Scout Top

Nestling high above the hamlet of Bottoms in Walsden and looking down on the other hillside farms of Bottomley, Deanroyd, and the Hollingworth farms stands Scout Top Farm. It sits brooding on Walsden Moor, reminding the onlooker of Wuthering Heights.
There were two farms in that wild spot, the other being Lower Scout, but it is not possible now to unravel who lived and/or owned which farm. The parish registers offer little to help, describing the address merely as Scout in many cases. In two or three cases it is referred to as “Wardle Scout in Walsden”. During the late 1600’s there was a family by the name of Wardle living at Scout, and maybe the farm became known as Wardle’s Scout for a short time. (Not to be confused with Wardle Scout in the Hebden bridge area)
The farm is an ancient one, dating back to at least the 1600’s and maybe earlier. A yeoman by the name of James Scholfield lived at Scout from at least 1700. He and his wife Elizabeth had five children there, and in time the farm passed to their grandson Abraham.

Scout Top


Abraham and his wife Elizabeth had five sons and a daughter, but sadly four of their sons died in infancy. Abraham died at Scout in 1765, leaving his wife with two small children, Mary and James. She remained at Scout and in due course the farm passed to her only son, James. He is the recorded owner in 1784.


View from Scout Top

James married Ann Fielden, daughter of John Fielden of WARLAND FARM, in 1786 and in that year his mother moved out of Scout. She ended her days in Smallbridge, Rochdale. Ann’s brother Nicholas Fielden spent a year or two at Scout before James moved back with Ann and four children. Another two were born at Scout and then in 1798 Ann died.

James relinquished his ownership of the farm and ownership passed to a John Fielden. During the time James was the recorded owner of the farm, his land tax assessment varied between 3s 7d and 4 shillings annually.

Samuel Fielden was a long time resident at Scout Top. He was the son of John Fielden of Bottomley, known as Little Quaker. It may be this John Fielden is the one who acquired the farm in 1798 from James Scholfield. However, Samuel was resident as early as 1795 although he doesn’t show on the Land Tax Assessments and may have been a sub-tenant. Samuel and his wife Sally Holden produced fifteen children between their marriage in 1790 and the last one in 1817. Only one of these children failed to reach adulthood. It must have been a healthy place to live, and noisy with all those robust children.

Samuel knew the potential of his land and the surrounding area. It wasn’t much use for farming, but it had great potential for stone. He and his six sons became ridging hewers and stonemasons  – they got the stone out of the ground and worked it on the common land above their farm. The stone was then carted all the way down the hill to the valley and transported to Rochdale and beyond.

Scout Top from Lower Scout

This was big business, and lucrative. There were many new buildings, churches, chapels, mills and housing needing stone. In Baines 1824 Trade Directory he is listed as a stone merchant. Samuel combined this work with farming, and was successful at what he did. He also dabbled in the money lending business. These were the days before banks, and he often accommodated friends and relatives by loaning money or standing surety for them. No doubt there would be a fee for this.

Scout Top

Samuel was born and brought up as a Quaker, although his father’s association with the Society of Friends diminished over time, and Samuel followed suit. Along with his father he was one of the original trustees of the newly built Methodist school and chapel at LANEBOTTOM, and was a regular attendee at St. Mary’s church in Todmorden.

In 1832 when St. Mary’s closed and the new church of Christ Church opened, he stopped attending. When asked his reasons for this, he replied that the new church was not built for the folk of Walsden and Todmorden but for the rich and those who live up in Harley Wood. This was a stinging reference to the popular feeling that the ordinary folk of Walsden had lost their church and wanted one of their own.

He appears in the 1841 census at Scout Top, recorded as a farmer. He died there in 1844 aged 74 and the farm was taken over by his son-in-law Abraham Dawson, married to his daughter Martha. Abraham and Martha are at Scout Top in 1841 and 1851 where he is a stonecutter, quarryman and farmer of 8 acres. Abraham died there in 1856 aged 52 at which point Martha moved to farm at Warland.

Living at Scout at the same time as Samuel was Abraham Sutcliffe. He is shown as a tenant in the Land Tax Assessments of 1814, but was probably there from his marriage to Sally Scholfield in 1798. It is likely he lived at Lower Scout. Abraham and Sally had twelve children to add to the fifteen of his neighbour Samuel Fielden. It is believed all twelve survived to adulthood.

Lower Scout ruins

Abraham was a handloom weaver, working in his cottage to produce pieces of cloth for one of the spinning mills in the valley. In December 1821 he was returning home to Scout carrying a heavy load of spun warps and wefts ready for weaving on his looms. He never returned, and his body was later found in the canal near the lock at Deanroyd. He had fallen in and drowned. His wife Sally was distraught and within six weeks she also died. It is said she died of a broken heart. They were both just 42 years old and left a large family, the youngest being only a year old. Their son Robert, only ten at the time, is to be found at Scout Top in the census of 1841.

Susannah Sutcliffe (1809-1889)

One of their children was Susannah, born at Scout in 1809. She married John Dawson and moved to live at KNOWLTOP with whom she had six children. John died from Typhoid at the age of 35 years. Susannah remained a widow at Knowl Top where she earned a living as a bread baker, dying there at the grand old age of 80.
Going back to Old Samuel Fielden of Scout Top, his sons carried on with the stone business at Scout. His son Samuel junior took possession of the farm in February 1828 and remained there until October 1842 when he removed to Stonehouse.
As his father was still alive at this time, and still farming at Scout, it is likely Samuel Junior had Lower Scout, but it is impossible to say for certain who was where as each of the two farms had several attached cottages where members of the extended families would live.

Lower Scout


Samuel junior married first Betty Crabtree of Furwood in Walsden and then Mally Fielden. Like his father, he had fifteen children, although he did have two wives.

Old Samuel of Scout Top’s other sons flitted about between Scout and other farms in the area. John, James, Joshua, Abraham and William all worked as stonemasons and lived at Scout at one time or another. In September 1833, John moved away from Scout to the neighbouring Hollingworth Gate Farm, maybe 200 yards lower down the hillside. His brother Joshua replaced him at the farm on November 21st 1833 but moved away when he married his second wife in 1837. His brother Abraham built two cottages at the bottom of Scout Meadow in 1836 and moved to live at one of them, at which point his brother William replaced him at the farm on June 21st 1836.


Lower Scout

Not only did the brothers remain at Scout, but also two of the daughters lived there. Martha was married to Abraham Dawson and they succeeded to the main farm in 1844 on the death of Old Samuel. Her sister Mally had an unfortunate life. Whilst living at Scout, and only a young girl, she had a daughter, Susan, by James Dawson who later kept the Spinners Rest and Black Horse beerhouses at Knowlwood.

In 1822, she married John Law and they settled at Scout where they had seven children who all survived. Then tragedy struck. John became sick and eventually died after a long and lingering illness. He was only 33 years old. He died at Scout Top in 1833, leaving Mally pregnant and with seven other children to care for between the ages of 15 and 1 year. Her son was born several months after her husband died. On 29th September 1836 she moved down to one of her brother Abraham’s cottages at Scout Meadow Bottom. She later had another illegitimate son, Richard, by John Dawson of Stonehouse. Richard died an infant. Sam, another illegitimate son, was born in 1843 but he also died. Mally eventually moved out of Walsden to live at Blue Pits where she died in 1857.

In 1845, the estate came up for sale along with Warland. It seems the same person owned both estates, and this was probably the executor of John Fielden of Warland. The following advertisement appeared in the Leeds Mercury newspaper on Saturday March 8th 1845.


Auction by Mr. Abraham Stansfield at the house of Mr. George Eccles at White Hart Inn in Todmorden on Thursday 25th March 1845 at 7 o’clock in the evening.

LOT 2 

All that estate called Lower Scout Top situate in the township of Todmorden and Walsden comprising a good farmhouse, barn, three cottages, with the appurtenances and several closes of arable meadow and pasture ground thereto adjoining, and containing by admeasurement 9 acres 1 rod 4 perches and which premises are now in the several occupations of Mr. Thomas Fielden and Mr. John Mitchell.

This estate, which is freehold of inheritance and exempt from tithe is a very compact property and lays about half a mile distant from lot 1 (Warland estate). It contains valuable beds of stone of excellent quality and presents a very eligible small investment.

The respective tenants of the estate will show the premises and further particulars may be obtained on application to Mr. John Stansfield of Ewood near Todmorden (the surviving Devisee in Trust for sale) or at the office of Mr. James Stansfield, solicitor, Todmorden, at whose offices a plan of the said estates may be inspected.


It can be seen from the residents in the various census returns from 1841 to 1901 that Scout gradually fell from grace. Few seemed to want to live at this spot so high on the moor and so inaccessible, a place that had once been a hive of activity with so many strong men and robust children. Today, Higher Scout is once more a lovely family home, but down below Lower Scout lies in ruins.


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