the greater part of his life William was known as "Toys",
then "Old Toys", and this nickname stayed with his
descendents for over 100 years. Rumour has it that he obtained
the name following a disastrous journey to Halifax. He had
been sent there to pick up a cartload of toys for the forthcoming
Todmorden Fair. On the return journey he called at one pub
too many and, being so drunk, he fell on the toys or some
other nasty accident happened that on arrival back in Walsden
all the toys were broken. Henceforth, he was William Toys.
June 28th. 1822, William's boss, Bell Parkin, met a tragic
death. He was returning from a trip to the Manchester Corn
Exchange riding his horse past Firwood on Inchfield Pasture
when he was bludgeoned from behind by an unknown assailant.
He fell from his horse and died. William then took up the
occupation of handloom weaving and moved his family to KNOWSLEY COTTAGE at Inchfield. This was lucrative work at that time,
Knowsley was a pleasant place, and life would have been good
for the family. They raised 7 sons and a daughter there. The
house was a low, squat building with a considerable area of
land, which William began to cultivate. Knowsley is quite
isolated even now.
Cottage in 1906
1840 or so, a group of his friends met and decided to set
him up. They met at the Hollins Inn where they devised a plot
to catch him selling his home brewed ale at his house, a thing
he was known for doing and which was illegal without an excise
licence. His ale was known as "hol'd thi tong".
A man was sent up to Knowsley to call for a pint of this ale.
Scroggy supplied the man with his ale but because he was an
old acquaintance she refused to take his money. William apparently
was not around at the time; he was weaving in his shop. The
man supped up and left, leaving two pence on the table.
afterwards William was summonsed to appear before the magistrates
at Todmorden Petty Sessions held at the WHITE HART INN. The whole
plot had been concocted at the Hollins Inn where the landlord,
James Pearson, and several other friends, were in on the game.
James and the others were all present in the Court when William
appeared charged with selling ale by retail without a licence.
The witness was called and he told his story of how he had
called for a pint and had been served and had paid for it.
William denied this saying he was weaving in his shop and
it must have been Scroggy who gave him the pint because he
The presiding magistrate, Mr. John Crossley of SCAITCLIFFE HALL, suggested that "Scroggy" must be fetched.
William would not hear of this and, having once been a hand
weaver for Mr. Crossley's father-in-law, Mr. Ramsbottom, at
once said back "Aye, fotch Old Rom's lass!" Everyone present in the Court now had smiles on
their faces and William's spirit of retaliation was roused.
There were whispered words of a very serious case, head shaking
and knowing looks, but William stood his ground until the
conversations were over, whereupon he was fined one shilling
plus expenses. William said he would pay nothing so his friends
paid up as they had enjoyed the proceedings, and afterwards
they took him back to the Hollins Inn where they had a few
drinks and a good feast . William took it
well and called them a lot of devils but felt no guilt at
drinking at their expense.
William and Betty had 8 children, one daughter and seven sons, although their sixth son, Richard, died at Knowsley aged 20. Sons Henry and Robert married local girls and remained in Walsden. Daughter Hannah went to live with William's brother Thomas who was long-term landlord of the Grapes Inn on John Street, Ancoats in Manchester. She married late in life and ended her days in Fairfield near Buxton, Derbyshire. Son Thomas went back to his father's roots in Wadsworth, whilst son John moved to Oldham. The whereabouts of their remaining sons, James and William, is yet to be discovered.
tried his hand at various occupations including that of matchmaker,
and in his later years he also did garden work for his friends
and neighbours. In those days ordinary matches were not in
common use. Men used various methods of lighting their pipes
but needed a fire as a starting point. When the men were out
walking, a common event, they had to knock on doors to find
a light for their pipes. It was only about 1835 when a local
man visited Ashton under Lyne and whilst there found and purchased
a box of matches for 6d. The matches were pieces of flat stiff
paper with the red tip and had to be drawn sharply between
pieces of doubled up sandpaper. Shortly afterwards these matches
became available in Todmorden and were later made of wood.
By 1841, William's wealthy brother John had died and left him a small annuity to supplement his casual earnings as a gardener and handloom weaver. He was well respected amongst the inhabitants of Walsden, known for his good humour and sound judgement. The Walsden cotton manufacturers sought him out to ask this and that, and always provided him with a jug of ale as recompense for his advice.
Toys and Scroggy lived into old age at Knowsley, surrounded
by sons Robert and Henry and their families. They died within 12 months
of each other and are buried at St. Peter's Church in Walsden.
William died of degeneration, presumably old age, and Betty
of dropsy. Neither was receiving medical attention before
their deaths. They had been married for 55 years.
100 years after the death of William, my father, who was his
great great grandson, was
known in Walsden as Toys.
never knew why.