Dawson City

Dawson City

Life at Dawson City wasn(t all poverty and hardship as these youngsters happily at play seem to prove. The girls( pinafores certainly look well-washed! ALGC. (241)

The "Hutted Township" of Local Legend

In the early 1900s a strange "hutted township" appeared at White Nook, Heptonstall, home to several hundred men, women and children.

Dawson City has gone down in local folklore as the most famous of the temporary settlements established over the years to serve various needs in the Calder Valley.

The origins of the settlement were simple enough. Dawson City was built to house the hundreds of navvies and their families who descended on the Upper Calder Valley in 1901 to build the reservoirs at Walshaw Dean. A remarkable railway (featured in issue 8) linked the workers' settlement and depot near Draper's Corner, below Heptonstall Slack, with the reservoirs on remote moorland five miles away.

Local press invited to view "the great undertaking" in the first year were impressed with the clean and tidy appearance of the workers' huts - "airy and comfortable, though rough in appearance."

By 1902 Hepton Rural Council was drawing attention to the "disgraceful state of things" at Dawson City, where children were dying soon after birth, drainage at the lodging houses was deplorable and "shebeening" was a growing scandal, however.

Beer was being sold in unlicensed premises, and brawling and fighting were common-place. The plight of mothers and children was particularly distressing.

By 1908, when the reservoirs were officially opened, the settlement was virtually a ghost town. The railway continued to run for a few more years but that, too, was demolished in 1912.

Reviled by many, home to a lawless group of navvies and their families forever on the move, Dawson City has nevertheless earned a unique place in local legend that lives on to this day.

Read the full story in Milltown Memories, issue 9. If this or other stories stirs a memory, we'd be happy to know - send us your memories and comments.