Map Ref. SD 944210


The mill and farm lying derelict


Known occupiers


MARLAND John & Sons (John, Abel and Ralph)



(1847 - Joshua Fielden left it in trust for his illegitimate son Nathan Firth and his children)

1836 - c1851



To let


HAIGH Reuben




FIRTH Joshua




Waterstalls Mill in ruins on OS 25” map
Illustrated history

view from Waterstalls of Bottomley and

the misty valley below

Waterstalls is a piece of land that consisted of a farm and a small mill. Nothing else. It is situated on the very edge of the moor above Bottomley to the south of Walsden. From the valley it was an up-hill track barely suitable for horses and little else. The earliest recorded mention of the small mill at Waterstalls is 1805, and nothing is known about it before a survey in 1811 that recorded the existence of the mill with 1,200 spindles.
John Marland, an iron roller manufacturer, was working the mill in 1817, which seems incredible. In such an ill-suited location, how on earth was the iron machinery carted up and down? John originated from Cheshire, moving to Walsden with his wife, children and elderly father. He first of all started his iron roller works at Dobroyd with his 3 sons (John, Abel and Ralph). They left there and started up at Waterstalls, for reasons best known to themselves. It is a difficult place to take iron rods, bars and coals to, never mind a workforce. Maybe the rent was cheap.

John Marland and Sons didn't last long up there. They moved down the hill to STRINES MILL. The Fielden Bros. bought the mill about 1820 for £500 when it was powered by water from the clough. A system of reservoirs at differing levels was made on the moor behind the mill to facilitate the turning of the waterwheel and it was restored to a cotton spinning mill.

The reservoirs 2007


When John Greenwood of Deanroyd was the Standing Overseer of Todmorden, the water wheel at Waterstalls broke down. A lot of people were congregated and it seemed like one of the steps to the axle was worn through and the wheel had come out of gear. One person suggested that a boulder from the clough would help, as a boulder is the hardest thing there is for a step and would be the hardest wearing. Another man in the group was quick to retort: "Why use that, put a standing overseer in, for he's the hardest of ought I know of." John was present at the time and was left to think about what had been said.

By 1832, the mill had become too old fashioned for economic use and was closed down for a while. At that time, the buildings and power supply were valued at £500. Within the next couple of years, the mill was refurbished with new machinery and a small steam engine was installed. Edmund Wrigley was appointed as the manager and the mill re-opened in the middle of 1836.


the ruins of the mill in 2005

Edmund Wrigley and his family lived first at the mill itself. Within 3 years, tragedy struck the family when, on 30th September 1839, one of his sons drowned in the mill dam. The accident was reported as follows:

The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser Saturday, October 5, 1839;


During the absence of Mr. And Mrs. Wrigley of Waterstalls, Todmorden, from home on Monday last, Samuel their third son, a fine promising boy, eight years of age, who developed extraordinary mental powers, whilst playing on the edge of his father’s mill dam in company with another child, accidentally fell into the water and was drowned; his companion being greatly terrified ran home without giving or making an alarm, and left him without help to perish.


In August 1842, Edmund took possession of the farm at Waterstalls, remaining there until the end of his employment at the mill. He suffered further tragedy in June 1846 when he heard that his son James had drowned at sea.


A survey taken in 1843 shows that Edmund was living at the farm, paying rent to James Baron Fielden, and that he had just over 7 acres of land to farm. The land on which the mill stood was a little over 3 acres including three reservoirs, and was owned by Mr. John Fielden of Dawson Weir.

About 25 people were employed at the mill, mostly children and young women.  They no doubt lived at Bottomley, from where the climb was relatively short. The mill produced throstle yarn for warps which were then sent to the Fielden's weaving sheds at Waterside Mill.


It was a dangerous place in a mill in those days, as 15-year-old Thomas Law discovered when he lost 3 fingers in a scutching machine. A local girl recorded in her diary for 1840:


"Thos. Law the Son of John & Mally Law, Bottomley, had 3 fingers taken off by the second joint in the fore end of Janry at Waterstalls Mill by the Scutcher and they were buried in Sally Dawson's Coffin at Todmorden on the Sunday following".

a drawing of the mill as it was in 1970 by kind

permission of the widow of Lawrence Greenwood


On Tuesday 5th October 1847, the Manchester Times and Gazette had the following report:

A Serious Accident

A very serious accident occurred to a female named Nowell, aged 17 years, resident at a place Thistle Hall near Todmorden on Thursday last. It appears the girl’s father is a mechanic in the employ of Messrs. Fielden Brothers; she had been sent to one of their mills called Waterstalls, situate upon a hill in the distance of 3 miles from Todmorden. On the day in question she had been sent with her father’s dinner, and on going up the hill she was met by a rolling stone, which struck her on the head and laid open her skull. She was conveyed to Dean Royal (Royd?) where she still remains, in a very precarious state. The stone is of circular form, and was intended for a grindstone, and had been rolled down the hill wilfully by some person or persons who have hitherto escaped detection.

The girl was the daughter of Elias Newell and his wife Mary (Sutcliffe).

When Joshua Fielden, partner in Fielden Bros., died in 1847, he mentions the mill at Waterstalls in his WILL. It seems he bequeathed it in trust to his illegitimate son, Nathan Firth and his children, subject to certain financial conditions. However, the firm of Fielden Bros. continued to run the mill for many years to come. Nathan's name appears as the owner in the Walsden Rates Book in 1867, which is odd because by then he had died. His eldest son Joshua Firth acquired the ownership from that time and was living there in 1868. There was some sort of disagreement as the mill was put up for auction in 1874 following a Chancery decision. John Fielden is listed as the owner after that time, although the mill had been unoccupied from 1869.

Edmund Wrigley continued to be the mill manager until sometime after 1851 when he left to start his own manufacturing business in Stockport. In 1860, the Fieldens decided to pull out and install tenants.

Reuben Haigh of Newbridge, Walsden, took it on at a rental first. He and his partners worked the mill at SQUARE until 1860, when Reuben went it alone, moving to NEWBRIDGE MILL. He needed an out place to produce warp for his looms at Newbridge, however, he found the cost of carriage to and from this outpost at Waterstalls to be such a considerable sum that he left after a short time.

Abraham Fielden, known locally as Felley O'Crop's, lived with his family at Bottoms in Walsden. He was a working spinner at CLOUGH MILL in Walsden and was also a share-holder and Director of the ALMA MILL. On hearing that Waterstalls Mill was vacant, he decided to try his luck with a business of his own. At that time, Thomas Fielden was the man in charge at Waterside and Abraham went to see him. The two men did not know each other. When Thomas enquired as to which branch of the Fielden family Abraham belonged to - "the better or the worse", Abraham replied he must be from the "worse" and that Thomas must be from the "better" as he had more brass. After a discussion on family history, and discovering they were both from the same line, Thomas said he could have the tenancy if he thought he could make anything of it.

Abraham moved his family to live at Waterstalls and he built a storage warehouse by the side of the canal lock at Lanebottom, thus saving too many folk the climb up to Waterstalls. He managed quite successfully for a while, but about 1864 he finished. The location was just too much.

On the 8th January 1877, Abraham failed to return home. He was reported missing and on Sunday February 4th his body was pulled out of the canal at Deanroyd. He was 62 years old and he took his own life, leaving 4 children and a widow.


The farm

In the 1871 census Samuel Firth and family were living at Waterstalls. Samuel was a labourer and a son of Nathan Firth. It seems the mill had outlived its economical use. In 1881, 1891 and 1901 it was uninhabited. It is now a ruin, forming part of the garden of Waterstalls Farm.


Additional information

researched, recorded and referenced by Mrs Sheila Wade

Hebden Bridge WEA Local History Group


Notes from John Travis, contemporary historian.

John Marland, roller turner, started business at Higher Dobroyd and afterwards moved to Waterstalls in Walsden on the edge of the common land. They then moved to STRINES MILL, all of which places were previously used for carding and spinning wool.

Waterstalls Mill eventually became Fielden Bros. being altered and renovated about 1834 when a new reservoir was constructed on the common further back, and the old ones improved and deepened. Used for cotton spinning with Edmund Wrigley as manager until the cotton famine, then closed. Machinery not removed, and while the panic was in full swing it was let to Reuben Haigh of NEWBRIDGE MILL, Walsden. The cost of carriage was high, so Reuben did not stay long. The place was next let to Abraham Fielden of Bottoms.


Walsden Rates Book 1860

Owned and occupied by Fielden Bros. mill, boiler house; Waterstalls; rateable value £60.8s.8d.


Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser 16th June 1860

To Let. Waterstalls Mill, either with or without machinery. Apply Fielden Bros., Waterside Mill.


Fielden papers 20th June 1860

Fielden Bros. letter to Mr. Timothy Heyworth, Bacup. We think we shall let Waterstalls Mill to the person who went to look at it before we saw you, but if it should be at liberty, we will write to inform you.


Walsden Rates Book 1861

Occupied by Haigh, owned by Fielden Bros; mill, boiler house; Waterstalls; rateable value £60.8s.8d.


Walsden Rates Book 1862-68

Occupier Abraham Fielden; owned by Fielden Bros; mill, boiler house; Waterstalls; rateable value £60.8s.8d.

1867 – owner Nathan Firth


Walsden Rates Book 1862-1866

Occupier Abraham Fielden; owner Fielden Bros; warehouse; Lanebottom; rateable value £1.3s.4d.

1866 – rateable value £1.5s.0d.


Walsden Rates Book 1867-71

Occupiers Dawson Bros; owners Firth executors; warehouse; Lanebottom; rateable value £1.5s.0d. This warehouse was built by Abraham Fielden of Waterstalls Mill.


Fielden papers 21st February 1867

Fielden Bros. letter to Joshua Firth relating to the warehouse built on Firth’s land by Abraham Fielden, formerly tenant of Waterstalls Mill; mill now untenanted.


Fielden papers 10th July 1868

Fielden Bros. letter to Joshua Firth, Waterstalls. Mr. Samuel Fielden wishes you to come down here next Monday about 1 o’clock to tell him all about the old man who turns the water down to Littleborough. You must, if you can, tell Mr. Fielden when you saw the man turn the water, and if anyone else saw him at the same time. If you cannot, try to catch him again and have someone with you.


Walsden Rates Book 1869-73

Empty; owner Firth; mill, boiler house; Waterstalls; rateable value £37.17s.0d.


Walsden Rates Book 1873

Occupier Joseph Crossley; owners Firth executors; stables etc. Lanebottom, rateable value £1.5s.0d. (Note: Joseph Crossley was a butcher. His shop was at BOTTOMS FARM in Walsden)


Halifax Guardian 17th September 1874

Auction pursuant to clearance in Chancery. Firth and Fielden Mill at Waterstalls, Walsden, and the waterfalls, dams, reservoirs, water rights, croft and garden belonging, now unoccupied. 3 acres 1 rod 18 perches.


Walsden Rates Book 1874-79

Empty; owner John Fielden; mill, boiler house; Waterstalls; rateable value £37.17s.0d.


Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Advertiser 1st August 1879

Waterstalls Mill empty.


Further reading: A History of Todmorden by Malcolm & Freda Heywood

and The Fieldens of Todmorden by Brian R. Law