Two Old Sowerby Bridge Houses:
Broadgates, Alias Underbank

Published in Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, vol. ix, 1910, pages 27 through 37

The precise date at which the family of Waterhouse first settled in Skircoat is not clear to me, but there is no reason to doubt that the first member of the name to take up his residence there was ROBERT WATERHOUSE, the third son of Richard Waterhouse of the Hollins in Warley. We cannot find any definite mention of the first place of settlement in Skircoat, but it is on record that Robert Waterhouse was Constable of the Township in the year 1454-5, and the mere fact of his holding such an important office marks him as being a man of more than ordinary influence and estate, for the old Constables of the 15th Century were often men of good, even high position, and it was left to the 18th century to degrade the office. Thomas Dekker in the "Gull's Horn Book " first published in 1609, says ;—

"All that are chosen Constables for their wit go not to heaven," but as we know nothing of the latter place we prefer to think that here at least our old Constables were men of wit and learning, and did not degrade their offices in the North as was undoubtedly the case in the South of England.

It seems a far cry back to the days of King Henry the Sixth, and the year which saw the commencement of the thirty years' struggle between the rival Roses, and local history of this period is shrouded in a veil which leaves much to the imagination, and that gift is one in which the careful Antiquary may not deal. Of Robert Waterhouse, therefore, we know little, except what may be gleaned from his will, and it is to documents of this character, happily preserved to us, that we owe much of our information of the early foundation and rise of our local families.

This will bears date July 20th, 1481, and Robert Waterhouse desires that his body should be buried in the churchyard of Halifax, and that his best beast should be given to the Vicar as mortuary according to the ancient custom. To Margaret Wood is bequeathed two shillings and to Thomas Horsfall one gown. "Also I leave to the fabric of the belfry of Halifax Church 12d." The residue of all his goods, the testator placed at the disposal of Johanna, his wife, and John Waterhouse, his son, whom he appointed Executors of his will. Probate was granted Sept 10th, 1481. (Hx. Wills).

It is evident that this was the year in which his death occurred—the year following the death of Vicar Wilkinson—in whose vicariate great alterations were made to our Parish Church. The bequest to the belfry would lead one to think that it was then in process of building, but this is by no means a certainty. It is traditionally said to have been twenty years in building, and as we know that it was not completed in 1471, and also that bequests to the fabric of the Tower extend over a period of from 1459 to 1481, it is probable that the tower was then completed. A bequest to the "fabric" does not necessarily imply that the building was in process of erection.

Robert Waterhouse was the ancestor of the various branches of the family, which are found residing in Skircoat at a later period, but with which we have no concern at present.

JOHN WATERHOUSE, the son and heir mentioned in his father's will, and who came into his estate was, I take it, one of the Trustees appointed under the will of John Midgley, who had, previous to the date of the will, 1533, surrendered land in Halifax in order to provide a yearly income to be expended on 10 or 12 lights (candles) to be kept burning bofore the High Altar of the Parish Church in honour of the Blessed Sacrament, and to provide the wherewithal for a mass to be sung at the High Altar for the repose of his soul, and that of his wife. (Halifax Wills).

John Waterhouse died in 1534, leaving an interesting will which is dated February 1st, 1533. He is described therein as of "Skircote the elder," and after directing his burial in the Church of St. John the Baptist in Halifax, he bequeathed the sum of 4 shillings towards the "battillyng" of Sowerby Bridge. This item tells us that the then newly erected stone bridge over the Calder was to be made safer for the ever increasing traffic into Lancashire and was to be embattled, in other words was to be equipped with a parapet on each side to prevent the packhorses and foot passengers from falling into the river. Again, John Waterhouse bequeathed the sum of twelve pence to the "amending" of Salterhebble Bridge, and these two items serve to emphasise the importance our old yeomen and clothiers attached to the local bridges which were so necessary in their trading pursuits, as providing their means of intercommunication with the sister county.

In the will are mentioned the sons of testator, Laurence, a priest, who has the courtesy title of " Sir," Edward, John, the son and heir, Robert, and sons in law, Henry Batt of Birstall, and Richard Haldesworth, who had married Margaret and Sybil, his two daughters, respectively.

To Edward Waterhouse five pounds was devised to be paid to Richard Haldesworth in five years after the death of John Haldesworth his father, and also ten shillings per annum to be paid by John Waterhouse, the son and heir, during the natural life of Lady Savile, late wife of Sir John Savile, Knt., and also one half of the profits of certain new houses in Halifax, late the property of Gilbert Waterhouse, testator's brother.

To Robert Waterhouse, his son, debts amounting to twenty pounds were bequeathed. To Isabel Elistones a bed and a hive of bees, to Agnes Northend a "saltynfat (salting-vat), and one arke," "to John Waterhouse, my son, an ambre (cupboard) and a chymnette (fire-range) of yrne," to Margaret, his daughter, a bed, a hive of bees, and ten shillings in money, to Sybil his daughter, a bed and ten shillings in money, and to his son, Sir Laurence, a bed. To his son, Edward, the testator bequeathed all his "shappyn clothes" and this item suggests a distinction between clothes which could be purchased ready made such as the cloak or mantle, and those specially cut by a tailor as the doublet and trunks then in vogue. The executors of the will, which was proved Sept. 23rd. 1534, were Sir Laurence Waterhouse, son, and Henry Batt, son in law. (Halifax Wills.)

JOHN WATERHOUSE, the son and heir, obtained December 27th, 1535, a grant from Henry Savile, Lord of the Manor of Skircoat, of a close called "Barstowe Hayes" divided into four closes, and also another close called "Priestcarre," both in Skircoat, at a yearly rent of twenty shillings. On March 28, 1540 (31 Hen. VIII.) he obtained from Sir Henry Savile Knt. a grant of "one acre of land of the Waste of Skircoat, of which one acre lies between Childer Clough on the east side, and Bache-clough on the west," to have and to hold for ever, paying annually to Sir Henry Savile the sum of four pence, with suit of Court and suit of Mill: that is, the tenant, John Waterhouse was to make the customary attendances at the Courts of the Manor of Skircoat, and grind his grain at the Lord's Mill. Of the two cloughs mentioned, I can identify only one, Bache Clough, or more modernly Beech Clough, which is evidently what is now the lower end of Warley Clough, and which apparently bounded the ancient estate of "Bache" or Beech, so called from the house of that name.

John Waterhouse died in 1545, and was buried at Halifax Feb. 10th of that year. His will does not mention definitely his place of abode, but would seem to imply that Woodhouse was the home of the family at this date. He bequeathed to Anne Waterhouse and Jane Waterhouse, daughters of his brother Edward, forty shillings each, to be paid by "Elizabeth, my wife, at such time as my said wife shall think convenient, if they, the said Anne and Jane, will be councelled by my said wife." To Elizabeth, his wife, was bequeathed the half part of a Corn Mill called Mearclough Bottom Mill, with all profits to the same belonging until such time as John Waterhouse, his eldest son and heir, should be of age, and when that period had arrived, the half part was to be divided equally between them during the lifetime of the mother and after her decease, to John Waterhouse, the said eldest son. A provisional clause was inserted in the will so that, in the event of Elizabeth Waterhouse marrying she should lose all claim to this share of the Mill. To Elizabeth, his wife, John Waterhouse devised the third part of the profits and unexpired terms in all lands in the County of York which he then held.

"Also it is my will that if Michael Waterhouse, my younger son, die before he comes to the age of twenty-one years without issue of his body lawfully begotten, that then all such interest and term of years as I have of and in one tenement, called Woodhouse in Skircoat, shall remain unto the said Elizabeth, my wife during her widowhood and after that if she be maried again or die, then the same to remain to the said John my son and heir." with remainder in default of issue to Robert Waterhouse, son of Gilbert Waterhouse, testator's uncle.

John Waterhouse, and those who should occupy the Corn Mill, were to make use of the stone, timber, ways and gates, in and about the ground called Woodhouse "as hath beyne usid and accustomed." Mention is also made of the "Walke Milnes" in Norland, the unexpired term of which is devised to John Waterhouse, also a house called "Grenehouse" situate in Baildon.

The trade of John Waterhouse, the elder, is well set forth in the following bequest:—

"Unto the said John, my sone, too greate arkes, a greate pressorre, sexe paire of walker sheres, one yron chymneyth, four paire of loomes, too greate turne presses, and four paire of tentoures," so that here we see the outfit of a local clothier in the first half of the 16th century, and the last years of the reign of Bluff King Hal.

In addition to the children of John Waterhouse already mentioned, the will mentions three daughters, Isabel, Effame, and Sibill, who, with the wife, were appointed executrices and to whom the residue of the estate was devised. The probate was granted Aug. 19th, 1546, to Elizabeth, relict, Isabel, and Effame, Sibill being then under age. (Halifax Wills).

Mr. Walker in his book "Vicar Favour and his Times," gives John Waterhouse, whose will I have just quoted, as of Newhouse, otherwise Broadgates, but I have not been able to find his authority for the statement, which is not borne out by the evidence at my disposal apart from the will itself which does not mention anything of the kind. We know by the will of Richard Boye, of Ovenden, that the house was in existence under the name of Broadgates in 1558, for John Waterhouse (son of the last-named) of the "Brod Yattes" is named as a supervisor, therefore he must have been living there at that time. But after all the house itself is the best evidence, for in one of the upper rooms can be seen a large oak beam, which appears to me to be one of the wall plates of the original building, bearing upon its outer surface a deeply cut inscription about twelve feet in length and one foot wide, which reads as follows:—


The lettering of the above is in the quaint fashion of the 16th century, and was undoubtedly done to commemorate the completion of the work in the year named. The first initials are presumably the initials of the builder employed on the work, the second, those of John Waterhouse for whom it was built. This inscribed beam is a remarkable piecc of work, and is in splendid preservation, but little else remains in the house, as it stands to-day, which would indicate to a casual observer the great antiquity which some parts of the structure possess, and there is undoubtedly much more hidden in the walls.

JOHN WATERHOUSE had evidently been brought up to follow the trade of his father, and we must regard the Broadgates of that period as situated overlooking the the village of Sowerby Bridge, with lands surrounding it on all sides, its tentercroft, and all other institutions necessary for a yeoman clothmaker, whilst no buildings intervened between it and the river Calder, where at Mearclough Bottom rumbled away the old Water Corn Mill in which John Waterhouse had also an interest.

John Waterhouse held tenements in Skircoat under Thomas Savile, of Copley Hall, and in the will of the latter in 1569, was a trustee under it in a matter which is of sufficient interest to mention here. Certain monies, for which the son, Robert Savile, was bond, to perform requirements of the will for the benefit of the younger daughters, were to be paid yearly in the Parish Church of Halifax, on the anniversary of the burial of the testator: and were to be received there by Anne Savile, the widow, John Waterhouse, of the Broadgates, Michael Waterhouse, brother of the last-named, James King, of Willow Hall, John Brigg, and Edward Wilkinson, or some of them, and the money was to be spent in wool or other wares at the discretion of the persons named, and sold for a reasonable profit for the use of the four daughters of Thomas Savile, to some person of credit upon good security, but it was "in no wise to be lent for usurie."

Michael Waterhouse, brother of the builder of Broadgates, lived at Woodhouse, and he was twice married, the second wife being Cecilie, widow of William Rayner, by whom he had a son named Nathaniel, who became a man of mark in Halifax Parish, and is best known in these days as the founder of the Waterhouse Charities. This by-the-bye. To return to John Waterhouse, with whom our concern is, he married an Armitage, of Huddersfield, who predeceased her husband. The will of John Waterhouse is dated 24th December, 1571, and he is described as of "Newhouse" and this, I think, would imply that this was the name by which he called his homestead as being newly built, but from the other facts already mentioned, Broadgates must have been the old name for the ground on which it was built, for, as we shall see, the term "Newhouse" did not survive. The will orders that all his debts should be paid, and Anne, his daughter, should have 100 marks (£66 13s. 4d.) and John Waterhouse, his bastard son, the sum of twenty pounds. In the event of his goods, after payment of debts, funeral expenses, etc., not being of a sufficient value to pay these two legacies, he wills that

"forth of all my lands and tenements called Newhouse in Skircoat or elsewhere (my copyhold land excepted), the said Anne, my daughter, to have and take of the first issues and profits of all my said lands 100 marks for her preferment, and after she have received the same, then the said John, my bastard son, to have and receive forth of the said profits, twenty pounds."

After the before-mentioned legacies had been disposed of, the testator desired that the lands and tenements called Newhouse and Barstowe Heys, and all other lands in Skircoat should remain to Michael Waterhouse, his son, and his heirs for ever. To John Waterhouse, his bastard son, a farmhold at Bailden was devised during the term of the lease. To Michael Waterhouse, all terms of years in one Corn Mill in Skircoat, paying the rents due for the same and if the said Michael should die under the age of 21, the same was to remain to John Waterhouse, testator's eldest son and heir.

Thus we see that there was also a legitimate son named John in addition to the illegitimate one already named.

To John Waterhouse, the son and heir, were devised all messuages, lands, etc., in Norwood, Hipperholme, Brighouse, or elsewhere in the parish of Halifax of the east part, and all his part or portion of old mills and lands thereto belonging, so that the same may descend to him. Also the lease and term of years in certain lands and tenements called "Newland Hall" (Norland Hall). Mention is also made of Testator's brother-in-law, John Armitage, who is to have the "guiding rule and order" of John Waterhouse the son and heir, and Anne, his sister, with their goods and lands. Michael, the younger son, and John, the bastard son, were placed under the guardianship of Michael Waterhouse, of Woodhouse, testator's brother. The executors appointed were Michael Waterhouse, brother, and John Armitage, brother-in-law, and the supervisors John Waterhouse, of Shibden Hall, and John Batt, of Birstal. Witnesses to the will appear to have been summoned in force for there are no less than ten signatures appended, to wit, Anthony Waterhouse, Richard Waterhouse, Robert Waterhouse, James Kinge, William Kinge, John Brigge, Edmund Paslewe, John Stansfeld, John Becke, Edward Kingestone. Probate granted 19th March, 1571-2.

JOHN WATERHOUSE, the son and heir, married a daughter of William Cowper, of Dean House, and he resided at Norwood Green. With him we have no concern at present, except to refer the curious for particulars of some of the Southowram estates, to the account of the owners of Southolme, given by Mr. Lister in the Proceedings of this Society for 1908, page 196, where some details of this John Waterhouse's ownership may be found.

With MICHAEL WATERHOUSE, the new owner of Broadgates we have a change in the Christian name for the first time. He was a scholar, and is described in a deed of 1586, as of "Clarehalle in Cambridge," of which University he was a Master of Arts. He is mentioned in the Savile Rental of Skircoat for 1581, and in 1586 we have, under date 2nd December, 29 Eliz., a Release from Robert Savile, of Copley, son of Thomas Savile, late of same deceased, William Savile, son and heir of Robert Savile, and James Hill, of Skircoat, clothier to Michael Waterhouse and his heirs, of all rights, title, etc., in one close, called "Barstoweheyes," in Skircoat, and in one close, called "Priestcarr," in Skircoat, now in the occupation of the said Michael Waterhouse. Sealed and delivered, in the presence of Isaac Waterhouse, son of Laurence, Isaac Waterhouse, son of Michael, John Waterhouse, brother of within named Michael, and John Hemingwaye.

Michael Waterhouse made his will March 23rd, 1597 (40 Eliz) and is described therein as "Master of Arts remaining at the Brodegates." He leaves his soul to God and body to be buried in the Parish Church of Halifax or elsewhere as God shall appoint. All his debts, funeral expenses and church duties he ordered to be paid out of his goods and rent of his lands and the lease of a Corn Mill until the said debts are discharged.

"I next give and bequeath to William Lister, Vicar of Kirkbye or Wakefield and Mr. Broadley preacher at Sowerby £20 from the rents of all my lands next after payment of my debts, etc., to be bestowed upon the poor, the most of it or all on those within the parish of Halifax."

To Michael Brooke, his sister's son, testator bequeathed ten pounds to be taken out of the lands and the lease of the Mill, next after the legacy to the poor.

To John Waterhouse, of Hull, "my father's base son" ten pounds to be retained next from the rents and lease, desiring him and testator's cousin Isaac Waterhouse, of Woodhouse, to dispose of one hundred pounds out of the rents also to "the discharge of my duty and promise elsewhere specified, at the end of sixteen years if the party live so long, and in the meantime to discharge at least the duty I owe him for loss by my default." What this obligation was is not stated in the will, nor have I been able to find out, but it was to be taken up and paid out of the rents of the lands at Broadgates and the lease of the Mereclough Bottom Mill. He made Caleb Waterhouse, his cousin, his wife and children, tenants for the term of twelve years, paying during that period £18, and upholding the housing and buildings upon the premises and also one half of the Mill and dam, with leave to have timber found at the discretion of the executors. The rent of £18 was presumably for Broadgates, and it was an annual rent which was to go towards the payment of the various legacies before mentioned and the residue of it testator gave to his brother John Waterhouse's (then deceased) heir. Isaac Waterhouse, of Woodhouse, and John Waterhouse, of Hull, were appointed as executors. "Moreover, I give my Chest unto my sister Annie." Witnesses: Edward Sunderland, Isaac Waterhouse, George Thorpe. Probate granted 22nd July, 1601, to Isaac Waterhouse, sole executor.

Broadgates appears to have passed to the nephew of Michael Waterhouse, and son of John Waterhouse, his brother, and therefore once again a JOHN WATERHOUSE is installed in the estate. It is not absolutely clear, however, as to how the Norwood Green branch obtained it, unless it was under the will of Michael Waterhouse. This is the most likely channel, as it may have come under the residue clause in the will which is somewhat vague. In any case we have contemporary evidence that in 1586 John, the brother of Michael, was dead, for in the Shelf Court Rolls of that year, John Waterhouse, the new owner of Broadgates, was his son and heir, and he (the latter) is mentioned in the Manor Rolls of Skircoat in 1598 for the "Brodyates." He was the John Waterhouse, of Norwood Green, who made his will 21st September, 1620, proved the following year, in which he mentions his messuages in Skircoat, and his moiety of a water corn mill there, but not by any special names, but there is sufficient to identify it with the Broadgates estate. In the will the Skircoat property is devised to a son, Isaac, for a term of ten years with a proviso that if another son, Joshua, pay to him a certain sum, this was to be void. The will suffers all the Skircoat estate to descend to a son, John, provided that if he convey all in fee simple to Joshua, then a former bequest of three messuages in Hipperholme to Joshua shall be void and remain to John, if not, then the former devise remains.

I confess that, under this will, I could not tell to whom the Skircoat estate was to descend, or who got it eventually, owing to the many contingencies and provisoes; fortunately, however, there is a deed which explains the matter. The Waterhouse family were soon to part company with Broadgates, for, shortly after the death of John Waterhouse, of Norwood Green, one Abraham Crowther became the tenant, and in 1636 he purchased from John Waterhouse, son of John Waterhouse, of Norwood Green, and Joshua Waterhouse, his brother, described as of London, haberdasher, their shares of the Broadgates estates. An Indenture of May 4th, between the two Waterhouses, John Spincke of Fairburn, Yorks., and ABRAHAM CROWTHER, tells us that the latter became possessed both of Broadgates and the moiety of Mereclough Bottom Mill for the sum of £800. Crowther is described as a "Chapman," and, we presume, that he was a merchant of woollen cloths. Little appears to be known of him and, beyond the fact that he had a dispute with Samuel King, of Lower Bairstow (now Lower Willow Hall), in 1655, I have nothing of interest to record.

His will is dated 16th March, 1657, and he is described as of Broadgates. To his wife Ann he bequeathed all his lands in Skircoat, to wit, Broadgates, in his own occupation, the moiety of a water corn mill called Mereclough Mill, then in occupation of himself and Elizabeth Waterhouse, widow of Richard Waterhouse, for her life, and also a messuage, at or near the place called Skircoat Town, in Skircoat, which he had lately bought of Anthony and Thomas Gill, in occupation of George Carter.

The Broadgates and the moiety of the mill were then bequeathed to his eldest son, Henry Crowther, for his life, with reversions to his other sons Abraham, John, and Samuel, in succession, and £140 out of the estate to Samuel.

Residue of estate to daughters Susannah and Ann, the former the wife of Michael Oldfield, and the latter the wife of John Waterhouse, appointing them executrixes.

Reversion of messuages in Skircoat Town were to go to the son John and his heirs male, with reversion to Samuel and Abraham.

To maid servant, Mary Crowther, five pounds.

To his apprentice, Grace Crowther, twenty shillings.

To his wife Ann, her thirds.

The next tenant of Btroadgates was one John Wainhouse, and he, like his predecessor, became purchaser, for in 1674 we have an Indenture, dated 27th Chas. II., wherein Abraham Crowther, late of Driglington, Clerk, sells Broadgates to John Wainhouse for the sum of £600, and also the Mereclough Bottom Mill. This Abraham Crowther was, at one time, the master of the Hipperholme Grammar School.

Robert Waterhouse, the first person written of above, was my direct ancestor (through his son Gilbert) so I have more family data online.

Go to Waterhouse wills.