A Brief History of Oxenhope
Taken from 'A Brief History of Oxenhope' published in 1996 by David Samuels with many local contributors. Proceeds from the sale of the book are to support the Multiple Sclerosis action groups.
Copies of the original book are available, costing £1.50 (including postage in the UK, otherwise add 50p) from David Samuels at 34, Station Road, Oxenhope, Keighley BD22 9JJ. Enquires to David on 01535 643393 or email
Introduction by David Samuels
In over thirty years of living in this village I have noticed, sadly, that the local 'characters' and all the shops which once made Oxenhope a 'living' community have been forced to depart by a changing lifestyle.
Camaraderie, for the most part, has been forgotten, as has respect for people's property. Care and charity for those around is viewed with deep suspicion, even by the recipients, and locking one's house door which was once considered to be antisocial is, unfortunately, now the norm in this, our violent society.
Therefore I dedicate this work to those people of Oxenhope who while they are no longer with us in body, are with us in spirit, people such as James Maise, 'Darkie' to his friends who supplied him with oddments of wallpaper and the flour with which to paste these many bits of paper to his walls.
'Soldier Jonas' was a soldier of the First World War. Each year he would walk to Appleby Horse Fair, sleeping rough on the trip. A local worthy decided that at his age such a journey was doing the health of Soldier Jonas no good, so out of kindness, he bought the old man a railway ticket to Appleby. Later, on his return, when asked how he felt. Soldier Jonas expressed his tiredness. "I'd been awake two days before the trip in case I missed the train, then two days lying awake in Appleby in case I missed it back to Oxenhope."
'Duke' Kershaw, real name Julian Kershaw, along with Soldier Jonas, allegedly lived rough at Farcoat Farm on the moors above the village. 'Duke' '.as known to buy a 2d bottle of HP sauce from a shop in the village, which he promptly drank, much to the astonishment of watching children. 'Bitsamint', real name Herbert Brewer, only had half a tongue, but a pleasant smile, it was said.
Calf George, pronounced 'Calfdowed', would take off his greasy hat and out it over the teapot to keep both tea and hat warm if any guest came for a chat.
'Doady/Freddy Muckfork' had the job of spreading cow muck over the fields of Oxenhope for local farmers. His specifically manufactured fork was carried strapped to his large-framed bicycle.
'Johnny Midge' allegedly had to use car tyre shoe soles to increase his height. Then there was dear old 'Dolly Dumbells' who was known to use 'bad' language as children taunted her as she walked through Oxenhope in her clogs, a common footwear of the time.
"Dolly," they would shout, "you've a hole in your sock." - Dolly's risqué reply which is not suitable for this work would send the not-so-innocent children squealing home to embarrassed parents.
'Sarah Sorrowpot' had a 'selling-out' shop in Hebden Road, Uppertown, during the 1930s, and groaned with every move she made, probably with severe arthritis.
Locally produced ice cream was sold by a gentleman named Tommy Richmond to folk who waited with tin cups and plates.
The list of people who gave this village a personality is endless. This enhancement is dead or in the process of dying due to the need for conformity. There are many characters who are long departed but can't be named purely because the progeny of these wonderful people still live about the area, and I certainly have no wish to cause embarrassment.
The booklet has been made possible by Oxenhope people who have taken the time to remember a lost past. Their efforts have given us a brief history which enunciates the feelings of an almost forgotten time. It has been written in their own words. Naturally, therefore, I am deeply indebted for the time that they have to help this project.
Readers, I hope, will notice that the contributors have not talked of the hardships and cruelty of these times; maybe they hadn't suffered, of if they had, possibly the passing of time has made them forget the harsh reality.
The biggest problem I have had in compiling this short work has been the copious amount of fact which I have had to leave out because of space limitations. In fact a large book could have been assembled from the masses of information relating to a 1661 Act of Parliament. King Charles II gave common land rights in Oxenhope to local farmers, and the names of some of these families involved still dominate the area: Christopher Holmes, Bernard Hartley, Frank Pighills. As Widow Hammond, John of Mary's, Joseph of Lizzie's and Herbert of Polly's couldn't read or write they made their own individual marks on the legal documents. One could study the train of historic events from the 'Act for Dividing and Enclosing Oxenhope Moors' of 1771. An Act that heralded a direction which had unknown consequences for those who were to be born and die in this area.
The church, transport, education, everything about village life should merit more than just a quick mention in this work, but as already stated, space, unfortunately, in this abbreviated booklet, is at a premium. Therefore this small, potted history of my home village is meant only to skim over a period of time long gone. It can't possibly detail all and every movement of Oxenhope's history, and certainly doesn't try to be fanciful or arty and plainly doesn't even attempt a literary greatness.
So how did Oxenhope get it's name? Simple really. This area was at one time covered with a forest of oak, ash and birch, remnants of which can still be seen in various locations today. Anglican immigrants, it is thought, hacked the forest to create the farmlands of today and so Oxenhope, Oxenope. Or Oxnop became an area where beasts (cattle) were grazed.
The Oxenhope of today is in reality a welding together of local hamlets of yesterday: Fly Flatts, Upper Marsh, Marsh, Shaw, Leeming. Westcroft Head, Uppertown and Lowertown. All these areas had slightly different dialects from each other and so each area may have thought itself socially superior to the others.