The two separate farms known as Lower and Higher Hangingshaw are located on the edge of the exposed and windy Todmorden Moor, an unfenced peat and grass moorland used by man since the Bronze Age. It isn’t known which of the two farms appeared first, but today it is Lower Hangingshaw that survives as a working farm, whilst Higher Hangingshaw lies derelict some half a mile away.

The first mention of the name Hangingshaw in the Parish Registers of St. Mary’s in Todmorden is in 1678 when Charles Lord and his family lived there. Charles died there in 1681, followed by his widow in 1685. The Hartleys appear at Hangingshaw next. Humphrey Hartley had a family there in the 1690’s, and John Hartley, a shoemaker, had a child born there in 1717. John Law died there in 1719 and widow Mary Roberts, known as Mall o’ Brown’s, departed this life at Hangingshaw in 1721.

The first time the two farms are identified as Lower and Higher is 1775 when both farms had sittings at St. Mary’s church.

Lower Hangingshaw

This farm nestles on the grassy slopes at the end of a rough track leading west off Sourhall Road and crossing part of Todmorden Moor before weaving to the farmhouse. The house is almost hidden behind thick shrubs and trees, which were planted many years ago as a necessary windbreak, and the pastures are separated from the moor by a stone wall.
By 1800, Lower Hangingshaw was in the hands of Charles Barker. This farm was on a strip of land that formed part of the Midgelden Estate, and when Charles married Susan Hamer in 1792 it is likely her father, who was the farmer at Midgelden, gave them the rights to occupy the farm.
Charles, the son of Joseph Barker of Edge End Farm, was in partnership with his brother-in-law Luke Hamer and James Stansfield as cotton carders and spinners at Stoneswood Mill in the valley on what is now Bacup Road. When Luke Hamer died a young man in 1810 the partnership was dissolved and Charles returned to the old ways of manufacturing cotton pieces in his own home at Lower Hangingshaw.
He was also a building contractor, and was heavily involved in the re-making of the main road from Gauxholme to Bacup, known as Dulesgate. Charles and Susan Barker lived at Lower Hangingshaw for the whole of their married lives, raising 6 children at this lonely farm. Charles died in 1836, leaving the responsibility of the business to Susan and their only children still at home, Charles junior and his sister Ann.
Susan died in 1847 leaving Charles junior to continue. However, Charles left the farm and moved to live with his married sister Susan Hollinrake. This was the end of the Barkers at Lower Hangingshaw, although it was kept in the extended family as it was taken over by John Hollinrake and his wife Hannah Haigh. John’s brother Samuel was married to Susan, daughter of Charles and Susan Barker.
In 1854 the trustees of the nearby Cloughfoot Chapel, one of whom was John Hollinrake, decided a new church and burial ground were needed. James Taylor of Todmorden Hall owned much of the farmland in the area, including Lower Hangingshaw.
He gave the trustees a parcel of his land at Lower Hangingshaw, measuring 320 square yards. In 1860, Mr. Taylor gave the trustees some extra Hangingshaw land for an extension to the burial ground. The chapel and burial ground still stand on this parcel of land, although the chapel is now a private house.
John and Hannah Hollinrake stayed at Lower Hangingshaw until John died in 1875. None of their children were born there, but the younger ones were brought up on this farm.

Thomas Hollinrake. Photo sent by Rosemary Stevenson

Sons Robert and Thomas became successful cotton manufacturers with a thriving business at Canteen Mill, which they bought about 1867. Robert later became licensee of the Bay Horse Inn at Cross Stone. The youngest son, Haigh Hollinrake, lived at Hangingshaw many years before he married. He later became a publican at the Friendly Inn, Stansfield. He died tragically in 1890 when a wheel of the lorry he was in charge of ran over his back. According to his descendents, he was worse the wear for drink when it happened.
After the Hollinrakes left the farm, the Dawsons arrived. Samuel Dawson and his wife Sarah Eastwood took over before 1881. Samuel’s widowed mother Mary and children had been farming at Higher Hangingshaw for some years.
The two farms were now in the same family. Samuel and Sarah remained at Lower Hangingshaw until he died sometime between 1891 and 1901. Sarah moved to the nearby Mellings Farm where her son Fred was the farmer.
In 1901 the farmer is 62-year-old unmarried Abraham Greenwood. He is recorded as a “worker” in the census of that year, indicating he was possibly managing it for someone else.

Higher Hangingshaw

This farm is may be half a mile north of Lower Hangingshaw, set well and truly on the edge of the moor and completely exposed to the elements. It is sometimes known as Flowerscar Bottom, possibly because there was access from Flowerscar Road.

John Hollows and his wife Mary Crowther were farming at Higher Hangingshaw when they died, Mary in 1822 and John in 1832. Their son Ellis took over with his wife Mary.
Ellis was a member of the Todmorden Wesleyan Society and a founder member of Cloughfoot Chapel in the early days when meetings were held in the upper rooms of a cottage at Hollingreen, possibly the house occupied by Ellis in 1819 before he moved to Hangingshaw.
He was also a Todmorden freeholder and ratepayer and thus eligible to vote at lay payers meetings. He exercised his rights by signing a petition to the Bishop of Chester in favour of a new church being built on the site of St. Mary’s in the centre of town, with St. Mary’s being demolished. In the event, this never happened, the new church (Christ Church) was built elsewhere and St. Mary’s remained intact.
Ellis continued to farm at Higher Hangingshaw many years until his death in 1850. Mary continued for a while with her sons William and Abraham. Following her death, her son James and his wife Susan Mitchell took over. They were well used to the windy conditions, having spent their whole married lives on Todmorden Moor, at Acre Nook and Woodfield Top farms.

The well at Higher Hangingshaw

In 1861 there is no apparent occupier of Higher Hangingshaw, yet James and Susan are at the neighbouring Woodfield Top farm, farming an additional 14 acres to what they had 10 years earlier. Perhaps they simply took over the land and left the house to the weather. However, they did eventually move to Higher Hangingshaw, as that is where Susan died in 1867.

James gave up and moved to Priestbooth to join his sons Anthony and Mitchell. The farm was then taken over by widow Mary Dawson.

Mary’s erstwhile husband, William Dawson, died in 1860 of “affection of the liver”. They had always lived on or near the moor, so probably this farm held no fear for her, and she had her son Joseph and daughter Emma for company, with others of her children farming nearby.

Mary paddled on at Higher Hangingshaw until her death in 1883 at the age of 80. The farm sits between Lower Hangingshaw and the Woodfield farms. Her son Samuel was at Lower Hangingshaw, and son Joseph was at Higher Woodfield, so it is probable they took over her land between them, leaving the house uninhabited as is recorded on the 1891 census.
Evidence of the weather conditions on Todmorden Moor came to the fore in more recent times when the farmhouse at Higher Hangingshaw was struck by lightening and fell down. The barns and outhouses remain to this day and are used by the owner of Hangingshaw, Mr. Ratcliffe. He continues to farm from his home at Lower Hangingshaw, growing crops and grazing his sheep on the pastures and moor (he has full grazing rights from the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale, currently Mr. Jeremy Dearden, to do this). Both farms are now merged as one under his ownership. He uses the old barns at Higher Hangingshaw for his machinery and as a workshop.

Further evidence of the conditions has hit the headlines in the last couple of years, as there are proposed plans to build a wind farm on the moor very close to these farms. One of the reasons for the sighting of the wind farm is said to be: "This site has a high wind speed”. It is not a popular proposal.


Hangingshaw Links