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Stuart Gibson

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Sorry some of it’s going back over old ground but we’ll just..

…you just ask what you want and I’ll do my best – that’s all I can do.

Can you tell me your full name and then where and when you were born?

My full name is Stuart John Gibson and I was born actually in Halifax at the Royal Infirmary during the war in 1944 when they didn’t have home births because of the black out and various other things you know so it were a case that they had to go into hospital in them days to have their children, so my mother went there and I was born there just at the end of the war it was, in 1944 I was born. What date was that? 6th of October 1944 it were, I think the war had a year to go

Did your parents live in Hebden Bridge?

They lived in Hebden Bridge yes, they’d just moved into Hebden Bridge. They’d lived in the valley for a while; they’d moved from Stoke On Trent eight years before, I think it was 1934 when they moved when they got married. The job situation down there was pretty hopeless and my father and his brother-in-law it were, my uncle, they decided that they’d to do something about getting some work so they got a train to Manchester. When they got in Manchester they asked where there was work and they were told t’best place to go was Luddendenfoot, so they caught a train through and got off at Luddendenfoot. More or less next to the station there you’ve got Sagar Richards and it’s still there, and they just walked round from the station, walked in and just got jobs and both of them worked there until they died.

What was the work that they did?

It was in engineering, it was sort of non-skilled engineering to start with but my father was eventually classed as a semi-skilled engineer. He got involved a lot during the war with making moulds for gas masks, you know which became very popular I think – not through choice, but a lot of people were getting ‘em and he was a charge hand it was in the department that actually made the moulds. He made them during the war and then after the war they stopped making them for a year and as things got bad and the Cold War went on I think they became more conscious that there was likely to be a war again sometime that towards the end of the 1950s they started making the moulds for gas masks and they brought that back into production; he was one of the originals on that so he went back and he worked on that and he worked on that and he did about three or four years then unfortunately he died.

Did your mother work?

My mother did yes, she did various jobs like but she worked in the clothing industry at Trim Turn and Fold I think they called it.

What is that exactly?

It’s when the trousers have been made – she worked at Scarbottom Mill when I knew it but she worked at various places before that. They’d been made had the trousers and they used to trim the edges and tidy them up a bit and then fold them to be passed straight to the presser so they could put them straight on the press and press them so they could look as though they were presentable to be put in a shop.

Where was Scarbottom Mill?

At Mytholmroyd, opposite what used to be the Fire Station, now it’s Pot Luck but it used to be the Fire Station. There used to be opposite there a bridge, I don’t think ithe bridge is there now any more. There were some upheaval there; they built the houses on the dam for what was Scarbottom Mill; like everything else it’s been taken over as building land, but when I was a lad I used to call round there because we used to be able to walk all the way round the dam but now it’s houses on there like and there’s a road that runs across, but the mill, I think it was a three storey mill and she worked in there.

Did you ever go in the mill?

Yes I went in a time or two, but my mother – well after we’d lived in Hebden Bridge we moved to Mytholmroyd and I carried on at school in Hebden Bridge but I used to make my own way to school and back home again which I think they’d be horrified these days if kids were doing that at six or seven year old, but I was doing it and sometimes if I got home and there’d been a bit of a mix up or something like that and I couldn’t get in to the house, I used to just walk down and go in and see my mother and she’d make sure I could get in.

What was it actually like in the mill?

I hated it – my mother never objected about it but it was horrible – the dust from the material you know that they were working with, it used to get up my nose, it were terrible – it made your nose sore. I hated it. I hated going in there.

Which school did you go to?

I went to Central Street School in Hebden Bridge. When I was born we lived at Osbourne Street and that was a family home then; I came home to there from Halifax where I was born. It was the end of the war again and my mother was working I think in the clothing industry, it was one of those jobs they needed, she was involved in making uniforms and such like for the military and my mother was involved with that a bit; she worked all the time through my childhood and of course then when they needed the workers in them days, they could afford a nursery as well. Where the car park is in Hebden where the market now stands, that was a children’s nursery many years ago and I went there for two or three years, I don’t know how long it was, maybe two or three years I would imagine. My sister used to pick me up from school and take me back down again, she was seven years older than me. After I finished at the nursery, they had a nursery section at Central Street School. My sister went to Stubbings School I was going to ask why you didn’t go to Stubbings when you lived on Osbourne Street – they had a nursery section there and my mother moved me from there into the nursery section at Central Street School and then I carried on going to Central Street when we moved to Mytholmroyd; it carried on and I went there all the way through till I was eleven.

Whereabouts in Mytholmroyd did you live?

First of all we moved to Nest Estate in a council house, which in those days they were building council houses and making them available, then after the war they were building more still. I can remember them building all Banksfields and all round there, and I can remember them building Calder High School as well.

I suppose that was a big change – all of Banksfields, Calder High and all of that – was it all fields before then?

Funnily enough I don’t remember the fields there, I can remember the houses appearing and I can remember Calder High School appearing there; I can remember some workmen putting a swing in a door that they’d constructed and they hung a swing in it, and we used to go up there and play on a swing in the door – I can remember that [laughing]. I wouldn’t be that old then like, but my sister was one of the first to go to the school, she was just at that age when they built it, about eleven or twelve. I can remember her going there and she was pretty apprehensive about it all the time but it was a new step and it was interesting to see how the school’s changed over the years, I mean I look at it now and I just think ‘wow’ – I look down and it and see the size of it…

How’s it changed – just by adding bits on?

It’s extended but it’s not only upwards a bit but it’s spread out. What were playing fields have been built on and all at the back of the school…I can remember going up and seeing my sister playing for the school at hockey and sitting on the wall at the edge there and watching; now there’s houses there – there’s Hullett Close and Hullett Drive and all those round there. It’s built up a bit, it’s not quite the open space that it was because both sides of Midgley Road across the other side of Foster Clough, they’ve built houses there as well; I can remember those being open fields as well. I can remember cattle grazing down there. There was a lot then in them days. I think our milkman it was had that field who used to deliver milk, it was Percy Sunderland.

Did he deliver it in bottles – how did it come?

The first time I remember milk being delivered it was when I lived at Osbourne Street and I can remember Matthews – I’ve forgotten what his first name was now – Matthews just on at Rowland Farm he delivered milk and I can remember him coming down in a horse and cart and of curse you could come down in a horse and cart easy enough but when it got to t’bottom where the school is before you go up School Street that were as far as he could get, he’d have his horse going. I can remember we used to have a white jug; my mother used to wash that out every day and I had to run down t’hill when I were a little lad and hand this jug over and it would get the milk put in, he’d secure the top on it and I’d be back of up the hill, and that’s how we got it t’first time.
Then I can remember they went into bottles and they used to have cardboard tops on with a hole that you pushed through in the middle; my sister used to save them and she’d get some thread and wrap it round a few times through the centre and round the outside she went round, and cut through them round the edge and hang them up for decorations for t’Christmas tree then when it came round, so that was something that was going on all year round, making these bauble type things out of material and hang them up on the Christmas tree – nothing went to waste.

Can you remember the teachers or the things you studied at Central Street School?

I can almost remember every teacher all the way through. To start with there was Miss Sykes it was at first who had the junior end of the school, then when you went through to the primary section, I can remember going through there and the year I moved on into the primary section Miss Sykes left and Mrs Cushing came who stayed there and I can remember her being there long after I’d left school and that, and she was still teaching down there with Mrs Cushing, in fact I’m not sure whether she taught one of my children eventually. I remember her leaving there but I can’t remember exactly when it was so it must have been after my children were born I think if I remember her leaving because…it was Miss Smith I remember who I learned joined-up writing with and taken through all the procedures of doing that, [someone came in] then went on into t’second year and it was Mr Holt then, and he came from Todmorden, I remember that because he was a friend of a teacher that taught me later when I went to Sowerby Bridge Grammar School. I knew of this teacher through him and I can remember some interesting lessons with him, but then he went on and it was the big move to Phyllis Oakley’s class. She was a very what you might call ‘with-it’ teacher in those days; she used to take us out for lots of walks and that sort of thing and I remember seeing my first rabbit with myxomatosis while out on a walk with her, and that was a horrible sight to see. She stood us all at a distance and realised the distress this rabbit was in and sort of explained to us all about it, what myxomatosis was and why it had been introduced and what were going on and that but I can still remember it, it were a fairly traumatic experience really seeing this rabbit suffering and it was just in its last death throes sort of thing; it was a fairly big rabbit as well and it was on the hill as you go up to Horsehold. You can walk up there and just beyond I think it’s the last field on the left hand side there’s a path that goes through to Old Chamber and there’s a seat there, and it were just in front of that seat were the rabbit and I can still remember it being there; we were walking up Horsehold like, but we were all ushered past it so that we couldn’t avoid but see it but she made sure we understood what it was and I’ve thought about it since really and for our age group – I’d be about eight I suppose at the time, it was an important lesson in life that we all…

So you finished Central Street School and went to Sowerby Bridge Grammar School then, that’s now the High School – what was that like in comparison?

Oh it was a culture shock, that was! It was a bit too stiff and starchy for me at Sowerby Bridge but I know I’d been encouraged to work hard and pass my exams the Eleven Plus as they were then. Phyllis Oakley I think it was that actually went to Sowerby Bridge Grammar School when she was a girl, and of course she used to talk to us about the schools that we’d be going to later and I felt by the time I got to going to Sowerby Bridge that I was sort of pointed in that direction and I went there, but really I don’t think it was a suitable school for the likes of me with working class parents. I think my parents found difficulty in coping and understanding exactly what the ethos of the school was about, and I think it expected more, there were a lot of children…I mean I got along well with them, there were no problems in that way but I remember doctor’s children, solicitor’s children, clerical people in the church, their children that went there and they all seemed to be sort of geared through to going to university and that, whereas I mean nobody in our family had ever been near a university so I went through the school and I did fairly well at school, I mean I passed my exams at the end and left when I was seventeen but I don’t think it were an appropriate school really; think it would have been better for me I think if I’d been somewhere with lower expectations of me where I could have gone through to learn a trade or something like that.

So when you left, what did you do?

Well at the time it was unfortunate really, it was the time that my father was taken ill. Me and my father….. never worked….. – I left school and he had his first week the week that I left school. I got a job actually working as a Public Health Inspector and I worked in Public Health.

Was that for the Council?

That was for Sowerby Bridge Urban District Council as it was then.

What did that entail?

Well one of the main jobs I did was I was involved in a lot of smoke control in the valley; I learnt quite a bit about atmospheric pollution along the valley and where it came from, which properties were most responsible for causing the pollution and about the railways as well and how they were responsible for it, which they were in those days – the old steam trains and that. It was a mucky place was Hebden Bridge, I always think that and Sowerby Bridge was even muckier probably than Hebden Bridge, they were not very pleasant places in them days I mean, compared with what they are not, I think they’re beautiful now, compared with what they were then. I can remember the fogs we used to get, I mean we politely called them smogs but it were thick fog, pea-soupers they were and I can remember one day school when we had Christmas party and it was in the evening. I was at Sowerby Bridge Grammar School and we had the Christmas party in the main body of the school but the school canteen was across the playground; you had to go out and across and it was up a slope to it – we left the school when we were told everything was ready for us to eat and it was an ordeal getting from the main body of the school to the canteen. At the back of the canteen there used to be bins and in them days they used to empty all the slops into those bins but when the smog got round it, it sort of carried and made it into a really horrible smell and it really put you off eating anything, but we went into the canteen and we had a Christmas meal, the party, in there but it was horrible and all of us were sort of looking – ‘have we got to go back and face all that again? Anyway we managed to get through the evening but that night was the worst I can remember as far as how they used to smell sulphurous, it wasn’t just a bit misty or anything like that, it was a really sulphurous fog we used to get on the valley. I think it was the best thing they ever did was when they cleaned up the valley.

Who were the worst culprits for producing smoke and pollution – was it the mills or the trains or the houses…?

Well in terms of percentage contribution to it, the heaviest polluters were the houses; everybody had a coal fire in those days and everybody belched out smoke, and it was a pretty on-going thing; when it got to this time of year it were hard work to keep a fire burning and stack it up at night and keep it going through t’night so you had something in t’morning and sort of damp it down once a week a give the black leaded grate a polish; that were a Saturday morning job, but all council houses on the valley, when they built those, they all had the black leaded grates with the oven beside them. I don’t as many people ever used their ovens, I mean the only person I remember actually using an oven like that was when I met my wife Glenda and I used to go to her house and her mother was fairly well organised in that department and sheused to bake and put cakes and that at the side of the fire and she used to bank the fire up and open everything up, do what she were doing with it and bake cakes and that, and she were a good ‘un at baking cakes – it were interesting to see what she could produce out of that little black leaded doorway at the side of her fire! I think they were a fairly modern invention really were them in terms of houses, I don’t think they were part of the old traditional way of life or anything like that. Oh really – I thought they might have come back – I didn’t know that. Well Glenda’s house where she lived, they were probably put in at some time long after the houses were built – that was built some time in the late nineteenth century, it was up beyond Heptonstall, but I’d say that were as soon as they were put in to those houses. It was rather unusual that the council houses looked comparatively modern but had the old fashioned black leaded grate in them. I don’t think anybody by that time knew how to use them so they were just as something to be cleaned!


I’m just trying to make a bit of a link now – weren’t you in the Boys Brigade?

Yes, that was at Mytholmroyd.

When did you start doing that?

Well they used to have a junior section called the Lifeboys and I started – nine year old I think you had to be before you started there, so I was in the Lifeboys from nine until I was twelve then at twelve you went up into the Boys Brigade proper – you were one of the big lads then. There were some that went through until they were eighteen and they were still in the Boys Brigade; I remember Stuart Greenwood was there till he was about eighteen. We used to go camping, hiking and walking about the place and do various things through the chapel.

Was it associated with the chapel?


So if you were part of the chapel, quite often you’d join the Boys Brigade – is that how it worked?

It was, yes. I think it was one of these class things – the chapels were more working class and the churches were more middle class, and if you went to church it was the Scouts and of course you had to buy your uniform when you went to the Scouts, I mean they had the short pants and the shirts and it was a full uniform that you bought whereas in the Boys Brigade it was a leather belt we got, we used to have to wear just sort of grey flannels and a blazer which was our school uniform anyway and you had a white sash that went round and we used to blanco that and keep that fairly smart, there were brass buckles on it and brass adjustments and that – we used to polish them up and make them look smart and that, but of course it were something that could be given and handed on from one to another so there was no expense involved really in buying a uniform as such, and that were the difference in the Boys Brigade like. I think it was a little bit more…puritanical shall we say was the Boys Brigade to the Scouts, I think the Scouts used to sort of pride themselves on their outdoor….you know, outdoor skills. The Boys Brigade wasn’t particularly too concerned about that, even though we used to go camping and do stuff, it wasn’t really part of the agenda to teach us all to light a camp fire or anything like that [laughing].

Do you have any photographs of you in your uniform?

Not when I was in the Boys Brigade, no I don’t.

I know you’re very interested in doing research in local history. What kind of things have you looked into?

One thing that I was always interested in was…one of the problems about history is where do you start it? When does history start? Very often, the easiest thing to do is to choose an easy target and work out from there; along the valley I think the easy target was…well, for England in general, was the Norman invasion of Britain and how they spread out and became the ruling class over the rest of us – well we might be part of them now, I don’t know; we’ve inbred quite a bit. This was an interesting valley because it was part of a Royal Manor along the valley. South of the Calder on the opposite side of the valley was the Forest of Sowerbyshire; the western end of the Forest of Sowerbyshire was developed as a hunting park for the Normans and a lot of the names reflect the use that the Normans had for that. I mean even when you get Callis at the other side of Hebden Bridge which of course the two sides of the valley were almost classed as two sides of the English channel and you got Callis on one side, or Calais and then straight opposite there’s Dauber Bridge as they call it, and there are places along the valley, I mean it became eventually…well it was the Sowerby hunting park at first and it was Sowerby through to Walsden, then eventually it was limited down to Erringden and Erringden became a township in its own right, but that was really a reduced version of the Sowerby deer park and there are still places up there that can be identified – rocks with an S carved on them marked the boundary of the park and you can see one or two of them, particularly when you get up to Stoodley Glen and round there, there are some in the glen down by the stream. Originally the boundary of that was the River Calder and back towards Hebden Bridge from that there is a place where the canal was dug; I assume that there is a stone at the top of there that was moved when the canal was dug because it’s higher up the hillside and it has an S on it and it marked out where the deer park was, and then you come through to Hebden Bridge and you’ve got Palace House Road which was the road that marked the palisade – nothing to do with a palace – marking the boundary of the deer park. A lot of these old names of French origin are highlighted as the start of history round here, not said quite like than, but it’s an easy place at which to start so a lot of local history tends to dwell upon the French names that came into the area. Living in Hebden Bridge, I’ve always lived on this side of the valley away from that area and I wondered about this side of the valley and I thought well if there are place names across there that indicate what the uses were, what about this side of the valley? What can these place names tell us – what was the use of this side of the valley at the same time? What was happening here? There are some things that tell us quite a bit about what was happening on this side of the valley, so it isn’t particularly one name that stands out as being definite a indicator, but rather the names in groups as they appear because the farms as they are now, obviously they’re not the original farms but these are places where there were homesteads at one time and they acquired names, and they acquired names from the people who referred to them at the time they were homesteads, and as round here has developed, people have decided that it was obviously more comfortable to live in a stone house than a draughty wooden shack, so a lot of them were converted to stone houses during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but they were built on the sites of the homesteads and carried forward the names of those older places, so you get a place like Burlees which is across the other side of Wadsworth Lane and Burlees – I decided if I were gonna do this I’d better buy a book and find out a bit more about it, and I got this book – A D Milnes on British places names and at the back of that there’s a glossary of common elements in English place names, and you can sort of build up words through that – For example, you get a burr in here [Stuart found it in the book] – a burr is old English for a cottage or dwelling [pause while reading] – old English peasant holding, a land for rent or service and that sort of highlighted or indicated what the use was for that area before it was a peasant holding, so that later bit ‘for rent or service’ suggested somebody let’s say lower down the social scale, so it was a case then of how does that fit in to the surrounding area. The interesting part of it, getting back to the time when the Normans came across, the one thing – the Doomsday Book, and it’s listed in there various places and one place that’s listed is Wakefield, the Royal Manor of Wakefield, and it says that even before the Normans got here, it was a Royal Manor in the time of King Edward so that put us back before the Normans. It was comprised of I think eight townships mainly, and Wadsworth was one of them, and there was Heptonstall, Stansfield, Erringden isn’t in, Longfield? Longfield, Sowerby was one, was Midgley one? Midgley, Warley, Elland, Rastrick [that makes nine]. These places all existed before the Norman conquest so it put them existing before 1066, so if that’s the case, these Saxon names must have some meaning and they must have had an influence on the Norman conquest because there were places that they changed the names of, but these they didn’t change the names of so they must have been fairly well recognised for what they were at the time of the conquest. I then went on to find out more about others. You got Burlees, you got Great Burlees and Little Burlees which suggested more than one dwelling – it was an area that was designated as peasant holdings rather than a specific building.
Then it was a case of finding out where is Wadsworth? We’ve got lots of…I mean we know where Wadsworth Old Town is but where were the limits of Wadsworth as it developed? We’ve got some later idea about where it went because it moved on the valley out towards the east and eventually a place that was recognised up to the nineteenth century was Foster Clough that goes down the side of Midgley Road; that was a boundary of the old Wadsworth, or the comparatively modern Wadsworth, so it had moved down from there. I read that very often a lane could be used as a boundary or denoted a boundary and it carried the name of whatever it was a boundary of, so Wadsworth Lane indicated or suggested that that was the boundary at the time and that Burlees was just beyond the boundary, outside Wadsworth in the early days.
I then looked further; we’ve got an old map through in the other room and it was one that was bought for me by my son whilst I was in hospital and I had plenty of time just to browse it and there were farms on the site where the estate’s been built since. Around Manor Drive was a place called Raw Holme Farm and I thought ‘let’s havea look and see what that means’. I looked up Raw [Stuart looked it up] – Ra, old Scandinavian, and it means a roe buck and a boundary so it indicated that this was a boundary – if this was Raw Holme Farm it suggested that it was recognised as a boundary at some time in its life, then further up there is a Raw Lane. The farm further back there is where I used to get the milk from when I was a kid, that’s Rowland Farm. [pause for coughing] That suggested that was Raw Land Farm which was a boundary and possible Raw Land Farm Lane was possibly a boundary, so it could be that this was the extent of Wadsworth township at one time. It carried on across Raw Farm Lane and went on Burlees Lane, there were some cottages on there and on it was marked on the map that the old name for them was Rose Cottage which sounds a bit…what does it mean? We’ve got a habit of putting a sentimental twist on Rose, like a cottage with roses round it or something like that but is it necessarily that? We get things like River Dubb which has gone to River Dove and it sounds like a river where doves have flown about but Dubb actually means ‘black’ or ‘dark’ river so it’s just got the romantic twist on it. Dovedale and places like that sounds a biy shall we say more pleasing than Dubbdale. When I looked up Rose, ros is Celtic and it’s for moor, heath or promontory. Rose Cottage was on the side of Burlees Lane that goes on and it goes on to Sauter House and I though ‘where do they get a name like Sauter House from? I then looked up Sauter House and spent quite a lot of time going through, and came across [looking in book] an old Scandinavian word which is going back pre-Norman again, at a time when the Vikings were coming across and there’s a place, I don’t know how it’s pronounced, but it’s spelt ‘saetr’ and it’s a shieling, a hill pasture or a summer pasture. Now down below in the valley is Broad Bottom Farm, one of the oldest farmed places in the valley and it’s a Saxon name for it so it’s easy to translate more or less into modern English is Broad Bottom Farm, but it suggests that there was living down there and Sauter House was the summer pasture for the farm and there is a path still that leads up from the Broad Bottom Farm to Sauter House so it suggests thatthere could have been a link between the two; there’s no proof on it or anything like that, but it’s a suggestion that there was a lifestyle where they lived down there during the winter and moved up the hill a bit in summer when it was a bit more mild. It looked as though this hillside, it’s been lived on and farmed for quite a long number of years. Higher up Wadsworth Lane there’s Manor House; we always think of a Manor House as something to do with a class system with a Lord of the Manor, but the meaning was the ‘common field’. Now then it suggest to me does that that we’ve got the Burlees which was the lower section and then higher up someone with a responsibility for supervising that area would live in Manor House; it’s in an unfortunate state now. The Manor House that’s there now is a modern replacement of what was probably a timber building there beforehand. Wasn’t that built in 1640 or something like that? I think it was later than that but it could have been built about 1640 but I think it was later. It might be – somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve got that figure in my head but whenever it was built, you’re saying you think it was a replacement for a building that was probably timber. Oh yes – there’s evidence for the replacement of a timber buildings with stone buildings later on – if you go down to Broad Bottom again, in there there’s the remains of what was a Saxon crux barn inside where the stone has actually been built round the crux barn and you can still see the timbers, they didn’t even bother pulling down the old one when they built the stone around it. I should imagine it’s a fairly important piece of local history is that – well it is an important piece of local history. There used to be a notice at the bottom of the lane that said it was a condition for the man renting the house that it should be allowed to be open to the public one day a year for people to go in and see that. I don’t know whether the sign is still there, unfortunately I can’t get round now to have a look. Have you been in it then? I’ve not been in but I’ve seen photographs of the inside and it’s fascinating how they built…I mean they just used the curve of the wood and they could put timbers together like that and make it into a long crux barn, and it was the bottom end of the building that’s standing there now. I can remember it being farmed but unfortunately the farmer and his son have both died and they used to farm the field immediately opposite Wadsworth Lane so it stretched up here and it was part of the Mayroyd estate I think, Hebden estates I think it goes under the name of. That field has a bit of history in its own right and I think it’s one reason why I think they are finding it difficult to sell the land now because it’s that old and there are that many clauses that can being dug up on limitations to what it can be used that it’s very difficult to build on. In some ways that’s a good thing I suppose. Oh it is, yes. I suppose if you own it and want to sell it, it’s not so good. I think it’s just been sold as farmland, that’s what I head anyway, the last time it was up for sale the description for auction was agricultural land, which I hope it remains as agricultural land; it would be interesting to see it stay that way, but how things are going in Hebden Bridge and in the Calder Valley in general, I can’t see it not being built on for very long.

What does Dodnaze mean?

It’s shown on the map in there as two separate words. The naze is a promontory and is a piece of the hill that sticks out with the Calder Valley on one side and Nutclough on the other side and it forms a headland, and it sticks out and points up towards Todmorden. You can see where it is a naze, particularly when you get up to Mount Skip and look down on it, and you can see the sort of bridge where the estate has been built on the bridge of it of the nose and it sticks out and points beyond Heptonstall towards Todmorden.
And then dod – it’s an old English word is that. I looked for a long time before I found anything about that, but there is an old Saxon word ‘dod’ – they used to call it to dod and when I found it, it meant to lop off branches, and it suggests that the area was cleared at some time or another and the first stage in clearing a forest is to lop off all the lower branches at least of a tree, at least to lop off as many branches as possible so that when you chop it down you’ve just got the main trunk of the tree left and it’s easier to handle at that point. It suggest that that was done at some stage and then cleared later happen, so it looks again with the Burlees up above, the peasant field, as though there was some sort of systematic clearance of that as if possible Wadsworth was being extended to possibly Broad Bottom Farm and the trees were being cleared to make it into a useful bit of farmland, which of course under the trees there’s some very rich black earth. It was a good place for farming in the early days, I mean it provided some rich soil to start with and carried on for a while so people took advantage of what they could get where they could get it. One of the main jobs then was to drain the land and there are signs all on the hillside of land drains, there is little evidence of when they were actually built in the first place, but there has been a lot of work put into containing the water into definite streams and even when you get down in Nutclough by Martin’s Mill and see it as it runs down past Martin Mill there, that is a definite piece of water control and you can see where the waterfall comes out of the rock and runs under the road then down one or two bits of drops past Martins Mill and down the hillside through Nutclough; I assume it fed Nutclough Mill eventually.

It sounds like they cleared the land and as part of that, they drained the land into these streams so it wouldn’t be boggy so they could farm it properly. They got rid of the trees, they made it usable and all the water went into streams and then hundreds of years later because the water became so concentrated, it created power for the mills so it seems like all the old history has influenced the later history of the industry.

Oh yes, I mean when you look at the first mills that were built and where they were built, one place where a mill was built was at Gibson Mill, but the first mill in the valley apparently from some reading I did from a book in the library is dated at 1792 before Gibson Mill and that was built by a man called Butterworth and he was at Mytholmroyd, and from all my attempts to find where he built the first mill in the Calder Valley at Mytholmroyd, it seems it was at the bottom of Foster Clough, at the place now where they keep having problems with the road where Foster Clough runs underneath the canal and then it goes down and underneath Burnley Road, and it’s cause problems there and they’ve had problems with the traffic flow there and trying to get out into the main river and that, and they’ve had to work on it themselves a lot later. This stream that runs down through Burlees comes out at Mayroyd and it’s close to…well it comes out next to…Machpelah Mill.
That was a name that tickled me – where do you get a name like ‘Machpelah’ from round here? So I thought ‘I’ve got to find that one out’ so I started researching on that, and you’ve got to read your Bible for that. When the Normans actually developed the Manor of Wakefield, William de Warren, one of the men that came across with William the Conqueror, he actually picked up a title – he built first of all built a priory at Lewis in the south of England and he became the first Earl of Surrey I think, although it’s in Sussex – they get a bit confusing do all these titles because they don’t relate to where they are, I mean the Duke of Devonshire lives in Derbyshire [laughing]. He moved north and eventually became the man who was responsible for the Manor of Wakefield. He must have had a bit of a problem actually running the place and he gave the Parish of Halifax to monks from the priory at Lewis and they were the people who ran it; this end of the valley didn’t have a church but that suggests that monks did come and were involved in the development of this part of the valley – they lived this way on and it’s a case of then finding out where they did live, and Machpelah when you look it up – Abraham was looking for a site to bury his wife, one of his wives, and he wanted somewhere that he was responsible for and that he could go to even though he was in Caanan, an alien land, he wanted to be sure that it was his place and nobody could prevent him from going to where his wife was buried, so he bought this place and called it Machpelah, and the name comes out of the Bible. It suggests to me that the monks possibly were like-minded and wanted a place in the valley but they didn’t want to be beholden to anybody else for what they did, so they took on Machpelah and I suspect it was originally a residence for monks when they couldn’t make it back to Halifax in time because it would be a long time to travel out here and then do a day’s work at this end of the valley, then travel back to Halifax where the main dwelling was so it seems reasonable to assume that they would keep somewhere at this end of the valley where they could put their heads down, just rest up a bit and Machpelah seems to have been that place.

That whole area is known as Machpelah isn’t it, so it might not have been the mill on the canal but somewhere on the hillside overlooking do you think?

Yes, well Machpelah itself you can see it as a farm; you can see the farmyard leading up to the old barn door. These again would be later buildings added to an original timber site as things went on so they would probably build it first of all as timber then somebody later has acquired it and decided to do a good job at building it in stone.
They were presumably on good terms with the Norman lords because it was the Norman lords who were their patrons and provided them with the Parish of Halifax as a money-earner and all the money went back down to Lewis, so the people in the south of England oughtn’t to criticise us too much because we’ve been earning their bread and butter for long enough! [laughing]
Anyway you come up the hillside and half way up Birchcliffe is Sandal House, then onto a place called Sandygate and I thought it must have been a place you got sand from, but the Earls Warren as time went by decided to move their residence at Wakefield and built their own defensive fortification down there at Sandal Castle. This is Sandal House so it suggests that they had more than a passing interesting this, and it all links up well; coming up the hillside there is a lane that runs up the back of the estate, it runs up Sandygate up onto Rowland Farm Lane and it’s called Law Lane. There was a property at one time half way up it…


[No sound was recorded until 31 minutes into the interview.]

I can remember going to t’drill hall at Halifax and we had to go through a marching routine, and it took quite a lot of training did that for some boys. I were never keen on that, but I took part in it and it were good to take part with the other lads, but we used to go on walks and that; sometimes we’d arrange to meet on a Sunday morning. We used to have a….a service once a month when the Boys Brigade actually presented a flag at the chapel and we went into…this would be during my teens and…it was a short parade beforehand and then present the flag at the chapel and then when afterwards when it were all done we’d go for a walk somewhere all t’lot of us, and we used to go off up Cragg Road and on to Bell Hole somewhere like that and walk round Bell Hole, and we used to walk it over to Stoodley Pike and things like that; we used to enjoy it. That introduced me as much as anything to t’local countryside.

Did you like the countryside?

Oh yeh, I liked being out in the countryside; it’s something I’ve always enjoyed.

Can you tell me a bit more about when you went swimming then up Cragg Vale?

Well there’s not very much to tell – we’d just go on and sort of…everybody get changed and dive in t’river, and then collect a few stones up and pile it up a bit higher and that. I remember one year though – I don’t know which year it was but it had been a very dry, long, hot dry summer and the moor on the Stoodley Pike side caught fire, and it burned did that, I don’t know how long for, it seemed like months. We were going up there and we’d built this dam up and the Fire Brigade came down and they were trailing… long hoses and drawing water out of the river to try and get it on to the fire, and they used our pool to do it, so at least we were of some use to somebody! [laughing] It burnt for a long time did the moor, because it was peat moor like and once the peat catches fire it just burns down and down and down, and it was hot for a long time to walk on and it went dry and dusty as well; you could walk on it, it went really soft, and sink into it – it was a real problem was that, I don’t know what they did with the sheep, I’m sure t’farmers must have had some real problems up there with that. As a townie, I never realised how serious it was when moorland caught fire like that, but that’s always impressed on me did that.

What kind of things did you do at Christmas?

…Christmas…it was the usual chapel, we’d have school parties and chapel parties, Sunday School parties and that. I’d be involved with things like that, but otherwise not much special. I remember one of the big festivals they used to have was always the eleventh of November Remembrance Service; I remember having…I think…I don’t know…people remember what it were like – I remember Mytholmroyd with the cenotaph being right in the middle of Mytholmroyd and they used to lay wreaths on the cenotaph there, and you used to get people walking from the churches and of curse there was Mytholmroyd Methodist in those days and Mount Zion Methodist as well at the bottom of Midgley Road, and then the local church as well, and then all the old soldiers and that would join in the march and there was the British Legion was at the end of Caldene, just about where the entrance to the car park is for the Community Centre at Mythomroyd, and there was a wooden hut there that was a fairly elaborate wooden hut that was the main meeting place for the British Legion. They used to hold events in there and …I remember they used to meet up there did all the veterans and they’d march on into the centre of Mytholmroyd, and the difference between then and now is – can you imagine a body of people marching through to the centre of Mytholmroyd and stopping there and holding a service in the middle of Mytholmroyd, a service that went on for an hour before they drifted off back to their various chapels?

So did it stop all the traffic?

Well there were just no traffic through at all and it were just accepted – it just came to a dead stop, I mean it gets something like that I suppose when they have the carnival and that stops it a bit, but I think even then t’traffic tries to keep flowing and tries to keep moving past, but the centre of Mytholmroyd on the eleventh of November were just solid with people and they’d backed right up on to the road bridge across from New Road there and then they’d be all on to the bottom of Midgley Road and there’d just be a crowd of people there. The churches took it in turns at conducting the service like, there’d be t’Methodist Church – everybody returned to the Methodist Church one year and then to the St Michaels Church the next year, and rotate it like that, and everybody would just form up into a double file and march off and that was it, and all the veterans would go and there weree services of remembrance and thanksgiving in the chapels and that, and I think they did a lot to bind communities in them days as well as remembering the war, I mean the war wasn’t all that relevant to me, I was born…I don’t remember anything about the war, but we were never allowed to forget that…a war had been fought and we met people all the time that had been part of fighting that war and I mean sometimes we were told tales by some of the old soldiers, I’m sure they romanticised a bit about ‘em as well, but…it were made certain that we had to be thankful for what they did, which in some ways I think in my generation it created a certain – probably in your generation – I don’t know whether we’re t’same – probably about t’same generation – it created some resentment and tension in one way, and I remember as a lad we were being told ‘oh they’ll change you when they get you get called up’ – of course they never had call up when I – they finished about two years before I was due to go in.

I can remember that, yes. My father was in the service for twenty years, so there was a great tradition in our family of that sort of thing.

Can you tell me anything about the carnival then – what happened on those days?

Well the carnival, that…that used to be years ago but for a long time when I was younger they didn’t have a carnival and it was when I got into my teens that they actually revived it

Had it stopped because of the war do you think?

Possibly, yeh – I don’t know why it had stopped…there were a lot of things that all changed about that time. I remember…we’re on the carnival, we’ll stick to that – I remember when they organised the carnival, everybody got together and sort of entered floats, and there used to be the parade through Mytholmroyd, that was an unusual event. I remember early on, Des O’Connor one year actually opened it. That was in the days when he was better known as a singer – we’ll say no more about that! [laughing] It was an entertaining do, and a local girl was chosen as the Festival Queen.

Whoever became Queen, what was good about that then – was it like she’s the local beauty or did she have to do anything to…

The local beauty I suppose, but she represented the area I think in one or two things as well, at various events and civic functions and that – I don’t know too much about it, that were for the girls to bother about, it wasn’t for us boys – we didn’t bother too much about that, we just turned up and whistled! [laughing]

Did everybody take part then, like shopkeepers and churches and like scouts and all like that. was it everybody joined in?

Yeh by and large, I remember one year they had a five-a-side football competition and that was early on as well, and they had various venues round Mytholmroyd and teams from outside the area that went. By that time I was playing for the Mytholmroyd Under Sixteens Football Team and we had a team in it, I remember that, and I can remember playing in that then we played in a final on the White House Holme, and…we didn’t win it which were rather a disappointment – we thought Mytholmroyd lads should win Mytholmroyd Gala, but it was a good and entertaining sort of competition and we enjoyed usselves, that were the main thing.

Can you remember any sort of characters from around – well any time during your life really, particularly the people who everybody pointed out as being characters?

[pause] When I…played for the under sixteen football team it was mainly organised by the lads themselves. My cousin was one of the instigators of that, the Mytholmroyd Foootball Team; he was a bit older than me and he – he got the ball rolling so to speak and it started off, that football team and we played in – we won I remember the Halifax league one year and we enjoyed usselves with that and we used to be travelling off on a Saturday to teams around…well Calderdale as it is now, but it was the Halifax league in those days; we used to play Brighouse and up Greetland, places like that and it helped me as much as anything to get to know the wider area because with my parents not coming from round here, I weren’t that familiar with the wider area and I got to know more about it and there again liked what I found out about it and I enjoyed it.

How has Hebden Bridge changed then since you’ve grown up here – has it changed at all?

Oh it’s changed tremendously. I remember in the days when I used to go to school, I’d be down into Mytholmroyd at eight o’clock to catch a bus to get through for a nine o’clock start at Central Street School and the valley was packed then with people going to work walking? well there’d be lots walking to work, but there’d be lots catching buses as well; it was regular in those days that buses were full and it was insisted on more or less, I mean it were one of the first things you learnt that when you got on a bus you didn’t sit down – you waited, and let the older people sit down first, and – we didn’t have to, we just did it, because it seemed to be expected of us that we’d hold back and let the older people sit down and then ifwe were lucky we got a seat, otherwise we were the ones that stood and that was it, but the buses were always packed. They talk of cutting bus services and things like that now – you couldn’t imagine it in those days, everybody travelled by bus in those days and that was it.

Were there lots of buses then – were there like two or three at a time or were they every ten minutes – how was it?

It was a regular service, I don’t know how regular the buses ran, but I remember when I used to come out of school at Central Street and come round to Cheetham Street, and many a time when we got there, we’d look on Cheetham Street and there’d be a line of buses, some for Todmorden, some for Halifax, and it were a case of going on and you had to make sure because sometimes they’d trick you and they’d just put Mytholmroyd on t’front, or they’d put Luddendenfoot on or something like that, and if they want to go through to Halifax, then you had to make sure you got on t’right one. By and large the bus services went straight through to Halifax in those days except for a while when they changed it and they actually put it through to Brighouse, and we used to catch buses in Hebden Bridge that went straight through to Brighouse, and it was a bit wider afield was that; it ran for a few years like that, but why they started running to Brighouse I don’t know, and why they stopped running to Brighouse I don’t know! These are the things that happen that nobody ever explains!

You were talking about the way the buses were built and had different types of seats, four abreast with a kind of well along one side – were those just the Todmorden buses?

That was the Todmorden, yeh.

Were those just the Todmorden buses?

Yes, those were just the Todmorden. I think there is one that occasionally does a run through from a museum or something like that, but I think they had some sort of an anniversary of the old Todmorden Joint Bus Corporation and they called one of them buses back into service and it ran into Hebden Bridge – I remember seeing it on the day, and it brought back memories did that.

When I asked you whether things have changed, is there anything else that you can remember that’s changed dramatically, or even small things?

Well I suppose there are little bits of things of our life that you can remember when you look back that are unusual – I can remember when we used to go swimming at Sowerby Bridge baths and that was from Mytholmroyd. The easiest way to Sowerby Bridge baths was by railway train. We used to catch the train at Mytholmroyd station, go through to Sowerby Bridge and then it’s on the level then from the railway station to the swimming baths, and we used to use those swimming baths, and in those days there were no baths…well there were baths in Halifax but they weren’t anything like Sowerby Bridge’s. There were Wood Side baths in Halifax and then there was Park Side baths – I went there once or twice with t’Boys Brigade at Park Side baths, but by and large when we wanted to go swimming at t’swimming baths, we used to go for evening lessons and that as well, we used to catch the train from Mytholmroyd and go through, and it was the most convenient way to travel.

Do you think young people today have the same sort of attitudes or beliefs that you had when you were younger?

I think nowadays they seem to lack motivation to do anything, that’s how I feel. When you talk to them they seem to say ‘we’ve nothing to do’ ‘well what do you want to do?’ ‘don’t know’ – that’s all you get, nobody knows what they want to do and consequently I don’t know why they expect older people to suddenly come along with ideas and provide them with ideas of things to do – it should be them providing the ideas of things to do and older people supporting them – I think that’s one of the main things that’s changed.

I mean now we’ve got the local football team here where the parents have got together and started a football team for the younger children on the estate up at Dodnaze Kestrels – it’s fine is that for that age group, they do need more parental control but I remember when we were playing under sixteens and that, it was a case of…I remember me cousin I was involved with him a bit at the time, but he did all they work and they just wrote a letter off to the Halifax Junior Football League and asked what they to do to register the football…they had to get an approved football field to play on and have permission to play on it regularly so they could hold regular fixtures – fulfil a fixture list and they did that, they had to do that with the council and get permission from the council to use the football field, and we used to play on Mytholmroyd Recreation Ground. The difficulty then was finding changing rooms because there were no changing rooms in those days.

Did you just do it behind the bushes?

We actually changed for a year or two in the Huntsman Public House which was on Midgley Road just opposite…what they call it…White Lee Farm on Midgley Road there.

I didn’t know there was a pub on there.

The end one there was a pub for many years. It was still a pub at first when I got married and I lived close by. For a good few years for most of my childhood it was a public house was that.

I’m getting near the end before the tape runs out – is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to talk about?

There was one thing we used to enjoy as lads that we weren’t part of but the older generation was, and that was the what they called the Works Cup for the football;they used to have a Works Cup and it was organised after work during the week and the various employers along the valley entered teams of the work people, not the employers themselves, but the work people entered football teams into what they called the Works Cup, and they used to have a knock-out competition then for that and it used to be regular that we’d get home from school and the first thing that we did was – we got a fixture list that told you who was playing where and we used to keep all t’scores and see who was winning. You got various teams like Thornbers would have a team in and Moderna would have a team in, then there’d be F & H Sutcliffe’s from Hebden Bridge, they’d have a team in and one or two others.

Were you in one of the teams?

I wasn’t in – this was all before I left school was this, this was whilst I was still at school and we just used to go along and watch, choose one who we thought were going to win it that year and then cheer ‘em along – no particular loyalty to any team or owt like that, but it was a good competition along the valley was that and it seemed to occupy a lot of people, they used to get some fair crowds at that, at those matches in an evening and it would be just in sort of September and October time, before the really dark nights started, and they could play more or less from when they finished work through before it went dark. Play a match an hour and a half after a day’s work and then off home; if they won they had another match to play after that, and it carried on until they played in the final.

How do you feel about what we’ve just been talking about now – have you found it interesting or has it brought back memories – what do you feel about what we’ve talked about?

I think it makes me think more and contrast – it makes me thinkg about how Hebden Bridge has changed, and how it’s changed from when I was a lad, I mean it’s changed a lot for the better.

What’s been a good change then?

Well although the jobs have gone, the industry has gone, it’s a much cleaner place. I don’t think people nowadays realise how much smoke there was in this valley and what a filthy place it was in terms of – particularly when steam trains were running through the valley as well, it wasn’t just the industry and the domestic fires, although the domestic fires I’m told were the worst culprits for adding pollution to the atmosphere. My brief stint in the Public Health Department was enough to show me how bad it was along the valley for smoke control because Smoke Control Orders were just being put into effect about that time so I was part of that process in Sowerby Bridge and I used to do the smoke ontrol readings at Crow Wood Park and down Wharfe Street in Sowerby Bridge. I had a micro ringleman chart where I could check on the emissions of smoke from various factories; they were only allowed so many minutes of dark smoke, I think it was seven minutes an hour of dark smoke and that, and you could report them if they did more. I remember a couple of days I spent time just sat on the hillside looking through a micro ringleman chart at all t’different factories and that’s what they gave me for a job to do!

Were there many culprits then who broke the law?

There were some yeh, I think even today, I think probably they’ve got too lax now and people don’t appreciate now the fact that we’ve got clean air now. You’ve only to look at the buildings in same as Hebden Bridge where some of them have been stone blasted and yet you can stone blast a house on a block and then wait a few years, and you can’t tell which one has been stone blasted because the others have come cleaner, as well as that one getting slightly dirtier, the others have come cleaner. I think I realise more from that sort of thing that we’ve really got a lot to appreciate from Clean Air Acts and stuff like that. I mean bronchitis were a terrible problem along the valley, there were a lot of older people that got bronchitis and it were a terrible condition that people got, some of the older people, and I think possibly there’s an older generation that’s benefiting now from that clean air and not coughing away, and stopping smoking of course as well, which is a big help but smoking on its own, it is a killer, but I think the worst thing was smoking and then going out in t’mucky air – I can remember the times when we did used to go out of an evening and sometimes it was that noxious was the air outside that you could hardly breathe in it, and I can remember going out sometimes – we used to have a scarf and wrapping a scarf round your mouth like that and holding your hand over just so that you could breathe to get round, it was so vile was the air, and it smelt as well, with you know – sulphurous and it was nasty.

That tapes gonna end in about a minute or two, so I think we’ll probably call it quits for now. I must admit I’d like to talk to you again, if you would agree to it, after I’ve spoken to the other ones and then maybe do a follow-up session if you wouldn’t mind.

I could do, yeh – no objections to that at all.

You mentioned the other day about a list of shops. Is it on the back of that map?

That map, yeh – if we get the map out of its frame and turn it over, it’s on the back of there and it lists all the various proprietors of shops in Hebden Bridge, about 1905 I think it is.

Have you got any kind of like perhaps family photographs or documents or anything like that, that I might be able to use to kind of illustrate what you’ve talked about today?

Well the one to ask for that is my wife, it’s her family. I wouldn’t presume to offer any of them, but my father-in-law worked for Alice Longstaff for many years. From when he first got married he used to work part-time for her on a Saturday afternoon and that, working in the shop, and he worked along with Clement, Alice’s brother and he did quite a lot, but because of that and because he had four children as well, she took a lot of photographs, Alice, of his family. That would be fascinating. Funnily enough after I got married, I didn’t realise at the time, a photograph turned up of me and me sister that was taken down at Alice Longstaff’s; I was a little lad – they used to do things to keep you occupied – bigger sister stood next and then there’s a goldfish bowl and me with my hand in the goldfish bowl, stirring it up! [laughing] He said he remembered that photograph being taken, so I don’t know whether he realised at the time what was going to happen,that that was his son-in-law!

Let me just finish this off then – it’s still going


About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
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