Memories of Calderdale

Dobroyd Castle, Todmorden


Alan Thomas

In the summer of 1951, I was on Filey beach with four friends and we came across a party of youths aged between 14/16 years who were playing beach cricket. They appeared to be under some kind of supervision, and, as they were all identically dressed in khaki shorts, we assumed they were from an institution of some sort. It emerged they were from a Home Office approved school based at Dobroyd Castle, Todmorden and were on a day out under the watchful eyes of the Headmaster, Mr Walker and some of his staff. We were invited to join them in their beach games and towards the end of the afternoon Mr Walker invited us to visit them at the Castle. I should point out that Mr Walker had three daughters, two of which were in our age group, and they too were on the beach with his wife who acted as School Matron.

We arranged to go for tea the following Sunday and were given a warm welcome at the headmaster's house which was adjacent to the castle. After a splendid tea, we were given a tour of the castle which was most interesting as Mr Walker was extremely knowledgable about both the building and the family who had built it, the Fieldens.

During the course of the tour, we were taken into one of the attic rooms which contained a large quantity of long bars of carbolic soap. These bars were stacked in such a way that it allowed air to flow on the maximum number of surfaces possible and we were told this was to harden the soap, prior to it being cut into hand-sized pieces. Whether this was done for reasons of economy or as part of the punishment regime, we were never told. It could have been a bit of both!

On being taken around the stable block, part of which had been used as garages, we were surprised to see, under covers and in pristine showroom condition, a car from the 1920's. I believe it was called a Star but I am not absolutely certain of this. Apparently, it had been left there by the previous owners of the castle. All in all, we spent a most enjoyable time and thanked our hosts for their kindness and courtesy.

It had been raining quite heavily during our visit and we were unable to walk around the grounds and in view of this, the Walkers invited us to make another visit. We arranged to visit in a fortnight's time and once again enjoyed tea and cakes followed by a walk around the grounds. The extensive grounds were quite well tended, no doubt by the inmates, and our walk finished up somewhere near Todmorden Cricket ground – I believe.

During these visits I had become friendly with their eldest daughter and arranged to take her out on the following Saturday in my brand new Morris 1000 car. To my eternal shame, I cannot recall her name but I called at the castle on many occasions before the Walker family were posted to another appointment in Rutland. We corresponded for some time afterwards, but as is often the case, we eventually lost touch and I have often wondered what became of this very nice, friendly family, Therefore may I appeal to anyone reading this if they know what became of the Walker family, would they please let me know.

Memories of my visits to Dobroyd Castle were evoked a few years ago when I paid a visit during the National Heritage Weekend. I am sure the stacks of carbolic soap were long gone, as was the Star car in the garage

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 10:26 / 30th May 2021 / 5153

Page Ref: M_6

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