Lily Hall and its Role in my Family Tree by Heather Morris

I had come upon a puzzling fact: my great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Whitham, born in 1840 at Lily Hall, Heptonstall, had been married twice, and had named a different man as being her father on her two marriage certificates. Elizabeth Ann’s first marriage was to Ishmael Nutton at St John the Baptist church in Halifax on April 27, 1861. She gives her father’s name as William Whitham, her mother’s husband, with the space for his occupation left empty. In the 1861 census Elizabeth Ann Whittam  is a cook at a large boarding school on Hopwood Lane, Park House. So far, so good. The school was run by the Farrar family. John Farrar (1813-1883), also born at Heptonstall, was the “schoolmaster: Classical, commercial and mathematical.”(1861 census). 

When Ishmael died from alpaca poisoning (that insidious job of sorting alpaca wool championed by Titus Salt) on March 17 1876 Elizabeth Ann, became head of the household living at 20 Haigh Street, Halifax, with her sons Charles 18, John 17 and William 14. She also had a lodger, James Hainsworth Leeming, eleven years younger than herself. Five years later Elizabeth Ann married James Leeming, a widower, originally from Horton near Bradford. But here, things get a little more complicated because on this marriage certificate she gives the name of her father not as William Whitham but as James Wrigley, a plasterer. Try as I might I just couldn’t figure this out. Then I learned from Heptonstall church records that William Whitham had died three years before Elizabeth Ann, his ‘daughter’ was born. Completely at a loss I found a person online offering to help with people’s ancestral brick walls in Calderdale. I emailed Roger Beasley of the CFHS one evening giving details of my predicament and, lo and behold, by the time I woke up the next morning he had solved my mystery. He noticed that in the 1841 census at Lily Hall there was a James Rigley, plasterer, living next door to the widow, Sally Whitham, at Lily Hall. Sally herself was no spring chicken at the time. She was a 35 year old worsted weaver with a daughter, Hannah, 12, and a son James, 5. At this time there were eight families living at Lily Hall: Farrar, Thomas Sutcliffe, Gibson, John Sutcliffe, James Wrigley, Thomas Wrigley, Robertshaw (an ancestor of Ollie Roberstshaw who gave the recent lecture to the HHHS) and Hollingrake. It seemed possible that Elizabeth Ann Whittham was the illegitimate daughter of Sally Whittham and James (W)rigley. Though there appeared to be no baptismal record for Elizabeth Ann Whittham, common for children born out of wedlock, there was a record of her birth in 1840 on FreeBMD. Perhaps Elizabeth Ann herself wasn’t aware of her true father when she married for the first time. When I obtained her  birth certificate I found that, sure enough, there is no father named on it, just her mother’s name is Sally Whitham nee Farrar.

Between 1809 and 1811 James and Mally Wrigley, my gt gt gt grandparents, moved from their home on Toad Lane Rochdale to Heptonstall. I don’t know where they lived immediately on making the move over the Pennines but by 1840 they were living in Lily Hall and that building, perched high above the main road from Hebden Bridge, is pivotal in my family history. When their son James Jr. was married to Mary Pickles of Rochdale at St Thomas’s, Heptonstall on March 15, 1840 he was living with his parents in Lily Hall and  his occupation is given as a white limer.  His father, James Sn., is a cabinet maker. A witness to their marriage is Thomas Gibson, a 20 year old whitesmith who was living next door to James at Lily Hall. This Thomas, who, in 1838,   had married Salley Wrigley of Lily Hall, (thus becoming my 4th great uncle) went on to become a well known photographer who lived at Dog Bottom before moving to Crown Street, Hebden Bridge. 

Just two months after James married his first wife Mary Pickles, their next door neighbor, Sally Whitham, gave birth to James’s child, Elizabeth Ann, who took as her surname her mother’s married name of Whitham. On June 11th 1840, only three weeks after Elizabeth Ann was born, at a petty sessions held at the White Hart in Todmorden in front of 2 Justices of the Peace James was acknowledged as Elizabeth Ann’s father and ordered to pay 4s 6p to the Overseers of the Poor in Heptonstall for the maintenance and support so far incurred, and he is further ordered to pay weekly 1s 6p weekly until the child reaches 7 years of age. I can’t help wondering if James Wrigley and his new wife knew that Sally was giving birth to James’s daughter literally in the next room – in Lily Hall.

On learning that I had Wrigley ancestors I began to research their lives and discovered that their building company constructed many of the large buildings in Heptonstall: rebuilt Slack Chapel in 1878, built Heptonstall Board school in 1879, decorated St. Thomas’s in 1908. In Hebden Bridge they were the builders of The Railway Hotel in 1861, Calder Mill in 1863, the old police station in 1863, The Albert Hotel in 1868, Mytholm vicarage in 1870, Hope School and Birchcliffe Sunday School in 1871, Fallingroyd House for Daniel Crossley in 1873, Brearly Chapel in 1874, West Yorkshire Bank in 1874, Stubbings Board School in 1876, Crimsworth, Mytholmroyd and Colden Board Schools, and two of the buildings I have lived in: the Old National Westminster Bank and Cheetham House. 

On a lighter note – from the Todmorden Advertiser, and Hebden Bridge newsletter, August 13, 1920

On a lighter note – from the Todmorden Advertiser, and Hebden Bridge newsletter, August 13, 1920.


Geo. Wm. Day, fish fryer, 2, Lily Hall, Heptonstall, was summoned for not having  his dog under control at night.—Lt.-Col. J. J. Gledhill appeared for the defence. P.C. Ryan said that at 11-50 p.m. on Tuesday, the 27th ult., he was in Smithwell Lane,  Heptonstall, when he saw a cross bred black Pomeranian dog running about the road, and barking, without any one in charge. He followed it home, and told defendant he  would be reported. He replied ” You can do what you like.”—Cross-examined: The dog was half a mile from home. Mrs. Day was not near it. Col. Gledhill submitted that this was a case which never ought to have been brought to court, This was a small dog,  which went every night with Mrs. Day to their fish shop. On the night in question the dog accompanied Mrs. Day home from the chip-shop.Mrs. Day (who produced the dog in court) gave evidence in support of this statement, but the Bench held that the case was proved, and defendant was fined 5s.

If you have information about Lily Hall or the people who have lived in it I’d be happy to hear from you. Much of my own research can be found on my blog:

Heather Morris

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