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Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons

Monday, 27 January 2014

There are many fine buildings in the Calder Valley, dating from the seventeenth century or earlier, which draw us to stop and admire them. David Cant has spent many years studying these houses and using documentary evidence to uncover the stories of the groups of craftsmen who worked to design and construct them. The large audience attending his talk to the Hebden Bridge Local History was fascinated by the way David has pieced together evidence from wills, inventories, estate records and day books to identify the local masons, joiners, plasterers and roofers working in our area so many years ago.


High Sunderland Hall

One investigative trail led from Bradley Hall (now part of a golf club) to Merton College Oxford where the same family of Halifax masons, the Ackroyds, were at work in the late sixteenth century. The link was Sir Henry Savile, a local aristocrat who employed the masons on his Bradley Hall and Methley Hall homes. The Ackroyds also built the old Heath School, where Sir Henry was a trustee. As warden of Merton College Oxford, he was responsible for bringing to the city a group of Halifax masons, including the Ackroyds, breaking the restrictive stranglehold of the Oxford guilds.

As David illustrated, comparing the facades of the local buildings with that of the Oxford College is very illuminating. It is far more elaborate and decorative than the more austere Halifax buildings, and it is clear that the patronage of Sir Henry Savile gave the masons access to ideas from the fashionable design books of the time and encouraged them to develop their skills. These ideas they brought back to the Halifax area, so that buildings like High Sunderland built in the 1620s, sport similar stone ornamentation to that found on the Oxford college buildings.

Documents provide fascinating insights: Martin Ackroyd's inventory, alongside his tools, lists his two apprentices as part of his goods. Written agreements between client and craftsmen list the names and crafts involved; daybooks, and diaries such as those kept by preacher Oliver Heywood provide records of payments and details of alterations and other transactions with builders. Most satisfying for a historian and enthusiast like David Cant is when the documentation can be linked to a building that still exists and the actual work that was carried out can be identified. His talk left the audience keen to go out and look for decorated mouldings and carved date stones with fresh eyes.

At the next meeting, on Wednesday 12th February starting at 7.30 at the Methodist Hall Hebden Bridge, George Bowers will look at the history of quarrying and the delvers who risked their lives to get stone in our area. All welcome.

Details from the Local History website

Many thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner

Anne Kirker tells of Sam Hill of Making Place, Soyland Read more (22 Dec)

Local History Talk: A Postcard from Sunny Bunce's, a local destination that became known as the playground of the north. Read more

Withens Reservoir, the subject of the latest Local History Talk, was part of a fascinating story . . . not so much Cragg Vale's reservoir as the property of distant Morley. Read more (19 Nov)

Local History talk on Witchcraft in the Upper Calder Valley: As make-believe witches come knocking on our doors John Billingsley, folklorist and author of many books on the subject, told members of the Local History Society that to our ancestors witchcraft was very real indeed. More info (27 Oct)

Local History talk on Mytholmroyd's Moderna: Joan Laprell spoke to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society where she recalled the village within a village that was the Moderna Blanket Factory in Mytholmroyd, where she worked for ten years. More info (12 Oct)

Local History talk on maps: The first meeting of the new season of lectures for the Hebden Bridge Local History Society was launched by Tony Morris speaking about the history of maps and map-making as well as cartographic crime. More info (30 Sept)

Bridge Mill: History on our doorstep. Justine Wyatt, with the support of the mill's current owner David Fletcher, has uncovered more of the story of the building, and gave a fascinating talk to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. Read more (3 April)

Working from home in 1825; Working from home is not a new concept, Malcolm Heywood told members of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. William Greenwood's described his several different occupations. Read more (20 March)

The Grave of Robin Hood: mysterious goings-on in Calderdale. Kai Roberts told the local history society about Robin Hood in Calderdale and especially the monument known as Robin Hood’s Grave. Read more (11 March)

Todmorden Weavers and the Great War. Alan Fowler, former lecturer in Economic and Social History, told a meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society that the local Weavers’ Association had 4000 members at its peak. Read more (19 Feb)

Our Railway Station in the 19th century. David Taylor told a meeting of the Local History Society about how the early railway developed in Hebden Bridge. Read more (28 Jan)

Untold Stories: A glimpse into the lives of local people - Tony Wright has for the past ten years been collecting personal life stories on film and audio tape. Read more (18 Jan)

City in the Hills - Corinne McDonald and Ann Kilbey told a meeting of the Local History Society of Dawson City, the building of the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs and the publication of a new book. Read more (16 Dec)

Lament for the Mills - Robert Cockcroft, poet and academic told of his childhood spent close to mills owned and operated by his grandfather, John Cockcroft and his father, Keith. Read more (2 Dec)

How much thought do you give to a war memorial? - Mike Edwards told a meeting of the Local History Society, war memorials can be found in many forms and in unusual places. Read more (17 Nov)

Clubhouses: self help and co-operation - A small row of houses in Old Town, called Clubhouses, encapsulates some of the history and spirit of the Calder Valley explains Julie Cockburn. (30 October 2012)

Small Town Saturday Night - The story of a love affair with rock 'n roll at its peak in the 1950s and 60s from speaker Trevor Simpson.

The world of Cornelius Ashworth, speaker Alan Petford, Local History talk of 10 October 2012

Hebden Bridge Local History Society

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