Longdendale and Woodhead.
This page is based on the notes of Robert Hamnett, originally published as an article in the Glossop Advertiser in 1913.
Illustrations are from my personal collection.
Longdendale's Historic Associations.
The forest of the High Peak included the present Longdendale, and part of the Parish of Glossop. William I, the Norman, became King of England in A.D. 1066 and for some years he was constantly fighting against the British, Saxons and Danes, and to subdue them he laid whole tracts of the country waste, destroyed the habitations and the people. Longdendale was one of such places. William ordered a survey of the whole country to be made, giving the names of the owners in Edward the Confessor's reign; the quantity of land they possessed, whether it was pasture, or woods, everything; even fish ponds were recorded. This survey was finished in 1086 and from it we learn "the whole of Longdendale is waste. The wood there is not pasturable, The whole seven miles in length, and four miles in breadth."
William was notoriously fond of hunting and it may be inferred that his natural son, William de Peveril, was the same.
"Fit for hunting." Probably this report induced William to give his son the Forest of the High Peak. I have no doubt that William the Conqueror has hunted many times in Longdendale, when he was visiting his son, who lived at the Castle or Keep at Castleton.
The Peverils must have conferred the Cheshire portion of Longdendale to someone else, or it would probably have been included in the estate given to Basingwerk Abbey. We have no information of the owners from 1086 until 1311, when Thomas de Burgh sold it to the Earl of Lancaster. The Earl of Lancaster did not retain possession of Longdendale for long. The Earl was one of those who in 1312 put to death King Edward the Second's favourite, Piers Gaveston, and the King did not forget it, but when opportunity came he had the Earl beheaded at Pontefract.
Longdendale then reverted to the Crown. The lands were afterwards granted to the Holland family, and Maud marrying Sir John Lovell, the latter became the owner. Another Sir John Lovell was a brave knight, and fought at Bosworth Field (1485) his party being defeated. The estates again became the Crown's and were given to Sir William Stanley for the part he took in the battle which mainly led to the victory. Sir William Stanley was a participator in Perkin Warbeck's rebellion in 1499, and suffered attainder. Longdendale was then given by Queen Mary to the Wilbrahams from whom it has passed to the Tollemaches.
We learn thus from history the former possessors of Longdendale have been men who have taken very prominent parts in the history of the country, and although we have no records the tenantry living here would certainly follow their landlords to fight under their banners.
Longdendale means 'The long hollow of the dale,' a very good description of the country. Woodhead is of course, the head of the wood. In Longdendale are the villages of Woodhead, Crowden, Tintwistle, Hollingworth and Mottram.
Vale House cottages and mill are covered with a reservoir. The mill was built in 1795 or 96 by Robert and John Thornley. In 1826 the mill was closed owing to the failure of the proprietors. It afterwards came into the possession of Josiah Cheetham who was accidentally killed on March 1st 1832. In 1838 Alexander Steele and Co. were the occupiers, in 1855 William Hobbs and Co. the owners being John Cheetham's executors. On the 17th October, 1867 the building materials were sold, the ground being required for the extension of the Waterworks. The mill chimney was left standing and long remained in the reservoir like a solitary sentinel.
Vale House Mill
The Bottoms Lodge Mill was occupied in 1825 by John Turner, in 1836 by John Winterbottom and Co. the owners being John Winterbottom and Samuel Lees. There were then two factories, the old factory being assessed at £192 15s and the new one at £61 10s. In 1850 it was the Bottoms Lodge Mill Co. On the 16th October, 1867 the machinery was sold for the same reason as the sale of Vale House Mill.
In 1847 John Newton Winterbottom was also working Rhodes Mill. In 1851 he took a 21 years lease of the Lower Water Mill, Glossop. He built Moorside House. Mr Winterbottom married the second daughter of Robert Shepley, cotton manufacturer, Glossop. He was the founder of the Glossop Conservative Club. He was a most energetic man. He left Glossop in 1878 and went to reside at Torkington, near Marple, where he died 10th April, 1887 aged 69.
Thomas Rhodes, woollen manufacturer, Bottoms Mill (Rhodes Mill) took an active part in putting down the Luddites in 1811-12. The information he gave to the civil and military authorities led to the arrest of many persons who had taken an active part in rioting and destroying mill machinery. Several were sentenced to death and others transported. He had sons, Thomas, James, William, and others. His grandson Thomas Rhodes of Mersey Bank, was the founder of Mersey Mills. Thomas Rhodes, son of Thomas, formerly a dyer at Staley, died a bachelor on the 17th September, 1821. William Rhodes, who married a Miss Sarah Wood, was father of Thomas Rhodes, Mersey Bank. William died 11th January, 1825. In 1823 the firm was William, John and James Rhodes. In that year the firm had a dispute with John Turner, cotton manufacturer, over a weir, which was settled by arbitration, the arbitrators being George Sidebottom and Thomas Ellison.
In 1847 the owner of the mill was James Rhodes; in 1855 the tenants were Rhodes and Armstrong. When the mill was taken down, owing to the waterworks extension, Dr James Rhodes, of Glossop who was a relative, had most of the best stones removed to Glossop to build himself a new house in Victoria Street for old times sake.
The Woodhead Church or Chapel is of old origin. The bell was stolen 1st March, 1854 presumably by some of the navvies for the value of the metal. It was robbed of its bell more than once. The roof fell in, the following being an account:-
“Woodhead Chapel-- On Sunday, May, 22nd 1825 the roof of Woodhead Chapel fell in with a dreadful crash, breaking down the pulpit and a great part of the seats. When the chapel was opened for afternoon service the wood work of the roof was observed to have given way and it was considered unsafe to proceed with the duty. Mr Thomas Thornley, of Vale House, was consulted as to the best means of securing it, and he had only left the chapel a short time when the whole fell in. This chapel was rebuilt some years ago, and most of the old timber was used - to which this accident is mainly attributed.” Manchester Guardian.
The Wonders of Woodhead.
Woodhead being partly in Derbyshire and partly in Cheshire, and bordering on Yorkshire, was formerly a favourite resort of prize fighters, as if disturbed by the police of one county, they could resume the fight in another one. On the 9th March, 1864 a prize fight took place at Crowden Brook between Alexander Stewart and Ned Quinn; it had lasted two hours when P.C. James Boham of Tintwistle stopped it.
On the 27th September, 1867 a prize fight for £100 took place at Saltersbrook between George Fletcher, of Sheffield and James Rawlins of Hull. Another fight at Saltersbrook took place on the 12th November, 1867, between Henry Kimberley of Birmingham and Arthur Chambers of Manchester, for a stake of £50. Superintendent Moran and a staff of police surrounded them and arrested the principals. The fighters came from all parts of the country, and as much secrecy was kept it was seldom that the police could hear of it until the fight was over.
The Woodhead moors formerly abounded with game and much poaching took place. A gamekeeper's duty was one not to be envied; they were many times overpowered by numbers. On the 13th August, 1838 a desperate attempt was made to murder one of them.
Before the reservoirs were built the valley was a good fruit growing place, plums being a speciality. When they were ripe, the "Plum Wakes," took place, and visitors came from all quarters to buy the fruit and otherwise enjoy themselves.
Before the advent of the “6d tripper”, trips used to run to Woodhead. One memorable one was from Stockport, on the 29th July, 1865, when from 2,000 to 3,000 Oddfellows came with two military bands. Another contingent came from Yorkshire, accompanied by the Thurlstone Old Prize Band.
The George and Dragon Inn was well patronised on these occasions. Mr John Sykes, one of the most popular landlords of the Dragon, died on the 8th August, 1898. He had been landlord over 20 years.
Great rejoicings took place at Woodhead on the 1st October, 1833 when the first sod was cut out for the commencement of the railway. Special marquees were erected, and most of the local gentry honoured the occasion by their presence. The making of the tunnels was not carried on without loss of life, many accidents occurring before they were completed. One day all work had to be suspended owing to a cloud of gnats entering the works and driving the workmen away. The first tunnel was opened 2nd December, 1845, and the second one 2nd February, 1853. The length of the tunnel is three miles 12 yards and 25 inches and cost £150 per foot in length.
In 1846 the Manchester Corporation decided to construct reservoirs in the Longdendale Valley, and obtained an Act of Parliament to enable them to do so. They have obtained several Amendment Acts since, principally in 1862 when they decided on great extensions.
By an Act passed 22nd July, 1846 they were obliged to discharge 75 cubic feet of water per second for 12 hours of every working day for the benefit of the Vale House, Tintwistle, Bottoms Lodge, Waterside, Best Hill, Broadbottom Mills, and Hodge Printworks Mill.
On the 3rd August, 1848 work was commenced, the contractors being Richard Thompson and Sons, Blackburn, who had 1,400 men employed. This large influx of navvies made the fortunes of many of the landlords of the public houses and benefited tradesmen in general.
Disputes about the price to be paid for the land taken was settled mostly by arbitration. Mr George Hyde's (of Tintwistle Hall) being the first case settled. Mr Abel Buckley, of Ashton-under-Lyne, was the arbitrator. It was stated in evidence that "the Hollingworth estate, sold in 1831 for £11,250 consisted of 630 acres, some of it moorland, but with 200 acres of good land." The landlords tried to get all they could for their lands, and the Corporation for the least.
The work at times was carried on under great difficulties, thunderstorms being the most dangerous. On the 9th August, 1849 there was a tremendous thunderstorm during which one man was killed by lightning and another drowned by an inrush of water into the cutting that he was working in. Two months afterwards another storm did damage estimated at £2,550.
The Mottram Tunnel is 2,772 yards long, 6 feet high, and 6 feet wide. On the 19th October, 1850, water was turned into it, and Mr J E Bateman, C.E. the engineer to the Corporation, Messrs J Manson, and J Molyneux, the resident engineer and superintendent of the tunnel, Messrs George Hill, resident engineer, and Samuel Taylor of Glossop, contractor for the Arnfield and Hollingworth reservoirs passed through the tunnel in a flat bottomed boat. The journey was safely accomplished in one hour and forty minutes. The works at Godley, Denton, and other places were also nearly completed, and it was estimated that in a month from this event the people of Manchester and Salford would be drinking the Longdendale water.
On the 8th February, 1852 great alarm was felt by hundreds of people, as it was expected that if the heavy rainfall did not cease the reservoir banks would burst. Men on horseback were stationed at various points to give the alarm. People removed their furniture; it was a most anxious time.
At the present time much discussion has arisen amongst the members of the Manchester Corporation as to the safety of the reservoirs, many of the members believing them to be unsafe, and urging that work should immediately be undertaken to strengthen the reservoirs.
On the 4th July, 1868 James Nicholls was killed by a fall of earth. 400 navvies in white smocks walked at his funeral and each gave 1s towards the expenses of the funeral and relief of his parents.
The reservoirs from Tintwistle Bridge are Bottoms, Vale House, Rhodes Wood, Torside, and Woodhead. In the Manchester Guardian, 13 years ago it was stated that the full capacities of the reservoirs were: Hollingworth, 73,000,000 gallons; Bottoms, 407,000,000; Vale House, 343,000,000; Rhodes' Wood, 500,000,000; Torside, 1,474,000,000; Woodhead, 1,181,000,000. this was empty and the others only containing comparatively small quantities.
It is acknowledged by competent authorities that if the reservoirs were full they would be dangerous.
To accommodate the navvies, wooden huts were built and a sad disaster overtook one of them. People passing on the highway at Crowden may have noticed two stones; they mark the site of the hut where the following occurred:-
Manchester Guardian, Saturday 26.8.54. "Sad death of two children. On Monday afternoon last, an inquest was held before Mr C Hudson at the Black Bull Inn, Tintwistle, on the remains of Joseph Forshaw, aged two years, and Robert Forshaw, aged four years, the children of James and Ann Forshaw, who resided in a hut near the first milestone from Tintwistle, on the Woodhead Road, no other habitations being nearer than 400 yards. The hut in question was only one storey high and was built of rough stones and clay, and covered with straw thatch. It had two rooms, in one of which there were beds for six lodgers, and in the other there was sleeping accommodation for the father, mother and three children. The mother's statement was to the effect that she generally rose at 4 a.m. in order that her husband who was sub contractor under Mr Taylor at the Arnfield reservoir and the lodgers might go to their work in due time. The children generally rose with her, and after her other boy had gone to his work at the mill she made a practice of going to bed again with the children for about an hour. She had done this on the previous Friday morning, and after rising a second time, she milked a cow and occupied herself with other work until between 9 and 10 o'clock. She then went to weed a patch of potatoes close by the house, leaving a fire burning, and the two children asleep in a bed which stood about a yard from the fire. She had been in the potato ground about an hour, when she bethought herself of going home to the children, but on looking at the house, she saw that it was enveloped in smoke. She unlocked the door and tried to get in for the children, but was compelled to retreat, as the roof was falling in and the place was in flames. Other witnesses stated that they saw the fire, and went to the place and one of them broke in through the lodgers room but could not render any service as that part was on fire. The children's remains which were found where the bed had stood were drawn from the burning ruins with a potato hoe, their bodies falling in pieces. The beds, furniture, clothes, and other contents of the house were consumed. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death stating at the same time that there had been gross neglect which had been the cause of the accident. The children were interred in one coffin the same evening.”
Crowden Hall is a very ancient hall. Here was born John Hadfield, who was executed in 1803 for forgery. See The Hadfield Family of Crowden Hall..
On the 20th February, 1867 William Coffey, the stationmaster at Crowden, was killed by a railway train.
The Crowden hills now resound with rifle shots, the Manchester Territorials having established a good rifle range here.
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Last updated: 4 October 2020