The second of a two-part history feature by historian Alan Roberts about mill owner and cotton magnate Sir Amos Nelson who was having his dream home built at Gledstone Hall, in West Marton.



AMOS Nelson had commissioned top architect Edwin Lutyens and leading garden designer Gertrude Jekyll to do the work, but costs were spiralling and Nelson’s business was not doing well: the cotton industry was in recession. Nevertheless, an estate of 6,000 acres or nine square miles would doubtless help fund the construction project.

The estate was a magnet to poachers who saw it at as a source of free food. A Skipton firm of solicitors was involved in several cases. In 1931 two men were found taking spruce trees from Bentha Plantation just south of the A59. It had been just before Christmas, and Till and Livesey were each fined 20 shillings early in the new year. It is not clear from the documents whether this was a commercial operation or simply two earnest men trying their best to decorate their own homes.

More seriously, Tom Demaine had been found guilty of poaching and sentenced to three months’ hard labour. He received the same sentence for possession of firearms. Hopefully gun crime in today’s Craven is rare, but this was almost a hundred years ago and in West Marton! Another Demaine was later charged with night poaching and violence. He was sentenced to three months’ hard labour.

A curious letter was sent from Wiseman’s Garage in Carleton Street in Skipton. The Gledstone estate office had wanted to find the owner of a motor car registered UM 2436. It had apparently been towed into the garage by a firm based in Leeds. A note in pencil at the bottom reads ‘written to PC Monroe’. Perhaps Craven really was a hot bed of crime!

Barnoldswick Co-operative Industrial Society wrote from Central Buildings in Albert Road. A large co-op building stood there before it was demolished to make way for today’s town square. It reminded the estate that it had sold the society a large quantity of wood during the previous coal strike and wondered if it would do the same if the current strike continued. The letter was dated May 1, 1926. Hundreds of thousands of miners had been locked out at midnight the previous night. A general strike would be announced just two days later, and last for nine days. A handwritten note reads ‘What public body is directing supplies? Defer’. Shortage of fuel would surely exacerbate the existing national emergency.

Barnoldswick Conservative Club was also looking for wood. It needed larch or spruce to make trellises to shield an ‘unsightly place’ near their bowling green. The estate might have some ‘lying about’ that they could use, and thanked Sir Amos for his generosity. They did not intend to pay!

Water and gas pipes needed to be laid from Greenberfield Lane to the cricket and football grounds in Victory Park. Barnoldswick UDC proposed that the tenant would be compensated for any damage and that an annual easement of five shillings would be paid for the privilege. The cost of construction of the new Gledstone Hall had been set at £60,000, but costs had risen. It would take many years to recoup the money at this rate.

The village blacksmith William Hoggart was a key figure in the community. Horses of course need to be shod, but, if anything needed repairing or making, he was the man to go to. Invoices to the estate from September 1928 stretch for three pages. He supplied four new hay rakes and dozens of horseshoes, sharpened at least 28 chisels and spent more than 11 hours doing angle-iron work. He also supplied one thumbscrew, but not the kind used for torture, one hopes! Some of the items were billed to the various farms which made up the estate. Others were charged to the ‘New Hall’ and some to Sir Amos himself. Hoggart’s masterpiece was a pair of highly ornamental wrought-iron carriage gates constructed for Gledstone Hall and which reputedly took him three years to complete. The hall is however private property and cannot be viewed from any public right of way.

John Sagar and Sons worked the quarries at Tubber Hill and Salterforth. Most of their bill was taken up with stone for the new house and gardens at Gledstone, and a rent allowance to presumably keep the quarries viable.

The corn mill in Barnoldswick provided feed for the animals. All the money listed was in pounds, shillings and pence and the weights were in hundredweights (cwt). Items supplied included 20 cwt of pure maize germ meal and intriguingly 10 cwt of savannah oyster shell for the poultry farm.

Nuttalls of Philip Street in Barnoldswick sent the invoice for the largest amount (£229 2s 1d). This was for building work on twenty different properties. An ink spillage on the front has seeped through the remaining six pages to create an aura of authenticity.

Thanks are due to Barnoldswick History Society for its help in preparing this article. Documents, recently discovered in its archive have shown just how important large estates like Gledstone were to the local economy.