The Hemingway Family of the Walterclough, Southowram…and a Brontë Connection

Some Hamlets and Townships of Dewsbury mentioned in this article:

“CHICKENLEY, a hamlet in the township of Soothill, and parish of Dewsbury, liberty of Wakefield, 1¼ mile SE. of Dewsbury.” Chickenley was a farming hamlet…between Dewsbury and Ossett.
“EARLSHEATON, in the township of Soothill, and parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 1 mile E. of Dewsbury, 4 from Wakefield.”
“GAWTHORPE, in the township of Ossett, and parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 2 miles E. of Dewsbury, 3½ from Wakefield, 8 from Leeds.” An old story is that when a maypole was built in the Gawthorpe area of Ossett in 1840, men from Chickenley came to tear it down. Famous for its maypole and “World Coal Carrying Championships”.
“HANGING HEATON, in the township of Soothill, and parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 1 mile N. of Dewsbury, 5 from Wakefield “mentioned in the Domesday Book as the village of Etun…”Hanging” refers to the steep hillside hanging above lower ground. Heaton means “high farm”.
“DEWSBURY MOOR SIDE, a hamlet in the township and parish of Dewsbury, liberty of Wakefield, (the seat of Abraham Greenwood, Esq.) 1 mile W. of Dewsbury, 6 from Wakefield.”

Derivation of the Hemingway Name

HEMINGWAY English (West Yorks) : apparently a habitation name from an unidentified minor place in West Yorkshire, probably in the parish of Halifax to judge by the distribution of early occurrences of the surname. The placename is from the personal name Hemming + ME wey way, path (OE weg). Var HEMMINGWAY (Note by CW: Hem or Hemming being a Danish personal name)

Dictionary of Surnames, Hanks & Hodges, Oxford, 1998

HEMINGWAY – It derives from a minor locality in either Hipperholme or Southowram, which cannot now be identified. It became very numerous in the Calder Valley between Brighouse and Dewsbury. 1309 Richard de Hemyngway, Hipperholme (YAS36, 1379, William Hemyngway, Southowram (PTY), 1474, John Hemmyngway, Southowram (YAS39), 1545, Richard Hemyngwey, Northowram (Th11

Surnames and Genealogy : A New Approach, George Redmonds, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1997

The Earlsheaton Hemingway family and its origins in Southowram, Halifax

My maternal grandmother, Lilian Maud, was born Hemingway. Our Hemingway ancestors, many of them textile workers and manufacturers, can be traced back from Soothill Nether Parish (Earlsheaton and Chickenley), now in Kirklees, to the family’s earliest known residence at Walterclough in Southowram, Halifax in the 14th and 15th Century.

My Grandmother Lilian Maud Hemingway and her youngest brother Albert Percy Hemingway abt 1900

Robert Merton Hemingway 1807-1878

Lilian’s father, my great-grandfather, Herbert Hemingway, was born in 1846 in Barnsley. At this time, his father Robert Merton Hemingway, a textile engine maker and mechanical draughtsman, who had been born in Chickenley, moved temporarily to Barnsley, with his family, in order to further his profession. Robert and his wife Jane had lived in the parish of Soothill, in the village of Earlsheaton (adjacent to Chickenley), but three of their children were born in Barnsley. Jane and Robert returned from Barnsley to live at Chickenley Heath, then a hamlet, when Herbert, their seventh child, was a small boy and their daughter Rachel was baptised in Dewsbury in 1851. Later they moved to Hanging Heaton, near Gawthorpe in Soothill Upper parish.

Thomas Hemingway 1787-1867

Robert Merton’s father, Thomas Hemingway, my third great grandfather, and his wife Rachel Hutchinson, brought up their twelve children in Soothill, possibly originally in Chickenley and/or at Little Royd, Earlsheaton Lowside.

Thomas wove blankets at Little Royd Mill below the steeply sloped part of old Earlsheaton (just below St Peter’s Parish Church). He is shown in the commercial directory of the time…

Thomas Hemingway, Blanket manufacturer, near Church.

Pigot’s Commercial Directory of 1818, 1819 and 1821

Thomas would be typical of the small manufacturers in Lowside at the time. By 1822, there were 38 blanket weavers listed at Lowside and by 1830, the number had risen to 40. However, maps show that, even as late as 1833, there was little new development of Earlsheaton Lowside as a village.

In 1841, Thomas was still at Littleroyd. At some stage, he moved out of Littleroyd, probably selling the mill to the Preston family, and he built a new mill at Scarr End, down towards Mitchell Laithes bv the side of the River Calder. Scarr End Mill is known to have burned down in the late 19th century. Littleroyd Mill is still there today, in part, though it is a mixture of old and new buildings.

Thomas Hemingway moved to Batley before his death, which leaves the question of whether he became engaged in shoddy and mungo manufacture, which was the principle industry there. He died in 1867 and a will summary reads:

The Will of Thomas Hemingway formerly of Earlsheaton in the Parish of Dewsbury in the County of York, Manufacturer, but late of Batley in the County of York, Gentleman, deceased, who died 12th January 1867 at Batley aforesaid, was proved at Wakefield by the oaths of Edmund Hemingway of Batley aforesaid, Bank Manager, the Son, William Audsley of Dewsbury aforesaid, Book-keeper and John Jonhnson of Dewsbury aforesaid, Cardmaker, the Executors.

With the passing of Thomas Hemingway, mill owning had come to an end in that branch of my family.

Benjamin Hemingway 1759-1839

Thomas’s father, Benjamin, was a blanket manufacturer at 11 Chickenley, a village adjoining Earlsheaton. Blanket manufacture was the main products in Dewsbury for generations and it was to become one of the main places that army blankets and military uniforms were manufactured during the First World War.

Hemingway in Soothill (Earlsheaton and Chickenley)


Map showing the Dewsbury parishes of Soothill and Soothill Nether, including the villages and hamlets of Earlsheaton, Chickenley, Chickenley Heath and Gawthorpe

Our Hemingway line can be traced back from Thomas (1786-1867) as follows:

  • Benjamin of Chickenley (1759-1839, clothier and blanket manufacturer). Wife Hannah Whitworth 1761-1841. In 1822 Baines Directory and Gazetteer/Directory for Chickenley, under Blanket Makers is Hemingway Benj.
  • Benjamin’s father is Henry (1720-1786), wife Dolly Preston (1725-1802).
  • Henry’s father is Thomas of Soothill (Earlsheaton and Chickenley) (1679-1741), wife Grace Fearnley (1680-1748).
  • Thomas’s father is “Richard of Littleroyd” (1655-1720 Yeoman farmer and land owner), wife Susanna Padgett (1654-1726/7). Richard’s will was proved in 1721. He farmed closes of land owned by James Oates and held in his own name messuages, barns, stables, orchards and closes and parcels of land at the Sands, Earlsheaton and at Littleroyd Earlsheaton.
  • Richard’s father is Thomas of Earlsheaton (1604-1668), wife Alice Acrode (1622-). Will proved 1669 Thomas Hemingway [Extract] Pontefract DAB f21. This Will did not survive storage at the Borthwick Institute, but the Institute provided an abstract from the Probate Act Books as follows: “On 29 April 1669 administration of the goods of Thomas Hemingway late of Earlsheaton, York diocese, deceased, was granted to Alice Speight alias Hemingway, widow and relict of the said deceased, sworn before Dr Broome, surrogate.”
  • Thomas’s father is “Richard of Earlsheaton” (1577-1643), whose wife was Ffrauncis Archer (1582-1643). Richard moved to Earlsheaton from Southowram. He was Churchwarden of Dewsbury Parish Church, in 1632 (perhaps encouraged or promoted by his father-in-law, Thomas Archer, who also served as Churchwarden at the same church).

Richard Hemingway of Earlsheaton and Southowram – Migration of the Hemingways from Southowram, 1577-1643

Richard, born 1577, my ninth great grandfather and known as Richard Hemingway “of Earlsheaton”, is the direct connector with the family of Hemingways of Southowram.

The first indication of the origin of Richard Hemingway of Earlsheaton was found by researcher Cecily Sterry (who sadly died in 2012). Her research shows that Richard was the son of John Hemingway and Agnes Maud, of the Walterclough, Southowram. An Abraham Hemingway had settled near to Earlsheaton, at Gawthorpe, and Cecily Sterry found that he was Richard’s older brother. Their parents John Hemingway and Agnes Maud lived at the Walterclough, Southowram and all the children of the marriage were born in Southowram.

Brothers Richard and Abraham had inherited some property following their father John’s death in 1587, when Richard, the youngest of nine children, was only ten years old. The will of “John Hemyngway, of the Walterclough”, was proved on the 15th December 1587, and he described himself as “yeoman”. His will gave directions for the payment of his debts and funeral expenses before going on to state:

“John Hemyngway of the Walterclough desires that his goods should be divided into three parts, of which his wife Anne is to have one part, one other third part he bequeathes to John, Arthure, and Anne, his children, to be divided equally amongst them. Grace, his daughter, is to have 6s. 8d. provided her husband — John Wilkinson– should release to the executors “all manner of demands to my goods”.

Also, the will continues, ” I will and devise to the said John Hemingway, Arthur, Michael, Abraham, Richard, Marie, and Anne, my children, all that messuage and tenement, houses, lands, etc. in Southowram, which I, the said testor, occupied in the life of Thomas Hemingway, my late father, deceased, and also, one close of land and pasture called ‘Jony Ridinge’ in Southowram, etc., for the term of 21 years, at the yearly rent of 8s. To Marie and Anne, my daughters, either of them a chist.” 

All the children, together with the wife, were to be executors of the will, “trusting them lovingly and freely to agree together”.

Richard (b 1577) moved to Earlsheaton from Southowram, possibly at the very beginning of the 1600s, when in his twenties. He married Ffrauncis Archer in Dewsbury in 1604. (Ffrancis’s father, Thomas Archer, was my paternal 10th great-grandfather through the Archer line, one of many co-incidences in my family tree.)  

Abraham, Richard’s closest brother in age, had settled in Gawthorpe, and he may have been one of the first Hemingways to settle in the Dewsbury area.

Richard possibly moved to be near his brother, who was only two years older…imagine two young men with an inheritance looking for an opportunity in an area where textile manufacture was on the increase.

Richard settled at Littleroyd in Earlsheaton.

Little Royd and St Peter’s Church 1890s. Map extract reproduced by the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The route that Richard and Abraham would have taken was via the ancient Halifax to Wakefield Pack-horse Route, which passed through Dewsbury, Earsheaton, Chickenley Heath and Gawthorpe; the distance would have been about 12 miles in a straight line between Halifax and Gawthorpe, a distance easily covered on horseback in a few hours in good weather. This route was later improved by the building of a Turnpike Rd and parts of the old route, called the “Magna Via” (great way) or “Wakefield gate” are said to be still visible at Beacon Hill Bank, outside Halifax, and at places where the more recent Turnpike Rd took a detour and left the old stone paved route in place. One of the earliest references to the Via Magna was in 1497, when a piece of land in Southowram was defined by “the highway leading from Barrowclough in the north”. The route was even more ancient than this, being an extension of the Roman Road from Manchester to York…remains of this Roman road are visible on the Pennines, close to where I live, near the Castleshaw Roman Fort site.

Soothill Nether 1892, Earlsheaton, Chickenley and Gawthorpe, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

I have wondered why people would migrate from Halifax to Earlsheaton and Gawthorpe during the late 16th and early 17th century, when most folks in the West Riding stayed in the parish of their birth. Perhaps it was to set up a new business, to take possession of some land or to work with a family member who had already moved there, or even to marry! The Local population studies web page shows another factor which might have influenced a move. Between 1596 and 1600 there was a huge fall in the price of wheat and wool and that may have influenced young men to move to a new town to look for new opportunities. Martin Dearnley, another Hemingway researcher, has suggested an alternative…

“Richard had an eponymous younger cousin once removed, Richard of Dewsbury Moorside, who married Ann Acrode (20 June 1603). As young men, the two Richards moved from Southowram, near Halifax, to the Dewsbury area, possibly because the plague was rampant around Halifax at the time.”

Little Royd Earlsheaton and St Peter’s Church (my parish church as a child) in 1906. Map extract reproduced by the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.

We don’t know exactly why Richard moved, but we do know that he stayed in Earlsheaton and made his living there. Perhaps the fall in wool and corn prices meant that the income from his inheritance had fallen drastically. Perhaps, indeed, he was escaping the plague. He and Ffrauncis Archer had six children together, three boys and three girls, at least four of whom survived to adulthood. Richard died in Earlsheaton, aged about 66, in 1643, just a few months after his wife and his cousin, Richard of Dewsbury Moorside, had also died. Co-incidentally, there was an outbreak of the plague in Dewsbury in 1643, so maybe it caught up with him in the end after all.

Notes: Recent research (in 2018) has found another Hemingway in Dewsbury about that time. A Robert Hemingway married Mercye Acrode in 1614. He could be Richard's brother, who was eight years older, possibly his second marriage, as Mercy Acrode was 25 years his junior, she being 20 and Robert being 45 at the time of the marriage. Robert may have previously married Eden Lyster at Halifax in 1590.

Hemingway of the Walterclough, Southowram

Richard of Earlsheaton’s Ancestry

With additional help from Cecily Sperry’s’s original work and Maurice Hemingway’s one-name study, I have traced, as confidently as I can, our own Hemingway line from Richard of Earlsheaton back to the 15th century:

  • Rychard HEMYNGEWAYE (of Earlsheaton)  was born at the Walterclough, Southowram, in 1577, and died in 1643 in Dewsbury Parish, WRY, Yorkshire, England. He married Ffrauncis ARCHER on 17 JUL 1604 in Dewsbury, WRY, Yorkshire, England. She was born WFT Est. 1563-1587, and died 1643 in Dewsbury Parish, WRY, Yorkshire, England.
    Rychard’s father was:
  • John HEMYNGEWAYE  born Est. 1535  and died NOV 1587 in Southowram, WRY, Yorkshire, England, “of Walterclough”. He married Agnes (Ann) MAWD on 26 OCT 1556.
    John’s father was:
  • Thomas HEMYNGEWAYE born abt 1486. He married Anne Longbottom in 1535. They had seven children and he died at Walterclough Hall, Southowram in 1579.

Two possible lines from Thomas

From here on it becomes difficult, but the accepted ancestry for Thomas Hemyngewaye born abt 1486, to date, is as follows:

  • Robert HEMYNGEWAYE was born in 1460 in Southowram and died at the Walterclough on 29th August 1539.
  • Robert HEMYNGWAYE was born abt 1440. He held property at Southowram and held the post of Constable of Hipperholme.
  • Henry Hemyngewaye born Hipperholme abt 1410, was appointed Constable of Hipperholme in 1453.

Alternative ancestry for Thomas Hemyngewaye born abt 1486, proposed by researcher, Cecily Sterry is as follows:

  • Richard Hemingewaye born in Southowram Est. 1450-1464
  • John Hemyngewaye, who died at Walterclough in 1526

Poll Tax Records 1379

Traces of the Hemyngewaye family can be found in Southowram from the 1300s. The earliest record found so far is in the Southowram Poll tax rolls of 1379, two men with their wives. 
Willelmus de Hemyngway & uxor iiij.d
Johannes de Hemyngway & uxor iiij.d.

(The iiij.d. refers to the 4 pence tax levied from each man and wife.

Wakefield Court Rolls

There were also Hemyngewayes in nearby Hiprum (Hipperholme) and it is possible that our family originated there. The earliest recorded reference found to date is from the 1307 Court Rolls of Wakefield that mention:

*1309 Thomas and Richard de Hemmyngway fined at Hiprum (Hipperholme) for allowing their beasts to stray.  Note: The inference from the “de” is that they owed their surname to a minor locality in the neighbourhood of Hipperholme.

* 1358 William de Hemingway 4 acres in Hiprum (Hipperholme) to Robert Pinder. Wm Hemingway Senior 1 acre called Wilham Ryding to Wm de Hemingway Jnr.

* 1403 John de Hemingway Clifton.

*1419  Wm. Peresson, constable of Clifton, presented John Hemingway of Thornyals for not attending the turn, 4d.

* 1457 John Clytf and John Clay, both of Hyprom, brewed helpales. Ric, Smyth, Thos. Roide, and Henry Hemingway, all of Hiprom took turves from Shelf waste.

* 1456-1474 John Hemmyngway (Southowram) Yorkshire Deeds, 10 volumes.  A John Hemyngway of Southowram witnessed several deeds and another John Hemingway was said to be of Thornhills in Hartshead parish.

* 1507 John Rideynge being dead, Ric. his son paid 9s. heriot for a messuage and a bovate. Tunis, Oct. 20 and May 9. Juries, Ric, Dalton, Wm. Rookes, Ric. Lokwood, John Rookes, Ric. Longbothom, Gilbt. Saltonstall, John Batt, Thos. Priestley, John Rammesden, Ric. Northclyff, Ric. Aynelay, John Hanson de Woodhous, John Thorp, Ric. Jagger, Ric. Sunderland, Rob. Hemingway, Henry Sharp. Elizth. Bynnes, widow, conveyed 1 acre formerly waste to John Asshworth, Esq., and John Wilby. Ric. (?filius John Rideing paid 9s. heriot. Wm. Skoldcote conveyed edifice and lands in Hyperholm to himself and wife Johanna.

Distribution of the Hemingway name by 1630

By 1630, there were now about 100 Hemyngways in Yorkshire and the distribution of the surname was predominantly in Southowram.  George Redmond (Surnames and Genealogy: A New Approach, George Redmonds, New England Historic Genealogical Society: 1997) found that, although Southowram continued to be the family’s main stronghold, some families, notably clothiers, had settled a few miles west, in the Heptonstall area, and one or two moved either north into Bradford or south into Huddersfield.

However, the migration to Birstall, Mirfield and Dewsbury was more significant and there were eventually other major concentrations of the surname as far as Selby (30 miles) and Wetherby (24 miles) and one or two Hemingways settled in the commercial centres of York (36 miles) and Hull (60 miles).

1881 Census

At the 1881 census 80% of Hemingways in the UK still lived in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Walterclough Hall, Southowram and the Brontë Connection

“Walterclough Hall, sometimes known as Water Clough Hall or Upper Walterclough, lies in the Walterclough Valley southeast of Halifax and northeast of the village of Southowram in the West Riding of Yorkshire, alongside the Red Beck. The Hall was originally built by the Hemingway family, first recorded there in 1379 and in residence until 1654. ”


The upper hall fell into disrepair and was demolished in about 1979. The branches of the Hemingway family owned and lived at several adjoining homesteads in and adjacent to the Walterclough in Southowram. The original holding was divided into three, Upper, Lower and Little Walterclough and the earliest traceable owners are the Hemingways. In 1375, John Hemyngway, son of William held 27 acres, John Hemyngway, son of Henry held 24 acres and William Hemyngway, son of William held 27 acres belonging to the Manor of Cromwellbottom. These were probably the three Walterclough homesteads.

walterclough CW small
Note: Most of the information that I have gathered about Walterclough Hall is from other researchers. With thanks to Maurice Hemingway, Malcolm Bull's Calderdale Companion, Wikipedia, University of Pennsylvania et al.  

In the will of a Richard Hemingway, clothier, of the ‘New House’, (later called ‘Sunnybank’) situated on the other side of the clough, dated 1588, there is mentioned a Richard Hemingway of ‘Low Marche’ in Southowram. At York there is a will of Thomas Hemingway of Southowram, cornman, in 1571. Other Hemingways lived at Northodes, (later named Northroyd, and later still, Clayroyd,) a homestead adjacent to Walterclough.

Walterclough and Sunnybank in 1892. Map extract reproduced by the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Walterclough Hall itself was built in about 1379 and occupied by the branch of the Hemingway family from which I am directly descended. The building was extended over the centuries and additional upper stories and wings added.

Sale to William Walker

The Brontë connection with Walterclough Hall is well documented. The Hemingways occupied the Hall for almost three hundred years, until 1654, when it was sold to a William Walker (1596–1676). William Walker’s second son, Abraham, who succeeded him at Walterclough hall, was drowned in a canal and the Hall passed to his son Richard, then to Richard’s son John (1699-1771). 

John Walker farmed the land and became a prosperous woollen manufacturer, amassing some wealth during his working life. He and his wife Ruth had four sons of their own and adopted a nephew called Jack Sharp. After John retired and left the area, Jack Sharp was left in possession of the family business and of Walterclough Hall, though he was not legally the owner.

When John Walker died, his heir, also John, who was at the time residing in York, wished to take up residence at Walterclough and gave his cousin Jack Sharp notice to quit the Hall. Jack retaliated by destroying many of the Hall’s fixtures, furniture and heirlooms. He then mortgaged the estate (how is not clear as he didn’t own it) and left Walterclough Hall with only two rooms furnished. Then Jack Sharp built his own house at Law Hill, very close to Walterclough, using the proceeds of the mortgage. Sharp then proceeded to engage one of John Walkers nephews to work in his business and contributed to the boy’s own ruin by encouraging him in excessive drinking and gambling. Does this is all sounding familiar?

Some years later, a Miss Patchett opened a Ladies’ Academy at Law Hill House and Emily Brontë taught there for a while. Emily was unhappy at Law Hill and felt that she was being overworked, as she was used more as a governess than a teacher and consequently she only stayed six months. However, during that time, Emily must have heard of the scandal of the previous owner of Law Hill House and the story of the Walkers of Walterclough Hall.

It is believed that the story of Jack Sharp and the Walkers gave Emily the inspiration for the characters of Heathcliffe and the Earnshaw family in her novel “Wuthering Heights”. Walterclough Hall itself does not closely resemble the description of the hall at Wuthering Heights. There are other old halls in the area which may have provided the inspiration for her setting, in particular Top Withens near her own family’s Howarth home.

Law Hill School

Law Hill School, Southowram
Law Hill School, photograph by Martin Evans. This image is published here under the Creative Commons International License 4 via Wikimedia Commons.  

The Demise of Walterclough Hall

By 1870, Walterclough Hall had become a young ladies boarding academy. Elizabeth Ann Gregory ran the academy with her sister, Emma and their brother, Charles.  In 1871, there were two governesses, a cook, and a housemaid, and, in 1881, a governess, a cook, a kitchen maid, and a housemaid. She may also have employed four children, paying them with an education, free board, and lodging. Today, the site of the former Hall is part of Walterclough Hall Farm of Walterclough Lane, Halifax, but the hall itself has largely disappeared. The demise of the hall is made clear in this quotation from a Calderdale historian,

By 1913, when Arthur Comfort sketched the Hall, it was almost entirely unoccupied and in an advanced state of dilapidation with many broken windows and the interior in disarray. During World War II, the Hall’s windows were shattered by a bomb dropped nearby by a German bomber. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the only part of the Hall which remained standing was the façade onto the yard and the rooms immediately behind it, together with the attached single storey kitchen. These remnants were demolished in the late 1970s.

Walterclough Hall pictured on another web site.

Further Research opportunities:-

  • The Returns for Yorkshire West Riding of the Poll Tax 1379, Council of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association, London 1882.
  • CC136/1/7/3: Title Deeds – Calderdale – Southowram Township – Walterclough, Southowram, West Yorkshire Archive Service – Calderdale, Halifax.

Last updated Feb 2021