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Report of meeting of 12th January 2023

By February 20, 2023November 19th, 2023No Comments

On Friday the 12th January 2023, at the usual time of 7.30pm there was the fifth talk of Mytholmroyd Historical Society’s Winter Programme of lectures and of course, the first of the New Year 2023. The new annual subscription of £15 was due and £5.00 for visitors.
The Speaker was Mrs Shirley Daniels whose illustrated talk was titled “ Remembering Cragg Hall.” The projectionist was Mr Roy Collinge. There were 55 present including 8 visitors.

The founders of the” Hinchcliffe dynasty” and ultimately the building of new Cragg Hall is somewhat complex and too complicated to go into detail and this report only summarises some of the key points perhaps of Shirley’s talk. I suggest if you require a more detailed account you purchase the excellent booklet produced by the Cragg Vale Historical Society titled “ Remembering Cragg Hall” This is available from the Society.

I therefore, can only provide a very brief synopsis .The story with the marriage of Samuel Hinchcliffe, 1720, born in Calverley near Leeds, son of a well to do clothier, who migrated to Hawksclough to set up a maltster and living at Redacre, Mytholmroyd and later married Mary Thomas, a daughter of a wealthy landowner and they had a son called Richard Hinchcliffe born in 1750.

Richard 1750 – 1817 was to move to Rochdale but due to the death of his maternal grandmother inherited land near the head of the Turvin River , Blackstone Edge. This led to the rise of Hinchcliffe in Erringden and Cragg Vale.

Always a bit of an entrepreneur and interested in spinning methods he was to build a water wheel and a small cotton mill at the head of Cragg Vale where there was a good fall of water. He prospered and had a large family most of whom worked in the family business. In 1800 he moved lower down the valley to an existing paper mill and worked in some kind of partnership with the Greenwood’s who used scraps of woollen fibres from hand loom weavers to make paper. The partnership was strengthened when one of Richards daughters Hannah, married John Greenwood in 1803.

With Richard and Mary having 11 children with most living into their 70’s & 80’s the family tree is very complicated.
Hannah is important to the history of Cragg Hall because she had 8 children with John Greenwood one of whom, Fanny, married her cousin Hinchcliffe Hinchcliffe, son of Joseph and grandson of Richard. Joseph’s second wife, Betty sadly died unexpectedly but it was her inheritance as the Kenworthy family who were prominent landowners and clothiers, in the Cragg area.

Hinchcliffe Hinchcliffe was to give rise to the accumulation of wealth and the Hinchcliffe, family due to Hinchcliffe Hinchcliffe are seen as hard working, astute, ruthless task masters, an entrepreneur and parsimonious but he was somewhat generous to local causes. He had his fathers and grandfathers entrepreneurial spirit and made shrewd investments in land, property far away from Cragg Vale and British & American railways. It is said he earned far more wealth from these sources than from his numerous Cragg Vale cotton mills. It is said however, that his wealth was founded on the money left to him by his grandmother Betty and the “Kenworthy Inheritance”

In 1855 he purchased the 17th century Cragg Hall, later with the building of “new” Cragg Hall in 1880 it became “Old Cragg Hall” as Hinchcliffe Hinchcliffe and his wife Fanny and their four children moved two fields down to their new home. Sadly however, three of his children were to die young, only Helen surviving but she eloped to Burnley and married her husband, later dying and she remarried again until her second husband died. Meanwhile Fanny died in 1888 so Hinchcliffe Hinchcliffe was to live alone. A year later he made his will, a beneficiary was Helen despite never showing any interest in the business. She was a bit of a “high society” woman and moved from Southport where she had lived with her now deceased second husband to Harrogate where she was to meet and marry a much younger man and they moved back to Cragg Hall. Her new husband William Algernon Simpson (Algy), was only 21, whereas she was 49 but very wealthy. They were to transform Cragg Hall with extensive building of Cragg Hall in several architectural styles, its garden with terraces and various features and to entertain regularly the local Cragg community and we have probably seen many photographs of Cragg Hall, its gardens and the parties in the gardens. Cragg Hall became the hub of social life in the Cragg Vale community.

Helen through her marriages and inheritance had become very wealthy and they indulged in all kinds of ways from horses to the advent of cars but Helen was to die suddenly in 1917, whilst at the time Castle Hall was an Auxiliary Hospital for Wounded soldiers of WW1 for which she had been a prime motivator whilst Algy had voluntary joined the forces as an ambulance driver.

After the death of Helen to whom many “Craggers” watched or attended the funeral and the end of WW1 Algy continued to live on at Cragg Hall but now alone and living in general and the social life of Cragg Vale never returned to that before WW1.

Then on the night of the 11th August prior to the opening of the Grouse shooting to which the Hall had been prepared all was to change for it was to become the disastrous fire of Cragg Hall. The fire started late in the evening and it spread very rapidly and by the morning little was left of Cragg Hall and its furnishing or personal possessions. It was a scene of total devastation and for locals hard to believe the ruins they were looking at. The fire brigades that came for various reasons took more than 2 hours to arrive. The cause of the fire it is thought was an electrical fault but cynics argue that it was deliberate by Algy. The Gatehouse and stables that were away from the house were untouched by the fire.

Algy went back to live in Old Cragg Hall and was to focus his mind on forming a Cotton Syndicate with former employees but keeping the old family name of Hinchcliffe and pursued his interest in politics and occasionally parties were held in the grounds of Cragg Hall. In 1926 Algy moved to Wetherby where he became involved with agriculture and stock breeding but later to Harrogate. He was now an infrequent visitor to Cragg Vale, his last at the invitation of the Sutcliffe family and their new house called Cragg Hall in 1960. The Sutcliffes had bought from Algy, Old Cragg Hall and cottages and fields and the ruins and grounds of Cragg Hall in 1934.

Algy died in 1963 and most of his large wealth was bequeathed to St John’s Church in Cragg Vale and his ashes scattered on Blackstone Edge. Such was his love of Cragg Vale.

Details of the proposed annual day excursion to Lincoln were circulated. The trip will be on Saturday the 12th August leaving as usual Mytholmroyd Community Centre at 8.15am and arriving back at approx 7.45 pm. ( The recent survey was really inconclusive and Saturday appeared just as acceptable as mid week. However, motorway traffic is much lighter on a Saturday and surprisingly the price of a motor coach is no different )
The motor coach fare is £26.00 but given the choice available of attractions to visit for example, the Castle and its Prison etc or the famous Cathedral there are separate entrance fees which range between £7.00 and £15.00. The grounds of the Castle are free and possibly the City Walls. It is possible I think to buy some form of discounted ticket.

This Annual Day Excursion is open to both members and non – members. This proposed trip is dependent on the number who sign up and pay in full by the 10th March meeting . A returnable deposit of £15.00 is required the outstanding balance to be paid by the March meeting. The money is to be paid to our Treasurer Mr Robert Davies. A minimum of 30 people is required to make this proposed trip viable. Remember we are self financing.
The Society meets at St Michael’s Church Hall, Church Street off New Road, Mytholmroyd at 7.30pm during its Winter Programme and during the Summer has two evening visits and a Day Excursion. Details of the evening visits are in the Annual Subscription Card.
Mike Darke. Press Officer