One of the very early landowners in Walsden was Robert Henshaw. On 1st December 1430 he sold to Richard Radcliffe of Todmorden Hall all his estates in Walsden, which included Henshaw, Deanroyd, Knowl and Gauxholme, comprising 236 acres of land. This estate continued in the Radcliffe family for centuries.

After the passage of time, the property descended to Radcliffe Scholfield, descended from the Radcliffes of Todmorden Hall through his mother, Alice daughter of Saville Radcliffe. Under the will of Radcliffe Scholfield, Knowl farms, with others, passed into the hands of John Firth of Kipping near Bradford, Yorkshire, who had married a daughter of Mr. Scholfield. Then the estates fell to his son, Joshua Firth of Allerton Hall, also near Bradford, Yorkshire.

There were two farmhouses at Knowl, Higher or Great Knowl, and Lower or Little Knowl. They are separated by no more than a hundred yards. The estate also included Swineshead and Woodbottom Farms. There were also several cottages and barns. This was a stronghold of the Lord family of Walsden. In the early days, they were farmers and clothiers.

Clothiers were farmers who diversified by manufacturing woollen cloth in their own homes with the help of neighbouring cottagers. They would travel with packhorses to the markets of Halifax, Rochdale, or Manchester to sell their goods and buy more wool.
Most of these farms were at the centre of a small settlement, which would contain a few cottages. These were often used to house members of the extended family. The clothier's workshop and looms would almost always be on an upper floor of his house with a separate door for the purpose, arrived at by a flight of stone steps. Some had a hoist instead of steps. More can be read about this COTTAGE INDUSTRY HERE.

The registers of St. Mary’s church in Todmorden show us the Lords were already living at Knowl by 1666 when the registers commenced. Simeon Lord died there in 1667, followed by Richard Lord in 1671, Old Martha Lord in 1678 and Thomas Lord on 28th October 1679.

An inventory of all the belongings of the above Thomas was prepared 2 days after his burial by Simeon Lord, Joseph Lord, Charles Lord and Abraham Fielden. This shows us he was a clothier, dealing in wool. He had 2 looms in his workshop and a substantial amount of wool and yarn. There were few home comforts - 4 beds and bedding, a couple of cupboards and chests (or arkes), chairs and cushions, brass, pewter, wooden and earthenware vessels - presumably for cooking, eating and drinking, two boards (used as tables) and an hour glass.

Items £ s. d.
His apparell and money in his purse 2 10 0
A standing bed and clothes belonging and a chest 3 4 0
Three bedsteeds and clothes belonging 2 18 0
An arke and a chist and a glase cobard 18 0
Two linnen poakes and a setchel 3 0
In meal and flesh 1 0 0
In butter and cheese 1 0 0
A couboard 12 0
In brass and pewther 1 14 6
In wodden and Earthen vessels 1 5 0
In fireirne tongs and a spit 7 0
A saltpie two boards and an ower glas 6 0
In cheares and quishines 8 0
A peare of lomes and furneture with wheels and cardes 1 2 0
A meare and furneture three beasts and fodder and winter pasture 12 5 8
In cloth woll and yarne 6 17 0
A bible and other bookes 4 0
A plough and plowirnes sleds and Lowse boards and other husbandry instrements 1 15 0
An arke in the barn 9 0
Soles and rakes and all other huselment 4 0
The inventory described Thomas as being of Over Swineshead in Walsden. However, his burial record says he was of Knowl, and it can only be assumed they are one and the same place. Simeon, Joseph and Charles Lord who signed the inventory were certainly residents of Knowl and are to be found in the church registers having babies baptised or buried from there. Charles died in 1703, Joseph moved on, possibly to Steanorbottom, and Simeon appears to have moved on by 1713.

In 1720, another Charles Lord and his wife Susan Stansfield were farming at Gibbet in Todmorden. In 1722 he purchased the lease of Higher Knowl Farm for 21 years at an annual rental of £12-10s. The land comprised of a meadow, pasture fields, stubble and wood. When the lease expired in 1741, Charles renewed it for a further 21 years at twice the former rent, ie £25 a year. One can assume the acreage had increased.

Knowl Farms with Walsden Moor behind


Charles was a butcher by trade. He would deliver his meat to his neighbours round the countryside by horse, carrying the meat in side panniers. He and Susan raised five children at Knowl, although their son John died tragically when he was 22 years old. He had attended a wedding in Rochdale in June 1750 and was killed whilst returning home.

When Charles died in 1767, his eldest son James succeeded to Higher Knowl, renewing the lease for a further 21 years at £30 a year. James was married to Elizabeth Mitchell of FLAILCROFT FARM and they had 7 children.


Old road to Knowl as it passes through General Wood

In the 1780’s the leases on both farms were about to expire. The Lords applied for extensions but were granted only 12 months at the existing rents. Joshua Firth of Bradford was the landowner at the time. He insisted that the occupiers of both farms must either purchase the properties or give up their leases. The Lords had little choice but to purchase the land, otherwise they would lose all they had.

The purchase was finally completed in July 1787 for the sum of £1,850. The estates altogether comprised over 60 acres of meadow, pasture and wooded land, and 60 acres of common rights upon the Walsden Moor.

James Lord died in 1783 aged 57, before the purchase took place. His sons John and Charles bought the Higher Knowl land for £900. Charles had the house and land down to the Langfield highway (now Lumbutts Road). The photo shows the land spreading downwards away from the house towards Lumbutts Road.

John took a smaller area around Butcher Hill where he built a new barn and a few cottages. One of these buildings was later to become the Black Horse Beerhouse and the cottages used to house lads from London who came up to work at Gauxholme Cotton Mill under James Kay.

Charles Lord married first Alice Ormerod. Alice died from the effects of childbirth with her first child in 1790. The child was James, who survived to old age. Charles married again 5 years later. His second wife was single mother Mary Hollinrake.


Stones Farm, Todmorden

Charles, Mary, young James and 7-year-old Harriet Hollinrake took up residence at Stones Farm, Todmorden, despite his ownership of Higher Knowl. There they lived and raised their children, including another 4 born at Stones. However, they did return to Higher Knowl as Charles died there in 1811.

Charles built some cottages on his land at Knowlwood, known at that time as Hacking Row from the fact that John Hacking occupied the end cottage for many years.The cottages were on a portion of the estate at the end of Knowlwood Meadow and became the inheritance of his daughters Betty and Mary. When Mary died, her third husband Elijah Law sold the cottages to Dr. James Hardman, Mary’s cousin by marriage.

Charles had 3 sons: James, John and Charles. One or all of these brothers kept the farm going at Higher Knowl after the death of their father, eventually selling it to Abraham Walton, a draper and grocer of Millwood in Todmorden. It is thought this may have been about 1833. In the autumn of the same year the Lords sold all the stock. An onlooker at the sale commented: “it was a most entertaining day at Knowl”.

James Lord, the eldest brother, was a very big man who appears to have been a butcher and publican all his adult life. He married Sarah Bamford from Calderbrook about 1813 and settled in her neck of the woods, running a pub at Dog Isles in Calderbrook where he became known as Th’ Butcher of Dog Isles, with a reputation of being the best pig killer in the district. The pub was named after the landlord – the Bull and Butcher.

When the turnpike road was diverted about 1824, James lost most of his trade so dismantled his pub and moved it stone by stone to a prime location at Summit, naming the new pub The Summit Inn. He was there the rest of his long life.

The Summit Inn


His brothers John and Charles were tanners and skinners in the neighbourhood of Colne. There they met their respective wives, bringing them back to live at Knowl. They stayed on for a short while after the farm was sold. John then moved to Lobmill with a family of 7 daughters and there followed the trade of butcher. Charles was a butcher and grocer at Knowlwood Bottom for a long time then moved to Todmorden where he continued the butchering business. There were no more Lords at Higher Knowl.

As soon as the farm was sold, Joshua West took up the tenancy, leaving Middle Swineshead Farm, although by 1841 he had moved to Butcher Hill. In the census of 1841 there are no farmers at Higher Knowl, but by 1851 John and Mary Sutcliffe were in residence, farming 30 acres.

John was the son of Henry Sutcliffe who kept first the Black Bull and then the Masons Arms at Gauxholme. John and his wife Mary raised 8 children at Higher Knowl before he died leaving Mary a young widow with all those children to care for. She is still farming 30 acres there in 1871 with all 8 children at home.

The widow Mary left the farm before 1881, when again there was no farmer. The next farmer was Elias Lord. He farmed all his married life, first at Mankinholes, then Higher Knowl, then at neighbouring Swineshead. He married twice, first to Mary Hannah Grindrod who died aged 27, second to Jane Greenwood who is with him in 1891 at Higher Knowl. Crossley Cockcroft and his wife Sarah followed him.


Higher Knowl

The old farmhouse is still standing. It is a magnificent building, typical of a dwelling of a wealthy yeoman-clothier of 300 years ago. The farmhouse is now a well established boarding kennels and cattery.
About 1765, Thomas Lord, the youngest son of Charles Lord and Susan Stansfield, purchased the lease at Little Knowl. He was uncle to Charles who purchased Higher Knowl.
This estate included Woodbottom, land later known as Swineshead Clough, and 7 acres of woodland commonly called Knowlwood. He paid £14 a year rent. Part of this agreement was there should be a new barn and farmhouse, for which he had to pay nine-pence in the pound interest.

Taken from Pexwood across the valley. Knowl is perched on the hill towards the top, with Knowlwood below and in the foreground.


Also living at Knowl during the occupancy of Thomas Lord were George Hollinrake and his wife Esther Lord. Esther was from another branch of the family. George was a clogger, known as George Clog.

Thomas married twice. His fist wife was Prudence Walker. She died at Knowl and was buried the same day her son Charles was baptised. They had been married less than 6 years and had 3 children. Thomas carried on looking after his 3 children for another 6 years and then married Mary Taylor who gave him another 5 children.

When the landowner refused to extend the leases on the farms in 1787, Thomas bought Little Knowl, Woodbottom, and land with cottages at Lower Swineshead for £950. He then immediately sold the Swineshead land and cottages to Alice, widow of William Greenwood of Swineshead for £350.


Woodbottom fold

The origin of Woodbottom itself goes back a very considerable time. The barn and several cottages formerly had rooms in them for handloom weaving, and this is an indication in itself of their age.  The oldest house still standing in this enclave is Stoney Brink, which was built by James Rhodes of General Wood Farm, and stands in the barn fold.
A little further along the lane is a row of houses that were the first to be built in this area, originally known as Foxhole or Sandbed.
There was a newly emerging industry about this time – cotton. Part of the land Thomas now owned was in the valley at the bottom of Knowlwood where the river ran swiftly, sufficient enough to power a water wheel. There was now also a half decent road passing through Knowlwood eventually reaching Manchester.

The original mill in 2005

Thomas and two friends, Abraham Crossley and Moses Dawson, entered into a partnership agreement to build and run a cotton-spinning mill on this piece of land, now owned by Thomas Lord. The mill became known as KNOWLWOOD BOTTOM MILL and was possibly the first spinning mill in the township.
Thomas died at Knowl in January 1790 aged 56 years, leaving a share of his properties to his eldest son Charles. Two months later Charles died, but had made a will a few days earlier. He was 23 years old and unmarried. Charles left his half brother Thomas junior:

“my moiety of all that my messuage and tenement called Little Knowl in Walsden, with the barn, buildings, land etc. thereunto belonging, and of the cottages and gardens thereunto also belonging, and also the cotton factory both standing near the bottom of the Knowl wood in Walsden. And of all other my hereditaments given unto me by my late father, Thomas Lord, deceased. And also one barn directed to be built at the Wood Bottom by the will of my said late father



Thomas junior succeeded his half brother at Little Knowl and Woodbottom, aged just 16 years. No doubt his mother and the executors of the will helped him out. The will was not proved for a further 11 years. Sometime before 1791 it seems that Knowlwood Bottom Mill was sold to Abraham Crossley, partner of the late Thomas Lord senior.

Thomas was still a young man when he married Betty Helliwell, and together they raised 8 children at Little Knowl.

In 1800, Thomas won the distinction of being the first person to travel to Foulclough Coal Mine with a horse and cart after the Haigh family made the new road up the hill from Inchfield Fold, passing Knowsley and on past Thornsgreece, Dyches, Vicarage and Top of All.

About 1835, a young man by the name of Billy Fielden was causing havoc amongst the farmers around Knowl and Swineshead. He was a rogue and an idle vagabond, and perhaps not quite mentally fit. He had left home and was living rough in barns and haylofts, relying on stealing milk straight from the cows in order to survive. Presumably he also helped himself to oatmeal, eggs and whatever else he could find. He had caused terror at both Higher and Lower Knowl over the years, but was too agile and cautious to get caught. One day he entered the barn at Little Knowl via the hen coupe where there was a walled up widow space leading to the hayloft. Billy removed some of the stone and managed to squeeze through the hole.

Thomas Lord found him, grabbed hold of him, opened the barn doors and called for his family to help. They tied him up to a post and searched his numerous pockets. He was found to be wearing 3 pairs of trousers and 5 waistcoats, but no shoes or clogs, jacket or hat. Old Tommy’s grandson, William Travis, was left in charge of guarding him until Old Tommy’s son William Lord came home, as he would be the best person to deal with him. However, before William arrived home, Billy managed to escape. He was eventually caught and in due course he was convicted of robbery and other misdemeanours committed over a 3 or 4 year period. He was sentenced to transportation for life and evicted from the country.

About the year 1846, a group of men who frequented the Royal George Inn were discussing the drinking habits of Old Tommy and one man boldly asserted that in earlier years after coming into possession of Little Knowl, Thomas had visited the inn so frequently, and drunk to such an extent that the landlord of the time had been obliged to accept the small farm called Lower Swineshead in payment of the debt. The landlord in question was John Howarth, Thomas’ brother-in-law (married to his sister Mary). This story circulated round Todmorden and was persistently repeated until at length Thomas came to hear about it. Thomas was quick to point out that his father sold Lower Swineshead to Alice Greenwood soon after he bought it, so the farm was never his to drink.

Thomas retired from active farming and moved from Knowl to live at Woodbottom cottages next to the barn, where he is to be found in 1841, stated to be a yeoman. He died there in 1849, leaving his son John to take over at Little Knowl.

Woodbottom barn and cottages

John Lord and his wife Mary Crowther lived at the farm about 10 years until John died in 1858 aged 59 years. Their son James lived in one of the attached cottages with his family. He worked in the cotton industry, becoming a manufacturer. In 1871 he was employing 40 weavers at 110 looms at Der Street Mill in Todmorden.

Little Knowl’s next farmers were the Greenwoods from Hebden Bridge and Stansfield. There were no further Lords at Little Knowl.


Little Knowl

Currently, the old barn and farmhouse are undergoing renovation after being in a derelict state for some time. The old barn at Woodbottom is a delightful private house. Knowlwood is built up but still has some of the original cottages.