From the Dalesman Vol 16 October 1954, transcribed by Paul Longbottom
Sutton in Craven, an old and typically Yorkshire village, is said to have been surveyed and registered in the Domesday Book of 1086. It lies at the most southerly tip of the Craven district, hence its present title. Like many another Yorkshire village it probably owes its existence to the fleece of the sheep and to the processing of woollen textiles. The village sits in a cleft or 'Clough' in the Pennines, surrounded on three sides by hills which rise steeply to round about a thousand feet and from these hilltops one gets a splendid view of Airedale as far north as Skipton and the Craven district beyond. One mile away across the valley lies Kildwick with its ancient Kirk, the village of Farnhill and the ridge of hills which separates Airedale from Wharfedale. It was however the fact that Sutton sits in this clough in the hills which prompted the old reference of Sutton - under - t'Sun.
The water in the Sutton Beck, which runs from the peat moors above the village, down through the 'Clough', proved ideal for the washing and processing of wool. The early farmers on the hillsides washed and combed their sheep's fleeces and many delivered the wool by pack horse over the moors to merchants in Halifax. The houses in the village at that period generally had one room upstairs and one downstairs, in which the tenants earned their daily bread. Hand-loom weaving and warp dressing were carried on amidst the household duties and the rearing of children.
It was not until the latter part of the nineteenth century that mechanisation began to make rapid strides. Here in Sutton was a ready source of power, for by damming the beck and storing the water a plentiful supply was always available. So when I first saw the light of day in the 1880's there was in existence a three storey factory built from the good old 'Yorksher' sandstone which had been quarried from the surrounding hills.
This factory, originally driven by a water wheel, had by this time acquired a beam engine in addition. The factory was owned by Bill Hartley, who resided in the 'Low Fold' nearby. He was succeeded by his son, John Willie, who before he died had acquired practically every square yard of territory in the Parish. He and his architect, J.W. Ferguson, were responsible for improving the amenities of the village by building better houses and planting thousands of trees in the surrounding countryside.
The hand-looms and dressing frames had not entirely disappeared when I was born and I distinctly remember them in many homes. The remains of an even earlier factory with its enclosed dam and embankments stood in the Clough. I can only remember it as a site for bird nesting and the boys of my time had many adventures there. Around the district I can still find signs of the old cock-fighting. These are more like grassy mounds than Pits, all in secluded places and quite definitely excavated.
At the top end of the village was an open space known as t'Town Gate, where stood a large lamppost named 'Jumbo'. Around this lamp the children of the village played games or went 'marllarking', often to the annoyance of their elders. I well remember the stampedes which often took place when the helmet of the local policeman appeared through the gloom of those dark evenings. Situated around the Town Gate were the tradesmen's shops. Billy and Rose Smith kept a grocers and general shop, and Billy's father, Jonathan, sold paraffin oil close by. Then there was Jonas Thompson, draper, and Ann Duty, who sold almost everything. I knew those shops well, because when running errands in the darkness I did actually run, to keep 'Boggart's' away. Then I would forget completely what I'd been sent for.
Some strange characters were abroad on dark evenings. There was 'Owd Boits', a shoemaker who lived a kind of recluse's life in a tumbledown building behind Billy Smith's shop. This was later repaired and occupied by Harvey Smith, another shoemaker and a noted rider of a Penny Farthing bicycle. There was 'Owd Zeke', Ezeikel Sunderland, and his wife Sarah who roamed around like a witch in the ginnells and entries hereabouts and scared the lives out of children.
Many of these old houses have now disappeared, yet one of the oldest still stands in Smithy Lane, now known as west Lane. It was occupied by Jack Barrett. He was a noted beekeeper and lived to a ripe old age.
T'Pinfold, a walled enclosure where stray cattle and sheep were kept until claimed, was also situated in Smithy Lane and I believe the village Stocks were originally stood hereabouts and have been moved and re-erected in a pleasant little park at the bottom of the village.
In the middle of the village once stood a weaving shed known as Green's Shed, which had been run by Bill Walton and Sons but was now idle. Bill lived in 'Manor Hill House' near the bottom of the village and his son Spencer Walton kept the King's Arms Inn. Across the road from the shed lived the village butcher, John Stirk and his sons Frank and Henry, and Joshua Walton and his daughter Ann. Here also lived Gill Ferguson the village Blacksmith, though the Smithy stood in 'Low Fold'. How the children vied with each other to pull on the bellows pole, with a cow's horn adorning the end of it, to hear the music of the anvil and see the sparks flying.
One road leading out of the village was known as t'Ellers. It was very steep and led to 'Sutton Stoop', a boundary stone on the hilltop, on to Goose Eye (Goise Ee) and from there to Haworth and the 'Bronte Country'. At the foot of t'Ellers was Gott Hill Farm, owned by Tommy Overton, while across the Beck was Sutton House surrounded by a large rookery known as 't'Craw Trees'.
Here in my early days lived Bill Ingham, a farmer and cattle dealer of good repute. At the foot of Gott Hill stood a building known as 't'Sizing House', a factory with a small chimney. This business of sizing warps was just another process in manufacture of woollens. The business had been prosperous but was now outmoded. I saw the chimney demolished and later a row of houses was built over the Beck.
Tom Berry was a keen bee-keeper and lived in 'Newmarket', a road which led to Sutton House, and later in a farm house a little nearer to 't'Town Gate'. John Berry, his son, was a noted breeder and exhibitor of silver spangled and silver pencilled Hambergs, breeds of poultry which seem to have become extinct, which is a pity, because they were most handsome birds. Here also in Newmarket lived Dick Petty a man with a catalogue memory for he seemed to remember everyone's birthday; in fact he was the Encyclopedia for the village.
About this time there were in the village, three inns and one alehouse which did great business due to the influx of many stone masons, quarrymen and carters who were building and enlarging local factories.
A little to the east of Sutton, Thomas and Matthew Bairstow had built a new factory, around which had sprung up a new village, and this became known as Sutton Mill. Between the two stood the Church and School and a lovely little church it still is. Opposite the School was a large field farmed by Martin Spencer, of Bow Hill Farm, and once a year this was The Fair Ground, with round-abouts, swings, and marionette shows complete. Here now stands the neat little park, with bowling green, tennis courts, paddling pool, and lovely gardens. My forebears, named Smith, lived at Bow Hill. I believe there were eight sons and three or four daughters. The men were all over six feet in height and each weighed over fifteen stones.
I believe the first School to function in Sutton stood at Stubbing Hill. It was a boarding school and the fees must have been too high for the locals. This school was destroyed by fire while pupils were still in residence, and it was never rebuilt. There are still a few people residing in Sutton who can remember having lessons from a certain Dicky Petty, who ran a private school in The Low Fold and at a school which stood on the site of the present National School.
The industrialisation of the West Riding created a boom in the life of this village. The quarries were busy and the music from the stone carts, as the carters applied their brakes, could be heard all day long. Fortunes were being made quickly by the textile industrialists, who bought up all the territory available. There was plenty of employment, particularly for young folks, by that I mean children of less than twelve years of age and the hours of work were long! A verse from John Hartley's Ditties very aptly describes the situation at that period.
At hauf past five Tha leaves thi bed,
An off Tha goes to wark-
An gropes thi way to Mill or Shed,
Six months o'th year ith dark.
Tha gets but little for Thi pains,
But That's noa fault o'Thine,
Thi Maister reckons up his gains,
An ligs I'bed till nine.
Every religion and creed was catered for and the Chapels were proud of their choristers and their 'charities' or anniversaries. On these occasions large numbers of outsiders would flock to the village to swell the congregation and the counting and announcing of the collection was eagerly awaited. Great preparations were made for t'Charity, these days were feast days, because many visitors would have travelled long distances on foot. One never missed an invitation to t'Charity and all turned out in new frocks, new suits and not so very new silk hats.
Some good old family names of those days, were Smith, Clough, Overend and Hargreaves. There were so many Bills, Bobs and Jacks, it was necessary to differentiate by adding a place name as for example: Jack - o - t'Crag Top, John - o - t'Clough Head, Will - o - t'Powl. Then there was Jack - o - Pete's, Johnnie - o - Robin's, Bob - o - Jack's and so on. The area on the hilltops was known as 'Aden', some of the farms had picturesque names too. There was t'Powl, or Pole, presumably because it was situated on the top of the world, while the 'Vallah', or Valley lay in a hole.
Many of these hill farmers carried their milk down to the village each morning in special cans arranged with harness and carried on their backs, much as the modern 'hiker' carries his haversack. These cans held as much as ten gallons and weighed round about a hundred-weight when full. Think what that meant on a frosty morning, on slopes of one in four and you will, I'm sure, agree that these farmers were tough!
I suppose every village has it's characters and Sutton was no exception. There was Ned - o - Caffs, 'Bangdown', a casual labourer, a man with a stentorian voice which was always in evidence at sports meetings, pigeon shoots, and 'Knur and spell', matches. The latter was a king of working man's Golf. The 'knur', about the size of a golf ball was made from hardwood and carefully carved spherical, the 'bat stick' had a springy handle of hickory with a head of compressed beech, while the 'spell' was an adjustable spring device, which at the touch of a trigger, tossed the 'knur' into the air with a definite trajectory.
It needed great skill to contact the 'knur' with the 'batstick' and drive it for long distances, measured in scores of yards. For example, one hundred yards would count five score. The big hitters played for longest knock, while the consistently reliable players concentrated on the highest score in twenty-one strokes and so on.
The unforgettable character in the life of the village must be Carey Overend, he provided more amusement for the village than any man before or since. The stories about him are legion to this day. Carey was a good skater and swimmer and had a good baritone voice. He was an ever present at t'Charity and loved to sing the hymns. He had a ready if blunt repartee and woe betide anyone who crossed words with him for to do so was to invite hometruths about one's self. Carey was a staunch supporter of the Bradford Rugby Club in the days of Tom Broadley, Marsden and Mosby. He knew his County Cricket and had a great esteem for George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes.
The first football team I remember in Sutton, played in tight fitting trunks and jerseys. Some players had beards and several grew moustaches, although they were barely out of their teens.
One also remembers two very remarkable trees which flourished not far from each other. One a giant beech grew in the paddock of The Bay Horse Inn, it's trunk must have been five feet in diameter and it's branches shrouded the top of 'Gaten Lane'. The other was a fine specimen of ash, or weeping willow, with a spread of thirty feet or more, which grew in the croft of Orchard House, once the home of Sam Lister.
The people of Sutton were proud of their homes and vied with each other in the art of keeping them spick and span. The housewife and mother had very definite ideas about cooking, washing and homecrafts. Each member of the family had his or her jobs allocated and certain set days when these jobs must be done. For example Monday was always washday, Tuesday, mangle and iron, Wednesday, doing t'bedrooms, Thursday was t'baking day, 'an that were t'best ev all ev em'. Friday was set apart for cleaning windows and swilling t'doorstones, the sandstone flags leading to every front door. The kitchen floors were mostly of sandstone flags and these were often sprinkled with powdered sand prepared by beating lumps of sandstone with a 'flatiron' or special hammer. The lads of the village used to earn pocket money by 'braying' sand and hawking it.
With thanks to Paul Longbottom for providing the transcription, and to the editor of the Dalesman for giving permission to reproduce the article.