History of Widdop

tudor farmer

I6th Century

The national context

  The period 1500-1610, the Tudors, saw the beginnings of major changes in society and the origins of Empire. Though society was dominated by the rule of monarch and nobility the stirrings of the aspiring ''middle class'' began. Artisans, farmers etc. could now OWN their own property and material goods and could become educated and read for themselves. Some of these became the ardent, independent minded, puritans who began to put political pressure on the ruling classes. Wills of ordinary people increasingly appeared from the 1470's listing furniture, goods, cattle, textile equipment, etc. These significant changes occurred because the Medieval system of villeinage had become unworkable and had gradually disappeared after the population losses of the Black Death. This disappearance of the Medieval strip farming, replaced by 'open field' system meant that successful farmers, including the moorland weaver, could expand their land holdings by intaking 'new' fields. Long standing freehold and tenant farmers with more substantial acreage became termed as 'yeomen'.

image00617th c farming

  However, it was a period of turbulence. In the early years there were still rebellions against the Tudor monarchy; later there were wars with Spain—especially the threat of invasion by the Armada in 1588. The departure from Roman Catholicism and the end of monasteries and the continuing uncertainty of succession in the Tudor monarchy did not affect the daily lives of ordinary folk very much. The 1540's were marked by bad harvests, resulting in food prices doubling whereas wages hardly rose— 50% price rises in the 1550's! In fact the whole period from 1550-1600 was a difficult time financially with increasing inflation and unemployment. The woollen industry had suffered a great fall in the 1550's principally because the only continental market, Antwerp, was lost to Britain. In the later years of the Elizabethan era voyages of exploration and discovery by Drake, Raleigh etc. began the opening of trade routes bringing new goods and wealth to the country. By the late 1590's Britain went through a particularly difficult period ; plagues, bad winters, wet summers, poor harvests, a depression in agriculture and trade which all led to rising prices and hardship.

The local context

  For the community at Widdop it was a period of considerable development. From being farmers for centuries who had eked out a subsistence lifestyle in a remote area and doing a little weaving for their own clothing, they seized 'opportunities' presented to them. Over the Tudor period the population of Britain doubled from 2 to 4 million thereby increasing demand for cloth. From at least the 1470's onwards a combination of circumstances led to a rapid growth in weaving wool-cloth which was to become of national importance. The woollen industry of York, Beverley and Ripon went into a steep decline while the merchant clothiers of West Riding began to understand the particular advantages of their own area---
  1. there was a growth of fulling mills, especially rapid after 1530, due to the ready availability of the fast flowing rivers and streams.
  2. the Pennine, soft, water was ideal for the fulling and dyeing of wool
  3. there was an established tradition of weaving amongst the industrious, independent minded 'farmers' on the moors.
  The clothiers increasingly bought good quality wool from elsewhere because and delivered it to the scattered, domestic, workforce [there were no sheep on the moors at this time]. It was a most reliable, secure means of income for low cost and trouble and there were no strictly controlled guilds, as at York etc., which enabled costs to be kept low.

tudor packhorses

packhorse train

heptonstall cloth hall
sign of hept cloth hall

  From the 1400's the main commercial centre was at Halifax —a market hall was built in 1555. Nearby Heptonstall had a smaller cloth hall from 1545, both indicating the growth of the industry. An Act of Parliament in 1552 outlawed middlemen in the national woollen industry but there was such an outcry from the small clothiers of Halifax that in 1555 they were exempted which was another major factor in allowing expansion. In 1588 a commentator, James Ryder, referred to--''the unyielding industry of the people of the Halifax area developed a distinctive spirit of enterprise''.

Heptonstall cloth hall

The growth of the textile industry affected the land market. The infertile land of Upper Calderdale, including Widdop, could be well utilised for cattle grazing and for tentering cloth [ the drying and stretching process ] ideal for the 'dual economy' which had now developed. Subsequently from the 1490's there was an increase of intaking new land for fields from the moorland---called assarting. The rents remained steady because the land was so poor, indeed rents were fixed for copyholders at the end of the period in 1607. The Savile landlord's rental income was reducing in real terms and this possibly led to them selling 4 farms at Good Greave and Alcomden in 1600. Most copyhold tenancies eventually became leasehold tenancies.

The archives

  In the tenants lists there are approximately 26 tenants in Wadsworth listed as ''at will'' i.e. they had no tenants rights at all, nothing in written form and could be evicted at any time-though there is a reference to ''by indenture'' in 1601 which is the first mention of written,leasehold, agreements. ''At will'' tenants were originally ''unfree'' who 'descended' from the ''unfree'' villeins of the medieval era. At some time, possibly as early as the 12th/13th century, the Savile lords of the Wadsworth Manor either---
  1. released them from their ''bondage'' or
  2.the ''customary'' obligations lapsed or
  3 it WAS common in the north for cash rents to become the principal ''service'' with few ''labour services'' to the lord; thus becoming the ''custom'' of the manor
  Thus the villeins customary/copyholder tenancies ceased to exist----which was happening nationally throughout the 15th/16th centuries. Cash rents were 'negotiated' between Lord and tenant [to understand customary/copyholders further please see the next, Medieval, section].

Of the 26 farmsteads in Wadsworth 14 were OCCUPIED by SHACKLETONS;
3 at Walshaw
1 at Ladyroyd
1 at Shackleton
4 at Walshaw Dean----- [known from other documents that of these-----------------2 were at Good Greave and 1 at Alcomden]
2 unspecified
3 at Widdop

---these are the details of the 3 tenancies throughout 1572-1610;--
  [annual rent] [acreage/closes in 1604 survey]
William Shackleton 11shillings 1penny [26acres/6closes] -throughout the whole period of 1572-1610

James Shackleton 11shillings 2pence [10acres/?closes] -throughout the period 1572-1603 then followed by Thomas 1603-1610

Richard Shackleton 11 shillings 1penny [13acres/4 closes]-throughout the period 1572-1610 ----------BUT--------ANOMALY?----
-------in 1603 Richard's name was replaced by Peter & Henry who 'split' the rent equally-----------AND in 1604-----
------ there are 5 DEFINITE FARMS with Richard--- AND Peter --AND Henry-- each occupying their OWN farms!!!----

  Richard Shackleton 13 acres/4closes
  Peter Shackleton 11acres/3closes
  Henry Shackleton 9acres/4closes
  William Shackleton 26acres/6closes
  Thomas Shackleton 10acres/1close? [formerly James]
Then in 1610 Peter and Henry are NOT listed but 'a' Richard IS?? there are 3 FARMS again?
According to the Heptonstall Registers there WERE several Richards in existence at this time in Wadsworth and Heptonstall; there was a Richard 'elder' and Richard 'younger' at Good Greave in the Court Roll of 1603 and in documents of 1605 but not on the Savile tenants lists as 'they' had bought their farm in 1600--unless they ALSO had a Widdop tenancy? Richard's name may have been 'left on' by the clerks? or maybe there was a different Richard? a Richard 'junior'? [no record of another?] .

  Rental rate per acre varied depending upon the quality of land of each field. When James 1st came to the throne in 1603 customary rents for copyhold land were 4 pence per acre and remained the same up to at least 1609 whereas rents obtained for sub-letting were often around 10 shillings an acre!! It paid to be an astute 'subletter'!!

P.S. Remember that the monetary system was different; 12 pence [d] = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = £1

 It's possible from 'notes' in the various lists and other archives to match most of the 26 tenants to specific villages within Wadsworth; there were----- 5 at Walshaw,
  4 at Walshaw Dean [2 at Good Greave]
  4 at Shackleton,
  3 record Wadsworth,
  3 at Monsil House,
  1 at Ladyroyd,
  3 at Widdop
  3 unspecified.
  The rents remain fixed over the whole period, averaging 12 shillings per annum per farmstead whereas the weekly wages of an unskilled worker constantly rose;

  1457-1545 4 shillings
  1570s 7 shillings 6 pence
  1580s 8 shillings
  1590s 8 shillings 4 pence
early1600s 9 shillings 2 pence
  1610 11 shillings


Higher Houses barns 1999--the site of ''Widdop 1'' and ''Widdop 2'' farmsteads

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