Not everyone will know why Broadfields are called Tanners. For their information let me tell such that at one time a large business was done here in tanning, which is another of those industries lost to Slaithwaite. The pits were filled up in my time and made into a garden for the three cottages, to one of which my dear old friend G. Haigh brought his lovely young bride from Golcar. Long before the time I am speaking about lived Tanner Shaw, and this is what gave it its name. He was a man of substance, a large farmer with many head of cattle, occupying all the lands in the bottoms as well as all Broadfields. In this line he did an extensive business. It used to be one of the sights to see all the animals returning at night to their home — something like the Swiss cattle returning from the mountains. A large number of men and women found employment with fair wages and under a good master. There was no compensation to workmen when injured, but Tanner Shaw, when one of his wild bulls had killed his head farmer man in the Bottoms, the kind-hearted master ever after looked to the unfortunate family. The New Line, known to everybody, was not then made. People had to climb the hump-backed road leading between School Terrace and Springfield to get to Holthead. Population was thin and scattered. There were a few substantial manufacturers, such as the Sykes, the Holroyds, the Haighs, and two good blue dyehouses, one at Mellors and another at the top of New Line, from which the Dyer’s Arms took its name, and this has only been pulled down within the last few years, whilst the former, or what remains, is used by Mr. Thomas Ashton for his wool scouring. At this place also was Mr. Amos Ogden, who married a Miss Mellor, and carried on an extensive business in fancy waistcoats, employing nearly all the hand-loom cottages in and about Lingards. One of the family, a successful Manchester man, came down a few years ago and gave £o to the Mechanics’ Institute in remembrance of the place of his birth. Lingards at an early period was a place of some importance owing to its many industries; the inhabitants felt a little better than their neighbours. They stuck to each other as they do to-day, for where one Lingarian goes another is sure to follow, and for religion go mostly to the Church; but there were always a few staunch Baptists and other dissenters, who were the principal supporters of the Holthead General Sunday School, which has done good work since its erection.
The formation of the township was always beautiful. On the Ions: side facing the River Colne to Marsden, and commanding an extensive view of Slaithwaite and beyond, running up to the wild moors on the south, inclusive of Deer Hill and Shooters Nab to Meltham and beyond. While on the east side runs that lovely little brook, one of the picture spots in the locality — in olden time wooded up to its brim and very far beyond, so much so that there used to be at times a great felling of the trees. The bark was reserved for Tanner Shaw, and the large trunks were sent away and the smaller pieces were burnt to charcoal, then an article of great value, but now nearly done away with by the modern cordite. No wonder, then, that while Lingards was of much note and so prosperous it should excite the cupidity of less favoured places and people. Slaithwaite was in a worse condition. Many of the inhabitants were very poor, lived in wretched dwellings on the moor side, and had to make a living, when hand-loom weaving was bad, by going to Sheffield, Wentworth, Woodhouse, and other places in singing companies, at which art I have often been told they were great experts, and generally got amply rewarded. There were others whom I fear did worse by forming bands of marauders, who went from place to place, taking what they could get and hiding the same in caves — in such places as Merridale Wood — such as wool, cloth, spirits, groceries, draperies, etc. Anyway, be this as it may, there were men who had to go away and never return. We will not be hard on them. They were very poor. It was a dark age, and they knew no better. Fortunately they were a small minority, driven by grinding poverty to great distress. No wonder if they did find this wrong means to stave off their abject misery and long suffering. However, a time came which ended all this, and this was the tragedy mentioned at the beginning of this story. As we said, Lingards was better off, and Tanner Shaw, being a man of substance, was an object of envy to the poor.
No wonder, then, that one unfortunate night, at a meeting of the band, it was resolved to rob this yeoman of part of his wealth. A date was fixed, at the dark of the Slaithwaite moon, for it had this orbit to itself then as now. There was no gas or light of any kind. At the appointed time they sallied forth up by the School Terrace, on the old road to the tanner’s house, amid great silence. An entrance was made. The old tanner and his wife were taken by surprise in their bedroom. Their money was demanded, and, when not willingly given, was forcibly taken, under great threats as to the consequences if resistance were made. The rest is soon told. The men were allowed to depart with their booty. But, alas! for one of them who was marked, and when daylight did appear the cry of the valley was that Tanner Shaw, at Broadfields, had been robbed during the night. The one principal culprit was loudest in disseminating this knowledge to cover his guilt. This was no good. He was known, as mentioned before. The constable got on his track. He was tried at York, found guilty, and when brought back to his native village it was in his coffin, along with the rope which had strangled his last breath, for a crime which to-day would be condoned by one or two months’ imprisonment. They were cruel laws, happily repealed since then, for a more merciful and remedial administration of justice.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden