Sam Hill of Soyland, 1677-1759. Textile Entrepreneur
The walk involves some steep climbs, muddy and uneven paths, and stone flags which are slippery when wet. Stout shoes and OS map are advised.
Many of the properties & places associated with Sam Hill can be seen on foot, as part of a walk that begins and ends at St Bartholemew's Church, Ripponden. Sam Hill not only owned many of these properties but would have employed quite large numbers of people working both at home and in the workshops at Making Place. Although many of the buildings have been replaced in the 250 years since Sam's death, the walk can still give an impression of the landscape in which Sam lived and help us to catch an echo of an 18th century entrepreneur.
Numbers in parenthesis refer to properties owned by Sam. Sites coloured red are visited on the walk; those coloured green are referred to but not visited unless by detour.
St Bartholomew's (†) is one of earliest ‘Chapels of Ease’ in Halifax, founded during the Wars of the Roses. The church you see today is the fourth church, built in 1868 by George Shaw. Sam Hill’s connections with the church at Ripponden spanned the second and third churches.
Five of Sam’s eight children were baptised in the second church, which was virtually swept away by the great flood of 1722, when, according to the Reverend John Watson: ‘Some persons living near the church saved themselves by forcing a way out of the roof of their houses, and sitting upon the ridges till the storm was over’.
Walk over the packhorse bridge, past the Old Bridge Inn, and up the cobbled Priest Lane. At the top, on the right hand side, you pass Lower Brig Royd.
Sam Hill bought the Brig Royd estate in the 1750s. Before this, the estate was owned by the Holroide family, who were related to Sam Hill by marriage. The cottages at Lower Brig Royd (1) we see today were probably built in the mid 1700s. The house that Sam owned was probably earlier than these, and is now demolished. The old name for Priest Lane was the Tanyard, and ‘Up the Tanyard’ was a common local expression until around 1900. A tanner named Abraham Sutcliffe was living at Brig Royd in the 1750’s. Afterwards, John Howarth, the well respected Ripponden attorney, lived at Lower Brig Royd. He conducted a lot of Sam’s legal business, including letters over non payment of rent and eviction orders for some of Sam’s tenants, and bought a lot of the Brig Royd estate from Sam’s executors after Sam died.
Cross the main road and walk up Royd Lane. Just before Stoney Lane, go through a pair of stone gate pillars on the right signposted ‘Calderdale Way’. This footpath takes you across the upper part of the Brig Royd estate, and through the rest of the lands and property Sam owned between Ripponden and Kebroyd. After fifty yards, bear left over a stile, following the footpath sign. The first part of the way is paved with causeys.
There has been a succession of dwellings at Birks (2) since 1600. In 1759 the farm here was valued at £200, and Sam’s tenant, James Scholfield, a stuff maker, eventually bought it after Sam died.
Sam’s father, James Hill, clothier, took possession of Wood or Hoyle Bank Farm (3) around 1694, when Sam was about eighteen years old. Sam probably inherited a couple of farms and cottages here, and eventually owned almost all the land on the Soyland side of the River Ryburn between Triangle and Ripponden. When he died, Sam’s tenant here was Richard Eastwood, and Sam valued the farm at £150.
When you reach a walled lane, turn right. After the next row of cottages, go through the stile at the driveway entrance. Cross three fields, through Delph Field Farm yard, and join a tarmac road. When you reach Clapgate Lane, turn right and walk downhill to Kebroyd Hall.
We know that in 1759 Sam owned the whole of the large Kebroyd estate, which, together with Lower Kebroyd, included several cottages or houses and two or more mills. Sam is reputed to have spent £4,000 on the main house at Kebroyd, making it into a fine mansion for his son Richard. After Sam’s death, it was first sold to Jeremy Holroyd for £2,000, and eventually sold to a member of the Hadwen family, local mill owners who eventually owned most of grand houses and mills in the Mill Bank area which had previously belonged to Sam. It stayed in the Hadwen family until it was sold to Sowerby Bridge Industrial Society in 1918. The long building now called ‘Kebroyd Cottage’ was probably built after Sam’s death, perhaps as warehousing.
Lower down the lane on the right hand side stands ‘Lower Kebroyd’ (5), which still retains vestiges of the older house which was in Sam’s own possession in 1759, and which he valued at £400.
In his will, Sam directed his trustees to erect a substantial stone bridge at the ford at Kebroyd. It was to have two arches 60’ wide, and be built in such a way that it would not be damaged by even great floods. ‘To erect and finish in good substantial and workmanlike manner at Kebroyd ford a stone bridge of two arches of 60’ wide between the springers, and five yards in breadth within the battlement on the top part of the bridge, one arch whereof to be set or fixed over against Mayor Holme End for the better passage of the water in great floods’.
However, Sam’s wishes were never carried out.
Retrace your steps up Kebroyd Lane until you see a gap in the wall on the right. This is opposite the road to Delph Field Farm, and next to the base of the ivy covered chimney to Kebroyd Mills. Turn right down here, carefully making your way down the footpath and steps until you come to a gate post, and a wide footpath.
Unfortunately, the remaining Mills (6) at Kebroyd were destroyed by fire in 2006, and have since been partially demolished, so there is little to see of the mills which were successors to those run by Sam and his son Richard. The corn mill at Kebroyd, using the water power from the Lumb Clough which flows down from Soyland mills, was adapted for fulling, as well as corn, by 1680; and in 1739 Sam Hill bought the Kebroyd estate which consisted of 2 fulling mills; one friezing mill; one raising mill (both finishing processes), one house, one barn , & closes etc. He also built warehouses and a counting house there. Tim Bobbin, a school teacher from Milnrow, famous for his Lancashire prose and engravings, stayed at the Counting House during the time he worked as Head Clerk for Richard Hill in the early 1750s.
Eventually, the two mills here were sold to John Denton, after whom the present day bridge on the main road is named. After he converted the mills to cotton spinning in the late eighteenth century, they were greatly extended and enlarged over the next century, and an intricate series of goits and dams were built alongside the Lumb Clough, between Mill Bank and Kebroyd, which can be seen from the footpath through Kebroyd wood.
Now turn left on to the footpath through Kebroyd (or ‘Fiddle’) Wood, as you follow the Lumb Clough upstream to Mill Bank. This path has excellent views of the industrial archaeology below, as you follow the line of long and winding mill dams which provided the water for the wheels of the Kebroyd mills. Of course, these would not have been so extensive for the mills run by Sam or his son Richard in the first half of the eighteenth century.
The large weir marks the first point where water was diverted to the mill dams which follow the contours of the Clough, and the remains of the sluice which channelled the water along the goit can be clearly seen. Just before the footpath joins the road through Mill Bank on the left of the pack horse bridge, you walk alongside ‘The Old Watermill’.
‘The Old Watermill’ (7) stands somewhere near the site of Soyland Mills and kilns, which were leased by John Greenwood. Soyland Mills had been the Manorial Corn Mill for the township of Soyland since the thirteenth century at least. However, local people who lived more than two miles away from the mill had been able to grind their own corn since 1621. This practice had apparently become so common by the 1750s when Sam owned the mill, that he tried to prosecute those who were not bringing their corn to his miller. When he died in 1759, the inhabitants decided to band together, & defend any such prosecution by splitting the costs. By this time Soyland Mill had two water wheels, and had been used as a fulling mill since 1378. It was dual purpose throughout the eighteenth century when Sam Hill owned it, until around 1800, when it was also converted to cotton spinning. The mill you see today was probably built in the early 1800s. You can still see where the mill dam was, where the banking is beyond the car park, towards the track to Aufhole, but it is impossible to know which of the houses near the mill was ‘newly built’ by Sam in the 1750s.
The two groups of cottages at the bottom of Foxen Lane were collectively known as Damside (8), and one of these was tenanted by Thomas Knutton in 1759. This may have been the ‘Public House called Damside at Soyland Mill’ which was for sale in 1782, and which remained a public house until the 1920’s. It was in the building now called Dan y Coed, but since then, the original small building has been enlarged to the rear, and the front of the house has been rebuilt.
You may wish to make a detour through Mill Bank, by turning right at the end of the footpath, crossing the pack horse bridge, and walking up Lower Mill Bank Rd. At the top, turn right, walking past the Mill Bank pub to the end of the village.
Sam owned a great deal of property in Mill Bank, and even though some of the original buildings may have disappeared, their names live on in more recently built buildings. Many of the buildings he owned are listed Grade Two.
Sam owned several buildings on the right hand side as you go up Lower Mill Bank Road. These included cottages where Knowsley Farm (9) is now. Just above here, he also owned the ‘George’ (10), which sits below the level of the road (and despite its name, there is no evidence it was ever an inn!), and seven other cottages there.
He also owned a lot of property beyond what is now the ‘Mill Bank’ pub, on the road which leads down to Triangle. These included Rawson Farm (11) and several cottages there, all leased by John Mitchell; Sawterhouse (12) or ‘Slaughterhouse’, a substantial house which had been built in the previous century and which is now listed Grade Two.
## Instead of crossing the pack horse bridge for the detour, turn left along the front of Damside and The Homestead, walking uphill. Take the first lane on the left.
Sam owned a farm and five cottages at Aufhole (13), which were tenanted by John Greenwood (whom, as we have seen, also leased Soyland Mill) and his under tenants. However, these are long since gone.
After a hundred yards, a footpath sign on the right directs you through a small gate. Climb the stone steps and continue uphill until you reach the lane, then turn right. The best view of the position and significance of Making Place can be seen as you look over the fields on the left hand side of the lane which leads to Top o’ t’ Town farm. When you reach the road, turn left and walk towards Soyland Town.
MAKING PLACE (14)
The first mention of ‘Mecking Place’ was in 1624. Sam Hill bought the property in 1706, and over a period of time, built the new Making Place on a very grand scale. He made the old farm buildings into workshops, and built extensive warehouses. The estate at Making Place also consisted of three cottages called ‘Upperhouse’; and land at Severhills, where some time later a mill and dam were built. After Sam’s death Making Place had several tenants. It was described in 1803 as: Making Place in Soyland: ‘consisting of the Ancient Mansion House, very large Warehouses, barns and convenient outbuildings, large gardens, and about 48 days work of rich land in a ring fence’.
There is little left to see of the grand mansion that Sam built. Plans and drawings from the mid 19th century suggest that it was to the left of the present building (probably where the car park is now). Remnants of the original house may still survive in the left hand wing of the present Making Place building, but the whole site was so greatly altered and extended during the time of Mr Dove’s Academy that it is impossible to know exactly what Sam Hill built. What we do know is that his son Richard, in a letter to his uncle Joseph Holroyd, said that Sam had spent £8,000 on the house and buildings. It is likely that it was after the style of Hopwood House in Halifax; or Field House in Sowerby (1749): the home of Sam’s last surviving trustee, George Stansfeld.
Making Place became well known in the 19th century as William Dove’s Commercial College, which pioneered the use of Pitman Shorthand. By 1903 the “buildings are in a state of utter ruin, helped by much depredation and wanton destruction”.
Continue through the village.
Sam owned a lot of other property in and around Soyland Town, including Raynor Land (15), a substantial property across the lane from Making Place worth £1,200, which was leased to both John Blackburn, and Joshua and Sarah Radcliffe. It probably encompassed what has been recently known as Blackburn Farm cottages, and extended towards Townend Farm (16). Joshua and Sarah Radcliffe promised to keep the buildings and walls in good repair, and to set up a good pair of gates, if and when they left the property. Later, Sam erected a small pumphouse for the Radcliffes, and put a lock on the door. However, he ensured that Sam Fausit, who lived close by at Townend or Soyland Gate, also had a key; and could fetch water or scour cloth there. Both the Radcliffes and Sam Fausit were still living in the same properties when Sam died, twenty years later.
Continue downhill to Ripponden, joining Royd Lane just above where you entered the footpath through Brig Royd estate at the beginning of the walk.
The house on the left hand side of Royd Lane just above the junction with Stoney Lane called ‘Prison’ stands on or near the spot where Sam paid £24 for Lower Prison Croft (17) in 1756, when he bought it from the trustees of Richard Holroide, deceased. Two hundred yards further up Royd Lane still stands The Royd, built around the same time as Sam was improving Making Place, and which belonged to James Hoyle. He later bought Ripponden Mill and other property after Sam’s death.
Sam owned a great deal of property in Ripponden, only some of which will be see as you return to St Bartholomew’s Church. The Golden Lion (18) has an enviable position on the main road, and was part of the Sam Hill estate in 1759, when the Widow Elizabeth (more usually known as Betty) Holden was tenant of Spout and Stubbins (19), and appears to have been landlady of the Golden Lion Inn. The ‘Spout’ or spring, came out in the field opposite Betty Holden’s front door.
The inn which is now called the ‘Honest Lawyer’ (20) was built in the late 18th century on land belonging to Spout farm, and so was also part of Sam Hill’s estate when he died in 1759. As such, it was administered by George Stansfeld of Field House in Sowerby, Sam’s chief executor. The Inn was built to take advantage of the increased traffic along the new Turnpikes. The timber cladding was probably added sometime in 1920s.
Cross the main road and walk over Elland Bridge towards Bridge End and the church. Walk through Bridge End cottages and under Elland Bridge to Ripponden Mill (21).
The mill buildings you see now were erected after Sam Hill’s death, but there have probably been mills working textiles on this site for over five hundred years. There is reference to a mill dam and cottages here in 1624. When he died, Sam owned the fulling mill itself, and the house, barn and holme (flood meadow), which he rented to Martha Parker. It was this mill which was sold to James Hoyle of the Royd. Sam also owned Ripponden Mill Farm, tenanted by Moses Mosscrop, and which was sold to John Howarth after Sam died.
The walk ends where it began: at St Bartholomew’s (†). After the flood of 1722, Sam Hill was very much involved with the collection and distribution of the money collected to aid the victims of the flood: possibly as treasurer; and also with the rebuilding of the church itself, the greatest part of which was paid for by subscription. Sam was responsible for the yew trees planted around the perimeter of the church in 1751, under the superintendence of Tim Bobbin.
Sam Hill’s tomb is the middle box tomb on the right hand side of the path. His details are one third of the way down, and read: ‘of Making Place, Soyland. Merchant’. His burial service was conducted by Rev Watson, who built the Vicarage you see on the left hand side of Priest Lane, and who was author of the ‘History & Antiquities of Halifax’, the first comprehensive history of the Parish. Sam Hill’s funeral procession would have passed the newly built Vicarage on its way down Priest Lane to what was the third Church, where the burial service took place.
Nothing on Sam Hill’s grave stone indicates the important part he played in the history of the local textile trade, or the influence he had on the people and places of the Ryburn valley, but his obituary in the Halifax Union Journal, 23rd October, 1759 says more:
‘On Sunday last died Mr Samuel Hill, of Soyland, aged 82. By his assiduity and diligence in the manufactory of white kerseys, he had reputedly acquired a very handsome fortune; and some years ago he was esteemed one of the greatest manufacturers in the kingdom’.
Walk devised by Anne Kirker of Calderdale Heritage Walks.