THE OLD HALFWAY HOUSE AND MATTY MARSDEN LANE, HORBURY

The Halfway House, on the Ossett - Horbury border has always been a popular pub with a long history. Matty Marsden Lane runs alongside the Halfway House and the grounds of Rock House, but where does the lane get it's well-know name from? We hope this article solves the mystery once and for all, for "Matty" wasn't Mathew, but Martha.

Halfway House

Above: The Old Halfway House with the signpost for Matty Marsden Lane to the right of the building. Photograph is © Copyright Betty Longbottom and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

The Old Halfway House Horbury stands at the junction of Westfield Road and Matty Marsden Lane but until the mid 19th Century, this stretch of Westfield Road, as far as Sowood Farm, was known as Denton Lane. The Halfway House displays signs of several alterations over the years and includes some stonework along the road frontage which suggests 18th Century beginnings. Evidence suggests that the dwelling was built in the first half of the 18th Century, possibly in the late 1730s, by Joseph Marsden (1714-1758). Joseph was a grandson of Francis Marsden, who acquired Sowood Farm, then known as Sowood House, in 1676. Francis rebuilt the farm house in 1689.

Several generations later, in 1841, the Marsden family were still living in the same Denton Lane dwelling built by Joseph Marsden some 100 years earlier, perhaps in readiness for his 1739 marriage to Mary Peace. In 1841 Joseph’s great grandson, Frank Marsden (1817-1886), lived in the only dwelling on Denton Lane in Horbury Parish. Things didn’t go too well for Frank and by 1851 he was residing, at Her Majesty’s pleasure, in the Debtors’ Prison at York Castle, in debt due to the failure of his cloth manufacturing business, Messrs Wilson and Marsden. In Frank’s absence his wife, Eliza, and his children remained living in the Denton Lane dwelling, probably until the mid 1850s. By 1857 the dwelling in which the Marsden family had lived since about 1740 was known as "The Halfway Beer House."

By 1866, and perhaps by 1861, the Halfway Beer House had become The Green Man. This coincided with the arrival of a new landlord, John Nichols, a fish dealer and beerhouse keeper from Sleaford in Lincolnshire. John Nicolls remained as landlord until, at least, 1871 but by 1881 Staffordshire born, John Bourne became Innkeeper and re-instated the name, Old Halfway House, which now stood on, what was now known as, Ossett Road. John Bourne was replaced by 1891 when a local Horbury man, Charles Green took over as Innkeeper.

There was another change by 1901, by which time, Norfolk born, John Hudson had become the Beerhouse keeper of the Old Halfway House Inn, on Westfield Road. John Hudson remained the Beerhouse keeper in 1911 when he, his wife and three adult children lived at the six roomed Halfway House on Westfield Road. Two of the children were working as Elementary Day School teachers in local schools.

Let us rewind to late January 1866 when Nathaniel Illingworth, aged 69, had the misfortune to turn left instead of right while leaving The Green Man on his way home to South Ossett. It was a cold and dark January night and Nathaniel became lost and confused. Whilst two men had encountered him in this state in the following early morning they didn’t see fit to help the old man and at 7 a.m. that morning, Nathaniel died from exposure to cold at the foot of Storrs Hill, close to the stone quarry. Coincidentally, Nathaniel was also the great great grandson of Francis Marsden of Sowood Farm.
Matty Marsden Lane Nathaniel's final journey would have taken him down Matty Marsden Lane. In the same way that Denton Lane1 drew its name from the Denton family who lived at Sowood Farm in the 16th Century, Matty Marsden Lane drew its name from the 18th & 19th Century Marsden family who lived at the dwelling, later the beerhouse, situated at the junction of the two lanes.

Left: Matty Marsden Lane, © Copyright Betty Longbottom and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

But who was Matty? His or her identity evaded Horbury’s renowned historian, Ken Bartlett, though Ken was sure that Matty Marsden was in some way connected to the Sowood Farm Marsden family. As usual he was correct. In late 18th & early 19th Century Horbury, and elsewhere, Matty was an alternative name for Martha2.

Two women by the name of Martha Marsden, mother and daughter, once lived at the dwelling that became The Halfway Beerhouse. The first was Martha Marsden, the wife of Frank Marsden (1751-1797) who was the son of Joseph Marsden. Frank and Martha lived at the dwelling form about 1780. Sadly she was widowed in 1797 by which time she was the mother of nine children, one a babe in arms and the eldest child was also called Martha Marsden (1778-1852). This fact alone, a 39 year-old widow with nine young children, may have been sufficient for her to be remembered in the name of the lane adjacent to her home.

That she also had a daughter named Martha Marsden may have led to one of them becoming known as Matty to differentiate one from the other. Martha junior married in 1802 so it is likely that the two Martha Marsdens lived there for (at least) 20/25 years.

The lane itself is likely to be an 18th century creation, linking Denton Lane to an old, perhaps ancient, route across Storrs Hill to Horbury town. This lane would also have allowed access to the dwellings on this old route which are shown on a 1795 Wakefield Manor Estate map. The lane, already established by 1795, would thus be well used by the Marsdens and this too may have been further reason for the naming of Matty Marsden Lane.

References:

1. Denton Lane drew its name from the Denton family who occupied Sowood Farm in the late 16th Century. Eight members of the family, and five others, died of the plague in Summer 1593. All were buried at Denton’s House, known today as Sowood Farm.

2. By way of example, in January 1803, Joshua the son of William and Martha Rayner was baptised at Horbury. In November 1804, William, the son of William and Matty Rayner, was baptised at Horbury.

Alan Howe, April 2015