From Cottage to Mill (2022) by Bob Hirst

The following is the OCR text of a book and will likely contain conversion errors. This page is designed to be indexed by search engines. Click on a page number to view the book in your web browser.

Please note that the text is not in the Public Domain and should not be reproduced further without the express permission of the copyright holder or their estate.

Page 1


Page 2

Text Copyright © Bob Hirst 2022

The right of Bob Hirst to be identified as author of this work have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights of distribution, includi g ia film, radio, television I I I duction, audio storage media, el ic data st di d tl inti i

Page 3

From Cottage to Mill

A family story of clothiers and woollen manufacturers in the West Riding of Yorkshire

Bob Hirst

Page 5



The process of writing a history; who I'm writing for; the use and importance of sources; how I’ve tried to deal with clarity and complexity.

Chapter 1 Introduction

My personal interest in Wilshaw and why I came to write this book.

Chapter 2 Greave and Wilshaw


Introduction to Wilshaw; tts earlier history; Greave in the late 18th century; 19th century descriptions; a hamlet of clothiers; brief introduction to the main characters of the story

Chapter 3 Early Greave Hirsts


Zachariah Hirst and eldest son John; the house built 1777; how people heard about local, national and world news; events around 1777 and later; the American Revolution; the Worsted Committee; Brooks of Thickhollins Hall; the main events tn the Hirst family after 1777

Chapter 4 Cloth making


The woollen manufacturing process; preparation (scouring,

Page 6

Chapter 7 Getting to and from Greave in the 18th century


Highways around Greave up to the late 18th

Page 7

Chapter 12 Joseph Hirst — manufacturer, 1836 — 1849

Page 125

A description of worsted cloth and its manufacture; the rise of worsted manufacture in the West Riding; why Joseph Hirst might have moved from woollen to worsted production; Joseph setting up at Wilshaw farm; Joseph’s means of production; leasing of Manor Mill at Meltham Mulls; a description of Meltham Mills in 1851; introduction of looms to the mill at Wilshaw; a model of the structure of woollen production in the first half of the 19th century into four organisational units; how Joseph Hirst fitted into this model; vertical integration of woollen production.

Chapter 13 Joseph Hirst — manufacturer, 1850 — 1874


Partnership with Richard Barnicot; the Great

Page 8

Chapter 17 Joseph Hirst - Father of the Village

Page 178

Role of paternalism in Victorian soctety and economy; the worker's perspective; the work of Robert Owen and Titus Salt; the implied employer-employee paternalistic contract’; Joseph Hirst’s paternalism and the death of daughter Mary; relationship between Joseph Hirst and hts workers;

Page 9

Appendix 1 Family trees


Tree 1: The main Hirst line; Tree 2: Joseph Hirst and Eleanor Ramsey; Tree 3: The family of Elizabeth Hirst and John Hinchliffe; Tree 4: The family of William Brook of Manningham.

Appendix 2 Timeline for Hirsts of Greave

A chronological listing from pre-1770 to about 1910 of (a) notable events in or related to Greave / Wilshaw; (b) events of direct relevance to the woollen (or cotton)

Page 10


Appendix 10 Population analysis of Greave / Wilshaw 1841-1911 320 Population count; number and size of households; distances of birthplace from Greave-cum-Wilshaw; occupations. Appendix 11 Hirsts in the news 324 Newspaper articles about family member participants in this history. Bibliography 348

Page 11


As a novice, I needed much guidance in the writing of this book and I had a good team supporting me. My primary guide and mentor has been my wife Miriam who was able to apply her historical knowledge and training to help me become more focused when I was unclear, to remove extraneous material, and to limit my tendency to be too flippant (oh, and to stop putting too many exclamation marks everwhere!!) She also had to put up with my stubbornness in reaction to her always helpful suggestions, which she did with patience and continual support. Thank you! In addition, I had four excellent draft readers, David

Page 12


What is a history? On the one hand, it could be a dry listing of facts with plenty of references to primary sources. This would try to be as objective as possible

Page 13

own local historian: Gertrude Collins née Phipps, who had “probed, investigated, and assembled facts about the village...”

At one point, Taylor referred to Joseph Hirst’s obituary. This appeared in a newspaper that was not, at the time when I was writing, digitised and so not available to me online. It had to be located in a library or archive and, as it was 2020 and the country was locked down as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), such places were all closed to visits. Well, eventually, with the help of a very helpful staff member at the British Library, I obtained that obituary and discovered to my delight that it’s long and detailed and, what’s more, most of what Taylor reproduced about the nuts and bolts of Joseph Hirst’s life was almost certainly sourced from there. The mere location of an earlier source for crucial information pleased me no end. I didn’t learn much more about Joseph Hirst, but I felt a lot more confident about some of ‘the facts’.

But, of course, how do we know if the obituary is an accurate record of his life? Did the writer know Joseph Hirst personally or was he recording hearsay from others?* How much memory was involved - always prone to error!? Fortunately, we have another very useful source: a notebook written in 1881 by a local historian who also happened to be Joseph and Eleanor Hirst’s physician, who stated that he knew Joseph Hirst “intimately” and judged the obituary to “embody the principal features of his very active life, with a justness of appreciation”. As [ve implied, I can today research a great deal sitting at my computer. The Internet gives instant (well, almost instant) access to a great deal. I’ve been repeatedly surprised and pleased to locate whole texts on screen and links from one site to another enable a narrowing down to locate very specific jewels of information. So Pd doff my cap, if I wore one, to Alfred Taylor and all researchers who toiled before the Internet was available to

them. They have my respect!

Given my potential readership, I’ve tried to write something that’s as factually accurate as my sources allow and also as entertaining as I can make it — the best of both worlds, in a way. So, the style I hope is relaxed and easy to read but I’ve tried to be rigorous about

2 And, in 1874, ita was a ‘he’ (in fact, it was Joshua Hobson, the newspaper's editor). One of the frustrations of reader in mind, Women are invisible; a phenomenon tried to address occasionally throughout the t text but

probably inadequately.

James Morel d in a bool babl h the unfulfilled intention of writing a second or

revised history of the area (he’d previously

Page 14

giving sources. The problem with that is deciding where to put them: if at the bottom of each page it looks less like a story and more like an academic text, but if at the end of the chapter or book it’s harder to look them up and some readers probably won’t bother to do so. I found that in addition to stating sources I also wanted to make observations that aren’t immediately relevant to the text but which might be of interest to some readers, so I wanted them to see them.

Page 15

Chapter 1 Introduction

When I was a boy I lived in a house with the address: Manor House, Lower Greave, Wilshaw, nr Meltham, Huddersfield. It was a large house with sixteen rooms and a big garden - wonderful in summer, very cold in winter. On fine days my brother and I played outside: ‘Cowboys and Indians’ around the rhododendron bushes or, later, football on the top lawn — the same lawn on which we tried to play cricket as well.

From that top lawn, you could see across the upward sloping field to The Square and the ‘rec’ — a grassy playground with swings and so on; and down the slope from the house, a reservoir (the

Page 16

5 -

Page 17

The questions posed above now have answers. The ‘1777’ carved on the bedroom wall was probably the date the core building on the site was erected and it was on the inside bedroom wall, which had been the outside wall before an extension was added. We came to live in Manor House because my grandfather left it to my mother. Joseph Hirst was a clothier who became a woollen manufacturer and he created the estate of Wilshaw and left it to his wider family, which in the 19th century was a boon but by the time it was passed on to my mother it had become a burden. Furthermore, the Square that stood across the field from Manor House was built and named St. Mary’s Court by Joseph Hirst, and similarly that school I attended was St. Mary’s Primary School built by Joseph. The Brook brothers of Meltham Mills constructed that reservoir in the valley below Greave.* Jammy Wood where we played or camped used to be called Brook’s Plantation. It turns out the Brooks were also relations. And the bells? Well, of course, they were inserted to enable the lady and gentleman of the house to summon a maid from the kitchen. There were about eight or ten of different sizes to

ring with different tones to identify from which room the call was made. Each was connected to the bell pull by wires running through the walls.

I wanted to write about all this, but I’m not the first. As I mentioned in the preface, Alfred Taylor, an inhabitant of Wilshaw, published The History of Wilshaw in 1961. Cyril Pearce wrote

Page 18

in Wilshaw and Meltham Mills, while his family’s clothier businesses remained within their homes in and around Greave. [ve tried, therefore, to write a case study through which run two main strands:

*Change within the Hirst family from clothiers in the domestic system to a manufacturer in the factory system.

*Change within a small community in terms of its growth and its economy.

I think that in order to better understand these changes it’s necessary to set the events into their context. Readers with historical awareness might already know much of this but I certainly didn’t when I started researching and I’ve enjoyed the wider exploration into local, national and international history in the 18th and 19th centuries. I hope it’s helpful to you, too.

The Hirsts lived on Lower Greave from where Joseph left to eventually build his worsted business, his estate and the village of Wilshaw. This is the tale I will tell, starting in the late

18th century and concluding with the break up of Joseph Hirst’s estate in the early 20th.

Dramatis personae

These are the main characters who will turn up in this history.* Other people mentioned

might be found in Appendix 1, which shows the family relationships.

HIRSTS Zachariah Hirst 1705-1783 My 5x great grandfather — a clothier from Holt Head in Lingards who moved to Greave John Hirst (senior) 1733-1812 My 4x great grandfather — a clothier who moved to Greave with his father Thomas Hirst 1764-1811 My 3x great grandfather — a clothier of Greave Mary Hirst née Brook 1766-1842 Wife of Thomas, daughter of William and Martha Brook of Thick Hollins Hall John Hirst (junior) 1785-1846 Eldest son of Thomas and Mary — a clothier of

Greave Joseph Hirst (of 1805-1874 Another son of Thomas and Mary

Page 19

Eleanor Hirst née Ramsey

Henry Arthur Hirst

Jonas Brook Hirst

Henry James Hirst BROOKS

William Brook

James, Jonas, William, Joseph, Thomas and Charles Brook

Charles Brook (the younger)


James Beardsell

Joseph, Charles, Peter and Isaac Beardsell






Born between 1773 and 1792



Born between 1793 and 1806

Wife of Joseph, daughter of James Ramsey probably of Chester

A nephew of Joseph Hirst to whom Joseph and Eleanor left their estate of Wilshaw

A nephew of Joseph Hirst

Page 20

h like th > though without room labels and less ornate.


Page 21

Chapter 2 Greave and Wilshaw

Wilshaw is the sort of place that a teenager in the 1960s and 70s couldn’t wait to escape: nothing but trees and fields, no shops, no pub, no night life, an infrequent bus service that took you to Meltham or Holmfirth, from where another bus journey was required to reach a larger town: Huddersfield. I now see that it could be paradise: nothing but trees and fields next to a golf course with a nearby reservoir; a quiet residential village in beautiful countryside near to the moors. It sits in the Pennine foothills perched above the towns of Meltham to the northwest and Holmfirth to the southeast.

Page 22

N © Huddersfield

Almondbury e

Meltham Mills

Page 23

a William Gudman of Honley, who was granted a messuage and a bovate of land “being pasture and wood, adjoining the township of Meltham, extended from the village of Thung to a large stone bounded by Thung Greve”.'* William Gudman and Thomas Gudman (with wife Agnes), probably the sons of the aforesaid William, are named in the Poll Tax under Richard II (1379) as living on the estate at Thung, which could have been anywhere in the area between modern-day Upperthong and Netherthong.

A deed of 1456 described the territory as being partly wooded and partly open area and that common grazing took place.’? In the late 1500s some land was enclosed: “Thwongesgreave had been severed and inclosed within the memorie of man into diverse closes respectivelye as it was formerly used in giste or

Page 24

wooded or too wet or prone to flooding, while that above was wilder and more exposed. Fertile parts that could be more easily farmed were the flatter (or less steep) areas above the gulley-like valleys. Once population pressure created the need for more farm land, at first people went upwards to settle above 300 metres and only later downwards below 200m.

Burton applied this analysis to the Graveship of Holme, which includes Upperthong and Holmfirth and so was next door to Netherthong and

Page 26

We know little about early inhabitants of Thongsgreave other than what we can glean from these fragmentary pieces of evidence. They were concerned with access to land that could be cultivated or on which animals could be grazed, and water was obviously vital to them, for daily life as well as any cloth-making that was done. However, as we come into the 18th century, we can get a fuller picture.

In 1725, Defoe wrote about the industry of the people, which

Page 27

one, to know the

Page 28

from the spectator.””

I don’t want to rain on his parade, but I must observe that the intensity of the sunsets were probably also, in 1866, attributable to the smoke pollution being spewed into the air from the cotton factories of Manchester far to the west.”°

Thirty years after Reverend Hughes, “Cid” covered similar ground in an article in the Huddersfield Chronicle. The extract below is from page 3 of the issue of 25th April 1894. While 1894 is late in the period of this book, the sense of the place probably didn’t change

much over time. Is this too sentimental or an atmospheric portrayal? You decide:

“If you want to see Wilshaw, don’t be in a hurry [...] Get into the fields and look at what you see. [...

Wilshaw is always fresh to me. [...] I have seen it when the blizzard has paid no respect to persons; when its pathways and roads have been lost in snow. I have seen it when the sun seemed determined to set it on fire and when the slightest shade was welcome. I have gathered its fruit and revelled among its bilberries, rolled down its steep valley sides, and listened to the tuneful music of its streams; still, no matter the season, it is always beautiful and its last sight the best. Its peacefulness is ever suggestion of afternoon, indeed, so long as the sun is above the horizon the burden of the day’s work seems to be done at the

“Queen of the villages of the hills”. [...]

It will repay anyone to stand on Wilshaw’s highest ground and take in the grand panoramic view. Your line of sight is all but unlimited. Your surroundings are pleasing and picturesque. A procession of hills — and such hills, the everlasting hills — is before you. The Pennine Range is at your back, West Nab and Deer Hill lead you on to Scapegoat, [... ] Huddersfield is indicated by a cauldron of smoke [...] Can it be possible that with such a scene as this within the reach of mankind, miserable men and women are asking themselves, ‘Is life worth living?

25 Hughes (1866), op.cit., page 214.

26 Ifthe sunsets were due to Lancashire cotton mills, were they a I llen industry of Yorkshire? Francis Moore wrote in 1782 “Should these cotton mills and engines be suffered to destroy our woollen an stuff manufactures, they will prove the most fatal discoveries ever made in Old England” (from The Contrast: or a Comparison between our Woollen, Linen, Cotton and Silk Manufactures (1782), page 14). In fact, no. Woollen C

Page 29

There is no wonder that people ‘live on, live on for ever’ at this healthy place, indeed the wonder is that they die, as they must be free from the sudden change, the babbling strife, the envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, the seething sin, the tattle of scandal-mongers, six shillings in the pound rates, and the itching haste which townlings are in to make their pile and shuffle off this mortal coil.”

7 id was a regular correspondent in the Chronicle between 1892 and 1896, writing poetically about the country around Huddersfield. Pve heavily ginal p it’s very flowery


Page 30

Chapter 3 Early Greave Hirsts

Zachariah Hirst was, I believe, the earliest Hirst in my family who lived at Greave. My 5 x great grandfather was a “comer-iner”. The date he arrived is not known exactly, but he came with his family from Holt Head in the parish of Lingards, a clothier hamlet above Slaithwaite, probably around 1760.

I discovered Zachariah because I knew from various documents that a John Hirst lived at Greave and that John’s grandson Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw had ancestry in Lingards, so a search for records of John’s baptism in the Lingards area eventually located a possible father called Zachery.* Following up this unusual name (such a relief after chasing John Hirsts, of whom there were very many!) resulted in finding his death in Greave, his will and the rest of

his family — John’s siblings.

Somehow John, Zachariah’s eldest son, came into possession of the buildings and land at Greave, evidence for which is in John’s will and land transfer indentures in my possession.” 1 1,1 1 :

Page 31

these houses can be found in Appendix 4). The records show that there was a family group all working as clothiers in multiple properties in Lower Greave who had come from Lingards: John Hirst and his family, with father Zachariah and mother Elizabeth; one of John’s brothers, Jonathan, and his family; plus his wife’s brother, Joseph Pogson, and their family. This kind

of family collective was very common in these West Riding clothier hamlets.

Let’s take this date of 1777 when the new houses were built in Lower Greave and put the Hirsts and Pogsons into the context of the day. What was life like for them? What concerned them?

Events around 1777 and later Being people of business, they almost certainly took an interest in the news of the day, which

they would hear by word-of-mouth or, if literate, by reading the occasional newspaper (see


( Hearing the news

Local events could clearly be heard about by word-of-mouth, but more distant news

Page 33

tensions between the British government and the American colonists. Two years later the Revolutionary War started and this was still running in 1777. It wouldn’t be resolved until 1781 when George Washington’s Continental Army defeated the British troops on the Yorktown peninsula in Virginia, leading ultimately to American Independence.

Would the Hirsts have been for or against this war or had a view either way? Lecky concluded in 1882: “The division of opinion in the country upon the American question was probably more equal than in Parliament but it appears to me evident that in 1775 and 1776 the preponderating opinion was with the King and with his ministers. In February 1775, Lord Camden wrote: T am grieved to observe that the landed interest ts almost altogether

Page 34

like the Hirsts, who owned land, straddled the two camps of opinion: the landed wealthy supported the war against the Americans while merchants and trades people suffered due to its financial impact. If the Hirsts had wanted to express their opinions on this sensitive matter, however, they would have had to pick and choose their venue carefully. The Leeds Intelligencer reported in 1777 that “a few days ago, a person was handsomely tarred and feathered at a public house at Huddersfield for daring, in a large and respectable company of Gentlemen, to support the American Rebellion, and to speak disrespectfully of his King and Country

Changes in the aftermath of the loss of the American colony

Despite the great cost of the war in America and the internal divisions about its rights and wrongs, Britain afterwards entered a period of good trade and prosperity. The French Revolution from 1789 did little to banish a feeling of social and economic confidence as many people thought it would weaken Britain’s economic competitors while others saw possibilities for greater and faster reforms in Britain as a result — a feeling of optimism that did not waiver until France guillotined Louis XVI in 1793 and threatened to invade Britain’s ally, Holland and thus forced Britain once more into war. Not

Page 35

one or the other, and smaller-scale clothiers within the domestic system tended to make woollens while worsted manufacturers tended to be larger-scale master clothiers.

The fundamental difference of the domestic system compared with a factory was that much of the work was done without supervision, which allowed for poor work or even fraudulent behaviour to be perpetrated by the contracted labourers. Heaton summarised it neatly: “Embezzlement of material, exchange of poor wool for good, the wetting of wool in order to make it weigh heavier, imperfect or inaccurate spinning, &c., all these things might be practised with a fair chance of success, since the eye of the master or foreman was not ever on the

Page 36

were blocked or incompetent, but concerted application of prosecutions over time resulted in a great reduction of fraud and poor quality of work.

Woollen clothiers must have watched all this happening with interest. They would mostly have followed the story by word-of-mouth in the inns on market day, though the occasional newspaper report appeared, such as the one in the Leeds Intelligencer of 5th August, 1777, which announced that inspectors had been appointed by the Committee “for preventing Frauds and Abuses committed by persons employed in the Manufactures of Combing-Wool, Worsted-Yarn, and Goods made from Worsted” and that convicted persons “are liable to pay a penalty of FIVE SHILLINGS for every Parcel of Yarn which is false or short.”

New neighbours at the Hall

So far the ‘news’ of the period has been negative, concerning floods, wars, depression and problems with fraudulent labour. Was there anything in the 1770s for the Hirsts to be more cheerful about? Indeed, yes. A little closer to home, a new family — that of William Brook — had recently moved into the Great House just half a mile across the common at Baptism records for William Brook of Thickhollins suggest he moved into the Hall from about

Page 37

Thickhollins Hall as it would have been in 1774 when the Brooks moved there. The date of creation, artist and figure in the painting are unknown. Source: Original source also unknown. This image was provided to me by Carrie Lee-Baker, a descendant of the Brooks, which she obtained in 1986.

Bennet, John or his father Zachariah will have paid his Fespects at the Hall and formed a

Page 38

their wedding

Page 39

8. But we can’t go any further without considering what it meant to be a

Page 40

Chapter 4 Cloth-making

As you've gathered, West Riding clothiers made woollen cloth, but we can’t leave it at that. Their whole world revolved around this activity. To understand the life we need to know the production process and be familiar with the language of the business. Words like ‘fulling’ and ‘scribbling’ were as common to our West Riding ancestors of this period as ‘computer’ and ‘typing’ are to us today. Some readers might already be fully conversant with the language and technicalities, so

Page 41

Preparation of the raw wool

First, get a large tub of urine! Wool was washed using a mild alkali — the most readily available and cheapest being urine, which turns to ammonia as it decomposes. But you couldn’t use any old urine. In his Practical Treatise on Dyeing published in 1823, William Partridge observed “urine that is fresh voided will not scour

Page 42

Chapter 12 for more on worsteds). Carding involved striking the wool between two cards (hand-held boards with metal spines like a brush), which broke the fibres so they could be laid straight and nearly parallel. Scribbling was a kind of coarse carding that transformed the wool into a thin fibrous web (carded web). This was then carded again with finer cards and separated into “rolls” of an inch in diameter and about two feet in length. This was now in a form that would enable spinning.

Slubbing and spinning into a thread or yarn The first process of spinning was slubbing (called ‘roving’ in modern textile manufacture):

the “rolls” or fibres were joined

Page 43

Here’s one description of the process: “A large kitful of urine and swine’s dung was taken and strained through straw; it was then sprinkled on the cloth and, as may be imagined, the smell in the house was

Page 44

After the clothier had retrieved his wet cloth from the fulling miller, in order to stop it from shrinking as it dried, it had to be

Page 45

Every part of the cloth was examined accurately in order to find faults (e.g. little holes) that needed mending or knots or little objects that had to be removed. These defects had to be fixed before the cloth was dressed. Dressing means raising the nap of the wet cloth with the help of teasels in order to lift up loose fibres of the cloth.” The cloth was dressed several times in different directions.

When all fibres were raised the cloth could be sheared. Shearing

Page 46

A particular problem that could arise at this point was the appearance of specks or ‘burls’ in the cloth. These occurred through inadequate cleaning at various stages. The raw wool (especially if imported) might contain tiny flecks of vegetable matter (burls). In theory, the scouring should have removed them, but often this was not so (perhaps the light was poor or the flecks were very small) and the burls remained, often unseen, in the wool and in the cloth until the cloth was sheared to a finer finish. To remove them, burlers used small iron tweezers to pick them out — a process known as, obviously, burling.

Afterwards a final brushing produced the finished nap on the cloth. The cloth was not yet ready for sale; it still had to be pressed. It was folded backwards and forwards at every yard, so as to form a pack on the board of a screw-press; and between every fold sheets of glazed paper were placed, so that no part of the surface of the cloth could come in contact; also at every twenty yards three hot iron plates were put in between the folds. Pressing gave the cloth a smooth and even surface.

Note that dyeing could take place at any stage, so the wool, the yarn or the finished cloth could be dyed. It’s held that dyeing the wool resulted in stronger hues and a cloth that was less likely to fade — hence the phrase “dyed in the wool” for someone who is unchangeable, fixed in their views.

60 The role of burler usually fell to and girls, and the social ts of the process are described in detail

and entertainingly in Progress in Pudsey, op.cit., page

Page 47

Chapter 5 The life of clothiers in the late 18th century

Maister and Mistress

Where better to start describing the life of 18th century clothiers than

Page 48

a. Checked for blemishes b. This one

Page 49

Making oatcake (1814). This baker has a number of oatcakes (or havercakes) on her creel, shown top right. Source: accessed, with from Calderdale Libraries, October 2021. Image from Costume of Yorkshire, author George Walker, first pub. 1814, later pub. 1884.

The clothier village of Pudsey near Bradford

Page 50

there is serious trouble sometimes in lighting it. Those living near each other, [go to their neighbours and] borrow a little fire, or exchange a piece of coal for some... Then, candles are dear, and melt and waste much, especially if carried about the house. Many families make it a rule never to light one except for some work that cannot be done without, and then it is immediately blown or

Page 51

One can scarcely put his head into a house, or look in at a door or window, but he is asked to take a “sup of drink’. The milk carrier and he who brings the ‘mule-load of coal’ are asked to have a ‘sup of drink’. On a winter’s night, when neighbours meet to chat in all that total darkness, the host is certain to draw them ‘mugpots’ of drink It is drunk by all, rich and poor, old and young, parson and cobbler, made extra strong for weddings, Christmas, and feasts, and sometimes warmed, sugar, and rum put

Page 52

essential manufacture called Yorkshire Ale, which indeed is in its perfection here, and in all this part of the county...”, so I think he got it about right: hard working folk who lived to a ripe old age due to the healthiness of the countryside, their industriousness and the goodness of the local beer. Cheers, Daniel! He also referred to the poor reputation of Yorkshire clothiers selling their “Yorkshire Kersies” in short-measure (due to too much shrinkage on the tenters), but I'll gloss over that part. Back to Defoe’s description:

“This business is the clothing trade, for the convenience of which the houses are thus scattered and spread upon the sides of the hills, as above, even from the bottom to the top; the reason is this; such has been the bounty of nature to this otherwise frightful country, that two things essential to the business, as well as to the ease of the people are found here, and that in a situation which I never saw the like of in any part of England; and, I believe, the like is not to be seen so contrived in any part of the world; I mean coals and running water upon the

tops of the highest hills.

[...] We found the country, in short, one continued village, tho’ mountainous every way, as before; hardly a house standing out of a speaking distance from another, and (which soon told us their business) the day clearing up, and the sun shining, we could see that almost at every house there was a tenter, and almost on every tenter a piece of cloth, or kersie, or shalloon, for they are the three articles of that country’s labour; from which the sun glancing, and, as I may say, shining (the white reflecting its rays) to us, I thought it was the most agreeable sight that I ever saw, for the hills rising and falling so thick, and the vallies opening sometimes one way, sometimes another, so that sometimes we could see two or three miles this way, sometimes as far another; we could see through the glades almost every way round us, yet look which way we would, high to the tops, and low to the bottoms, it was all the same; innumerable houses and tenters, and a white piece upon every tenter.”

Perhaps the density of population around Greave was not as great as in the hills around Halifax, but this image of the kerseys drying in the sun on the tenters might well describe the Greave community.

Defoe observed “wherever we pass’d any house we found a little rill or gutter of running water” to feed the “dyeing-house, scouring-shops and places where they used this water...” He also noted

“that every clothier must keep a horse, perhaps two to fetch and carry for the use of his manufacture, (viz.) to fetch home his wooll and his provisions from the market, to carry his yarnt to tl to the fulling mill, and, when finished, to t ket to sold, and the like; every manufacturer

generally keeps a cow or two, or more, for his family, and this employs the two, or three, or four pieces of enclosed land about his house.


Page 53

[...] Among the manufacturers’ houses are likewise scattered an infinite number of cottages or small dwellings, in which dwell the workmen which are employed, the women and children of whom, are always busy carding, spinning, etc. so that no hands being unemployd, all can gain their bread, even from the youngest to the antient; hardly any thing above four years old, but its hands are sufficient to it self.

This is the reason also why we saw so few people without doors [outside]; but if we knock’d at the door of any of the master manufacturers, we presently saw a house full of lusty fellows, some at the dye-fat, some dressing the cloths, some in the loom, some one thing, some another, all hard at work, and full employed upon the manufacture, and all seeming to have sufficient business.”

Clothiers of every gradation

Clothiers were central to the economy of medieval Britain. They worked with wool - THE most important commodity in the country’s economic history. There is proof that people in Yorkshire have made woollen cloth since the 12th century, and it almost certainly took place earlier, although it didn’t become the major economy of the South Pennines until the 17th or 18th century. In the early 18th century, Daniel Defoe described wool as “the greatest and best of our trading produce, the soul and life of our whole commerce, and the fund of all

our prosperity and success in that

In the West Riding in the 18th century, as we saw in Chapter 2 and as Defoe described, most of the houses and farms in places like Greave contained clothier families making woollen cloth, and this, allied with farming, was the basis of economic life. But it’s important to recognise that there were clothiers and there were clothiers. Some barely scraped together a living while others were relatively well-to-do entrepreneurs. Here’s Lawson’s testimony where he differentiated between the poorest clothier and the clothier ‘manufacturer’, also known as master clothiers, upon whom the poorer clothier was dependent:

What independence man feels when he can employ himself and not be compelled to ask another for work to enable him to live. Seeking and asking, and almost begging and praying for work to save one from starvation is one of the most humiliating sights one can image, and we have known persons whose greatest ambition was to be a woollen manufacturer in order to be able to employ himself and his family, so as to be saved from the degradation of asking others not only his equals but in many cases far below him in everything

66 For hundreds of years wool \ was Britain’s export and i in

Page 54

that constitutes good character to allow him to live. Many of these old time clothiers were men of this sort, and only make sufficient to employ themselves and

Page 55

families nearby to wash it, slub it, spin it and weave it. These were the master clothiers or manufacturers and more like the Hirsts of Greave, though again there were master clothiers and there were master clothiers, with similar differences of size and wealth as with the clothiers.

were clothiers of every gradation, from the smallest independent master, employing only his own family, to the wealthy clothier, employing a large number of people in his house and loom-shop, as well as others who worked for him in their own

Page 56

the Manufacturer sends the poor Woman combed Wool, or carded Wool every week to spin, and she gets eight pence or nine pence a day at home; the Weaver sends for her two little children, and they work by the loom, winding, filling Quills, etc. and the two bigger Girls spin at home with their Mother, and these earn three pence or four pence a day each: So that put it together, the family at home gets as much as the Father gets Abroad, and generally more... The Father gets them food, and the Mother gets them clothes.”

The domestic system local economy

We now have enough information to construct the economic and social structure of a typical clothier community, like Greave.

Page 57

The Hirst business in Greave

We know from a map ina later indenture that the Hirst’s property included a source of water, a dye house, a barn and stables.” They were master clothiers. They would have bought the wool, washed it in their own premises, passed this around to spinners within their larger family and also in nearby houses in Greave (Upper and Lower), probably done some weaving at home but also contracted others in Greave to do some as well. They would have taken the pieces to the fulling mill, which was somewhere in the valley below, near what is now called Meltham Mills, collected it again and put it up on the tenters in the field by the house to dry and stay stretched. They would then have finished it or again put it out to specialist cloth finishers and taken it by horse to sell at the market or to merchants.

A specific Honley clothier

A further insight to the Hirsts’ life might be provided by an inventory of possessions left by Joseph Broadbent, a Honley clothier, who died in 1779. He was a small-scale clothier, with less property than the Hirsts, but aspects of the house might well have been similar. It had four rooms: living rooms downstairs and chambers above, with a pantry or milkhouse attached. Inside were a clothes-press, clock and case, a dresser, an oval table, three chairs and three stools. There was a “large bibell” on a table in the parlour and two pictures and a map of America on the wall. One of the upstairs rooms was used for carding and spinning and contained card stocks (a fixed bench for carding) and 2 spinning wheels and a set of scales. The other chamber was for weaving — the loom-shop — even though it contained a small bed. Herein were looms and gears, a “Spinning jinnee”, a cask of oil, two worsted looms, a “pack of wooll” and “11 pd of white wooll”. Outside was a tenter of 31 yards. There was some cloth on the premises but a larger amount was inventoried as “out at makeing and in market”.” There was also a smallholding with two cows in a mistal (cow shed) and a mare in a stable, and a barn containing hay, straw and oatmeal.

From this description we get the sense of a family living and working at home, with rooms used for multiple purposes as space was limited. They were carding, spinning and weaving apparently worsted cloth at home as well as putting out to weavers, presumably locally, and had cloth either at home, at the homes of their weavers, or warehoused near the market or

73 This map is included within a legal contract in my possession dated 18th August 1840, between John Hirst junior, Richard and Elizabeth Hinchliffe and Richard Hirst, they jointly inhabit. Part of this map c can be seen in

Page 58

‘sold’ but not paid for.” And all the while, there is perhaps the idea that they could escape the drudgery by emigrating to America, as they glance up from time-to-time at the map on the wall. Why else was it there?

The hard life of weavers?

There’s an argument made by Lawson that the life of the small-time weaving clothier was a good one.

“Hand loom weaving [if they could obtain] constant work and [be paid] double the price they [actually] got for weaving, would not be an objectionable business. The weaver was under shelter and not exposed as some out-of-door labourers were. Weavers had much freedom, could work short hours, and make it up when convenient, not being called to labour by a bell.””

However, this was really his introduction for showing how the reality was much different. He detailed many trials and tribulations. He observed that getting “constant work” was not easy, and then there was all the extra unpaid work they sometimes were expected to carry out.

“If they succeeded [to get work from a manufacturer] it was mostly on the condition that they helped to break the wool for it; that is open the bale, then the fleece taking off the coarse bits called the britch, put it in sheets, then go to the mill and help scour it, then ‘lit’ or dye it and the morning after take it out of the dyepans into sheets ready for the dryhouse. All this was for nothing, except in some cases a small allowance for a little ale or cheese and bread. [...] However, after doing all this work the weaver did feel somewhat relieved, knowing he had a claim now toa share in working it up when he could get a set of slubs to be spinning a web on the

Page 59

“When the slubber had doffed the first set of the slubbing, it often became a serious question as to whose turn it was to have it, and casting lots would frequently be the mode of deciding it, for it was common for several weavers and spinners to be there waiting for it Probably the weaver would be waiting for the warp being spun for his web, or the warper for the warp to warp. All this working for nothing and waiting took up time while rents, rates, coal and grocery bills were being run up.”

A further consideration was the sizing. Some manufacturers required the weavers to provide their own size for treating and strengthening the warp thread, while others provided it for them. How much size should be put on? Too much and it could clog the loom’s ‘gears’, too little and the warp thread could become too weak and the web might break during weaving. “It was common for weavers to ask advice from their neighbours and sometimes a little Size Conference might be seen deliberating [...] This sizing business was an important affair, for on it being done properly or otherwise most serious results depended.’

The wet, newly sized webs then had to be dried. This was done outside if possible though Lawson sagely noted “in a climate like ours the weather is very fickle”. Sometimes weavers, rather than trying to dry the web in front of the fire indoors, said they were “laking for druft” (waiting for dry weather).

In addition they had to contend with wool thread containing burrs that would chafe and cause it to break, or thread spun from poorly slubbed yarn, which might be too thick or too thin in places. “Often might be seen a boy or girl, or perhaps a weaver’s wife, standing on one side of the loom watching to see when a thread broke down whilst the weaver watched the other side.” Or perhaps burry wool thread would not release from the shuttle as it was passed through the warp, so it would stop half way.*°

Wool is a catchy material. It binds with neighbouring wool, which is great if you want a finished cloth that is strong and warm, but not so great if you don’t want the yarn to catch — such as when running off the shuttle. The solution was to wet it. But wool tends to repel water so it had to be thoroughly soaked, and to speed this process up clothiers used to suck water through the weft while underwater using a wooden tube. It was also found that water mixed with urine soaked better than pure water and so the shuttle-bobbins of weft were placed in a bowl of this liquid concoction. Before a later machine, called a bobbin sinker, replaced the process, the bobbin had to be held underwater with the left hand while the right held the wooden tube for the clothier to suck through (you can see where this is going, can’t

Page 60

you?) “If from mismanagement the tube was not placed perfectly in the bobbin, the dirty water would rush into the weaver’s mouth, which was a common occurrence.”

It’s as well not to romanticise. The idea of our clothier family sitting warmly at home with the father calmly passing the shuttle backwards and forwards through his loom in a soporific rhythm, his children perhaps spinning and his wife baking, is a pleasant one. But perhaps reality was that it was smelly, frustrating and, for many, stressful. In the end, it was all about getting the cloth either to the manufacturer or to market and receiving payment for the hard toil, so they could then start the whole process over again.

Page 61

Chapter 6 The market

Huddersfield Cloth Hall*®

The main market for the Hirsts, and for Joseph Broadbent whom we met in the last chapter, was in Huddersfield. The weekly trading day regulated the clothiers’ activities rigidly and the market with its warehouses and trading customs was the most important place in their life, after their home and workplace.

There were other markets of course, but Huddersfield was much closer than Halifax, Bradford, Leeds or Wakefield. Huddersfield had a reputation for its cloth and its market was an attraction for clothiers and merchants from a wide area.*

For hundreds of years, cloth had exchanged hands in this part of the world at local “faires” or at the market in Almondbury. Fairs were known to have been held at Wakefield and Barnsley and they probably took place at other places where there was a large enough population. In 1671, John Ramsden, lord of the manor, obtained a royal grant to hold a weekly market in Huddersfield (or, as Defoe called it in 1725, Huthersfield). It was held on Tuesday beside the churchyard in the open air, which was not ideal in winter and on rainy days. It replaced Almondbury as the major cloth market for the locality and area to the south and west; Halifax over the hill to the north had its own market. It sold all kinds of things and cloth was just one of the

Page 62

Page 63

1850 map of Huddersfield showing the position of the Cloth Hall. Swan Yard ts shown off Kirkgate at the top of the map. In September 2020, the Cloth Hall site was occupted by a Sainsbury’s and a Specsavers. Source: West Yorkshire Archive Service, Kirklees (Ramsden Huddersfield Estate map, 1850).

The market inn The Hirsts might have travelled to Huddersfield late on Monday and stayed overnight at the Swan near the Cloth Hall, where they could stable a horse, get a meal and a bed, and possibly store their cloth in warehouse space attached to the inn.*” But more likely, to save

87 Page 215 of Baines’s Directory of the County of York for 1822 (ibid) lists John Hirst (of Holmfirth, but I assume it’s our John Hirst) as being a woollen manufacturer who attended the Huddersfield Cloth Hall, with the Swan with Two Necks Inn on Westgate (extension of Kirkgate) given as his Huddersfield inn and place of abode. Also


Page 64

time and money or because deadlines were difficult to meet, they would have got up very early on the Tuesday and ridden into Huddersfield in time for start of play, perhaps taking breakfast at their inn and a pint of Yorkshire Ale to slake their thirst. Crump and Ghorbal atmospherically described the warehouses and inns near the Huddersfield Cloth Hall, and I can imagine our Hirsts as being amongst the participants:

Page 65

painting on page 61. Source: Painting by C.H. Bishop dated 1923; courtesy of Kirklees Image Archive. 64

King’s Head Yard, Cloth Hall Street. The King’s Head was next door to the White Hart Inn, shown in the

Page 66

How the market worked

Whether he rose early or stayed overnight in Huddersfield, it was important that the clothier be ready in the Cloth Hall when the bell rang for trading to start on Tuesday morning. Daniel Defoe described market day in Leeds in the 1720s and, while this was 50 or so years earlier and he was describing an open-air market, I’ve extracted from his description aspects that were probably very similar on market day in the Cloth Hall in the 1770s; the main difference being that at the Cloth Hall some clothiers had their own rooms in which they displayed their cloth while others had stalls in the thoroughfares.

“The clothiers come early in the morning with their cloth... At seven a clock in the morning [later in Huddersfield] the market bell rings; it would surprize a stranger to see in how few minutes, without hurry or noise, and not the least disorder, the whole market is fill’d; all the boards upon the tressels are covered with cloth, close to one another as the pieces can lie long ways by one another, and behind every piece of cloth, the clothier standing to sell it.”

He pointed out that the clothiers brought their cloth from their nearby inn shortly before the ringing of the bell, although if one had his own room at the Cloth Hall, he could store his

cloth there instead of at an inn.

“As soon as the bell has done ringing, the merchants and factors, and buyers of all sorts, come down, and coming along the spaces between the rows of boards, they walk up the rows, and down as their occasions direct. Some of them have their foreign letters of orders, with patterns seal’d on them, in rows, in their hands; and with those they match colours, holding them to the cloths as they think they agree to; when they see any cloths to their colours, or that suit their occasions, they reach over to the clothier and whisper, and in the fewest words imaginable the price is stated; one asks, the other bids; and ‘tis agree, or not agree, ina moment.

Page 68

Independence); and (c) agents acting on behalf of merchants on the continent, especially Prussia (Germany), Austria and Holland. These latter buyers probably sent the cloth directly from Huddersfield by canal and river to Hull and thence abroad.

Page 69

Chapter 7 Getting to and from Greave in the 18th century

I conjectured in the previous chapter that the Hirsts left Greave very early on Tuesday morning to go to market. Taylor paints a picture of John Hirst senior’s eldest son Thomas doing just this.

“We can imagine Thomas riding from his farmstead as the green and primrose dawn broke over Swinny Knowl and spread across the eastern sky. He would be dressed in home-spun jacket and knee breeches, hand-knitted woollen stockings, and stout shoes or walking boots. The pack horse would be trotting to the rear.

There would be no stone walls to mark the roads. If he turned left towards Holmfirth, to climb what we now call School Hill, a stony path would carry him past Upper Greave on to the open moor. If he turned right, to climb what has become Church Lane, the same wild, open sweep of common land would greet him. But, more probably, if he was bound for Huddersfield he would direct his mare along a more direct approach to that part of the valley bottom that is now called Meltham Mills.”””

Just a comment on the “no stone walls”. Defoe wrote in 1724, which I’ve already quoted above, “the land being divided into small enclosures, that is to say, from two acres to six or seven acres each, seldom more; every three or four pieces of land had a house belonging to it.” We also know that John Hirst’s land was divided into fields or closes (i.e. enclosures) such as Red Gate Close, Great Brow Close, Stone Pit Close and so on — he named them in his will. Now, if land was enclosed with a red gate to enter it, with what was it enclosed? Some of it might have been hedging, perhaps with a ditch, but by the late 18th century much would have been stone walls. We know from a report written about Marsden in 1797 that this part of the world had stone walls: “[Marsden] is surrounded by mountains and moors, barren, cold and dreary; the houses and inclosures are of stone, the fields bald and rocky, and the whole face of the country has a very wild and romantic

Page 70

Cloth-makers ¢ en route to market. The text, written in 1814, supporting thts 1 “These [clothters] have

Page 71

there was a mixture of hedge/fence and wall before and after the Inclosures. Once the land was inclosed, the ways between the property would, by default, be delineated by boundaries.

Highways around Greave up to the late 18th century

The roads in the 18th century were very poor, but their state was of prime concern to clothiers as they had to travel them frequently in the pursuit of their trade. The 19th century local historian Henry Morehouse wrote about the problems facing a Dr. Jessop who practised in the Holmfirth area in the 1740s.

“Situated among a comparatively thin and scattered population — surrounded on every side with narrow and dreadfully bad roads, which seemed to meander through the valleys, as if they had no particular destination, winding their course up the steep hillsides along precipitous banks and rocks, and over the open plains of wild moorlands, which they intersected, unprotected by walls or fences — he [Jessop] had to pursue his weary way on horseback or on foot...”° The journeys were often perilous. The most frequent cause of danger arose from thick fogs, or sudden darkness rendering invisible the usual landmarks.””

Highways occurred along routes that people wished to travel. The ancient parish of this area was Almondbury, centred on the mother church in Almondbury village. Until the more local chapels were built (for example, the one in Meltham was consecrated on 24th August 1651), the people of the parish made their way each Sunday to Almondbury, and so there were roads and tracks from everywhere to Almondbury. Later, especially after the main local market had been opened in Huddersfield, the routes headed ds the town. In both cases, the highways used higher ground because when they were being formed the valleys

tended to be heavily wooded and boggy.

Sometimes routes were formed for other reasons than going to church or market. One route was created to link the hamlets and villages in the Pennine foothills and provide for them a route out of the district to the southeast: the ‘Maythorne Way’.”* Given the barrier of the

96 The old roads, I kt li

Page 72

Pennines, such an exit from the region was needed for people wishing to travel southwards. This route remained in use throughout the centuries and, indeed, still largely exists today. This was very pertinent for the Hirsts because it linked up with Greave. One end was in Marsden and the other Penistone. It connected hamlet to hamlet, village to village and so, from Marsden, went through the Hirsts’ old stamping ground, Holt Head in Lingards, then Meltham and Greave and over the hill to Upperthong and down into Holmfirth, continuing to Penistone (via the hamlet of Maythorne).

This linking route must have been very like the description of the poor, meandering roads Morehouse described above. Crump wrote that the way from Meltham to Upperthong was “a sunken lane, winding and undulating

Page 73

roads. In his letters about his travels in the north of England in 1768,

Page 74

parts of the West Riding to ride that coach they had to arrange horse transportation to get them to or from Wakefield.

Turnpikes, stretches of road maintained to a higher standard with a toll to travel on them, were slower to appear in the West Riding largely due to the difficult terrain, but by the 1770s there were ones linking the growing trading centres of Rochdale, Halifax, Elland, Doncaster, Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford and there was a turnpike over Standedge linking Huddersfield with Manchester and the

Page 75

the pathways were good, perhaps this was indeed the route of

Page 76

@ Huddersfield

N To Hudds. 4

Page 77

pebbled track shall be an even, firm, broad road ...; and my mill, Caroline

Page 78

Chapter 8 Changes for the Hirst clothiers in the early 19th century

Thomas Hirst’s bankruptcy

Thomas was the eldest son of John Hirst senior and the husband of Mary Brook. In the obituary for his son Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw, we’re told “the father of Joseph Hirst was of a good family, and inherited some of their inclinations and habits. He loved what is called ‘sport’; was a good shot and hunter; and preferred these pursuits to those of either manufacturing or

Page 79

simple incompetence and a few must have sought bankruptcy as a deliberate effort to defraud their creditors. There’s no specific record to identify exactly why Thomas Hirst went bankrupt. Clothiers in general were often squeezed between demanding creditors on the one hand and unsympathetic cloth merchant debtors on the other. A merchant would often favour paying their debts to a bank over a relatively powerless clothier, so the clothier sometimes had to whistle for months before they could expect to be paid for their cloth — something that not all could afford to do. Indeed, the creditors of a bankrupt had to sometimes attempt to obtain money owed to the bankrupt in order to maximise their return. This happened to Thomas’s younger brother Joseph in 1822, when his credi to appoint someone to attempt to collect debts owing to Joseph (see Appendix 11, year 1822 items about Joseph Hirst (the elder)).


Page 80

Two deaths

In the early 19th century the family suffered a major change. First came Thomas’s death in 1811, which must have been a huge blow as he was only about 48 years old and his father was still alive. It certainly caused his father to change his plans. John Hirst senior had originally intended Thomas to inherit the house in Greave where he and his family lived.

Page 81

from the Hirsts for a while, it offers us insights into the real life activities and stresses of a West Riding clothier family and I think it helps me imagine those Hirsts of Greave much more clearly. The first diary starts around 1828, which is just a few years after 1812 when John Hirst junior took over the family’s clothier business.

James Beardsell

James Beardsell (~1764-1857) = Mary (Mally) Clough (1769-1833) I I I I I I

Joseph Charles Peter Isaac Mary (1793-1848) (1798-1852) (1802-1835) (1806-1858) (1815-7?)

James Beardsell was born around 1764 — the same time as Thomas Hirst, and also to a clothier family. He lived in Holme, a small community of clothiers much like, though a bit larger, than Greave, about 3 miles away up the hill from Holmfirth on the turnpike road over Holme Moss. Just as the Hirsts (and Hinchliffes) dominated Lower Greave, so (in 1830) there were eight clothier families in Holme called

Page 82

James Beardsell & Sons

In 1828, James took his four sons into partnership and they traded as James Beardsell & Sons. The eldest, Joseph, was about 35 at this time and was in charge of the business in Holme because his father James was so often away in London and elsewhere. He made decisions about what kind of wool to buy and at what cost, the nature and colours of the cloth to weave and, crucially, he was responsible for pricing and selling. His brothers specialised in different parts of the manufacturing process. Charles oversaw the finishing of the cloth, which took place at a mill in the valley in Holmbridge. Peter and Isaac were in charge of everything else: dyeing, organising the local weavers, getting the cloth milled or fulled and, indeed, Peter also

looked after the family cow herd.

I imagine the Hirsts might have had a similar arrangement. From 1812 to 1826, John Hirst matched Joseph Beardsell’s role, with William Hirst his right hand man, and then James Hirst taking on more responsible work when he reached an appropriate age. The last brother to come into the business was little Joseph — the even younger ones, Charles Brook and Richard, earned their livings away from the family home. Joseph Hirst’s obituary tells us that after the death of his father in 1811 “he had to take his part both in the work of the farm and in the manufacture of the woollen pieces. He often had to act as carter leading coals and other articles; and then, at the end of a day’s work of that description, had to take his share in attending to, and milking, sixteen head of kine, and in looking after a number of

Page 83

attempts to sell to America. Britain’s blockade of continental ports damaged America’s exports and so the US government retaliated with their own embargo on trade with Britain and, when this didn’t work, they declared war and all trade came to a halt.

Consequent to these events, there were a series of depressions in the period 1800 - 1815. Some woollen enterprises in the West Riding failed in this period and there was considerable poverty and hardship amongst people suffering from loss of trade, loss of work, and high costs of living. Rubbing salt in the wounds, there were also a series of poor harvests. However, there were brief periods of respite. By 1808 new trade links with South and Central America were established and woollen cloth sales recovered to some extent until the war with America in 1812.

Bust and boom - a period of turbulence

Once peace with Europe and America was established around 1815, trade that had been suppressed for so many years boomed, with manufacturers selling back-stocks of material at reduced prices - even at a loss; an action praised by Lord Brougham in Parliament who saw this as a means of stifling initiatives in America to start manufacturing their own cloth, which was “contrary to the natural course of However, the release of these back-stocks onto the market caused a glut and prices fell for everyone, and there were other factors in play such as trade with India suffering and increased ition from foreign fact


Hard times

The early 19th century was a time of uncertainty and volatility (see box), which would have affected our clothiers in Greave and Holme, if only in the ease or otherwise of selling their pieces each week. You can imagine the situation, with cloth being sold in the market for one price one week and the next week the same merchants declaring that to be too expensive.

It was a time, unsurprisingly, of many bankruptcies

Page 84

Three years after they set up the family business, the Beardsells of Holme decided they needed to get a feel for how they were doing.

Page 85

How much can we learn about the Hirsts in Greave from the Beardsells of Holme? Well, we can only conjecture. The Beardsells, despite the problems I’ve outlined, were a successful growing business. They were a family concern with internal disagreements and they were based some distance from Huddersfield in the Pennine hills. All in all, I find the Beardsells’ experiences give me an insight into what life and business for that Hirst family might have been like.

Other drivers of change

I mentioned above that the period was one of great change. It wasn’t only the economy that was having an impact on woollen manufacture. The industrial revolution, which was in full swing just over the hill in Manchester and Lancashire’s cotton industry, was starting to take hold in Yorkshire’s woollen and worsted industries also. This needs its own chapter to consider.


Page 86

Chapter 9 Mechanising cloth production and its opposition

Early mechanisation

When I think of the term ‘Industrial Revolution’ I see in my mind’s eye factories billowing smoke, iron foundries and steam trains. But factories were few and far between in woollen manufacture in 1812 even though the revolution had in theory been proceeding for 30-40

Page 87

of the influence the changes had on the mentality of the age. New technology brought new prosperity and new opportunities, which revolutionised personal ambitions and attitudes.

What were these technological developments? For the benefit of readers who have not studied this period of British history, here’s a summary of the key ones.

Developments in weaving and spinning

Reference back to Chapter 4 might be useful for help with terminology and there are two boxes that provide more detailed descriptions of basic weaving and spinning.


Page 88


Page 90

Invention 2. The Spinning Jenny

The Flying Shuttle speeded up weaving so much that it upset the balance between weaving and spinning. Now spinners couldn’t keep up with demand from weavers, and so spinning needed to be made faster and more productive. (The box ‘Spinning’ provides more detail about the various spinning developments.) The first step forward in spinning came in the 1760s. It simply enabled the spinner to work many spinning wheels at the same time, so the amount of yarn that could be produced increased bly, although the quality of it was no better than before. This new machine was called the Spinning Jenny.”

These two developments — the F Shuttle and the Spi g Jenny — were widely adopted by the domestic woollen

Page 91

With the original single spinning wheel, the spinner took a wad of the carded fibres of wool or cotton in her hand and attached some to a spindle, which she could rotate by turning the spinning wheel with the other hand. By gently pulling the wad away from the revolving spindle, she could at once draw out the fibres and twist them onto the spindle as it rotated. Sometimes this was done in two stages using the same process: the first run through would transform the carded fibres into a lightly spun thread called a roving or slubbin. Then all the roving was worked on a second time, thereby enabling it to be pulled out much finer and then spun into the final yarn. The Spinning Jenny could only work with rovings - not from the carded material. It simply used the same process but with multiple threads of roving being spun onto multiple spindles set within a frame, all driven by the hand-turned wheel. The Water Frame removed the need for the spinner to pull the wad or thread from the spindle by using paired rollers that touched each other and between which the thread passed. There were at least two sets of these paired rollers. One pair turned a little faster than the other, so they drew the thread out as it was twisted by the spindle and then passed onto a bobbin. It could work with the roving and with the carded material to prepare the roving. The Mule put those rollers onto a moving frame, which made them more subtle and sensitive in their drawing-out action. As the frame holding the rollers moved, it drew the thread out - much like the hand and arm of a spinner at her wheel. Once it was fully pulled out, the roller frame moved back, with the spindles twisting the thread and then passing it onto \ bobbins for storage.

Invention 3. The Water Frame

Applying water power to a jenny for spinning was not feasible at first because the variability of thickness of thread produced by the jenny led to breakages. While a solution for wool was not immediately forthcoming, due to the weaker nature of the wool yarn, cotton manufacturers, working with a stronger raw material than wool, felt that a water-powered cotton-spinning machine could be developed.

In the later 1760s, adjustments were made to the Spinning Jenny, which improved control of applying tension to the thread as it was spun, thereby getting a more even thickness. This meant it was now possible to use water power to drive it and the new machine was known as a Water Frame. The process could now be scaled up in a mill, as did Richard Arkwright who built cotton-spinning mills filled with them in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Scotland and became a very wealthy man. Other similar mills soon sprang up — some under licence from Arkwright and others in defiance of his patent, such that by 1785 more than £500,000 had been spent nationwide on building and equipping such mills, employing 35,000

Page 92

the best attributes of the jenny and the frame, thereby generating a ‘mule’ — a cross between a horse and a donkey. It introduced a moving carriage that drew away from the spindles as the threads were drawn out and spun, and then moved back as the spun yarn was wound onto the bobbins. This provided even more control and solved previous difficulties.

Spinners now had a water-powered (and later steam-powered) machine that could spin almost any thickness of cotton thread to an even quality and at great speed. Over the years, there were further i improvements, though the basic method of spinning remained the same. These improvements in t ired weaving to up its game once more, and the obvious way was to find a a way to power the loom.

Problems of power

The main problem for those intent on powering the loom was its power source: running water. The process of weaving required a consistent, even application of power, and water could not provide this adequately. At first the corn and fulling mills tended to be driven by a wheel simply sitting in the river. When the river ran high the wheel turned quickly grinding the corn or hammering the cloth faster. When the river was low the speed decreased, but when too low the mill might have to stop working completely — not ideal. The addition of a dam and a race to feed the wheel helped to overcome those

Page 93

started using steam engines in 1789 and Arkwright adopted steam power in 1790 to drive his spinning works.

This view of Brooks Reservotr, looking east,

Page 94

History of the Cotton Manufacture, Richard Guest wrote (my brackets) “At present a boy or girl, fourteen or fifteen years of age, can manage two steam looms and can weave three and a half times as much cloth as the best hand weaver. The best hand weaver seldom produces a piece of uniform evenness; indeed it is next to impossible for them to do so, because a weaker or stronger blow with the lathe [the object used to compact each row of weft] immediately alters the thickness of the cloth, and after an interruption of some hours, the most experienced weaver finds it difficult to recommence with a blow of precisely the same force as the one with which he left off. In steam looms, the lathe gives a steady, certain blow and moves with the greatest precision from the beginning to the end of the piece. Cloth made by these looms, when seen by those manufacturers who employ hand weavers, at once excites admiration and consciousness that their own workmen cannot equal it.”

The writing was on the wall for handloom weaving and for the domestic system of clothiers, though it would be very many years before they disappeared completely, with a sprinkling of

home-based hand weavers still working in the 20th

Page 95

and would get any amount of weft in. When that loom first came from one of the best makers in England, all so smooth, sleek and trim he was envied by all who saw it; the neighbours all came to see it, and admired and coveted it. But now for some time the loom [has] been dumb and covered with dust and

cobwebs. [...]

There is a bright side as well as a dark one in the matter of power looms. In the first place families are [by 1886] better housed, for when hand looms were in vogue they occupied the chambers, and the family slept on the stone floors, in parlours or the house. But now the people of the same class occupy the upper rooms with boarded floors, and are more respectable, have more room, and are healthier. [...] The minder of the power loom has only to tie up the threads and healds, and put fresh bobbins into the shuttle. Every part of the loom is adjusted to every other part, as if it were clockwork, and acts with the greatest precision. It appears as if it could hear and feel, so sensitive is it to the slightest flaw; as if it were conscious and knew all that was going on. [...]

Young people who cannot have the sentiment in this matter that all handloom weavers had, will be apt to fall back on reason, and agree with us that considering the many trials and difficulties which beset the handloom weavers it was high time the whole system came to an

Slow take-up of mechanisation by the woollen industry

The Water Frame, the Mule and the power loom were all at first developments in the cotton industry. The woollen trade was more tardy to join this ‘industrial revolution’ because, as mentioned, wool did not lend itself to the rigours of mechanisation. An early powered machine that could work with cotton thread might not with woollen due to wool’s propensity to break

Page 96

first rejected by Lancashire cotton manufacturers for reasons that Baines called “commercial jealousy”.’** But real opposition started to build against certain usage of mechanised looms, which then applied also to developments with cropping machines.

To recap, in the early 19th century, the Napoleonic Wars and the interruption of trade caused unemployment and hardship for many poor families. So when livelihoods seemed to be threatened the prospect of unemployment was bleak. There was precedence of people

under duress forming st mutual support societies, often involving them taking an oath of allegiance to the society, to help when times were hard, similar to the guilds of skilled workers.

In 1811, the society of Luddites was formed in Nottingham and grew quickly over the next few

Page 97

Recapping again, Mary Hirst’s father William Brook had established a woollen mill at Meltham Mill, which became a scribbling mill, coarsely combing or carding wool by a water- powered machine using rotating drums, originally developed around 1750 and improved around

Page 98

26 September 1796 is typical: “LEEDS. To be Lett A Large Cotton Mill, situate at Hill House Bank, Leeds, in which is a Fire Engine, Twenty-two Mules, Ten Water Frames, and other suitable Machinery ...”

Local Luddites

And they would certainly have been very aware of the Luddites and what they were doing. I can only conjecture about the Hirst family’s opinion of their behaviour — it might have been divided. Samuel Hirst (one of Thomas’s brothers) was a cloth dresser and he might well have been supportive of the Luddite cause, as it was the introduction of dressing machines (cropping frames) that caused most concern in the West Riding. There was certainly sympathy for them in some quarters of the political establishment. Lord Byron, speaking to the House of Lords in 1812 in the lead-up to the Frame Work Bill, which intended to make frame-breaking a capital offence, challenged their Lordships’ practice of referring to Luddites as

Page 99

armed and their faces blacked”. Further similar articles appeared in both these papers over the weeks of 1812. The most dramatic event was that which occurred on 28th April 1812. The Leeds Mercury reported it on May 2nd under the headline: “ATROCIOUS MURDER”. William Horsfall “owned a large Woollen Manufactory at Marsden wherein about 400 people were employed; and in a part of his premises there are Shearing Machines.” He was an outspoken opponent of the Luddite cause and had installed a cannon at his mill against attack. He was shot while riding his horse home along the Crosland Moor turnpike from Huddersfield’s Tuesday Market and died from his

Page 101

Isaac Beardsell was experimenting with local weavers to produce different combinations of colour, design and weave. In the 1830s, Beardsell’s were still “putting out” to home weavers, though they rented some mill space probably to carry out their own powered carding and spinning along with dyeing and, later, finishing. They also bought in those services from other Holme Valley mills. Led by Isaac who seemed to be the most ambitious, in the 1840s they looked into renting mills in Holmfirth and Holmbridge.

This kind of thing — fancy patterns using modern machinery and expanding production

Page 102

Chapter 10 “Beginning the world” of Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw

Joseph Hirst’s youth and schooling

As Pve mentioned, much of what we know about Joseph Hirst’s life is contained in his obituary, which was so long it had to be published in two consecutive editions of the Huddersfield Weekly News

Page 103

difficult to come by, with the fee- -paying I bli i the upper classes and d probably beyond the Hirsts’ pocket. Private schools were established and run by the church, so Mary probably had little choice.

Other questions pose themselves, such as: did any of Joseph’s brothers get sent to this or another secondary school? How much did this cost and how was it afforded? Did Joseph stay there for long or was his education “of necessity brief”, as Taylor surmised? At some stage, he returned to Greave to join the family clothier business led by eldest brother John, where he played a supporting role until 1826, when he decided to set up his own business.

John and Joseph part ways

Joseph Hirst’s obituary, supported by Morehouse’s notes, tells us that he disagreed with John’s unwillingness to change.

Page 104

Joseph: Brother, I think we should be changing our ways.

John: Nay, young Joe, not so ’asty. Yer’s still

Page 105

John: Cotton thread mill!

Joseph: Yes, but you see what I mean. Mills are the future. If you want a local wool mill, there’s Aunt Anne’s family over in

Page 106

We won’t be able to compete with the powered machines that are coming. If a man can make cloth ten times, a hundred times faster than we can, think how he could undercut our

Page 107

Lipson refers to this ability of clothiers to save: “The outstanding merit of the Yorkshire domestic system was the opportunity afforded to every workman of rising in the world. In the North of England it was not difficult for any wage-earner in the woollen industry to become a master. Every journeyman who was careful and persevered worked with the idea of saving up money ‘by good economy’, and then setting up on his own as soon as he could. “When I only got ten shillings a week’, said a successful clothier who began with one loom and ended with twenty-one, ‘I saved one

out of

Joseph marries

It was the usual thing for people in these small communities to marry someone from within or nearby — someone whom they would meet in the normal course of life. John married the daughter of a worsted manufacturer from Huddersfield (probably a Marsden lass). Many of Joseph’s sisters married local clothiers and all his brothers, except one, married someone from the Meltham area. The youngest in the family, Richard, who married in 1839 many years after Joseph, worked in a bank and wed a plumber’s daughter from nearby Pontefract - a modern boy with a different mentality, it seems.

But Joseph stood out and it was an early public indication that he was bucking the trend. His wife,

This ts Eleanor as a young rce: The Eleanor Hirst Eleanor daughter of James Ramsey, came from

Page 108

Hough in 1866 to build a model village because it was where Eleanor came from. Both of these theories seem on the face of things to be eminently possible, and they might be true, but I’ve come to doubt them.

First, it’s not at all clear that she hailed from the Wirral

Page 109

name of God Amen I James Ramsey of Saint Helens in the county of Lancaster, Travelling Draper ...”

Now, a travelling draper was a commercial traveller trading in cloth and clothing. He would have travelled for many weeks in the year, perhaps visiting cloth merchants or tailor shops, probably on behalf of a wholesale This might explain why the family seem to have lived in so many different places from north Wales to north Lancashire. This peripatetic existence, along with James Ramsey’s wealth all being in cash at the bank, strengthens my belief that it was not a land-owning family.

Joseph and Eleanor married on Sth May 1831 in Gresford, Denbighshire, Wales. Why there? Was Eleanor’s father based there at the time? How did they meet? Ican conjecture that Joseph knew James Ramsey, perhaps through a direct trade relationship or perhaps via common woollen merchant colleagues. But we don’t know. What we can see is that his marriage to Eleanor was the beginning of him doing things differently from his family. To confirm that separation, after his marriage he moved out to a house he built just along the lane from the family home, and to explain that further I need to talk about the Meltham enclosures.

How the Meltham Inclosure Award of 1832 affected Greave

Enclosing or inclosing land in Britain took place slowly over hundreds of years, but historians tend to summarise the process in two phases: those of the 16th and 17th centuries and those of the 18th and 19th. The first phase was predominantly about enclosing common land or tenanted open land farmed in strips. It was partial, leaving large areas of land unenclosed.

The second phase differed from the first in that it sought to enclose all the rest of the land that was thought to be of agricultural value, and the large part of what was called ‘waste land’. Both phases were ostensibly intended to improve agricultural output to support a growing population by providing capable individuals with the means to farm larger parcels of land in more efficient and scientific ways. However, some argue that this objective was not always achieved, whereas the transfer of land-use from large numbers of poorer people to ownership by far fewer wealthier ones was certainly achieved. Much has been written about the pros and


cons, the winners and the losers, in this

Page 110

But lets the greater felon loose Who steals the common from the

Page 111

Wilshaw and the surrounding wood and fields. Wilshaw Villa

In 1831, as a marriage gift, Jonas gave Joseph the small stone quarry situated at the end of the lane today known as Lower Greave. In this quarry, Joseph built a house — named variously Bridge House or Wilshaw Cottage and later Wilshaw Villa.’ Extensions were added after 1836, but the house built by Joseph has remained more or less the same ever since. The downstairs has a main door facing the highway while the upstairs also has a door at ground level leading out to the garden behind. This peculiar arrangement was due to it being built against the quarry wall.

Joseph and Eleanor lived in this house for the remainders of their lives. Even when Joseph amassed serious wealth and before he bought his estate at Thornton Hough, he didn’t upgrade to a house of a size similar to other successful industrialists of the time.

A new base for the clothier business

Joseph and his wife Eleanor moved into their lovely new house but the clothier business continued from the premises in Lower Greave. Just a few years later, in 1836, Jonas Brook died. In the third and final codicil of his will written in 1835 he’d instructed his executors to sell his land and stocks, etc. to turn his estate into cash, which was then to be distributed to his wife and children. A notice appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer of 14th May 1836 that a public auction would be held at the Swan Inn in Meltham on 3rd June, where Jonas Brook’s ld estates situate in and near Meltham” would be sold in nine Lots. Lot 5 was “All that newly-erected Stone-built COTTAGE, with a spacious and substantially built Barn, Stables, Mistals, and Feeding Sheds, Cart Houses, Piggery and other convenient Outbuildings, situate and called “Wilshaw’; and also all those NINE several CLOSES or PARCELS of excellent LAND or GROUND adjoining thereto and containing together 24A. 2R. 17P. (more or less) This is a most desirable Property, adjoining the Roads leading from Meltham and Meltham Mills to Netherthong, Upperthong and Holmfirth, in a high State of Cultivation, well Watered and Fenced, and the Buildings of a very superior description.

Well, Joseph Hirst certainly desired it and so on 6th September 1836, at the age of 31, he duly bought it for £1,400 from Jonas Brook’s Now he could move his business away from Greave up to this new property at Wilshaw Farm, which afforded much more room for expansion and provided a place where he could turn his dreams into reality. 169 Bridge House was given in an indenture concerning Joseph in 1836 (the lane and property bridges Greave

Dyke). It was named Wilshaw Cottage in the 1841 census.

170 Indenture in the possession of The Eleanor Hirst Trust.


Page 113

Chapter if The Spirit of the Age

The crucial element in understanding the life of Joseph Hirst is to see how he was a part of great changes in British society in the first half of the 19th century: he changed, society changed, Britain changed.

This period and further into Victorian times has been much analysed by contemporary observers of the day and more recent historians keen to explore how the mentality of the British public and its institutions transformed. It’s been labelled the origin of modern English society, an age of reform, a mechanical age, a time of /adssez-faire versus government intervention, similarly a time of optimism and anxiety, and perhaps overall an age of transition. I think trying to get a sense of that period gives us an insight into how Joseph’s ‘new’ thinking differed from the ‘old’ of his brother John and family. We are all creatures of our age and environment. We can choose our paths, of course, from amongst the many influences, deciding to agree with one mainstream of thought and reject another, but the options open to most of us are limited by those dominant mores at key moments.

Awareness of being in transition

What’s notable when reading the works of some mid-19th century writers is their awareness that they were living in an age of transition from the past into the future. This term, transition, was used by many social observers of the day, and was reflected in speeches, articles and fiction.

This is the opening paragraph of John Stuart Mill’s first article on The Spirit of the Age, written in 1831:

“The ‘Spirit of the Age’ is in some measure a novel expression. I do not believe that it is to be met with in any work exceeding fifty years in antiquity. The idea of comparing one’s own age with former ages, or with our notion of those which are yet to come, had occurred to philosophers; but it never before was itself the dominant idea of any age.”

“The first of the leading peculiarities of the present age is that it is an age of transition. [...] [This] was obvious a few years ago only to the most discerning: at present it forces itself upon the most

Page 114

J +t]

The terminology used by some mid-19th century tatorst t was “the

middle ages”, “medieval” and “feudal”. They were not referring to those periods specifically, but using the terms for effect, to underline the disparity between the new age and the one that

came before. Writing in 1860, Thackeray described the old times graphically:

It was only yesterday; but what a gulf between now and then! Then was the old world. Stage coaches, more or less swift, riding horses, pack-horses, highway- men, knights in armour, Norman invaders, Roman legions, Druids, Ancient Britons painted blue, and so forth — all these belonging to the old period. [...] We who survive out of the ancient world are like Father Noah and his family out of the Ark. The children will gather round and say to us patriarchs, “Tell us, grandpapa, about the old world’. And we shall mumble our old stories [...] We are old — old — very old relicts of the times when George was still fighting the

Page 115

interference; and state intervention, which some believed was needed to curb the excesses of capitalism and individual venality. It was a time of optimism: a belief that the ideals (but not the violence) of the French revolution would at last have an impact in Britain; and that improvements brought about through more rational thinking and the rise of science, better and wider education and wise governance would have a positive impact on people’s health, wealth and quality of life. But it was also a time of anxiety: a fear of revolution in which the lower orders rose to overthrow the established order; concern that a rise in atheism would lead to a breakdown of social morality; dismay at the appalling living and working conditions of the poorer strata of society; doubt over whether the thrust of industrialisation was actually creating a better Britain.

( Factory Acts

Page 116

night. Children had to work the full day along with the adults. They concluded their

Page 120

hour — a frightening or exhilarating speed depending on one’s constitution.

I find it difficult to imagine the impact the railways had on the mindset of the public at that time. The editor of The Scotsman in 1824 wrote:

“When the steam coach is brought fully into use there is nothing very extravagant in expecting to see the present extreme rate of travelling (ten miles per hour) doubled. We shall then be carried at the rate of 400 miles per day, with all the ease we now enjoy in a steam boat... It is impossible to anticipate the effects of such an extended facility of communications, when generally introduced. From Calais to Petersburg, or Constantinople, for instance, would be but a journey of five days; and the tour of E tl lished ina shorter time than our grandfathers took to travel to London and back

Page 121

The idea put to the citizens of Huddersfield by the Manchester and Leeds (M&L) Company was to bring a spur line into the centre of the town from the east, where it would stop. The town rejected this because the route proposed was so low in the valley that it would not have been possible to extend it further. A local citizen remarked about the M&L: “They have clapped us in a hole and want to keep us there.” Emotions ran high: the M&L Company’s general manager apparently stated in a public meeting that the Huddersfield traffic “was not worth stopping the engines for”.

Much better for Huddersfield folk would be a through-line linking the town directly with Manchester and Leeds. Well, there already was a transport link between Huddersfield and Manchester, along the Colne Valley and through Standedge tunnel: the canal. The now economically struggling Huddersfield Canal teamed up in 1844 with a new railway company: the Huddersfield and Manchester (H&M), and they were able to build the Manchester connection relatively cheaply by benefiting from the level of the canal and the Standedge canal tunnel works. The station in Huddersfield was started in 1846 to much excitement and anticipation — this was a very major event for the town and the area.

“The day was declared a public holiday, church bells rang all day and an impressive procession of clergy, police, architects, contractors, engineers, magistrates, freemasons, company officials and shareholders paraded through the town to the Square. Bringing up the rear of the procession was a Right Hon., the Earl Fitzwilliam, who was to perform the stone-laying ceremony. Thousands of people crowded into the Square to watch the proceedings and celebrations continued throughout the day. Less than a year later work on the line was completed and the first train arrived in Huddersfield on 2nd August

Various esteemed gentlemen were appointed to the Board of the H&M Railway and Canal Company in 1846, including William Aldam M.P. of Frickley Hall; Joseph Hirst’s uncle Joseph Brook, Esq. of Green Head, Huddersfield; and Joseph’s cousin William Leigh Brook, Esq. of Meltham Hall (see Appendix 1, Tree 4).

The people of the Meltham area could now make their way by carriage, horse or foot over to Marsden on the old road and catch a train into Manchester, but their journey into Huddersfield was not facilitated. They might as well just proceed directly to town. Nor was this much of a boon commercially. What was needed for them was direct transportation to


Page 122

Huddersfield was linked in 1850 to Penistone and Sheffield by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR). A spur was built off the L&YR from Brockholes that went up the Holme Valley to Holmfirth, which was opened at the same time as the parent line, in 1850.

Now Greave people could reach a train at Holmfirth, which is nearer than Marsden, but they had to wait many years before they had a line from their own local town. It was started in 1864, with the first sod being cut by Charles Brook junior Esq., another of Joseph Hirst’s cousins. The Huddersfield Chronicle of 9th April 1864 reported:

“The long expected ceremony of cutting the first sod of the Huddersfield and Meltham Railway took place on Monday afternoon last, amid a continual downpouring of rain. The large assembly present, however,

Page 124

* George William Frederick Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle, Lord Viscount Morpeth (Whig), Sir George Strickland, 7th Baronet of Cholmeley (Whig), * John Charles Ramsden from Newby Park in Yorkshire (Whig) and

Page 125

for elections previous to that are sketchy in their availability and contents.

There were three Greave people who voted at this 1835 bye-election. We know how people voted because this was recorded in the Poll Book. The secret ballot was not introduced until 1872. They cast as follows:

Page 126

Chapter 12 Joseph Hirst — manufacturer, 1836 — 1849

Joseph Hirst and worsteds

We know that Joseph started his working life, with his brother John, making woollen cloth, but by the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 he was manufacturing worsted

Page 127

for suits and better quality clothing, summer wear and sturdy upholstery. While wool ) for woollens was carded and spun to produce yarn that retained the fibre’s mixed up nature, worsted yarn could be spun smooth with the fibres all in one direction. This was obtained by using wool with longer fibres that are more easily laid out parallel and with fewer curly ends to catch, and also by combing (rather than carding) in a way that removed the shorter fibres and left the long ones like well-combed hair rather than how it is after being pulled through a hedge backwards. Yarn spun from long fibres was stronger than that spun from short ones, and so, while the strength of woollen cloth came from the felting, that for worsteds was due to the strength of the yarn and the weave.

Carding for woollens was a relatively simple process allowing the interaction of the cards - specifically the area of short spikes on the card frames - to separate and then ‘frizz’ the wool. Combing for worsteds was a more skilful technique and people who previously carded did not necessarily have the skill to do the combing. Another variation in the production process was that worsteds did not need to be fulled, thus saving on time and cost.

The strength of the worsted yarn allowed worsted manufacturers to make changes not possible for the woollen trade. It enabled an earlier introduction of mechanisation, thereby ts production at a factory scale, leaving woollen cloth production to the domestic

Page 128

theory for the origin of the name worsteds.*”

For hundreds of years Norfolk was the centre of worsted production but by the end of the 18th century the West Riding had taken over. The reasons for this shift are not known for certain, but it’s theorised that manufacturers from eastern England might have moved up north to work with people experienced in weaving cloth but free from the restrictions of guilds and therefore available at lower Another incentive to these East Anglian manufacturers might have been that Yorkshire sheep supplied long-stapled wool that could be spun into yarn appropriate for worsted production, unlike the East Anglian sheep at that time.** An alternative explanation for the growth in the West Riding is that indigenous woollen clothiers made the decision to change to worsteds in the belief or hope that they would become more profitable. The Civil War of the 17th century had left areas around Bradford and Halifax severely depressed economically and the production of woollen cloth internationally was growing, further reducing trade, so there would have been incentive for local manufacturers to consider switching to worsteds, which were less widely made.

There’s no documentation about why Joseph Hirst, over a hundred years later, decided to move from woollens to worsteds, though I suggested in his dialogue with his brother in a previous chapter that he might have been partly motivated by the greater possibilities afforded by worsteds for mechanisation and, hence, factory production, along with the possibility of

making more money. Certainly, worsteds

Page 129

to do this without having the financial basis to manufacture cloth when not being certain of

being able to sell it quickly. Therefore:

“The small ind I dent clothier never existed in the worsted industry. [...] The worsted master was usually a large employer, with a flock of workpeople at his command. [...] He went to the chief fairs, or to the farmers, buying considerable quantities of wool, which he then brought home and gave into the hands of his

sorters and dyers, who worked under his

Page 130

or more of the Hirst clothiers at Lower Greave and must have shown Joseph he had the attributes to make a good manager.

Mary Hirst (née Bedford) and John Crosland Hirst. Source: The Eleanor Hirst Trust.

In the 1841 census, Joseph and Eleanor were living in

Page 131

worsteds? In Britain the mule was not much used for spinning fine worsted yarns, even though in France mules were extensively used and produced excellent yarns for worsted weaving. A 1970s researcher into the history of the Mule couldn’t explain why this was so: Why the mule was not widely used for worsted is something of a mystery. It cannot be ascribed to geographical difficulties, for the centre of the West Riding worsted industry was only twenty-five miles from the centre of the Lancashire cotton

Page 132

Hirst’s obituary tells us that he greatly reduced his selling of small quantities of finished cloth pieces to local customers, though “he did keep up, for a time longer, his

Page 133


Page 134

Day at Messrs. Brooks’ Cotton Mill at Meltham

Page 135


tin 1864. It appears as a margin illustration on an 1864 map Meltham Mills Estate ng to the Representatives of the late William Leigh Brook Esq. and Charles Brook Esqre. Junr. Source: West Yorkshire Archive Service, Kirklees (KA11).

is nothing flimsy or weak about them; all is solid and massy, as if they were erected like the old Saxon castles to endure for ages. One magnificent chimney shoots up in the foreground, high above them, the top of which is visible at a great distance. A beautiful church, founded and endowed by Jonas Brook, Esq., deceased, who was one of the most gentle and beneficent of men, stands on the slope of the hill, as you enter the village, not far from the noble hall, and almost within the precincts of the park, where one of the proprietors of the mill resides. The parsonage-house, surrounded by trees and overlooking the valley, is situated within a short distance of the church and a handsome school house not far off — where the children belonging to the mills are educated — complete the external features of Meltham Mills and the neighbourhoo

Developments at Wilshaw Not only did Joseph keep his Wilshaw base, he developed it into a mill in 1849. The obituary

tells us that “he erected the large warehouse ..., the weaving rooms, counting house, and workmen’s dwellings, which occupy the site of the old barn”. Just down the slope from the

held “... it to be a matter of great importance, that a people to manufactures, should have every facility afforded them for exercise, and the enlargement of their hearts and sympathies.” After describing a walk that takes in Lockwood and t Holmfirth valley, Holmfirth itself not a pretty town”), the moors above Holmfirth and the Isle of Skye, he ends it with “when you have reached the ‘Isle’, as it is called, you will be awed as well as delighted with its aspect; and if you are tired after your long wandering, you can climb the hills and gain the inn by the road side, and refresh yourself with ham, eggs, and a flaggon of

Page 136

ohn Crosland Hirst Ad 'n th

Page 137

monument to the village boy’s Well, tall chimneys were needed to generate draw and to disperse smoke from coal-powered furnaces, so this suggests that Joseph had started to power some machinery — possibly the looms — with

Page 138

a mill himself but often a group of men, perhaps as many as 40, took out shares and built a ‘company mill’. A report to a Standing Committee looking into joint-stock companies in 1844 noted that company mills were common at that

Page 139

Vertical integration

Dr. Alfred Reckendrees, in his paper exploring the different ways leading to factory

Page 140

to the water and so on) plus the profit to the fuller. If he had his own fulling mill, he could keep that profit for himself or choose to improve his sales by offering his cloth more cheaply than other clothiers. Economists call it

Page 141

Chapter 13 Joseph Hirst — manufacturer, 1850 — 1874

Partnership with Richard Barnicot

There’s some confusion about this partnership. Joseph’s obituary states it was with a J. Barnicot, but the indenture of dissolution some years later shows the partnership was with Richard Barnicot. In fact, Richard had a family partnership with his brother Joseph, which was the cause of the misunderstanding, I believe. The Barnicots came from St. Austell, Cornwall. Joseph Barnicot worked in London and it was Richard who came to work in


By 1850, Joseph Hirst had been in partnership with Richard Barnicot of Huddersfield, a woollen merchant, for two years. We’re told in Joseph’s obituary that Barnicot “had come from the West of England to Huddersfield, and entered upon the calling of a woollen merchant” and set up his business behind some shops on Kirkgate. “As a merchant, he was successful, and had disposed of considerable quantities of Mr Hirst’s manufactures.” The partnership seemed sensible in business terms, bringing yet another of the commercial steps — the buying and selling of the wool

Page 142

The Great Exhibition of 1851

The partnership still stood in 1851 when they had a display at the Great Exhibition. Barnicot & Hirst entered within Classes 12 and 15: Woollen and Worsted, Mixed Fabrics, including Shawls, and on page 76 of the exhibition catalogue their entry reads: “BARNICOT & HIRST, Huddersfield, Wilshaw and Meltham, Manu. — Buckskin, Orleans, doeskins, and hair-line, for trousers, made from middle-price Port Phillip wool.”*** Just up the aisle from their display were Brooke & Sons of Honley. In a different section dedicated to cotton were Jonas Brook & Bros. of Meltham Mills.**°

This exhibition was a high-water mark of Victorian society — an exceptional event for Britain and an exciting expression of a nation in change, especially with regard to attitudes towards the working class. It represented Britain’s leading role in the world’s economy and generated feelings of awe within its visitors. But it was also slightly shocking to some in the way it was open to the common people, and the masses flocked there, making it an extremely popular and profitable event.

Exhibiting at the event must have either fitted with or been a part of developing Joseph’s political outlook: pride in Britain’s institutions and achievements, and supportive of raising the standing of the working man. I think it captures very neatly the trajectory of Joseph’s life so Appendix 6 considers the importance and character of the Exhibition in more detail.

Experiencing the exhibition

I imagine the Brooks and Joseph Hirst (or their representatives) were tucked away behind their rather boring stalls of cloth and thread as the crowds passed them by. But perhaps that was not quite so. It seems the visitors were not just interested in the eye-catching fountains and marble statues and showed great interest in the new and awe-inspiring products and processes of the industrial revolution. Mayhew, who in 1851 wrote one of the earliest sociological studies of the British working class, also wrote an entertaining account of the

234 See Appendix 8 for

Page 143

Exhibition in the same

Page 144

Importance of the Exhibition for Joseph Hirst

As I’ve already suggested, simply participating at such an event would have been enormously rewarding in many ways. I doubt he attended a great deal as he had his I to run, but he

was probably there at the opening and closing and occasionally at other times and there was the chance of meeting interesting people — even celebrities. It would certainly have helped to raise his standing within society, a quest I will explore in a later chapter. This was the place to be for men of his ilk, and he might have met new business contacts, struck deals, been inspired.

He was one of about 3,000 other exhibitors (including his Brook and Brooke relations) who was awarded a prize medal. It’s thought that there were around 14,000 exhibitors in total, so the medal would have been a prestigious recognition of their work — something to be proud of. There were no gradations: one similar, bronze prize medal was awarded to all those who achieved “a certain standard of excellence in workmanship, beauty, utility, and


Page 145

The local Huddersfield press ran this item, which shows the effect of success on Meltham Mills:

“The Exhibition Prizes — Rejoicings at Meltham Mills The announcement [of Great Exhibition prizes for Messrs. Brook in Class XI and Messrs. Barnicot and Hirst in Class XII] excited quite a sensation in that village, and the mills belonging to those firms and other buildings were surmounted with flags, and decorated with indications of rejoicing.

Page 146


Page 148

Business style

Joseph remained a wealthy industrialist until his death in 1874. This is how his obituarist summarised his business style and reputation:

“One of the main causes of his great success [as a ‘Merchant Prince of England’] was his well-known integrity of character, and promptitude in all his business transactions. With him ‘his word was his bond’. Whatever he promised he performed; whatever he bargained for he fulfilled. In bargaining, he never lost sight of the fact that he was one of the parties to the contract: but the moment the contract was made, those who dealt with him knew they would have no trouble; knew they would be paid to the uttermost farthing

Page 149

honest “all-wool’ cloth, that the flocks and other waste resulting from his own manufacture, were not used by him, but were regularly fetched away by dealers in them

Page 150

Chapter 14 The mores of mid-Victorian Britain

It’s very tempting to ask the question: What motivated Joseph Hirst to become the person he did? Well might we ask, but I won’t offer a definitive answer as it would be a guess and most likely inaccurate. Instead,

Page 151

and a gentility which he had not

Page 152

social standing. In 1824, a social commentator wrote an article eulogising Britain’s complex society, arguing it was “the secret of our liberty”. In it he referred to a “multiplicity of classes”:

] /

an ignorant labouring population, and a needy and profligate nobility; its

“In most other countries, society p anything but a void between parts have but little connexion, are disproportionate, and cannot balance and bind each other; but with us the space between the ploughman and the peer, is crammed with circle after circle, fitted in the most admirable way for sitting upon each other, for connecting the former with the latter, and for rendering the whole perfect in cohesion, strength and

Page 154

perhaps against the interests of the paternal provider, was dangerous. It was possible and of course it happened, but not to the extent of in the new age. “Whether a plowman or a bishop, each individual had his function, his place, his protectors, his duties, his reciprocal obligations, and his strong ties of

Page 155


at the South London Industrial Exhtbttion. Source: The Illustrated London

News Suppplement of 8th April 1865.

mid-Victorian social

Page 156

the Great Exhibition as being a part of that theatrical show and posited that “a rustic coming to London” was in awe of what she or he saw because it was wonderful and beyond his or

her ken.

While deference was not a new phenomenon, the widely-held and politically-supported idea of removable inequality — that people could (and should) strive to shake off their inequalities and rise in society — was new. It was “the dominant politician of that period”, Palmerston who was one of the first to describe British society in this way.”° He quite frequently spoke of classes raising themselves on the social scale, but it’s one particular speech that I want to quote here because of its particular link to the Great Exhibition and to men like Joseph Hirst and because it expressed the common creed of the 50s and 60s.

Page 157

He went on to say that not all could win the highest prizes (he used as analogy that not all the entrants to the horse race, the Derby, could win the race), but praised their endeavour of seeking wealth and noted that it had its rewards even if it resulted in a failure to “gain the summits of ambition” because it produced happiness, raised them in the eyes of their families and society and led to “the noblest of all exercises, of all pleasures — the cultivation, improvement, and development of the human intellect”.

“And so I say to you — you are competitors for prizes. You may not all become Lord Chancellors or Archbishops; you may not become members of the Cabinet; but depend upon it, you will, by systematic industry, raise yourselves in the social system of your country — you will acquire honour and respect for yourselves and for your families. You will have, too, the constant satisfaction of feeling that you have materially contributed to the dignity of your country, to its welfare, to its prosperity and greatness, and that you have been worthy of the nation to which you belong. [...] Go on, ladies and gentlemen, and prosper; 99258

Of course, these were the words of a politician and perhaps he was describing the country, under his guidance, that he

Page 158

be On becoming a gentleman

What were the main rungs on that social ladder? Manual labourers could seek to enter into ‘trade’, the tradesman should aspire to the professions, professionals needed another step to achieve their entry into ‘society’ - to become gentlemen or ladies. So what was a gentleman and how did you become one?* In previous times, the un-written definition was that a gentleman lived without having to work, almost always due to owning property — a member of the landed gentry and the nobility, the aristocracy, the county families. But the clarity of this description began to become muddied by the mid-18th century and in the 19th it was hopelessly so. Burn in his book The Age of Equipoise observed that in mid-Victorian Britain, “if a small town contained no gentleman as the word was understood in the county club, then the solicitor, the brewer, the doctor stepped into the breach; elsewhere the prosperous farmer or shopkeeper might have to serve; or someone who exhibited just a little more decorum, possessed a little more money than his neighbours, would have the role thrust upon

Page 159

Self Help

What the mid-Victorians needed, given they were emerging from a society of mutual support into one of self-thrusting, was a guide to how to behave: what they should do to better themselves, a simple ABC for life - a self-help guide. And they got one in the form of Samuel Smiles’s book entitled exactly that:

Page 160

Chapter 15 Joseph Hirst — Landowner

“Joseph Hirst, Esq., J.P.” is the heading of his obituary, starting in the 19th December 1874 Huddersfield Weekly News. The J.P., of course, stands for Justice of the Peace — an office obtained by invitation, but what entitled him to be called

Page 161

This reduction in the size of individual land ownership in the first half of the 19th century was typical. It’s estimated that the population of England rose from about 5.5 million in the late 17th century to 10.4 million by the census of 1821 - the time around which the Hirsts were mortgaging their land

Page 162

it for £443.°°

Page 163

As Ive mentioned earlier, it’s remarkable how modest Joseph and Eleanor’s house is when compared with the homes of similarly wealthy industrialists of the period. It’s perfectly possible to drive past it and not give it a second glance. There are no imposing gates and driveway, the house is relatively small. Had he not been so emotionally connected with the village, once he’d increased his wealth he might easily have left and built himself a hall nearby.*”

The map (opposite) shows the estate that Joseph and latterly Eleanor Hirst put together.

He collected the village land piece-by-piece as it became available, much like a collector obtains separate items of a set aiming to complete a whole. The details are in the box, which summarises each new acquisition shown on the map by the letter (A), (B), etc. While a few of the land acquisition documents contained plans, most didn’t, so the positions of boundaries and buildings on my map, though largely accurate, must not be taken as being exact.

(Land and buildings bought by Joseph Hirst

Property A: Old stone quarry, obtained in 1831 from Jonas Brook.

The property was apparently gifted to Joseph for his marriage in 1831, though it seems this was formalised by an exchange of a token £15, with legal documentation, in

Page 165

a Property D: About 14 acres to the south of Wilshaw Farm, obtained in 1857 from Sarah Davies.

Joseph bought the land for £410 in two Lots of an auction. This was probably his first acquisition made with an eye to owning the estate of Wilshaw.

Property E: Land around Greave and at Swinny Knowl, obtained (a) in 1862 from Richard Hirst and (b) in 1863 from Jane Wheatley.

(a) The bulk of Richard Hirst’s land was once owned by his and Joseph’s grandfather John Hirst senior. Some of it had passed via various of John Hirst senior’s sons and his grandson John Hirst junior, and ultimately to Richard, Joseph’s youngest brother. Another part had originally been given to the Harrison family of Crosland Edge in the Netherthong Inclosure hand out and then sold on, eventually to be picked up by Richard.

It was a notable acquisition for Joseph because amongst the property was his old home on Lower Greave and he was adding his grandfather’s old estate to his own (see Appendix 4). A Huddersfield Land Valuer, Thomas Brook (no relation), valued the property at £1,524 6s. 9d. and this is what Joseph paid.

(b) The second part of this property had come, by mortgage default, from William Kinder to Jane Wheatley. Joseph bought it in 1863 for £1,075.

Property F: A cottage and outbuildings on Lower Greave, obtained in 1863 from Nancy Steere, née Kinder.

This was previously owned by John Kinder of Greave (a merchant) and passed down to his daughter Nancy. As a widow, she controlled her property (rather than it being under that of trustees) and sold it to Joseph for £180.

Property G: About 3 acres of land on Swinny Knoll, obtained in 1864 from William Brook, cousin.

Again, the Netherthong Inclosure Award was the origin. William Brook’s father, Charles Brook, had bought the land from Eneas Walker of Wellhouse, Netherthong who had been gifted it in the Award. Charles passed it to William who sold it to Joseph for £150. The closes had the delicious names of ‘Little Dodroyd Hirst’ and ‘Lower Dodroyd Hirst’. I’ve no idea why they were so called.

Property H: Various fields covering 16 acres on Swinny Knoll, obtained in 1864 from the Earl of Dartmouth.

£450 were paid for these closes, including ‘Ass-hill Field’,

Page 166

( property J: All the land to the east of Greave connecting with his land at Swinny ) Knoll, as well as land and buildings at Cote and Wood Nook, and all the land and buildings at Upper Greave; obtained in 1871 from the Executors of James Shaw, nephew of Henry Shaw of Upperthong and Wood Nook.

Joseph must have been very excited when this opportunity arose because he was able to acquire nearly all the rest of Wilshaw that he didn’t already own. It was sold at auction at the Victoria Hotel in Holmfirth (see flyer) in six Lots. Joseph bought five of them. The memorandum for the sale stated that “Joseph Hirst (signature) of Wilshaw Villa in the township of Meltham, Esquire, was the highest bidder for and was declared the purchaser of Lots 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 at the price of £6,000”.

Property K: Closes near to Swinny Knoll, obtained from the Trustees of the Penistone Church School in 1870.

An apparent coincidence, which is probably not a coincidence at all, is that the Headmaster of Penistone School between 1855 and 1867 - the period in which Joseph was buying Wilshaw - was the Reverend John Wesley Aldom; the same man that Joseph appointed as the rector of his church in Thornton Hough in 1868. Joseph paid £1,393 15s.

Land bought by Eleanor Hirst

Property L: ‘Brook’s Plantation’, a 9-acre wood near Australia Farm, obtained in 1876 from William Brook, Joseph’s cousin. The wood, known to our family as Jammy Wood’, was earlier owned by Charles Brook (bought in 1839) and passed to his son William, who sold it to Eleanor for £420.

Land that eluded Joseph

Property X: Fields across the road from the Villa and the Church.

Taylor in The History of Wilshaw tells us, and it makes total sense, that Joseph wanted to buy this land. It was owned by the Green-Armytage family of Thick Hollins Hall, represented at the time by Joseph Green-Armytage and then his son Rev. Joseph North Green-Armytage, who refused to sell. Being a long-standing local family they evidently didn’t want to reduce their Thick Hollins estate.

Page 167




Freehold Farms


Page 168

Coat of arms

What does the gentleman with an estate also need? Well, his own coat of arms of course, and so Joseph created one for himself.

Actually, that sentence is technically inaccurate for two reasons. For one thing a true coat of arms, or armorial, was not for an individual but for a family so he couldn’t create one for himself. And secondly, it seems likely he didn’t create one so much as adopt and adapt one.

(Coats of Arms

Page 169

The stone-carved version is on the wall of St. Mary’s Court — a block of houses built by Joseph for working people of Wilshaw. It also appears on his mausoleum in Wilshaw churchyard. This paper representation appears on an illuminated address p ted to Joseph and Eleanor by his workforce (see Chapter 17).

I'd always assumed that Joseph, riding the wave of heraldic enthusiasm of his time, had commissioned an heraldic expert of the day to design this armorial; the contents can be deciphered to show relevance to his work and temperament. The crest of a naked bent arm implies an industrious leader, for example. However, this assumption was shattered when I first saw an armorial in The History of Brighouse, Rastrick and Hipperholme written by J. Horsfall Turner in 1893, shown in picture

Page 170

(A) Coat of arms of Hirst of Rastrick. Source: The (B) Hirst Arms. Source: As (A). History of B igh Rastrick an

Page 171

Chapter 16 Joseph Hirst - Conservative

His form of Conservatism

Again, we are indebted to the observations of his obituarist for guidance about his political views:

“In politics, Mr Hirst was an ardent Conservative — ever supporting the cause both by purse and influence. But while he was truly Conservative of the great Institutions of England, which have made her renowned through-out the civilised world, and enabled her to maintain her prestige and power, he was not a fossilised Tory.”*”

The reference to “fossilised Tory” needs some explanation. The first quarter of the 19th century saw a number of political issues that split the Tory party. For example, there was a tension between the ‘landed gentry’ Tories (who supported policies

Page 172

The obituary continued:

“Long before Mr Disraeli’s Reform Bill of 1867, Mr Hirst was an advocate for Household Suffrage — seeing no secure stand-point in the numerous proposals then before the country, for rental, ratal, and educational

Page 173

Most radicals had been arguing for a simple householder suffrage: votes for men who owned or rented or lodged in a house; and, to their surprise, a version of this was eventually passed in the Act. It was meant to be more encompassing than considering rates and education, leading to more working people becoming enfranchised, though the Act still omitted the poorer members of society because to qualify they had to be paying at least £10 rent a year.***

Why was he a Conservative?

Evidence for the obituarist’s claim that he was “an advocate for Household Suffrage” is provided by a speech he gave in 1870 to Meltham Conservatives, when he said “he was one of those few Conservatives who thought that, when another Reform Bill should be passed the bill would go down to include household suffrage. It was his opinion that now the constitution of this country was fixed upon the very basis upon which it ought to be

Page 174

extent that some disappointed statesmen would wish them to be, would end in the subversion of our glorious and incomparable constitution.

“These are men who would pull down and change everything, and yet are too ignorant or worse themselves to set up anything in their places but wild, unbridled democracy. Those principles I am glad to see working men are prepared to combat, not in the blind spirit of faction, but upon rational and well-considered grounds, and while I trust they are willing to admit the intelligent and well-conducted portion of working men to power in the state, in such numbers, and to such an extent, as to give them their fair portion of power; but not to bring into power indiscriminately the uneducated, improvident, and vicious portion of the working classes, in such numbers as to swamp and override the intelligent and thinking part of the community at large. Another thing has struck me much, viz., that working men should so easily have been led by any one professing Liberal opinions, however much such men may have deceived them in the practice of them, and that a suspicion should have so constantly been entertained of those professing Conservative opinions. I say I have been surprised at this, as I know nothing in the conduct or bearing of that party towards the artizan classes, or in their want of sympathy and readiness to come forward and identify themselves with working men at all times, and especially when any calamity or distress might have overtaken them, to cause such a want of confidence. I will say fearlessly, that every true Conservative by

iples and nature is a true friend of the working man, and would be

his very p the last man to support or sanction any measures that would have a tendency to curtail his liberty, or oppress him in any way whatever; but on the contrary, to spare neither trouble nor expense in his endeavours to raise him in the scale

of society.”

Note his concern about “wild, unbridled democracy” and note also the repeated theme of supporting those working people who show merit, intelligence and are “well conducted”, while despising - I don’t think that’s too strong a word — those who are “uneducated, improvident and vicious”. [ll return to this.

The second letter is along similar lines. This transcription of his words to the Annual Soirée of the Meltham and Meltham Mills Conservative Association is contained in Joseph Hirst’s

Page 175

and the interest and happiness of all classes within Her Majesty’s dominions

Page 176

couple returned from their “wedding tour”. We get a further insight into Joseph Hirst’s politics regarding the relationship between owner and employees from the speeches made at the event. The Beaumont and Hirst families, and those connected to them by business or society, were all represented, but the main attenders were the many hundreds of male and female workers, who beforehand had been provided with a pub meal (the men) or tea at the mill (the women and children).

The first person to speak as chairman of the occasion was Alfred’s younger brother George, who, the report stated, “dwelt on the good feeling which ought to obtain between masters and workmen after which, he urged on the workmen the duty of improving themselves by education [...] and that [he hoped the Steps Mill] workmen would leave off low pursuits. The young chairman was frequently applauded in his remarks”. Joseph then took the platform. The report continued:

“The remarks of Mr. Hirst were everyway worthy of a parent and an employer of labour. [...] He dwelt forcibly on the great duties of capital and labour. He insisted that the interests of masters and workmen were identical, and cannot be separated; and he who attempts to sow the seeds of ill-feeling in the minds of either party, is an enemy to both. It was the silly notion of some persons that masters had nothing to do but accumulate wealth; but he could assure them that capital had its sleepless nights and restless days, as well as labour, and their seasons of prosperity and adversity must be mutual and shared in by both. [...] On the subject of the good feeling which ought to subsist between employers and employed, the present proceedings were an abundant proof that such a d, and he had great pleasure in having come to witness it, hoping that it t would long continue.”

This view that Joseph expressed — “the interests of masters and workmen were identical” - was the basis of an accepting and functioning ‘paternalistic’ economy noting, of course, that while the masters did “accumulate wealth” they allied this with a responsibility to ensure that the worthy poor (not the “improvident and vicious”) would be supported

Page 177

firm would not be found wanting in return [deafening applause].” The reporter concluded that the meeting “was one of the most satisfactory character for harmony and good feeling”.

Note the common theme, embroidered differently but always the same message: we are all working people (unltke the aristocracy) with similar needs and ambitions. We're all in this together. We (the masters) ‘made it’ through hard graft and so can you. Work hard, improve yourselves, avoid low temptations (drink, sloth) and you will be rewarded. Don’t listen to rabble-rousers who sow disharmony. We will look after you. And this message is enhanced by supportive and flattering reporting, telling their readers how everyone is happy and everything

This was the dominant mood between capital and labour in the middle of the 19th century, and was subtly imbued in all parts of society. For example, note the parallels with Palmerston’s speech to the London Exhibition industrialists in 1865 (Chapter 14), which differed only in that it was pitched at the owners rather than the employees: “... you will, by systematic industry, raise yourselves you will have the constant satisfaction of feeling you have materially contributed to prosperity and greatness, and that you have been worthy Go on... and prosper.”

Here is one last newspaper report to show Joseph’s political viewpoint. This one’s from page 3 of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner of 28th August, 1871 reporting the opening of Eleanor Hirst’s almshouses in

Page 178

houses are not built for paupers; they are built for those who have been nobly struggling through life and striven to support themselves and their families, and who find in their declining years they are destitute; those who now occupy these houses have never applied to any parish for relief.”

He listed the order of priority for getting an almshouse: first, his ex-employees; second, those living in the locality of Wilshaw church; third, those living in Meltham; fourth, those from Netherthong and Honley — all places in which he had property. He repeated, “no improper person shall be admitted into these houses, but that they shall be a refuge for those who have passed through a life of honest industry, and who have sustained a respectable and

honest character”. This echoes and extends the sentiments expressed at Mary and Alfred’s wedding celebration: Work hard, improve yourselves, and you will be rewarded. We will look after you. But don’t expect any hand outs tf you’re a scrounger! Joseph’s politics fitted absolutely with the model of deference and paternalism that existed in this mid-Victorian period, especially in industrial areas. In the next chapter,

Page 179

Chapter 17 Joseph Hirst - Father of the Village

Henry James Morehouse concluded his notebook entry about Joseph Hirst with the words: “Thus passed away this truly good man, who may be justly called, the Father of the Village.””" Why did Morehouse consider this epithet as appropriate for him? Cyril Pearce has previously explored Joseph’s role as a

Page 180

of society between the wealthy and the poor. 294 As Pearce observed: “Where was the philanthropy i in providing houses, school bait to attract skilled workers? How far were churches and schools designed to enlighten and ennoble and how far to instruct and

Page 181

( paternalistic manufacturers such as Joseph Hirst claim that they hadn't heard ) of this approach to running a mill, nor that it didn’t make sense economically. Owen had his detractors, however, who claimed his methods were too disruptive of social networks, too controlling and, most damnably, that he was an enemy of religion. But his ideas were there to be emulated or partially adopted, if so wished, by those who professed a desire to improve the lives of working people.

2. Titus Salt Salt was born in 1803 and so was a contemporary of Joseph Hirst. He was the son of a wool merchant and went into business with his father as a young man. After he took over the business in 1833, he expanded as a worsted manufacturer owning six mills in Bradford, first working with a long-stapled Russian wool and then with similar Alpaca wool. He became mayor of Bradford and, briefly, a Liberal M.P. He was concerned by overcrowding and smoke pollution within Bradford and planned in the late 1840s to build a single large mill to house all his manufacturing away from the centre. He bought land in Shipley next to the River Aire, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Midland Railway. This was opened in 1853, after which Salt built houses for his workers, bathhouses, an institute, hospital, almshouses and churches, so forming what became know as the model village of Saltaire. Living and working conditions for his workers were considerably improved over those of other mill workers in Bradford and other urban areas, even though Saltaire was ‘dry’ - no pubs. James, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, wrote however:

“Salt’s motives in building Saltaire remain obscure. They seem to have been a mixture of sound economics, Christian duty, and a desire to have effective control over his workforce. There were economic reasons for moving out of Bradford, and the village did provide him with an amenable, handpicked workforce. Yet Salt was deeply religious and sincerely believed that, by creating an environment where people could lead healthy, virtuous, godly lives, he was doing God’s

Page 182

But still. Why did the employees in a paternalistic relationship show deference and accept subservience to the employer? Were they truly as fond of the

Page 183

During the transition from domestic to factory work, those moving from running their own small business to working for someone else in a mill or factory lost control of their destiny. Security was a high prize and when this was matched with fair treatment, working people were happy or willing to accept the disparity between themselves and their employers. We can refer to the words of factory workers themselves. This was the report of a cotton worker’s speech to a large audience of other cotton workers at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1859. It was on the occasion of a visit by Lord Shaftesbury who had been instrumental in passing the Ten Hours Bill.*”

“From [the speaker’s] own experience, he believed that there was nothing like hostility existing between the employers and the employed in consequence of the settlement of this important question. There should not be any hostility, for the interests of the two classes were identical. He was satisfied that he spoke the feelings of the workers generally when he sai We envy not our masters’ wealth, But gladly we increase their store, We justly ask, for labour’s toil, Sweet competence, and nothing more. (Loud cheers.)””” Here was that same refrain: “the interests of the two classes were identical”; but this time from the workers’ side. They asked simply for work provided competently by the employers. Such competence implied making a success of the business, keeping them in work, creating fair working conditions and expecting reasonable contributions from their workers. Working people had their pride, so this was not a

Page 184

more wages, and we will have it before we have

Page 185

Death of Mary

Before I write about Joseph’s paternalistic actions, I must note this momentous event. Most of the measures taken by Joseph for his community occurred after Mary, his only and much- loved child, died in 1859, and he named some the main developments after her. Appendix 3 contains more about Mary and shows the affection in which she was held. Was Joseph’s (and Eleanor’s) philanthropy driven by shock and grief and a desire to represent and promote Mary’s “good-works’ in the community, or would they have built their communities in Wilshaw and Thornton Hough in the same way anyway? We can’t know, though as I’ve shown, his actions were by no means exceptional for industrialists of his era and would have fitted with the progression of his career without the occurrence of this tragedy at that time.

His paternalism

Paternalistic actions changed throughout the country as a whole as the century progressed. At first welfare was predominantly performed and financed by individuals but later local government became more involved. Like the Brooks of Meltham Mills and other industrial paternalists, Joseph gave his time and money to meeting his side of my supposed contract with his immediate community, but he also gave his time to local government, which could undertake other social developments on a wider and less personal scale.

What did employers need to do to meet their side of the so-called contract, described above? It wasn’t a contract between equals, of course. In general the middle class, rising industrialists adopted a superior attitude towards the lower classes and believed it was their responsibility or right to show them the way to a better life and how to avoid temptation, into which

Page 186

the character of the works and the moral standing of the employer. The consequences of this treatment was, that a respectable, sober, industrious, frugal workman, once in Mr. Hirst’s service, had scarcely ever cause to leave it. In a sense, he gloried in his ‘old hands’; and in the same sense, they gloried in him.”

In the hallway of our house in Macclesfield are two ‘illuminated addresses’ written and presented by the workforce of Joseph’s business and

Page 187

We feel that this auspicious day affords us a fitting opportunity to acknowledge the many privileges, advantages and benefits, which you have, under God’s blessing, conferred on this locality. Amongst those, we would particularly name the Free Church where all may meet for Divine Worship and the School for the education of the children.

We deeply regret that Mrs Hirst’s health has prevented her being as much amongst us as in former years; but the erection of these houses proves that her sympathies in our well-being are as active as ever.

These convenient and comfortably furnished Dwellings, which add so much to the beauty of the village, provide a home where the aged and needy may pass the declining years of their life free from toil and care.

We earnestly hope that you may both long be spared to witness the happiness to those whom your bounty and liberality have placed in a position of comfort, that every year may add to your satisfaction at the success of this noble work and that it may be accepted by Him who has said ‘In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me’.

[Signed] John Spencer M.A., John C Hirst, William Haigh, John Hirst, Joseph Hirst, Ben Brown, William V. Drake, James Booth, Will. Geo. Dyson, George H.T. Hall; 26th August,

Page 188

carry out your wishes that the trade and manufactory established by our late honoured master, should be continued on those principles of honour, justice and integrity upon which his business was established and conducted from its commencement to the close of his useful life.” It was signed by eight people, some of whom also signed the earlier

Page 189

keep” ( (though] ised that the factor y worker I lil ly to do their master ’s bidding than the serf if it went‘ ‘against their own inclinations and rules of

Page 190

dwellings and land of Upper Greave in 1871 from the Shaw family. He moved quickly and built St. Mary’s Court two years later.

This is how Morehouse recorded it time around 1880: “Upper Greave, till recently, consisted of several farm houses, with their outbuildings, and a number of small cottages, crowded together, the whole without order or apparent regard to the comfort of the occupants. [...] Joseph Hirst, of Wilshaw, Esq. decided to pull down the whole of the buildings, and rebuild such cottages as seemed to meet the wants of the neighbourhood. These now consist of a square block of building

Page 191

‘ \

Page 192

But what of rents? These properties would not have been rent-free (no excessive charity, remember), so either the people who moved in were capable of paying a going rent for these superior dwellings or Joseph charged a reduced rent in line with their capabilities. And who were these people who “moved in” after they were built in 1873? The following table contains information extracted from the 1871 and 1881 censuses, showing who lived in the Court in 1881 and where they had lived previously.

Head of household I Occupation in 1881 I Other inhabitants I Previously lived in:

Page 193

the rest was shared with a variety of religious organisations. (This pattern remained unchanged until

‘Taylor wondered whether Joseph Hirst had attended a dame school at Australia Farm or another in those Upper Greave cottages.*'* Were these the only primary school options available for early to mid-19th century Greave and Wilshaw dwellers? And who can tell the quality of such an education. Even where schools were provided by a religious organisation, the quality of learning was very low, largely because parents didn’t see the value of school and were keen for their children to be getting paid employment, helping run the home or working on the farm harvesting or bird-

Page 194

by the people, and said to be ‘a great scholar’ and ‘a far-learned

Page 195

history, French, mathematics, drawing, book-keeping and chemistry.

In 1854, Joseph became Secretary of the Meltham Mechanics’ Institute, which had existed from probably earlier than 1848, and three years later he attended the Annual Meeting of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics’ Institutes, held in Huddersfield that year, and contributed to the discussion about how to make examinations and the award of certificates a permanent aspect of “The Society of the Arts’. He thought (speaking as an employer of labour)

“if due weight were given to the certificates granted by the Society of Arts, a beneficial impetus would be given to the great bulk of the working- classes. He felt satisfied there never was so great a want of intelligent working men as now. Employers wanted talent and could not buy it. He was sure that he might speak for the great bulk of employers in the district when he said that they would give any reasonable preference for men holding the certificates”.*”

The nub of the debate was that until recently benefactors had donated funds to be given out as prizes, but there was a call for dropping the cash prizes given to a few and adopting a certificate to be gained by all who did well in the examination. This is an example of the trend within that period to move away from idiosyncratic patronage towards a more formalised system for working-class upward mobility - a system based on hard work and ability rather than ‘who-you-know’ and luck.


Joseph’s first contribution to providing a school for the village was one set up at one of his mills. In 1856, a newspaper report mentioned Martha Hirst, one of Joseph’s relations living in Lower Greave, a girl aged 9 “coming from the mill school”, perhaps known as the Greave School based at Meltham

Page 196

was unusual in having a school combined with the church (thereby, the story goes, causing Bishop Bickersteth of Ripon at first to be unsure about consecrating it, until Joseph threatened to give it to the Methodists instead).° This multi-functionality of the building was recorded by the Huddersfield Chronicle in 1863 when reporting

the church consecration:

“The most noticeable feature in the design is the manner in which the architects (Messrs. Kirk and Son, John William Street, Huddersfield) have treated the combination of the church with school and parsonage, which has been carried out at the suggestion of the founder.** The tower [is internally] divided into four stages; the lower part is the vestibule from which are entrances to the Church and principal vestry [and Sunday school], and a circular staircase to the upper part of the tower. The first floor is a gallery for the scholars ...; the second floor is an

observatory and library; and the third floor is the belfry.”*”

According to Reverend Hughes writing in 1866, the day school averaged 35 scholars, with 50 on the books.** On Sunday, 104 pupils attended and the room was also used for evening lectures. It seems the number of children in the parish needing schooling was too large for this single room to suffice; a proper school with room for infants and juniors was needed.

With the state still not providing for Wilshaw children, Joseph built St. Mary’s Junior school in 1873, the same year St. Marys’ Court was completed, and just across the road from it. The Huddersfield Chronicle had an item about the formal opening:

Page 197

to join him in prayer to Almighty God for his blessing on the work of scriptural education to be carried on in that building during present and future

Page 198

George Hall (headteacher living in the residence adjoining the school), William George Dyson (a business colleague living in Joseph’s old house on Lower Greave), John Crosland Hirst [mill manager] and William Haigh (pattern dyer) also spoke. It’s notable that neither Joseph nor Eleanor were there, possibly due to infirmity.

Joseph’s will written in 1870 gives us an insight to how he wanted the school to be equally accessible to all the children of the parish: “It is my will and mind that the teaching of the children who may attend the school shall at all times be free of charge, (and if the parents wish to make small payments at any time this should not go to

paying the teacher or building int b ut be used for the benefit of the children

in the purchase of rewards or for special educational

Page 199


One of the side-effects of the industrial revolution was the creation of leisure. This was a new concept for the bulk of the West Riding population because work was the routine and normal behaviour before the high Victorian period — employee and employer alike. The concept of leisure in previous times, for example for domestic clothiers and farmers, would have amounted to those very few hours in the evening when one could sit by the fire with the family, and maybe time on Sunday if one observed the Sabbath custom of not working, although even that day was spent in church (there were multiple services and sermons could be hours long!) and otherwise the less devout secretly spinning, weaving or farming ‘to catch up’ on the week. The increase of paid labour in factories, allied with a gradual improvement of working conditions as the 19th century progressed, led to more hours when people were not required to labour by their employer. (Of course, for women, meals still had to be cooked, houses cleaned, clothes washed, children raised and so on!) Now, though, families didn’t have to fill every spare hour with work to keep themselves economically afloat.

That said, even as late as 1870, work still dominated people’s lives. Children under the age of nine were only barred from wage-earning in 1874, for example. It wasn’t until 1873 that Joseph Hirst started to provide (some of) his workers with time off on a Saturday. An item in the Huddersfield Chronice announced: “On Tuesday Joseph Hirst, Esq., J.P., Wilshaw, made known to the cloth-dressers in his employ his intention of allowing them to cease work at one on Saturday.” The response, remembering that ‘contract’ between them, was predictable: “We, the clothdressers, in the employ of Joseph Hirst [etc.], do gratefully acknowledge your benevolent act

Page 200

park to enjoy the great outdoors; they could simply walk from their homes and be in invigorating countryside almost

Page 201

required. Works trips

Some employers organised frequent works outings, by train, to the seaside or other destinations, all expenses paid. This was not something that Joseph did regularly, though in 1866 he arranged for 400 of his workpeople to travel by train to spend the day at Thornton House in Cheshire. It merited an article in the Chronicle, headed “TREAT TO WORKPEOPLE’ [my brackets]:

“A special train had been provided to convey them [from Slaithwaite] to Spital Station on the Chester and Birkenhead line, where they arrived at nine

Page 202

Music, sport and hobbies

Brass bands, as we know, have a long heritage in these parts — there was a Slaithwaite Band of sorts from the early 1800s, and the Meltham and Meltham Mills Brass Band mentioned in the above passage was formed in 1846. Choral singing also dates back to the early 19th century — the famous Huddersfield Choral Society started in 1836. Perhaps there were occasional concerts in the Wilshaw Sunday school hall, but not necessarily instigated by Joseph. We know there was at least one of his workmen who was musical: Mr. George Mellor, “an old and favourite musician of Meltham”, received in 1869 a musical performance in his benefit at the Oddfellows’ Hall in Meltham. “Mr. George Mellor is a man who is highly respected. He has been employed as a weaver in the manufacturing firm of Joseph Hirst, J.P., at Wilshaw, for

more than twenty years, and Mr. Hirst has generously awarded him a

Page 203

Joseph isn’t known to have actively encouraged any of the above, though he would no doubt have approved. However, he did enthusiastically encourage people to keep pigs. He was President of the ‘Meltham Association for Promoting and Encouraging the Labouring Classes to Keep and Feed Good Bred Pigs (Open to all England)’. In 1853, they held their fourth annual show in Bray’s Croft, next to the Rose and Crown Inn, so it seems Joseph was not an advocate of complete

Page 204

Holmfirth with money.*°

His obituary states “he was truly Catholic” and, while he thought a simple service was

best for rural areas, “he was not frightened at a service more ornate, or even ‘high’, if the worshippers desired

Page 205



the 1820s, had very negative memories of the church:

“Churches and chapels at that day were not very attractive. By the Church we mean the State Church, whose adherence did not act in a way towards dissenters calculated to win their sympathy; for though they had so many favours and advantages, in the shape of national wealth, and royal patronage and privileges, they upheld one of the most unjust and atrocious laws, and made every possible use of it, by which they compelled all those who had either chapels of their own to support, all those who attended neither Church nor Chapel, to help to pay for the washing of the clergyman’s surplus, the ringing of bells, for Church repairs, and for the wine Church people drank at sacrament. Of course we refer to the Church Rate business.** Then this Church had wardens (not always moral characters) who during service strolled about the village and footpaths taking by force such as they deemed great sinners to the Church. Frequently people’s feet were put in the stocks a few hours, for Sabbath breaking, in the presence of hundreds of spectators, passing jocose and often brutal remarks, jeers, and jibes - very much like (but on a smaller scale) the scenes presented at our once public executions.

Then in addition to all this, there was a man called the ‘Dog whipper’, armed with a long rod, who kept an eye during service on all those boys and young men sinners who might misbehave, and whose business it was to awe or coerce such into apparent reverence, and often would he walk to and fro in the Church, to correct delinquents, by letting his long rod fall on the head of some unfortunate sinner with audible effect. [...] To us at that time the whole State Church machinery seemed a harsh, cruel, vindictive, and slavish affair, without a redeeming feature to win the reverence and affection of one not unmanned by cowardice; and we could not help thinking, that were it not the State Church - patronised by the rich and mighty - as well as the cheapest one afloat, very few would have paid much attention to it. [...]

[Church] always appeared a kind of Inquisition, a prison house, for where people are compelled to go as a place of punishment, such can never have much attraction for a thoughtful minded person [...]

[As for Chapel], though we did not see much to make us dread them as we might a constable, or the State Church, we saw very little to attract. Many who went to Chapel did not seem to like it, and were pleased when service was over. They did not appear to be as happy as those who stayed

ot everyone would have had Lawson’s views, of course, and there were considerable y

344 As Lawson describes, the church rate was a compulsory tax levied on occupiers of land or a house in the parish. It was particularly resented by Nonconformists, who had their own church to support, which was

on voluntary contr ibutions. In 183 6, the Church Rate Abolition Society was formed to co-

ordinate opposition. Despit

Page 206

variations in church support from place to place, with rural areas being more religious and certain towns also showing good church attendance, including Huddersfield. But this

Page 207

they could encourage saving and good use of money.


Between 1827 and 1832 almost 40 co-operative societies were established in the West Riding. The movement (see box ‘Early Co-operatives’) was no doubt an inspiration to Joseph who later in the century supported co-operation in his own business. He had a close-at-hand example of “the most important and influential of these societies

Page 208


Page 209

tended to uplift them mentally, morally, or financially. It came to his notice [in 1861] that it was the desire of the men in his employ that a Co-operative Society should be formed. He was at once interested in their desires, and called a few of his foremen together. Having discussed the matter with them he gave them instructions to call a meeting of the whole of the workmen.

These instructions were carried out and a meeting was held [at Royd Edge Mill]. Mr. Charles Brook Hirst, father of Mr. Jonas Brook Hirst, who is a notable and highly respected citizen in the village at the present time [1911], was voted to the chair. [...] The following officials were appointed to carry out the constructive work required preparatory to commencing business: President, Mr. John Crosland Hirst; Secretary, Mr. Joseph Hirst ...; Treasurer: Mr. William Haigh; Committee, Messrs. Charles Brook Hirst, Abraham Woodhead, Thomas Dearnley, George Wood, George Pogson, and John Allen

Premises were found and opened. “There was no display or demonstration. Like the old Pioneers, when opening their shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale, the opening ceremony was simply a taking down of the shutters.” The purpose was not solely profit-orientated. The first quarterly report declared:

“The objects of this Society are the social, domestic, and intellectual advancement of its members, by social intercourse; inducing habits of economy, forethought, and thrift, thereby enabling them to provide for bad time of trade, old age, incidents of life, sickness, and death. [...] Fellow-townsmen, it is to your interest to join the Society. Make the most of your necessary outlay, by obtaining dividend of profits on your purchases, which, by permitting to remain a few years in the Society, will produce you a capital over which you have as full control as if deposited in a savings bank, and to which interest after the rate of 5 per cent per

annum will be added

Page 210

Profit sharing

Joseph’s obituarist also observed that “Mr. Hirst looked forward to the coming change in the relationship of employers and employed, in the way of industrial partnerships, and that he was himself preparing for it...” In this way, “the best of the


Page 211

The new wealthy Victorian middle class businessmen included people like Hirst and the Meltham Brooks, and many others of a similar ilk. They were people with a ‘can-do’ attitude, keen to solve problems, adopt responsibility and improve the lot of ‘their people’; and they became the new

Page 212

salary required” (!) which, the minutes of the next meeting showed, varied between £20 and £300 per annum, though most were in the £50 range. The man (from Middlesex) asking for £300 wasn’t successful, you'll not be surprised to hear — they appointed George Taylor of Royd who required exactly £50.

They didn’t just mend Mrs. Bastow’s drains and order minute books. In 1862, a report praising the efforts of the Local Board declared “the waterworks as from May Sth are now in operation in a part of the district where, so long back as the memories of the oldest amongst them, the inhabitants have had to fetch water a great distance both for slop and culinary purposes. [...] It is acknowledged that the roads were never kept in better repair; and the whole township partakes of the benefit, and not, as formerly, just that part in which the surveyor for the time happened to reside or have

Page 213

Justice of the Peace

On Tuesday the 1st March, 1864, “Joseph Hirst, Esq., of Wilshaw, took his seat on the Bench [at the West Riding Court-House, Huddersfield] in the capacity of magistrate for the first

Page 214

employed by the Society for the Protection of Climbing Boys, in any way open to them by law, to prosecute the leader of the gang running other boys in the same way.

Page 215

(1868). The annual report presented at the meeting of that year dealt, amongst other things, with the Association’s continued work to resist “the introduction of erroneous doctrine and Popish ceremonies”, and called for the Privy Council to ban “vestments, lights [candles], excessive kneeling, elevation, incense, and mixing water with wine” within the Church of England. It also reported responses from current candidates for the county and borough to questions about the above ritualistic practices, si gs at the Ecclesiastical Courts, and attacks on the Irish Church. From what \ we learned about Joseph’s religious beliefs from his obituarist,

previously described, ’m not sure how vigorously he supported these topics and the work of the Association in general.

Looking at these reports, noting the other people on the various committees or who also spoke at meetings, leads to the conclusion that Joseph was a member of a clique of “the great and the good’ in the Huddersfield and Meltham areas, which contained the industrialists (including the Meltham and Huddersfield Brooks and the Honley Brookes), the Justices of the Peace, the main churchmen of the district, and owners of large tracts of land (the old Lords of the Manor). Even where a body was elected by people outside that clique, such as the Meltham Local Board, they still dominated the successful candidates. This group was of sufficient number to ensure each committee contained a different combination, but between them they drove the civic and paternalistic guidance and protection of the population, spiritually, morally, physically and economically.

Joseph had five constituencies: his workers in Wilshaw and the whole community in the village; his workers in Meltham Mills and Meltham; the wider community of Meltham in which his workers lived; the institutions of Meltham and Huddersfield, which could affect the lives of his workers; and the community in Thornton Hough, Cheshire. But it was for his relationship with the people of Wilshaw he has been most remembered.

His character

There is much in the above that suggests the kind of person he was. His obituarist, already quoted, referred to him as “free, open, frank” with an “encouraging demeanour and conversation”. But he was also labelled “strict”.

Further observations were given by Reverend Watson at a service in Meltham, shortly after Joseph’s death: “I would invite your attention to the character of the man. He was emphatically “a man of his word’. He meant what he said and he could always be depended upon. With him, there was no halting between two opinions;


Page 216

no irresolution. He was fearless and outspoken. [...] He was, if I may use a homely phrase, ‘A man, every inch of him’. Whether you liked him or not, you could not help respecting him — and respect him for these very qualities I have

Page 217

should gain by his own diligence and industry. I have often talked with him on those principles by which he regulated his acts towards his men, and I am sure that the working man of this neighbourhood never had a truer friend than Joseph Hirst — not by filling them with vain fancies and conceits, but by showing them how to help themselves by self-denial, industry, and integrity of conduct.

He praised Joseph’s abilities, zeal and persistence:

“In whatever station of life he might have been placed, he must, with these natural gifts, have won a name [whether in government, in the military, or at the bar.] For such clear intellect, sound judgement, strict integrity, strong will, courage, and determination would have commanded success in those vocations as they have done in the more humble, but not less honourable and useful, sphere of commerce. To rule over men there must be a perception of character, and fitness for office. In this respect I conceive there are not many who were his superior.”

Rev. Spencer believed Joseph to be a truly religious man of great faith. “Very few have a deeper love and reverence to the person of our Divine Master than he. How loyal was he to the Word of God — how he loved our good old Saxon Bible — how anxious was he that it should be read, known, and obeyed.” He pointed to Joseph’s support for the Church, which he carried out with little wish to promote his own name.

“[Consider| the provision he made for the spiritual wants of Wilshaw and Thornton-Hough, and the large and liberal aid which he supplied to other places similarly destitute. He had remembered this place, as a boy, utterly destitute

Page 218

them avoid pitfalls and temptation. This was surely why Henry James Morehouse called him “The Father of the Village”.


Page 219

Chapter 18 Death of Joseph Hirst and afterwards

In terms of the narrative of this book, Joseph’s death to all intents and purposes is the end. The family story continues after Joseph, of course, and I’ve very briefly tied up a few loose ends in this chapter. For the continued history of Wilshaw we already have Alfred Taylor’s book that brings us up to the 1960s and I believe there are plans in Wilshaw to produce one for more recent years.

Friday, December 11th, 1874

This was the day Joseph, in his bed awaiting his medical attendant, decided “he would lie down on his right side, which would be more convenient for conversing with him,

which he accordingly did — and died Here’s the description of his last days, written by his surgeon:

“Mr. Hirst had been sometime in failing health, and repeated efforts had been made to induce him to relax his attention to business. In the last few months of his life, he had been more than usually harassed, which was visibly telling upon his strength. He was therefore advised to spend a few weeks at his house at Thornton Hough, for the purpose of rest and repose. This, however, he strongly opposed, but promised to use every care that was required at

Page 220

him to go to the Magistrate’s Court — to which he at once declined, stating his reasons. The messenger, however, stated that only one magistrate was present, and he had not been able to meet with another, and that the cases were unusually light, and would soon be got through: he thus reluctantly agreed to go.

The cases — some of them at least

Page 221

days previously a cold wind prevailed”, wrote the reporter for the Huddersfield Weekly News. “All Wilshaw was plunged in mourning, and a sombreness pervaded the whole neighbourhood of Meltham. The Funeral was conducted as privately as possible; only the relatives, a few intimate friends, and the workpeople were invited to join the funeral cortege. But great numbers assembled near [Wilshaw Villa] at the time announced, cold as the day was. It was only what might have been expected — nay, it was simply due

Page 222

6 OKs W. Flower Vicar of Upperthong T. Lewthwaite Vicar of Newsome K.C. Wilford Curate of Lindley H.J. Cheeseman Meltham Mills J.I. Brooke Rector of Thornhill Magistrates

W. Brooke, Esq.

William Brooke was a member of the Honley Brooke family; a woollen cloth manufacturer living at Northgate Mount, Honley.

J.T. Taylor, Esq.

John Thorpe Taylor, owner of Ribbledon Mill in Holmfirth.

Meltham Local Board E.C. Gooddy Edward Gooddy was a cotton spinner living at Crosland Edge. W. Bamford William Bamford was a silk throwster, manager of Wm. Bamford & Sons, Bentley Silk Mill in Meltham. He was also the father of Lucy, who married Arthur Hirst, my Great Uncle. W. Haigh Perhaps the William Haigh who was a stoker at a woollen mill in Meltham, or perhaps the same W. Haigh listed below under pall bearers — Joseph’s pattern dyer at Wilshaw. R. Redfearn Could be Reuben Redfearn, a butcher and farmer living in Helmet, Meltham. A. Thewlis Probably Abel Thewlis, a woollen employing 52 people

in Meltham.

Nimrod Earnshaw

Nimrod Earnshaw ran a building business in Meltham.

Geo. Taylor Employee of the Board, as clerk, yor, inspector of nui- sances and rate collector. W. Pickles William Pickles, a farmer of 20 acres at Town Gate, Meltham, was new-

ly elected to the Board in 1874.

J. Taylor, J. Battye, John ykes

John Taylor and James Battye attended tl

to adopt the Local G nine members. Battye might have been a coal merchant and landowner. John Sykes I can’t pin down (too many John Sykes’s lived in Meltham).


Page 225

now were ordinary middle-class men: butchers, builders, small-scale farmers. Third, the absence of Eleanor from the retinue and the funeral in general is not, I believe, explained by the apparent fact that women were invisible but, as Taylor conjectures, she might not have been strong enough to attend.*”

The funeral report continued to capture the mood of the occasion in general:

“The impression left upon the mind was one seldom experienced. The quietness which seemed to reign universal; the snow-clad hills, with their beautiful white, contrasting with the light-blue sky; and the solemn tones of the officiating clergymen seemed to engrave themselves on the minds of all present. [...]

During the day, the bells of Meltham Parish Church rung muffled peals. The muffled bell of St. Mary’s, Wilshaw, also tolled; and the interior of the church was chastely draped in black.”

Page 227

Loose ends Joseph Hirst and Co. Ltd.

Joseph’s death came at a bad time for his business, due to a world recession (see box). Whether in fear of overseas volatility or simply for patriotic reasons, Joseph had stipulated in his will, written in 1870, that his trustees should invest money from his estate “in any of the parliamentary stocks or public funds of Great Britain or at interest upon government or real copyhold or leasehold securities in England, and not elsewhere, or on the security of the bonds or debentures of any Public Company incorporated by Act of Parliament ...”°”

(Woollen manufacture and trade in the late 19th century

From 1873 there was a serious and long recession in the world’s economy, causing prices to fall and confidence in money to be undermined, thereby creating anxiety amongst international traders. One of the causes was the bursting of the speculation bubble in railroads in the United States. Wealthy Europeans had long been investing in railroads, at first in their domestic companies and then, heavily, in that seemingly endlessly growing economy across the Atlantic.

The failure of this railway investment caused a world recession, which affected business that depended on overseas trade. The woollen industry was doubly hit because the domestic cloth production in European countries was now competing with that in

Page 229

her senior employees. A joint stock company was set up in 1875 to run the business, but the struggles ended with her death in 1881:

“The signs were soon apparent, for before the year was out Wilshaw Mill had been closed — there were too many bosses with a finger in the pie, and no one man of Joseph’s calibre to dominate the others.”

The economic circumstances described above must have caused huge difficulties for a leaderless business. The pressure to introduce reclaimed wool would have been strong and seen, perhaps, as a solution to the problems. As far back as 1860, one of the sons of Benjamin had spoken forcefully to his manufacturing community about the need to adapt:

“You must make up your mind to do as the first people in the trade do; put a certain quantity of shoddy in your black cloths ..., but not so much as will interfere materially with the strength. This you must do or you cannot compete with good houses. I know the use of shoddy is very objectionable to you, but if the spirit of competition drives you to it, you

must do it or be driven out of the

Page 230

the end of the 19th century.”**"

A similar fate awaited the rest of Joseph Hirst and Co. Ltd.’s business. On Wednesday, 8th February, 1882, the auctioneering firm George Tinker and Sons held a sale at the Rose and Crown Inn, Meltham for three Lots comprising “Royd Edge Mills Estate”.

] 7

Page 231

This included the mill, various sheds and dyehouse, a condensing beam engine and boiler; various properties including the manager’s house, cottages, two farms and a stone quarry, all comprising about 60 acres. A week later, the same venue saw the auction of “Stock of Material: White and dyed yarn in cop and hanks and on bobbins, fancy colours, white and other material required in the manufacturing of high-class fancy woollens and worsted coatings and trouserings”, and a few days after that, at Manor Mills, Meltham Mills, the machinery from Royd Edge and Manor mills was auctioned. This included 72 broad power looms, woollen scribbling and spinning machinery, twisting frames, burring machines, drawing frames, finishing machinery and a broad tentering machine.*** The firm had entered voluntary liquidation.

Messrs. Jonas Brook and Brothers bought the Royd Edge mill, though I don’t know how much of the stock and machinery they also took. They used it for storing, drying and dyeing and were in the process of improving it in 1885 when it caught fire. The newspaper report noted that the damage was considerable, but “the loss is partially covered by insurance. It is a singular thing”, it added innocently, “that only two or three weeks ago a serious fire occurred at Spring-lane Mill, Hinchliff Mill, which is the property of the same

Page 232

the dominant Hirst presence in Wilshaw to an end. Her funeral report noted “vast numbers of people assembled to witness the ceremony, the deceased being held in high esteem in the neighbourhood, and particularly amongst her servants, some of whom have been in her service for the last 30 years”.**”

Page 233

of a long-necked woman, with a handwritten inscription on the back “Mrs Eleanor

Ramsey, mother of Mrs. Joseph (Eleanor) Hirst (from Mrs. Kinder).”

Eleanor Ramsey, the mother of Eleanor Mary Ann (Minnie) Hirst. Source: Author. Charlesworth, Eleanor Hirst’s

Page 234

She wrote: “I give devise and bequeath to my nephew Henry Hirst all my real estate situate at Greave and Knowl and all my real estate situate at Wilshaw save and except my dwellinghouse called Wilshaw Villa and the Almshouses.” Wilshaw Villa was to become the parsonage house. She added, crucially, that if Henry Hirst should die without children the estate should pass to her nephew Jonas Brook Hirst and his heirs.

Henry Arthur Hirst (1842-1912)

I can’t decide about Henry. Is he to be pitied, thrown in at the deep end to fill the shoes of a charismatic leader, run a business in the throes of an economic downturn, play the “Lord of the Manor” in Wilshaw and to further the values of his uncle and aunt as trustee and ‘representative’? Or is he to be condemned due to his lack of success in much of that task and running down the estate thereafter? Or should we be more neutral and conclude that he was merely overtaken by the changes of the times: the economic climate and the ending of estates owned by paternalistic ‘squires’.

We actually know very little about him. To recap, he was born in 1842, the son of Joseph’s youngest brother, Richard, who was an oil merchant. As a boy and young man, he lived with his family on Lower Greave and then moved with them to Huddersfield in the late 1850s, where he became a clerk/ cashier/ accountant at the Midland Bank. He was 10 years junior to his cousin Mary — Joseph and Eleanor’s daughter — and after she died in 1859 it’s possible that Joseph and Eleanor took him under their wings to fill in some small way the gaping absence of Mary. Certainly, he was treated like a son in their wills. He became Joseph’s ‘secretary / clerk’ sometime between 1871 and 1874, no doubt the experience gained at the bank being useful and possibly because Joseph wanted someone to whom he could pass on the business.

In 1877, he married Harriet Jane Owen Webb, first and officially in Wilshaw and then in another ceremony a few days later in Thornton Hough.*” He and Harriet moved into property now owned by Eleanor at Wood Nook, just north of Wilshaw, where they lived until Eleanor’s death, when he came into possession of the estate. Given that Wilshaw Villa was to become the parsonage and Ash Cottage was to remain John Crosland Hirst’s home, the best available house in Wilshaw was the one Joseph had built on the site of Henry’s childhood home on Lower Greave (see Appendix 4). It

would have seemed attractive to him as it was newly renovated with large grounds,

individual. They i full dj dg

Page 235

and so he and Harriet (they had no children) moved in once the previous tenants had left. Shortly afterwards, Henry decided to build a large extension and give his home the grand name of ‘Manor House’ - as he presumably saw fitting for a man of his

newly-gained property and status.

Thought to be Henry Arthur Hirst in 1864, aged 22. Source: Author.

I don’t know what he did in the decade after the business closed in 1881/2; there’s no mention of him in the newspapers. In 1891, the census enumerator recorded him as “living on his own means” — in other words, living from the estate. In the 1890s, there are records of him and his wife playing a role in the community. For example, Harriet was honorary treasurer of the Primrose League in Meltham and Henry chaired a meeting of the League in Wilshaw School, which suggests he might

also have chaired other village

Page 236

Netherthong District Council. He thought it would be impractical for Netherthong to drain the village of Greave on account of the

Page 237

comfortable and upon Charles’ death, Jonas received one seventh share of his father’s estate of about £2,000 in total — so providing Jonas, after all costs were deducted, with about £270.°”

As a young man, Jonas wouldn’t have expected to receive much from his father’s eventual legacy so he had to work for his living and, like most people of Meltham Mills, he got a job working for Brooks in the spinning mill, where he was a mechanic, engineer and He had an interest in sports: opening the batting for the Meltham Mills cricket team and was officiating starter for a Meltham Mills swimming It seems he didn’t share his uncle Joseph’s political views, for he was a member of the Meltham and Meltham Mills Liberal Association, but he was elected to Meltham Council, as were his son Henry James and granddaughter Jessie, so that ‘tradition’ continued.*”

He married Ellen Sophia Roberts and they had four children: Arthur (who became headmaster of Haworth Elementary School before returning to live at ‘Kirklands’ on Lower Greave in Wilshaw), William (a Wesleyan Minister), Annie Ellen (who married Robert Carlton Chitham Death - a clerk at the Meltham Mills works) and Henry

James, about whom more below.

My aunt Hannah Roberts (née Hirst) wrote down her memories of her grandfather Jonas Brook and my mother subsequently added comments in the margins:

“I had a very colourful grandfather He dressed very elegantly each

evening in a grey suit with a grey top hat and spats and a flower in his

397 Last will and te testament

Page 238

button hole. Gentleman Joe was his nickname. He smoked cigars and I think drank [here my mother annotated ‘not to speak of - not a regular drinker, but not TT’]. Not surprising as his brother kept [a pub] in Meltham.*” [...] My grandfather had a phaeton and pony My first contact with politics came through my grandpa, for when he died the flag flew at half mast on the Liberal Club and I felt a sense of pride in the fact that he was sufficiently well known to have a flag flying for him.”*””

Jonas Brook Hirst. Source: Author.

401 Charles William Hirst (1849-1900) star I I t Brooks in Meltham Mills, was landlord of The Railway Hotel in 1881, The Star Inn in 1891 and The Swan Inn in 1900 when he died

402 These were captured posthumously in

Page 239

I possess a draft for a letter written by Jonas Brook Hirst in 1904 when he was about 72, which gives us another small sense of him as a person, so

Page 240

Jonas Brook Hirst came into the Wilshaw estate in 1912 when Henry Arthur Hirst died. According with Eleanor’s will, Henry Arthur’s wife, Harriet, had to be provided with an annuity of £300 for life from the estate. This, along with all the landlord’s responsibilities for repairs and maintenance, meant the estate was not the money-spinner it once had been and created a deal of administrative work, although it contained some good property and would provide homes for family members over the years.** Jonas Brook was 80 when he inherited, and only lived another two years.

In his will, written in 1914, he left the estate equally to his three sons, though once it passed to them a few months later the central role was played by Henry James because he was the only one living locally — Arthur schooling children in Haworth and ‘Willie’ away somewhere ministering for the Wesleyans.*”

Henry James Hirst (1875-1951)

In 1912, when his father took on responsibility for the estate, Henry James was a married man in his late 30s, living at West View in the centre of Meltham and he quickly moved to help his aged father with the estate tasks.*°° As a boy, he was clearly good at his studies as he obtained first place on the list of candidates for scholarships at Almondbury Grammar School, and became a clerk and bookkeeper at the Brooks mill, so paperwork was not alien to him.“” He eventually became head clerk; my aunt Hannah’s memories again:

“My father worked in the office and later became head. He had a great deal of extra work to do as a result of the take over [of Jonas Brook and Bros. by J. & P. Coats], and I remember I had to take his dinner down for a period, when he was busy. It was like going into church, so quiet,

404 Ihave fat files of correspondence between Jonas Brook Hirst, and later his son Henry James Hirst, and the estate solicitors Learoyd of Huddersfield. It’s pretty tedious stuff, concerning rights of way, payment of death duties (and who’s responsible), access to land owned now w by the Eleanor Hirst Trust in order to carry out maintenance on water courses, and so on. Many of the I d with “if you could come by our offices on such-and-such a date ...”, and I imagine the

Page 241

everyone reverently pouring over their books, the floor was silent, the woodwork and desks all mahogany and father there in charge.”

Henry James Hirst (left), Willie Brook Hirst (centre), Arthur Hirst (right)

The brothers — Henry, Willie and Arthur - came together at regular meetings to manage the estate and act as executors to their father’s will, with minutes written by Henry in an exercise book. The first meeting was on October 17th and 19th, 1914, in which they discussed selling their father’s pony and phaeton and considered the tenancy of Manor House. They also agreed that Henry, “in consideration of his managing the estate (including collection of rents)” be allowed Ash Cottage, rent free. Flicking through the minutes book gives a feel for the tasks facing them: repair of gateposts by the golf course, collecting an unpaid debt from a woman in Marsden, renovations at St. Mary’s Court, getting a valuation in preparation for selling Greave Farm, and so on.

Hannah’s notes bring to life those early days of rent-collecting in Wilshaw. She remembered an occasion when father Henry James and family (herself and little sister Jessie) were still living in Meltham. It was around 1914, when she was about 8 years old “One day I went with father for a walk. One never knew where we should land when we went off with father; [he] always made it into something pleasant with rides on trams or trains. However, this wet cold day we walked out of Meltham alongside a bare bleak common, and finally finished up in a little stone house looking over the wind-and-rain- swept common. It was the club for the working men where they could smoke their pipes in peace and sit beside the fire and read the papers or play a game of billiards in a dark inside room. This was in the cottage that faces the common, a very bare place, with stone flags for the floor. Father left me sitting up at a table with a few large tomes in front of me


Page 242

to look at, whilst he went to collect the rent. It seemed a long time, and looking out across the common into the grey sky watching the rain come pelting down was quite an ordeal for a small child. Then we had to face the long walk home. This was my first experience of Wilshaw ...”

Shortly after that, the family moved into Ash Cottage. Hannah wrote about that cold day in February:

“Ash Cottage had been neglected, and paper was hanging from the walls. It was a cold house, but to help us that first night we had a fire in our bedroom (Jessie and I), which was a delight, but which we could only enjoy on special occasions, such as Christmas.”

In 1919, Willie sold his share of the estate to his brothers. Again, Hannah’s memories are useful:

“I remember early in our life at Wilshaw, a visit of father’s two brothers Arthur and Willie, the schoolmaster and Methodist minister. There was a long conference in father’s room. We did not know what took place. Later we came to realize that Uncle Willie, moving from place to place as a minister, felt he could not be responsible for helping to run the estate and he asked that he should have his share in money. So I believe he got £2,000 and we seldom saw him after that. Uncle Arthur lived in Haworth and was content for father to run the estate. [...] [Father] built new lavatories in the gardens, pulling down the unsightly building in the middle of [St. Mary’s] Court. Many of the houses needed new kitchen floors and he got a mains supply of water and electricity to the houses. So with the payment to Mrs. Henry Arthur and the constant drain of income for repairs, we were poor ....”

The brothers agreed the fee would not be paid to Willie until after the death of Harriet Hirst (Mrs. Henry Arthur), because the investments that might produce the money were tied up providing her annuity. She died in 1934 and in 1936 Arthur Hirst, now living at “Kirklands’ in Wilshaw, also sold his share to Henry. In 1943, Manor Farm, which contained most of the estate’s land, was sold to Meltham and Meltham Mills Co-operative Society. This was the beginning of a period in which Henry James sold as much property as he could. Taylor, writing from personal memory now as a Wilshaw resident of the day, remarked that Henry had become an important member


of Wilshaw society. 408 The History of Wilshaw, op.cit., page 62. Alfred Taylor was born in Wilshaw in 1909 and lived at St. Mary’s


Page 243

“He commanded from the people of Wilshaw the warm respect they had once showered on Joseph Hirst, for he had the same concern for the village and the dignity of the people. He was a patient man who faced frustrating circumstances without flinching ...”

He expressed the feelings of Wilshaw people about the change that the main sales of land brought about:

“Joseph Hirst’s little kingdom had vanished like a dream... To the few of us whose Wilshaw blood can be traced back to the start of the Joseph Hirst era the sales were ashock. We, too, had been involved in the dream, had thought of Wilshaw as a little world apart and immune from outside influence.”

When Henry James died in 1951,

Page 244

between Joseph Hirst and his nephew Henry Arthur Hirst:

“There is [a] remarkable fact, viz., that there are very few men who accumulate wealth whose children’s children make it more. The great majority make it less, or perhaps spend it all, and what took the grandfather so much toil and struggling to acquire is mostly spent by the first, second, or at least the third generation. [...] Men who make money, as arule, best know its value, while those who have it made to their hand are apt to be too proud to carry on business, and act as if their money

would never be

Page 245

Chapter 19 A summary of the changes in Wilshaw between the late 18th and early

Page 246

0 100 yds 200 yds

Approx. scale

Lower Greave

Gill Birks

Fields Fields

— Meltham

Upper Greave

To Netherthong


To Upperthong

Approximate map of Greave in the late 18th century

Not every house had cloth on tenters outside, for this was a community of master clothiers and weavers and spinners, as well as a few farmers. The master clothiers would have needed the tenter frames — not the weaving and spinning clothier families, because they would have supplied the produce of their work to the master clothier before it was fulled and stretched to dry.

One such master clothier family, and perhaps the largest, wealthiest of the community, were the Hirsts living and working in Lower Greave. They owned farmland to the north running down into the valley and up on Swinny Knoll and a number of the properties in Lower Greave. Most of the rest of the land locally was owned by the Shaw family of Upperthong and Wood Nook, the Green-Armytages who owned Thickhollins Hall, and the Earl of Dartmouth.

(written 1724); see Chapter 5 above.

Page 247

The 1770s were notable in that William Brook moved into Thickhollins Hall as tenant. His eldest daughter Mary married Thomas Hirst of Lower Greave and William’s sons became highly influential in the development of Meltham, Meltham Mills and Huddersfield. William himself was a master clothier-cum-merchant and he built a mill in the valley between Greave and Meltham. This was the beginning of a period of rapid development. Previously, little changed, which enables me to quote Defoe writing in the 1720s as a way of describing Greave fifty years later. The industrial revolution was in full swing in the cotton areas, mostly in Lancashire, but this had not yet affected Greave and Meltham which were still very much focused on wool production.

Early 19th century

The 1700s passed into the 1800s and still there was little fundamental variation in Greave life.

Page 248

fact it would have made an impact on the community at large. Even though in the first years after 1826 Joseph continued to be based at Lower Greave, he would have had to set up his own contractual arrangements with the local weavers and spinners. Would there have been arguments between him and brother John about “stealing”

Page 249

stay working for him for over thirty years, were John Crosland Hirst and William Haigh. John, who would become his mill manager, was a weaver living at Gill Birks and William, his head dyer, was a young man from Meltham, the son of a dyer.

Greave in 1848. Notice the Tenters near to the two

Page 250

their specific place of birth is not stated.

However, we can get an overall picture, and from here until 1911, the last published census at the time of writing, it’s possible to observe the changes in such details as the number of people living in the community and their occupations. It’s interesting to map these changes over time with the events that might have caused them.

In 1841 there were 142 people living in 24 households in Greave on the night of the

Page 251

included households classified as

Page 252

Another way to summarise this is to show how many people were born within 5 miles of Greave and how many further away than that:

I No. of people from further away than 5 miles 6 I 14%

I No. of people from 5 miles or nearer 36 I 86%

This tells us that the great majority of Greave inhabitants were locals. If ’d chosen 10 miles as the cut off instead of 5, you can see that only two people were born further away than that: Eleanor Hirst from Chester and a woman named Hepzibah whose father moved to Meltham from Sculcoates near Hull. Of these two, only Eleanor came from a distance to live in Greave; Hepzibah had been living locally before she and her husband married and then moved to Greave. So if it wasn’t for Joseph Hirst bringing in a wife from far away, everyone living in Greave in 1841 were there either because they were born there or had moved, usually with a spouse, from very nearby.


Why might people have moved to or from Greave? Some moved there simply to find a home to continue living as a weaver or clothier. For others from nearby agricultural areas there was the attraction of Greave being both rural and near to mill work. As Pve noted, Joseph’s business was starting to take on employees and, of course, there was the growing cotton mill in the valley. See the box about “Migration in the 19th century’.

Migration in the 19th century

We can consider this by exploring what forced people to move away from somewhere (push factors) and what attracted them to go elsewhere (pull factors).

Forced away

Since around 1800, the population of Britain had been rising dramatically. Children in a large family could not all remain living at home once they were adult, simply due to


Page 254


(While some people emigrated because they were forced out, others were enticed to do so, either by government incentives as a means of managing over-population or simply by the lure of opportunity.

“To the West - to the West, to the land of the free, Where mighty Missouri rolls down like the sea, Where a man is a man, if he’s willing to toil. And the humblest may gather the fruits of the

Page 255

Greave had become. If, for example, agricultural labourers in Greave were attracted away by work in nearby mills, then the Greave and Gill Birks and Wilshaw farmers would have vacancies and at wages that were better than those offered to labourers in more rural areas. This caused a “current of migration” in which “the attractive force of one of our rapidly growing cities [or towns] makes its influence felt, step by step, to the most remote corners of the

Page 256

1861 census

The 1850s were eventful and the notable occasions in the hamlet were mostly positive except, for the Hirsts, in one tragic case. This was the decade in which Barnicot and Hirst won a Prize Medal at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and Mary Hirst, Joseph and Eleanor’s daughter and only child, married Alfred Beaumont. It ended in tragedy for the Hirsts with the death in childbirth of Mary in 1859.

Can we see the impact of Joseph’s business success in the figures provided by the 1861 census? Perhaps - slightly. While the inhabitants were still very much local, there were a few more of them: 171 people were now recorded in the census compared with 142 in 1841, and the number of households had risen to 33 (from 24 in 1841). New houses and new jobs had caused Greave to grow. However, this was not completely dependent on Joseph’s mills. Five of the 33 households were either mainly or partially dependent on incomes from Jonas Brook and Brothers’ cotton mill at Meltham Mills. Even though Joseph’s woollen business was in full swing - not only in Wilshaw and Meltham Mills but now also at Royd Edge, which is as easy to walk to from Greave as is Meltham Mills, some people seeking mill work were being employed by Joseph’s cousin in the

Page 257

employed by Joseph however, because in 1861 Mary Ann Charlesworth, aged 21, was a servant living in Wilshaw Villa and would later become Eleanor’s much-loved lady’s maid.

The 1888 OS map shows all of Joseph’s

Page 258

1881 and afterwards

After Joseph’s death in 1874 it seems that without his guiding hand the business began, or perhaps continued, to run down. It’s possible, of course, that Joseph was feeling the pinch of the difficult economic times in the last years of his life and perhaps he’d depleted any reserves on the many projects he’d undertaken since the death of daughter Mary — business as well as philanthropic. His mill limped on for a few years. At first, Eleanor tried to support Joseph’s senior staff, but after she died Henry Arthur Hirst was unable to let or sell it to new owners. It was closed for a while and then re-opened briefly. It continued to provide occasional and insecure employment for woollen workers, but as a major employer its days were numbered and the people of Wilshaw could no longer depend on it for their livelihood and welfare.

We can see how the failure of the Hirst mill impacted on Greave by comparing trends there with those in the wider British society and economy, as evidenced in the censuses between 1841 and 1911.

The full set of figures can be found in Appendix 10. Here Pve pulled out what I

think are the most useful trends.

Page 259

Chart 1 indicates the population in the United Kingdom grew steadily from about 27 million to about 42 million over the period 1851 to 1911.4 Chart 2 shows the number of people resident in Greave / Wilshaw at cach census over the same period. We see that there wasn’t the sam t in the underlying population. There was a rise to 1881 and then a fall off to 1911.

To explore this, let’s first consider the number of dwellings in the village (Chart 3). During the period in which Joseph Hirst was building (between 1841 and 1881), the number of homes increased, but after his death it remained more or less constant.*”” The increase in the number of dwellings explains why the village population increased up to 1881, but why didn’t it remain the same

Page 260

of the households in the village was almost 6 people in 1841 and had come down to approaching 3 by 1911.

So, despite the houses in the village remaining occupied after 1881 (there was no mass desertion after the failure of Joseph Hirst & Co.), the population in the village fell instead of remaining constant due to the size of families in each house getting smaller, in line with the national trend.

How ‘cosmopolitan’ was the village?

Up to and including 1861, the great majority of Greave inhabitants were born locally (about 90% were from within 5 miles of Greave), but this started to change from 1861 onwards. Not only did Joseph’s activities draw in people from further afield (the schoolmaster born in Kent, the vicar from Surrey, his wife from Chester, and so on), but also people were more prepared to move further afield. However, even by 1911, about two-thirds of the inhabitants were locally born, and most of the others were from the region, so Wilshaw remained a relatively closed community. Appendix 10 contains the figures.


We started to notice in the 1861 census that a few Greave folk were working in the cotton thread works at Meltham Mills. Let’s see how that progressed through the later years. In the next chart I’ve separated households into three mutually exclusive categories and shown their prevalence for each census.

Page 261

though Joseph had died seven years previously and Eleanor was close to death at the time of the census, the business was limping on and local people were still employed there. For example, the three Taylor families in St. Mary’s Court and Lower Greave were still weaving, as were a few others. Three families were involved in dyeing, led by William Haigh. John Crosland Hirst remained trying to keep the mill afloat. Fred Hirst was still keeping the books. These families and a few others represented the

Page 262

There would have been many of them and the village would have been noisy with chatter of mouths and clatter of clogs as the crowd walked off to work in the morning leaving a much quieter and emptier place until their return in the evening.


Page 263


( such buses started seriously in London and other major cities in the first decade of the 20th century but were slow to spread to less densely populated areas. Large car-like vehicles were used at first, called charabancs, and it wasn’t until about 1920 that bus- like vehicles started to be used around the country.

The (anonymous) author of the History of Netherthong website notes that there were buses, run by Haigh’s Garage in Holmfirth, between Meltham and Holmfirth, through Wilshaw, from at least as early as 1926 (there was a timetable in the Holmfirth Express newspaper of April 24th). The date they started isn’t known, though if this was the first timetable published in the paper it would have been not long before then. It still wouldn’t have been any use for the millworkers of the day because it only ran on Tuesdays and the morning service started at 9.00am.

Page 264

carried on, but only on

Page 265

happened that the mother of the family had to work hard in one way or another, in connection with the work in the chamber amongst the weaving. And the cleaning of the house had to be done on the Saturday evening, often after dark. When I begin to form a contrast between these present days and the days to which reference has just been made I am filled with astonishment. I can scarcely believe it. Yet Iam bound to believe it, for I know it to be true.”**!

Final thought

Some places change out of all recognition, but this is not the case with Wilshaw. We can still see many of the buildings that Joseph Hirst built and history springs out at us as we walk along its lanes and ginnels. Since I started researching for this book, I’ve found I look at places differently — including my current home town of Macclesfield, which is also a former mill town, in this case working with silk. A little narrowing of the eyes helps me to imagine horses and carriages passing a building and consider the activity of the people living in them. History is all around us and adds a rich additional dimension to the enjoyment of our environment.

There are so many ways to consider change in a place over time: how it looks, its economy, lifestyles of the inhabitants. Behind that are the stories of how and why change came about and I hope that by describing the life and times of the earlier Hirsts of Greave, woollen clothiers of the late 18th and early 19th century, and then Joseph Hirst, a woollen clothier-cum-manufacturer up to the high Victorian period,

Page 266


The writing of a book is not the final story. As I mentioned at the end, I still expect to learn more about this part of my ancestry and their colleagues and it’s entirely possible that you, the reader, might be the source of further information. If you could embellish the story in any way - whether about the characters, the places or the events described, then I'd love to hear from you.

Please contact me at Thanks!

Page 267

Appendix 1 Family trees

Tree 1: The main Hirst line

Shows the main line of descent of relevance to the Hirsts of Greave and Wilshaw. Key

characters are in bold.

Page 268

Tree 1 notes

Some of the following people are much more fully described in the main text, while others are mentioned only in passing or not at all.

Family of Zachariah Hirst

Zachariah Hirst Baptised in Meltham in 1705, father Joshua, mother unknown. Family were probably living at Holt Head, which borders Meltham, Slaithwaite and Marsden. Married Elizabeth in 1732. He died in Greave.

Elizabeth Sykes Baptised 1712 in Slaithwaite to father James of Holt. Died in Greave in 1796.

Children They had 9 children: John (see below), Sarah (~1735-1812), Joseph (~1737-1790), James (1741-1741), Mary (1742- 1742), Jonathan (~1743-1805), Martha (~1744-1796), Elizabeth (~1748-?), Joshua (no

dates known). Family of John Hirst

John Hirst senior Born at Holt Head and baptised at Marsden Chapel. Was known as John Hirst of Greave in baptism details for children, so moved to Greave sometime before 1760. Married around 1758. More details in main text.

Elizabeth Pogson There are two marriages of a John Hirst of Lingards to an Elizabeth around the right time. I believe this to be correct because her brother Joseph Pogson also moved to Greave. Died at Greave.

Sarah Hirst She married James Hinchliffe (see Tree 3). Buried in graveyard of Meltham St Bartholomew.

Thomas Hirst See next family.

Jonathan Hirst Lived in Greave as a clothier until after 1820, when he went to Rothwell in Leeds (document in my possession). No record of a marriage.

George Hirst Went to the USA and became a grocer in New York. No record of a marriage.

Ann Hirst Married Thomas Hardy from Austonley; moved with him to Upperthong (5 children).

Hannah Hirst Died as a child and buried in Meltham Chapel yard.

Grace Hirst Probably married a John Brook (no relation to Brooks of ‘Tree 4) in 1800 and had five children, living at Miry Lane Bottom in Netherthong. One child, Hannah, in later life became a servant and in 1871


Page 269

was the housekeeper for George Hall, the schoolmaster in Wilshaw. So, Hannah was Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw’s cousin living literally just up the hill from him.

Samuel Hirst The cloth dresser. Probably went to the USA in 1827.

Joseph Hirst John Hirst senior’s will mentions a son Joseph, but there are no good records for him. It’s possible he married a Mary Collier and had one child, living in Almondbury.

Family of Thomas Hirst

Thomas Hirst Baptised at St Bartholomew’s Meltham in January 1764 and buried in the same place October 1811. Mote details in the text.

Mary Brook

See Tree 4, and more details in the text.

John Hirst junior In the parish record headed “Christenings at Meltham Church” is the lovely, clear entry: “John S. of Thomas Hirst of Greave September 11th 1785”. He married Hannah Wood, the daughter of a worsted manufacturer from Huddersfield, when they were both in their 50s (1838) and he died eight years later. He was buried in Meltham Mills church yard. More details in the text.

Richard Hirst b. ~1786 A similarly clear record under “Burials at Meltham” in 1799 says sadly “Richard Son of Thomas Hirst of Greave Aged 12... March 6th”.

Martha Hirst Married John Wood in 1819, but this is worth more information. Pve good reason, from wills and documents in my possession, to believe that Martha did marry John Wood, but the only possible record I can find for their marriage is for a John Wood of Huddersfield marrying in St. Mary Islington, London a Martha Hirst of Middlesex. Witnesses to the marriage were Joseph and Thomas Brook (see Tree 4). It’s known*? that Martha’s uncles, the Brook brothers, were living in London around that time developing their business interests. Before 1810, sister Hannah Brook was housekeeper for her brothers but she married in 1810, so perhaps Martha — who would have been about 22 went to London to take over as their housekeeper. It’s just a guess but it would explain her London marriage and her London address. Martha’s husband John Wood became mill manager at Meltham Mills for the Brooks, so he was probably a frequent visitor to the Brook residence in the capital. Later, after John’s death and near to Martha’s in 1872, their daughter Mary Ann Wood, who never married, was taken in by Anne Brook, Charles Brook’s widow, at Healey House in Meltham Mills. I think Martha was buried in Meltham. The oddest thing about Martha and husband John is that I can’t find them, singly or as a family, in any UK census return between 1841 and 1871, even though we know they were alive, didn’t emigrate and raised two successful children (their son Thomas became a barrister-at-law). I can’t explain it.

William Hirst Married Maria Woodhead from Meltham and had nine children, living at Thickhollins. He was a brewer and farmer. Again, there’s more to tell if you want to hear it. It seems from a solicitor’s letter

432 See page 3 of Griffiths (2013), op.cit.


Page 270

in my possession, William had a child with Maria in 1814 but they didn’t marry at that time. They (or

Maria) called her Mary Ann. Maria became pregnant again in 1818 and she and William married the day before she gave birth to a daughter, Martha (who later married Thomas Craig). The wider family either were told or made up Martha’s birth date as being Sth

Page 271

Isabella Hirst Isabella married John Denton Scholes in 1823, who was born in Huddersfield. He provides a good example of the multi-disciplinary nature of being a clothier. In the 1841 and 1851 censuses he’s described as a clothier. On the marriage certificate of their son Richard in 1853 he’s given as a butcher. Richard was a butcher, so was this an error by the clerk? Or, as this clothier was also a farmer and farmers could do their own butchery, it’s possible he chose to match his son’s profession on the occasion. At their son Thomas’s marriage in 1856 he’s back to being listed as a clothier. In the 1861 census he’s a gentleman farmer. In 1865 at daughter Emma’s marriage he was a carrier (this was a description of someone who drove a horse-drawn vehicle to transport goods), Presumably using the cart from his farm. In 1867 he was again described Martha’s wedding). In his will written in 1867, he was simply a gentleman. Isabella and John lived n near to sister Hannah i in Meltham Mills, for a while in Garden House and then in Mount C renamed). Buried at St James’s Meltham Mills.


Page 272

died, she married James William Dyson, a farmer and son of an Innkeeper at Cop End, Meltham. She was last living at Meltham Road, Netherton.

Joseph Hirst b. 1841 Married Mary Ellen Forbisher from Lockwood and had ten children. They lived at Bank Buildings in Meltham Mills, worked as a mechanic at the cotton thread mill and lived near his brother Jonas Brook and sisters Mary and Sarah Jane. Buried at Meltham Mills.

Sarah Jane Hirst Born in Meltham, married Thomas Mellor Dyson from Moorgate in Netherthong, a clerk at Brooks’ cotton thread mill where she also worked as a winder. They had two children, moved up in the world (Thomas got jobs managing in cotton thread firms) and eventually moved to Leeds.

Mary Hirst b. 1846 Also born Meltham. Married John Dyson Taylor from Helme, with whom she had seven children. They lived near other family members in Bank Buildings until they moved to Vermont Terrace in Meltham. Died at Belmont New Road in Meltham.

Charles William Hirst After marrying Mary Elizabeth Eastwood, daughter of a woolsorter from South Crosland, he became landlord of various Meltham pubs and a Freemason.

Family of Jonas Brook Hirst

Jonas Brook Hirst My great grandfather was born in Netherthong and baptised in Meltham. He was a woodturner as a youth and became an engineer / mechanic at Meltham Mills, where he died and was buried. There’s a little more about him in the main text.

Ellen Sophia Roberts Born in South Crosland, daughter of the schoolmaster. Also died and buried in Meltham Mills.

Arthur Hirst Arthur, born in Meltham, trained as a schoolteacher and worked for a while in Bradford. In 1883, he married Lucy Bamford, the daughter of the manager of Bent Ley silk mill (run by Charles Brook of Healey House, see Tree 4), with whom he had 4 children. He became headmaster of the Elementary school in Haworth and lived at “Kirklands” in Haworth. Later, he retired and returned to Lower Greave with Lucy where they named their house “Kirklands” again. Lucy died in 1928 and Arthur married Laura Harrison in 1931. He died in Wilshaw, aged 91.

William Brook Hirst “Willie” started professional life as a clerk and then became a Wesleyan Minister. He married Clara Maude Walker from Bradford, daughter of a civil engineer, in 1894. They had one child, Dorothy. His calling took him all over the country and, possibly for work, to Montréal in Canada. Died aged 83 in Paignton, Devon.

Annie Ellen Hirst Married Robert Carlton Chitham Death in 1894 — a southerner who had come from Colchester via London to be a clerk at Brooks’ cotton mill. They lived in Meltham and had one child, Robert, who died when quite young (1918). Annie remained in Meltham until she died almost 40 years later aged 86. According to my mother and aunt, she was a character. In 1927, she took herself on a cruise across the Atlantic and up the Amazon in Brazil.

Page 273

Henry James Hirst My grandfather is mentioned in the main text. He married a local girl, Elizabeth Rhodes, in 1863. He and Elizabeth had three children: my mother Jessie, Hannah and Jimmy. He died at Ash Cottage, Wilshaw in 1951.

Tree 2: Joseph Hirst and Eleanor Ramsey

James Ramsey Eleanor - 2nd wife 1779-1833 (Dates unknown) Richard Hirst Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw Eleanor Ramsey ~1809-1872 (see Tree 1) 1805-1874 (see Tree 1) ~1812-1881 Harriet Jane Owen Henry Arthur Hirst Mary Hirst Alfred Beaumont Webb 1842-1912 1832-1859 1831-1905

e 1853-1934

Tree 2 notes All these people are written about in some detail in the text or are described in notes to other trees.

Tree 3: The family of Elizabeth Hirst and John Hinchliffe

James Hinchliffe Sarah H 9-1833 ~1761- 1793 (see Tree 1)

Elizabeth Hirst John Hinchliffe 791-1876 (see Tree 1)

Mary Ann Hinchliffe} Martha Hinchliffe Hannah Hinchliffe Edward Hinchliffe Emma Hinchliffe ~1810-1837 ~1817-1846 1866 825-1837 Sarah Hinchliffe Richard Ellen Hinchliffe James Hinchliffe Isabella Hinchliffe ~1814-1856 Hinchliffe 1826-1830 9-1856 1819-1866

Tree 3 notes The Hinchliffes are more tangential to this story, so many of these notes are very brief.

James Hinchliffe The Hinchliffes were from Cartworth and then Upperthong. James’s father John Hinchliffe (~1734- 1799) married an Ann Hirst from Upperthong (~

Page 274

Meltham in the family plot. Sarah Hirst

See notes to Tree 1. Elizabeth Hirst See notes to Tree 1. John Hinchliffe Baptised in Kirkheaton. Died at Greave and buried in Meltham. Mary Ann Hinchliffe Died unmarried in Greave and buried in Meltham.

Sarah Hinchliffe Ditto.

Martha Hinchliffe Went to live with (to look after?) her grandmother Mary Hirst née Brook (Tree 4 notes) at Wood Bottom. Like her older sisters, died unmarried in Greave and was buried in Meltham.

Richard Hinchliffe Married Cassandra Gartside in 1848, daughter of a dyer from Holm Bank and they had two children. Richard and Cassandra both died when their children were still young, so the children were looked after by grandmother Elizabeth and aunt Ellen.

Hannah Hinchliffe Another daughter who didn’t marry. She stayed with the family and died in Huddersfield, though was buried in Meltham.

Ellen Hinchliffe Trained as a milliner / dressmaker in Huddersfield. Moved back to Greave to help her mother look after Richard’s children after Richard’s wife died and then went with the family to Fitzwilliam Street in Huddersfield. She remained there, unmarried, until her death. Edward Hinchliffe Died as a young boy in Greave and was buried in Meltham in the family plot.

James Hinchliffe His wife Ann Haigh, whom he married i in 1857, was a farmer’

Page 275

Tree 4: The family of William Brook of Manningham

Only those grandchildren of William and Martha who are mentioned in the text are shown

William Brook Martha Smith of Manningham 1746-1834 1734-1806 I I Mary Brook James William Brook Martha Brook Charles Brook Brook 1779-1813 1785-1786 1792-1869 (see Tree 1) 1773-1845 Richard Brook Jonas Brook Hannah Brook Joseph Brook 1768-1783 1775-1836 1781-1860 1787-1858 John Brook Elizabeth Ann Brook Thomas Brook 1771- Brook 1782-1785 1789-1850 1773? 1777-1867 William Leigh Brook

Page 276

The eldest, William Leigh Brook, ran the family firm and lived at Meltham Hall. He and his second wife died at the same time of cholera in Germany and their children were ‘adopted’ by brother Charles Brook ‘the younger’ and his wife. Charles moved into the Hall and took over as manager of the Meltham Mills business, then later moved to Enderby Hall in Leicestershire. William Leigh Brook’s second wife (married 1850) was the sister of his first and due to this being illegal the marriage was later officially annulled and his estate was ‘vested in crown’ (I told yout these Brooks could fill books!) (This stupid law had come into full force in 1835. fought ag lly until it was at last repealed in 1907.)

Jonas Brook Took the lead in changing his father’s woollen business to cotton and setting up Jonas Brook & Bros. He married Hannah Wilson and they had six children, one of whom was Edward Brook, who further connected the Meltham Mills Brooks with the Honley Brookes by marrying Emma Brooke of Northgate House (see Charles Brook below).

Elizabeth Brook Married George Wilson Addison from Halifax and lived in the Bradford area.

William Brook Helped run the family firm. Died in his 30s, unmarried.

Hannah Brook For a while in the early 19th century, was house manager for her brothers when they lived in London developing connections for the family business. She then married John Sunderland Hirst of Huddersfield (no relation to the Hirsts of Greave and Wilshaw). Their daughter Elizabeth Hirst (1814-1879) married her cousin Charles Brook ‘the younger’, the son of James Brook (see above). Another of their children, Thomas Hirst (1816-1892), at the age of 16 went to be an apprentice for Hamilton, Koch and Co., in Germany; married a German woman and remained there.

Joseph Brook Influential in the development of Huddersfield in the first half of the 19th century. Married Harriet Smith of Kirkburton and produced ten children with her. One was Richard Brook (1811-1874) who, like his cousin Thomas Hirst, v nt to Germany, married and lived out his life there

Thomas Brook Married Sarah Ann Riley (née Rich) from London and moved south.

Charles Brook Charles Brook of Healey House was a neighbour of sister Mary towards the end of her life (see above). He ran the Bent Ley silk mill, which was managed by William Bamford (1809-1893). Charles married Anne Brooke of Northgate House, Honley — the first marital link between the cotton empire of Meltham Mills and the woollen one of Honley (see in Jonas Brook above, son Edward). They had nine children; three have been shown on the tree. William Brook lived at Healey House and took over the silk mill at Bent Ley. He left the area after he married Helen Elizabeth Johnson (1836-1907) in 1858. James Brook became the Curate of Helme Church until he married the daughter of a vicar, Ruth Hewlett (1838-1874) in 1863, after which he became vicar of other parishes. In his later years he told census enumerators that he was a nonconformist vicar, unattached. Charles John Brook married Mary Jones (1835-1919) in 1854, with whom he had three children before dying in 1857. Mary lived as a widow at Harewood Lodge for the rest of her life.


Page 277

Appendix 2 Timeline for Hirsts of Greave

1728?: John Hirst senior born (son I 1671: The local woollen market moved. I 1727-1760 (N): Reign of of Zachariah Hirst and from Almondbury to Hudders- I George II

Z e 1764: Thomas Hirst born (son 1730s: The Flying Shuttle developed 1760-1820 (N): Reign of of John Hirst senior and 1764: The Spinning Jenny developed George III Elizabeth Pogson) 1766: Cloth Hall in Huddersfield 1766: Mary Brook born (dau. of opene William Brook and Martha I 1767: Riots in Blackburn against the

Smit Spinning Jenny ~1769: William Brook moved into I 1768: Richard Arkwright patented a Thickhollins Hall water-powered spinning frame (though it was probably devel- oped before this date)

1777: John Hirst senior built or

Page 278

1805: Joseph Hirst born (son of

1808+: New markets formed in South

~1805 (L): Jonas) Brook took over

asa ary Hirst) and Central America Meltham Mills 1806: Charles Brook Hirst born sd

Page 279


Page 280

: Trade Unions decriminalised 1869: Meltham manufacturers coul obtain and distribute goods by

1867 (N): Second Reform Act greatly increased size of electorate

rail from Meltham 1869(L): Meltham rail link to Huddersfield fully pened 1871: Joseph Hirst bought a large I From 1870: Old chemicals used in 1870(N): Elementary Education ount of land and almos woollen cloth production (such ct established na- completed ownership of as urine, olive oil, fuller’s earth) tionally-funded Local e whole villag replaced by new ones (such as cation Authorities 1871: Almshouses opened soda ash, oliens and soap) and a framework for 1873: New primary school ntary education opene 1871: Trade Union Movement legal- 1873 (I):

Page 282

Appendix 3 Mary Hirst and Alfred Beaumont

Mary - “a blessing to the neighbourhood”

Painting of Mary as a girl with her mother, Eleanor, which I

Page 283

Inside the church: “It would be i ibl ithhold a tribute of affectionate respect to the memory of this amiable young lady, suddenly removed from her family and friends by the hand of death...; nor can it be considered out of place here to record her endearing qualities...; the tenderness of her sympathies with the poor, and the anxiety she ever evinced in all that concerned their best interests.”

On the mausoleum: “Her many virtues need not be engraven on perishing stone. They live in the hearts of all who had the opportunity of knowing her, and especially so, of all her poor neighbours. Her life was incessantly devoted to acts of charity. She was a loving and an affectionate wife, and one of the best and most obedient of children.

The close hows th t condition of Mary’s eul the Hirst

Page 284

platform at one end of the room, while his workpeople sat at the three long tables extending from the chairman’s table to the other end. A band of music, engaged for the occasion, occupied a platform opposite to the chairman. After the removal of the cloth the chairman proposed the “Health of her Majesty the Queen’, when the band struck up the National Anthem. The next toast was ‘Prince Albert, Albert Prince of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family’. The chairman next proposed the ‘Army and Navy’, the band playing Rule Britannia. On the chairman proposing the “Health of the Bishop of the Diocese and Clergy’, he called on the Rev. Jos. Hughes to return thanks. The rev. gentleman in doing so contrasted the present state of the Church with what it was a century ago, and showed how she had put on strength and buckled on her armour. He alluded also to the piety and activity of the Bishop of Ripon, and to the zeal and faithfulness of the clergy of his diocese, while he did not injure or undervalue the labours and zeal of those who differed from the establishment. The rev. gentleman was listened to with great attention, and much cheered when he sat down.

Charles Brook, Esq., jun., was called upon to propose the next toast — the toast of the evening, — which he did in the following

Page 285

The only known photograph of Mary. Source: Author.

Alfred Beaumont

Alfred was the son of Joshua and Magdalen (or Magdilain, née Giles) Beaumont, born in 1831 at Steps, north of Honley. Father Joshua, a wooll owned Steps Mill and would eventually pass this down to Alfred. The family moved into Parkton Grove in the late 1830s, which was a large house across the road from the mill.


Page 286

I’m indebted to local historian Alan Brooke for information about Alfred’s

Page 287

of the Huddersfield Naturalists’ Society separated highly pleased with their

Page 288

to the church. The carpet was spread from the church entrance to the gates. Four bridesmaids, most tasteful attired, attended on the bride. [...] At the conclusion of the ceremony the bells again rang forth a merry peel. The wedding party returned to Wilshaw Cottage to breakfast. The workpeople of the several mills belonging to Mr. Hirst, sat down to an excellent dinner, one party at Mr. Bray’s, the Rose and Crown Inn, and the other party at Mr. H. Gill’s, the Swan Inn. When the excellent repast provided had been disposed of, both parties re-assembled, and proceeded in order to the top of the town, to await the arrival of the happy couple, who were to pass the point on their departure on the wedding tour. When they arrived, loud hurrahs was sent forth, so as to make “the welkin After the departure of the newly married couple, the workpeople reassembled in the Oddfellows’ Hall, to spend the evening in true English style, there being between 400 and 500 persons present. [After various toasts] Mr. Dyson sung “The Old English Gentleman’, the whole company joining heartily in the chorus.** A party of glee singers Mr. Wood on the pianoforte, sung several glees, duets, and songs, during the evening. The meeting broke up about 10 o’clock

Page 289

sojourn at an English seaside resort, which were becoming ever more popular at this time, though perhaps not so attractive in October and November!

At this second celebration, after food, everyone “adjourned to a large room at Steps Mill The room, which is capable of accommodating 1000 persons, was tastefully decorated with evergreens , which hung in graceful festoons, studied with a profusion of artificial stars and flowers. The passages and stairs

Page 290

was also there to see her child brought home? Twelve workmen knew the answer but, like all the rest of Joseph Hirst’s contemporaries, they took their secrets to the grave.

We can be sure that the Rev. J. S. E. Spencer, first vicar of Wilshaw, would be there to say a prayer for one cut off so soon, and to offer comfort to the ones to whom this awesome ceremony must have reopened an old

Page 291

Appendix 4 The Hirst house of Greave, 1760S - 1990S

The story of a house from 1760

The Hirst family owned much property at Lower Greave in the 1760s and thereafter. One house in particular provided the home of the main characters of this story, including Joseph Hirst as a young man. is was the forerunner of the house that later became Manor House, and it’s possible to identify from various documents how it came about.

The first Hirsts to live there were Zachariah Hirst and his family, and it was owned by Hirsts until the death of my parents in the 1990s. It was rebuilt and developed a few times, but the footprint remained more or less the same and it was a constant thread running through this story of the Hirsts of Greave and Wilshaw.

A rebuild in 1777

This date was inscribed on the wall of one of the bedrooms. Clearly, it had once been the outer wall and had been chiselled into the stone when the wall was built. This raises questions: who had built the house in 1777 and why was the date now on the inner wall:

An answer to the first question can be attempted, We know from the will of Zachariah’s eldest son, John Hirst senior, th f land nearby in 1809. Now, the will of his father Zachariah, written in 1784, makes no specific mention of the property, which suggests that John was always the owner, presumably from around the time when he moved with his parents and new wife to Greave from Holt Head (about 1760). How he obtained the land and property I don’t know, but we can conjecture that it was John who had the buildings rebuilt in 1777.

The impression gained from the stonework of the current building on the site is that it was a complete rebuild. The existing

Page 292

the top. You can also consult the 1888 OS map shown further below.

hn Hirst and Richard Hinchliffe. Source: Author

_ ~


(18) - Press shop

Richard Hinchliffe’s house and property (pink)

John Hirst’s house and property (yellow)

(1) - Water trough (3) - Dye house

(5) - Chamber

Joseph and Eleanor’s Villa

howing Lower and Upper Greave. Source: National Library of Scotland, CC BY-

Page 293

So, here we have Property containing me house in which Thomas and Mary

Page 295



Page 296

Appendix 5

Page 297

with every convenience suitable for a gentleman’s family. The house and stables are lighted with gas from works erected on the premises, but which are at some distance

from the house. There is an I of excellent water. There are also 11 cottages on the estate. The whole lies within 2 a ting fence, having roads on three sides of the estate.”

He bought it and later gave it a new name: Thornton House. What a difference it was to Wilshaw Villa. This was the classic wealthy industrialist’s ‘mansion’ and Joseph could enjoy that luxury away

from the worry and the sight of his Wilshaw/Meltl business and community.

Page 298

All Saints, Thornton Hough, built by Joseph Hirst. Source: Author.

J: J T 1 o I

Page 300

from Thornton House, so he arranged for a fifth clock to be placed high enough to solve the problem. His second model village

Joseph could develop the hamlet of Thornton Hough from a distance. He had a home there but it was not his main one. He could provide for the community, but it was not one with which he had a working relationship, with all the concomitant additional responsibilities and concerns. He possibly felt freer in making the developments there than he did in Wilshaw.

Shortly after completion of the church, vicarage and school, Joseph added another amenity to the new village: a row of 6 houses, which he named Wilshaw Terrace. At one end was another small house (Rowan Cottage) and at the other a village st itl 1 tower. The tower wall contains his initials on one side and the date of erection

Page 301

Wilshaw Terrace, to the right and the Village Store on the corner, Thornton E Hou The tower shows the date 187t 1870 on one side an ls, JH, on the other. Source: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Page 302

The main difference between Joseph Hirst’s work in Thornton Hough and that of William Lever was that Lever developed the village and the surrounding area to cater and provide for his ever-expanding workforce, much as Joseph had done in Wilshaw, but on a much grander scale. In Thornton Hough alone, he built a larger school, another church (though he kept the tower er deliberately low to avoid competing with All Saints), an orphanage shops y. It was he who developed the black-and-white timber effect on many of the buildings, including Thornton House, seen today.

Lever developed the village sympathetically, leaving in place Joseph’s projects, and earlier buildings, such as the Seven Stars Inn. Visitors today, therefore, can still get a very good feel of Thornton Hough of the mid/late 19th century.


Page 303

Appendix 6 The Great Exhibition of 1851

Although there had been smaller expositions in Paris culminating in the grandest in 1844, the 1851 Great Exhibition at Hyde Park (1st May to 15th October), held in what was called the Crystal Palace due to the enormous glass construction, was the first in Britain and had an international focus in contrast to earlier French ones which sought to promote only French industry. Its full title was “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ and could be considered to be the first World Fair, more of which would follow in continental Europe during the century.

Page 304

But in some I hibiti ted than technological advancement. The middle years of the century i in Britain were peaceful and “said to be relatively happy and harmonious decades; decades socially happier and more harmonious by far than the more anxious and turbulent decades which preceded and followed them”.*’ Victorian Britain, though heavily and distinctly structured by class, was recognising and celebrating the ability of people to move between classes and for the middle classes to flex their muscles and explore their relationship with the echelons above. The Exhibition was visited by the masses as well as the Queen and personalities such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Michael Faraday, Charlotte Bronté, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Alfred Tennyson and William Makepeace

Page 306

‘God save the Queen’, by turns.

There’s statues bright Of marble white Of silver and of copper; And some in zinc, And some, I think, That isn’t over proper.


Amazed I pass From glass to glass Deloighted I survey ‘em; Fresh wondthers grows Before me nose In this sublime Musayum”


Pve already hinted at what I mean by shocking: the egalitarian nature of the enterprise. This was seriously worrying to some of an old-fashioned bent. King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover (an Englishman by birth) wrote in a letter to Lord Strangford complaining about Victoria’s decision to allow the exhibition to take place in Hyde Park and open it to the public:

“The folly and absurdity of the Queen in allowing this trumpery must strike every sensible and well-thinking mind, and I am astonished the ministers themselves do not insist on her going to Osborne during the Exhibition, as no human being can possibly answer for what may occur on the occasion. The idea must shock every honest and well-meaning

Page 307


This was a notable event for the people of the country. In his Reminiscences, written around 1916-19, George Sykes, the son of a Holmfirth weaver and farmer, recalled its importance.

“Year 1850 was a year of preparation for the great event which was to take place the following year. As spring is the time for making ready for summer, so was this year for the great event of the next. This was to be a world event and so it proved to be... Preparations were made in the Huddersfield and Holmfirth districts, not only to show their goods but also to go themselves to see this great sight. [... In 1851], all the talk and excitement seemed to have their centre in the thought of the first of May. May Day was to see a unique and wonderful celebration, such as never seen before, or nearly so. All who could muster up the wherewithal, in other words afford the means to visit London, took this grand chance.”*

Although George noted that “a great number of the people of the district mad it to the Metropole and some of them took their young sons with them”, it seems his own father didn’t t go > and didn’t take im.

In focr

Page 308

Appendix 7 Processes of Woollen Manufacture

The most detailed description of the processes for manufacturing woollen cloth that I’ve found was put together by Sir Edward Baines in a text delivered as a paper read before the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at Leeds in 1858 (pages 71-73 of the 1970 reference in the Bibliography). This describes the process that was used around the middle of the 19th century in a factory and so it wouldn’t have been exactly the same in a clothier’s domestic business — especially in relation to machinery mentioned. However, the general processes would have been similar so it’s worth reproducing in full.

I’ve highlighted in bold the technical terms sometimes

Page 309

15. Reeling the yarn intended for the warp. 16. Warping it and putting it on the beam for the loom. 17. Sizing the wool with animal gelatine, to facilitate the weaving. 18. Weaving at the power-loom or hand-loom. 19. Scouring the cloth with fuller’s earth, to remove the oil and size. 20. Dyeing, when piece-dyed. 21. Burling, to pick out irregular threads, hairs, or dirt. 22. Milling or fulling, with soap and warm water, either in the fulling-stocks or in the improved milling machine, where it is squeezed between rollers. 23. Scouring, to remove the soap. 24. Drying and stretching on tenters. 25. Raising the nap of the cloth, by brushing it strongly

Page 311


Page 312

was also applied in the earlier years to any cloth made on a wider loom than the narrow or half-cloths Buckskin (wt) A thick, stout and very durable fabric tl imes used worsted thread and silk (then known as ‘summer buckskin’). Like other skin-named fabrics, it was satin (see) woven. Used for overcoats, riding breeches, etc. Calimanco (wt) Plain or striped, stout cloth finished with a high lustre; used for petticoats and chair seats. First made in Norwich to supersede printed cottons (calicos). Known to have been made in Yorkshire from 1750 (and Leeds 1770). Camlets (wl) Or camblets, camblettes, camelots. Fabrics woven from a cotton and wool mix, with a wavy surface. Name probably of French origin, with the meaning of ‘pile’ or ‘nap’. Originally a rough material good for repelling rain and used for cloaks and wraps.

Page 313

Cobourg (wt)

Cord (wl)

Crépe or crape (g)

Dobby (wt)

Doeskin (wl)

Page 314

Kersey (wl)


Leopold (wt)

Linsey-woolsey (wl)

Liverpool (wt) Melton (wl)

Merino (wt)

Mohair (g)

Moleskin (wl)

Moreens (g)

Mungo (g)

Napped goods (g)

a jagged edge check, often found in suiting (1 as Shepherd’s Check in later years). Kersie. An old cloth, dating back in Yorkshire to the 14th century and derived from an East Anglian cloth-making town. Sometimes called northern dozens, it was the staple cloth of the area in earlier times. Cheap, coarse, stout, heavy and pliable, twilled (see Twill) fabric finished with a close nap (see Napped goods), good against the cold and wet; used for coats (and military uniforms) throughout Europe and a cloth for the poorer classes. It was sometimes made with a cotton warp. See Cassimere. This name was created by Joseph Hirst for one of his cloths, which he defended by law in “The Huddersfield Woollen Case’ in 1872 (The Huddersfield Chronicle, 22nd June, 1872, page 9). Taylor lists this as a “first-class fancy woollen” cloth

Page 315

Norwich Crape (wt) A glossy fabric of the 19th century used for women’s dresses. It was made with

Orleans (wt)

Paramatta (wt) Parisienne (wt) Penistone (wl) Petersham (wl)

Picklock (wl)

Plain (g)

Plainback (wt)

Poplin (g)

Princetta (wt) Prunelles (wt)

Russet (g)

Satin (g)

a silk warp and a worsted fill of two different colours. In earlier days, Norwich Crape or Crepe was a crepe cloth (see) dyed black. It appeared in the West Riding in the mid 1820s, from when it became common. The first of what was called “Mixed goods’ — cloth with cotton warp and worsted weft. The name was due to much American cotton coming from Mississippi. As a lightweight fabric, it was

Page 316

Say or Saye (wt) Earliest worsted cloth made in England. The name’s derived from the ancient Celtic and means a Mantle or a Plaid, and came to us through the Latin sagum —a military cloak. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they were mostly made in Bradford, Halifax and Keighley. It was a kind of serge (see) of black colour and was used for linings and shirts, usually from Dutch, English (Lincolnshire, Yorkshire) or Spanish wool. Sayes made in the West Riding were mainly shipped to Spain, Portugal and Italy for priest attire. Sefton (wt) As for Leopold. Serge (g) A soft and loosely woven cloth made since the 12th century. It derives from the Latin

Page 317

Stamyn (wt) Also Stammin, Stammel and S An early worsted cloth, stouter than

the Say, derived from Latin stamen — the warp of a cloth, or a cloth woven of

thread. Tabinet (g) Same as Poplin (see). ammy (wt) A mix of worsted weft and cotton warp, producing a fine dress cloth, which was

twilled (see Twill) and had a highly finished

Page 318

Appendix 9 Measurements

Measurement units have changed over the ‘years. The earlier that one goes back i in history, the more


Page 319

Linear Metric

Page 321


Page 322

who usually put a single or double line after the last person in the household. There was also always someone identified as “Head of household’, which helps to confirm where one household ended and the next started.

Sometimes, houses were unoccupied, and these were not included. The figures shown in the analysis for the number

Page 324


Page 325

Appendix 11 Hirsts in the news

There are many references to newspaper articles in this book, some of which have been quoted I from

and others not. This isa fuller list of all reports of relevance tnat I could find 1n digitise papers available online (which doesn’t include, therefore, the Huddersfield

Page 326

names: cheap literally used to mean ‘deal’; a modern ‘chap’ derives from the sense of someone who was a customer or one to deal with; Cheapside (dealing place) and even Copenhagen (merchant’s harbour) are names from the same origin. Information from

1805, May 13th - LI (p1); Hirst’s Creditors Subject: Jonathan Hirst’s bankruptc “Notice is hereby given, that the Trustee under the Deed of Assignment of Jonathan Hirst, of Greave, in the Parish of Almondbury, in the County of York, Clothier, will attend on Wednesday the Fifteenth day of May next, at Eleven o'clock in the forenoon, at the House of Mr. William Davenport, the Red Lion Inn, in Marsden, in the Parish aforesaid, in Order to make a First and Final Dividend of the

Page 327

1853, Nov 12th - HC (p7); Meltham - Festivities at Greave Subject: Mary Hirst reaches age of 21 A report on a celebration of Joseph and Eleanor Hirst’s daughter Mary reaching the age of 21. There were brief speeches by Charles Brook junior and Reverend Joseph Hughes as well as Joseph himself: More details can be found in Appendix 3.

1854, Jan 14th - HHE (p7); Prosecution Society Subject: Joseph Hirst appointed officer of this society The annual meeting was held at Mr Bray’s, Rose and Crown Inn, Meltham. Joseph Hirst (Wilshaw) was appointed as an officer for the coming year. Also appointed was Charles Brook junior. After the business meeting, they dined and then gave toasts. “In alluding to the rumours respecting Prince Albert, Mr. Brook said that they were © not to condemn

Page 328

eltham. He stood at the garden gate but she could not swear that the prisoner was the man, though she thought he looked like him Hinchliffe was discharged due to lack of evidence.

1856, Mar 8th - HC (p5); Meltham - Fire Subject: Fire at Wilshaw Mill “On Saturday afternoon last, between two and three the wool stove of Mr. Joseph Hirst, of Wilshaw, manufacturer, was discovered to be on fire. All the hands in Mr. Hirst’s employment were romptly in active operation

Page 329

1856, Oct 4th - HC (p6); Meltham Mills Festival - Treat to the Workpeople Subject: Hirst involvement in festival plus toast by Joseph Hirst Four and a half columns covering an event held by Brooks of Meltham Mills as a celebration of their success at the Great Exhibition in London and the 1854 Exhibition in Paris. Present at the high table were everybody who was anybody in Meltham and neighbourhood, including various Brooks, Carliles, Hirsts of Meltham and also including Greave-cum-Wilshaw Hirsts: Joseph, daughter Mary, Richard and wife Elizabeth. There were various toasts after a meal: “Joseph Hirst, Esq., of Wilshaw, said the toast he had to propose was ‘The army and the navy’. (Cheers.) [...] Where would [this] happy meeting [be] had it not been for the deeds the army and navy had performed? Without the army and navy they might not have been at liberty to hold that meeting, for they would probably have been under the dominion of a foreign power. The deeds done by our army in the Crimea* ought to be the pride and boast of every Englishman

Page 330

facilities afforded by Mechanics Institutions, I Se, in a deg ‘milar to their fellow operatives; and in the P ace thetr WUT

Page 331

by Joseph Hirst, Esq., in memory of his late daughter, Mrs. Alfred Beaumont, was performed. Greave is sttuate a great distance from any place of worship, and the inhabitants have long felt this to be a great Inconventence. Now they are about to be blessed by the means

Page 332

1863, May 2nd - HC (p6); Consecration of a New Church at Wilshaw Subject: As heading Lengthy report of the event. Here are some excerpts:

“Bleak and sterile as are the adjacent moors, and wild as ts the character of the surrounding scenery, there are features

Page 333

became (in)famous for his opposition of the Meltham and Netherton railway branch line, which was proposed to go too close to his house. He helped to fund the building of the Lockwood Mechanics’ Institute and was a churchwarden of Emmanuel Church in Lockwood. — Captain Brooke I can’t locate for certain, though he was clearly connected with the Brooke family of Honley and Armitage Bridge. — Jos. Beaumont was Alfred Beaumont’s father Joshua, living at Parkton Grove in Honley. — J. C. Laycock was probably James Campey Laycock, attorney at law living in Huddersfield in 1861. One of his sisters married John Brooke of Armitage Bridge and another married the Rev. Joseph Hughes of Meltham. He was a warden of Huddersfield Parish Church for many years and a regular supporter of local

1863, Mar 28th - HC (p8); New Church at Rashcliffe Subject: Joseph Hirst contributes £100 Joseph was in the company of the usual suspects a asa a major contributor I to the building

Page 334

I t oddly considering how small the community of Meltham was) one of his granddaughters

would marry a member of the Mitchell family that contained one of my great-grandmothers (his granddaughter Martha Woodhead married Arthur Mitchell; Arthur was

Page 335

1865, Feb 18th - HC (p8); Meltham - Co-operative Society Subject: Joseph Hirst addresses the meetin This was the third “annual tea meeting and

Page 336

of the community were exhorted to pay

Page 337

1869, Mar 13th - HC (p7); Meltham - Co-operative Society Subject: Joseph Hirst reads the annual report The report provides a greater sense of the co-o “The Meltham Industrial Co-operative Society, having found thetr old stores too small and inconvenient for their increasing business, sometimes since commenced the erection of more commodious premises, the inauguration of

Page 338

people, who were honest and straightforward, would never suffer the constitution of this country to be infringed in any manner which would injure tt, or prevent it being worked for the welfare of all classes of

the people. (Applause.)” After Joseph, L.R. Starkey gave his speech.

[* Lewis Randle Starkey (1836-1910) was a Milnsbridge millowner living in Huddersfield. He was chosen to stand in the 1868 general election for the Southern Division of West Yorkshire, but did not succeed. He would be elected in 1874 and serve one term, losing his seat in 1880. Walter Spencer-Stanhope (1827-1911) of Cannon Hall, near Barnsley, was an aristocrat and military man. Like Starkey, he failed to be elected in 1868 but served as M.P. for the constituency between 1872 and 1880.]

1870, May 21st - HC (p8); New Almshouses at Wilshaw - Laying the Corner Stone Subject: Commencement of building the Almshouses Chapter 16 contains extracts from this report concerning Joseph’s speech on the occasion. Here are further details that might be of interest: ‘A few months ago Mrs. Hirst, as a mark of her sympathy with the aged and poor of Meltham, made known her intention to erect a certain number of almshouses. Messrs. Kirk and Son, architects prepared designs, and, after they had b

Page 339

1870, Jul 30th - HC (p5); Local News - Huddersfield Banking Compa Subject: Joseph Hirst chairs 43rd AGM at the Court House, Huddersfield (again) The usual dull stuff: profits, dividends, new members It’s a pity that the very next item in the paper, headed

Page 340

George Mallinson and his wife. the Brook and Hirst no relations. I

The weather on Saturday was alternately fine and wet, with a good deal of wind, which somewhat spotled the order of proceedings. It had been intended to have a procession, but this had to be dispensed with on account of the

Page 341

in saying that no improper person shall be admitted into these houses, but that they shall be a refuge for those who, as I have said before, have passed through a life of honest industry, and who have sustained a respectable and honest character. With these few remarks, seeing that the day 1s so unfavourable, I will simply declare, on the part of Mrs. Hirst, that these almshouses are now open.’ (Loud cheers.)”

There followed a speech by the Wilshaw vicar, another hymn and benediction, and the proceedings closed. Shortly afterwards, 400 - 500 people assembled under a large tent and partook tea, after which were more speeches (toasts). That given by Rev. J.T.S. Spencer (vicar of Wilshaw) is of interest. He said “he had been deputed by the committee as the representative of the great body of Mr. Hirst’s work people, and also of those who were inhabitants of the Wilshaw Church district, to take upon himself a very pleasing and agreeable duty. Those he represented felt that this occasion not to pass by without their having given them an opportunity of expressing, in a tangible form, the deep love and reverence for Mrs. Hirst, and

Page 342

Anthem was sung, and the proceedings, which had been enlivened by musical selections given by a glee

Page 343

Bishop called for funds to provide schools where there was a pressing current need and in general for the church to ensure that there were church schools in all areas. Canon Hulbert moved a resolution to that effect. “Joseph Hirst,

Page 344

design, and they bore letters upon them

Page 345

1872, Jul 20th - HC (p7); Meltham — Memorial Service to the Late Charles Brook, Esq., at Wilshaw Subject: As title Joseph stopped work at his Wilshaw mill so that the hands could attend

1872, Sep 28th - HC (p5); Newsome New Church Bazaar Subject: Joseph

Page 346

1873, Aug 2nd - HC (p5); Local News - Huddersfield Banking Company Subject: Joseph Hirst elected as one of two new directors Nothing to add.

1873, Dec 6th - HC (p8); The Chronicle - no title Subject: Disagreement between George Harper of the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle and Joseph Hirst The editor of the paper used his column to claim Joseph Hirst had failed to support him over a libel perpetrated by a rival paper — the Huddersfield Weekly News. Mr. Harper said he had been forced to publish the details of his argument with Joseph

Page 347

1874, Dec 19th - Huddersfield Weekly News (p8); Death and Funeral of Josh. Hirst, Esq., J.P. of Wilshaw; The Late Joseph Hirst, Esq., J.P. of Wilshaw (obituary part 1); Meltham — The Late Joseph Hirst etc. Subjects: Funeral in Wilshaw; obituary; service in Meltham These items have been liberally quoted in the main text.

1874, Dec 19th - HC (p8); Local News — The Late Joseph Hirst, Esq. Subject: On Joseph Hirst as a magistrat Noting the death of Joseph, the Chairman a at the Huddersfield County Police Court,

Page 348

1882, Jan 14th - HC (p4); Sales by Auction (3rd column) - Royd Edge Mill Estate, Meltham, near Huddersfield Subject: Sale of Joseph Hirst & Co. Ltd.’s Royd Edge Mill and surrounding property The notice included full details of the mill and buildings, the machinery wit within, housing attached and nearby, two farms and their lands (giving exact areas of each separat allotment), and a stone



Page 349


Publications (books, journals, magazines, etc.) Not all are still in print. Some of the earlier ones can be viewed online through Google Books or Huddersfield Exposed or other websites. Bagehot, Walter, The English Constitution, Chapman and Hall (1867)

Baines, Edward, History, Directory &% Gazetteer of the County of York; with a variety of Commerctal, Statistical and Professional information: also

Page 350

London (1866); also various pubs., including Penguin Books

Friar, Stephen, The Companion to Heraldry, first pub. Sutton Publishing (1992); also The History Press (2

Griffiths, David, Joseph Brook of Greenhead

Page 351

Mayhew, Henry, 1851; or the Adventures of Mr and Mrs Curtsy Sandboys and family, who came up to London to “enjoy themselves’, and see the Great

Page 352

Schwarzkopf, Jutta, Unpicking Gender: The social construction of gender in the Lancashire cotton weaving industry, 1880-1914, Routledge (2018)

Smiles, Aileen, Samuel Smiles and His S: lings, Robert Hale Ltd. (1956) Smiles, Samuel,

Page 353

and October 2021. I haven’t reproduced the addresses here; a search using their title will locate them. Dress and Textile Specialists. See especially the pages on identifying textiles under Resources/DATS toolkits Eaton Hill Textile Works Holmfirth Local History Group Huddersfield Exposed (c/o Dave Pattern) Internet Archive London Street Views (c/o Baldwin Harney)

Page 354


Page 355


Page 356

New machinery used by 85, 88f

Roles of 136f Their inns at market 62f Weavers (handloom) S7f, 92f Co-operatives a nd Movement Early Co-operatives 206f Meltham Co-operative 207£ Corn Laws 115, 123, 160, 170 Cotton manufacturing 27, 92, 96, 179, 236 Crompton’s Mule 90, 129

Croppers (see Clothdressers) Cropping (see Woollen industry, process of production) onley

Deanhouse Mill, Defoe, Daniel 23,

Page 357

Hirst, John (senior) Hirst, Jonas Brook Hirst, Jonathan Hirst, Josep (of Wilshaw) isition of his Estate of Wilshaw

Page 358

Assassination of William Horsfall Manor House, Wils Man or Mill, M eltham Mills Markets (see Cloth Hall) Mechanics’ Ins Meltham Local Board (see Local self-government) Meltham Mills In the late 18th century In the middle of the 19th century Link to railway

Page 359

Spinning Jenny The) 56, 89f, 94, 95 ary’s Church, Wilshaw 15, 194f, 196, 288, 329f Se

Page 360


Page 362

By following the lives of the Hirst family of Greave, starting in the late 18th century, and setting their lives and accomplishments within the context of the times, this book provides a case study of the transition from domestic to mill manufacture in the woollen business. The earlier Hirsts were clothiers who settled in the small hamlet of Greave, near Meltham. One descendant, Joseph Hirst, transformed himself from a small-scale master clothier into a woollen and worsted manufacturer, utilising three mills. Along with his growth as a businessman came the acquisition of land and the development of Greave into the village Wilshaw with a church, school and housing - a small-scale model village. The book also explores the role of men like Joseph Hirst, their early paternalistic role and later their contributions through money and service to local development. The story unfolds across a little longer than a century, ending with a comparison of the Greave/Wilshaw community between the late 18th and early 20th centuries.

ISBN 978-1-7398655-4-2 9"781739"865542">

Return to the Huddersfield Exposed home page
View the list of other OCR'd books