“Sykehouse” doesn’t refer to a building but an area of Broughton – which is why there are so many houses with Syke and Sykehouse in their name up and down Church Street: High Syke, Old Sykehouse, Middlesyke, Sykehouse Farm, Low Syke, Sykehouse, Syke End … It must drive the post office mad!
Sykehouse is probably the oldest part of the town and in old documents is sometimes written as Sikehouse or even Sikus – reflecting its pronunciation. Syke means a stream or beck and Sykehouse means ‘the settlement by the brook’. The stream still exists, running under the road at the foot of the hill just below the cottage. Walking down Church Street in the direction of the town, there’s an old grating by the side of the left hand pavement, if you peer down you can see the beck before it disappears under the road.
Trying to pinpoint when Sykehouse Cottage was built has proved to be quite difficult. We assume it was built at the same time as Old Syke next door, in 1655, and was actually the parlour and parlour loft belonging to Old Syke. The cupboard in the front hall was once a doorway between the two buildings.
We know from an old deed that Robert Hannah owned Sykehouse Cottage in 1777 along with the two cottages across the road but, as a Yeoman of Broughton, he possibly lived elsewhere and let it. Before he died, Robert made provision for his servant, Hannah Walker, on his death, to have ‘liberty to occupy the rooms up the steps on the southerly side of the road at Sykehouse rent free during the term of her natural life, if she chused to reside therein and she keeping the same in tenantable repair’.
Robert Hannah’s nephew was forced to sell the properties ten years later, in 1836, and John Flemming bought them at Public Auction for £136. Hannah Walker was still in the old cottage up the steps and the new owner, John Flemming, was already running the tannery at Low Syke which he had bought in 1822 as sitting tenant; so this purchase made him a considerable landowner in Sykehouse. In 1841 John Flemming’s cottage was now occupied by Moses and Nancy Simpson and their six children. Moses was a ‘paviour’, probably responsible for laying all the cobblestones on the pavements and floors of barns and outbuildings in the area. In 1856 John Flemming’s sons sold Sykehouse Cottage to William Walker, a woodmonger of Broughton.
The 1861 and 1871 censuses show a Cole family living in the cottage with three of their six children. John Cole, now a widower, was still there in 1881 but, at some point, moved to Lodge Terrace, near the railway line, where he died in 1888. It is difficult to say who followed John Cole. The order of dwellings noted in the census is different every time and so there is much guesswork.
In 1912 there was a large sale of the properties owned by William Walker. He had a family of seven sons and a daughter and the sale was to provide them all with their share of the estate. Sykehouse Cottage and the cottage up the steps were sold for £157 to J C Walker and occupied by Thomas Hadwin who remained there until at least 1920, when Mr Walker sold the properties to R T Johnstone for £160.
James Lowther bought Sykehouse Cottage for £90 in 1933 but by 1944 he had sold it to Dr W G Southern for £500. Dr Southern moved Norman Whinerah and his sister into the cottage, probably in 1945, as the doctor needed their previous house for a surgery. In 1982 Norman Metcalfe bought the cottage from Dr Southern’s widow for £400 and finally it was bought by us in 2008.