The Cragg Vale Coiners were a notorious gang of counterfeiters near Hebden Bridge whose activities came close to wrecking the currency of Britain. They removed the edges of gold coins and melted them down to make new coins. Find out the full story at Heptonstall Museum.
It is said that many years ago the people of Marsden were aware that when the cuckoo arrived so did the spring and sunshine. They tried to prolong its stay by building a wall around it. Unfortunately the wall wasn’t high enough: as the legend says… “it were nobbut just wun course too low.” Marsden now holds an annual Cuckoo Festival.
Slaithwaite smugglers developed a business dealing in rum and whisky, using the newly built canal to bring barrels of spirits by barge. One day as they were handing them over to customers, soldiers came by so the smugglers slipped the barrels into the reeds at the side of the canal.
Later that night, they went back to retrieve the contraband using big garden rakes. The soldiers once again came back, this time during the bright moonlit night and asked “what are you doing?”. The answer came swiftly back in a slurred tongue: “can’t you see – the Moon has fallen into the water and we are raking her out!” “Daft moonrakers” said one soldier to the others and they walked off laughing at the stupidity of the Slaithwaiters. Obviously once the coast was clear, the not-so-daft smugglers retrieved their goods…
The Holmfirth Tiger
Holmfirth once had its own resident tiger. It belonged to the Overends, a family of circus entertainers, who were offered a tiger cub to rear whilst they were on a circus tour of South Africa in 1939. They returned to Britain after the outbreak of World War II, bringing the tiger with them. After a spell in quarantine, Fenella the tiger came to live in the Overend’s back garden, and sometimes even inside their Holmfirth house. She was a popular and entertaining member of the local community for 10 years.
Tom Mix (1880 – 1940) features on the cover of the Beatles Sgt Peppers’ album and in 336 films, often westerns where he did his own stunts and many silent movies. Look out for a stone dedicated to him by the path leading to Penistone Hill at St. Michaels & All Angels Parish Church in Haworth.
James Bamforth of Holmfirth was known as the ‘king of the lantern slides’ due to his exceptional artwork for magic lanterns. His company was the first in Britain to make films purely for entertainment purposes. There were no professional film actors at the time, so Bamforth relied on local people for his movie casts and his filming took place mainly in the streets of Holmfirth. Locals could often be seen in the streets getting plastered with custard pies, drenched by fire hoses or having buckets of whitewash tipped over them. According to Derek Bamforth, grandson of James, the local bank manager would allow his bank to be used for the filmed robberies. The railway companies would also stop the trains to allow Bamforth to film railway scenes.
Cattle grids were installed on the approach roads to Marsden to prevent sheep coming off the moors and munching in private gardens. The sheep were undeterred and have learnt to roll 3 m across hoof-proof metal cattle grids. They have destroyed gardens, and grazed in the village park, cricket field and graveyard. Some have even perfected the art of hurdling 1.5 m fences.
Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have stayed at the “Old Silent Inn” near Haworth for several weeks, relying on the silence of the locals for his safety and freedom. The villagers were told to ‘keep silent’. There have also been several sightings of ghosts in this pub from a headless soldier to a ghostly bell and a large male figure seen at the bar.
Alphin Pike and Alderman Hill near Saddleworth were once the homes of two giants (Alphin & Alderman) who quarrelled over the affections of a beautiful water nymph called Rimmon, who lived in the valley below them. Their jealously got the better of them and they threw giant boulders at each other in a mortal contest across the valley. These rocks can still be seen strewn over the countryside. There are some caves in Alderman Hill known as the Fairy Holes.
Enoch Tempest was born in Haworth in 1843. He is reported to have been such a drunk, he once woke up in New York and had to work his way home. After this he became the famous teetotal builder of Yorkshire reservoirs such as those at Keighley, Clough Bottom, Barley Reservoir and Walshaw Dean. He became known for extraordinary feats of engineering, building tracks across the bogs and bringing locomotives 400 feet up the hill to build the reservoirs.
Unfortunately he had a very limited knowledge of the local geology and his reservoirs leaked. He lost his money trying to repair them.
Emmeline Pankhurst came to Slaithwaite in June 1907 (year of a fiercely fought Colne Valley by-election) to begin the Suffragette campaign with an open-air meeting. In Marsden in the same year, Eliza Thewlis, Ellen Beever and Elizabeth Pinnance were pelted with old vegetables and banana skins and had to seek refuge in home of Mary Scawthorne. Other Suffragettes in this area included Emily Siddon and Helen Studdard. Feisty women have long been a feature in the South Pennines!
Mary Freeman was one of the country’s first female lawyers. She was born, lived and practised in Slaithwaite and became a magistrate in Huddersfield where she established Freeman House, a hostel for ex-prisoners. She was very involved in the Slaithwaite community where she lived all her life.