RAMBLE FROM ROCHDALE TO THE TOP OF BLACKSTONE
And so by many winding nooks he strays.
Englishmen cherish the memory of their forefathers, and love their
native land. It has risen to its present power among the
nations of the earth through the efforts of many generations of
heroic people; and the firmament of its biography is illumined by
stars of the first magnitude. What we know of its history
previous to the conquest by the Romans is clouded by conjecture and
romance; but we have sufficient evidence to show that, even then,
this gem "set in the silver sea" was known in distant regions of the
earth for its natural riches, and was inhabited by a brave and
ingenious race of people. During the last two thousand years
the masters of the world have been fighting to win it, or to keep
it. The woad-stained British savage, ardent, imaginative, and
brave, roved through its woods and marshes, hunting the wild beasts
of the Island. He sometimes herded cattle, but was little
given to tillage. He sold tin to the Phœnicians, and knew
something about smelting iron ore, and working it into such shapes
as were useful in a life of wild insecurity and warfare, such as
his. In his slim coracle he roamed the island's waters, and
scoured its plains in battle in his scythed car, a terror to the
boldest foe. He worshipped, too, in an awful way, in sombre
old woods, and colossal Stonehenges, under the blue o'erarching sky.
On lone wastes and moorland hills we still have the relics of these
ancient temples, frowning at Time, and seeming to say, as they look
on Nature's still-returning green,—in the words of their old Druids,
Everything comes out of the ground but
But destiny had other things in store for these islands. The
legions of imperial Rome came down upon the wild Celt, who retired,
fiercely contending, to the mountain fastnesses of the north and
west. Four hundred years the Roman wrought and ruled in
Britain; and he left the mark of his way of living stamped upon the
face of the country, and upon its institutions, when his empire
declined. The steadfast Saxon followed,—"stubborn, taciturn,
sulky, indomitable, rock-made,"—a farmer and a fighter; a man of
sense, and spirit, and integrity; an industrious man, and a
home-bird. The Saxon never loosed his hold, even though his
wild Scandinavian kinsman, the sea-kings of the north, came rushing
to battle, with their piratical multitudes, tossing their swords in
the air, and singing heroic ballads, as they slew their foemen,
under the banner of the Black Raven. Then came the military
Norman,—a northern pirate, trained in France to the art of war,—led
on by the bold Duke William, who landed his warriors at Pevensey,
and burnt the fleet that brought them to the shore, in order to bind
his soldiers to the necessity of victory or death. Duke
William conquered, and Harold the Saxon fell at Hastings, with an
arrow in his brain. Each of these races has left its
peculiarities stamped upon the institutions of the country; but most
enduring of all,—the Saxon. And now, the labours of twenty
centuries of valiant men, in peace and war, have achieved a
matchless power and freedom for us, and have bestrewn the face of
the land with "the charms which follow long history." The
country of Caractacus and Boadicea, where Alfred ruled, and
Shakspere and Milton sang, will henceforth always be interesting to
men of intelligent minds, wherever they were born. It is
pleasant, also, to the eye, as it is instructive to the mind.
Its history is written all over the soil, not only in strong
evidences of its present genius and power, but in thousands of
relics of its ancient fame and characteristics. In a letter
written by Lord Jeffrey to his sister-in-law, an American lady,
respecting what Old England was like, and in what it differed most
from America, he says:—
It differs mostly, I think, in the
visible memorials of antiquity with which it is overspread; the
superior beauty of its verdure, and the more tasteful and happy
state and distribution of its woods. Everything around you
here is historical, and leads to romantic or interesting
recollections. Grey-grown church towers, cathedrals, ruined
abbeys, castles of all sizes and descriptions, in all stages of
decay, from those that are inhabited, to those in whose moats
ancient trees are growing, and ivy mantling over their mouldering
fragments; and massive stone bridges over lazy waters; and churches
that look as old as Christianity; and beautiful groups of branchy
trees; and a verdure like nothing else in the universe; and all the
cottages and lawns fragrant with sweetbrier and violets, and glowing
with purple lilacs and white elders; and antique villages scattering
round wide bright greens; with old trees and ponds, and a massive
pair of oaken stocks preserved from the days of Alfred. With
you everything is new, and glaring, and angular, and withal rather
frail, slight, and perishable; nothing soft, and mellow, and
venerable, or that looks as if it would ever become so.
This picture is almost entirely compounded of the rural and
antique, and is therefore more applicable to those agricultural
parts of England which have been little affected by the events of
its modern history than to those districts which have been so much
changed by the growth of manufactures in these days. But even
in the manufacturing districts, where forests of chimneys rear their
tall shafts upon ground once covered with the woodland shade, or
sparsely dotted with quaint hamlets, the venerable monuments of old
English life peep out in a beautiful way among crowding evidences of
modern power and population; and the influences which have so
greatly changed the appearance of the country there, have not passed
over the people without effect. Wherever the genius of
commerce may be leading us to, there is no doubt that the old
controls of feudalism are breaking up; and in the new state of
things the people of South Lancashire have found greater liberty to
improve their individual qualities and conditions, fairer chances of
increasing their might and asserting their rights, greater power to
examine and understand all questions which come before them, and to
estimate and influence their rulers, than they had under the
domination which is passing away. The course of events during
the last fifty years has been steadily upheaving the people out of
the thraldom of those orders which have long striven to conserve
such things as tended to their own aggrandisement at the expense of
the rights of others. But even that part of the aristocracy of
England which has not yet so far cast the slough of its hereditary
prejudices as to see that the days are gone which nurtured such
ascendancies, at least perceives that, in the manufacturing
districts, it now walks in a world where few are disposed to accept
its assumption of superiority without inquiring into the nature of
it. But whatever succeeds the decay of feudalism, the history
and the architectural relics of old English life will always be
interesting. May no ruder hand than the hand of time destroy
those eloquent footprints of old thought which remain among us!
Some men are like Burns's mouse,—the present only touches them; but
any man who has the slightest title to the name of a creature of
"large discourse," will be willing, now and then, to look
contemplatively over his shoulder into the grass-grown aisles of the
It was in that pleasant season of the year when fresh buds
begin to appear upon the thorn, when the daisy, and the celandine,
and the early primrose, peep from the ground, that I began to long
for another stroll through my native vale up to the top of
Blackstone Edge. Those mountain wastes are familiar to me.
When I was a child, they rose up constantly in sight, with a silent,
majestic look. The sun came from behind them in a morning,
pouring its flood of splendour upon the busy valley, the winding
river, and its little tributaries; and oft as opportunity would
allow I rushed toward them; for they were kindly and congenial to my
mind. And now, in the crowded city, when I think of them and
of the country they look down upon, it stirs within me a
Wide sea, that one continuous murmur
Along the pebbled shore of memory.
But at this particular time, an additional motive enticed me to my
old wandering ground. The whole of the road leading to it was
lined with interesting places and associations. But among the
railways and other routes of travel which now cover the country with
an irregular network, I found, on looking over a recent map, a
solitary line running in short broken distances, and on the approach
of towns and inhabited spots diving out of sight like a mole.
It looked like a broken thread, here and there, in the mazy web of
the map, and it was accompanied by the words "Roman road." I
know there are people who would sneer at the idea of any importance
being attached to an impracticable, out-of-the-way road, nearly two
thousand years old, and leading to nowhere in particular, except,
like the ways of the wicked, into all sorts of sloughs and
difficulties. With them, one passable way, on which a cart
could go to market, is worth all the Watling Streets in Britain.
The present generation must be served with market stuff, come what
may of our museums. But still, everything in the world is full
of services to man, who is himself full of needs. And thought
can leave the telegraphic message behind, panting for breath upon
the railway wires. The whole is either "cupboard for food" or
"cabinet of pleasure;" therefore, let the hungry soul look round
upon its estate and turn the universe to nutriment, if it can; for
There's not a breath
Will mingle kindly with the meadow air,
Till it has panted round and stolen a share
Of passion from the heart.
And though the moorland pack-horse and the rambling besom-maker
stumble and get entangled in grass, and sloughs, and matted
brushwood, upon deserted roads, still that nimble Mercury, Thought,
can flit over the silent waste, side by side with the shades of
those formidable soldiers who have now slept for sixteen centuries
in the cold ground.
It had not been my lot to see many of the vestiges of Roman
life in Britain; yet whatever the historians said about them had
interest for me, especially when it related to the connection of the
Romans with my native district. My walks had been wide and
frequent in the country about Rochdale; and many a time, when
wandering about the slopes of Blackstone Edge, I had crossed the
track of the Roman road up there, and noticed a general peculiarity
of feature about the place, little thinking that I was floundering
upon one of these famous old highways. But one day, early in
the year, happening to call upon a young friend of mine in Rochdale,
whose tastes were congenial to my own, we talked of a stroll towards
the hills; and he showed me the line of the Roman road on Blackstone
Edge, marked in the recent Ordnance map. We then went forth,
bare-headed, into the yard of his father's house at Wardleworth Row,
from whence the view of the hills, on the east, is fine. The
air was clear, and the sunshine so favourably subdued, that the
objects and tints of the landscape were uncommonly distinct.
He pointed to a regular stripe of land, of greener hue than the rest
of the moorland, rising up the dark side of Blackstone Edge.
That green stripe was the line of the Roman road. He had
lately visited it, and traced its uniform width for miles, and the
peculiarities of its pavement of native sandstone, overgrown with a
thick tanglement of moss and heather and moorland lichens. He
was an old acquaintance, of known integrity and sound judgment, and,
withal, more addicted to figures of arithmetic than figures of
speech; so, upon his testimony, I eagerly availed myself of his
offer to visit the spot. The prospect of another trip to the
"Edge," another sniff of the mountain air, and a little more talk
with the old-world folk in the villages upon the road thither, rose
up pleasantly in my mind, and the purpose took the shape of action
about St. Valentine's-tide.
Having arranged to be called up at five on the morning of my
intended trip, I jumped out of bed when the knock came to my
chamber-door, dressed, and started forth to catch the first train
from Manchester. The streets were silent and still, except
where a few "early-birds" of the city had gathered round a "saloop"
stall; or a solitary policeman sauntered along the pavement; and
here and there a workman, with a pipe in his mouth, his echoing
steps contrasting strangely with the sleeping city's morning
stillness. The day was ushered in with gusts of wind and rain;
but by the time the train reached Rochdale the sky had cleared up,
and the breeze had sunk down to a whisper, just cool enough to make
the sunshine pleasant. The birds were twittering about, and
raindrops twinkled on the hedges and tufts of grass in the fields.
I wished to have as wide a ramble at the farther end as time would
allow; and as moor-tramping is about the most laborious foot
exercise that mortal man can bend his instep to, except running
through a ploughed field in iron-plated clogs,—an ordeal which
Lancashire trainers sometimes put their foot-racers through,—it was
considered advisable to hire a conveyance. We could go
farther, stop longer, and return at ease, when we liked, after we
had tired ourselves to our heart's content upon the moors. I
went down to the Reed Inn for a vehicle. Mine host came out to
the top of the steps which lead down into the stable-yard, and,
leaning over the railings, called his principal ostler from the room
below. That functionary was a broad-set, short-necked man,
with a comely face and a staid laconic look. He told us, with
Spartan brevity, that there had been a run upon gigs, but he could
find us a "Whitechapel," and "Grey Bobby." "Grey Bobby" and
the "Whitechapel" were agreed to at once, and in ten minutes we were
all seated, and away down the slope of Heybrook, on the
Heybrook, at the foot of Wardleworth Brow, is one of the
pleasantest skirts to Rochdale town. There is a touch of rural
peace and prettiness about it; and the prospect, on all sides, is
agreeable to the eye. The park-like lands of Foxholes and
Hamer lie close by the north side of the road. The lower part
of these grounds consists of rich flat meadows, divided by a merry
little brook, which flows from the hills on the north, above "Th'
Syke." In its course from the moors to the river Roch it takes
the name of each locality it passes through, and is called "Syke
Brook," "Buckley Brook," and "Hey Brook;" and on its way it gathers
tributary rindles of water from Clough House, Knowl, and Knowl Syke.
As the Foxholes grounds recede from the high-road they undulate,
until they rise into an expansive lawny slope, crowned with trees.
Foxholes Hall is situated among its old woods upon the summit of a
swelling upland, which rises from the level of Heybrook. The
view across the lawn and meadows, and over a picturesquely-varied
country to the blue hills in the south-east, is perhaps not equalled
in the neighbourhood. Pleasant and green as much of the land
in this district looks now, still the general character of the soil
and the whole of its features show that when nature had it to
herself very much of it must have been sterile or swampy.
Looking towards Foxholes, from the road-side at Heybrook, over the
tall ancestral trees, we can see the still taller chimneys of John
Bright and Brothers' mill peering up significantly behind; and the
sound of their factory bell now mingles with the cawing of an
ancient colony of rooks in the Foxholes woods. Foxholes is the
seat of the Entwistles, a distinguished old Lancashire family.
In the parish church there is a tablet to the memory of Sir Bertin
Entwistle, who fought at Agincourt, on St. Crispin's Day, in the
time of Henry V. When a lad, I used to con over this tablet,
and I wove a world of romance around this mysterious "Sir Bertin."
The tablet runs thus:—
To perpetuate a memorial erected
in the church of St. Peter's, St Albans (perished by time), this
marble is here placed to the memory of a gallant and loyal man,—Sir
Bertin Entwisle, Knt., viscount and baron of Brybeke, in Normandy,
and some time bailiff of Constantine, in which office he succeeded
his brother-in-law, Sir John Ashton, whose daughter first married
Sir Richard le Byron, an ancestor of the Lords Byron of Rochdale,
and secondly, Sir Bertin Entwisle, who, after repeated acts of
honour in the service of his sovereigns, Henrys the Fifth and Sixth,
more particularly at Agincourt, was killed at the first battle of
St. Albans, and on his tombstone was recorded in brass the following
inscription:—"Here lyeth Sir Bertin Entwisle, Knight, who was born
in Lancastershyre, and was viscount and baron of Brybeke, in
Normandy, and bailiff of Constantine, who died, fighting on King
Henry the Sixth's party, the 28th May, 1455, on whose soul Jesus
Close by the stone bridge at Heybrook two large old trees stand in
the Entwistle grounds, one on each bank of the stream, and partly
overhanging the road. They stand there alone, as if to mark
where a forest has been. The tired country weaver, carrying
his piece to the town, lays down his burden on the parapet, wipes
his brow, and rests under their shade. I have gone, sometimes,
on bright nights, to lean upon the bridge and look around there, and
I have heard many a plaintive trio sung by these two old trees and
the brook below, while the moonlight danced upon the rippling
The whole valley of the Roch is a succession of green knolls,
and dingles, and little receding vales, with now and then a barren
stripe like "Cronkeyshaw," or a patch of the once large mosses like
"Turf Moss," and little holts and holms, no two alike in feature or
extent, dotted now and then with tufts of stunted wood, with many a
clear brook and silvery rill between. On the south side of the
bridge at Heybrook, the streamlet from the north runs through the
meadows a short distance, and empties itself into the Roch.
The confluence of the waters there is known to the neighbour lads by
the name of the "Greight Meetin's," where, in past years, I have
Paidle't through the burn
When simmer days were fine,
in a certain young companionship,—now more scattered than last
autumn's leaves,—some in other towns, one or two only still here,
and the rest in Australia or in the grave. We now no longer
strip in the field there, and, leaving our clothes and books upon
the hedge-side, go frolicking down to the river, to have a water
battle and a bathe,—finishing by drying ourselves with our shirts,
or by running in the wind on the green bank. I remember that
sometimes, whilst we were in the height of our sport, the sentinel
left upon the brink of the river would catch a glimpse of the owner
of the fields, coming hastily towards the spot, in wrathful mood;
whereupon every naked imp rushed from the water, seized his clothes,
and fled from field to field till he reached some nook where he
could put them on. From the southern margin of the Roch the
land rises in a green elevation, on which the hamlet of Belfield is
seen peeping up. The tree-tops of Belfield wood are in sight,
but the ancient hall is hidden. A little vale in the west,
watered by the Beal, divides Belfield Hall from the Hamlet of
Newbold, on the summit of the opposite bank. So early as the
commencement of the twelfth century a family had adopted the local
name, and resided in the mansion till about the year 1290, when the
estate was transferred to the family of Butterworth, of Butterworth
Hall, near Milnrow. I find the Belfield family mentioned in
Gastrel's "Notitia Cestriensis," p.40, under the head "Leases
granted by the bishop," where the following lease appears: "An.
1546. Let by H. Ar. Belfield and Robt. Tatton, for 40 years,
exceptis omus vicariis advocationibus ecclesiariu quarumcunque (ing),
to find great timber, tiles, and slate, and tenants to repair and
find all other materials." The following note is attached to
this lease: "Arthur Belfield, of Clegg Hall, in the parish of
Rochdale, gent., son and heir of Adam Belfield, was born in 1508,
and succeeded his father in 1544. He is described in the lease
as 'off our sayde sovaraigne lord's houshold, gentylman;' but what
office he held is at present unknown. He was a near relative
of the Hopwoods of Hopwood, and Chethams of Nuthurst." In the
year 1274 Geoffry de Butterworth, a descendant of Reginald de
Boterworth, first lord of the township of Butterworth in the reign
of Stephen (1148), sold or exchanged the family mansion of
Butterworth Hall with John Byron, ancestor of Lord Byron the poet,
and took possession (by purchase or otherwise) of Belfield, which
was part of the original possession of the Knights of St. John of
Jerusalem. When the monks of Stanlaw, in Cheshire,—disliking
their low, swampy situation there, which was subject to inundation
at spring tide, [p.137]—removed
to the old deanery at Whalley, before entering the abbey there, in
the roll of the fraternity four seem to have been natives of
Rochdale, among whom was John de Belfield, afterwards Abbot of
Whalley, of the ancient stock of Belfield Hall, in Butterworth.
Robert de Butterworth was killed at the battle of Towton, in 1461.
The last of the name at Belfield was Alexander Butterworth, born in
1640, in the reign of Charles the First. The present occupants
of the estate have tastefully preserved the old features of the
hall, whilst they have greatly improved its condition and
environments. The stone gateway, leading to the inner
courtyard, is still standing, as well as a considerable portion of
the old hall. The antique character of the building is best
seen from the quadrangular courtyard in the centre. The door
of the great kitchen formerly opened into this courtyard, and the
victuals used to be brought out thence, and handed by the cooks
through a square opening in the wall of the great dining-room, on
the north side of the yard, to the waiters inside. The
interior of the building still retains many quaint features of the
olden time,—heavy oak-beams, low-ceilings, and tortuous corners.
Every effort has been made to line the house with an air of modern
comfort; still the house is said to be a cold one, partly from its
situation and partly from the porous nature of the walls, producing
an effect something like that of a wine-cooler. That part of
the building which now forms the rear used, in old times, to be the
main front. In one of the rooms there are still some relics of
the ancient oak-carving which lined the walls of the hall.
Among them there are three figures in carved oak, which formed part
of the wainscot of a cornice above one of the fire-places.
These were the figures of a king and two queens, quaintly cut; and
the remnants of old painting upon the figures, and the rich gilding
upon the crowns, still show traces of their highly-ornamented
ancient appearance. The roads in the neighbourhood of the hall
are now good. The hamlets of Newbold and Belfield are
thriving, with substantial healthy dwellings. Shady walks are
laid among the plantations, and the springs of excellent water are
gathered into clear terraced pools, and a serpentine lake,
glittering among gardens and cultivated grounds.
Leaving Heybrook, we passed by Hamer Hall, which was the seat
of a family of the same name before Henry the Fourth's time. A
large cotton mill now stands close behind the hall. A few
yards through the tollbar, we passed the Entwisle Arms, bearing the
motto, "Par se signe à Azincourt." A traveller seldom needs to
ask the names of the old lords of the land in England. Let him
keep an eye to the signboards, and he is sure to find that part of
the history of the locality swinging in the wind, or stapled up over
the entrance to some neighbouring alehouse. And in the same
balmy atmosphere he may learn, at least, as much heraldry as he will
be able to find a market for on the Manchester Exchange. The
public-house signs in our old towns are generally very loyal and
heraldic, and sometimes touched with a little jovial devotion,—the
arms of kings, queens, and bishops, and angels, chapel-houses,
mitres, and "amen corners," mingling with "many a crest that is
famous mingling in story,"—the arms of the Stanleys, Byrons,
Asshetons, Traffords, Lacys, Wiltons, De-la-Warres, Houghtons,
Molyneuxs, Pilkingtons, Radcliffes, and a long roll of old gentry,
whose fame is faintly commemorated in these alehouse signs.
Among the mottoes of these emblazonments we now and then meet with
an ancient war-cry which makes one's blood start into tumult when we
think how it may have sounded on the fields of Cressy, Agincourt,
Towton, or Flodden. Among these are sprinkled spread eagles,
dragons, griffins, unicorns, and horses, black, white, bay, and
grey, with corresponding mares, and shoes enow for them all;
boars, in every position and state of temper; bulls, some crowned,
some with rings in the nose, like our friend "John" of that name;
foxes, too, and dogs, presenting their noses with admirable
directness of purpose at something in the next street; and
innocent-looking partridges, who appear reckless of the intentions
of the sanguinary blackguard in green, who is supposed to be
lurking behind the bush, with a gun in his hand; talbots,
falcons, hawks, hounds and huntsmen, the latter sometimes in "full
cry," but almost always considerably "at fault," so far as
perspective goes; swans, black and white, with any number of necks
that can be reasonably expected; stags, saints, Saracens, jolly
millers, boars' heads, blue bells, pack-horses, lambs, rams, and
trees of oak and yew; the seven stars, and now and then a great
bear; lions of all colours, conditions and positions,—resting,
romping, and running; with a number of apocryphal animals not
explainable by any natural history extant, nor to be found anywhere,
I believe, except in the swamps and jungles of some drunken dauber's
brain; also a few jolly wagoners, grinning extensively at foaming
flagons of ale, garnished with piles of bread and cheese, and onions
as big as cannon-balls, as if to outface the proportions of the
burly giant who sits there in a state of stiff, everlasting, clumsy,
good-tempered readiness, in front of his never-dwindling feed; and
Marlboroughs, Abercrombies, and Wellingtons, Duncans, Rodneys, and
Nelsons, by dozens. I have seen an admiral painted on
horseback, somewhere; but I never saw Cromwell on an alehouse sign
yet. In addition to these, there are a few dukes, mostly of
York and Clarence. Such signs as these show the old way of
living and thinking. But in our manufacturing towns, the tone
of these old devices is considerably modified by an infusion of
railway hotels, commercials, cotton-trees, shuttles, spindles,
woolpacks, Bishop Blaizes, and "Old Looms;" and the arms of the
ancient feudal gentry are outnumbered by the arms of Shepherds,
Foresters, Moulders, Joiners, Printers, Bricklayers, Painters, and
several kinds of Oddfellows. The old "Legs of Man," too, are
relieved by a comfortable sprinkling of legs and shoulders of
mutton,—considerably overdone by the weather, in some cases.
Even alehouse signs are "signs of the times," if properly
interpreted. But both men and alehouse signs may make up their
minds to be misinterpreted a little in this world. Two country
lasses, at Rochdale, one fair-day, walking by the Roebuck Inn, one
of them, pointing to the gilded figure of the animal, with its head
uplifted to an overhanging bunch of gilded grapes, said, "Sitho,
sitho, Mary, at yon brass dog heytin' brass marbles!"
About half a mile up the high-road from Heybrook, and
opposite to Shaw House, the view opens, and we can look across the
fields on either side, into a country of green pastures and meadows,
varied with fantastic hillocks and dells, though bare of trees.
A short distance to the northwest, Buckley Hall lately stood, on a
green eminence in sight from the road. But the old house of
the Buckleys of Buckley recently disappeared from the knoll where it
stood for centuries. Its thick bemossed walls are gone, and
all its quaint abundant outhousing that stood about the spacious
boulder-paved yard behind. This old hall gave name and
residence to one of the most ancient families in Rochdale parish.
The building was low, but very strongly built of stone of the
district, and heavily timbered. It was not so large as Clegg
Hall, nor Stubley Hall, nor as some other old halls in the parish;
but for its size it proved a considerable quarry of stone and flag
when taken down. The first occupier was Geoffry de Buckley,
nephew to Geoffry, Dean of Whalley, who lived in the time of Henry
the Second. A descendant of this Geoffry de Buckley was slain
in the battle of Evesham ("History of Whalley"). The name of
John de Buckley appears among the monks of Stanlaw in the year 1296.
The arms of the Buckleys of Buckley are gules, a chevron sable;
between three bulls' heads, armed proper; crest, on a wreath, a
bull's head armed proper. Motto, "Nec temere nec timede."
There is a chantry chapel at the south-east corner of Rochdale
Parish Church, founded in 1487, by Dr. Adam Marland, of Marland; Sir
Randal Butterworth, of Belfield; and Sir James Middleton, 'a
brotherhood maide and ordayned in the worship of the glorious
Trinity, in the church of Rochdale,' Sir James being appointed
Trinity priest during his lyfe; and, among other things, he was
requested, when he went to the lavatory, standing at the altar, and
twice a week, to pray for the co-founders, with 'De profundis.'
"In this little chantry there is a recumbent stone effigy of a
mailed warrior of the Buckley family, placed there by the present
lord of the manor, whose property the chapel now is. I know
that some of the country people who have been reared in the
neighbourhood of Buckley Hall watched its demolition with grieved
hearts. And when the fine old hall at Radcliffe was taken
down, not long since, an agèd man stood by, vigorously denouncing
the destroyers as the work went on, and glorying in every difficulty
they met with; and they were not few, for it was a tough old place.
"Poo!" said he, "yo wastril devils, poo! Yo connot rive th'
owd hole deawn for th' heart on yo! Yo'n ha' to blow it up wi'
gunpeawdur! It wur noan bigged eawt o' club brass, that wur
not, yo shabby thieves! Tak th' pattern on't, an' yo'n larn
summat! What mak' o' trash wi'n yo stick up i'th place when
it's gwon? Those wholes 'll bide leynin again better nor yors!
Yo'n never big another heawse like that while yo'n teeth an' een i'
yor yeds! Eh, never, never! Yo hannut stuff to do it wi'!"
But down came the old hall at Radcliffe; and so did Buckley Hall;
and the materials were dressed up to build the substantial row of
modern cottages which now stand upon the same site, with pleasant
gardens in front, sloping down the knoll, and over the spot where
the old fish-pond was at the bottom. Some of the workpeople at
the neighbouring woollen mill find comfortable housing there now.
There is an old tradition respecting the Buckley family, connected
with a massive iron ring which was found fastened in the flooring of
a deserted chamber of the hall. A greyhound belonging to this
family, whilst in London with its master, took off homeward on being
startled by the fall of a heavy package, in Cheapside, and was found
dead on the doorstep of Buckley Hall at five next morning, after
having run one hundred and ninety-six miles in sixteen hours.
When visiting relatives of mine near Buckley, I met with a story
relating to one of the Buckleys of old, who was a dread to the
country-side; how he pursued a Rossendale rider, who had crossed the
moors from the Forest, to recover a stolen horse from the stables at
Buckley Hall by night; and how this Buckley of Buckley overtook and
shot him, at a lonely place called "Th' Hillock," between Buckley
and Rooley Moor. There are other floating oral traditions
connected with Buckley Hall, especially the tale of "The Gentle
Shepherdess," embodying the romantic adventures and unfortunate fate
of a lady belonging to the family. And in this wide parish of
Rochdale, in the eastern nook of Lancashire,—once a country fertile
in spots of lone and rural prettiness, and thinly inhabited by as
quaint, hearty, and primitive a people as any in England,—there are
many picturesque and storied dells, many tales of historic interest,
and many interesting legends connected with the country, or with the
old families of the parish,—the Byrons of Butterworth Hall, barons
of Rochdale; the Entwisles of Foxholes; the Crossleys of Scaitcliff;
the Holts of Stubley, Grislehurst, and Castleton; the Cleggs of
Clegg Hall, the scene of the traditions of "Clegg-Ho' Boggart;" the
Buckleys of Buckley; the Marlands of Marland; the Howards of Great
Howard, the Chadwicks of Chadwick Hall and Healey Hall; the Bamfords
of Bamford; the Schofields of Schofield; the Butterworths; the
Belfields; and many other families of ancient note, often bearing
the names of their own estates in the old way.
In this part of South Lancashire the traveller never meets
any considerable extent of level land; and though the county
contains great moors, and some mosses, yet there is not such another
expansive tract of level country to be found in it as "Chat
Moss," that lonely grave of old forests. South-east Lancashire
is all picturesque ups and downs, retired nooks, and
Quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles,
and little winding vales, with endless freaks of hill and hillock,
knoll and dell, dingle and shady cleft, laced with numerous small
streamlets and clear rindles of babbling water, up to the foot of
that wilderness of moorland hills, the "Back-bone of England," which
runs across the island from Derbyshire into Scotland, and forms a
considerable part of Lancashire on its way. The parish of
Rochdale partly consists of, and is bounded by, this tract of hills
on the east and north; and what may be called the lowland part of
the parish looks, when seen from some of the hills in the immediate
neighbourhood, something like a sea of tempest-tossed meadows and
pasture-lands, upon which fleets of cotton mills ride at anchor,
their brick masts rising high into the air, and their streamers of
smoke waving in the wind.
Leaving the open part of the high-road, opposite Shaw House,
and losing sight of Buckley, we began to rise as we passed through
Brickfield up to Smallbridge. This village is seated on an
elevation, sloping gently from the northern bank of the river Roch,
which rise continues slightly through the village, and up northward,
with many a dip and frolic by the way, till it reaches the hills
above Wardle Fold, where nature leaps up in a wild and desolate
mood. Some of the lonely heights thereabouts have been beacon
stations in old times, and their names indicate their ancient uses,
as "Ward Hill" above the village of Wardle. "Jack th'
Huntsman" used to swear that Brown Wardle was "th' finest hunting-greawnd
i' Lancashire." And then there is "Tooter's Hill," "Hornblower's
Hill," and "Hade's Hill." From the summit of the last, the
waters descend on one side to the Irish Sea on the west, on the
other to the German Ocean on the east. The remains of a large
beacon are still visible on the top of it. Looking southward,
from the edge of Smallbridge, the dale lies green and fair below,
and the quiet Roch winds through it towards Rochdale town. The
view stretches out several miles beyond the opposite bank, over the
romantic township of Butterworth up to the Saddleworth hills.
Green and picturesque, a country of dairy farms, producing good milk
and butter, yet the soil is evidently too cold and poor for the
successful culture of any kind of grain, except the hardy oat,—and
that crop mostly thin and light as an old man's hair. But even
this extensive view, over a beautiful scene in other respects, lacks
the charm which green woods lend to a landscape; for, except a few
diminutive tufts, and scattered patches, where young plantations
struggle up, there are scarcely any trees. From Smallbridge,
taking a south-east direction, up by "Tunshill," "Doldrum," "Longden
End," and "Booth Dean," and over the Stanedge road, into the ravines
of Saddleworth, would be a long flight for the crow; but to anybody
who had to foot the road thither, it would prove a rougher piece of
work than it looks. The village of Smallbridge itself consists
principally of one street, about half a mile long, lining the
high-road from Rochdale to Littleborough. It will have a dull
uninteresting look to a person who knows nothing previously of the
place, nor of the curious generation dwelling thereabouts.
Smallbridge has a plain, hard-working, unpolished, every-day look.
No wandering artist, in search of romantic bits of village scenery,
would halt enchanted with Smallbridge. It has no architectural
relic of the olden time in it, nor any remarkable modern
building,—nothing which would tell a careless eye that it had been
the homestead of many generations of Lancashire men. It
consists chiefly of the brick-built cottages, inhabited by weavers,
colliers, and factory operatives, relieved by the new Episcopalian
church at the eastern end, the little pepper-box bell-turret of
which peeps over the houses, as if to remind the rude inhabitants of
something higher than bacon-collops and ale. About half a mile
up the road which leads out of the centre of the village, northward,
stands a plain-looking stone mansion, apparently about one hundred
and fifty years old, called "Great Howarth." It stands upon a
shapely knoll, the site of an older hall of the same name, and has
pleasant slopes of green land about it, and a wide prospect over
hill and dale. Extensive alterations, in the course of the
last hundred years, have destroyed most of the evidences of this
place's age and importance; but its situation, and the ancient
outbuildings behind, and the fold of cottages nestling near to the
western site of the hall, with peeping bits of stone foundation, of
much older date than the building standing upon them, the old wells,
and the hue of the lands round about, all show that it has been a
place of greater note than it is at present. This great
Howarth, or Howard, is said to be the original settlement of the
Howard family, the present Dukes of Norfolk. Some people in
the neighbourhood also seem to believe this, for, as we entered
Smallbridge, we passed the Norfolk Arms, a little public-house.
One Osbert Howard was rewarded by Henry I. (Beauclerk) for his
faithful services, with lands situate in the township of Honorsfield,
or Hundersfield, in the parish of Rochdale; also, with what is
called "the dignified title of Master of the Buck Hounds."
Robertus Howard, Abbot of Stanlaw, was one of the four monks from
this parish whose names appear among the list of the fraternity at
the time of their translation to Whalley. He died on the l0th
of May, 1304. Dugdale, in his "Baronage of England," says
respecting the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk:—
I do not make any mention thereof
above the time of King Edward the First, supposing that their common
ancestor, in the Saxon's time, took his original appellation from an
eminent office or command; others, afterwards, from the name of a
place I shall therefore (after much fruitless search to satisfy
myself, as well as others, on this point) begin with William Howard,
a learnèd and reverend judge of the Court of Common Pleas for a
great part of King Edward the First's and beginning of Edward the
So that there seems to be a possibility of truth in the
assertion that Great Howard, or Howarth, near Smallbridge, was the
original settlement of the Howards, ancestors of the Dukes of
Norfolk. But I must leave the matter to those who have better
and completer evidence than this. Aiken, in his "History of
Manchester," mentions a direful pestilence which severely afflicted
that town about the year 1645. A pestilence called the "Black
Plague" raged in the parish of Rochdale about the same time.
The whole district being filled
with dismay, none dared, from the country, to approach the town, for
fear of catching the contagion; therefore, to remedy, as much as
possible, the inconvenience of non-intercourse between the country
and town people, the proprietor of Great Howarth directed a cross to
be raised on a certain part of his estate near to Black Lane End, at
Smallbridge, for the purpose of holding a temporary market there
during the continuance of the plague.
Thence originated "Howarth Cross," so named to this day;
also, the old "Milk Stones," or "Plague Stones," lately standing at
about a mile distant from the town of Rochdale, upon the old roads.
I well remember two of these, which were large heavy flag-stones,
with one end embedded in the hedge-side, and the other end supported
upon rude stone pillars. One of these two was in Milk Stone
Lane, leading towards Oldham, and the other at Sparth, about a mile
on the Manchester road. This last of these old "Milk Stones,"
or "Plague Stones," was taken down about 1840. I find that
similar stones were erected in the outlets of Manchester, for the
same purpose, during the pestilence about 1645. The village of
Smallbridge itself, as I have said before, has not much either of
modern grace or antique interest about its outward appearance.
But in the secluded folds and corners of the country around there is
many a quaint farmstead of the seventeenth century, or earlier, such
as Waterhouse, Ashbrook Hey, Howarth Knowl, Little Howarth, Dearnley,
Mabroyd, Wuerdale, Little Clegg, Clegg Hall (the haunt of the famous
"Clegg-Ho' Boggart"). Wardle Fold, near Wardle Hall, was fifty
years since only a small sequestered cluster of rough stone houses,
at the foot of the moorland heights, on the north, and about a mile
from Smallbridge. It has thriven considerably by manufacture
since then. In some of these old settlements there are houses
where the door is still opened from without by a "sneck-bans" or
"finger-hole." Some of these old houses have been little
changed for two or three centuries; around others a little modern
addition has gathered in the course of time; but the old way of
living and thinking lingers in these remote corners still, like
standing pools, left by the tide of ancient manners which has gone
down. There, and in still more lonely detached dwellings and
folds which are scattered among the hills and cloughs of the "Edge,"
they cling to the speech, and ways, and superstitions of their
forefathers. A tribe of hardy, industrious, old-fashioned,
simple-hearted folk, whose principal fear is poverty and "boggarts."
They still gather round the fire in the grey gloaming, and on dark
nights in winter, to feed their imaginations with scraps of old
legend, and tales of boggarts, fairies, and "feeorin," that haunt
their native hills, and dells, and streams; and they look forward
with joy to the ancient festivals of the year, as reliefs to their
lonely round of toil. But Smallbridge had other interests for
us besides those arising out of its remote surrounding nooks and
population. We had known the village ever since the time when
a ramble so far out from Rochdale seemed a great feat for tiny legs;
and as we passed each well-remembered spot the flood-gates of memory
were thrown open, and a whole tide of early reminiscences came
flowing over the mind,—
Floating by me seems
My childhood, in this childishness of mine
I care not,—'tis a glimpse of "Auld lung syne."
The inhabitants of different Lancashire towns and villages
have often some generic epithet attached to them, supposed to be
expressive of their character; as, for the inhabitants of Oldham and
Bolton, "Owdham Roughyeds," and "Bowton Trotters;" and the people of
Smallbridge are known throughout the vale by the name of "Smo'bridge
Cossacks." Within the last twenty years the inhabitants of the
village have increased in number and improved in education and
manners. Before that time the place was notable for its rugged
population, even in a district remarkable for an old-world breed of
people. Their misdemeanours arose more from exuberant vigour
of heart and body than from natural moral debasement. Forty
years ago there was no church in Smallbridge, no police to keep its
rude people in order, no effective school of any sort. The
weavers and colliers had the place almost to themselves in those
days. They worked hard, and ate and drank as much as their
earnings would afford, especially on holidays, or "red-letter days;"
and at by-times they clustered together in their cottages, but
oftener at the roadside, or in some favourite alehouse, and solaced
their fatigue with such scraps of news and politics as reached them,
or by pithy idiomatic bursts of country humour, and old songs.
Sometimes these were choice snatches of the ballads of Britain,
really beautiful "minstrel memories of times gone by," such as we
seldom hear now, and still seldomer hear sung with the feeling and
natural taste which the country lasses of Lancashire put into them
while chanting at their work. Some of Burns's songs, and many
songs commemorating the wars of England, were great favourites with
them. Passing by a country alehouse, one would often hear a
rude ditty like the following sounding loud and clear from the
You generals all, and champion's bold,
Who take delight i'th field,
Who knock down palaces and castle walls,
And never like to yield,
I am an Englishman by birth,
And Marlbro' is my name;
In Devonshire I first drew breath,
That place of noble fame.
Or this finishing couplet of another old ballad:—
To hear the drums and the trumpets sound,
In the wars of high Garmanie!
I well remember that the following were among their favourites: "O,
Nanny, wilt thou gang wi' me?" "Jockey to the Fair," "Owd Towler,"
"The Banks of the Dee," "Black-Eyed Susan," "Highland Mary," "The
Dawning of the Day," "The Garden Gate," and "The Woodpecker."
There are, also, a few rough, humorous songs in the Lancashire
dialect, which are very common among them. The best of these
is the rudely-characteristic ballad called "Jone o' Greenfelt," and
"The Songs of the Wilsons," of which the following, known by the
name of "Johnny Green's Wedding," and "Description of Manchester
College," by Alexander Wilson, is sufficient to show the manner and
characteristics of the remainder of these popular local songs:—
Neaw, lads, wheer are yo beawn so fast?
Yo happun ha' no yerd what's past:
Aw gotten wed sin aw'r here th' last,
Just three week sin come Sunday!
Aw ax'd th' owd folk, an' aw wur reet,
So Nan an' me agreed tat neet,
At iv we could mak both eends meet
We'd be wed o' Ayster Monday!
That morn, as prim as pewter quarts,
Aw th' wenches coom, an' browt sweethearts;
Aw fund we're loike to ha' three carts,—
'Twur thrunk as Eccles Wakes, mon!
We donn'd eawr tits i' ribbons, too,—
One red, one green, an' tone wur blue;
Then hey, lads! hey! away we flew,
Loike a race for th' Leger Stakes,
Right merrily we drove, full bat;
An' eh! how Duke and Dobbin swat!
Owd Grizzle wur so lawm an' fat,
Fro soide to soide hoo jow'd um.
Deawn Withy Grove at last we coom,
An' stopt at th' Seven Stars, by gum!
An' drunk as mich warm ale an' rum
As 'ud dreawn o'th folk i' Owdham.
When th' shot wur paid, an' th' drink wur done,
Up Fennel Street, to' th' church, for fun
We doanced loike morris-dancers dun,
To th' best o' aw my knowledge.
So th' job wur done i' hauve a crack:
Bob eh! what fun to get th' first smack!
So, neaw, my lads, 'fore we gwon back,"
Says aw, "we'n look at th' College."
We see'd a clock-case, first, good laws!
Where Deeoth stonds up wi' great lung claws;
His legs, an' wings, an' lantern jaws,
They really look't quite feorink.
There's snakes an' watchbills, just like pikes,
At Hunt, an' aw th' reformin tikes,
An' thee, an' me, an' Sam o' Mikes,
Once took a blanketeerink.
Eh, lorjus days! booath far an' wide
There's yards o' books at every stroide,
Fro' top to bothum, eend and soide,
Sich plecks there's very few so!
Aw axt him iv they wur'n to sell,
For Nan loikes readink vastly well;
Bob th' measter wur eawt, so he couldna tell,
Or aw'd a bowt her "Robinson Crusoe."
There's a trumpet speyks an' maks a din,
An' a shute a clooas made o' tin,
For folk to go a feightink in,
Just loike thoose chaps o' Boney's;
An' there's a table carved so queer,
Wi' as mony planks as days i'th year,
An crinkum-crankums here and theer,
Like th' clooas-press at my gronny's.
There's Oliver Crumill's bombs an' balls,
An' Frenchmen's guns they'd tean i' squalls,
An' swords as lunk as me o'th walls,
An' bows an' arrows, too, mon:
Aw didno moind his fearfo words,
Nor skeletons o' men an' burds,
Boh aw fair hate th' seet o' greyt lung swords,
Sin th' feight at Peterloo, mon.
We see'd a wooden cock likewise;
Boh dang it, mon! these college boys,
They tell'n a pack o' starin' loies,
As sure's as teaw'rt a sinner!
"That cock, when it smells roast beef, 'll crow,"
Says he; but aw said, "Teaw lies, aw know,—
An' aw con prove it plainly so:
Aw've a peawnd i' my hat for th'
Boh th' hairy mon had miss'd my thowt,
An' th' clog fair crackt by th' thunner-bowt,
An' th' woman noather lawmt nor nowt,
Theaw ne'er see'd loike sin t'ur
There's crocodiles an' things, indeed,
Aw colours male, shap, size, an' breed;
An' if aw moot tell toan hauve aw see'd,
We moot sit an' smook till morn, mon.
Then deawn Lung Millgate we did steer,
To owd Mike Wilson's goods-shop theer,
To buy eawr Nan a rockin' cheer,
An' pots, an' spoons, an' ladles.
Nan bowt a glass for lookink in;
An' a tin Dutch o'on for cookink in;
Aw bowt a cheer for smookink in;
An' Nan axed th' price o'th cradles.
Then th' fiddler struck up "Th' Honeymoon,"
An' off we set for Owdham soon:
We made owd Grizzle trot to th' tune,
Every yard o'th way, mon.
At neet, oytch lad an' bonny lass,
Laws! heaw they doanc'd an' drunk their glass!
So toyrt wur Nan an' me, by th' mass,
That we lee till twelve th' next day,
When the horn sounded to gather the harriers, or the "foomart
dogs," the weaver lads used to let go their "pickin'-pegs," roll up
their aprons, and follow the chase afoot, with all the keen relish
of their forefathers, returning hungry, tired, and pleased, at
night, to relate the adventures of the day. Sometimes they
sallied from the village, in jovial companies, attended by one or
more of their companions, to have a drinking-bout, and challenge "th'
cocks o'th clod" in some neighbouring hamlet. Such expeditions
often led to a series of single combats, in which rude bodily
strength and pluck were the principal elements of success.
Sometimes a general melée, or "Welsh main," took place, often
ending in painful journeys, with broken bones, over the moors, to
the "Whitworth Doctors." As far as rough sports and rough
manners went, "the dule" seemed to have "thrut his club" over
Smallbridge in those days. That man was lucky who could walk
through the village without being assailed by something more
inconvenient than mere looks of ignorant wonder, and a pelting of
course jokes, especially if he happened to wear the appearance of a
"teawn's buck." They had a kind of contempt for "teawn's
folk," as an inferior race, especially in body. If town-people
had more intelligence than was common in the country, these
villagers often affected to consider it a knavish cleverness; and if
they seemed externally clean, they looked upon it as an hypocritical
concealment of the filth beneath. If they were well dressed,
the old doubt arose as to its being "o' paid for"; and if one
appeared among them who had no settled home or connections, and
whose demeanour they did not like, he had "done summat wrang
somewheer, or else he'd ne'er ha' bin o' that shap." In fact,
it was hardly possible for people bred in a town to be as clean,
strong, or honest, as those bred in the country. Town-folk had
nothing wholesome about them,—they were "o' offal an' boylin-pieces."
When they visited Manchester, or any of the great towns about, they
generally took a supply of eatables with them for the journey,—"coud
frog-i'th-hole puddin'," or "fayberry cake," or "sodden moufin an'
cheese," or such-like homely buttery-stuff; for if they had occasion
to enter any strange house in such places, to satisfy their hunger,
every mouthful went down among painful speculations as to what the
quadruped was when alive, and what particular reason it had for
departing this life. Burns alludes affectionately to "the
halesome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food and oatmeal porridge, and
oat-cake enter largely into the diet of the country people in this
part of Lancashire. They used to pride themselves in the name
of the "Havercake Lads." A regiment raised in Lancashire
during the French war bore this name. This oat-cake is baked
upon a peculiar kind of stone slab, called a "bak-stone," or
"bake-stone; " and the cry of "Havercake bak-stones" is a familiar
sound in Rochdale, and the villages around it, at this day.
Oatmeal porridge forms an important element of a genuine Lancashire
breakfast in the country. I have often noticed the air of
satisfaction with which a Lancashire housewife has filled up the
great breakfast bowl with hot oatmeal porridge, and, clapping the
pan on the floor, said, "Theer, lads, pultiz yor stomachs wi' thoose!"
And the hungry, hearty youngsters have gathered hastily round their
old dish, welcoming it with the joyous ejaculation of "That's th'
mak'!" The thick unleavened oat-cake, called jannock, is
scarcely ever seen in south-east Lancashire now; but it used to be
highly esteemed. The common expression, "That's noan jannock,"
applied to anything which is not what it ought to be, commemorates
the fame of this wholesome old cake of theirs. But they have
no inclination to an exclusively vegetarian diet,—in fact, they
generally express a decided relish for "summat at's deeod ov a
knife;" and, like their ancient progenitors the Saxons, they prefer
heavy meals, and long draughts, to any kind of light epicurean
There are many old prejudices still cherished by the country
people of south-east Lancashire,—as is their old belief in witches,
witch-doctors, and "planet-rulers,"—but they are declining, through
increasing communion with the rest of the world. And then
these things show only the unfavourable side of their character; for
they are hospitable, open-handed, frank, and benevolent by nature.
How oft have I seen them defend the down-cast and the stranger, or
shut up ungenerous suspicion, and open all the sluices of their
native kindness by the simple expression, "He's somebody's chylt!"
"Owd Roddle" is a broken-down village fuddler in Smallbridge,
perpetually racking his brains about "another gill." His
appearance is more that of an Indian fakir than an English country
gentleman. He is as "concayted as a whisket in some things,
but not in eating or drinking; for he will "seawk lamp-hoyle through
a bacco-pipe if onybody 'll give him a droight o' ale to wesh it
deawn wi'; an' as for heytin', he'll heyt mortal thing,—deeod or
alive,—if he con get his teeth into't." A native of
Smallbridge was asked, lately, what Roddle did for his living, and
he replied, "Whaw, he wheels coals an' trails abeawt wi' his clogs
loce, an' maks a foo' o' hissel for ale." Yet, utterly lost as
Roddle is himself, in person and habits, he is strongly imbued with
the old prejudices against town-folk. To him, the whitest
linen worn by a townsman is only what the country-folk call a
"French white." A well-dressed person from Rochdale chanced
one day to awaken Roddle's ire, who, eyeing him from head to foot,
with a critical sneer, said, "Shap off whoam, as fast as tho can,
an' get that buff shirt sceawr't a bit, wilto? an' thy skin an' o',
for theaw'rt wick wi' varmin; an' keep o' shy own clod, whol tho con
turn eawt some bit like." "But," continued my informant, "aw'm
a bit partial to th' offal crayter, for o' that; he's so mich gam in
him, an' aw like a foo i' my heart! Eh! he used to be as
limber as a trout when here young; but neaw he's as wambly an' slamp
as a barrowful o' warp-sizin'. T'other mornin' aw walked up to
him for a bit ov a crack, as usal, but th' owd lad had getten his
toppin' cut off close to his yed; an' he wacker't an' stare't like a
twichel't dog; an' he gran at mo like mad. Aw're force't to
poo back at th' first, he glooart so flaysome. It're very
frosty, an' his een look't white an' wild, an' as geawl't as a
whelp's. If the dule had met Roddle at th' turn ov a lone that
mornin' he'd a skriked hissel eawt ov his wits, an' gwon deawn
again. Our maister sauces me sometimes for talkin' to Roddle;
but aw olez tell him at aw'st have a word wi' th' poor owd twod when
aw meet him, as what onybody says."
There is a race of hereditary sand-sellers, or "sond-knockers,"
in Smallbridge,—a rough mountain breed, who live by crushing
sandstone rock, for sale in the town of Rochdale, and the villages
about it. The sand is used for strewing upon the flagged house
floors, when the floor is clean-washed; and while it is yet damp the
sand is ground over it by the motion of a heavy "scouring-stone," to
which a long, strong, wooden handle is firmly fixed, by being
fastened to an iron claw, which grasps the stone, and is embedded
into it by molten lead. The motion of the "scouring-stone "
grinds the sand into smoothness, and leaves an ornamental whiteness
on the floor when it gets dry. It breeds dust, however, and
much needless labour. The people who knock this sand and sell
it have been known over the countryside for many years by the name
of "Th' Kitters"; and the common local proverb, "We're o' ov a
litter, like Kitter pigs," is used in Smallbridge as an expression
of friendship or of kinship. As regular as Saturday morning
came, the sand-carts used to come into Rochdale, heavily laden; and
I remember that they were often drawn by horses which, like the
steed of the crazy gentleman of Spain, were "many-cornered;" and
often afflicted by some of the more serious ills which horse-flesh
is heir to. The train of attendants which usually accompanied
these sand-carts into the town was of a curious description.
Hardy, bull-necked, brown-faced drivers, generally dressed in strong
fustian, which, if heavily-plated wi' patches in particular
quarters, was still mostly whole, but almost always well mauled, and
soiled with the blended stains of sand and spilt ale, and bacon fat,
with clumsily stitched rips visible here and there; the whole being
a kind of tapestried chronicle of the wearer's way of living,—his
fights, fuddles, and feasts. Then they were often bare-headed,
with their breeches ties flowing loose at the knees, and the shirt
neck wide open, displaying a broad, hairy, weather-beaten chest; and
the ovial-faced, Dutch-built women, too, in blue tin aprons, blue
woollen bedgowns, and clinkered shoon; and with round wooden peck
and half-peck measures tucked under their arms, ready for "hawpoths"
and "pennoths." As the cart went slowly along, the women went
from house to house, on each side of the road, and, laying one hand
upon the door cheek, looked in with the old familiar question, "Dun
yo want ony sond this mornin'?" "Ay; yo may lev a hawpoth.
Put it i' this can." When they came to an old customer and
acquaintance, sometimes a short conversation would follow, in a
strain such as this: "Well, an' heaw are yo, owd crayter?"
"Whaw, aw'm noan so weel. Aw can heyt naught, mon, an' aw
connot get my wynt." "Aw dunnot wonder at tat; yo'n so mich
reech abeawt here. If yo'n up at th' Smo'bridge, yo'dd'n be
fit to heyt yirth-bobs an' scaplins, welly. Mon, th' wynt's
clen up theer, an' theer's plenty on't, an' wi' can help irsels to't
when we like'n. Wi'n yo come up o' seein' us?" "Eh,
never name it! Aw's ne'er get eawt o' this hole till aw'm
carried eawt th' feet foremost!" "Come, wi'n ha' noan o' that
mak o' talk! Aw'd as lief as a keaw-price at yo'dd'n come.
Yo'n be welcome to th' best wi' han, an' wi'n may yo comfortable
beside, an' bring yo deawn again i'th cart. But ir Jem's gwon
forrud wi' th' sond. Let's see; did'n yo gi' mo th' hawp'ny? .
. . Oh, ay! It'll be reet! Neaw, tak care o' yorsel, an'
keep yor heart eawt o' yor clogs!" When the cart came to a rut
or a rise in the road, all hands were summoned to the push, except
one who tugged and thumped at the horse, and another who seized the
spokes of the wheel, and, with set teeth and strained limbs, lent
his aid to the "party of progress" in that way. Sometimes a
sturdy skulker would follow the cart, to help to push, and to serve
out sand; but more for a share of the fun, and the pile of boiled
brisket an "cheese and moutin" stowed away in the cart-box at
starting, to be washed down with "ballydroights of cold fourpenny at
some favourite 'co'in-shop' on the road."
The old custom of distinguishing persons by Christian names
alone prevails generally in Smallbridge, as in all country parts of
Lancashire, more or less. It sometimes happens, in small
country villages like this, that there are people almost unknown,
even among their own neighbours, by their surnames. Roby gives
an instance of this kind in his "Traditions of Lancashire," where he
mentions a woman, then living in the village of Whitworth, for whom
it would be useless to inquire there by her proper name; but anybody
in the village could have instantly directed you to "Susy o' Yem's
o' Fairoff's at th' top o'th Rake," by which name she was intimately
known. Persons are often met whose surnames have almost
dropped into oblivion by disuse, and who have been principally
distinguished through life by the name of their residence, or some
epithet descriptive of a remarkable personal peculiarity, or some
notable incident in their lives. Such names as the following,
which will be recognised in their locality, are constantly met, and
the list of them might be extended to any desirable degree: "Tum o'
Charles o' Billy's," or "Red Tum," "Bridfuut," "Corker," "Owd
Fourpenny," "Tum o' Meawlo's," "Rantipow," and "Ab o' Pinder's," who
fought a battle in the middle of the river Roch, at a great
bull-bait in Rochdale, more than thirty years ago; "Bull Robin," "Jone
o' Muzden's," "Owd Moreover," and "Bonny Meawth." This last
reminds me of the report of a young villager, near Smallbridge,
respecting the size of the people's mouths in a neighbouring
district. "Thi'n th' bigg'st meawths i' yon country," said he,
"that ever I seed claps under a lip! Aw hove one on 'em his
yure up, to see if his meawth went o'reawnd; but he knocks mo into
th' slutch." Many of these quaint names rise in my memory as I
write: "Owd Dragon," "Paul o' Bill's," "Plunge," "Ben o' Robin's o'
Bob's o'th Bird-stuffers o' Buersil Yed," "Collop," "Tolloll," "Pratty
Strider," "Lither Dick," and "Reawnt Legs,"—
Reawnt Legs he wur a cunnin' owd twod,
He made a mule draw a four-horse lwod.
And then there was "Johnny Baa Lamb," a noted character in Rochdale
twelve years ago. He was low in stature, rather stout, and
very knock-kneed; and his face was one paradise of never-fading
ale-blossoms. Johnny's life was spent in helping about the
slaughter-houses, and roaming from alehouse to alehouse, where,
between his comical appearance, his drunken humour, his imitations
of the tones of sheep, lambs, and other animals, and his old song,
The mon and the mare,
Flew up in the air,
An' I think I see 'em yet, yet, yet,—
the chorus of which he assisted by clattering a poker on the
hearth,—he was a general favourite, and kept himself afloat in
ale,—the staple of his ambition,—by being the butt of every
taproom,—where his memory remains "embalmed." There was "Barfuut
Sam," a carter, who never would wear any foot-gear; "Ab o' Slender's,"
"Broth," "Steeom," "Scutcher," "Peawch," and "Dick-in-a-Minnit."
Most of these were as well known as the church clock. And then
there was "Daunt o' Peggy's," "Brunner," "Shin 'em," "Ayli o' Joe's
o' Bet's o' Owd Bullfuut's," and "Fiddler Bill," who is mentioned in
the Lancashire song, "Hopper hop't eawt, an' Limper limp't in,"
Then aw went to Peel's Arms to taste of
They sup'n it so fast it never gwos stale!
An' when aw'd set deawn, an' getten a gill,
Who should come in boh Fiddler Bill.
He rambles abeawt through boroughs and
A' sellin' folk up as boh ow'n a few peawnds.
And then there were "Jone o' Isaac's," the mower; "Peyswad," and "Bedflock,"
who sowed blend-spice in his garden for parsley seed; and "Owd Tet i'
Crook," an amiable and agèd countrywoman, who lived in a remote
corner of the moors above Smallbridge, and whose intended husband
dying when she was very young, she took it deeply to heart. On
being pressed to accept the hand of a neighbour who knew her
excellent qualities she at last consented, assuring him, however,
that her heart was gone, and all that she could promise him was that
she could "spin an' be gradely," which saying has become a local
proverb. In the Forest of Rossendale I have met with a few
names of more curious structure than even any of the previous ones,
such as "Eb o' Peg's o' Puddin' Jane's," "Bet o' Owd Harry's o'
Nathan's at th' Change," "Enoch o' Jem's o' Rutchot's up at th'
Nook," "Harry o' Mon John's," "Ormerod o' Jem's o' Bob's," and
"Henry o' Ann's o' Harry's o' Milley's o' Rutchots o' John's o'
Dick's, through th' ginnel, an' up th' steps, an' o'er Joseph's o'
John's o' Steep's," which rather extraordinary cognomen was given to
me by a gentleman, living near Newchurch, as authentic, and well
known in a neighbouring dale. In a village near Bolton there
was, a few years since, a letter-carrier who had so long been known
by a nick-name that he had almost forgotten his proper name.
By an uncommon chance, however, he once received a letter directed
to himself, but not remembering the owner, or anybody of that name,
he carried the letter in his pocket for several days, till he
happened to meet with a shrewd old villager, whom his neighbours
looked upon as "larn't up," and able to explain everything,—from
ale, bulldogs, and politics, to the geography of the moon and the
mysteries of theology. The postman showed his letter to this
cunning villager, inquiring whether he knew anybody of that name.
The old man looked an instant, then, giving the other a thump, he
said, "Thea foo', it's thysel!" I have heard of many an
instance, in different parts of Lancashire, where some generic "John
Smith," after being sought for in vain for awhile, has been at last
discovered concealed under some such guise as "Iron Jack," "Plunge,"
"Nukkin," or "Bumper." I remember an old religious student, in
Rochdale, who used to take considerable pains in drilling poor lads
into a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. The early part of the
Bible was his favourite theme; and he interlarded his conversation
with it to such a degree that he won for himself the distinguished
title of "Th' Five Books o' Moses."
In Collier's tale of "Tummus and Meary," he illustrates the
personal nomenclature of these parts, in his own time, by the
following passage, which, though it may appear strange in the eyes
of people dwelling in the great cities in the south of England, yet
does not exaggerate the custom at present prevailing in the remoter
parts of the county of Lancaster:—
Meary. True, Tummus; no
marvel at o' wur so flayed; it wur so fearfo dark.
Tummus. Heawe'er, aw
resolv't mayth best on't, an up speek aw,— "Whooas tat?" A
lad's voyce answer't, in a cryin' din, "Eh, law! dunnah tah meh!"
"Naw," said aw, "aw'll na tay the, belady! Whooas lad art to?"
"Whau," said he, "aw'm Jone o' Lall's o' Simmy's o' Mariom's o'
Dick's o' Nathan's o' Lall's o' Simmy's i'th Hooms, an aw'm gooin'
whoam." "Odd," thinks aw t' mysel, "theaws a dree-er name ti'n
me." An here, Meary, aw couldn't boh think what lung names
some on us han; for thine and mine are meeterly; boh this lad's were
so mich dree-er, 'at aw thowt it dockt mine tone hawve.
Meary. Preo, na, tell
meh ha these lung names leet'n?
Tummus. Um—m; lemme see.
Aw conno tell tho greadly; boh aw think it's to tell folk by.
Meary. Well, an hea
did'n he go on with him?
Tummus. Then (as aw
thowt he talkt so awkertly) aw'd ash him, for th' wonst, what
uncuths he yerd stirrin'. "Aw yer noan," said he, "but 'at
Jack o' Ned's towed me, 'at Sam o' Jack's o' Yed's Marley has wed
Mall o' Nan's o' Sal's o' Peg's, 'at gos abeawt o' beggin' churn
milk, with a pitcher, with a lid on." Then aw asht him wheer
Jack o' Ned's wooant. Says he, "He's 'prentice weh Isaac o'
Tim's o' Nick's o'th Hough Lone, an he'd bin at Jammy's o' George's
o' Peter's i'th Dingles, for hawve a peawnd o' traycle, to seaws'n a
beest-puddin' weh; an' his feyther an' moother wooan at Rossenda;
boh his gronny's alive, an' wooans weh his noant Marjery, eh
Grinfilt, at pleck wheer his noan moother coom fro'." "Good
lad!" says aw; boh heaw far's tis Littlebrough off, for aw
aim't see it to-neet iv he con hit." Says t' lad, "It's abeawt
a mile; an yo mun keep straight forrud o' yor lift hond, an yoan
happen do." So a-this'n we parted; boh aw markint, an lost my
gate again, snap.
A curious instance of the prevalence of nicknames in this
district occurred, a few years since, about a mile from Smallbridge.
A country lass had got married out of a certain fold in that part,
and going down to Rochdale soon after, a female acquaintance said to
her, "Why, Sally, thews getten wed, hasn't to?" "Yigh," said
Sally, "aw have." "Well, an' what's thi felly code?" replied
the other. "Why," said Sally, "some folk co's him 'Jone o'
Nancy's lad at th' Pleawm Heawse; ' but his gradely name is 'Clog
Bant.'" We sometimes hear of a son who bears the same
Christian name as his father, as "Jamie o' James's," and "Sol ov Owd
Sol's o'th Hout Broo;" and I have often heard a witless nursery
rhyme, which runs,—
Owd Tum an' yung Tum,
An' owd Tum's son;
Yung Tum'll be a Tum
When owd Tum's done;
but the poor people of Lancashire sometimes have a superstitious
fear of giving the son the same Christian name as the father.
The ancient rural festival of "Rushbearing," in the month of
August, used to make a great stir in Smallbridge; but the observance
of it seems to decline, or, at least, assumes a soberer form.
A great number of local proverbs and quaint sayings are continually
being thrown up by the population there, which, in spite of their
rude garb, show, like nuggets of mental gold, what undeveloped
riches lie hidden in the human mind, even in Smallbridge. The
people are wonderfully apt at the discernment and at the delineation
of character. It is very common for them to utter graphic
sentences like the following: "He's one o' thoose at'll lend onybody
a shillin' if they'n give him fourteen-pence to stick to." One
of them said, on receiving a present of game from his son in
Yorkshire, "It isn't oft at th' kittlin' brings th' owd cat a meawse,
but it has done this time." There are two or three out of a
whole troop of anecdotes, told of the natives of this quarter, which
have the air of nature about them sufficiently to indicate what some
of the characteristics of these villagers were in past years.
Two young men were slowly taking their road, late one night, out at
the town end, after the fair, when one of them lingering behind the
other, his comrade shouted to him to "Come on!" "Stop an
rosin," said the loiterer; "aw hannot foughten yet!" "Well,"
replied the other, with cool indifference, "Get foughten, an' let's
go whoam!" In the Rev. W. Gaskell's lectures on the Lancashire
dialect he says, "The following dialogue is reported to have taken
place between two individuals on meeting: 'Han yo bin to Bowton?'
'Yigh.' 'Han yo foughton?' 'Yigh.' 'Han yo lick't?'
'Yigh; an' aw browt a bit'n him whoam i' my pocket!" "Owd Bun"
was a collier, and a comical country blade, dwelling near
Smallbridge. He was illiterate and rough as a hedgehog.
Bun had often heard of cucumbers, but had never tasted one.
Out of curiosity he bought a large one, curved like a scimitar; and,
reckless of all culinary guidance, he cut it into slices lengthwise,
and then fried the cold green slabs altogether, in bacon fat.
He ate his fill of them, too; for nothing which mortal stomach would
hold came amiss to Bun. When he had finished, and wiped the
grease from his mouth with the back of his hand, he said, "By th'
mon, fine folk'll heyt aught! Aw'd raither ha' had a potito!"
They tell a tale, too, of the difficulties of a poor factory lass
who had been newly married, which is not without its hints.
Her husband told her to boil him some eggs, and to "boyle 'em soft."
He went out a while, and on his return they were boiling, but not
ready. He waited long, and then shouted, "Are thoose eggs noan
ready yet?" "Nawe," said she, "they are not; for, litho, aw've
boyled 'em aboon an hour, an' they're no softer yet!" Now he
did not care much for this; but when he saw her take the child's
nightcap off its head to boil his dumpling in, he declared that he
"couldn't ston it."
Leaving Smallbridge, we rattled out at the end of the
village, past the Red Lion, and up to the top of the slope, where,
after a run of about two hundred yards, we descended into the hollow
where the sign of the old Green Gate stands. In the season of
the year, people passing that way in a morning will often see the
door-way crowded with hunting dogs, and a rout of sturdy rabble
waiting to follow the chase afoot through the neighbouring hills.
Rising again immediately, we crossed another knoll, and down again
we came to the foot of the brow, where four roads meet, close by the
Green Man Inn, opposite to the deserted hamlet of Wuerdale, which
perches upon a little ridge near the roadside, like an old beggar
craving charity. On we went, enjoying the romantic variety of
the scene, as the green ups and downs of the valley opened out to
view, with its scattered farms and mills, all clipped in by the
hills which began to cluster near.
About half a mile further on, where the road begins to slant
suddenly towards Featherstall, Stubley Hall stands, not more than
twenty yards from the road-side. A much older hall than the
present one must have stood here prior to the 13th century, for in
1322 and 1323 mention is made of Nicholas and John de Stubley ("His.
Whalley.") It subsequently came into the possession of the
Holt family, of Grislehurst and Castleton, a branch of the Holts of
Sale, Ashton, Cheshire. Some of this family fought in the
Scottish wars, and also in favour of the royal cause at Edgehill,
Newbury, Marston Moor, &c., and were named in Charles's projected
order of the Royal Oak. There was a Judge Holt, of the Holts
of Sale; and a James Holt, whose mother was co-heiress to Sir James
de Sutton; he was killed on Flodden Field. Mary, the daughter
of James Holt, the last of the family who resided at Castleton, in
this parish, married Samuel, brother of the famous Humphrey Chetham.
The Castleton estate came into Humphrey's hands in 1744. The
manor of Spotland was granted by Henry VIII. to Thomas Holt, who was
knighted in Scotland by Edward, Earl of Hertford, in the
thirty-sixth year of the reign of that king. The Holts were
the principal landowners in the parish of Rochdale at the close of
the sixteenth century. John Holt held the manor of Spotland,
with its appurtenances; also fourscore messuages, three mills, one
thousand acres of inclosed land, three hundred acres of meadow, one
thousand acres of pasture, and forty acres of woods, in Hundersfield,
Spotland, and Butterworth; besides a claim to hold of his Majesty,
as of his Duchy of Lancaster, one-third of the manor of Rochdale.
The arms of the Holts are described as "Argent on a band engrailed
sable, three fleurs-de-lis of the first. Crest, a spear head
proper. Motto, 'Ut sanem vulnera.'" The present hall at
Stubley was built by Robert Holt, about the year 1528. Dr.
Whitaker notices this house, which is of considerable size, forming
three sides of a square. It is now inhabited by several
families; and much of the rich old carved oak, and other relics of
its former importance, has been removed from the interior.
From the top of the slope near Stubley we now saw the spire
of Littleborough Church, and the village itself, prettily situated
at the head of the vale, and close to the foot of the hills which
divide Lancashire and Yorkshire. On the top of Blackstone, and
about half a mile to the south of "Joe Faulkner's,"—the well-known
old sheltering spot for travellers over that bleak region,—we could
now more distinctly see the streak of green which marks the line of
the Roman road till it disappears from the summit of the Edge.
Featherstall is a little hamlet of comfortable cottages at
the bottom of the brow in the high-road near Stubley Hall, warmed by
the Rising Sun, and another old-fashioned public-house, apparently
as old as the present Stubley Hall. The inhabitants are
principally employed at the mills and collieries in the
neighbourhood. The open space in the centre of the village is
generally strewn with scattered hay, and the lights from the
public-houses gleam forth into the watering troughs in front, as the
traveller goes through at night. A rough old road leads out of
the centre of the place, northward, over Calder Moor and the hills
towards Todmorden. From Featherstall the approach to
Littleborough is lined with mills, meadows, and tenter-fields, on
the north side; and on the south, two or three green fields divide
the highway from the railway; and a few yards on the other side of
the railway the line of the Rochdale Canal runs parallel with both.
And thus these three roads run nearly close together past
Littleborough, and all through the Vale of Todmorden, up to Sowerby
Bridge, a distance of twelve miles; and for a considerable part of
the way the river forms a fourth companion to the three roads, the
four together filling the entire bottom of the valley in some
places; and in addition to these may be seen, in other parts, the
old pack-horse roads leading down from the moorland steeps into the
hollow. Carts, boats, railway trains, and sometimes
pack-horses, seem to comment upon one another as they pass and
re-pass, and form a continual and palpable lecture on modes of
transit such as is not often met with in such distinct shape.
Littleborough consists principally of one irregular street, winding
over a slight elevation, and down to its centre near the railway
station, at the water-side, and thence across the bridge, up towards
Blackstone Edge. It is a substantial, healthy-looking village,
prettily situated in a romantic spot. There are many poor
working people in the village, but there is hardly anything like
dirt or squalor to be seen there, except, perhaps, a little of that
migratory kind which is unavoidable in all great thoroughfares, and
which remains here for a night, on its way, at a road-side
receptacle which I noticed at the western end of the village, where
I saw on a little board certain ominous hieroglyphics about "Loggins
for travlurs." The lands in the valley round Littleborough
have the appearance of fine meadow and pasture; and, taken with the
still better cultivated grounds, and woods, and gardens, about the
mansions of the opulent people of the neighbourhood, the whole looks
beautifully verdant, compared with the bleak hills which overlook
the vale. The old Royal Oak Inn, in the middle of the village,
is pointed out as a house which John Collier used to frequent, when
he visited the neighbourhood, and where he fixed the scene of
Tummus's misadventure in the inn, where he so unadvisedly "Eet like
a Yorsharmon, an' clear't th' stoo," after he had been to the
justice with his dog Nip, and where the encounter took place between
"Mezzilt Face " and "Wythen Kibbo:"—
Aw went in, an fund at two fat
throddy folk wooant theer; an theyd'n some o'th warst fratchingst
company at e'er eh saigh; for they'n warrying, banning, an co'in one
another "leawsy eawls" as thick as leet. Heawe'er, aw poo'd a
cricket, an keawr't meh deawn i'th nook o'th hob. Aw'd no
soyner done so, boh a feaw, seawer-lookt felley, with wythen kibbo
he had in his hont, slapt a sort of a wither, mezzilt-face't mon
sich a thwang o'th skawp, at he varry reecht again with it, an deawn
he coom o'th harstone, an his heeod i'th esshole. His scrunt
wig fell off, an a hontle o' whot corks feel into't, an brunt an
frizzlt it so, at when he awst don it, an unlucky carron gen it a
poo, an it slipt o'er his pow, an it lee like a howmbark on his
shilders. Aw glendurt like a stickt tup, for fear ov a dust
mysel, an crope fur into th' chimbley. Oytch body thowt at
mezzil-face would meh a flittin' on't, an dee in a crack; so some on
um cried eawt, "A doctor, a doctor!" whol others made'n th'londlort
go saddle th' tit to fotch one. While this wur eh doin', some
on um had leet ov a kin doctor, at wooant a bit off, an shew'd him
th' mon o'th harstone. He laid howd on his arm,—to feel his
pulse, a geawse,—an poo'd as if he'd sin deeoth poo'in' at th'
tother arm, an wur resolv't o'er-poo him. After lookin'
dawkingly-wise a bit, he geet fro his whirly booans, an said to um
aw, "Whol his heart bhyets and his blood sarkilates, theer's hopes,
boh whop that stops, it's whoo-up with him, i'faith." Mezzil-face
hearin' summot o' "whoo-up," started to his feet, flote noan, boh
gran like a foomart-dog, an seet at t' black swarffy tyke weh bwoth
neaves, an wawtud him o'er into th' galker, full o' new drink,
wortchin.' He begun o' pawsin an peylin him into't so, at aw
wur blendud together, snap. 'Sflesh, Meary; theaw'd ha' weet
teh, to sin heaw th' gobbin wur awtert, when at fey pood'n him eawt;
an what a hobthurst he look't weh aw that berm abeawt him. He
kept dryin' his een, boh he moot as weel ha' sowt um in his
hinder-end, till th' londlady had made an heawer's labber on um at
th' pump. When he coom in again, he glooart awvishly at
mezzil-face, an mezzil-face glendurt as wrythenly at him again; boh
noather warrit, nor thrap. So they seet um deawn, an then th'
londlady coom in, an would mey um't pay for th' lumber at tey'd done
hur. "Mey drink's war be a creawn," said hoo. "Beside,
there's two tumblers, three quiftin pots, and four pipes masht, an a
whol papper o' bacco shed." This made um t' glendur at tone
tother again; boh black tyke's passion wur coolt at th' pump, an th'
wythen kibbo had quiet'nt tother, so at teh camm'd little or noan,—boh
agreed t' pay, aw meeon; then seet'n um deawn, an wur friends again
in a sniff.
This house used to be a great resort on Saturday nights, and
fair days and holidays, and it was often crammed with the villagers
and their neighbours from the surrounding hillsides, and no small
addition from Rochdale and Todmorden. The windows were
generally thrown open at such times; and, standing at some distance
from the place, one might perhaps be able, in some degree, to sort
the roar of revelry going on inside; but if he wished to know what
were the component parts of the wild medley of melodies, all gushing
out from the house in one tremendous discord, he would have to draw
under the windows, where he might hear,—
Our hounds they were staunch, and our
horses were good,
As ever broke cover or dashed in a wood;
Tally-ho! hark forward! huzza!
Whilst, in another corner of the same room, a knot of strong-lunged
roysterers joined, at the top of their voices, in the following
chorus, beating time to it with fists and feet, and anything else
which was heavy and handy:—
"Then heigho, heigho!
Sing heigho" cried he.
"Does my wife's first husband remember me?"
Fal de ral, de ral, de ral, de rido!
In another room he would probably hear "Boyne Water," trolled out in
a loud voice,—
The horse was the first that ventured
The foot soon followed after;
But brave Duke Schomberg was no more,
At the crossing o' Boyne water.
Whilst another musical tippler, in an opposite corner, sang, for his
own special amusement, the following quaint fragment,—
Owd shoon an' stockin's!
An' slippers at's made o' red leather!
In another quarter you might hear the fiddler playing the animated
strains of the "Liverpool Hornpipe," or "Th' Devil Rips his Shirt,"
while a lot of hearty youngsters, in wooden clogs, battered the
hearthstone to the tune. In a large room above, the lights
flared in the wind, as the lads and lasses flitted to and fro in the
"Haymaker," "Sir Roger de Coverley," or "The Triumph," or threaded
through a reel and set till the whole house shook; whilst from other
parts of the place you would be sure to hear, louder than all else,
the clatter of pots and hunting cries, the thundering hurly-burly of
drunken anger, or the crash of furniture, mingling with the
boisterous tones of drunken fun. Whoever entered this house at
such a time, in the hope of finding a quiet corner, where he could
be still and look round upon the curious mixture of quaint, rough
character, might probably find that he had planted himself near the
retreat chosen by a drunken, maudlin fellow, who, with one eye
closed, sat uttering, by fits, noisy salutations of affection to the
pitcher of ale before him; or with one leg over the other, his arms
folded, and his head reeling lazily with drunken languor, first to
one side and then to the other, poured forth a stream of unconnected
jargon in this style: "Neaw then, yello chops! What's to do wi'
thee? Arto findin' things eawt? Whether wilto have a
pipe o' bacco or a bat o'th ribs? Aw've summat i'th inside o'
my box; but it looks like a brunt ratton, bi Guy! Help thysel,
an' poo' up, whol aw hearken to thi catechism. . . . Con to tell mo
what Natur belungs to?—that's the poynt! Come, oppen eawt!
Aw'm ready for tho! . . . An' if thae's nought to say, turn thi yed
aw dunnot like to be stare't at wi' a bigger foo nor mysel. . . Sup,
an' gi' me hond! . . . Theer's a lot o' nice, level lads i' this
cote, isn't there? . . . Aw'll tell tho what, owd dog —th' world
swarms wi' foos, donna i' o' maks o' clooas; an' aw deawt it olez
will do, for as fast as th' owd uns dee'n off fresh uns comes.
An' by th' mass, th' latter lot dunnot mend choose at's gwon, for o'
at they're brawsen wi' wit. It'd mend it a bit iv oytch body'd
wortch for their own livin'. Ay; thae may look as fause as to
likes; but thae'rt one o'th rook; an' thae'll dee in a bit, owd
craytur. Thae'rt too white abeawt th' ear-roots to carry a
grey toppin' whoam. Grey yure's heavy, mon,—it brings 'em o'
to th' floor. But thir't to leet for heavy wark, my lad. . . .
Behave thysel, an' fill thi bally when thou's a chance, for thae
looks clemmed. Arto leet gi'n? 'Cose, i' thou art,
thae'd betthur awter, or else thae'll be lyin' o' thi back between
two bworts, wi' thi meawth full o' sond, afore thi time's up. . . .
Look at yon bletherin', keaw-lipp't slotch, wi' th' quart in his
hond! He's a breet-lookin' brid, isn't he? Aw dar say
thae thinks thysel bwoth hon'somer an' fauser nor him. Thae
may think so, but, —aw know. Thae'rt no betthur nor porritch,—
i' tho're look't, up, for o' at thou's sich a pratty waiscut on!
What breed arto? Theer's summat i' that! But it doesn't
matter,—yor o' alike at th' bottom! Theer's our Jammy; he's as
big a wastril as ever stare't up a lone. He ax't me to lend
him one of our lads, yesterday. 'Lend te a lad o' mine aw
said. 'Naw, bi th' heart! Aw wouldn't lend tho a dog to
catch a ratton wi'!' . . . Hello! my ale's done!
Then he doffed his shoon,
An' he looked i'th oon.
Aw'll go toawrd our Mally, aw think. Hey, Blossom!
Beauty! Beawncer! Bluebell! For shame o' thysel,
Bluebell! By, dogs, by! Yo-ho! Come back, yo
thieves! Come back, aw tell yo!" And so on, for hours
Littleborough is the last village the traveller leaves on the
Lancashire side of the "Edge;" and the old high-road from Manchester
to Leeds passes over the top of these moorland hills, gently
ascending all the way from Littleborough, by a circuitous route, to
the summit,—nearly three miles. A substantial hostelry stands
upon the brow of the hill, called the White House, and sometimes
"Joe Faulkner's," from the name of an eccentric landlord who kept
the house in the old coaching time. This house can be seen
from the valleys on the Lancashire side for many miles. It was
a celebrated baiting-place for the great stream of travellers which
went over these hills before the railway drew it through the vale of
Todmorden. The division stone of the counties of York and
Lancaster stands about half a mile beyond this old inn.
Littleborough itself is prettily situated in the hollow of the
valley, at the foot of this range of hills, and at the entrance to
the Todmorden valley. It is surrounded by scenery which is
often highly picturesque. Dark moorlands, lofty and lonesome;
woody cloughs; and green valleys full of busy life; with picturesque
lakes, and little streams which tumble from the hills. The
village has many advantages of situation, both for pleasure and
manufacture. Stone and coal, and good water, are abundant all
round it; and it is fast thriving by the increase of woollen and
cotton manufacture. It is still a great thoroughfare for
Lancashire and Yorkshire; and a favourite resort for botanists,
geologists, and sportsmen. Northward from the village there
are many romantic cloughs, but perhaps the finest of these is the
one called "Long Clough," at the head of which is a remarkably fine
spring, called "Blue Pots Spring." The lake of Hollingworth is
about half a mile from the village, on the south side; and there is
a beautiful walk leading up to it, through a shady dough called "Cleggswood."
This lake, when full, is three miles round. It supplies the
Rochdale Canal, and is well stocked with fish. Its elevation
places it far above the bustle of the valley below, where the
highways and byways, the iron-ways and water-ways, interweaving
thickly about the scene, are alive with the traffic of the district.
The valley is throng with the river, the railway, the canal, and
excellent high-roads; and a hardy and industrious population, which
finds abundant employment at the woollen and cotton mills, in the
coal-mines and stone delphs, or on the dairy and sheep farms of this
border region of South Lancashire. The shelvy banks of
Hollingworth consist of irregular tiers and slopes of pasture,
meadow, and moorlands. The latter are, in some directions,
lofty and vast, especially on the eastern side, where the bleak mass
of Blackstone Edge shuts out the view; whilst a wild brotherhood of
heathery hills belonging to the same range winds about the scene in
a semicircle, which stretches far away, out of sight, in the
north-west. But the landscape upon the immediate borders of
the lake is of a rural and serene character, though touched here and
there with moorland sterility; and there is hardly a thing in sight
to remind a spectator that he is surrounded by the most populous
manufacturing district in the world. But the distant rumble of
train after train, thundering through the neighbouring valley, and
the railway whistle, rising up clear over the green hill north of
the water, are sufficient to dispel any reverie which the sight of
the lake and its surrounding scenery may awake. On holidays,
in summer time, the green country around the margin of this water is
animated by companies of visitors from the hill-sides, and the
villages and towns of the neighbouring valleys. A little
steamer plies upon it; and boats may be hired at the Fisherman's
Inn, and other places around the banks. The scattered
farmhouses of the vicinity, and the two or three country inns on the
borders of the lake, are merry with pleasure parties. In
winter, the landscape about Hollingworth is wild and lonesome; and
the water is sometimes so completely frozen over that a horse and
light vehicle may be driven across it from bank to bank, a mile
distant. It is a favourite resort of skaters from the
surrounding districts, though the ice is often dangerously uneven in
some places, by reason of strong springs, and other causes.
Many accidents have happened through skating upon insecure parts of
the ice of this water. Going home late one night, in the depth
of winter, to my residence by the side of this lake, I found the
midnight scene dimly illuminated in the distance by a gleam of
lights upon the lake, and the sound of pick-axes breaking up the ice
fell with a startling significance upon the ear. Our dog
Captain did not come out to meet me, when I whistled, as usual; and
I hurried, by a short cut over the fields and through the wood,
towards the spot where the lights were visible. There I found
a company of farmers and weavers standing upon the bank, with one or
two of the wealthy employers from the village of Littleborough, who
had drags in their hands, and were giving directions to a number of
workmen who were breaking a channel for the passage of a boat to a
spot where the ice had broken in with the weight of three young men
belonging to the neighbourhood. This melancholy midnight
gathering were working by lantern- light to recover the bodies from
the water. I remained upon the spot until two of the corpses
were brought to the bank, and removed in a cart to the farmhouse
where I resided, previous to being conveyed to their homes in the
distant town later on in the morning, and while it was yet dark.
I shall never forget the appearance of those fresh-looking youths,
as they lay stretched side by side, in their skating gear, upon a
table, in the long passage which led up to my bed-chamber.
The margin of the lake is adorned with patches of wood in
some places; and the hills stand around the scene in picturesque
disorder. At certain seasons of the year flocks of wild-fowl
may be seen resting upon its waters. There are other lakes
farther up in the hills; but the position and beauty of Hollingworth
make it a favourite with visitors to the district.
When westling winds and slaughtering guns
Bring autumn's pleasant weather,
the Littleborough inns are throng with sportsmen, equipped for the
grouse shooting, for which sport the moors of the neighbourhood are
famous. Littleborough has a modern look from the railway
station, near to which the new church stands, on a slight elevation,
about the centre of the place, and upon the site of the old one.
Yet, though the village has a modern appearance, everything known of
its history shows that it is a settlement of considerable antiquity.
The old chapel at Littleborough, which was a primitive
building in appearance, was licensed for mass by the Abbot of
Whalley, A.D. 1476. It remained in its original architectural
state until it became dangerously ruinous in some parts, and was
taken down to make way for the present church. In the
immediate vicinity of Littleborough there are several interesting
old houses, now standing upon sites where families of importance in
past times settled very early. Some of these families have
become extinct in the male line; the property of others has changed
hands, like Scholefield Hall, Stubley Hall, Lightowlers, and Windy
Bank. In the window of Littleborough Chapel are placed the
arms of several of the old families of this neighbourhood,—Kyrkeshagh,
of Town House; Litholres, of Litholres; Newall, of Town House;
Buckley, of Howarth Parva; Holt, of Stubley; Belfield, of Cleggswood;
Bamford, of Shore; Halliwell, of Pike House; Ingham, of Cleggswood ,
and several others.
As we left Littleborough I began once more to speculate upon
the claims set up for it as having been a Roman station; but my
thoughts had no firmer footing than the probabilities put forth by
Dr. Whitaker, and some other writers, who have perhaps followed him.
Yet, the fact that the silver arm of a small Roman statute of
Victory, with an inscription thereon, was dug up in the
neighbourhood some time ago, together with the direction of the
Roman road as marked in the late Ordnance map, and the visible
remains of a small, triangular-shaped entrenchment, on each side of
the road, on the summit of Blackstone Edge, seem to support the
probabilities which give rise to the opinion, and may yet enable the
antiquarians of Lancashire to give us something more certain about
the matter than I can pretend to.
Passing under the railway arch near the church, and leaving
the woody glen of Cleggswood on the right hand, we began to ascend
the hills by the winding road which crosses the canal and leads
through a little hamlet called "Th' Durn," consisting of an old
substantial house or two by the road-side, and a compact body of
plain cottages, with a foundry in the middle. "Th' Durn " is
situated on one of the shelves of land which the high-road crosses
in the ascent of Blackstone Edge, and overlooks the vale in the
direction of Todmorden. It is shaded on the south by a steep
hill, clothed with fir and stunted oaks. Over that hill-top,
on the summit of a wild eminence, above the din and travail of
mankind, stand three remarkable old folds, called "Th' Whittaker," "Th'
Turner," and "Th' Sheep Bonk," like eagles' nests, overlooking, on
the east, the heathery solitudes lying between there and Blackstone
Edge, the silent domain of moorfowl and black-faced sheep, seldom
trodden by human feet, except those of a wandering gamekeeper, or a
few sportsmen in August. Looking forth from this natural
observatory, about where "Th' Whittaker" stands, the view to
westward takes in an extensive landscape. The Vale of the Roch
is under the eye in that direction, with its pretty sinuosities, its
receding dells, and indescribable varieties of undulations, nearly
surrounded by hills, of different height and aspect. Distance
lends some "enchantment to the view" as the eye wanders over the
array of Nature spread out below,—green dells, waving patches of
wood, broad, pleasant pastures; the clear lake of Hollingworth
rippling below; old farmhouses, scattered above the knolls and
cloughs, by the side of brooklets that shine silvery in the
distance; the blue smoke curling up distinctly from each little
hamlet and village; mills, collieries, tenter-folds, and manifold
evidences of the native industry and manufacturing vigour of the
district. In these valleys all Nature seems to yield tribute
to the energy of the inhabitants, and rural life and manufacture
work into each other's hands with advantage. Standing on this
spot, with these things spread out before me, I have been struck
with the belief that this unfavourable region for agriculture would
not have been so well cultivated even as it is now but for the
manufacturing system. Far west, the eye rests upon the town of
Rochdale, with its clusters of chimneys, and hovering canopy of
smoke, the small square tower of its old church, and the steeples of
St. Stephen's and St. James's, with the town-clad ridges of
Wardleworth and Castleton, clearly seen, if the day be fine.
On a still Sunday afternoon, in summer time, I have sat upon the
hill-top at Whittaker, listening to the distant sound of Rochdale
bells, that notable peal of eight, the music of which I shall never
forget. And at such a time, as evening came on, when
Lowing herds wind slowly o'er the lea,
I have almost fancied that I could hear the Sunday chime of Rochdale
My soul, praise the Lord,
come floating up the vale, in the twilight, with a wonderful charm
of peace and solemnity in the sound. Immediately above "Th'
Durn," the high-road leading up to Blackstone Edge rises again as we
pass by the old public-house called "Th' Wet Rake," or "Weet Rake."
This house stands at the foot of a steep path leading to Windy Bank,
an old stone hall, once inhabited by an ancient family of the
neighbourhood. Windy Bank stands upon the edge of a rocky
eminence, rising almost perpendicularly from the road-side by which
we had to go. There used to be a carter in Rochdale, known by
the name of Old Woggy, who upset his cart in the craggy road called
Windy Bonk Steele. He returned to his master in the town with
the tidings. "Woggy" always stammered in his speech, but in
this case he was worse than usual; and his looks told more than his
tongue. His master watched in vain for "Woggy's" painful
delivery, in the usual way; but tired at last, he said, "Sing it,
mom!" when "Wog" immediately sang out, with a fluent voice,—
Aw've wanted (upset) wi' th' cart at th'
Windy Bonk Steele,
An' aw've broken tone (the one)
As we wound round the foot of the rock on the top of which Windy
Bank stands, we found the road rutty and uneven, being covered with
the perishable sandstone from the hill, broken up and ploughed into
slushy gutters, by stone waggons from the quarries thereabouts.
Pike House, the seat of the old local family of Halliwell,—one of
whom endowed the Free School at Littleborough,—stands near the north
side of the road here; and at a short distance behind there is an
interesting house, formerly of some importance, with a quaint fold
attached, called Lightowlers. Driving on close by the edge of
the deep Clough called Sladen Hollow, a hundred yards more brought
us to the Moorcock Inn, formerly a much more lively place than now,
when this mountain road was the great thoroughfare between
Lancashire and Yorkshire. The Moorcock was the last house but
one on the Lancashire side of Blackstone Edge. The house has a
rude, wholesome look still, but is little frequented. Few folk
go up that road now, except stone-getters, sand-knockers, shepherds,
sportsmen, and a few curious wanderers. We agreed to leave the
drag at the Moorcock, and walk up Blackstone Edge on foot.
"Grey Bobby" was pleased with the prospect of a feed and rest, for
it is tough work upon these hill-sides. He seemed to look
round with a thoughtful eye, and pricked his ears to the tread of
the brisk young mountaineer,—albeit he had a lame leg and a
crutch,—who came forth to loose his traces and lead him to the
stable. In the house we found a few hardy-looking
men,—brown-faced, broad-shouldered, moor-farmers or shepherds,
apparently, who did a little weaving. Their sagacious dogs
lounged about the floor. Such men, in such places, generally
receive strangers as if they were "fain to see aught that's wick."
They happened to have a Liberal newspaper amongst them, and free
trade was the topic of their talk, as it was almost everywhere at
that time. Their conversation showed, by its sensible
earnestness, that there were men, even up there, who knew who paid
for the great protection delusion. I have often been amused by
the blunt, shrewd discourse of country people in the manufacturing
districts, respecting the difference in the condition and feelings
of the people in the reigns of "George o' owd George's," and his
brother, "Bill o' George's," and the condition of the people now, in
the reign of the "little woman at coom a-seein' us lately." In
previous reigns, the tone of their loyalty might have been summed up
in what Jone o' Greenfelt says of his wife Margit:—
Hoo's nought ogen th' king,
But hoo likes a fair thing,
An' hoo says hoo can tell when hoo's hurt.
I have heard them talk of kings and statesmen "wi' kindlin' fury i'
their breasts;" and in their "brews" and clubs, which meet for the
spread of information, they discuss the merits of political men and
measures, and "ferlie at the folk in Lunnon," in a shrewd, trenchant
style, which would astonish some members of the collective wisdom of
the nation could they but conveniently overhear it. The people
of Lancashire generally are industrious collectors of political
information, from such sources as they can command. They are
an honest and a decent people, and would be governed by such; and
they evince some sparks of perception of what is naturally due to
themselves as well as to their masters.
When the lame ostler had attended to his charge he came into
the house and sat down with the rest. Somehow, the
conversation glided in the direction of Robert Burns, and we were
exchanging quotations from his poems and songs, when one of us came
to a halt in reciting a passage. To our surprise, the young
limper who had rubbed down "Grey Bobby" took up the broken thread,
and finished the lines correctly, with good discretion and evident
relish. I fancied that we were having it all to ourselves; but
the kind-hearted poet who "mourned the daisy's fate" had been at the
Moorcock before us, and touched a respondent chord in the heart of
our ostler. I forget who it is that says, "It is the heart
which makes the life," but it is true; and it is the heart which
sings in Robert Burns, and the heart will stir to the sound all the
world over. How many political essays, and lectures, and
election struggles, would it take to produce the humanising effect
which the song, "A man's a man for a' that," has awakened? It
would sound well in the British Houses of Parliament, sung in
chorus, occasionally, between the speeches.
After resting ourselves about three-quarters of an hour in
the Moorcock, we started up the hill-side, to a point of the road a
little past the toll-bar and the old oil mill in the hollow, at the
right hand. Here we struck across the moor, now wading through
the heather, now leaping over ruts and holes, where blocks of stone
had been got out; then squashing through a patch of mossy swamp, and
sinking into the wet turf at every step, till we reached the
moss-covered pavement, which the Ordinance surveyors have called a
"Roman road." It is entirely out of any way of travel,—a
clearly-defined and regular line of road, about forty feet wide, and
which we traced and walked upon up to the summit of the Edge and
down to the Yorkshire side, a distance of nearly two miles from our
starting place upon the track. We could distinguish it clearly
more than a mile beyond the place we stopped at, to a point where it
crossed the road to Ripponden, and over the moor beyond, in a
north-westerly direction, preserving the same general features as it
exhibited in those parts where it was naked to the eye. Here
and there we met with a hole in the road, where the stones of the
pavement had been taken out and carried away. While we were
resting on a bank at this old road-side, one of the keepers of the
moor came up with his dogs, and begged that we would be careful not
to use any lights whilst upon the moor, for fear of setting fire to
the heath, which was inflammably dry. I took occasion to ask
him what was the name of the path we were upon. He said he did
not know, but he had often heard it called "Th' Roman Road."
At a commanding point, where this old pavement reaches the edge of
Blackstone, from the Lancashire side, the rocky borders of the road
rise equally and abruptly, in two slight elevations, opposite each
other, upon which we found certain weather-worn blocks of stone,
half buried in the growth of the moor. There was a similarity
in the general appearance, and a certain kind of order visible in
the arrangement, of these remains, which looked not unlikely to be
the relics of some ancient masonry once standing upon these
elevations, and upon the spot which is marked as the line of the
"Roman road," in the Ordnance maps, is an "entrenchment."
The view along the summits of these vast moors looks wild and
grand towards the north and south, where dark solitudes stretch away
as far as the eye can see. In every other direction the
landscape takes in some cultivated land upon the hill-sides, and the
bustle and beauty of many a green vale, lying low down among the
mountains, with many a picturesque and cultivated dingle and green
ravine higher up, in spots where farmhouses have stood for
centuries, sometimes with quaint groups of cottages gathered round
them, and clumps of trees spreading about, shading the currents of
moorland streams. In the valleys, the river winding through
green meadows, mansions and mills, villages and churches, and
scattered cottages, whose little windows wink cheerfully through
their screen of leaves,—
Old farms remote, and far apart, with
Of black'ning rock, and barren down, and pasture's
The white and winding road, that crept through village,
glade, and glen,
And o'er the dreary moorlands, far beyond the homes of
Standing upon these proud and rugged desolations, which look down
upon the changeful life of man in the valleys at their feet with
such an air of strength and serenity, whilst the toiling swarms of
Lancashire and Yorkshire are scattered over the landscape beyond, in
populous hives, the contrast is peculiarly strong; and I have
wondered whether these old hills, which have seen the painted Celt
tracking his prey through the woods and marshes below, and
worshipping "in the eye of light" among wild fanes of rock, upon
these mountain wildernesses, which have heard the tread of the
legions of old Rome, and have watched the brave Saxon swinging his
axe among the forest trees, and, with patient labour, slowly making
these valleys into green and homely pasturages,—and which still
behold the iron horses of modern days rushing along the valley every
hour, snorting fire and steam,—I have wondered whether the hills, at
whose feet so many generations of brave men have come and gone, like
swathes of grass, might not yet again see these native valleys of
mine as desolate and stirless as themselves. These moorland
hills, the bleak companions of mist, and cloud, and tempest, rise up
one after another upon the scene, till they grow dim upon the
distant edge of the sky. Lying upon my back, among the
heather, I looked along the surface of the moors, and I shall long
remember the peculiar loneliness of the landscape seen in that way.
Nothing was in sight but a wild infinity of moors and mountain tops,
succeeding each other like heaving waves of varied form. Not a
sign of life was visible over all the scene, except immediately
around us, where, now and then a black-faced sheep lifted his head
above the heather, and stared, with a mingled expression of wonder
and fear, at the new intruders upon its solitary pasturage.
Occasionally, a predatory bird might be seen upon these hills,
flitting across the lone expanse,—a prowler of the skies; and here
and there the moorfowl sprang up from the cover, in whirring flight,
and with that wild clucking cry which, in the stillness of the
scene, came upon the ears with a clearness that made the solitude
more evident to the senses. A rude shepherd's hut, too, could
he seen sheltering near a cluster of crags upon the hill-side, and
hardly distinguishable from the heathery mounds which lay scattered
over the surface of the moor. But in the distance all seemed
one wilderness of untrodden sterility,—as silent as death. The
sky was cloudless whilst we wandered upon those barren heights; and
the blue dome looked down grandly-calm upon the landscape, which was
covered with a glorious sunshine.
No stir of air was there;
Not so much life as on a summer day
Robs not one light seed from the feathered grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
Heaven and earth were two magnificent stillnesses, which appeared to
gaze serenely and steadily at each other, with the calm dignity and
perfect understanding of ancient friends whose affinities can never
be unsettled. Looking horizontally along the moors, in this
manner, nothing was visible of those picturesque creases which lie
deep between these mountain ridges and teem with the industrious
multitudes of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
These hills form part of a continuous range, running across
the island, in different elevations, and familiarly known as the
"Backbone of England." Looking southward and south-east, in
the direction of the rocky waste called Stanedge,—which is crossed
by the high-road from Manchester to Huddersfield,—and Buckstones,
which, according to local tradition, was formerly a highwayman's
haunt,—the whole country is one moorland wild; and the romantic
hills of Saddleworth, with the dim summits of the Derbyshire
mountains, bound the view. Northward, the landscape has the
same general appearance. In this direction, Studley Pike
lately occupied the summit of a lofty moorland, overlooking the
valley between Hebden Bridge and the town of Todmorden, which is
part of a district famous for its comely breed of people, and for
the charms of its scenery. Studley Pike was a tall stone
tower, erected to commemorate the restoration of peace at the end of
our wars with Napoleon. Singularly, it came thundering to the
ground on the day of the declaration of war against Russia.
On the west, the Valley of the Roch, with its towns and
villages, stretches away out from this group of hills.
Littleborough nestles immediately at the foot of the mountain; and
the eye wanders along the vale, from hamlet to hamlet, till it
reaches the towns of Rochdale, Bury, Heywood, Middleton, and the
smoky canopy of Manchester in the distance. On a favourable
day, many other large and more distant Lancashire towns may be seen.
On the east, or Yorkshire side, looking towards Halifax, the hills
appear to be endless. The valleys are smaller and more
numerous, often lying in narrow gorges and woody ravines between the
hills, hardly discernible from the distance. The mountain
sides have a more cultivated look, and hovering clouds of smoke,
rising up from the mountain hollows, with sometimes the tops of
factory chimneys peering out from the vales, show where villages
like Ripponden and Sowerby are situated. On the distant edge
of the horizon, a grey cloud hanging steadily beyond the green hill
called King Cross marks the locality of the town of Halifax.
Green plots of cultivated land are creeping up the steep moors; and
comfortable farmhouses, with folds of cottages, built of the stone
of the district, are strewn about the lesser hills, giving life and
beauty to the scene.
For native men, the moors of this neighbourhood, as well as
the country seen from them, contain many objects of interest.
The hills standing irregularly around; the rivers and streams; the
lakes and pools below, and in the fissures of the mountains,—we knew
their names. The lakes or reservoirs about Blackstone Edge
form remarkable features in its scenery. One of these
(Blackstone Edge Reservoir) takes its name from the mountain upon
whose summit it fills an extensive hollow. The lake is upwards
of two miles in circumference. The scenery around it is a
table-land, covered with heather, and rocks, and turfy swamps.
The other two, White Lees and Hollingworth, lie lower, about
half-way down the moors. White Lees is a retired little glen,
about a mile north-west of the White House, on the top of Blackstone
Edge; and Hollingworth, the largest and most picturesque of the
three, is situated about two miles south-west of the same spot.
Close by the side of the high road from Lancaster, over these hills
into Yorkshire, this old hostelry, known as "Th' White House," is
situated near the top of Blackstone Edge, looking towards
Lancashire. The division-stone of the two counties stands by
the road-side, and about half a mile eastward of this public-house.
The northern bank of the road, upon which the division-stone stands,
shuts out from view the lake called Blackstone Edge Reservoir,—a
scene which "skylark never warbles o'er." A solitary cart-road
leads off the road, at the corner of the reservoir, and, crossing
the moor in a north-easterly direction, goes down into a picturesque
glen, called Crag Valley, or the Vale of Turvin, for it is known by
both names. This valley winds through the heart of the moors,
nearly four miles, emptying itself at Mytholmroyd, in the Vale of
Todmorden. Fifty years ago Crag Valley was an unfrequented
region, little known and much feared. Now there are thriving
clusters of population in it, and pretty homesteads, in isolated
situations about the sides of the clough. Manufacture has
crept up the stream. Turvin is becoming a resort of ramblers
from the border towns and villages of the two counties, on account
of the picturesque wildness of its scenery. In some places the
stream dashes through deep gorges of rock, overhung with wood,
peeping through which one might be startled by the sight of a
precipitous steep, shrouded with trees, and the foaming water
rushing wildly below over its fantastic channel. There are
several mills in the length of the valley now; and in level holms
down in the hollow, the land is beautifully green. The vale is
prettily wooded in many parts; but the barren hills overlook the
whole length of Turvin. In former times, the clough was
notable among the people of the surrounding districts as a
rendezvous of coiners and robbers; and the phrase, "a Turvin
shilling," grew out of the dexterity of these outlaws, who are said
to have lurked a long time in the seclusion of this moorland glen.
Approaching Turvin by the rough road across the moor, from
the top of Blackstone Edge, it leads into a deep corner of the
valley, in which stands the Church of St. John's in the Wilderness,
built a few years ago for the behoof of the inhabitants of the
neighbouring moors, and for a little community of factory people in
this remote nook of the land.
Upon the summit of one of the neighbouring mountains there is
a great platform of desolation, distinguished, even among this stony
waste, as the Wilderness; and I think that whoever has visited the
spot will be inclined to say that the roughest prophet that ever
brooded over his visions in solitary places of the earth could not
well wish for a wilder Patmos than this moor-top. On the right
hand of the public-house, near St. John's Church, several rough
roads lead in different directions. The centre one goes up
through a thick wood which clothes the mountain-side, and on by
winding routes to this "cloud-capped" Wilderness. On a distant
part of this bleak tract stand two remarkable Druidical remains,
called "Th' Alder Stones," or the Altar Stones,—sombre masses of
rock, upon which, it is said, the Druid priests of our island
performed their sacrificial rites before the wild Celts of the
district. The position and formation of these stones, which
have each a sloping top, with a hollow in the middle, and a channel
thence downward, seem to confirm the character attributed to them.
Returning from St. John's in the Wilderness towards
Blackstone Edge, a quaint stone building called Crag Hall occupies a
shady situation upon the hill-side, at the right hand of the vale,
and at the edge of the wild tract called Erringdale Moor. This
ancient hall contains many specimens of carved oak furniture, which
have been preserved with the building from the time of its old
owners. A few years ago the keeper of Erringdale Moor dwelt in
it, and kept the place in trim as a lodge, for the entertainment of
the owners of the moor, and their sporting friends, in the grouse
Between the moor-side, on which Crag Hall is situated, and
the road up to the top of Blackstone Edge, a moorland stream runs
along its rocky channel, in the deep gut of the hills. I
remember that many years ago I wandered for hours, one summer day,
up this lonely water, in company with a young friend of mine.
In the course of our ramble upon the banks of the stream, little
dreaming of any vestiges of human creation in that region, we came
almost upon the roof of a cottage, rudely but firmly built of stone.
We descended the bank by a sloping path leading to the door.
There was no smoke, no stir, nor sound, either inside or out; but
through the clean windows we saw a pair of hand-looms, with an
unfinished piece upon them. We knocked repeatedly, hoping to
obtain some refreshment after our stroll; but there was no answer;
and just as we were about to leave the lonely tenement, and take our
way homewards,—for the twilight was coming on, and we had nearly ten
miles to go,—we heard the sound of a pair of clogs in the inside of
the cottage, and the door was opened by a tall, strong man,
apparently about thirty-five years of age. His
clear-complexioned face was full of frankness and simplicity.
His head was large and well-formed, and covered with bristling brown
hair, cut short. Yawning, and stretching his arms out, he
accosted us at once, as if we were old friends, for whom he had been
looking some time,—with, "Well, heaw are yo, to-day?" We asked
him for a drink of water. He invited us in, and set two chairs
for us in a little kitchen, where the furniture was rudely-simple
and sound, and everything in good order, and cleaned to its height.
He brought forth pitchers full of buttermilk, plenty of thick
oat-cakes, and the sweet butter for which these hills are
famous,—and we feasted. The cool of the evening was coming on,
and there was no fire in his grate, so he fetched a great armful of
dry heather from an inner room, and, cramming it into the
fire-place, put a light to it. Up blazed the inflammable
eilding, with a crackling sound, making the room look cheerful as
himself. A few books lay upon the window-sill, which we asked
leave to look at. He handed them to us, commenting on them, in
a shrewd and simple way, as he did so. They were chiefly books
on mathematics, a science which he began to discourse upon with
considerable enthusiasm. Now, my young companion happened to
have a passion for that science; and he no sooner discovered this
affinity between himself and our host than to it they went
pell-mell, with books and chalk, upon the clean flags, and I was
bowled out of the conversation at once. Leaving them to their
problems, and circles, and triangles, I walked out upon the moor,
and, sitting upon a knoll above the house, wrote a little rhyme in
my note-book, which some years after appeared in the corner of a
Manchester newspaper. When I returned they were still at it,
ding-dong, about something or another in differential calculus; and
I had great difficulty in impressing upon the mind of my companion
the important area lying between us and our homes. This lonely
mathematician, it seemed, was a bachelor, and he got his living
partly by weaving, and partly by watching the moor for the owners;
and as I looked upon him I almost envied the man his strong frame,
his sound judgment, his happy, unsophisticated mind, and his serene
and simple way of life. He walked over the moor with us nearly
two miles, without hat, conversing about his books, and the lonely
manner of his life, with which he appeared to be perfectly
contented. At our parting, he pressed us to come over the
moors again the first opportunity, and spend a day with him at his
cottage. I have hardly ever met with another man who seemed so
strong and sound in body, and so frank, and sensible, and
simple-hearted, as this mathematical eremite of the mountains. [p.199]
That enthusiastic attachment to science which so strongly
distinguishes him in my remembrance is a common characteristic of
the native working people of Lancashire, among whom in proportion to
the population, there is an extraordinary number of well-read and
practised mechanics, botanists, musicians, and mathematicians; and
the booksellers in the towns of the county know that any standard
works upon these subjects, and some upon divinity, are sure to find
a large and ready sale among the operative classes.
We wore the afternoon far away in rambling about the high and
open part of Blackstone Edge, between the group of rocks called
Robin Hood's Bed and the solitary inn called White House, upon the
Yorkshire road. Wading through fern and heather, and turfy
swamps, climbing rocks, and jumping over deep gutters and lodgments
of peaty water, had made us so hungry and weary that we made the
best of our way to this inn, while the sun was yet up above the
hills. Here the appetite we had awakened was amply satisfied;
and we refreshed and rested ourselves awhile, conversing about the
country around us, and exchanging anecdotes of its remarkable local
characters, and reminiscences of our past adventures in the
neighbourhood. Many of these related to "Old Joe," the quaint
gamekeeper at Hollingworth, a kind of local "Leather-Stocking," who
has many a time rowed us about the lake in his fishing-boat.
When we came out of the inn the sun had gone down upon the
opposite side of the scene. Night's shadows were climbing the
broad steeps; but the summit-lines of the hills still showed in
clear relief against the western sky, where the sunset's glory
lingered. In every other direction the skirts of the landscape
were fading from view. Rochdale town, with its church tower
and stacks of tall chimneys, had disappeared in the distance; the
mountainous wastes, stretching away on the north, south, and east,
were melting into indistinct masses; and below the hills the dreamy
shades of evening were falling softly down, and folding away for the
night the hamleted valleys between Blackstone Edge and the boundary
of the scene. Day's curtains were closing to; the watchers of
night were beginning their golden vigil; and all the air seemed
thick with dreams. We descended from the moor-top by a steep
path, which diverges, on the right-hand side of the highway, a
little below the White House, and cuts off a mile of the distance
between that point and the Moorcock. Far down, from scattered
cots and folds, little lights were beginning to glimmer. That
frontlet jewel of mild Evening's forehead,—"the star that bids the
shepherd fold,"—was glowing above us, and here and there twinklings
of golden fire were stealing out from the blue expanse. As we
picked our way down the moor, the stillness of the tract around us
seemed to deepen as the light declined; and there was no
distinguishable sound in the neighbourhood of our path except the
silvery tricklings of indiscernible rills. From the farms
below, the far-off bark of dogs and lowing of cattle came floating
up, mingled with the subdued rush and rattle of railway trains in
the valley. Half an hour's walk down the hill brought us back
to the Moorcock. Limper, the ostler, got "Grey Bobby" from the
stable, and put him into the harness. Out came the folk of the
house, to see us off. Our frisky tit treated us to another
romp; after which we drove down the road in the gloaming, and on
through Littleborough and Smallbridge to Rochdale, by the light of