Todmorden Antiquarians: Disovering the hidden valley of Todmorden

Few remains of Italy Mill which once straddled Midgelden Brook in Bacup Road, Todmorden
Few remains of Italy Mill which once straddled Midgelden Brook in Bacup Road, Todmorden

Todmorden Antiquarian chairman, Catherine Emberson, welcomed a crowded Court-Room to the first talk of 2017.

She introduced local-born Christine Newell as ‘knowing her stuff’ from walking, photographing and boundless natural history knowledge.

Christine revealed her ‘hidden valley’ as from Gauxholme Arches up Bacup Road known as Dulesgate. She began by Gauxholme Viaduct showing close-packed historic buildings and views of the Naze ancient pack-horse route winding downhill to the valley bottom and continuing up to Stones. Many buildings served the Rochdale Canal, including the old Wharf latterly used by Navigation Supplies, now modern apartments. Christine described the old Workhouse opened in 1801, sponsored by wealthy Fielden and Crossley family members.

As we progressed with countless photographs, Christine described former mill sites including Friths which once dominated this past valley. She showed her childhood home and shared 1950’s memories of ‘Brewery Flats’ the only level place to play ball beside former Frith’s Mill, then multi-used for dances, theatricals and St Aidan’s Mission.

Christine showed ‘before and after’ pictures of late Victorian cottage rows, including quality ‘Brass Knobs’ row! Many cottages have been demolished for new-build homes. The small children’s play-area was once a holding millpond serving valley works.

Lower Pasture Side Mill dates from early 19th century and has seen various enterprises including artificial flower-making and Cairns motorized bicycles doing 275 miles per gallon!

Gorpley Mill was a mill-site from early 17th century and later an imposing fulling mill built for Maiden’s family of Bacup. The remains seen beside Gorpley Clough local nature reserve entrance. These woodland pathways lead past waterfalls and deep pools to reach Gorpley Reservoir built from 1900-1905 to provide water for Todmorden.

At Cloughfoot we saw a photograph of the former village school which closed in 1947 with 20 children left. This building, the former busy Bay Tree Inn and once well-attended Chapel all closed, converted to private homes. Christine described the huge Temperley’s pipe-work valley sites utilizing local coal and clay deposits, including the present astronomy centre site- she remembers pipes galore as a child. On Midgelden Brook side once stood Bank Mill destroyed by fire in 1870’s and Italy Mill producing fustian cloth was built astride the valley to utilize water-power directly.

Continuing uphill towards Sharneyford, we saw photographs of the modern food-waste complex, previously a maggot farm. Sadly the Flowerscar moorlands have suffered from illicit rubbish tipping.

Christine diverted to Sourhall along the road once known as Loggerhead Lane. Describing the 1874 isolation hospital accommodating smallpox victims, which was extended to the back, and later used for WW2 evacuees. Two Sourhall beer-houses served workers here during 19th century, descriptively named ‘First Drop’ and ‘Last Shift’!

Todmorden Antiquarian next meetings will be at 7.30pm in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room. On Tuesday January 24, David Glover will present ‘Past Funeral Customs in Calderdale’ and on January 31 (NB date change) Pat Osborne on ‘Ann Lister of Shibden Hall’. Visitors are most welcome.