Huddersfield Chronicle (05/May/1894) - Kirkheaton and its Roundabout
KIRKHEATON AND ITS ROUNDABOUT.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
Have you been to Kirkheaton? Yes. And to the Roundabout? Yes. Well! Well! I was born near the former place, christened within its dear old church, and the bones of my ancestors of many generations have been consigned to their resting-place in its fat churchyard. As for the Roundabout, I have gamboled round about that unassuming elevation as only buoyant boyhood can. I have seen the district in all its varied seasons, listened to its weird stories and legends with awe, and had my imagination fired by its deeds of daring, ludicrous incidents, and strange traditions, to recount which it would require volumes. I have, like the old yew tree among the graves, been present amid scenes of gaiety and of despair ; have laughed with the joyful and wept with the tearful. I have climbed to the window where "Black Dick" lies, and seen the tattered drapery hanging over him, and scampered away in terror when the cry was raised, "He's coming! He's coming!" I have seen the dead put to rest and wondered why some wept and others were merry. I have stood speechless as the old Rector read the solemn burial service, and could not understand what it all meant. I have seen old people totter up the church-walk following their loved ones to the grave and heard them say, as tears rolled down their cheeks, "It will be my turn next," and wondered why they cried and used those words while I was full of joy and laughter. I have seen school-mates put away and people always cried, especially the mothers, and have noticed the fathers bite their lips and try not to cry, until they could hold out no longer, and then they sobbed even more loudly than the mothers and daughters and sisters. I have cried too, but scarcely knew why. Still there was always something in life that soon made me forget sad scenes, until those very near and dear to me were taken away one by one. I then began to feel the force of the mystery of life and death. Still, hope and time heal grief and pain. The bright scenes have returned. Weddings, christenings, and the charming beauties of the church's surroundings have followed, while the joy-bells have been rung by men whose souls were in their ringing. I grew to man's estate and went forth half forgetful of the past, but still no matter where I roamed that dear churchyard, that homely edifice, the Rector's saintly features were, are, and ever will be engraven on my memory. I have wandered far and wide, but the subtle attraction, the fascination of the Mother Church ever drew me to its bosom. After being absent for many years I returned when the present edifice was being rebuilt to discover that the bones of my dear ones had been removed, and it would be impossible to describe my feelings to any but those who have been similarly placed. I saw the remains mixed together in confusion. I even descended among the dead, and saw tier upon tier in their ghastly naked state, and then turned away, burning with indignation, a convert to cremation not only of the dead, but bitter enough to cremate the living. Reason for the moment was dethroned, but in my rage I saw the font at which I was christened, and immediately a calm came over me. I was a child again, and seemed to be in the arms of dear old Mr. Alderson, who was sprinkling on my forehead the mystic drops, his kindly eyes sparkling with love as he uttered those far-reaching and full-meaning words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." I am informed that the remains of those who were dear to me surround those of the gentle soul I am thinking of, and I forget my sorrow and am appeased. This of the Mother Church, the dear old Church, the Parish Church, the open Church, the Church of England. Talk of disestablishment. She was when the State was not, and if those who have dalliance with Dissent, with the world, and with unbelief foolishly sever her from the State she will not be destroyed. Her foundations are sure and her influence far-reaching. Nought on earth can disestablish the reverence which her children bear towards her. Those who have not felt her mystic power, her speechless influence, the thrill of her silent walls, seen her ancient pews, experienced her presence in solitude, enjoyed her wordless eloquence, and her ineffable silence are not to be envied.
The Roundabout. If you go to Kirkheaton don't miss the Roundabout. Don't be disappointed before you get there. Be sure you go if you can walk, and if you cannot walk get someone to carry you, especially if the horizon is clear and the sky all but cloudless. I have seen it at all times and seasons. When the snow has carpeted the earth, when the spring has risen from the dead, when the summer has scorched its features, and when the autumn has put it to sleep. I feel sure my experience, as I stood there one evening, is unique. The sun was sinking in the west, the moon was peeping over the eastern hills, and the zenith was flecked with cloudlets which seemed to chase each other. I never saw the rim of horizon so distinctly. With the aid of a glass the most distant chain of hills seemed to be brought within hailing. The trees in the hollow swayed languidly. The day had been hot and sultry, but was now cooling, and a slight breeze was springing. The lights and shades of the landscape and the general aspect of the earth were most remarkable The cloudlets began to coalesce somewhat. A slight haze was seen forming overhead. The splendour of the scene was transcendant. I seemed on the top of the world. I have never seen anything like it before nor since. Beyond the undulating hills to the left of the sun you could see a distinct outline of one of the hills of Lancashire. More to the left the three counties — Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire — are linked together. Your eyes then move on to Woodhead, and in the dimest reach you feel sure you can catch a glimpse of one of the hills of Derbyshire which run on to the Peak of that county. Then look where you will 'tis Yorkshire everywhere. To fully enjoy the panorama, start with the finely-wooded park of Whitley Beaumont. Emlev Moor and Lepton are just to the right. Fair Woodsome and Storthes Hall lead you up the charming valley of Kirkburton. The domelike spire of Shelley Church peeps over the hill at you. To the right is Tinker's Monument. Almondbury Church is sylvanly surrounded. Kirkheaton hides her holy place beneath the knoll at your feet. A stately line of trees leads up to the spire of Farnley Tyas. A gradual slope towards the ever prominent Castle Hill takes away some of the finer aspects of that grand elevation when seen from almost any other point of view. The spireless church of Newsome stands unpretentiously to the right, and beyond it you see the mouth of the Holme Valley, up whose wondrous windings you catch the churches of Honley and Netherthong. Upward in the line of sight you know Holmfirth lies in a hole, so deep, so narrow, and so dark that you do not wonder that a flood half drowned it. Overlooking where it should be is Holme Moss, Isle of Sky, and Harden Moss. Cook's Study is just eclipsed, while crowning the height, West Nab and Deer Hill seem to touch the sky. Descending, your eyes take in calm Wilshaw, Meltham, and Meltham Mills. The Happy Valley, with bleak and breezy Crosland emphasising its locality, is full of varied charms, while the church which overlooks it is green with the memories of its first and saintly vicar, the late Mr. Hough. From Cop Hill you then fly over Crosland Moor and can almost count the streets, and certainly all the spires, in Huddersfield. Colne Valley may be traced with tolerable clearness past Linthwaite and Golcar — Slaithwaite will not look at you — up to Marsden which ends in a basin beneath the Standedge. Scapegoat Hill is like a. giant steed quietly waiting a giant horseman to mount it. You now see three or four tiers of hills in front, gilded by the sun as it kisses them. Rombald Moor may be focussed to the right and you know Bradford and Ilkley are near by, while the Chevin at Otley is dimly visible. There is Howarth, the home of the Brontes, distinctly before you, and your heart warms and your eyes melt at the thought that the author of "Jane Eyre" should be a native of your own West Riding, while you feel sure that the memories of "the motherly friend and guardian of her younger sisters" will live so long as your language lives. Fascinated with the splendour of the scene, you hasten to take in the whole picture, and as your eyes leave Hartshead, you see Spen Valley, Liversedge, Roberttown, Heckmondwike, Staincliffe, Halifax, Brighouse, Elland, Colnebridge, Bradley, Battyeford, Batley, Hooley Ruins, Mirfield, Dewsbury, Hopton, Whitley Lower, Thornhill Lees, Ossett, Horbury, and down the Calder to Wakefield, the church spires of most of the parishes named being easily seen. The aspect of your immediate surroundings is now changing. The air is oppressive and you feel listless. You see the lazy Colne embracing the languid Calder, hot what ought to be a sweet and pure union procreates little more than filth, disease, and death. The sun and moon are hid from view. Clouds are rising from every point. The dome of heaven only remains clear, and you feel that that will soon be closed. Battalions and chariots of clouds are rushing to meet each other, and seem to be filling the air with the dust of their feet and wheels. You see that there is about to be a battle royal in the heavens and no sooner has the thought escaped you than a vivid flash streaks the west from the zenith to the horizon. The thunder reverberates from hill to hill, and it seems as if the echo would never die away. The north replies. The west defiantly answers it. Thunders then mock each other, and leave no time for echoes. The hills seem to shake to their centre. The clouds roll over and into each other, and in the terrible struggle burst in torrents, while nature's vivid fire fills the vault with flame. Thunders succeed each other until you don't know whence they come nor whither they go. Flash after flash leave in their wake myriad sparks overhead. Rain falls intermittently. The war is at its height. Clouds are torn asunder. You feel that the myrtic but potent force that strikes the earth is very near you. Half-a-dozen bursts of light succeed each other in as many seconds, while heaven's artillery is deafening. There is a pause ; a retreat ; another advance. The contending elements have all but spent themselves. A ray of hope comes from the west. The sun smiles half-hidden by the clouds and distant hills. The moon sails up the east and drives the shades before her, while the sky has all but emptied itself of rain, but is still spanned by such rainbows as I never saw the moon bridged with before nor since. The winds now sweep the clouds away. The son has gone, but the west is one vast sea of saffron and gold, and the east an ocean of silver. The earth is refreshed and so are you. Terrible as the scene has been you feel you would not have missed it on any account. I have had the Roundabout all to myself, and have heard the heavens declare the glory and majesty and seen the firmament display the handiwork of the Creator. When the greater part of a scene like this can be seen for twopence by tram, and threepence by train any find evening or early morning, why do people rush madly about vieing with each other in search of something fine and new? Here is a place from which something new and grand may be seen at anytime, and man's littleness be perceived at any hour.