The following is a transcript of a report of a court case between Hebden Parish Council and George and Albert Stobbs published in December 1920, in the West Yorkshire Pioneer and East Lancashire News. It relates to certain claims over Low Green made by the defendants which were disputed by the Parish Council. The original cutting is in the Hebden Parish Council first Minute Book.
The case first reared its head in February 1917, when the Parish Council resolved to write a letter to Mrs. Jane Longthorne and Messrs. Stobbs about hens straying onto Low Green, and that "Mr. Perks look to the matter of the Foot Path to the Stobbs garden and the Gateway into the said Garden." In May the Parish Council resolved that two councillors speak to the Stobbs abut the hens straying, and suggest that a wayleave be paid for the footpath across Low Green". By the March of 1918 solicitors were involved. Although the Parish Council were indubitably right to protect the interests of the village, the action was divisive, and at the October 1920 Annual Parish Meeting a resolution was passed by a large majority that Hebden Parish Council drop the case.
Claim by Parish Coucil
Judge Turner on Public Right
His Honour Judge Turner spent more than three hours at Skipton County Court on Tuesday hearing a case in which Hebden Parish Council sued George Stobbs, 38, leadminer, and Albert Stobbs, 46, gardener, for £2 14s 4d, for damages to a fence by trespassing; for an injunction to restrain them from continuing the trespass; for a declaration that the strip of land between Hebden Beck and Stobbs' garden was the property of the Council; and for a declaration that the defendants were not entitled to a right of way across Low Green (the village recreation ground), nor were they entitled to turn poultry on to it.
Mr. R.A. Shepherd, barrister, Leeds (instructed by Mr. F.G. Pearson, from the office of Mr. M.R. Knowles of Skipton appeared for the plaintiffs, and Mr. W.W. Walker, of Bradford, was defendant's advocate.
In opening, Mr. Shepherd stated that the land concerning which the action was being fought was allotted to the churchwardens and overseers of the township of Hebden in 1857 as a public green and a recreation ground, and was known as Low Green, but in 1894 the land became vested in the Parish Council by Act of Parliament. The garden owned and occupied by the brothers Stobbs was adjacent to the recreation ground, and they were in the habit of crossing the recreation ground to get to their garden, and they also claimed to be the owners of a strip of land a few feet wide between the west wall of their garden and Hebden Beck, which ran through and near one edge of the recreation ground. The garden was bought by George Stobbs (deceased) in 190, for £17, and was 35½ perches in area. He also stated that the strip of land claimed was planted with trees by the Parish Council, and there was then no objection raised.
Following a question by His Honour, the defence stated that they claimed right of way by long usage.
Evidence for the Plaintiffs
Mr. T. Perks, barrister, Leeds, and resident of Hebden, and chairman of the Hebden Parish Council since 1913, gave evidence on behalf of the plaintiffs, and said that he had been very friendly wwith the late Mr. George Stobbs, but he did not remember once hearting him claim a right of way across the recreation ground. He also produced minutes passed by the Council on Nov. 20th 1901, by which the Council decided to erect a gateway into the Low Green opposite Chapel lane bottom. Referring to a nearer date, witness spoke of a barricade which the Council had erected across the path, which had been pulled down twice by the defendants. The cost of re-erection had been £2 14s 4d.
Lengthy evidence for the defence was given by the two defendants, their mother Mary Jane Stobbs (71), Jane Woodman (76), widow, Wm. Robert Brown (78), farmer, William Bell (71), John Thomas Bowes (65), clogger, and Wm. Henry Hebden (68), farmer. The gist of the case for the defence was that the present defendants maternal grandfather acquired the land about 100 years ago, and had, both previous to the enclosure of the Green and afterwards, used the pathway as a means of reaching his garden, and from that time successive owners in the family had used the same pathway without interruption, climbing the boundary wall of the Green prior to the gateway being fixed in 1901.
Plaintiffs called Thomas Francis Hammond, property owner, who stated that John Brown, uncle to the defendants, walked to the garden by the road and by the bridge.
His Honour summing up, pointed out that the Parish Councils existed to protect the rights of the people, and in that case it had important rights to safeguard. With regard to the strip of land claimed, in the indenture of June 18th 1901, when George Stobbs purchased the garden, no mention of the strip of land was made. The claim for poultry was also dismissed on the grounds that prior to 1857 everyone had the right to run poultry on the Green, and since that date the Green had been enclosed, and entrance only was effected by climbing over the wall.
He therefore found judgment for the plaintiffs with costs.