Pre-history. Evidence from flints show primitive tribes hunted on the moor tops. Valley sides were forested and valley bottoms marshy; unlikely to be settled. Around 7000 years ago climate altered becoming wetter causing run-off from hill tops and deforestation.
After successive invasions by Romans, Vikings and Normans, the region became settled, the hillsides between Sowerby, (South Town) and Cragg Valley were cleared and cultivated, agriculture, iron smelting, will production became the local industries; mills for corn as well as wool began to use the power of water rushing down the valley sides. The whole of the district then called Erringden was enclosed for a royal deer park.
During Mediaeval times the valley bottoms were drained and were able to accommodate the settlers who farmed, spun and wove the cloth grown on the hillsides by the sheep; sheep farming being more to suited to the climate and topography than grain growing.
Until 1805 water was the chief power for mill operating but soon steam was preferred being more controllable. Mills became larger and situated in towns, more people came to live in the area, small bodies were required to clean in and around machinery leading to abuse of children and enrichment of the mill owning families. The Factory Act of 1833 led to more mechanisation rather than child labour. It was during this period the Rochdale canal was dug with the ability to carry more goods between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge. Pack horses still tramped the hill roads carrying woodland finished goods between Burnley and Hebden Bridge but soon the railways proved more effective.
During the last part of the 20th century as cotton goods were produced cheaper in India and man made fibres replaced much of the organic goods, the mills became disused. However an interesting local trade was born. Mr Thornber from Mytholmroyd invented the battery hen. Soon every Tuesday morning the platform of the Mytholmroyd station were heaped with crates containing the hybrid chicks developed by Thornber’s company to be sent all over Britain, Europe and as the Far East. Spare land on the hillside became colonised by chicken sheds.
As you drive between Cragg Vale and Sowerby you pass Turkey Lodge which is a reminder of the now defunct chicken trade and is now, Like Top Land Business Park on Cragg Road a small business collective, the little chicks on the name board indicate the previous use of the land as do some of the sheds, now home to concerns like Little Valley micro brewery.