The First Post Boxes in Huddersfield

According to Wikipedia, the first public post box in the United Kingdom was installed at Botchergate, Carlisle, in 1853.

The following article, published in the Leeds Mercury (24/Nov/1855), shows that Huddersfield wasn’t too far behind:

Street Letter Boxes

The Postmaster of Huddersfield has ordered four pillar letter-boxes to be placed in the streets for the accommodation of the inhabitants. The first is situated in Bradford Road, where Fitzwilliam Street crossed it ; the second in Halifax Road, at the top of Fitzwilliam Street ; the third on Chapel Hill ; the fourth on Seed Hill. The letters in them will be taken to the Post Office at 6:45 am, at 7 p.m., and 10:45 p.m., except on Sundays, when they will not be visited.

The approximate locations of the four boxes are shown in red on this 1908 map of Huddersfield, with the believed location of the Post Office in 1855 shown in blue. By 1874, the Post Office had moved to the market side of Northumberland Street (shown in green) and the building still stands. In 1914, the current Post Office was built on the opposite side of Northumberland Street to the old one.

The First Postboxes in Huddersfield
The First Postboxes in Huddersfield

In fact, the Mercury was reporting old news, as the post boxes were actually erected the day before, on Friday 23 November. The Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Nov/1855) gave the following details:

They are cast iron pillars, of an octagonal form ; and will prove a great advantage to the inhabitants of those localities [where the pillars stood] by saving them the necessity of coming into town to post letters. For the information of those depositing letters in the boxes, we may state the boxes will be opened at a quarter to eleven a.m., and again at seven p.m., for the purpose of transmitting the letters by the mails. It is to be hoped that not only the police, but the public, will take an interest in guarding these boxes from any abuse to which inconsiderate parties might attempt to subject them.

It’s possible they looked this surviving octagonal box, situated in the village of Holwell, Dorset (photograph by Barry W.):


A few months earlier, the Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Aug/1855) reported that on 13 August an important alteration to the postal system in Huddersfield had been introduced — “The principal is to give every house, as far as practicable, a free delivery of letters.” The article also mentioned the plan to install the four post boxes and predicted that this, together with the free delivery of letters, “cannot fail to give satisfaction both to the town and the neighbourhood.”

Speaking of old post boxes, here’s one from the reign of Queen Victoria in the little hamlet of Helme, near Meltham, which is still in use:


If anyone knows of other old and/or interesting post boxes in the Huddersfield area, please leave a comment!

William Moore (1797-?)

The Postmaster of Huddersfield, William Moore, was born in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, in 1797.

Moore had taken up his position by the time the Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial, and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley and the Manufacturing District of Yorkshire: Volume 2 was published in 1834:

The Post-Office at Huddersfield is in New Street, Mr. William Moore is the post-master. Letters from London, Pontefract, and Wakefield, arrive every evening at six, and are despatched every morning at a quarter before six. Letters from Leeds, Halifax, and Manchester, arrive every morning at a quarter-past seven, and afternoon at a quarter-past two, and they are sent every morning at a quarter-past ten, and in the evening at six o’clock. There are foot-posts to Lockwood, Honley, Thong Bridge, Holmfirth, Paddock, Slaithwaite, Marsden, Longwood, Almondbury, Dogley Lane, Kirkburton, Crossland, Netherton, Eltham1, Deighton, Sheepridge, Rastrick, Brighouse, Dalton, Kirkheaton, Lepton, Lindley, and Out-Lane, every morning (except Tuesday) at eight.

By the time of the 1851 Census, he was the Postmaster for Huddersfield and was residing on Morpeth Place, Seed Hill, with his wife, Mary, and two of their children. I wonder if it was a coincidence that Moore chose Seed Hill as one of the four locations for the first post boxes?


The 1861 Census shows him still living at Seed Hill, with his son William residing next door with his family.


The following are a summary of newspaper articles relating to William Moore, all from the Huddersfield Chronicle

  • 12/Jul/1851 — Joseph Gaunt, landlord of the Queen Hotel, Market Street, was fined for assaulting William Moore.
  • 18/Dec/1852 — Mr. Moore’s son, William, married Harriet Frances Akers, at the Parish Church in Halifax on 16 December.
  • 22/Jan/1853 — To celebrate the marriage of his only daughter to Mr. John Dobson of Kirkburton, Moore threw a party for the Post Office staff at the Ship Inn. The landlady, Mrs. Richardson, provided “an excellent supper”.
  • 25/Nov/1854 — Moore brought a prosecution against farmer George Heap for attempted to steal £5 worth of manure from near Moore’s property at Seed Hill. Moore represented himself, “in his own peculiar style, exciting occasionally much merriment in court”. The court ruled it had no jurisdiction in this case, as Heap had permission to collect manure from the streets of the town.
  • 03/Feb/1855 — Mr. Moore’s swift actions had saved other packages after someone had illegally posted a package of “wax lucifer matches” which spontaneously combusted in the Post Office.
  • 12/May/1855 — The Postmaster’s annual salary was given as £180, with the total cost of providing the postal service for the Huddersfield division being £1,411.
  • 13/Oct/1855 — The Post Office received a letter addressed to: “thomas grange, cark ey etin spank, ncar, huddersfreed, englind speed.” It was reported that this had been interpreted as “Thomas Grange, Spangled Bull, Kirkheaton, near Huddersfield, England. Speed.”
  • 13/Sep/1856 — A couple of weeks previously, Mr. Moore’s beloved dog, “Curry”, had gone missing. Moore affixed a sign to the front of the Post Office reading, “My favourite dog, ‘Curry’, is lost, nay, stolen — for if the wicked holder will only set him at liberty. I warrant that the beautiful, sleek, chestnut animal will bound his joyous way to Seed Hill. Faithful creature as he is — worth a thousand two-legged animals such as the thief who stole him — if any kindly being will give the hint where he is located, he will receive a full reward.” The Chronicle took great delight in revealing that the dog had been located locked in Lockwood’s Yard on New Street and that it had been the “two-legged” Mr. Moore himself who had accidentally locked Curry there “in a moment of forgetfulness”!
  • 12/Jun/1858 — George Whitehead, a printer who occupied a part of the building above the Post Office on New Street, was charged with assaulting Mr. Moore on 3 June. Whitehead would occasionally work throughout the night and insisted on having the front door to the building left unlocked. Moore had repeatedly remonstrated with Whitehead over this, as it left the Post Office (and the other businesses in the building) vulnerable to robbery. On the night of the incident, Moore insisted that the door must be locked overnight and Whitehead had “both struck and kicked” the Postmaster and then threatened to assault Frederick John North, a post office clerk. In court, Moore was asked if Whitehead struck him more than once, to which he replied, “Aye, hundreds of times. It would be incident or I would bare my body ; you would then see I am full of wounds from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet.” Whitehead was found guilty of assault and fined £2 19s.
  • 25/Feb/1860 — Mr. Moore’s speech at the “8th annual soiree of the Milnsbridge Mechanics’ Institute” was reported.
  • 02/Mar/1872 — A discussion around the potential sites for the new Post Office (which was subsequently built on Northumberland Street) mentioned that the post service in Huddersfield began around 1850 (in reality, it had begun before 1831, when he was suspected of intercepting mail) and that Mr. Moore and his son (also named William) were now running a stock and share brokering business.
  • 31/Jan/1874 — At the annual meeting of the Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce it was reported that the council were deeply unhappy with the choice of Northumberland Street as the location for the new Post Office.
  • 15/Jan/1876 — A reunion took place to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ramsden Street Independent Chapel and Schools, with around 1,100 former scholars present. Amongst those sending their apologies for not being able to attend were Mr. Moore, “the late postmaster for Huddersfield.”
  • 19/May/1886 — Mr. Frederick North, who worked under Mr. Moore in the early days of the post service in Huddersfield, had been promoted to role of Postmaster of Grantham.

As mentioned above, after stepping down as the Postmaster in the late 1850s, William Moore set himself up as a broker on New Street with his son and their adverts regularly appeared in the Chronicle:2



Post Office (187?–1914):

Post Office (1914–present):

Folly Dolly Falls, Meltham

The curiously named Folly Dolly Falls is a little hidden gem of a waterfall to the east of Meltham, just off the Meltham Greenway section of the old Meltham Branch Line.


Essentially a fault line where sandstone meets softer shale, a small stream (which used to be called Gylloproyd Dyke) cascades over the fault. As far as I’m aware, the stream rises from a spring not far above the falls, then flows down through a culvert under the old railway line and then eventually joins Hall Dyke near Bent Ley Mills. The stream also forms part of the old boundary line between Meltham and South Crosland.


In recent years, a viewing platform has been built, giving an excellent view of the falls and the stream above. It’s worth noting that the falls are on private property, so be respectful if you visit!

It was somewhere around here on a rainy afternoon in April 1864 that the first sod of earth was cut for the railway line by Charles Brook. The journalist who covered the event had obviously never hear of “Gylloproyds” before, and wrote it down phonetically as “Gill-up Rudes” in the article.

Surprisingly, the falls aren’t signposted but you’ll likely hear the water easily enough as you approach them along Meltham Greenway. Look for a path dropping down off the Greenway, with a circular metal gate for accessing a private field. Don’t go into that field, but instead follow the path down to the right, before the gate. You can either continue down the steps to reach the stream, and then walk up to the falls, or take the higher path to reach the viewing platform.

The flow over the falls is highly dependant on recent rainfall, so it becomes little more than a trickle in dry periods. However, this means that the falls can freeze up during particularly cold spells, making for a dramatic flow of solid ice.


As for the meaning behind the name of the falls, if you look elsewhere online, you’ll likely find a half-story about a woman named Dolly building a cottage somewhere above the falls — quite why that should be dubbed a “folly” isn’t explained. In the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Society’s 1987 booklet about the Meltham Branch Line, there’s even a claim it “took its name from the suicide of Dorothy Seymour who killed herself jumping over the forty-two-foot high waterfall after being jilted by her lover”(!)1

A much more likely source for the name is given in Richard Orton’s The Story of Meltham (published 1977):

This name first appears in the Baptism Register for 1819. The entry states:- “Alice, daughter of Samuel and Sarah Wood, clothier of Dollyfolly, baptised.” The two questions arise in connection with this — who was Dolly and what was his folly? Perhaps Dolly was the nickname either of Samuel Wood or of some other clothier who lived in the house before him. The nature of his folly is in dispute. A recent correspondence in the “Huddersfield Examiner” suggested that Dolly committed a folly in building a house in such an out of the way spot. This correspondence was prompted by a photograph printed a few nights previously of Folly Dolly Falls in spate. Anyone familiar with Folly Dolly Falls will know that it is in spate only after heavy rain when there is plenty of “top water”. Most of the time there is only a trickle coming down the Falls. I would suggest that the folly was connected with this fact. It was not at that time a folly to build cottages in out of the way spots. There were many cottages built in spots much more out of the way. We can still see the ruins of them dotted about on the edges of the moors. Wherever there was water a weaver’s cottage would be built. In any case this particular spot is less out of the way than most. Two paths cross there, one from Meltham to High Brow past the brickworks, and the other from Helme to Bent Ley. Before the turnpike road was built up the valley these paths would have been much used. Dolly Folly would be quite a busy cross roads. We must seek some other reason for the folly. Clothiers at that time were thinking in terms of mechanisation. It had been discovered that looms could be driven by water power, more cloth produced and more prosperity attained. One can imagine Dolly saying to his wife, “Everybody’s doing it. We must have a water wheel.” So he dug a dam, and a channel from the dam to the stream, constructed a wheel, connected his loom to it and sat down waiting for the wheel to turn. Nothing happened! There was indeed plenty of water after heavy rain, but very little of it got into his dam. The majority went straight past and over the Falls. It is possible that the dam never filled up at all. Dolly certainly committed a folly in imagining that that stream could ever provide enough power to drive machinery.

I owe this suggestion to the late Mr. Matthew Kaye who himself heard it from Mr. Francis Creaser. Francis Creaser was born in the 1860’s at a time when there would still be people living who could remember Dolly and his Folly. There is no doubt that somebody dug a dam and a channel. They are still there to be seen (silted up now of course). Then apparently he found out too late that he had wasted his time and energy. Would not this make him a laughing-stock of the neighbourhood? Would not his Folly be talked about in the taverns? One needs something like this to account for the sudden appearance of a new place-name, and this seems to the writer the most likely explanation. The evidence is quite strong, a trustworthy tradition traceable through known individuals of proved reliability, going back to within living memory of the event itself and concrete evidence in the form of a mill dam in a place where there is not enough water to fill one.

We owe the preservation of this story to an event which took place in 1940. Matthew Kaye was called to put out a grass fire at High Brow. They took their hoses but found there was not enough water power to operate them, and so had to fight the fire by hand, a job which took all night. Next day, working at Royd Edge Dye Works on some sewers in the presence of Francis Creaser, whom he had called in to advise (being the man who had put the sewers in in 1885), he remarked on his night’s work, and Mr. Creaser replied, “You made the same mistake as old Dolly!” and of course explained his remark.

The 1841 Census lists a 70-year-old widow Sarah Wood living in Meltham, apparently with her married daughter, Alice (25) and husband Henry Chapman (30).








St. Paul, Armitage Bridge

Nestled in a curve of the River Holme, St. Paul’s is the local church for the village of Armitage Bridge and is a grade II listed building.



Consecrated in 1848, the bulk of the £6,350 cost was provided by Brooke family who established the mill which still bears their name and dominates the village. The mill is now home to North Light Gallery and to a variety of businesses, including the North Lights Film Studio — chances are you’ll have watched at least one of their productions.

The first recorded baptism at the church was Sarah Wood (born 23/Sep/1847), daughter of gardener Thomas Wood and his wife Catherine, who was baptised on 7 May 1848. The baptism was performed by the Reverend Henry Windsor. On the same day, Rev. Windsor also performed the first burial service — 5-year-old Hannah Dawson Bramwell, daughter of tailor William Dawson Bramwell and his wife Sarah.

The first marriage occurred on 13 November 1848 and was between Mary Ann Brook (daughter of warper George) and weaver John Heppenstall (son of weaver William).

Sadly the church was badly damaged by an arsonist in February 1987 but thankfully was rebuilt due to the determination of the congregation. The church rededicated in 1990 and later underwent further restoration.


I’ve mentioned the death of 11-year-old James Beaver in a previous blog post, but I’ve now had chance to visit his grave.

Just to recap, James was employed during the construction of the Meltham Branch Line and was involved in an accident at the southern end of the Butternab Tunnel on Thursday 16 January 1868. Apparently he tampered with one of the waggons loaded with debris and it began to move. James fell under it and one of the wheels rolled over his arm, crushing it.

The Chronicle initially reported on the incident saying that although the boy’s arm had been amputated at the shoulder, he was recovering well at Huddersfield Infirmary.1 Sadly, however, he died on Sunday 26 January.

His family couldn’t afford a headstone, so he was buried in an unmarked plot in the graveyard on 30 January 1868.2

I’m extremely grateful to the Reverend Stephen Gott and to church administrator Bruce Greenwood for their assistance in pinpointing where James was laid to rest. His plot is roughly in the middle of this photograph and situated near the south western corner of the graveyard:


The war memorial for Armitage Bridge is situated close to the church and lists the following names:

1914-1918 — W. Armitage, H. Armitage, E. Avery, J.W. Adamson, N. Bradley, H. Booth, F. Bray, L. Bray, H. Brown, A. Berry, H. Beaumont, E. Beaumont, H. Bradshaw, F.T. Crowe, W.J. Crossley, F. Cartwright, D. Cartwright, A. Copley, A. Crosland, E. Dakin, A. Dodson, N. France, F. France, W. Haigh, J.S. Haigh, P. Hallas, H. Heap, C. Hamer, H. Hargreaves, C. Jenkinson, J.H. Jagger, E.R. Knapton, J. Kerfoot, J.W. Kaye, J. Kirk, C.L. Langrick, A. Lindley, H. Lister, H. Maud, W. Mallinson, R. Morrison, H. Oldham, G.W. Pounder, H. Pollard, E. Robinson, J. Stocks, W. Shells, C.T. Sykes, R. Sykes, L. Shaw, E. Shaw, W. Shaw, F. Shaw, W. Sunderland, A. Stinton, J. Sallis, H. Sanderson, L. Shore, A. Stanley, A.C. Tong, J.S. Taylor, N. Taylor, P. Thornton, L. Walker, S. Wilkinson, L. Wilcock, J. Wimpenny, S. Wimpenny, G. Walshaw, and N. Waring.

1939-1945 — R. Dyson, H. Fox, J. Hewitt, A. Lockwood, J. Lockwood, J. Sykes, E. Taylor, and F.R.Woodcock.


If you are interested in researching those who lost their lives in the First World War, Margaret Stansfield spent 30 years meticulously researching this and her work was recently published posthumously: Huddersfield’s Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014).

Sgt. John Sykes was killed when the Wellington bomber (serial W5667) he was in crashed at Grant’s Farm, Old Leake Commonside, Lincolnshire, during a training flight.



Further Reading


Miss Challand, the Local Clairvoyant

The name “Miss Challand” cropped up in the previous blog post about the “Seed Hill Ghost” of March 1855. To summarise that particular event, ghostly knocking sounds and ringing bells were heard in the house of dyer Samuel Routledge and it was reported that Miss Challand had been brought in twice in an attempt to shed light on what was happening, but without any success.

It eventually transpired that a young Irish servant girl in the employ of Routledge was behind it all, so Miss Challand’s inability to contact the spirit responsible for the noises is entirely understandable. Of interest, one of the articles about the “Seed Hill Ghost” includes a brief description of Challand’s second visit to the house, which followed a few hours after the bedclothes and pillows had been inexplicably ripped from a bed and left strewn upon the landing and staircase:

During the evening a clairvoyante was again brought into the house, thrown into the mesmeric state, and performed some strange antics over and under the bed and among the bed clothes, put to no purpose.

The description paints a comical scene and you’d be forgiven for wondering what Miss Challand’s credentials actually were, but another article describing her first visit to the house provides hints:

The services of Miss Challand, who has “got her name up” as a faithful clairvoyante (since the discovery of the body of the missing female from Marsden), were put into requisition ; but, after being placed in the required state, nothing could be elicited from her, inasmuch as, not having heard the ghost perform his operations, she could discover nothing to detect his whereabout, or the means he employed to effect such startling sounds.

Intrigued by the reference to the “missing female from Marsden”, I started hunting through the newspaper archives.


The Disappearance of Sarah Ann Lumb

Although her father is named as farmer “John Lumb” in one of the articles about her disappearance, it seems much more likely that he was the John Lumb, married to Mary (née Whitehead?), who is listed as the landlord of the Old Ram Inn on Town Street in Marsden in the 1851 Census — 11-year-old “S. Ann Lumb” was listed as their oldest daughter on the census.

On the evening of Thursday 14 December 1854, Sarah Ann was walking home in heavy rain with a friend, Hannah Haigh.1 After saying goodbye to her friend, she headed towards the bridge in the village to cross over the river. In the darkness and perhaps blinded by the driving rain, she seemingly misjudged where she was — instead of stepping onto the bridge, she accidentally fell into the river.

The rains had swollen the river, which was running faster and deeper than usual, and Sarah Ann was rapidly carried downstream. Her screams altered those living nearby and the alarm was quickly raised that someone was in the water but, despite a frantic search, they could find no-one in the darkness.

The search continued the following day and, by now, it was known that Sarah Ann was missing and likely the person heard screaming. Within a week, her family were offering a £5 reward “to any one who shall find the body”. The Huddersfield Chronicle (23/Dec/1854) reported that several readers had written in to urge the authorities to fence off the gap in the wall near the bridge, where it was believed Sarah Ann had tumbled into the river.

In the days after her disappearance, items of clothing were found in the river. Her skirt was found the day after she disappeared, about a quarter of mile downstream from Marsden. Her shawl was found a few days later, followed by her flannel petticoat on Christmas Eve and her dress skirt on 28 December.2

Her family grew increasingly desperate and reportedly consulted a “wise man” in Holmfirth, but he could give them no information. It seems someone then put them in contact with a “mesmerist”3 by the name of Captain Hudson who was staying locally. Sarah Ann’s uncle, builder Samuel Whitehead, and local mill-owner Joshua Farrar approached Hudson and asked if he knew of anyone who could help. He gave them the name and address of a dressmaker named Challand who lived in Moldgreen, Huddersfield, who he claimed had the gift of clairvoyance.

Whitehead and Farrar then went to Miss Challand and asked her to accompany them back to Hudson’s residence. Perhaps at the insistence of the Captain, they didn’t explain anything to her. Hudson then placed Challand into a hypnotic trance and he asked her if she knew why the two men had come to her. She replied, “Yes, about the young woman who was drowned at Marsden.”

Whitehead had brought with him the clothes that had been found in the river and Challand said that Sarah Ann had had the shawl wrapped tight over her head to help fend off the rain, which, if true, perhaps helps explain why the girl misjudged the bridge.

Hudson now asked her to see where Sarah Ann Lumb’s body was now. Challand appeared to fall asleep for around five minutes before she began describing the progress the girl’s body had taken down the river. She ended by stating that Sarah Ann’s body was within 100 yards of the second bridge in Mirfield and that the body was covered in mud, apart from the feet.

Whitehead then travelled to Mirfield on 4 January with some workmen and began searching the river around Legard Bridge, but could find no sign of the body. A local then told them that, if they wanted the “second bridge in Mirfield”, they were at the wrong location — Shepley Bridge was where they should be looking. Whitehead moved his workmen there, where they soon found Sarah Ann’s body 20 yards from the bridge. Just as Challand had told him, the girl’s body was buried but her feet were exposed.

According the subsequent inquest, which was held at the Ship Inn, Mirfield, on 5 January, a post mortem proved death by drowning. It was recorded that Sarah Ann’s body had been carried downstream a distance of 14 miles and that Mary Ann Challand claimed to have known nothing of the deceased prior to being hypnotised by Captain Hudson. The jury returned an open verdict.

The Huddersfield Chronicle reported the events in an article titled “Extraordinary Mode of Finding a Missing Human Body“, which was republished verbatim in a few other regional newspapers.

On the evenings of 12 and 13 January, Captain Hudson gave a “mesmeric demonstration” to a packed house at the Old Ram Inn, Marsden, hypnotising several people. However, it seems most people were there to see his companion, the clairvoyant Mary Ann — by now, most of the locals had heard that she had helped find Sarah Ann’s body. The Chronicle (20/Jan/1855) reported that Mary Ann failed to do anything at either lecture, so “the audience had no proofs given of her powers as a clairvoyante, so that unbelievers remained unbelievers still.”

At this point in the story, it’s tempting to assume that fame and fortune awaited Mary Ann, the Huddersfield clairvoyant who found the drowned girl. However, events in her own life were about to take a sad and tragic turn.

Mary Ann Challand

Mary Ann Challand was born in August 1838, the daughter of corn miller Thomas Challand and his wife, Mary (née Broadly).4

By the time of the 1851 Census, 12-year-old Mary Ann was living on Smythey Lane, off Springfield Terrace, Huddersfield, with her parents and her older brother brother, George. Not long after, they appear to have moved to Moldgreen, Huddersfield.

In June 1854, Mary Ann’s mother brought a case against a man named Charles Oldfield whose dog she claimed had attacked her whilst she was fetching in washing from her clothes line. However, discrepancies in her statements led to the case being dismissed.

1855 would be a tumultuous year for Mary Ann Challand. Following her work in locating the body of Sarah Ann Lumb in early January and then her attempts to contact the “Seed Hill Ghost”, her father Thomas died a few months later and was buried on 30 May. Her mother Mary appears to have sunk into a depression following the death of her husband5 and on the morning of Wednesday 18 July she told a neighbour that “she thought she would not see the day out”.

At noon that day, she visited Mary Ann at her place of work and then at around 1:30pm, she met her son, George. We can only speculate what her final words were to her children, but within a couple of hours Mary Challand had taken her own life.

A rent collector named Benjamin France called at Challand’s house around 4pm that afternoon and assumed the property empty when he received no reply to his shout of “holloa”. Letting himself in, he was horrified to see Mary hanging from the stairwell banister. Rather than cut her down, he altered some neighbours and went off to find a policeman.

An inquest was held the following evening at the Kaye’s Arms in Moldgreen with George Dyson presiding. Dyson was critical of Mr. France for not immediately cutting Mrs. Challand down in case she had only just hung herself. The jury returned a verdict of “suicide whilst temporarily insane”.

If Mary Ann continued to be a clairvoyant after the death of her parents, it was not reported in any of the newspapers that I have access to.

The 1861 Census has 22-year-old unmarried Mary Ann living as a lodger at the house of police constable George Ramsden, 33 Templar Street, Leeds. Her occupation is given as “milliner”, which ties with the contemporary newspaper reports that she was a dressmaker.

She married engineer Benjamin Haigh on 7 March 1863 at St John the Baptist in Halifax. Oddly, her father is not marked as being deceased.


The 1871 Census has them living in Manchester, with two young daughters: Clara and Ellen. Ten years later, they were living at 7 Portland Street, Litchurch, Derbyshire, with a third daughter, Edith. All three daughters appear to have been given the middle name “Ann” after their mother. By 1901, 62-year-old Mary Ann was a widow and was living with her married daughter, Ellen Bowes, in north Manchester.

Her brother, George Thomas Challand, married Ellen Sykes on 14 January 1856 at All Hallows, Almondbury, and he worked as a farmer in Dalton, Huddersfield. He died on 26 April 1883 and was buried at All Hallows on 30 April.

Mary Ann died in 1903, aged 67, and was buried St Bartholomew’s in Whitworth, Lancashire.


Whether you believe in her gift or not, it certainly seems she helped bring closure to a grieving family who had lost their teenage daughter in tragic circumstances. For that alone, Mary Ann Challand, the clairvoyant of Huddersfield, deserves to be remembered.

As for Captain Hudson, who seems to have been Mary Ann’s mentor, he crops up in many other interesting articles and deserves a blog post of his own!

Further Reading

The death of Sarah Ann Lumb was reported in these articles:

The Ghost of Seed Hill

As a location in Huddersfield, Seed Hill no longer really exists, but it was the area to the east of the modern-day Shorehead Roundabout and is more-or-less where Sainsbury’s supermarket and car park is now located. This 1894 map of the area shows Seed Hill Road:


In the mid-1800s, Samuel Routledge (born 1803 in Brampton, Cumberland) ran a profitable dye business at Seed Hill but, in 1852, an attempt to expand into trading with Australia, saw him overstretch himself. Needing to raise further capital of £5,000, his bank recommended that he “apply to his friends for a guarantee” and his property was put up security. By June 1853, he was in debt to his bank to the tune of over £4,500 with further debts of £5,764. The following year, Routledge declared bankruptcy. When it became obvious that the value of Routledge’s estate would not cover his debts, a court case in July 1855 ensued as to whether those who guaranteed the £5,000 loan were liable or not for the other outstanding debts.

A few months before that case was heard, Routledge’s creditors had moved to begin selling off his estate and, in mid-March 1855, advertisements began to appear in local newspapers:

Huddersfield Chronicle 10 March 1855

The dwelling house mentioned in the advert was soon to become one of the most notorious residences in Huddersfield. The events surrounding the “Seed Hill Ghost” were reported widely both locally and nationally, and some of the newspaper articles are occasionally contradictory, so the following is an attempt to pull together the facts of the story as best we can, 160 years after they occurred…

On the evening of Friday 16 March 1855 at around 7:45pm, a vigorous knocking sound echoed through Samuel Routledge’s house. Routledge was away at the time, so his maid rushed to answer the door to find out what all the urgency was. However, when she opened the door, there was no-one there. No sooner had she closed the front door than loud banging sounded from elsewhere in the house. She thought it must be coming from the kitchen and went to investigate but found the room was empty.

The maid, perhaps suspecting a practical joke or perhaps getting fearful, left the house and roused a night watchman from a nearby yard. He accompanied her back to the house and stood guard in the passageway. Before long, the loud knocking sound echoed once again through the house. Perturbed, he announced that he would he was unprepared to remain on guard there overnight, unless there was someone else to watch over him!

Fortunately for the maid, the ghost of Seed Hill apparently slept at night and soon the rappings diminished. In their first article about the strange events, the Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Mar/1855) quoted a policeman as saying, “it’s a woise boggert, for he ligs to sleep at’neets”. Before J.K. Rowling appropriated the word for her Harry Potter novels, a “boggart” was a catch-all term applied to a mischievous and/or malevolent spirit dwelling in a house or location, so we can translate our strongly-accented policeman as saying “it’s a wise spirit, for he lies down to sleep at night”. In past times, boggarts were blamed for everything from the milk turning sour overnight to any sudden aches or pains.

After the respite, this particular boggart awoke and knocking noises once more sounded through the house, sometimes loud enough to be heard in every room. With the master of the house returned, attempts were made to ascertain where the noises were coming from — pipes throughout the house were checked, but to no avail. It seemed no-one could agree on where the source of the rapping actually was.

By now, news of the strange happenings was spreading quickly and locals were keen to experience the events from themselves. According to the Chronicle, small groups were admitted into the house where they waited expectantly for the knocking to begin… sometimes the spirit would oblige, other times not. During the evenings, large groups of people wandered around Routledge’s dye works and the neighbouring area in hope of experiencing something supernatural, but the ghost became shy with only a few sounds being reported on the Wednesday.

Thursday saw a return of the noises and it was reported “sewers have been searched, goits fathomed, pipes cleared, but all has yet failed to discover the cause of the day-rapper”. By now, the Chronicle had a journalist on-site and he reported:

We heard the singular phenomenon three times on Thursday, about noon, with some dozen others, distributed in and about the rooms on the ground floor, but none could agree as to where it came from, only that it was loud and indefinite, and produced a pitiful change in the air of some of the listeners. [On Friday] the rappings were as loud and frequent as ever, and though many gentlemen of our acquaintance, who are not easily “gulled,” visited the spot […] they assure us that there is an air of strangeness about these loud, frequent, and imperious rappings which their philosophy cannot solve ; and how or by what instrumentality brought about they, in common with Mr. Routledge, are unable to trace. At the same time we would caution the credulous against placing reliance on the thousand silly rumours afloat, as it is possible that more minute examinations of the premises may tend to make clear what is at present, to say the least, a very mysterious exhibition on behalf of something or other which has so far evaded the vigilance of the thousands who have crowed around the premises as Seed Hill during the week.

Although Routledge had been away when the noises first started, gossip began to spread that he was behind it all and that he wished to put off potential buyers of the house at the upcoming auction — “Numerous rumours detrimental to Mr. R. and his family were rife in every quarter, and every one explained the extraordinary circumstance in his own way.”

News of the ghost had by now spread to neighbouring towns and cities, with other regional newspapers carrying the story in their Saturday editions…

Halifax Courier (24/Mar/1855):

The Seed Hill Ghost.

The people of Huddersfield have been amused, surprised, and alarmed, as the case may be, these few days back, by the reported visits of a ghost, which secrets itself somewhere in the premises or mansion of Mr. Samuel Routledge, of Seed Hill. What questionable shape it may yet take, who can tell, but so far it has modestly kept out of sight, no one having seen its saucer eyes, if it have any, nor its horns or anything to make “night hideous,” beyond a noise. It is known, as yet, but as a ghost of percussion.

Leeds Times (24/Mar/1855):

During the whole of the past week the neighbourhood of Seed Hill, and in fact the whole of the “lower region” of the town of Huddersfield, has been in a state of extraordinary excitement owing to most alarming “noises” made in the house of Mr. Samuel Routledge, an extensive dyer, at Seed Hill. Mr. Routledge first called the attention of the police and the public to the matter last Saturday, declaring that the noises resembled the “striking of a door or a table-top with a stick or switcher with all one’s might;” that these noises were very frequent, and had frightened all his servants and even the cat from the house, and that he was thus left in awful solitude. The rumour spread rapidly, and every day since the house has been regularly besieged by crowds of people, all anxious to see and hear for themselves the marvellous doings of the ghost. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, several policemen were stationed inside the house. The ghost, however, was not to be intimidated either by the crowd or the police — “bang, switch, bang, switch, bang, switch,” — continued at intervals to echo through the corridors and rooms of the building. Impudent and cunning ghost! He is quite a ventriloquist; when you are seated in the dining-room, the sound appears to come from the front door ; and when you are at the front door, the sound appears to proceed from the dining room. A policeman was therefore placed at each of these places, determined to catch the ghost. “Bang, switch” echoes once more; each policeman rushes from his post to catch the fugitive ; they meet in the passage, and a terrific collision takes place, each knocking the other down, and in the mêlée the ghost escapes ! These watchings continued until Wednesday evening, when the police, fairly baffled, raised the siege, and left the ghost in undisputed possession of the fortress. The phenomenon remains a mystery, but the premises are advertised for sale by public auction on the 2nd of April, and rumour insinuates that the ghost is merely the result of some hidden galvanic wires, or some subterraneous steam pipes, and the ruse is to frighten purchasers, so that the house may be sold very cheap.

Leeds Intelligencer (24/Mar/1855):

A Ghost Story.

During the early part of the present week a good portion of the Huddersfield public have been running mad in their endeavours to discover the workings of a certain ghost, said to have located himself at the residence of Mr. Sam. Routledge, dyer, Seed Hill. On Sunday and Monday last several hundred people visited the place, and, strange to say, not a few returned deeply impressed with the reality of the story. How to capture the bane intruder has been a point which has drawn largely on the resources of the ingenious, aided by the light of official police experience, but up to the present time he continues his perambulations unchecked and undismayed. We record this much of this idle tale, as illustrating the great amount of superstition still prevalent in the popular mind.

Extra night watchmen were now employed to guard the house — perhaps with the hope of catching a hoaxer — and a joiner was “engaged to thoroughly examine the house to ascertain if any mechanical apparatus had been fixed whereby, with the aid of galvanism or other scientific means, the strange unearthly sounds might be produced”. However, said joiner could find no evidence of trickery.

On Sunday 25 March, the ghost began to extend its repertoire and the servant bells “were continually rung, but no explanation offered itself as to the cause”.

On Monday, the renowned local clairvoyant, Miss Challand, visited the house. Sadly, the ghost decided to cease activity during the visit and, despite going into a trance, Miss Challand could offer up no explanation.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw further knocking and bell ringing. However, the latter was ceased when Routledge unhooked their wires. Perhaps frustrated by this ploy, the ghostly activities now moved to the bedrooms of the house. Late on Thursday afternoon, the bedclothes and pillows were found ripped from the beds and left on the staircase and landing. This, together with the continued knocking, was the final straw for the housekeeper who fled the house, vowing not to return. Apparently that night, the watchman hired to remain in the house overnight was so scared that he “dared not close his eyes” and nod off.

Routledge returned that evening, having been away in Bradford during the day, to learn that his housekeeper had left. By now, the cost of investigating the cause was becoming serious, not to mention the ongoing local gossip, so he re-doubled his efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery. Perhaps he had had time to reflect on the events whilst away in Bradford, but he had apparently grown convinced that someone in the house must be behind it all.

It would seem the clairvoyant had already been asked to return that evening and, having gone into her trance, “performed some strange antics over and under the bed and among the bed clothes, but to no purpose”(!)

Together with some trusted companions, Routledge took up a walking stick and began banging walls and objects to see if he could replicate “the same dolorous sound” as the ghost. After much investigating, one of the group “accidentally struck the end of the barrel of a large washing-machine standing in the back kitchen, and like magic the sounds were at once explained, and on the outer end being examined hundreds of indentations were discovered.” He had indeed been right to suspect an “inside job” — but who?

Quite how many people were residing in the house at that point in time isn’t recorded, but the 1851 Census lists Routledge (a widower), his three young daughters — Catherine (aged 5), Annie (4) and Lucy (1) — along with two servants — cook Margaret Wright (26) and housemaid Eliza Barker (21). By 1854, Routledge had taken in another servant girl (“from motives of charity”), a young Irish “urchin” named Catherine Hayley (her name is variously reported as “Haley”, “Healey” and “Heeley”). One by one, apparently Routledge questioned everyone in the house and all denied having anything to do with the noises. In a dubious instance of stereotyping, a journalist later reported the Irish servant girl as saying “Shure [I know] nothing about it at all at all”!

It seems the following day, Routledge again questioned everyone and, this time, young Catherine Hayley admitted that she had “knocked a little”. That was enough for him, and he took the girl to the local police station where she was interviewed further. Here it emerged that Catherine had taken a dislike to the housekeeper and began making the noises to frighten her, for a “bit of fun”. As events escalated, she’d hoped that the noises would scare the unwanted curious visitors away.

The Chronicle reported that Catherine had used a stick and a small sandstone to bang on the washing tub and on the doors in the passageway — when the latter were examined closely, indentations were found from the banging. As for the bedlinen, she explained that she waiting until no-one was around, then slipped off her clogs, run silently upstairs, and pulled off the sheets and pillows, dragging them behind her and leaving them disarrayed on the landing and stairs. Having crept back downstairs, she slipped on clogs back on and screamed, alerting the watchman sat in the parlour. As she was wearing clogs that would have sounded on the stairs, it seems no-one thought for a minute that she was actually the culprit.

In fact, throughout the events, young Catherine had pretended to be scared by the noises and “no one for a moment thought that she could he capable of playing such extraordinary tricks, so successfully as she had done”.

Unsurprisingly, Routledge booted young Catherine out of his house. In summarising the conclusion of the story, the Chronicle lamented that some of the locals now regarded her as a heroine who had outwitted all those gentlemen who had tried to identify the source of the noises.


What with the events of March 1855 and the bankruptcy, it is perhaps a surprise to learn Samuel Routledge decided to get married again. On 1 May 1856, he married Margaret Thompson at the Church of St. John, Newcastle-upon-Type. However, the marriage was short lived and he died only a few months later, aged 53. He was buried on 23 August 1856 at St. Paul’s in Huddersfield.1 He had previously married Elizabeth Mills in Sheffield on 24 February 1844 and she died not long after the birth of last daughter, Lucy, in 1849.

Lucy Routledge was born 1 February 1849 and was baptised on 8 March 1850 at St. Paul’s. Following her father’s death, she attended a boarding school for girls in East Keswick and eventually became a governess. By 1871, she was employed by the Lee family at Wester Hall, Haughton, Northumbia. The 1881 Census found her employed by the Bankes family of Willow Green, Little Leigh, Northwich, Cheshire. A decade later she was a governess for the Weeks family of Bedlington, Morpeth, Northumberland. By the time of the 1901 Census, 51-year-old Lucy was living with her sister Catherine at 34 Little Horton Lane, Bradford, Yorkshire. It seems likely that the sisters lived together for the rest of their lives, and Lucy passed away in 1930 in Bradford, aged 80.

Catherine Routledge was born 22 February 1846 and was baptised 1 May 1846 at St. Paul’s. She married sometime around 1886, although I haven’t been able to find details of the marriage. By 1901, when her sister Lucy was living with her, she was a widow and had reverted to her maiden name. The 1911 Census shows her occupation as “herbalist” at 36 Clive Place, Great Horton, Bradford, and Lucy was still living with her. She died in 1936 in Bradford, aged 90.

Annie Routledge was born 5 March 1847 and baptised 26 May 1847 at St. Paul’s. Following her father’s death, it seems she was made a ward of Huddersfield doctor John Moxon and his wife, Sarah. There are no obvious records for Annie after the 1861 Census, so she likely married.

As for the “Seed Hill Ghost”, Catherine Hayley, she was very likely born around 1842, the daughter of washerwoman Anne Hayley. Anne was born around 1821 and lived in Sligo, Ireland, where she had at least four children with her husband. What led the family to move to Huddersfield around 1850 is uncertain, but by the time of the 1851 Census, Anne’s husband had died, leaving her a widow at age 30 with four children to support. Her oldest daughter, 14-year-old Margaret, is named as a street hawker in the census. By 1861, six years after she had been fired by Samuel Routledge, Catherine was living with her mother on Kirkgate, Huddersfield. Anne eventually died in 1890, aged 67.

In the years after 1855, a number of other cases of young girls faking paranormal activity were recorded elsewhere in Yorkshire and, more often that not, their activities would be compared to those of the “Seed Hill Ghost”.

It should be noted that Catherine apparently found another job straight away at a local public house run by John Tasker. In May 1855, she was called before the magistrates as a witness in a case where the police alleged Tasker’s wife had been caught serving beer after 10pm. Under oath, Catherine swore that the pub had been empty at that time and that Mrs. Tasker had been bringing in glasses of undrunk ale from outside when she was spotted by the police. Given her notoriety, Superintendent Thomas asked Catherine whether or not she was capable of lying. To the amusement of the court, Catherine replied that she could if she had a mind to. The magistrate fined Mr. Tasker 10 shillings plus expenses.

The 1861 Census is the last definite record I could find of her life — she was definitely not the “Catherine Hayley” who died on 26 January 1862 in Huddersfield2 but perhaps she was the “Catherine Haley” who was married in Huddersfield in 1865, or perhaps she was “Kate Healey” who married locally in 1880?

Whatever became of Catherine, the fact remains that for nearly two weeks in March 1855, she fooled everyone in Huddersfield and her deeds were reported throughout the country!

Further Reading

Local newspaper reports:

For more things that went bump in the night locally, see Haunted Huddersfield (2012) by Kai Roberts.

In a future blog post, we’ll find out what happened the day THE GHOST came to Huddersfield…


Scar Top, Netherton

Netherton Scar Top

There’s an old footpath which provides a scenic walk from Netherton village to Hinchliffe’s Farm Shop on Netherton Moor Road, or though to Magdale, and which takes you past a piece of local folklore.

On this 1892 map of the area, the route is coloured green, with the location of Hinchliffe’s (which didn’t exist back then) shown as the blue dot:

Scar Top, Netherton.
1892 map of the area

Part way along the path, which is named as Scar Top Lane on the above map, you’ll come across the first in a series of gritstone buttresses, which jut out over Spring Wood below. The first of these, marked by the red spot on the map, is Scar Top, or “Devil’s Rock”. As the latter name suggests, old tales are linked to this outcrop.

The oldest legend is that there was once a family of giants dwelling in Magdale to the east of Scar Top. One day, the daughter was found to be missing and her father searched the surrounding area trying to find her. Eventually he heard that she’d been seen on Wolfstones Height, a hill three miles due south and near to Netherthong. The giant took a run up and jumped off Scar Top with such force that he left behind his footprint in the rock. Landing at Wolfstones, he found his daughter apparently asleep on the hill, but he soon realised that she had lain down and had perished in the night. The daughter then turned to stone and the summit of the hill is said to be formed of her body. Apparently the locals used to call the hill, “Child o’th’Edge”.

Such legends are typical and are often attached to rocky outcrops or large stones in the landscape, for example the Cow and Calf on Ilkley Moor.

In the early 1800s, Scar Top became notorious as place local ne’er-do-wells hung out and likely travellers would avoid taking Scar Top Lane. A local preacher, who apparently knew the legend of the giant’s footprint, started a story to link those who loitered there with Satan. The story went that the Devil himself was seen on Scar Top and that he leapt from there to the summit of Castle Hill, some 3 miles distant. And so, the giant’s footprint became the Devil’s hoof print. Supposedly the Devil still wanders the labyrinthine tunnels under Castle Hill!1

Photos of Scar Top

Netherton Scar
Towards the edge of the rock, the surface level drops down, which is presumably the “footprint”.
The gritstone layers.
The gritstone layers.
Perhaps the Devil's work continues here? A curious hand and eye, scratched into the side of Scar Top.
Perhaps the Devil’s work continues here? A curious hand and eye, scratched into the side of Netherton Scar.


To get to Scar Top from the centre of Netherton, go down Moor Lane and take the first right down Netherton Fold. After walking by some houses on the left, take the left hand road to climb up Corn Bank. Pass by Corn Bank House on your left and carry on up the hill. Walk past the row of houses painted white on your right and a spectacular view of the Holme Valley opens up to your right. The road forks into two here — take the rougher path to the left (Scar Top Road) rather than the tarmac narrow road which descends into Spring Wood. Scar Top is the first major outcrop you come to.

You can continue along Scar Top Road, which eventually leads into Spring Wood, to exit through a gate onto the junction of Netherton Moor Road and Sandbeds. From here, turn left and walk along Netherton Moor Road to find Hitchliffe’s Farm Shop.

Newspaper Articles

Given that it seems a local preacher was responsible for dubbing it “Devil’s Rock”, it’s interesting to note that on the afternoon of Monday 5 June 1865, members of the Wesleyan church in Netherton met and walked to Scar Top, where they sang hymns together.2 In fact, it seems to have been a local Methodist and Independent tradition that a large group of around 150 people would walk to Scar Top every Whitsuntide, sometimes having a picnic or playing games there.3

On the morning of Sunday 19 January 1890, Police Constable Burns was walking along Scar Top Road when he spotted a group of men gambling at Scar Top. They ran off but left behind playing cards and money. Quite how they were identified isn’t given in the Chronicle article, but local millhands Abraham Todd, George Sykes, Frederick Robertshaw and Sutcliffe Robertshaw were found guilty at the County Police Court and fined a total of 12 shillings each.4

Photos of the Other Outcrops

Scar Top is just one of several rocky outcrops on Scar Top Lane.

s scartop09 scartop07 scartop08 scartop10 scartop11

Other Photos from Scar Top Lane

Scar Top Lane.
Scar Top Lane.
Looking out across the valley.
Scar Top Lane is popular with dog walkers.
An old rusty gate and Castle Hill in the distance.
Looking over a dry stone wall towards Castle Hill.


Accidents, injuries and deaths on the Meltham Branch Line: 1860-1869

It’s almost inevitable that the construction of a railway line results in injuries and even deaths, and the construction of the Meltham Branch Line in the 1860s was no different. There were also a number of accidents and at least two suicides once the trains started to run.

I’m sure some of the people named below have been lost to the mists of time, but hopefully the details given will help relatives who are researching their family tree. The date given is that of the event.

This blog post is primarily based on researching the Huddersfield Chronicle archives and will be split into three parts, the first of which covers the 1860s up to the start of regular passenger services on the line in July 1869.

15/Oct/1864: John Eastwood

At the southern end of Netherton Tunnel, temporary tracks had been lain so that horses could pull trucks of debris from the excavations. At around 8am on Saturday 15 October 1864, John Eastwood was using a horse to shunt empty trucks when the animal shied and he became pinned between the buffers of two of the trucks. He was carried unconscious back to his lodgings in Netherton where a surgeon from Lockwood attended to him. At first it was feared that Eastwood’s spine had been broken, but instead it was discovered his hip and groin had taken the force of the impact that and he was expected to slowly recover.1

Eastwood was named as being around 60 years old and from Hyde (presumably a reference to Hyde in Tameside, Manchester). Although his fate is unknown, there was a death of a John Eastwood recorded about the same time in Huddersfield.2

18/Oct/1864: Tunnel Collapse

Just a few days after John Eastwood’s accident, there was a partial collapse at the other end of Netherton Tunnel. It was reported several (unnamed) men barely escaped in time, having abandoned their tools and possessions.3

26/May/1865: “Johnny”

The Chronicle reported that an Irish labourer named “Johnny” had been working on scaffolding at the southern entrance to Butternab Tunnel when it collapsed. Part of the scaffolding fell onto him and he was swiftly taken to Huddersfield Infirmary where it was discovered that, among various injuries, both his legs were broken. Initially it was assumed he would die but the newspaper reported that he was now slowly recovering.4

01/Jun/1865: “Old Sam”

The Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Jun/1865) reported that a horse keeper known as “Old Sam” was walking a horse along a tram line at Meltham Station when he tripped backwards over some blocks of stone and his horse fell onto him. Although the weight had crushed his chest, it was not thought the injury would be serious.5

17/Jul/1865: James Phiney

A local labourer named as James Phiney was caught in a small landslip above Butternab Tunnel’s south entrance on the afternoon of 17 July 1865 and fell down onto the track bed (reportedly a fall over around 60 feet). He died en route to the Huddersfield Infirmary, leaving a wife and five young children.

I suspect the Chronicle may have recorded the man’s name incorrectly or that they were wrong in saying that he was local, as I could find no records for a local man of that name, nor a death registry entry in the area for anyone with a similar name. There are two recorded deaths of “James Finney”s in 1865, but neither near Yorkshire.

11/Aug/1865: Joseph Marriott

The accident which occurred to joiner Joseph Marriott in Butternab Tunnel is detailed in a previous blog post, so a summary will suffice…

On the afternoon of Friday 11 August 1865, Marriott’s actions led to an accident which trapped him under some heavy wooden beams and other debris in the southern end of Butternab Tunnel. His colleagues managed to drag him out but the Chronicle reported that he’d suffered internal injuries and “there is little hope of his recovery”. Thankfully for his wife Ellen, the newspaper was proved wrong — Marriott recovered and continued to work as a joiner in the Huddersfield area until his death in 1884.

19/Aug/1865: Tunnel Collapse

According to the Chronicle there were two incidents on Saturday 19 August 1865 in Netherton Tunnel which necessitated a complete rebuild.6 In the early hours, a portion of the side wall collapsed and, around noon, a more serious collapse occurred — around 15 men were working in the tunnel at the time but were able to escape without injury. The collapse was severe enough to cause subsidence in the village above and it was reported that the house and outbuildings of Jonathan Lund7 were so damaged that they had to be demolished.

The cause of the collapse was reported as being due to the shale strata running at an angle, which meant the vertical tunnel walls not only carried the weight of the tunnel above but were also being pushed sideways by the strata. The Chronicle stated that it had “now been decided by the contractors to take it down and substitute the barrel or egg-shaped tunnel, which is considerably stronger than the perpendicular walls.”

This photograph by James of the bricked-up southern entrance shows the unusual shape of Netherton Tunnel:


By late September, the Chronicle reported that work on the new “egg-shaped tunnel” had been pushed “with such vigour” that the expected delay to the construction would not be as great as had originally been feared.8

Photographs taken more recently in the tunnel show one of the walls bulging inwards slightly, presumably due to the pressure of the shale.

30/Sep/1865: James Mace

MELTHAM. Fatal Accident on the Railway

A fatal accident occurred on the line in course of construction at Meltham, on Saturday morning, to a “tipper” named James Mace, or May, a native of Suffolk. The man had been employed on the works some short time, and on the previous night, after receiving his wages, indulged freely in drink. He went to his work as usual on Saturday morning, and about seven o’clock, or a little after, he drove his ballast waggon to the “tip.” Having yoked his horse to the empty truck to return, he — as he had frequently done before — whipped the animal into a running pace. In attempting to cross the line in order to turn the waggon on the right line he stumbled and fell across the rails, when the wheels of the truck passed over both legs and abdomen, killing him instantly. The body was removed to the King’s Life Guardsman Inn, Meltham Mills, where an inquest was held, before Mr. J.R. Ingram, deputy coroner, on Monday evening, and a verdict of “Accidental death” returned.

James Mace had married Mary Marshall in 1852 and they had one son, Caleb Mace (1854–1919). He was buried at Meltham Mills on 2 October.

04/Oct/1865: John Dillon

On the final stretch of the line running into Meltham, in a cutting at Hall Heys, an Irish labourer named John Dillon (who had only recently begun working on the line) was caught in a landslip and tumbled down onto the trackbed. Although he ended up with a broken leg, he was lucky not to have been struck by a large boulder weighing more than a ton which landed close to him.

It seems possible he may have been the Irish-born John Dillon listed in the 1871 Census as an 80-year-old stone breaker, so would have been in his mid-70s at the time of the accident. The census shows him living with his younger brother Thomas (aged 70) as a lodger on Castlegate in Hudddersfield.


The Chronicle briefly reported that an unnamed miner had been injured after a small explosive charge had detonated prematurely whilst excavating Butternab Tunnel. The miner’s hand had been crushed between rocks and it was feared would have to be amputated.9

February 1866: Landslip

From the Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Feb/1866):

Slip of Foundations at Lockwood.

The occupants of the houses on the roadside at Dungeon, abutting the fields occupied by Mr. Haigh and others, have been alarmed for several days by the jeopardy in which their dwelling-houses have been placed. In some of the inner walls of the houses cracks and fissures half an inch in width have appeared, while the doors which before shut easily, have had to be altered in order to make them close as before. The toll-house at Dungeon bar has suffered greatly, the collector and others consider it unsafe to remain within. Both gable ends, as well as the front walls have opened, and there are large crevices in the adjoining ground. The new arch on the Meltham branch railway, opposite the houses, is also said to have sunk several inches. The cause of this damage seems inexplicable, some attributing it to the “shelving” nature of the foundations, acted upon by the great weight of the new line, which forced the ground outwards into the field. Others allege that it is the effect of the continued heavy rains.

Although repairs were made to the toll-house, apparently the toll collector steadfastly refused to use it again and it gradually fell into a state of disrepair. A few years later, the Chronicle (29/May/1869) reported that a “number of mischievous lads determined upon a lark” demolished part of the building’s roof which then caused it all to fully collapse “into the field of Mr. Haigh”.

17/Apr/1866: William Dyson

The Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Apr/1866) reported the following:

On Tuesday morning a severe accident occurred at the Butternab tunnel, on the Huddersfield and Meltham branch line of railway. A young man, named William Dyson, was working on this railway near the entrance to the above tunnel, when he accidentally fell among a heap of stones, by which his leg was fractured. He was removed to the Huddersfield Infirmary, where the fracture reduced, and he is progressing favourably.

The name William Dyson was extremely common, so it hasn’t been possible to identify who he may have been.

05/May/1866: James Sheard and James Hey

The Chronicle (12/May/1866) included the following article about a railway labourer who apparently enjoyed a spot of night poaching in the local woods. By now, delays in the construction of Netherton Tunnel meant that shift work had been introduced and work carried on through the night, with the tunnel lit by candlelight.


Singular Escapade — Two Men Shot in a Tunnel.

At half past two o’clock on Saturday morning Police-constable Yates, when on duty in the village of Netherton, met on the highway James Sheard, formerly game watcher for Geo. Armitage, Esq., of Milnsbridge, but who had latterly been working as a labourer in one of the tunnels on the Huddersfield and Meltham branch railway, at Netherton. Observing something bulky under Sheards coat, the officer enquired “Where are you going so late Jim?” After a little hesitancy, Sheard replied “I may as well tell you the truth at once, I’m going to have a shot.” Yates rejoined, “No, you’re not so give me the gun.” Sheard scampered off with the officer at his heels, in the direction of Delph wood. Finding the officer gained ground, and was within a few yards of him, Sheard suddenly turned and ran into the Delph end of Netherton tunnel where a number of men were working by candle light. On reaching the men, Sheard cried out to James Hey, a mason, “Here take this gun,” it was a double barrelled gun and doubtless it was his intention to conceal it. The gun was in two parts, and unfortunately the nipples struck against a stone and both barrels went off. The constable imagined at first that the shot had been levelled at him, but bearing a deep groan he went to the spot and found Sheard laid on his back bleeding from wounds about the face and head. Part of the contents of the gun had lodged in the head, and the flesh from the hand of Hey was completely shot away. Mr. Calvert, a medical practitioner at Netherton was sent for, and by his advice the officer moved Sheard in a cart to his residence at Swires-lane, Crosland Moor, where he still lies in a very feeble state. On Saturday Hey, who was in a very weak state was taken to the “Oldfield-lane doctor,” at Manchester, where his lacerated hand was examined and dressed. Sheard is now under the care of Mr. Roberts, surgeon.

The Leeds Times (12/May/1866) provided some further details:

Early on Saturday morning a man named James Sheard, who had with him a gun, was met by a police constable in the highway at Netherton, near Huddersfield. To escape being captured he rain into a tunnel now in course of formation on the Huddersfield and Meltham line, and in which a number of men were at work. He separated the barrel of the gun from the stock, and was handing the barrel to one of the men, named Hey, to have it concealed, when he struck the nipple against some hard substance, the cap exploded, and the charge blew away a portion of the fleshy part of Hey’s hand, and inflicted a serious wound on the forehead of Sheard, who was conveyed home in a dangerous condition.”

From the description, it sounds as though Sheard ran off down Nether Moor Road towards Delves Wood (sometimes marked on maps as being Round Wood or Butternab Wood) before veering onto the trackbed and into the northern end of Netherton Tunnel.

Various cases reported in the local newspapers attest to Sheard’s character and to his poaching activities…

Sheard appeared before the local magistrates’ court on 17 April 1860, alongside Thomas France, charged with “tresspassing in pursuit of game on land belonging to S.W. Haigh, Esq.” on 4 April. The two men had a dog and were seen walking on the edge of the land. As Mr S.W. Haigh was one of the magistrates that day, he stepped down from the bench during the hearing. Although Sheard was seen to trespass with the dog, it was felt there was not enough evidence to prove he intended to poach and the case was dismissed.10

Later on that year, Sheard was found guilty of poaching in Southowram, near Halifax. Also charged was a Seth Green, who was reported to be one of the “most hardened poachers in the district” and had only recently been released from prison for poaching.11

Sheard again appeared before the magistrates on 22 April 1862, this time having brought a charge of assault against a gamekeeper named Dan Fearnley. Sheard was leaving the Spinner’s Arms pub at Colne Bridge (near Cooper Bridge) with a hare which he claimed a Joseph France (presumably a relative of the previously mentioned Thomas France) had given him in his pocket. Fearnley, and his two sons, accosted Sheard, accused him of having poached the hare and wrestled him to the ground, pinning him down. The bench felt Sheard was unable to prove his allegation fully and he was awarded one shilling for the damage done to his coat and shirt in the fracas.12

September 1864 saw him charged with “riotous and drunken conduct at Moldgreen” in the early hours of a Sunday morning. This time, he had been accompanied by several men, including Samuel France and William Schofield. Schofield had thrown a rock at a police constable, severely injuring him. Sheard was fined a total of 22 shillings.13

In March 1965, Sheard was before the magistrates, charged with “wantonly and cruelly ill-treating a dog […] by allowing a larger dog to worry it” at Crosland Moor. By now Sheard was a gamekeeper in Milnsbridge. The bench heard that Sheard had a large bull mastiff dog which attacked a small terrier, giving it fatal injuries. The bench felt that it had been an accident and the case was dismissed.

There are no recorded deaths for a James Sheard or a James Hey in 1866, so they seemingly both survived the incident in Netherton Tunnel.

October & November 1866: Landslips

The deepest cutting on the line lies to the north of Butternab Tunnel and is above Woodfield House. On the morning of Monday 1 October 1866, it was noted that the larger of the supporting walls was beginning to collapse near the base and workmen spent much of the day removing equipment from the cutting. At around 7:45pm, the retaining walls collapsed over a length of 40 yards, filling the cutting with debris and causing a large landside which sent boulders crashing down towards Woodfield House — The Times reported that some of the rocks were 3 to 4 yards across.14 Fortunately the exterior boundary walls of the estate absorbed much of the impact, although they were demolished over a length of 50 yards.

On Wednesday 24 October, part of Meltham Road between Lockwood and the Dungeon toll-bar collapsed as a horse and cab was passing over it. The horse managed to free itself from the hole without injury and workmen soon arrived to carry out repairs. It was believed that the work on the railway have undermined the area and locals grew increasingly concerned that the defences against further landslips — which seem to have been built mostly from old railway sleepers — were wholly inadequate.15

Floods caused by heavy rain the following month resulted in damage throughout Huddersfield and an area around the southern end of Butternab Tunnel was washed away, blocking the existing stream which exacerbated the flooding below Netherton. At the southern end of Netherton Tunnel, a landslip buried a part of the station, which was currently under construction.

It wasn’t until March 1868 that the Chronicle was able to report that the cutting above Woodfield House had been fully cleared and all of the debris from this landslip — and the subsequent one in November 1867 — had been removed.16

15/Nov/1867: Landslip

The Chronicle (23/Nov/1867) reported that a “heavy slip” had occurred “at the deep cutting behind Woodfield House”. The report, which was printed over a week later, stated that 500 tons of debris were being removed from the cutting each day by a team of 60 men, but the clearing work would “yet take many days”.

01/Mar/1868: Patrick Pendrick

The Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Mar/1867) reported that navvy excavator Patrick Pendrick17 was injured in a landslip at Butternab cutting. Although it was reported that he had been “severely crushed about the chest” and that the “injuries are of a dangerous description”, it was expected Pendrick would recover.

16/Jan/1868: James Beaver

Arguably the most tragic death on the line occurred as a result of an incident on Thursday 16 January 1868. A young boy named James Beaver, living in Armitage Bridge, who had been employed to do help out with the work on the railway, tampered with one of the waggons loaded with debris at the southern end of Butternab Tunnel. Apparently the waggon began to move, James fell under it and one of the wheels rolled over his arm, crushing it.

The Chronicle initially reported on the incident saying that although the boy’s arm had been amputated at the shoulder, he was recovering well at Huddersfield Infirmary.18 Sadly, however, he died on Sunday 26 January.

At the subsequent inquest, a verdict of “accidental death” was recorded. It was noted that the accident was caused by James’ own actions and that he had previously been told off for playing with the waggons.

I’m extremely grateful to Shaun Beaver, whose great grandfather was James’ younger brother, for sharing details about his family history.

James Beaver was born 17 June 1856 in Rutland, the son of labourer Matthew Beaver and his wife Elizabeth (née Tyler). He was baptised in Oakham, Rutland, on 13 July 1856. Matthew had apparently been imprisoned for larceny and also fined in October 1857 for damaging a tree belonging to the local vicar, Rev. H. Finch.19 In fact, Matthew’s name appears in the local Petty Sessions listings several more times for minor offences.

The family moved to Huddersfield at some point after 1861 and it seems feasible that Matthew was a labourer working on the construction of the branch line, which would help explain why young James was given work. Apparently several boys were employed on the line and James had been beaten for a minor misdemeanour prior to the accident.

Young James Beaver was buried in the graveyard of St. Paul’s in Armitage Bridge on 30 January 1868.20 Sadly, James’ family could only afford the burial and his unmarked plot is shown in the centre of this photograph:


April 1868: Landslip

Although the exact date isn’t given by the Chronicle, an article published on 25 April 1868 detailed a landslip and rockfall which resulted in some heavy boulders rolling down and blocking the line near Woodfield House. Due to their size, it had been decided to resort to blasting the boulders into small rocks, but Bentley Shaw, the owner of Woodfield House, obtained an injunction to halt the work.

Unable to proceed with work, the railway company entered into negotiations with Shaw and it would seem they insured him against any damage to Woodfield House and paid for him to temporarily relocate his family to Harrogate. Blasting resumed on 21 April.

On 16 May, the Chronicle reported that work was nearing completion and that the side of the cutting was “being sloped off from the top, which it is expected will have the effect of stopping any more falls from the wood”.

22/Sep/1868: Derailment

The line had finally opened to goods traffic in August 1868 but would soon close temporarily. However, before the closure, an accident was reported at Meltham towards the end of September:21


A slight accident occurred at the Meltham Station on Tuesday. It seems a number of coal trucks were being moved on the line near the coal shoots, when the trucks being pushed too far several of them dropped off the line on to the road below and were smashed. No personal injury was sustained.

01/Oct/1868: Closure of the Line

Following another landslip in the cutting behind Woodfield House, goods trains were suspended on the line. Keen to ensure it could not happen again, the railway engineers proposed that a giant retaining wall should be constructed measuring 150 yards long and 40 feet high, with a thickness of 10 feet, to hold the hillside above the cutting in place. The Chronicle reported that it was doubtful the line would re-open until the end of the year.22

Nearly 150 years later, the impressive sloping retaining wall (seen on the left of this photograph) continues to hold the hillside, and Beaumont Park above it, in place:


26/Nov/1868: Accident to Labourer

Around noon on Thursday 26 November 1868, an unnamed Irish labourer was working in the cutting behind Woodfield House, north of Butternab Tunnel, when he became accidentally trapped between two ballast wagons. He was taken to Huddersfield Infirmary where it was reported he was being treated for internal injuries.23

December 1868: Landslips

The Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Dec/1868) reported that “the heavy and incessant rains” had caused several landslips, including a serious one which appears to have occurred near to Folly Dolly Falls where much of the six foot high railway embankment had collapsed, leaving the rails hanging across the gap.

Having invested so much in the line, it seems the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway weren’t prepared to admit defeat and during the early part of 1869 redoubled their efforts to get the line open again.

Formal inspections in May and June 1869 proved favourable and, on 5 July 1869, the first passenger service to run on the line left Huddersfield Station.

It’s perhaps worth noting that this relatively short 3½ mile long branch line took 5 years to build — roughly the same length of time it took them to build the Huddersfield to Penistone Line, which was a roughly four times longer and required several viaducts and lengthy tunnels.

Details of the incidents that occurred during the 1870s and 1880s are covered in this blog post. Incidents from 1890 onwards are covered in this blog post.

Killed by a Hen

I’ve got a particular interest in events which happened close to where we live and the stretch of Meltham Road from Netherton down to Lockwood has seen more than its fair share of accidents over the years.

One particularly unusual one was reported in the local newspapers in October 1907 and occurred on the hill which drops down from Netherton to Big Valley…

Yorkshire Evening Post (07/Oct/1907):




A Meltham cyclist met hit death on Saturday under peculiar circumstances.

George Henry Pogson, aged 24 years, of Mill Moor, Meltham, left home about 2 p.m. on Saturday for a cycle ride. When proceeding down Big Valley when by some means got in between the front wheel of the machine, with the result that it became entangled, and caused the man to be pitched heavily on his head. He was rendered unconscious.

Dr. Mackenzie, of Lockwood, was summoned, and was soon in attendance, and after examining the man’s wound said that Pogson was probably suffering from fracture of the skull. He died at the Huddersfield Infirmary at 11 p.m. the same day.

Yorkshire Evening Post (08/Oct/1907):


At the Huddersfield Infirmary, this afternoon, Mr. E H. Hill held an inquest on the body of George Henry Pogson (24), cotton operative, of Mill Moor, Meltham, who succumbed on Saturday night to injuries to the skull sustained during the day by being thrown off his bicycle whilst riding down the Big Valley from Netherton.

The accident, as already stated in “The Yorkshire Evening Post,” was caused by a hen which flew across the road into the front wheel of the machine.

The Coroner said no doubt hens were a great danger to cyclists. From a recent decision, it appeared that the owners of hens straying on the highway and causing damage, could not be held responsible in a civil action for damages. He did not think they could be held responsible criminally.

A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.

George Henry Pogson was born in Meltham in 1883, the son of local weaver George William Henry Lewis Pogson (1845–1913) and his wife Emma (1852–1900). He likely had six brothers and sisters.

The 1891 Census lists 7-year-old George as living with his parents and siblings, and attending school.

George’s mother, Emma, died in 1900, aged 53, and was buried on 4 December 1900 at the Meltham Wesleyan Chapel.

The 1901 Census lists him working as a 16-year-old cotten piecer and living with his widowed father at Mill Moor, Meltham.

1901 Census YRKRG13_4092_4095-0622

Following the accident, George was buried at the Meltham Wesleyan Chapel on 9 October 1907, the day after the inquest was held into his death.


After George’s death, it seems his father moved from Meltham to live with his widowed daughter, Selina Ann Woodhouse, in Holmbridge where he died in 1913, aged 68. He was buried alongside his wife and son at the Meltham Wesleyan Chapel on 15 April 1913.

Large Mushrooms and Walking Blindfold to Castle Hill

One of the joys of hunting through old editions of local newspapers is stumbling across weird and wonderful articles.

Let it never be said nothing exciting ever happens in Kirkburton:1

Large Mushroom.

The other day a large mushroom was gathered in a field near to the Stocksmoor Station. It measured ten inches across, and was healthy in appearance.

Meanwhile, over in Armitage Bridge and Berry Brow:2

Extraordinary Feat.

A large number of persons assembled in the Big Valley, Armitage Bridge, on Saturday afternoon, to witness an extraordinary feat performed by Mr. Joshua Longbottom, joiner, Berry Brow. This person had undertaken, for a wager of 50 shillings to walk blindfolded from that place to the top of Castle Hill under 30 minutes. Sponges were placed over his eyes, and tied on by a bandage, and over this was a bag or cap securely fastened. The start took place near the Coalpit Lane, Longbottom having no other assistance than two small sticks in his hands. Off he started in good style, but the small sticks were taken from him, not being considered as coming within the conditions of the race. To supply the place of these he used his two-foot rule, but that aid was also taken away from him. Nothing daunted away he went, and, with no other assistance than his hands and feet, he accomplished the difficult task by reaching the pole (erected by the Sappers and Miners on the crown of the hill some years ago) in the extraordinary short space of 23½ minutes.