A Thousand Years Of Southowram
At a Manor Court held
at Wakefield on the Friday in Whit week 1275, William the Cobbler
having admitted that he had beaten and wounded Gilbert of Ashday was
fined 6d., at the same court, Henry, son of Thomas del(e) Rode was
fined 2/- for going out with bludgeons to beat the same Gilbert of
Ten years later, in
1285, at the court held at Wakefield on April 25th Gilbert of Ashday
complained that on Palm Sunday in that year Thomas de Hylton
assaulted him and broke his head with a bow in Hipperholme Wood,
drawing blood. He claimed damage of 2 marks (about £1 .40), but he
seemed afterwards to have forgiven his assailant, for at the court
held at Wakefield on Friday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity in
the same year Thomas de Hylton gave 6d. for a licence of concord with
Gilbert of Ashday, so Gilbert of Ashday is in trouble for a start.
forgoing extracts from the court rolls relate to the Graveship of
Hipperholme, in those days spelt HYPERUM, from which we gather that
Ashday was in that Graveship, and it's interesting to note that one
of the courts in 1286 is described as the Court held at the Bridge of
Rastrick. This bridge over the Calder, and the house by the side of
it, gave Brighouse its' name in 1286.
But this only 700 years
ago and we can go back much further with Southowram. Scanty records
go back to the Doomsday Book, in writing, but our village was well on
the map when, so to speak, when William the Conqueror arrived in
Let me give you a rough
background to the state of our district, to when Southowram first
became a reality. You may think this part superfluous, but maybe it
will help to give an insight to the external conditions which
influenced the geographical and the human elements. The main
influence was the Calder valley. In the later Ice Age, about 15,000
to 12,000 BC. the Calder valley in the Brighouse area was part of
Lake Calderdale, a vast stretch of water filling up the valleys of
the Calder, the Colne and their tributaries.
Above the lake on the
heights of Clifton, Southowram and Rastrick was a formidable stretch
of tundra, with Arctic and moorland vegetation. Further to the West
on the Pennine heights lay a belt of snow, fringed by the Western
icefield. To the East lay a great glacier of the Plain of York, which
pushed a great bank of debris across the Calder valley about Horbury
and prevented the waters of Lake Calderdale from escaping. The lake
probably existed for many thousands of years after the Ice Age,
through various climate changes. It was only about 49OBC that the
waters burst through this barrier to the East, to leave the valley of
the Calder a swampy uninhabitable place. On the Southowram and
Clifton side rose up a forest of oak and hazel, while on the Rastrick
side grew oak and birch. This was the age of the Neolithic and Bronze
Age man, but no traces of them have yet been
found in our district.
Around 500BC we begin
to see the first signs of life in the Brighouse area. To the Iron Age
belongs the construction of earthworks, places for both defence and
habitation, the most locally well-known is at Castle Hill,
Almondbury, not a very great distance as the crow flies from our own
hilltop. It became, and was, when the Romans came in 43AD, the
capital of the North of England, inhabited by the tribe called
Brigantis and called Brigantum.
The Brigantes were a
fierce race of warriors, ruled by a heredity head called Cartimandua,
- a woman. All this we know from Roman writings, they were highly
civilised too, after their fashion, they had their own coinage. There
were Brigantes who lived away from Castle hill, in the surrounding
country, probably on these very slopes, they grew grain and tended
As the Romans
painstakingly worked their way northwards and had suppressed the army
of Boadicea, they came into Yorkshire. About 50AD they arrived in
this area and at first the Brigantes under Cartimandua were friendly,
she being among other things a good stateswoman but there was a
strong undercurrent of opposition to this policy, which by 69AD had
led to civil war and the disappearance of Cartimandua. The Brigantes
entered into a period of open hostility to the Romans.
So now the Romans set
out to completely sub due the Britons, they built roads and poured
legions in and the Brigantes fought a retreating battle until they
made a last stand at what is now Catterick and were wiped out. The
Romans had now supplied roads here and the one from Manchester lay on
the hilltop opposite our own, where Upper Edge is today. This road
ran through Rastrick, using part of what is now Bramston Street,
turned right along the big wide river Calder, crossed a ford at Snake
Hill, (just past Brighouse Bridge) then took a straight line to
Clifton and Hartshead, then onto Cleckheaton, Tadcaster and York.
They built a small fort at Kirklees to protect the ford. Probably
cavalry - it was all downhill to the ford.
From 125AD to 250AD the
territory of the Brigantes enjoyed a comparative peace, but then the
frontiers of the Roman Empire began to crumble under the attacks from
the Pics and Scots from the North. A half century of uncertainty
began, the men buried their wealth to keep it safe from plundering
bands of marauders. Hoards of coins have been found at Hove Edge,
Elland Wood Bottom and Clifton, all bearing dates of the second half
of the third century.
At the beginning of the
fifth century the Romans abandoned the country. With the Roman power
gone, Britain was a tempting prey to the Germanic peoples searching
for lands to live.
There is a period of
six and a half centuries in British History between the end of the
Roman Rule and the beginning of that of the Normans, to part of which
the name of the 'Dark Ages' has been given. In our school days we
probably remember mainly that terrible list of English kings and
their dates starting so abruptly and definitely with William the
first 1066. If we were taught anything about times earlier than that,
we shall probably only have retained some confused recollection of
Ancient Britons stained blue with woad, or of Romans who built a
wall. After the Romans several stories follow more or less in
isolation from other events. There was someone in Rome who called
captive boys,' not Angles but angels'; King Alfred burnt the cakes;
another king, Canute tried to stop the tide coming in. Of the
consecutive history of the period and of the daily life and struggles
of its people, we learned little or nothing, because little or
nothing was the extent of what was known with precision about the
time before the Normans.
The population left by
the Romans was only small in numbers, the larger groups being
gathered round a few Roman towns, the rest of the country was very
sparsely inhabited. The people were illiterate, and conditions of
life were hard and exacting. There were no educated or leisured folk
to write about what was happening and events themselves demanded all
the energy and attention which people had to use. For at least two
and a half centuries there was no written record of any kind. All we
know of those years is the result of excavation and the study of
finds of articles and the philologist who has studied and interpreted
place names, this is the period without written record that scholars
call the 'Dark Ages'.
During this six and a
half century time a new population was added to Britain, - Angles,
Saxons and Jutes and Danes and Norsemen, in turn, invaded the
country, pillaged and fought, then settled down. Amongst them they
cleared some of the forest which in the Roman period had covered
nearly all the country. They created villages, shared their language
and customs and became the English who were subdued by William the
Conqueror. At the end of the 4th Century AD, York, then known as
Eboracum was a fortress town where a Roman Emperor had been born and
another had died. The country to the North and West of it was largely
savage, in a state of uneasy peace, but in Roman eyes quite
When the Normans
arrived, Eboracum was known to the Norse as 'Jorwick'; an archbishop
had his minster there and it was the centre and capital of a county
of Yorkshire, with three Ridings and boundaries not a lot different
from those of today. Nearly all the villages and towns we know today
were founded in this period and at the conquest they had settled
communities, cultivating their common fields, having flocks and
herds, paying taxes to the king, taking part in some form of local
government. It is to these obscure folks that we owe our village, our
language, and particularly our dialect, along with a good part of our
In terms of geography,
we can think of Scandinavia who produced the Norse, North Germany,
Jutland and parts of Holland for Saxons and the Danes. The term
"Saxon" embraces the Angles and Jutes as well, so our first
ancestors here could be any of them. They were related distantly and
spoke the same language but had a different dialect.
Now, why did they come?
We know that from our present-day findings that the climate of those
days around 500AD was much wetter and cooler than that of today.
During many centuries and particularly those about the first 4 or 5
of our era there was a steady earth movement in North West Europe.
The most obvious effect of it was the slow sinking of the Southern
part of the Baltic coast and the adjoining land, so that these early
Saxons faced with flooding and lost land, and an increasing
population had a "land hunger" created for them, and these
factors made England with its' sparse population a desirable land of
opportunity. And so these first settlers spread from the Humber
estuary onto the face of Yorkshire. They were heathens who buried
many objects with their dead and a great many objects have been
found, but so far to my knowledge nothing in Southowram Remember now
that England in those days was a huge forest, and Mr. Mitchell, the
Brighouse historian, tells us that the river Calder of those days was
many times wider than now. So imagine these "Norsemen"
wearing horns on their helmets, in their longboats with a dragons
head at the front, a big square sail and their shields hung in line
over the side, sailing or rowing on the big wide river, the sides
covered with trees and scrub and surveying the hilly country above
Climbing a water-worn
gully, which turned and twisted through the trees, avoiding boulders
and boggy ground, until their climb levelled out and they came to a
more level stretch which we now know as "The Birks", and
beyond was a gentle sloping ridge covered by scrub, in this vicinity
they felled trees, large and small to make clearings, build fences
and Palisades to keep out wolves, wild boars and deer, for we know
there were large numbers. They built wooden houses and thatched
themand laid log pavements, a feature of their former way of living,
due to swampy ground. Their word for a ridge or a hill was OVERE, so
they called the HAM or settlement on the ridge or OVERE-HAM. And
OVERE-HAM came into being sometime between 600 and 700AD.
people who study place names, call the change or altering of a place
name over the years "Normal development" So that OVERHAM in
time became UFFRUM, and UFFRUM was the name of our village when
Domesday Book was written in 1086. Another village sprang up on the
next hilltop to the North years after and this too for some reason
was called UFFRUM. This village must have risen around, or just
after, the Norman Conquest because it isn't mentioned in Domesday
Book. To distinguish it, it was called North Uffrum and our village
was called South Uffrum, and they were separated by the stream called
Shibden Brook which flows through Walterclough to emerge at
So, to recap, we know
the Saxons were our first inhabitants, at a guess, between 600 and
700AD. They formed a working community which spread outwards, and the
population increased and families tended farms away from the original
This we know from local
There may have been
remnants of the old British Brigantes left in the district, but if
there were, it's possible the Saxons and the Britons settled together
side by side.
Of course, new place
names sprang up here and a good example is CRUIM WAEL. CRUM means
winding or twisting, WAEL means water, so CRUMWAEL means winding
water or winding stream, and CRUMWAEL has now become Cromwell.
Cromwell wood which the stream flows through, and Cromwell Bottom
where it enters the Calder.
You might wonder where
all this stuff comes from? Well, Dr Raistrick who writes for the
Dalesman has quite a few books on the subject and there's Mr Mitchell
the Brighouse historian. The Halifax Antiquarian papers over a long
period, and there are several local histories of Halifax and the
Brighouse and Halifax reference libraries. It's all there, from these
various sources, I've taken it, and arranged it in chronological
order as far as possible. I mentioned earlier that a thousand years
ago the River Calder was much wider, how do we know? On both sides of
Brighouse there are gravel pits and diggings supplying pebbles.
Pebbles have been water formed and the deposits come right up to the
present-day road. Again, a few years ago, below Kirklees on the M62
side of Brighouse, there was found far from the river of now, the
burnt out remains of two Viking longboats. Nothing specific is known
Around 750AD and
onwards, a fresh invasion of England took place, this time it was a
tremendous influx of Danes. Swarm after swarm appeared and where they
made towns it invariably ended in BY. FixBY, SowerBY and many others
you'll be able to pick out yourselves. Some settled and some
plundered where they could, advancing further across the Pennines.
Nothing specific is known but they could have intermingled with the
English in these parts. Let me give you a couple of ideas which COULD
have happened in our own village.
These latecomers, the
Danes and Vikings, brought with them a form of democracy which was
similar to one of the other Northmen already living here. They had an
assembly which they called the 'ALLTHING' which took place at given
intervals, say once a month. At this ALLTHING were decided all
aspects relating to village life and whatever was decided was law.
Anyone who had a complaint of any kind could bring it up before a
chosen council of elders with the whole community listening and the
result was binding. Land squabbles, son's inheritances, killings, -
anything. It was held in a place as near central in the district for
consideration of all the community, townspeople and scattered farms.
Remember what the philologists called years of word using and it
changing - normal development. The ALLTIIING - HALL IN, - TYNWALD ,
I.O.M. Meaning THING FIELD, well it's an idea.
Now the Danes and
Vikings who ended the town's name in BY, called a town a BIRK. We
have the BIRKS here. Was there a Danish settlement, a BIRK alongside
that straight bit of road? I've nothing to back either suggestion up,
but how do places get names?
Hall Ings, or Hall
fields as the name suggests, weren't there because of the Hall,
because Southowram Hall, which I'll tell you about later, was a long
Some of these people
left us with place names that exist today. Rastrick, the wick or
settlement of Raster or Ras, is a Viking name. Coley, the cold
fields, High Sunderland was A.S.Sunderland, farmland. Shibden was
Schepe-dene which speaks for itself. Ovenden is interesting, Like the
Calder it goes back to the Britons before even the Saxons came.
Ovenden was Avon-dene,
Arvon is British for river, or water, and the Welsh of today say
Arvon for river, and we have several river Avons in England.
Preceding the Norman
Conquest, and for a short period after it, we know for certain that
the headman of Uffrum was a Saxon-Thane called Camel, this we know
from the Domesday Book.
So now we have the
local population in their everyday existence, the old Anglo-Saxons
and the newcomers the Danes, who merged and built a community
together, sharing our district and not knowing that in a hundred
years or so they would be invaded by their own relatives, the
Normans. Such a big influx of Danes was bound to make its presence
felt, and while the Saxon and Danish speech was nearly the same, the
dialects were different, and there rose now a new form of language
having both elements in its' make up. Many common words of today such
as take, window, ugly, shy, happy, husband and bread were imported by
the Danes, and a rigid and complex community had new levels of
society. There were four categories of free men. The Thane, whose
duties included military service, fortification and bridge services.
The Geneat, whose services were what we might term "honourable",
such as escorting travellers or carrying messages, he was not
expected to do any menial work, but he did pay rent. He was a
substantial small farmer who might aspire to Thanedom.
A Cotter held five
acres and a cottage, and had to work on his Lords' estate one day a
week, and three days at harvest time, but paid no rent.
Below the Cotters were
GEBURS, later known as Villeins. The GEBUR was provided with no more
than 30 acres of land, in return for which he worked on his Lords'
estate for two or three days a week, and on his death, his holding
returned to his master.
At the bottom of this
agricultural hierarchy were Slaves, recruited from amongst prisoners
of war, criminals and paupers. They had no rights. The farm worker
wore a short smock or tunic. In winter he added a hood which he often
kept on indoors. In the summer he wore a straw hat with a wide brim,
and he lived in a hut of Wattle and Daub.
Cereals were the staple
crop, oats, barley, rye and wheat was important. Barley was used for
brewing ale, their everyday liquid. There was pastoral farming, and
cattle, sheep and goats placed an important part in everyday life.
Pig keeping was common around here too because there was much
woodland. Berries and wild fruit such as crab apples were gathered.
Bees were highly valued; honey was the only sweetening substance and
was a constituent of mead. Huntsmen provided deer and wild boar to
give variety to the diet of at least the upper ranks of society.
It's difficult now to
imagine how the forest dominated the lives of local people in those
days. From earliest times it gave them not only food, fuel and timber
to build their houses, but its' dark depths were filled with the
shadowy matter of myth and legend.
Fact and fantasy joined
in an eerie alliance, for the forest harboured fairies and elves,
hermits and holy men, brigands and outlaws.
But now the Normans
were ready to take over the country, and what had been a normal
existence from say 900AD onwards, was completely revolutionised.
Their small class system was to disappear, and harsh laws brought to
a standstill the forest rights. The old thing faded away and the
manorial court took its' place. In fact, everyone became a tool for
the Norman lord of the manor. One remarkable thing emerged, the
Normans failed miserably to make their everyday language common, and
time has proved that though the English language was at times what we
call "earthy" today, it still exists. Naturally, our modern
English does include many Norman French words, but that's to be
As I've said before,
then Danes helped too in extending our vocabulary
With the Norman
Conquest, our knowledge of life in this district begins to expand.
Communities at Owram, Rastriek, Cliftone and Hiprum begin to emerge
as units. We make contact with individual men and women of the
district. The Northern parts of England didn't accept the decision of
Hastings. and in 1068 and 1069 rising backed by Danish allies took
place. But William the Conqueror proved too much of a power for them.
What was even worse for the North was that he was a stern punisher of
those who resisted his authority. His forces marched through
Yorkshire moving from South to North. Systematically they travelled
up each river valley including the Calder, burning homesteads and
crops with a pitiless efficiency. Large numbers of people perished
either by the sword or starvation and 20 years after, at the time of
the Domesday survey, great stretches of the countryside were still
waste. Clifton, Southowram, Rastrick and Elland all suffered from the
Norman harrowing. In Domesday Book for Owram are written these words,
"it is waste". But as time went by, the village reasserted
it and a court was established at Brighouse, a manorial court held
twice a year, presided over by the steward of the lord of the manor.
Here transfers of property were arranged, punishments metered out to
minor malefactors and orders made for the maintenance of the
highways. These court records were made and kept and we can construct
some idea of the lives of our ancestors. Owram, sometimes now called
Southowram, like other townships in the area, had now a petty
constable appointed annually. He was normally the chief tenant in the
township and was responsible for the preservation of law and order.
Each half a jury was selected to decide court cases. The free tenants
of the township were few, and in 1286, Rastrick had only 6 free men.
We have no record of Southowram freemen, but there must have been one
or two. As much of the countryside was forest, very severe laws were
enforced to protect the lord of the manors sport.
appointed for this purpose and in 1307, Gilbert del Bothes was
elected for the forest surrounding Owram. Fines were levied on those
taking wood from the forest, and for a right to keep pigs there a
rent was charged. In 1297 Will Swyer paid sixpence for feeding three
pigs, the protection of such livestock must have been a problem as
the forest around
Southowram, even as
late as the 13th century, was populated with wild beasts. In 1288,
William del Hirst claimed that he had protected some corn of Alan,
son of Richard TALVAS from the attention of forest beasts.
The private life of the
people was severely regulated by feudal customs. On the death of a
tenant, the lord of the manor demanded a money payment from the heir.
In 1297, Thomas, son of Richard de Totehill paid six and eightpence
on the death of his father. In 1285, Christiana, daughter of Richard
Tuyvel paid twelvepence for leave to marry. The common people were
entirely at the mercy of the Lord of the Manor and were regulated to
whatever their lord fancied.
Yet there were
tradesmen who seemingly prospered. People who were lucky, held jobs,
- vital jobs. At the beginning, I mentioned William the Cobbler.
There was a corn mill at Brookfoot, owned by the Lord and rented by
Southowram men. Parliament made regulations fixing standards of
quantity and quality for beer and bread. Those who did not conform to
these standards were punished at the manorial court. In 1297,
Cecelia, wife of Adam Mimer was fined sixpence for brewing beer below
standard. In 1453 Henry Smith was fined twopence for his bread.
Certain people were elected to judge the quality of these things and
in 1333 we have a record of the ale-tasters themselves being fined
three shillings and fourpence for not attending court to report
The last mention of an
Astey I've found concerns Matilda, daughter of Gilbert de Astey, who
was fined on two occasions for brewing without a licence and twice
for being a scold and a brawler between 1370 and 1372. Other trades
too were controlled. In 1307 Richard le Nailer paid sixpence for a
licence to dig for coal to make nails, this, to my knowledge, is the
earliest mention in this district of manufacturing. In 1364, William
de Whalley was fined fourpence for tanning and shoemaking without
permission. In 1307 there was a remarkable case between Rayner,
chaplain at Kirklees and a lady called Susanna, the trouble was a
dispute about a heifer letting blood and indecent language. Susannah
had apparently driven away a heifer belonging to the chaplain, had
sworn at him, cracked him over the head when he interfered. Although
she was defended by her fellow citizens, she was fined two shillings.
Hawking was a favourite
sport and the right to hawk was let at the court. Of course, only the
upper classes were allowed. Pastimes for the serfs and villains were
also regulated by the court. No games were allowed after 9 pm. In
1446 several men were in court accused of playing 'speres', (bowls)
and other unlawful games. Again in 1464 there were again several
locals accused of playing cards in their houses!. In 1438 Thomas
Maunsell was charged with obstructing the highway with a dunghill.
Here are some place
names in or near Southowram, with the dates.
The word ROYD, undated
because it was here before the Normans. A clearing was called a RODE
because it was rid of something, so in our dialect, we have COAL
which we turned into COIL and hole that became HOIL. So RODE, a
clearing became ROYD, Stoney Royd, Blaithroyd, Holly Royd, Birks or
Hipperholme, as HYPERUM
was the swamp where the osiers or willows grew.
In 1474, Cross Platts
was called OVER CROSS FLATTE. A "Platt" is English for a
small plot of ground, but only from the 13th century onward.The cross
means lying athwart, not a preaching cross. Adgil Grove is Ash Grove
in old English.
In 1536 Binns Top is
mentioned, this place was probably the home of the family of Binns.
With the accession of Henry the Seventh, after the death of Richard
the Third at the battle of Bosworth Field, we can perhaps say it was
the end of the Middle Ages. For in 1485 we find things were changing,
and many old customs and habits were dying. The language was changing
too. Under the Tudors was a new age with a security of its' own. The
old feudal order was dying away, and an economic and religious
revolution was slowly taking place, which heralded the birth of
capitalism. Many of the feudal forms remained and lingered on for
centuries like the court leet at Brighouse, but its' spirit was gone
to give way to the new urges which created the kind of world we live
In Southowram and the
immediate district, the economic revolution had its basis in sheep.
Wool production, wool selling and wool manufacture expanded on an
ever-increasing scale. More trees were felled, and the countryside
here became more open, and yet Southowram produced, as today, a vast
amount of stone as well as wool. Some of the old fields and commons
were enclosed, causing severe hardship to the smallholders who were
virtually driven off the soil. Sheep themselves acquired a new value,
for we read that in 1536 Robert Ayley bequeathed in his will 10 sheep
to his son Richard.
The number of looms of
the clothiers began to grow, as manufacturers began to employ men to
work for them. In 1675 we find William Hanson bequeathing his best
pair of looms to his son John. Of course, other industries relating
to wool became into being. The manufacture of wire for carding was
developed, and in 1681 we find a person, S. Brooke, who was summoned
to Wakefield Quarter Sessions for buying wire abroad, contrary to the
But sifting through
records of the 17th century, everybody seems to have been on the
bandwagon, and more and more I've been struck by new references to
coal and stone, and it appears to me that the folks of Southowram,
whilst not dropping the wool industry, certainly thinned out in their
ideas that wool was the prime interest.
We find that quarrying
now became the money spinner, and Southoain stone began to be popular
all over Britain and even went to London, I should imagine by sea,
via Hull. We all know how this district of ours has been pockmarked
by "delving", and it's been going on for three centuries.
Look around and not all you see are modern delves, in the old days
they didn't always leave things as they found them.
Chapel fields we find
mentioned in 1601, the old Chapel in the Briars, Briar Lane led to
this chapel, hence its name. In 1457 Cote Hill was called Cote Royd.
Ludd Hill got its name from a noisy (loud) spring there, (water
supply). In 1246 Hall Ings was called HALLE FLATH. Where the 'ing'
comes from nobody knows, but the old Anglo Saxon word ENG means flat.
We use the word for a clearing, ROYD, which is Anglo Saxon. The word
used by the Vikings and Danes for clearing is THWAITE DOVE HSE.
Now Southowram Hall.
In. 1939 -Walter Leonard Thompson.
Richard Peck in 1439
was one of the largest landowners. Gold and Silversmith. Buried in
the choir at HX P. Ch, read Pgl, IT HAPPENED HERE.
called Astey, meaning East Land. The original owner took his name
from the estate but due to the family dying out the Haldesworths took
over, who had married into the Asteys. So we had John de Astey de
Haldeworth, who came from Ovenden. In those days of the early Middle
Ages, the eldest son was invariably given the same Christian name as
his father and reading wills and the like can be a trifle puzzling at
times, unless a specific date is given. The name Haldeworth
eventually became Holdsworth and the Thompsons, (Walter Leonards')
are a branch.
Another Estate was
Ecciesley, later Exley, and gave its name to a Southowram family. A
certain Wm., son of William de Astey was killed by Richard de
Ecclesley he wasn't punished for the murder because he left the
district to escape the consequences and we are told that he was at
Dunfermline with Edward ! in 1303 and received a royal pardon because
of his good service to his sovereign in his wars against the Scots.
Sufthoim or Southholme
in the reign of Henry the Eighth was tenanted by Richard Waterhouse,
a clothier. In his will dated 1540, Suffholme was described as North
Bank Hall and was rented from John Lacy Esq of Cromwell Bottom. In an
agreement of 1568 was the following statement, regarding the use of a
way leading from the house and holding commonly called SOWGHOLME
otherwise North Bank unto the Kings common street leading betwixt the
rodidàOt and the town of Southowram. The Waterhouses were to have a
right of way through the lands of one GIBSON and all YATESTEADES
placed in any part of the way or passage were to be placed in such
manner and of sufficient breadth that - 'horses loodin with packes of
wooll, sackes with corn or such other like things on horseback may
easily pass and repasse'.
Another large house was
Little Norcliffe, mentioned an agreement of 1705, this was let for
£11 per annum. In the same agreement, these houses were also
Sunny Bank, alias
Cross Platts, alias
Hoyle House alias Bell
House in Southowram Bank-
The Haynes alias Folly
The last remaining
large house and estate is Wa1terclough Hall. It is first mentioned in
1375 and was held by John, son of William Hemingway and after the
Poll Tax of 1379, this Hemingway family and Walterclough Hall aren't
mentioned until 1526.
Later in 1587, John
Hemingway made his will and left to Marie and Anne, his two
daughters, one close of land and pasture called JONY RIDINGE in
Southowram (?) From this will, it would appear that there was no male
heir, but something happened because in 1654 a Wm. Walker became the
owner, the Walker family lived there for nearly 300 years. Not much
is known about them except for the last generation or two, Caroline
Wyvil Walker, with whom the family died out was, I remember,
commemorated in St Anne's Church by a wall tablet. She wrote and kept
an exceedingly interesting diary which shows a good number of years
and she was born in 1774.
When Caroline's father
married her mother, Mrs Walker, having plenty of brass to do her
bidding, spent a little fortune on the house itself, extensions, etc,
beautiful furniture and a first-class education for her 4 daughters
and a son John, who was 2 years younger then Caroline, and in doing
so, became a first class snob. Only the genteel were admitted to
Walterclough Hall and Caroline fell for an army officer on recruiting
duties in Halifax, Lord Evelyn Stuart, son of the Marquis of Bute. He
seemed unaware of her attachment and her hopes were doomed to
The Walkers were a
proud family. The parents barely responded to the overtures of
Halifax Society, but in due course, their daughters were escorted to
the smart Assembly Balls. It was at one of these balls that
Caroline's escort, Lord Evelyn challenged a fellow officer to a duel
on Beacon Hill for unmannerly threats to Caroline's brother John. The
Walkers stopped attending these society functions and visiting the
houses whose doors were opened to them, for there were few people in
Halifax sufficiently elect for their daughters to meet.
John was away with the
army, sometimes abroad, for Napoleon's forces were overrunning
Europe. Lord Evelyn was serving on the continent too, but
occasionally on leave from the war, he visited his friends at
In succeeding years,
Caroline's secret love for the handsome nobleman never wained but she
was too reserved and proud to write lest she should betray her
feelings for him. When Lord Evelyn wrote, it was to her family.
Twenty years passed since their first meeting before she finally told
herself, (we learn from her diaries), that she must think of him no
In 1818 her brother
died, and this link gone, Lord Evelyn came no more to Walterclough.
Caroline's diaries have been found and here is an example of her
entries. She would be 37 or 38 at the time.
1812 Sunday, Aug 8. In
the morning I went to chapel, (St Annes). Delia went also. Mr West
makes the service uncommonly long, I found myself troubled with
nervous fantasies. The rain forced us to stop a little after service
in the chapel, which I found very unpleasant, as Thompson (?) was
there and Mr West At last, after a fruitless attempt to procure
umbrellas, we went on in the rain. I feel however more contented with
having attended divine service and my mind is more composed. I hope I
shall be better for it
Blaithroyd Hall, in
Queen Elizabeth's day, was occupied by a family called Savile and was
a haven for Roman Catholics who were being persecuted. Read Watson.
In this part of
Southowram, we had Suftholm, the southholm, Clay House and Cromwell
Bottom where the Lord of the Manor lived, but which is now pulled
down. This is what T.W.Hanson says in the 'Story of Old Halifax',
about the old settlements lying around the crown of Beacon Hill.
most important were at Blaithroyd, Stoney Royd, BackHall, Exley,
Ashday and Shibden Hall and a track connecting them would make a
circle that completely encircles the hill. The men living at these
places were neighbours and formed a community known as Southowram
There are no really
famous names down the years that stand out, but perhaps two deserve a
mention. The first is Dr Robert Holdsworth, born at Ashday and the
second is William Richardson, about him I will mention later. Robert
Holdsworth of Ashday lived in the reign of Henry the eighth. He was
educated at Oxford and Rome, entered the Catholic Church and having
reached a high position in his work, he was installed as Vicar of
Halifax Parish Church where he held office for 35years. Lt was a time
of fierce strife and great disputes in the church and the local
population was either for or against Henry's order to scrap Rome and
for him to become the head of the English Church. Dr Holdsworth was
dragged into the local fratching and must have been a very troubled
man. Well, that was the carry on in those days and if the Lord of the
Manor decided to fight, so his retainers, the men of Southowram
fought for John Lacy. Notice now he's Lacy and not de Lacy.
To me, this period of
Dr Holdsworth being vicar of Halifax is interesting, remember a lot
of trouble had been caused by Henry the eighth spoiling the Abbeys
and rich Catholic Churches. Now the church became the English church,
due to him quarrelling with the Pope. Now we have the first record in
about 1530 of the building of St Anne's Chapel, called St Anne's in
the Briars and note that Dr Vicar Holdswórth of the Hx Parish Church
was a Southowram man, I wonder if there is any significance? However,
the Chapel of Breers was built at the expense of the Lord of the
Manor, John Lacy and we have no record of it ever being consecrated.
John Lacy's family
worshipped there we know, and so did the people of Southowram,
whether together or separate, we don't know. The Lacy's would
probably use Brier Lane
to reach it, as their
house stood at the bottom of it on Elland Road. Why build it so far
from the village? Was it halfway between Elland Road and our
Towngate, or was it nearer to the village, in which case part of the
village could have been in the vicinity of the Birks.
The present church, as
we know it was consecrated in 1816 and finished about 1819. While
we're in the vicinity of the church let me tell you of an area
bordered by the road and extending back towards the North, where the
road runs up to Pasture House and the Shakings is a field on the
right-hand side and called the Butts. Queen Elizabeth made archery
compulsory when the Spanish Armada was expected, probably to make a
sort of Home Guard and the Butts is where archery was practised.
It was most likely
there long before that time, as a man needed his bow and arrows to
live and to fight.
Further down Church
Lane, up the drive past Kirk Lea, was Rachel Thompsons' house, on the
left-hand side is a field called Potters' field, and in this field
near to the road is a depression in a bed of clay running for several
yards and at least 3 foot thick.
It is a mixture of
yellow and grey clay, and water runs off it very quickly.
The depression has been
made by digging, and it could be that it supplied clay to make into
earthenware for the village in years gone by.
farmers around there had maps with each field having a name, and
Potters' field is very well marked.
Note again, the clay
supply is near to the town, the Birk of the Danes, if and when it was
There is, I've heard,
but not seen, an old map marking a site in the fields of the present
day, of a kiln, perhaps where the locals burnt his produce.
The first curate of the
old St. Annes was someone called CORE in 1650, although this was 120
years later than its' building. We don't know much detail apart from
names and dates of these curates, whether they were licensed or the
lord of the manor put them there. We don't know if they lived in the
village either. The names that have come down to us, in some cases,
have no Christian name, but read their surnames.
Jan. 1661 Gamaliel
Marsden, ejected by the Act of Uniformity 1661. This period is
famous. Oliver Heywood was curate at Coley and he was banned and
ejected and after a period formed Heywood Congregational. It was a
time of great trial for those clergy who didn't conform. But these
Non-conformists, who refused to lie down so to speak, after
banishment from their churches, imprisoned and the like, were the
forerunners of the movement which put the nonconformist chapels into
reality, and Southowram Wesley eventually stemmed out of it. The St.
Annes' curates conformed and 2 years after Gamalie Marsden we have,
in 1663, Richard Boy. So the list of curates goes on.
There was a John
Sheffield in 1714, John Godby in 1716, Thomas Lister in 1718 and
Thomas Meyrick in 1750. That's as far as Watsons' History of Halifax
The old church was
evidently taken down in 1786, and a document of that year records
that Joseph Thomson of St. Annes, one of the trustees of the chapel
had, in his hands, £45-34d.towards putting down and rebuilding St.
Aimes chapel. It was a free chapel in that it was not under the
supervision of Halifax Parish Church. I don't know where services
were held between 1786 and 1816, the erection of the present parish
church. There may be a record, but I haven't seen it, although
Caroline Walkers' diary says she attended service in 1812, but where?
Those are place names
and historical facts about Southowram, Not all in order but I didn't
want to miss putting them in. And so back to the earlier period.
In the year 1348 the
Black Death struck England and continued for another year. It is
estimated that a third of the population died. At that time Halifax
was very small, and the whole parish held only a few hundred people,
and we've no record of how things were in Southowram. It's even
possible that there was no one to write an account.
This certainly happened
in Halifax, as there are gaps in the Parish Register.
I wonder where all
these people were buried? Southowram graveyard wasn't in existence
then, and hundreds of graveyards would be needed to bury all the
people who have died in 800 to 900 years. Even so, the really poor
people wouldn't have been able to afford a funeral, being serfs.
There must be thousands
of burials unrecorded yet we seldom hear of a grave being found.
However, when the Black death had passed, King Richard 2w'. Wanted to
have the place tidied up, so he had a census and imposed a Poll Tax,
people were taxed according to their means and social standing.
Here's is how the Poll
Tax affected people in Southowram in 1379.
Each man and woman over
16 years of age had to pay 4d. although married couples were charged
as one person. Merchants paid one shilling and there were eight in
the parish. 23 tradesmen paid 6d. each. John Lacy, of Cromwell
Bottom, Lord of the Manor, of Southowram, paid 3s 4d. John Savile of
Elland, described as a Chevalier paid 20s. Priests and beggars had no
tax to pay.
In the township of
Halifax, there were 16 married couples and 6 single persons who paid
their groats. If we add 48 children, 3 priests and 1 beggar, we get a
population of 90 for Halifax in 1379. it's probable that a few
escaped taxation, but we can be certain that the population of
Halifax was not greater than 100 in 1379.
In the village itself,
here are some Southowram names who paid the tax.
William and John
Hemingway, both of Walterclough, amount unknown. Johannes Haleworth
(shoemaker) and his wife who paid 6d. instead of the minimum 4d. John
Laxey (priest?), 3s4d., Exley and Peck, (tradesmen) 6d. each, 16
others married at 4d., a widow and 2 single women.
By this, it would
appear that the population of Southowram didn't amount to 50 in 1379.
You will also see by this that people were beginning to have
surnames. A surname is something we all have but how we got them is
another matter. From the Halifax collection are John Fraunceys and
Richard the Nailer. John Fraunceys was a Frenchman living in Halifax.
The people who wrote these Poll Tax names down would be the Kings'
officials or even the clergy who certainly spoke Norman, French and
English. But saying a thing and writing it down are two different
John Fraunceys, which
became Francis, and so we have John Francis. Richard the Nailer, a
People were adopting
names or had them given to them by relatives and neighbours to
distinguish them in a crowd. They used their trades, their plots of
land, their relatives and were given nicknames by reason of some
peculiarity they possessed, and it seemed to have stuck.
Now many names were
adopted which could only come from a certain part of the country, due
to the fact that that was the only place which possessed the
descriptive feature. Murgatroyd, which could be Margarets' Royd, Moor
Gate Rode (royd).
A gate was their name
for entrance. Towngate. The Hebden Bridge district swarms with
Sutcliffes and Greenwoods. Sut-South,. People had "son"
added to their names which is easy to understand, Harrison, Davidson,
Now, what about
Pearson? The man who wrote it down perhaps very Norman French and
wrote John the son of Pierre, and so we have John Pierre-son.
We also have the same
by an English official, John Peterson, the same name but a different
Now this suffix of
'son, Harrison, Davidson, etc. It became necessary all over the
British Isles over the years to christen a person as somebody's son.
There were different languages and dialects, although things now were
levelling out. The Irish had it but they didn't say Allan's - son,
they had FITZ, - Fitz-ALLAN, Fittzsinimons, - Simon's-son,
Fitz-Herbert, Fitz-Roy. The scotch had MAC - McDonald, McDougal, -
Douglas'-son, McAllister,- the son of Allistair.
The Welsh had 'AP'
which is slightly more complicated, Ap.Howell - the son of Howell,
Powell, Ap.Hugh, Ap REES which became Pugh, Ap Richard - Pritchard.
Note Pumphrey. Some in England had no fathers, so took the mother's
name. Alice's son, Allison, Bettison, Margison.
Let's take a few
Southowram names, probably one or two worked or slaved for the Lord
of the Manor. Palfreyman, Faith, Coates, Lorimer, Hemingway. Chadwick
was the settlement of the early Vikings— a 'wick', and Chad or
Cedd, or Chedd was a popular name among the Angles. There was a king
and also a saint of that name. The Saint is buried inside Kirkdale
Church, St Gregory's Minister, near Kirby-Moorside and it's a very
well preserved gravestone. Watson is Walter's son, Watkin is akin - a
relative of Walter. We have a Jagger - JAEGER - man Who went with the
pack horses. Fry means FREE. Barker was a tanner of leather.
It is around about a
year ago that I collected scores and scores of historical items and
dates of Southowram from various sources. I tried to put them in
chronological order and give them to you as a talk called 'A Thousand
Years of Southowram'. Not being used to this sort of thing, I
misjudged the time and left myself 400 years late, - as I only
reached Queen Elizabeth the first time.
I was really gratified
by the result, quite a lot of people came and said they'd no idea
that such and such happened, or that their names were derived by such
a trade as I suggested. There were those who had no idea their
ancestors had lived here centuries ago. I don't want to waste time
again, but very briefly let me mention the various main subjects of
that talk. Southowram was a settlement of the Saxons sometime between
600A1) and 800AD and was called OVERE-HAM, the settlement on a ridge.
By the time of the Norman Conquest, it had changed by much use to the
word UFFRTJM and it was laid waste in 1067 by the Normans along with
other settlements for miles around, and Domesday Book says of
IJFFRUIM - 'It is waste'.
But it came to life
again and perhaps you'll remember the court rolls I spoke of William
the Cobbler fined for setting about Gilbert of Astey. A woman called
Susannah claiming a heifer and belting a high Churchman over the head
who resided at Kirklees.....We heard about Southowram in the 14th and
15 centuries keeping flocks of sheep and quarrying stone and becoming
prosperous and the Black Death of 1348 when half the population of
the country died.
Let me remind you of
the word 'ROYD', which is a local old English dialect word meaning a
clearing. The rest of England called it a 'RODE' but our Saxon
dialect turned 'OS' into 'OY'. Coal - coil, hole - hoile, coat -
coite, rode - royd, and anyone with a surname containing 'royd',
Boothroyd, Akroyd, Holroyd, etc, can be fairly sure their paternal
ancestors came from this district, say a 15 mile radius of
Prior to Elizabeth 1,
we had Henry the Eighth, who gave the monasteries such a beating and
the vicar of Halifax Parish Church, Dr Robert Holdsworth, born at
Ashday Hall here was murdered in the vicarage by the gang belong to
the Lord of the Manor of Southowram, John de Lacy.
Have you ever
considered the geographical aspect of Southowram? It's on top of a
big hill, really a mountain. It has two roads through it to Halifax
and Brighouse, anyone wanting to go to either of these towns has to
climb. 200 to 300 years ago when walking or horseback were the means
of transport, who'd climb a hill if there was near level country as
an alternative? So the village was to an extent avoided and to my
mind the roads to Halifax and Brighouse were used by the villagers,
mainly for trade purposes. In effect, our village became part
isolated, an island and we missed a lot of what was happening near
Take for instance, what
we now call the Civil War. The Cavaliers versus the Roundheads. Do
you remember from your school days WHY it took place? When Charles 1
came to the throne he was short of money. He believed in what he
called 'The Divine Right of Kings', which he said gave him absolute
power to do what he wished but eventually lost him his head.
At his Coronation, King
Charles offered a knighthood to every man who had an income of £40
and upwards from the rents of lands. His idea was to enrich himself
by the fees from every new knight. Those men who refused the honour
of knighthood were fined and if the fine was not paid, they were
thrown into prison. Seventy of the gentry of Halifax Parish paid
these fines and by this means the king drew £1,034 6s 8d from our
Parish. One of the Listers of Shibden Hall paid the fine and the
receipt is still preserved there. Another was John Drake of Honey
Again in 1627, two
years later, Charles wanted more cash so this time he appealed for
free gifts to finance warships. This was ignored, so he sent an order
to the clothmakers of Halifax calling on them to contribute in union
with Leeds and Hull to pay for 3 ships. The clothmen delayed, wrote
to the Privy Council giving several reasons for being excused. 125
men signed this petition and of this number 30 could not write their
own names but used an X. The first to sign was Robert Clay, Vicar of
Halifax, followed by names of locals called Waterhouse, Bairstow,
Binns, Oldfield, Greenwood and Barraclough.
The king became
intolerable, he reigned 11 years without a Parliament and he was so
mistrusted by all, that things really came to a head, and on August
22nd 1642, King and Parliament were directly opposed in
The clothing towns of
the West Riding, Halifax including Southowram, Bradford and Leeds and
the eastern towns of Lancashire, Manchester, Rochdale and Bolton were
for Parliament, for they depended on trade and the people were mostly
Puritans. The first battles were mainly what we might term county
matches, Yorkshire Parliamentarians v Yorkshire Royalists. Lord
Fairfax was the General of Parliaments Roundhead Yorkshire Army, and
both he and Cromwell have thoroughfares in Southowram named after
them, though personally, I know of no connection between these two
So the civil war
broadened and battle after battle took place. Looking back, the
scores for a time were level, and we have record of some interesting
facts of this time. A Parliament volunteer called John Hodgson lived
at Cromwell Bottom House, the home of the old Lords of the Manor of
Southowram, now pulled down. He distinguished himself several times,
that he was promoted to Captain in Cromwell's own regiment, where he
rose again as a commander.
A skirmish or even a
small battle took place just about in the vicinity of Godley Bridge,
which wasn't there then. Battle items such as musket balls, swords,
spurs and such were unearthed when the foundations for St Joseph's
Catholic School were being dug, at the very top of Lister Hall Road.
Some of you will remember the school and it was always called Bloody
Finally, Parliament won
and much was written of this bloodbath. But Southowram seemed to lead
a placid life, no records of battle, or armies. But now Cromwell and
his Puritans settled down to rule the country and it seems to me from
reading, that the common people got a shock.
For now, Oliver
Cromwell was called the Lord Protector, He was also a Puritan.
Cromwell was going to have the people of England protected from
whatever evils threatened them and at the same time keep them pure.
So we have record of a dictator of sorts who sent out a small army of
snoopers and informers to spy and report on everyones behaviour and
morals. They visited everywhere, towns, villages, hamlets, and had
full Government backing. They enforced Puritan laws, some of them
very harsh to our way of thinking. Just listen to what the people of
Southowram had to put up with for 11 years.
Sunday attendance at
Church was enforced and a very good reason had to be given by any
absentee. Fines were imposed for non-attendance and for regular
absentees, - imprisonment. Church bells were not allowed to be rung.
There had to be no working on the Sabbath, of any kind, and so there
was no cooking to be done by housewives, and no burdens must be
carried by anyone, except a Bible, to and from Church.
Statues and stained
glass windows in Church were frowned upon, and no laughter or smiles
were supposed to take place there. At no time in the streets could
more than 3 people gather together to talk or gossip unless a
proclamation was being read in the village centre or town market
cross. A couple might marry but not necessarily in Church. All that
was needed was a public statement from the Market Cross, - reading
the Banns, on three separate weekly occasions, and a wedding ceremony
wasn't necessary. If there was a get together after, there had to be
But by far, the most
obnoxious custom of Cromwell's Puritan rule was the witch hunting.
Both male and female. People denounced one another to the snooper,
who carried out his own trial. Doctors were scarce and charged too
much for the common folk, who turned to some old dame skilled in
herbs, who sometimes was a harmless old country woman getting on in
years. Of course, someone didn't like her, and she was denounced as a
witch and then the witch hunter got to work. Various methods were
used to make her confess that she was in league with the devil. Hot
Irons, throwing in a pool to see if she floated and then she was
guilty. If she sank she was not guilty. Sometimes these witches were
burnt alive or hanged and the entire village population was compelled
by law to watch. For some reason or other, Lancashire came top of the
list for witches. It was indeed a horrible time during the eleven
years of Cromwell's rule.
There must have been
great rejoicing when Cromwell died and I'll bet the folks of
Southowram really let off steam. In passing here let me remind you
that not far away, above Claremount, at High Sunderland, a Royalist
Cavalier, LANGDALE Sunderland lived and being on the losing side in
the Civil War, had his estates confiscated and then the family seems
to have disappeared. The family had lived there for 400 years. Again,
I can't reconcile how the names come to be associated with
Southowram, we have two street names, Cromwell and Fairfax, who was
one of his Generals, perhaps someone can throw a light on it.
So after Cromwell died
the Stuarts were restored to the throne of England and events took
place then which affected our village. Charles the second had hardly
begun to reign in 1660, when Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity,
whereby all clergymen and ministers who refused to accept the usages
of the Church of England were expelled from their livings. Many
refused, - one of the most famous was Oliver Heywood of Coley who was
fined for not attending Church, also told that he would be thrown out
if he tried to attend.
Oliver Heywood has been
much written and talked about, perhaps because Heywood Chapel in
Northowram was a result of his experiences.
But in 1662, at the
same time, the parson at St Anne's in the Grove, Southowram was also
expelled and his name was Gamaliel Marsden, further than that we
don't know a thing about him, except that he was appointed in January
of 166 1.
Oliver Heywood kept
diaries which have since been printed and we know from them of the
richer people who took their families to York for the winter and the
winter fair in Halifax and the big Halifax Market.
On May Day and
Midsummer's Day, the young Southowramites had dancing and games and
cockfighting was popular around here. The diaries tell us too that
the merriment often ended in fighting. In those days Southowrarn had
a constable we know, but so far I've never run across a reference to
Around about 1700, the
citizens of Southowram had for the most part of their livelihood the
trades of agriculture, quarrying, a coal mine or two and the cloth
trade, which was done in their homes and presumably the cloth was
taken to Halifax. Halifax had a cloth hall from as early as the reign
of Queen Elizabeth 1. The old Cloth Hall stood somewhere near the top
of Crown Street hence the place is still called Hall End.
I have an extract here
from an agreement dated the 29th September 1705, which, I think I
read 12 months ago, these are place names in Southowram in 1705. “The
agreement is between Joseph Farnell, clothier, and John Smith, The
Croft, called Bill Croft situated in Southowram abutting on lands of
John Smith on the North Part, upon a lane called Pedlar Lane leading
from Southowrome to Halifax on the west part. Upon another lane there
leading from Southowrome aforesaid to Law Hill on the East parte, and
upon High Street of Southowrome aforesaid on the South Part.”
So in 1705, Pinner Lane
was Pedlar Lane, and Towngate was High Street and presumably, Bill
Croft House was in use as a cloth producer. The names of some of
these local made materials has charm, CALAMANCOE, CAMLET, GROGRAM,
RUSSEL, SHALLOON AND AMENS. The last three at least were patterned.
About the middle of the
16th Century, the cloth makers of York, complaining of the
competition of the West Riding clothiers, said that the men of
Halifax, including Southowram, had 'fire', good and cheap. It
certainly must have made the long winters more endurable to have
local cheap coal than to gather firewood. But yet in Southowram, we
had no strong running water to turn water wheels, so the looms were
worked by hand.
In 1745, Bonnie Prince
Charlie landed in Scotland and marched into England with his
Highlanders, But on reaching Derby turned tail and went struggling
back to Scotland. The Highlander split up, took the shortest route
home and we have records of several fleeing through Halifax and
district to miss being cut off by the Kings Army under General Guest
who was born at Hove Edge and Major General, Sir Wm. Fawcett who was
born at Shibden Hall, his mother being a Lister.
Here again, Southowram
being off the main road, missed these fighting forces. After 1757
each township had to prepare lists of their men between 18 and 45
years of age and the number of men required by the Militia was
selected by ballot. So we can be sure that there were village men
fighting in France and on the Continent just before 1800. The vast
amount of money spent on these wars was a burden on the local people.
Food was very dear and trade was hampered..
The people of
Southowram living around 1750 and onwards had a grim time of it. The
Industrial Revolution was beginning, new inventions were appearing,
the steam engine and various cloth working machines. Handloom weaving
was a dead job, too slow. Halifax and Brighouse both started to
enlarge by reason of mills being built and water wheels being
introduced where there was a strong enough flow generally in valley
Not isolated cases but
dozens of them. Men, boys and girls had to leave the village and go
and work in the town, and accept whatever wages their masters gave
them. The rich became richer, and the poor were in a terrible plight.
Houses were built back to back for workers, and in some cases soon
became slums. Disease became rampant, But there was plenty of work,
at the master's price.
Mills and more mills
appeared, more houses, canals were dug and Southowram which had
looked down on a solitary house at the end of a bridge below Rastrick
had to take a back seat as the new town of Brighouse expanded again.
A Bible prophecy came true around here, for Handels' Messiah has an
aria that says "Every valley shall be
exalted, and each mountain and hill brought low"
which is what happened during the Industrial revolution from 1750
onwards. The places in the valley became bigger, turned into towns
and the higher villages became unimportant.
Money was spent like
water building industry, but the highways and roads were mere dirt
tracks. When it rained in Southowram around 1800 the roads would be a
sea of mud and stones, metalled or cobbled roads hadn't appeared yet.
Take a look round the older houses in the village and you'll see foot
scrapes outside the door. There quite a few left, and they
incorporated as a necessity when the houses were built.
In the 1700s' very
little of the land, comparatively speaking, was parcelled out in
fields, the hills were more like the fells of the Lake District,
where we can roam around as we wish without encountering a stone
wall. At the end of the 1700 and beginning of the 1800C, Parliament
passed an act called the Enclosure Act which affected our parish
along with the rest of England.
The Lord of the Manor
and the principal landowners decided to improve the wastelands, the
commons and the great open fields of the township or parish. They
proceeded to obtain an Enclosure Act, and after such act, received
the Royal Assent, commissioners came and divided the land amongst the
In many local places
which from Saxon times had been common land were divided up. The poor
man lost his rights to graze his cow, sheep or pig, and the right to
gather firewood where there were woods.
Some local men who had
a small plot of allotted to them could not afford to fence it or
enclose it nor the legal charges for the Parliamentary work and
therefore had to sell their share to some richer neighbour. So
consequently, all over England, the English peasant lost his hold on
the land. In the South and Midlands, smaller farms were destroyed and
very large ones substituted. The peasants were thrown out of work and
home, they and their children flocked to Lancashire and Yorkshire to
find employment in the new mills, thus competed with the local people
for work. The landowners became very rich by these enclosures.
Parliament represented only this type of person and the poor had few
champions and they hadn't the power to oppose the act to any purpose.
The new fields of this
period can be identified surrounding our village by their straight
walls and mathematical planning, they are easily traced whichever way
we leave Towngate. All the country around Halifax was crisscrossed
with stone walls, this was round about 1810 to 1815, just when the
new church was being built.
The Enclosure Act
obliged many families to give up keeping a cow, and there was a
serious milk famine, for what farmers kept going wouldn't trouble to
sell milk retail. Oatmeal and oatcake had been the staple food and
for porridge, you must have milk. The milk famine made the people
into tea drinkers, white wheaten bread took the place of havercake.
The newly invented
machinery was more and more taking the place of hand labour. At
Walterciough, the owner, Mr Walker engaged a man called Swendell to
fit up a mill for spinning in 1784 but the venture was a failure.
In 1825 disaster struck
for mills worked by waterpower. There was a long drought and
manufacturers adopted the steam engine for the most part. Still, more
factories and houses were built and the poor were exploited out of
all knowing. There are records of hard masters, one or two
outstanding. Titus Knight, afterwards Minister of Square Chapel in
Halifax, worked in the Shibden coal pits when he was seven years old.
Dan Taylor who was born at Sour Milk Hall in Claremount became later
a Baptist Preacher and tells us he worked under Beacon Hill at five
years old. The sledges were all dragged from the coal face to the pit
shaft by boys and girls. It was said that unless their backbones were
bent when they were little, boys would never make colliers.
Boys and girls were
sent into the mills when they were 5 or 6 years old and the worst
period was from 1804 to 1819, when the Government was moved to make
enquiries about pauper children who were, in a sense, wards of the
state. At this time, Day Schools for the poor were non-existent, but
for those with money, there were several local ones in Brighouse,
Halifax, Hipperholme and Rastrick. On January 15, 1834, an Act came
into force by which no child under 9 years could work at a mill and
children under 11 years were not to work more than 48 hrs a week,
Christmas day and Good Friday were to be holidays and there were to
be 8 half day holidays per year. In 1847 the 10hrs Bill for Adults
came into force.
The introduction of the
then modem machinery threw a great many men out of work for each
machine did the work of several men. Trade was bad, England was
fighting Napoleon. Food was dear and some people here were starving
and so the Luddites were formed, a secret society of sorts, who tried
to alter conditions of desperate folks, we can be sure that there
would be Southowram men active in it. The Luddites had a certain
amount of success, they were eventually put down by the military and
the full story of the outrages is most painful reading. Fourteen
locals were hanged at York on one day and there must have been many
who suffered and died in silence. This did nothing to ease the
hardships of the local people. Riots followed because the price of
corn rocketed sky high and Southowram men joined a demonstration in
Halifax which formed in Horton Street in October 1819.
The outlook was serious
for all classes because while the poorer classes were short of work
and food, the richer were afraid that violence would be done to them
and their property. Military units of various regiments were drafted
to the area, to keep things orderly. In times things levelled out,
though not as quickly as many might have wished. Then came the
Chartist Riots, which were a result of only a favoured few getting
the vote. The population of Halifax township was over 15,000 and
besides, there were portions of Southowram and Northowram, yet the
number of voters was only 536. The ordinary Southowram working man
was a nobody, simply yet a peasant, a serf, glad to work for a mere
pittance, - whatever the manufacturer pleased to give him. Either
that or starve. These peasants or serfs of the 'Middle Ages' lived
miserably in their small communities and one of their relaxations was
the storyteller, who travelled round, to these illiterate serfs they
must have been marvellous men. Anything they heard and said must have
impressed them immensely.
When they went, (if
ever), to Church, the service was in Latin, which they probably
couldn't understand, but the Priest told them Bible stories in their
own language. On the chancel walls were paintings too, lurid colours,
with life-size characters, generally with depicting, at some stage
what would be their ghastly end after Judgement Day if they didn't be
good children. Remains of these drawings still exist on the walls of
Halifax Parish Church, but if you go to Pickering, there they are in
all their blaze of colour. The church had no seats, the congregation
all stood and the floor was kept bare except for rushes, which were
taken up once a year, - hence the term 'rush-bearing', our
present-day Wakes Week.
If we return now to the
storyteller, we can examine his tales with a little sympathy. The
gist of some of them would be good against evil, right against wrong,
and a smack in the eye for authority. It's quite probable there
really was a person such as Robin Hood, and his men Friar Tuck,
Little John, Will Scarlett, Allan-a-Dale and the others. It is very
noticeable that Robin always came out tops in the end. He was their
hero, fighting for them
better-offs. Very likely, each time the tale was told it got slightly
altered until a bit of magic crept in and then more and more until
these poor illiterates, who were kept in tight bonds, were ready to
fight for anything that promised them a release
Thomas Mallory, who was
a 15th C nobleman, wrote "Le Morte D'Arthur", a
collection of stories featuring King Arthur and his Knights of the
Round Table. Although fiction, they were probably based on stories
that he had heard, which, if there ever was a King Arthur happened
around 500AD or earlier. It is thought that Arthur did exist in some
form, but as a native leader when the Romans left around 400AD.
Mallory wrote of the Knights and their ladies, Castles and the Holy
Grail, damsels in distress being rescued by Knights in shining
armour, but never a mention of the serfs and peasants. He probably
didn't know they existed, all these people were dressed like himself
and lived as he did, in a castle and behaved as he would have liked
people to believe that he did. They used his speech, Middle English
with a bit of Norman French thrown in.
He was fond of
exclaiming such things as " GRAMMERCY" and talking of a
Knight fighting a duel, "And he BRASTED him to the chin!"
What a lovely word to describe it. Think of it and it might seem to
be just a chap who lived in armour some of which he might have slept
in. The reality was that it was probably filthy, verminous and
smelly. The helmets were packed with straw to cushion any blows to
the head, so his hair would be filthy and infested with heaven knows
what. Soap was unknown as we know it, so what of the poor peoples'
hygiene? In my guess, it would be next to nothing. Few, if any,
shaved and clothing hard to come by I don't think that "cleanliness
was next to Godliness".
The Lord of the Manor
would feed himself and his family well, hunting wild boar and deer
were his sport and source of food, but if a serf was caught, he had
his hand cut off or sometimes an ear. They would also cut off their
thumb so they couldn't grip an arrow on their bow.
A year or so ago there
was discovered, in Bolton Castle, a sort of diary written by a woman.
She lived around 1400, and from translations I've read she writes
about the ordinary aspects of life from her standpoint, and she was
the Kings' concubine! Actually, he'd laid siege to another castle,
abducted her and carried her off to his own. All by connivance, She
did the arranging and the fondness was mutual. She writes how she
slept, in the nude, with animal skins as a covering. In winter the
slits in the walls that served as windows were covered by skins to
keep the wind-down. A fire was lit, usually in the middle of the,
with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape.
A GARDEROBE was a
feature in many castles and served two purposes, one of which was as
an early type of wardrobe for the storage of clothes, ammonia was
sprinkled in to keep down the fleas, and also as a toilet. The
garderobe was in an alcove which abutted the outside wall of the
castle and which featured a hole in the bottom through which all
waste was deposited into the cesspit below. The peasants probably
used a hole in the ground or just went where they could.
This may give you a
rough idea of the period from 1300 - 1500 but we've no relics in
Southowram to prove or disprove anything, except place names.
In each case the Lord,
sometimes a knight, as in the case of the Elland Lords, were the
stewards of the Earl. Just after the Battle of Hastings, when the
country was shared out, the Earl of Warren; having so, much- land,
had several stewards who answered to him for their administrations.
The early Lords of the Manor were little autocrats, in most case
foreigners, retainer of the great Earl, who were promoted, sometimes
much ahead of their former state. They had power of life and death
over their serfs and squeezed them for taxes and work. A serf who
possessed a daughter who married had to pay tax but not his son. if
he took extra land he was taxed and a tenth or tithe. of his work
results went to the Lord. If the serf grew corn, a tenth went to his
master and the rest had to be ground at the Lord's mill which had to
be paid for.
There was a corn
grinding mill at Brookfoot in the days just after the Conquest.
Naturally, some of the
serfs did better than others, more prosperous and bought their
freedom, such as it was, were then called Yeomen but still had to pay
tithes but were allowed to settle their debts of work actual and
personal appearances by paying money which, no doubt suited both
parties. When the Lord went to war, the able-bodied serf went with
him, the Yeoman could find a substitute, pay him and again both
parties were satisfied.
Under the Lord of the
Manor came the Grieve, who was in charge of a district, (some people
bear the name Greave or Greaves today), under the Greeve came the
headman of the village. The Greave for Southowram lived at
Hipperholme. It was only the Yeoman and ranks above who were allowed
to go, to Court, -.the serf was simply a slave to be made use of by
Norman Lord of the Manor was Ilbert de Lacy, who lived at Cromwell
Bottom and the de Lacy family figure quite a lot in manuscripts
dating from that period onwards. By the time of James 1, the manor
was rented and sold to various people but by this time the serfs were
not bound to their Lord. During 2 years of Charles 1 we had Thos
Whitley of Cinderhills (Siddal), who let it to Timothy Thorp for 99
years in 1657, then became a joint venture between the same Timothy
Thorpe and John Thorpe. Then on June 7th 1711, it was sold to William
Horton of Barkisland. In 1741, Robert Allenson a merchant of Soyland
bought it. There was a dispute about the time of Thos. Whitley and
things were happening which today seem awkward. There was a joint
Lord called Robert Lawe, 1654, who had a brother Toby Law. Deaths
occurred and Toby Law, while the court decided became Lord and he
built Law House and probably gave Law Lane its name. When Toby Law
died, his widow married Jonathan Maud of Halifax, a doctor, when he
died, the manor was sold to William Greame. It was bought and sold
several times after this and in 1830 Christopher Rawson of Hope Hall
in Halifax was Lord and.he commissioned a Dr Alexander to compile a
'History of Southowram' for him. I do not know the whereabouts of
this at all but I did hear it's in manuscript.
Details of Southowram,
apart from Court Rolls are sparse. Place names give us an idea of
what the village was like but we've had nothing official to put us in
the limelight. This is probably due to Southowram being off the main
road. Perched high above the Calder Valley and the main road to
Wakefield up the side of Beacon Hill and on to Hipperholme, we've
missed some exciting happenings!
During the Civil War
between the Roundheads under Cromwell and the Cavaliers, Halifax and
the other towns round about sided with Cromwell and so perhaps did
Southowram. We do not know for certain, there must have been Owram
men on somebody's side but there are no records. During the 1745
Rebellion, the Scots for Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Halifax on
their way South, perhaps the Southowramites weren't even interested.
It's still isolated to a degree.
the Civil War came to an end, with a victory for Cromwell and his
Puritans, Southowram must have suffered much the same as the rest of
England. The country became a hot-bed of spies and snoopers. At
Claremount the Sunderlands of High Sunderland having fought for King
Charles, were fined heavily and part of their estate forfeited to the
Government. Cromwell sent his informers the length and breadth of
England to see that the Puritan beliefs were kept. For non-attendance
at church there was faming. Cooking a meal on the Sabbath was a
punishable offence. No statues or effigies were allowed in churches
and frivolity was frowned upon, also no burdens could be carried. A
man and woman might marry, simply by having it announced at the
village centre three times but after the wedding ceremony, no fun and
games were allowed. Perhaps the worst things that happened were the
witch hunts. Certain people travelled from town to town or district
to spy out witches. Possibly, in most cases, the victim was a
harmless old woman, skilled in the use of herbs, whom people came to
when sick or out of sorts. They were taken by the witch hunters and a
favourite method of judgement was to throw them into a pond or deep
water, if they sank they were innocent and if they floated they were
guilty of witchcraft. Trial by ordeal was the procedure. Some had red
hot iron applied to them and a very small percentage were freed. Many
were burnt to death as their punishment and the whole village were
compelled, by law, to watch. Lancashire, especially for some reason
or other, really produced scores of, so called, witches. They have
had their histories documented and records in existence today tell us
of unbelievable acts of punishments.. There were male witches too.
The whole country was 'spy-ridden' and the people must have been
afraid to talk openly to one another. Church bells were silenced and
people could only meet in groups outside to speak to each other,
providing their number did not exceed three. This did not apply to
church congregations or public announcements by the village or town
crier. This lasted for 11 years until Charles 11 came to the throne
I can imagine the
Owramites going mad when the ban was lifted. Yet again, we have no
local information that we had witches yet, it COULD have been so.
Through the 1800's
Southowram pushed its way and nothing startling took place. The
school at Withinfield was built in 1877 and later water was laid on
in pipes. Gas came too and eventually electricity and the first
Calder buses running and then the Corporation ones.