From Greenwode to Gibson to National Trust

Peter Gibson and Peter Carrigan of U3A Todmorden with Trevor Moody. Photo by Gail Allaby.
Peter Gibson and Peter Carrigan of U3A Todmorden with Trevor Moody. Photo by Gail Allaby.

Last month U3A Todmorden were lucky to secure the services of Trevor Moody, a National Trust volunteer speaker, to tell us about Gibson Mill and Hardcastle Crags.

Trevor gave us a talk that entertainingly embraced etymology, social history, geology, engineering, manufacturing, holidaying, photography and composting toilets. Trevor often amusingly intertwined fact and anecdote. Thus the fact that the Norman Wyomarus de Greenwode was the first landowner of Greenwood Lee in Hardcastle Crags was enlivened by the story of the drunken auction in 1764 that transferred ownership to the Gibson family.

Or the fact that the navvies who built the Walshaw Dean reservoirs were housed in wooden huts is memorable because the settlement became known as Dawson City, a reflection of the energy and lawlessness of the Yukon Gold Rush town.

But much of the talk concentrated on the Gibson family and their development of the land round their mill. Cotton manufacture required a weir, a millpond, the mill (opened by the second Abraham Gibson in 1800), and a 72 hours-a-week workforce (in 1833).

It also required transport and Trevor’s display of old photographs of the different specialized carts for wood or stone used in the Hebden area was exceptional. The fever van was a specialised item too.

By 1899 the mill was closed. The area then became an immensely popular recreation centre, the brainchild of Ernest Greenwood. There were cafes and dance halls, swing boats, boating ponds, camping and holiday chalets. In 1946 these holiday enterprises closed and in 1951 Lord Savile gifted 250 acres at Hardcastle Crags to the National Trust to prevent the building of another reservoir.

From 1984-2006 the Trust renovated the property, garnering occasional windfalls from films such as ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’. Trevor is very much to be thanked for reminding us of this wonderful facility on our doorstep.

Our showcase speaker this month was Anthony Peter who convenes the ‘Novel Appreciation’ group. This good-humoured group tackles novels that have some depth and serious purpose, considering whether or not they can be judged as good literature. Calderdale Library Services provide most of the books and a meeting room for free, so the group annually buys a set of a novel they don’t have by way of thanking them.

U3A Todmorden’s next meeting will be held today (Thursday) in the Central Methodist Hall in Todmorden at 1.45pm. The meeting is an unusual one: Sheila Antrobus, local antiques expert, will be giving a short talk titled ‘Don’t Chuck It, Check It’, accompanied by a brief evaluation of objects brought by our members. This meeting has very particular arrangements which must be adhered to; details are available on our website under News Please check them rather than turn up and be disappointed.