The People of Post-Medieval Castleshaw

In the 1600s England was a very different country. Medieval manors and monastic estates were being sold off in bits, and houses were being built using more stone than timber.

There are several hamlets in the Castleshaw Valley. These were usually made up of large farms buildings housing many families. Bleak Hey Nook is one of these hamlets. Bleak Hey Nook doesn't appear in records until about 1750. The stone buildings that make up Castleshaw were built from about 1600 onwards, probably replacing earlier wooden buildings.

Yeoman farmers built walls around parcels of common moorland in a process called 'enclosure', which took place from around 1600. Enclosure helped to improve the land and farming and the farmers built the farmhouses, cottages and other buildings that were to form hamlets like Bleak Hey Nook. The early inhabitants cut peat off the moors to use as fuel and they made a living through weaving. They were carrying on a local tradition of enclosure and homemade textiles. In the 1830s there were up to 30 independent textile manufacturers in Castleshaw churning out goods destined for the Americas.

Find out more

The National Heritage List and Greater Manchester Historic Environment Record retain details of the listing descriptions for each of the listed properties at Bleak Hey Nook.

Articles and specialist reports:

  • Arrowsmith P 2010, The Castleshaw Heritage Trail Project: Preliminary Archaeological and Historical Research – 2010

Places to go

Saddleworth Museum and Art Gallery retains a good deal of historic information for Bleak Hey Nook, including deeds, trades directories and photographs. These are available to researchers by appointment.

Nineteenth-century census documents are available online or at local record offices.