A Picturesque History of Yorkshire - volume 2 (1900) - Huddersfield and the Valley of the Colne

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The following chapter about the Huddersfield area is reproduced from A Picturesque History of Yorkshire - volume 2 (1900) by J.S. Fletcher.


Huddersfield and the Valley of the Colne

Almost opposite the woods of Kirklees Park the river Colne, one of the principal tributaries of the River Calder, winds away southward between rising hills which increase in precipitancy and wildness as they draw nearer the south-west border of the county. At first the Colne passes through a wide valley, with much level ground in its midst, but ere many miles have been traversed by those who follow it from its junction with the Calder to its sources amongst the solitudes of Lord's Mere, it becomes somewhat sharply enclosed by the surrounding hills, which rise above it in bold contours. Between Huddersfield and Almondbury the Colne is joined by a smaller stream, the Holme, which runs down from the high ground known as Holme Moss by way of Holmbridge and Holmfirth, gradually descending from a height of 1700 feet near the Derbyshire border to one of 300 feet at its junction with the Colne. The country which surrounds these two feeders of the Calder is singularly wild, rugged, and impressive, and must have been exceedingly savage in aspect ere it became as thickly populated as it now is. Standing on any considerable eminence in its midst, the traveller finds himself surrounded by vast stretches of mountainous country, far-reaching moorlands, and solitary vales and glens, which, though never far removed from the sounds and sights of industrial life, are still lonely and secluded enough to satisfy the desire of the most exacting lover of solitude. This corner of the county, in short, lies amidst some of the most characteristic scenery of the Pennine Range, and though not so wild or majestic as the district including the Ingleborough groups of mountains, or so picturesque as the neighbourhood of the Peak of Derbyshire, it has a charm and a distinguishing character of its own which cannot fail to leave a strong impression on those who explore it.

Huddersfield, one of the largest and most important of Yorkshire manufacturing towns, and second only to Bradford in the brightness and cleanness of its appearance, lies near the mouth of the Colne in a hollow formed by the surrounding hills. It is another marvellous example of the change which modern enterprise, the introduction of steam, electricity, and machinery, and the hundred and one labour-saving appliances of nineteenth century life can work within a comparatively short space of time. At the beginning of the present century Huddersfield, though described by the itinerants of that time as a busy and bustling place, had a population of only 8000 inhabitants; it is now about 100,000. It wears the aspect of a new town; in its wide and well-built streets, and in the immediate suburbs with their roomy villas and mansions, there are few traces of anything that is not quite modern. Huddersfield is nevertheless one of the most ancient towns in Yorkshire. Authorities have disputed whether the Roman station of Cambodunum was at Almondbury, on one side of the town, or at Slack on another; but that the Romans knew this district well and had an important station here has been abundantly proved. Some of the names in the neighbourhood, such as Colne and Cumberworth, go to show that after the Roman occupation came to an end, this part of the county was tenanted by the Cymri, and other place-names, Quernby, Kirkheaton, and Nether Thong, seem to argue the later presence of the Danes. As to the origin of the name Huddersfield, there appears no reason to doubt that it springs from the name of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur, and that it was originally Othersfeld or Oderesfelt. As Oderesfelt, at any rate, it appears in Domesday Book, the compilers of which record that before the Conquest, Godwin, a Saxon thane, had here six carucates of land, employing eight ploughs, to be taxed. This same Godwin held it of Ilbert de Lacy at the time of the Survey, and it was then, like many other manors, waste ground. The wood pasture was a mile long and a mile wide. Of church or priest there is no mention, nor is anything said of a mill, but that there was a mill in Huddersfield, either then or very shortly afterwards, is evident from the fact that the De Lacys made a grant in respect of its repair. Their family held the manor for three centuries after the Conquest, and during that period did much to improve the condition of whatever folk then tenanted it. They established burgage tenure here, as they had already done, or were doing at their other manors of Leeds, Bradford, Clitheroe, and other places, and there is no doubt that it was one or other of them who founded the first Huddersfield church, though of any distinct record of their connection with it there is small trace. But the church was in existence, and in the gift of the Prior and convent of Nostell, in 1 216, and was valued at £9, 6s. 8d., and its vicarage at £6, 13s. 4d., when Pope Nicholas's Valuation was made in 1292. By the beginning of the fourteenth century the manor of Huddersfield had passed into the hands of the Earls of Lancaster by the marriage of Thomas Plantagenet, second Earl, to Alicia, last survivor of the De Lacys. The affair at Boroughbridge in 1322, which led to the execution of the great Earl of Lancaster in his own town of Pontefract immediately afterwards, caused the estates of his family to be forfeited to the Crown, but in 1333 the lands of Huddersfield were in possession of a Sir Richard de Birton, who left them to his son, John de Birton. Who had them after that the chroniclers do not relate, but that they once more came into the hands of the Crown (probably having been restored to the Earls of Lancaster after the Wars of the Roses) is proved by the fact that in August 1599 Elizabeth, through her officers, sold them to William Ramsden, in possession of whose family they have ever since remained.

With the name of Ramsden the history and fortunes of Huddersfield are closely identified. Ever since William Ramsden bought Huddersfield from the Crown it has been held by the Ramsdens, who were created Baronets in 1689. There is a local tradition strongly believed in, but which bears an air of non-veracity about it, that there is one house in Huddersfield which is not the property of the Ramsdens, and which its owner will not sell, even though his cellar should be packed with gold in exchange. Whether this is true or not does not affect the fact that until the Ramsdens bought Huddersfield it had shown very small signs of becoming the flourishing town which it is to-day. They, being most probably good business men, set about improving the condition of their purchase. There was little done during the first seventy years after they acquired the manor, but in the year 1671, as the result of an inquiry made the previous year, Charles II. granted to John Ramsden and his heirs the right to hold a weekly market at Huddersfield every Tuesday for ever, for the buying and selling of all manner of goods and merchandise, and to receive all and singular the tolls, privileges, emoluments, and advantages thence arising — which was a good thing for the Ramsdens, but a much better thing for the Huddersfield folk, who now had a chance of making money which they had never had before. After this trade began to develop, and when Daniel Defoe came a-journeying this way in 1727 or thereabouts, he found Huddersfield a place important enough to mention. According to him it was then the chief market-town of the district, and people visited it from considerable distances. Its trade was chiefly in woollen goods, which were manufactured in the villages round about and brought into the town to sell on market-days. Defoe noted a fact which has struck other itinerants both before and since his time, namely, that oatmeal is a staple article of diet, either in the form of oatcake or porridge, in this district, and that Huddersfield people keep very good ale. Further benefits were conferred upon Huddersfield by the Ramsdens in 1768, when Sir John Ramsden built a Cloth Hall for the accommodation of the buyers and sellers. It was a circular brick building of considerable size, and had a cupola in which was suspended a clock and bell whereby business hours were regulated. This Cloth Hall was further enlarged by the next baronet in 1780, and about the same time a canal was made, named the Ramsden Canal, which connected Huddersfield with the recently improved Calder at Cooper Bridge. These matters gave a great impetus to the trade of the town, which further developed when the arduous labour of constructing the canal from Huddersfield to Ashton-under-Lyme, and thus securing communication with Manchester and Liverpool, was completed. The construction of this canal very difficult, and vast sums of money were spent during the eighteen years in which work was in progress. The great difficulty lay in cutting a tunnel through the hills of the Pennine Range, but this was accomplished at Stanedge, between Marsden and Dobcross, the tunnel being between three and four miles in length and cut out of the hard millstone girt. By the making of these canals Huddersfield was put in communication with the seaports on both coasts, and her commercial affairs naturally grew in quantity and importance. The introduction of machinery at the beginning of the present century led to much disturbance, but the people speedily discovered that it had a beneficial effect upon labour, and its use led to a rapid increase of population. As the town grew its institutions grew with it. New churches and chapels were built, literary and scientific institutes arose, a Chamber of Commerce was founded, new mills and manufactories sprang up, the railways came into the town, and the modern Huddersfield appeared, no doubt much to the amazement of the old folk who remembered it under its previous conditions. In 1832 it was enfranchised, and empowered to send one member to the House of Commons, and in 1868 it was made a borough. And, finally, while a hundred years ago its trade was almost entirely confined to one class of woollen goods — the manufacture of kerseymeres — it now makes in vast quantities cloths, broad and narrow, flushings, serges, and cords, and has large dealings in fancy goods made from silk, worsted, and cotton.

The parish church of Huddersfield, dedicated to St. Peter, occupies a good position in the centre of the town, and is well worth the notice of a traveller, though it is practically a modern building, having been last rebuilt in 1836. The first church here, which doubtless owed its origin to the De Lacys, who were great church builders, is said — it is a matter of pure Conjecture — to have been erected in 1073 by Walter de Lacy in fulfilment of a vow made when he fell into a bog or morass on the wild ground between Huddersfield and Halifax. It was a small church in the Norman style, and had a spire. In 1506 it was rebuilt and enlarged. The present church is in the Perpendicular style, and consists of a nave and aisles, with a tower and chancel, and a transept on the south side with east and west aisles. The tower, which stands at the west end of the church, is buttressed at the angles, and has a parapet with crocketed pinnacles at the four corners. Abutting on the north side of the chancel is a vestry, which being built in the form of a hexagon somewhat resembles the chapter-houses of minsters and cathedrals. The interior of the church is well kept, but contains little of note, the glass being principally modern and the mural monuments also. One of the vicars of Huddersfield was Henry Venn, who held the living from 1759 to 1772, and who is better known as the author of "The Complete Duty of Man." There are several other churches in Huddersfield, most of which owe their origin to the munificence of private individuals. Holy Trinity Church was built and endowed by Mr. B. H. Allen in 1819; St. Thomas's Church was the gift of the Starkey family; St. John's Church, which is very finely situated, and was designed by Butterworth, was built and endowed by Lady Ramsden in 1853; and St. Andrew's Church was erected by subscription on land given by Sir John Ramsden in 1870. In addition to its churches Huddersfield possesses numerous Nonconformist chapels, some of which are of very good architecture. The architecture of the town, indeed, is uniformly excellent. The traveller who arrives in Huddersfield by way of the railroad cannot fail to be struck by the proportions of its principal station, an imposing building in the Grecian style, with a massive portico supported by Corinthian pillars. Nor will he fail to admire the warehouses, which, like those of Bradford, are often of palatial style and proportions, and might well be taken to be the abodes of merchant princes, rather than the depositories in which their goods are stored. The Cloth Hall dates from its original inception of 1768, but the Town Hall was only opened in 1881. The Market Hall, opened in 1880, is a Gothic building surmounted by a spire 106 feet high. Other noteworthy specimens of architecture are the Technical Schools, the Theatre — once the Philosophical Hall — the College, and the [Huddersfield Infirmary|Infirmary]]. Huddersfield is well furnished with parks and open spaces, and being a keen sporting place, like most of the larger Yorkshire towns, it possesses a very fine cricket ground and a commodious football ground. It has an excellent service of trams, which are worked by the Corporation, and no town or city in Yorkshire excels it in providing its inhabitants with every modern convenience and improvement in transit, sanitation, and lighting. Although it is in a geographical sense shut out from all the rest of the world by the high hills which surround it, Huddersfield is a striking example of the way in which industry, perseverance, and the seizing of every chance will transform a village into a great town.


About two miles out of Huddersfield in a southerly direction the ancient town or village of Almondbury stands on the summit of a hill nearly a thousand feet above sea-level. It is, so far as situation and aspect go, one of the most remarkable places in Yorkshire, and it is also one of the most interesting to lovers of history and archaeology. From its situation it is to the surrounding country as a city set upon a hill, and a view of it from the south and east is not merely striking but absolutely magnificent. Once upon a time Almondbury had Huddersfield as a part of its manor; now it is included in the parliamentary borough of Huddersfield, and is practically joined to that encroaching town. It is one of the most extensive parishes in the West Riding, and has a history going back to the time of the Roman occupation. It was at one time held to be the Cambodunum of the Romans, but subsequent investigation has shown that this opinion was erroneous, and that the true site of that station was at Slack, near Outlane, a few miles away across the valley of the Colne. Camden mentions this theory in his Magna Brittania, wherein he speaks of Almondbury as "a little town standing upon a high and steep hill which hath no easy passage or even ground unto it but on one side," and of perceiving there "some mines of walles and a castle, which was garded about with a triple strength of forts and bulwarks." He speaks, too, of Almondbury as a flourishing place under the Saxon kings, and of its having had a cathedral, built by St. Paulinus, and dedicated to St. Alban, from whence he argues that the place was first called Albanbury, and that the name was subsequently altered by corruption to Almondbury. The true derivation of the name seems to be largely a matter of conjecture, though there is a certain plausibility in the contention that it comes from Alius Mons, a high mound or hill, and burgh, a strong place. That there was some species of Roman station at Almondbury seems to be proved from the fact that Roman coins and remains have been discovered there, but there are practically no records of its early existence until the time of the Domesday Survey, when, like Huddersfield, it belonged to Ilbert de Lacy, and was waste. Its value in the time of Edward the Confessor was £2, and Chetel (an English vassal of Ilbert de Lacy) and Sweyn had four carucates of land, accommodating as many ploughs, to be taxed. Its wood and pasture was the same in size as that of Huddersfield — a mile long and a mile broad. In 1130, according to the chroniclers, Stephen built a castle here and confirmed it to Henry de Lacy, and seven years later there was an enquiry at the newly-built stronghold as to the treatment of certain prisoners who had been confined there in a dungeon. Edward I. granted a market-charter to the De Lacys for the benefit of Almondbury in 1272, to be held on Monday in every week. The church was probably founded by one of the De Lacys, but whether on the site of the cathedral said to exist previously or on a new site there is nothing to show. Records of presentations to the rectory made by the De Lacys in the thirteenth century are still extant. According to one local authority parts of the present church were built about 1100 by some of the principal families of the district, and the structure as it now stands, allowing for subsequent repairs and alterations, was finished about 1522. The rectory reverted to the Crown at the time of the Dissolution, but the vicarage had previously, in 1488, been endowed with the small tithes, and the Deed is in the Consistory Court at York.

There are few churches in Yorkshire which are better worth examination or more interesting even to the unlearned in such matters than this of Almondbury. It stands in an elevated position in the middle of the village, surrounded by a graveyard of considerable size. Its massive tower is 70 feet in height, and is battlemented and buttressed, and there are gargoyles of grotesque shape at the top of each buttress, and crocketed pinnacles at each corner of the battlements. The nave is long and lofty, and its clerestory has five square three-light windows on either side, and is surmounted by an embattled parapet. The aisles, north and south, rise to the clerestory, and have each large windows, in three compartments, in the Perpendicular style, those on the south side being higher and of a more ornate character than those on the north. The chancel, which formed the original church, has north and south chapels, continued from the aisles, and all are battlemented and adorned with crocketed pinnacles and ancient grotesques. The present south porch is comparatively new, but the doorway within is of great antiquity, and appears to have been part of the original church. It forms an arch in the Early English style, and its ornaments are much worn. Over the door of the south chapel there is an ancient sun-dial which bears the inscription, Ut Horn sic Vita: 1682. The interior of the church is particularly impressive. The windows contain some very fine ancient and modern glass work. There are three ancient oak-screens at the entrances to the chancel and the side chapels, and in the latter and in various other parts of the church there are numerous notable monuments of the principal families of the neighbourhood, many of whom have vaults beneath the flooring. There is a very curious inscription in Old English characters at the end of the nave, which is said to have been written by one Geferay Doyston in 1522, but which is much more likely to have been the work of John Skelton, and to have been copied by the said Geferay. One of the most noticeable features of the interior is the number of coats-of-arms emblazoned in the windows on the tombs and carved on the corbels. Of monuments, brasses, and tombs the church is full, and the lover of quaint epitaphs might here fill his note-book without exhausting the supply placed before him.

The parish registers of Almondbury church are full of remarkably interesting entries. Its vicars appear to have been anxious to hand down to succeeding generations full particulars of whatever uncommon event happened in the parish during their incumbency. The following extracts, taken at random from the registers, will serve to show how careful their keepers were to record any event which caused a stir in the parish:—

  • October 1559. — William Brigge, ye son of Jeferaye, of Helme, was drowned ye xx day of October at Park Mylne, as he and one Humphrey Armitage corned over at a Hebble or narrow Brygge. A tempest of wynde blew hym sodenly into the water; for because off great rayne yt fell ye daye and night before, the water was greate, and so by that means he was drowned and his fellow saved. They were both with one Myles Wylson, a taylier by occupation, and his servants.
February 1568. — Richard Hyrste, of Myenser Brygge, commynge from Halifax markett, on Satyrdaye ye xij° daye of Februarie, was through a greate snowe left and stopped — the dryfte of snowe was so very greate, and beynge alone all Satyrdaye nyghte, perished and died on Lynlaye Moore, not farre from a crosse called Hayghe Crosse, and was found on the morrow after, his horse standynge bye hym, evenharde by hym, and was brought home to his own house, and buryed at Almonburye, Munday, ye xiiij daye off Febriiarye — and Elizabeth, the daughter of George Harpyn, an infant, with him.
June 1569. — Jennett, ye wiffe off John Marsden, by soden mischance ye xxii daye of Julye (sic) slipped off a brigge as she was bowne to mylke, or as she corned from ye pastrie, the water beyinge up by ye reason off rayne ye night and in ye morninge, and was drowned and found agayne about one off ye clock and was buried ye xxiii of Julye.
March 1575. — Agnes, ye wyffe of Richard Littlewodde, off Oldfelde, by ye instigation of ye devell ; within odiii days that she was delivered off childe ; ye xiiii daye of Marche, about or before midnight, rose out off hyr chylde bedde, privilie went to a little well not half a yarde deepe off water, and drowned herself, and was buried ye xvi day off March.
December 1594. — Elizabeth, wife of John Eastwood, on the eve of the 5th, at 7 o'clock, was cruelly killed with an axe, as it was suspected by Oliver Hurste, a neighbour, and the Coroner's quest going on her ; then buried the Tuesday after, being the x day ; that was four or five days after she was killed. And much money, about v or vi pounds, taken out, and for the same money slain piteously to see.

The Almondbury which the traveller sees to-day is a village of considerable size, which really consists of two long streets of stone houses, Northgate and Westgate, at the angle formed by the meeting of which stands the church. In both these streets and in some of the smaller approaches to the village there are some quaint and venerable houses of the well-built, sturdy type so common in this district, where winds and storms descend upon the countryside with fierce vigour. Some of these houses, the timbered fronts of which add greatly to their picturesqueness, have histories of their own almost as long and as interesting as that of the village of which they form a part. They were the manor-houses of the old families of the neighbourhood, whose monuments and armorial bearings are to be seen within the church, and whose names still prevail in the neighbourhood. Certain names in this district occur over and over again in the registers during the long period of history covered by the latter, and are still extant as those of the principal families. Wormall's Hall, in Westgate, was the manor-house of the family of that name; Pentice End, an ancient stone and timber building, was identified with the family of Eyre; Fenay Hall, down the steep incline from Almondbury to Fenay Bridge, one of the most interesting and picturesque houses in the neighbourhood, was the manor-house of the Fenays, whose pedigree goes back to the thirteenth century ; the Oaks was the residence from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries of the Rockleys, and afterwards for several generations of the Mellers. Of the history of all these old houses and of the families who lived in them, and of the folk-lore which has gathered about them, whole volumes might be written without exhausting the subject.

Almondbury is somewhat famous in Yorkshire for its Grammar School, a foundation which has been generally credited to the account of James I., but which in reality owed its inception to the Kayes of Woodsome Hall, close by. In an ancient MS., once existing at Woodsome but now no longer in evidence, there occurred this passage, quoted by Canon Hulbert in his "Annals of Almondbury":— "Arthur Kaye's ancestors buylded a Chappell of old Tyme, in the lane above the Butts at St. Elyn well. About pmo Edw : sexti he and I (the writer of this MS. was John Kaye, son of the Arthur named in it) dyd shift yt, and by consent of the Parish dyd translate the same into the Scole House, that now is, and I dyd p'cure one Mr. Smith, a good Scholar, to come and teach there." The letters patent of James I. are dated 1609, and give power to establish a Free Grammar School at Almondbury for the bringing up of children and youths in Grammar and all Good Learning. There was to be one Master and one Usher, and six honest men, chosen from the most wise and discreet religious persons within the Parish, who were to act as Governors. Some of the provisions are quaint and curious. The works of Popish, Profane, and Immodest Authors were to be zealously kept out of the curriculum, lest the scholars should be infected with erroneous and immoral doctrine. Nothing but Latin was to be spoken by the Master to those boys able to converse in that tongue. Corporal punishment was enjoined, but it was only to be moderate in its nature. Poor boys were to be taught Latin and Greek free of all charge, but in return they were required to get moss to lay on the roof of the school, and to do some other menial offices. Boys unable to read the Psalter, or afflicted with an infectious disease, or incapable of learning, were not eligible for admission. The school hours were from seven in the morning until five in the afternoon all the year round. Most significant of all is an entry which states that barring out the Master is forbidden. Of late years Almondbury Grammar School has been rebuilt and reconstructed, and it is now to all intents and purposes a modern institution conducted on present day principles.

Of the principal country houses in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield that known as Woodsome Hall, the seat of the Earl of Dartmouth, is the most notable. It occupies a very fine situation on the slope of a richlywooded hill, a little way out of Almondbury, and is altogether one of the most charming residences in the county, notwithstanding the fact that it is so closely adjacent to a great manufacturing town. Its gabled front, rising from a terrace enclosed from the lawn by a balustrade, commands extensive views of the undulating landscape stretching away to the eastward. The house consists of a central hall flanked by gable projections, and is in the Elizabethan style. The stone porch in the centre, which is furnished with sedilia of the same material, bears date 1600, and the room erected over its arch has another date, 1644, on the apex. Everything about the house, whether of its exterior or interior, bears evidence of great antiquity. The great hall within is a lofty apartment some ten yards square, with a gallery for minstrels on the east side, and many ancient matters in the shape of pictures, cabinets, and armour. Over the fireplace are the names of Arthur Kay and Beatrix Kay, carved in letters a foot high, and between them an escutcheon which quarters the arms of Kaye and Finchenden. The portraits preserved here are of singular interest. They are chiefly of the Kaye family, and bear some very curious legends. One represents Arthur Kaye, with branches proceeding from his loins, bearing as fruit the heads of his sons and daughters and their progeny, with these lines beneath:—

Fructus Wodsonia domus.
Here Arthur lies in quiet rest,
Who justly delt and none opprest,
tree too sprung out of his brest,
His fruit, o Christ, that follow The be blest.

Another very interesting family portrait is that of the wife of John Kaye, beneath whose presentment are the following verses, which depict

Vita axoris honestce.
To live at home in howswyverie,
order well my famylye,
To see they lyve not Idillye,
To bring upe childrene vertuislye.
To relyeve poor foulk willinglye
This is my care with modestye
To leade my lyfe in honesty.

There are various other objects of interest and curiosity in Woodsome Hall, which is further said to be haunted by the ghost of one Rimmington, a former occupant. For many generations the seat of the Kaye family, the Woodsome estate came into possession of the Earls of Dartmouth early in the eighteenth century, by the marriage of George, Viscount Lewisham, eldest son of the first Earl of Dartmouth (William Legge, keeper of the Privy Seal and Lord Justice of Great Britain during the reign of Queen Anne) to Elizabeth, sole daughter and heiress of Sir Arthur Kaye. Another house of interest in the Huddersfield district is Longley Hall, one of the seats of Sir John Ramsden, Bart., the lord of the manor. It is neither so ancient nor so picturesquely situated as Woodsome Hall, and its chief interest lies in the fact that it is closely associated with the Ramsden family, whose head for the time being at any period during the last three centuries must have been able to reflect with considerable pride that almost everything his eyes fell upon in looking from its windows was his own property. The William Ramsden who bought Huddersfield from the Crown is described by a local antiquarian as a very clever man who did much to raise his family in the world. After the dissolution of the monasteries he made such extensive purchases of abbey and priory lands that an order was issued forbidding further sale to him. At that time his list of purchases filled two double-column folio pages in the Index of Grants in the Augmentation Office. The Ramsdens were incorporated amongst the gentry at the Heralds' Visitation of Yorkshire in 1585, and arms were assigned to them at the same time. The baronetcy was created in 1689, and the present holder of the title is the fifth baronet. The original house at Longley was erected in the Tudor style, and was probably built round three sides of a courtyard, but this was replaced during the last century by a plain house which was improved and added to about fifty years ago, when a number of coins of the period of Charles I. were discovered in making excavations.

Across the valley from Almondbury on the spur of a long hill running eastward the traveller will find a curious little hamlet named Lascelles Hall, which in one respect is much better known all the world over than any town or village in its neighbourhood. It is so small a place, and has so few distinguishing features, that it would be no difficult thing to miss its presence altogether in viewing the countryside from any of the surrounding hilltops, and it is not easy to believe that one is really within the boundaries of a village when the steep hill which leads to it has been surmounted. Lascelles Hall is merely a collection of a few stone houses, square, stolid, and substantial, perched on a hillside, with a long stretch of breezy ground above. There is nothing in its appearance to betoken its fame, and yet it is known all over the world of sport as perhaps the most famous nursery of cricket which the cricket world has ever possessed. Not a few cricketers have climbed the steep hillside roadways from the valley in order to look at the stretch of turf, with its humble pavilion in the corner, whereon so many kings of cricket have learnt the mastery of bat and ball. At one time the words Lascelles Hall and Yorkshire were almost synonymous, so far as the county cricket of the broad-acred shire was concerned, and though the little weaving village is not so pre-eminent in cricketing matters as it used to be, no cricket enthusiast of the nineteenth century will ever forget that it gave to Yorkshire and to England some of the best all-round cricketers who have played for either, or that on two occasions it encountered the full strength of its own county, and proved that an insignificant hamlet could hold its own against the resources of the three Ridings.


The river Colne and its co-tributary the Holme, which divides from it at a point somewhat south of Huddersfield, enclose between them some of the wildest scenery on the south-west borders of Yorkshire. The level of the Holme in the valley near Honley is about 400 feet ; at Holmfirth it is over 700 feet, and at Holme Moss its various sources spring from a district varying from 1700 to 1900 feet above sea-level. In times of heavy rain the Holme is naturally a wild and turbulent stream, and on more than one occasion during the past two centuries its rising and overflowing have wrought death and destruction to life and property along its course. In 1738 there was a flood which forced its way into the church of Holmfirth during the celebration of divine service. In 1777 occurred what was for a long time known as the Holmfirth Great Flood, which was so disastrous in its effects that a public subscription was made for the reimbursement of sufferers and property owners, who are said to have lost. £10,000 on this occasion. There was a minor flood in 1821, but its only effect was to send people fleeing to their top chambers or to the high ground behind their dwellings, and to keep them up all night in fear and trembling lest worse things should befall them. After that there was peace between the waters and the valley for a generation, but in 1852 came the great catastrophe of which folk in these parts still speak with bated breath — the bursting of the Bilberry reservoir. Fifteen years previously an Act of Parliament had been obtained for the erection of certain reservoirs on the streamlets emptying themselves into the Holme. One of these, the Bilberry reservoir, stands at the head of a narrow valley leading from Holme Bridge to the high spur known as Good-Bent, and into it run two considerable streams, one coming from Holme Moss, the other from Wessenden Head. This reservoir at the time of the disaster of 1852 enclosed a basin covering seven acres of ground, and was formed by an embankment stretching across the valley, 340 feet in length and 90 in height. It is said that the Commissioners who had charge of the working of this vast body of water had allowed the bye-wash to become stopped up, but however that may be, it is certain that on a bright moonlight night in February 1852 the embankment gave way, and the water rushed down the valley in a mighty wave which those who saw it describe as magnificent in its grandeur. It swept away the mills at Bilberry and Digley with a rush, and poured upon Holme Bridge Church, washing away the walls and trees of the churchyard, and leaving within the church a coffin which with many others it had torn bodily from the graves. At Hinchliffe Mill forty persons were swept away and drowned ; at Holmfirth, where the houses come closely down to the river banks, bridges, factories, and houses were submerged or destroyed, and the flood swept on into the wider stretches of the valley, bearing with it all manner of debris, machinery, timber, trees, mingled with the bodies of men and cattle. In this flood eighty-one persons lost their lives, and the losses of property owners amounted to at least £100,000, £70,000 of which — the amount needed to reimburse the actual sufferers — was speedily raised by public subscription.

The scenery in the neighbourhood of the Holme is wild and romantic in the extreme, and the whole district at the beginning of the present century was practically out of the world, so cut off was it from communication with outside places. Holmfirth itself, a town given up to the manufacture of woollen goods, lies in a valley surrounded by hills reminiscent of Swiss mountain scenery. Its parish church, of ancient foundation, but rebuilt in 1778, possesses a spire of some height, which, however, is quite dwarfed by the houses rising in terraces on the hillsides beyond it. None but the strongest and most agile can explore this district with any comfort. The roads are steep, and wind about at all manner of angles, and are sometimes more suggestive of precipices than of highways. The traveller will observe the number of Castle Hills which present themselves to his notice in the neighbourhood—there is that of Almondbury, with its ancient and modern buildings boldly outlined against the sky, and that of Upper Thong, where there are traces of a Saxon fortification, and yet a third across country at Upper Denby — all three being about 1000 to 1200 feet above sea-level. It is said there was another Saxon fortification at Kirkburton, and that there is some ground for the legend is proved by the fact that the little stream which runs by the church there is called Old Saxe Dyke, and that the church contains some fragments of an ancient Saxon cross, found in the chancel wall about thirty years ago.

Of the notable things along the valley of the Colne between Huddersfield and the high ground on the Derbyshire border there is nothing so interesting to the archaeologist as the site of the Roman station of Cambodunum, which appears without doubt to have occupied the present position of the hamlet or village of Slack, a little distance from Huddersfield on the west side of the town. The first discovery of Roman remains at this place, which was on the Roman road between Deva (Chester) and Isurium (Aidborough) took place in 1736, when an altar was found and placed in the yard of a farmstead, where it seems to have been allowed to remain for some years without its presence there being announced to those learned in such matters. It was found in this position in 1757 by Watson, the Halifax historian, who gives the following account of the matter:— "When I was examining the course of the Roman way in 1757, I chanced to see this altar standing in a farmer's yard, and desiring to be shown where it was found, was conducted to that part of the station where not only three stone walls centre, but also three lordships. Having had this curiosity for some years in my own possession, I presented it at last to the Rev. Mr. Whitaker, who in his ' History of Manchester ' has given the public an engraving of this and another stone found here, which I also gave him, with the word Opus upon it. The reading in the altar I take to be 'Fortunae Sacrum, Caius Antonius Modestus, Centurio Legionis Sextae Victricis, Posuit et votum Solvit,' that is, 'Sacred to Fortuna (the goddess), Caius Antonius Modestus, Centurion of the Sixth Roman Legion, placed in fulfilment of a vow.' It was discovered in 1736, amongst the ruins of a building manifestly composed of Roman bricks, many of which are yet to be seen in the common fence walls there. I measured one which was seven inches and a half square, and three inches thick, but was informed that bricks had been dug up there twenty-two inches square. One room in this building, according to the report of some workmen who destroyed it, was four yards long and about two and a half broad, but betwixt three and four yards below the surface of the ground paved nearly a yard thick with lime and bricks brazed together extremely hard. In one corner of this room was a drain about five inches square, into which as much water was conveyed as would have turned an over full well, yet no vent could be discovered." During the present century numerous further discoveries of an important and interesting nature have been made at Slack. The Rev. J. K. Walker discovered the remains of a Roman hypocaust, consisting of a large mass of cement; seven tiers of pilasters, with seven pilasters in each tier; the roof of a furnace of square stones and Roman bricks; and a series of flues, closely cemented. In 1865 further investigations were made by the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Society, with the result that the foundations of a large building were uncovered, the walls of which measured externally 60 feet in length by 54 feet in width. They were 2 feet in thickness, and were laid upon a course 3 feet 6 inches in breadth, and intersected by several cross walls. During the progress of these researches four additional hypocausts were unearthed, from which discovery it was surmised that this particular building had been the public baths of Cambodunum. In the following year a sepulchre was unearthed, and numerous coins discovered, chiefly of the time of Vespasian (A.D. 70-79), and Nerva (A.D. 96-98).

Few better methods can be employed by the traveller who desires to gain a general idea of the scenery and character of this corner of Yorkshire, than that of following the highroad which leads from Huddersfield along the Colne valley and over Stanedge until he reaches Delph, near the border, where he should turn to the right and follow another highway, running alongside the Lancashire border, until he comes to the edge of the Rishworth Moors, over which he will, if he be an adventurous man, and not without some liking for exploration, find a way to the inn at Blackstone Edge. From this famous pass, 1290 feet above sea-level, he may follow the highroad into the valley of the Ribourne, descending all the way until he comes to Ripponden, lying 800 feet below. Here he will encounter a climb of some 600 feet to Barkisland, whence he will drop gently down through West Vale to Elland in the valley of the Calder. An excursion of this description, however, is not to be lightly undertaken at any time by the pedestrian, for it means hard walking and stiff climbing at all periods of the year, and the encountering of such winds and storms in winter as are like to overawe the stoutest heart. When Taylor, the Water Poet, was wandering about this part of the country, he thought himself in a break-neck land, so steep and tedious did he find the ways. Daniel Defoe, who approached Halifax by way of Blackstone Edge and the valley of the Ribourne, and found that he occupied a whole day in travelling eight miles, remarks that the only way discoverable was one which had a precipice on one hand, and uneven ground on the other, and that the character of the country was so awe-inspiring that it made the horses uneasy and frightened the dog. The character of the country hereabouts is little changed since Defoe's day: no railway will ever scale the heights of Blackstone Edge, or invade the solitudes of Rishworth Moors.

The scenery along the valley of the Colne grows wilder as the traveller proceeds further towards the border. At first there are abundant evidences of human life on both sides of the valley. Longwood and Golcar (a curious modern corruption of the ancient Guthlacscar), Linthwaite and Slaithwaite, are all places where human bees are busy in their hives. But as Marsden, lying at the foot of a hill rising to a height of nearly 1700 feet, is reached the scenery becomes increasingly wild. The hills hereabouts are not romantic or picturesque — they are, rather, bleak, bare, and savage, and perhaps all the more impressive because of their lack of poetry. A short distance beyond Marsden that marvel of engineering, the Stanedge tunnel, pierces the hill-chain, the canal passing through one arch, the railway through another. It is more than three miles in length, and somewhat of a trial to railway passengers; what it must be to the canalboat folk may be left to the imagination. The highroad winds in and out over it, and from the highest point the traveller may gaze on the valley from which he has slowly toiled upward, and on the broad expanses of Clowes Moss on one side and Lord's Mere on the other. All around this elevated position are traces of long-dead days, when Angle and Celt were in the land. Ingle Edge, on the eastward, was the Angle boundary; Marsden, the boundary valley; Dobcross and Saddleworth (where there are some ancient houses) were Roman stations, and beyond the latter are remains going back further even than the time of the Roman occupation, in the shape of the Druidical stones near the house known as Bill o' Jacks. All along the edge of the county, going between Delph and the Rishworth Moors, the scenery is equally wild and impressive, and on the Yorkshire side there are few signs of human life, while the moors are an absolute solitude, wide stretches of land which appear to be forsaken of all life but that of the birds and creatures inhabiting them. One feature of these moors the traveller will not fail to observe, especially on those lying north-west of Blackstone Edge, and that is the presence of numerous reservoirs which shine like mirrors for miles away.

At Bailing's Gate, on the highest point of Blackstone Edge, the traveller is on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and may if he so pleases set foot upon both counties at the same time. He is also standing on one of the most conspicuous heights in Yorkshire, the dark, frowning form of which may be seen at long distances. Far below him in the valley of the Ribourne lies Ripponden, and on his way thither he is not likely to lack company, for the road he treads was a principal highway between Yorkshire and Lancashire long before Daniel Defoe, his uneasy horses, and his frightened dog, came trembling along it in a snowstorm, and has continued to be so, despite the fact that the railway which bears the name of the two counties has long carried men and merchandise along the innumerable curves up the valley of the Calder. There is another highroad going away from the top of Blackstone Edge towards Mytholmroyd, which passes the wild bit of country known as Turvin Holes, and drops down into Cragg Valley, and is well worth exploration, as, indeed, every road and lane in this district is. Innumerable stories might be told of the country hereabouts — stories of adventures on the moors, of highwaymen, of flood and storm, of ghosts and poachers, of strange oddities, and of old-world doings full of the rare charm of the antique. Tales or no tales, the traveller will find plenty of food for thought as he goes downhill, having rested at the Derby inn, towards Ripponden, which lies, almost buried out of sight, deep down amongst the hills. There is little to note at Ripponden save the evidences of manufactures and the strength of the stone houses, some of which are ancient and picturesque. A goodly bridge of stone crosses the Ribourne near the church, and beyond it the traveller finds himself at the foot of a road locally known as Ripponden Bank, up which, by many a twist and turn, he will climb, lifting himself some six hundred feet within a distance of a mile. No one but an accomplished pedestrian will do this with absolute equanimity, not even for the sake of the wide prospects which meet the eye at the extreme summit of the hill. But there is ample compensation to the enthusiast in those prospects and in the presence of Barkisland, a quaint little hamlet of picturesque stone houses, in the midst of which an artist might sit down and find material for his sketch-hook for days together.

In Barkisland and its immediate surroundings the traveller, if he concerns himself at all about the names of various houses and small estates, will be struck by the frequent use of the word "royd" as a termination. In Barkisland alone, a small place, too, there are ten "royds;" in Norland, an adjacent village, there are seven; and in Wadsworth, a neighbouring township, there are ten. All around this part of Yorkshire, indeed, the word is extraordinarily common, not merely as the termination of a place-name, but also as part of a personal name, as Murgatroyd, Akroyd, Oldroyd. "Royd" means ground "roided" or cleared — for example, Lingroyd, the ground cleared of ling; Akroyd, ground cleared of oak ; Ellenroyd, ground cleared of elder-bushes, commonly called ellen-trees in this neighbourhood. Now and then the prefix indicates the sort of ground cleared, as Stonyroyd, Clayroyd, Rawroyd (raw = rough), and sometimes the owner of the ground, as Hanroyd, Milnerroyd, and Ibbotroyd; while again it occasionally indicates the situation, as in Murgatroyd (the "royd" on the "gate" ( = way) to the moor); Knowlroyd (the "royd" on the knoll) and Netherroyd (the "royd" below the hill).

From Barkisland the traveller may descend, easily and comfortably, towards Elland, in the valley of the Calder. On this portion of his journey he will find no vast solitudes, but from any part of the road he may gaze upon the outlines of the hills beyond the valley and on the moorlands which come up to their edges. Ere the present century came with its vast increase of trade and manufacture, the valleys and glens between Barkisland and Elland were no doubt solitary places enough — nowadays the mill lifts its roofs and tall chimneys to the sky from the heart of most of them. Elland itself, romantically situated enough, is now a modern manufacturing town, very different to the small township which Cooke saw when he made his inspection of it previous to writing his itinerary of 181 2. At that time he remarked of Elland and Halifax what Leland remarked of Hedon in connection with Hull, namely, that the development of the larger town was taking away all the trade from the former. Since his time, however, Elland has asserted itself, and probably has no more care for what the folks of Halifax may do or say than for the opinions of a South Sea Islander upon the manufacture of cloths. Nor (so full of business-like qualities is it, and so resolutely bent on keeping abreast with the times) has it any particular pride in the fact that it is one of the most ancient places in the valley of the Calder, and possesses a church which is only second in point of age to the mother-church of Halifax.



A Picturesque History of Yorkshire - volume 2 (1900) - Huddersfield and the Valley of the Colne

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