Hebden Parish Historical Data

Edmond Bogg: 1904

This extract comes from Edmond Bogg's book Higher Wharfedale, pages 230-237, published in 1904. Hebden's industries had gone, and it was now developing as a tourist destination. The school had been replaced, and much of Main Street had been rebuilt, and Bogg draws a favourable comparison with how it was before.

Loup Scar is a gigantic rock of limestone, through which the angry river has worn its track, and still battles defiantly with huge boulders, that in vain impede its progress. In flood-time this place is a scene of wild grandeur — a roar of swirling waters lashed into foam through impact with overhanging cliffs, on the top of which, like ragged sentinels, storm-swept trees look down the abyss. Fittingly, for it is the last scene of a murder.

Rather more than a century has fled since "Tom Lee" chose this spot for the final hiding-place of his victim. On two occasions had the body been secreted ; but the murderer was still fearful lest its hiding-place should be discovered.

Just after midnight, when all at Grassington but the guilty pair had retired to rest, Lee, accompanied by his wife and leading a pony, glided out of the village. Dark storm-clouds swept across the moor, obscuring the light of the moon. Arriving at the solitary grave, he again unearthed his victim, which he placed in a sack and threw across the pony's back, crossed the moors above Hebden, and on to Burnsall, where the body, attached to large stones, was hurled into the river.

Sketch of Tom Lee and his wife disposing of the body

Retribution was afoot and on the murderer's track. That night a young man from Grassington, who, visiting his lady-love, had lingered as lovers will, was returning home by the banks of the river, lost in a reverie of bliss, when he was arrested by the sound of a voice exclaiming, "Tha thief, tha'll show his legs; cover em up!" Peering down from the opposite bank, he heard the splash of the falling body ; just at that moment the clouds parted and the moon shone full on the guilty pair. The chain of evidence was fast closing round the murderer, for, as the young man proceeded to Grassington, he soliloquized: "Begow, but this licks me, it dew, a cud amost sweer at it wur Tom Lee an' 'is wife, an' ahm sewer that wur 'is galliway." Thus wondering, he journeyed on, little dreaming, for the moment, that the heavy splash hid a foul crime.

Hid amongst the hills, midway between Burnsall and Linton, is the quiet hamlet of Thorpe, access to which can be obtained by either road or footpath from Burnsall; and high above a deep ravine, on the opposite bank of the river, stands Hebden village. A day can be profitably spent by the strong of limb in visiting this locality and the disused mines and moorlands beyond. Before turning aside let us look backward. On our right rise rocky and precipitous fells; in front, and frowning on the vale beneath, is Simon's Seat, covered with a mist-wreath of raining cloud, which seems to envelop it in one mass of circling gloom. Suddenly the heavens open, and a marvellous gleam of glorious light is reflected from sun-gilded clouds, shedding dazzling hues on the rugged slopes, as transient as beautiful.

Crossing the river by a rickety swing-bridge, near to where the moorland stream empties into the Wharfe, and past the flax mills, now silent, we reach Hebden, a deep ravine, running from the bed of the Wharfe up to the lofty moorland ridge, separating Craven from Netherdale. In the thirteenth century, the manor of Hebden was possessed by a William de Hebden, a descendant of the Thane Uctred, son of Dolfin, passing in the fifteenth century to the Tempests. Thruskell, or Thor's Well, takes its personal distinction from Thor, the god of war; a relic of Norse days. Thor, the ancient and highly-venerated god in the Pantheon of Scandinavian mythology, appears to have been looked up to and worshipped as the controlling principle of thunder — the gigantic being to fight against or combat evil in all its personified forms; to disperse dragons, evil spirits, and demons; and was propitiated to protect the dead from the powers of darkness and the desecration of the tomb. There are numbers of places with the prefix Thurs and Thor — Thurscross or Thorscross, above Blubberhouses on the Washburn, concerning which there is a tradition that, 'lang-syne,' a city stood up in Thurscross. Doubtless there may be some truth in the story, for the place may have been a camp or stronghold of the Brigantes.

The deep ravine, on the high west shelf of which Hebden is situated and down which a brawling moorland beck comes swirling, is very picturesque. Few vestiges are left of the ancient manor hall of the Hebdens, a family who held sway here all through the mediæval period.

Photograph of the River Wharfe

The Ibbotsons are a very old Craven family, and the story runs that a yeoman of this stock took charger and rode with a Craven contingent to the Flodden Fight. The family seems to have prospered, and the Ibbotson charities are well known in district. "In the name of God, amen, I, Robert Ibbotson, of Skirethorns, late of Hebden, in the parish of Linton, and county of York, yeoman, being in a weak disposition of health, but of sound and perfect memory, thanks be to the Almighty God for the same, do make and ordain this, my last Will and Testament, in the manner and for the following, etc." He gives all his house, tenements, etc , then standing in Hebden, to Henry Ibbotson, of Threshfield, for his natural life. After that, to his heirs male, lawfully begotten, if there are any, and if such are not found, to any Ibbotsons for ever. Out of which is to be paid yearly the sum of two pounds, to be divided between four of the poorest widows in Hebden; also two pounds is to be given and divided in like manner at Grassington. And then follows provisions empowering the churchwardens and overseers to enforce the occupiers to pay the amounts specified in case of default. He also leaves forty' pounds, the income from which is to be used by Peter Pulman, of Skirethorns, and his executors, for the putting out one apprentice every- year, male or female, in Linton, of the name of Ibbotson, and especially of the name and blood, and if not any found of name or blood, then to any other poor boy or girl of the parish of Hebden firstly, and secondly of the parish of Grassington. Dated 3rd October, 1723, signed, Robert Ibbotson, witnessed, John Alcock, Wm Darwen, Jeremiah Stockdale. Part of aforesaid monies were lent to Thomas Carlisle, of Hetton, on mortgage, and will provide for the aforesaid executors to administer the same, and use income as aforesaid.

The architecture of Hebden has greatly changed during the last thirty years; formerly the houses were in a ruinous condition and many tenantless, giving the place a forlorn and desolate aspect. Today the village wears a clean and well-built appearance, but not all the evidences of its antiquity have been swept away, for several interesting features still exist in its quaint Jacobean homesteads. The high commanding situation of this village makes it a most desirable place of residence.

The old Primitive School, which stood on the village green, was eclipsed only by the Primitive teacher, Thomas Howsam, who taught at Hebden some thirty-five or forty years ago; an old soldier, who had been wounded in the wars. The school fee was one halfpenny per week. In a lower story, under the eastern end of the building, was the ancient ' Kilnhorn.' In this miserable hovel, Hannah Stackhouse, a wretched and depraved relative of the great Biblical scholar, the Rev. Thomas Stackhouse, died in great poverty.

The new church, dedicated to St. Peter, is delightfully situated on the high ground, and looks down on the vale of the Wharfe. Although its walls contain no crumbling stone, sculptured effigy, or heraldic devices interwoven with historical lore for the antiquary to muse over, yet the harmony of its interior and the romantic scenery exterior, amply amend for the newness.

Elbolton and Stebden, with a background of dark serrate fell, loom out grandly. In the opposite direction, the grey walls of Burnsall village, with its winding river, soon to be lost amid a rocky woodland gorge and mist-clad hills, form a feast for the eyes of the beholder.

Lead mining formerly gave employment to many people, but, having now become unprofitable, this has led to a decrease of the inhabitants — hence of late the many tenantless houses. A few hundred yards - beyond the village, the water falls some twenty feet over the limestone scarp, forming a very pretty foss. Further upwards by the rivulet is Hole Bottom Farm. Here dwelt the Bowdins. The family were famous musicians, and lately retained possession of the old fiddle used by an ancestor in the eighteenth century; it bears the name of Cahusac, No. 96, 1789. The seven brothers, Henry, Thomas, Dick, Orlando, Horatio, Augustine, and Daniel, with the father, were an orchestra in themselves. The old homestead stands in a sweet green-turfed vale, down which at some period a brawling torrent has leapt, adorned on one side by a gigantic ash. On the opposite side it is sheltered by a beech and sycamore, from whose spreading branches the birds carol many a lay.

Black and white sketch of Scalla Falls

Away upwards, we climb in the shadow of immense rocks ; the large mass which poises over the valley is named the Rocking Stone, and can be moved, the natives say, by a slight pressure. This, like the Logan stones on the Chevin, is so cunningly fitted one piece upon the other that if the upper one is touched in a certain spot with the finger, it will move, but no strength of man could otherwise move it. A friend of the writer in his youth, with quite a crowd of other young men, was wont to try repeatedly to hurl the Logan on Chevin from its pivot, but in vain.

Upwards still, the mines are reached. Curious old holes and shafts are seen near the torrent, here flowing over a shelf-like series of rocks. Though now no longer worked, the pretty plant, the lead wort, like a cushion of moss begemmed with silvery stars, still blooms plentifully on the spoil heaps.

Reproduction of a water colour of Hole Bottom

Still higher, all signs of humanity are left behind, and we tread the wild, wild moorland; even the stone walls which spoil many a rugged landscape are absent. In autumn, when nature broods sombrely over a scene of rugged grandeur, this ravine, in its moorland setting, is strikingly picturesque. The leafless trees stretch stark and spectre-like in the grey moving mist, huge wall- like cliff's, shattered, like some old giant's fortress, hold majestic swav over the scene, as if to bar the progress to the higher dale, whilst the deep orange bracken, the green and golden mingling of moss, and the brown swirling beck, confer a wonderful variety of colour and tone on the whole picture.

The only sounds are the screech of the lapwing, the burr of startled grouse, and the continual noise of the stream dashing over its rock-strewn course. Onwards still, passing the birthplace of the moorland rill, we stand on the bleak moorland ridge, the water-parting of the Nidd and Wharfe. How delightful are the breezes! We breathe the air of freedom and purity while resting on the heather, now in late Angust a glorious sea of purple, hills everywhere around rising higher and higher, until the scene is terminated by the hoary head of Whernside looming amongst the clouds.

There are many chasms and mine-holes where a person might disappear for ever on this land of mountain and of flood. Some are a great depth. The most wonderful is one with a stream course at the bottom, its waters rising and falling, so the natives say, like a tidal river.