Oxenhope Online

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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.

Preface
Snippets from Past Oxenhope (David Samuels)
The History of Oxenhope (Mr R Hindley)
Daily Life (Mrs Freda Feather)
Life on a hill farm (Mr Joe 'Bodkin' Feather)
Mill Life (Mrs Lucy Shackleton)
Village Life (Mrs Winnie Cowgill)
Education (Mrs Pauline Sheffield)
The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Mrs Margaret Hindley)
Religious Life in Oxenhope (Mrs Norma Mackrell)
 

Snippets from Past Oxenhope
by David Samuels

WOOLLEN MILLS

Our life blood of this area, the woollen mills have now nearly all but disappeared. At one time over a quarter of a million people were dependent on the woollen mills of the West Riding of Yorkshire for a living. Even I can remember in the not so distant past being awakened by a seven o'clock mill siren, warning latecomers. The siren became silenced as the towering mills which were the local employment to many people were allowed to be replaced
by the dormitory housing estates which give local employment to so few. At one time Oxenhope was described as a working Victorian Industrial village. In the past the village had many woollen mills which employed local children from the age of six and upwards to do the menial tasks, while the women and menfolk did the much more difficult part of the work.

(See: Mill Life by the late Mrs Lucy Shackleton)

THE HOME

Mill houses were houses that were owned, obviously, by the owners of the mills. It has been suggested that occupiers would have been compliant towards the millowners who could, and did, evict any troublesome workers
from their homes. Farmers, millowners and the landed gentry were of course always the legal owners of their own lands and homes.

Until recently most homes in this area were rented as very few people could afford to own property. After the Second World War home ownership became the norm due, no doubt, to the financial inflationary period of the time.
In 1948, houses in Station Road, Oxenhope, for instance, were sold for 420. Half an acre of land sold for 120. A block of three stone built shops in Station Road was valued at 450. Of course salaries/wages were correspondingly
low, but home ownership really changed the political and social structure of this country. It is said that due to  planning procedures Oxenhope has become a dormitory or commuter village. The validity of such comments I leave to the reader.

In the past the general health and welfare of the poor was regarded as of no consequence in the scheme of things. Labour being in plentiful supply, wages and the standard of living were, therefore, low. For instance, jumble sales, before World War I would have been a rarity. The poor had a further need for old clothes which had no further use as garments. They were cut into strips and threaded into hessian by all members of the family, and made into beautiful, colourful and hardwearing floor rugs, locally known as tab rugs. Old bed blankets or sheets could make a warm bed cover using the same method of threading strips into material.

BANKS AND THE POST OFFICE

Opposite Oxenhope's old smithy, today the village fish and chip shop in Uppertown, is Bank House. It is now occupied as a private dwelling, but many years ago the Yorkshire Penny Bank had a branch in the building.

Bradford Bank Ltd. opened a branch at 16 Lowertown, Oxenhope in 1892. In 1920 the branch moved to 16 Station Road. It was closed in 1939. Prior to 1906 Craven Bank Ltd. had opened a branch at 12 Lowertown. Then
in 1906 the name was changed to The Bank of Liverpool. In 1928 Martins Bank Ltd. became its owner, and in 1969 Martins itself succumbed to the overtures of Barclays Bank who closed the branch on 22 January 1993. No main clearing banks now operate in Oxenhope.

Our Post Office in Lowertown has been in existence since before World War I, the date of its opening is unknown and its closure depends on village usage. Like all rural shops of today the motto is 'Use them or lose them'.

MINING

The creation of 'The Stanbury Coal and Lead Mine' in the last century was really a misnomer. Whilst there was and still is local coal, its extraction was never really a commercial proposition, and the alleged mining of lead was never seriously undertaken. However, just outside the boundary of Oxenhope clay is still being dug and used for commercial purposes. At one time stone from this area was mined and transported to far away places, such as Liverpool, but eventually the extraction of stone in the immediate area was abandoned
because of cost.

LOCAL BUSINESS

There were nearly sixty businesses situated in the environs of what today is known as Oxenhope. These included the 'pop' factory at Leeming, owned by two men, Mr Ryder and Mr Butterfield, where today a garage stands. It seems that it closed at the outbreak of the 1939/45 war between Germany and this country because of possible sugar rationing. Pots and pans were offered for sale at the now deserted detached shop just below the garage in Leeming. Denholme Road, Marsh, Upper Marsh and Shaw Lane all had these small 'selling out' shops. Most of the business concerns were dependant on each other for an existence: farriers, blacksmiths, cloggers, all which go to make a living community. Yet no full time doctor's surgery was ever deemed necessary to the village, as far as I can tell.

(See: Village Life as told by Mrs Winnie Cowgill)

FARMING

Not much is known by the author about the maggot farm at Blackmoor Road/Denholme Road of the 1930s. In  general farming was always a difficult way of earning a living due to the harshness of this area. During the early eighteen hundreds, before the Corn Laws were repealed, life was even harder for those who lived on rural English  farms, and hunger being a common factor meant that Oxenhope suffered like everybody else.
(See: Life on a Hill Farm by Mr Joe (Bodkin) Feather.

RESERVOIRS, SEWAGE AND HYGIENE

The main water supply to the west of the village was supplied from Sykes reservoir, opposite the old mineral water manufacture, now the village garage. It was constructed before the turn of the century. Untreated spring water from the moors above Black Moor Road was its source of supply. The rest of the village was, and still is in some  cases, supplied by the natural springs which have flowed since time immemorial.

Leeming reservoir was completed in 1877 at a total cost of 67,603. Leeshaw reservoir built in 1879, because of slight construction difficulties, cost 69,220.

It was in the late eighteen hundreds before Oxenhope had a main sewage disposal system in place. Before that date it is suggested that a few people would have died prematurely of cholera and typhoid fever. Privies, cesspits
and earth closets were some of the names given to what we know today as toilets or lavatories. Back in the 1930s a local Oxenhope farmer was criticized by the health authorities for transporting milk in a metal bucket into which a cow had previously defaecated.

A story is told about the farmer who found a dead mouse in the cream he was making. It is alleged he licked the mouse dry of cream so as not to waste his efforts. Even though the local Board of Health bye-laws of 1824 were
thought by some to be the beginning of modern
civilisation, today's standards of personal hygiene would have been a thing of mystery in this village's past.

TRANSPORT

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway line was opened in April 1867 and suffered many geographical difficulties in its construction. Midland Railway took it over in 1881, and in December 1961 the last passenger train
operated by the now
nationalised British Rail ceased to function on this line. However, in March 1962 the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society, manned by volunteers, was formed and six years later in June 1968 the Worth Valley line was successfully reopened. Millions of tourists from all over the world applaud the magnificent work that these volunteers have done in keeping alive a moment of history in Oxenhope. Six stations, Keighley, Ingrow, Damems, Oakworth, Haworth and Oxenhope have trains, steam being in the majority, puffing enjoyably on as in years gone by.

On 29 June 1916 trackless vehicles (trolleybuses) came to Oxenhope, terminating at Station Road. A speed limit of 12mph was approved for Hebden Road, reduced to 8mph at Royd House Wood. Unfortunately, shortly
afterwards, due to the war of 1914-1918, operations were suspended. It was not until 25 March 1921 that services were resumed. Four of the trackless vehicles were detailed for the service and two more were promised. However,
in September the service was reduced to weekend operation only. The receipts of 5d/6d per mile were insufficient to cover the wages of the driver and conductor. In May 1926, the time of the General Strike, local striking members of the Transport and General Workers Union faced the Keighley Tramways Committee who had declared that unless the strikers returned to work a 'volunteer' service would become operational. The strikers refused and the 'volunteers' operated the service on 10 May. A national settlement was reached two days later but the service to Oxenhope was never resumed. In other parts of Keighley the trackless system carried on until 31 August 1932 when the system closed down for ever and the life of the buses took over. The advent of the automobile gave Oxenhope the dubious distinction of having the first serious fatal accident in this area. In October 1920 the brakes of a Maudsley char-a-banc (motor coach) failed as it was being driven down Hebden Bridge Road towards Oxenhope. The thirty two knurr and spell supporters being carried from Pecket Well were
travelling to a match at Laneshaw Bridge. The vehicle ran out of control on Cock Hill below the Waggon and Horses and smashed through a wall above St. Mary's church, Oxenhope. It was reported that five persons died, some decapitated as a branch of a tree sliced the roof off.

The locally known Bronte Bus Company was formed in 1924 and started life as taxi operation. In 1926, with a bus body on a Model T Ford chassis, costing 30, the Bronte Bus Company became a reality. On its first journey, when petrol was 1 shilling (5p) a gallon, 3/9d (nearly 18p) was taken in fares.

The inside lighting system was not illuminating: one bicycle lamp! It was rumoured that when travelling up Rawdon Road, Haworth, or up any hill, passengers were obliged to push. Sometimes the bus would tip backwards if too many large people sat on the rear seats. In its heyday the company had thirteen buses. However, due to local  changing lifestyles, amongst other things, more cars were being bought by the public. Peter and Michael Snaith, the sons of the founder John Bailey Snaith, closed the business after fifty five years of operation.

RELIGIOUS LIFE

In the wall at the top of Cross Lane a 'marker' stone indicates where religious people congregated. It is thought that prayers were said at this spot before any church building had been erected in this area. It was also said to be a signpost for people who would have walked along the goit to Haworth so as to pray in a church. It was not unusual for people to walk to Halifax or Bradford on a Sunday to attend a religious service.

Local history suggests that a trust deed was drawn up on 24 August 1836 for the Sawood Methodist Chapel. It was by all accounts a bustling church of God. The cost of building the chapel came to one hundred and twenty pounds.
It was pulled down in 1952 due to dry rot. The village is now down to one Anglican, two Methodist, and two Baptist churches.

Wars also played a part in shaping the destiny of the area. In St. Mary's church a plaque and a book commemorating the dead of two world wars does little to indicate the suffering that such deaths would mean to a small community such as Oxenhope.

(See: The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin as told by Mrs Margaret Hindley. Religious Life in Oxenhope written by Mrs Norma Mackrell.)

SCHOOLING

The earliest recorded note of formal education in Oxenhope is dated as early as 1638. However, it wasn't until 1870 that education became compulsory in this country.

(See: Education as told by Mrs Pauline Sheffield. Haworth Free Grammar School as written by Mrs Norma Mackrell.)

PUBLIC HOUSES

The Loose Pulley and Delver's Arms, which were not strictly in the precincts of the Oxenhope area, stood on the main road which led from Oxenhope to Wainstalls, Halifax. These public houses which were pulled down nearly a hundred years ago would have been frequented by the people from Oxenhope.

Once we had the Woodman's Arms in Hebden Road. It was closed in the distant past. The Shoulder of Mutton, Denholme Road, closed about 1989 and is now used for other purposes. We still have, however, five official public
houses, which includes the Social Club, and two off-licensed premises.

On Ordnance Survey maps where the Waggon and Horses Inn is situated, the area is called Dyke Nook. To this day the Waggon and Horses is still known to many local people by its original name, 'Dyke Nook'. The Dog and Gun on the Denholme Road was once called the Sportsman's Inn.

FINALLY

There are many amusing stories waiting to be told, such as the 'Pitch and Toss' gamblers at Fly Flatts stone quarries, the gambling became so successful that it is said men were employed to keep an eye open for the police. Stone embankments would be built in amongst the rise and fall of the landscape. The spotter's job was to peer out of the embankments and warn gamblers of any police presence.

As news of the gambling leaked out, people came from as far away as Harrogate. One man, it is alleged, moved his family from Bradford to Oxenhope so as to be nearer his 'work'. Local police officers were powerless
to stamp out the practice for many years, until they decided to co-ordinate. Bradford, Halifax and Keighley police poured hundreds of men onto the moors and virtually surrounded everybody within the area, and that was the end of

organised
gambling, or so it was announced.

Station Road shops as seen from The Cat Steps : Circa 1925