photo by kind permission of Peter Gulaiczuk


The first indication of independent worshippers at Cloughfoot is evidenced by a Sunday School established by Mr. William Mitchell, Abraham Earnshaw and Ellis Hollows, who were members of the Todmorden Wesleyan Society, with meetings being held on the upper floor of a cottage at Clough Foot in 1819.


There were external steps up to the room where the meetings were held, now disappeared, but would have been where the long white windows are today.

The Wesleyan Society also provided preachers on a Sunday and sometimes on a week day evening.


There was a split between the Wesleyans in Todmorden and this resulted in the school being left without a preacher. The Methodist Association duly took over the duty of supplying the preacher from their ranks.

The school proved to be very popular and the attendance numbers grew, so much so that by 1828 the cottage where they met wasn't large enough to accommodate them. It was decided that new land was needed and Mr. Thomas Sutcliffe of Midgelden Farm, along with other teachers, applied to Mr. Dickenson for a new piece of land for a larger school to be built. He obliged their request and gave them the land they needed on the opposite side of the road to the cottage, and in 1829 the New School was opened.

It was a Sabbath and Day School for children of all "Protestant religious denominations" and was put under a general trust. The plaque is inscribed:

"This school was built by Public subscription AD 1829 for children of all religious denominations."


The Methodist New Connection at Patmos provided the preachers for the new school and this continued for many years. In 1839 Patmos was given over to the Independents, so the supply of preachers for Clough foot ceased. A request for assistance was made, by a deputation from Clough Foot, to Rev. Amos Blackburn of Eastwood, in the hope that he could help in supplying a preacher. It was decided that the chapel was to be Independent and so it remained until it closed. One preacher from that era, who left a great impression on the congregation, was Mr. Wm. Dawson of Eastwood.

In 1840 the Church was officially formed into the faith of the Independents and the Reverends Blackburn and Cheetham were the officials at the ceremony. At that time there were only sixteen members of the Church, but it was felt that there was a need for a resident minister, so the Rev. Mr. Priestley was invited in 1845 to fill the position. He was leaving Smallbridge so he accepted the position at Cloughfoot and stayed to serve as both preacher and schoolmaster for quite a few years. He left due to domestic circumstances and went to live in Birmingham.

In May of 1851 a new preacher and schoolmaster was appointed - Mr. Edward Holroyd, from the Independent Church at Rishworth in Yorkshire. He stayed until April 1856, when he was asked to resign by the Church, which he did, and was paid six months salary on so doing.

It was now felt that to make any more progress a new Church was needed with enough land to be made into a burial ground. A piece of land at the bottom of Sourhall Road at Cloughfoot was earmarked for purchase from the owner, Mr. James Taylor of Todmorden Hall. Mr. Thomas Sutcliffe of Midgelden Farm was voted the man to approach Mr. Taylor and obtain the cost of renting the land required. He was successful in his mission and an agreement was made on 27th September 1854 between Mr. Taylor of Todmorden Hall and the following thirteen men who were to become the trustees:

John Hollinrake of Gorpley Farm, Labourer

Edward Holroyd of Cloughfoot

John Mitchell of Cloughfoot, labourer

Thomas Sutcliffe of Midgelden, farmer

Thomas Holt of Sourhall, picker maker

John Holt of Sourhall, picker maker

James Dearden of Rocknook, banksman

Richard William of Gorpley, pensioner

John Stansfield of Moorhey, farmer

Abram Sutcliffe of Mellins Clough, overlooker

John Feber of Gorpley, farmer

Joseph Sutcliffe of Banks, labourer

Revd. Amos Blackburn of Duke Street in Stansfield


The lease was for 999 years and Mr. Taylor was most generous and gave the land for the Chapel free and only charged £1 per year for the burial ground. The rent was to be paid on the 24th June each year commencing in 1854. There was a stipulation that a chapel must be built within 12 months from the date of the agreement, i.e. 27 September 1854.

The land given was at Lower Hanging Shaw, a parcel of the north Midgelden estate, 51 feet 6 inches on the east and west sides, 60 feet on the north and south sides. The whole was an area of 320 yards. It was bounded on the east by part of the moor or waste called Todmorden common, on the south by a strip of land lately belonging to Joshua Fielden, deceased, and on the other sides by the remainder of the same close of land called Lower Hanging Shaw. James Taylor and his heirs were to be allowed access from time to time, to collect lead, but on no account must they cause any disturbance or make a nuisance of themselves whilst doing so. The chapel was to be used for preaching the Gospel according to the tenets and practices of protestant dissenters who profess the principles of the Independent Denomination called Poedo Baptists and known as Independent from now on. The doctrines to be upheld are:


The existence of one God the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The Deity of the Son of God and His coequality with the Father.

The Deity and Personality of Holy Spirit.

The universal and entire depravity of human nature.

The atonement of Christ.

Personal election and Sovereignty of Divine Grace. Justification by Faith alone.

The perpetual obligation of the moral law.

The necessity of the Holy operation of Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the Heart.

The duty of all men to believe the Gospel.

The divine authority of the Baptism and of the Lord's Supper. The Resurrection of the dead.

The Eternal happiness of the righteous and the everlasting misery of such as die impenitent.


Certain other stipulations were written into the agreement and were as follows:

Pews to be allowed to be let and single graves to be purchased at the discretion of the deacons and trustees.

At all times there must be provision of free pews for the poor people who wanted to attend services.

Any profit from the letting of pews was to go in keeping the building in good repair.

There must be provision made for the use of any part of the building to be used for a Sunday School and also as use for prayer meetings, and any meetings that would further the cause of the chapel.

This all to be done with the approval of the majority of the male members of the Church.

The premises to be let out for occasions in keeping with the objects of the Church.

A stone wall or fence, at least 6 foot high to be erected on all sides.


It was agreed that other denominations would be welcomed into the chapel and allowed to take part in the services.


Now that the land had been obtained, building could begin and the work progressed at a great rate. The chapel was built and named "Clough Foot Independent Chapel" and was placed under a trust of thirteen persons. The deeds were deposited with Mr. Peter Ormerod of Gorpley Mill and Pex House. The commemorative stone in the wall is still to be seen today, marking the year of the completion, 1854.


In April 1855 the opening service was held and conducted by the Revds. William Spencer of Rochdale, David Jones of Booth and Amos Blackburn of Eastwood. The total cost, including the boundary wall was near to £560 and there remained a debt of £240 after the opening. From 1856, when Mr. Holroyd left, until 1858, a variety of ministers preached at the Chapel, and the affairs of the Church and the giving of the "Lord's Supper" were once again undertaken by Revd. Amos Blackburn. It was in October 1858 that Mr. Thomas Edwards became the Pastor. He had often preached here and as such was no stranger to the place. He took up his duties in November of that year, but he wasn't ordained to the Pastoral office until Monday 25th September 1861, when the Revds, Amos Blackburn, Thomas Lawson, Edward Potter and Samuel Sugden officiated. He originally came from Somerset and he was just 32 when he took the office at Cloughfoot. He was living at Bank House, Lumb Foot.


Mr. Edwards was to remain at Clough Foot for nearly three years and his time there was one of peace and harmony, and as proof of his popularity, eighteen new members were added to the Church. The burial ground was drained, enlarged and enclosed and it was through the efforts of the congregation and friends that funds were raised, which not only paid for this work, but also reduced the debt of the Church to £160. Sadly, domestic circumstances forced Mr. Edwards in to retirement from Clough Foot and he preached for the last time from Acts XX, verse 32. He went on to become the Pastor at Northlead in Gloucestershire at the Independent Chapel in the town.


In March 1859, a meeting was held in the church and a resolution was passed that a harmonium was to be purchased. John and Abraham Sutcliffe were appointed to collect subscriptions towards the cost of it and by Good Friday of that year the harmonium was opened to the public with great ceremony and a public tea was given.


In 1860 more land was needed to enlarge the graveyard and Mr. Taylor and Mr. Dearden were approached for the lease of more ground, with the outcome that land on the north and west was given, again only £1 a year was requested as the rent.

In the January of 1860, it was decided by the deacons and ministers, that the debt of the chapel needed to be reduced to no more than £100 by the end of the year. To this end, the money from the graves was to be used and help to alleviate the debt. A committee was formed in an effort to clear the chapel debt. At the meeting, which was held for this purpose, £20 was promised on the night as a start. Also decided at the meeting was a plan to drain the Chapel yard and to enclose the burial ground with a good substantial wall.

In 1865, Rev. A. Miers was offered the ministry of the chapel and he accepted. He was ordained on Good Friday April 19th 1866 with the Revds. Peter Howarth, T. Bottomley of Sowerby, R. Moffatt or Sowerby Bridge and E. Potter of Patmos, Todmorden present at the service.


In January of 1868 more ground was needed for burial purposes and another deputation was sent to Mr. Taylor. At this time the chapel had a debt of £145 and in February of 1868, it was decided by Rev. Miers and his deacons, Mr. John and Abraham Sutcliffe, that all possible efforts would be made to clear this debt. By October this had been accomplished and was celebrated with a tea meeting in the schoolroom.


1869 was a memorable year in the chapel's history. Extensive improvements were made; the entrance to the chapel was improved and the singing pew was enlarged. Sixty sittings were put into the body of the chapel and a communion table was fixed, costing £75.14s.10d (plus a halfpenny). It was a reflection on the good work that Rev Miers was doing. He was well liked and attendance at chapel was always good. He had the power to reach his congregation and they became committed to the chapel and to the Rev. Miers. It came as a blow when, in 1871, after six years, he was called to serve at Middleton in Derbyshire. Every effort was made to keep him at Cloughfoot and by the entreaties of his congregation, he stayed on for another 18 months. He served all together at Cloughfoot for 7 years and 7 months and in that time the Sunday School collections more than doubled and went from £16 to£35 a year. He left to go to Dudley Port, Staffordshire in 1872. After his departure, Mr. Banks was the minister for a length of time.


In 1874, eight more names were added to the original list of trustees, these being:

Enoch Farrer, Owler Carr

Jas. Dearden Jun. Todmorden

Jno. Earnshaw, Owler Carr

Thos. Sutcliffe, Cloughfoot

Geo. R. Banks, minister, Hollin Green

Geo. Gowers, Littleborough

John Clegg, Owler Carr

Marshall Clegg, Burnley


The new trustees along with the old ones were fired with enthusiasm and it was resolved that a great effort should be made to pay off the debts that had once again accumulated. Mr. Banks, the minister, made the sacrifice of foregoing his salary for some months, which served as an example to the other chapel members.


On 4th October 1875 the school was transferred to the Board from the former trustees and was opened as a Board School, being the first in the district. A far cry from the days when meetings were held in the cottage at the bottom of Sourhall Road.


The road to the chapel was in dire need of repair and in 1876, it was mended and asphalted at a cost of £10. The heating apparatus was fixed, which cost a further £50 and in the October of that same year, a list of 28 names were submitted at a meeting, to choose more trustees from. A year later, the chapel was cleaned and painted, which cost £60, but some of the committee had collected £30 which went towards the cost of this.


After Mr. Banks left Cloughfoot Chapel, no minister was appointed for quite a while and ministers from the surrounding chapels took the services. In 1879 it was agreed with the Rev. J. Constance of Patmos, that he should preach at Cloughfoot once or twice a month for six months and also attend the Church meetings. This was undertaken and at the end of the six months it was extended to a further six months, no preacher having been found to take up the position on a regular basis.


Towards the end of 1884 even more land was needed to extend the graveyard once again and Mr. Mellor was approached for permission to purchase the land that was needed. He gave a plot of 600 square yards for the cost of £60. The deal was finalised on June 6th 1885. The total cost came to near on £100 after the boundary wall and other sundry expenses had been met. The new burial ground was formally opened with a special service on October 25th , when a very large congregation gathered to hear the Rev. John Wilson of Eastwood preach the sermon. A special collection was made towards the cost of the newly acquired graveyard plot and quite a bit of money was raised.


The first person to be buried in the new graveyard extension was a Mr. Edwin Stansfield who had at one time been the landlord of the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden. At the time of his death he had moved to Rochdale to take over the premises of the Railway Hotel near the station. He died there on September 5th 1885 having been there for only 8 months. At 40 he was in the prime of life, which made it all the harder for his family to come to terms with. He was the eldest son of Mr. John Stansfield of Cloughfoot and he had been brought up in the area and had attended the school and chapel. His body was brought from Rochdale and interred in a new vault in the new portion of the graveyard.


By 1891 a new preacher had been found for Cloughfoot and one who was to leave a deep impression on the place and the people. He was the Rev. James A Smith and he was born in 1867 at Hallfold, Whitworth, the son of James and Elizabeth Smith. His father was a weaver as was James when he was in his teens. He was inducted into the service of the chapel on 4th April 1891 and in November of that same year he married Betty Uttley of Facit. Until his marriage he lodged with Widow Farrow at Hollin Green. He immediately involved himself in affairs of the chapel and was always present at the many fund raising events and various meetings.

In 1893 the chapel underwent some renovation at a cost £30. To try and pay this debt, an unusual "jumble sale" was held in the Board School by Mr. James Mitchell. It raised £78.1s. There were many events held for raising money, as it was always needed for improvements and alterations that needed to be done. The hiring out of the school was a good way of making money and adding to the funds. There were miners tea meetings, reunions, and sale of works, some lasting two or more days. The congregation showed its appreciation of James Smith's unstinting work and devotion over the last five years when in 1896 at the annual Congregational tea party, he was presented with a testimonial enclosed in an oak frame on behalf of the Church, Sunday School and friends. In December of 1898 a Christmas tree and sale of work aimed to raise at least £30 to pay off debts at the chapel. Mrs. Starkie of Watty House opened it and it was carried on the following Monday. In all it raised a total of £70. In most cases the money raised would exceed what was needed, such was the generosity of the people and their support of the church was without question.


Other events took place and one was the presentation in August 1900, by 40 friends, all with connections to Cloughfoot Congregational School, of a black ebony and a meerschaum pipe and tobacco to Mr. Barker Stansfield. He had played the harmonium for 22 years.

The year 1900 saw the Rev. Smith elected as president of the Todmorden Sunday School Union. Another ceremony in January 1901 was the presentation by Rev. Smith of the Royal Humane Society's award to Mr. Robert Hollinrake for bravery in rescuing Albert Dixon from drowning in a reservoir at Dulesgate on 31 st July 1900.

Bad weather couldn't deter the reunions that were held at regular intervals, such was the feeling for the old school. In December 1901, in horrendous conditions, over 200 old teachers and scholars attended a tea in the school and an evening meeting in the chapel led by Rev. Smith.   1904 saw the Golden Jubilee of the chapel, which was celebrated with a tea party held in the school, and on the Sunday, special services of thanksgiving and jubilation were held for the occasion.


The next year, 1905, saw the Rev. Smith enter his fifteenth year as pastor of Cloughfoot. In that time he had conducted over 190 funerals, 80 marriages and 200 baptisms.


By 1906 the burial ground needed enlarging again and to that end a three-day bazaar for the church funds was held at Patmos Congregational School. £330 was needed for this and also for some more repairs. £400 was raised, again showing the generosity and popularity of this chapel. Maybe some of this money went towards the new organ that was installed in November 1906. It was a great event and the celebrations lasted for two days. Mr. Charles Arthur Suthers who was the organist at Shore Baptist presided over the first day's proceedings and on the Sunday afternoon, Mr. Albion Barker, organist at the Todmorden Unitarian Church took over.


One of the trustees of the chapel in 1910 was William Ormerod of Kershaw House, Luddendenfoot, and along with the other trustees he was involved in the conveyance of land at Cloughfoot from Miss Lucy Margaret Cecil and Charles Cecil of Bournemouth. This was still under the same terms as in the original indenture of 1854.


On 13th April 1912 great celebrations took place. It was 21 years since the Reverend Smith took office as pastor of the chapel. As proof of his popularity over 400 people attended the occasion.

Mary Greenwood who grew up at Cloughfoot remembers Reverend Smith and left an account of her early life with the following lines:

"Sometimes the whole family would go to Cloughfoot Chapel. They are all buried there except my father and mother. At the Anniversary service or the Harvest Festival there was always a full congregation, sometimes a band. The singing was lusty, the atmosphere much more lively that St. Mary's where I went every Sunday. Curiously and conversely the inside of the chapel was very bare. Parson Smith lived in a house across the road and he was a friend of the family. He was always a bit shabby, I suppose he was not paid much. He was a great visitor to parishioners as well as friends and he always stayed for tea where he ate most heartily.

Clinton was near and a favourite place for a good meal. Funnily enough, although in some ways he was regarded as a figure of fun he had some social standing and the best lace edged tablecloth and finest china were brought out when he came to tea."


Below is a photograph of the pupils and teachers c1895 at Cloughfoot School with some that have been identified.


Back row

4th from left Robert Taylor

5th from left

Annie Taylor

Front row

4th from left

Matilda Taylor

The teacher on the left is Ruth Lee.


Matilda was the mother of Mary Greenwood whose recollections appear above the photo.

Below is another class photo from Cloughfoot school, kindly sent by Catherine Earnshaw. The date is unknown. 


Sitting front row
Wilfred Earnshaw, Norman Lord, George Hudson

Second row
Willie Watson, Eva Barker, Lois Brown, (Brown Brother), Jessie Hudson, Elsie Spencer, Walter Hudson

Alan Lord, Miss Barker, Ruth Lord, Ann Hudson, Elsie Watson, Annie Greenwood, Miss Spencer, Tom Ratcliffe,
Barker, Kershaw, Watson, Jack Pickles

The photograph below, also kindly sent by Catherine Earnshaw, was taken outside the chapel in 1918.
Kate Strong, Bertha Earnshaw, Agnes Earnshaw, Lena Spencer, Mrs Starkie, Mrs Ratcliffe (Tom's mother), Mrs Smith (Parsons wife), Mrs Woodhead, Mrs Tom Lord, Mrs Jim Pearson, Mrs Barnes, Ada Earnshaw, Ruth Annie Stansfield, Edith Greenwood, Ruth Lord
Eva Barker, Gladys Varley, Sarah Hannah Fielden, Ina Kershaw, Debra Sutcliffe, Edith Annie Barnes, Beatrice Lord, Elsie Spencer, and Rachel Alice Fielden

The twentieth century brought little change to this corner of Todmorden and activities at Cloughfoot and the chapel went on as usual. Life continued to revolve around the chapel and school, and the usual affairs involved in the running of them carried on until the chapel finally closed its doors in 1991.

It is now a private house, looking much the same as it always has, but the graveyard is still in use and burials continue to take place there. The burial ground is well kept and most of the graves are still standing although some are in a dangerous state.


The school house has also been turned into a private dwelling, but little altered from when it was in use and you can almost hear the school bell ringing, calling the pupils to lessons, as you pass by.


Burial Ground


A better resting place would be hard to find. Being buried amongst friends in unsurpassable countryside, with sheep grazing, keeping the grass from encroaching on the gravestones, the resident cat patrolling the graveyard for any unwanted intruders, but welcoming visitors, it is a spot that is almost idyllic and being laid to rest here would almost be a privilege.




The West Yorkshire Archive Service (Calderdale) have the following holdings relating to Cloughfoot Chapel at the Central Library in Halifax:[email protected]


Minute books 1819 to 1889 containing:


Baptisms 1858 to 1891

Marriages 1860, 1868

Burials 1855 to 1882

An account of collections 1858 to 1868

Roll of members 1840 to 1889


Minute book 1916 to 1939


Transcript of trust deed between:  

James Taylor esq. of Todmorden Hall, John Hollinrake of Gorpley Farm, labourer and 12 other trustees

Acounts 1917 to 1988

  Miscellaneous documents  

Marriages on microfilm


*With grateful thanks to the present owners of the chapel for allowing us access to their land, also to Peter Gulaiczuk for the early photograph of the chapel, which was given to him by Marlene Barker, the widow of the late Clifford Barker. Also to Rosemary Stevenson for the photograph of the school pupils and the written memories of Mary Greenwood, her mother, Catherine Earnshaw for her father's photos, and Alan Longbottom for extra photographs.