HOLT BROTHERS OF SOURHALL
Holt family originated in the Sourhall area of Todmorden and the
earliest mentioned is Thomas Holt who was born c1744 and who married
Ann Butterworth. Ann was the daughter John Butterworth of Rawsonfield
and Ann had many children, amongst them were Thomas, known as
Tum, and John, whose nickname was Joan. They both lived at Woodshade
and Dobroyd yard and both lived to be old men.
son was Martin Holt who, when he was a child, went to live with
his grandparents, the Butterworths, at one of the ALLESCHOLES FARMS, which they owned and occupied. Martin had learned to weave
and he lived with his grandparents until he was about 14 years
old. He married Mary Fielden, one of the Inchfield Fieldens, and
they had about ten children, not all of them surviving to adulthood.
1841, Martin and his family are living at High Barn, Sourhall:
died in 1853 and is buried in St. Mary's with 3 of their children.
to the memory of Sarah, daughter of Martin and Mary Holt of
who died November 23 1822 aged 7 mth.
of Peter their son who died November 19th 1829 aged 4 years.
Fielden their son who died December 3 1851 aged 37 years.
of Mary wife of Martin who died March 30th 1853 aged 68 years.
died in 1865 and is buried at Cloughfoot Chapel.
memory of Martin Holt of Sourhall
who died April 2nd 1865
aged 84 years.
Also of Ann wife of James Holt of Lanehead,
Bacup who died Dec 9th 1874
aged 67 years.
Also of the above
who died Sept. 14th 1875 aged 70 years.
of Crossley Holt of 8, Holt St., Whitworth
who died December
aged 75 years.
of their sons left behind the rugged life of hill top farmers,
developing an interest in improving and making pickers for the
cotton trade. They were James, Thomas, William, John, Martin
married Ann Crossley in 1826 at St. Chad's, Rochdale and in 1841,
they were living at Birks Hall, Walsden. He was a picker maker
with eight children. He
continued as a picker maker and lived at Stoneswood Bottoms, Dulesgate,
in 1851 with his ten surviving children. In all, he and Ann had
twelve children all born before 1849.
moved to Lanehead in Newchurch in the early 1860's and lived next
door to his brother Martin for a time. Both were picker makers. This
is where he died in 1875 and he is buried at Cloughfoot Chapel
along with his wife, a son, and his father.
born in 1806, married a girl called Rachel. She could have been
Rachel Firth, but this is not definite. In 1841 they are at Todmorden
Edge with three daughters. By 1861 they are at Sourhall with 4
children. Thomas is recorded as being a Cotton Manufacturer, Picker
maker, and Farmer of 17 acres.
He died in 1867 aged 61, in a sudden manner. On the 1st. November
1867 he had left his home at Mount Pleasant, Todmorden, in order
to travel to Warrington on business. He was in good health as
he left, and caught the train to Manchester where he met up with
Robert Scholfield, also from Todmorden. They travelled on together
and as they reached Middleton Junction Railway Station, Thomas
started to feel unwell and was taken to the station waiting room
where he died shortly afterwards. He is buried at Christ Church,
Todmorden with his wife Rachel, who had died a year earlier in
married SALLY MILLS in 1835. Things got off to a poor start right
from the beginning. Whilst celebrating their wedding with the
usual spree, which would last several days as was the custom in
those days, on the second day, a few of the revellers met at James
Pearson's, Hollins Inn in Walsden, to have a bit of a "do".
unfortunately broke his leg and three months later he cut off
the thumb on his left hand. The swelling was a terrible sight
and John must have been in great pain, only Owd Sally Fielden
could ease it with one of her own remedies.
and Sally lived in very poor circumstances at that time, only
having one room in the house, with a bed in one corner and a hand
loom in the other on which Sally would try to alleviate some of
the poverty by using it to do some weaving, whilst her husband
would do the best he could at farming. Hens roosted behind the
door and there was no chamber. Not very pleasant conditions, but
probably better than lots of people at that time. At least they
had a roof over their heads.
1841 he and Sally are at Todmorden Edge and he is a farmer.
From the details of their life described above, the profession
of farming isn't, as we understand it today, a good and
relatively middle class occupation. He would barely scratch
a living out of the poor soil and perhaps kept a cow and
the hens, which would only be enough to supplement their
own meagre diet.
circumstances began to improve and he set up a picker making business
with his older brother, Thomas, at PEEL MILL SOURHALL, shown
here about 1900.
The right of the building was the mill and the upstairs
was used for weaving, whilst the picker-making would be
housed below. Handloom weavers would probably inhabit the
three cottages and it's possible that John and Sally lived
in one of them.
and John prospered in their venture and even reached a stage whereby
they could afford to make their own gas, which they supplied to
the three adjoining cottages and four more.
years later Peel Mill was sold and turned into the SOURHALL ISOLATION HOSPITAL. The
cottages are now private dwellings and there are five,
the mill having been converted into two.
commercial venture profited but ill health continued to dog him
until he died aged 53 in 1865 and he is buried at Clough Foot
Chapel with Sally and her second husband.
loving memory of John Holt of Sourhall
who died 27 April
1865 aged 53 years.
my passing spirit fled. Sustained by grace divine. Oh may
such grace on me be shed And make my end like thine.
of John Haworth of Sourhall
who died December 18th 1876
in the 63rd year of his age.
dear partner life is past. I loved you dearly to the last.
Mourn not for me nor sorrow take. But love my saviour for
my sake. Oh some times think of me and come Unto the quiet
spot, where I now slumber long and still. But oh not quite
of Sally Haworth of Sourhall who died October 15th 1905
in her 94th year. Widow of the above.
the day break and the shadows flee away
William was born in 1810 at Sourhall, and when he was a lad, he
was a bobbin winder for the hand weavers and later became a hand
weaver himself for many years.
was a bashful sort of lad, but he was healthy and robust, mainly
due to his staple diet of milk and porridge. He lost most of his
bashfulness as he grew older and he took up singing, when he discovered
that he had a good voice, and he enjoyed the pleasure it gave
him, which was to last well into old age.
he was still considered a young man, steam power looms were started
at the Waterside Mill by the Fieldens and he got taken on there
as a warp winder on. This was his first venture into the village
and having been used to the life of the isolated moor tops, it
opened up a new world to him. He joined in the gossip and chatter
of village life and gradually got used to being around folk most
of the day.
worked hard, mostly 12 hours a day, and sometimes more. Not content
with this he took up the practice of clogging as a hobby. He made
basic clogs for himself and word gradually got round that he would
make clogs for nothing. The folk of the village thought they were
doing him a favour by providing him with the means of learning
the cloggers art and never offered to pay him for the finished
goods. He would provide the leather, nails and raw materials needed
and soon realised that he was being taken for a mug and was out
of pocket, with what after all was only a hobby. He gave up clog
making and turned his talents to picker making, as a new sort
of picker was needed for the power looms.
that time, pickers were made from a three-forked stick of hazel,
holly, birch, wicken or owler, and the only tool needed was a
penknife to bore the holes. The Fielden family were also engaged
in this trade and they were relatives of the Holts. In fact it
was William's uncle, Jimmy Fielden, who made the first hand picker.
Both sets of families have been involved in the picker making
trade for many years and have progressed as more new developments
have been needed.
was credited with inventing the first iron press, which would
squeeze the parts into form for a power loom picker. He made the
patterns and fitted the castings together and was very successful
in his work.
little time off that William got off from his work; he would go
to St. Mary's as he had joined the choir in an amateur capacity.
He would turn his hand to help at the church in any way that he
could and he sometimes found himself digging graves and at other
times he would toll the bell. Whatever needed doing, he would
always be happy to oblige.
began to court a girl who was the daughter of the clerk and was
also in the choir, and who lived at Shepherds Hall. He still had
the remains of his bashfulness left and he found it very hard
to tell her how he felt about her. At night he would walk from
his home, over to just below Pexhouse Farm, from where he could
see her house, and he would sit and watch the smoke rise from
the chimney. When he was satisfied that she was safe, he would
return home, happy in the knowledge that his sweetheart was safely
abed and he would sleep soundly, no doubt dreaming pleasant dreams.
far as William was concerned, she was the one for him and he thought
that she felt the same way about him. He should have told her
his thoughts and not kept silent as it was to end up breaking
his heart. One day, as he was walking near her house, he saw her
with another lad, and realised that she was keeping company with
him. William cursed himself for not being more forthright and
wished he had told her long ago how he felt about her. Nothing
could be done and William vowed that he would never let a chance
like that slip through his fingers again.
was a changed man. He gave up singing and acquired the nickname
of Merry One, no doubt because he earned it in some way. He started
to court another woman, Martha Newell, and this time he didn't
let anything go to chance and they soon married. She died after
a few years and William was married again to Mary Law of Stones.
She also died, leaving him a widower, which he stayed for the
rest of his life.
had taken up singing again and was always cheerful and a welcome
guest in the homes of his many friends, where he would entertain
them with songs such as "Come Hither my Dutiful son, and take
this good counsel of mine".
he was 80, he was honoured at a supper party at the Navigation
Inn, Gauxholme, which 20 guests attended. To say that he
had sold off his tools 30 years earlier, as he didn't expect
to live, he didn't do bad to have reached 80. The
NAVIGATION INN is shown here as a private dwelling in 2004 |
the supper table was cleared, Mr. John Travis was chosen as the
chairman and gave the toast to the health of Mr. Holt. Mr. Samuel
Fielden of Woodbottom gave a recitation and then Mr. Holt sang "My five and twenty, and never an offer". The party got
lively with all the guests giving their own particular party piece
and then by special request, William sang, "Come hither my
affair ended a little after ten and all went home, happy and contented
that William had been given a good birthday party.
died at his daughter's house on 23 January 1893.
is recorded in the "History of Todmorden" that Martin Holt founded
the Perseverance Mill at Eastwood in 1854, but by the 1860's he
and his brother James had moved to Lanehead, Newchurch, living
next door to each other. Both worked as picker makers. Martin
had moved to Dulesgate in Walsden by 1866 and was living at Spring
Cottages where he opened a picker making works at FRITHS MILL
and his family were living at Spring Cottages in 1871, which is
next to the mill. He employed two men and one boy at his works.
These employees appear to be his 18 year old son, Fielden Holt,
Young Helliwell, 12, who lives with his parents at Frithswood
and the third man is Christopher Smith, aged 30, also at Frithswood.
was married to Elizabeth Feber and in 1881, they were still living
at Spring Cottage, Dulesgate, with three children, one of who,
John, was to carry on with the mill at Eastwood into the twentieth
century. Martin was said to employ five men and four boys at that
time. Two sons of his sons, Fielden aged 28, married with three
children and his younger son John aged 15, were two of the employees
along with John Sutcliffe aged 30, and the perennial Young Helliwell.
They all lived in a row at Frithswood Bottom near the mill. That
same year, 1881, Martin handed over the works to the man who had
worked there all his life, Young Helliwell.
Mill undertook the whole process of making pickers through
every stage, even the tanning of the buffalo hide. The
mill is still standing although it was burned down and rebuilt,
possibly in 1895.
1891, Martin had moved on from Friths Old Mill and now lived at
Avon Villa, Adelaide Street, a widower. His unmarried daughter,
Ada was still at home aged 17. No doubt, she would be looking
after her father who was 63.
son John has married Betty Crossley by 1888, and in 1891 is living
at Cockden and has seemingly taken over the running of the Perseverance
Mill. This mill would undertake the whole process of making pickers
through every stage, even the tanning of the buffalo hide. He
is still at Cockden ten years later and he and Betty have a daughter
Gladys. In May 1913, John and Betty
celebrated their silver wedding by giving the whole workforce
of the mill a four- day visit to London. They were presented,
in turn, with a silver rose bowl, suitably inscribed from their
and Elizabeth had another son who they named Fielden.
He and father Martin fell out and Fielden went on to establish
his own picker making business at Shade in Todmorden, known
as Fielden Holt & Sons, SHADE MILL.
father left him nothing in his will, declaring: "My son
Fielden Holt has been excluded from the trusts of my will in as
much as he has during my life time enjoyed certain pecuniary benefits
derived from my estate."
married Emma Sutcliffe and they had 7 children, four daughters
and three sons who followed him in to the picker making business.
Arthur Holt married Maudetta Gaukroger and they had 3 daughters.
Walter married Annie Sunderland and had no children. Fred married
Emily Cockroft and had 2 children, Clifford and Edith Annie. Clifford
carried on in the business until the mill was purchased under
a Council Compulsory Purchase Order in the early 1960's. He was
the last of the Holts to be involved in picker making. Fielden
died in 1927 and is buried at Cloughfoot with his wife Emma who
died in 1931.
was born around 1817 and was married to Grace Greenwood of Gate
Bottom. In 1841 he and Grace were living at Speak Edge and Samuel
was following the family profession of picker making. They had
3 children under 4 at the time. It would seem that at some time
before 1859 they moved to Bacup. A son, Ephraim, was born there
in that year. They then had a daughter, Kate, who was born at
Halifax in 1867, so obviously they travelled around for a while.
In 1881 they are at Dale Street in Newchurch, and Samuel is still
a picker maker.
name of Holt lives on with the name of Martin Holt Ltd. in large
white lettering on the wall of the mill as you pass between Todmorden
and Hebden Bridge. Tribute to a Todmorden, family, who worked
their way up from the moor tops of Sourhall and whose mill still
stands as testimony to their hard work.
photo of the cottages at Sourhall about 1900 by kind permission
of Roger Birch
photos of Fielden Holt and his factory, and information on him
and his family, kindly provided by Sally Hinchliffe