The White Lion story begins with an older pub of the same name known to all and sundry as the Guerning Dog, a nickname it acquired when the inn sign was painted, and it was such a poor replica of a lion that it became known as the grinning dog and then by local dialect the Guerning Dog.


The Guerning Dog was owned by the Fieldens of Swineshead and was later passed on to the Fieldens of Allescholes. In 1795 the owner of the property was James Baron and John Howarth occupied it.


It was situated at the bottom of Butcher Hill and at the turn of the century Martin Mitchell became the landlord and stayed until he built his own pub in 1832 on the opposite side of the road, and named it the Greyhound.


Thomas Baron owned the Guerning Dog property after his brother James had died and he in turn left the property to his nephew Samuel Baron Fielden, son of the aforementioned James Baron. Samuel carried on in competition with the Greyhound until he decided to build a new pub next door to the Greyhound on Rochdale Road, some time after 1832, and he transferred the licence from the Guerning Dog to this new pub.


What made him decide to do this is a mystery. Two pubs side by side you would think would be detrimental, but they each survived well into the 20th century. Samuel named his new pub after the original, and the sign must have met with approval as from then on it was always referred to by it rightful name of The White Lion.


Samuel's daughter Mary Baron Fielden inherited the old Guerning Dog property and married James Crossley, a butcher who carried on his trade at Cheapside. He demolished the property, built a brand new butchers shop in its place, and by 1851 had installed two brothers, John and James Ashworth, as tenants. James Ashworth had been an established butcher at Gauxholme before he moved to these new premises. He stayed until after 1861 by which time he had removed his trade to Wharf Street at Hollins and had he had retired by 1881.


Guerning Dog Bridge at Bridge End

Nothing remains of the old Guerning Dog property apart from the name, which still lives on in the bridge at the bottom of Butcher Hill, still mentioned by that name on OS maps. This photo is of the area today.

William Halstead from Erringden seems to have been the first landlord of the new White Lion and his wife Sally and family of four in 1841 ably assisted him. He had left the trade by 1848 and became a butcher at Dobroyd. He died in 1857.


It is possible that William had left the pub earlier than 1845 and that Martin Mitchell of the Greyhound was running both pubs, as he was reported to have died there in 1845 by a young woman who kept a diary of events of the time.


A young married man by the name of Samuel Mitchell, possibly a relative of Martin's, had taken over the running of the pub by 1848 and one particular event in that year, in the form of a wedding party in November 1848, must have attracted quite a bit of attention.

Stephen Gledhill of Swineshead Clough and his bride Martha held the ceremony at St. Peter's, in Walsden, and from there the wedding party processed with 9 asses, 2 horses and a carriage to Littleborough for a jollification.

Later on that day they returned home and finished off the proceedings at the White Lion. No doubt a merry time was had by all and the sight of the procession must have caused quite a stir as it passed by. The newly weds went to live Gauxholme Stones where Stephen carried on his trade of stripper and grinder.

Gauxholme Stones


Samuel Mitchell and his wife Sally ran the pub until his untimely death in1850 leaving Sally a widow at only 32 with two young daughters aged 6 and 3 to bring up. She had help in the form of Christiana Bepler, who hailed from Frankfurt, Germany and who was to later gain a sort of notoriety, which you can read in the Woodpecker story (HERE). Sally also took in lodgers to supplement her income and Josiah and David Smith were both boarding there in 1851.

It is debatable as to whether or not Sally left the White Lion after the death of her husband. She is still there in a directory entry for 1853, which means she was there in 1852 as directories are inevitably a year out of date when they are published.

An entry in a diary of the time states that John Fielden and his wife of Hollins Lock House moved to the White Lion at Wadsworth Mill in September 1851. John's father was Samuel Fielden of Scout and Horsepasture, a well-known chap in the area whose sons nearly all followed him into the masonry profession. Samuel had married twice, first to Betty Crabtree and then to Mary Fielden. He and Betty had two children, the first born being John. Samuel and his second wife Mary then went on to produce 10 more children.


John Fielden married Jane the eldest daughter of Edmund Wrigley of Waterstalls Mill in 1846, and together they set up home at Hollins Lock House, with John carrying on his profession as a stonemason. Whatever the reason for John moving to the White Lion, be it as landlord or just to take up lodgings, he was also to meet an early end like Samuel Mitchell before him and he died in 1853 aged just 28. His widow Jane married again two years later to William Stevenson, the grandson of Robert Stevenson of Warland Quarry.


Sally Mitchell was the landlady in 1852 when the following event occured at the White Lion:

The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), Saturday, October 2, 1852; Issue 6200

Ancient Order of Foresters

The members of this order celebrated their anniversary at the White Lion Inn, Wadsworth Mill, on Tuesday last. About eleven o’clock the principal officers mounted on horseback, and, dressed in the garb of the order, went in procession to Walsden, and thence through Todmorden to Portsmouth, returning to the lodge about four o’clock, where an excellent dinner was provided by the hostess, Mrs. Mitchell. After the cloth was removed, several appropriate speeches were delivered respecting the present and future prospects of the order, and the evening was also enlivened by recitations and songs.


Sally remarried landlady and by 1858 she and her new husband James Horsfall ran the pub together until she was widowed yet again. James died in 1868 and Sally was again left on her own and again took over the responsibility for the White Lion until William Dewhirst replaced her around 1870.


A couple of notable incidents involving the White Lion occurred whilst James and Sally Horsfall were in charge. The first took place in late December of 1862 when the body of Anthony Crossley aged 60, was found in the water by Joseph Turner whilst walking along the bank of the Rochdale canal at Gauxholme.



Anthony was found hatless and coatless and upright in the water. It must have been a strange sight for Joseph to come upon. At first Joseph didn't recognise it as a body, and thought it was a bundle of clothes. When it was established that it was indeed the body of a man, the process of identifying him began and it was found that it was one Anthony Crossley. Anthony was about 60 and was lodging at the time with blacksmith John Crossley at Gorpley Cottages, and he worked at Gorpley Mill for the Ormerods.

Gorpley Mill

More can be read about this mill HERE


Anthony had a wife and five children, but they hadn't lived together for some time. Anthony was known to be a thief, frequently stealing fents from the mill where he worked.Maybe this was the rift between him and his wife and she may have preferred to do without him rather than put up with his light fingering. At the time of his death he was known to have at least 30 yards of fents in his possession and John Crossley, who had found out about them, brought him to task about the theft. John threatened to tell the Ormerods, Anthony's employers, about it if he didn't return the stolen goods. On Sunday evening at 8 o'clock, Anthony left his lodgings and by 10-30 he was in the White Lion and bought two pennyworth of rum. After that he was never seen alive again.

At the inquest held later that week the verdict of Found Drowned was brought in as there were no signs of any foul play. He died on the 28 December 1862 and his grave is in the churchyard at St. Peter's. His estranged wife Martha died a year later and is buried with him.


The next incident was the sad case of an attempted suicide. It happened in July of 1863 when on a Thursday night late in the month, Fielden Greenwood, aged 23, who lived at Butcher Hill, cut his throat very deeply. The Greenwoods were a normal working class family with four children at home, who all had employment in the cotton mill. They had all returned from the mill, and after they had their tea Fielden's parents and his three siblings all went out. Left on his own, he went upstairs, got his father's razor and proceeded to cut his throat whilst sat on the edge of the bed. One of his younger sisters came home and found him there, not yet dead, and raised the alarm. Dr. Sutcliffe was sent for but afforded little hope for a recovery. Fielden subsequently died from his injuries the following day and an inquest was held later in the week at the White Lion. Mr. Dearden recorded a verdict of temporary insanity.


On a lighter note, on the 17th of November 1865, a bet was laid between Mr. W Barraclough and Mr. James Helliwell as to who could cut up a goose in the shortest time. The contest was held at the White Lion in front of two dozen invited guests. The contest began and the winner, James Helliwell, took only 4 minutes to dissect the bird whilst Mr. Barraclough took 10 minutes. The winnings were spent on the guests and drinks were ordered all round.


So the pub next came in the hands of William Dewhirst who came from Erringden. William was the son of Luke Dewhirst who had kept beer houses at Spring Side and Lobb Mill before becoming the licensee of the Navigation at Gauxholme for a short time and then moved to Bacup to take over the New Inn on Rochdale Road, where he was to be found in 1861.


William went with the family to Bacup, married and lived there for time, working as a cotton weaver, before moving back to the Todmorden area with his wife Alice and son Luke, to take over the running of the White Lion some time around 1870.

His sister Ellen also kept up the family tradition when she married Samuel Jackson and they became landlords of the York Hotel on York Street.


That William had grown up with the trade and obviously had a liking for beer was evidenced by the fact that in November 1875 he was up before the petty sessions and fined 10 shillings for being drunk.


Lion Street

His widowed mother moved back from Bacup and in 1871 was living at Lion Street, near to the pub and her son. Lion Street is still there next to the car park where the White Lion was situated today.

William died in 1876 aged 41, so again a widow was left at the White Lion. Alice didn't remain a widow for long as she married again some time after 1878 to John Butterworth, a man 14 years her junior. John was also widowed and had two young sons, Fielden and Joseph, when he married Alice.


John Butterworth and his first wife Sarah Ann Fielden had started their married life living at Meadow Bottom, Stansfield, with Sarah Ann's widowed aunt, Sarah Stell. The Stells, Benjamin and Sarah, had once been the landlords of the Fountain Inn before Benjamin died and Sarah was left a widow, and it was at the pub that Sarah Ann Fielden was to be found as a young girl of 6 in 1851. She stayed with the couple and it looks likely that for some reason her uncle and aunt brought her up.


John Butterworth was a cotton weaver as was his wife and by 1871 they had already buried one baby followed by little Arthur in June of 1877 who only lived for 2 days. Sarah Ann followed baby Arthur to an early grave 8 months later and they are all buried together at Cross Stone along with Fielden Butterworth, their eldest son who also died young in 1884 aged 12. John and Sarah had been living at Watty Farm before Sarah's death.

John then met Alice Dewhirst and some time after 1878 they were married and in 1881 they were at the White Lion, John, his wife Alice, Alice's 14 year old son Luke Dewhirst, and John's two sons Fielden and Joseph, with John as the innkeeper. The Butterworths had left by 1884 and when Alice died in 1890 she was buried with her first husband as Alice Dewhirst.


The next new landlord was James Farrar and his wife Mary Ellen, who had once kept the WOODPECKER at Shade for a few years before going to live in Industrial Street prior to taking over at the White Lion.


James was the son of Henry Farrar and the family was heavily involved in the butchering trade. Again tragedy was to strike and Mary Ellen was left a widow in August of 1884, James dying at the young age of 37. Out of their seven children, only two girls and one son survived into adulthood. These were Emily, Ann and Edmund. Emily first married William Hubbard of the Rope and Anchor and her second husband was James Bulcock of the Gauxholme Brewery. Ann married Walter Ratcliffe of the Golden Lion so both girls kept up the pub connection.


Summit Inn

Edmund their only surviving son carried on the family trade of butcher, but by 1891 he became an innkeeper at Summit, Littleborough following the other family tradition.

Widowed Mary Ellen carried on at the White Lion and the opportunity arose for her to buy the premises, which she took. Three brothers, Robert, Thomas and Samuel Fielden JP, held the mortgage for the White Lion. All were involved in the manufacture of pickers and a well-known family in Walsden and Todmorden. They had the power of sale to the White Lion public house with a stable and brew house plus some cottages and in 1887 they were sold to Mary Ellen Farrar.


In September 1890 the pub along with 5 cottages was offered up for sale again. The bidding reached £3,750 and was withdrawn.


Mary Ellen and her daughter Emily ran the pub whilst Ann worked as a dressmaker. Nephew Arthur Farrar boarded with them for time, also in the family butchering trade.

With the regular meetings of the Ancient Order of Foresters and the canary exhibitions, which were held frequently, it would keep the two ladies busy and maybe nephew Arthur helped out with the brewing. Mary Ellen was still there in 1897 but she had left a year later and in 1904 she was living at Cambridge Place, Todmorden where she died. She is buried at Christ Church along with the rest of her family.

David Stockwell was the next recorded keeper, a married man born and brought up at Oldroyd, a small hamlet in Langfield, near to Woodhouse. His family were all workers in the cotton mill, and he was still at home with his parents James and Sarah in 1871 aged 21 and working as a cotton spinner. He married Charlotte King in 1877 and by 1881 he, Charlotte and their two young children James Edward and Annie Mary, had moved to Wellfield Terrace.



Tyne Cot Cemetery

Three of their children died young, but son Jesse lived to the great age of 81 whilst son Ernest was killed in France in 1918 aged 33, a private in the Scottish Rifles. He is remembered on the WAR MEMORIAL in Centre Vale Park and also at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium. More of James Edward the eldest son later.
The family continued to live in the Langfield Road area and David still worked as a cotton weaver until by 1898 he was established as the landlord of the White Lion at Wadsworth Mill. He took out and advert in the 1898 edition of the local yearly almanac and business thrived

David and Charlotte and their five children were well established by 1901 and daughter Edith who became a barmaid helped him out in the pub. Son James Edward was now 23 and working as a weaver, Ernest was 16 and had a job in a warehouse whilst the two youngest, Jesse 11 and Emily 6 were the only ones not earning any wages.


Tragedy never seemed far away at the White Lion and suddenly, on the 4 January 1905, Charlotte died leaving David a widower. Probably for the first time in its history that the White Lion had a widower as landlord and not a widow. Charlotte was buried at Cross Stone in the family grave.


James Edward Stockwell, their son, as well as working in the mill had a nice sideline in music. He had a band that was well known in the Todmorden area and they were hired to play at many occasions. Just 8 days after his mother's death he and his band had been hired to play for the dance at the Town Hall in aid of the 10 th annual banquet of the Todmorden and District Licensed Victuallers' and Wine and Beersellers' Association. Not something he would have enjoyed under the circumstances I am sure, but the show must go on.


He also played piano in the White Lion, which would draw in the customers, as a good sing song was what most people wanted, especially when they had had a few jars of ale. Six months after his mother's sudden death, things got for rosier for James as he married Annie Pickles of Broadstone at St. Paul's Church, Cross Stone. His father David died just before Christmas 1932 and had attained the good age of 84. He was buried in the family grave with his wife and children at Cross Stone.


A later landlord was Frank Shea in the 1930's and in 1939 a Margaret Ann Shea was the landlady. Was she the widow of Frank and had the White Lion claimed another victim. She remained until 1944 when the new landlady was Emily Nothard who was definitely not a widow, having a husband James who was well and truly alive.


It finally closed in 1961 under the 1904 compensation act and a letter dated 18 July 1961 from the brewery, John Baxter Ltd. Glen Top Brewery, Waterfoot, stated that they were to close the premises on 23 rd July 1961 but the licensee could remain in he living accommodation. It had survived its rival, the Greyhound, by around 20 years and was demolished in 1971.

The site where it stood is now unrecognisable and is used as a car park.