Smallpox around the Haworth area

I recently was doing some research into Bancroft burials in the Haworth area of Yorkshire, and was stuck by the number of individuals, mainly children, who died from smallpox in the the late 18th century.

Smallpox was an infectious viral disease which was evident for centuries in places with poor sanitation, poverty, and malnutrition. Worldwide millions of poor people died, and there was no cure. By the end of the 18th century the disease was following the natural course, burning itself out on the human population, confining itself to those with the lowest immune capabilities.....young children and the old.

The village of Haworth, as most people know is the home of the Bronte sister, and far from the romantic image that all their writing conjures up, it was in fact a grim place to live in those times.

Haworth main street
Much has been written about the appalling sanitation conditions in the village, before Rev’d, Patrick Bronte managed to get the authorities to do something about it, and these factors obviously had some impact on the mortality rates at that time, particularly amongst children.

Over 40% of children died before attaining the age of six years, and the school records from this time are testament to the poor health of local children with many dying from smallpox, measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever. The average age of death in the village was 25.8 years, which was about the same as in Whitechapel, St.George-in-the-East, and St.Luke, three of the most unhealthy of the London districts.

As the following page from the Haworth burial records shows in September/October 1794, smallpox was rampant in the area around this time. The records for this six week period shows 15 out of the 20 burials in this small village were due to smallpox, and nearly all were young children.

Haworth Burials-1794

Shown near the bottom of this burial records page is the entry for a poor child of 2 years of age, Ann Bancroft, who was the daughter of William and Ann Bancroft.
William and Ann lived in a small isolated farmhouse know as ‘ Old Snap’ which is still there today on the outskirts of Haworth. Just surviving must have been a daily toil for William and his family, due to the rough moorland that surrounded them, were he scratched out a living as a hand loom weaver. I wrote an article about how life was for a hand loom weaver previously, which can be read here.

Old Snap Farm - 2015

William married Ann Binns in 1785 at Haworth Church, even though where they lived was actually in the Keighley Parish area, most marriages around there took place at Haworth, because that was geographically nearer.
They had at least five children, Ann being their fourth child.
William is listed as a weaver in the Craven Muster Rolls of 1803, This was an important historical document produced in 1803, when England declared war against France and the threat of invasion by Napoleon made it necessary to prepare the whole of the active male population of the country between the ages of 17 and 55 for military training, but not military service. The purpose of the lists was to organise reserves of men, not already serving in the military services, who would be required to take on such duties as evacuation of the civilian population, moving food supplies and gathers arms and equipment in the event of an invasion. 

Haworth burial 1823

William seems to have lived his whole life in the area around Old Snap, and died in 1823, and was buried at Haworth Churchyard, as the following parish record shows, written by the hand of Rev’d Patrick Bronte. 

His wife Ann and family seem to have carried on living in the same area, but not at Old Snap, After William's death,  Ann is shown as living nearby at Deanfield as a servant with a farmer called Joseph Heaton…the Heaton family being the large landowners in the area at the time, and the owners of Old Snap farm, which the Bancroft had probably been renting from them.

1841 census

Looking briefly at the history of Smallpox, various methods to find a cure were tried over the centuries which included warming and cooling the body, and using plant and herb mixtures made into an unpleasant jollop, but nothing seemed to be have been an effective cure which meant that only the strong, or lucky survived the disease. Smallpox was the first disease for which a vaccination was tried. It all started with Edward Jenner at the end of the 1700s. who found a vaccine which saved the world from the dreaded smallpox...a disease which had plagued the human race for centuries. Mass inoculation programs were instituted in many countries worldwide, usually backed by the government. The vaccine supposedly immunized people for life.
Edward Jenner
 Edward Jenner was the English "physician" in the late 1700s who took note of an old superstition that milk-maids who got a mild disease known as cowpox supposedly didn't get smallpox. As an experiment, Jenner came up with the idea of drawing serum from an infected cowpox pustule on the skin of an infected milkmaid. He then injected the infected pus into a perfectly healthy person, on the theory that contact with this "milder" disease would allow the subject to develop immunity to the more deadly smallpox, his theory being  that this cow-pox is smallpox of the cow. Therefore, if you give a person cow-pox, it is the same as smallpox, only in a very mild form. And it would not be infectious.
However many people were suspicious of  what side effects, if any, could be suffered from having the cowpox vaccine, and this 1802 cartoon shows the early controversy surrounding Jenner's vaccination theory, suggesting the use of his cowpox-derived smallpox vaccine could cause cattle to emerge from patient's bodies, and titled " The wonderful effects of the new inoculation!"

The vaccination was however very successful, so much so that by 1853, Parliament began passing laws to make the vaccine compulsory throughout the British empire. Other countries of Europe followed suit. It was however, not until 1977 that smallpox disappeared worldwide.

Yorkshire Tyke's Dialect

John & Hettie's wedding  - 1911

I recently met someone who commented on my Yorkshire accent, and as I  have never thought that I have a strong accent said to them “ If you think my accent is strong, you should have heard my Grandparents talking!”

This got me thinking about the old Yorkshire dialect, and how it has largely disappeared from modern day life.

 It is often referred to as broad Yorkshire or Tyke, not to be confused with modern day slang.

 Here are some memories of my Grandparents, John and Hettie Bancroft, who were farmers in Thornton near Bradford, and who  all their life spoke using quite a strong dialect, with words and phrases that you never hear nowadays. As a young child in the 1950’s I remember them using some of the following words and phrases to describe things in everyday life:

“Tha’s cack-handed!” when they saw me trying to use a hammer with my left hand, instead of trying to be right-handed.

“ Is te’ starved?” when they were trying to find out if I was cold….I thought they were asking if I was hungry!

“Fetch coyl in from’t coyl hoyl”….bring some coal in from the coalhouse.

"Its siling darn artside"....Its raining heavily outside

Some of the other words and phrases I remember them saying were:

                                            Allus - always
                                            Appen  -  maybe                                                         
                                            Aye – maybe
                                            Aye up - hello
                                            Backend’ish – autumn time 
                                            Bahn - going
                                            Bah't - without                                          
                                            Be reight – it’ll be alright
                                            Brass – money                                                            
                                            Braying – beating                     
                                            Clout – slap                                                                
                                            Coit – coat                                          
                                            Fair ‘t middlin – somewhere in the middle                      
                                            Fettle – mend              
                                            Fowk – folk/people                                                     
                                            Ginnel – alleyway
                                            Flittin’ – moving house     
                                            Lakin' - playing                                        
                                            Tha'mun - you must
                                            No'but - nothing but
                                            Ow do – how are you                                               
                                            Seethe – do you see
                                            Summat – something                                                   
                                            Watter – water
                                            Wick - lively
                                            Yonder – over there

And a few of their phrases I remember were:

                                     Put wood in’t hoyl – shut the door
                                     Side t’ pots – clear the table
                                     Appy as a pig in muck – very happy
                                     Nother use nor orniment – useless
                                     Were ya born in a barn? – close the door
                                     Stop lakin' a'bart - stop messing about

My grandmother was very fond of a Yorkshire poet called John Hartley [1839-1915], who was from Halifax, and was famous for writing verse in Yorkshire dialect. She left me a book of his most famous poems. Here is one of my favorites…you might have to read it a few times before fully understanding it, as I did….[my computer’s spellchecker just gave up trying to understand it!]

‘I thi’ Gronfayther’s Days 
A’a Johnny! A’a Johnny! Aw’m sooary for thee!
But come thi ways to me, an sit o’ mi knee,
For it’s shockin’ to hearken to th’ words ‘at tha says,
Ther wor nooan sich like things i’ thi gronfayther’s days.

When aw wor a lad, lads wor lads, tha knows then,
But nahdays they owt to be ‘shamed o’ thersen,
For they smook, an’ they drink, an’ get other bad ways,
Things wor different once i’ thi gronfayther’s days.

Aw remember th’ furst day aw went a coortin’ a bit,
An’ walked aght thi gronny, awst niver forget,
For we blushed wol us faces wor all in a blaze,
It wor nooa sin to blush i’ thi’ gronfayther’s days

Ther’s nooa lasses nah, John, ‘at’s fit to be wed,
They’ve false teech i’ ther math, an false hair o’ ther heead,
They’re a make up o’ buckram, an’ waddin’ an’ stays,
But a lass wor a lass i’ thi gronfyther’s days.

At that time a tradesman dealt fairly wi’ th’ poor,
But nah a fair dealer can’t keep open th’ duer,
He’s a fooil if he fails, he’s a scamp if he pays,
Ther wor honest men lived I’ thi gronfayther’s days.

Ther’s chimleys an’ factrys i’ ivery nook nah,
But ther’s varry few ledt ‘at con fodder a caah,
An’ ther’s telegraff poles all o’th edge o’th highways, 
Whear grew bonny green trees i’ thi gronfyther’s days.

 We’re teld to be thankful for blessin’s at’s sent,
An’ aw hooap ‘at th’ll allus be blessed wi’ content, 
Tha mun make th’ best tha con o’ this world wol tha stays,
But aw wish tha’d been born i’ thi gronfyther’s days.

And to finish off on a lighter note, here is the verse most Yorkshire folk are familiar with.
             The Yorkshireman's Motto [with translation!]

'Ear all, see all, say nowt,                          Hear all, see all, say nothing 
Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt,                          Eat all, drink all, pay nothing
Un’ if ivver tha does owt fer nowt,             And if ever you do anything for nothing
Allus do it fer thissen.                               Always do it for yourself

John & Hellie - enjoying a holiday in Blackpool in the 1950's


Do you have memories of family members using the Yorkshire dialect?.... if so please share them in the comments section below.

Worker's revolt in the Mills of Todmorden

Todmorden Mills circa 1900
When you think about the Yorkshire folk who were mill workers in the textile industry in the 19th century, it is usually concerning the wool trade, but there were many mills in Yorkshire that were involved in the cotton trade, an industry which was generally more common in adjoining Lancashire.

This is the story of the three mills which James Bancroft rented, at a time of expansion in the cotton trade in the late 1800’s.....a period in history of great industrial unrest in cotton manufacture, as workers went on strike for better wages and conditions.

 Millstead Mill known  as “Bancrofts Mill” together with Cinderhill Mill and Lob Mill were all in the town of Todmorden,  in the Upper Calder Valley, close to the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, and all  trading as ‘James Bancroft & Co’ at different times between 1890 to 1899.

James Bancroft was born around 1855 in a tiny weavers cottage at ‘Higher Hob Cote’ on the outskirts of Oakworth, Keighley, West Yorkshire. His parents Stephen and Hannah Bancroft brought up a family of thirteen children in this small cottage as a hand-loom weaver. I wrote an article about the difficult existence hand-loom weavers had some time ago, which can be read by clicking here. The family moved over to Burnley in Lancashire when James was a boy, probably because his father Stephen, found work in one of the local cotton mills. James went on to marry a  Frances Davenport of that town around September 1874. The 1881 census shows him living at 139 Abel Street Burnley with his wife and two young daughters, and lists his occupation at that time as a ‘Cotton Clothlooker’ which was an inspector in a cotton mill, in charge of checking finished woven cloth, and who would also remedy slight defects where required.  

1891 census
By the time of the next 1891 census, things had improved somewhat, because this shows them as living at Pickhall Terrace in Todmorden in 1891, with James’s occupation listed as an ‘employer’ and a ‘cotton manufacturer’, trading as James Bancroft & Co.  James and Frances were living alone on the day of the census, with the children listed as visitors at other addresses for some reason.

Millsteads Mill
Looking at James’s cotton manufacturing business at Millsteads Mill during the period between 1890 to 1891.
The earliest known details about the mill are that it was initially built around 1800, and traded under the name of Richard Ingham and Sons. From 1805 it then was occupied by at least four other companies until it became occupied by the Bancrofts 1890 and traded as “James Bancroft and Co” until 1899.
It seems as though James Bancroft only rented space in the mill during his time there because the Stansfield Rate Books of that time list the owner as a Mrs R Ingham, with the mill having a rateable value of £208.

During the Bancroft's time of manufacturing cotton from the mill there was a great deal of industrial unrest with the workers, leading to many strikes and walk outs, as well as much intimidation of the workers who continued to go into the mill during the unrest. The greatest period of unrest seems to have been shortly after James Bancroft took over the running of the mill.

In early 1891 a worker’s strike started which went on for over 24 weeks. The weaver’s  strike pay costing the local worker's union £20 to £30 weekly, whilst the weekly income of the local union was only £14, which must have caused a certain amount of concern amongst the workers and the union as the strike went on for many weeks. Members of the union received, according to the amount of their previous weekly contributions, either 3 shillings, 6 shillings or 9 shillings, with 2 shillings per loom extra, less 2d per loom deducted to form a special relief fund.

The Burnley Express on 7th January 1891 listed the early days of the strike as follows:
 'The strike of weavers at Millstead Mill, Todmorden, occupied by James Bancroft and Co is still unsettled and there are no signs of a settlement. The masters have issued notices asking for experienced workers to apply for the work, and stated that they are paying full price list for the wages. Also guaranteeing 24s a week for weavers who have four looms. The weavers issued a notice in reply asking weavers to keep away from Millsteads Mill during the dispute, and calling upon them not to be mislead by statements made by Bancroft and Co. The weavers also state that if the firm of masters will pay full list prices, they will resume work. A crowded meeting of workers employed by  Bancroft and Co of  Todmorden, was held on Monday evening, when deputations from the Northern Counties Weavers Association, and from Bolton and Todmorden were present, and urged the weavers to go on strike till the masters agreed to pay the fixed standard prices. The result of that is that about 150 weavers struck work yesterday afternoon’.

The following week the newspaper gave the following report, when it optimistically reported that the strike looked to be over, however this turned out to be incorrect:
‘The strike at Bancroft’s Millstead Mill at Todmorden, which had been going on for ten weeks is virtually at an end. Yesterday a meeting of the weavers was held at Castle Street School, when it was resolved to send a deputation to wait upon the employers, in order to try and come to terms. The deputation which consisted of two none members of the union, presented their report to the officials, whereupon it was announced to the meeting that if the masters adhered to the terms offered, the strike would be at an end tomorrow.’

By 21st February 1891 the local press started to report on further unrest within the worker's ranks, as their situation became ever more desperate: 
‘The strike at Bancroft Millstead Mill has now entered its 14th week. There has been some lively proceedings between strikers and the new hands, and it is said that a considerable number of summonses are to be issued regarding this.’
Cotton Mill Strikers

Cases of intimidation then started to appear in the courts. Here is a newspaper report of one such incident:
‘On Monday at Todmorden Police Court, Crabtree Marshall, weaver of Todmorden, was charged with intimidation by the act of following one Roseanna Greenwood to her home. The case arose out of the strike which has been going on at Bancroft’s mill at Todmorden. The complainant came out with other weavers at the mill, and for a time she received strike pay, and then got employment at another mill, whilst still receiving her strike pay. Eventually she went back to her usual employment. These acts seem to have aroused the ire of her fellow strikers, and on the 9th inst. They showed their disproval by forming a procession and accompanying her home, hooting on the way. A great deal of interest was centered in the case, which occupied the magistrates for 9 hours. The bench imposed a fine of 40s and costs, and ordered the defendant to pay 2 guineas towards the prosecutor’s fees. There are several other such cases, which were adjourned till next Thursday.’

The Todmorden Advertiser of 6th March 1891 reported that various workers at Millsteads Mill:
Were charged with assault against weavers in the strike, and later that month allegations of intimidation were made against non-union weavers.’

Finally by 2nd May 1891 the local press were able to report the end of this long strike:
‘The weavers of Bancroft & Co’s  mill at Todmorden have returned to work after a strike lasting 24 weeks. The firm agreed to pay scale wages.’

There seems to be no more reports in the press of strikes at Millsteads Mill, however on 18th April 1894 several thousand pounds worth of damage was caused by a fire at Bancroft’s Mill Todmorden. The fire was covered by insurance. The newspapers reported:
'Destructive fire at the works of Messrs Bancroft & Co. Millsteads Mill, Castle Street, in a portion of the mill known as “Old Building”, doing damage to the goods and machinery.'

The new steam fire engine - 1885
The risk of fire was ever present in cotton mills, due to poor working conditions, oil soaked floors, and the large amounts of flammable materials left lying about. The mill had suffered a similar fire a few years earlier on 30th December 1885, when the local press reported the following story:
‘Great fire at Millsteads Mill, Castle Street, estimated damage over £3,000. The new steam fire engine was employed for the first time. At first, there were doubts whether they were justified before it had been formally accepted and a trial made. The Surveyor, Clerk and one or two other members were appealed to, and ultimately Mr. John Dugdale, Chairman of the Fire Engine Committee, ordered it out.’

 During the 1890’s, whilst renting space at Millsteads Mill, James Bancroft also seemed to be renting space at  two smaller mills in Todmorden for cotton manufacture, and trading at all three  premises as ‘James Bancroft & Co’

Lob Mill

One of the other mills James Bancroft seems to have rented was Lob Mill in Todmorden, between 1893-1897, it having stood empty for several years beforehand when the owner, a John Hodgson, tried to sell it off. The following newspaper advert of 1888 describes the mill and contents in some detail and provides more information about the size of the premises.

'Freehold cotton mill and premises at Lob Mill near Todmorden to be sold by auction on 25th March 1888.
The valuable cotton spinning mill and weaving shed known as Lobb Mill with the steam and water power, shafting, piping, machinery and fixtures therein.
The buildings are well and substantially built of stone, and in good condition, and comprise boiler house, circular stone built chimney, beam engine house, main spinning mill, 5 storeys and attic, about 40 yards by 15 yards with projecting staircase and hoist house. One storey building forming cotton mixing and scutching rooms. Two-storey building forming beam, store and winding-on room. Weaving shed to hold 77 looms, and building forming office and smithy. The steam and water power comprise 2 double-flued steam boilers, 28 feet by 7 feet diameter; splendid beam steam engine compounded on McNaught’s principle with 28” and 24” cylinders, 6 foot stroke; breast water wheel with iron buckets, about 15hp; geared box hoist for 5 storeys, and the whole of the excellent polished shafting, gearing, piping etc throughout.'
The machinery consists of 11,502 mule and throstle spindles and 77 power looms, with full complement of preparing machinery.

Cinderhill Mill
The third mill James  rented space for cotton manufacture was Cinderhill Mill in Todmorden. It was owned in the 1890’s by the Ingham family, a family who owned several mills in the area at that time. A local business directory of 1891 listed James Bancroft & Co, as operating 1000 looms from Millsteads and Cinderhill Mills, which was a sizable operation, and must have employed many workers. Records also show that Cinderhill Mill was partly unused during this period and had a rateable value of £215. After James Bancroft’s occupation, it became an engineering works in 1908, and then converted back to cotton preparation, and was still operating as such until a few years ago.

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of James Bancroft after his time in the Todmorden mills because by the time of the census in 1901, Frances is shown as living at Piccadilly Road, back in her home town of  Burnley, Lancashire, without James present at the address, but still listing herself as ‘married’ and an occupation as ‘Cotton Cloth Salesman’. Her four children, 2 sons and 2 daughters are all still living with her, but there is no sign of her husband James, either here or elsewhere, and no record of his death that I can find.

1901 census
The mystery of James disappearance continues, as by 1911, Frances and three of her four children had moved to Northendene in Cheshire, where Frances is now shown as having 'no occupation' presumably being supported by her family.

1911 census

The interesting fact is that even by 1911, she is still describing herself as ' married for 38 years!' It seems very odd that a man of such standing in the Todmorden mill community as James Bancroft could have just disappeared. If he had in fact died, Frances would surely not have listed herself as 'married' on two consecutive census records.....a bit of a mystery....was his disappearance  linked to all the conflict with his workers?....or did he just go off and start a new life elsewhere....wonder what happened to him?

Growing up wearing Clogs in the 1920’s

 Whilst going through some old family photographs, I remember my father talking about his childhood growing up on the family farm in the 1920’s…spending his formative years wearing clogs, as the rest of his family also did.

Clog wearing appears to have been a common practice even as late as the 1920. It was not just in the northern wool and cotton mills, where many people had memories of hearing the clatter of clogs on cobble streets whilst making their way to work in the mill every morning, as shown in this picture of workers heading to work at Foster's Mill, Denholme for a 6 o'clock start.

 The practice of clog wearing  also happened with farm workers, such as my family, who  were  working in sometimes very wet conditions on the land, and needed footwear that kept their feet warm in winter and cool in summer as clogs did. Clogs also gave some protection to the toes with having metal toe fronts on them. My father never though that wearing clogs was anything out of the ordinary, or a sign of poverty, because everyone at his school or from his background in the farming community wore clogs at the time.

This picture shows my father in the middle front row, with his sister Gladys standing behind him.....note the studs in the bottom of the clogs of the two girls sat to the left of him.

 This picture shows my father, as a small child with his brother, sister and mother Hettie all wearing clogs with metal toe fronts The other lady on the left, whose identity is unknown, looks as though she came visiting them on the farm, as she is dressed somewhat more ‘fashionably’!

  Pictures of my Great-Grandparents, Lister and Jane Watson, taken around the same time show that they too were clog wearers. This wonderful pictures shows him taking a break from haymaking with pipe in mouth and clogs on feet.…..the steel toe fronts are just visible. Jane is suitably dressed with bonnet to protect her from the sun and with the wooden hay rake in her hand.

 Clogs also gave some protection to feet when dealing with farm animals, and the muck and effluent they produce. This picture shows my Grandfather John and his brother, managing a horse, no doubt the clogs would have given some protection against injury, should the horse have decided to stand on their toes!

There are two explanations of the development of the English style clog. They may have evolved from pattens which were slats of wood held in place by thonging or similar strapping. They were usually worn under leather or fabric shoes to raise the wearer's foot above the mud of the unmade road, not to mention commonly dumped human effluent and animal dung. Those too poor to afford shoes wore wood directly against the skin or hosiery, and thus the clog was developed, made of part leather and part wood. Alternatively they have been described as far back as Roman times, possibly earlier
The wearing of clogs in Britain became more visible with the Industrial Revolution, when workers needed strong, cheap footwear. Men and women wore laced and clasped clogs respectively, the fastening clasps being of engraved brass or more commonly steel. Nailed under the sole at toe and heel were clog irons, called calkers or cokers, generally 3/8" wide x 1/4" thick with a groove down the middle to protected the nail heads from wear. The heyday of the clog in Britain was between the 1840s and 1920s and, although traditionally work in Northern England, they were also worn in many other parts of the country.

Harry Greenwood and his shop

miniature clogs
The last clog maker, close to where I live near Keighley in West Yorkshire, was Harry Greenwood shown here standing proudly outside his shop, which was actually a cellar under a house, at Crossroads shortly before he retired in the 1970’s. I remember going to see him with our new born son in 1976, and asking him to make a miniature pair of clog for our son. After selling us the clogs he had just made, I can still remember his parting words which were…"ang on to ‘em lad, the’ll be wo’th summat one day”…We still have them…wonder if they are?

Clogs are still made today in Yorkshire, by a company called Walkley’s of Mytholmroyd near Hebden Bridge, who say they are the" UK's Largest Clog Manufacturer". They have a very informative website about everything concerning clogs, which can be found by clicking here.

The Bancrofts involvement with Scartop Sunday School & Chapel for more than 80 years..

Scar Top Chapel

 I wrote an article some time ago about George Riley Bancroft’s life as a farmer in the Upper Worth Valley, and the hard times he had to endure trying to make a living in the harsh conditions, farming in the Upper Worth Valley near Keighley, which can be read by clicking here.

George, together with various other local individuals, was a trustee of nearby Scar Top Chapel for over 50 years and was appointed on 6th April 1940. When he died in April 2000, his funeral was fittingly held at the Chapel.

George Bancroft and friend

The Chapel , which the Bancrofts were connected with since before George's time, and where many of the local Bancrofts were baptised,has a very interesting history in its own right, which is briefly as follows:

The original Sunday School Building at Scartop was the first chapel erected in the neighbourhood. It was built in 1818 by the local inhabitants, everybody taking part in the work. Farmers led the stone, the outdoor workers got the stone, masons did the building, joiners did their part, and it was erected at little cost as a ‘labour of love’. There is no known description of the original building at Scartop, but we know that a  piece of land, measuring 120 square yards, was purchased 4 May 1818 from a Mr Wright, yeoman, of West House, Oldfield, for six pounds, on a 9,000 years lease, with a peppercorn rent. The land was on a steep hillside, with the Haworth-Colne Turnpike road to the north

The current Scartop Chapel, which is situated alongside Ponden Reservoir, came about when the Trustees agreed to replace the original building with a much larger two storey chapel, including a balcony, in 1868. The laying of the corner stone on February 9th 1869 was celebrated with an open air ceremony which was marred by extremely wet weather and more than 200 people retired to the nearby Ponden Mill for tea. The new school was opened in September 1869.

Scartop Chapel interior

We are fortunate to have a photograph of the new building taken soon after its completion. The area was extensively photographed during the early phase of the construction of Ponden Reservoir. The fabric of the chapel and adjacent cottages have remained largely unchanged over the past 140 years, which is testimony to the skill of the builders and their choice of good workmen and materials.

Newly built Scartop Chapel, with the construction of Ponden Reservoir in the foreground

Scartop was originally built as a nondenominational Sunday School. However soon after it was built the Wesleyan Methodists began to teach at the Sunday School. The Keighley Wesleyan Methodist Circuit were also providing preachers for adult classes, from the mid 1820s, but these groups met mainly in people’s houses, rather than the Sunday School building. The independent, nondenominational, status of the chapel was a subject of heated debate during the rebuilding of the Sunday School in 1869. The inscription stone on the original building from 1818 read

Scar Top Chapel circa 1910

This original inscription stone was broken under controversial circumstances (accident or deliberate...who knows?). Half the Trustees objected strongly when the Building Committee asked for permission to fit a new stone with the inscription “Wesleyan Chapel built 1818; rebuilt 1869”. They objected to any change, other than adding the year it was rebuilt. The issue was not resolved, which is  why the new inscription stone was left blank.

Scar Top Chapel had a popular social aspect within the community, when all its members, sometimes numbering up to 300 individuals, would gather at various times in the summer and the photograph below records on one of these gatherings around 1909. Concerts, Lantern Shows, Sports Days, Sales, Carol Services and Parties  were all part of the local social activities in the area. As well as the Festivals and Annual prize giving concert there were numerous other concerts. Entertainment was provided by the choir, scholars and friends. In the 1920s and 30s a wide range of other concert artists, choirs and bands were hired ,and there were up to six concerts per year. Some of these were annual events, such as at the New Year and others to celebrate special occasions. Many romances between young couples from the surrounding area started at these occasions, known locally as 'copping on ', and this included some of the local Bancroft boys and girls. [see the end of this article.]

This impressive scene, looking west shows Scar Top Chapel  on the sky-line, just above the roof of the mill. Clearly it was an important occasion for the ladies to parade their finery. An Anniversary Service which was held in the open air in June 1909, was reported in the Keighley newspaper as  
‘a larger gathering, with numerous traps and waggonettes from Lancashire giving the day quite an old-time appearance.The usual Festival held last Saturday in August was also a big success, with excellent weather, and friends from near and far assembled.. In the afternoon the teachers, scholars and friends marched from the school to Intake Farm where special hymns were sung, after which Mr. John A Riley generously distributed fruit. Returning by way of of Haggate Nook another halt was made and “lucky packets” were distributed by Mr. William Greenwood. A public tea was then served to 300 people. There was then a series of competitions before an evening meeting with recitations and songs'

Anniversary Service circa 1909
The Anniversaries were still a major event attracting large numbers into the 1950s .Other than in wet weather, the afternoon and evening services were still held outdoors, at nearby Ponden Mill, as shown on the following photograph. Even today the Anniversary Services still take place, but they are now always held indoors.

Both George Bancroft, his family and his parents, John and Mary Bancroft, were all involved in the social side of Scar Top Chapel, as the following picture shows. These Chapel ladies were performing a fund-raising sketch called “Our Trip to Blackpool” on a snowy Saturday night in 1930. It had been preceded by part-songs, solos and recitals, but the ‘Keighley News’ of the time thought this, with its quaint old dresses and Yorkshire dialect, “the tit-bit of the evening”. [Mary Bancroft, George’s mother, is on the front row, first on the right.]

And another concert party night at Scar Top, shows the ladies of the chapel in fine form, looking well dressed in old-time fashions. [Mary Bancroft is standing on the back row 2nd from the left.]

In 1971 it was realised that Scar Top had never been registered as a chapel however, to be registered, it would need to come under Methodist Administration, losing its independence. Also an architect’s plan would have to be submitted, so the matter was dropped. However, Scar Top Sunday School once again became a fully independent nondenominational chapel, in 1974 because the Methodist Circuit informed Scar Top trustees that they would cease to supply Methodist preachers and presumed the chapel would have to close. The trustees were incensed by this announcement, and George Bancroft is on record as saying “we were ‘avin no’an that!”…..The independent nature of the Scartop Chapel folk was once again roused. The Trustees took some pleasure in informing the Methodists that they were in charge of the Chapel’s future, not the Methodist Circuit and that it would not be closing.

It was however not registered as a place of worship until 1997, just before it was also registered for the solemnisation of marriages, and although the numbers attending the Chapel today are small, they had no problem in attracting local preachers who were sympathetic towards Scar Top Sunday School.

The Bancroft connection continues with Scar Top to the present day, as George's son, Adrian, took over as a trustee from his father, and is still connected with the Chapel.

I mentioned earlier in this article, the part Scar Top played in bringing you people together romantically, and to finish this piece here is a couple of nice little stories written by Adrian and June Bancroft, which describes this perfectly.

'There's a little country Chapel that stands beside the road that goes from Haworth over Lancashire
moor to Colne. It's called Scartop Chapel and I have been connected to Scartop all my life. I was christened there, went to Sunday school there, we had our own children christened there and I have been a trustee there for around forty years.Scartop Chapel always holds its anniversary on the second Sunday in June and years ago it was a great social occasion. Weather permitting the services, afternoon and evening, were held in the open air. A stage was built and the preacher, the Sunday School scholars and a brass band were on this.People came from miles around, from into Lancashire, Hebden Bridge, Oxenhope, Haworth, and Keighley, hundreds of them and all the homes in the valley were full of visitors for tea between the services.Scartop Anniversary was also called locally Scartop Charity, and sometimes Scartop Copping-on Charity [a boy meets girl thing]. One Saturday night I took a young lady out on our first date and on the Sunday we met again at Scartop Anniversary. Last Sunday that young lady and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary, so together we chose three of our favourite hymns from Scartop Anniversary hymn sheets and the one has been chosen for us to sing tonight is 'Sweet is the work my God my King'.

Adrian Bancroft 2004

Scartop Chapel Anniversary is often known as Scartop Copping-on Charity and I think I can
safely say that my husband and I 'copt-on' there. One Saturday night many years ago I went on a first date with a lovely young man to Haworth Picture House to see 'An Affair To Remember'. The next day we met up again at Scartop for the outdoor Anniversary services'. A year later we again attended after becoming engaged the previous day. Later that year we held our wedding reception in Scartop Chapel and during the next few years our four daughters were christened there. In those days all the family attended the Anniversary and Harvest Festival services but alas we are the only two from the family to still attend. Sadly in recent years we have said “Goodbye” to many of our family and friends at Scartop Chapel. God willing, later this year, the now not-so-young man and I will celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary. So, thank-you Scartop !

June Bancroft 2009

I am grateful to David Riley, for much of this information about Scar Top Chapel.
David has written a really excellent book entitled “ The Rise and Fall of Methodism in the Upper Worth Valley Yorkshire 1740-2013” which  includes the Scar Top Chapel history....a copy of which is held in Keighley Reference Library.