Knowsley as it was in 1906 when the last of my Crossleys died there


My 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.

It 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.


William 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.


Their 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 Gate.

Across 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.


Nicklety in the old days

Harry 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.

Shortly 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.


Knowsley 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 Methodist Chapel.


After Betty's death in 1906 the cottage was sold. It had been in the hands of the Crossleys since 1822.


The 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!

A fascinating story of William Crossley can be read in the People link HERE