Littleborough’s History

Hills above Calderbrook and the families who lived there


Scattered over the hills above Calderbrook are the scattered and sometimes hidden remains of now abandoned farms, a lodge and hall. Sometimes. When approaching the hills from Calderbrook Road, just past Newgate Cottages, using the easy route progress can be worrysome for those averse to noisy dogs. However, access via St James or Greenhill via the Pennine Bridleway provides an alternate route used to research soldiers killed during the Great War. These researches led to revealing the various any many occupations undertaken by those living in the hills as well as some of their stories and the homes they lived in.


Little is left nowadays of Gander Hall (see picture below)which was located just up the hill north-west from the existing farm at Grimes. This isn’t unsurprising since the 1841 census was the last records found to date. They showed it occupied by a Mr Crawford, a Calico Printer, his wife and 5 Children.

Sketch map showing the lost farms and Pasture House Farm and location above Calderbrook

The 1841 Census for Grimes includes 19 residents which includes a coal miner. In 1871 and 1881 Grimes was occupied by two men, James Wilkinson, farmer and his boarder Joseph Crossley, a coal miner. Perhaps it was Joseph who worked the coal mine in the picture. It is unknown (to me) whether the small reservoir in the background was formed as such or arose out of creating better cart access to the mine.

The Society’s archive holds no clear photographs of Gander Hall or Backs Farm.

Backs Farm (pictured left) occupying around 6 acres was located close to Grimes on the way to St James’s church but still not far from the existing Grimes Farm. Backs Farm was included on the 1841, 1851, 1871 and 1881 censuses, being occupied by farmers . The last occupant was a Mr Haigh, his wife and 3 sons. Mr Haigh was shown as a Quarryman and Farmer which perhaps indicates the farms limitations

The photograph shows the location of Backs Farm (beyond the Pennine Bridleway where the walls form a small enclosure). In the background on the hillside are the remains of a coal mine and slag heap with the traces of a pathway coming down the hillside.


When the lodge (pictured left) was built isn’t known but the 1851 census shows Forest Lodge occupied by a Mr Harrison (Gamekeeper) and his wife.

By 1861 the Lodge was lived in by a Mr Kershaw, his wife and two children. Mr Kershaw was a Builders Labourer but may have acted as Gamekeeper part time. In 1871 Mr Henshaw is recorded as the Gamekeeper.

The 1881 shows Abraham Law in residence and thereby hangs a tale.

The following paragraphs have been taken from ‘Tales from the Black Forest (The Law family)’ by Ingleborg Misarz which is held in the archive. Additional information has been added in brackets or tables.

“If you ever take a walk over Calderbrook you might get as far as the Black Forest. O yes, there used to be a forest until the miner’s strike in 1930, when the trees were cut down and used for firewood. You can either take the road near Handle Hall, past Far Hey Head, until you come to Deardens Pasture or take the path near Smithy Nook, past Stoney Head and Slack. Near Pasture House, where the Kershaw's farmed last, you’ll find Cuckoo Hill and more to the left the ruins of Forest Lodge”. (Note: Joseph & Hannah Kershaw & 2 children lived in Pasture House in 1939).

“The last Forester there was Abraham Law or AB as he was commonly known. AB originally lived near Halifax. There was even a slight connection between him and the peddler John Law, who was bewitched by the infamous Pendle witches”. “Lord Dearden was Lord of the Manor. A lot of the local Gentry, Doctors MacGill and Jim amongst them, enjoyed the Grouse shoots and other sports like trail hunts. There, the hounds followed a trail of aniseed instead of a live quarry”.

“Life was very different then.  Mother Law (Kate) had to cook and bake for herself and her large family, as well providing food for the hunt. That’s after Ab at forest had fetched all the provisions from the valley on the back of his trusted donkey. There was no electricity or gas, no road to speak of”. (There was a well). The family had a rather tragic end. Mother (Kate) died of a heart attack while doing the baking and was found by her sons returning from work. Two of those sons Reuban and Jim (James) died in Mesopotamia the first World War along with a lot of brave Littleborough lads (Note: Reuban was killed in France during the battle for Loos). Ab too died tragically while doing the shopping. The donkey returned to the Lodge without him. They later found him slumped by the wayside, dead”.

The following table summarises the Law family occupations and ages at Forest Lodge between 1881 and 1911 :


“The remaining three sons married three sisters from Shropshire and all had large families. The old Forest Lodge stood empty for a number of years, still looked after by Ab’s grandchildren kept the house clean and the old kitchen garden free from weeds. No doubt getting into mischief as well”. They travelled up to Forest Lodge from their homes on Salley St, Higher Calderbrook and in Summit. Their fathers were variously occupied including being Labourers, Farm Labourers or Coal and Brewery Carters.

The grandchildren told an interesting story “One day they had a rather frightening experience. They were weeding the garden and Jim, his back aching, straightened up. There, below him at the stile stood the figure of his dead grandfather (Ab) dressed in his uniform, the bandolier slung across his chest. “Reu” whispered Jim “Look there”. Reuban straightened up. “It’s Grandfather” he said. They both stared at the figure too afraid to speak or move, until the spectre faded and vanished from sight. They ran down the hill, then, remembering what they had seen, swerved away from the stile and jumped over the wall. They met Jim’s younger brother Bob (Robert b 1908) and told him what they had seen. Bob scoffed at the story, so to convince him, they crept back up.

They had just reached the Lodge when they heard the most terrifying roar, then a noise like thunder, so loud they expected the whole house to come tumbling down. Later they returned with Jim’s father (Abraham, the son of Ab). Everything was quiet and not a thing out of the place inside. This wasn’t just a figment of their imagination as they never varied the story as long as they lived. Reuban and his parents (William and Ruth) lived at the lodge for a time (This is presumably after Aunt Clara had left). And they got used to see grandfather and grandmother flitting through the rooms”.

“Jim would never sleep with his arms uncovered as he once felt a ghostly cold hand grip his wrist. For many years after, he re-lived the nightmare at the Forest until his father, also named Abraham died”. “Then his sons Jim, Jack and Bob scattered Ab’s ashes around the ruins of the lodge and the nightmare ceased”.

“One more thing you may find on your travels near the Lodge, a tombstone with the name inscription “Soldier”. This is the grave of Ab’s beloved hounds, Soldier and Major. And should you meet old Ab, don’t be afraid, he is only watching over this treasured Black Forest”.

When visiting Forest Lodge today the more obvious route is via Pasture House Farm but paths are included on OS maps showing routes from Grimes. Soldier’s grave is besides one of the paths from the quarry above Gander Hall and Grimes but is easily missed. At the site of Forest Lodge (shown above) are the remains of the walled garden and fields as well as stones delineating the features of the ground floor rooms.