The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Remembering Moor Bottom

Sometimes it seems as though everything around us is changing, for nothing seems to be as it used to be.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 9:15 am
Can you name this shop?: A glimpse of old Dewsbury Moor which many years ago was described as Moor Bottom, of which Mr Oldfield wrote 150 years ago. This photograph was taken either at the bottom of Moorend Lane or it could have been somewhere on Heckmondwike Road.
Can you name this shop?: A glimpse of old Dewsbury Moor which many years ago was described as Moor Bottom, of which Mr Oldfield wrote 150 years ago. This photograph was taken either at the bottom of Moorend Lane or it could have been somewhere on Heckmondwike Road.

The countryside is being eaten up with housing development and local landmarks are disappearing fast.

We go walking in the countryside and look out into the distance and mourn the loss of things which once gladdened the eye.

The places of childhood where once we roamed on long summer days have all gone.

Margaret Watson.

So why didn’t we take more notice of them while we had them, and why didn’t we keep a written record of all that we saw?

Thankfully, there was one man in Dewsbury who did write them down while out walking one day in 1872.

He was Mr T.B. Oldfield, who was born in Dewsbury Moor at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

He saw change all around him and was determined to record what he saw, and this was published in the Reporter.

This was in the days when Dewsbury Moor was known as Moor Bottom and where quarries and coal mines were just opening up.

Mr Oldfield also writes about the conversations he had with characters living on The Moor.

What he writes, gives us a fascinating insight into the lives of our forebears, those who lived through the changes the Industrial Revolution brought.

His walk starts from Cawley Woods on the Heckmondwike side of Moor Bottom, where once stood Cawley Quarry.

He arrives at Mill Hill where a windmill once stood and where he now stands to look out at picturesque views towards Ravensthorpe.

He spots a flock of sparrows and linnets arising from the hedgerows as they try to find shelter in a nearby wood after being disturbed.

He crosses a farmer’s field and stops to gather wild flowers – red poppies and wild violets.

From there he strides across to Laburnum Cottage, the residence of Richard Clarkson, an important manufacturer of blankets.

Mr Clarkson had been a staunch Liberal, always willing to assist in the social and political advancement of the people of Dewsbury.

He continues his walk down Moorend Lane past a group of recently built cottages on a site where once stood a fine cluster of fir trees.

He talks to two residents, Mr and Mrs John Normington, parents of Mr Thomas Normington, President of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

From there he pays a visit to the home of Thomas Greenwood Esquire, a Justice of the Peace for the old borough of Dewsbury.

He lived in a house called Light House, situated in large and beautiful grounds just off Heckmondwike Road.

Mr Greenwood had had great influence in the town, especially when the Poor Law Act came into force in 1847, for which he was officially appointed to establish in the Dewsbury district.

Mr Oldfield continues his walk into Carr Lane, and after pausing at the nearby beck, takes us to a place called Cinder Hill, once the site of an ancient iron works.

The ironstone for this works had come from neighbouring hills, and the wood with which to smelt it, from timber trees in the valley.

Later, an extensive carpet and coverlet manufacturing mill belonging to Messrs Carr, was built there.

But Mr Greenwood was later to buy it so he could demolish it and create upon the site a rural and park-like scene of great beauty.

At the top of Carr Lane Mr Oldfield points out where once had stood an ancient English homestead, Grimestone Lodge, built in 1761.

Nearby he passes an ancient hostelry, The Woolpack, formerly known as the Shearers Inn, next to which was Waterstone Colliery.

This was the property of Messrs Wroe and Company from which large quantities of coal were raised daily.

The coal beds in Dewsbury Moor, Mr Oldfield informs us, were at the time being extensively wrought.

And, he forecasted they would probably be supplying fuel for the district for hundreds of years to come.

Nearby is the recently opened Dewsbury Cemetery occupying 12 acres, opened on the same day as the Heckmondwike Cemetery.

On his homeward journey, Mr Oldfield, who lived in Hill Top House, at the top of The Moor, points out the Brunswick Primitive Methodist Chapel in School Lane, built in 1851.

He is now at the end of his stroll, and stops to reflect on the changes which have taken place on The Moor since he was a boy in the 1820s.

“Since the middle of the last century, cloth was the staple trade of this district, but now it has given place to blankets, carpets and rugs,” he observes.

“The most extensive manufacturers of these on the Moor today are Messrs Fenton, Crabtree, Crawshaw and Bailey.”

Mr Oldfield, now at the end of his stroll, hastens homewards, to begin writing the article you are reading today, written 150 years ago.

When I read articles like these, I realise it is people like Mr Oldfield who are the true historians. They lived here. They saw what was happening. Thankfully, they wrote it all down.

Email [email protected] with your bygone memories of the Dewsbury area.