Share this page

Small ads

Widdop and the Shackletons

Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: John Shackleton

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Anyone who has watched 'Who do you think you are' will have marvelled at the exotic journeys embarked on when following the paper trail of records. In John Shackleton's case, they led to the remote hill top settlement of Widdop, where visitors often asked the Water Board ranger who had lived up there 'in the middle of nowhere'.


As he told a packed meeting of Hebden Bridge Local History Society, John knew only a little of the family's story when he embarked on his quest, but he discovered a rich vein of documents in various local archives which helped him to fill in some of the details of the story. The detective work began on the ground with two barns, one of which has since been demolished, which had belonged to one of the farms which made up the hamlet of Widdop.

Census returns showed which of the farms John's ancestor had lived in, and surveys and maps from the Savile archives revealed even more, giving names of tenants and listing the field names and what was grown on this poor ground. These records enabled John to trace his family back to the early seventeenth century. They had stayed put in the small settlement right through till the nineteenth century, subsisting with farming and some weaving.

Archaeology added more detail: low water levels at the reservoir revealed pack horse trails which connected Widdop with the outside world. Close to where John's branch of the Shackletons had farmed were fragments of medieval pots, early glass, evidence of kilns and even a coin from the reign of Charles I.

It is amazing to realise how much documentation can be found when tracing a family history, even when it is based in such a remote corner of West Yorkshire. John has used maps, wills, land surveys, censuses and court rolls to help him put together the jigsaw of his family's past. He has now created a website showing his findings, and helping others in their search.

Any one inspired by John's talk and website to set out on their own voyage of family discovery can get help and advice from the Hebden Bridge History Society Family History Section, which has regular sessions based in the Society's archive at Birchcliffe Centre. Details can be found on the society's website.

On Wednesday 9th December Jill Liddington will be speaking to the society about 'Vanishing for the Vote' – when suffragettes, including some from the Calder Valley, boycotted the census as part of their campaign. Meetings are held in the Hebden Bridge Methodist Church and start at 7.30. Visitors are welcome. Details on the society website

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

The History of Calrec: part 2 with speaker Stephen Jagger (19 Nov 2015)

What's in a Name: with speakers Keith Stansfield and Barbara Atack. An insight into local dialects and surnames of the Calder Valley. (9 Nov 2015)

The Lost Kingdom of Elmet (1 Nov 2015)

When Oxford University Came to Hebden Bridge (29 Oct 2015)

The dam that isn't and the great floating plug of the Colden (1 April 2015)

Gruelling Experiences - in the workhouse (16 March 2015)

Pre-History on our hill tops (9 March 2015)

Growing up in Sowerby (16 February 2015)

Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)

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


More history reports in the HebWeb History Section

Hebden Bridge Local History Society

HebWeb What's On

We try to make sure that information on the Hebden Bridge Web is correct, but if you are aware of any errors or omissions, please email us.

If you have comments on HebWeb News or Features please make a contribution to our Discussion Forum

More News