Machpelah House, Hebden Bridge

About 1842, Machpelah House was built by Stephen Fawcett, the grandson of the Baptist minister Dr John Fawcett.

Dr Fawcett bought the land on which it was built in 1803 and gave it the name Machpelah – the name of the cave which was used as a burial place by Abraham in Genesis – as it was intended to be Fawcett's burial place. Having seen a lot of havoc in many overcrowded public cemeteries, Dr Fawcett hoped that

his flesh might rest in hope, and his bones remain undisturbed till the great resurrection day

His wife died on 30th March 1810 and she was buried at Machpelah, but she was later disinterred.

An increase in buildings and population in the immediate neighbourhood spoilt Dr Fawcett's plans.

He arranged that on his death – which occurred on 25th July 1817 – he and his wife should be buried in the grounds adjoining the chapel at Wainsgate.

Dr John Fawcett may have lived at Number 12 Machpelah and not Machpelah House.

In 1803, [Source 8] records the sale of the northern portion of Hardy Brink, a part of King's Farm. The indenture is between Richard Patchett, Thomas Foster, of Park in Erringden, and Rev John Fawcett, of Ewood Hall. The description of the land

thereafter to be called and known by the name of Machpelah

The houses that were built for Rev Fawcett and his family were what are now known as 12, 14 and 16 Machpelah. Whether the top workshop 16a existed then is not known, but is likely to be a later development as no mention is made of their existence in early documents and surely Rev Fawcett would not want to retire and be buried in such an environment. His brother, Richard Fawcett of Ewood Hall arranged for fire insurance before the move on 29th September 1805. Through a Royal Insurance fire mark (now gone) on number 12, an entry was traced by a previous owner to their records [Source 1] .

It was for

a building stone slated containing 4 houses situated near Hebden Bridge at present unoccupied and known by the name of Machpelah, value not exceeding £200 on each

Rev Fawcett is likely to have lived in what is now number 12. At one stage, some people thought that he resided in Machpelah House, [Source 2] but there is more evidence to suggest that Machpelah House was built in the 1840s as suggested by the date stone of 1842 in the side of the chimney. In 1802, a contemporary writer [Source 3] , discussing the area in his youth, confirms that the plantation planted by Dr Fawcett extended from what are now Machpelah works, by the station road, to where Crossley's houses begin (number 1 New Road). Opposite

the only houses were those belonging to Mrs Stephen Fawcett and occupied by herself, Mr T H Wade, and Miss Moss; the plot of land adjoining, upon which is now built a house of Mr Abraham Cockcroft, was Mr Fawcett's garden

Work on the censuses 1841 to 1891 identifies these houses as 12, 14 and 16, and Mr Cockcroft occupied Machpelah House in the 1851 census [Source 4]

Another piece of the jigsaw is provided by the will of Stephen Fawcett [Source 5] , Rev Fawcett's grandson. He gave and devised his then

newly erected dwelling house at Machpelah Hebden Bridge the outbuildings gardens and appurtenances thereto belonging and then in occupation of Abraham Cockcroft to his son John Fawcett

John was also bequeathed other houses and messuages in the occupation of Miss Wade, Miss Ann Moss and George Sowden with the warehouse occupied by Abraham Cockcroft. The house which Stephen lived in was left to his wife and after her death or marriage, it was to go to his daughter, Elizabeth. His daughter was also left

the house Mary Wade, William Ackroyd, George Astin and Thomas Wilkinson then occupied, each of them with the rights privileges also the chamber on the same floor with that Thomas Wilkinson then lived in ...

The plantation on the canal side became the joint property of both son and daughter. This information again matches with the census and rate book information [Source 6] . As Stephen was born in 1806, he could not be describing a house built in 1805 as being newly erected so Machpelah House cannot have existed in 1805. Map evidence would also suggest that it was built in the 1840s. It is not on a map dated August 1841 [Source 7] nor on the Ordnance Survey map printed in 1848 but surveyed earlier.

Hebden Bridge Railway Station opened in 1840/1841, and at some point Machpelah House was used as a storage warehouse for goods (mainly fustian) which were awaiting shipment by rail


  1. Photocopy of an entry for fire insurance shown to Diana Monahan by Frank Horsfall who lived in No 12 Machpelah and had obtained the photocopy from the Royal Exchange. Also referred to in an article by Frank Horsfall in [Source 2]

  2. Frank Horsfall: Machpelah and the Rev Dr John Fawcett. Article in Hebden Bridge Literary and Scientific Society, Local History Section Booklets, Vol 4 Published 1983

  3. Old Hebden Bridge & its People published in 1882 author unknown but born in 1804

  4. Census

  5. Will of Stephen Fawcett [23rd September 1874]

  6. General District Rate Book made by the Local Board for the District of Hebden Bridge, 24th June 1874, 27th December 1876. (Halifax Library Archives HEB577, HEB578) 

  7. Map August 1841, Surveyor Chas Child. (SU 328 in Halifax Library Archives) Fawcett – Account of the Life of Rev John Fawcett (published 1818), p318 to 325, p343 and p373

  8. Wakefield Archives Deed [Ref EM p606 no 818 1803]

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:58 / 28th May 2021 / 9065

Page Ref: MMM2

search tips advanced search
site search by freefind