The story of Lister Hollinrake provides a colourful example of how the people of the Hebden Valley adapted to the changing economic circumstances of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Lister was born about 1848 to Henry and Hannah, formerly Hannah Mitchell, who in 1841 had been ‘the girl next door’. The 1851 census shows the family living at Acre Lane, near Greenwood Lee. While Henry appears to have been producing cotton worsted on a handloom, Hannah was employed as a power loom weaver of cotton worsted. Handloom weavers – men, women and a girl of eleven - worked in four of the five cottages at Acre Lane but some of the women and girls worked in mills. Gibson Mill, built in 1805, was leased in this period by Titus and James Gaukroger who also ran New Bridge Mill. The Returns to the Factories Inquiry Commission in 1833 recorded 74 time-workers in the two mills, 27 males and 57 females, with 35 of the employees being females aged 10-21.
By 1861 only one cottage at Acre Lane housed handloom weavers. In the census of 1871, none of the residents of Acre Lane, Gibson Wood or Gibson Mill cottages were listed as handloom weavers. In 1861 Lister, in his early teens, was working as a power weaver of cotton, as was his mother and his elder brother, John, and they had moved to live near Gibson Mill. The weaving shed (now the Café) had been added to Gibson Mill in the 1840s. In 1867 the Engine Room was built to house a coal-powered steam engine. For 30+ years Lister was employed initially as a weaver and later as a cotton warp dresser, operating the machine which prepared the warp threads.
Living Near the Mill
In 1861, the family was separated with Lister and his brother, John, living with their uncle, Robert Mitchell, in one of the Gibson Wood cottages. Hannah, now a widow, was living with another of her brothers, Thomas Mitchell, in one of the Gibson Mill cottages. Lister was to appear in the census records as living in either Gibson Wood or Gibson Mill cottages until the end of the century. For many of the years, the head of the household was his mother’s brother, Thomas Mitchell, even during Lister’s first marriage to Sarah Jane Wilkinson. It was not until the 1901 census that Lister was described as head of the household. A household could be large in relation to the size of a cottage; in 1881 a Gibson Mill cottage held Thomas, his wife Mary, Lister and two other adults with a baby as boarders.
In the ten years between the census dates of 1891 and 1901, Lister Hollinrake changed his employment - with remarkable results. In 1891, Lister was working as a cotton warp dresser but by 1894, he appears in an advertisement as proprietor of the Pavilion Restaurant. In this period, Hardcastle Crags was an ‘Entertainment Emporium’ with visitors travelling from near and far, by train, carriage or on foot, to walk, boat on the mill pond, ride on the swing boats and take tea. At the same time, production in Gibson Mill was declining, being finished by 1905. Lister was not the only former employee of the mill to adapt to the changing circumstances; Lister’s neighbour, Thomas Shackleton followed him into the catering business at the mill. Lister was clearly successful in his new venture as he could afford to provide teas and medals for the teachers, scholars, ringers, churchwardens and choir of Heptonstall in the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. By 1901, he was sufficiently prosperous to employ a live-in domestic servant.
Lister Hollinrake did not marry young; at the age of 43 he married Sarah Jane Wilkinson from Heptonstall but by 1901 he was a widower. In 1906, at the age of 50, he married Elizabeth Howarth aged 37, of Siddal Grove, Southawram. Having lived most of his life in the area of Hardcastle Crags he made another substantial change to his life - he moved to Halifax. That was not the only significant change. The 1911 Census records that Lister, now retired, and Elizabeth, were living at King Cross with their 2 children; Henry, born in 1907 in Heptonstall and John Willie, born in Halifax in 1910. Lister Hollinrake died in March 1923, aged 75 years.