History of Widdop


Gibson Mill,Hardcastle Crags, Wadsworth

Early 19th Century

The national context

   The period 1800-1820 was a time of anxiety and turbulence. The long years of the French Wars caused 'some' worry and also affected the nation's economy as trade with overseas markets was difficult. Hardship existed for the ordinary people; food prices were high—there was a fixed price for bread. Wages were strictly regulated irrespective of 'inflation' and there was also the 'new' income tax to pay. Most of Britain's workforce was employed on the land or as skilled craftsmen and artisans, the largest number being in the various textile industries, which was principally being carried out in the homes of families.

The local context

  The beginnings of industrial changes had started. 'New' water powered powered machinery and the subsequent building of mills and factories were only being fully established by circa 1800 and subsequently starting to 'threaten' the traditional domestic workers livelihood. In real terms these 'new' developments were still taking a smaller proportion of the market, steam power was very much in infancy. In 1803 and 1806 Parliament investigated the issues regarding the traditional weavers '' statutory rights'' and the new factory owners objections to them preventing progress. Ultimately Parliament repealed the traditional ''rights'' in 1809, which led to an open market, thereby allowing the new factories to have ''free-reign''. This 'fear' and discontent grew throughout the early 1800's and culminated in sporadic riots and the bands of Luddites destruction of new machinery in some mills in West Yorkshire in 1812. However, in real terms it was the 'death knell' of the moorland weavers industry which had thrived for several centuries

Luddites smashing machines


 The Widdop community at this time was actually doing very well. Their main occupation of weaving cloth was in great demand due to the rise in population and the need for more uniforms to clothe the soldiers and sailors in the wars. A moorland household with one loom—involving a whole family in the complete process---could produce 4 'kerseys' of cloth a week which at the high price of 9 shillings ''a piece'' could earn £2 a week, £100 per year. From my Shackleton's wills the family had several looms at their 'farm' so they could have been earning £200 per year. Their main outlay was rent for their farm; annual rent was £16 in 1796, £37 in 1809 and £33 in 1817. A traditional 'folk-lore' was that weavers went around with sovereigns as buttons on their waistcoats; it certainly was a ''golden age''.

the whole family at work weaving

handloom weaving ----lithograph

Analysis of archives

The archives

  This period is before census returns but there are a range of archives available relating to Widdop and/or Wadsworth ;
  1.the Heptonstall Church registers
  2.some Savile leases relating to tenants at Widdop for 1796 and 1817 [Kirklees DDS/1/241]
  3. a Savile Estate Survey of 1809—showing tenants, farms and field names [Kirklees DDS/1/269]
  4. several of my Shackleton wills
  [ the adjacent link, ''My fields cart 1715-1817'' spreadsheet collating ALL this information is ALSO included in the, next, 18th Century section].

  From the Heptonstall registers, looking for any entries referring specifically to Widdop, I've been able to discover that in 1800 there were 14 ''family units'' at Widdop—13 couples and 1 widow-- 33 adults in total and there were 30 children [see adjacent archives 'SUMMARY OF 14 KNOWN FAMILIES living at Widdop'']. It's possible, using the leases of 1796 and the 1809 Survey, to allocate some of them to specific farms [see adjacent archives ''PROPERTY ALLOCATION of 14 FAMILIES to farms at Widdop''] remembering that at both HIGHER HOUSES and LOWER HOUSES there were 2 'farmsteads' on EACH SITE.[Remember, it was common for 'extended' families to share accommodation but even so there,clearly, weren't enough buildings to 'house' each of the families separately].

The above link ''Wadsworth Widdop 1833'' [discovered 2015] describes buildings and fields at the various sites;

'HIGHER HOUSES' included -- 'Widdop 1' farmhouse plus 2 barns; an empty cottage and James Shackletons
AND ' Widdop 2' farmhouse plus 2 barns
--totalling on site = 2 farmhouses,2 cottages and 4 barns

'LOWER HOUSES' included -- 'Little Green' farmhouse/barn/mistall
' Far Sandy Fields' farmhouse/barn/mistal
William Uttley's cottage
John Greenwood's cottage

'NEW LAITHE HEY' was one farmhouse/barn/mistall

'PASTURES HOUSE' was one house


Lower Houses 2012


Higher Houses 2012

 Here's a population chart for Widdop--1800, 1820 and 1841 made by me using data from Heptonstall registers SPECIFICALLY 'STATING' Widdop-----

  1800 1820 1841 1800 1820 1841 number of adults 33 20 24 number of children 30 26 17 aged 50+ 10 4 8 aged 11-14 10 12 4 aged 30-49 21 12 6 aged 5-10 12 10 6 aged 20-29 - 4 5 aged under 5 7 4 7 teenagers 15-19 2 - 5
[family units] [15] [9] [8]

  Of the 9 ''family units'' in 1820--7 couples and 2 widows--only 3 couples and 2 widows were present in 1800; children's numbers haven't fallen much. The statistics suggest that 6/7 couples aged in their 30's in 1800 have either died---there ARE deaths for 6 of them--- or moved away.

  By the time of the 1841 census there are 8 ''families''--4 couples and 4 widows[ there's also an additional couple living with their parents]. Of the 17 children, 5 are the Shackleton grandchildren of ''old'' Joseph at the Higher Houses farm--as well as 4 adult teenagers!!! – and 5 belong to the recently arrived Hardcastle family. It is clear from both of my 'tables' that there is a continuing decline of numbers and families AND there are very few, 'new', incoming families.

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