Rough Stones is situated at the top of a steep curving drive that leads directly off the main Walsden to Littleborough road near Lanebottom, Walsden. It is perched half way up the rocky hillside on the western side of the valley.

The first mention of Rough Stones in the parish registers is in 1713 when Richard Clegg, yeoman, was buried. (He may well have been a relative of Rev. Richard Clegg, vicar of Kirkham, who was born at neighbouring Stonehouse Farm. He started the first school in Todmorden in 1713 with an endowment from his own pocket. The school became known as the Endowed School.)


Rough Stones

By the 1700's the farm was in the hands of the Howard family who also owned and lived at MOORHEY FARM, Walsden. Edmund Howard died in 1806, leaving his lands and farms to his son John. John outlived his wife by many years, and also outlived his three children.
His only heirs were two grandsons, both of them illegitimate. When he died about 1842, John left his lands at Rough Stones to one of these grandsons, Samuel Law. About 1860 Samuel sold the land to Robert Fielden, farmer, picker maker and cotton manufacturer of Inchfield Fold.
During the time that Edmund Howard owned the land, John Dawson was the tenant. He is shown in the Land Tax Assessments as being responsible for the annual rent of between 2s.1d and 2s.4d from at least 1784. He died in 1822 at Rough Stones, leaving an adult family of 5 sons and 3 daughters. The sons were successful stone workers and merchants.

Rough Stones

Another tenant around the turn of the 18th century was Abraham Howarth, husband of John Dawson's daughter Elizabeth. He was known as Old Dickie. They lived at Rough Stones from their marriage in 1801 until 1812. Abraham was a road maker, working with the stone from the nearby quarries. Their youngest five children were born at Rough Stones.

Tunnel workers

The period between 1838 and 1841 was one of great disruption for the farmers of this area. The Summit railway tunnel was being bored through the rocky hillside, and what a mess there must have been, with rocks and general debris, not to mention mud. It is doubtful that any farming occurred. At the time it was the longest tunnel in the world. Shafts were sunk deep in to the ground; the deepest is over 100 yards long.

There was clearly insufficient housing for the thousands of navvies brought in from other places, so these men built shanty huts from earth and pieces of stone, covering them with clay and thatching the rafters with rushes. There was quite a large village of these primitive homes at Steanorbottom, with some in the vicinity of Rough Stones.

Lithograph drawing of Summit Tunnel

west entrance in 1845 by

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait.


The foreman's cottage at Rough Stones

No doubt some of the foremen had enough money to pay rent for a farm cottage. One of these foremen rented the end cottage at Rough Stones.

The first train of carriages that went through the tunnel was on Sunday afternoon, February 28th 1841, but March 1st was the appointed day for the official opening.


By the time the census was taken on June 6th 1841 the navvies had gone and the cottages vacated, but there were still no farmers at Rough Stones.

A local character, Samuel Newell, was in residence with his wife and a lodger. Samuel preferred to be called Bonny Newell for some reason best known to him. Although he enjoyed a few drinks, he was well liked for his geniality and lively personality. In his younger days he had taught his family of 8 children the art of hand weaving at home, looked after their looms and did the fetching and carrying of the warps and wefts.However, he preferred the outdoor life and when the harvest time came he left the home manufacturing business to his wife and children. He was part of a gang of mowers who went round the various farms to mow and shear the corn.

When he was an old man he somehow hurt one of his feet so badly that his outdoor labouring days were over. He turned his hand to odd jobs, mending barrels, buckets and wash tubs, and making pegs and clothes maidens. His wife died in 1846 at Rough Stones and Bonny moved down to live in an old cottage behind the Waggon & Horses at Bottoms.

Rear of Rough Stones

Samuel Jackson was another tenant of the meagre 4 acres. His family would nowadays be called dysfunctional. It all started in 1824 when Samuel married Mary Taylor. Mary was very close to her younger sister Esther. When Mary and Samuel married, they set up home at Allescholes. Sister Esther moved to live with them, and had three illegitimate daughters over the next 10 years, two of who survived.

view from Rough Stones

The eldest was Eve, born about 1824, and the other was Mary, born at Allescholes in 1828, fathers unknown. In 1836, Esther gave birth to another illegitimate daughter, Betty Taylor. This time the father is recorded in the parish registers as Zachariah Jackson, younger brother of Samuel.

Samuel looked after the whole family; his wife, his wife's sister and her three daughters, one of whom was fathered by his own brother. Samuel and his wife had no children of their own. His wife died at Rough Stones in 1844, leaving Samuel with her sister Esther and her brood. In 1849, the child Mary had her own illegitimate daughter, also Mary, who was born at Rough Stones.

Meanwhile, Esther and Samuel got together and produced two sons, Thomas and William Taylor, both born at Rough Stones. About 1850, they moved across the road to Stonehouse Farm. Samuel and Esther never married, and in 1851 they are all living together at Stonehouse - Samuel, Esther (who is recorded as his housekeeper), their 2 illegitimate sons, 2 of her three illegitimate daughters, and her illegitimate granddaughter. Samuel was working as a milkman.

Rough Stones drive

In 1858, Esther died and Samuel moved this odd collection of people back to Rough Stones. Next door to them are Esther's other daughter, Betty, now married to Samuel Wild. Next to Betty is Samuel's widowed brother Abraham Jackson with his family.

view from Rough Stones with Bottomley

on the opposite hill


However, shortly after the census was taken Enoch moved across the valley to another farm at Bottomley, leaving his eldest son Ingham to take over the tenancy. Five of his children were born at Rough Stones before he, too, moved over to Bottomley.

The next tenants were the Law family from Square. Enoch Law, a retired clogger, and his family moved in between 1866 and 1869. Enoch was widowed in 1869 whilst living at Rough Stones and is there in the 1871 census. His son Samuel and family are next door.


Enoch Law


During The Great War of 1914-1918, the farm was occupied by John Taylor and his family. John's own ancestors had been there before him - the dysfunctional family of Samuel Jackson, his wife Mary Taylor and her sister Esther and brood. Mary and Esther were John's aunties, sisters of his father John senior.

John Taylor and his wife Susan Dawson lived at Roughstones, together with their 4 sons, James, John, Sam and Thomas, during the war until his sudden death in 1917. Immediately after his death, the stock, farming implements and household contents were put up for auction. The sale was held at Roughstones on 17th March 1917. His animal stock consisted of 3 stirks, 2 heifers, 4 cows, poultry and a dog.


One of the present residents - 30 year old Abigail

In 1975, a novel set during the building of the Summit Tunnel, written by M. McDonald, was published. After first obtaining permission from the then owner of Rough Stones, the book was entitled The World From Rough Stones. For anyone interested in the life and times of the folk involved in the building of the tunnel, it is an excellent read, although very saucy (and of course, fiction!)