History of Widdop


Savile Estate Map of Widdop,Wadsworth 1779

The adjacent link shows all tenants at each farm on a copy of 1851 map

18th Century

The national context

 The period 1700-1800 was a century of great expansion for Britain especially in the last 40 years. There had been various wars with British victories securing new territories for the beginnings of 'Empire' and the opportunities for trade, hence from 1760 onwards exports and imports doubled. Numerous inventions of machinery which were to transform industrial production began in this century but only started to impact production in the later years. Population increases from circa 5.7 million in 1751 to 8.7 million by 1801 increased demand for goods, clothing etc. Rapid growth of urban towns and cities, better transport due to the turnpike roads and the construction of canals helped the expansion of trade and industry. Subsequently, with all this progress, wages were generally good in the late 18th century.


The local context

The community at Widdop were a part of the extraordinary, rapidly expanding,woollen textile industry which propelled the whole area of the West Riding into national predominance. The expansion began in the earliest years and 'surged' in the last 40 years. The increased number of inventions of new machinery—especially Kay's 'flying shuttle' in 1733--- spurred on this expansion but in real terms these didn't take major effect until the last 40 years. Kay's 'flying shuttle', a faster loom, was only in prolific use by about 1780, 50 years after it's invention. The rural weavers produced a rough woollen cloth, called a 'kersey', which was ideal for manufacturing hard wearing overcoats –a necessary clothing for the expanding working population and the increased number of soldiers and sailors, needing uniforms, involved in the 18th century wars, especially the later French Wars 1793-1815.


Kay's 'flying shuttle' loom


packhorse 'train'

The Widdop community was, of course, also occupied as farmers. They were, historically, farmers who increasingly expanded the opportunities given to them by the travelling clothiers to earn income weaving. Farming now became 'subsistence farming' providing the necessary milk/butter/oats etc. for food supplies. The two occupations are termed 'the dual economy' which had evolved from the 15th and 16th centuries. The Savile Estate surveys prove that the fields were mainly for pasture and meadowland for cattle, rather than sheep, with an occasional field as arable for growing oats. Wills and inventories show numbers of cattle—few sheep.


The 'Piece Hall', Halifax

Analysis of archives

Having visited Halifax Library and the Archive Office there on several occasions I discovered that Huddersfield [WestYorkshireArchiveServices; Kirklees] had some Savile Estate papers relating to Widdop.[The Savile family were the landowners/landlords of Wadsworth and much of Calderdale]. To my joy I discovered leases [1695/1715/1741/1796/1817] relating to Widdop specifically naming field names and acreage and also 2 Savile Estate Surveys of 1779 [DDS/1/269] and 1809 [DDS/1/272] which exactly correlated with the field names, acreages and tenants names. From these I constructed a spreadsheet , ''MY FIELDS CHART 1715-1817'' which covered all this information on one sheet. I also produced my own ''Map showing buildings of Widdop—with superimposed fields' '[MY BUILDINGS MAP 2] to summarise who was at which farms/buildings based upon the 1851 OS map.

The archives

A careful study of these maps should reveal the following--- 5/6 buildings at Higher Houses 3 at Lower Houses[black marks]
1 at New Laithe

Then, archives which I discovered at the present day SAVILE ESTATE OFFICE,Dewsbury, were like a ''eureka'' moment!! They had still kept two estate maps ''1715 SAVILE ESTATE MAP '' and ''1779 SAVILE ESTATE MAP '', which specified every field name, acreage, buildings and even showed the tenants names on some fields!! [many thanks to the trustees of the Savile estate who willingly gave permission to show the photocopies they took for me]. They also had rental ledgers for each tenanted farm from 1711-1779 which showed tenants names and rent paid which helped me to make a spreadsheet ''MY TENANTS LISTS 1695-1817' of Widdop, Wadsworth.


Barn at Higher Houses--site of 'Widdop 1' & 'Widdop 2,-- with Reservoir lodge behind [can't see Lower Houses behind, site of 'Little Green' and 'Far Sandy Fields']

  I then visited the Nottinghamshire Archives Office which holds some other deposited papers of the Savile/Rufford Estate and they included Yorkshire Estate Rental Accounts 1712-1754 [Notts Archives DDSR series 205; 1-43] which correlated almost exactly with the Savile Office's records of the lists of tenants. They prove that there were 5 tenanted farmsteads at Widdop from the earliest list of 1701---
  2 being based at LOWER HOUSES which I refer to as -------
  2 based at Higher Houses which I refer to as -------------------
-- ''WIDDOP 1'' and ''WIDDOP 2'';
  It was thus straightforward to make the afore mentioned ''Farm tenants list 1695-1817'' chronological spreadsheet showing the succession of tenants for each farmstead.
  There is one anomaly; none of these various lists or maps reported the existence of the 'PASTURES HOUSE' which was the last building in the valley and shown on the 1851 OS map? I've subsequently discovered some information and include a separate section on the 'PASTURES HOUSE' later.

 Without going into details of all the wills and leases they show that tenancies were passed within families whereby it was sometimes common for a younger son/heir to 'inherit' the tenancy rights---called ''Borough English''. It was a very sensible method for it, hopefully, secured tenancy for a longer period and thereby reduced the number of times of the cost of renewing a leasehold. The acreage for each farmstead tends to remain roughly the same over 100 years with slight variations.The ''historical'' field names remain constant too with very few additions; there's only evidence, on the fields chart, of 2 new enclosures ''over the road'' during the period. Rents increased significantly as the century progressed. Starting from 1701 as the 'baseline'' there was a 25% increase in 1715, only a minute increase of 0.5% in 1742, a huge 60% addition in 1779, another 25% in 1796 and an enormous 130% in 1809. However, one must always remember that wages rose increasingly throughout the century as a response to the increasing industrial and trade growth, especially in those last 40 years. Also landlords knew that during the French Wars 1793-1815 the weavers were earning a very good income!

Archaeological finds

Brian Howcroft's field walking[see Medieval pages especially] has discovered many potsherds of various periods on the shoreline of the reservoir just south of Widdop Farms 1 & 2. 'We' were concerned that the finds were too far from the farm buildings;were there originally any nearer ? The 1715 and 1779 Savile Estate maps clearly show that there were 6 BUILDINGS at Widdop Farms 1 & 2 [see 'magnified 1715 map Widdop Farm link] so in order to try and establish EXACTLY where they were I've super-imposed a transparency of the 1715 map onto the 1851 map as best possible. It does appear that the LOWER 3 of the group on the 1715 map fit approximately over the 3 on the 1851 map; if you look very carefully you can see the 'higher 3' above the 'lower 3'. We've since learnt that the field immediately to the south of the remaining barn,Rye Croft, was the most valuable field, probably because it was the only field for crop production; years of ploughing would have gradually moved any potsherds down the slope. The other fields were only for pasture or meadows.

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