Having, in the last two chapters, dealt with the exploits of a village lad, it may not be out of place to describe where he lived and how that part of the town stood in those early days.
We will begin with the Shoulder of Mutton Inn on one side, and Mr. Farrar’s on the other, at which, on one memorable Slaithwaite Feast, a terrible struggle took place between the old gentleman and a fine youth who had come to the town with a stall, and who had entered the house from the Back Lane, through the back window. In doing so he rattled the milk cans, a sound which Mr. Farrar heard, and on going downstairs he found the young fellow just about to leave by the same way he came; but not so, for the old gentleman (who was, unfortunately, in his shirt) at once seized him by the legs and dragged him back into the breakfast room, when a most remarkable struggle ensued. The old man, with a grip of iron and the strength of a giant, tackled the fine youthful athlete in a masterly fight — the latter to get away and the former to retain his man until help came. By this time the house was fairly roused. The girls were very plucky, and went out for assistance, during which time the contest had been almost deadly, Mr. Farrar being held by a tender part, whilst the former had a good hold of the strong handkerchief which was tied in a slip knot, around the young man’s neck. This the old warrior was twisting tighter and tighter, so much so that in a very short time his antagonist would have been as dead as Queen Anne. As it was he could not speak, and from want of strength had relinquished his painful hold. Then it was that Mr. Farrar slackened his grip, and when the young man could speak he said he had had quite enough, had never before met so strong a man, and apologised for the unfair way he had attacked, but said in defence it was his only chance, he was so surprisingly overpowered from the first.
By this time the house was getting crowded. The constable had arrived; the fight was over; and the robber had promised to be quiet and go where he was wanted. During the remainder of the night and until morning many little scenes were enacted. A workman was saying what he could and would have done had he been there, and tried to be very valiant at the expense of the burglar, who was sitting nearby handcuffed. In fact, the latter, in sheer despair, piteously begged that he might be allowed to “go for” the coward who was so grossly insulting him. If they would only grant him this privilege to punish as he richly deserved the man who was as contemptible as Mr. Farrar had been brave and manly, he would be contented. This could not be, though it tickled the old gentleman, and he in after life told me he would not have minded if the young fellow had given the braggart a bit because of the insults and scoffs so unjustly offered.
In discussing this matter later on I said, “How was it you did not let the young man go through the window back into the street?” “Ah, John, lad, that’s the rub, do ye know. I had drawn £300 at the Huddersfield market on behalf of the Ramsden Mills Co., of which I was then secretary, and I thought he had got the money; and I was determined he should not have it without a struggle.” The event was of much notice at the time, and the young man got justly punished at the sessions.
To come back to the description of the town at that period. Leaving off at the Shoulder of Mutton came the barn and outbuildings; then a row of cottages up to the old church gate. After that old Meal’s house, Sam o’ Billy’s stable, Sam Lee’s, Eaglaud’s, old Mrs. Cooper’s shop, and John Wood’s up to the National School steps, which were very like as if they had been made for a waterfall; and opposite, under the garden wall of the Harp Inn, stood the old stocks, in which many a delinquent had to pay for his folly.
On the other side of the street was the burial ground, Thomas Sykes’ shop and house, Cotton’s, the card makers, and old John Walker’s, the shoemakers, who had generally a beautiful throstle, which used to come out into a small cage let out of the house over the old Free School yard.
Going further up, on one side was Dan Haigh’s, old John Ashton’s, the Globe Inn, and Mr. John Eagland’s up to the river, Ant’s o’ Cassies, and old Lucy’s, with his large yard and coal donkeys. Below the Manor House, Joshua Cock’s and Jim Livesey’s, who cut people’s hair for the loftedge for one penny, shaved clean for one halfpenny, gave a new pair of clogs for a shilling, and a brand new hat for sixpence. He was a noted character at the time, and brought up a large family of very respectable children. Near to his house was the empty old square prison, happily never used then nor since.
The river was bridged over by stone, and there was also a wooden one to Tape Mill for Mr. Kent, who occupied the works in the smallware trade, a lost industry to Slaithwaite. In the next chapter will be found the reason why, as well as a further description of Nabbs Lane, and also of some of the characters there who formed part of the early history of Slaithwaite, which, if of no great importance to the greater world outside, must be very interesting to the young and old of to-day — the former for old time’s sake, and for the latter to compare the present with the past.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden