Industry and Wealth

Little is known for certain about the activities of the first settlers: we can assume they were involved in the woollen trade - the first firm evidence comes from 1823.

The first electoral register, that for 1840, provides evidence that the community was reasonably wealthy. At the time, there were property requirements to qualify to vote. 18 of the 52 heads of household qualified and would have qualified as voters before that date. This proportion, approximately 30%, was over twice the national proportion, so there is evidence that this was a reasonably wealthy community.

As industrialisation made home production of cloth less viable, one would have expected the community to become less well off but this overlaps with the period in which members of the community put up money to establish the chapel so the community cannot have become destitute in the way one might imagine.

The first census, 1841, records a shopkeeper in the village and by the 1950s there were grocers, sweetshops, butchers, greengrocers, a cobblers and a garage, Amongst these was a Co-operative Society. This had come to birth when the Co-op in Slaithwaite was asked to open a branch in Scapegoat Hill but thought there would be no profit in such a venture. The community determined to form their own society, opening a shop in 1880. This expanded to include a shoe repair department and a butcher's. Later, a Post Office was added. By 1920s sales were almost £90,000 (almost £5m in today's prices) and membership was over 1000 in the 1930s. The enterprise gained the vernacular name of 'The Co-op at the Top', not just because of its height but because it paid a higher rate of dividend than other, nearby societies.

The Co-op provided the scene for one of the few crimes committed in the village. In 1947 the store was broken into and the thief, attempting to cover his tracks set fire to the building. The event was celebrated in verse by local poet, Stoney Wood. The Co-op eventually closed in 1977 and although an attempt was made to take on the shop, it did not meet with success.

As the population became more mobile, the range of shops dwindled rapidly so that now Scapegoat Hill, which once claimed to be 'the highest self-contained village in England' has no shop at all.