York Street, Todmorden



The top end of Halifax Road as we know it today was once known as York Street, and the row of houses on the left hand side below Bridge Street is where the Peacock was situated. The local historian John Travis recorded the buildings in the following order:

A warehouse belonging to William Suthers, which was later converted into a bank, was the first building in the row, and next came a low building which was first Taylor's butchers and then a nail makers belonging to William Hawksworth. This was later pulled down and the WELLINGTON INN erected in its place. William also owned the next shop, which had earlier been druggists, from where he ran a hardware business.

The next house is the one that became the Peacock and was owned by John Suthers along with the next house, which was divided into two parts, a cellar and an upstairs, both used as separate dwellings. The cellar was used as a confectioners shop and the window opened directly onto the street. There was a back entrance in School Lane that provided access to the living accommodation.


photo by kind permission of Roger Birch

In this photograph taken around 1896, you can see the Wellington at the very end of the row with the Peacock next door but one. The shop with the blind, next to the Wellington, would have been the hardware shop of Mr. Hawksworth if Travis is correct. The one next to that was the Peacock.

When the new beerhouse act of 1830 was passed, the first licence to be granted in Todmorden was to Jeremiah Suthers, son of John Suthers of York Street. John had three sons, James, John and Jeremiah, who all became involved in the licensing trade. When he died, he left the property divided between them.


The area around York Street was well populated with workers and there were many lodging houses around, which meant a good supply of customers for Jeremiah. How it came by its name is not known, but maybe Jeremiah passed a remark that he was as "Proud as a Peacock" to get the licence, and the name stuck.

Jeremiah was the son of John and Ann Suthers, born around 1799, and was a bit of a lad in his day. In 1831 he was tried along with two others for the murder of John Horsfall of Longfield, who was last seen in his house, but fortunately he was aquitted.

Taken from the Records of Cases at York Assizes 1785 -1851

9th day of July 1831, no.29. Sir Harry James GOODRICKE, Bart., High Sheriff.

Date of commitment 14 June 1831.

Age 32. Jeremiah SUTHERS with Benjamin BARKER and David PARKER, late of Longfield in the West-riding, charged upon the oaths of John EASTWOOD & others, for that he the said Jeremiah SUTHERS, at Longfield aforesaid, on the 8th day of February last, did feloniously kill and slay one John HORSFALL; and that the said Benjamin BARKER and David PARKER are accessories after the fact in the commission of the said felony.

Verdict: Not guilty - to be discharged

Jeremiah seemed to settle down, married and had a family, the youngest being Thomas born in 1840. The children grew up inevitably knowing the beer house trade, which would stand them in good stead with events turning out as they did. It seems that Jeremiah still had his brushes with the law and in 1847 was in trouble again. This time it was for nothing more serious than drinking after hours, a common enough practice even today. It was reported in the newspaper of the time:

The Manchester Times and Gazette (Manchester, England), Saturday, October 30, 1847; Issue 992



At the Petty Sessions on Thursday last, JEREMIAH SUTHERS, beer seller of Langfield, was charged by the County Police with having 3 persons in his house at 1 o’clock in the morning of the 26th inst. Defendant was fined 5s. and costs.


Jeremiah’s family couldn’t have known the tragedy that was waiting round the corner. On an autumn day in September of 1848, Jeremiah went out, and in the woods behind Todmorden Hall, he hung himself. The shock must have been tremendous when his family got hear of it and it was widely reported in the newspapers, even ones as far away as Newcastle as this extract shows:


The Newcastle Courant etc (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), Friday, September 15, 1848; Issue 9067.

Jeremiah Suthers, beerseller, Todmorden, aged 56, has committed suicide by hanging himself in Hale Wood near Todmorden. He had in his pockets at the time he was found dead, no less a sum than £59 13shillings and 11p three farthings in gold, silver and copper.

Life had to go on and his son William took over the licence of the Peacock. It was a good job he had grown up in the trade and knew the ropes. He had married by 1851 and he, his wife and his four siblings, were all living together at the Peacock. His sister Jane at 22 was helping in the pub as a general servant, brother Richard was a carter, his brother Joseph at 15 had no trade, so maybe he helped in the pub as well, and the youngest brother, Thomas was still at school.


By now, William had competition from the Wellington Inn, which had opened next door and was run by his uncle James, the brother of the ill-fated Jeremiah.


After a few years, William left the Peacock and by 1861, it was being run by John Suthers, his brother. Besides selling beer, he still went out to his day job as an iron moulder. His wife Sarah, was the daughter of Edmund Blomley of the Golden Lion, so she would have been capable of running a small beer house without any trouble. They had a young family of five in 1861; two sons and three daughters and Sarah had help in the form of Grace Jane Smith, an Irish girl. In 1866, John and Sarah left the Peacock to open the Clarence at Salford. This ended the Suthers long standing family connection with the Peacock.

A landlord at some point in time, more than likely after the Suthers family and before Stephen Hirst, was Elihu Blakey. He was the son of Bernard and Betty who had come to Todmorden from Burnley. They settled in the Shade area and Elihu was born there around 1823. He married Mary Ann, the daughter of Michael and Nancy Dawson and he had a job as a boot and shoemaker. Michael ran the green grocers shop at Little Holme Street.

Little Holme Street, Shade


Mary Ann died in 1869 and Elihu married a lady from Hull, another Mary. They were married in 1870 and by that time, he had become a fish merchant. His last recorded job was as a lamp lighter. He spent the last 15 years of his life at 20, Shade and he died in 1886 aged 62


Stephen Hirst was known to be the licensee in 1871 and he, his wife and family of three young sons, ran the Peacock for a number of years before moving on. He employed a man from Stockport, James Gordon, as help in the inn.


By 1877, the Peacock was in the hands of Thomas Sutcliffe, a chap born in Walsden. Thomas was married with a daughter and son both still of school age. He had been a clogger living in Mechanic Street, so he did not have to move far to the Peacock.


Garden Street

It was not to be a long tenancy as he and his family had moved out shortly after 1881 and went to live in Garden Street, where Thomas had gone back to his trade of clogger. Garden Street was in a nice area of Stansfield and the houses were a class above the ones in the town centre, so Thomas had progressed, maybe with the money he earned at the Peacock.

So it was that another landlord arrived in the early 1880's. Robert Greenwood was his name and he came from the Duke Street area of Stansfield, with his wife Ellen and three daughters aged from nine to six. By 1891, they were well established at the Peacock and now had four daughters with Gertrude, who at 16 was old enough to help in the busy pub.


Robert was well known in Todmorden and was a member of the Todmorden Old Brass Band, having played for them for nearly 30 years. He died in 1897 aged 53 and as was to be expected, the band was present at his funeral and followed the cortege all the way to Cross Stone Church where he was buried, playing the "Death March". His funeral attracted a great number of people, so he was obviously a popular man and it would perhaps have reflected on trade at the Peacock.


His widow Ellen carried on running the pub helped by her daughters until they either left home or married. Another blow was to befall her as in the November of the same year that her husband Robert had died, the leasehold for the Peacock was put up for sale at the WHITE HART . It attracted a great deal of interest and generated plenty of bids. It was sold to Messrs. Greenwood Bros. of Bradford for £2,750.

Ellen was left to run the pub and in an advert placed in the local almanac, it stated that structural alterations were taking place at the old inn. It seems that the Greenwood Bros. were spending some money on their newly acquired premises. Ellen was still there in 1901 with her daughter Edith and married daughter Bertha, whose husband, Watts Taylor, later ran the ROSE AND CROWN at Castle Clough.


At the turn of the century, the alcohol consumption had risen alarmingly and a commission was set up to look into ways of curbing this growing trend, called the Peel Commission. It was decided that a reduction was needed in the number of beer houses and the 1904 Licensing Act came into force whereby those that closed would be offered compensation, the funds being provided by a levy on the owners of the premises, which was usually the brewers.


So it was that in February 1908, the Peacock was referred by the Greenwood Bros. to the Todmorden Licensing Sessions for compensation along with the Spread Eagle at Hebden Bridge and the Black Bull at Gauxholme. By The 14th of July, the West Riding Compensation Authority awarded £2,100 in compensation for the closure of the Peacock. Maybe the Wellington Inn, next door, had proved the more popular of the two pubs and the smaller Peacock had to give way to altering trends. The owners would want financial profit from their investment and they could perhaps find a more profitable business to occupy the premises.

So the Peacock, the very first beer house to be granted a licence under the new act of 1830, closed its doors for the last time in 1908 and made way for progress. The premises were occupied for many years by Greenwood's outfitters. Were these the same Greenwood Bros. who had bought the Peacock in 1897? A shrewd move by them if true, as they continued to trade until 1987.