Before the coming of the Rochdale canal and the railway, the area around Gauxholme was very different from what we see today. The road from Copperas House to the site of the Navigation Inn originally followed the line along which the canal was eventually dug. So from an early time, the pub was placed in a convenient position to catch trade, first from the road traffic and later from the canal traffic, and in between from the influx of navvies who descended on the area to build the canal, and later still from the railway navvies who also lived in the area.

When it was built, the pub was called the Hare and Hounds and was owned by ROBERT HARDMAN , a man who enjoyed outdoor sports, which may account for the name of the inn. He also owned other properties in the area including the Black Bull.

The decision to follow the line of the road with the Rochdale Canal was an added bonus for the inn as it left it intact and sitting in an advantageous position on the edge of the canal with the towpath passing directly by the gable end of the building.


Gauxholme Wharf

It was also near to the busy Gauxholme wharf, which would ensure plenty of trade with the added workforce of locals that were needed there and the canal carriers. You can see the position of the Navigation in relation to Gauxholme wharf in the photograph, the Navigation being the first building over the bridge on the far side of the road.

So a new era dawned for the Hare and Hounds and it became “The Navigation Inn”.


This modern photo shows the original cobbles

to the front of the pub still in evidence

The building was altered and a third storey was added to serve as a clubroom to accommodate various meetings, functions and possibly inquests, and it ran the full length of the building. Access to the front of the pub, which faced onto Bacup Road, was by a gate off the towpath and down to the front door.

Cottages and a barn adjoining the inn completed the little area, which was named Navigation Place.

You can see from these two photos, particularly the one of the gable end, the place where the original doors and barn would have been.



When the third storey was added, access to it was provided by stairs built onto the canal side gable end of the pub, maybe to protect any ladies, having recourse to attend functions, from having to go in via the main pub entrance and through what would have been an environment rather alien to them.

The stairs can still be seen today and the doorway entrance to the clubroom.

This photo gives an idea of how the pub, with its three storeys, and adjoining cottages and barn may have looked in the mid 1800’s.

The next great upheaval in the area was the building of the railway and the pubs in the area would all gain from that, with navvies once again descending, all needing somewhere to spend their wages. The pubs would thrive, and when the railway was completed and the navvies all gone, life would settle down to a more even pace, although the area still had a high concentration of industry and the canal was still very much in use.

The Navigation lived through all these changes and over the years hosted many special events one of which was The Navigation Inn Horticultural Society in 1887, which met annually and proved a very popular move and attracted many entries each year.

The Navigation had a variety of landlords and the first we know of is Grace Sutcliffe, born about 1749 as Grace Barker. She was the widow of John Sutcliffe who had kept the Bay Horse at Cross Stone. James and Grace raised a large family, most of whom survived to adulthood.

Grace’s husband died in 1792, leaving her with a large brood of children at home, some able to fend for themselves and earn a wage, and others who needed to be fed and clothed, so she and the children upped sticks, left the Bay Horse, and moved to the Navigation. Work would have been easier to come by in the busy valley bottom than in the upper reaches of Cross Stone for the children who were able to go out to work.

She was a remarkable lady and was determined that her children would do well for themselves, which they did. Some of them carried on the family trade of publicans, others married into it, whilst others set up in business.

Her sons JOHN AND HENRY SUTCLIFFE became successful carriers by water with premises at Shade. Her daughter Mary married Jonas Turner of the Shoulder of Mutton, son William became landlord of the Lord Nelson, son Henry ran the Black Bull and then the Old Mason’s Arms in addition to his carrying business, and her daughter Sally married William Crabtree of the BLUE BALL on Dulesgate.

Some of Grace’s grandchildren also carried on the family tradition of inn keeping, notably two of Henry’s sons. His son Henry junior became the first publican at the new Mason’s Arms when it was built, and his youngest son James became landlord of the Shannon and Chesapeake.


Navigation from Gauxholme lock

In 1799 Grace married widower James Haigh, a responsible member of the community, being an Overseer of the Poor. Both were aged about 50 at the time and maybe they thought they would be good company for each other, James having been a widower for all of a month.

James may have been at the Navigation before he married Grace as in 1790 he suddenly started paying a large rent to Robert Hardman for property at Gauxholme. He already rented property there from Richard Holt and had done since 1784. He maybe saw an opportunity to make a bit of money in the licensing trade.

James was a member of the SELECT VESTRY, a self appointed group of rate payers who governed the town. On 7th January 1802, the members met at James' house, presumably the Navigation, on account of the Governor of Gauxholme Workhouse refusing to permit the paupers to read the Bible, and trying to prevent them from attending morning and evening prayer. It was resolved at this meeting that the overseers give the Governor a month's notice to quit the workhouse.

James died at the Navigation in 1807 and apart from some family bequests, he left Grace most of his estate, including all his brewing stock. His will is HERE.

Grace died at the Navigation in 1817 and is buried with her first husband at Cross Stone Church. She was survived by six of her children and she also owned property, namely 5 cottages at Butcher Hill, so all in all she had done very well for herself. Her will is HERE.

The next recorded occupier in 1818 was Robert Hartley. He was the victualler and a gardener and little is recorded about his tenancy.

By 1822 the publican was James Jackson, known as Red Jim. James belonged to the Jackson family who lived at Pot Oven on Inchfield and he was born around 1784. His grandfather Samuel Jackson had come over the hill from Shawforth and settled at Pot Oven where the family continued to live for many generations.

Potoven Farm Inchfield

What became of James isn’t known but he had left the Navigation by 1824/1825 when Roger Bramley was listed as the landlord in the Baines Directory. Roger came from Clitheroe and his children were born there, the last one being William in 1824, so he must have taken on the Navigation quite soon after his arrival in the Todmorden area.

Newbridge in the 1930's, now the site

of Gordon Rigg's Garden Centre

He still seems to be there in 1830, but soon afterwards he left and kept an inn at Kiln Springs, which was pulled down when the railway was built, at which time he removed to New Bridge to a cottage that had been converted into a beerhouse by a Mr. Lord.

He was the first landlord there, but he left the area to farm at Higher Shore, Littleborough, which is where he died in 1843. His wife Rebecca was running the beer house at New Bridge in 1841, but her husband wasn’t with her.

The next occupier was Emanuel Houghton who is listed in 1837, but died in 1839 aged 33.

In 1841 the publican was John Houghton aged 55 with his wife Ann and family and he may have been the father of Emanuel. Both John and Ann had died by the end of 1842 and they are both buried with Emanuel at Christ Church along with Margaret Houghton who could possibly have been Emanuel’s wife.

By 1851 James Travis had become the landlord with his wife Mary, who was a widow when they married, her first husband being Thomas Bell. Mary was the daughter of Jeremiah Heyworth of Top o’ th’ Hill, Walsden, and her younger sister Martha had married Henry Sutcliffe, the first landlord of the New Masons Arms at Gauxholme. Henry was the grandson of Grace who had been the landlady of the Navigation in the early part of the century.

Living at Navigation House, which may have been the attached building were outdoor labourer Thomas Haigh and his wife.

One particularly upsetting inquest was held in 1854 and the verdict returned was not one we would be satisfied with today. It was reported in a local newspaper:


Rochdale Sentinel Saturday March 4th 1854

Sudden Death


On Tuesday morning last, about 3 o’clock, Mary Ann Hurst aged 33, wife of Matthias Hurst, was taken suddenly ill. She was near to her confinement. Her husband went for 2 doctors, but did not succeed in obtaining one. Previous to her death she was several hours and could scarcely breathe. An inquest was held on Tuesday last at the house of J. Travis, Navigation Inn Gauxholme by Ffrenard Dearden.

The verdict was - Died by a visitation of God


The Travis’ had left by 1855 and Luke Dewhirst then became the landlord as evidenced by a report in the Rochdale Weekly Banner. However it states that Mr. Dewhirst had been providing this annual treat for several years back, and it may be that he was carrying on a tradition he had started previously at Springside, Lobb Mill, which is where he had been running a beer house before taking over at the Navigation. This is the report from the Rochdale newspaper of the time:

Rochdale Weekly Banner

October 13th 1855

Annual Treat to the Aged Men in Todmorden and Locality.

On Friday last, Mr. Luke Dewhirst, the worthy landlord of the Navigation Tavern, Gauxholme, gave his annual treat to the aged men in Todmorden and neighbourhood. For several years back it has been the generous practice of Mr. Dewhirst to provide annually a cheerful, substantial and liberal treat to the aged men, he gave them all a free and welcome invitation and provides for their comfort in eating, drinking and smoking from ten o’clock a.m., till six o’clock p.m., gratis. They also otherwise amuse them selves, and those who had been in the wars did not forget their exploits on this occasion.

The concert was opened at twelve o’clock, by Mr. Dewhirst, who sung in fine style and effect “The Down Hill of Life,” which was followed by several others, some of the hale old fellows proving that their lungs were “like leather.”

Toasts and sentiments succeeded, and after enjoying an excellent dinner, four of them started in a race for a hat, the distance being 120 yards, which was well contested, and ended by James Greenwood, aged seventy, winning the hat by 12 yards.

At six o’clock they separated, after thanking the landlord and family, for the treat and wishing long life to them all.

The following are the names and aged of those who sat down to dinner:-

W. Dewhirst aged 77

John Greenwood aged 88 (can read well without glasses)

John Rigg aged 76

John Fielding aged 70

John Eastwood aged 75

John Boocock, aged 78

Wm. Crossley aged 82

Robert Smith aged 78

John Stansfield aged 74

Thomas Pearson aged 76

Jas. Greenwood aged 70

Eli Marshall aged 78

Gilbert Holden aged 71

John Luty aged 86

John Stephenson aged 74

James Johnson aged 71

James Marshall aged 76

James Fielden aged 78

Eli Marshall aged 73

James Law aged 72

It sounds as though everyone had a good time and no doubt they would all be toddlin’ of home in a jolly state and singing the praises of Mr. Dewhirst, saying how he had instituted a fine tradition. The morning after would no doubt bring the consequences of aching joints and aching heads! There are no records to show that this tradition carried on after Luke had left.

Shortly after his taking over at the Navigation, Luke’s eldest daughter Ellen married Samuel Jackson of Thornsgreece and it seems they all lived together at the Navigation, but by 1861 they had all gone their separate ways. Luke and his family had gone to Bacup and were running the New Inn on Rochdale Road, whilst Luke’s son in law Samuel Jackson and his wife Ellen had moved to take up the tenancy of the York Hotel in Todmorden.

York Hotel


Luke’s son William was also to play a small part in Todmorden pub history by becoming the landlord of the WHITE LION at Wadsworth Mill.

In 1861 Mary Travis, now the widow of James, who had been the previous tenants before the Dewhirst family, had moved back in to once again take over as the landlady, this time in her own right, with her daughter Amanda Bell from her first marriage and 11 year old twins, Ann and Henry from her marriage to James Travis. In 1861 she had 4 lodgers in the inn. She had moved out by 1866 and went to live at Clough in Walsden and died in 1877.

Isaac Sharp was to become the next landlord for a short while and after him came William Greenwood who stayed from about 1871 to 1877. William had married a Walsden girl called Grace and in 1871 they had five children at home along with a lodger John Stones who was 60 and a cotton weaver.

Also at the Navigation, but maintaining a separate household was widow Mary Woodhead who was 67 and described as a pauper. She also had a lodger in a 24 girl from Ireland called Louise Armstrong who was working as a weaver.

William and Grace left the pub and went to live at Quarry Building in Walsden, Grace’s home village, and returned to his previous occupation of a mill worker with his wife Grace and 3 children.

In June 1876, perhaps whilst William was the landlord, a distressing inquest in which the Navigation played a part, was held. It concerned a father and his little daughter aged 5.

William Pearson was 32 and lived in Mechanic Street, Todmorden. Around noon on the 24th of June 1876 he left home with his daughter of 5 to go for a walk.

They must have been walking for quite a while as it was at 5 o’clock that same day that he and his daughter called in at the Navigation, where he had a glass of beer. He then said goodbye to the landlady and shook her hand as he left the inn. His dead body was found later in the canal at Shade pool and was recovered. His daughter was also in the water and was pulled out barely alive, but was restored by her rescuers.


Rochdale Canal at Shade,

looking towards Todmorden

William was known to be of dissolute habits, but to endanger his daughter of only 5 seems extreme even for someone known for his wayward ways. Maybe he had intended to drown himself and she had jumped in afterwards in an effort to try and save him. The jury returned the verdict of suicide whilst of unsound mind.

After William Greenwood, John Stevenson was to stay for about 20 years as the landlord. John had lived at Water Bridge in Todmorden with his wife and children, and worked as a beamer before taking on the Navigation around 1877. John and Jane had 3 children, two sons and a daughter and trade must have been good as in 1883 he was in a position to buy two houses along with their gardens at Kiln Spring for £250, which was no mean sum in those days. His son Frank and his family went to live there, where Frank carried on a business as a potato dealer before later moving to Bacup and becoming a licensed victualler in that town, and later still he moved to Blackpool where he died in 1905 aged 42.

Their son Levi married Mary Ann Eastwood, the daughter of Lawrence Eastwood of the Shannon and Chesapeake at Millwood in 1895.

John Stevenson had left the Navigation by 1897 and was living at 487, Rochdale Road, Walsden when he died aged 64.

An inquest held during John’s tenancy was on Ellen Atkinson aged 60, a woman known for her intemperate habits who lived at Gauxholme was held at the Navigation Inn a month after she was found in the Smithyholme pool of the canal on 16 May 1879. The verdict “found drowned”

After John, the landlord was James Scholfield. James was born in Rossendale and married Sarah from Howarth in Yorkshire. In 1881 he and Sarah had made their home in Todmorden and lived at 9, Industrial Street along with their year old son William and his wife’s widowed mother Rachel Pickles and her sister Mary J. who was 20.

James worked as a warehouseman and they had two more children and had moved from Industrial Street to Hawthorn Place near Hallroyd by 1891 where James ran a general dealer’s shop. Around 1897 the family moved to take over the tenancy of the Navigation, but for James his new venture didn’t last long as he died suddenly in 1898 aged only 46. From all accounts he was well liked and was a very kind and helpful man.

James advertised his new management when he became the landlord, offering the same high standard as before with Tadcaster Ales and continuing to also deal in eggs, lamp oil and to continue as a yeast importer and of course good stabling.

His widow Sarah stayed on at the Navigation and was still there in 1901 with two of the children still at home, Edward and Annie, who were both in the drapery trade, and her widowed sister Mary J Crossley also lived with them along with her daughter Alice.

After Sarah, the only noted landlord was Benjamin Craven who advertised his tenancy, as James had before him, with the usual services.

A photograph taken around 1912 shows the then landlord, Billy Cheetham standing at the front door and the building is hardly changed from its early days.

The later years of the Navigation are not well recorded and as business suffered with the canal trade in decline, it closed around 1930 and became private housing.

The building has undergone extensive renovation into private canal side apartments, but the old building’s shell has been left much as it was as can be seen from this modern photo.

Once again it enjoys its location by the newly restored canal, and even though all the remnants of its previous life are gone it still retains the name of Navigation Place on the wall at the entrance to the buildings, to remind us of its past heritage.