HISTORICAL SKETCHES, TALES, AND LEGENDS, OF THE VALLEY OF SADDLEWORTH, TOGETHER WITH PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF ITS PEOPLE.
By an Inhabitant of Holmfirth.
In the year 1785, when Robert Burns, the peasant poet of Scotland, was in his 27th year, he addressed a poetic epistle to Mr. William Simpson, of Ochiltree, a brother poet, in which occurs the following lines :—
Because we have quoted the above lines we do not mean to insinuate that we are able, like the immortal bard who penned them, to sing in our country’s service. Though fully alive to the natural beauties of the Valley of our birth, the names of its mountains, waterfalls, and streams will for ever have to remain without a place in classic lore if some one of nature’s more gifted sons is not attracted by their beauty and magnificence to tell in measured numbers his emotions while wandering in this valley, which may be truly called one of nature’s choice retreats.
If by a few prose jottings we should but succeed in drawing the steps of some gifted son of genius, who is often a pilgrim to the shrine of nature’s wildest scenes, and who, in immortal verse, will perpetuate the name of some mountain, on whose brow we have often stood to watch the shades of evening, as they have made their appearance in the east over Pule hill, and followed the course of the sun as it declined in the west, over the hills in that direction; or one who, perchance, loves to ponder on some tale of love, who would lay the scene of a beautiful and touching romance in some one or other of the sequestered vallies into which the great valley of Saddleworth is divided, and through which we have often wandered beneath a smiling springtide sun, when the current, in the watercourse, has rippled on over its pebbled bed, and the noise of its gentle progress has fallen with a soothing effect on the ear; when the earth has just began to unbosom its treasures of gratitude to the genial warmth of the sun, and when the warbling of the feathered songsters has been heard from every spray, and all nature has joined in a display of its gratitude at the resuscitation which was going on — our object will have been in some measure accomplished.
The beauties of the mountains of Saddleworth, however, have not entirely been overlooked by the minstrel sons of song. Samuel Bamford, of Middleton, author of “Hours in the Bowers,” and “Passages in the Life of a Radical,” thus wrote about twenty years ago, in a poem, entitled a “View from Tandle Hills” :—
Now for the description. Saddleworth is situated at the south-western extremity of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is bounded on the south-west by Cheshire, on the north-west by Lancashire. On all other sides it is bounded by Yorkshire. Commencing at the northern extremity of the district, to trace the boundary line, we find it to run from Dry Clough in a southerly direction between the head of Dry Clough on the left and the head of Culvert Clough on the right. It then takes an easterly direction for about three quarters of a mile towards the Hassocks Cave at the head of the Radycon Dean Clough ; it next takes a south-westerly direction for about a mile or a mile and a quarter across a trackless moor till it comes in contact with the same dough at or near a place called Ram Inn ; then a more westerly direction still and passes a little above a farm house known as Marsh, and also a little above Cherry Clough ; it next takes a southerly direction and at the distance of about half a mile from Cherry Clough it is joined by the boundary line between the parochial chapelry of Oldham and the parish of Rochdale. The boundary line then inclines in a south-westerly direction towards Badger-edge ; turning in an opposite direction it passes between the water works constructed for the supply of Oldham, and a place called Count Hill. It next passes just by Waterhead Mill, at which place it meets the boundary line between the parochial chapelry and the parish of Ashton-under-Lyne. Taking in the chapel it proceeds to County-end, a portion of the town of Lees. From the last place taking a direction about east by west, it passes on the left of Thonley, High Knowls, between Quick-edge and Brown-edge to Brookbottom, near Mossley. At this place it gives a sudden turn and passes Rough-town to Midge-hill ; thence taking an easterly direction past Lane-head, the Noon Sun, by the Alphian-hill, Winberry-stones, and over the Featherbed Moss. From this moss it passes the head of the Chew Clough, Birchin Clough, over the Middle-edge Moss, past the top of the Greenfield-brook, across the Featherbed Moss again, past the heads of the North and Hoar Cloughs; from hence it passes the Black Moss Reservoir, and forward on the top of Standedge at the place where the waters divide, some flowing towards the Eastern and some to the Western Oceans. This precise point at which the waters divide is the boundary line till we come at the place whence we started, viz., the Dry Clough.
Saddleworth, the boundaries of which we have just traced, taking its greatest dimensions, is about seven miles long from north to south, and about five, or five and a half miles broad from east to west, and 22 or 24 in circumference. Its mean length and breadth, supposing it to be of a rectangular form, will, of course, be considerably less. If we take its mean length at six, and its mean breadth at four miles, then it embraces an area of twenty-four miles, or fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty acres.
The derivation of the name Saddleworth is uncertain. Tradition, through Vox populi, or “the voice of the people,” assigns to it the following origin, viz. :— That some of those stern conquerors, who trafficked in stolen lands as toys, gave this district in exchange for a saddle. Often when seated beside the chimney nook of some happy cottage house, of which there are not a few in Saddleworth, have we heard the voice of some old woman (in breeches) repeating the tale of this bargain. What amount of reliance is to be placed upon it we must leave our readers to infer for themselves; but in order to assist them on this subject we may premise that a gentleman, who wrote about twenty-five years ago, gives us the following solution of the meaning of the word :—
The same author says that the first division of the word may come from Scaw (or Schawe, Belgic), a small wood; which would make, The Woody Valley or portion of the parish. To this last derivation we are inclined to lean; but a lengthy discussion on this question we are not prepared to enter into at present.
It is divided into four districts or meres (an ancient term signifying boundary), viz., Friar’s-mere to the N.E. ; Lord’s-mere to the S.E. ; Shaw-mere to the S.W. ; and Quick-mere to the W. Of these divisions the one known as Lord’s-mere is the largest, and Shaw-mere the smallest. Taking Delph as a central point, it is five miles from Oldham, nine from Rochdale, seventeen from Halifax, twelve from Huddersfield, seven-and-a-half from Ashton-under-Lyne, twelve from Manchester, and nearly two hundred from London.
To describe the natural appearance of this interesting locality, as well as we possibly can, shall be our object in the next article.