Top o’ th’ Hill is a secret place, and no matter which way you approach it, you will have to climb. The farmhouse sits not quite at the top of the cobbled hill leading up from Woodbottom and Stoney Brink.

Beyond the house right at the top of the hill is a small clearing where General Wood Farm nestles amongst a few cottages and barns. The road then leads down to the Hollins Inn. It was the original road linking this area to the rest of Walsden and Todmorden, with a spur running out to Lumbutts.
About 1907, the old farmhouse known as Top o’ th’ Hill underwent renovation that included some re-pointing of the walls.

Over the porch there had been a date stone, but sadly this became covered in cement during the re-pointing process and the tenants of the time could not remember the date when asked by a local historian. More recently, the current owners uncovered the date and reproduced it in a modern style over the front door. It says:

JMH 1706.


The house and land belonged to the Crossley family of Scaitcliffe Hall and was always a tenanted farm until modern times.

The first known occupiers were the Heyworth family. It is possible they were there as early as 1706, as the initials on the date stone could indicate a Heyworth family. What is known is John Heyworth and his wife Mary Emmott were certainly there during the latter half of the 1700’s. They married in 1756, so possibly took over at that time. They raised several children, producing a dynasty lasting a hundred years at Top o’ th’ Hill.

Two of their children remained at Top o’ th’ Hill, their eldest child Betty with her husband William Midgley, and their son Jeremiah with his wife Betty Fielden.

Betty and William Midgley settled in the adjoining cottage to the farmhouse. Their daughter Hannah Midgley and granddaughter Sarah carried on in the cottage and are to be found there in 1841. Spinster Hannah remained at Top o’ th’ Hill, eking out a living as a washerwoman. In 1851 she is still in the cottage with William Greenwood, her sister Mary’s son.

Meanwhile, Betty’s brother Jeremiah Heyworth had married Betty Fielden from Bottomley in 1791. They succeeded his parents at Top o’ th’ Hill, farming there for the next 40 years, although Jeremiah (known as Jerry) was principally a stonemason.
He and Betty also did a spot of handloom weaving to supplement their income, collecting spun cotton from Smithyholme Spinning Mill, which they weaved then returned the pieces to the mill for payment. They are both recorded in the mill accounts for the year 1816, along with Jerry’s brother Daniel of Swineshead and his nephew Andrew Heyworth from Rough Top. On 6th September 1816, Jerry called at the mill with his finished work and received a payment of 9s.7d. They would have needed this extra money with eleven children to raise – and it likely some of these children were the ones doing the weaving. Jeremiah died there in 1830.
The next known farmer at Top of Hill was Henry Sutcliffe. He was a businessman who had his hand in many projects. He had been a butcher by trade, and also long-term landlord of the Masons Arms, Gauxholme. However, his most successful enterprise was setting up a business carrying goods by canal with his brother John.

They built a large storage warehouse at Shade, with stables and housing occupying all the land between the main road and the canal. When Henry retired to farm at Top o’ th’ hill, his son Robert succeeded him in the carrying business, and his son Henry junior took over the Masons Arms.

It wasn’t long before Henry Sutcliffe's family and the Heyworth family merged. His son Henry junior married Martha, daughter of Jeremiah and Betty, and son James married Martha’s cousin Sarah Midgley, the illegitimate daughter of spinster Hannah Midgley. As mentioned above, Martha and Henry junior ran the Masons Arms in Gauxholme, and Sarah and James moved to run the Shannon & Chesapeake Inn, Millwood.

Henry and his wife Sally Law were farming Top o’ th’ Hill in 1841. Sally died and in 1851 Henry is the farmer of just 6 acres with second wife Grace.

After Henry died, Charles Heyworth took over the responsibility of the farm. Charles was another grandson of old Jerry and Betty Heyworth, son of their son James. Like many of his Heyworth relatives, Charles was a master stonemason. His father (known as Jim o’ Jer’s), had opened a stone quarry on Langfield Moor above Carr Green in a place called Jail Hole, and no doubt Charles was working there.

The farm became incorporated with its nearest neighbour General Wood Farm at some point. Evidenced by all the census returns from 1841, there is only one farmer between the two farms. The farmer lived at Top o’ th’ Hill farmhouse until 1861, and thereafter at General Wood farmhouse until 1901 when Top of Hill was back in use.

Most of the associated cottages were occupied by folk with non-farming occupations. Charles Heyworth was the last farmer at Top o’ th’ Hill until 1901 when Mark and Mary Uttley were farming there. At that time, the farmhouse had more than 5 rooms and there were 3 cottages, one of which was uninhabited.

Today, the whole area is known as Top o' th' Hill and the name of General Wood has disappeared. The last person to run Top o ’th’ Hill as a farm was Reuben Ratcliffe with his son Peter. Reuben was born at Lower Woodfield Farm at Sourhall, a descendent of the Ratcliffes who farmed at Sourhall for generations. He purchased the farm and land, running it mainly as a turkey farm. When he died in 1981, his son Peter succeeded him. He still owns much of the land once part of the Top o' th' Hill and General Wood estates.