as it was in 1906 when the last of my Crossleys died there
Crossley family lived at Knowsley Cottage in Walsden for over
80 years. The plot still exists today, although it is now a rather
smart and modern house, far removed from how it was when my last
ancestor was there. The house is at the top of Inchfield Road,
on the right below the level of the road, and is now known as
the Blue Pig.
was built in the eighteenth century, a low and squat building
for its time, set in a large garden. It overlooks Walsden and
the slopes on the other side of the Rochdale valley. The views
are magnificent. The only neighbouring house is Nicklety, which
in the days of my ancestors was a group of 4 weavers' cottages.
Who would wish to live in such an isolated spot before the days
of the motorcar? The approach from the valley bottom is steep
and winding, sufficient to tire even the most hardy of folk, and
difficult enough even in a car on today's tarmac, never mind on
foot over rough stone and mud.
Crossley and his wife Betty moved from the convenience of a cottage
at Square in Walsden to live there in 1822 when he was about 50
years of age. They had 6 sons and a daughter; the youngest was
Harry aged 2. William made a living hand weaving in the shed,
and also set about cultivating the garden and doing odd bits of
gardening jobs for his friends. He also tried his hand at making
matches. He and Betty also had a sideline. They brewed their own
beer, known as "hol'd thi tong", which they sold without
an excise licence to anyone who asked.
youngest two sons stayed on at Knowsley with the old folk and
became weavers themselves. Neither of them was able to write their
names, so maybe their education had suffered because of the isolated
home in which they lived. William died aged 82 of gradual decay,
and Betty followed him a year later aged 75, dying of dropsy.
By that time, both the younger sons were married and living at
Knowsley with their children. Harry was married first, to Betty
Howarth of Newbridge. Robert had a relationship with neighbour Susan Newell that produced a son, Thomas Newell. He later married Betty Fielden of Hollingworth
the road at Nicklety, Betty Howarth's sister Susan lived with
her husband Joseph Haigh Crowther. Harry and Betty, and Joseph
and Susan were great friends and stood witness at each other's
weddings at St. Peters in Walsden.
in the old days
and Betty had 7 children born at Knowsley. The youngest, Elizabeth
Ann was born in May 1863, but sadly her mother died shortly after
childbirth. She was 41. Harry struggled along with his children,
working at a mill in the valley as a powerloom weaver, continuing
his great friendship with the Crowther family at Nicklety.
before the end of 1868, Joseph Crowther became ill, and in January
1869 Harry nipped across the road to visit him. Whilst he was
there he dropped dead. Apparently he had liver disease. Whether
this was something to do with his father's home brew is not known.
There were 5 of his children at Knowsley when he died, although
they were soon to be married and off elsewhere.
was taken over by his brother, Robert Crossley, and his wife Betty
Fielden. They had 4 surviving children. Robert worked in a cotton
mill and died at Knowsley in 1903 aged 88. Betty also died there
in 1906 aged 79. They are buried with their son Thomas at Lumbutts
Betty's death in 1906 the cottage was sold. It had been in the
hands of the Crossleys since 1822.
cottage was purchased by a person unknown and turned in to an
unofficial workingmen's club. It was infamous in the Walsden area
and that is when it became known as the Blue Pig. It was still
operating as such until at least 1955. At that time the landlord
of the Railway Hotel in the valley, Harry Green, bought an open
sided vehicle nicknamed the "Pneumonia Wagon" by the
pub regulars who were brave enough to attempt a pub-crawl inside
the car. One of the stops on the crawls was the Blue Pig. There
was a big drawback to this. If there were any more than 5 people
in the back of the wagon as it attempted to climb the steep rise
to the Blue Pig, two of them had to alight and push!
fascinating story of William Crossley can be read in the People