William the Conqueror gave the land of the Colne Valley to Ilbert de Laci, who was the Lord of Pontefract. De Laci was a Norman, whose principal castle was at Lassi in Normandy. William gave him 204 manors in Yorkshire. The history of the succession of the Manor of Marsden is complicated and involved much subinfeudation, many times reverting to direct ownership by the king (including, for a time, John of Gaunt). A detailed history is given by D F E Sykes in The History of the Colne Valley.
In the Domesday Book, the area of Marsden is described as Waste. The land was owned by Lewsin, a tenant of de Laci. At the time of Edward III, it was a forest used by the lord as a hunting area, one of the conditions on which tenants held land there being that they escorted their lord back to Pontefract after hunting. In 1232, de Laci was made the Earl of Lincoln.
The Subsidy Roll of Richard II lists no properties in what was obviously an impoverished Marsden, and only 20-30 inhabitants in the next village of Slaithwaite (Slaxthwaite).
In the Subsidy Roll of Henry VIII, two people are listed in Marsden - John Mellor and John Shaw. At this time, Holmfirth was the principal town in the area. The Hearth Tax of 1666 shows that there were over 80 dwellings in Marsden. In the same tax, Slaithwaite had 78 households, one in six of them being Sykes.
Queen Elizabeth sold the manor of Marsden to one Edward Jones, for £29. Later, the manor passed to the Greenwoods, and by the 18th Century, it was owned by the Radcliffe family.
1557 - approx 400
1666 - approx 550 in 82 houses
1750 - approx 700
1798 - 1950
(250 people died of black fever this year)
1831 - 2340
1891 - 3855
1911 - 5757
1921 - 5960 - population peak
1991 - 3873
2001 - 3499
2009 - 4450