"Steeton As I Have

Known It."


By William Asquith Sugden


Read at a Meeting of the Steeton Wesleyan

Mutual Improvement Society,

31st January, 1912.

Chairman - Wm. Clough, Esq., M.P.

Price 2d.

BRIGGS BROS. Printers, Silsden.



The Shroggs,

Steeton, nr. Keighley

As chairman of the meeting at which Mr. Sugden read the Essay on "Steeton as I have known it," one has been asked to write a preface. That essay was so interesting that it certainly merits publication, so as to take its place upon our bookshelves as a record and history of our Craven village.

"Steeton as I have known it," was once upon a time without a proper water supply. There were wells in Barrows Field, Lane End, Green Lane, School Street, Station Road, and Little London. Every cottager had to fetch all the water required for drinking and domestic purposes. If several were congregated around a well they had to "Take their turn." Some water fetchers used the expedient of a large iron or wooden hoop, on the outer edge of which they carried a pail in each hand.

"Steeton as I have known it," was, before the construction of the Kildwick Parish Gas Works, unsupplied with gas either in the cottage homes or the streets. My Mother and Miss Emma Cooper accompanied one another to the class-meeting, with "a light unto their path," such as was afforded by a horn lantern and a tallow candle. Those dark nights suited excellently the village urchins who indulged in the wholesome recreation of "hippeepoppee" or "relievo," and they took full advantage of the hiding places abounding in Back Lane, the Ginnell, Green Lane, the Old Weir, and under the Corn Mill Bridge.

"Steeton as I have known it," was famous for its old folks. Old John Clough (my grandfather), old John Dixon (who attained 96 years), old Jim Nipper (James Lund), old Coiley (John Blackborough), old Jonathan Hindle, and old Isaac Hindle. Of course, some of these may not have been so old as we youngsters imagined, because 双ld Wade (the Schoolmaster) could not have exceeded 40 years of age, in those boyhood days of the chairman.

"Steeton as I have known it," was religiously provided for by the old Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Chapels. The former was lighted by oil lamps and heated by stoves. The Sunday School was conducted on the forms on the lower floor. The gallery was occupied every Sunday by all the magnates of the village the Cravens (of Steeton Hall and Park House), Bairstows, Cloughs, Dixons, Mitchells, Pearsons, Sugdens, &c. The local preachers were venerable and orthodox Thomas Bottomley, Jonas Sunderland, Nathan Aldersley. The old clock in front of the gallery frequently struck the hour of noon before the service ended, and not seldom before even the sermon had been concluded.

"Steeton as I have known it," has impressed itself upon one痴 recollections for nearly half-a-century, but Mr W.A. Sugden has vividly recalled what Steeton was like nearly three-quarters of a century ago.


"Steeton as I have known it."

I AM here to redeem a promise made some time since. It Is one thing to make a promise, but quite another to fulfil it. Ever since I made this promise it has been like a thorn in the flesh. I venture to say I am the most uncomfortable man in this room to-night. There have been Papers given before on every conceivable subject, so that it seems difficult to keep off the ground that has been gone over before. You can scarcely touch a subject that has not been dealt with in some form or other, so that it is a difficult matter to edge in at all. There have been one or two Papers given on Steeton before. It is all very well giving a Paper on some biographical or historical subject. In either of these subjects you can buy books that will help you, but in my case there is no such help to be had. I must depend on memory, and do the best I can. It is no easy matter to give a true version of things that took place 60 or 65 years since, because the memory is liable to fail, and you see things from a different standpoint. Many of you would be surprised if you could see Steeton as I see it in my mind痴 eye at the age of 10 or 12 years. I have often said that Steeton was the poorest place I ever knew, and I think you would agree with me if you had lived there then.

Wesleyan Methodism.

There was a Wesleyan Chapel here, built in 1826, which consisted of just four walls, without other conveniences. The interior was very nice, and served for both Chapel and Sunday School until the School in which we are met was built in 1872. During my boyhood the management of the Chapel was in the hands of Keighley people, and debt was allowed to increase until it reached hundreds of pounds. But after a time the management was taken over by Steeton people, an I think that was the beginning of better days. From that day to this things have continued to improve. The old Chapel was pulled down in 1888, having served 62 years, and it the following year the present Chapel was opened. There have been three pipe organs in connection with the Chapel. When I tell you that the first was sold for the sum of £2 10s., and that 10s. were returned to the purchaser, you will be able to form some idea as to its value. A new one was purchased from Mr John Laycock, of Crosshills, but there was no place for it, and for a time it stood under the gallery in the Chapel, until an orchestra was built. Afterwards this organ stood for a short time in the present Chapel.

In 1897 classrooms were built over the Schoolroom, which have been a great advantage, and in 1911 a new Primary Department was built; so that the Sunday School premises of to-day bear no comparison to those of by-gone days. In those days ours was the only Sunday School in the village, and it was fitted up with desks so that the scholars could be taught writing, a subject which was then very much neglected. After the writing lessons were given up on Sundays, a man was engaged for two nights per week in order to teach writing; then when the Day School was opened in 1852, the Committee of the Wesleyan Sunday School engaged the late Mr Joseph Wade to teach all scholars of the Sunday School, the Committee bearing the expense. Now there are three Sunday Schools in Steeton, held in well-arranged buildings; also three places of worship which are modern and up-to-date.

Primitive Methodism.

When I was a boy the Primitive Methodists had no chapel, but services were held in a cottage in Back Lane (Wood Street). In 1850 they built a Chapel in High Street, which was used for 40 years and then sold and made into two cottage houses. The present Chapel in Keighley Road was opened in 1890. The Sunday School adjoining was built at the same time, but, proving too small, was greatly enlarged in 1905.

Educational Facilities.

There were no such facilities for learning when I was a lad as there are to-day. There was a Dame痴 School kept by a lady in Low Fold, but we were such a bad lot that she gave it up, and sent us home. I can assure you we went home in high glee. In these "good old days." As some people call them (flour was 4s. 6d. To 5s. a stone), there was no Day School in Steeton worth the name. There were in the country a few of what we might call "tramping schoolmasters." It seems to me that anybody who could write, and do little at accounts, thought himself qualified for the position of schoolmaster. Of course, he had to provide himself with a room, and other things that were deemed necessary. I remember one man who took an empty house and opened it as a School; and another who had only one arm.

Holidays were common in those days. The schoolmaster was master of the situation; there was no School Board or School Authority to compel the children to go to School. The little schooling I got was at the Night School. Newspapers were not common in those days. Men used to combine and have one brought by the mail coach, which came every morning and evening from Keighley. The price of a paper was 6d. or 8d. Later on, I went to Keighley dozens of times for a penny paper called "The London Journal."

Houses and Other Buildings.

If you want to see Steeton as I knew it, you must take away quite 300 houses; and if this could be done there would be many vacant places the Church, the Primitive Methodist Chapel, the Day Schools, the Co-operative Stores, the larger portion of the mill property, and many of the better-class houses would be missing. What would be left would seem to you younger people a very small place indeed.

There was no Bobbin Mill. There was a little old mill that stood where the Bobbin Mill stands to-day, but it has long since passed away. The mill now known as Clough痴 Mill was a very small one.

I cannot describe all the alterations that have taken place in the village (in some places there has been a thorough transformation), but there are two or three places I will try to describe. Where Messrs. John Dixon & Sons Coach-house stands (near the mill), there used to be an old house, and a place where they used to wash wool, with a pond behind for the suds. There was a bridge over the beck in a line with Wood Street (or Back Lane). This is a place which has been changed, and to-day wears a different aspect altogether.

There were no houses in Mill Lane with the exception of two tumble down ones, and there was no such place as School Street, simply because there was no School.

Where the old School (Infants) stands, and the houses in School Street belonging to the Steeton Provident Sick Society, used to be an orchard, and in the place of the block of buildings where the Telephone Office is, was a garden. I believe the Midland Railway so far as this district is concerned was opened in 1847. When the Railway was in course of construction I got into trouble although I was but a little mite. Along with a few other lads I went to see the men who were making the line, and when we came home we were full of the wonderful things we had seen. What struck us most was the Steam Engine; the common name for the Engine was "Puffing Billy." I was describing this when a man went past who was troubled with Asthma. He went to my parents and told them that I had called him "Puffing Bill." So I had to give an account of myself. My remarks had reference to the Steam Engine. There is one thing in which we have lost ground. There used to be Baths in Brighton Wood; there were two small Slipper Baths and a Shower Bath. One penny was charged for the Shower Bath, and sixpence or eightpence for the Slipper Bath. This was about 70 years ago. Those Baths have either been pulled out or buried. I know that there are Slipper Baths in the Institute, but these are of recent date. There is, it seems to me, a need in the village to-day for an indoor Swimming Bath, so that our young people need not have to tramp to Sutton Mill or Glusburn or Keighley for a swim.

I well remember the time when there was no Post Office in Steeton. A man came from Keighley every morning with the letters, and collected them every evening. This man was one of the best known men is Steeton. He wore a red coat and had a yellow or red band round his hat. He also carried a trumpet, which he always sounded as he came into the village. In these days it was a common practise to put letters in the window so that the Postman could see them.

In those days also there were no Waterworks, and we had to get our supply of water from wells, which were not very numerous. I remember during the time I lived in Chapel Road, having to fetch water on Sunday morning from the well in School Street, (which is still in existence) before we could have breakfast. In the days before we got Street Gas Lamps, I was on my way from my home in School Street to work one morning, and on going up the "Stees" noticed a man hurrying on in front of me. Suddenly he came into collision with a woman coming the opposite way with the result that the woman fell to the ground. On another occasion when I was going home in the evening I heard a shuffling noise in the "Stees," and a man痴 voice called out "Man, where am I? I was never in such a place in all my life before, and if you will help me out, I値l promise never to come this way again." Another time I remember two men calling at our house who had left a friend who was to go slowly down the street and whom they would overtake. They did not stop above a minute, and when they got outside and shouted to their friend he responded saying "I have got into a well, and I don稚 know where the next step will lead to."

Local Characters.

I remember a few peculiar persons in the village. There was one man who went by the name of "Old Jack Mick;" he was very fond of cats, and generally had five or six of them. He had a preference for black ones. Another peculiarity of this man was that he had a figure in one corner of his bedroom fully dressed in soldier痴 uniform, with sword in hand ready for action.

In those days there were no mowing or strewing machines, and haymaking was done by hand. Sometimes it was difficult to get men, and farmers asked anyone to assist them who was at a loose end. On one occasion a farmer asked old Jack Mick, but he said he couldn稚 help because he was behindhand with his reading.

Conditions of Labour.

In the days of my youth children had to go to work at seven or eight years of age. The Factory Acts which were passed later did not apply to all trades, so there was no difficulty in finding work for children not much older than those now-a-days to be found in the Infants School.

On the whole labour was very uncertain in the village. The male members of the families were mostly occupied with the hand-combing. There was hand-weaving as well. In many cases the wives and children assisted in the work. In my opinion the worst feature of this was that the work was done in the sleeping room, as there were few houses with two bedrooms.


In every room where combing was carried on there was what was called a comb-pot. I do not think there is such an article in Steeton to-day. It was perhaps as big as a good sized tub and was made of clay. An arrangement was made for a fire inside, as heat is required in wool-combing, and there was a pipe to carry the smoke away. Most of the wool-combing was done for T. & M. Bairstow, of Sutton Mill. There were two or three old houses that were used as comb-shops, but most of the combing was done in private houses. The old houses that were used as comb-shops have either been pulled down or turned to other uses. Just imagine if you can a bedroom with a comb-pot in, and a post fastened to the floor and the ceiling. Two persons, perhaps the Father and Mother, would be combing wool from this post, and some of the children would be employed as helpers in preparing the wool for the comb. I may just say here that hand-combing has gone out of date; it died a natural death, and not before its time, because people could not earn a decent living by it. If you have noticed Messrs. John Clough & Sons Mill you will have seen that one part is much older than the other; that old part is the original mill. Mr Clough bought the mill in 1844. I very well remember the man who was the overlooker. He was Superintendent of the Wesleyan Sunday School, and used to walk about in the school with a rod perhaps five feet long to assist him in keeping order. But what struck me most was to see him going to his work with a horn or trumpet under his arm. When he got to the mill door he sounded his horn; this was the signal to begin work. To-day we have the "Buzzer" to summon us. Then and Now.

Times have improved since I was a lad. In those days if we got a velveteen jacket and corduroy trousers we thought we were smart, but where can you find boys dressed in this fashion now? Wherever you look you see a great improvement; the hours of labour have been shortened, wages have increased, and labour has multiplied. Look at the class of houses that are built to-day. They are superior in every way to the houses that were built a hundred years ago. Why is it that the number of houses has increased in Steeton? There must be a reason; you say it is the demand; what has caused the demand? Men have invested their money in business, and the whole village has benefited.