I found it – Spink House

So yesterday I explored Edge Lane, high above the Colden Valley. I’d circled a building on my OS a while ago. It didn’t have a name but last night I figured it out. On early maps the collection of building is named Spink House. On my current OD map it’s called Halstead Farm! I found a photo online and I remember passing that farm yesterday as I was talking with the ‘lady with hat.’ I’d also passed a building called Workhouse. At the time I’d thought it was an odd place for a workhouse, stuck in this tiny community of scattered farm dwellings. I’d also recalled from my earlier research that there was a chapel close by, at the time my ancestors lived at Spink House. So now the task is to piece it altogether. Recently someone commented that I live in the past. I see it more as detective work!

In 1881 Abraham Crabtree Sunderland was living at Spink House, Edge Lane. He was the paternal grandfather of the wife of my 3rd cousin 2x removed! He was born in Heptonstall in 1850 to John Sunderland and his wife Grace Crabtree. Until his marriage he lived on Smithwell Lane, Heptonstall. That’s the main street that I painted when I was 14! Abraham was a commercial clerk when he married at St John’s Halifax in 1875. By 1881 they had 3 children, John, James and Benjamin and the census specifies that Abraham was a commercial clerk in the cotton trade. 5 families were sharing the buildings, and several were related by marriage. The family were still at Spink House 10 years later and now there are 6 children, the youngest being Giles. In the 1891 census there are still 5 households named living in Spink House. In this census, however, the house is situated next to the chapel. By 1901 Abraham was a widower and the family had moved to Mytholm Lane, in the Calder valley on the outskirts of Hebden Bridge. Abraham is now an insurance agent. (Giles was later to die in Flanders in 1916) There are 3 former posts about Giles Sunderland in this blog.

Now onto the unexpected ‘Workhouse’. With a bit of digging online I found out that yes, indeed, there was a workhouse here on Edge Lane. The Heptonstall workhouse opened in 1754. From workhouses.co.uk:

Sunderland is a common name in this area but what a coincidence: the overseer (no date given) was a Sunderland, just like my ancestor who lived on the same remote lane 100 years later.

Update: May 29, 2020

So today I set out to see Spink House and the workhouse for myself. The weather forecast said that it would get to 70F so I knew that unless I left first thing I wouldn’t go, so I caught the 9:10 bus up to Edge Lane. It was already warm and for the first time this summer I didn’t even carry a light jacket with me. So armed with sunglasses, sun hat, two bottle of water, an apple and a tangerine off I trotted up Edge Lane. Now this was my second time on this lane and since that first time I had explored New Lane which runs parallel to the river Colden from the New Delight and then climbs steeply to Scotland! From Edge Lane I could see that route clearly, and Stoodley Pike above.

On current maps Spink House is now called Halstead Green farm so it was with great delight that I saw a sign on the first house in the farm buildings saying Spink House. So this is the place where Abraham Crabtree Sunderland lived from at least 1881-1891 and where his six children were born. It was a delightful stone cottage with a colourful garden and as I turned off the road towards the house to take photos I hoped that someone would come out and I could explain my presence. It’s always a great thrill for me to chat with current residents, many of whom are keen to know something of their antecedents. At that moment a shepherd and his dog came along the lane and I asked “Do you live here?” ‘No I’m going going into the field to get my sheep.” We ended up chatting while his dog took a bath, in the old water-filled bath in the field. He has 300 sheep and his land extends to the common land on Heptonstall Moor above us. It must be a tough job in the winter up here, 1100ft above sea level. He asked me if I’d heard of Raistrick Greave farm – an impressive ruin. I hadn’t. “Look it up when you get home.” A week later a home movie had popped up on Youtube about Shibden Valley. A guy hikes with a selfie stick and visits some of the ruins. I enjoyed it – even though I felt a little sea sick by the end of it. I noticed that he has made another one called Heptonstall moor and I watched that too. I didn’t even knit which I watched it! Pretty rare for me. I soon found myself traveling along with ‘Nick’ up the Colden valley, to the new delight, and then onto New Lane which i just discovered a couple of weeks ago. he passes the old pack horse bridge that I was fascinated by, Lane Farm gardens with its mill chimney covered in ivy – and they he Heather Hops, as he calls it, to Raistrick Greave. It looked very difficult to get to, but very, very impressive – SO isolated! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EihAVFiXe04&t=10sh


He pointed me in the direction of the Workhouse and off I went, much further along Edge Lane. The Workhouse was set off the road on a cobbled track leading down the hill and again I hoped to find someone working for this was very obviously a working farm. As luck would have it the farmer was just getting down from the trailer and he was happy to chat with me for while. He’s lived there since the 1970’s and before he moved in the farm had been derelict for 30 years. He pointed out a stone on the gable end showing that the house and barn had been rebuilt by John Mitchell in 1828. This meant that the building was not the workhouse building because the workhouse had moved to Popples Common in 1810, but the vista that the people who lived in the workhouse would have looked out on must be completely unchanged and its name remains. He pointed out some of the farms, one of which he had owned and sold recently. Another mere shell of a former farm had provided the roof for the workhouse farm. I told him I’d been to Scotland (the name of a farm off New Lane) but I hadn’t yet made it to Egypt (a farm above Edge Lane). He told me there was Greenland too!

I hadn’t reread my previous post before I went there today and so wasn’t looking for the site of a former chapel, though now I see that there were two chapels here on the old map. That’ll wait for another day. It’s a beautiful area and I’m so glad I ‘discovered’ it.

Rather than retrace my steps along Edge Lane I wanted to explore a new path leading down to the river and just at that moment Edward the shepherd appeared in the adjacent field and he pointed out the path to me. It was signposted Jack Bridge – just where I wanted to get. Just over the bridge, hidden by trees was a large stone house with a beautiful garden and as I stopped to take a photo I suddenly noticed a mill chimney completely covered in ivy and almost hidden by trees. I’d not expected to find a mill here, though much further down stream there are several mills, now derelict. Update: April 2021. Read about Land Mill:


There are connections to this remote with Samuel Crompton of Hall i’th’ wood, Bolton, and William Barker of Wood Top and Mayroyd Mills – Scotland in the Colden Valley. After a couple of signposts the path divided and of course, there was no sign post now. I took the ‘one less travelled by’ – shaded and level and a couple of stiles later I found myself in a field of buttercups and lambs where the path was barely discernible. I headed for another stile and sat down to eat my picnic. The view was amazing. I could see across the valley to Edge Lane and all the way down to Heptonstall’s church tower. A voice brought me out of my reverie, “I’m coming over the stile.” I moved to the side to let a woman and her dog negotiate the stile. “Heather?” I looked at her. It was none other than Jenny, a director from the Little Theatre and a member of the Little Theatre choir that I accompany. I knew she lived in this area but was amazed to see her at this lovely spot in the middle of sheep and buttercups. We both sat down on the grass and chatted while I finished my picnic. Very lovely.

1 Comment

  1. David Bogle

    I live in Spink House.

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