North Hollingworth is high up on the eastern side of the Walsden valley, reached by a steep and narrow track from the valley bottom at Birks Mill. A packhorse trail, which follows the shelf line of the hills, passes through Hollingworth, and is still used today by walkers and riders. The views from Hollingworth across the Walsden valley to the Inchfield Moor on the opposite side are magnificent.

The packhorse trail at North Hollingworth

The farm has a long and distinguished history, dating back to at least the 1500's when it was in the hands of a Greenwood family. Martha Greenwood married Joshua Fielden of Bottomley in 1656, and their son Thomas lived and farmed at North Hollingworth, which had been his mother's home.
Thomas became a wealthy yeoman farmer and woollen cloth manufacturer, running his woollen business from the farm. He died in 1726, leaving his wife Alice at the farm. His nephew, also Thomas Fielden, moved to live at the farm in order to continue with the business, and to care for the widow Alice. He remained at North Hollingworth with his wife and children for about 10 years. His son John Fielden eventually inherited the farm and lived there many years, leaving his eldest son Abraham to continue at the farm after his death.
Abraham, known as Old Ab., played the bassoon in the choir at St. Mary's and was also a newspaper reader along with a distant relation, Old Jim Fielden of Birks. Jim lived nearest the road in the valley bottom so the papers were delivered to him. After he had read them, Abraham's grandson (John Crowther) collected them and took them up to Abraham at North Hollingworth.
After his wife died he gave up the farm at North Hollingworth and went to live with his daughter Sally and her husband at Square where he had his own room and continued with some hand weaving and newspaper reading. Then he moved to a small cottage behind the Hollins Inn. His nephew John Fielden took over and remained there from about 1830 until his death in 1878, raising a large family.
There were two attached cottages at the farm. John Law occupied one of them from the late 1830's until his death in 1873, from which time it was taken over by his daughter Betty and her husband Peter Crossley.

John Law and his wife Betty (Jackson) raised 10 children in this tiny cottage, funded by their earnings from handloom weaving. Their youngest child was Robert Law, born in the cottage in 1840. He was a wayward lad. He had no interest in books or education, and this worried his parents. At the age of seven he was sent to the village school for the first time. Robert was a reluctant pupil, often playing truant to spend his days in the fields and on the moors collecting stones and studying the wildlife. So disinterested at school was he that he barely learnt how to hold a pen, and could neither read nor write by the time he left school 3 years later at the age of 10.

He was happy to be at home in the countryside where he took a great interest in insects, birds and nature in general, collecting stones and examining them in fine detail. As a teenager, he led a wild and reckless life with unsavoury companions and his behaviour was quite notorious throughout the district.

His life turned round suddenly and he ended up a distinguished and much liked man, and a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, still living at North Hollingworth until his late-in-life marriage in 1886. His full story can be read by clicking on his link below.

Robert Law