Its Streets, Lanes, and some of its most Notable Inhabitants.

Written by JOHN TRAVIS about 1900
Reprinted from the “Todmorden Advertiser”

Transcribed by Arlene Hinman in 2003


The following doggerel, composed by a local poet in the year 1802, shows who were the principal shopkeepers, etc., at that date:

Of Todmorden market my intention’s to sing,
Where badgers and butchers their articles bring;
For beef and for mutton, for corn and good cheer,
You people who want them must all repair here.

There’s Dearden, the badger: for articles good
None can them excel, it’s well understood;
Corn, butter, malt, you may purchase, or cheese,
For Christians never their customers squeeze.

There’s Turner, the butcher, in liquor so big,
He dare knock down an ox, yet is alarmed with a pig:
And George at Dobroyd, who to deal is so keen,
He’ll sell you fat beef, or a strong velveteen.

Of groceries good if you stand in need,
Repair to Dick Thomas, he’ll serve you with speed;
Nicknames for to give,’tis so common a trick,
Should you not know Dick Thomas, you’ll know “Sewgar Dick.”

His treacle and sugar he sells them so cheap,
Only purchase of him, an advantage you’ll reap;
Then for gingerbread nuts, or the right China sort,
John Helliwell’s stand is the place of resort.

Should thirsty you be, there’s the sign of the Hart,
Or a battle you want, they there play their part;
For the landlord’s so mild, ye men who are able
May demolish his chairs or break him a table.
But the Royal’s the place to sit at your ease,
For Howorth’s chief object his guests is to please;
So neighbours and friends I have ended my song,
Should you want to buy cheap, to our mart come along.

The personal references in the foregoing verses are to Edmund Dearden, corn miller, Watty; James Turner, butcher, Castle Naze; George Cockcroft, butcher and “piecemaker”, Dobroyd-lane bottom; Richard Thomas, grocer, North-street; John Helliwell, baker and confectioner, also of North-street’ Samuel Hanson was then “mine host” of the White Hart, and was likewise in trade as a timber merchant; while the “Royal George,” as the writer discloses, was tenanted by a member of the Howorth family – as it continued to be well into the latter half of the century.

The general market day for the locality was changed from Thursday to Saturday sometime before 1820, when other butchers and general dealers began to attend. The principal market ground was at the bottom of the White Hart-fold, or “Eccles Fold” as it was more commonly called (after George Eccles, one of the tenants of the inn). Corn millers and maltsters – or “badgers” as they were then more familiarly styled – changed their meeting place to the Royal George Inn, and that was their place to business until business methods changed, and travellers began to be sent round in quest of orders instead of the millers relying on buyers coming in search of them. But down to about 1840 country grocers regularly came into town to the Royal George to pay old scores, and order new supplies from the corn factors and wholesale provision dealers, and the house was often thronged with them that day.

There were malt kilns at Todmorden in the first half of the century, and malt-rolling was done at “th’ Steam Factory,” but outsiders kept for themselves a big share of local trade until as late as 1860, among them being a Mr. Midgley from Huddersfield and a Mr. Harrison from Pontefract, and Abraham Stansfield, labourer, of Mount Pleasant, Todmorden (known as “Ab Sol”), used to collect the empty sacks for the latter, and to the end of his life would get leave from his ordinary occupation wherever he was employed in order to accompay Mr. Harrison on his round, for it meant not only a good day’s wage but what was to him equally acceptable, abundance of drink thrown in.

But the original centre of the district, going back a century or more, was not either of the inns already named. For that we have to go to the Langfield side, and this pivotal point was the “Hole-in-the-Wall” public-house, which was situated in a narrow lane (past what is now the Golden Lion) leading to Shoebroad and to the farms at Hangingditch and Longfield. Two or three old cottages, still habitable, are yet standing which were adjoining the “Hole-in-the-Wall,” but only a small arch of the old village hostelry remains – a house which had possibly served as the chief house of accommodation for three or four hundred years.


The Golden Lion Inn is supposed to have been erected about 1770, in a more convenient situation, for by that time the new turnpike roads had been made to connect Todmorden and the neighbouring towns. Cotton first came from America, it is said, and about 1785, and by 1790 it was in general use for the making of fustian pieces, all about the Todmorden countryside districts, and by 1800 the manufacture of cotton fabrics became the staple trade.

One of the early tenants of the Golden Lion was Mr. David Cawthorn, and he became one of the principal promoters of a regular coach service between Halifax and Manchester, his house being naturally fixed upon as one of the changing and calling places on the route. In that way the vicinity of the Golden Lion became a most lively and interesting place whenever a coach was arriving or leaving, and so may young men were caught up by the spirit of the times that they became so irretrievable “horsey,” that they never could “tee down” to anything else than stable work and the handling of animals to their dying day.

But the coaching days came to an end soon after the railway era opened, which may be fixed at 1841, though for some time after that coaches or other vehicles had to be kept running from Hebden Bridge to the Walsden end of Summit tunnel, the portion of the railway between those points being the last link in the main line to be constructed.

When the Manchester and Leeds Railway (as it was then called) was opened, the third class carriages were open to all weathers, and the passengers’ only comfort was a stang or support to rest against along the centre of the carriage. The Todmorden booking office – there was nothing worthy to be called a station – was under one of the arches behind the White Hart Inn, and having booked the passenger passed by a flight of plant steps to platforms make of planks, which were erected on the viaduct near to Ridgefoot mill. The guards of the train wore red coats and caps with bands of broad gold lace, and two of the earliest local men in that service were William Jackson and John Phillips. One of their duties was to go round to the passengers on the trains, en route, and collect the tickets for the next stopping station.

What has been spoken of as the “White Hart Inn,” was originally called “The New Inn,” and it was erected in 1728 by John and Tamar Fielden of Todmorden Hall, on part of one of the meadows (Smith-hill) of their Doghouse Farm, and later North-st. was built on other portions of the fringe of the same estate. When Samuel Hanson, the Quaker innkeeper and timber dealer, was the tenant about the year 1770 to 1802, the owner was another Friend – William Greenwood, of Stones. Samuel Hanson was succeeded as landlord by Richard Midgley, of Kebcote, who had previously been a lifeguardsman; and of his family one became later the wife of mine host of the Golden Lion, and a son went to keep the Greyhound Inn at Wadsworth mill, while another son became apparitor at Christ Church. Sometime before 1820, Mr. George Eccles, of Keighley, came as tenant of the White Hart Inn and the farm which was let along with it, and during his tenancy, petty sessions began to be held at stated intervals in the room then know as “The Free Masons’ Room.” The Stairs leading to this room came to be known as “Eccles’ Steps,” and to be required to travel that way was ominous. “What! Tha’s bin up Eccles’ Steps, has ta?” has greeted many a one who had had to answer for his sins before the village justices, and often it would be added “They teych ‘em their lessons up there!”


The open place in front of the White Hart Inn was at that time known as “Eccles’ Fold,” and was used as a market place, Stalls were also erected along the front of the old church. Taking the turn to the left from Eccles’ Fold along North-street, the left-hand side of the street was occupied by a number of shops, and the names of some of the shopkeepers about the middle of the century will still be familiar to many readers of the present time. Mr. John Roberts and Mr. Jas. Postlethwaite, tailors, and Mr. Wm. Scholfield, ironmonger who occupied premises between the Fold and Black Swan, and the latter place of accommodation was in the hands of Mrs. Fanny Greenwood and her children, a butcher’s shop next door being under the management of one of her sons. On the opposite side of the road the river Calder ran open. The Oddfellows’ Friendly Society had in 1840 constructed their new hall, and had also effected a considerable improvement by erecting some twenty-two cottages, and two shops which fronted on the road. By this alteration, Bridge-street was opened to the main road, and the river effectually bridged at that point. It should be mentioned that at that time (1839) the river had not been diverted from its original course, and still flowed along the side of the road to join the Burnley valley stream at the point where Stansfield-road now runs. Between the Black Swan and the railway viaduct, there were several business houses, among them being the cooper’s shop of James Scholfield, Shadrach Sutcliffe’s pie-shop, and Thomas Taylor’s putting-out warehouse, with the dwelling-houses of Mr. Henry Buckley and Mrs. Scarr next to the railway arch. In the place where Ridgefoot shed now stand, there used to be a small inn called the “Patmos Inn,” kept by Mr. Robert Greenwood, but this inn was demolished to make room for a new mill for Buckley Bros.

When the place had been erected, it was found that the foundations were unstable, and the premises could only be used for warehousing. After a time the building was pulled down, and the material used for the erection of the present shed. In the triangle formed by the two converging rivers and the main road, Mr. Thos. E. Hammerton, solicitor, built a house office, and the garden attached to the house extended almost to Patmos Chapel, the only building between being the Cooper’s or Mitchell’s property, and the Parsonage house within the chapel grounds. This garden was built upon about 1840 by Mr. Robert Mills and other contractors, whilst the opposite side of the road was occupied by Ridgefoot House, which was built by John, son of the original John Buckley.

Next to the Ridgefoot gardens were two old houses, and then came the meadow which was know as the “Little Holme,” and which was built upon shortly after, the district becoming known as “Cobden.” The first street formed on that plot was called Mills-street, after the contractor who built the first new houses. Patmos Chapel had been built since 1816. In 1820 the street now known as Wellington-road was commenced by a Warrington or Wigan pinmaker, who built the houses known as Pin-hall (quite recently demolished), and the lane got its first name from those houses.

The river Calder was crossed by means of stepping-stones, and, some time after by a plank bridge, Mrs. Sutcliffe, of Stansfield Hall, caused the primitive bridge to be replaced by one of stone, immediately after a mason who had been at a festivity to celebrate the rearing of Holebottom Mill, was drowned in crossing in a time of flood, and laid down stepping-stones so that flood water could flow off between, and the lane came to be known as White-Platts. The stones were a great convenience to the worshippers at Patmos, of whom Mrs. Sutcliffe was one.

The land to the west of Pin-hall lane was up to 1834 a meadow belonging to Mr. John Suthers, of Water-street, but in the year mentioned, Mr. Hammerton bought about half of the property – the portion extending from the river to Vale House – and built West Lodge, leaving pretty extensive grounds and gardens back and front of the house. The remainder of the property was purchased by Mr. Abraham Stansfield in 1840, and was cultivated as a nursery and vegetable garden for many years.

Returning to the main road, the Parsonage, or Vicarage, had been erected in 1825, and had spare ground in front extending to the road. The site had been acquired by purchase from Mr. Samuel Greenwood, of Stones, a prominent Friend, and about 1827 Mr. Greenwood generously gave a quantity of adjacent ground for use as a cemetery, and upon part of this land Christ Church was later erected. Between the cemetery and the Vicarage grounds there was an old foot path, which was remade into a good road, fit for horse traffic, up to the foot of the steps which lead to the Ridge. The new burial ground was fenced and drained, and a “Sacristy” erected in 1829, the expense being met by two rates, which were levied on the inhabitants of Todmorden and Walsden, and which realised £900.

Interesting events within the memory of the writer were the two “dole days,” which were held in the Sacristy about 1830, to relieve the poor of the district, the cotton trade being in an extremely bad state at that time. A number of gentlemen connected with church matters originated a subscription, the proceeds of which enable them to purchase and distribute amongst the deserving poor of the district a quantity of blankets, sheets, flannel, meat, flour, etc. There was a little amount of irony in the affair, first to levy and collect rates to fence the ground, and then make a grand show of helping the poor handloom weavers in their time of stress so soon after by doles on the very spot. From 1826 to 1830 it was said that the prices paid for hand weaving had come down from 2s. 6d. to 1s. per cut.

A young gentleman named Richard Gould who later became a very active and useful man to the district especially in church matters, had come to Todmorden about 1828. He came originally intending to learn the cotton manufacturing business with Messrs. Fielden, but ultimately he settle down as a sort of quiet country gentleman, and took up no commercial responsibilities. He lived in apartments with Mrs. Mary Lord, at Roomfield House – a widow lady, whose father (Rev. Joseph Atkinson) was a former incumbent of Todmorden. Mr. Gould was a steadfast and active Churchman from the beginning, and he amongst others interested himself in seeking out suitable cases for relief.

In 1830 it was decided that a new church should be erected on part of the ground which had been given by Mr. Greenwood, and the foundation stone was laid in the presence of a large crowd. The church was completed and consecrated in 1832.

Mr. Thomas Ramsbotham built Centre-vale about 1827-8, and removed there from the cottage adjoining his mill at Ewood. In purchasing the property, and in order to have a larger expanse of land in front of the house, Mr. Ramsbotham bought the meadow which belonged to Jonas Turner, the owner of the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Toad Carr. This meadow extended right up to the front of Centre-vale house. The course of the river at that time ran right through the middle of the Centre-vale grounds, across the site of the present cricket field and the new portion of Christ Church burial ground. Mr. Ramsbotham’s other purchases included the Carr’s Barn and the Platts House farms, formerly the property of Joshua Fielden (“Jossy o’th’ Platts House”); also two fields near the church from Joshua Fielden, of the Holme. Having purchased this land, he proceeded to divert the river course from Malt Kiln Bridge to the entrance to the church lane. Mr. Ramsbotham died in 1839, aged 64 years, and a memorial was afterwards erected opposite his pew in Christ Church.

Returning to the Burnley road, the only property on the right-hand side beyond Gandy Bridge was a row of five houses fronting the road. Victoria-road had not then been made. That improvement was principally due to the liberality and enterprise of Mr. Joshua Fielden, of Stansfield Hall. Of course some other property owners were interested in the matter, and the road was made and opened in 1850. Blind-lane was in 1840 the only roadway to the Stansfield Hall estate, the lane commencing at the Burnley-road end – as it does to-day – with a beerhouse and a grocer’s shop and several dwelling-houses. Further up the lane were Harley House and Mill, then in the occupation of Mr. Aspden, a heald yarn spinner, and further up still was Meadow-bottom, then as now fairly thickly populated. Holebottom Mill was the property of Abraham and Geo. Stansfield, formerly cotton spinners, but was then tenanted by the Hinchliffe Bros., of Crag Vale, and above that point were the Ratcha Mill and Wickenberry Clough, the former place being a small water-driven wool carding and spinning place belonging to the Helliwells, of Greenhurst-hey and Dulesgate.

Retracing our steps to the main road once again, we come to the cottages between Blindlane end and Ferney Lee lane bottom, where stood the Inghamite chapel and house. Next to the chapel was the grocery establishment kept by Norman Foulds, who was the first in Todmorden to sell spirits in bottle, in the time before there were dram shops in the district. The next buildings were the row of houses known as “Piccadilly,” and then the large cluster of houses round Toadhole or Toad Carr, the old Shoulder of Mutton Inn being one of the houses.

Spring Bank – at that time known as “Tantum Hall”-was occupied by Samuel Barker (“Sam o’ Tom’s”), of Hollins Farm, Cross-stone, as a weaving place. Harehill House was the residence of Mr. John Greenwood, malster and corn miller, founder of the firm of Greenwood Bros., of Gauxholme and Watty Mills. The Inn in the Holme lane – “The Hare and Hounds” – was then kept by Mr. Thos. Sutcliffe, who afterwards removed to Rochdale, and founded a brewery in Molesworth-street.

Opposite to the Holme was Ewood or Maltkiln old factory, where Mr. Thos. Ramsbotham used to carry on the business of putter-out of weft and warps to the hand weavers of the surrounding district. He also kept a foundry there, employing moulders and mechanics in the manufacture of cotton machinery. Here the machinery was made for a large mill in Deansgate, Manchester, the machinery being shipped to Manchester by the canal.

Further up Ewood lane was the maltkiln belonging to the Greenwoods’ of Harehill, Watty, and Gauxholme, and Ewood house, which was rebuilt about 1840, and about the same time Mr. John Crossley, of Scaitcliffe, built Wood Cottage as a dower-house for his widowed mother.

Newton Green has altered very little of late years, but Newton Grove was at that time the residence of Mr. Ashton Stansfield, and Mr. John Ingham, the owner, a cabinetmaker. At the bottom of Crosslee or Cross-lee-lane, was the property of William Fielden. This old property had been variously used as a sawmill and bobbin manufactory, and a power-loom weaving shed, but it was removed many years later, and a brick sizehouse built by Mr. James Coupe.

Scaitcliffe Hall and the corn mill are very little altered, but on the right-hand side of Scaitcliffe Bridge there used to stand a small cottage which was afterwards pulled down after the erection of Glenview.

Past “Rutchley,” there was Lineholme, where a mill had been in existence since before 1800, the power being derived from the water from the tail-goit of old Lydgate Mill, which stood in a field just by the Railway Inn. The road from Lineholme Bridge formerly went by the riverside to near the later entrance to Robinwood Mill, quite away from the present road, and at the place where Canteen Shed now stands there then stood by the side of the road and facing the watercourse “The Old Canteen Inn.” Afterwards the new part of road was made straight down, but the river was not diverted, as the water still had to pass down the old course and goit to the mill of Messrs. Stansfield at Lineholme. The old Lydgate Mill was entirely demolished about 1860, and part of Lineholme Mill was also done away with, but the shed was added to in later years.

Robinwood Mill was built by Mr. Thos. Ramsbotham about the year 1830, but was never fitted with machinery until it was bout by Messrs. Fielden Bros., of Waterside Mill about 1839. There was quite a number of houses in Lydgate, around the Kitson-wood district and along the main road at this time, and higher up the road the Oddfellows erected the “Nazebottom” houses, and above that there was Fiddler’s Well, where there was a joiner’s shop, and the shop occupied by John Crabtree, popularly known as “John o’Sam’ls.” Higher up, on the left hand side of the road stood Barewise Mill, with the master’s house and some cottages in the mill yard. This mill was run by water power from the tail-goit of Frieldhurst Mill above Ingbottom. The business at Barewise was started by a forebear of the Barkers of Cross-lee, and was run by a later generations of Barkers as a spinning and manufacturing concern. The family was one of the oldest in the district, and Mr. Barker was a prosperous “putter out” of materials for home weaving. Barewise Mill was afterwards noted unenviably for the bad luck which attended it, the premises being burnt out two or three times in the course of a few years. The mill was rebuilt and enlarged after each outbreak, and steam power was added to its resources. Its chimney was noted as being one of the finest in the district, its position being just under the Eagle’s Crag. The founders were John William and Josiah Barker of Cross Leigh and the Owlers. Under the three sons one of the original founders who came into possession of the business, the concern went from bad to worse, and the final stroke came with the great Burnley-road flood of 1870. The river arch in front being washed away, with a considerable portion of the land in front of the mill, and after some years the property was sold, and partially dismantled, the Towneleys of Towneley Hall, the new owners, dismantling the mill, and leaving it in its present forlorn-looking condition.

On the other side of the road is the “Peeping Tom of Coventry” Inn, a beerhouse which for many years was kept by Thomas Crossley. He shortly after erected a house of his own, and removed to it, taking the name with him, whilst the old house was taken by another tenant, and the name “Staff of Life” given to it. The cottage property in the vicinity of the Peeping Tom was known as Knotts Wood bottom, and the next place of interest is “Black-rock,” a small farm then in the occupation of Abraham Ormerod, and later carried on by his grandsons. Just beyond the turn of the road above Black-rock, James Barker and Abraham Hodgson built a good deal of property up to the railway, and then come Ingbottom, in which very little alteration has taken place.

The two mile limit having now been reached, it is not proposed to continue any further up the valley, but it may be worth while noticing that the Portsmouth district is now nearly as populous as Todmorden itself was in 1840.