The Settle-Carlisle Railway: the Naming of Ribblehead Station 1876/7 by Rev Edward Harrison Woodall

Martin Pearson
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Before the railway opened to passengers in 1876 two names had been considered for Ribblehead Station. Firstly Ingleton Road and then Batty Green. There was then an intervention from Rev E. H. Woodall of Settle. The relevant railway history books explain what happened.

On the passenger side of the Settle and Carlisle line the years 1876-1883 saw several additions to the facilities provided when the line was opened. By the time the line was fully opened in May 1876 the finishing touches remained to be put to most of the stations. On June 19, 1876 the Rev Woodall wrote to the Midland Railway requesting that the new station at Batty Green, previously known as Ingleton Road, should be called Ribblehead. This was agreed and from this point onwards, the minutes are mostly concerned with the tying up of loose ends for the first few years of the line’s life.

Emboldened by this the Reverend gentleman wrote a further letter, shortly after, suggesting that the Rev Father Hill should be given a gratuity for his ministrations to Catholic workmen during the making of the line. This did not find favour [Baughan, 1987; Jenkinson, 1980].

Reverend E.H Woodall and the Church

Who was the Reverend E.H. Woodhall? At first glance thoughts would turn to Rev Woodhall being a priest of the Anglican Parish Church. This is not the case at all. He was the Catholic Priest of St Mary and St Michael in Settle which he joined in 1869, becoming their first resident priest. Edward Harrison Woodall was born in Scarborough in 1813. He was baptized on 20th July 1813. His education was at Scarborough School and the King’s School in Grantham. He matriculated on 9th Feb 1832. After that he went to Exeter College, Oxford becoming BA in 1836 and MA in 1841.

He felt a calling to serve God in the Church of England and was ordained deacon in 1838 and entered Priests Orders in 1839, when he was presented by the Archbishop of York to the curacy of Bainton. In 1840 he obtained the vicarage of The Church of St John of Beverley, Salton which he resigned in 1841 on being appointed to the parish of St Margaret’s, Canterbury. He became Rector in 1858. His early Anglican appointments at Salton and Canterbury were almost certainly influenced by family connections. Church records at Salton list Patrons on both his mother and father’s side of the family, whilst it is probable that Rev Edward John Woodall, Rector of St Margaret’s from 1847-57 was a relative, perhaps an uncle. Two church records, one Anglican and the other Catholic, record his name as Woodhall — with an h inserted.

However, in 1859 he became a Roman Catholic. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church at Paris on 15 August 1859 — The Feast of The Assumption. He sought priesthood afresh and was sent to Rome to pursue his studies, entering what was to become the Beda College on 1st December 1860. He was subsequently ordained to the Priesthood on 19th December 1863 at the English and Pio College.

The Kentish Gazette (not really a fan of his) in August 1859 reporting on his secession describes him thus:
A private character without a breath of reproach compelled the sincere respect of those who differed from him most widely in opinion. Few men, we believe, ever have lived more earnest or more sincere. He filled his church, and did more: he won for himself the regard and affection of his congregation. From these many a prayer will follow him and from the poor many a blessing.

In 1864 he was residing in Hanover Square, Leeds, presumably ministering at St. Anne’s. His first appointment was at Myddelton Lodge in Ilkley. It ended quite quickly as William Myddelton wished to have a priest who had always been a Catholic, so he went as a curate to St Marie, Sheffield in late1866 under Rev Samuel Walshaw. A deep friendship ensued. Edward was parish priest in Settle for 20 years from 1869-1889 before returning to his native Scarborough (with the same housekeeper he had in Settle) where he died on 16 October 1892, aged 79. His obituary in The Tablet on 22nd October 1892 reads:
His Conversion to Catholicism was a page in history of the deceased marked with great suffering and trial. He gave up wealth, position and prospects for conscience sake and since his conversion to Rome his life had been one of self-denial and charity.

The Woodall Family

The Woodall family were not just an ordinary family. His father was John Woodall JP and his mother Ann Dowker. His father died in 1835, aged 65, and is buried at Seamer (near Stokesley) Yorkshire and his mother in 1843. He had two older brothers. John Woodall Jr lived from 1801-1879, whilst Thomas Dowker Woodall lived from 1804-1838.

Whilst in the town the Tindalls family built ships and the Sitwells wrote books, the Woodalls once virtually owned and ran Scarborough. For five generations they dominated the Town Hall, accumulated an estate in the borough bigger than the corporation’s and part-owned the town’s bank. An investigation by Crown Commissioners in 1833 revealed that Scarborough was a ‘closed shop’ run exclusively by half a dozen inter-related families. The most powerful were the Woodalls. One was town clerk, another senior bailiff, and three were council members. By marriage the Woodalls were related to more councillors. The oligarchy and landed hegemony did close, abruptly in 1896.

The Catholic Church in England

Rev Woodall’s conversion in 1859 was similar to that of a number of Anglicans at that time, most notably John Henry Newman, later a Cardinal. Newman left the Church of England in 1845 and two years later was ordained as a Catholic priest. Do we know why Edward Woodall made the conversion? The Kentish Gazette gives some clues describing him as a man of Tractarian views. These came from some work by Newman in the 1830’s, Tracts for the Times which emphasised the Catholic nature of the Church of England. However by 1858 there were strong arguments within the Church of England between Tractarians and Evangelicals and at least one case may have been the turning point for Woodall.

The Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Cardinal Wiseman was going through a renaissance. Though Catholics had long enjoyed toleration in England, their Church was governed by vicars apostolic, rather than bishops, and there was no diocesan or parish organisation. In 1850, partly to better administer the large number of Catholics fleeing Ireland because of the famine, the Catholic Church re-established its full hierarchy. For the first time since Mary Tudor, Catholics now had a full hierarchy consistent with that of catholic countries. Thirteen sees and the archdiocese of Westminster were created.

The Catholic Church in Settle

A History of Catholic Life in the Settle, Giggleswick, Lawkland and surrounding areas [Gudgeon, 1999] provides insights.

Lawkland Hall had been owned by the Ingleby Family since 1573 and had become a base for Catholics. Families in the area used a small chapel. By 1788 the family had converted to the Anglican faith. John Ingleby, being a fair man, ordered that a house be purchased and a chapel built for use by Catholics. This became St Oswald’s Church at Lawkland, but was very small, being twenty feet by nineteen.

According to Gudgeon the opening of a new church in Settle marked the beginning of modern times for the Catholic Church. By 1862 diocesan clergy had taken over from Benedictines at Lawkland and the first priest, Robert Garstang wrote that in 1862 he was saying Mass in Settle with five families in a room adjoining the Harts Head Hotel which was used for services. He goes on:

Robert Garstang purchased the house connected with Rope Walk in Upper Settle and Edward Woodhall then built a small chapel there dedicated to St Mary and St Michael which was opened on 20th March 1864. He designed and paid for the Church himself, and it is popularly supposed to be a copy of a church he had seen and admired in Malta. He was the first resident priest in Settle having previously been curate at Middlesbrough Cathedral after earlier experience as an Anglican Minister.

Edward was parish priest in Settle from 1869-1889 where he was ‘universally beloved’.

Edward Elgar was friendly with Father Woodhall and would have been familiar with the church as he would have attended Mass whilst visiting his friend Dr Buck who lived nearby in Giggleswick. Father Woodall was followed in 1890 by Thomas Bradley.

Ordnance Survey — Batty Moss — Mosses The Ordnance Survey still carries the words Batty Moss viaduct. Where does the name come from? A moss is a bog. W.R Mitchell and Peter Fox [2001] in The Story of Ribblehead Viaduct say that photographs of the time show that there was no intrusion on the Ingleton side of the viaduct. A glance at the map shows the reason for this. Here lay the mosses — Gunner Fell Moss and Low Moss, Parker’s Moss and Bruntscar Moss.

What is Batty Wife Hole? What do we know of Mr and Mrs Batty?

Batty Wife Hole is the name given to a pothole where supposedly Mrs Batty met her death. A conurbation was named after this area and the1871 census lists over 70 dwellings, some unoccupied. Mitchell and Fox continue:

The area was pockmarked by swallow holes and natural shafts in the limestone, the most famous of which was Batty Wife Hole, which was invariably filled with water. It was said that Mr and Mrs Batty were ceaselessly bickering and that Mr Batty was not above hitting his spouse. She left home; he became penitent and arranged to meet her to effect a reconciliation. The appointed place was the pothole. When he did not turn up on time, the woman drowned herself. When he found out what had happened he took his own life

and later;

The Batty Family had already bestowed its name on the Wife Hole that was the setting for a double drowning.

Other stories exist. Going back many years Mr Batty was a self-employed man, who was notoriously a cattle-rustler, drunk and wife-beater. Mrs Batty has been described as a harridan. One account is that the name came because it was the place Mrs Batty did her washing; another that he threw her into the hole himself.

The name Batty Green was given to the area where the station now stands [Harvey, 2011]

Why the Change of Name?

As the line neared completion the Midland Railway set about naming stations. Some were obvious, others less so. The first name on the list was Ingleton Road. Whether this was in line, as in Dent, with naming stations some way away from the line is not clear; perhaps it was to have a dig at LNWR. Anyway Midland eventually settled on the name Batty Green until the intervention of Rev Woodall. He wrote to Midland Railway asking that it be changed to Ribblehead.

He may have felt that naming a station after such a family was wrong. He might have heard the story from Father Hill of the suicide of Mrs Batty. He would have argued that the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Church showed that suicide was unlawful, and was condemned by the Church as a most atrocious crime. A Christian burial was denied. The naming of a station after someone who had committed suicide was therefore wrong and that all Christian traditions recognised that. The Midland Board agreed with him and from 1877 the name Ribblehead was used.

The second request for a gratuity for Rev Father Joseph Hill who had worked with the navvies opens up some interesting questions. Joseph Hill, who also assisted Edward Woodall in his duties in Settle, would have been in a position to brief him on all the issues at Ribblehead. The Board did not agree to providing some compensation for Father Hill for his ministrations during the construction of the line.

The response from Midland Railway was typically pragmatic. It did not matter that the reference came from a Catholic priest. For example 6 years earlier in Lazonby they had agreed to a request from the newly-built Anglican Church and the MacLean family to construct a 99 yard tunnel instead of a cutting at the end of the vicarage garden. Similar requests had accommodated other landlords.


Edward Woodall must have been a man of significant character and substance. He came from a remarkable family. Described by the Catholic Church as the son of devout Anglican parents, they were in fact the most influential family in Scarborough and ran it as an oligarchy. Almost certainly they had significant religious connections.

He was aged 46 when he converted to Roman Catholicism and over 50 when he paid for the building of a church in Settle. We know that he must have had money, almost certainly family wealth, to do this. He had clearly travelled. We know of times in Paris, Rome and Malta and doubtless he travelled elsewhere. His friendship with Edward Elgar and Dr Buck was that of an experienced priest with two young musical friends. He knew how to compose a letter and to advocate a cause. The quick response from Midland Railway bears this out.


I have had a lot of help in working through Ancestry Records. I owe a big debt to John Diggles, Churchwarden of Settle Parish Church; Robert Finnigan, Archivist for the RC Diocese of Leeds; and Bob Hookins, best described as my family genealogist. I also thank Becky Loughead of the Lambeth Palace Library. Thanks also go to two members of FoSCL - former Archivist Nigel Mussett for the story about Lazonby viaduct and Roger Goode who assisted on the Batty/Ribblehead story.


Railway Related

  • Baughan, P., 1987. The Midland Railway North of Leeds, Chap. XII, p. 243 David and Charles, Newton Abbott, Devon, 2nd edit.
  • Jenkinson, D., 1980. Rails in The Fells — a railway case study, Chapter 7 p. 51 Pesco Publications, Beer Seaton, Devon, 2nd edit.
  • Mitchell, W. R. and Fox, P., 2001. The Story of Ribblehead Viaduct. W. R. Mitchell, Settle 2nd edit.
  • Harvey, M.R., 2011. SCRCA Structure 247325. Foreground. Part of the site of the navvy settlement; Batty Wife Hole and the spring from which it gained its name. See FoSCL website.

Rev Edward Harrison Woodall

  • Edward Harrison Woodall. Life Story Narrative, Ancestry Records
  • Father Nicholas Hird. Our Fathers in Faith, a survey of 19th Century priests in the Leeds Diocese. Published 2008 by Leeds Diocese
  • Crockfords Clerical Directory. Published 1860 John Crockford, London
  • Oxford Alumni Registers, p. 1601 Parker and Co., Oxford
  • Kentish Gazette, Tuesday 23 August 1859. British Newspaper Archive, British Library
  • St Margaret’s Church Canterbury. Historic Canterbury - List of Rectors
  • Woodall Family in Scarborough. Selected papers by Bob Hookins 2018 Scarborough News Archives, Scarborough Town Hall and Barclays Archives
  • The Tablet 1892, owned by the Rev Herbert Vaughan, later Archbishop of Westminster. Source Robert Finnigan, Archivist for the Diocese of Leeds


  • Gudgeon, R. G. K., 1999. A History of Catholic Life in the Settle, Giggleswick, Lawkland and surrounding areas. From St Mary and St Michael’s Church, Settle
  • Wohl, A. S., 1850. The re-establishment of the Catholic Hierarchy in England
  • Catholic Encyclopedia. Treatment of the sin of Suicide
  • Religion in Victorian Britain, 1980. Volume 1 Traditions. Edited by Gerald Parsons, Open University pp. 31-38.

Batty wife hole navvy settlement © Mark R. Harvey (

Batty wife hole navvy settlement © Mark R. Harvey (