Hebden Township Historical Data

Hebden People

Villages are in a permanent transient state, with families moving in, sometimes staying for several generations with their names dominant in the census returns and electoral registers before fading away, and replaced with new names. Individuals also make their home in the village, sometimes for decades, becoming prominent members of the community, before moving on or dying. This page records some of the individuals and families who have made an impact on the village. It is in a constant state of development...

  1. William Bell - Blacksmith (1849-1931)
  2. Ralph Bowdin - General Store proprietor (1833-1917)
  3. Thomas Francis Hammond - Grocer, Draper, and Preacher (1845-1934)
  4. William Hill - Mining Agent (1825-1907)
  5. Joseph Osborne and William Sigston Winn - Entrepreneurs
  6. Hilda Annetta Walker - Artist (1877-1960)

William Bell - Blacksmith

William Bell was the village blacksmith for over 40 years, and left a substantial mark on the fabric of the village. He was not only responsible for the building of the Hebden Suspension Bridge but also for many of the Victorian and Edwardian wrought iron gates and wall railings to be seen in the village, and the kissing-gate into Low Green.

The son of a blacksmith, William Bell was born in Aireton in 1849. He married Mary Jane Warden, from Lancaster in 1877, and was settled in Hebden by 1878 where he lived until his death in 1931. He had seven children, four girls and three boys, all of whom attended Hebden School. His eldest, William, was apprenticed to him in 1903, and after serving a few years in the navy, emigrated to Australia in 1913 where he continued the family trade in Melbourne. This was basically an elopement (albeit the two parties traveled on separate ships!), as William had fallen for a Roman Catholic girl of Irish ethnic background, much to his father's disapproval. Two of his other sons, Thomas and David, spent their lives in Hebden. David served in the First World War, and died in 1970. Of the daughters, Fanny died in 1887 aged 7, Betsy had an illegitimate son (seen in Mary Jane's arms in the photograph) and married the father later that year, and Sarah and Rebecca both married soldiers, depicted in the photograph.

The Hebden Horse Level waterwheel.
William Bell and family outside Crag Cottage, c. 1905.
Back: William (jnr), Betsy, William & Rebecca Wood, Sarah & Fred Town; Centre: William & Mary Jane Bell, Front: Thomas & David.
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In the 1880s William Bell leased part of the Hebden Horse Level spoil heap, and built a substantial stone smithy, which is why the spoil heap is now known as Smithy Hill. It is known that he was still there in 1919, leasing the plot at £3 per annum. The smithy was adjacent to the mine building, but there is no obvious trace of it now.

William Bell outside his smithy on Smithy Hill
William Bell outside his smithy on Smithy Hill - Date 1910s?
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William Bell must have been a more than competent craftsman, as he made Hebden Suspension Bridge which crosses the River Wharfe adjacent to the stepping stones. It was built in 1885, with its £80 cost paid for by public subscription. Made largely of recycled materials from the local lead mining industry, including 262 yards of steel cable, it originally had a central supporting pier (the base of which can be seen in low water conditions) which was removed when the span was raised in 1937 after being damaged in a heavy flood in December 1936. William Bell had previously built a suspension bridge across the Wharfe at Netherside Hall, 2 km north-west of Grassington, that was subsequently washed away.

Hebden Suspension Bridge built buy William Bell
Hebden Suspension Bridge built by William Bell. Date - 1920s?
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Much of the fine metal work in the village is probably by his hand, including the fine kissing gate into Low Green by the Old School, which he made for the Parish Council in 1905 for two guineas.

An invoice submitted by William Bell to Hebden Parish Council in 1910
An invoice submitted by William Bell to Hebden Parish Council in 1910
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Ralph Bowdin

Ralph Bowdin was born in Hebden in 1833, son of Daniel and Elizabeth Bowdin. He built up a large general store in the village based on Bridge House over the course of more than fifty years, which he sold to Thomas Stockdale when he retired in 1905.

His family came into the area at the end of the eighteen century when the Duke of Devonshire bought in Thomas Bowdin from Derbyshire to supervise the construction of the Duke's Level. His father was a miner at the time of Ralph's birth, but by 1851 had become a farmer / grocer. He farmed 8 acres which he leased, and owned Bridge House and the Paraffin House next to the Institute which in 1846 was recorded as being a "pig cote". Ralph's mother died about the time of his birth. His initials can be found scratched onto the Church's lead roofing, dated 1848.

By 1857 Ralph had taken over the grocery business. Over the course of the next fifty years he built it up into a thriving general store, which serviced the needs of the local households, as well as the agricultural community and the mining companies. Ralph Bowdin is recorded as having been paid "£2 6s 4d for powder and candles" in 1873 by the Grimwith Mining Company, and he may have been responsible for the building of the Powder House so that the explosive could be stored safely away from this shop.

Earthenware flagon from Bowdin's of Hebden. Date: 1890s?
Earthenware flagon from Bowdin's of Hebden. Date: 1890s?
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For much of his life Ralph remained unmarried and lived with his cousin Elizabeth who looked after the household duties. He played an active part in village life, being a trustee of the Ibbotson Charity and a manager of the village school for over 30 years. He was also on the first Parish Council in 1896. He eventually married in 1904 and retired to the Isle of Wight for several years, before moving back up to Ilkley in 1914 where he died of influenza in 1917. He was interred in St. Peter's graveyard where there is a memorial stone.

The initials he scratched on the church roof lead when he was fifteen was not the only mark he left on St. Peter's. In 1884, in memory of his father Daniel, he replaced the windows in the nave, vestry and west wall with the beautiful windows we have today.

A plaque commemorating the installation of the windows in St. Peter's
A plaque commemorating the installation of the windows in St. Peter's
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A remarkable surviver of the business, which is in the collection of Ken Longthorne, is an almamac published by Ralph in 1888, and claims to have been the 21st edition. It says that the business was established in 1852. It seems to be based on a general purpose document with five pages specially printed for Bowdin's shop, and includes a list of items he stocked. It is interesting to note that he sold lobsters as well as blasting gunpowder!

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Thomas Francis Hammond - Grocer, Draper and Preacher (1845-1934)

Thomas Francis Hammond was the son of Francis Hammond and Rose Hannah (née Whitaker). In the 1851 census Francis described himself as a lead miner, grocer and draper, and a farmer of 12 acres employing 4 labourers, and by 1881 he was farming 150 acres, with his son running the grocery and drapery business. Thomas dabbled in other businesses - in 1876 he was reported as being the undertaker for a large funeral. He was an acute business man - in the late 1870s he obtained the contract to provide provisions to the canteen at the Barden reservoir construction site - transported from Hebden across cart tracks to the side of the reservoir using carts and pack-horses. One elderly gentleman in the village was told by his father that Hammond had a reputation for being ruthless in the conduct of his business.

Thomas Francis Hammond (1845-1934) outside Angle House (Date - 1910s?)
Thomas Francis Hammond (1845-1934) outside Angle House (Date - 1910s?) with his 3rd Wife Annie.
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Francis and Thomas between them built Green Terrace, Angle House, and the lower houses on Chapel Lane in the 1870s, and Thomas ran his business from the old Post Office. He probably built what are now Maryan Cottage and Rosanne Cottage for his own use, hence the initials on the wall over the centre (representing his and his wife's initials). The house may have been divided when he moved into Angle House.

Thomas Hammond, and his first wife Mary Ann, were both prominent members of the non-conformist community. Thomas preached on the local Primitive Methodist circuit, and often walked as many as 30 miles a day to fulfill his preaching commitments. He was also a very active member of the community, being on the committees of all the local charities, a member of the Parish Council from its inception in 1894 and its chairman for several years, until 1929; represented Hebden on the Skipton Rural District Council; and served on the Skipton Board of Guardians for 30 years.

Diploma of Honour presented to Hammond by the Primitive Methodists
Diploma of Honour presented to Hammond by the Primitive Methodists
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He appears to have handed over the business in 1905 to his nephew Thomas Francis Hammond Tattersall, although not the freehold of the shop. This he sold to Tattersall's successor, Wilfred Waddilove, in 1931, although Waddilove had taken over the business from Tattersall a few years before that.

In 1927 Hammond wrote a series of articles for the Craven Herald on the history of Hebden. He was in his 80s at the time with memories going back to his school days. They provide a fascinating insight, although some of the details need to be taken with a pinch of salt. A transcript of the articles may be found here.

His marriage to his fifth wife when he was 85 gave him fifteen minutes of fame when it was widely reported in the national newspapers. He died on May 14th 1934 leaving £4,569 - over £330,000 at today's values.

William Hill - Mining Agent

William Hill (1825-1907) - was a Mining Agent working for the Hebden Moor Mining Company from 1868 until its closure in 1888. A Mining Agent was the company's representative on the ground, and in the case of smaller mines would also have been the foreman, directing the work. He was responsible for the excavation of Hebden Horse Level on Smithy Hill. His story is representative of many of the men working in the mines of northern England.

The Hebden Horse Level waterwheel.
The Hebden Horse Level waterwheel - 1880s?
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The records indicate that he must have been hard-working and competent at his job, and willing to move around the country for work. He married a girl from his home village, and together they raised eight children.

William Hill was born in 1825 in St. Just, Cornwall, one of ten children of Nicholas Hill who worked in the tin mining industry, and Honor. In 1841 William was still living with his family in St. Just, but he then moved up to Caldbeck in Cumberland with his brother, where in 1849 he married Eliza Eddy. It was the mines below the northern slopes of Skiddaw that brought the three some 550 kilometres from their home town. William and his brother John were both employed as lead orewashers. This was now well and truly into the golden age of the railway, and travel had become much easier.

William and his wife moved to several different mining areas in Cumberland and Northumberland during the next ten years, and by 1861 he had risen through the ranks to become a Mining Agent living in Thornthwaite, near Keswick, with five children. In 1868 he became the Mining Agent of the Hebden Moor Mining, at a time when output from the mine was rapidly declining. At first he lived in Grassington, moving to Green Terrace in Hebden in 1874, where two of his children were the first to appear on the pupil register of the new school.

He must have had a reasonable reputation in the industry for in 1881 his name appears as a reference in an advertisement for stock in a company exploiting the minerals at Rimington, near Gisburn: Captain William Hill of Hebden Moor Mines says:- "I formed an opinion that it was a mining field of more than ordinary importance" (the title 'Captain' was the Cornish terminology for 'Mining Agent').

In 1881, when mining activity in the parish was confined to the digging of Hebden Horse Level, 21 men were recorded as working in the mines. One of these was William Hill's sixteen-year-old son Nicholas, who was recorded in the census as being an "Assistant mining agent", so it would seem as if William had found employment for his son.

The Cornish connection remained strong. Another of the miners in the village was William Rowe, who also almost certainly worked in the Horse Level as he was William Hill's nephew. His family also originated from St. Just in Cornwall, and his father and William Hill both married daughters from the same family. William Rowe was born in Caldbeck, Cumbria where his father and William Hill were both working at the time. In 1879 he married his cousin, William Hill's daughter Jane, and his sister Mary married her cousin, the younger William Hill, two years later. Both families moved to Thornhill to work in the collieries when the Horse Level closed.

William stayed with the company for twenty years until work in the Hebden Horse Level ceased in 1888. In 1891 he was still living in Hebden and claiming to be a mining agent, but he and his wife later moved to Grassington where in the 1901 census he was recorded as being a jobbing gardener. He died in 1907 at the age of 82. Eliza went to live with their son, William, who was then a coal miner in Thornhill, and died in the same year.

Joseph Osborne (1818-1894) and William Sigston Winn (1810-1877)

Although neither Osborne nor Winn lived in Hebden, they had a major impact on the village in that they were the entrepreneurs who in 1853 founded the Hebden Moor Mining Company, which bought much money and employment into the village in the 1850s and 1860s, and their story is an example of those investing their wealth in the Yorkshire lead mining industry at the time. William Sigston Winn from Haverah Park, near Otley, and Joseph Osborne, of Otley, at the time were partners in a wool merchant business, and already involved in various lead mining ventures.

Winn was born in Leeds in 1810, and he had made his money in Leeds as a wool merchant, owning a house in Burley Terrace and a warehouse in Bilham's Court in 1841. However, by the time of the 1851 census he had moved to Haverah Park where he described himself as a miner and a farmer of 310 acres, employing ten labourers. He married twice, and had seven children.

The Hebden Horse Level waterwheel.
The Yorkshire Lead Mine - or a New Way of Turning Lead to Gold

A cartoon from The Oxford Magazine March 1771

Joseph Osborne was born in Northowram in 1818, but had moved to Leeds by 1839 where he entered the wool trade. He married in that year, and had four children. He was a wool dealer, initially in partnership with a Thomas Watson until 1846, and then with William Winn. He too, found success in the wool trade, and branched out into investing in the lead mining industry. Woolstapling, however, remained his main interest.

Winn's and Osborne's first known venture into the lead mining industry was in 1847 when they formed a partnership with four others to exploit Old Providence Mine, near Kettlewell. In July 1857, they floated the Old Providence Lead and Coal Field Company, with Winn taking 52% of the shares, and Osborne a more prudent 10%. All did not go well, however, and the company was liquidated in 1860. The two also formed the North Mossdale Mining Company in 1853, sharing the mining agent with their Hebden mines. Winn had sold his interest by 1857, when Osborne owned 36% of the company. By 1862 Osborne had also sold his share.

Almost immediately after taking the lease on the Hebden Liberty mineral rights, Winn and Osborne formed a partnership called the "Hebden Mining Company" with four other adventurers: George Crossland, a merchant from Huddersfield; William Shaw, a wool merchant also from Huddersfield; and George Cook from London and Joseph Thomas from Liverpool (later of St. Albans in Hertfordshire), who were joint partners in a London wool broking company. These were all men successful in their own fields who wished to cash in on the opportunities offered by the Yorkshire lead mining industry. The formation of the company was not without its difficulties, as the validity of the original lease was disputed, and the Duke of Devonshire's mining agent brought an action in Chancery Court, although the matter was settled out of court. William Winn seemed to have had a bit of a reputation, as James Eddy, the then mining agent for the Duke of Devonshire wrote to Winn, describing him as "more informed, and excuse the insinuation, pardon the flattery, more cute" than his co-directors. Subsequent events did not bear this out... The wool merchant business owned by Joseph Osborne and William Winn was dissolved in May 1855, presumably in order to allow Winn to concentrate on his mining interests.

When the initial lease lapsed, a 21 year lease was granted in August 1856 to the new company, with Winn and Osborne each being granted 10,000 fully paid £1 shares for their interests. It is likely that Winn used his to pay for his interests in the Kettlewell venture, which collapsed in 1860. What is certain is that although he was still living at Haverah Park in 1861, he was declared bankrupt in June 1864 with debts of £1,458 3s. 6d and assets of one gold watch valued at £3.10s. In 1866 he was recorded as being the mining agent at Virgin Mine near Castle Bolton, but he soon moved back to the Otley area, where he was mining agent / manager of the Blubberhouses mine at Kex Gill from 1868 until it closed in 1877 living with his family at Hardisty Hill, some four kilometres from the mine. He died in 1877.

Joseph Osborne used his money more wisely. In 1862 he emigrated with his family to Auckland, New Zealand, sailing from Gravesend on the 11 September aboard the clipper Cairngorm, and arriving on the 7th January 1863. Once there, he soon established a successful woolstapling and broking company, and in 1875 he was described as "probably the most experienced stapler in the Colony". He died in Auckland in 1894.

Hilda Annetta Walker - Artist

Hilda Annetta Walker, F.R.S.A., (1877-1960) was an artist who lived at Dene Croft (No. 2), Chapel Lane from about 1921 to 1955. She was responsible for this fine painting of Dene Crest.

A painting of Dene Crest by Hilda Annetta Walker.
A painting of Dene Crest by Hilda Annetta Walker.
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Hilda was the daughter of John Ely and Mary Elizabeth Walker, a textile manufacturing family in Mirfield, Yorkshire. She was one of a large family of eight children, which included brother Sir Ronald Walker, who was a prominent Liberal politician; sister Dora who was the first female fishing boat skipper on the North-East coast; and sister Kathleen who became secretary to Ramsay MacDonald.

She attended Leeds College of Art where she studied under Gilbert William Foster, a prominent member of the Staithes group of artists. She later studied sculpture under the guidance of William Charles Holland King, renowned for the Dover Marine War Memorial. She exhibited a bronze bust of her brother Lieut.-Col. James Walker, D.S.O. at the 1921 Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, and exhibited a number of bronze and marble sculptures at the Société des Artistes Français exhibition in Paris over the years. She also painted in watercolour and oils. Many of the paintings available for viewing on the web are of horses, but most of her work was of Wharfedale.

Hilda Annetta Walker in 1934 with some of her work.
Hilda Annetta Walker in 1934 with some of her work

She moved into Dene Croft in about 1921, although for the first few years she appears in the electoral registers of both Hebden and Mirfield, so it appears that she divided her time between the two. In 1930 she also bought the croft behind Chapel Lane running down as far as the Primitive Methodist Chapel. She remained single, and it seems that she lived on a private income and the earnings from her artistic endeavours. She died in a Bradford nursing home in 1960, leaving what was then a sizable estate of £29,000. Her house was bequeathed to her sister Dora. People of a certain age remember an artist lady called Miss Walker living in Chapel Lane in the 1960s, and we suspect that may have been her niece Marie Walker Last (1917-2017), who was a renowned artist in her own right based in Ilkley. Dora sold the house and land separately in 1972, with the top section of the land now occupied by Walton Croft bought by Margaret and Dennis Byrne, and the remainder being purchased by Jack Allen of 5 Chapel Lane.