East Riddlesden Hall

Set on a rocky bluff high above the river Aire stands a hall built with wealth from the wool trade.  The site had been used by previous generations as a defensible site, but by the time of this hall peace made it possible to go for style.  James Murgatroyd was wealthy enough to be offered a knighthood twice by James I, but he was a canny Yorkshireman who preferred to turn it down both times and pay substantial fines (I don’t know how he was fined for this) rather than accept such an expensive honour.

There is a painting of Elizabeth Gunter from Aylesbury, who married into the family in 1689.

Elizabeth Gunter of Aylesbury b.1669 East Riddlesden Hall

On the ground floor there is a part of a Celtic cross which has a curious bird carving.  It is said to be a pelican.  It dates from a borders of pre-Christianity, and so it may be perched on Thor’s hammer, rather than just any old perch.  The Pelican Vulning, or pelican in her piety has some Christian meaning.  Anyway this cross was found near the house and dates from the 8th century.

Celtic Cross with Pelican, 8th century

I was told the story of the pelican by a room steward, who also showed me two silver coins – one Saxon and one early Norman.  He was carrying these two specimens from his personal collection because this day was the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, when we went from a Saxon nation to a Norman one.  It was 14th October.

In a room set up to look like it might have in the 1860’s I saw a towel rack with what looked to me like antimacassars hanging on it.  I asked what this was about, and heard that they were linen towels.  Not the thick fabric we associate with towels today, but a finer linen woven to have a perforated pattern to give a rougher absorbent surface.  Viv said she recalled her mother offering the doctor just such a linen towel after he had examined someone on a home visit, with the line, ‘would you like to wash your hands’.  Viv also said mum used to call for the towel by saying, ‘fetch the doctor the huckaback’.  And it turns out that this kind of woven linen is called huckaback, and you can still buy towels of it.

On the drive back to Cleckheaton we passed the highest local point, Queensbury, where one can look down over Bradford and as far as Leeds, and even the Drax coal fired power station south of Leeds near Selby.  On this high place is a building with a sign indicating it is the home of the Bradford Sub-Aqua Club.

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