This account, written by R. A. Priestley and E. M. Savage, is compiled from notes for a lecture given to the Todmorden Antiquarian Society by their late brother,

John B. Priestley.


Dyke Green Farm

John was the eldest son of Robert and Betty Law of Moorside (also known as Dyke Green). Their other children were: Betty (1729), Thomas (1738), Robert (1741), and Samuel (1744). John and his brother Robert were stonemasons who specialised in repairing and building bridges.
DYKE GREEN FARM was a small affair of just over 9 acres, being owned by the Taylor family of Todmorden Hall. The Laws were tenants there for many years. Indeed, John's great nephew Robert died there in 1891 after farming its 9 acres for over 50 years.

Dyke Green Farm


Scaitcliffe Bridge, Todmorden

In 1763, John and his brother Robert were engaged in building three bridges on the Todmorden to Burnley Turnpike Road, namely: Cow Fields, now known as Gandy Bridge, Scaitcliffe and Lineholme all for the price of £63. These bridges, and others in the Todmorden area, have since been replaced or are hidden underneath later road widening schemes.

In the early 1750's, John married Elizabeth and they had three children, (Betty, Mary and Hannah). Elizabeth died and on 27th December 1762, he married Betty Marshall at St. Chad's Church, Rochdale. They had several children, one of who, Samuel, followed his father in to the bridge building trade.


In 1766, John was living at Dyke Green Farm. At that time, he leased some land at Toad Carr from William Greenwood of Stones, and built a row of cottages. His brother, Samuel, a clogger, lived in one of them.

Toad Carr


Between 1767 and 1768, John obtained the contract for the re-building of the bridge at Mytholm at a cost of £52.10s. A few years later, he was paid £29.4s. for re-building Stansfield Bridge at the bottom of Halifax Road in Todmorden.


When he was not doing bridgework, John was engaged in building and repairing houses, barns and walls.


Ribchester Bridge is still in use today

Between 1775 and 1776, John was the senior partner in a syndicate of stonemasons working on the bridge at Ribchester in Lancashire. The bridge, severely damaged by great floods, was to be rebuilt. A committee of Gentlemen and J. P.'s was appointed to arrange for a contract to be drawn up and advertised in the Manchester and Liverpool papers. On the 12th January 1775, the committee met at the White Bull Inn, Ribchester, to view the site and agree the details.


John Law's tender of £2,4000 was accepted, to be paid in "good and lawful money of Great Britain." Richard Threlfell of Garstang, the Bridgemaster of the Amounderness Hundred, was to superintend and inspect the bridge works.


The bridge was to have three arches, the centre arch with a span of 75 feet and 19 feet high. The two side arches spanned 66 feet and were 15 feet high. The width between the battlements was 20 feet. Work commenced in the spring of 1775 and was completed on 27th September 1776.


The plans for the bridge, signed by John Law, Robert Gudgeon, John Bradley, Mr. Blackledge and Matthew Tootell.

In 1777, John was appointed the Bridgemaster of the Salford Hundred. In this capacity, and with the Surveyor of the Halifax to Rochdale Turnpike Road, he was instructed to investigate the new alignment for the section of road between Todmorden and Dean Head (Calderbrook), and to prepare drawings and an estimate for the work. The Salford Hundred was made up of eleven parishes, namely: Ashton-under-Line, Bolton, Bury, Dean, Eccles, Flixton, Manchester, Middleton, Prestwich-cum-Oldham, Radcliffe and Rochdale.


At this time, he moved to live in Heywood in the Parish of Bury. By then, his second wife was dead and on 24th August 1775, he married Ann Walker of Whalley at her Parish Church. They had one daughter, Susan.


In 1779, John submitted a price for building a new bridge over the River Ribble at Walton-le-Dale in Lancashire. The old bridge on the Preston, Manchester, Bolton, Wigan Road was a narrow, 5-arched structure in a ruinous state, and it needed replacing. The contract was similar to the Ribchester Bridge. Plans were prepared and the estimated cost was £4,200. Richard Threlfell again supervised the contract, which was due for completion by 11th November 1780. The contractors were John Law of Heywood, Robert Law of Dyke Green, Todmorden (his brother), John Crabtree of Burnley and Samuel Law of Heywood (his son).  


The new bridge was to have three arches similar to the bridge at Ribchester. The centre arch was to have a span of 84 feet with a rise of 20 feet. The other arches were to have spans of 72 feet with rises of 17 feet. The piers had to be set in the bedrock. There was to be 30 feet between the battlements.

Walton-le-Dale Bridge, still in use


Once the roadway on the bridge was completed, then it could be opened to traffic and the old bridge demolished. Stone could be taken from the old bridge to build the parapets. New stone was to be quarried at Whittle-le-Woods or Houghton Tower.

The bridge was not completely finished until 1783 at a cost of £4,150, which was slightly less than the estimated cost.


John left the work in 1780, probably due to ill health, as he died on 24th May 1781. He is buried at St. Mary's Church in Todmorden.

Here lies interred the body of John Law late Bridge-master for Salford Hundred

He died at Heywood the 24th day of May 1781

and in the 50th year of his age

ALSO Robert his son died the 2nd day of November 1806 in the 40th year of his age

In his WILL, John leaves a considerable amount of both freehold and leasehold property in Heywood, Toad Carr in Todmorden, and Whalley, which he split fairly between his surviving children. His executors were his brother Samuel, his cousin John Tattersall and John Holt of Brick Oven near Todmorden.


His executors prepared an inventory of all the personal goods, chattels and credits belonging to John as follows:


In the body

In the parlour

In the kitchen

In the cellar

In the house chamber

In the parlour chamber

In the kitchen chamber

In the garret


Foods etc. in sundry places

Debts due from sundry persons

Leasehold premises valued at














His son, Samuel, later became the Bridgemaster for the Salford Hundred, following his father's example.