This is a brief history of a semi remote moorland area in the Yorkshire Pennines, at what was the western end of the ancient township of Wadsworth. It also tells the story of how the community moved from farming to supplying wool to Europe, the coming of handloom weaving followed by trading in cloth. Finally came the decline as mechanised mills were constructed and much of the land was given over to reservoirs to provide water for the growing mill towns.
At the centre of this area, around 650 years ago, was Alcomden, a small community in a semi sheltered spot at the lower end of Walshaw Dean. A largely self sufficient small population lived there and thereabouts who used the small amount of better land for subsistence farming and the moors above for grazing sheep.
David Nortcliffe describes life in the community and the changes to their way of living over several hundred years. He poses the questions of how, why and when did a textile industry emerge in the area, and what was its impact on the community.
When the West Riding woollen trade came along a few hundred years ago, West Wadsworth supported a bigger population than it ever had before or since. Initially, this was to provide wool for weavers in Flanders and northern Italy. But soon, these hill farmers were to add cloth-making to their skills.
David Nortcliffe describes the hard life the small hill farmers would live. The looking after of the horse, a cow or two, and a small flock of sheep, while at the same time weaving and preparing cloth. And how that life changed initially with the arrival of small water powered mills, and then the big steam powered mills in the main Calder Valley.