One of the members of the WARTS walking group was previously nicknamed ‘Lieutenant’, a further addition to all the other names earned during his time at a private school, or while he worked as an undercover tax inspector at a nunnery. Now he prefers to be called ‘The Forager’, as he has an interest in horticulture and knows things about living off the land.
He will often point out a fungus growing in a pile of something and say, “That’s edible” (we have to assume he is pointing at the fungus). To prove his confidence, he has even taken some home and prepared what he claims is a spectacular culinary dish fit for a king, although his wife doesn’t have the same confidence, and neither does anyone else as far as I am aware.
If, like The Forager’s wife, you said, “I’m not gonna eat that”, then you would feel much better than if you did, for this is sulphur tuft, and it would make you very, very ill in five to six hours. However, probably not terminal.
As previously described in the WARTS ramble, he has also sold his soul to Zeus, the God of clouds, as it never rains if he is with us on our walks.
The Forager digs up some history
As if control over the weather and his immunity to toxins isn’t enough, The Forager will send all members a walk report including interesting history of the mills, railways, houses and paths we came across that day, and it may also include Ordinance Survey (OS) maps and an online description.
One example was just this weekend. We were passing Longwood Beck, a tributary to the River Colne. A section to this beck that meanders in a very strange way, forming a very tight figure S. It looked so unnatural that we speculated that this area must have had in its past some building forcing its course. Sure enough, Forager found an old OS map and the history of Hirst’s Mill on that site.
The photo at the top of the article shows the meandering beck, while the photo above shows the route of Longwood Beck through the wood and on to the Compensation Reservoir in the distance, which we called ‘Woh Carr’ when we were kids. According to a water board chap I was in conversation with, Woh Carr is the oldest reservoir in Huddersfield. It once fed many mills further down Longwood and Milnsbridge, but feeds nothing now. It just sits there looking pretty.
Hirst’s Mill was a very early example of a scribbling mill. Scribbling or carding is the process in textiles that straightens combs and separate the fibres just before spinning and then weaving. By the early 1800s, methods of spinning and weaving and associated machinery had been evolving for some time, but carding was still painstakingly done by hand. Necessity being the mother of invention, the carding machine eventually came along.
Photos with kind permission of Lightowlers Yarns, Meltham
These photos are of a modern carding/scribbling machine, but the principle remains unchanged. The process starts at the hopper end – this particular machine has four carding sections, the original carding machine developed in the 1830s, had only one – then finishes at the condenser, which provides slubbing ready for spinning. Unlike the 1960s when I worked in’t mill, and at any time before that, there are guards everywhere now.
It was a large machine, each section being approximately ten feet long and seven feet high, and there could be several sections to it. As a result, it could not easily form part of the spinning and weaving cottage industry of earlier generations. A purpose-constructed mill became the answer. Eventually, many machines together with associated processes were brought under one roof. Dams in the rivers or becks were constructed to ensure a constant and reliable water supply for the waterwheels, and later for the steam boilers. Hirst’s Mill had a 25-feet-diameter waterwheel. All that remains of the mill now is the overgrown cobbled access road and bridge.
This is an example of what is left of a much smaller waterwheel in the Calder Valley, perhaps eight feet diameter:
More buried history unearthed
Another link that The Forager sent was to the Underground Histories website of Alan Brooke. Part of this lists Huddersfield mills from 1790 to 1914. Entry number 178, Lees Mill, Golcar reads as follows:
“1858 HC 20 Nov: John Taylor’s four year old son drowns in goit, resuscitated by Mr Dean, surgeon. Finds on arrival that the old method of applying sod of earth to child’s face and nose had been tried.”
Of course, there are more questions than there are answers available to this tragic event. Presumably “resuscitation” didn’t mean that the poor child recovered as I think it would mean now. What was the “old method of applying sod of earth to child’s face and nose” supposed to do?
The one thing I can answer is what a goit is. A weir was constructed across the closest river or large water course to form a kind of dam. A valve opening was built into the upstream body of water which allowed water to enter a channel, very much like a small canal, which ran into a larger dam constructed in a convenient area near the mill. The channel is called a goit.
The photo shows the beginning of a goit fed by the weir on the River Colne in the background. This particular goit sits between the River Colne and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. It runs approximately 320 yards from the river and fed Low Westwood Upper Mill, now derelict but still defiantly hanging on by its fingertips.
This is by no means the longest human-constructed goit, or artificial water course. The Catchwater feeding Blackmoorfoot Reservoir just outside Huddersfield is over two kilometres long (although there was no such thing as a kilometre when it was built in the 1870s).
And to round off …
A very careful Yorkshire farmer from Selby takes his dog to the vets, and says, “Na-then vetnry, mi dog’s swoled a condom thanoze. Can thee do anythin’?
“Leave it with me and come back in a couple of hours”, said the vet.
Half an hour later the farmer rings the vet and says, “Don’t worry about the condom, mi wife’s found another in’t medsin cabinet”.