19 November 2013

Signed, sealed and delivered

Once upon a time I lived in this two-bedroom underdwelling, 5 Dam Head, Hinchliffe Mill. We bought it in 1974, and in 1983, when we sold it again, received a bundle of documents -
They start in 1827 and I haven't looked closely at them. They seem to be the deeds for the entire terrace, which was a copyhold property. The Law of Property Act 1922 extinguished copyhold, rendering these documents superfluous - but I'm hardly going to cut them up or throw them out - their shapes and handwritings and seals and stamps, quite apart from their (many!) words, are far too interesting.
1864 (stamped in Holmfirth and in London)
Bottom edge is turned up, stitched together with a bit of vellum at the sides and with
the ribbon holding the seals in two places
Around 1867 there was much to-do about a debt of £500
Signatories and their seals
The 1920 document - typewritten, but with embellishments - names, in a great gulp of a sentence, the tenants living in the cottages of Dam Head - "... each of them DID thereby surrender and give up into the hands of the Lord and Lady of the said Manor ... and each of them DID thereby remise release and for ever quit claim ALL THOSE Four Dwelling-houses situate at Damhead Hinchliffe Mill near Holmfirth aforesaid formerly in the occupations of Mrs. Nichol, Mrs. Cuttell, James Robson, Wright Wood and Messieurs Whitely and Green afterwards of Albert Whitely Joseph Sandford John Taylor Littlewood and Hannah Charlesworth but now of James Henry Brook Tom Moreton Willie Roberts and Newton Butterworth with the shed in the occupation of Wright Wood..."

A bit of local history

If you look online for Hinchliffe Mill, you'll come across the story of the Holmfirth Flood. In 1852 a reservoir up the valley burst and 81 people lost their lives, 41 of them in Hinchliffe Mill - six houses in Water Street, on the other side of the dam (mill reservoir) were destroyed; read contemporary accounts here and here. From one account - "About fifty bodies are said to have been floated from the graveyard of the Methodist chapel in Holmfirth, and amongst them the corpse of the late Mr. John Harpin, the projector of the reservoir which has caused this fatal calamity." The flood left many homeless and without work. The buildings and structures destroyed along the valley included four mills, 10 dye houses, three drying stoves, 27 cottages, seven tradesmen’s houses, seven shops, seven bridges crossing the River Holme, 10 warehouses, eight barns and stables.
The area affected by the flood (via)
The mill, which dates back to 1832, has been vacant, indeed derelict, for some time. In the 1830s, the valley produced mainly "plain goods" but by 1860 it produced mainly "fancy woollens". Before the coming of the mills, and steam, "the kind of cloths manufactured here were called "Leeds Beds", a coarse class of goods, manufactured in the white, or undyed state, and dyed red in the cloth, slightly finished, and then sold to the Leeds merchants. These goods were manufactured in the old form, — scribbled and carded by a single pair of cards, — spun by a single thread, and woven by the hand shuttle" (from an 1860s history of the area around Holmfirth (digitised here) - it makes difficult reading.

More recently, bits of Last of the Summer Wine were shot in Hinchliffe Mill - in fact Wesley's workshop was down the end of the lane. While living there, I only ever went down the lane once or twice - that bit of road simply didn't lead anywhere, apart from the barn that was converted into a house, something that happened a lot in the late 70s. Last of the Summer Wine was a newish tv show then - first broadcast in 1973. Soon busloads of tourists were arriving in Holmfirth ....

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