CROWTHER OF HOWROYD
was a cluster of 4 small tenanted farmhouses and a couple of cottages.
The largest of the farms had just 35 acres. The dwellings were grouped
together, each with its own separate area of land. More often than
not, members of the same extended family would occupy the dwellings.
location high up on the hill above the Dulesgate Valley made
access difficult for all but the hardy. A winding track climbs
the hillside from the valley bottom at Cloughfoot, passes
Gorpley Farm, eventually arriving at Howroyd and then on to
another farm at Shepherds Tent. With only sheep for company,
the inhabitants faced a trek down hill to Cloughfoot for provisions
1900, Todmorden Corporation purchased the whole of Howroyd and part
of Gorpley for £5,900 in order to build a new reservoir and
water treatment works with which to supply fresh water to the town.
Gorpley Farm is still inhabited, Howroyd now lies in ruins.
There is a modern house on the site, which overlooks the reservoir.
However, the ruins of the buildings are still evident, forming
part of the garden of the modern house.
1779, Philip Crowther from Midgelden Farm and Betty Barker married
and settled to life at one of the farms at Howroyd. Their six children
were born there, including Philip junior in 1784. Neighbours at
that time were William and Agnes Haigh. Betty Crowther died in 1793,
but Philip plodded on at the farm with his surviving family of 4
sons and a daughter, the oldest child aged 11 and the youngest just
2 years old. No doubt he had help from Agnes Haigh and the other
neighbours in the hamlet.
1796, his father died at Midgelden and his widow Susan moved
to Howroyd, joined in 1800 by his brother Eli and family,
and in 1803 by his brother Joshua and family. Help was complete
in 1805 when Philip married again. His new wife was widow
Susannah Fielden, the sister of his neighbour William Haigh.
Philip junior, born and brought up on the farm, was unsettled by
the loss of his mother when he was just 9 years old and the thought
of a bleak future working a small farm. When still a very young
man, he enlisted as a foot soldier in the army and was placed under
the command of Lord Rowland Hill. He was sent off to fight in the
Peninsular War in Spain, where he apparently survived about 20 fierce
battles. He then served a period of time in Ireland before being
discharged on a pension at the end of his term.
happened to be in Clonmel, County Tipperary on his discharge, where
he met a local girl by the name of Catherine O'Neal. Philip was
a tall man, if a little portly, and blessed with good looks. Catherine
fell for his genial charm and married him. He took her home to Todmorden.
At that time, his father and stepmother were still at Howroyd, and
maybe it was to Howroyd where he headed first with Catherine.
his noted intelligence, Philip failed to anticipate the reception
his wife might receive from not only local folk but also his own
family. She was an Irish woman, and not only Irish but also a Roman
Catholic. Local people were wary of outsiders and, along with the
rest of England, held a distrust of the Irish probably as a direct
of the 1798 Irish rebellion. National propaganda had lampooned the
Irish as an inferior race and the uneducated rural folk of Todmorden
and Walsden would have believed it. Many years later, Philip's grandson
told how his grandmother was refused admittance to her in-law's
home, even to the extent of being kicked whilst she was pregnant.
didn't stay at Howroyd but moved across the county border to the
Yorkshire side of the town, where they settled in Stansfield. Philip
was a shoemaker, and may well have learnt this trade whilst in the
army. In 1818, their first son, Philip, was born, followed by Edward
in 1820 and John on 29th January 1822. Catherine
continued to receive harsh treatment, which drove the family back
over the county border to the hamlet of Gauxholme, where Philip
practiced his trade for the next few years.
William was born in Gauxholme on 14 February 1824, and sadly, 4-year-old
Edward died there the same year. Another son, Eli, was born in 1826.
The young boys, Philip, John, William and Eli suffered taunts and
bullying at the hands of the other lads of the area and were looked
down on because they were considered to be half Irish. The boys
had to fight their way out of trouble, and with no help forthcoming
from the Crowther family, Philip was forced to defend his family.
He decided they should make a fresh start in another town.
packed their bags and headed out of Todmorden to Chadderton in the
Parish of Oldham. However, Philip was unable to find work in Chadderton
and was obliged to claim relief from the Parish in order to support
his family. They now had another child, a girl named Elizabeth.
The rules on claiming financial relief in those days were harsh,
and a claimant had to prove he had a right of settlement within
the parish or township. (More about parish relief can be read HERE).
would need to satisfy one of the following conditions before being
allowed any financial assistance:
he was born in the township of legally settled parents
he rented property in the township worth at least £10 a
year, or paid taxes on such property
he held a Parish Office
he had been hired by a legally settled inhabitant for a continuous
period of 365 days
he had served a full apprenticeship to a legally settled man for
the full seven years
he had been granted relief previously
seems evident that none of these conditions could be satisfied,
and therefore Philip was summonsed to appear before the Magistrates
at the Midsummer Quarter Sessions of 1831 to argue his case. The
Magistrates decided Philip was not legally settled in Chadderton
but was legally settled in Stansfield, where he had settled with
Catherine after returning from Ireland. The family was told that
if they had insufficient money to support themselves, they must
return to Stansfield and make a claim there. The Removal Order states:
the overseers of the poor of the Township of Chadderton in the
County of Lancaster.
you have made complaint unto us whose names are herein set and
seals affixed, being two of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace
in and for the said county, that Philip Crowther and Catherine
his wife, and Philip aged 14 years, John aged nine years, William
aged six years, Ely aged 4 years and Elizabeth aged eight months,
their children, hath come to inhabit in your township not having
gained a legal settlement there . and the said Philip Crowther
and Catherine his wife and their said children have become actually
chargeable to your said township.
the said Justices, upon due proof made thereof upon oath, and
likewise upon due consideration, do adjudge the same to be true,
and we likewise adjudge that the lawful settlement of them is
in the Parish, Township or place of Stansfield in the West Riding
of the County of York.
do therefore require you, the said overseers of the poor, to convey
the said Philip Crowther and Catherine his wife and their said
children from and out of your township to the township of Stansfield,
and then together with this our Order, to deliver to the overseers
of the poor there, who are also hereby required to receive and
provide for them according to law . "
in the summer of 1831, with four sons and eight month old Elizabeth
in tow, Philip and Catherine returned to Todmorden. There they remained
for a couple of years. Their last child, Edwin was born 16 November
1833 in Stansfield. Not long after his birth, Philip uprooted and
moved his family for the last time. They settled in the Knowlwood
district of Walsden and Philip set up business in his old trade
as a shoemaker. He taught his son John the trade, and life carried
on much as normal for the family. Catherine was tolerated, but never
befriended, and the boys continued to be victims of racial abuse.
Despite this, Philip was well liked amongst his fellow men. He enjoyed
a drink of ale with his mates, and was always friendly and genial.
this period, the railway was being constructed between Manchester
and Leeds. The line from Manchester ended at Littleborough and was
completed in 1839, whilst the line from Leeds ended at Walsden.
The gap between the two had caused problems because of the height
of the land and the narrowness of the valley bottom between Littleborough
was only one way to connect the two lines, and that was by
means of a tunnel, to be cut right through the rocky hillside.
The first brick was laid in 1838, and work began in earnest.
A workforce of 1,000 men was needed, and to accommodate these
men, shanty towns sprang up all along the hillsides, with
plenty of beer houses to quench the thirst of the rough and
ready navies. The tunnel was completed and the whole line
opened for traffic on 1st March 1841.
to the tunnel
was entitled to a pension from the Army, and on a certain Monday
every quarter, he and Catherine would walk from Walsden to Rochdale
to collect it. The walk took them over the Summit Pass and through
several of the shanty towns and chaotic building sites. Some time
between 1838 and 1840, Philip and Catherine set off on one of these
journeys. They reached Rochdale and were passing over the summit
on their way home when Philip decided to stop for a few jars of
ale. He told Catherine to walk on ahead and he would catch her up.
She arrived home but he hadn't caught her up, and she never saw
the best efforts of all concerned, a body was never found. Many
of the local folk searched high and low for him. The canal was searched
and all the land around, but there was no sign of Philip, dead or
alive. Some twenty years later, a dying man who had been involved
in disposing of earth taken out of the tunnel below confessed that
he and another had robbed and killed Philip for the pension money
he had on his person. They threw his body on the dump and unloaded
a cart full of earth on top of his body.
Catherine. Her life in England had been terrible, and now she was
left a virtual widow with young children to support. She had no
idea whether Philip was alive or dead, although had to presume the
latter. Making matters worse for her, her eldest son, Philip junior,
died in February 1840 aged just 22. He died of synochus, a type
of fever, and his mother was present at his death. Her next oldest
surviving son, John, left home whilst still a very young man to
pursue a living as a shoemaker like his father. He moved across
the valley to Dobroyd. Sons William and Ely worked on the quarry
at Knowlwood near their home as stone masons, whilst Elizabeth and
Edwin were too young to work. Catherine died at Knowlwood aged 52
in 1844, leaving her children to fend for themselves . but what
became of them?
mentioned above, John became a shoemaker. On 14 April 1843 at St.
Chad's in Rochdale, he married Ruth Fielden, daughter of Joshua
and Hannah. They settled at Dobroyd and by 1848 had two children,
Philip and George. On 2nd April 1848, with his wife pregnant for a third time, John left home for America. He said he was going to find a better life for the family, and promised he would either send for them or return within a year. Their daughter Hannah was born during this year.
John did write for a while, and at one time he sent some money to Ruth and asked her to join him. he then wrote again telling her not to go. That was the last time she heard from him.
kind permission of Howard Browne
changed his name to John Philip Crother, went through a bigamous
marriage to Maria Hodkin from Derbyshire in 1852 and lived
first in Michigan, then New York, and then settled in Nemaha,
Nebraska. He worked as a boot, shoe and harness maker and
raised five more children. A sixth child, Emma, died in 1860
aged 4. John was clearly successful in business judging by
the value of his real and personal estate as declared on the
1870 census return - a total of $5,500. His children were
William Henry (1852), Priscilla Jane (1859), John Edwin (1861),
Anna Bertha (1863) and Oliver Charles (1873).
kind permission of Howard Browne
granddaughter Elizabeth recalls that he was so homesick that he
would play "Rule Britannia" on his flute with tears streaming
down his face. He threw himself in to local politics, becoming a
J.P. in 1859. A gazetteer of the time records:
"When he came to Nemaha City, not one hundred acres of
land were broken in the precinct, it being a sort of a bubble
town, populated by claim-holders who were soon after compelled
to move their frail shanties, then composing Nemaha City, out
upon their claims, which operation laid the foundation for the
present prosperity of Nemaha. Mr. C. has been Justice of the Peace
most of the time since 1859; was in the Territorial House of 1861-62-63.
He has been a Republican ever since the party was organized. He
and his family are members of the Episcopal Church. No pioneer
of Nemaha County is more familiar with its history, or has taken
more pride in its progress, than has Squire Crother".
Episcopal Church in Nemaha
kind permission of Howard Browne
Ruth continued to support her children by opening a shop at Dobroyd and selling sweets,
fruit and confectionery. It is clear from future events that her husband kept in
touch with his brothers back home in Todmorden as at some point
between 1851 and 1860 two of them went to join him, taking Ruth's
eldest son, 17 year old Philip, with them. How devastated she must
In May 1860, Ruth filed for a protection order under the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act - the first person in Todmorden to do this. During the hearing, Ruth told the court she hadn't heard from her husband in nine years but her son, who had also gone to America, had seen him but would not tell her where he was. All she knew was that he was a Justice of the Peace. This caused great laughter in the Todmorden court room. Ruth explained she had managed to furnish her house and save a small sum of money and wished to have it protected from her husband.
paddled on at Dobroyd with help from her remaining children,
George and Hannah, plus Hannah's husband Arthur Hirst. George
earned his living as labourer, whilst Hannah became a school
mistress. When Ruth retired, they all went to live on Industrial
Street in Todmorden. Ruth died at 13 Industrial Street in
1899 aged 79, and George died unmarried at the same address
a year later. They are buried together at Christ Church in
son, Philip, settled first in New York with his uncles William and
Edwin, working as a gilder. Not surprisingly for a young member
of this dysfunctional family, Philip was unsettled and unhappy with
life. His mother was thousands of miles away and his father had
a new family. He tried to enlist in the American Army but was rejected
by the United States Examining Surgeon. Not to be thwarted, he returned
to England and joined the British Army. He was assigned to the East
Indian Army serving three years in India and gaining promotion to
Lance Sergeant. Whilst stationed at Patna, he deserted and made
his way to Calcutta, boarded an American ship and worked his passage
to Boston. From there, he made his way to Nemaha to meet up with
his long lost father.
1873, Philip married Carrie Elizabeth Fisher in Nemaha and at last
settled to a normal life. He became a school teacher like his sister
in Todmorden and went on to hold office as County Superintendent
of Schools in 1877, serving four years in this post. Following that,
in 1882, he was appointed Postmaster of Nemaha City. He attributed
his settled way of life to his beloved wife and children, but tragedy
was to follow when three of his little daughters, Helen (6), Ruth
(4) and Mary (1) died in the same month, February 1880. Philip died
in 1925 in Santa Barbara, California.
father, John Crowther, otherwise known as John Philip Crother, died
in Nebraska in 1890. Six days before his death he made a will leaving
the whole of his estate to his bigamous wife Maria for her lifetime
and then to his children by Maria in equal shares. There was nothing
for Ruth or their three children, despite his oldest son Philip
being a near neighbour in Nemaha.
the death of his mother Catherine, William met and married Priscilla
from Rotherham in Yorkshire. In 1851 they were living near Sheffield
where he was a stonemason. Some time between then and 1860, William
and Priscilla together with his brother Edwin and nephew Philip
set sail for North America to meet up with their brother John. They
ended up in New York where William carried on working as a stonemason.
They remained in New York until after 1870, later moving to Nemaha
in Nebraska near to his brother John, which is where William died
in 1874. William and Priscilla were childless. Following William's
death, Priscilla married George Hodkin who was the brother of Maria,
John Philip's wife.
it seems, never married. His trade was that of stonemason,
but, like his father before him, he joined the army. In 1851
at the age of 24 he is to be found stationed at the Royal
Artillery Barracks in Woolwich. By 1861 he is discharged and
living at the Weavers Arms in Todmorden.
Eli was a rogue and petty criminal, well known to the police. One of his many misdemeanours was reported in the press as follows:
The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), Tuesday, April 16, 1861; Issue 7251
On Friday at noon, Eli Crowther, stonemason of Todmorden, who is well known to the police, was charged at the Magistrates Office with having on Thursday wilfully and maliciously cut and damaged a crane rope used for the purpose of hoisting up “Steeple Jack” who was at the time repairing the chimney of the mill belonging to Messrs. Pickles of Shade. It appears that the prisoner was in the employ of Sutcliffe Greenwood, who had for some reason discharged him, and Greenwood being the contractor for the repairs, the prisoner cut the rope from a feeling of revenge upon Greenwood. He was committed to the New Bailey for 2 months hard labour.
In 1871, he is lodging
with a family in Langfield, still working in the stone trade. Eli died at Dobroyd in 1880, possibly at the home of his sister-in-law
Ruth. He is buried at St. Mary's in Todmorden.
his mother Catherine died, Edwin was a young lad of 11. As soon
as he was able, he went to lodge with Abraham Stansfield at Vale
Nursery in Todmorden. This was a celebrated nursery of its time
and Abraham Stansfield was an eminent and successful gardener and
nurseryman. Edwin was, like his brothers, a stonemason and may well
have been employed at the nursery in some capacity to do with stone
cutting. However, between 1851 and 1860 he left his native land
behind and set off for North America with his brother William and
nephew Philip to meet up with their older brother John. Edwin settled
in the New York area and had two marriages, the first to Mary Jane
and the second to Joanna. His first marriage resulted in a daughter,
Annie. When her mother died, Annie was sent to live with Edwin's
brother William and wife Priscilla who brought her up. His second
marriage ended in tragedy when his wife Joanna and two of their
children, 5-year-old Catherine and 2-year-old Edwin died on the
same day in September 1877. Edwin himself died in Manhattan, New
York, in 1879.
have to wonder what would have happened had Philip Crowther of Howroyd,
shoemaker, managed to make it home to Walsden after collecting his
army pension that Monday. He was a genial and likeable man, and
undoubtedly a very brave one, who spent his married life defending
and supporting his wife and sons against unwarranted abuse, not
only from neighbours, but also from his own family. Had it not been
for the two labourers working on the railway tunnel at Summit Pass,
Philip would have returned home and his sons and grandchildren may
have had a completely different life. We will never know.
am indebted to Howard Browne for the photos of John Philip and
Maria and the Episcopal Church. He has a website with comprehensive
details of the American descendants of Philip Crowther of Howroyd,
which can be accessed at