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Preston Guardian, May 6, 1876; Issue 3300

Recollections of Great Harwood

By an East Lancashire man

Article III

The district abounds with curious names "Cliffe" means common land, and the time was when Cliffe extended to "Butts", which derived its name from ponds or pools of water, in which the of cottagers ducks and geese disported themselves rent free; but these privileges have disappeared one after the other. Nearer to Cliffe there is an old stake in the ground to which beasts were fastened in the old bull-baiting days, when the sumptuary laws enacted that before a bull was slaughtered it should be baited in order to destroy the toughness of its flesh - make it tender. This custom was compulsory, and not voluntary, as many people suppose, or carried out through motives of cruelty, whim, or a caprice. Sometimes a woman would lead the brute to the stake and fasten it, sometimes to the stake but more frequently to a ring. A brawny villager would then advance, with shirt neck open and head uncovered, and make proclamation "Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes (meaning oyez, oyez, &c) All manner of persons whatsomever draw nigh and give your attendance at this here bull bait, but stand-off fifty yards as the bull is liable to break "loase" and then you will have to take the mends into your own hands. One dog at one; one dog one bull. God save the King.” Then a dog was slipped, when it cautiously approached the beast, which would beat the ground and send up tufts of grass with its horns. The dog would bury its teeth in the bull's nose; then it would either shake the dog off, or, failing that, the bull would dip its nose into the ground and bring one of its fore feet to the front, catch the dog with it, and crush it as flat as a pancake. Some dogs - old stagers - would hold their own and get plenty of mouthing and biting without being hurt. One enthusiastic dog owner on one occasion went too near, when the bull broke loose; the man ran, but the bull overtook him, knocked him down, and passed over him dislocating his shoulder, and maiming him. He had to take the "mends" into his own hands with vengeance, for he never mended, and his life was abridged. The old Harwoodians sighed for the return of what they termed the good old days of bull - baiting. The animal was generally slaughtered in the village, and the choice cuts sold at threepence per pound. Although the staple trade of the district was hand-loom weaving there were lots of block printers, who worked at Oakenshaw print works, in Clayton-le-Moors. A walk down the fields and crossing the Hyndburn, reaches Oakenshaw print works, formerly the property of Mr. Fort, M.P. The father of Mr. Fort formerly lived in a cottage at Huncote, and began on trading in umbrellas, at a time when every man carrying an umbrella was regarded as a woman wearing men's clothes. Ultimately he began to make hand-loom cloth, and saved much money. To a foreign merchant he sold all the goods he had, and he broke on his hands. Mr. Fort had to begin again at the foot of the ladder, and was again ascending, when one morning he received a letter informing him that his claim would be fit paid in full, and so it was. With the money so obtained he purchased Read Hall - the family seat of the Nowells, a very famous family, who exercised great influence, not only in the county, but upon the nation at large, as great Royalists. All the land around the Read Hall is historical ground - every inch of it. It forms a large part of Harrison Ainsworth's "Lancashire Witches", and some of the Nowells were tried for high treason. A Scotchman was found in the neighbourhood of Forest Becks during the time of the Civil War. He was asked what he wanted, and he replied he was looking for Mr. Nowell, of Read Hall. That was enough, he was tried by court martial, found guilty of being a spy, and hanged. But the purchase of Read Hall was resisted by Mr. Barton Parkinson, a "yeoman, stout and bold", who lived at Goosnargh. He asserted his title to Read Hall by going with a lot of men, a wagon and some horses, and cutting down a large tree which he brought away with him. The effort and consequent excitement are said to have cost him his life. Mr. John Fort M.P., succeed to Read Hall, and a jolly fellow he certainly was. He made hay while the sun shone, and whatever bargain or promises he made, he kept his word. The figures and the graces of oratory were unknown to him. He was seized upon once by "Publicola" in the Daily Dispatch , and designated the "silent member", an appellation which stuck to him like grim death. Mr. Fort felt it very much and when he next visited William West's Brownlow Arms, Clitheroe he said "Now,William, something to eat and drink, and something to sup besides; and then he began to address his constituents by stating that as they were all homely, gradely folks, he could tell them a bit of his mind. There were a great many sharp folks in London, in whose company he durst not open his mouth for fear of being "clicked" up. When he walked down Palace Yard, he generally observed some Members of Parliament "cuttering" together, and in an audible whisper one of them would explain, "Here comes the silent member." Sometimes he sat too long after dinner, and then he toddled to the House of Commons. On reaching the lobby, he would say to a messenger, "Take me to Warburton, and then I know that I shall not go into the wrong lobby. Mr. Warburton was MP for Kendal. When Mr. Fort required help, the Harwoodians in 1832 and 1835 went with stout cudgels to fight for Mr. Forte for so much per day. The print works at Oakenshaw turned off a deal of work, but it had no sort of quality in comparison to that of Mr. Thomson's of Primrose. Mr. Forte, however, lent the latter the large sum of £30,000. Time was when Mr. Fort had a printer's strike, and the men had piquets and all sorts of harassing contrivances. The men met and denounced Mr. Bates, manager for Mr. Fort, as the author of the reduction, so it was resolved that he should be shot. Cuts were drawn, an assassin was found, a gun was obtained and loaded, but Mr. Bates providentially returned home that night by another route, and so escaped the terrible fate intended for him. Mr. Fort died in 1842 and was succeeded by his son Richard Fort who was M.P. for Clitheroe from 1865 to 1868. The trade of block-printing still survives but only as a ghost of its former self. Near to Great Harwood two fatal poaching encounters have happened. In 1834 Mr. Taylor of Moreton, had the great stock of game, and two men from Harwood, along with Evan Brindle of Treacle-row, resolved to have some game. One West Kenyon, of Great Harwood, was of the party when one of the poachers - an old game keeper - said he would shoot Taylor's keeper, a man named Mason. "Well if that is your intention, said Kenyon, I will go back", and so he did. Mason confronted the poachers, one of whom inserted the muzzle of his gun into Mason's mouth, blowing off the brain pan and tearing the tongue up by the roots. Although Squire Taylor was a savage man, he was very sorry for what had happened, and relented of strict game preserving, keeping his stock well under, so as not to place the temptation in the way of his fellow-men. One of his tenants was abducted when he should have voted for Mr. Cardwell, and Taylor's ire was such that he ordered his house to be pulled down, but relented just in time. Mr. Taylor used a speaking trumpet, and on sending for his tenant he put the small end to his ear. Mr. Taylor said, "I am a deaf man", and boxed the voter's ears. He was instrumental in denying Great Harwood of a railway in 1845, but afterwards regretted it, independently of the great lawyer's bill he had to pay.

In a former sketch, I stated that a Parliamentary grant was made for the repairs of Harwood church, but inadvertently placed the figures wrong-1860 instead of 1806. The Squire of Moreton - Mr. John Taylor subscribed very handsomely but his wealth was colossal. He planted a weeping ash over the place where Mason fell, and attended to his decent internment. Mr. Taylor would not in future permit watch and ward to be kept over his game when honest people were in their beds, but left the ground so bare of winged creatures and four-footed animals that they were not worth looking after by mid-night marauders. From Harwood Churchyard Moreton Hall is in prominent view, but its architectural beauty is not so great as Portfield, the ancient seat of a branch of the Braddyll family. This noble mansion was originally fortified; it was surrounded by a moat, that was crossed by a draw bridge. The place is denuded of the former grandeur of its surroundings. The wealth of Mr. Taylor was bequeathed by him to persons who were not of his consanguinity, and what is still more amazing, he left legacies to the Forts, with whose family he had been at "daggers drawn" in electioneering matters for the previous half century. When Mr. Cardwell, M.P. for Clitheroe, deserted Protection and became, under Sir Robert Peel, a colleague of Mr. Cobden, an old liberal said, "Well, Mr. Taylor, but what to do think of Mr. Cardwell now?" Mr. Taylor replied, “If Mr. Cardwell offers for Clitheroe again I will support him;” but Mr. Cardwell parted with his old love without a struggle or a sign. Political gratitude is a fine crop. To return to Mason's affair - it may be explained that three prisoners were each sentenced to transportation for life. They have never returned. A discharged gamekeeper, in the hearing of a country squire in the neighbourhood, exclaimed, "If Mason had no more sense than to go round fighting for hares and peasants, instead of being in bed, he deserved to be shot", whereupon he was subjected to a sound horse-whipping, too suddenly to put on the defensive. He vowed what he would have done if he had known in time, but, after all, he thought it best to suffer in silence. The next poaching fatality was in 1838, when the game-keeper of Mr. W. H. Hornby was shot on some church land, the game rights of which was preserved by Mr. Hornby, through his keeper, T. Isherwood. The latter was shot through the fleshy part of the arm, which bled very freely. His keeper companions had not sense to put a stone in a handkerchief, and tie round the wounded parts, but suffered him to recline on it. At length a cart was procured and Isherwood was put in it on the wounded side. On reaching New York, syncope set in, and death ensued. He was a fine looking man, 37 years of age. Wilful murder was the charge. A man named Crossley - who had fired the fatal shot, fled to America, and died in a workhouse there, of consumption. Robert Willan also went to the western hemisphere, and sojourned there, enduring untold misery for a period of two years, when he returned to England to confront the charge of murder, when he was met by an old companion, named Adam Abbott, better known as "Adam O'Cote,"[?] who was so kind as to turn approver. Willan was tried at Lancaster assizes in 1841, on the charge of wilful murder, and was defended by Mr. Wigham, and Adam, not being believed, Robert enabled to escape, and, afterwards, he became a most respectable man, and a large employer of labour.


To be continued


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