Friday, 8 March 2019

The Life and Times of Furness Vale Printworks

The Life and Times of Furness Vale Printworks by Chris Bond is based upon  the scrapbooks of Mr W. A. Bradbury who was employed as a foreman for 53 years. "W. A. B." was also very much involved in public life; the District Council,  School, Chapel and the Co-op were just a few of his many duties.  He chronicled events in both the Printworks and the district around Furness Vale. This  is a unique record of  life in the village between 1794 and 1925.
This book was first published in 2012 and quickly sold out. We have only recently been able to arrange a re-print and copies are once again available from the History Society at £5. The book is on sale at Society meetings, the community shop and from 34 Yeardsley Lane.

A Short History of the narrowboat "Badger"

George Boyle recently gave a talk on the history of his working narrowboat. His story also includes much background information about the former owners, their boats and canals in general.  The following is the text of George's talk, illustrated with a few photographs.

In order to cover the history of BADGER, it will be necessary to mention her owning company, Fellows, Morton and Clayton, or FMC for short.  Incidentally, photographs of BADGER working are extremely rare. 

FMC was probably the largest of the independent canal carrying companies.  By independent, I mean a company that owned boats but no canals.  Many canal companies also ran their own fleets of boats.  However, they kept boat and canal accounts separate which enabled independent companies like FMC to survive.

Before the mid to late 1800s canal boats did not have engines and were drawn by horses, or in the case of narrowboats, more correctly mules, as a full sized horse was more than a match for a single narrowboat and would be used to pull larger barges or a pair of narrowboats together.


In 1860 the first steam engines were fitted in narrowboats  Unfortunately, the steam engine, boiler and coal supplies were so heavy that the payload of the boat was reduced by up to 10 tons.

FM C Steamer "Sultan"

Thus a steamer had to tow at least one, or even two former horseboats, by now called butties, to make the operation profitable.  For that reason, steamers were confined to broad canals where the boat and butty could pass through the locks together.

By 1906 FMC had started experimenting with early diesel and gas engines but very quickly standardised on semi diesel engines manufactured in Sweden by a company called Bolinder, better known nowadays as Volvo.  They liked the engines so much that every FMC motor from 1913 until they sold out to the nationalised British Transport Commission in 1949 had a Bolinder engine of 9 or 18 horsepower.

Bolinder semi-diesel engine

FMC had its own workshops in Saltley, Birmingham, and Uxbridge, London where they built and repaired their boats.  These workshops fulfilled most of FMCs requirements but in1923 they were so busy that they placed an order for 12 boats with WJ Yarwood of Northwich.  One of those boats was BADGER, fleet No 288.

Badger when newly built

 Each boat cost £740 complete including the obligatory Bolinder engine. Eventually Yarwoods built a total of 30 boats for FMC.  When built, BADGER had rivetted wrought iron sides and an elm wooden bottom.  Iron is more rust resistant than steel and lasts longer at the price of being more brittle.  It has been known for an iron hull to crack between rivet holes when struck hard in exceptionally cold weather.  All boat bottoms were made from elm which has unusual properties.  Keep it saturated, as the bottom always is, and it will last for hundreds of years.  However let it dry and it will rapidly degrade to dust.  Incidentally, this is why wooden boats when out of use were sunk awaiting further work rather than being lifted onto the bank where they would have rapidly deteriorated.  Wooden boat bottoms normally only need replacing because of wear against the canal bed rather than rot.  All steel boats only arrived in the 1930s but, even so, the last wooden boat was built as late as 1958.

Although FMC operated throughout the canal network, and had their major presence on the London to Birmingham axis, BADGER was allocated to their northern fleet from new, working between Ellesmere Port and Manchester to the West and East Midlands.

The cabin on BADGER was also made from wood.  FMC were quite parsimonious in their treatment of boaters and they only fitted small bottle stoves in the cabins.

Boatmen with families would need more than this so they had to purchase and fit a range stove for themselves…………...

A narrowboat cabin fitted with stove

…...which they would have to transfer if they changed boats.

Cabins were snug, typically 6ft 6ins wide, narrowing to less than 6ft at the top, by around 8ft long.

It is as well to mention at this stage that when canal transport was new it had no effective competition.  Boatmen were well paid and could house their families on the bank.  Only when the railways arrived did margins become tight, forcing boatmen to bring their families onto the boats giving them cheap housing and extra free labour.

Inside the cabin the stove was near the door, a dinette with a drop flap front was next, and a cross double bed at the rear, although to call them double is stretching things.  BADGER is a comfortable 3ft 3ins wide, my old boat ALTON was a tighter 2ft 11ins wide.

The cabin side of any working boat displays several numbers so this would be a good time to explain their significance.

Firstly – the large number 288 is the fleet number allocated by the owning company for identification along with name.  Another little aside comes from this.  If you were a self employed boatman and owned your own boat, you inevitably put No. 1 on the cabinside.  Thus such boatmen became “Number Ones” and were always called that by employed boatmen.

The second number - “Registered at Birmingham No. 1454” refers to the boat’s health registration under the Canal Boats Act 1877.  This act was passed through parliament by social reformers keen to improve the lot of boating families when conditions were seen to be squalid to say the least.  At the first examination by a local authority inspector, amongst other things, the cabin would be measured and certified as suitable for x number of persons, inevitably with a narrowboat, 2 adults and 2 children.  Thereafter, the boat would be

occasionally examined and reported on, with penalties for the owners and boatmen for transgressions.  It was not uncommon for boatmen to have lots of children, indeed my previous boat ALTON at one time had  man, wife and eight children on board.  When word got out that inspectors were checking, boaters would hand younger children to boats going the other way to fool the inspectors, the children being collected, perhaps a fortnight later when the boats next passed.

The third number - in Badger’s case 804 -  is the one allocated by a canal company when they gauged the boat, that is, calculated the weight carried on any given draught.  They did this by loading weights into the boat and measuring the freeboard at intervals.  Thus they produced a chart for each boat which was copied to each toll office so that the load could be measured and the correct tolls charged. 

The number itself cannot be seen in the photo of the cabin side.  It was on two plates attached to the front face of the cabin.  However, I do have one of the original number plates issued to BADGER in 1923 which I found in the bilges when cleaning out.

The next number - 1396 - is unique to FMC boats. Because their boats went out onto the River Thames, the company registered itself in the Worshipful Company of Thames Watermen and 1396 was the number allocated to FMC.  It was a bit of unnecessary show by FMC and when the company livery changed post 1923 the use of this number was dropped.

There is one final number showing in the photo – 72505.  This is not historically significant in working boat terms, but was allocated by British Waterways in the 1970s when all boats were renumbered for their records.

The bows of working boats also had devices on them.  They were not just pretty designs but had distinct meanings.  Thus on the bows of  BADGER the double arrow device signified it was an FMC boat.  Other companies had different devices and all could be readily recognised by staff.  We have to remember that very few boatmen were literate, indeed several good friends of mine, retired boatmen and women, have never been able to read or write. The red diamond indicated it had already been gauged by the Birmingham Canals Navigation Company, the No 804 referred to earlier.  This was important as the toll clerk would know he had a copy of its gauging sheet available, and would allow a boat carrying the device straight into the toll lock.  A boat not showing the diamond would be pulled to one side for checking.

Returning to BADGER.  When built she was fitted with an 18hp engine.  This was a clear indication that she was meant to tow a butty most of the time.  FMC was so parsimonious in its use of engines that a boat intended to run “single motor” would only have a 9hp engine fitted.  A boat being taken away from butty towing to single motoring for any length of time, would have its 18hp engine removed and a 9hp put in its place.

Although early records for BADGER, or indeed any other FMC boat, are hard to come by, several things can be deduced.  In 1921,  the Shropshire Union Canal and Railway Company decided to give up carrying on their own boats.  FMC took over, but only bought the Shroppies 25 best boats.  Thus there was a need for new boats to fill the gap.  Additionally, because of the layout of the locks, the Shroppie is one of the few narrow canals where boat and butty operation is a realistic option.  Add the fact that she was fitted with an 18hp engine, and brought into use at just the right time, I believe I can reasonably deduce that BADGER was allocated initially to Ellesmere Port-West Midlands traffic via the Shroppie.

When working a boat and butty through narrow locks, the boatman has to operate each lock twice to pass the boats.  The Shroppie has a narrow flight at Audlem of 15 locks plus two other flights of 5 each.  In earlier busy times, horses were stationed at such locations to work the butty through separately, speeding up the operation.  In later years the boatman (and family) were on their own, and had to bow haul the butty themselves.  I have records of the boatman being paid an extra pound, later one guinea, to carry out this task.

 At Audlem part of the lock flight is closely spaced.  The ever resourceful boatmen discovered that by splicing a number of towing ropes together they could make a line long enough so that as the motor entered one lock it was able to draw the butty into the lock behind saving them work.  However, they still kept the extra pound bonus.

Records only really become available from 1940 onwards, although I am still doing research to find more. 

Health records from the follow up inspections of health inspectors have interesting snippets such as “cabin roof leaking” a not uncommon fault with wooden cabins, and sometimes name the cargo on board at the time but do not give its weight or destination.

The Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port holds many records relating to the canals.  Sadly, they are not always indexed as one would like, and educated guesses are needed to find the gems hidden in there.

Consignment notes are particularly valuable and with their attached paperwork they enable me to find out what was carried, its weight, origin and destination, name of captain and even the wages he was paid for the trip.

From these papers I can see that over the years the following types of cargo have been carried and I have produced a spreadsheet of these movements which, from time to time I add to as more information becomes available


Cocoa Beans, Tinned Vegetables, Flour,  Wheat, Sugar, Silicon Metal, Soda Crystals, Chocolate Crumb, Steel Tubes, Bentonite Clay,  Spelter, Aluminium and Copper.

An interesting omission from this list is coal.  I have never found any records of BADGER carrying coal.  Additionally, when a boat carries coal, the iron or steel hull is internally etched with acids leeching out of the coal.  BADGER’s hull has no such etching.  Thus I can conclude that BADGER never carried coal and was never a “dirty coal boat”, as people on the bank would call them.  Given that the vast majority of working boats that survive ended their days carrying coal, this in itself is unusual.

For many years BADGER was paired with the butty NORTHWICH….

….which is itself preserved at the Gloucester Boat Museum, although sadly not in the best of condition.

BADGER has also been paired in the past with the butty KILDARE, which is also preserved and is now the regular butty to the steamer PRESIDENT.

Nowadays, people have a leisurely view of canal travel.  The cry is always going up, “slow down” “what’s the hurry” but it wasn’t always like that.

Canals are naturally a slow means of moving.  Even in working days 4mph was a good speed on a narrow canal but to people earning a living, being paid by the trip, not the hour, time was money.  When travelling a working boat was never stationary.  It was always moving, horizontally along the canal, or vertically up and down locks.  In pursuit of this, boatman worked very hard.

My records show BADGER with its butty NORTHWICH loading at Ellesmere Port for Wolverhampton and 10 days later being back at Ellesmere Port loading again.  A round trip of 138 miles, with 132 locks, 100 of which were narrow meaning the butty had to be handled separately.

Even more remarkable was a trip in 1947 where BADGER left Ellesmere Port loaded with wheat for Autherley, a suburb of Wolverhampton.  FIVE days later she was back in Ellesmere Port loading again.  On this occasion she was single motor, that is, no butty, but that often meant the skipper was also on his own.  This trip involved 133 miles and 90 locks.

To complete such trips could mean a 6am start and 2am finish every day.

As I mentioned earlier, in 1948, the canals were nationalised and  seeing the writing on the wall, FMC sold out to the new British Transport Commission in 1949.

This was not the end of carrying and BADGER continued with her new owners.  Boatmen still lived on the boats with their families, often having no other home.

In the 1950s BADGER appears to have settled down with NORTHWICH to a steady life carrying various cargoes on the Shropshire Union Canal.  One interesting cargo was chocolate crumb for Cadburys from their factory at Knighton, Shropshire, to Bournville.  This is partially finished, but fully edible chocolate and boatmen would always have a supply handy to bribe local children into opening the odd lock gate for them.  In the case of BADGER, never having carried coal it was essential to obtain coal for the cabin from passing coal boats so something to trade would have been useful.

By the late 1950s, available cargoes, other than coal, were becoming harder to find as road haulage was expanding.   British Waterways, as they were now called, still had optimism for the future, and they built a small fleet of new narrowboats, some of which were allocated to the North West, mainly for coal and china clay in the Potteries.

In 1960, the skipper of BADGER and his family were given one, later a pair, of these new boats and they moved into coal carrying.  BADGER was taken out of the working fleet and transferred into the maintenance section.


Unlike today, where CRT have a fleet of modern purpose built maintenance boats, it was common for ex working boats to be pressed into service.  Rather fortunate for BADGER, because the alternative was a rather ignominious scuttling in one of the mining flashes around the system.

BADGER was allocated to Fradley, near Lichfield but one of the first jobs would have been removal of the Bolinder engine and the fitting of a much more user friendly air cooled, electric start one, more attuned to what maintenance men could handle as opposed to the livaboard boatmen. 


Sadly, at some time in the late 1960s, BADGER was attacked by vandals and set on fire.  She was deemed to be beyond repair and laid partially sunk at Fradley for at least a couple of years before the decision was made to sell her, normally for scrap.  BADGER was towed to Anderton for disposal.

However, BADGER was not quite ready to give up yet.  Fortunately, around that time, a man called Malcolm Braine was one of a few people who were buying scrap canal boats and restoring them for resale.

In fact, I believe I am correct in saying that Malcolm has saved every boat I have mentioned today, that is ALTON, SANDBACH, BADGER, PRESIDENT, NORTHWICH and KILDARE along with many others and deserves much credit for that.

Malcolm purchased BADGER, saving her from scrappage, and knowing that there was no market for a working boat, restored her to the condition you see today.

Badger moored at Furness Vale

Even though I was now retired, having only ever owned working boats, when I was looking for another boat I was naturally drawn to another unconverted boat with which to cruise round, visiting historic shows and the like.  My wife convinced me that dragging all that empty hold around was a waste of space and perhaps a partial conversion with more living accommodation than a back cabin would be a good idea.  I think the exact words were, “Get another unconverted boat and you will be on it on your own” so I was convinced.

BADGER as converted is a good compromise.  She still retains a reasonable length of open hold, which I call my garden shed.  All the junk goes in there.  The cabin extension contains a bathroom, galley, sitting accommodation with coal stove and two additional sleeping berths up front.

When Malcolm converted BADGER, he replaced the elm bottom with steel ending any damp problems or wearing of the wood.  He fitted a Lister JP2 engine, later replaced by a Gardner 2LW which she still has.

Because we now have living accommodation up front, I am able to dress the back cabin as working boatmen would have done, without the hassle of trying to cook and live in there, making up the bed every night for example.

We have a bungalow in the village so do not live on the boat full time but for more than half the year we cruise round the canal system, visiting various historic boat shows showing BADGER off to the public.

Badger with full complement of crew. 

George Boyle 2019

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Meetings at Furness Vale

At our next meeting on 2nd April, Netta Christie will talk about Discovering Buxton. Netta is well known in Buxton as a local guide and historian.

Our full programme of meetings for the remainder of the year is:

Tues 2nd April   Netta Christie         Discovering Buxton

Tues 7th May     Dr. Pete Webb        The Ecton Copper Mine

Tues 4th June     Christine Mellor     What The Butler Saw - A review of Edwardian costume

Tues 3rd Sept     Tony Brocklebank  The Dinting Arches

Tues 1st Oct       John Phillips           The Eyam Plague - fact and fiction

Tues 5th Nov      Peter Goddard         People and Places in old Chapel en le Frith

Tues 3rd Dec      Brian Hallworth      A Little Bit More Christmas

All meetings are held at Furness Vale Community Centre, Yeardsley Lane SK23 7PN. Admission for non-members is £2 including refreshments. A licensed bar is also available.  Car parking is available on the Rotational Mouldings car park. Access is alongside the Soldier Dick.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Bullock's Garage, Cheadle

This digitally colourised photograph shows Bullock's Garage  at 6 Manchester Road, Cheadle.  The building behind, is the Cheadle Institute.  The date is the early 1920s. Garage staff pose for the camera while an inidentified car is filled with petrol from the Pratt's pump. Parked by the kerb is a Renault taxi, a model that was popular in the UK at the time. The showroom on the right has a display of tyres and car lamps. Enamel signs advertise Pratt's Perfection Spirit and Austin Cars. Signage on the windows advertises Spencer Moulton Tyres, Lodge plugs, CAV Lamps and Daimler cars.
Today, there is still a used car dealer at this site.

The Anglo-American Oil Company, established in 1888 was an affiliate of Standard Oil of the USA. The company began supplying petrol in 1889 and in 1896 introduced the Pratt's brand, named after a founder of Standard Oil. By 1900 petrol was supplied on a nationwide scale, delivered in 2 gallon cans by horse drawn carts. They employed 1000 horses for this work. After World War I, Pratt's installed the UK's first petrol pump, at Hale in Cheshire.  Pratt's was re-branded as Esso in 1934 although lubricating oil was sold under its original name until the 1950s.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Hello Dolly Lane !

In this article we will follow a route from from Furness Vale to Bugsworth.  We will start at the bottom Station Road and as we cross the bridge  we pass over the River Goyt, the original boundary between Cheshire and Derbyshire. Look at the change in the masonry of the bridge parapet and you will see where the Toll Cottage once stood.  The bridge is known as Joule Bridge or sometimes Jolly Bridge and this was part of the Thronsett Turnpike . Turnpikes were abolished by Local Government Act of 1888 to much local rejoicing.

The name of this little hamlet of Gow Hole was recorded in 1587 as Jawhill, the earliest record. Various spellings are subsequently found, no doubt, as the name became corrupted: Joliehole; Jollyhole; Jowhole and finally Gow Hole and as we have seen Joule in reference to the bridge. 

The junction of Marsh Lane and Ladypit Road in the 1920s.  The coal wharf is behind the wall onthe right.

Just around the corner on the left hand side of Marsh Lane is the builders yard of Nick Rowley.  This was once the coal wharf for Lady Pit Colliery. A tunnel was dug in 1853 from the mine, emerging in this yard with a tramway that opened out here into a number of sidings. The coal would then be loaded on to carts to be transported away.  The tunnel was used by miners as a short cut to work. After the mine was abandoned, the tunnel was used by New Mills Waterworks, presumably to carry a water main. 


Before we go any farther, we'll look at some of the background to the coal mining industry that we will encounter along our way. 

The coal mining business of L & E Hall played an  important role in the industry of this area.  Joseph Hall,born in 1777 obtained mineral leases on Ollerset Moor and was soon to become a coal master.  He died in 1843 and left his coal business to his three sons Levi, Amos and Elijah. Amos didn't take any future part in running the business but Levi and Elijah, forming a partnership called L & E Hall Bros embarked on a considerable expansion. Their interests included Lady Pit, Barn Pit ( also known as Dolly Pit) Shalcross Mine, Wharf Pit in Whaley Bridge, Bank End and Furness Collieries as well as mines farther afield.  Much of the output of low grade coal was sold to fire the limekilns of Bugsworth.

Levi and Elijah soon built a new home, Morland House which stands on the hillside above Birch Vale. Levi, a lifelong bachelor and Elijah with his young family were soon to move in. Large families were common at that time but it was unusual that Elijah and Mary's 10 children born between 1832 and 1853, all survived to adulthood. What was also unusual was that all but one were girls. Three of these daughters remained unmarried and became known as the Spinsters of Morland House. They all took an interest in the business and having received an inheritance from their grandfather, Joseph, invested their money in coal.  The success of the business is evident from the fact that  by the time of the deaths of the three spinster, each had amassed a wealth of over £11,000, a not inconsiderable sum in those days.

Elijah died at Morland House in 1866 and Levi in 1872.  Management of the business passed to Elijah's only son, Levi Joseph Hall. He was only 17 at the time and the business was managed by trustees until his coming of age in 1880. By this time, the coal seams were beginning to be worked out. Better quality coal was coming over the Pennines from South Yorkshire and demand from the limekilns at Bugsworth was diminishing.  With the closure of Lady Pit in 1903, the company was wound up.

John Nall, stationer and postmaster from Whaley Bridge; Levi Hall; Elijah Bridge, farmer from Gow Hole
You will hear several references to the name Drinkwater.  Whilst the Jodrells owned much of the land to the west of the River Goyt, the Drinkwaters were the largest landowners on the eastern side of the valley owning proerty from Chinley to Disley. 

The Wild Sisters, owners of the wool shop, Furness Vale with their uncle Luke Carter who lived on Yeardsley Lane

We will turn now on to Lady Pit Road.  Just before we pass under the railway bridge, notice the grazing land at the side of the two houses.  Here was Furness Vale Tennis Club. The land was laid out with courts and included a small wooden building, probably to house equipment or maybe to change in.  When the municipal courts were opened on Coachmans Lane, these reverted to farming land.
Dolly Lane begins at the following T junction. The track to the left leads to farms and a path continues uphill to eventually join Laneside Road.

The site of Lady Pit c 1960

 This photograph from about 1960 shows the remains of The Beard and Bugsworth Colliery (or Lady Pit).  Just behind the ruins, can be seen the colliery spoil tips. Alan Chorlton remembers when these were home to hundreds of rabbits. Out of view to the left, but still in evidence is a low embankment that carried a railway siding from Gowhole and enabled coal to be dispatched from the site. A tall brick chimney once stood near this corner until one night in 1949 when in a violent storm, it was struck by a thunderbolt. Materials were scattered up to 300 metres away.  The large round structure remaining in the opposite field was an air shaft. 

Opposite the site of Lady Pit is a building which may have been connected with the colliery, but this is uncertain. It has more recently been known as the "sausage factory" Here, traditional sausage skins were made using natural animal products. This is now a private house

Back on Dolly Lane, look over the wall on the right as the road starts to climb and you might make out the turntable well of Gowhole Sidings. 

45203 in 1965

Gowhole Sidings was an extensive railway yard on the eastern side of the valley. It had been constructed in 1903 as an extension to Hall's siding which served Lady Pit.  Despite its rural location, it was strategically placed being between junctions at New Mills and Chinley which offered direct routes to Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Derby and London. 

Gowhole Sidings

 In this photograph, a passenger train heads south on the "slow lines" passing a signal box. The "up" sidings on the left comprised of 10 parallel tracks as well as the extension to Lady Pit Colliery. Beyond this train were a further 13 sidings and then the "fast lines" between New Mills and Chinley. Dolly Lane climbs up past Round Meadow Farm and Hillside Cottages towards Buxworth.  You can just make out the footbridge in the distance which once crossed the sidings

This railway yard had been an extremely busy place. It the summer of 1953 for instance, more than 70 goods trains were scheduled to arrive and depart each day. Gowhole was in operation throughout the night. It finally closed in 1969 and was dismantled the following year.

Gowhole Sidings

The next photograph shows the sidings overlooked by Round Meadow Farm and to its right, the cottages.

A goods train passes Gowhole Sidings 

 The photograph above shows the footbridge which spanned the sidings and slow lines. This was known as Shirt's Bridge and carried a footpath from Round Meadow Farm to Peathill.

Many of the goods trains carried coal, often piled high in open trucks. Inevitably some spilled out, especially when the trucks were being shunted.Some people thought that "coal picking" was fair game, but not the police. 

 In 1926, Mr. Littlewood, a calico machine printer admitted to magistrates to taking 140lb of coal from a heap at Gowhole at 6.0am. Asked why he did not take it in daytime, he replied "well, that would not be legal.  I thought it was a refuse tip. People have taken coal away in all sorts of vehicles from a bassinet to a motor car. If you don't pick coalk when there's a strike on, people say that you are too lazy to do it".  He was fined 15s.

Edward Higgins, a shunter denied stealing 3 cwt of coal despite the police having caught him tying three bags.  He was fined 15s but the magistrates sympathising with his struggle to survive the general strike, tried to ensure that he would not lose his job. 

Round Meadow Farmhouse

Round Meadow Farm is the first building on the right hand side of Dolly Lane. The house is believed to date from 1750 although it was rebuilt in 1868. The barn appears to have been extended at various times since. The water supply came from a well on the lane.

In 1892, the farmer's son, Norman Ashton was crossing the nearby Midland Railway to fetch a load of hay. He was struck by a passing express train and dragged for 12 yards before being thrown clear. He sustained serious injuries to his head and face and his arm was broken. The cart was reduced to matchwood but the horse was unharmed. Sadly, Norman died five days later.

In 1957, Mrs Bowden went out to feeding her hens. She pecked in the leg by a cockerel. She suffered from varicose veins and despite help from railway workers from Gowhole Sidings, the flow of blood could not be stemmed. She was taken to Stockport Infirmary but died from loss of blood. 


Hillcroft is opposite Round Meadow. It is now one large house but was originally two small farmworker’s cottages known as Spring Bank and Broadhurst. They were converted and extended by Mr and Mrs Marcroft.

Big Tree Farm

Big Tree Farm is on the right hand side of Dolly Lane when   facing towards Buxworth. The left hand side window on the elevation facing across the valley bears an inscription on the lintel "Rebuilt in 1868 T & E Drinkwater. At the side of the house, a footpath leads downhill, and set into the wall, are a number of pigeonholes. These are unusual being less than 2 metres above ground level. Some have projecting stones for the birds to rest on before entering. They would have been easy to catch at this height and were a common item on the menu in past times.

The Tithe Map of 1851 quotes the locality as Lane Ends. It took the name Big Tree at a later date.

Pigeonholes and the footpath to Peathills

 There were two Drinkwater brothers and according to local legend, one of them hanged himself from a big tree at the farm. This left a mystery as he had over £300 in his hip pocket and no one knew why he should have done such a thing. Could it have been from then, that the farm became known as "Big Tree".

Lower House

Just before Dolly Lane makes a sharp left turn is Lower House Farm set back up a drive on the left.  This had originally been two properties known as Green Head Cottages. During alterations, it was found that an extension had previously been built and beneath the roof,   was the original tiling,  the earlier roof  had never been removed.

We’ll just take a right turn  now and head down to Waterside. In the field along side you might see a pony and an elderly ram called Bertie. Stand by the gate and the old fellow might wander up in the hope that you will scratch the top of his head, a particular pleasure.  Bertie was long since been retired from his job at a Pet’s Corner..

Until recent times he was accompanied by Robbie the Llama, numerous hens rescued from battery cages,  nubian goats with their characteristic long ears, pigs and several cats which patrolled the fences making sure that all was well. .  Most of the menagerie has now moved to Higher Disley where there are more spacious paddocks and proper housing.

After passing under the railway bridges these are low parapets at the side of the road. This was a bridge under which a railway branch was intended to pass on its way to Whaley Bridge.  The work was abandoned once it had reached this point.

Waterside is an attractive little hamlet.  Waterside Cottage, draped in wisteria,  was originally two dwellings dating from the 17th and 19th centuries.  Set back is a row of three cottages, one is now derelict. These were built in 1808. The larger building at right angles was once a barn.  

Peathill Farm

Not far away is Peathills Farm. It was built in the late 18th century as a farmhouse and barn under the same roof. Until about 10 years ago there was neither a road nor farm track. Access was solely by a rough footpath to the front door.  It has now been extensively modernised but retains its original appearance.

In this 1997 photograph are Mr Mellor, then the owner and on his right, George Tomlinson, our past chairman and founder.

Green Head Farm

We will return to Dolly Lane and bisected by the corner of the road is Green Head Farm, a converted barn being on the left hand side. It has its origins in the early 17th century when the location was known as Bugsworth Greene. The property was originally much larger and included a number of cottages within its boundaries. History Society archives record that wives of farm workers, when pregnant came here to give birth, the west wing of the house being put to their use.


The house possessed a cradle that had been handed down through previous owners. It was once a Derbyshire custom that when a house was built, a wooden cradle was also made. The cradle was supposed to remain in the house for ever; to take it away would bring bad luck. Another legend is that if the farmer's wife did not want a family, she would keep the cradle in the bedroom. It would only be taken to another room if she wanted to become pregnant.

In 1812 farmer John Drinkwater's wife answered a knocking at the door at midnight thinking that she was being called out to her midwifery duties. She was faced by a gang of ruffians, who demanded £100 from her. Answering that there was very little in the house she said they might take what there was. The gang rushed in, their faces disguised and proceeded to ransack the property. They took £20 in cash, ten cheeses, enough bedding for six beds, all of her husband and children's clothing. They drank of the ale and spirits from the cellar and trampled over butter, cream and other provisions. All of this time, one of the gang stood over the husband's bed threatening his life with a sword. John Drinkwater dared not stir for beneath his bed was his life savings of £200 and the deeds of the property. The gang of 16 men left after stealing or damaging property to the value of £150.  Following the event a detachment of the Royal Horse Guards marched from Derby intent on capturing the offenders. Some 15 men were arrested at New Mills and stood trial at Derby. All but three were acquitted as the witnesses’ accounts were suspect. The remaining three were sentenced to death despite claiming their innocence. Having been hanged at Derby in April 1813, the body of Paul Mason aged 33 was returned to New Mills. Upon examination, his body was found to still be warm and a gurgling sound was heard from his throat. He was clearly still alive and might have been saved had an attempt been made to resuscitate him.

Climbing the steep hill we next reach Barn Cottage on the right and opposite, a track leads to both The Hough and to Clough Head Farm, dividing after about 200 metres. The road here was once known as Barn Level.

The Haugh

Stone head found at The Haugh

The Haugh is an extensive and ancient farm. The earliest record is from 1381 when it was known as Hag. It has since gone by other names:  The Hauge 1569; The Haghe 1603 and The Hagh 1611.

The old farm house dates from 1640. Barns are from the 17th and 18th century.  It was here that the large stone head was unearthed during renovations, its age unknown.  Mr Bradbury of Furness Vale  said that this was one of the last places where druid worship (and sacrifice) took place. He does not tell us what was sacrificed though. The stone head, of unknown age and origin was discovered during renovation work.

Clough Head Farm in 2011

Clough Head Farmhouse dates from 1842 although the farm may be much older.  A large modern barn doubles as an arena each summer when Clough Head is home of a weekend music festival.  Around the farm is a collection of industrial and trade implements.

Unusual wheel arrangement on these trucks

Clough Head was once the location of a small coal pit, originally known as Mr. Drinkwater's Engine Pit. The mine seems to have been worked from about 1800 but it is not clear when these workings were abandoned. A tramway operated until at least 1820. It appears on the 1840 Ordnance Survey map and may still have been operational at that date. It followed the route of the present day farm track between Clough Head and Dolly Lane where it crossed the road at the side of Barn Cottage before heading across the fields towards the limekilns at Bugsworth. After a short distance it was joined by a similar tramway from Dolly Pit. 

Barn Cottage wher the tramway crossed Dolly Lane on its way to Bugsworth Basin.

After 100 metres or so, a driveway on the left leads to an unusual looking house with a tall tower. This was the site of Dolly Pit (or Barn Pit)

The Engine House in 1975
A modern home incorporating the old engine house

 The Barn Pit, the original name, was first worked at about 1850 and may have been named after Barn Cottage nearby. The first shaft was worked by a horse gin but was soon abandoned because the coal was of poor quality. This was replaced by a second shaft that reached a lower seam of much better quality coal.  The engine house still stands and is incorporated into the private residence. The engine man had been Thomas Hadfield, a Buxton man who founded Brierley Green Congregational Chapel.

A tramway was installed sometime after 1850 and probably continued working until the mine closure. It crossed Dolly Lane and ran downhill towards the limekilns at Bugsworth joining the route of the earlier tramway from Clough Head Pit.

Dolly Pit was owned by Levi and Elijah Hall who announced its closure in 1889.The pit was no longer able to cope with the amount of water draining into the workings. The coal would in future be cut from Lady Pit, which was now connected underground.

The engine house remained derilict until in 1975 the local council proposed its demolition.  It was saved after the intervention of Keith Holford and Gerald Haythornthwaite and the following year, converted into a modern home.

Alfred Goddard was told by his father, who had lived at Ancoats, that at the time that Dolly Pit was worked, the lane was a rutty old road with carts travelling to and from the Bugsworth lime kilns. The council would come along now and again with loads of lump limestone. This was tipped at the roadside and broken up with a whip hammer by men who were unemployed or those who wished to earn a little extra money.

It is probable that the road takes its name from Dolly Pit, a small colliery near Ancoats Farm. 

Alfred Goddard of Bugsworth, writing in the local press some years ago told the story of a young woman called Dorothy or Dolly who, through an ill fated love affair with one of the mine workers, committed suicide by jumping down the mine shaft. From that day, the mine was known as Dolly Pit. It's a romantic tale and might just be true. In the early 18th century, Dolly Lane was known as Han Coat, Brierley Lane or Olliver Lane.


After another 200 metres we reach Ancoats Farm. This is an interesting group of old farm buildings, which have since been divided up into three separate cottages. Opposite Ancoats, a road climbs uphill towards Laneside Farm where there was yet another coal working "John Olliver's Coalpit. The mineshaft was in the field just across the road from Laneside farmhouse, a much altered group of buildings which date from 1629.

The name of Ancoats in Manchester possibly derives from the Old English ana cots meaning “lonely cottages” and it would seem appropriate if this farm’s had the same origin.   There was in 14th century Lancashire, a landowner, Henry de Ancotes so there’s another possible source.

After Ancoats, the road descends downhill towards Buxworth.  Just before we reach the end of Dolly Lane at Brierley Green, we pass Merrill's Wood on the right.  This was the location for Bugsworth Colliery which was worked between approximately 1811 and 1899. Where the woodland comes to an end was an adit and an air shaft. Hidden behind the trees was a further adit and air shaft. The underground workings extended almost as far north as Ancoats Farm. 

Brierley Green
 This last photograph shows the end of Dollly Lane where it comes to the T-junction at Brierley Green