Shade, Todmorden

The Woodpecker Inn does not appear named as such until 1881. Before this, it is listed in most sources as just a beer house, so it is difficult to know which one would have actually been the Woodpecker as the addresses have also changed over the years. The same can be said about the Whisket, so this is a brief look at some of the beer houses in the area including the Woodpecker and the Whisket.

Mr. Shackleton, a tanner from Hebden Bridge, was the first to own premises in the Little Holme area. When he died, he left one of his daughters three houses in Little Holme Street, and three on the main road, which eventually became a butchers and a drapers.

This daughter married Dr. Thomas, also from Hebden Bridge, and it was he who built the houses at Lock Street and Shade Street. The early naming as Physic Street of this area reflected the doctor's profession. Most of these houses were built before 1840 and some of the stone came from the Old Mason's Arms at Gauxholme, which had to be pulled down with the making of the railway.

One beer house that was in this area was the Whisket, built by William Fielden who came from running a beer house at Hanson's old timber yard in Todmorden. He had probably seen an opening to cater for the needs of Thomas Butterworth's bobbin shop, which had been set up at the canal end of High Street around 1837. William, with his family of four, one still an unnamed baby, was running the beer house at Bobbin Shop, as the area was known, in 1841.

Hanson's timber yard, where William Fielden's original beer house had been, was situated on the site of the present day Conservative Club, which had previously been Fielden's Coffee Tavern and Temperance Hotel. It seems ironic that the staunchly temperance Ellen Fielden should have built her hotel where once had stood an edifice of all she abhorred.

The Conservative Club


Cross Street

In October of 1862, Abraham Tidswell had called at the Whisket on his way from Bacup to his home in Cross Street, just off Halifax Road.
He was taking a short cut along the canal bank and accidentally fell in at Wadsworth Mill. His body was not recovered until the next day. Abraham had once been a billposter and his family originally came from Jack Lee Gate in Langfield. More recently, he had been working in an iron foundry.

The canal at Shade, looking towards Wadsworth Mill


He was 31 and left a young widow, but thankfully no young children. His brother Thomas had worked as a postman in the Burnley valley for many years and he was awarded a pension in 1881. He was known affectionately as "Tom Post". He died in February of 1895 aged 69 at Wellington Terrace, Todmorden, where he had lived for at least 34 years. He had been blind since 1885. They are both buried at Mankinholes Chapel.


The Whisket is mentioned in a report in the Halifax Guardian from 1863 and it makes interesting reading: (submitted by John Alan Longbottom)

19th Sept 1863

Petty Sessions - Thursday.

Disorderly House - The mistress of a beerhouse at Shade, known by the name of the "Whisket" was summoned for permitting drunkenness and disorderly conduct in her house on the 12th instant. She pleaded guilty, but endeavoured to show that the fault was not hers. Inspector Heap, in reply to the bench said that the defendant kept a prostitute as servant. Fined 10s and 10s expenses.


In 1869, the following advertisements appeared in the Era newspaper:

The Era (London, England), Sunday, May 30, 1869;


(Proprietor W. Redman)


Must be good

To save time, write at once.

Talent wanted for future dates.


The Era (London, England), Sunday, July 25, 1869;

Music Hall, Shade, Todmorden.

Wanted, a lady pianist and vocalist for a free-and-easy.

To live in the house.

A long engagement to a competent person.

To start on Monday next.

Address; Wm. Redman, as above.


The Whisket had its licence taken in 1869 along with the Mechanics Arms, also in the Shade area. One has to wonder if it was anything to do with the female dancer!

The Mechanics commenced selling ale and porter on the 13th of June 1848 and the landlady was Hannah Cryer. Very little else has been recorded about this pub.

In 1861, there were three beer houses in the area.


Lock Street

One in Lock Street had a landlady by the name of Christiana Bepler. She was born in Frankfurt in Germany around 1830, and in the early 1850's she was working at the White Lion, just a bit further down the road in the Wadsworth Mill area. She obviously had a taste for pub life and decided to start out on her own instead of working for someone else. She and her older sister Caroline took on the Lock Street beer house, Christiana having three children aged between six and three.

A boarder at the house was John Hoyle, an unmarried man, eight years older than Christiana. Christiana had left the beer house by 1871 and was living at Old Lane, Knowlwood with the same John Hoyle, the lodger at the pub. By now, she had seven children, all with the Bepler surname.

The second beer house was in School Street at Shade and was kept by 62 year old Mary Mitchell helped by Betty Binns, a single lady of 36.

The third was in Shade Street, where Joseph Cockcroft was selling beer. This was the most likely one to be the Woodpecker as its address in various sources is given as Shade Street. It is possible that the entrance was once in Shade Street, or that the end of Shade Street once extended onto Rochdale Road.

Shade Street


Joseph was a young man of 36, and he and his wife Sarah had two children aged 10 and 4. They took in lodgers and at the time of the census had three, all labourers. They had left by 1871 and were living at Hanging Ditch.


Any of these three beer houses could have been either the Woodpecker or the Whisket, or indeed the Mechanics. What we do know is that only the Woodpecker survived. The Whisket, and the Mechanics both closed in 1869 and we shall never know if it was Christiana Bepler or Mary Mitchell who employed the lady of ill repute.


A beer house mentioned at 6, Shade Street in the 1870's and kept by John Howorth was the Woodpecker Inn. John was the son of John and his wife Sally Jackson of Square, a local man. He married Sarah Ann Crowther and had two children, Betsy and Alfred who were both with the couple at the Woodpecker. They had moved from Woodbottom to take over the beer house, so did not have to stray far from their home. John was an excavator as well as running the pub, but with both children at school, his wife would be in charge of the inn during the hours John was at work. John and his family had left by 1876, and they went back to Woodbottom and later to Pexroyd, where he carried on working in the stone business.


James Farrar then took over for a couple of years and his daughter Ann was born there in 1876. James and his wife later moved to the White Lion and later still their daughter Ann was to marry Walter Ratcliffe of the Golden Lion.


Another John Howorth was the next landlord of the Woodpecker, but he was no relation to the previous John Howorth. John was from Knowlwood and in 1877, he married Sally Haigh, the daughter of James and Hannah. John's father was Jeremiah Howorth, also a publican, and John was no stranger to the way of life as he had grown up with it and had supported his widowed mother who had been left running the Spinners Rest at Knowlwood after her husband's death.


Sally standing at the door of the Woodpecker about 1895, photo by kind permission of Roger Birch

By the early 1880's, the pub became known as the Woodpecker, and John and Sally ran it until John's death in 1893 aged 45. The address for the pub has now become 224, Rochdale Road, Shade.

Sally stayed on at the Woodpecker but was not long a widow as she remarried in 1895, to Charles Hollinrake. Charles was also a widower, his wife Alice having died in 1886. Sally and he ran the pub together, but Sally advertised as the landlady and the one in charge, saying it was still under the same ownership.


photo by kind permission of Roger Birch

Next door to the Woodpecker was a butchers shop, run during the 1890's by the Greenwood family. The slaughterhouse was just around the corner in Little Holme Street. The photo shows the family and shop and just on the right of the photo, the slaughterhouse can be seen.
The butchers shop was acquired by the brewery around the late 1960's and used to extend the pub premises.

This is how it looks today


Sally was left a widow again in 1903 when Charles died, but she carried on running the pub until her death in 1907. She is buried with her first husband at Christ Church.


The Woodpecker has since seen many changes in landlords and it did not become fully licensed until 1960. It is still there today, on the busy main road leading from Walsden to Todmorden.