This Walsden farm has one of the most interesting histories of all the farms in the area and has been the home of a witch, criminals, a murdered man, a successful businessman and a bankrupt amongst many others. It is also one of the oldest farms still standing, with records back as far as 1430.
It is one of the few farms located in the Walsden Valley bottom, being just yards from the main Rochdale Road, and it survived the bulldozers when the railway was constructed through its land. The access track runs off the road and a narrow bridge carries it over the railway to the farmhouse just beyond. It has always been a small concern, with only a handful of acres – just over 3 acres in 1843.
The first known occupier was Samuel Law with his wife Betty (Haigh). They married in 1743 and moved to live at Gauxholme Stones in 1746. He took out an 18-year lease on the farm for an annual rent of £3. When this expired, he renewed it for a further 21 years at £5. Samuel was a carpenter by trade and mixed his joinery skills with small time farming. He was known as “Hom Samil” and his wife was “Old Betty i'th' Stones”.
They lived in the times when superstition was the rule of the day. She was a reputed witch and was often seen to be doing strange things. On one occasion when she was a very old lady, she was seen doing roly-polys in the meadow below the barn, rolling herself over and over, head over heels, and was thought to be putting a spell on some poor creatures.
This can be more easily explained by the fact that she was known to partake too freely in her own home-brewed ale. So freely did she drink it that her husband became agitated enough to remove the barrel. He took it to the cellar and turned it on its side so there would be no room for a pot to go under the tap. This posed no problem for Betty, and when Samuel went to draw himself some ale, he saw the barrel was almost empty again. He investigated further, and found she was sliding a frying pan under the narrow gap. Despite this, Samuel and Betty raised 8 children at the farm, and Betty lived to be 80 years of age. She died at Gauxholme Stones in 1803.
Their oldest son was Samuel junior. He married a second wife in 1775 and they moved to live with his parents at Gauxholme Stones where they had several children over the years. They were allowed to live in the bottom part of the house and had the use of one of his father's two cows on the farm for milking purposes.
In 1785 when the lease expired, Samuel renewed it again for a further 21 years at £11 annual rent. By this time he was an old man of 65 and needed to give thought as to what should happen to the unexpired portion of his lease after his death. Samuel junior seemed the obvious choice to take over. However, father and son had various differences of opinion and Samuel senior considered his son an unreliable sort of chap who might neglect to pay the rent. About 1795, Samuel sold the lease to Abraham Crossley of Knowlwood Bottom Mill and Samuel junior moved his large family out and across the valley to Hollinsbottom.
Two of Samuel junior's children, both born at Gauxholme Stones, fell foul of the law. William was convicted of a crime and was transported from the country, whilst his brother Thomas was convicted of Felony at a trial at Salford in January 1817 and sentenced to two years in Lancaster Jail.

Abraham Crossley had his own home at Knowlwood Bottom, so he sublet Gauxholme Stones to his brother Ely who moved in with his wife Susan and their children. (Samuel and Betty Law were still there, but presumably in a small cottage or the barn.)

Ely came to a sorry and wet end in October 1798 when he was fished out of the newly constructed canal near Copperas House Bridge. He had been in the pub at Gauxholme this particular evening when he was involved in an argument with a man by the name of Eastwood when bargaining about a cow. They were both small farmers, and one cow could make or break either of them.

Whether the cow was over priced, or whether it was not up to scratch will never be known, but there was a lot of rancour and bad feeling between the two men that evening. Ely left the pub and began to walk home along a new stretch of un-lit road by the side of the canal. He was never seen alive again. It is reported that Eastwood followed him. Nothing else is known, but many years later a Mr. Eastwood was on his deathbed and he sent for Ely's widow, Susan, and made some sort of confession of guilt. He apparently pushed Ely off the bridge at Copperas House. When Ely managed to struggle to the side and climb out, he pushed him back in. It later transpired that he denied any guilt. Whatever the truth, Ely drowned before his 40th birthday, leaving a pregnant widow and 7 children.

The widow Susan continued at Gauxholme Stones with her children for many years. In 1804 her name appears in the accounts at the grocery store at Smithyholme, when on 19th October that year she purchased 1 stone of treacle at 4s.10d., 1 stone of turnips at 6d. and 25lbs of cheese at 13s.6d.

Susan's sons Abraham and Ned were both married from the farm in 1814 and 1824 respectively, although it was left to her nephew Abraham, the son of Abraham of Knowlwood Mill, to take over the running of the farm.

Abraham Crossley junior and his wife Ellen lived at Gauxholme Stones many years. He was an immensely successful businessman, taking over the running of his late father's chemical works at Copperas House and running Knowlwood Bottom Mill with his brother William. He was still at Gauxholme Stones in 1838 although by this time his younger brother William had joined him with his second wife Jane (Wilkinson) and children.

Although Knowlwood Mill traded as Crossley Brothers, William was by now the main man at the mill whilst his brother Abraham concentrated on the chemical side of things at Copperas House Mill. It seems that Crossley Brothers now owned Gauxholme Stones Farm outright, and in 1838 the assets of Knowlwood Mill were examined for the purpose of a Poor Rate Assessment. The assessment, issued to Crossley Brothers of Knowlwood Mill, included a rate for Gauxholme Stones Farm of £1.4s.8d.

William Crossley was now a man of substance, a member of the township's Select Vestry and an Overseer of the Poor. However, a period of bad trade combined with overstretching in the expansion of the business left him in a financial mess. He became bankrupt and the mill ended up being sold, presumably along with the farm. The full story of the mill and this family can be read from the link below. Suffice it to say here, William and his wife took their younger children and fled Gauxholme Stones and the town shortly after 1839.

In 1841 William, Jane and four of their children were in Manchester on Hanover Street where William was running a beer shop. On 16th August 1842 they arrived in New York on the ship “Sheridan”. They settled in Ohio where William set up a new business as a shingle manufacturer. He died there in 1876 aged 79.

His brother Abraham moved to 6 Bridge End in Knowlwood and continued to be a successful copperas manufacturer until his death in 1857.

Since 1841, the farm has housed up to 4 families at a time, suggesting there were 4 separate dwellings on the site. It appears to have been used as a butcher's residence when John Shackleton was an occupier in 1861, and was still used as such in 1891. There would probably have been facilities for the slaughtering of animals on the land, and there is still evidence of a small farm as late as 1891, with an increased acreage. In 1901, there was a tin plate works on the site. It still stands today, and is a private residence.


Gauxholme Stones Links