photo by kind permission of Frank Haylett

Mellins Farm is very old, dating back to at least 1715. It is situated off the old lane that links Dulesgate at Cloughfoot with Sourhall on Todmorden Moor. Its nearest neighbour is Hazlegreave Farm. It was always a tenanted farm, and had about 18 acres of land throughout the 19th century.

Robert Law was born in Langfield about 1668. He moved over to Hazlegreave Farm on his marriage to Alice and that is where their first eight children were born. For some reason, they moved to neighbouring Mellins between 1708 and 1715, which was the beginning of a family dynasty at Mellins that lasted for five generations over about 180 years.

Robert died at Mellins in 1727, and Alice followed him in 1736. The tenancy was taken over by their son Thomas and his wife Sarah (Stansfield).

Thomas farmed at Mellins for almost 60 years until his death at the farm in 1795. He and his son William shared the tenancy, and both are named as occupiers in the Land Tax Assessments, where it can be seen they were expected to pay about six shillings a year tax. The landowner at that time was Joseph Hilton.

Thomas' daughter, Susan Law, married Richard Stansfield and they also lived at Mellins, possibly in an attached cottage. After the death of her father in 1795, Susan and her husband Richard remained at the farm and about 1818 the tenancy passed to their daughter Mary and her husband George Hollows.

George and Mary Hollows produced nine children who all lived to old age, having robust and healthy constitutions. Most of the children were born at Mellins, and they were all brought up there.

The eldest child was William and when he was a young man in 1833 he married Hannah Newell, from Higher Woodfield farm at Sourhall. They set up home together in a cottage at nearby Midgelden Farm where they tried to earn a living by handloom weaving on contract to a firm in Stansfield Township. The Master of this firm was also the landowner of Mellings Farm.

Before very long their first child was born. He was William junior. With three mouths to feed and Hannah busy with the baby and housework, William struggled to produce enough cuts of cloth to keep the wolf from the door. It was a poor time for hand weavers, and the cottage industry was dying. Manufacturers paid less and less for each cut of cloth. William struggled to weave 6 pieces a week, with having to fetch and carry the warps from Stansfield, set up the loom and weave the cuts, each of which were from 24 to 30 yards long. Hannah had to help as much as she could and there was scarcely time to eat or sleep. The pieces, when delivered, attracted the going rate of the time of six pence a cut. All that work and toil for three shillings a week! Out of the three shillings, they had to pay rent, buy fuel for heating, oil for lighting and put food on their plates.

Following an altercation over the piece rates with his boss in Stansfield, William gave up hand weaving and obtained a farm labouring job with Elias Crowther, to whom he paid rent for his cottage. Elias paid him one shilling a day and life was a little better for William, Hannah and baby William. It became even better shortly after 1841 when William started work in one of the Dulesgate collieries.

Sadly, Hannah died in the mid 1840's, leaving William with four young children. He returned to Mellins to live with his widowed mother Mary and continued work as a collier, a job he kept for 30 years.
His mother was the tenant at Mellins and the farmer of 18 acres at the time. It seems she had no help on the farm, and with all her children working in their own occupations, this elderly lady must have found it hard going. In 1861, aged 73, the widow Mary was still farming on her own and by now had 20 acres of land.

By 1871 Mary had died and William succeeded to the farm. He continued at the farm as long as he could, eventually retiring to a cottage in Cloughfoot surrounded by his children and siblings. The farm was taken over by a young couple and Mellins was now in the hands of a new family 180 years and five generations of one family.