Situated on the edge of the moor stands, facing south, the well-known old inn called the Moorcock, now kept by two ladies of the old family of Bottomleys, who have lately become the owners. After a long absence from their native heath they have returned, like the hares, back to the old ground to welcome all who may travel that way. There will be bread and cheese for all, and better things provided if due notice only be given. The attractions are numerous. To the lamb like comes the sheep’s bleat, bleat, blended in the air with the whirring cry of the feathered game, very numerous on the high hills and in the sheltered dells, which abound on every hand. Here, too, may be seen the timid white hare running helter-skelter on the least approach of danger, and on a hunting morn speed becomes a matte)’ of life or death. There is no belingering here. Nature has given them legs to run, and if well used the innocent things do get away, to the no small joy of a manly hunter.
But this place offers better attraction. Here on the highlands of Standedge you have some magnificent scenery and most invigorating fresh air to strengthen the lungs of the numerous workers in the valley below, if when they have a chance they will only embrace it. It is not far to walk the whole way, either right on to Diggle or turn just below the Great Western, under the shadow of the towery Pule, down to Marsden again, by what is called the New Road. The old one was made by Blind Jack, of Knaresborough, on which in the old days ran the coaches from Manchester to Huddersfield by way of Holthead, and might be called the Wuthering Heights journey of former days, so picturesque and so grand the whole stretch over the mountains and overlooking the lovely vales below.
The district not far from the Moorcock is darkened by two foul murders — the one near Buckstone recently, where good honest Uttley was foully shot and young Kenyon found in the same condition, but by whom and how has never been ascertained — the other just over the hills at Hill’s o’ Jack’s, where the dear old landlord and his son were done to death by unknown hands. How strange neither has been found out, and yet in places so near and in time so far apart!
The old days of coaching had many an adventure on Standedge Hills, but none of this terrible character. Bed Brook, famous as a starting point for trail hunts at the time when these things ran high in Saddleworth, had many little scrimmages. It is a lovely spot on the moors, lying due south from the Great Western Hotel, approached from Huddersfield in the old days by the Moorcock Inn, just beyond which was a toll bar, and it was said that the keeper of this gate was in league with the footpads who pestered the road by waylaying such us were not strongly protected — sometimes extracting money by threats and at other times by fears.
An old stager told the writer, when out on a friendly hunt, that one of the modes was for one of these men to dress in a white sheet to represent a ghost, and in this manner become a terror to all the travellers on the mad, but his time came at last at the hands of a rough wagoner, who had begged a pair of besom shafts at the Moorcock Inn. When this sturdy fellow came to the fatal Red Brook, out came the ghost in due form to tax and frighten; but this Jehu had faced these hills too often to be frightened, neither was he soft enough to pay ransom. Seizing the stronger of these two shafts he belaboured this chap so unmercifully that in penitence and exhaustion he prayed for mercy, which was duly granted on an abject promise that he would never do so any more. As a mark of surety he was tied beyond the wagon and taken on to the next public-houses to be shown what a poor despicable thing the boggart of Red Brook was. He was never seen again, and his condign punishment was just sufficient to deter any other from following what proved to be such an inglorious ending.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden