We have now reached the end of the Fielden Trail. We have not, however, reached the end of the Fielden family. Our 'History' effectively ends with the deaths of 'Honest John's' last remaining sons; but the Fieldens did not die out — children were plentiful and the line continued, along with all the other, less eminent branches of the Fielden family to be found in the Upper Calder Valley, and elsewhere. Fieldens are as plentiful today as they were a century ago, and the only reason our trail ends where it does, is because it concentrates on `Honest John's' line, which, after the deaths of Sam, John and Joshua came to be less and less associated with Todmorden and the Upper Calder Valley. Their mansions and parks remain, but Fieldens no longer live in them. In 1959 the Cotton Industry Act compensated employers for getting rid of old machinery. More than 12 million spindles and nearly 105,000 looms were scrapped and the workforce fell by 30070 in 2 years. Trade had been declining since the 1930s, and by 1958 Britain had become a net importer of cotton goods for the first time since the 18th century! Cheap, foreign cloth was forcing mill closures, (in the 1960s and '70s almost one a week). The Fieldens' cotton empire, being one of the biggest, was one of the first to collapse, and by the 1960s Fieldens' cotton mills had shut down for good.
The family remains: John Fielden of Grimston Park, Tadcaster, great, great, grandson of 'Honest John' was recorded as being head of the family in 1968. His great aunt Ellen died in 1956 aged 100, his great aunt Edith married Sir John Mackintosh McLeod, 1st Bt. His great uncle Edward, who lived at Dobroyd Castle was M.P. for S.E. Lancashire 1886-92 and 1895-7. All these were Joshua Fielden of Stansfield Hall's children. Lionel Fielden, another relative, was Director of Talks BBC 1927-35 and Controller of Broadcasting in India 1935-40. A playwright, he is the author of Beggar My Neighbour (1943) and The Natural Bent (1960). His recreation is given in 'Who's Who' as "trying to avoid being organised."
These of course are not the only Fieldens. Other branches of the family abound, and any glance at the local 'phone book will affirm that Fielden is a fairly common name in the Todmorden area. There are firms of that name in Todmorden, and at least one of them is still associated with the textile business. (Fielden Rigg Ltd, Sizers, of Dancroft and Bridge Mills, Todmorden). There is a Fielden on the local Council, and there are many, many, lesser lights.
As this story ends the saga of the Fieldens continues. I wonder what Nicholas and Christobel Fielden's four sons, the origin of all the Fieldens in the Upper Calder Valley, would have made of the last words in this story, which I saw chalked on a wall opposite the Council Offices in Hebden Bridge, in July 1984:
"COLIN FIELDEN IS FIT
0. K. ? "
Copyright Jim Jarratt.
2006 First Published by Smith Settle 1989