Local Historian & Old Fart |
|Posted - 01/09/2009 : 07:12
Yup, I did an article about it and sent it to my mate Bob in St Louis, here's what I wrote and his reply.
FURTHER EDUCATION APRIL 2009
As I have always said, never take anything I tell you as a final truth, all I can do is give you my best shot and further research always modifies my thinking. You may remember me telling you about the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia on the 5th of April 1815. This was the biggest volcanic event in recorded history. As far as we can tell, the only one that ever exceeded Tambora was in 181AD when the Hatepe or Lake Taupo eruption in New Zealand had effects all over the globe. We know this happened and have an idea of the scale but as far as I know there are no records apart from the archaeology. The reason I was interested in Tambora was because we know it affected us in Barlick. There was ‘The Year Without a Summer’ because debris from the eruption in the upper atmosphere blocked out the sun, altered climate and produced major famine all over Europe. This was the year of Waterloo and Napoleon’s final defeat and this event takes precedence in the history books. I’ve always wondered whether the economic depression that followed the wars in Europe was wholly caused by the disruption caused by the fighting. It seems to me that the failure of the harvests and famine could have had major effects. During my digging into the climate record I found hints that the period 1850 to 1860 was notable for low rainfall in Europe. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any concrete rainfall records to bolster my impression. However, it got me to thinking about the effects of climate change around 1850.
One thing that has always struck me about this period in Barlick is that the water supply for Billycock Bracewell’s new mills at Butts (1846) and Wellhouse (1854) is a recurring topic in the contemporary accounts. Atkinson mentions it in his history of Barlick. It was during this period that Bracewell bought Ouzledale Mill, no doubt with ideas of exploiting its water resource but he was thwarted by Mitchell and the Slaters at what became Clough Mill. His next attempt to improve the water supply at Butts was to build Springs Dam to help manage the available water more efficiently. At the same time he made some very contentious alterations to the drainage on the hillside above Springs to divert water into his dam which should really have been flowing into Dark Well which he didn’t control.
Then there is the matter of the Corn Mill. In the 1851 census, Robert Waite is recorded as the corn miller and he employed two men. This doesn’t necessarily mean he owned the mill but was certainly working it. I think that William Bracewell of Newfield Edge rented and certainly owned it later. It was most likely Billycock who enlarged the dam in 1850 making it the biggest and best managed water resource in the town. This dam is now filled in and is the garage site that runs alongside the beck from Gisburn Road to the mill. This was four years before he built what is now Wellhouse Mill and I have an idea he was thinking about water for Wellhouse as well as the Corn Mill when he bought the mill and made these improvements. What is certain is that he installed a six inch cast iron pipe from the Corn Mill Dam down to Wellhouse dams. There are hints of this in Atkinson but positive proof in the Calf Hall Shed Company records because they considered using this supply 50 years later and tested the flow. They never actually took advantage of it, I suspect that the BUDC who owned the mill by then wanted too much for water rate.
Once the water left the Corn Mill it fed Old Coates Mill which was on the site of the present Rolls Royce car park at the bottom of Crow Nest Road. There is a further complication because Bracewell controlled the Bowker Drain which runs from Salterforth to the Butts Beck at the bottom of the Rolls car park. I have little doubt that Billycock did his cousins at Old Coates no favours by how he managed the water flow from the Corn Mill but there is no written proof. However, at that time Wellhouse Mill was taking all the water from the Bowker drain into its dams and they were overflowing night and day. Left to its own devices, this water would have drained back into the Crow Nest Syke and augmented the supply for Old Coates. I am not the only one who has puzzled over this, Harold Duxbury as manager of the Calf Hall company was interested in it as well. While the dams were still operational and overflowing he dyed the water and found that the overflow was piped directly to Butts Beck below the level of the Old Cates dam by a large cast iron pipe. I can see only one reason for going to this significant cost, to deprive the Bracewell Brothers at Old Coates of the water which could have served their mill. There is one further clue. When the Bracewell Brothers went bankrupt in 1860 and vacated the mill it was bought by a man called Nuttall who had assumed he could divert the water from the Bowker Drain into his dam. Billycock fought a lawsuit against this in the Chancery Court and won. Nuttall had to abandon the Old Coates Mill and seven years later built New Coates Mill which was demolished in 2008. Not surprisingly, the condenser water for this mill came from the canal and couldn’t be blocked by Bracewell.
Looking at all this evidence I have made the assumption over the years that all this manipulation and fighting for control over the water was down to one thing, the almost megomaniacal streak in Billycock which drove him to try to get total control. I still think that this is a major motive but I’m beginning to wonder now whether there was a contributory factor, was there a ten year period of lower rainfall around 1850 and was this the first reason driving Bracewell to acquire more water?
On balance I think it was. Building Springs Dam, diverting water and buying Ouzledale Mill could not have helped him to damage his cousins. These major expenses effected with bank loans can only have been done to improve water supplies at Butts. Indeed, better management of the headwaters of the Butts Beck can only have helped Old Coates. Buying the Corn Mill around 1850, installing the pipe to his new mill and making sure the overflow from the Bowker Drain went directly into Butts Beck can only be explained by a desire to serve Wellhouse and in the process damage his cousin’s operations.
So, whilst I still think that Bracewell was actively trying to damage his cousins business, I no longer think that this was the only motive. In the early years he had a water shortage problem and it seems as though this could have been caused by a succession of low rainfall years. I have always said that Billycock was a control freak and in both cases he is acting true to character. However, it looks as though it might be more complicated than I originally thought. (Mind you, who knows what more research will throw up? Tricky stuff this history!)
SCG/02 May 2009 Bob replied:
That eruption caused severe economic hardship in rural New England, suffering anyway because of overcrowding and farmed out, thin soils. The Smith family suffered very badly in the “Summer of 18 and froze to death”, as 1816 was known. So, by the way, did the Bliss family, but it was further up the socio-economic tree and had a competent patriarch, my great-great-great grandfather, who moved his large family from Bliss Pond, Vermont, across New York State, then Pennsylvania, then Ohio, before finally settling in Libertyville, Iowa. But he was always able to sell when he moved, and he thus settled an adult child at each stop, on a freehold family farm, but by the time he crossed the Mississippi he was all wore out (speaking of age), and it was all he could do, I gather, to get himself buried by his oldest son, who had made every move with him, and then made one more without him, to Diagonal, Iowa, where my grandfather Ralph was born in 1881. It’s interesting that John, born in about 1805, named all his children with classical names (my great-grandfather was Horace Bliss, one of his sisters Leonora, etc.), after two centuries of biblical ones. Still, the family stuck with the Congregational Church and never joined any rabble-rouser sect. Solid, respectable Whigs, they were.
The Smiths, on the other hand, were foreclosed after the eruption, left Vermont, and straggled on to some poor land in New York, near Elmira, where Joseph—one of several children who moved along with the tribe—suffered a good deal and began to have doubts about all the religious revivals going on about him in the depressed, cold farming region. Not doubts about religion mind you, for he was beginning to have visions himself, but about the multiplicity of religious voices he heard. So it was in the 1820s that Joe found the gold tablets in a field outside of Elmira, New York. . And not only that, but also found the seer stones, ummim and thummim, that allowed him to translate said tablets.
I say nothing about their genuineness, of course, but I do venture to say that they might not have been found had it not been for the eruption at Tambora.
Stanley Challenger Graham
stanley at barnoldswick.freeserve.co.uk