Our meeting on 5th December 2023 featured a selection of photographs, stories and anecdotes from the archive of the late Keith Holford of Buxworth.
This video includes the text of the meeting with additional images.
Unknown Lady's Death
An inquest was held last evening at Furness Vale touching the death of a well-dressed unknown woman who was found dead on the Buxton branch of the London and North Western Railway between New Mills and Furness Vale, early on Tuesday morning.
Frank Wm. Green, son of the Furness Vale Station Master, and a porter at Disley, said he was walking along the line to work when he found a lady's hat in the six footway about 150 yards from Bank End Bridge. Twenty yards lower down he noticed what he took to be a bundle of rags, but which proved to be the dead body of a woman which he lifted into the six-foot. He did not notice whether there was any sign of a struggle. There was no public footpath or crossing near the spot, and he did not see much blood about.
Joseph Wood, who went to see the body, said the grass in a meadow between Buxton Road and the railway had been trampled down and the woman must have climbed a wall four feet high separating the meadow from the railway. Some coping stones had been thrown off at the end of the track. Witness's wife found two artificial roses near the wall.
Police Sergeant Sandbach, said the woman had been dead several hours. There was nothing on the body that would lead to identity. The woman wore a wedding ring and carried a satchel purse containing 5s 2½d, a latch key and some hair pins. She was about 30 years old. She had wounds on the head, her back was broken, and the toes of the right foot were cut off. No blood had been found on any of the engines that had passed that way. There were blood spots for a distance of about twenty yards along the line. He thought it was impossible for her to have fallen out of a train. She had no ticket on her. A photograph of her had been taken.
The Coroner said if the woman was identified the witnesses could got to his office and make their statements to him. He was of the opinion that she had either deliberately taken her life , or come by her death accidentally. He advised an open verdict, so that the police could prosecute their inquiries, and the jury returned a verdict of "Found dead on the railway"
Sheffield Evening Telegraph 6th August 1908
A Strange Funeral
The mystery attending the finding of the dead body of a well-dressed woman on the London and North-Western Railway between New Mills and Furness Vale is as great as ever, and the prospect of unravelling it is made more and more remote by the burial of the body.
After lying five days, the interment took place on Saturday, and as no one came forward to identify the unfortunate lady, the interment had to be taken in hnad by the relieving officer of the Hayfield Union, Mr James Taylor, New Mills, but this could not be done until the body had been brought back from the Furness Vale Station waiting room on another union. It was accordingly taken back and placed in a workman's hut on the line near the spot where it was found, and from this place, the funeral took place. The only persons present were the relieving officer, the Union undertaker, the assistant overseer, the sexton and the driver of the dog-cart that conveyed the coffin, and for a distance of two miles this little party accompanied the corpse to Disley Church, where Canon Slatterthwaite, the Vicar, officiated.
The theories of suicide or accident are not shared by everybody. Several policemen who were on Bank End Bridge at four o'clock on Tuesday morning declare there was nothing on the line at that hour, and the body was found shortly after six o'clock. There was no trace of blood or anything else on the wheels of any engines, and close to the wall separating the railway from a field near the spot where the body was found were two artificial roses-one pink and the other white-from the lady's hat.
Yorkshire Telegraph and Star 10th August 1908
The Methodist Church held a Spring Fair in April 1961 and at its opening, local historian, Marjorie Hobson, told of the church's history.
Miss Hobson said the Methodist Church was an integral part of Furness Vale and had been for almost 150 years.
She spoke of the time, over 200 years ago, when the village had no main road,no canal, no railway, no printworks - a small place with Yeardsley Hall and a few houses.
Added Miss Hobson, There was no place of worship here in those days, apart from a small chapel, probably at Yeardsley Hall. People had to walk to church at Disley, Whaley Bridge or New Mills.
At that time there was a great Christian revival. Methodism in the area started at Bongs, between New Mills and Mellor. John Wesley visited Bongs about 1740, and probably some Furness people went to hear him.
Wesley visited the district many times afterwards until 1788 when he was 85. From those visits, Methodism started in Furness Vale.
By 1797 Furness Vale had a printworks, and two years later a canal, after which the village began to grow. There was work in the printworks and on the canal, and houses were built.
The people wanted their own place of worship. One was started in 1812-no one seemed to know for sure where it was, but it was probably at Gow Hole Farm, and had 11 members.
Membership grew and in 1822 a chapel was built in Yeardsley Lane by Mr James Mellor of Diglee who rented it to his fellow members for £5 a year.. This might not seem much but in those days the annual collection was 5s, so £5 needed a lot of finding.
In 1835, said Miss Hobson, New Mills Circuit was formed and a Mr William Ince, first minister was appointed in 1837. There was great activity in the Yeardsley Lane Chapel, where there were not only services on Sunday but school on many weeknights.
There was no other school in the village, except perhaps a dame school where people had to pay one penny or twopence a week, which was difficult to find. In addition, children started work at six or seven years and had no chance to learn.
So the Yeardsley Lane Chapel taught reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic, not only to children but to grown-ups.
She added: "This chapel was fulfilling a great need in the village-educating the people. Throughout the history of this chapel it has been helping people to educate themselves.
Miss Hobson said that in 1838 the scholars from Yeardsley Lane Chapel walked in procession to New Mills to join in celebrating Queen Victoria's Coronation and were regaled with buns and ale.
Their next procession was in 1840 when the first church on the present site was built. They walked from Yeardsley Lane carrying bibles, spelling books, copy books and slates. Among them were John Gregory, Richard Fox and William Bradbury. She could not mention all who had played their part in the church's life but John Gregory and Richard Fox celebrated 50 years selfless work in 1889. Fox was a boatbuilder whose wife started Bridgemont Mission.
There were James and Denis Johnson, members and local preachers for over 50 years. William Bradbury had two sons, Benjamin and William, who worked for the church for over half a century.
Miss Hobson related that in 1847 at a revival meeting, the church was so crowded that people had to climb over the seats to reach the penitent form. In 1857 the church left the United Methodist Association and became the United Methodist Free Church.
She added: There were few wealthy members in those days. Most people were employed in the printworks and in pits, but they gave what they could.
In the 1860s came the cotton famine, which caused people to be in great need. I am not going to mention names-there are probably relatives still in Furness Vale-but, according to Disley rate book, a man, with a wife and child, had 3s 6d a week wages. Another with a wife and three children,got 7s.
But these people gave what they could, If they had not got the money, they gave their time, and this church was enlarged and a harmonium bought. This seemed a pity, because, until then, there was an orchestra of trombones, violins, cellos, a double bass, clarinet, cornet and ophicleide, and the orchestra probably played in the singing gallery. The church was lit by tallow candles, and that was Richard Fox's job to go round and snuff them out.
Miss Hobson said that exactly 95 years ago to the day in April 15th 1866, was the first recorded baptism of John Smith, In 1867 the church bought a second-hand organ from Sheffield.
There was a bazaar in 1884 to raise money for the building fund, and money making events continued. In 1884-5 the school and church were remodelled at a cost of £1050 and all was paid except £450, the debt being cleared later.
Other interesting points mentioned by Miss Hobson were a team meeting for cleaners and lighters-up in 1891, and the licensing of the church for marriages in 1909.
To celebrate the centenary in 1912, a new organ was bought, and there was a procession of 400 people through the village.
The blackberries were big and ripe and very juicy, some had fallen from the branches and were lying squashed and glittering in the sunshine.
Rev Towers cycles past Rosey Bank in the 1930s
In the stone quarry it was warm and quiet and peacefully
lazy, not a whisper of breeze stirred the grass or disturbed the branches of
the bushes dotted here and there among the fallen rocks. It was a wondrous place, peaceful and
languid in the summer sun, with a myriad of wild flowers to delight the eyes.
Elderberries hanging in flat bunches on the bushes and squabbling birds darting
here and there to peck at the ripe fruit. If you sat quietly and waited, you
would see rabbits peep hesitantly from their burrows in the mounds of stone and
At one time the quarry had been a thriving industry with a small railway to take the hewed stone to the canal basin and from there to be loaded on to barges and taken to Manchester and other places beyond, but now it was a wonderland for children of the surrounding village to play in. The marks of the hammer and pick long since gone, with the remaining rock and stone rising from the lush green undergrowth to form Highland castles or Indian wigwams or whatever you could conjure up in your imagination, the combinations wee endless. The sunshine never dulled by cloud, the flowers never spoiled by careless feet, the rabbits never startled by raucous voices, the children who played in the quarry were gentle and quiet and preoccupied with picking the fruit or collecting coloured pebbles from the small stream that ran through the quarry or choosing yet another selection of flowers or leaves for their presses. Watching for frogs was another favourite pastime of the children, sometimes taking frogspawn home in a jar to see the little black legs begin to grow and finally to have some baby frogs which would then be taken back to the stream to live their lives in peace.
The blackberries which grew in great profusion would be
picked and taken home where they would be made into delicious pies to be eaten
straight away with creamy yellow custard or they would be preserved in big jars
to be eaten in the winter months when fruit was short or boiled into wonderful
thick dark jam which was stored in jars with little white labels stuck on the
side which said “Blackberry September 1942". The jars were sealed and
covered with frilly paper lids held on with elastic bands. It was
a lovely sight to see the bottled fruits and jam stacked neatly on the
shelves, glowing like monster jewels in the cool half light of the larder.
The harvesting was always my favourite time of year, the fruits and nuts were gathered and of course the haymaking, I will never forget the absolute peace and tranquillity of lying in bed after a long hard day in the fields, with the window thrown open to allow the cooler air to waft in, bringing with it the sweet, warm earthy smell of the freshly cut and dried grass and the lovely mellow glow of the huge golden harvest moon which hung low in the sky and bather the fields in soft light which allowed the grown-ups to carry on working the hay until quite late, their happy voices calling to one another until the jugs of cocoa were taken to them and they would sit under the stacks with mugs of the milky chocolate brew until it was time for bed.
During the day, when the bright sun was beaming down, the big jugs would be filled with home made lemonade, sweet and cool with slices of lemon floating on top, just right to sooth dry, dusty throats. Neighbour would work alongside neighbour, chatting an teasing in an easy friendly relationship until all had been gathered in and stored away. By far the most thrilling and enjoyable part of the ritual of the gathering in of the hay was to ride to the bar on the huge dray which was pulled by the largest of the farm horses. These beautiful creatures were a truly treasured asset to any farmer, they were usually very placid and hardworking, tramping backwards and forwards from field to barn often quite a long walk, on their large, spreading feet which were often covered from ankle to shoe in course feathery hair.
The children of the village who helped in the fields would be hoisted on to the top of the huge pile of hay on the dray. The journey to the barn would then begin and you would have to cling to each other with all your might in order not to fall down from the jogging, swaying mass of hay. On arrival at the barn we would climb through the door high up in the wall and as men threw in the hay from their pitchforks we would trample it down in order that there would be room for the next load to be piled on top. It was very dirty, dusty work but we loved every moment in the dark high barns. Often in the winter we would sit in the hay in the barns to giggle and chat, it was one place where you could be sure of keeping warm.
It would gradually become cooler, fresh mornings growing into autumn days and then cooling again in the evenings. Days filled with gentle hovering sunshine while the leaves on the trees turned from green into pale gold, deep bronze, amber and russet, turning the landscape into a backcloth of beautiful, gently rustling, glowing colours. It did a young heart good to walk to school on mornings such as these, the sight of which is etched in my memory for ever.
The lovely autumn days would fade, leaves would fall from the trees and form mounds on the ground, which we would run through, kicking, swishing and trunching. By now there would have been much gathering of conkers, beechnuts and acorns and the precious pine cones which would predict the weather for us, closing if it was going to rain and opening wide, spilling their flat little seeds, if it was going to be dry.
The battle of the conkers would begin. The rushing search for a length of string on which to thread your biggest and best conker and then the contest among friends and school mates to find the bravest and hardest conker that would beat all comers and remain supremely intact, victorious, while others lay shattered in lumps, everywhere and anywhere a contest had taken place. What marvellously innocent and invigorating days they were, so much fun and laughter while summer shut up shop and before we realised what was happening the deep frost and icy cold of winter rushed in to send us hurrying pell mell into woollen vests and long warm stockings. The boys still wore their knee length trousers through the winter but they wore much thicker socks to protect their legs from the cold. Out came the gabardine macs and wellingtons, long woollen scarves which were stitched into a hood in the middle to keep the icy blast from our ears and gloves which were attached to the sleeves of our macs in case lost one of the precious commodities, money was very scarce and you could not afford to replace lost gloves.
The snow and ice was relentless. The blizzards would rage all night and all day too sometimes, piling the snow into huge drifts which made it almost impossible for us to move from our firesides. Many of us having to be dug out before we could even attend the privy that was usually at the bottom of the garden. But always we set to with shovel and spade to dig our way through so that we could attend school and go to work, walking along narrow lanes cut out of the snow which was chest high on either side of us, or sometimes walking along the wall tops in order to avoid the deep drifts.
Snowball fights would ensue and pitched battles would rage for days until the snow had hardened and then we would set to with a will to make a toboggan run. At first it would be quite slow and sluggish but would gain speed as the days passed and the snow packed down and hardened and became topped with ice. As you walked slowly to the beginning of the run you hugged the excitement of the ride to your heart, never wanting the moment to leave you, You would wait in line with your friends until it was your turn yet again to throw yourself full length on your toboggan and, guiding it with your feet, would hurtle down the icy track at great speed, the wind whipping tears from your eyes and the spray from the snow and ice drenching your clothes until you would have to go home to take off the stiff, wet, frozen clothes and dry and warm your numb, shivering body before the fire. As soon as you were warm right through and providing you had another set of clothes - many of us had just the one - you rushed out again to join the waiting children for yet one more thrill on the icy ribbon of snow. How easily we were entertained, what enthusiasm and excitement there was and it stayed with us for weeks until the snow finally melted and the toboggans would run no more.
It was wartime and we were always hungry, a natural state for healthy young people, but there was always a pot full of lovely, thick brown stew and a milk pudding with a spoonful of jam in it. We did not starve but food was not plentiful even in the heart of the country. Our lives were very simple, our food was very simple too and mostly home grown. There was nothing to worry our young minds, even the fact of war was too distant to contemplate, even when we were asked to take in evacuees from the towns which were being bombed nightly it still did not detract from the peace and tranquillity of our little sleepy village. We could see what effect the war was having on other people from the shocked and haggard faces of the visitors from the towns who came to stay with us and we did our best to welcome them and to soothe their worry and fears. Many of them were ill with nervous diseases and the was had affected the children and made them disagreeable and irritable and always on the defensive. The war dragged on for a long time and our visitors did well and became our friends.
On the day that war ended in Europe there was much excitement. Bonfires were built on the highest parts surrounding the village. Trestle tables were brought out on to the street and everyone contributed some food for the celebration. A piano was brought out onto the doorstep of one of our neighbours and, as it grew dark, lanterns were lit and the bonfires set ablaze. We all sang and danced to the tunes from the piano feeling so very happy that at least part of the horrific war was over although the Japanese were still fighting and many of our loved ones would never come back to us. When the bonfires died down and the food had been eaten we sat around in the lamplight, laughing and talking and for once in our young lives there were no orders for us to go to bed, we all felt so grown up sitting and joining in the conversation and the laughter until the early hours of the morning, when we all helped to tidy away the remnants of food and put away the tables and chairs and reluctantly went indoors to sleep.
The years passed slowly, as they do in youth, and eventually we all had to put our minds to the prospect of going forth into the big wide world to earn our living. Some of us went to the grammar school, which seemed very grand and remote to the ones who were not so fortunate. Some of us took courses in business studies, shorthand and typing and the like, and took up office work. One of our smaller friends, who loved horses, eventually became a jockey. Many of the young boys took up farming or carpentry or in some cases, both. The happy carefree schooldays were over. Now instead of conker fights we had to begin the struggle of finding our way into the small surrounding towns to attend our place of work.
We all had to travel many miles, on foot, bus or train, or all three in some cases. The idyll of living in the heart of the countryside had now become a problem. We were all subdued and dispirited with our working days in the towns which were the only places in which a lot of us could find employment. We were so happy to jump off the train at our pretty, tiny station at the end of the day and tramp the long miles home to our warm and peaceful firesides. Looking back on our lives then, we must have walked for miles to attend work or local dances or slide shown in the village schoolroom. The school had huge sliding doors to divide the classrooms. During the nights of entertainment they were all opened up and chairs and desks pushed to one side to make room for whatever we wanted to do. There were dances and jumble sales. Christmas sales of work, which everyone worked madly for in order for it all to be properly organised. There were school plays and religious lectures, whist drives and beetle drives, it was the centre of our lives and we felt so safe and free and happy. Even after we started our working lives and we had pocket money which allowed us to visit the cinema in the nearby towns, we still loved our evenings in the school.
Many of us would go to the nearest cinema once a week. It did not matter what the film was, we went anyway, and on the walk back home would act out some of the scenes from the film, tough guy James Cagney or wonderfully glamorous Betty Grable. We would sing and talk and laugh and the long walk would be over far too quickly, we would be reluctant to part and go to our separate homes, for the magic of the moment would be lost and tomorrow was work again.
As time went by we became more accustomed to the long hours
away from the village, it was a time of change and adjustment. Some of us found
it easy and some of us did not but we were all moulded for good or bad by our
lives in the village.
The blackberries are long since gone. The lovely quarry
where we played and the blackberries grew in such profusion has been filled in
with rubbish and rubble brought into the village in great lorries and tipped on
top of all the rabbits and foxes and wild cats, mice and frogs and myriads of
other tiny creatures who lived there.
On top of all the wondrous flowers and berries, mosses and ferns and
lovely rocks and pebbles.
Gradually, bit by disastrous bit, the castles and wigwams and stately mansions, the hanging weeping trees and the shimmering running stream with its clear champagne water and all the other magical qualities of that wonderful place have been destroyed. Where the quarry once was is now a mound of grass connected to another mound of grass by a motorway. The lovely village and its adjoining sisters rent in two, to provide a path for monster lorries and cars driven at speed. Even if any beauty was left they have no time to see it. If a hedgehog or a rabbit or any of the tiny creatures who lived there have survived they would be crushed beneath rushing wheels.
As for us, the children of the village, now scattered abroad by work and families and time, we remember it as it was, a place of beauty and happiness and wonderful blackberries.
Sheila Mary Rogers
The top floor of the Soldier Dick was used by the Oddfellows who established their "Foundation Stone Of Truth Lodge" in 1829. A mutual society, the Oddfellows provided financial benefits to their members in times of sickness, hardship or death. They came to have a very large membership in Furness Vale. In 1840, they commissioned an artist, F. W. Roche to paint murals on the walls of their "Lodge House". These represented English armies in battle: In the Civil War; at the Battle of Crecy; in the Napoleonic Wars; and a portrait of the pub's landlord, either Joseph Gould or William Travis at the time. There was another mural in the Snug but that was much more recent. The photographs which are of poor quality show the murals. Presumably the strange seating was for the officials of the Oddfellows. When the upper floor of the pub was converted to letting accommodation, the murals were carefully panelled over and still exist, carefully preserved.
George Tomlinson passed away on 11th July 2023 at the Hawthorne Nursing Home in Buxton at the age of 98. His funeral is at Macclesfield Crematorium on 3rd August.George Tomlinson was a Yorkshireman, originally from the village of East Bowling, now a suburb of Bradford.
George had lived in Furness Vale for many years, making his home in Park Avenue. He was employed in Manchester, commuting daily by train.
For many people, their best memory of George is of his long association with Furness Vale Scouts of which he was General Scout Leader.
George had long been a member of the Methodist Church and continued to worship at St.John's when the village chapel closed.
Furness Vale History Society was formally constituted in the early 21st century but had been meeting at Carr Farm for many years previously. It was founded by George who became the first Chairman. For a long time, George had been researching our local history and it was through his efforts that we now have a considerable archive. He retired from the Society in 2013.
George is photographed with Dr. Andrew at the re-opening of the Scout Hut in January 1976
George researched the history of most of our local farms and is seen here with Mr Mellor at Peathills.
Philip Hadfield's grandfather spent his entire working life as a railwayman at Whaley Bridge and New Mills. Arthur Hadfield was well known for his appearances at local carnivals where, having dressed the floats, he would join the parade in comic fancy dress, collecting money for charity. One of his most popular roles was that of a famous music hall character, "Old Mother Riley".
Arthur was awarded numerous prize certificates, a few of which we reproduce below. The newspaper cuttings mark his retirement and participation in a carnival.
Carrie passed away in April 1964, Arthur in April 1976.
Our thanks to Philip Hadfield for the loan of this material.