WALKS ROUND HUDDERSFIELD.
By George S. Phillips.
THE CASTLE HILL.
There are few towns in the manufacturing districts more delightfully situated, with respect to scenery, than our good town of Huddersfield. It lies, as every body knows, in a fine extensive valley, surrounded on all sides with dark ranges of hills, some of them bare and rugged, and others, those on the Fixby side, for instance, clad to their very summits with rich over-hanging woods. Even as we walk along the streets, fine openings of landscape burst upon us, and nature seems always tempting us there with her sweetest smiles, to leave the hot, dusty town, and wander with her amongst the hills, dells, and moorlands. I confess that I have often been seduced from my studies by her beautiful entreaties, and have held high commune with her, in lonely and retired places ; especially in the fine sunshiny mornings of spring and summer, when the long shadows lay upon the grass, and bees and birds were alike busy and merry around me. And yet, we, as a community, do not sufficiently value the inheritance which God has given us in the surrounding landscape, nor prize sufficiently the rich stores of health which he has treasured up for all seekers upon the hill tops. I esteem it an unspeakable privilege to live in a land of so much beauty and grandeur ; and when I think of the occupations of the people in this neighbourhood, which confine them day after day for so many hours in close workshops, I am likewise grateful to the good and bounteous Master on their account, and thank him, for the most part, in silent reverence.
For whoever may own the land, no man can own the beauty of the landscape ; at all events, no man can exclusively own it. Beauty is a kind of property which cannot be bought, sold, or conveyed in any parchment deeds ; but it is an inalienable, common right ; and he who carries the true-seeing eyes in his head, no matter how poor he may otherwise be, is the legitimate lord of the landscape. And this is one of the many consolations which poverty can get out of what the inexorable Malthus called the "occupied world." No thanks, however, to him for it. He had no room either in his world or his heart, for poverty, much less for the consolations of poverty. According to his theory, the banquet table of Nature was quite full, and every new comer — if he were a poor man — to be driven from it as an alien and a robber. I think, however, we can afford to be a little more liberal to the poor man than our dead brother Malthus was ; and if we cannot give him more of the good things of this life, at present, we can at least help him to develop riches which lie in his own nature, and fill him with me satisfaction of goodness and of beauty.
It is to aid this work, that I have commenced these "Walks about Huddersfield." I long to make all men the glories and wonders which haunt the secret places nature ; and although I am well aware that this can be done without a previous culture on their part, yet am not without hope that some of them, at least, accept these suggestions of mine, as a kind of first lesson in the culture required. For the materials of beauty lie everywhere around us, and the faculty to conjure them up into living forms and eloquent voices, is, in a very high sense, worthy of cultivation. It is essentially a poetic faculty ; and although one could not in strict philosophical language call it the poetic faculty, still there could be no poetry without it ; and as poetry — whether it be uttered in verse, or silently celebrated in the depths of the human heart — is a great good, therefore, it is of great importance that the poetic faculty should be developed to its fullest extent in every individual. And if any one should be inclined to mock at this statement, and inquire, with foolish self-complacency and conceit, what the poor working man and woman can have to do with poetry, I answer that they, of all others, are most interested in its revelation ; for they are, in a great measure, to get out of their deformity by the culture these revelations will afford them, and even if the cultivation of the beautiful within them added but one new charm to the life of which they live, it would be a blessing and a joy to them for ever. Besides which, a man is to be educated because he is a man, and not neglected because he is a Journeyman mechanic. Hence the mocker, if he be wise, will mock no more.
And now, having preached my short sermon upon the acuity of beauty, we will proceed to speak about the beautiful. And, as I have said before, there are few towns in England surrounded with more beautiful objects than Huddersfield. The commonest house in it is the centre of a scene which a nobleman might envy. And it is a very pleasant thing to see the weary factory workers, after their day's labour is done, seated in the twilight upon their cottage steps, surrounded by troops of little children, and enjoying the companionship of the great speechless hills and the dark wavy trees. In my own neighbourhood, for instance, on the Manchester Road, the prospect over the Lockwood valley is very beautiful. At the foot of my little garden runs the canal, and a few yards beyond it, the river. I can see, from the window of the room in which I am writing, the shadows of the shrubs and weeds in the water, and far below them the great black clouds are reflected, as if another concave heaven were there. Just beyond the river lie several green fields, full of tenters to hang cloth on ; and these fields are fenced in with hills, on the top of which runs a long line of houses, their fronts facing the Lockwood road. A little to the right of the houses, on the same hills, sweeping away in a semi-circular form, is a wood full of fine lofty trees, beyond which rise other ranges of hills covered with pastures, until the whole scene is lost in the dark moorland. On the left of the fields where the tenters are, stand the factories of Joseph Kaye, like so many Aladdin palaces, with their hundreds of windows and tall steeple chimnies. And far above and beyond them rise the bold and lofty hills, of which the "Castle Hill" is chief. And this reminds me that I set out with the intention of walking up the Castle Hill with my readers. That sketch of the country, however, which I have just given, will illustrate what I mean by every man's home in Huddersfield being the centre of a world of beauty. And this is the reason why I wrote it. Let us now proceed to the Castle Hill.
The most picturesque walk up the hill is by way of Mold Green, and two beautiful views present themselves on either side the bridge which crosses the river hereabouts. There is an object of much interest at the foot of the bridge, which most persons would pass by without notice. It is a little low house, wherein a poor artist has lived for some years, struggling with all his faculties to provide food and clothing for his wife and children — and has struggled in vain. The river gurgling below him, the winds howling over his head, his children crying for food, and he having no food to give them : that is his condition. If we now turn down the river side we shall come to some rich pastures, which we must enter. See what fine fat cattle there are here. How sleek and well-conditioned they look ; and behold how that noble horse, his neck clothed with thunder, gallops over the green sward. Alas, poor artist ! horses and oxen have food and lodgement ; but thou, the son of man, hast no place wherein to lay thy head, and no hope but the grave.
I must get out of this sympathetic vein, however, or else our walk to Castle Hill will prove but a very lachrymose affair. For after all, what is an artist ? Especially what is he, compared with a horse or an ox ? I will very certainly say no more about the artist.
And now, reader, having entered these pleasant pastures, look around thee, and forget the artist. The sun shines gloriously over our heads, and yonder against good Richard Dewhirst's factory the river tumbles itself into a water-fall which flashes over the broken stones of the weir like the blaze of innumerable diamonds. A rich array of trees flank one side of the river all up the valley, which is bounded afar off by the backbone mountains of England. On the other side of the river lies the town, with the beautiful church of St. Paul in the foreground, and the white stone houses and lordly factories behind it. You may see likewise the Parish Church and that glorious structure which they call Trinity Church. Behold how it rises far above all the town, a house set upon a hill which cannot be hidden. And now turn round and face the mighty hills which we are about to ascend. How gradually they rise one above another, and in what kingly state the old Castle Hill reposes, with his green robes around him. The noble fellow ! On either hand of him run two abrupt chains of hills, as if they were kneeling there in true reverential servitude and waiting their sovereign's commands. A few scattered houses, occupied by fancy weavers, lie on their summits ; and, as we shall presently see, there are several villages hidden in the valleys on the other side of them.
When I first beheld this scene I was struck with its grandeur and silence. I had just left a town where there was nothing but smut and ashes ; and the green freshness of these pastures and hills renewed me into life, and brought to my mind the old realm of Pan, wherein I had lived during my early years ; and I resolved that this should be my daily haunt. So that there is scarcely a tree or plant, a nook or cranny in all the region from these pastures to the Castle Hill with which I am unacquainted. Before I conclude this paper I hope to make all my readers acquainted with them too ; and I hope still further, that they will go and visit these scenes for themselves. I know it is not fashionable to look for beauty and enjoyment at home ; I wish it were. But perhaps some of my readers will put fashion in their band-boxes for once, and trust themselves, in a natural way, to their own bona fide legs, doubting nothing for the issue of an excursion so made, but believing in what beauty they may see.
I must return from this digression, however, and carry the reader over the pastures to Langley Hall, once the seat of the Ramsden family and now occupied by a gentleman acting in the capacity of agent for the said family. It is situate on the top of a pleasant hill surrounded by trees ; and below it lies a deep dell, the banks of which slope in rather sudden declivities to the bottom. A short time ago this dell was wild and uncultivated ; but the present occupier of the hall, having an eye both to use and beauty, has broken it up into a garden, and planted the hill sides with potatoes and other vegetables. He has likewise built a green house there, and cut a deep trough to carry off the water which comes down the hill ; and on either side the trough he has planted shrubs and flowers, which I remember had a very beautiful appearance in the early part of the summer. Then there is a very fine shadowy walk, running to the end of the dell, amongst tall and graceful trees. When I saw the men digging, day by day, at this wild dingle, and gradually subduing it into order and cultivation, I have said to myself, "Let all people under this agent's jurisdiction have a care how they demean themselves ; for, very clearly, he is a man who will war with all disorder, and put up with no wild nonsense either from men or nature. The man who can turn a savage, stony dingle into a garden is just the man to stop all nuisances of what sort soever, and look well after all sanatory matters within his authority." And so meditating upon these things I have walked to Ashenhurst, where the good old man lives of whom I spoke in my last paper. It is a pity that so venerable a man should be so very poor ; and I wish that some of our rich dissenting friends would look after him. He can get no parish relief, because he unfortunately owns a "wee bit of airth," as he calls it, and this "airth" is not enough to keep him, only to starve him ! For our wise poor laws say that so long as a man has any property he cannot have relief. He must first sell his property and become a pauper, and then the poor laws' bowels are moved to help him. My Ashenhurst old man, however, is very independent and proud, and I am not sure that he would receive help: of this thing I am sure, that he is very helpless.
And here, at Ashenhurst, the scenery begins to be wild and romantic. There are two ways up the range of hills that rise here, which I will describe ; for both lead up to the Castle Hill, although one is far more interesting than the other. Let us first of all, then, turn to the left hand, and take the road leading up to Langley. It is a very rugged and steep road, although the causeway is paved with narrow flags ; and unless a man have a pretty tolerable pair of lungs, it will find him out before he gets to the top of the hill. After advancing a few yards, turn round and look towards Huddersfield. I will promise you a fine prospect, although I will not attempt to describe it. As you proceed up the hill, the scene grows wilder and stranger at every 6tep. The road is bounded on the right by perpendicular rocks, which rise 30 or 40 feet above the level of the road, and are covered with ferns and lichens. Near the houses at the top of the hill, is a cavern, with big drops of water perpetually dropping before it ; and, go up when you will, it is almost certain that you will see troops of children playing near it ; boys in black velvet dresses, and girls in red frocks and blue pinafores. High above the cavern, which is artificial, and does not extend more than eleven or twelve yards, numerous trees are growing ; grotesque and twisted ; their huge roots, curling like monstrous serpents round the rocks wherein they are fastened. On the left of the road there is a small ravine, with a stream of water running down it. Tall trees grow out of its sides, which are covered with ferns, hollies, brambles, docks, and the golden stars of the dandelion Large boulders are strewn over the bottom of the ravine, which was doubtless at one time the channel of many waters from the hills, although they have since found other outlets and conveyances. I have been this road many fine summer mornings, and heard the birds singing in the trees, and seen the wild flowers and darnels growing by the wayside ; feeling deeply in the midst of it all, how wonderful and beautiful is life. Nor is the scene less impressive in winter. People who only walk in the summer season, lose half the grandeur of creation. For winter is a solemn time, and is full of many lessons and admonitions. I have no sympathy with the mere fair-weather walker. What does he know of the meaning of storm, and rain, and hail ? Nature neither loves nor recognises him. She keeps her elements to serve and teach a nobler person. The ploughman driving his team in the fields ; the hunter with his gun and dog ; nay, the very stone-breaker upon the king's highway, is dearer to her than all the poets and namby-pamby talkers of the drawing-room. Hence, if we would understand nature, we must visit her in storm as well as in sunshine ; in winter as well as in summer. For, as Lord Bacon truly says, Pan is the embodiment of the universe, and Echo is the mere talker about the universe. Let us go, therefore, to Pan himself, if we wish truly to know the universe ; and to Echo, if we wish only to hear about it.
Fancy, then, this hill in winter. The snow lies deep upon the ground, and the rocks covered with hoary beards of frost, and dropping with pendulous icicles. The birds have fled far away, and sing their joyous songs in a summer clime ; all of them, at least, except the beautiful redbreast, and the timorous tom-tit ; and these never leave us, never forsake us. All the children know them, and love them. They would not hurt a single feather upon their wings, but feed them with crumbs all the day long. Nature, with her strong enamel of frost and snow, has 'taught these little children to be merciful.
Upon the top of the hill lies the village of Langley. It is a poor and wretched looking place, and all the houses have the appearance of prisons. How very strange it is, that men should build such dog-houses to live in, when for the same outlay of capital they might erect neat and healthy buildings. Of all the sights one meets with in the manufacturing districts, the houses of the mechanics and factory workers are the most distressing. They seem to have been erected after no model ; with no design after beauty ; but piled together in savage haste, and contempt for the beings destined to dwell in them. This is literally true of the houses in Langley village ; and yet the inhabitants are by means contemptible. I have called at their houses, and talked with many of them, and amongst a frightful mass of ignorance, I have found much strong common sense, and rugged honesty and independence. There is one house there, which is built upon the site of an old family mansion formerly belonging to the Ramsdens ; a low, narrow house, with a kind of Gothic doors and windows ; occupied by a man, who although a defaced and broken image of his Maker, has yet many fine traits of character, and much kindness in the heart of his rough-spoken words. I called one day to see him, and to request that he would show me a piece of wood, a relic of the old mansion I have spoken of, which I understood to be in his possession. I found him working at his spinning wheel, making what he called "blue weft." He was a tall, strong man, with a great rude head, covered with wiry hair. The cottage was poor and naked, but clean ; and a Leeds Times lay upon a shelf in the roof, along with a black tobacco pipe. The good man was very civil and obliging, and he showed me the curiosity I sought, which he said was found in the roof of the kitchen, when the old mansion was pulled down. It was a long, narrow piece of wood, and bore this inscription, printed in old English characters: "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever."
And now having described, in my loose way, one of the two roads I spoke of as leading to the Castle Hill, I will request the reader to walk back with me to Ashenhurst, and gird up his loins for a wilder and more romantic excursion. Observe that clear spring of water, which empties itself into a stone trough by the wayside. A little beyond it is an opening leading into a field planted with potatoes. Inside the field is another spring, clear and beautiful as those of Tempe ; and hark! with what flute-like music the water comes flowing down from the adjoining hills. There is a house in the next field, and you must be prepared to trespass, under the lea of that house, if you would go along with me. You need have no qualms of conscience about it ; for there is no sin in a trespass of this kind ; and if the owner of the field should come to you, as he once came to me, with a great hedgestake in his hand, and hard words in his mouth, there is a kind of "blarney" which he cannot withstand, and if you only ply him well with it, I'll warrant he will let you go your way. Never fear him, therefore, but step boldly over his territory, and do not be afraid of cracking a stake or two in the good man's mutilated hedge. For over that hedge, on the left hand side, you must go, into the next field, where you will have to trespass again. And indeed, to cut the matter short, the journey I am now taking you is a perpetual trespass ; so either make up your mind to the iniquity of the thing, or go back ; and I will then believe that you are a better man than Archdeacon Paley, who could not afford, as he said, to keep a conscience. Having climbed over into the next field, which is all pasture land, keep by the dyke side, that you may do no harm to the grass, and in a few moments you will come to the entrance of a magnificent ravine. There it opens before you with a gullet formed by the heathy hills on either side of it. A broad stream runs down the rocky basin, between deep mountain ridges, and although but a few lonely trees guard the entrance of the ravine, yet as you advance onwards the trees increase in number and deepen in foliage, until at last almost the blue of heaven is shut out, and you mount up and up, wondering how hear you are to heaven, and how long it is, as William Hazlitt says, since the heavens were * astronomical.' And mark! you must not jilt the bottom of the ravine for fear of wet feet ; but march boldly over the huge platforms of rocks ; for it is only by so doing that you can see how wild and wonderful a scene it is. I think I never saw such rich profusion of herbage as that which grows upon the sides of this ravine. All sorts of plants, shrubs, and creepers are there ; and many wild flowers, blue, crimson, and white, starring the mossy grasses like rich mosaics. Then what a host of fox-bells nod their glorious heads at you as you pass along, and how sweetly the birds sing in the branches of the overhanging trees, and how dreamily the myriads of insects hum around you. High up in the ravine are two cold wells, cut out of the solid rock, and lined with green and yellow moss, which drip with pearls and emeralds. The bottom of the pools is covered with the brown skeletons of leaves, and numerous tadpoles are twisting themselves into all manners of corkscrew forms, as they rise to the surface of the water, and sink again below it. Then there are the most delightful nooks and shady places, which we come suddenly upon, and are tempted to sit down in them and spend the live long day therein, musing and melancholy. Not moping melancholy however, such as young ladies are afflicted with when there are no novels in the drawing-room ; but that kind of melancholy which is the element of all great thoughts and living achievements. The ravine still rises as you advance, until at last you find yourself, when you emerge from it, at the very top of the hill near the Stone Pits, within half a mile of the old Castle monarch.
I once heard a fair young girl speak of a visit which she, in company with others, once paid this ravine by moon light, on their way to the Castle Hill ; and as I have likewise visited it by moonlight, I can very well understand the enthusiasm with which she spoke : "It is delightful," she said, "to climb our glorious hills by moonlight. Don't you remember, good brother, how you and I, and many more, went up the ravine towards Castle Hill, three years ago last Midsummer Night's Eve! O mother ! you should have been there! I recollect we clambered through some hedges to get into the green field where the ravine begins. The ravine itself was originally formed by a torrent, as old as the forgotten ruins of the castle, and I have heard say that it was an outlet for the water of the castle moat, which is pearly a mile higher up. In winter, it tumbles and roars, and dashes down the steep craggy hills in wild, uncontrollable merriment and mad laughter. But in summer it is nearly dry : and that night — don't you recollect, brother, how I lost my shoe in a splashing puddle of mud, as I was climbing over the great stones to reach the next platform, whereon our gay young friends stood laughing cruelly at my awkwardness ? O, it was a wild scene. The trees shot up far above us; and hung their branches over our heads until we could see only a little patch of sky through them — dotted with stars; and against the thick black branches of the trees fell the white moonlight, which seemed to skimmer with its own force, and fly off into drops of azure, painting all the shrubs around it. And then how high were the ravine banks, covered all over with rank herbage, and shaggy weeds, whilst the large golden blossoms of the water-lily flashed in the waving shadows of the moon. There were wells, too, in the cool recesses of the ravine, dug out of its stony sides, for the cattle to drink at, and I cannot tell you how sweet and refreshing the water was." But, gentle reader, Ellen, who has just spoken to you, did not see the tadpoles in the well — did she ?
Having now done with the ravine, let us pass the Stone Pits and the Quarry-house, and cutting the field at acute angles, walk away to the Castle Hill. The scenery about here looks very strange to a lowlander ; and altogether, there is a haunted aspect about it, as if it were the realm of genii and giants. Huddersfield lies far below us, and we can plainly discover the black moors and the grim mountains of Standedge. At the end of the next field runs the high road leading to the Castle Hill ; and close by the road side stands a school-house, built by public subscription. A most out of the way place, one would think, for a school ; and yet l have seen it full of rosy children, and have heard them gabbling in it, as is the wont of children. For there are many houses and villages scattered all over these hills, and somehow or other, people will have children, in spite of Malthus, and I am glad to say that they will, in most instances, send them to school. Let us hasten, however, up the hill, for I am getting weary with long writing ; besides, that and other pressing duties will soon call me away. We have arrived now, then, at the base of the old hill, which we have come so far to see. There is a good road here, with a few houses on either side of it; and what is more, there is a good view from the stone wall over which we are leaning. But we must not anticipate. See! here comes an old man from the yard of the opposite house, leading his horse to water at the wooden trough by the road-side, He is a farmer and a manufacturer. Hark! you may hear the clattering of his children's looms, and the rush of their shuttles, through the open windows of the room where they are at work. Let us cross the road, however, and ascend the bill. That old man rents this side of the hill, and has planted it, as you may see, with oats and turnips. Barren as the soil is, he will compel it to yield him fruit for his labour upon it. All honour to him! He has grown double in a noble and manly service.
And now mark yon ! this path up the hill is no easy one. If you are broken winded, or at all touched in the wind, as the jockeys say, I advise you to go no further, lest you lose your wind altogether, like a worn out pair of bellows. But if your stamin is good, up! and you shall soon be repaid for all this climbing. There ! what think you of that for a scene 'about Huddersfield?' Behold what a magnificent sweep of country lies before you. Huddersfield with its houses and churches, its chimnies and smoke, is but a dot in the landscape. Away Northward you can see Kirklees Hall, Kilner Bank, and Coinbridge bank ; platform rises upon platform, and hill upon hill. In the North-East, Liversedge, and Mirfield, Dewsbury and Eaton Church, are discernible. In the East, newly buried in its ancestral trees stands Whitley Hall, the home of Black Dick, the Commonwealths-man. In the South East, over a beautiful valley of corn fields, pastures, and woods, stands Farnley Tyas Church; and beyond Farnley in the next range of hills you may see Stainbro Castle, and still further off the white spire of the Church called "Lightning in the Morning." Then come the High Flats and Thurstonland Bank, sometimes called Cheesegate Nab ; and below the nab lie New Mills flanked by a dark semi-circle of pines, beyond which, in the valley, lies Holmfirth. The Back Bone of England incloses the scenery in that direction, altho' on a fine day you may see the blue peaks of the Derbyshire hills far beyond the Back bone. The Spinnergate road cuts the landscape hereabouts into two sections, and runs beyond Hornby, to the Isle of Skye, passing Messrs Beaumont and Stock's factory by the way. That strip of dark wood to the right of the Spinnergate, leads down into the Meltham valley; and yonder is Brooks' cotton, silk, and twist factory, wherein there are a thousand hands employed. That beautiful mansion peering through the woods of Armitage is the residence of Thomas Brook, Esq., and just below us lies Berry Brow clustering, with its houses, like a bee-hive amongst the pastures. In the West we see the mighty Standedge — a scarred and terrible old Titan, who sits there amongst his broken rocks, like a demi-god amongst the ruins of a world, which he has demolished. Between Standedge and Golcar lie Polemone through which runs a semi-circular road. We get glimpse of Golcar town and church; and right up the Longwood vale, on the summit of the Todmorden hills is Studley pike, erected in commemmoration of the last great peace, is distinctly visible. It would be impossible to enumerate all the objects of interest, which fill up the scenery of this vast ampitheatre, and a noble river is all that is wanted to make it one of the very finest views in the world.
Very little is known of the history of the Castle Hill from which this magnificent prospect displays itself. It is very evident however, from the deep trenches on all sides of it, that it was once the site of a powerful fortress. Within the last sixty years a part of the old wall was still standing, and I have picked up many fragments of stone on the hill top, which from their calcined state prove very clearly that the building must have been consumed with fire. I find the following notice of this hill in 'Camden's Britannica,' and this is all the record I have been able to discover concerning it. 'Six miles from Halifax, not far from the right side of the river Calder, and near Almonbury, a little village, there is a very steep hill only accessible by one way from the plain, where the marks of an old rampire and some ruins of a wall and castle well guarded with a triple fortification, are plainly visible. Some would have it the remains of Olicana, but 'tis really the ruins of Cambodunum which is by mistake in Ptolemy, called Camulodnum, and made two words by Bede Campo dunum, as appears by the distance which Æntoninus makes between that and Mancunium on the one hand, and that and Calcaria on the other. In the begining of the Saxon times, it seems to have made a great figure in the world. For it was then a Royal seat and graced with a cathedral built by Paulinas the apostle of these parts and dedicated to St. Alban ; where for Albanbury 'tis now called Almonbury. But in those cruel wars which Cradman the Briton, and Peuda the Mercian made upon Edwin the prince of those territories, it was burnt down ; which in some measure appears in the color of the stones to this day. Afterwards a Castle was built here, which as I have read, was confirmed to Henry Lucy by King Stephen." Camden, however is wrong in calling this Castle hill the site of the old Roman Cambodnum, as I shall show in a future paper.
And now altho' there is no Feudal stronghold held on this venerable hill, there is a kind of castle there — every man's house being his castle, and a true lord of the same. Whoever goes up there to recruit his health and stomach will find Robert Ainley a very intelligent, obliging man, ready to do any, and all reasonable things to serve his customers. But it is very much to be regretted, that Robert's best accommodations, if we except the good tea he makes, are of an indifferent kind. And this is by no means his fault ; nor will I say just now, where the fault does lie. It is quite clear however, that if the public were better accommodated on that hill top they would go there more frequently ; and altho' the result might prove of great injury to all doctors, it would likewise prove the salvation of many patients, and prevent many pockets from going into consumption.