Knowltop is perched precariously on the top of a steep-sided knoll, high above the Walsden valley on the gentle eastern slopes of the Walsden valley. The real name of the farm is Knoll Top, but then Knowltop was the way it was pronounced, and therefore the way it was spelt. It was farm of about 60 acres owned by a branch of the Lord family, but tenanted for several generations by the Scholfields who owned the neighbouring farm of Calflee.

It is reached by a long and winding lane that climbs upwards from the canal, past Warland, and onwards and upwards. It is a long way from the valley bottom. Throughout the 19th century there were 3 separate dwelling houses at the farm.

An early resident of Knowltop was Abraham Fielden, a yeoman farmer. He died young in 1715, leaving a widow and children. His will states he had already left his real estate to his eldest son, but fails to name this son.

When she was a lass of 17, Betty Scholfield from Smallbridge near Rochdale married John Scholfield from Calflee Farm in Walsden. This was in 1774. They settled at Knowl Top and remained there the rest of their lives and Betty's was a long one. In 1780 they were paying a land tax of 12 shillings, which was enough to give John the vote, should he ever have wished to take up the option. Their 9 children were born there and were all brought up in the ways of hill farming and home weaving. Like their father before them, they were also brought up in the Christian faith as members of the Wesleyan Society.

John died prematurely at the age of 46. His widow was left with a toddler and 2 other children under the age of 10. She continued to run the farm with the help of her older children. Betty was widely known as Th' Old Dame of Knowltop. She was often seen sitting outside the house doing her knitting, talking to anyone who would listen about the old days. One story she was fond of telling was of the harsh winter they experienced a few years after she was widowed, probably in say 1800. She said the snow fell like it had never done before. It fell in large quantities over a long period. The spring had been so cold that the snow remained on the ground and she witnessed the last of it melt away on the longest day, June 21st. Th' Old Dame died at Knowltop on 31st January 1845 aged 88 years.

John and Betty's youngest son, Abraham, married and remained at Knowltop for the rest of his life. He concerned himself with the farm work, but more importantly he became a stonemason. His name appears in the various trade directories of the time and he was responsible for building 4 cottages at Clough Holme, later known as Thistle Hall. He and his wife had no children of their own and were said to be uncle and aunt to almost half the younger generation in Walsden.

Knowltop 2004 undergoing renovation


Abraham remained the farmer at Knowltop until he died aged 76 in 1865. When he died it is reported that over 500 people benefited from his estate. In one case the executor had to travel to a place beyond Huddersfield to pay out a share to a third generation family. The amount paid to them was a mere two shillings and eight pence each.

Apart from her son Abraham, Th' Old Dame's granddaughter Susannah Sutcliffe settled at Knowl Top after her marriage to John Dawson of Stonehouse farm, about 1830.

Susannah was the daughter of Sally Scholfield and Abraham Sutcliffe. They lived at Scout Top, another wild outpost of Walsden. Her father was drowned near Deanroyd lock when returning home one Saturday night carrying a heavy load of warps and wefts for his handlooms. Her mother only survived him a few weeks, dying (so it is reported) of a broken heart. Susannah was just 12 years old and had 4 younger siblings.


Susannah (Sutcliffe) Dawson

Susannah was herself widowed very young. John Dawson died aged 37, leaving her at Knowltop with 6 young children. Her grandmother, Th' Old Dame, was still alive at this time. Susannah remained at Knowltop until she died aged 80 in 1889. She made a living by baking oat bread, although I have no idea how she managed to sell any living where she did!


Susannah's sister Mary also lived at Knowltop for a few years with her husband John Howarth. They were there in 1834, but had left by 1851. Their cottage was taken over by John Mitchell, the widower of Susannah and Mary's sister Sally.


After the death of Abraham Scholfield in 1865, the farm was taken over by Susannah's son, Abraham Dawson. In 1871 he was farming 60 acres and was also a shopkeeper. Again, it is difficult to imagine any customers in a shop at Knowltop. He and his family remained there until after 1891. By 1901, all three dwellings at Knowltop were unoccupied.

This was the end of the Scholfield dynasty at this hill top farm. It is interesting to note that once at Knowltop, the residents were reluctant to leave. Th' Old Dame lived there over 70 years, her son Abraham was born and died there aged 76, and his successor at the farm, his nephew Abraham Dawson, was born there and left after about 65 years. It had been a close family community.

The farmhouse is occupied today, and is currently undergoing modernisation and renovation.







I am indebted to Janet Rooks for the photo and information on her ancestor, Susannah Sutcliffe