How it Began
It began with a photo. The photo of a painting portraying an abandoned farmstead high on the hills between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden arrived in an email from Rachael.
Rachael Jones had seen my photograph of Cruttonstall farmstead on the internet. She was asking if the farm could be the subject matter in the foreground of a watercolour painted by her great grandfather Thomas Frederick Worrall.
Thomas painted the picture in the early part of the 20th century. The painting depicted a scene of a hill with a farm in the foreground in the Calder Valley. Beyond the farm, a prominent feature in the distance is Stoodley Pike, a monument raised to celebrate the end of the Napoleonic wars.
The Calder Valley
The West Yorkshire River Calder rises on Heald Moor; a subsidiary top of Thieveley Pike, just inside the Lancashire border near to the town of Burnley. It flows south east through the town of Todmorden then through the Calder Valley to join the River Aire at Castleford. The Calder Valley is part of a larger area known as Calderdale.
Between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge the Calder Valley is narrow and steep sided. On the southern side it is walled in by a steep wooded hillside rising up to Erringden Moor and Higher Moor, where the monument known as Stoodley Pike is located. On the northern side the land rises steeply from the valley floor, and then eases off slightly turning into rolling farmland with many working farms and some very fine houses.
The Search Begins
I was intrigued by Rachael’s inquiry; I have always had a strong interest in works of art and I enjoy the challenge of discovering the viewpoint of a painting or photograph. Although the perspective from Cruttonstall farmstead was very close to the standpoint of the artist, I informed Rachael that it was not the standpoint and that I would like to track down the spot where the artist painted it. Rachael, who lives in Wales was keen to assist me in this mission and she spent many hours studying maps and ‘Google Street View’. This activity produced some good leads and suggestions from her.
As a regular walker in Calderdale I made a decision to include on my walks, footpaths and bridleways that would afford me different views of Stoodley Pike.
I did this in the hope that I would quickly discover the standpoint of the painting. The first walk in search of the standpoint took me from Hebden Bridge along Pinnacle Lane and on towards Cruttonstall. As I approached Cruttonstall it became obvious that, while Rachael’s suggestion of that farm as the viewpoint proved to be very close to the composition of the painting, the farm was too near to Stoodley Pike and it didn’t fit into the layout of the picture.
I decided to draw a line on a map extending in a north easterly direction from Stoodley Pike, covering a distance of four miles and passing close to Cruttonstall. I then began a series of walks intersecting that line. I felt confident that somewhere along that line I would discover the viewpoint. I did this in the hope that I would quickly discover the standpoint of the painting.
The first walk in search of the standpoint took me from Hebden Bridge along Pinnacle Lane and on towards Cruttonstall.
As I approached Cruttonstall it became obvious that, while Rachael’s suggestion of that farm as the viewpoint proved to be very close to the composition of the painting, the farm was too near to Stoodley Pike and it didn’t fit into the layout of the picture.
I decided to draw a line on a map extending in a north easterly direction from Stoodley Pike, covering a distance of four miles and passing close to Cruttonstall. I then began a series of walks intersecting that line. I felt confident that somewhere along that line I would discover the viewpoint.
The line on the map I had pencilled in, passed through Edge End Farm on Erringden, passing close to Horsehold hamlet, straight through the Parish Church of Hebden Bridge, and curiously also through the Church of St. Thomas The Apostle at Heptonstall. The line then crossed Higher Crimsworth and across the A6033 Keighley Road at a group of houses called Duck Hill. The imaginary line now extended beyond Pecket Well so I didn’t take it much further as I believed that the standpoint for the painting would be within that distance. The second walk I did to find the standpoint, was started from Holmcoat Bridge just off the A646 in Eastwood. I climbed east up the hill to Height Gate Farm. I then followed the footpath down through Lodge Farm to the top of Parrock Wood, along the top of the wood and descended to Callis Bridge, all the while taking photos.
This section did not provide the sought after viewpoint so I crossed the road and walked up the Pennine Way as far as Blackshaw Head and onwards following the Calderdale Way to Heptonstall. Once more it became obvious that I was too far west of my imaginary line.
I took a photo from the standpoint and sent it to Rachael who shares my opinion. Although I feel sure that I have found the standpoint, the house and the nearby tree in Thomas’s painting are not where I would expect them to be on the ground. I have discussed this with Rachael and she has made the following comment...
“The line of trees matches the line of vegetation in the picture. My great grandfather seems to have moved Bent Head farmhouse several metres so I think he could have placed the wall that borders the road closer to the building. I think that where the current house has a downstairs window, below the faint chimney, used to be the door and porch, and where they now have the smaller of their two porches used to be a downstairs window.”
Rachael Jones is the great granddaughter of the artist; she has created a Wikipedia page with much relevant information about him. Thomas was rather a radical. In the references section on the Wikipedia page there is a hyperlink to an article in the Aberdare Leader 25th June 1910 entitled "Wild Disorder". It describes how her great grandfather started a riot at a political meeting in 1910.
Mick Melvin 2019
Map: O.S. Explorer 021 South Pennines & Surroundings
Link to Wikipedia Thomas Frederick Worrall