Month: March 2022

The most bizarre delivery I’ve ever had

Yesterday I received the delivery of a stone. It measures 14″ x 28″, is 2″ thick and weighs a ton. Well, maybe not quite a ton, but I certainly can’t move it, let alone pick it up, but the stone mason who delivered it managed to carry it up the stairs and plant it against the wall in my music room.

My music room has a new resident

So, what’s the story? Well, it all began on rainy November day last year, November 2nd to be precise. I was out for a walk trying to pick a time between the showers, and find a path that wouldn’t be knee deep in mud, so I walked along the towpath and along Mayroyd road towards the railway station. On the approach to the bridge over the River Calder a pile of large blackened stones had been gathered supporting a big red sign- Road Closed: use Palace House Road.

The top stone as I discovered it

Ah, I thought, there must be a safety issue preventing vehicles from using the bridge. But then I noticed that the top most stone had some writing carved into its upper surface: ‘This memorial stone was laid by Joshua Hoyle, Esq, Moorlands, Bacup, June 14th 1890.’ That’s interesting, I thought.

The inscription caught my eye

I have a Joshua Hoyle in my family tree, who also issued from Bacup, a small town in Rossendale, 10 miles from where I was standing in Hebden Bridge. I wonder if it could possibly be the same person. Close to the bridge is Whittaker’s stone mason’s workshop so I poked my head into the door and was soon chatting with Richard Whittaker. His father and grandfather had owned the business and he recalled that they worked on a demolition job in Bacup! but he had no idea how or when the stone had made its way from Bacup to Mayroyd Bridge but he told me that the stone could be cut down in size, made much thinner and he would even deliver it to my apartment. I told him that I’d have to do more ancestry research to see if this Joshua was ‘my’ Joshua. The upshot was its delivery yesterday, but the story even involved many many hours of research, and I felt as if I was getting more and more mired into the mud. The primary problem being that there were two Joshua Hoyles who lived almost next door to each other in Bacup and they were both owners of textile manufacturing companies! The story does have its own royal ending because there’s a connection with Camilla Parker-Bowles, yes – Mrs Prince Charles – who I saw at an event in the Piece Hall in Halifax in 2018.

Interior views of Moorlands – courtesy of Joshua’s grand daughter

As I set out to find my possible connection to Joshua Hoyle of Moorlands I was contacted by member of the Hoyle family through I asked if she knew anything about a Joshua Hoyle living at Moorlands. “Hello, regarding Moorlands, my Gt grandfather, Joshua Craven Hoyle sold the business in 1919 due to the damp weather in Lancs and he was recommended to move south. He moved to South Devon. On leaving he gave the house and gardens to the council. I guess it was them that decided that the house (a very unattractive monstrosity) was to be knocked down and the gardens made into the park.” She added “I happened to be in Bacup in the early 1980’s when they knocked down either India or Plantation mill and I picked up some bricks.” So she too, like me now, has a physical piece of the Hoyle’s empire.

Joshua – a painting in the possession of his grand daughter

So what was the Hoyle Empire? Joshua Hoyle and Sons was a firm of cotton spinners and manufacturers, originally founded by Joshua Hoyle in 1834 at Plantation Mill in Bacup. In 1854 his two youngest sons, Edward and Isaac, took over the family’s mills and its Manchester business respectively, Joshua dying in 1862. The company (motto: ‘no test like time’) gained a reputation for benevolent management and in 1873 its workers were given the opportunity to buy shares. In 1891 the firm had five mills operating 101,000 spindles and 3,000 looms. Brooksbottom Mill was then their principal production site with 61,560 spindles and 1,082 looms. In 1906 they moved the Manchester headquarters from Mosley Street to a new purpose-built steel-framed warehouse, National Heritage List for England (‘List’) entry 1271127.

Joshua in uniform

‘My’ Joshua Hoyle was the son of Edward and Frances Craven – hence the Craven name. By the age of 24 he was living with his cousin, William Hoyle, 26 in Ramsbottom, a small town dear to my family’s heart, and they are listed in the 1891 as cotton manufacturers. 2 years later he married Mary Beatrice Law Schofield at the parish church in Rawtenstall and the new family lived at Oak House in Bacup. With the death of his father in 1897 it seems that Joshua and Mary moved into Moorlands, Edward’s home. Edward’s will shows that he left 147,000 pounds to family members including Joshua. That’s around 16 million pounds in today’s money.

During the first world war Joshua saw service in Egypt (embarked as Lt Col 9/9/1914 with the East Lancs Regiment) From Joshua’s grand daughter I learned that “in 1919 Joshua, his wife Mary Beatrice and my grand mother, Frances, moved down to South Devon – to Gnaton Hall, a house I knew well. It was sold in 1978ish, and became to family home of one of Lord Roborough’s sons. His son married Camilla Parker-Bowles daughter. They now live there. I guess Camilla would visit.”

Gnaton Hall

Hawthorn House Hawthorn House is situated on the road to Bacup across the road from what most people will know as E Sutton & Son’s Riverside works. The house was built by Edward’s father, Joshua – senior – between 1844-1849, (not to be confused with Joshua Hoyle of Olive House). If the walls could talk the house could tell the tale of the building and demolition of India Mill.

Demolition of one of the mill chimneys in Bacup

Joshua the son of Abraham and Sarah Hoyle was born in 1796. In 1834, he went into business with John Maden at Midge Hole, building Throstle Mill two years later. By 1841 Joshua had built Plantation Mill living across the road from the mill until the completion of Hawthorn House. Joshua and his wife Elizabeth had four sons, James, John, Isaac and Edward (Moorlands House) and one daughter Alice. Joshua died at the house in 1859: India Mill wasn’t built until three years after his death. Both Edward and Isaac took a keen interest in the welfare of their employees and by 1873 the workforce held one-fourth of the concern as partnership shares.

Chatting with royalty at the Piece Hall, Halifax

The story of the Hoyle manufacturing empire is beyond the scope of this page in my blog. It’s a complex story and there is so much information that I find it overwhelming, but the Grace’s guide is a good place to start, with lots of posters advertising the business.

The former warehouse of Joshua Hoyle and Sons stood derelict for many years until it was converted and extended and opened as the Malmaison Hotel in 1998. [6]

Malmaison Hotel, Manchester – built as a warehouse for the Hoyle empire.

What building the stone that started off my research was actually commemorating is probably lost in the mists of time. For my own connection with the Hoyles see a former page in my blog:

Many thanks to Ann for sharing the family photos.

Update: August 21, 2022

Entrance gate

At last the day arrived when I would visit the site of Moorlands and see if anything remained. It was mid afternoon when I took the bus to Todmorden and then the bus to Bacup. It had been raining until lunchtime and I’d given up my idea of hiking in the hills so, when the sun came out, I decided to visit Moorlands.

View of the playground in the park

An impressive gate heralded the entrance of Stubbylee and Moorlands park on the outskirts of Bacup. The park was well signposted with maps showing children’s playgrounds, rose gardens, woodland, cafe, duck pond and there were lots of people enjoying the open space on this Saturday afternoon. I came to a large building housing council offices and a citizen’s advice centre but the building looked much more impressive than its current function.

Stubbylee Hall

A lady and grandchild were sitting on a bench enjoying the view of the duckpond and i asked her if she knew anything about the origins of the building. She didn’t but suggested I asked at the cafe. The cafe was just closing for the day but the staff referred me to several information boards on the side of the old aviary and there I found what I was looking for.

The entire park has extensive plans including some working involving Moorlands.

I went in search of the sunken garden which was close by the now demolished house and by following a few little paths through the woodland I came across piles of used stone, some carved into formal shapes, looking very much as if they were from some elegant building, perhaps even parts of fireplaces.

Then I found a large retaining wall barely visible in the undergrowth. Returning to the information boards, sure enough, the stones are on the site of the original moorland house, and, what’s more, there are plans to ‘clear away some vegetation and expose areas of wall from the original hall that stood here – The Moorlands.’ Also ‘interpretation relating to the house,’ and ‘opportunities for archaeological digs.’ Perhaps they would be interested in the stone in my music room!

The sunken garden

In May 2023 I learned from someone who had read my blog about my connection with Moorlands that the lintels above the door frames and window frames on Moorlands Terrace had been made from the demolished hall.

The tragic story of Fanny and Grace

2.FANNY GREENWOOD (This being chapter 2 of my ’13 Untimely Deaths’)

Willie Wrigley is James and Mally’s great grandson

It was May, 2020. The country, indeed much of the world, was in lockdown – the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet here I stood on a remote hillside with a panoramic view of the Calder Valley. Atop Erringden Moor Stoodley Pike rose like an eagle commanding a view of its territory, but it’s a black eagle, no hint of gold on its ‘phallic spike.’ 1 The bleat of new born lambs filled the still air, a joyous sound now no longer obliterated by the overhead roars of planes on their flight to distant lands. A highland cow had introduced herself to me as I strolled along Burlees Lane, high above Hebden Bridge but her eyes warned me not to enter her field despite the public footpath sign.

Above Hill House

It had been a steep climb up Wadsworth Lane, passing the housing estate of Dodd Naze on my left while to my right was open pasture but now I had a bird’s eye view of the Calder Valley and the small town of Mytholmroyd. Even though this town with its tongue twisting name is only 2 miles East of Hebden Bridge the valley here is much wider here with more expansive flat areas with scattered buildings , quite different from the tightly packed houses on top of each other, accessible by steep stone staircases.

I was in search of Hill House, birthplace of one of my ancestors, Charlotte Greenwood. I turned off the main road onto a small unpaved lane, Raw Lane. Ancient cottages now mostly restored and exuding affluence, their windows overlooking a dramatic landscape are dotted along its length, seemingly at random, some with their front doors opening directly onto the lane and others set back. In places Raw Lane is tree lined and at this time of year the trees heavy with leaves bowed their boughs forming an arch above me for me to walk through onto centre stage. The scent of the white hawthorn flowers was everywhere, reminding me of the hawthorn tree close to my childhood bedroom window at Affetside, and the brilliant yellow gorse flowers vied with a field of vibrant yellow buttercups for the prize of best in show. Today the verges were ablaze with colour. Foxgloves stood tall, proudly displaying their pendulous bell-like blooms and as I became aware that my jacket perfectly matched their shade of purple-pink I assured the busy bees that I was bereft of pollen.

Yet I had walked along with path in Autumn when the fog was so dense I could hardly see the roadside verges, let alone the expanse of the Calder Valley. Winters up here can be treacherous with ice and snow in abundance, and even today bins of grit lined the path reminding me of those dark days of winter when the lane lives up to its name. With map in hand I picked out Hill House to my right, perched alone on top of a smooth sided grass-green hill, devoid of trees, and justifying its name 100%.

The track to Hill House

A man was gardening at Hill House Lane Top and I chatted to him, admiring the lovely view his house had before taking the poppy lined cobbled track down towards my destination passing a beautifully landscaped garden with an ornamental pond and just as I approached the ancient stone house with its large barn across the yard a woman came into view, the current owner. I explained my quest and she was interested enough to bring out to me a framed aerial photo of the property taken about thirty years ago. It brought back memories of a similar photograph of my home at Third Bungalow, Affetside, framed and sitting in pride of place on top of my piano for many years. It had been taken from a helicopter some time in the 1970s and the pilot had landed in our field. Back at Hill House the owner pointed out a date stone above the front porch of 1678 and the initials IMG but she assured me that the building was significantly older than the stone indicated and that this was the date commemorating a rebuild.

Date stone commemorating the rebuild

With an invitation to return after lockdown was over I took my leave and she directed me to a path running behind the house enabling me to hike back into the valley a different way, following the outline of the hill which gives the house its name. I found myself crossing a beautiful meadow awash with wild flowers, clovers, cowslip and buttercups before reaching Red Acre Wood. Much work has been done to preserve the footpaths traversing this woodland sanctuary but the path remains steep, often with stairways and I had to keep my focus on my footsteps until I reached the valley floor from where I looked back and could see, high above, Hill House, perched atop its hill, birthplace of Charlotte Greenwood. In the Spring of 1894 Charlotte married Willie Wrigley, the great grandson of James and Mally, my 4th great grandparents who had lived at Lily Hall. Willie was an architect of some renown.

Willie Wrigley

I knew that Charlotte and Willie had a turbulent life together and his desertion of his wife and children resulted in a 3 month incarceration with hard labour in Wakefield gaol in 1901. But as I chatted to the current owner of Hill House that Spring morning I wasn’t aware of a tragedy that had occurred there one hundred and sixty years ago. A search later that evening produced an account in the newspaper that chilled me to the bone.

An article in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph 4th Nov 1861 reads ‘Murder and Suicide by a Mother Mytholmroyd: On Friday last, at midday, a most awful tragedy was perpetrated at Hill House, Wadsworth, Mytholmroyd, by a married woman, named Greenwood, wife of Mr. Greenwood, farmer. It appears that during the forenoon Mr. Greenwood had gone to Mytholmroyd with a week’s butter, and while away his wife cut the throat of her little daughter, about five years old, after which she cut her own throat, and ran out bleeding profusely into the house of a neighbour, (living at Hill House Lane Top where I’d chatted to the owner) named Sutcliffe, and then ran back into her own house. She still had the razor in her hand. Sutcliffe took it from her, and the mother pointed to the child in an adjoining room, with its head almost severed from its body. It would seem she had had two razors at work; one was also lying on the table, opposite the looking glass, covered with blood, along with two empty razor cases. The house presented more the appearance of a slaughter-house than human dwelling, such was the quantity of blood on the floors. The little girl’s hands were tied with a shred of cotton lining. Mrs. Greenwood has been in a desponding state of mind for some time, but not so much so as to cause much alarm. Since the above was written, it is reported that Mrs. Greenwood is dead also.” 2

Hill House

I found over sixty accounts of this tragedy in various newspapers, the story being reported as far away as Ireland, Wales and Scotland but only the Hull Advertiser suggested a reason for the tragedy. “She had been depressed in spirits for some time in consequence of her husband’s ill luck in business as a farmer, and also in consequence of the helpless and idiotic state of the child brought on by the violent fits to which it had been subject for two or three years.” 3

Three and a half years after the devastating death of both his wife and child James Greenwood remarried. I mean, it’s not surprising. He had four remaining children under eight years old and he had a farm of 28 acres to look after. Following his marriage to Elizabeth Jackson at Mytholmroyd church the couple had three more children, the youngest being ‘my’ Charlotte born in 1871. James and Elizabeth continued to live at Hill House for the rest of their lives and as I picked my way carefully along the steep path through Red Acre Wood I wondered what ghosts penetrated their lives there.

Hill House above the Dusty Miller. If only Fanny had taken notice of the sign. . . .

Emerging from the dark density of the woodsI found myself in the centre of a bright and sunny Mytholmroyd. This small town on the River Calder lies at the junction of Cragg Brook and the River Calder and the valley floor here is much wider than the narrow cleft in which Hebden Bridge cowers, just two miles to the East. Yet its propensity to flooding is equal to that of its neighbour and TV crews covering the floods often have a particular difficulty in pronouncing the town’s name, meaning a clearing where two streams meet. After a few minutes’ walk along the towpath towpath I crossed the canal, the road and the river and arrived at the church, in search of the resting place of Fanny. It didn’t take me long in this well kept cemetery to find her grave, in which her daughter, Grace, also rests. So too is Grace’s sister, Sarah, aged 14 and Ann, aged 25. Fanny’s husband James lived to a grand old age of 72, and his second wife rests there too.

Grave of the Greenwoods

At that moment the church bell struck the hour and as I looked up at the asymmetrical church tower the outline of Hill House perched on its hill appeared to be directly the tower. Grave That morning on my way to find Charlotte’s birthplace I’d looked down with pleasure at Hill House and its commanding position and chatted happily with the owner. I know now that the place will hold different memories for me whenever I see it perched on the hill looking out to Mytholmroyd.

A page from my fabricated book

1 Glyn Hughes Millstone Grit p. 60