a railway man


Abraham Law was born in 1796 at SQUARE in Walsden, one of the youngest of an enormous family. He became a clog and pattern maker, as his father had been. Whilst only about 19 years old he married Susan Fielden and they settled at Winterbutlee in Walsden where they had a family of 4 children before Susan died prematurely in 1822, just 6 months after the death of their 4th child. Abraham moved back to his own family home at Square where he continued with his trade. It wasn't long before he took a second wife. She was Nancy Crabtree, a neighbour from Square. Nancy looked after her 3 stepchildren and provided Abraham with a further 9.


The original Cloggers Arms

They lived at the present number 10 Square Road, and following the 1830 Act, they opened a beerhouse calling it the Cloggers Arms. About 1840, when the railway was being built, the area was full of railway labourers, and the beerhouse did well. However, the Railway Company was building a new road, which by-passed the old highway along a piece of land between the old highway and the canal. Abraham was worried about this being detrimental to his trade from passing travellers along the highway. They would no longer pass his door.
He and Nancy decided to build a brand new beerhouse right on the new road between it and the canal. The front door would attract the road travellers and the back door would be a welcome sight to the canal men. The beerhouse was built along with 4 attached cottages, known as Birks Cottages, and Abraham and Nancy moved in. The name of Cloggers Arms was retained initially and the business thrived. In addition to selling wines, ales and porter, the beerhouse was also a family grocers and tea merchants.

The back entrance to the Cross Keys

Walsden Church was also built during the 1840's. In 1848 it was consecrated and dedicated to St. Peter. The sign associated with St. Peter is, apparently, crossed keys. It seems that for this reason, the beerhouse was re-named the CROSS KEYS; a name it still carries today. Abraham died at the relatively early age of 54 whilst living at the Cross Keys. He is buried with his parents at St. Mary's in Todmorden. Sadly, the headstone now leans, broken and worn, against the side of a wall.

Here lies the body of John son of Samual Law of Toad Carr

who died December 17th 1775

aged 3 years

Also the body of Samual Law

of Square in Walsden

who was interred on 11th June 1824

aged 79 years

Also of Sarah his wife who was interred on 9th October 1836 aged 90 years

Also of Abraham Law

who died at Birks Cottage

June 10th 1850 aged 54 years


Nancy lived on at the beerhouse keeping the business running successfully for the next 19 years. She is buried at St. Peter's in Walsden:


Nancy wife of Abraham Law of Birks Cottage Walsden

died Feb 23 1869 aged 64.

Also Susan Law born Oct 24 1845 died March 27 1908

The younger children of Abraham and Nancy were born at the Cross Keys, including Thomas, their youngest son. He was born on 29th November 1841. Tom grew up in a family of girls. His only full brother had died before he was born, his only half brother had left home to work as a sawyer and his father died when he was 8 years old.

This particular branch of the Law family had never been hot on religion. Baptisms were irregular and often done as a job lot. Abraham, for example, was baptised on the same day as his sister Sally, who was 17 at the time. There is no evidence of non-conformism, and indeed, that wouldn't have gone down too well with the Methodist elders considering Abraham's occupation in life.

Rev. Dowty was the incumbent at Walsden Church when Tom was a lad, and history records that he was concerned as to the numbers of unbaptised children amongst his parishioners. He organised mass christenings during his afternoon services, with James Lord and John Travis standing as sponsors.

St. Peters from the rear of the Cross Keys

It is said that young Tom was down for one of these, and when it was his turn, the Rev. Dowty added a second name for him, Golan, this being Mr. Dowty's mother's maiden name. The validity of this story is questionable because I can find no trace of any baptism for Tom at St. Peters, and there is no evidence he ever used his middle name. He was simply Tom Law. I can, however, find evidence of mass baptisms during the incumbency of Mr. Dowty.

As a boy Tom attended LANEBOTTOM SCHOOL, quite a long walk away for little legs. The schoolmaster then was his first cousin, Matthias Law. No doubt Matthias paid special attention to young Tom, which showed in his later life. His parents would have paid 4d. a week for his education.

Lanebottom School before the re-build in 1875


After leaving school, Tom stayed with his mother at the Cross Keys, working as a telegraph clerk for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. He afterwards became a time-keeper, and on the death of his brother-in-law, James Uttley, he was appointed building inspector from Smithy Bridge to Thornhill and branches, having at the time of his death nearly 50 men working in his charge.


Holy Trinity

At the age of 29, Tom married Betsey Astin, the daughter of John and Ann Astin of Barker & Astin, Millwrights of Salford, Todmorden. They married at Holy Trinity Church, Littleborough, on 19th. August 1872 and went on to have 2 sons and 3 daughters; Ann, Sam, Alfred, Mary and Sarah. In 1881 they were living at 17, Square; maybe the old family home.

On Saturday October 3rd 1896, whilst superintending the alterations to the down platform at Walsden station, Tom was caught by an express train, and one of his feet was injured, from which accident he never fully recovered. The accident was reported locally:


"A fearful accident occurred at Walsden Railway station, by which one person named George Fox of Sowerby Bridge was killed, and two others injured, named Tom Law, railway inspector, and Phineas Hitchen, labourer, also of Sowerby Bridge. Law was taken home, and Hitchen was conveyed to Halifax Infirmary. The injuries were done by the express train due at Todmorden at 10-40am and came upon the men without warning."

Tom and his family were obliged to move to live in the village of Sowerby Bridge as it was more convenient for his work. Tom died there on 26th January 1901 at the age of 59.

Tom's funeral took place at St. Peters Church, Sowerby, on Wednesday January 30th 1901, when, in addition to his more immediate friends, about 60 of the L & Y Railway Company's workmen attended the ceremony, including a few friends from Todmorden and Littleborough. The grave is a mixture of black marble and stone, and sadly the heavy black marble cross has been detached from its plinth.

St. Peter's at Sowerby


To the dear memory of Tom Law,

Sowerby Bridge.

Born November 29th 1841

died January 26th 1901

Betsey his wife April 7th 1925

In memoriam

Sarah who passed away April 20th 1902

aged 18 years

She was sweet of heart


Tom's obituary appeared in the 1902 Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Almanac, part of which is reproduced below:

"Mr. Law was a jolly man, and genial, and true. He did his duty manfully and now he has gone all who knew him regret their loss. He had many friends, and they sought his company for his ready wit and quaint remarks had a winning charm for all. Happy and light-hearted, and looking always on the bright side of things, he went through his useful life as a man should."


Tom's wife and 4 of their children continued with their lives in Sowerby Bridge, living at 8, Waterloo Street in the village. Son Alfred was a steam engine fitter and the girls were working in the drapery and millinery business as assistants.