Walk Around West Todmorden

On a beautiful September day, more reminiscent of summer than autumn, a small group of us set off to walk round a number of buildings and areas connected with the Fieldens of Todmorden.

We met appropriately at Fielden Square and set off in a southerly direction until we arrived at the house called Dawson Weir.  Dawson Weir apparently started life as an inn, but was converted into a rather large house and was bought by John Fielden in 1811.  Here he lived and worked with his wife and eight children until 1843, when he moved to Centre Vale House.  In those days he would not have far to walk to work, because Waterside Mill was located on the other side of the road.

We then turned sharp right and proceeded up the steep Dobroyd Road, passing over the level crossing where the train used to make special stops for the Fieldens.  (Update, this has now been replaced by a large footbridge, because of the number of children now visiting the Robinwood Activity Centre at Dobroyd Castle) We then climbed up through the woods beneath the Dobroyd Castle.  Taking a footpath, which skirts the southern edge of the Castle grounds, we had excellent views across the back of the Castle and over Todmorden.  An old lodge has been restored and so there is now a small lake behind the Castle, that is used by the Activity Centre for water, based activities.

We pressed on turning gradually to a northerly direction and reached Edge End Farm, where Joshua Fielden was born in 1748.  Many of us can trace our ancestry to this family in this location, if not to Joshua Fielden himself.  It is a typical farmhouse of the Pennines.  People relied on a dual income, from farming and from turning wool into cloth.  It looks as solid as it probably did three hundred years ago and comfortable in its surroundings.  Joshua left here in 1782 to move into the valley and start his business that, as we all know, led to great things.

Only a short distance further on we came to the location of a former Quaker Meeting House and graveyard at Todmorden Edge. It is now a large house but some of the original architectural features can be detected. Many of the early Fieldens were Quakers and could it be possible that this was their local House and we had just walked in their footsteps and seen the same glorious views.

We continued on our way hugging the contour until we found our footpath, which would allow us to descend back down into the valley that contains the road heading towards Burnley.  We reached the valley floor and next encountered the Fielden Centre.  This is still a beautiful building having been built in 1872 by John Gibson, designer of the Unitarian Church and Town Hall.  It was originally a school for fee paying pupils run by Sarah Fielden, who had apparently some forward looking ideas. It closed in 1896 and was eventually given to Todmorden Council by her son.  It is now the Fielden centre and provides a hall and meeting place for local people.

We turned south and entered Centre Vale Park.  We walked past the site of the original Centre Vale House where John had moved in 1843. Since we had last visited this location more details have appeared on the interpretation board, including more drawings and a photograph.

Our final stop was in front of the statue of John Fielden himself, the architect of the Ten Hours Act.  We finished the walk where we started –in Fielden Square of course.

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