Goit Stock – The Hidden Valley
Harden, Wilsden and Cullingworth’s best kept secret?
Contributors: Paul Davis of Harden and Bingley Park Homes, Dorothy Tattersall and Peter Smith.
The Bingley Hub thanks Mick Walmsely of Woodbank Nurseries – Harden who has provided and given permission for images from his archive collection to be published to illustrate Alan Cattells article. Mick has an avid interest in the history of the local area. In the cafe at Woodbank Nurseries there is a display of a number of images of the Harden and Bingley area which patrons can view and if interested, purchase.
In this article Alan Cattell explores the history of an area which is still little known to many people living in the Aire Valley. He will do so by concentrating on describing Goit Stock Waterfall and the Goit Stock Pleasure Resort.
Over the last 200 years the Hidden Valley has been the site of a cotton mill, a beauty spot from the mid 1800’s and a much visited tourist attraction in the 1920’s. The valley extends from Hallas Bridge, and past Goit Stock Waterfall at one end, down to what was the site of Goit Stock Cotton Mill (now a Residential Park Homes Estate) at the other. It can be accessed from either end by following Harden Beck through the woods.
The area was primarily owned by the Ferrand family as part of the St Ives Estate until they sold it in 1919.
Goit Stock Waterfall
Access to this renowned beauty spot was restricted during the 18th and early 19th Century’s.
Speight (1898) Chronicles of Old Bingley) states:
“The Goit Stock waterfall is in Mr Ferrands private grounds. It is a beautiful retired spot, the white crested water falling over a hard rocky cliff about twenty feet high, into a deep pool below, the whole embosomed in a luxuriant and lofty screen of trees, making a perfect fairy dell, which is lit up by the slanting sunbeams with charming effect”
This sentiment and flowery style of writing may seem very old-fashioned to the modern reader, however the beauty of the waterfall is undisputed and nowadays still continues to delight visitors.
The Airedale Poet
In earlier times another writer with poetic ambitions waxed lyrical about Goit Stock. In 1820 John Nicholson, later to be known as the Airedale Poet moved to Harden Beck where he gained the practical friendship of the Horsfall family at Goit Stock Mill, who helped to support him. His wife also helped his writing ambitions by working at a local worsted mill during the time he was composing “Airedale” the poetic work for which he is perhaps most famous. Horsfall –Turner (1897) in Ancient Bingley notes “He (Nicholson) composed when wandering on moonlight nights along the beck-side, especially near Goit Stock Waterfall”.
Seemingly Nicholson found the peace and tranquillity of the time of day and of the walk to be an aid to his writing and meditation. In a poem about the area he makes reference to the peaceful surroundings and the waterfall (cataract) when he observes:
Here may the contemplative mind Trace Nature and her beauties o’er And meditation rest reclin’d Lull’d by the neighbouring cataract’s roar
Nicholson on completing Airedale moved from Harden and worked as a woolsorter for three years at Hewenden Mill. He spent time after this roaming the country including living in London, promoting and selling his poetry. He eventually returned to Yorkshire and worked for Titus Salt in Bradford. He died of exposure in 1843 after falling in the River Aire while crossing by the stepping stones at was later to be Saltaire .
Goit Stock Cotton Mill – A Chronological History
It is not the intention of the article to give detailed history of the cotton mill as this will be done in a future articles. However, the key events were:-
- 1802 Benjamin Ferrand sets Timothy Horsfall up in business by building a mill for him in the Goit Stock Valley next to Harden Beck
- 1823 The mill which was originally three storey is raised to four using hydraulic presses – an innovation at the time
- 1848 Demise of cotton spinning in the area. Goit Stock Mill machinery, water wheel, steam engine and boilers advertised for auction in the Bradford Observer and Leeds Mercury.
- 1855 Water wheel, a Cornish boiler, power looms, carts and horses advertised for auction in the Bradford Observer
- 1865 Henry Beldon a nationally renowned poultry breeder and exhibitor rented the old mill building to rear poultry in free range conditions
- 1880 Beldon vacates the old mill
The remainder of the 19th Century saw an increase in visitors from the Bradford and Leeds areas to local beauty spots such as Druids Altar, Shipley Glen, the Harden Valley and Goit Stock, particularly at weekends. William Ferrand who was now resident at St Ives was not keen on unwelcome visitors tramping across his private land and therefore put in place a legal way of limiting access. Permission from the Estate Office had to be sought before access was granted. This situation carried on until the Ferrand family sold off Goit Stock Woods and the old mill building and site in 1919.
Happy Valley Pleasure Resort
In 1920 a tourist attraction was opened up in the grounds of the old mill site. Called Happy Valley Pleasure Resort – Goit Stock, the main attraction was the adaptation of the old mill to house a purpose built dance hall on one floor and a large 1000+ seat restaurant/cafe serving refreshment during the day, on another floor. On the ground floor there was an alfresco and more informal tea-pavilion for light refreshments which served visitors on terraces overlooking a lawn where outdoor dancing took place.
An advertising brochure of the time claimed:
“Many factors combine to make this Popular Pleasure Resort, which is situated in the beautiful Harden Valley, a centre of great attraction for Holiday parties.
Delightful walks and richly wooded slopes abound in all directions, whilst the majestic waterfalls never fail to captivate the eye in regions of enchanting beauty. Spacious grounds are provided for the children, who can partake in unlimited forms of games and amusements.
The well appointed Ballroom meets the demands of those interested in dancing and lovers of this popular pastime are assured of every consideration on their behalf.
There is an up-to-date cafe with accommodation for over 1000 at one sitting. Everything served is of the best quality at reasonable prices”.
Attractions in the Grounds
The grounds provided amusements which catered for all family age groups.
These included a Childrens Corner and paddling pool, swings and a small toboggan run. The old mill lake was turned into a boating lake, whilst other parts of the grounds offered a bowling green and miniature golf course to visitors. An aviary and monkey house were built on site and there was an ornate bandstand used by the Wlisden Brass Band to play concerts during the day.
For those who wanted to experience the woods and grounds there were kiosks selling snacks and for those wanting to sleep under canvas, a purpose built Holiday Camp was available. Fishing in the lake and Harden Beck were also provided for those interested in “the great outdoors”.
Saturdays and Seasonal Events
Costume Concert Parties, popular at the time, gave performances in the grounds every Saturday and on Bank Holidays during the season. Holiday periods covered Easter Monday and Tuesday, Whit Monday and Tuesday and the August Bank Holiday. Other annual events included a May Carnival, July Music Festival, August Athletic Meeting and Carnival and a September Grand Firework Display.
What were advertised as first class bands performed every Saturday and holiday during the season, brochures stating: “All the up-to-date music is played by the Goit Stock Orchestra” Dances were held either in the ballroom or weather permitting, on the lawns.
Transport and Admission
Happy Valley could be reached by train to Cullingworth or Bingley stations. Tram services via Wilsden or Bingley were also available, the last stage of the journey being made by motorised charabanc. Admission to the pleasure-grounds was 6d for adults and 3d for children.
The Happy Valley Fire Disaster 1927
The resort became an increasingly popular attraction as the 1920’s progressed. So much so, that an estimated 20,000 people visited the site on Easter Monday 17th April 1927. Unfortunately, disaster struck Happy Valley on that day.
A report in the Keighley News on Saturday 23rd April 1927 carried the headline Destructive Fire at Goit Stock – £10000 Damage. At about 11.55 a guest who was staying with the Manager, Mr J Dewhirst at his house in the grounds noticed flames coming from the tearoom.
He immediately rang the Bingley Fire Brigade.
The flames spread so rapidly that within half an hour only the four bare walls of the former mill building were left standing. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived the floors and the roof had already caved in and there was little hope of saving the building They also had difficulty in getting an adequate supply of water to douse the flames. Despite these difficulties, the Fire Brigade subdued the flames by 3 am. The heat of the blaze was so intense that it melted the glass in the windows of the building.
The cause of the fire had not been established but it was noted that the ballroom had been “made festive with bunting and streamers for a Carnival held during the day on Easter Monday”. It was thought that perhaps a lighted cigarette had been thrown away and caused decorations to smoulder and eventually burst into flame.
Amongst items lost in the blaze were the instruments of the resident Dance Band and also the instruments of the Wilsden Brass Band who had been playing in the grounds all day for the enjoyment of the crowds. Mr J White, Conductor of the Wilsden Brass Band estimated that the instruments and music destroyed were worth £200.
The Demise of Happy Valley Pleasure Grounds
Despite attempts at refurbishment after the fire, things were never the same again for the enterprise. One of the last attempts at reviving interest was a ten round boxing match held at Goit Stock between Percy Vere (note the play on words!) of Crossflatts and Billy Shaw of Leeds (who won) in May 1932.
In October 1932 Happy Valley and its effects came under the auctioneers hammer. Amongst items sold were: the rebuilt ballroom, the boxing ring, the monkey house, monkeys, ponies donkeys and love-birds. The estate including the pleasure ground was sold for £2700.
The Hidden Valley 1932 to 2011
Since the 1930’s the site has passed through several hands and ideas for use of the land for forestry, building development and even a country gentleman’s club have been mooted. In June 1943 93 acres of Goit Stock estate were sold by auction with several options as to usage. At the time of the auction the house was being used as a Café / Refreshment Rooms. The advertisement for the auction also states that pasture land from the estate was also being used as a market garden.
By August 1943 Goit Stock House was being advertised as a boarding house at three and a half guineas per week.
Hard work by previous owners including George Reynolds, and later David and Adriane Sharples, who bought the site in 1979, have preserved the site as a desirable area for residential Park Homes, touring and static caravans.
Current owners of Harden and Bingley Park Homes Estate, Paul Davis and Julie Dunham have further developed the site which continues to provide an attractive environment for visitors and permanent residents alike. Both see their role as custodians of the site rather than solely owners.
Some of the original mill-workers cottages still exist alongside a meadow in which there is a single ancient chimney which has a slight lean to it. This is all that remains of the original Goit Stock Mill. As the title of a brief history of the area in 1993, author Alana Kent posed the question “What’s that Chimney up There?” My answer is that it is a beacon that calls those in the know to the Hidden Valley and marks a Happy Valley where adults and children alike have enjoyed and continue to enjoy some of the best scenery that our local area has to offer.
Alan Cattell June 2011
The right of Alan Cattell to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by an electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. It has not been possible to trace all the original photographers but acknowledgement has been made where known. If any copyright has been infringed it was done unintentionally and sincere apologies are offered. If advised future prints can be amended.