Todmorden via Basin Stone,Withens Gate, Stoodley Pike, Mankinholes and Lumbutts
Now at last we come to the final (and wildest) section of the Fielden Trail. The going from
here on gets tougher, the route becoming a high level traverse along the edge of the
watershed from Gaddings to Stoodley Pike Monument, via Withens Gate. If the weather
is awful and you are badly equipped and/or tired then this is the time to think about that nice
cosy car parked down in Todmorden. Remember it's not too late (yet!). If however you
have walked all the way from Stansfield Hall and have set your heart on doing 'the
whole thing' well, let's get going then! If on the other hand you are starting Section 4
'fresh', here are the directions to get to it. from Fielden Square follow the Calderdale
Way past Shoebroad, then follow the track up to Lumbutts Road. Turn left to the
Shepherd's Rest. Go through the gate opposite and bear right to the walled lane heading up
the moor. This leads directly to Rake End, which is on the edge of the moor, along the
After leaving Salter Rake Gate follow the path up the moorside to the Basin Stone, which
is quite unmistakable.
The Basin Stone.
A giant stone mushroom, the Basin Stone affords an excellent view over the Walsden Valley.
Nicklety and Inchfield, encountered earlier, may be seen across the valley. This bizarre rock
formation is the result of natural erosion, centuries of scouring by wind and rain. The Basin
Stone looks almost like a pulpit, and it is perhaps not surprising therefore to discover
that it has, on occasion, served exactly that purpose. Wesley is reputed to have preached
here, and although I have found no evidence to give truth to this story, I would not be in
the least bit surprised to discover that he had. Wesley certainly had a penchant for moorland
crags as his initials carved on rocks at Widdop testify.
Evangelism was not the only force to beckon crowds of people to these remote
moorland fastnesses. There were other, more secular causes to be fought for. The
year 1842 saw considerable industrial and political unrest. In the summer of that
year there was a general mill stoppage throughout southeastern Lancashire. Those
on strike were determined to stop others from working, and on Friday morning the
12th of August a mob of men and women marched from Rochdale to Bacup, armed
with hedge stakes and crowbars, and continued onwards towards Todmorden. Every
mill en route was visited, the fires raked out and the plugs drawn from the boilers.
Shopkeepers and innkeepers were forced, under threat of violence, to 'donate' bread
and ale. The agitators or 'plugdrawers' visited Waterside Mill, where Fielden's
operatives were actually receiving higher wages than the plugdrawers themselves
demanded. No opposition was offered, but special constables were sworn in
and Hussars from Burnley were quartered in Buckley's Mill at Ridgefoot. The
plugdrawers marched on Halifax, where, 600 strong, they joined a contingent
from Bradford the following Monday, and proceeded to attack the mills of the
To add to the social unrest, indeed to foment it, there was the politics of
revolution, Chartism. "The People's Charter" sought to obtain many of the
rights which today we take for granted, often forgetting that they were hard
won. It demanded the following reforms:-
1. THE VOTE for every man over 21 years of age. (Votes for women weren't
thought of in those days!)
2. A SECRET BALLOT. (Elections in the early 19th century often involved
intimidation and violence.)
3. NO PROPERTY QUALIFICATION. (Opening Parliament to the common
4. PAYMENT OF MEMBERS. (As above.)
5. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. (The 1832 Bill had improved
things but fell far short of what needed to be done.)
6. ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS. (This has still not been achieved.)
These demands might sound reasonable to us today, but they did not seem so to
the ruling classes of the early 19th century. Such ideas were regarded as subversive,
and were treated accordingly. Chartism
and the Plug Riots were inextricably intertwined, and so were the political aims
and interests of those intent on quelling such "lawless and seditious" activities.
This is not to say, however, that Chartism was made up entirely of persons from
the lower classes. Chartism indeed enjoyed the support of many prominent men,
the Fieldens included.
It is quite possible that John Fielden would have attended the large Chartist
meeting which was held here at the Basin Stone in the August of 1842 (the same
month as the Plug Riots). 1842 saw a long hot summer of strikes, agitation,
violence and unrest. The great Chartist leader, Feargus O'Connor had been
touring the north west, visiting such towns as Bacup, Colne and Burnley, where
workers were on short time and strikes were breaking out. His fiery oratory stirred
up the feelings of the poor operatives of Lancashire (indeed he described himself as
the champion of the "unshorn chins, the blistered hands and fustian jackets"), and
it is hardly surprising that he was eventually arrested and charged at Lancaster in
1843 with inciting the people of Lancashire to riot.
An extract from one of O'Connor's speeches culled from the Halifax Guardian (8th
October 1836) will perhaps give you an idea of the kind of oratory to which the
ragged, motley crowd of locals, who assembled here at the Basin Stone to hear him
speak, must have been subjected:
"You think you pay nothing? Why, it is you who pay all! It is you who pay six to
eight million of taxes for keeping up the army, for what?? For keeping up the
It seems incredible when one tries to imagine the crowd of over a thousand
people, which, in August 1842 gathered in this bleak spot to hear the speeches of
Chartist leaders. One of the speakers, Robert Brooke, a lame schoolmaster, urged
that men should cease working until the Charter was obtained, and that overseers
should be asked for relief and some other means be adopted to obtain it. For this
speech Brooke was arrested and tried at Lancaster with more than fifty other
Chartists charged with uttering seditious speeches. All, however, were acquitted.
Such repression as this did not, however, stop these political rallies. A meeting was
held, for example, at Pike Holes near Stoodley Pike, attended by nearly two
thousand persons to protest against the non-representation of working men in
Parliament, and the sum of l pound 13s 6d collected, to "help to freedom" Ernest
Jones, who in 1847 was to stand as M.P. for Halifax under the Chartist banner.
Meetings were frequently held by torchlight in these wild and remote places, and
the sight of a line of torches proceeding over dark and lonely moors must have
presented a strange, half pagan sight to those who witnessed it. One section of
the Chartists proposed the use of "Physical Force" ... one of the Chartists'
slogans proclaimed "sell thy garment and buy a sword" ... and it is said that men
secretly collected pikes and engaged in drill exercises on these remote Pennine uplands.
Unfortunately the 'Revolution' never came; but if Chartism itself declined,
Chartist ideas and principles certainly did not, and were to play a vital role in the
evolution of democracy in Britain in later years. John Fielden and his offspring "sold
garments" yet declined to "take up the sword", preferring to use the pen and the
spoken word in pursuit of their radical aims. The Fieldens were not, however,
totally averse to the use of political violence, as we will see further along the Fielden
From the Basin Stone the path continues up the moor to Gaddings Reservoirs, a
popular local resort in summer and looking across the valley, up the gorge towards
Cornholme, Pendle Hill can be seen on the far horizon.
There are two reservoirs here, Easterly and Westerly Gaddings. The latter is the
only one still containing any water, Easterly Gaddings having dried up and grown
over long ago. These were the final supply reservoirs to be built for the Rochdale
Canal, being the last of an immense complex of reservoirs and feeder channels
that stretched across the moors all the way from Blackstone Edge.
Water supply had always been a problem for the Rochdale Canal, as we have
already seen; and after the opening of the Manchester section of the canal the
problem became even more acute. In the years leading up to 1827 a complex
system of reservoirs and channels had been constructed. Altogether there were
eight reservoirs. The original reservoir for the canal had been the one at
Blackstone Edge, which under certain conditions washes over the moor road
leading down to Cragg Vale. Afterwards came White Holme, Warland
and Lighthazzles Reservoirs, Upper and Lower Chelburn Reservoirs,
Hollingworth Lake and finally the twin reservoirs here at Gaddings, begun in 1824.
In order to avoid the continuing "annoyance and torment" suffered by mill owners
in the Calder Valley, the canal owners agreed to build Easterly Gaddings for the sole
use of the mills, to be filled once a year from the feeders on Langfield Common.
Subsequently, the mill owners themselves (led by the Fieldens) reciprocated
by building Westerly Gaddings alongside. This was to provide additional capacity
and be a means of ensuring supply to the canal in dry periods. The supply from
Gaddings ran into Lumbutts Clough, and then to the Calder, passing through the
dams, goits and wheels of an assortment of mills en route, many of them (Lumbutts
for example) being part of the Fielden 'Empire' of outlying spinning mills. The
Fieldens, who led the mill owners' group, had a major interest in the maintaining of
water supplies in the Calder Valley, and Gaddings represents a compromise
drawn up between two previously warring interests.
From the 'beach' at Gaddings follow the drain towards the head of Black Clough.
Across the moor ahead can be seen the embankment of the Warland Reservoir and
drain, carrying the Pennine Way. If you happen to be here "in season" you will
see it alive with distant walkers, and here, on this defunct and overgrown
channel, snaking around the head of Black Clough, you will feel isolated and apart
Before reaching the head of Black Clough, near a point where the embankment of
the Gaddings drain has collapsed, turn left, following
a faint path down to the stream. From the stream ascend to the cairn on
Jeremy Hill, (a small knoll with a rash of stones nearby). From here pass over open
moor to the summit outcrop on Coldwell Hill, recrossing the by now totally
overgrown Gaddings Drain en route. Ahead can be seen Withens Clough
Reservoir and the wooded hillsides above Cragg Vale. On the right, the Pennine Way
approaches from the Warland Drain, a badly eroded path following a line of stakes over
the moor. (This is now paved, 2009.) On joining the Pennine Way, bear left, to Withens Gate. Just follow
the trail of bottles, coke cans and empty crisp packets!
At Withens Gate the Pennine Way continues onwards to Stoodley Pike
Monument. My route, however, recommends a short detour from the main route in
order to see the 'Te Deum Stone'. At Withens
gate, turn right along the causey, following the Calderdale Way towards Cragg
Vale. Soon the route reaches a large gate in an intake wall. Climb over the stile
here to find the 'Te Deum' stone on the of her side of the wall.
Although the 'Te Deum' stone has no particular association with the Fieldens it is
well worth the short diversion involved in order to see it. One face of this squat,
ancient stone is inscribed with the letters T.D. and a cross, whilst on the adjacent face is
the inscription 'TE DEUM LAUDAMUS'... "We praise thee 0 Lord!". Here,
at this , consecrated stone, weary travellers gave thanks and prayed for a safe
journey. Also, as with the traditional 'Lych Gate', coffins were rested here on their
way to burial in Heptonstall Churchyard, and no doubt prayers offered for the soul of
the deceased. In those days Heptonstall was the only church in the area, and here,
as in other parts of the Dales, it was by no means unusual for people to carry their
dead over them moors for burial. Many so-called 'Corpse Roads' owe their origins to
this necessary and time honoured practice.
From the 'Te Deum Stone' climb back over the stile, and bear right over moorland
towards quarry delfs. Beyond the quarried area the Pennine Way is rejoined.
From here it is simple (but stony) stroll Aong the well defined path which leads
to Stoodley Pike Monument (which is one of those places that never seems to get any
Stoodley Pike Monument.
Stoodley Pike Monument, standing at 1310 feet above sea level is the highest point
reached by the Fielden Trail. It is also the coldest, bleakest and wildest point! The Pike
appears to be welcoming, yet when you get there you soon find that it offers little in the
way of shelter from the elements. After groping your way through pitch darkness up
the staircase to reach the viewing platform, you find that it's actually colder in the Pike than it
was at ground level, where you at least had stone buttresses to break the wind. On a wet, cold
and windy day, with grey clouds billowing over the moors, Stoodley Pike can be a miserable
Stoodley Pike has been in existence much longer than the rather lugubrious egyptian
monument that crowns it. In 1274 Stoodley was mentioned in the Wakefield Manor Court
Rolls, and it seems fairly certain that originally a large cairn stood on the Pike,
probably covering an ancient burial, for tradition asserts that a skeleton was found on the
spot when the first Monument was constructed in 1814.
The first Stoodley Pike Monument was constructed by public subscription to
commemorate the surrender of Paris to the Allies in March 1814. Among the names
associated with its construction we find Greenwoods, Halsteads, Lacys, Inghams and, of
course, Fieldens. The foundation stone was laid with Masonic honours and a feast and
celebration held. The completed Monument was 37 yds. 2 ft. 4 in. high. For the first 5
yards it was square, above which height the structure was circular, tapering to the top.
Inside, a staircase of around 150 precarious steps led to the top where there was a small room
with a fireplace. While work was continuing on the monument, Napoleon escaped from Elba
and finally met his 'Waterloo', and it was in that year, 1815, that the monument was finally
Its career was ill starred. Within a few years it had suffered vandalism, and the
entrance had been walled up. Nemesis arrived on February 8th 1854 when, during the
afternoon, after a rumbling which startled the entire neighbourhood, it was discovered that
the Monument had collapsed. By an unhappy coincidence this happened on the same
afternoon that the Russian Ambassador left London before the declaration of war with
Russia. As a result of this, Stoodley Pike Monument has since been saddled with the myth
that its collapse heralds the approach of war.
On March 10th 1854 a meeting was held at the Golden Lion in Todmorden with John Fielden
in the chair. Object, to rebuild the Monument. John's brother, Samuel Fielden, was
also among the speakers at the meeting. It was estimated that the rebuilding would cost
between 300 and 400 pounds. On March 30th another meeting was held and it was decided, on
the motion of Samuel Fielden, that the Monument should take its present obelisk form. The
Fieldens, Sam, John and Joshua, contributed to the project along with other local worthies,
and 300 pounds was raised. On June 1st they held another meeting, at which designs were
submitted for the new Monument, resulting in the acceptance of the design of local architect
Mr. James Green of Portsmouth, Todmorden. A Committee of Works was appointed:
Chairman. John Fielden of Dobroyd.
Treasurer. Samuel Fielden of Centre Vale.
J. Ingham, Joshua Fielden of Stansfield Hall, John Eastwood,
Edward Lord, John Veevers, Wm. Greenwood of Stones, J. Green (architect), John Lacy and
Mr. Knowles of Lumb (secretary).
By now 600 pounds had been raised, helped by subscriptions from Thomas Fielden of
Crumpsall, Manchester, and Mrs. James Fielden of Dobroyd. In the end the total
bill came to over 812 pounds with 212 pounds outstanding. This debt was generously liquidated by
(guess who!) Mr. Samuel Fielden of Centre Vale.
Thus it was that in 1856, the year of the Peace (Crimean War) the Monument was
reconstructed in its present form. Within a few years the fabric was in need of repair, and
when this work was carried out in 1889, again assisted by funding from John and Samuel
Fielden, improvements were made; among them more adequate lighting for the staircase
and a lightning conductor. Once again, costs exceeded estimates, and once again Fieldens
cleared the debt. The emblems and inscriptions over the entrance to the monument were
carved by Mr. Luke Fielden, and it is believed that John Fielden himself composed the
inscription. The lettering is not too easy to read these days, so I will save you the trouble:-
A PEACE MONUMENT
Erected by Public Subscription.
Commenced in 1814 to commemorate the Surrender of Paris to the Allies and finished
after the Battle of Waterloo when peace was established in 1815. By a strange co
incidence the Pike fell on the day the Russian Ambassador left London before the
declaration of war with Russia in 1854 and it was rebuilt when peace was proclaimed in
1856. Repaired and lightning conductor fixed 1889."
What of the Pike today? If you can find a pleasant enough day to visit this bleak spot,
the views are excellent, ranging from Holme Moss and Emley Moor to the south and
Boulsworth Hill and the Haworth moors to the north. Less far afield we can see right
into the heart of Todmorden and up the gorge towards Cornholme and Hartley
Royd. Immediately below, the main Burnley Road can be seen through a gap in the hills,
passing through the vicinity of Eastwood. It is incredible to think that it was somewhere down
there, near Callis Bridge, that James Shepherd rescued the little boy, Samuel S. Fielden, from
the raging river, after he had been swept there all the way from the centre of Todmorden.
No wonder the poor boy did not survive his ordeal!
Stoodley Pike Monument belongs to Todmorden, despite being perhaps nearer to
Hebden Bridge. The Pike is not visible from Hebden Bridge, whereas it dominates
Todmorden from a distance and can be seen from every part of the town. It is not for nothing
that the Monument is displayed in Todmorden's Coat-of-Arms. Yet it is not unique. The
strange compulsion that led 19th century Yorkshiremen and Lancashire folk to build
bizarre 'follies' on their hilltops is something of a mystery. A tradition was established
that in an odd, and more functional, kind of way has persisted into the 20th century with
the masts and towers of Holme Moss and Emley Moor, not to mention the host of smaller TV
booster transmitters to be found on hillsides all over the area. Yet the old 'follies'...
Wainhouse Tower, The Pecket Memorial, Rivington Pike, the Earl Crag Monuments
near Keighley, Wainman's Pinnacle and Lund's Tower, the Jubilee Tower on
Almondbury at Huddersfield .... all bear mute testimony to this strange urge.
Perhaps it is similar to the one which prompts lesser mortals to add stones to cairns on
the Pennine Way. Who knows?
It is time to move on. If you are feeling really energetic you can follow the
Pennine Way to Kirk Yetholm. If you are following the Fielden Trail, however,
you will ignore such temptations and head back towards Todmorden.
From the entrance to the Monument walk straight forwards towards the edge of
the scarp, bearing slightly left. Soon a path can be seen descending the steep face
of the hillside towards a cluster of hospital buildings on the 'shelf' below. This is
the Fielden Hospital, which was built at Leebottom in 1892 by John Ashton
Fielden, who was carrying out the wishes of his father, the late Mr. Samuel
Fielden of Centre Vale. Samuel had long displayed an interest in the welfare of
children and the building of a children's hospital had always been his dearest wish.
Near the end of the Fielden Trail at Centre Vale Park is the Fielden School of
Art. This was originally built and maintained as an elementary school at
Samuel's own private expense. His wife, Sarah Jane, was particularly notable in
this respect. She was the daughter of Joseph Brookes Yates of Liverpool, (Samuel
married her at Childwall Church near to that town in 1859), and no doubt she would
have been quite familiar with the conditions endured by the slum children of that
sleazy, bustling port. All this may be speculation, but even if she was not
influenced by such realities, her interest in the welfare of Todmorden's
children is in no doubt. In August 1874 the first School Board in the Todmorden
district was elected and Mrs. Fielden was its most distinguished and active member.
She devoted many years to the study of the education of younger children, at first
in unpretentious buildings in Cobden St., then later in her own school at Centre
Vale, where she engaged in education work along lines which she herself had
searched out and practically tested. (Centre Vale School continued until 1896).
But back to the Fielden Trail. The path from Stoodley Pike passes steeply down
to the left through Red Scar and after meandering down the moor eventually
reaches London Road near Higher Greave. Bear left, following this track to
Further down the hillside below London Road is yet another hospital,
Stansfield View. This was originally the Union Workhouse, although it wasn't
constructed until the 1870s (the original Poor Law Amendment Act having been
passed in 1834). The reason for the
delay was the fierce and often violent opposition to this despised institution, an
opposition in which the Fieldens were particularly vociferous and active. Events
in Mankinholes in 1838 were to have a particular impact on the area and delay the
implementation of the new Poor Law for many years.
Descending slightly, the walled lane emerges on the metalled road leading to
Lumbutts at the southern end of Mankinholes village. Beyond Lumbutts this
road connects with the Salter Rake Gate we passed over earlier on the Fielden
Trail. At the end of London Road turn right into Mankinholes village. On the
right is a beautifully designed stone trough which was constructed as a watering
place for the packhorse trains, which at one time were the almost universal
traffic of the area. It is hard to imagine that in the centuries prior to the Industrial
Revolution this sleepy little community lay astride what was then a busy trade route.
. . . IS DELIGHTFUL! Apart from the tarmac lane which brings the odd
speeding motorist through its meandering, tree shaded heart, Mankinholes is
venerable and peaceful, a community that time seems to have passed by. It is
tempting to call the place "pre industrial", but more accurate to call it "pre
Industrial Revolution", for although mills, canals, towns and railways have left
Mankinholes alone on the hillside with its memories, it was nevertheless, in the
days of its prosperity, almost entirely given over to the domestic textile industry.
Even with the Industrial Revolution, textiles did not die out up here, as the
traditional domestic woollen industry was simply replaced by Fielden's cotton
spinning mill at nearby Lumbutts, just a little further along the hillside. Up here on
the 'shelf of land just below Stoodley Pike we are given the rare opportunity of
seeing two small and different industrial communities side by side, the one
domestic and the other factory based, representing two different epochs in the
history of the area.
In Mankinholes we see the earlier epoch. A woollen industry characterised
by the spinning wheel and the handloom, the jingling packhorses and their
colourful drivers, the "broggers". When Defoe passed through this area in the
18th century, he remarked upon the 'pieces' of cloth which could be seen on every
hillside, stretched upon their tenter frames (the origin of the expression 'on tenter
hooks'). Weavers would often carry pieces to market on their backs as we have
seen. Besides the weavers there were the croppers with their enormous shears for
cutting the nap on the cloth; there were dyers, fullers with their stocks and
waterwheels, their tiny mills serving an industry centred on the hillfarmer's
hearth and home, yet pointing towards the new industrial age that was to come, for
in the end the 'hearth and home' would come to serve the mill and the flow of
progress would create new communities and environments, leaving the time
honoured industries of communities like Mankinholes high and dry.
So Mankinholes remains aloof and detached from the bustle below, nursing its
memories, a community put out to pasture. Mankinholes, like other places we
have encountered along the route, was a stronghold of early Quakerism, the first
recorded meetings in the area being held here at the house of Joshua Laycock, to
which a burial ground was attached on December 3rd 1667. Half a little croft called
'Tenter Croft' was rented as a burial ground at a yearly rent of 'one twopence of
silver' for a term of 900 years. This plot of ground still forms part of one of the
farms at the northern end of the village, and on one of the outbuildings is a
gravestone with the inscription "J.S. 1685". Within a short time of the passing of
the Toleration Act in 1689, Quaker Meeting Houses were registered in
Haworth, Mankinholes, Bottomley and Todmorden. Eventually, as the
development of the area began to centre on the valley below, the Quakers moved
nearer to Todmorden, to Shoebroad and ultimately to Cockpit Hill behind Fielden
Square in Todmorden.
With the end of the Quaker persecutions, Mankinholes returned to its tranquil life.
In the wake of the Quakers came the Methodists, who built a chapel here in 1815, and
in the same year a school was opened with Mr. William Bayes of Lumbutts as
headmaster. As the cotton spinning industry developed at nearby Lumbutts, the
traditional domestic industries of Mankinholes declined, and this little
community might simply have passed into oblivion and obscurity had it not been for
the sudden and extremely violent scenes which took place here on the afternoon of
Friday November 16th 1838, events which were to have a profound effect on the
neighbourhood for some years to come.
These troubles were caused by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which
abolished the old system of parish relief for the poor which dated back to the
time of Elizabeth I, and brought in a new regime, administered by three
commissioners who rapidly became known as the 'Three Bashaws (Pashas) of
Somerset House'. These commissioners were empowered to group parishes into Unions
where workhouses (which came to be called Unions) would be established.
As a result of this, the able-bodied might receive no relief except within the workhouse,
where conditions were deliberately made harsh. In the workhouse men and women were
kept apart to prevent childbearing, and to enter it meant leaving one's home and loved
ones to suffer perpetual imprisonment simply for having the misfortune to be poor or
In the south the new act was quickly implemented, but in the north it was resolutely and
often violently opposed. "The New Bastilles" as the workhouses were called, were set on
fire or pulled down; and in many northern towns it was many years before the act could
be enforced. To understand the reason for this violent opposition we must look more
closely at the objects and aims of the act, and at the social and economic differences between
the northern and southern regions.
The aim of the Poor Law Amendment Act was primarily to reduce vagrancy by making it
impossible for the poor to get an easy living by "scrounging" off the parish. In certain areas
this situation was indeed the case, with many people preferring to live on relief rather
than seek honest employment. It was reasoned that the introduction of this new system
would make living "on the Parish" so harsh, restrictive and unpleasant that a man would
take on any kind of work rather than submit himself to the horrors of the workhouse.
The implementation of the law proved that there had indeed been some point to the
argument. The numbers of people seeking relief dropped drastically in the south, but
unfortunately the government of the day completely misjudged the effects of the new Poor
Law upon the industrial north, where a completely different situation was to be found.
In the north things were different. Work was centred on the new factories and the factories
were having difficult times. Traditional industries like handloom weaving were in
decline, and in factories with the new machines fewer hands were needed to do the
work of many. Wages were poor and unemployment was widespread. Naturally
enough, the arrival of the workhouse upon the scene proved to be the last straw. In the south it
may have persuaded the 'idle poor' to seek work, but in the north there was often no work of
any kind to be had, especially in areas where the whole community was often entirely
dependent on a single industry, or even a single employer. People were forced to enter
the workhouse through no fault of their own and be separated from their loved ones with
no prospects save harsh labour and perpetual imprisonment. Furthermore, the
workhouse initiated a downward spiral, for if work was available, the poor, rather than submit
to the rigours of the workhouse and the workhouse test and lose their homes, would accept
lower wages and longer hours and thus aggravate still further the great struggle with poverty
in which so many of the weavers and workers were at that time engaged.
Lower wages and longer hours would, of course, benefit the mill masters, giving them
an endless supply of cheap labour, but thankfully there were those more enlightened souls
who were aware of the injustice of the new Poor Law, and who were ready to organise
local opposition to the hated workhouse.
In Yorkshire there were two hotbeds of Poor Law opposition, Huddersfield, led by Richard
Oastler, and the workers of Todmorden, led by 'Honest John' Fielden. On May 13th 1837
'Honest John' was speaker at a huge West Riding anti Poor Law rally held on Hartshead Moor
near Liversedge, and on 19th February 1838 he became vice chairman of Earl Stanhope's
Anti Poor Law Association. The struggle against the workhouse in Todmorden was
bitter. Elections of 18 Guardians for the seven townships in the Union were ordered
in January 1837, but Todmorden, Walsden and Langfield refused to proceed, and when
the Guardians did meet on 6th July 1838, their opponents forced them to adjourn. As
regards John Fielden's involvement in these events, his opposition was vigorous: "A most
extraordinary course of conduct was pursued by Messrs. Fielden & Co.," who dismissed
all their workers to overload the system and force the Guardians to resign. Unfortunately they
"wholly failed in this remarkable endeavour to intimidate the Guardians" and re opened
their works within days, on the 16th. John then warned the Guardians with an ominous
"To oppose force we are not yet prepared, but if the people of this and surrounding districts
are to be driven to the alternative of either doing so, or surrendering their local government
into the hands of an unconstitutional board of lawmakers, the time may not be far distant
when the experiment may be tried, and I would warn those who provoke the people to such a
combat of the danger they are incurring."
The warning was duly noted and the Guardians were at first cautious, not attempting to
implement the Act fully for some time. But attempts to levy rates through the Todmorden and
Langfield Overseers led to tangled legal actions, and when two Constables were sent from
Halifax to Mankinholes to seize the household goods of Mr. William Ingham, the Overseer,
for his refusal on behalf of the township of Langfield to pay the new Poor Law levy, they
could not have been aware of the seething cauldron of violent resentment that they
were about to overturn.
What happened next is best expressed in the words of the time, from a pamphlet account
published in 1838:-
"The Overseer of Todmorden, Mr. Ingham, has recently had a fine imposed upon him for
neglecting to pay the demands made upon him under the new [Poor] Law. In consequence
a distress warrant was taken out against him on 8th December Thursday. Feather, the Under
Deputy and King, Sergeant of the Watch, proceeded to Langfield to mark the goods and
give the usual notice that if the fine was not paid the goods would be taken and sold ... On
Friday 16th May they went, taking with them a horse and a cart ... Immediately upon the
Officers being seen, a woman, who was standing with several others upon a piece of rising
ground at a short distance called out. "Ring the 'larum bell", she repeated, and forthwith a bell
commenced ringing ... with tremendous violence. In almost an instant the bell of Mr.
Fielden's factory situated at Lumbutts about two fields length from Ingham's house was
set a ringing and was followed by several others. These bells were rung from 10 to 15
The game was now commenced, factories emptied of men armed with clubs, etc.,
hastening to the scene of action. Soon there was a mob of two thousand people gathered!"
The mob threatened to raze his house if Ingham would not deliver up the Constables,
who, after having been mauled by the mob, were now hiding in Ingham's house.
Eventually, however, an agreement was reached whereby the Officers agreed to take an
oath that they would not return here again on such an errand. The mob was now slightly
pacified, but not content with this they demanded that the Constables should apologise
on their knees. Neither Officer was willing to submit to this kind of degradation, so when
Ingham finally opened the door "both Officers were seized in an instant and the mob
commenced stripping them of their clothes. Feather, now seeing the position they were in,
begged for mercy. The mob shouted: 'we will spare your lives! Mr. Fielden told us to spare
Left now to the mercies of the mob the Officers were "most severely kicked, thrown upon
the ground, dragged by their heels upon the ground and suffered the most murderous
treatment. Their hats were taken off, filled with mud, and then with great violence forced
over their faces. Thus blinded and choked they continued to make their way towards
Stoodley Bridge." Half a dozen of the mob protected them for a time, but, being attacked
by the remainder, they left them to their fate.
Upon arriving at the last turn in Stoodley Plantation the mob threatened to throw
them into the canal: "One man who was holding King's left arm said 'Now if you will
make a split [run] I will give you a chance!' [They were about forty yards away from the
canal]. He [King] did so but was immediately pursued by the man who had hold of his right
arm. This fellow, who King says was one of Mr. Fielden's mechanics, proved to be a
treacherous rogue who tried to pitch him into the cut . . ." The Officers eventually
found refuge at a Mr. Oliver's, and managed to get some clothes and catch
the 'Perseverance' Mail Coach back to Halifax (their cart having been smashed and burned
and the horse turned loose by the mob).
That might have been an end to it, but on the following Wednesday, (21st November), a
rumour spread to the effect that the Constables were returning once more, this time
with a body of soldiers. The balloon went up and the mob gathered; but the
rumour turned out to be a damp squib. Not to be thwarted however:
"The infuriated mob determined to manifest their indignation at the new Poor Law
and its advocates in the following summary manner...From Mankinholes they
proceeded to Mutterhole, the residence of Mr. Royston Oliver, one of the Poor
Law Guardians, and broke the whole of his windows and doors; after which they
proceeded to Wood Mill, breaking the windows of Mr. Samuel Oliver's house, and
the windows of the inn where the Guardians hold their meetings."
From here the mob went "then to Stones Wood, the residence of Messrs.
Ormerod Bros., destroying windows, doors and furniture, and on their return called
on Mr. Helliwell of Friths Mill." The mob then went to Wattey Place (Wm.
Greenwood), Jeremiah Oliver (the surgeon) and the house of Miss Holt, the
draper, whose windows were smashed. Also suffering damage were the houses
of Mr. Henry Atkinson (shoemaker) and Mr. Stansfield, Solicitor and Clerk to the
Board of Guardians.
On reaching Todmorden Hall, which was at this time the residence of James
Taylor Esq, the Magistrate, they destroyed windows, doors, furniture, family
paintings and carriages, and carried off spirits, wines and the contents of the cellar.
Next they went to the house of Mr. James Suthers, who lived up Blind Lane and
who was the Collecting Overseer under the new Poor Law for the Todmorden
District. Here again, windows were smashed and the house plundered, and the mob
would have made a bonfire of the furniture but for the appeal of a lady nearby who
feared for the houses catching fire; so instead they threw it into the nearby
watercourse. The mob ended its rampage at the residence of Mr. Greenwood
at Hare Hill, where, after breaking windows and doors they set the house on
fire, which was quickly extinguished by a fire engine sent from Fielden's Mill at
Waterside before much damage was done. All the people whose houses were
attacked were either Union officials or "other persons supposed to be friendly to
the Law"; Miss Holt for example, whose windows disappeared under the
vengeance of the mob, was sister in law to Joshua Fielden, but had shown
herself by chatter over her shop counter to be in favour of the new Poor Law.
Retribution was swift. Soldiers were brought in and large numbers of Fielden's
workers were arrested by police and troops. Of 40 men tried however, only one
was actually imprisoned. The Fieldens and their workers had won ... it was not
until 1877 that Todmorden finally agreed to build a workhouse.
After these events Mankinholes reverted back to its former tranquility
(although it must have seen a little activity four years later with the Chartist and
Anti Corn Law disturbances). Mr. Ingham's house still remains, standing in a
cluster of trees in Mankinholes with its gable to the road. It seems hard to
imagine the scenes that took place here on that fateful Friday afternoon in
1838. Such violence seems somehow incongruous in this gentle place.
But back to the present. From Mankinholes the Fielden Trail follows the
route of the Calderdale Way into Todmorden, via Lumbutts. Just beyond the
northern end of the village the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School appears on
the right. This was built by public subscription in 1833. The adjoining ground
was the site of Mankinholes Methodist Church, and a sign by the gate informs
us that it was "built in 1814, enlarged in 1870, rebuilt in 1911 and closed in 1979."
Opposite the chapel gate a paved track leads between walls to the Dog and
Partridge or Top Brink Inn at Lumbutts, one of the oldest hostelries in the
district. Sheep fairs were once held here, and business deals clinched over a
pint of ale. The Langfield Moor Gateholders met here and the pub was a
traditional haunt of the 'Broggers' (the packhorse men).
Before reaching the front of the Top Brink, a cobbled ginnel leads down to the
Lumbutts Road near the water tower. Turn right here: soon a stream passes
beneath the road and an imposing mill house appears on the left in front of the
water tower. This house, and the tower, is all that remains of Fielden's Spinning
Mill. Around this mill in the 19th century mushroomed the cotton
manufacturing community of Lumbutts.
Sited on the fast flowing stream flowing down Black Clough from Langfield
Common, Lumbutts was the ideal site for the development of a small
manufacturing community of the Industrial Revolution. Whereas Mankinholes
owed its livelihood to farming and to the domestic based textiles of an earlier
age, Lumbutts, in contrast, was almost entirely created by, and centred around, its
cotton mill; which was one of the many remote outposts of the Fielden's
cotton manufacturing 'empire'. Nearly all of its 200 or so inhabitants were
employed by Fieldens in the 19th century.
The mill that stood in front of the huge tower was (on the authority of a local retired
postman I conversed with) Fielden's Scutching and Carding Department. On the other
side of the road stood the Spinning Shed. Today only the water tower, the dams that
fed it, the manager's house, and some workers' cottages remain to testify to the substantial
manufacturing establishment that developed here. The water tower especially was
a fine work of engineering. In its day it housed three overshot waterwheels which
were fed from the dams up Black Clough. The three wheels were arranged in a
vertical sequence so that each wheel had its own feed, but was also driven by the
water falling from the wheel above it. The top water fell a total distance of 90 feet
and the whole system was capable of generating 54 horse power. Today, though
ruined, the tower is still a fascinating structure and is a landmark visible from all
the surrounding moorland edges.
From Lumbutts follow the metalled road onwards towards the Shepherd's
Rest. On this tarmac road we are, in fact, walking along part of the Salter Rake
Gate. A little further along, near the pub, the old stone causey coming down
from the moors joins up with the modern road, where it disappears beneath the
tarmac. The Fielden Trail however, leaves the road before reaching this point.
After passing 'Causey West' on the right, turn right by pole no. 215 at Croft Gate
to Croft Farm. Just beyond Croft Farm pass through a stile and follow the
footpath to Far Longfield Farm. (Look for the Calderdale Way waymarks). The
Shepherd's Rest and the road can be seen across fields on the left.
At Far Longfield, go through a stile by pole no. 273, following the path through
Longfield Stables to a farm road beyond which llamas may sometimes be seen
grazing. (Yes, I did say llamas!). On reaching a junction of farm roads a small dam
appears in the field opposite. Turn right, following a walled lane. to:-
Shoebroad Quaker Burial Ground.
If you wish to explore this place more closely it will be necessary for you to shin
over the wall, as the entrance gate was walled up long ago. The exercise is hardly
worth the effort, however, as apart from a few gravestones belonging to the Oddy
family, there is really nothing there to see. This is a Quaker Burial Ground, and
Quakers were not allowed headstones or grave monuments until relatively recent
times, the tradition being one of anonymous burial in an unmarked plot of
ground. It might come as rather a surprise therefore, when I tell you that there are
at least 24 Quaker Fieldens buried in this tiny plot of ground, and goodness
knows how many other people from other Quaker families in the district. Here
lie the mortal remains of Joshua Fielden (I) of Bottomley, who along with his
brother John Fielden of Hartley Royd, were amongst the first people in the district
to become Quakers. He was buried here on 21st April 1693, and was followed by
successive Joshuas, the last Joshua being 'Honest John's' father, the enterprising
Joshua Fielden (IV) of Edge End and later Waterside, who was buried here in
April 1811. The last Fielden to be buried here was old Joshua's youngest surviving
daughter, Salley Fielden, who died at Waterside on 18th September 1859 aged 79.
(She was Mary Fielden's aunt.) Also buried here are John and Tamar Fielden
of Todmorden Hall, whom we will shortly encounter on the last lap of the Fielden
From the Quaker cemetery the track continues to descend towards Todmorden,
passing Shoebroad Farm (another Quaker meeting place) on the left. On reaching the
bend at Honey Hole, do not follow it, but instead continue onwards through an iron
gate which leads into the cemetery. The gravel path turns left, descends through
trees and shrubbery and finally emerges at the chancel end of Todmorden
Unitarian Church. On the left, at the corner of the church, are the graves of
Samuel and Joshua Fielden, two of the three brothers who left such a lasting mark
on the architectural character of Todmorden. (The third brother, John Fielden J.P.
of Dobroyd Castle, is buried at Grimston Park near Leeds.) Also buried here is
Samuel Fielden's wife, Sarah Jane, whose educational works were recently
discussed. The inscription tells us that she was born at West Dingle, Liverpool,
on 5th November 1819 and died at Centre Vale in 1910. There is less inscription
on Joshua's grave, although we note with some surprise that Joshua, by a strange
twist of fate, died on his 70th birthday, being born on March 8th 1827 and dying on
the same date in 1897. My first visit here seemed a rather haunting experience.
There I stood, with one of Samuel Fielden's letters in my pocket, along with
correspondence written by his sister Mary. It was strange to reflect that had fate not
brought this material into my possession, I would not even have been aware of his
existence, still less visited his grave. It was equally strange to think that his
birthday was the same as my own, 21st January. For me, my own personal Fielden
Trail began right here.
From the two graves, bear right, around the front of the church, passing through
the magnificent porch beneath the tall spired tower. In the mosaic pavement is a
small, circular device containing the names of Samuel, Joshua and John Fielden.
On reaching the far end of the building, bear right, to where the main entrance to
the church stands near a magnificent 'rose' window.
Todmorden Unitarian Church.
Todmorden Unitarian Church was built by the three Fielden Brothers,
John, Samuel and Joshua, in memory of their famous father, 'Honest John' Fielden
M.P. The first sod was cut in April 1865, and the corner stone was laid by Samuel
Fielden on December 23rd 1865. Prior to its opening the structure was complete in
almost every detail, and the gathering of 800 people who met for the offical
opening on April 7th 1869 saw the church as a finished work of art. Like most of
the Fielden buildings in Todmorden the Unitarian Church was designed by
the Westminster architect John Gibson, who created a Gothic style church of
remarkably fine taste. (Victorian 'Gothick' was very often quite the opposite.)
"Internally this massive church, constructed in stone, marble and oak, is 128
feet long and 46 feet wide. The magnificent spire is 196 feet in height. To ensure
its safety the steeple has its foundations 30 feet down into the ground, and the
pinnacles increase the stability of the tower by their downward thrust. The lofty
nave with its two aisles has seven pointed and moulded arches on each side,
springing from pillars of Devon marble six feet in circumference. Each window in
the nave has its arch finished with the carving of a human, alternately male and
female. A unique feature of its oak roof is the insertion of a number of small
windows admitting light. These cannot be seen from the outside. On the south side
of the chancel is the vestry, originally planned as a mortuary chapel, and on the
north side is the organ chamber and original vestry. The rose window at the
western end of the nave is one of the finest features of the church. In some lights
the 35,000 pieces of glass used in its design gleam like a precious jewel. The only
other windows of stained glass are those in the chancel, which contain
representations of biblical incidents. These windows, with colours rich and
glowing, were the work of M. Capronnier of Brussels. The beauty of this
church has not been spoiled by the addition of unsuitable memorials. It
contains only four, one to the memory of those members who gave their lives in
the Great War 1914-18, and the other three to the Fielden brothers by whose
munificence the church was built . . ."
So much for the "guide book" details. Now to the sad reality. On my second
visit here I was lucky enough to arrive when the custodian of the church, Mr.
Rushworth, was showing round an architect and a surveyor from London, who had
been requested to come and inspect the fabric, judge what repairs were necessary,
and estimate the cost. Mr. Rushworth explained to me that the church is normally locked
because of repeated acts of vandalism carried out by the youth of the neighbourhood. Only
recently the church had been broken into and a lot of damage done. My guide
informed me that he had once worked as a secretary at Fielden's Mill. He showed
me pews at the front of the church which were slightly larger and more
comfortable than the others (I wouldn't have noticed the difference had it not been
pointed out to me). These were obviously the Fieldens' own private pews.
Unfortunately the future prospects for this beautiful building are none to good.
Not only has the church been vandalised, but the lead on the roof has become so
decayed that it is raining in, with resultant damage to the church's fabric. Mr.
Rushworth informed me at the time that they had put in for a grant to restore the
church, but did not feel that it would be of much use, as the cost that was estimated
for the repair work was in excess of 50,000 pounds (it only cost 36,000 pounds to build).
Sad to say, this magnificently beautiful building is today something of a white
elephant. Built in an age of Victorian wealth and opulence, the Fielden brothers
would never have imagined that perhaps one day future Unitarians might be quite
unable to keep up to this grandiose memorial to their father's memory. Its very
scale and magnificence denies it any use other than that for which it was intended.
If it were smaller, and older, there would be lots of potential uses and sources of
revenue to ensure its continued survival. Alas, this is not the case. It remains, a
massive, decaying church with only a small congregation.
The irony of the situation is that a few years ago, when faced with the choice of
selling either the old Sunday School or the church, they sold the former on the
grounds that it would be unthinkable to part with the magnificent latter building.
The Sunday School (which was the original Unitarian Chapel) is now a workshop
and the Unitarians are beginning to regret that they sold it. It was smaller, more
adaptable and historically of greater significance than its more magnificent yet less
venerable successor. There would have been far less difficulty in attracting funds
to restore and modernise it. Now, alas, they are left with an unspoilt, unaltered,
architecturally beautiful 'white elephant', and an enormous financial headache.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though; at the time of writing, a grant has
been obtained, and there are plans currently afoot to turn the church into a
Fielden museum and exhibition centre. Hopefully they will succeed and
Todmorden Unitarian Church may be rescued from oblivion before it is too late.
From the entrance porch of the church return to Honey Hole Road and pass
Meeting House Cottage on the right. Here was the Banktop Quaker Meeting House
which was built in 1808 after the meeting house at Shoebroad had been taken down. A
little further on, near a high wall and a trough on the right, bear left past modern
railings to an iron gate in a stone wall. This leads into the graveyard of
Todmorden Unitarian Sunday School:-
Todmorden Unitarian Sunday School.
The first thing we encounter at the old Sunday School is 'Honest John' Fielden's
grave, which lies almost at your feet as you enter the graveyard. It is substantial
but plain, being little more than a large expanse of gravel surrounded by four
Why, you might ask, was this relatively humble spot chosen as the last resting
place of such a distinguished man as 'Honest John' Fielden? Surely it would
have been more fitting to inter his remains in a more suitably grandiose tomb, sited
in the magnificent church that was erected nearby to his memory? The reason is
simple. The Old Sunday School was the original seat of Unitarian worship in the
area and was the building that 'Honest John' knew and loved during his lifetime.
Indeed, 'Honest John' Fielden's role in the development of the Unitarian Faith in
Todmorden cannot be ignored, for without his enthusiasm and support that faith
might well have foundered and passed into oblivion.
The story of local Unitarianism begins in 1806 with a schism among Methodists in the
Rochdale area. This was caused by the expulsion from his ministry of the
Reverend Joseph Cooke, who was removed from the Rochdale Methodist Circuit
on account of his heretical opinions. Joseph Cooke was both young and
popular, and his expulsion caused a secession from the ranks of Methodists
in Rochdale, Padiham, Burnley and Todmorden, which were the areas where
Cooke preached. These people gathered into Bible Reading Societies known as
"Cookite" Congregations. Cooke's friends built for him the Providence Chapel in
Clover Street, Rochdale, from which centre he established a 'circuit' and
ministered to the various Cookite groups in neighbouring towns and villages. He
died in 1811 aged 35. After his death Cookite numbers dwindled and those that
remained became known as Methodist Unitarians, and it was to one such group, in
Todmorden, to which John Fielden, the Quaker, was attracted.
In 1818 the renowned Unitarian Missionary, the Revd. Richard Wright,
preached at Clover Street when some Todmorden hearers were present. They invited
him to come and preach in Todmorden, and when he did so the local Cookite group
were deeply impressed, realising that Unitarianism and their own beliefs were pretty
much in agreement. Equally impressed by his meeting with Richard Wright was
John Fielden, the Quaker millowner, who was converted to Unitarianism as a
result. Already renowned for his sincerity, ability and work as an educationalist,
John Fielden was the natural choice to lead this small band of Todmorden
Unitarians, and the first result of Wright's visit was the formation of the group
into a "Unitarian Society", with 'Honest John' as its most influential member.
Fielden invited local Unitarian Ministers to visit Todmorden on a fortnightly basis
and was successful in his endeavour. The Society at first met in a meeting room at
Hanging Ditch, but, as they prospered and grew in number they resolved to build a
Meeting House "Where the worship of God in one Person shall be carried on and a school
Thus it was that in 1824 the Todmorden Unitarian Chapel (which later became the
Sunday School) was opened on Cockpit Hill, with an outstanding debt of about
500 pounds. Times were hard for the cotton operatives who were the main support of
the chapel. The trustees, finding the situation a burden, begged to be relieved of
the office. 'Honest John', in typical Fielden fashion solved the problem by
buying the Chapel, School and all accoutrements for 480 pounds. He appointed a
regular Minister and paid his salary. This Minister was to also act as Schoolmaster
in 'Honest John's' own Factory School at Waterside, which we encountered earlier in
our travels. 'Honest John' superintended the Sunday School in person, beginning at
9.30 am with prayers, service, and scripture reading; followed by the 'three Rs',
spelling and history. From 1828 onwards Fielden provided a day school with
accomodation for 100 children between the age of four and the time of going to
work. A fee of 2d per week was charged. This covered the cost of materials, the
teacher's salaries being paid by 'Honest John'.
On 29th May 1849, after a distinguished but alas rather brief Parliamentary
career, 'Honest John' Fielden died at Skeynes in Kent and was brought to
Todmorden to be buried in the yard of the chapel he had loved so well. The
funeral took place on 4th June, and according to the account published in the
Ashton Chronicle, it was quite a substantial affair:
"The remains of Mr. John Fielden of Centre Vale, late M.P. for Oldham, were
interred on Monday in his own chapel yard at Honey Hole. The funeral procession
began to move from Centre Vale about 12 o'clock, headed by the minister, Mr. James
Taylor and the Revd. J. Wilkinson of Rochdale, followed by the principal gentlemen of the
neighbourhood ... The hearse was followed by two mourning coaches containing his sons and
brothers ... these were followed by four other coaches, with relatives and intimate
acquaintances, among whom were Mr. Charles Hindley, M.P. for Ashton, and Mr. John and
Mr. James Cobbett. These were followed by a large procession of gentlemen and operatives
from Oldham, Bolton and Manchester, who had come unsolicited to pay a mark of
respect to their friend and benefactor. The road was lined with spectators from ... Centre Vale
to the chapel, and thousands were on the hillsides and the tops of houses to witness the sad
After 'Honest John's' death his three sons and their wives took over leadership of the
Unitarian Congregation, and in 1869, when the new church was endowed, a new school
was opened in the old chapel, which became the Todmorden Unitarian Sunday
School. The old chapel was further extended and modernised in later years. A stone over
the entrance reads:
"To the memory of Samuel, John and Joshua Fielden;
constant benefactors of the Unitarian Church and
School this stone was laid by Salfred Steintha
June 17th 1899."
Today the Sunday School is a workshop, yet another chapel building fallen to the
ravages of today's unbelieving consumer society. In the 19th century both family and
community life was centred on the chapel ... today's urban man dedicates his spare time to
TV. The material has replaced the spiritual, and in thousands of demolished or secularised
chapels all over the region we are witnessing the "Fall of Zion". Today's society, living in
the shadow of nuclear annihilation, sees no tomorrow, and it is hardly surprising to find that
the solid faith and confidence in the future enjoyed by our Victorian forebears is singularly
Chapels have now become workshops, recording studios, offices. There has even been
a recent attempt to turn one into a witches' temple, and a century ago this would not
only have been impossible but inconceivable! Today we are no longer subject to the
tyrannical restrictions that were imposed on us by the blinkered guardians of Christian
morality, but equally we are no longer able to enjoy the strength, fellowship and
confidence that they took so much for granted. In rejecting the bad, alas, we have also
rejected that which was good.
Before leaving the Sunday School yard take a look at the grave of James Graham,
blacksmith of Dobroyd, whose headstone bears the following inscription:
"JAMES GRAHAM of DOBROYD, Todmorden.
Born March 18th 1837
Died February 12th 1876.
My sledge and hammer lay reclined my bellows too have lost their wind
my fires extinguished and my forge decayed my vice now in the
dust is laid.
My iron and my coals are gone,
my nails are
drove, my work is done;
my fire dried corpse lies here at rest
my soul is waiting to be blest! "
From the graveyard descend steps to:-
The Golden Lion Inn.
One of the older local hostelries, the Golden Lion has witnessed much of
Todmorden's history. Situated in the old township of Langfield, it has an old
drainpipe bearing the date 1789 on its rainwater head. An old coaching inn, it was very
important in the days of turnpikes, the turnpike came to Todmorden in 1750, when its
innkeeper was both postmaster and coach proprietor. Both the 'Shuttle' and
'Perseverance' stagecoaches called here on their way to Halifax. The Golden Lion was the
scene of many gatherings of local importance. It was for many years the meeting
place of the Freeholders of Langfield Common, and as such was greatly involved with
both the building and later re-building of Stoodley Pike Monument.
The Conservative Club.
Across the square from the Golden Lion stands the Conservative Club. This was
originally opened in 1880 as the Fielden Hotel and Coffee Tavern, and was, in its day, a
stand for temperance in an area rich in taverns and hard drinking. It was built through the
generosity of John Fielden J.P. of Dobroyd Castle. Closing its doors in April
1913, it reopened afterwards as a Conservative Club, the function it retains to
this day. Outside it stood the statue of 'Honest John' Fielden, which is now
situated in Centre Vale Park, at the very end of our journey.
From Fielden Square we pass through the heart of Todmorden to Centre Vale
Park and the end of the Fielden Trail. By now, your feet will be telling you that
you have nothing left to prove after having walked 99 percent of the route. "What is the
point of walking this extra distance into Centre Vale Park?", you will be saying.
You will have to walk back into the town centre when you've been there anyway!
Well, if that's how you feel you can go home now, but if you'll bear with me, I'm
sure that you will find the extra bit of walking required to complete the
Fielden Trail quite worthwhile, there are still some stories left to be told and some
ends to tie up.
From the Conservative Club follow the main road towards the centre of
Todmorden. After crossing the canal turn left up Hall Street to the grounds of
Todmorden Hall. The Fielden Trail passes the front of the house to emerge into Rise
Lane on the other side.
This magnificent house, formerly a Post Office and now used as a restaurant,
stands at the very hub of Todmorden's history. The present hall was rebuilt in
1603 by Saville Radcliffe, whose family had lived there for several generations. It
was a gentleman's house, built (by local standards) in the grandest possible style and
up to the 1700s it was the very heart of Todmorden, which at that time was little
more than the Hall, the Church, and a few cottages. Todmorden was unusual
in those days; a small valley community, rare in a district where almost all the
local population lived at a higher level on the surrounding hillsides. The main
arteries of communication also tended to avoid the valleys in those times; so
Todmorden was in many ways a quite untypical Pennine settlement.
By the 18th century Todmorden was growing, and the Hall passed into the hands
of John Fielden, brother of Joshua (I) of Bottomley. John lived here from 1703 to
1734. Besides Joshua, John also had three other brothers, Nicholas and Samuel of
Edge End, and Thomas of Hollingworth, all of them Quakers. In November
1707 John married Tamar Halstead of Erringden and they lived together at
Todmorden Hall. John Fielden was a wealthy man: a prosperous
woollen clothier who extended the Hall and built a "takkin' in shop" at the back,
reached by a flight of external steps, which may still be seen. In the days of the
handloom, weft and warp were given out to the weavers, and later the finished pieces
were "taken in" here, hence the name. The weavers must have been a far cry from
the gentry who would have visited the Hall in the days of the Radcliffes. John
and Tamar Fielden must have been an industrious couple, for besides being
deeply involved in the woollen trade they were also responsible for building the
White Harte Inn which, like the Golden Lion, was witness to much of Todmorden's
Tamar Fielden died on 8th January 1734 and was buried at Shoebroad. Her
husband followed her on 20th May in the same year, having already made out his
will in February. Their marriage had been childless, and John's estates, which
also included Edge End, passed to his nephew Abraham, who in turn died at
Todmorden Hall on 14th May 1779 aged 74. Like his uncle he was buried at
Shoebroad. After this time the Hall passed from the Fieldens, later to become the
residence of Mr. James Taylor Esq. the Magistrate, during which time the Hall
suffered damage at the hands of the Anti Poor Law rioters. Now, in the 20th
century, after a long career as a Post Office it has become a restaurant, and very
attractive it is too, especially after a
long, tiring hike. (But I wouldn't go in there wearing hiking boots if I was you!)
Leave the hall grounds and turn left into Rise Lane, which leads to the station,
and pass behind the church and the White Harte Inn. There was a temporary
railway station here until 1844, but the present building dates from 1865. The
massive goods yard retaining wall above the canal was built in 1881, and
Fieldens were involved with much of this development. Both Thomas Fielden,
'Honest John's' brother, and his nephew Joshua were directors of the Lancashire
and Yorkshire Railway. On 1st March 1841 Thomas Fielden complained about the
practice of compelling 'waggon passengers' to arrive at the station ten minutes
early. He was, it is said, a constant thorn in the flesh of the Railway Board's
Chairman. Suggestions he made for improving the comfort of second and third
class passengers were greeted with derision, and at some stations the
following notice appeared:
"The Companies Servants are strongly ordered NOT to porter for waggon
passengers . . ."
(Not even the railway companies, it seems, were spared the endless efforts of the
Fieldens to improve the lot of the lower classes!).
The White Harte.
Opposite the railway station stands the rear of the White Harte. The pub looks
modern and indeed it is, being built on the site of John and Tamar Fielden's
original White Harte which was demolished in 1935. The original pub was built in
1720 and was also known as the New Inn. It was in front of this inn that the first
Todmorden market was established in 1801; and later, between 1821 and 1851,
when George Eccles and family occupied the inn, a court of Petty Sessions was
established, and held upstairs in a room used by the local Freemasons for their
affairs. As a result, when anyone had to appear in court, it was referred to as "goin' up
In December 1830 'Honest John' addressed a meeting at Lumbutts which
petitioned Lord Radnor and Henry Hunt in support of Parliamentary
Reform, to which Earl Grey's new ministry was pledged. A month later,
Fielden presided over another assembly, here at the White Harte, to found a
"Political Union". Thereafter the Todmorden men joined their fellows in a
network of Political Unions dedicated to Parliamentary Reform. Their good faith
was rewarded, and in 1832, 350 reformers held a banquet to celebrate the passing
of the Reform Bill, with John Fielden in the chair. A free meal was also
provided for 3,000 of Fielden's workers at his own expense. As a result of this reform
'Honest John' was elected first ever M.P. for Oldham, and embarked upon his
campaign to secure for the oppressed operatives of the northern mills a Ten
Hours Bill. Here, at the White Harte an important chapter in the annals of English
social history was begun.
Beyond the White Harte bear left, and follow the route under the viaduct and
up 50 steps (Ridge Steps) to emerge on the 'Lover's Walk'. Soon terraced
housing and Christ Church (scene of dreadful murders in 1868) appear on the
right. Continue onwards, into Buckley Wood to arrive at the site of:-
Here at Carr Laithe in Buckley Wood once stood a farmhouse which was the setting
for a romantic but rather sad episode in our "Fielden Saga". It was the home of
John Stansfield, a poor farmer whose daughter Ruth was courted and married
by John Fielden J.P. of Dobroyd Castle, 'Honest John's' second son. It was a classic
"rags-to-riches-cum-Cinderella" story. When he and Ruth met she was a mere weaver
at Waterside. He sent her away to be educated, but alas, she could never adapt to
the Fielden's by now aristocratic lifestyle. She died, an alcoholic, on 6th February
1877 at the age of 50, and is buried at the Unitarian Chapel. In the same year John
Fielden remarried, taking as his second wife Ellen, the daughter of the Revd.
Richard Mallinson of Arkholme in Lancashire. John Fielden J.P. is buried, as we
have already mentioned, at Grimston Park near Leeds. Perhaps it is from this story
that the Lover's Walk derives its name? It would certainly be nice to think so.
From Carr Laithe follow the path, right, down into Centre Vale Park. Centre
Vale Park is the site of the final "Fielden Mansion" to be visited on our route.
Centre Vale was the first 'great' house of the Fielden family; a Georgian styled
mansion which was the residence of 'Honest John' Fielden in later life, after he had
sold Dawson Weir. (By the 1840's Dawson Weir was in the hands of the Holt
family.) It ultimately became the residence of his eldest son, Samuel Fielden,
until his death in 1889, after which his wife, Sarah Jane lived there until her death
in 1910. In the Great War the house became a military hospital, and was eventually
purchased, along with its estate of 75 acres, by Todmorden Corporation; who
bought it from Samuel's son, John Ashton Fielden, for the sum of 10,547 pounds.
Between the wars the house was utilised as a museum, which housed fossils,
butterflies, birds and relics of local prehistory. The Todmorden Historical
Rooms were closed in 1947 because of dry rot, and the house was finally demolished
in 1953. All that remains today is the park and a few of the old mansion's
outbuildings. Part of the site now contains a war memorial and a garden of remembrance.
Centre Vale Park is the scene of an annual summer gala, and the 1984 gala saw
the staging of the Battle of Gettysburg by one of those societies of enthusiasts,
who delight in re-creating great military conflicts of the past. It was a spectacular
event. The smoke of carbines and the roar of cannons could be seen, heard, (and
felt) all over the valley. As I stood there, feeling the ground shaking beneath my feet
as the guns roared, I wondered if anyone had realised the curious relevance of
this event to the real life history of Todmorden; for the cannons of Gettysburg
closed the mills of Todmorden and brought a hardship every bit as great as that
endured by the Confederacy when Sherman began his famous "march to the sea".
From the very outset the whole of Lancashire's textile industry had been
dependent upon an uninterrupted supply of imported raw cotton, and with the
onset of the American Civil War in 1861, and the North's subsequent blockade of the
Confederacy, the supply of cotton from the South began to steadily dry up. This
caused widespread distress in the cotton manufacturing areas of Lancashire. A
wave of speculation on the Liverpool Cotton Exchange made prices soar, and
cotton was even taken from mills to be resold. At the same time the employers
took advantage of the Cotton Famine to force down wages to as little as 4s and 5s a
week. Soon, however, mills had closed down all over Lancashire and jobless
operatives flooded the Unions demanding relief. In 1861 the census population
of the Todmorden Union was 29,727 and the rateable assessment for the poor
rate 89,696 pounds.
In order to help the various Boards of Guardians to cope with the distress the
Union Relief Act was passed in 1862. This gave special powers, by which the
public authorities could at once undertake a programme of public works, making
roads, enlarging reservoirs, and cleaning out river beds. The Fielden brothers
helped by employing men on road mending and making schemes. In connection
with this work there were 3,000 suits of clothing and 300 pairs of watertight
boots distributed. In 1863, when Fieldens were shut down for 9 months the
employees were paid half their usual wages, and were given work cleaning the
machines and reclaiming wastelands. The Todmorden Relief Fund Committee met in
rooms at Dale Street while the Cotton Famine lasted, with John Fielden J.P. as its
chairman. Work was found in other trades, and a sewing school established
where girls could earn 6d a day for a five day week. Cheques to shopkeepers,
payable in provisions or goods, were issued to those in the most urgent need.
All the mills in Todmorden were at a standstill; the only cotton available being
Indian cotton, known as Shurat. This inferior cotton was notorious among cotton
spinners for being 'bad' work. As one Todmorden operative put it, "we were
fit for naught but to goa t't'bed when we'd done wi' it!". Even a generation
later the word 'Shurat' was used in Lancashire as a synonym for 'rubbish'. A verse
from a contemporary ballad, dating from the time of the 'Famine', and written by
Samuel Laycock, who was a power loom weaver of Stalybridge, echoes the
sentiment which must have been felt by the depressed and destitute operatives of
"Oh dear if yon Yankees could only just see
heaw they're clemmin' an' starvin' poor weavers loike me,
Aw think they'd sooin settle their bother and strive, to send us
some cotton to keep us alive. Come give us a lift, yo' 'at han
owt to give an' help yo'r poor brothers an' sisters to live, be kind
an' be tender to th' needy and poor, an' we'll promise when
t'toimes mend we'll ax yo' no moor . . ."
(Shurat Weaver's Song)
John Fielden's Statue (Terminus Absolute!).
Now, at last, we are approaching the end of the Fielden Trail. By a clump of
rhododendrons, a little path from Carr Laithe meets another path coming up from
the left. Turn sharp left and pass under trees to John Fielden's statue, which stands at
a junction of park paths, near an aviary.
'Honest John's' statue has moved around a bit since it was unveiled at Todmorden on
a blustery April day in 1875. Made by J. H. Foley in 1863, it stood originally by the
western side of the Town Hall until 1890, when it was removed to Fielden Square
and erected outside the present Conservative Club. It was moved to its present
position in Centre Vale Park in 1938, and today there is talk of returning it to
Fielden Square once again. The statue was unveiled by Lord John Manners, who "tried to
persuade Joshua Fielden (who was M.P. for Eastern Division W.R. Yorkshire) to
let me say something handsome of Shaftesbury, but found, if I did, that he would
break out in abuse!" The Fieldens had never forgiven Lord Shaftesbury (Ashley)
for his "treason" in accepting Grey's compromise Factory Act in 1850. Even the
commemoration of the old radical was not peaceful!
John Fielden must have cut a strange figure when he first took his seat in the re-
organised Parliament of 1832. Tall and awkward, he spoke in a thick northern
accent, in a voice which was barely audible; yet his sincerity and dedication
more than made up for his shortcomings as an orator.
Fielden soon established himself as the leader of northern opposition to the hated
1834 Poor Law, and as chief promulgator of the Ten Hours Act, to limit hours
of labour in factories and mines, towards which end he campaigned, collected
evidence and spent thousands of pounds. To his friends he became known as
'Honest John' while his enemies dubbed him "The Self-Regulating Mule" on
account of his refusal to compromise on matters of conscience. No doubt this quality
led to the rift with Shaftesbury, who, although he shared Fielden's aims, was
quite unlike him in background or temperament. Ashley Cooper could not
stomach Fielden's Chartism, and together, the sensitive, aristocratic
Shaftesbury and the radical, gritty millmaster must have made a strange pair!
In 1847, after an uphill struggle, the Ten Hours Movement's agitation
succeeded, and Fielden was able to steer the Bill through Parliament. Yet at the
end of 1847 Fielden must have had mixed feelings, for his political triumph was
quickly followed by the collapse of his parliamentary career. In his opposition to
the highly popular Anti Corn Law League, led by Bright, he lost many of his
friends in Parliament, and in the hustings of that same year, 1847, he lost his seat to
the Tories, who had rigged the election by threatening the livelihoods of
voters. Losing his seat probably deprived him of his raison d'etre, for within two
years he was dead.
Back in 1847 Fielden addressed a rally in Oldham of his supporters, where he
made what was to be his farewell speech. Towards the end of it, he uttered the
"I have served you faithfully for 14 years. I never bought you ... I never sold
you. I have tried all I could to endeavour to do something calculated to make you
more comfortable and more happy, and having succeeded in that object which
I had so much at heart, I can now well afford to go out to grass . . ."
So here we are, tired and footsore, at the end of our Fielden Trail. Before you stands the
frail figure of 'Honest John' cast in bronze; he stares benevolently across the park
to where the children play. Foley made his likeness well. 'Honest John' looks like
he could step off his pedestal and shake your hand, so lifelike is his expression! In
his right hand he grasps that Ten Hours Bill which he struggled so single-
mindedly to obtain. This was 'Honest John's' supreme achievement, the effect of
which is well summed up in the words of Moses Heap, a Rossendale spinner:
"For a while we did not know how to pass our time away. Before, it had been all
bed and work, now, in place of 70 hours a week we had 55 and a half. It became a
practice, mostly on Saturdays to play football and cricket, which we had never done
before . . ."
Today 'Honest John's' statue watches over the park where local people still
play football and cricket, enjoying the free time which John Fielden pioneered
for them. Football and cricket, in his park! 'Honest John' would have liked
that! Before we trudge back to Todmorden Bus Station, car park, chip shop,
cafe or whatever, let me leave you with a few words that were written about this
man, who has always been at the very heart of our Fielden quest, for without him,
such a journey as this we have made would have neither point nor meaning. I
will leave you with the following extract from R. G. Gammage's book 'The
History of the Chartist Movement' in which he says of 'Honest John' Fielden:
"That gentleman was known as the successor to the principles and honour of the
immortal Cobbett, and was deservedly popular for the warm and unceasing interest
he had taken in the fate of the industrial millions. No man, according to his powers,
had been a more strenuous opponent of the new Poor Law, and against the police
system he had taken an equally decided stand. But what most gained for him
the heartfelt affection of the working class, was the position which he, a rich
manufacturer, had taken as the unqualified denouncer of factory oppression.
There was scarcely a measure he was not prepared to adopt in order to protect
the people from the grasping 'cottonocracy'. A Ten Hours Bill was the object of his
constant advocacy, and it was he who succeeded at last in carrying that
measure through the legislature . . . The man, standing apart from the
generality of his class, ventured in whatever way to plead the claims of
suffering humanity against wealth and power.
Fielden had shown himself to be something more than a mere factory
reformer, he had everywhere declared himself to be the advocate of Universal
Suffrage. He did not merely profess himself willing to protect the people against
aggression, but, by striving to arm them with the Vote, he manifested a desire to give
them the opportunity of protecting themselves. In this he proved himself to
be something better than a mere 'humanity monger' aping philanthropy for the
purpose of catching a little popularity. As a speaker, he was far from being effective,
his sincerity rather than his oratory, gave him force. He was ever earnest,
disdaining to strive after mere effect, but courageously plodding on in his own
humble and unpretending way towards the attainment of his object. He has now
gone to the tomb of his fathers, peace rest his ashes! The sun has seldom shone
over a better man than John Fielden."
Copyright Jim Jarratt.
2006 First Published by Smith Settle 1989