Feb 192016

Researching Brick Walls

I have been engaged in my family history research for over ten years and have come across a number of brick walls…ancestors for whom I can find little meaningful evidence. These days, my research is characterised by bouts of intense interest, interspersed with long periods of inactivity (that’s a tongue twister to start with). Today I have had a period of some activity, partly due to having been contacted by a lady from ancestry.com, who had asked me if I would be prepared to add a link to their ancestry.com family trees feature, which I have done (see Links page). In doing this and checking out that the link worked, I noticed that, for three days, most of the ancestry catalogue was free without subscription, so I set about looking up some of my “brick wall” entries in the hope of finding just a small lead…and I did find quite a few little tidbits of new information on a few of my brick wall ancestors…and one link set me off on a journey to explore Yorkshire’s Luddite past.

In all the years that I have been researching, I have found that all of my ancestors as far back as I can reach, come from the West Riding of Yorkshire within a roughly drawn triangle bounded by Halifax, Wakefield and Huddersfield. I have been proud to say that I am Yorkshire through and through…but then some time ago, I found that I needed to acknowledge one anomaly in this otherwise immaculate Yorkshire ancestry. One of the greatest puzzles of my family tree has been my third great-grandmother Martha Arnold, who married into the well-documented Sheard family of Mirfield.

Migration from Woolwich to Mirfield

My third great-grandfather Thomas Sheard and Martha Arnold were both born in 1802. Thomas was born in Mirfield and became a woodman by occupation. He and Martha married in 1825 and had at least seven children together. I am descended from their youngest child, Edwin, who was also a woodman. Census records show quite clearly that Martha was not born in Mirfield but in Woolwich. I found that she was baptised in the parish of Westminster, London. That I found very odd. Martha had four siblings born in London up to 1808. Sometime between 1808 and 1825, Martha was uprooted from London and firmly planted in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. I initially had no clue as to why this should be. There really had to be a very good reason for a family to move such a great distance in those times, when the most distance that the average working class person moved was into a nearby parish. The driving influence in the movement of most working class families in the early 19th century was for work, so movement from country to town may involve moving from working on the land to working in the mill. But why would someone move from the hub of activity, a busy naval and military town in London, to come to a small borough where woollen cloth manufacture was the tradition and times were hard?

In the middle of documenting all the birth, marriage and death records that we can find, it is easy to forget what was going on socially, militarily and economically at the beginning of the 19th Century – when England was in the thick of the industrial revolution and also fighting the Napoleonic wars. I have already come across family drama in the early years of that century, detailed in my article “A case of industrial espionage” when my 5th Great Grandfather on my father’s side was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting his brother-in-law in creating drawings and models of textile machinery, with a view to taking them to France. Is it possible that I can find another family connection to that turbulent history?

I wondered if “Woolwich” was itself the clue. An acquaintance of mine, who was herself born in Woolwich, suggested that Martha’s father may have been a soldier…Woolwich was historically a great naval town and, in 1695, the Royal Laboratory was established, manufacturing explosives, fuses and shot. Later on garrisons of soldiers were there and 1716 to 1720 saw the formation of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the construction of its first barracks. The Royal Military Academy was founded at Woolwich in 1741. From 1795, both the Corps of Royal Engineers and the Corps of Royal Military Artificers were head-quartered at the Woolwich Arsenal. It didn’t take too long digging before I discovered that the Luddite rebellion occurred very shortly after this and that thousands of soldiers were sent up North to quell the rebellion. Could Martha’s father have been sent north with his regiment in order to put down the Luddite uprising? I suspect that I may never know, but it’s a decent theory in the absence of any other and it gave me the push that I needed to have a look at that period in Mirfield’s history. Ancestry.com helped me to find Martha’s father, but unfortunately not his occupation. Was he a soldier, a merchant, a labourer?

Woollen Manufacture in West Yorkshire

Mirfield is at the centre of the Yorkshire Woollen District. Sheep farms covered the nearby hills and valleys. For centuries, many local families, including my ancestors, would have specialised in the different processes involved in the manufacture of woollen cloth via a system known as “Putting out”. A clothier delivered raw wool from farms to the cottages in the villages and hamlets. The wool was transported by pack horses along ancient routes. Each cottager and his family would spin the yarn into woollen thread or weave the thread into fabric on hand looms.

The fabric was then collected and delivered to other craftsmen to be fulled (scoured and milled) and then sent to a dressing shop to be finished before going to market. The dressing process was the only one not carried out in the cottages. It was carried out by craftsmen called “croppers”, who were highly skilled in raising the nap and finishing the fabric and the quality of finish that they achieved could increase the value of the cloth by up to a third. Skilled croppers were paid three times as much as labourers and so they had a relatively good lifestyle.

In the second half of the 18th century, the processes involved in converting the raw wool to finished cloth started to be undertaken under one roof…this was much more cost effective for the clothiers and helped to increase production. Cottage-based spinners and weavers were forced to stop working from home and walk to work in the new mechanised mills powered by coal. However, at first, the croppers were still earning good money, as the mill owners were still sending cloth to their dressing shops to be finished.

As the century changed from 18th to 19th, change also caught up with the croppers, as machines were now being devised to mechanise their jobs too. By the turn of the century, the first cropping frames, operated my mill wheels, were being installed and each machine could do the work of ten skilled croppers. Many croppers found themselves out of work or looking for much less well paid work.

At the same time, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars and an American Trade Embargo, leading to higher taxation and aggravated by poor harvests, the price of corn was at an all-time high. In order to maintain profitability, the mill-owners cut the wages of the workers and introduced cropping frames into the workrooms. The rich got richer and the poor became destitute. Poverty among the mill workers in the lace industry in Nottingham led to violence erupting there, with gangs of workers breaking the machines, and it wasn’t long before the workers of Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire began to also engage in attacking the mills at night and breaking the new machines that they blamed for their poverty and starvation…but the greatest unrest was in Yorkshire.

Luddite Rebellion

Luddites were named after Ned Ludd, a Leicestershire born man who broke two stocking frames in 1779. They were mainly self-employed textile workers who feared the end of their trade brought about by employers installing labour saving technologies in mechanised mills around 1810-1816. In Kirklees, they were made up of croppers and other textile workers and their machine-breaking activity spread to Huddersfield and surrounding areas, including Halifax, in 1812. Although most of the Luddites came from the Huddersfield and Halifax areas, there is evidence that sympathisers from Mirfield had joined in. In retaliation for their actions, the government sent around 12,000 troops north from barracks such as those at Woolwich and I have read that more troops were engaged in opposing the Luddites than were fighting abroad at that time. At least 1000 troops were stationed in the Huddersfield area alone and many were helping mill-owners to protect their property from attack.

In April 1812, a large body of men, including the Huddersfield and Leeds Luddites, some armed with pistols, others with old swords and home-made weapons and sledgehammers, set out to attack William Cartwright’s Mill in Cleckheaton. Some had met at Dumb Steeple earlier in the day. Dumb Steeple was a monument at Cooper Bridge, Mirfield , which was a rallying point during troubles. The Huddersfield Luddites then joined up with the other groups until there were about 300 in the mob. Cartwright’s reinforcements of soldiers and local militia plus his foresight in strengthening the defenses of the mill, enabled him to hold off the Luddites. The soldiers fired into the crowd. Two Luddites were killed and many seriously injured. One soldier, who refused to fire on the crowds, was publicly flogged. Shortly afterwards, another mill owner, William Horsfall, was ambushed at Crosland, near Huddersfield, and murdered by Luddites. Martial Law was enforced for a time and the government of the day took decisive action, bringing in legislation to make machine-breaking punishable by death and making a concerted effort to round up the Luddites and their leaders.

Capture and Punishment

Eventually, by using a network of informers and spies, by torturing suspects and with the help of the soldiers, the authorities arrested more than a hundred men. When 64 Luddites stood in the dock at York in January 1813, 24 of them were young men from the Huddersfield area, all of them croppers, with an average age of 27. Some bore surnames that are familiar to me as they exist in my own family tree. Seventeen of these men were hanged and their bodies were dissected for medical science, in order that funerals could not be held, as they might give the excuse for more violence. Some of the men who avoided the capital punishment were transported to Australia and their families left destitute.

The remaining workforce, who eventually surrendered, were pardoned and some degree of stability returned. The uprising was largely over. In March 1813, most of the militia were withdrawn.

Within 20 years, the croppers’ trade had vanished, as more and improved machines were installed in the mills.

Martha Arnold

That brings me back to Martha Arnold’s father, who was probably named Jonathan. Was Jonathan a soldier from down south who was sent to the West Riding to quell the Luddite revolt? If so, how did it affect him? How did Martha end up in Mirfield?  Did Jonathan send for his family to settle with him up north after the troubles? How did Martha come to meet her husband to be, Thomas Sheard? I suppose I will never know the answer to any of those questions, but the speculation enabled me to engage with that period in my ancestors’ history, so I guess I come out of the experience with a little more knowledge about the Luddites and a lot more feeling for what it was like for my not too distant family, in the early part of the 19th Century, living in the Yorkshire Woollen District…what a struggle they must have had to keep their large families from starving and how lucky I am to have never experienced real hunger, destitution and violence like they did.

© Christine Widdall Feb 2016



Sep 052015
The Earlsheaton Hemingway family and its origins in Southowram, Halifax

My maternal grandmother, Lilian Maud, was born Hemingway. Our Hemingway ancestors, many of them textile workers and manufacturers, can be traced back from Soothill Parish (Earlsheaton and Chickenley), in Dewsbury, to the family’s earliest known residence at Walterclough in Southowram, Halifax in the 14th and 15th Century.


My Grandmother Lilian Maud Hemingway and her youngest brother Albert Percy Hemingway abt 1900

Lilian’s father, Herbert Hemingway, was born in 1846 in Barnsley. At this time, his father Robert Merton Hemingway, a textile engine maker and mechanical draughtsman, who had been born in Chickenley, moved temporarily to Barnsley, with his family, in order to further his profession.  Throughout most of their life, Robert and his wife Jane had lived in the parish of Soothill, in the village of Earlsheaton (adjacent to Chickenley), but three of their children were born in Barnsley. Jane and Robert returned from Barnsley to live at Chickenley Heath, then a hamlet, when Herbert, their seventh child, was a small boy and their daughter Rachel was baptised in Dewsbury in 1851. Later they moved to Hanging Heaton, near Gawthorpe in Soothill Nether parish.

Robert’s father Thomas Hemingway, my third great grandfather, and his wife Rachel Hutchinson, brought up their twelve children at Little Royd, Earlsheaton. Later they moved to Batley and Thomas was described, at his death in 1867, as a manufacturer and gentleman. Thomas was described as a clothier on his marriage certificate…and later as a manufacturer.  Thomas’s father, Benjamin, was a blanket manufacturer in Chickenley, a village adjoining Earlsheaton, so it is very likely that Thomas also made blankets. Blanket manufacture was the main produce in Dewsbury for generations and it was to become one of the main places that army blankets and military uniforms were manufactured during the First World War.

Map showing the Dewsbury parishes of Soothill and Soothill Nether, including the villages and hamlets of Earlsheaton, Chickenley, Chickenley Heath and Gawthorpe


Some Hamlets and Townships of Dewsbury  mentioned in this article:

“CHICKENLEY, a hamlet in the township of Soothill, and parish of Dewsbury, liberty of Wakefield, 1¼ mile SE. of Dewsbury.” Chickenley was a farming hamlet…between Dewsbury and Ossett.
“EARLSHEATON, in the township of Soothill, and parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 1 mile E. of Dewsbury, 4 from Wakefield.”
“GAWTHORPE, in the township of Ossett, and parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 2 miles E. of Dewsbury, 3½ from Wakefield, 8 from Leeds.” An old story is that when a maypole was built in the Gawthorpe area of Ossett in 1840, men from Chickenley came to tear it down. Famous for its maypole and World Coal carrying Championships
“HANGING HEATON, in the township of Soothill, and parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 1 mile N. of Dewsbury, 5 from Wakefield.” mentioned in the Domesday Book as the village of Etun…”Hanging” refers to the steep hillside hanging above lower ground. Heaton means “high farm”.
“DEWSBURY MOOR SIDE, a hamlet in the township and parish of Dewsbury, liberty of Wakefield, (the seat of Abraham Greenwood, Esq.) 1 mile W. of Dewsbury, 6 from Wakefield.”


Hemingway in Soothill (Earlsheaton and Chickenley)

Our Hemingway line can be traced back from Thomas (1786-1867, clothier of Little Royd) as follows:

  • Benjamin of Chickenley (1759-1839, clothier and blanket manufacturer). Wife Hannah Whitworth 1761-1841. In 1822 Baines Directory and Gazetteer/Directory for Chickenley, under Blanket Makers is Hemingway Benj.
  • Benjamin’s father is Henry (1720-1786), wife Dolly Preston (1725-1802).
  • Henry’s father is Thomas of Soothill (1679-1741), wife Grace Fearnley (1680-1748).
  • Thomas’s father is Richard of Littleroyd (1655-1720 Yeoman farmer and land owner), wife Susanna Padgett (1654-1726/7). Richard’s will was proved in 1721. He farmed closes of land owned by James Oates and held in his own name messuages, barns, stables, orchards and closes and parcels of land at the Sands, Earlsheaton and at Littleroyd Earlsheaton.
  • Richard’s father is Thomas of Earlsheaton (1604-1668), wife Alice Acrode (1622-). Will proved 1669 Thomas Hemingway [Extract] Pontefract DAB f21. This Will did not survive storage at the Borthwick Institute, but the Institute provided an abstract from the Probate Act Books.”On 29 April 1669 administration of the goods of Thomas Hemingway late of Earlsheaton, York diocese, deceased, was granted to Alice Speight alias Hemingway, widow and relict of the said deceased, sworn before Dr Broome, surrogate.”
  • Thomas’s father is Richard of Earlsheaton (1577-1643), wife Ffrauncis Archer (1582-1643). Moved to Earlsheaton from Southowram. Was Churchwarden of Dewsbury Parish Church, in 1632 (perhaps encouraged by his father-in-law, Thomas Archer, who also served as Churchwarden).

I have much of their birth marriage and death data and that of their children, which can be followed using the Name Index. Richard, born 1577, my ninth great grandfather and known as Richard Hemingway “of Earlsheaton”, is the direct connector with the family of Hemingways of Southowram.

1905 Map Showing Littleroyd on Low Road and St Peter’s Church, where some of the Hemingways attended and where I was married!
 Richard Hemingway of Earlsheaton and Southowram, born 1577 – Migration of the Hemingways from Southowram

The first indication of the origin of Richard Hemingway of Earlsheaton was found by researcher Cecily Sterry (who sadly died in 2012). Her research shows that Richard was the son of John Hemingway and Agnes Maud, of the Walterclough, Southowram. An Abraham Hemingway had settled in the next parish to Soothill, at Gawthorpe, and Cecily Sterry found that he was Richard’s older brother. Their parents John Hemingway and Agnes Maud lived at the Walterclough, Southowram and all their children were born there.

Richard and Abraham had inherited some property following thier father John’s death in 1587, when Richard, the youngest of nine children, was only ten years old. The will of John Hemyngway, of the Walterclough, was proved on the 15th December 1587, and he described himself as “yeoman”. His will gives directions for the payment of his debts and funeral expenses before going on to state:

“John Hemyngway of the Walterclough desires that his goods should be divided into three parts, of which his wife Anne is to have one part, one other third part he bequeathes to John, Arthure, and Anne, his children, to be divided equally amongst them. Grace, his daughter, is to have 6s. 8d. provided her husband — John Wilkinson– should release to the executors “all manner of demands to my goods”.

Also, the will proceeds, ” I will and devise to the said John Hemingway, Arthur, Michael, Abraham, Richard, Marie, and Anne, my children, all that messuage and tenement, houses, lands, etc. in Southowram, which I, the said testor, occupied in the life of Thomas Hemingway, my late father, deceased, and also, one close of land and pasture called ‘Jony Ridinge’ in Southowram, etc ., for the term of 21 years, at the yearly rent of 8s.

To Marie and Anne, my daughters, either of them a chist.”

All the children, together with the wife, were to be executors of the will, ” trusting them lovingly and freely to agree together”.

Richard (b 1577) moved to Earlsheaton from Southowram, possibly at the beginning of the 1600s, when in his twenties. He married Ffrauncis Archer in Dewsbury in 1604. (Ffrancis’s father, Thomas Archer, was my paternal 10th great-grandfather, one of many co-incidences in my family tree.)  Abraham, Richard’s closest brother in age, had settled in Gawthorpe, and he may have been one of the first Hemingways to settle in the Dewsbury area. Richard possibly moved to be near his brother, who was only two years older…imagine two young men looking for an opportunity in an area where textile manufacture was on the increase. The route that Richard and Abraham would have taken was via the ancient Halifax to Wakefield Pack-horse Route, which passed through Dewsbury, Earsheaton, Chickenley Heath and Gawthorpe; the distance would have been about 12 miles in a straight line between Halifax and Gawthorpe, a distance easily covered on horseback in a few hours in good weather. This route was later improved by the building of a Turnpike Rd and parts of the old route, called the “Magna Via” (great way) or “Wakefield gate” are still visible  at Beacon Hill Bank, outside Halifax and at places where the new Turnpike Rd took a detour and left the old stone paved route in place. One of the earliest references to the Via Magna was in 1497, when a piece of land in Southowram was defined by “the highway leading from Barrowclough in the north”. The route was even more ancient than this, being an extension of the Roman Road from Manchester to York…remains of the Roman road are visible on the Pennines, close to where I live, near the Castleshaw Roman Fort remains.

I have wondered why people would migrate from Halifax to Earlsheaton and Gawthorpe during the late 16th and early 17th century, when most folks in the West Riding stayed in the parish of their birth. Perhaps it was to set up a new business, to take possession of some land or to work with a family member who had already moved there, or even to marry! The Local population studies web page shows another factor which might have influenced a move. Between 1596 and 1600 there was a huge fall in the price of wheat and wool and that may have influenced young men to move to a new town to look for new opportunities. Martin Dearnley, another Hemingway researcher, has suggested an alternative…

“Richard had an eponymous younger cousin once removed, Richard of Dewsbury Moorside, who married Ann Acrode (20 June 1603). As young men, the two Richards moved from Southowram, near Halifax, to the Dewsbury area, possibly because the plague was rampant around Halifax at the time.”

We don’t know exactly why Richard moved, but we do know that he stayed in Earlsheaton and made his living there. Perhaps the fall in wool and corn prices meant that the income from his inheritance had fallen drastically. Perhaps, indeed, he was escaping the plague. He and Ffrauncis Archer had six children together, three boys and three girls, at least four of whom lived to adulthood. Richard died in Earlsheaton, aged about 66, in 1643, just a few months after his wife and cousin Richard of Dewsbury Moorside had also died. Co-incidentally, there was an outbreak of the plague in Dewsbury in 1643, so maybe it caught up with him in the end after all.

Whilst Richard’s exact descent from the 14th and 15th Century Hemingways of Walterclough is less easy to trace, due to the absence of formally recorded birth marriage and death data before 1537, the strong linking factor is the close of land and pasture called John Ridings Close, which was passed from fathers to sons and can be traced back to the will of another John Hemingway, estimated to have been born in the 1400s, probably my 13th great grandfather, who wrote his will in January 1526:

“John Hemyngwaye, of the parishe of Halifax. To be beried with in the churche yerde of Sancte John Baptiste of Halifax. Itm. my best beast for my mortuary as costome is. Also I will that Elene, my wif, haue all my landes duryng hir lyve. And after the decesse of my said wif I yeve unto Ric. Hemyngwaye, my sone, a closse called Jonee Ridynges during his lyve. Itm. to John Hemyngwaye iiij. stones of woll. Residue of all my goodes, not bequeathed then gyven, my dettes and funeral expenses paid and done, I gyve to the said Elene, my wif, Ric. Hemyngwaye, and James Hemyngwaye, my sones, whiche I make my executors. Thies wittenes, Richard Heley, John Stokes, Ric Hemmyngwaye.

Will proved on 8 February 1526, by Elen, relict, Ric., and James, sons. Source: Halifax Parish Wills (Reg.Test. ix 363)”

Richard of Earlsheaton’s Ancestry

With the help of Cecily Sperry’s’s original work, I have traced our own Hemingway line from Richard back to the 15th century:

  1. Rychard HEMYNGEWAYE (of Earlsheaton)  was born at the Walterclough in 1577, Yorkshire, England, and died 1643 in Dewsbury Parish, WRY, Yorkshire, England. He married Ffrauncis ARCHER 17 JUL 1604 in Dewsbury, WRY, Yorkshire, England. She was born WFT Est. 1563-1587, and died 1643 in Dewsbury Parish, WRY, Yorkshire, England
  2. John HEMYNGEWAYE  was born Est. 1535 in “of Walterclough”, and died NOV 1587 in Southowram, WRY, Yorkshire, England. He married Agnes\Anne MAWD 26 OCT 1557.
  3. Thomas HEMYNGEWAYE  was born Est. 1500-1505. His wife was Anne Longbottom.
  4. Richard HEMYNGEWAYE was born Est. 1465-1480.
  5. John HEMYNGWAYE of the Walterclough was born Est. 1440 in Halifax Parish, Yorkshire, England, and died 1526. He married ELEN who outlived him.
Southowram Poll tax rolls of 1379

Traces of the Hemingway family can be found in Southowram as early as the 14th Century and before that there were Hemyngways in nearby Hiprum (Hipperholme).

Hipperholme and Southowram appear to be the only places where the surname “Hemyngway” existed in early times.

The earliest record found so far of a Hemyngway in Southowram is in the Southowram Poll tax rolls of 1379, two men with their wives. There is no indication of kinship between these men, though, in such a small community, they must surely be related.

Willelmus de Hemyngway & uxor iiij.d.

Johannes de Hemyngway & uxor iiij.d.

(The iiij.d. refers to 4 pence tax levied from each man. There was one other Johannes de Hemyngway who was at Cleckheaton in 1379 but none at Hipperholme or anywhere else in Yorkshire as far as I have found so far.)

Note: There are many Johns in our branch of the family but hardly a William to be seen, so if I were to hazard a guess at which Hemyngway I am descended from, it would be Johannes de Hemyngway of Southowram. That’s just speculation and there is no direct evidence of course!

Other early Hemingway listings (with additional material found by Cecily Sterry and George Redmonds)

*1309 Thomas and Richard de Hemmyngway fined at Hiprum (Hipperholme) for allowing their beasts to stray.  Note: The inference from the “de” is that they owed their surname to a minor locality in the neighborhood of Hipperholme.

* 1358 William de Hemingway 4 acres in Hiprum (Hipperholme) to Robert Pinder. Wm Hemingway Senior 1 acre called Wilham Ryding to Wm de Hemingway Jnr.

* 1403 John de Hemingway Clifton,

*1419  Wm. Peresson, constable of Clifton, presented John Hemingway of Thornyals for not attending the turn, 4d.

* 1457 John Clytf and John Clay, both of Hyprom, brewed helpales. Ric, Smyth, Thos. Roide, and Henry Hemingway, all of Hiprom took turves from Shelf waste.

* 1456-1474 John Hemmyngway (Southowram) Yorkshire Deeds, 10 volumes.  A John Hem(m)yngway of Southowram witnessed several deeds and another John Hemingway was said to be of Thornhills in Hartshead parish.

* 1507 John Rideynge being dead, Ric. his son paid 9s. lieriot for a messuage and a bovate. Tunis, Oct. 20 and May 9. Juries, Ric, Dalton, Wm. Rookes, Ric. Lokwood, John Rookes, Ric. Longbothom, Gilbt. Saltonstall, John Batt, Thos. Priestley, John Rammesden, Ric. Northclyff, Ric. Aynelay, John Hanson de Woodhous, John Thorp, Ric. Jagger, Ric. Sunderland, Rob. Hemingway, Henry Sharp. Elizth. Bynnes, widow, conveyed 1 acre formerly waste to John Asshworth, Esq., and John Wilby. Ric. (?). John Rideing paid 9s. lieriot. Wm. Skoldcote conveyed edifice and lands in Hyperholm to himself and wife Johanna.

*1510 1518. -Robt. Haldworth clerk, (Vicar of Halifax afterwards, where he was murdered), took acres of waste in Hyprum, 4 being between Hyprum and Shelf highway and Brynescolebroke, 2 acres between said brook W., highway to Hypromwodd E., John Hemingway’s sprynge (plantation).

* 1545 Subsidy Rolls. The ten local Hemingways taxed in 1545 lived in Southowram (5), Northowram (3), Gomersal (1), and Sowerby (1), and the most prosperous of these were John Hemmyngwey of Southowram, with goods valued at £20, and John Hemyngwey of Northowram. However, at least one family had moved to Spofforth near Wetherby, a distance of some 24 miles, by this date.

* 1582. Rob. Boythes of Boythes towne and Elizth. his wife, surrendered (by John Boyth of Hipperholme,) a messuage, in Boythes to Nicholas. Kay. Robt. Hemingway of Walterclough took Overnewark in Northowram.

*1630. There were now 100 Hemyngways in Yorkshire and the distribution of the surname is predominantly in Southowram.  George Redmond (author) found that, although Southowram continued to be the family’s main stronghold, some families, notably clothiers, settled in the west in the Heptonstall area and one or two moved either north into Bradford or south into Huddersfield, but the migration downstream to Birstall, Mirfield, and Dewsbury was more significant and there were soon other major concentrations of the surname close to Selby (30 miles) and Wetherby (24 miles) and one or two Hemingways even settled in the commercial centers of York (36 miles) and Hull (60 miles). By this time a much wider variety of Christian names was in use, embracing Abraham and Edward (Southouwram), Henry, William and Thomas (Selby), James, Richard, and Robert (Halifax).

Walterclough Hall and The Brontë Connection
walterclough CW small

“Walterclough Hall, sometimes known as Water Clough Hall or Upper Walterclough, lies in the Walterclough Valley southeast of Halifax and northeast of the village of Southowram in the West Riding of Yorkshire, alongside the Red Beck. The Hall was originally built by the Hemingway family, first recorded there in 1379 and in residence until 1654. ” (Wikipedia). It was demolished in about 1979.

Note: Most of the information that I have gathered about Walterclough Hall is from other researchers. With thanks to Maurice Hemingway, Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale Companion, Wikipedia, University of Pennsylvania  et al.  

The branches of the Hemingway family owned and lived at several adjoining homesteads in and adjacent to the Walterclough in Southowram. The original holding was divided into three, Upper, Lower and Little Walterclough and the earliest traceable owners are the Hemingways. As recorded in the”great” dispute of 1375 between the Cromwellbottom and Lacy families, John Hemyngway, son of William held 27 acres, John Hemyngway, son of Henry held 24 acres and William Hemyngway, son of William held 27 acres belonging to the Manor of Cromwellbottom. These were probably the three Walterclough homesteads. In the will of a Richard Hemingway, clothier, of the ‘New House’, (later called ‘Sunnybank’) situated on the other side of the clough, dated 1588, there is mentioned a Richard Hemingway of ‘Low Marche’ in Southowram. At York there is a will of Thomas Hemingway of Southowram, cornman, in 1571. Other Hemingways lived at Northodes, (later named Northroyd, and later still, Clayroyd,) a homestead adjacent to Walterclough.

Walterclough Hall itself was built in about 1379 and occupied by the branch of the Hemingway family from which I am directly descended. The building was extended over the centuries and additional upper stories and wings added. The Hemingways occupied the Hall for almost three hundred years, until 1654, when it was sold to a William Walker (1596–1676).

The Brontë connection with Walterclough Hall is well documented. William Walker’s second son, Abraham, who succeeded him at Walterclough hall, was drowned in a canal and the Hall passed to his son Richard, then to Richard’s son John (1699-1771). John farmed the land and became a prosperous woolen manufacturer, amassing some wealth during his working life. He and his wife Ruth had four sons of their own and adopted a nephew called Jack Sharp. After John retired and left the area, Jack Sharp was left in possession of the family business and of Walterclough Hall, though he was not legally the owner. When John Walker died, his heir, also John, who was at the time residing in York, wished to take up residence at Walterclough and gave his cousin Jack Sharp notice to quit the Hall. In anger and retaliation, Jack destroyed many of the Hall’s fixtures, furniture and heirlooms, mortgaged the estate and left the Hall with only two rooms furnished. Then he built his own property at Law Hill, very close to Walterclough, using the proceeds of his treachery. As if to taunt the Walkers further, Sharp then proceeded to engage one of John Walkers nephews to work in his own business and encouraged the boy’s downfall by involving him in excessive drinking and gambling.

Some years later, a Miss Patchett opened a Ladies’ Academy at Law Hill House and Emily Brontë taught there. Emily was unhappy at Law Hill and felt that she was being overworked, as she was used more as a governess than a teacher and consequently she only stayed six months. During that time, Emily would have heard of the infamy of the previous owner of Law Hill House and the story of the Walkers of Walterclough Hall. It is believed that the story of Jack Sharp and the Walkers gave her the inspiration for Heathcliffe and the Earnshaw family  in her novel “Wuthering Heights”. Walterclough hall itself does not closely resemble the description of the hall at Wuthering Heights but there are other old halls in the area which may have provided the inspiration for her setting.

Law Hill School
Law Hill School, Southowram

Law Hill School, photograph by Martin Evans. This file is made freely available under the Creative Commons License at Wikimedia.

The Demise of Walterclough Hall

By 1870, Walterclough Hall had become a young ladies boarding academy. Elizabeth Ann Gregory ran the academy with her sister, Emma and their brother, Charles.  In 1871, there were two governesses, a cook, and a housemaid, and, in 1881, a governess, a cook, a kitchen maid, and a housemaid. She may also have employed four children, paying them with an education, free board, and lodging. Today, the site of the former Hall is part of Walterclough Hall Farm of Walterclough Lane, Halifax, but the hall itself has largely disappeared. The demise of the hall is made clear in this quotation from a Calderdale historian,

” By 1913, when Arthur Comfort sketched the Hall, it was almost entirely unoccupied and in an advanced state of dilapidation with many broken windows and the interior in disarray. During World War II, the Hall’s windows were shattered by a bomb dropped nearby by a German bomber. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the only part of the Hall which remained standing was the facade onto the yard and the rooms immediately behind it, together with the attached single storey kitchen. These remnants were demolished in the late 1970s.”

The ruined Walterclough pictured on another web site.