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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Samlesbury Farms List 1918- 2018

The Samlesbury Farms as remembered by Herbert and Maj Miller-Crook. Again if you wish to propose additions please let me know.


Brindle Farms List 1918- 2018

Following on from the Hoghton farms, here are the Brindle Farms, courtesy again of Herbert Miller-Crook! If there are any errors or proposed additions, please let me know.



Saturday, 24 February 2018

Hoghton Farms list 1918 - 2018

Herbert Miller-Crook, my uncle, with his super-power memory (despite being 92 year's old!), has very kindly composed a list of all the farms he remembers in Hoghton, Brindle and Samlesbury. No doubt, his wife, Maj (née Smalley) herself a farmer's daughter, from Causeway and Ward o'th Hill Farms, has also assisted him in this epic work!  Thank you!



Monday, 19 February 2018

The Smithy

My Grandfather, Thomas Miller-Crook b 1st June 1894, was Hoghton's wheelwright/blacksmith and joiner/undertaker.

Thomas volunteered to enlist in the army joining the R.A.O.C. (Royal Army Ordanance Corps) at Heaton Park, Manchester - aged 20. He served in France as a  wheelwright and blacksmith during  WWI based at Abbeville in Picardy on the bay of the Somme. He was based there for three years helping to repair and fit wheels on the large horse drawn gun carriages.

In 1919 he transferred to the Army Reserve and returned to civilian life. After working for his uncle at the Boatyard, Riley Green for several months and then at J Waring, Feniscowles for three years he decided to become self-employed in 1923.

He took over the Smithy from Mr Thomas Sharples . He married Mabel Evelyn Windle of N° 13 The Barracks, Chapel Lane, on Christmas Eve 1924 at Holy Trinity Church, Hoghton and the couple lived on Gib Lane at 5 Bell Villas. It was therefore only a short journey for Thomas to travel to work at the Smithy. (Note : Tim Grimshaw informs me "Thomas Sharples lived at 10 Gib Lane with wife Pamela and three children, he died in 1933. His only son George lived there until he died in 1984. ")


No doubt Hoghton Smithy used to be very busy.  Ideally situated on the edge of Blackburn Old Road (corner of Chapel Lane) to capt the passing trade, it was also in the centre of the village.  The Post Office used to be 100 yards from the Smithy down Chapel Lane, run by the Southworth family. The hamlet of Hoghton Bottoms was thriving with the two cotton mills. There was also a corner shop down on the corner of Valley Road.

Next door, the Boar's Head Inn would also have brought potential customers - not forgetting the local farming community which also needed repairs to the farm equipment and shodding of the horses.

Plenty of work therefore for a blacksmith and wheelwright!




Herbert was their first child, born 16th November 1925, followed by Eric, my father, 13th October 1929. This photo shows my grandmother, Mabel, visiting the yard with her young boys.  Both children attended Hoghton School, and Blakey Moor Secondary Modern in Blackburn and started work at the Smithy and joiner's shop as soon as they were of suitable age.



The photo is of my father, Eric, next to the joiner's shop door showing two children his goats. The farmhouse gable end behind is Barrack's farm, which now lies derelict, - belongs to the De Hoghton estate..

Here we see Eric and my Grandfather Thomas, heating the bands of iron to fit over the cart wheels.


The yard with Chapel Lane running along the hedge side. Notice the motorbike with side box!
Photos and information courtesy of Herbert Miller-Crook

Friday, 9 February 2018

Crook & Thompson Ltd


Crook & Thompson Ltd - Coat Distribution Agents


Following on from the post about The Boatyard at Riley Green, Crook & Thompson Ltd was formed by one of Thomas Miller Crook sons - Eli b 1844.  He was the youngest of the nine children of Thomas (b 1798) and Rachael (née Wadsworth). Born at Brimmicroft farm in 1844, he married Anne Elizabeth Thompson at Holy Trinity Church 20th December 1866.

Ann was the daughter of Thomas Robert Thompson. He was formerly an innkeeper and farmer, of Hoghton Lane, Hoghton, the inn being the Railway Tavern, now known as the Sirloin, Station Road, Hoghton.

Eli was a boatbuilder at Riley Green in his father's business. Upon his marriage,  he left to set himself up as a coal distribution agent.  He incorporated his wife's name in the company naming it Crook & Thompson Ltd.
Courtesy of Colin Pritt Blackburnpast.com
Eli had six brothers and two sisters.  Both John, (see Stanley Grange Post), Alexander, and Ralph (see Horrobin Fold post), like their father, had all distributed coal.  Since the Leeds Liverpool Canal had been built right next to their farm in the hamlet of Brimmicroft (off Bolton Road) Riley Green they would have seen barges passing delivering coal from the Wigan coalfields since they were young children. The canal had opened officially in 1816.  His father Thomas had had the good idea of founding the Boatyard for repairing his own barges and manufacturing new ones.

The family made good use of the opportunities I would say, being blessed with the proximity of both the canal and coalfields.  They had a recipe for success and exploited it fully.  Hard grafting but with plenty of financial reward!
May surveyed 1844-1850 (published in 1847)

This section of the canal was completed between 1812-1814 and the Leeds - Liverpool canal  opened officially on 19th October 1816.  (Barges had reached Blackburn from the Rishton side by 1810). By the time the next map was published in 1891 the new Horrobin Farm had been built on the side of Bolton Road. 

Given that cotton mills lined the route through Blackburn, all requiring coal for their steam engines, the Crook's could sell all the coal they could carry - not forgetting coal required for domestic purposes too!  How very appropriate that the Crook barge symbol should have been the 'black diamond' (see second photo below)


Eli and his wife set up home at Witton after their marriage, 9 Broomfield Place. A daughter, Ann, was born here in 1871, but she died aged 3.  The following year, 1875, a son Thomas Roland Crook was born and two years' later a girl, Rachael in 1877. (The barge below was named after his son). A later post will mention the destiny of Thomas Roland' son Tony Crook, who became a famous racing driver and owner of Bristol Cars Ltd.


The offices of the company were located at Whalley Banks only half a mile from the house. 
The photo below shows an advert for "Crook & Thomas Coal Merchants" on a gable end at Whalley Bank or Bank Top as the area is more well known. The advert isn't very clear but it dates from the 1951 Blackburn Carnaval and  is courtesy of John Cox. My friend Colin Pritt, a local historian, owner of Blackburnpast.com very kindly sourced it for the blog.




Eli took over the canal-side Lower Audley coal yard when his brother, John, retired in 1888. Their other wharfs were located at Nova Scotia mill, Victoria wharf, Mill Hill and depot at Hoghton Station,



Crook & Thompson conveyed the coal by horse-drawn barges direct from the Burnley and Wigan coalfields to the canalside mills of Blackburn and Accrington.

Blackburn had the largest number of cotton mills. In 1867, approximately 45 mills had been built alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Each week, at this time 6.250 tons of coal per week were needed to fire the mill boilers. Between 1867 and 1900 another 18 mills were built, bringing the total to 63.  The weekly coal consumption rose to 8,750 tons! Most of this tonnage was shared by two main companies, Messrs Hargreaves Ltd from the Burnley coalfields and Crook & Thompson Ltd from the Wigan coalfields.

Courtesy of Cotton Town project

The coal was unloaded by wheelbarrow into large wooden hoppers and distributed for domestic consumption.


To reduce the cost of buying from the mine owners, Eli eventually became a "Colliery Owner" although unfortunately I do not know which one it was!  If anyone can help me trace the name I would be very grateful. I am told it would be amongst the Wigan coalfields.

The amount of coal transported by barge to the yard at Lower Audley for domestic purposes eventually declined as the railways expanded. To take advantage of the coal transported by rail, Crook & Thompson Ltd established a large depot with the railway sidings at Whalley Banks, Blackburn.

Coal continued to be transported by canal barges, fitted with diesel engines, until the decline of the cotton industry in the 1950's.

The barge "The Roland" was the subject of a booklet mentioned in the post entitled  "The Boatyard".

Information courtesy of Herbert Miller-Crook

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Boatyard - Riley Green

Thomas Miller-Crook, my Great Great Great Grandfather,  was a coal merchant born in Withnell in 1792.  When he married Rachael Wadsworth of Gowan's Farm, Brindle on 28th December 1818, his occupation is given as carpenter and coal dealer.  It is said he founded the Boatyard at Riley Green after finding that a repair to his barge was going to cost him more than he wanted to pay! He therefore decided to do his own.

Thomas was purchasing coal at the local pits of Withnell and Tockholes. Later he would transport the coal from the Wigan coalfields to his canalside wharf at Riley Green from where it was distributed to the local villages. His coalwharf was located where the present Canal side house is located.

Thomas continued his farming at Brimmicroft.  The old Brimmicroft Farm where all his 9 children were born, is now demolished but it is believed to on the site where "Quarry Bank Farm" now stands on Bolton New Road, Riley Green.

The following map shows the location of the hamlet of Brimmicroft, Horrobin Farm, in relation to the site of the boatyard. The map was surveyed in 1844-50 and published in 1847.




On the 1841 census it is recorded that he employed 3 'boys' on his farm, 6 men in the coal distribution business, and 15 men in the boat building and sawmill yard. He eventually employed five of his sons. Alexander, in the coal distribution; Eli, James, John and Ralph (my great great grandfather) as boat builders.

1950 Eli working with apprentice Harry Margerison

Thomas died in 1864, aged 66 years. Of his five sons, four worked as boatbuilders but eventually left to form their own businesses (Alexander and Eli in coal, James to establish a boatyard at Bootle. John entered the brewing industry - see post on Stanley Grange).  

The boatyard and sawmill were continued by Thomas' son Ralph, farmer and boatbuilder, who founded Horrobin Farm further along Bolton New Road, Riley Green.  
When Ralph retired in 1903, two of his fourteen children formed a partnership, J & J Crook (James b. 1871 and John b 1875) and they operated the boatyard and sawmill. Ralph had a younger brother, Eli b 1844 who married Ann Elizabeth Thompson. They had a company distributing coal - Crook & Thompson (see separate post) and most of their barges were made at Riley Green by the family - their symbol being the black diamond painted on the front of the boat. Eli was the only child not given the name Miller as part of his surname.


James and John  of J & J Crook, had a brother - Arthur, b 1868; his son was called Eli b 1901. On leaving school Eli continued the boatbuilding tradition working with his uncles at Riley Green. He married Alice Crook, a farmer's daughter from Hoghton.
They had three sons, Arthur b 1927, James b 1930, and John b 1932.

Riley Green Boatyard

Eli became the owner of the boatyard when his uncle, John Miller Crook, died in 1966. (The other partner Jim, died at Brimmicroft Farm in 1933). Eli's son, Arthur, b 1927 married Ann Taylor of Hoghton.  He became an apprentice boat builder with his father Eli and had three children, Paul, Alison and Andrew. He was Mayor of Chorley and member of Hoghton Parish council with my father, Eric, for many years. In later life Arthur continued to make barges with a friend called Douglas Moore. Arthur was the last owner of the boatyard, dying in 2004. The following newspaper article has been given to me courtesy of Helen Cowgill, Arthur's niece and makes interesting reading!





Colour photo and information courtesy of Herbert Miller-Crook (Arthur's second cousin)

My own grandfather, Thomas Miller-Crook b. 1894 was also  boatbuilder (and wheelwright/blacksmith) here until in 1919, working for his uncles before becoming self-employed (see separate post coming soon, The Smithy).

A booklet exists detailing the salvage and restoration of one particular barge called "The Roland". This barge was named after Arthur's Uncle Eli's son,  Roland b 1875. The authors Marilyn Freear and Marilyn Sumner explain the perilous journey of "The Roland" back to Wigan Pier where it is now on show at Trencherfield Gardens as part of the Wigan Pier Heritage Centre beside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Some of the photos are courtesy of this lovely booklet lent to me by a work colleague, Stan Walmsley, who turned out quite by chance, to be a distant relative! His father had worked at the boatyard and appears in one of the photos.



The boatyard was sold after closure and developed in to a pub. See separate post for the "Boatyard Pub" for more photos.



This photo shows the canal looking towards Blackburn. The coal wharf would have been to the left of the bridge literally in the yard of the present house. (see post on Crook & Thompson Ltd)











Sunday, 28 January 2018

Horrobin Fold Farm

1901 at Horrobin Fold Farm


My great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Davies, (on the extreme left) was an assistant teacher at Hoghton School from 1881 - 1885.  In  1888 she married Thomas Miller-Crook of Horrobin Fold Farm, Riley Green.
Photo circa 1901. Left to right, Mary Elizabeth, Anne, Great Grandfather Thomas with little May, Ralph (standing), my Grandfather Thomas, his sister Rachael (sitting on the ground),  - behind her, I presume, Great Great Grandma Sarah. Sarah born 1842, was married aged 17, and had fourteen children, Thomas being the eldest.

Old Horrobin Fold Farmhouse (2008) 

Horrobin Fold Farm is now in a derelict state. It is located behind the present Horrobin Farm which is on Bolton Road at Riley Green, Hoghton.

My Great Great Grandfather Ralph was born at Brimmicroft Farm in 1838. His father Thomas (born 1798) had founded the Boatyard at Riley Green.  After finishing school Ralph  began work there as an apprentice boatbuilder. In 1859, he married Sarah Elizabeth Bickerstaffe, of Pleasington, Blackburn.   After their marriage they lived at Horrobin Fold.  When Ralph's father Thomas died in 1864 (aged 66), Ralph took over the running of the boatyard and coal wharf and the business prospered.   Ralph was involved in the building of a completely new farm and outbuildings nearer the roadside and the new farm was named Horrobin.

Horrobin Farm, Bolton Road circa 1900

   As it was built with the aid of the De Hoghton estate workers an agreement was passed that  Ralph could live there for his lifetime rent free while he farmed the land and ran the coal wharf and boatyard.  After his death the farmhouse would become the sole property of the De Hoghton Estate. In 1881 Ralph was employing 12 men at the boatyard, sawmill and coal wharf and farming 27 acres.


Great  Great Grandfather's five sisters circa 1900

Sarah Rachael b 1862 (38),
Nancy b 1864 (36)
Jane b 1877 (23)
Maud b 1879 (21)
May b 1882 (18)

Of the nine brothers, two died in infancy but unfortunately I have only two photos, one of my direct ancestor Thomas, and one of Eli, (born 1866) the fourth child.

Thomas Miller-Crook (born 1860)


 Ralph had many children with Sarah, fourteen in total, twelve surviving into adulthood of which Thomas, the eldest born 1860, was my Great Grandfather (see above photo).  Sarah effectively, had a child every two years' from the age of 18!

The photo below is Eli, Thomas' younger brother. He was born in 1866. It seems he got into some trouble as a young man, hitting a policeman, which in the 1880's,  was a very serious offence indeed. The story goes, that his father paid for his passage to Australia and he wasn't heard of again!  However, we think possibly he went to New Zealand instead, as I found his name on a passenger list to Auckland on the Arawa. In the photo below he is wearing a bush hat and unknown army uniform.  My Uncle has done some research which has proved inconclusive, for the uniform. Perhaps he fought in the Boer war, but this cannot be confirmed.  In later years we did find trace of a Harry Miller-Crook (abode New Zealand), could this have been his son?

Eli (born 1866), fourth son of Ralph



Two of Ralph's son's, James aged 32 and John aged 28 formed the partnership J & J Crook to continue the boatyard and coal wharf. (See separate post The Boatyard)

Ralph retired from work in 1903, aged 65, dying at Horrobin Farm 17th August 1908, aged 70. His widow, Sarah, moved to  a cottage at Brimmicroft, where she died ten years later, on the 19th April 1918, aged 76 years.



Horrobin Farm 2008

All photos courtesy of Herbert Miller-Crook.