The Calderdale region of Yorkshire is renowned for its industrial heritage. In the early 19th century the industrial revolution was born in this region, and in and around Calderdale hotspots like Todmorden and Hebden Bridge you'll discover numerous evidence of the fact including some of the earliest built canals, railways and factories.
Transport improvements came first with the development of highways and turnpike roads, and later with the building of the Rochdale Canal between 1794 and 1804 which connected Todmorden to Manchester Waterways. Finally the Manchester - Leeds or Pennine Railway was opened in 1841, running parallel to the canal. Between the Railway and the Canal industrial goods were carried in and out of Todmorden.
By 1896 the main occupations were spinning and weaving concentrated in Todmorden's valley bottom. Mills that dominated the scene, for example, were the vast Waterside Mill owned by the Fieldens and located in Todmorden on the now site of a supermarket.
As Dorothy Thompson asserts in her definitive book on the Chartists, John Fielden, Todmorden born and MP prior to and during the Chartist movement, was a prominent reformer. He not only sympathised with the Chartists and their intent for universal suffrage, he spoke openly in and outside of parliament against the Poor Law Amendment of 1834 which failed to legislate the 10 hour working day for all.
He was certainly unusual as a prominent industrialist who supported universal suffrage and improvements to the working conditions of child labour in the industrial revolution. He made his feelings clear in the response he gave to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment which only offered slight reductions to the working hours of children and was clearly attached to the promotion of 'Laissez faire' - essentially unrestricted freedom in commerce,
"I tell you that the introduction of this new law into my constituency will meet with resistance, and I do not mind telling you frankly that if such resistance takes place, I would lead it". (quoted from Dorothy Thompson's 'The Chartists'. 1984).
Completed in 1866, the opening of Dobroyd Castle caused much sensation locally. Built by John Fielden the Second, very much a local man not noted for much outside Todmorden, for his wife Ruth Stansfield, a local weaver. Ruth, it is said, turned to the drink, although the proof for this seems vague. No doubt the context of the 1860s, where Victorian wives of middle and upper class husbands were perceived much like children and indeed the husband's possession, must have proved a little tedious to Ruth, who had tasted independence as a wage earner in a local mill.
Dobroyd holds a certain amount of fascination still, with its ornate and somewhat ludicrous Victorian architecture both external and internal. Well worth a look, and very close to the Calderdale Way. From Dobroyd excellent views can be had down into Todmorden and across to the Stoodley Pike Monument. Follow the path up from the canal towpath.