnight guest. There’s a feeling of vast expanse up here on the moors  heightened by the calls of the curlews who seemed to follow my progress along the hillside. Their bleak, windswept calls as they sweep and glide above me mirror my sentiments this spring morning. It doesn’t surprise me that in 1920 this very spot was the filming location of a silent movie, Helen of Four Gates, written by Heptonstall resident  Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, an important  working class social activist and feminist.

Ethel Holdsworth, author of Helen of Four Gates

The raw scenery and the hard life of the local farmers is beautifully portrayed by pioneer film maker Cecil Hepworth, and it was to this very spot that Ethel brought Cecil to show him this remote location with its scattered farms and persuaded him to shoot the movie here. Its grainy black and white images heighten the hardships of the isolated life for these hilltop residents as the heroine battles against the  abuse  she receives at the hands of her family as well as those inflicted by the elements. Back in 1920, cinema-goers packed into the Co-op Hall in Hebden Bridge, eager to see a new film shot in the countryside around their town. Hepworth’s film career went public but failed to raise the necessary capital and the company went bankrupt and  all of the original film negatives in Hepworth’s possession were melted down by the receiver in order to sell the silver. His feature films had 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 Calder Valley film maker Nick Wilding and in 2010 Nick organized a screening of the silent movie at the Picture House in Hebden Bridge, probably the only screening of the movie since its release ninety years before. A little beyond High Greenwood I glimpsed Dick Booth Farm, the filming location used as Four Gates farm in the movie. In 1910 Dick booth was owned by Gameliel Sutcliffe and lived in by Wlliam Sutcliffe. (see blog about Gameliel).

The movie is available to watch:

Keeping the steep and heavily wooded valley enclosing the famed beauty spot  of Hardcastle Crags on my left I soon came to Draper Lane. I was heading back in time to the site of Dawson City, home of the builders who had constructed the trestle bridge necessary for the building of the three reservoirs. I’d been fascinated by this story of this shanty town since first seeing photos of it in the White Lion in Heptonstall on my summer visits to the area. Perhaps it caught my attention  because I’d visited the ‘real’ Klondike in Alaska myself in 2005. I even composed a song about this place, ‘Where are the ghosts of Walshaw Dean?’  Wooden huts for the workers were built at Whitehill Nook, just below Draper Lane in Heptonstall/Slack and it became quickly known as Dawson City, since it is said that some of the navvies had actually worked in  the Klondike gold rush.

The wooden ‘city’ was built to house the workmen and their families employed in the construction of the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, 1900 to 1912. From Pennine Digital Archive

 The construction of Heptonstall’s Dawson City commenced in October 1900 and by the spring of 1901 there were 22 huts to accommodate about 230 men with large dormitories and wash houses provided for single men. As wives and children joined their husbands the impact was felt by the local community of Heptonstall and a spare room in the school master’s house was brought into service for the additional thirty children living in Dawson City. Sanitation in the new city was obviously going to be a major problem and when outbreaks of typhoid and smallpox broke out a tent was set up to serve as a field hospital capable of caring for fourteen patients but it blew down in a gale! The gently sloping fields on either side of me today bear no trace of this fleeting community which, at its zenith consisted of living accommodation, workshops, storerooms, a locomotive shed, a tank for supplying the engines with water, a sawing machine, a mission room, a Sunday School and social club. By 1902 Hepton Rural Council was drawing attention to the “disgraceful state of things” at Dawson City, where children were dying soon after birth, drainage at the lodging houses was deplorable and “shebeening” (sale of alcohol without a license) was a growing scandal.

Named after the town of Dawson City in The Yukon in Canada which experienced the Klondike Gold Rush towards the end of the 19th century, this place, above Whitehill Nook, Heptonstall, was well established by the time of the 1901 census. There were about 10 huts occupied by families and their boarders, and about 12 huts unoccupied or in the process of building. Most residents were navvies or engine drivers. During the building of the Walshaw Dean reservoirs many navvies and other workers were housed in local farm buildings and cottages which had fallen out of use. Postcard. Pennine Digital Archive

However, by the autumn of 1905 around 540 navies were living at Dawson City being taken to and from work in the “paddy mails” for their 12 hour shifts at the reservoirs. When the reservoirs were completed in 1908 the workers moved away and Dawson city became a ghost town, its site soon to be indistinguishable from the surrounding moorland. When Ada fell from the bridge in 1909 the trestle had become a tourist destination though it was still used by the railway until 1912.

Only two months after the tragedy Ada’s niece, Bertha Moss, married Claude Redman of Pleasant Villas and the bride was given away by her uncle, Edgar Harwood, Ada’s grieving husband.  What mixed emotions must have been in evidence on that day of rejoicing. A few days after my excursion to the scene of the tragedy I set out for Pleasant Villas, two  semi detached homes at the top of Hangingroyd Road, one of the front doors having ‘Pleasant’ engraved in stone above the door and the other one having ‘Villas’ above.

At the turn of the twentieth century the two homes were lived in by two of the most successful textile manufacturers in the area, the Moss family and the Redman family, and when Bertha Moss married Richard Redman the two families became linked by marriage, not just business.

Later that same year another incident in this story stopped me in my tracks. Less than three months after his wife’s death Edgar married Mary Ann Edith Milnes, none other than Ada’s  business partner in their dressmaking and millinery business!

(The story of Ada’s life to follow)

Edgar Harwood – of secret gardens, shuttle tips and a tragic accident

Panoramic view of the calder valley with Mt Skip to the right

In 1847 Edgar’s father, James Harwood 1825-1881, had established a whitesmith business, James Harwood and Sons. James’s father, William, Edgar’s grandfather 1794-1868 had also  been a whitesmith, as had his great grandfather John 1753-1803 and his great great grandfather John born in 1703. For at least five generations the family had lived on Height Road, in a smaller cluster of houses comprising Foster Clough. Heights Road hugs the 300 metre contour line and Foster Clough is a small but active stream that bustles down the hillside. The stream is mirrored on the other side of the valley by Cragg Brook. In fact Foster Clough is exactly opposite Frost Hole and Bell House on the same contour. I took advantage of the only day in the weather forecast to not be either snowing or raining heavily to take another trip up to Heights Road now that I knew of its connection with my family’s story.

Taking the zippy bus up the steep 600 ft gradient from the valley to Heights Road I alighted to what feels like an aerial view of the Calder valley with its spectacular views across the neighbouring moorland for over 30 miles.

Calder Valley from Heights Road looking across to Mytholmroyd and Cragg Vale

The valley’s narrowness at Hebden Bridge widens out into the gentler area around Mytholmroyd which means a clearing where two rivers meet in Old English. The first building on my left is Mt Skip, now a B and B and the owner was working on the garden as I passed. We chatted for a few minutes about the impact of the pandemic on her business and I mentioned that I’d love to stay there when it was eventually possible. 

Mt Skip, an inn kept by the Harwoods.

Mount Skip was built in 1718 as a drovers inn, serving the pack horse and mule drovers who took wool and cloth on the journey to and from the markets in Halifax. It served as a hostelry for around 200 years until it closed as a pub in 1999. Where did its customers come from? There’s no village, or even other houses close by. With the advent of the motor car I can understand that people would like ‘a run out’, to a place with such a magnificent view, especially in the evenings. But how did it survive pre motor car? It wasn’t until I reached home that I discovered that for more than 50 years, beginning around 1850 the innkeepers of Mt Skip had been three members of the Harwood family. It seemed to be too much of a coincidence  that the Mt Skip innkeepers could be anything other than members of ‘my’ Harwood family. Was this entire area inhabited by Harwoods? Indeed. In the 1851 census of the seven households closest to Mt Skip six of them were lived in by Harwoods! I followed Heights Road eastward. To my right a few sheep were huddling together to keep warm on this icy afternoon. In the next field a Highland cow said Hello to me.

A public footpath runs through this field but I didn’t fancy my chances.

Below them the hill dropped steeply to Raw Lane and then Burlees Lane, paralleling Heights Road and then a steeper descent through the woods led to the valley floor. To my left however, a more gradual slope leads to the top of Wadsworth Moor, its outcrops of sandstone standing like sentinels above the smooth lawns of Mt Skip golf course. This area is scattered with delphs, the local word for quarries, and a new word for me which I learned while chatting to the owner of Foster Clough farm a few minutes later. But first I came to the next group of two adjoining cottages. When I’d first seen the house’s name on a sign by the entrance on a walk along Heights Road two years ago I’d stopped to take a photo, as, I’m sure many people do. Of course, it was named Rough Bottom to distinguish it from Rough Top, the farm just a few metres away and about 50 ft higher.

Rough Bottom, home of John Harwood, whitesmith, in 1841
Rough Bottom. The whitesmith’s smithy is the recessed section on the right.

There was a lovely garden in full bloom that day and I saw that the garden was listed in the Open Gardens event at the Hebden  Bridge festival in 2006.  In 1841 the two cottages were the home of John Harwood, a whitesmith, his wife Martha and their six children ranging in age from 20 to 5. The far east end of the building is recessed and David Cant  two years ago when I asked him about the job of a whitesmith in connection with Samuel Gibson told me that this had been the site of the smithy itself. High Rough farm still stands on the hill above Rough Bottom and in 1841 this was the home of Mary Harwood, a 55 year old farmer of 14 acres, with her daughter Mary Greenwood, 30, a dressmaker and 2 year old Heaton Greenwood. In the 1861 census Rough is uninhabited. I followed the path up towards the farm. It’s surrounded by outbuildings, sheds, tractors and carts holding a variety of farm implements but I couldn’t see anyone around so I decided not to go right up to the farm building.

High Rough Farm
Track leading to High Rough farm, home of Mary Harwood, 55 year old farmer in 1841

Rough Bottom and High Rough lie a mile to the west of the ancient hilltop village of Midgley but before I reached the village I came to a bridge crossing Foster Clough, a turbulent stream, bordered by trees. Adjacent to the bridge on my left was a house right on the roadside but hidden a little by the trees.

Foster Clough House
Foster Clough house from the secret garden

This was Foster Clough House. It even has a red postbox inserted into its wall. In 1841 this lovely house was the home of William and Mary Harwood. William had been born in 1794 at High Rough, the son of John and Betty (nee Jackson) of Rugh. (Note the spelling) William, a whitesmith, had married Mary Wormwald in 1816. They had ten children between 1821 and 1840. I looked around at this isolated hilltop home of the Harwood and tried to imagine giving birth and raising ten children in such a place. I thought it quite amusing that the last two sons had been named Marmaduke and Ethelbert and it was as if the parents had run out of ‘normal’ names!

Wrought iron railings woven with the tree branches at Foster Clough

As a stopped to take a few photos of the house I noticed a beautiful wrought iron railing along the top of the garden wall. it had obviously seen better days but I thought it was lovely as it is with the early Spring sunshine bringing out the colours of the rust and moss. Then I noticed a little path to the right of the house and I thought I might be able to get a good photograph from there. I was hoping that someone from the house might come out and accost me but no such luck. What I did find, however, was quite magical. I found a walled secret garden with just one opening. I checked to see that there wasn’t a No Trespassing sign, and I wandered in. I felt as if I had fallen down a rabbit hole and found myself in a cross between Wonderland, the Secret Garden and The Shire. The photos give you an idea of the place.

In 1851 William was still running his whitesmithing business from this house. Son Adam, 21, had followed in the family trade, while Fred, 19, was a woolsorter, and Adam, 16, was a shoemaker. Meanwhile James, who had been born in 1825, the third son, had got married to Mary Ann Ashworth, the daughter of Wiliam Ashworth, a farmer, in 1847. They would have nine children in the next 13 years. They moved into the village of Midgley, about half a mile from Foster Clough.

I found myself double checking the spelling of this hilltop village.. No wonder! Halifax parish church records 28 different spellings of this name. The village lay on the Roman Road from Manchester and was mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. It’s situation as a hilltop village is similar to that of Heptonstall. Once the home of at least six pubs they have all gone but a village shop is maintained by volunteers. James, moved into the centre of Midgley village, opening a grocer’s shop after his marriage in 1847. It was at that time that he established James Harwood and Sons, whitesmiths. By 1861 he was living in Stocks House, a beautiful roadside cottage where I had taken photos of the current family enjoying a summer afternoon amidst their colourful flower garden, little knowing that I’d discover an ancestral connection to the property. I put a posting on Facebook and within a couple of hours I’d been contacted by someone who had lived at Stocks Farm from 1954-1972. By 1871 the whole family had moved down into the valley, right into the centre of Hebden Bridge, right onto the street where I live!

The picturesque Stocks Farm, Midgley, home of James Harwood, whitesmith and shopkeeper, his wife Mary Ann and their 9 children. Edgar was probably born here.

It was in this house that Edgar lived with his nine siblings until the family moved down into Hebden Bridge and by 1871 they were living on Crown Street, where I currently live. Industrial revolution migration to the valley bottoms for the mills. Edgar, only 13, and his brother James, 17, and their father were whitesmiths employing one man and two boys. Edgar was still living there in 1881 and brothers Wallace and Herbert had joined the family whitesmith business. In 1891 they were at 11 Crown street and along with his brothers they have specialized and are now shuttle tongue and tip makers. The tongue is hinged like a pocket-knife, so that it projects out from the mortise when inserting a fresh cop of yarn. I had passed this sign etched into the stonework every day for the last couple of years but I didn’t ‘see’ it until today.

Meanwhile Edgar’s shuttle tip business continued to flourish. Having first been located on Crown Street in 1892 it moved to larger premises close to Foster Mill but still known as Crown Street Works.

This was the inside of Crown Street works

There were 35 employees and they exported to many parts of the world. Edgar was also a figure of some standing in the community as chairman of the Hebden Bridge urban district council. In 1927 Edgar was killed at work when a grindstone burst at the Crown Street works. His brother James who worked there was the first on the scene of the accident. Edgar had been grinding peg points on a large sandstone grindstone. There was no fencing around the rotating stone because the men had to have easy access to it. Apparently Edgar had just a minute before  fitted a new pulley to make the grindstone rotate quicker when a large crack was heard. An eye witness related: “Mr Harwood was lying on the ground. He had been killed instantaneously, part of his skull was blown away and part of his right hand.” An inquest revealed that the grindstone had been operating at 75% above a safe working speed but nevertheless a verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury. The funeral service at Birchcliffe Chapel was conducted by the Rev A. Windsor who had been a close friend of the Harwoods. Indeed he proffered that ‘nobody else knew him better. ‘ He described Edgar as ‘an unpolished  diamond’ ‘There was a mixture of strength and tenderness in him’ The shock had been so intense for Mrs Harwood that she was unable to attend the funeral though the list of mourners and floral tributes took up an entire column in the newspaper.

One grim February afternoon with snow still clinging to the roads and a heavy cloud of fog obscured even the closest hills I came across a photograph of the former Crown Street Works online taken ten years ago. It’s entitle ‘Former Crown Street Iron Works, Spring Grove, Hebden Bridge,’ and it was with a jolt that I realized that I knew the place. It was the skeleton of a building that had attracted me since moving to the town and I found several photos of it that I’ve taken of it over the past few years. Something about it had intrigued me. It’s on a small piece of derelict land, roofless and for the past year has had a ruined car with smashed windscreen and flat tyres just outside one of the doors.

Crown Street works – home of Edgar’s shuttle tip business and scene of his untimely death

The wide double door at the side was usually firmly closed and locked, presumably to prevent people wandering in and coming to some harm but one day the door were open and I was able to see inside. There’s not much of interest, just piles of odd pallets and boxes but the week after when I passed a large architectural drawing of a smart office building adorned the main door.

One time entrance to Edgar’s business

Adjoining the building are the derelict stables which are currently for sale. I even made a piece of fabric art from the photograph I took of the stables. As I took a closer look at these a man emerged from a house opposite. He owns the stables which once served Foster Mill and he showed me photos of the cottages that once stood on the site of the modern houses which now form Spring Grove. My thoughts when I pass this place in future will now be filled with Edgar’s ghost wandering in this ruin while his wife’s ghost floats above Blakedean Bridge.  

(see my next blog for her tragic story)



Confined to base for much of 2020 I turned to my textile work and in November I finished Lockdown Scapes, 27 panels of embroidery, cross stitch, needlepoint felting, applique, leaf printing, rust staining and other various techniques to produce my second textile book.

This is Jimmy Perez’s house on the ocean in Lerwick in the Shetland Isles. I’d been watching the TV detective series, Shetland, based on the books by Ann Cleeves. Douglas Henshall’s accent was so strong that sometimes I had to watch it with subtitles! But I fell in love with the landscape of Shetland and booked to go on a small group trip in the summer of 2017. Taking the overnight ferry from Orkney I was met at Lerwick Harbour by James, a wonderful guide, and the first place he showed me was this house, used as Jimmy Perez’s home in the TV series. I painted the sky and added fabrics. Some of the yarn that I use to make the splashes are from a bookmark that Anna made for me. I ‘rusted’ the title fabric by allowing rusty nails to colour the fabric.
This is the entrance to Butts Green cemetery in Warley, where Samuel Gibson, one of my ancestors is buried, though I’ve yet to find his grave. The place is completely overgrown. I used the same rusting method to colour the background fabric and the ground is felted. The grave stones are felt cut outs. For the gate I used wire, painting it for a weathered effect.
  1. I wrote this poem in 2018. The background fabric shows the Piece Hall in Halifax and I purchased it in the quilting store in Halifax from the lady who had designed it.
  1. The 12:27 to Leeds is my poem about what you can see from the train window in the 40 minute journey to the centre of Leeds.
  1. This poem is a take off of The Old Sedan chair, a poem by Henry Austin Dobson that had to memorise for elocution lessons when I was a child. On a walk to Copley along the Rochdale canal I found a wrecked bench in the churchyard and this poem came to mind. I used a template for the embroidery of the lady sitting on the bench and then added the ‘real’ Copley church tower and apse.
  1. Lily Hall, situated on the road to Heptonstall plays an integral part in my family’s connection to Calderdale. My great great grandma was conceived out of wedlock and born in Lily Hall, fathered, literally by the man who lived next door to her widowed mother. Around the fabric of the ancient building I embroidered a lily, the wonderful views of the hills that would have been visible to the occupants, totally unchanged since their time. Lily Hall’s position on the hillside means that it looks out on the valley, and watches me as I walk the hills – hence the embroidered eye.
  1. A felted seascape from my trip to Iona in 2018, adding a sea pebble and a shell for decoration.

  1. A cross stitched embroidery of Staithes, a lovely couple of days with Anna when she came to visit in 2018. Up until this time my own encounter with cross stitching had been following other people’s pattern, using either counted cross stitch patterns or, preferably a printed pattern. Then one day I found a roll of cross stitch fabric in a market stall and I realized that I could design my own! This was one of the first I did. The location is significant in that it’s s version of a print by Kate Lycett, a local Hebden Bridge artist who lives in a home that one of my ancestors kept as an inn. Kate used the print as a note book cover which I gave to Anna and so when we went to Staithes we found the precise spot and I took Ann’s photo there, holding the notebook.
  1. A felted landscape with applique fabric showing the scar of the M62 motorway as seen from the bus to Huddersfield. I found the rusty metal leaves in a bag of old beads for sale at the Friday Hebden Bridge market. The inspiration was a photo of Windy Hill, the highest point on the M62, a photo in Andrew Bibby’s book ‘Backbone of England.’
  1. My poem describing my ‘discovery’ of Crow Nest Wood during the pandemic is shortly to be published in an anthology by the Wednesday Writers, a creative writing group that I participate in . In 2019 I read one of my pieces, about Todmorden market, at the Todmorden book festival, quite a prestigious affair with Simon Armitage participating. The embroidery is simply illustrating my walk through the wood in Springtime, with a daffodils as a tribute to my mum, who would have just turned 100 this week.
  1. A poem  recounting my participation in the remembrance day service at Halifax minster as part of the Halifax concert band. I found it very moving to remember the people who had lost their lives during wars in this setting where so many of my ancestors were married and baptized. Later that day I went up to Blackshaw head where a bonfire was lit, part of a whole range of bonfires lit on top of the hills around the Calder Valley. In Blackshaw Head, and commemorated on the war memorial at the chapel, lived one of my ancestors, Giles Sunderland, who lost his life in the first world war.  My poem is printed on a tablecloth from a charity store and uses a music ribbon to recall the last post.
  1. It wasn’t until I embarked on this cross stitch picture that I realized how long it takes to stitch even such a small picture. This is the view from my living room window and shows nature in all its spring colours. The house is Holme House, now apartments and beyond is the former mill where I spent my first summer alone  in Hebden Bridge in 2016. ‘A Room with a View’ refers to E. M Forster’s novel of 1908.
  1. A cross stitched landscape and a reference to Under the Sky, my signed copy of a book of poetry by Pete Sinfield, cofounder and lyricist of King Crimson.  The beads and metal leaves come from bags of broken jewelry purchase at Hebden Bridge market. The scene is Heights Road above Mytholmroyd from a photo I took on October 27, 2019.
  1. I stitched this poppy pattern during my trip to California in February 2019. It was during the purchase of this kit that I found the roll of Aida and realized that I could begin designing my own pattern. I have lovely memories of sitting in the historic Hinds House in Santa Cruz and in Anna’s apartment in Oakland, working on this piece. I added three pieces of origami paper that Rachel had sent me and I folded it into flowers.
  1. One of my favourite places to visit in Halifax is Dean Clough Mill, once the largest carpet manufacturing mill in the world, but now a collection of art galleries, studios, apartments, restaurants. I’ve taken  all my daughters at various times to explore there and usually we’ve stopped in at the Loom Café, decorated with themes from Alice in Wonderland. This poem was inspired by an ancestor of mine who had worked in the factory  from the age of ten, and also of an exhibition about the soldiers’ lives in World War one. The embroidery of the white rabbit in the teacup is based on one of the wall paintings in the café and the cut out card motifs were sent to me by Anna, thinking they might come in useful for one of my craft projects.
  1. In September, 2019, I spent five days staying at a hostel in Kendal in the Lake District. One of my walks took me along a stream in Grasmere with this sign Deep Water, which I recreated with cross stitch. Cold Earth is a reference to the 7th book by Ann Cleeves in the Shetland series. The metal leaf again comes from random bags of beads and jewelry.
  1. Wuthering Depths is a felted landscape of Baitings dam, Ripponden which I walked around for the first time in March, 2020. ‘Wuthering Depths’ by Bette Howell, 1989,  tells the story of a Yorkshire family, the Hawkweeds and their attempt to convert their historic old mill into a tourist attraction. I purchased the fabric on which I’ve embroidered the title from a shop in Paris where I spent five days with Anna in January, 2020.  The beads in the water come from a bracelet that Anna gave me which eventually fell apart through prolonged wear!
  1. One of the first piece in which I painted the sky on the felt background, and added embroidery to the felted flowers. A metal chain and the brown/orange edging suggests a framed picture hanging on a wall.  The ‘sky’ border fabric came from a quilting store that recently moved from Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd. I was able to schedule a half hour time slot to select my fabrics, being the only customer in the store.
  1. This piece started off life as a cross stitched piece but I soon realized just how much stitching that would take, so I painted the rocks in the foreground, added netting and various yarns being the splashing waves. The view is from a photo of the lighthouse in Santa Cruz that I took on my visit in February 2019. This place was ten minutes’ walk from my home for 10 years in Santa Cruz. Love of Country is a book by Madeleine Bunting, subtitled A Journey through the Hebrides. The book was a gift from a friend of Keith’s who gave it to me during a wonderful afternoon tea at her home in Bath because she knew that Keith and I were bound for our trip to Iona a few weeks later.
  1. The cross stitched scene here is a view on Iona of a gate into a garden at the bottom of which is the ocean and the hills beyond the bay. It was an idyllic view. The gate is applique felt pieces and the rest is cross stitched. The poem Knit 2, Purl 2 recounts my love of knitting. I rarely watch television without my knitting in hand and for the past ten years I’ve knitted baby blankets to donate to various charities. Only this week I volunteer from Mothershare collected another 20 baby blankets from me. I found the idea for the design of the balls of wool on Etsy.
  1. A felted landscape with the addition of netting for the trees and bushes, various yarns and pieces of clingfoil  to create the reflections in the water. Lower Laithes reservoir between Haworth and Stanbury with the moors atop which are the pylons which always remind me of the Martians in H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. I took the photo on December 27, 2019. It’s a special place for me because I celebrated my birthday in 2018 with all my daughters visiting from California at ‘The Friendly” in Stanbury, crossing the dam on this reservoir.
  1. One of the first felted landscapes I created. Waiting for the Sun refers to the third album of The Doors. The scene is from a day trip I the Southern Lakes and this photo was of a misty hike at Hutton Roof near Kirby Lonsdale on September 26, 2018.  
  1. In this poem I imagine a bus ride being recreated in fabric. I wrote it in my old apartment on Cheetham Street,  converted from a sewing factory and which still had the huge wheels attached to the ceiling which held the pulleys which powered the sewing machines, a fitting place to create works of textile art.
  1. The ghost town of Rhyolite in Nevada, one of my family’s favourite places to visit. I’d heard someone in my textile class mention that you could sew on paper with a sewing machine. I’d never heard of this before but I rushed home to experiment. This is a photo that I took for one of the ruined buildings in Rhyolite and printed onto paper. Then I stitched it onto the background fabric and stitched over some of the details like the railing and window frames. The outer fabric is the rust stained cotton and I’ve employed the Japanese technique of Boro, running stitch lines on patched cloth, another technique that I learned from my textile teacher at Northlights studio, Emma Wilkinson.
  1. Last year I played with some Autumn leaves by painting on the back of them and then printing them on paper, so this year I tried pressing them onto fabric. I used Autumn colours and I liked the effect. I then embroidered their veins and their outlines. I thought again about by ancestor, Samuel Gibson, whose collection of pressed palnts and fossils I’d gone to see in the Manchester museum. There’s even a fossil named after him: Gibsonii. It’s a tiny sea creature looking a bit like an Ammonite so I decided to add spiral shapes to the leaves to represent ammonites. I rusted beer bottle caps and then embroidered th spirals. Just to make them stand out from the leaves I added a little stuffing so that they are three dimensional. I’d bought some handmade paper which included flower petals and I added a few of these to finish the page.
  1. During lockdown I’d taken a couple of urban sketching art classes online and my first project had been to draw and colour the Innovation Mill in the centre of Hebden Bridge. There’s been a mill in that spot since the 1300s. I sat on the café patio behind the town hall for several mornings and within a few days I was asked if I wanted ‘the usual café mocha’ as soon as I walked in. This is the result and the title These Darkening Days is indicative not just of the season but my interest in the books of Ben Myers, who lives close by and sets his books in the local area.
  1. The back cover uses hedgehog fabric that I’d purchased in Oban, the hedgehog being my mum’s spirit animal! I completed the final page on 11.11.2020 and I thought it was a fun date to write. I sewed all the pages together and completed the project the week that my mum would have turned 100. I set up a little Día de los Muertos table in her honour, and filled it with hedghogs – of course!

Boredom v creativity

It was a Sunday

At least for the first few moments of my morning stroll

Then it became a Rainday.

Along the towpath Everyman and his dog

Not to mention his wives and children

Were heading towards Whitely Arches,

This elegance in iron, The   grandeur of its architecture

Its graceful outline spanning the canal.

You don’t agree?

Well, it was constructed by the same company who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge

No kiddin’.

I negotiate the puddles

Being careful not to kick the bucket

And brush aside the Danger of Death warnings.

To my left I catch a fleeting glimpse of foxes wearing green gloves

As they join battle for wall space

While Daisy and Fern cheerfully wave in the breeze.

But ‘just like the ivy I’ll cling to you.’

My Fairy Lady atop her barge meows

And goes in search of  Owl

So they can both ‘go to sea in a beautiful pea green boat.’

She doesn’t have far to look and I stop for a moment’s Indulgence

And draw up a chair to the sewing table, so neatly placed

But the Craft Snail has beaten me to it, so, feeling cross stitched

I repair to a stone bench and sink into  its mossy arms.

The sign tells me I’ve still 25 miles to go so I stop to hitch a ride.

If I were brave

I could paddle my own canoe to New Zealand,

But I’m not.

I spy a nearby car

And try to attract the driver’s attention ‘but answer came there none.’

So I’ll ‘sail away for a year and a day to the land where the Bong tree grows.’

It eyes me steadily and I retreat

And head for the Promised Land at the end of the rainbow

But like everything else at the moment it’s in shreds.

A walk through Time

Weaving is interwoven into the very landscape of this narrow sunless valley.

Not so long ago here in the mills limbs were wrenched from bodies,

Young bodies bent, misshapen, gnarled,

Old before their time.

Those who sought escape were confined – horribly.

Indoor sanitation in the town was non existent.

Death came early.

No wonder Hell Hole Rocks look down on such a scene.

Even the Town Hall has its skeletons, not locked in the cupboard where they should be

But happily displayed in the window for all to see.

Today the wicked lady

Casts her multiple eyes about her

A wrecked Mercedes sulks beneath the weaving shed

Now adorned with vibrant colours.

The once deafening clatter of  its looms  now silent

Allowing birds to build perfectly formed nests atop abandoned trees.

A jelly fish high in another tree captures the wicked lady’s attention.

She wonders if she needs a self testing kit to test her sanity

So she stops for sustenance at the bakery.

There’s as much chance of seeing blue sky today as there is of seeing pie in the sky.

‘I’m not a cactus expert but I know a prick when I see one’

Whispers the Santa hatted bottle

But she hurries onwards,

While a bemused Cheshire cat looks on with a twinkle in his eye

Wondering what on earth the elephants are doing.

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