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Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley

Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: Nigel Smith

Thursday, 5 February 2015

With the scattered hillside settlements and fields stretching to the moors covered in snow, the patterns in the landscape couldn't have been more evident. Librarian/archivist of Hebden Bridge History Society Nigel Smith has studied these patterns and the way settlement and enclosure developed in the valley for some years and was recently awarded a PhD for his work. He told the society how his investigation into the way people had settled and enclosed the land drew on documentary and place-name evidence, but was also strongly rooted in the geography of the area.


Horsehold from Edge End Moor

Of particular importance were the gently sloping terraces of land lying between the 200 - 300 metre contours which had better soil and plentiful springs of water. Place names pointed to a reason for some of the settlements on these hillsides - the local place name ending 'tonstall' probably indicates a site which provided summer pasture for cattle. Place-names with 'hey' and 'shey' (which later became 'shaw') indicated rough grazing or woodland pasture, and often seem to have been shared with different farmers having rights to graze a set number of cows there.

Another characteristic of our local landscape is the large number of dispersed farmsteads and small hamlets. These are typical of a pastoral type of farming. When land was divided between members of the family, we often see two farms close together with shared names such as Upper and Lower or Near and Far. Land-holdings grew as farmers gained permission from the lord of the manor to make new clearances or encroachments which would provide profitable rents.

Nigel cautioned that the shapes of fields is not a good pointer to the age of a settlement - historians have sometimes seen an inverted 's' shape as evidence of a medieval common field system, but some such strips were also created in the nineteenth century. Oval fields were often made from early clearances as the most economical type, but these were still common in nineteenth century enclosures.

Nigel's talk made very effective use of maps which showed vividly how the settlement of our valley developed and pulled together the topographical, place-name and documentary evidence. As well as publishing his findings in an academic book, Nigel has made much of his documentary evidence available on-line. The fully searchable South Pennine History Group website www.southpenninehistorygroup.org.uk  provides a fabulously rich resource for anyone interested in the history of this area.

The next meeting of the Local History Society, at 7.30 on Wednesday 11th February at Hebden Bridge Methodist Hall, will hear Jean Illingworth talking about 'Growing Up in Sowerby', and on 25th February, pre-history specialist David Shepherd takes us 'A long time ago but not that far away'
Details available on www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)

Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)

Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)

Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)

Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)

The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)

Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)

History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)

Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)

Yorkshire Life between the Wars: speaker, Ian Dewhirst. Read more (20 March 2014)

Industrialisation and the Calder Valley: Communities in a unique landscape - Talk by Dr Stephen Caunce Read more (3 March 2014)

Quarrying in Calderdale: George Bowers gave a talk on the history of stone quarries in our local area. Read more (15 Feb)

Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)

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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