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Life and changing times in Upper Holme Valley.

Byline: Express ;Chronicle News Correspondent

HOLME Valley Civic Society member Gordon Hallas chose a most appropriate subject for his recent talk to the society, for as a life-long resident of the Upper Holme Valley, he is well placed to describe the changes which have occurred in this area.

The passage of time, however, has not affected one particular feature of the local landscape.

The Old Bullring near Digley Reservoir, an oval late prehistoric enclosed settlement in use from about 1000BC until about 400AD has never been excavated.

Measuring 82m by 70m and bounded by a ditch with an inner and outer bank, it is a local listed ancient monument.

Referring to an early 15th century map of local settlements, Gordon showed that these were generally to be found on the hillsides where there were natural springs and not in the valley alongside the river.

Some of the buildings in these settlements have survived until modern times. A good example is Ward Place, which dates back to 1100AD, although it is not inhabited at the moment.

Other settlements such as Yateholme, Holmwoods and Greenhouse survived only to be demolished following the building of their reservoirs while settlements shown on the 15th century map and still occupied include Waterside, Malkinhouse and Hillhouse.

Because of the substantial outcrops of sandstone in the area, extensive quarrying has taken place, with much of the stone from Ramsden Quarry being used in the building of local reservoirs.

Magnum Bonum Quarry had more than 60 people working in it in 1861, producing stone for local buildings and flagstones for railway platforms. The workers at Magnum Bonum Quarry lived in a group of cottages built for them in the hamlet of Magnum above Hade Edge.

For centuries cloth production has been important in the Upper Holme Valley.

Matthew Butterworth, who came from Rochdale in 1763 to live at Hillhouse, was typical of yeoman clothiers who had smallholdings with a few cows, pigs and hens and enough land to grow oats for porridge.

Matthew would buy wool in Huddersfield, carry it home and either weave the cloth himself or employ neighbours to help him before returning to Huddersfield to sell the finished piece.

Generations of the Butterworth family continued in cloth production. Matthew's grandson William, having built Heald Carr at Hinchliffe Mill in 1833, a property part house and part warehouse, had the manufacturing processes carried out on commission on the hand looms in neighbouring cottages and in the scribbling and fulling mills on the riverside.

The first of H and S Butterworth, started by William's sons, Henry and Samuel, built a new warehouse and with the advent of power machinery, rented both a room and power in Hinchliffe Mill, a company mill built for leasing, now known as Whiteley and Greens.

Henry's son William joined the business in 1873 and in 1882, father and son bought Lower Mills in Holmfirth, bringing their machinery and new plant to the new premises. Textile production had moved from springs in the hills down to the riverside.

James Beardsell and Sons was another prominent textile manufacturing firm in the Upper Holme Valley. Hand loom weaver Thomas Beardsell, born in Rochdale in 1676, came to the Holme Valley and settled in Holme.

In 1776 his great grandson James introduced a spinning jenny of 18 spindles, prospered and built a house and cloth warehouse which is now known as Holme Castle. In his factory up Meal Hill Road he spun yarn for the use of local hand loom weavers. He also had a dye house and drying store there, in addition to a gas works.

In 1828, with his four sons, he formed the company of James Beardsell and Sons which rented Bilberry Mill, a mill specially built to let with room and power before taking over Brown Hill Mill.

The Holme Valley landscape in the 19th and 20th centuries was dotted with mills. Looking down from Cemetery Road in Holmfirth, five of them could be seen close together - Bottoms Mill, Spring Lane Mills, known as the silk mill where it produced sewing thread, Riverside Mill, Victoria Mill and Perseverance Mill.

These mills and others have long since ceased to manufacture cloth and many have been converted into flats.

Holme Valley Civic Society has put a blue plaque on what remains of Lower Mill to commemorate the part textile production once played in the Holme Valley.

The Holme Valley, however, paid a penalty for its mills. An Act of Parliament in 1837 authorised the construction of several large reservoirs within the Graveship of Holme to supply water to the mills during the dry seasons, but defects in the construction of Bilberry Reservoir, which were not remedied, followed by continuous heavy rainfall in early February 1852, led to the reservoir's embankment giving way, allowing 300,000 tons of water to rush down the valley, destroying all in its path, including mills and machinery, houses, people and animals.

Many graves were torn open and coffins and bodies were carried away with the flood water - 81 people lost their lives.

The 1944 flood on Whit Monday, May 29, caused this time by a cloudburst, resulted in more damage in the valley, including collapsed buildings on Victoria Street and Hollowgate in Holmfirth.

So what lies in the future for the Upper Holme Valley? Well, where once stood derelict farm buildings on a hillside above Holmbridge, vines are now growing and, unlikely as it may have seemed, wine is being produced and the business is flourishing.

Gordon Hallas was thanked for his presentation by committee member Roy Blackshaw on behalf of a very appreciative audience.

* Holme Valley Civic Society has organised walks in or near the Holme Valley for the next three months.

Indoor meetings will resume in Holmfirth Civic Hall on Thursday September 15 at 7.30pm when Margaret Curry will talk about Cotton Wool Country: Landscapes, History and People of the Gritstone Area of the South Pennines.

CAPTION(S):

KILLER FLOOD: A line drawing sketch of the aftermath of the disastrous 1852 Holmfirth Flood which resulted from the collapse of the dam wall of Bilberry Reservoir. Eighty one people died as 300,000 tons of water engulfed the Holme Valley. Inset, Bilberry Reservoir and Upper Digley Mill HISTORIC SETTLEMENT: Some of the buildings in early Holme Valley hillside settlements have survived until modern times. A good example is Ward Place, a hamlet off Brown Lane, Holmfirth, which dates back to 1100AD. Although it is not inhabited at the moment it has been earmarked for an ambitious revamp (AC031007Award2)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2011
Words:1091
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