"Huddersfield" by D.F.E. Sykes (1897)
The following text by D.F.E. Sykes is reproduced from the County Borough of Huddersfield: Jubilee Handbook (1897).
To tell, within the cramping limits the allotted space permits, the story of the rise and progress of Huddersfield, to narrate how in a time so brief that the memory of many living men doth compass it, a town but yesterday so obscure as scarce to be noted on the map has come to be ranked among the chief industrial centres of the Empire, to show how by wise measures the nucleus town and a few scattered hamlets have been welded into a harmonious and symmetric whole, to record the founding and describe the growth of noble institutions that owe their birth to the generous sacrifices and their maintenance to the public spirit of her sons, to trace the swift evolving by which a straggling town, ill built, ill paved, badly lighted, with scant and vitiated supply of water, almost destitute of buildings and pleasaunces consecrated to the public needs and joys has matured into a noble municipality, quoted and appraised as a very type and pattern of civic enterprise, and to mark how the temples of God have been flanked by the palaces of knowledge, and the blessings of plenty have cheered the lot and brightened the way of the toiling thousands : such is the joyous theme to which my pen is set, to swell the chorus of this eventful Jubilee.
The diligent student of topographic annals will not have failed to observe that the early history of many, if not of most, of our English towns is closely linked with the fortunes of some noble family whose feudal appanage they have chanced to be. Of such towns the history is well nigh a romance. Stories of siege, of rapine, and of slaughter shed a lurid light upon its pages. The serfs of the fief bore their perilous part in the rivalries, the plottings, and the ambitions of their liege lords, and deeds of yeoman service were chronicled with the feats of knightly prowess.
For such exciting topics the curious will search with scant reward in the archives of Huddersfield’s story. The vicinity of Huddersfield doubtless felt the fury of William the Conqueror’s consuming wrath, when that monarch vowed “by the splendour of God” to avenge himself on the north for the part it had borne in the rising of Eadgar the Aetheling, and smouldering ruins, ravaged fields, and the whitening bones of tens of thousands of men, women and children marked the track of his ruthless hosts. Later, too, we catch occasional glimpses of the petty feuds of rival local chiefs, mainly interesting as testifying to the existence in those far-off times of families with names honourably known at this day in Huddersfield. There is, for instance, the legend, which I can but advert to, of the family feud between Sir John de Eland and Sir Robert Beaumont of Crosland Hall in the reign of Edward II., a pretty little quarrel in which Sir Robert was aided by Lockwood of Lockwood, and Quarmby of Quarmby, and in the later developments of which we find partisans bearing names so familiar to us as Dawson and Haigh. But for the most part such battles as have been fought in Huddersfield and its vicinity have been domestic contests between employers and workmen, arising from strikes or lock-outs, allusion to which will find more fitting place in a later portion of this brief narrative, and which seem to be, unhappily, inevitable incidents of the industry in which its inhabitants are so largely engaged.
During the Roman occupation, this part of England was inhabited by an aboriginal tribe, the Brigantes, of whose fierce and warlike character Tacitus and other Latin writers speak with generous admiration. A Roman camp existed at Slack, on the confines of the Borough, which after much archaeological controversy has now been satisfactorily identified with the Cambodunum of early writers. The discovery of an altar bearing the inscription:
- C. ANTO. MODES.
- C. LEG. VI. VIC. PE.
- V. S. L. M.
first led Dr. Whitaker, the learned author of “Loidis and Elmete,” to fix the site of Cambodunum at Slack, and in October, 1865, excavations were undertaken by the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Society which removed all existing doubts on the matter. During the progress of the excavations many coins were found, the most interesting of all, perhaps, being that with an inscription which, enlarged, would read “Imperatori Caesari Vespasiano Augusto, Pontifici Maximo, tribunitiale potestate, patri patriae, Consuli III.” and bearing on the reverse side the words Judaea Capta. It may interest the resident in Outlane to reflect as he plays at dominoes for the price of a pint of beer that hard by, in the years that are gone, the legionaries of Rome gambled over their cups with coins that commemorated the fall of Jerusalem.
It is possible, too, that a Roman fortress may have frowned down upon Huddersfield from the summit of Castle Hill in Almondbury. Almondbury is said by Canon Hulbert to be a word of hybrid origin — altus mons burgh. The altus mons of the Latin tongue would become the haut mont of the Norman, so that those among us who speak of Hombury may have at least philological license. But whether or no the legions of the Eagle ever encamped on the lofty eminence that so nobly sentinels our town, certain it is that in the time of Stephen a castle “with a triple strength of forts and bulwarks” was erected there about the year 1137, and was granted to Henry de Laci, lord of the manor. Many and rife were the complaints of the common people of the deeds of cruelty and torture enacted within the dungeons of the grim fortress. So persistent were these rumours that in 1307 the castle was examined by a jury. There is no copy of their Inquisition extant, but the fact that the castle was no longer in existence in the reign of Edward III. would countenance the assumption that the jury’s finding called for its demolition.
It is to the Domesday Book that we must turn for the first authentic record of Huddersfield. That venerable compilation, for which if for nothing else England owes a debt of gratitude to Norman William, informs us that “In Odersfelt Godwin had six carucates of land to be taxed, affording occupation for eight ploughs. Now the same has it of Ilbert, but it is waste. Wood pasture one mile long and one wide. In the time of King Edward it was valued at 100 shillings. The carucate or plough-ate, it may be necessary to explain, was about 120 acres, and the shilling of the period equivalent to about three of our money. Similar entries are to be found in Domesday Book concerning Almondbury, Bradley, Crosland, Lindley, and Quarmby, from which it is clear that, after the Conquest, the lands now comprised in the Borough, were taken by William from the Saxon owners and conferred upon Ilbert de Lacy, by whom the former holders were permitted to remain in possession as his tenants. This Norman adventurer, Ilbert de Lacy, was the founder of one of the most powerful families of the north, who, to atone perhaps for deeds of violence, established the religious houses of Nostel, Pontefract, and Kirkstall, and it is believed erected the first Parish Church of Huddersfield.
It is not of much moment to trace the devolution of the manor from feudal lord to feudal lord. In the general breakup of great estates which followed upon the dissolution of the monasteries, one William Ramsden, of Longley, became a large possessor of estates in and about Huddersfield. This William Ramsden died in London in 1580 while engaged, it is interesting to learn, in the prosecution of a law suit. The family prospered with the years, and in the time of Charles I. we find a knight, Sir John Ramsden, who espoused the Royalist side. Later generations, however, saw fit to incline to Whig principles, for another Sir John Ramsden was in 1689 created first Baronet by William of Orange. The present Baronet, Sir John William Ramsden, was born in 1831, was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, married in 1865 Lady Helen Guendolen St. Maur, youngest daughter of the twelfth Duke of Somerset, has represented more than one constituency in parliament, and for a short period was an Under-Secretary at the War Office.
It is not possible to say with precision at what period of its history the district of Huddersfield became known as a seat of the Woollen Manufacture. From time immemorial the wool of England has been highly prized, and even so early as the reigns of Henry I, Stephen, and Henry II, its manufacture was a not inconsiderable industry. But it was Edward III, who seems of all our kings to have been most impressed with the boundless possibilities of the woollen industry in this country. The following extracts from The Golden Fleece, published in 1597, is of considerable interest:— “The wools of England have ever been of great honour and reception abroad, as hath been sufficiently witnessed by the constant amity, which, for many hundred years, hath been inviolably kept between the Kings of England and the Dukes of Burgundy, only for the benefit of the wool; whose subjects, receiving the English wool at sixpence a pound returned it (through the manufacture of those industrious people) in cloth at ten shillings a yard, to the great enriching of that state, both in revenue to their sovereign and in employment to their subjects, which occasioned the merchants of England to transport their whole families in no small numbers into Flanders, from whence they had a constant trade to most parts of the world. And this intercourse of trade between England and Burgundy endured till King Edward III. made his mighty conquests over France and Scotland, when, finding fortune more favourable in prospering his achievements than his immediate subjects were able to maintain, he at once projected how to enrich his people, and to people his new conquered dominions; and both these he designed to effect by means of his English commodity, wool, all which he accomplished, though not without great difficulties and oppositions, for he was not only to re-duce (bring back) his own subjects home, who were, and had long been settled in these parts, with their own families, many of which had not so certain habitations in England as in Flanders; but he was also to invite clothiers over to convert his wools into clothing (and these were the subjects of another prince), or else the stoppage of the stream would choke the mill, and then not only clothing would every where be lost, but the materials resting upon his English subjects’ hands would soon ruin the whole gentry and yeomanry for want of vending their wools. Now, to show how King Edward smoothed these rough and uneven passages were too tedious to this short narrative, though otherwise in their contrivance, they may be found to be ingenious, pleasing, and of great use.
“But this it must be granted, that King Edward was wise as well as victorious, for upon a visitation made by himself to the Duke of Burgundy, during his residence there, he employed such able agents among the Flemish clothiers, as (barely upon his promises) he prevailed with great numbers of them to come into England soon after him, where he most royally performed these promises, in giving not only a free denization to them, but he likewise invested them with privileges and immunities beyond those of his native subjects, which peculiarities their posterities enjoy to this day. ... Seventy families of Walloons were in the first year brought to England by the invitation and promises of Edward. He kept his royal word to all of them. The greater part were at first settled in Kent, but they were by degrees removed to different parts, and scattered over the whole of England. They shifted their residence according to the facility with which they could obtain water or fuel, or the material on which they worked. The greater number finally settled in Yorkshire, Gloucester, and the Western Counties.”
This enlightened policy of the King was not entirely appreciated by his subjects. They resented the importation of foreign labour. “The laws enacted in favour of the foreign skilled workmen were counteracted by civic regulations to their disadvantage and much litigation and many frays, broils, and riots were the result.” Thus in 1430 the local authorities of Bristol fined a Flemish settler for having caused various machines for weaving and making woollen cloths to be set up in his houses, and for having hired weavers and other workmen for this purpose; but the fine was remitted by the King’s special and personal order.
The natural advantages presented by this neighbourhood would not fail to attract the attention of those seeking suitable sites for woollen establishments. The lofty and extensive ranges of hills, constituting watersheds of incalculable collecting powers, the abundance of the water for power, and its peculiar softness for dyeing, due to a subtle chemical something which has, I believe, defied analysis, the vast expanse of moorland little fit for horned cattle but affording ample if not rich pasturage for sheep, and the proximity of rich supplies of coal, all combined to mark this district as a very elysium for the enterprising pioneers of the new industry, and there can be little doubt that at a very early period the infant art was nursed and cherished in our rude vales. That Flemish immigrants found their way here is, I think, beyond doubt. There was or is a family called Fleming in Almondbury, one of the oldest families of that ancient parish, and it used to be a tradition in the family that they came originally from Flanders.
Down to 1530 the wool was spun by distaff and spindle, but in that year the one-thread spinning wheel, something like the hand-loom weaver’s bobbin wheel, was introduced. The ladies of country mansions — the spin-sters — became adept at the art of spinning. A Lincolnshire lady, a Miss Ives, of Spalding, spun a pound of wool into 95½ miles of yarn. The one-thread spinning wheel was surpassed by the old hand-jenny of Hargreaves, but domestic spinning was a favourite family occupation in this district. In a lecture delivered by the late Chas. Vickerman in 1879 he says, “My old grandfather was carding engineer for the Mr. Horsfall that was shot by the Luddites on Crosland Moor, and he used to tell me about the shepherd farmers bringing to him a few stones of wool to card at the little mill at the foot of the Wessenden Valley, and when it was carded they would fetch it home in the carding, rolled up in wrappers, and that they used to while away their long winter evenings by spinning on the one-thread wheel, deeming it unsafe to trust both carding and spinning to machinery, lest the cloth should not wear well.”
The year 1738 is memorable as that in which a patent was granted to John Wyatt, of Birmingham, for spinning cotton by machinery. Other inventions and improvements followed in quick succession. In 1780 the first scribbling machine set up in this district was put into Ing Nook Mill, a little mill in the New Mill neighbourhood, and Mr. Vickerman, in the lecture I have already quoted, informed his audience that he had frequently conversed with an old slubber that slubbed a Billy for Atkinson’s, of Bradley Mills, when there were only six Billys in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield. In 1784 Dr. Cartwright invented the power loom, and thenceforward not only was the whole process of manufacturing metamorphosed, but trade increased in volume with almost incredible rapidity. It was about this period, in 1768, that the Cloth Hall was erected by Sir John Ramsden. Prior to that it was customary for the merchants to expose their cloths on stalls in the open air, verily that market ouvert lawyers prate of. That Huddersfield even anterior to this had become a noted centre of commerce may be gathered from more than one source. In 1727 Daniel Defoe visited the district, and in his story tells us that the trade chiefly consisted in woollen goods called kersies, which were produced in abundance in all the neighbouring villages and were sold at Huddersfield. Oaten bread and oat cakes, we are informed by the same author, were the favourite food of the people, and he speaks of the ale of Huddersfield as being remarkably good. So much had the staple trade increased that, so early as the reign of Charles II., the Ramsden family had secured the market-rights. The Charter was dated in the twenty-third year of that merry monarch, and its terms may interest the reader:
- “I, the King, to whom these presents shall come, send greeting — WHEREAS by a certain inquisition taken by our command at Huddersfield in ye County of York ye 12th day of September last past before ye date of these presents, and returned in due form and now to be found remaining upon record, it now appears to Us that it will not be to the damage or prejudice of Us or any others if We do grant unto John Ramsden, Esq., that he and his heirs may have and hold one Market in ye town of Huddersfield aforesaid on Tuesday in every week for ever for ye buying and selling of all manner of Goods and Merchandise, and receive ye tolls profits and advantages from thence coming and arising for him and his heirs for ever, as by ye said inquisition may more fully and at large appear. KNOW YE THEREFORE That We for divers good causes and considerations Us hereunto especially moving have given and granted and by these presents for Us our heirs and successors do give and grant unto ye said John Ramsden his heirs and assigns, That he and they shall have and hold one Market in ye town of Huddersfield aforesaid upon Tuesday in every week for ever for ye buying and selling of all sorts of Cattle, Goods, and Merchandise whatever, and farther that ye said John Ramsden his heirs and assigns shall and may have take and receive to his and their own proper use and uses all and singular ye tolls profits and advantages and emoluments to such Market in anywise belonging or of right appertaining or from thence coming or arising. And may have hold and enjoy the aforesaid tolls profits and other the premises aforesaid unto the said John Ramsden his heirs and assigns to his and their own proper use and uses for ever, without anything to us our heirs or successors to be paid or performed. And we do by these presents finally command that ye said John Ramsden his heirs and assigns shall freely lawfully and quolly have hold and enjoy ye aforesaid market and ye tolls and profits to ye same belonging, or from thence from time to time coming and arising, according to ye tenor and true meaning of these our Letters Patent without any molestation hindrance or denials of Us our Heirs or Successors or of our Sheriffs, Bailiffs, Officers or Ministers or any other persons whatsoever.
- Dated ye first day of November in ye twenty-third year of our reign (1672).”
The position of the now rising town in the lap of the Pennine range whilst affording to the mills abundant streams of pure water from the clustering hills had the counterbalancing effect of making exit from the valley toilsome and costly. The King’s highroads were bad and fondrous. The hills were steep, their ascent hard, for the cumbrous wains groaning and creaking under the heavy burden of good broadcloth. But our ancestors had to brave the perils of these roads to sell their goods, and buyers from the great cities of the south, and the foreign agents from the ports must oft have cursed the fate which in the wild winter days compelled them to penetrate the fastnesses of this hill-girt town.
The manufactured pieces destined for distant marts inland must perforce be conveyed by waggon to the great centres of commerce. The coaches for passengers, and the wains for merchandise, used to start from the Pack Horse and the Warren House, and many still living remember the familiar procession. To the tourist on pleasure bent, the dashing coach with its thrilling horn may present an alluring picture; but to a business man time is money, and the swaying coaches that were thought marvels of speed, if by swift changing relays of horses they accomplished the journey between Huddersfield and London in thirty-six hours of incessant travel would chafe to distraction the eager bagsman of to-day. In the year 1780, however, the river Calder was made navigable from Wakefield to Halifax, and five years later the Ramsden Canal was made from the Calder at Cooper Bridge to Aspley, thus opening up an outlet to the coast. After eighteen years devoted to its construction, a still more costly undertaking, the Huddersfield Canal, working its dank and gloomy way beneath the ponderous pile of Stanedge, was opened in 1795, thus connecting the town with Ashton, Oldham, and Manchester.
Down to 1848 there was no direct communication for travellers by rail with the outer world. A small goods warehouse existed in New North Road for the reception of goods, and a single line connected the depot with Cooper Bridge. Travellers were conveyed by the coach from the old George Hotel, at the corner of Kirkgate and John William Street, to Cooper Bridge. The Railway Station, a handsome structure in Grecian style with portico supported by Grecian pillars, was built in 1848. It was confronted by the Lion Arcade in 1853. These edifices, flanked on the one side by the George Hotel, and on the other by the Britannia Buildings erected by the late Geo. Crosland, form the square, which with its graceful marble statue of Sir Robert Peel is admirably designed to impress the visitor with the structural elegance of the modern parts of the town. The railroads of the L. & N. W. and the L. & Y. Companies, over the latter of which the Great Northern Co. has running powers, now connect the town with every city, port, and village in the kingdom, and it is hard for anyone who surveys the bustling scene presented of a Saturday night to realize that fifty brief years ago not even the sheep-pens, thought excellent carriages half-a-century ago, droned through the town at distant intervals.
The rapid transaction of business requires not only the means of constant personal communication but correspondence swift and secure by letter. The mode in which correspondence was carried on between various places, when the Huddersfield Cloth Market Hall was built, may excite, says Lord Macaulay, the scorn of this generation, yet it was such as might have moved the admiration and envy of the polished nations of antiquity, or of the contemporaries of Raleigh and Cecil. A rude and imperfect establishment of posts for the conveyance of letters had been set up by Charles the First, and had been swept away by the Civil Wars — under the Commonwealth the design was resumed. On most lines of road the mails went out and came in only on alternate days. In Cornwall, in the Fens of Lincolnshire, and among the hills and lakes of Cumberland, letters were received only once a week. The bags were carried on horseback, day and night, at the rate of about five miles an hour. The charge for carrying a single letter was twopence for eighty miles, and threepence for a longer distance. The postage increased in proportion to the weight of the packet.
In Huddersfield, quotes Mr. Owen Balmforth in his excellent History of Huddersfield, all the post office business eighty years ago was in the hands of one old woman, who marked the price on each letter, for in those days letters were paid for on delivery, and another old woman had all the delivering to attend to. The post office was in Old Street, Kirkgate. Thence it was removed to the corner of the Market Place in New Street, later still to the opposite side of New Street. At the Market Place office Mr. Wm. North was for many years the Post-master. People in business usually fetched their letters in bags, other missives reached their destination very much as the few postmen pleased. From New Street the central office was transferred to the present palatial pile in Northumberland Street, and the employes attached to it number over 100. In 1857 the letters delivered averaged 28,600 weekly, in 1867, 50,200 weekly, and they now number some 140,000 weekly, and there is moreover a yearly delivery from the central or other town offices of near half-a-million telegrams.
The introduction of machinery which marked the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century was not productive of unmixed blessings. In many handicrafts large numbers were thrown out of employment. They had been trained to one art and one only. The power loom in increasing the productiveness of labour lessened the demand for it. The time too was inopportune. We were engaged in the great struggle for our national existence which terminated only on the field of Waterloo. Napoleon excluded all British goods from the continent. A decree was issued from Berlin which placed the British Islands in a state of blockade. All commerce or communication with them was prohibited; all English goods or manufactures found in the territory of France or its allies were declared liable to confiscation; and their harbours were closed, not only against vessels coming from Britain, but against all who had to touch at her ports. Trade began to move from English vessels, which were subject to constant confiscation, and to pass into the hands of neutrals.
The Berlin Decree and the retaliatory Orders in Council of the British Government affected the industrial community of this district with crushing severity. Machinery had increased the facilities for output; war had closed the gates and highways of commerce. The shortsighted indignation of the populace vented itself upon the new machinery. In 1812 numbers of the workmen banded themselves together in a secret conspiracy to destroy the machinery. The movement originated in Nottingham, where the artisans were headed by one Ned Ludd, and were thence called the Luddites. They cemented their organization by a solemn oath:— “I, A. B., of my own free will and accord, do solemnly swear never to reveal to any person the secrets of the Brotherhood, or to discover them by sign, word, or act under the penalty of being put out of existence by the first brother I meet. Furthermore I swear that I will punish by death any traitor, should any rise up among us, and will pursue him to the verge of the Statute. I will be just, sober, and true to all my fellows, so help me God to preserve this my oath inviolate.”
The animosity of the Luddites of this district was directed especially against Mr. Enoch Taylor, the senior partner of the firm of E. and J. Taylor, mechanics and ironfounders of Marsden, who had been active in the introduction of the new machinery into the neighbourhood, and after whom they dubbed the sledge-hammers with which they demolished the objects of their childish wrath, Enoch. Mr. Taylor, tho’ his life was often threatened, escaped actual violence. Not so fortunate was his intimate friend Mr. Horsfall, of Marsden. That gentleman had been quick to perceive the immense advantages offered by the power-looms, and had persisted in superseding by them the clumsy devices of former days. Mr. Horsfall was singled out as an example. It was determined by the Luddites to “remove” Mr. Horsfall “pour encourager les autres.” Three men, Geo. Mellor, Wm. Thorp, and Thos. Smith, were chosen by lot to execute the will of the confederacy. Mr. Horsfall attended the Huddersfield Market on Tuesday, April 21st, 1812, and as was his well-known wont set out to ride home on horseback. The three agents of the League laid in wait for him in a small plantation by the Warren House Inn on Crosland Moor. It was about half-past five of the afternoon as he rode slowly by the ambush. Mellor and Thorpe discharged their pistols laden with slugs and bullets, and the rider fell. He was borne into the Warren House Inn, and died there. It was some weeks before the murderers were apprehended tho’ they lurked in the neighbourhood, and their connection with the crime was an open secret. Mr. Joseph Radcliffe, of Milnsbridge House, Longwood, a local magistrate, spoken of in the Gentleman's Magazine as one of the few remaining examples of “old English hospitality,” was zealous in his search for the malefactors, and his efforts gained him a baronetcy. A reward of £2,000 was offered to anyone who would give such evidence as would lead to their arrest and conviction. At length they were taken. I remember to have heard my grandmother say that one of the men was courting a girl so fair as to be called the “Rose of Paddock,” and it was the vain beauty’s idle babblings that gave the officers of the law their clue. An accomplice called Walker turned King’s evidence. Mellor, Thorpe, and Smith were tried at York on the capital charge. I may mention as a curious illustration of the many ties that link one generation with another, that as a boy I met at Blackpool, when there for the summer holidays, a very old gentleman who informed me the accused were defended by Mr., afterwards Lord Brougham, and that he himself sat on the jury that convicted them. The unhappy men were hanged, January 8th, 1813.
The peace which closed the great war with Napoleon left Britain feverish and exhausted. The pressure of heavy taxation and of the debt which now reached eight hundred millions was embittered by the general distress of the country. The rapid development of English industry for a time ran ahead of the world’s demands; the markets at home and abroad were glutted with unsaleable goods, and mills and manufactories were brought to a standstill. The scarcity caused by a series of bad harvests was intensified by the selfish legislation of the landowners in Parliament. Conscious that the prosperity of English agriculture was merely factitious and rested on the high price of corn produced by the war, they prohibited, by an Act passed in 1815 r the introduction of foreign corn till wheat had reached famine prices. Society, too, was disturbed by the great changes of employment consequent on a sudden return to peace after twenty years of war, and by the disbanding of the immense forces employed at sea and on land. The movement against machinery, which had been put down in 1812, revived in formidable riots. On June 8th, 1817, hundreds of men assembled about midnight at Folly Hall in Huddersfield, and there awaited, in vain, reinforcements from other quarters. The Yeomanry were mustered and confronted the mob. A few shots were fired, a horse was actually wounded, and enough having been done for honour, the Yeomanry retired in some confusion, nor could their officers rally them. They were however, considerably rallied in later years, being usually dubbed the “Noodles.” Three years later an attack of armed malcontents upon Huddersfield was concerted. A rendezvous was appointed at the Dumb Steeple, but tho’ hundreds of men assembled they, for some reason, dispersed, arranging another gathering for the following Wednesday at Grange Moor. It is believed that reinforcements were looked for from all quarters, and a general advance was to be made on London. The appearance, however, of the King’s troops from Huddersfield dispersed the poor hunger-maddened men. Over a score were arrested, tried and sentenced to death, but the supreme penalty was commuted to transportation for seven years. Another abortive essay upon settled industry was known as the Plug Riots. This occurred in 1842. A number of operatives from South Lancashire paraded the country drawing the plugs of the mill boilers. They passed through Huddersfield on August 13th, and, after drawing the plugs at the mills of Messrs. Starkey Brothers and Messrs. Armitage and Kaye, halted near St. Paul’s Church to deliberate on their further steps. The town was in great disorder, the miserable operatives ready for any remedy, however desperate, that offered the prospect of better wages and more food. The Riot Act was read, the streets were cleared by a troop of the 17th Lancers, and happily the threatened storm passed over without the effusion of blood.
The passing of the Corn laws and the expansion of our commerce alleviated the lot of the working classes, and for many years after 1842 there was industrial plenty and industrial peace. When in 1883 the great strike of the weavers took place in Huddersfield and its environs, the artizans neither resorted to the breaking of machinery, the drawing of plugs, the pistolling of employers, nor marches upon London. By this time they had learned other methods and had wise and sober leaders. The strike lasted thirteen weeks, and thousands of men and women were without employment and without wage. Popular discontent found vent in a little harmless “booing” and occasional indignation meetings — one, notably on Castle Hill; but tho’ thousands of men, women and children endured great privations and tho’ resentment, well or ill grounded, against what they believed to be oppression, rankled in their breasts, there were no scenes of violence. Whatever else the strike did or did not, it proved the admirable self-control of the people and the incalculable superiority of discipline and organization over the rough and ready methods of a former generation. The best security for peace lies in a knowledge of your opponent’s strength, and let us breathe the prayer that the time is fast approaching when the senseless conflicts of labour and capital shall be no more.
Of moving incidents on the tented field Huddersfield’s story has little to record. The near neighbourhood has not, however, escaped the havoc of the sullen flood. There were heavy floods in the district in 1738, in 1777, and again in 1821. But that which is known emphatically as “The Flood” was caused, in 1852, by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir at the head of the Holme Valley on the early morning of February 5th. The necessity for immense volumes of water power, not less than the supply of water for domestic purposes, necessitates its storage in great reservoirs. The Bilberry Reservoir, says Canon Hulbert, is situated at the head of a narrow gorge or glen, leading from Holme Bridge to a high bluff of land called Good Bent, and supplied by two streams, draining the moors of Holme Moss on the one side, and hills running up to Saddleworth on the other. The confluence of the streams takes place between two large hills called Hoobrook Hill and Lumbank that run parallel to each other, and the valley then opens out and forms an extensive oval basin of not less than three hundred yards in diameter. The reservoir is formed immediately above this basin, by a large embankment across the valley some 340 feet long and 90 feet high, enclosing about seven acres of surface available for storing water. The construction, owing to a spring, was defective, and the bye-wash, which was intended to carry off surplus water, was allowed by the Commissioners, who had been involved in a Chancery suit, to become stopped up, so that from the rush of water the outer and the puddle bank burst, and just as if the whole had been struck with lightning, the large mass of earthwork gave way with a loud thundering crash, and the pent up waters, which formed the gigantic reservoir, rushed with fearful velocity through the opening thus made. The rain had fallen heavily during the day but with nightfall it had ceased. The moon was shining brightly in the skies, scudding before a high wind that moaned and wailed like a dirge down the valley. It was just after the midnight hour when the imprisoned waters leaped exultant from their barriers. They swept upon Bilberry Mill, upon Digley Upper Mill, and rushed through the yard of Bank End Mill. The bridge at Holme Bridge was swept away, and the torrent spread itself over the Holme Bridge Churchyard. The walls fencing the Church were washed away, the trees uprooted, the lowly monuments to the sleeping dead laid low. The stress of water dashed in eddies around the graves. The sheltering earth was uptorn, and the stout coffins with their silent charge floated on the descending stream. On the seats of one of the pews within the church was found, when the waters subsided, the coffined corpse of a full-grown man. The churchyard spoiled, the torrent headed for the village of Hinchliffe Mill. Here the alarm had been given. Men, women and children fled in haste to house tops, to such high ground as they could make. But the cruel avalanche was upon them with short shrift. Forty lives were lost at Hinchliffe Mill, and the current sped downwards to Holmfirth, roaring, leaping, foaming, tossing on its crest the ponderous engines of mills, the garnered stores of farms, the treasured furnishings of the houses, and grasping as it sped men, women and children, roused from their slumbers and their dreams to be borne resistless to a fearsome death. At Holmfirth the Wesleyan Chapel and Graveyard were flooded, and thence the torrent rolled on towards Honley and Lockwood, and the broad fertile level, with its high banks, was strewn with timber, broken machinery, dead cattle, human bodies, mud, stones, and all kinds of debris. At Lockwood the waters, their grim work done, their devil’s dance ended, sank into the Colne and flowed harmless to the sea. In all eighty-one lives were lost, and the damage to property was estimated at £70,000. A subscription, promptly raised, alleviated somewhat the misery of the district, but what charity can restore the unforgotten dead!
Space and some lack of material forbid the attempt to trace in detail the various steps which have marked the growth of Huddersfield in its early prime. Thus far I have been content to limn with light touch the main incidents of its rapid stride onward and upward. In later years records more authentic, statistics more exact, make it possible to present a more studied and minuter picture. One perhaps realizes best how great, how swift that advance has been by trying to contrast the town we know so well to-day with the town as our fathers knew it, when our gracious Queen grasped the sceptre sixty years ago. The town proper centred in Old Street and Castlegate, regions now abandoned to cheap lodging-houses and the dwellings of our Celtic friends. Its position at the base of the long ascent to Almondbury justified the old address on the letters, “Huddersfield, near Almondbury.” If the Market Cross be taken as the centre of a circle, Almondbury, Deighton, Fartown, Lindley, Longwood, Lockwood lay on the circumference, and between the centre and the confining outline stretched green pasture where now are stately edifices and noble streets. Of public buildings, save those of public worship, there were scarce any — a paltry little room in Ramsden Street where the Commissioners sat, and a dismal police court. Of some of the public works such as now enhance the comfort and ward the health of the inhabitants there were the germs, of others not even the germs. Here and there a goodly mansion with spreading grounds, such as Fenay Hall, Crosland Hall, Quarmby Hall, Thornton Lodge, bespoke the residence of an ancient and opulent family, but the stones for the lordly villas that now grace the suburbs and attest the wealth and taste of our merchant princes were still unquarried.
Six churches and several chapels, the Roman Catholic Church in New North Road erected in 1832, Almondbury Parish Church, Huddersfield Parish Church, the Church of Holy Trinity built in 1819 by the munificence of Mr. B. Haigh Allen, Woodhouse Church built in 1824 by Mr. John Whitacre, St. Paul’s erected in 1830 under the Million’s Act, the Friends’ Meeting House, at Paddock, Ramsden Street Congregational Chapel built in 1825, Highfield Congregational Chapel founded in 1772, Buxton Road Wesleyan Chapel established in 1775, Queen Street Wesleyan Chapel replacing an earlier structure dating back to 1801, Almondbury Wesleyan Chapel erected in 1816, High Street Methodist Chapel built in 1814, and another Baptist Chapel in Bath Buildings originally designed as a Hall of Science by the followers of Robert Owen, ministered to the spiritual needs of the town. To these have since been added interalia the Churches of St. John’s 1853, St. Thomas’ 1859, St. Andrew's 1870, St. Mark’s 1887, Rashcliffe 1864, Newsome 1872, the Hillhouse Congregational Chapel 1865, Brunswick Street Wesleyan 1859, New North Road Baptist 1878, Fitzwilliam Street Unitarian 1854, the Paddock Congregational and Wesleyan Chapels, the splendid Wesleyan Church at Gledholt, and Milton Congregational Church, a secession from Ramsden Street, in 1885. The oldest Nonconformist place of worship in what is now the Borough was at Salendine Nook, where a Baptist Chapel was erected in 1739. The present structure was built in 1843, and even since then has been improved and enlarged at much cost. There are, says Mr. Balmforth, writing in 1895, some seventy dissenting places of worship in the Borough, with accommodation for about 30,000 persons. In 1757 John Wesley preached in Huddersfield, and the number of Wesleyan conventicles that sprung up in subsequent years testify to the extent of his inspiring influence. He seems indeed to have impressed the people more favourably than they impressed him. In his journal he says: “I rode over the mountains from Halifax to Huddersfield, and a wilder people I never saw in England— the men, women and children filled the streets as we rode along, and appeared just ready to devour us.” Again, in I759: “I preached near Huddersfield to the wildest congregation I have seen in Yorkshire.” It would seem that Mr. Venn, then Vicar of Huddersfield, freely permitted the use of his pulpit to the ardent reformer, but he was not received in Almondbury, and a Society was consequently formed in that ancient “city set on a hill.” The first regular ministration would appear to have been that of the Rev. John Murlin (1766) who was known by some as “the weeping prophet,” by others as “the false prophet.” One of Mr. Murlin’s earliest adherents was one Abraham Moss, father, I presume, of my good old friend John Moss. When Abraham was asked, says Canon Hulbert in an outburst of magnanimity, to give his opinion of the sermon of the “false prophet,” he said: If he be a false prophet, the Bible is false, and the whole system of the Church of England is false also. He takes his text from the Bible and supports all his doctrines by the teachings of the Church of England as found in her homilies and articles.”
The oldest church in the Borough is that of All Saints’, or All Hallows, at Almondbury, claimed by some writers to have been consecrated by Paulinus, and to have existed before the first church was built at York. Certain it is that Paulinus preached at Dewsbury, teste an obelisk existing in 1775 with the inscription:
- PAULINUS HIC PRACDICAVIT ET
And no less certain is it that the Dewsbury was the Mother Church of All Saints’ at Almondbury. The first authentic allusion to the church is, however, in 1187, when Alice de Lacy and Henry Lacy, the Earl of Lincoln, her son, presented to the rectory. In 1464 the vicarage was endowed, and the advowson seems to have reverted to the Crown, and by Henry VII. was granted to the Rotherham College. On the Dissolution temp. Henry VIII. the rectory reverted to the Crown, and the advowson of the vicarage and the tithes of Almondbury were granted to the masters for the use of Clithero School, but the lands were sold by the Crown Commissioners temp. Edward VI. to William Fenay, of Fenay Hall. The advowson was purchased from the Governors of the Clithero School by Sir Jno. Wm. Ramsden. The vicarage is valued in the King’s Books at £20 7s. 11d. a year, and a pension of £2 6s. 8d. is paid to the vicar of the Mother Church at Dewsbury. The present church was finished in 1522. The incumbency down to 1488 was a rectory; it is now a vicarage. The first rector whose name has been preserved is Dom. Wm. de Notyland, presented 10 Kal. Ap., 1231, by John de Lacy, Constable of Chester. In a long list of incumbents the familiar name of Crosland occurs twice. One, Georgius Crosland, was vicar in 1598, and it is probable that he and his brother John, who succeeded him, were scions of the ancients family of Crosland, of Crosland Hill. George is described as “Vir quidam pius et perquam doctus, studiosus et in concionibus frequens, in Sacris Scripturis et Catholicis Patribus exercitissimus.” Some of the extracts from the Church Register made by Canon Hulbert throw a curious side light upon the condition of the country and people in the sadly misnamed good old days. I cull one or two of them:
- “September, 1563. — Henry Beaumont, of Lockwood, buried on the viith, at sunset. I did not doubt that he was dying of the pest, or plague, and, therefore, he was buried by his wife and young daughter, who bore him to the grave on the back of a horse.”
- “February, 1568. — Richard Hyrste, of Mylner Brigge, commynge from Halifax Market, on Satrdaye, ye vij° daye of Februarie, was through a greate snowe lett and stopped — the dryfte of snowe was so very greate, and beynge alone all Satyrdaye nyghte, peryshed and died on Lynlaye Moore, not farre from a crosse called Hayghe Crosse, and was found on the morrow after, his horse standynge bye hym, even harde by him, and was brought home to his own house, and buried in Almon-burye.”
- “February, 1575. — William, ye sonne off William Turnbull, of the age off xvi. years or thereupon, was weather bette on Candlemas-day, as he came from Marsden, and dyed on ye more, under a rawe or hedge, and was found on Sondaye after, at afternoon, and was buried after v. off ye clocke at night ye same day, wyth candlelight.”
- “1615. — In this year so great a fall of snow as was not known in the memory of any living: far exceeding that in 1540 in magnitude and duration; in which many travellers as well as inhabitants at Saddle-worth perished.”
The Parish Church of Huddersfield is generally supposed to have been built by one of the Laci family, but after the battle of Tenchebrai, 1105, in which Henry de Laci fought on the side of Robert against Henry I., the advowson was granted by Hugh de Val, who received from Henry the manors of de Laci, to St. Oswald’s Priory, at Nostel. The Prior of Nostel appointed the Vicar to the Church, reserving to the Priory the greater tithes, and allocating for the support of the Vicar the oblations at the altar. The following Deed of Ordination which I copy from Mr. Hobkirk’s “Huddersfield” is interesting:
- “A.D. 1216. Walter, by the grace of God, Archbishop of York, Primate of England, to all the faithful in Christ, greeting in the Lord. Know ye that we on the presentation of the Prior and Convent of St. Oswald, have admitted Michael de Wakefield Chaplain to the Vicarage of Huddersfield, and have canonically instituted him to the said Vicarage, and caused him to be inducted into corporal possession of the same, which Vicar also, in respect of his Vicarage, shall receive all the oblations and emoluments from offerings at the altar, reserving to the said Prior and Convent the tithes of corn, hay, of pease and bread, in the lands and farms belonging to the said Church — saving a suitable manse for the Vicar to be assigned to him by the same (Prior and Convent) and the Vicar himself shall sustain all customary charges and obligations of the said Church.”
The Vicar of Huddersfield pays an annual pension to the mother Church of Dewsbury. The first Vicar of Huddersfield presented by the Priory of Nostel was Robert de Ponteburgh in 1316. The advowson passed to the Ramsden family in the sixteenth century, and tho’ the presentation to the living has been in the same family for more than three hundred years, it is proper to observe that only two incumbents of that name figure in the long list of vicars. Tfie living is valued at £450 yearly, with residence.
The Church, dedicated to St. Peter, is a Gothic stone structure, with a tower, containing a clock and ten bells; it was rebuilt in 1836, at a cost of nearly £10,000. Many of the windows are enriched by stained glass presentments of sacred scenes, framed by the loving reverence of the living to the memory of the dead. There is also a monument to the Rev. Hy. Venn, who was vicar from 1759 to 1771, and of whom it may be said, if of anyone, that had all priests resembled him there would have been no Dissent. Can eulogy further go! The other monuments in the Church are not of much interest if we except, perhaps, the one with the following superscription:— “Here resteth the Bodie of Thomas Brook the elder, of New House, Gentleman, who was buried November 17. A° Dni. 1638. In the Church Myllitant I fout so unshaken that to the Church tryumphant I am taken. I am one o’th Church still. Greve not friends to know me advanced higher. Whilst I stayed I prayed, and now I sing in the quier. aet. suae 87.”
The Vestry of the Parish Church in Huddersfield was in the habit down to 1835 of levying a rate upon the householders for the repair and maintenance of the church structure. In 1847 an attempt was made by the Vestry to lay a rate of fourpence in the pound for fencing and laying out the new plot of ground at Birkby as a Parochial Burying Ground. (The Cemetery.) An amendment was moved by Mr. Joseph Boothroyd, and seconded by Mr. Wright Mellor, that “a rate of one-eighth part of a penny in the pound be allowed by this meeting.” The Vicar protested “that one-eighth part of a penny could not be deemed legal tender, and that therefore the amendment must be deemed a subterfuge,” which I daresay it was. None the less it was carried, and since that day no church rate has been levied in Huddersfield.
The educational needs of the town appear to have been largely met in the early decades of the century by the exertions of the Church. There were the National Schools at Almondbury, Seedhill, and elsewhere; the Sunday Schools in which reading and writing were taught by voluntary teachers; the Grammar Schools of Almondbury, Longwood and Fartown. Of these scholastic institutions the most venerable by far is the grammar school of King James, at Almondbury. Established originally by the Kayes, the school was chartered and endowed by James I. with lands previously common and belonging to the town. The first governors were Robert Kaye, of Woodsome, and William Ramsden, of Longley, Esquires; George Crosland, M.A., Vicar of Almondbury; Nicholas Fenay, of Fenay; Richard Appleyard, of Over Longley; and Robert Nettleton, of Almondbury, gentlemen, with whom lay the appointment of headmaster, and “one honest and learned usher.” The rules drawn up for the government of the school are interesting reading, as throwing light upon the views held two centuries ago on the vexed question of education. There are to be read “No Popish, profane, or immodest authors to infect the scholars with error or immorality. The master is to speak nothing but Latin to those who understand it. Moderate corporal punishment is enjoined. Poor scholars are to be taught Latin and Greek gratis, but be obliged to get moss for the roof of the school, and do other offices. None are to be admitted who cannot read the Psalter, or are afflicted with any infectious disease, or incapable of learning. The school is to be opened with prayer at seven o’clock in the morning and closed at five. Barring out the master is forbidden. Special holidays may be given, except to scholars in the “black bill,” on the requesting of any neighbouring gentleman or ‘person of quality.’” The school is now conducted under a scheme approved by the Charity Commissioners.
The middle-class education in the heart of the town was to be sought in a few private schools for young ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys in short, notably those of Mr, Dearden and Mr. Thomas, and by the Huddersfield College and Huddersfield Collegiate. The Collegiate School was supposed to be more specially the school of the Church and Church people. It was pleasantly situate at Clare Hill, had a not very distinguished career, and is now, I believe, a dancing academy. The Huddersfield College, established in 1838, though avowedly unsectarian, was more especially affected by the sons of Dissenting parents. The directors were usually Nonconformists, and hence, I dare say, the character and tone of the school. Mr. Willans, Mr. Wright Mellor, and Mr. William Mallinson, and Dr. Bruce were zealous in fostering the school. During the head-mastership of the late Samuel Sharpe, LL.B., the school took rank as one of the leading colleges of the county, often in the Cambridge Local Examinations and the Matriculation Lists of London University, with which it was affiliated, disputing the palm with institutions of riper years, ampler endowments, and greater numbers. Not a few of the leading citizens of the present day must look back upon the college with feelings of mingled pride and gratitude. Mr. Alfred Illingworth, formerly M.P. for Bradford, Dr. Willis, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. H. H. Asquith, Q.C., M.P., late Home Secretary in Lord Rosebery’s Government, are among the alumini of the College who have gained distinction in the exalted spheres of national life. The names too of Sir Joseph Crosland and Mr. Woodhead find fitting mention here. They are both distinguished townsmen, Sir Joseph has sat in Parliament for his native borough and Mr, Woodhead for the Spen Valley Division.
The students at such institutions as the Grammar Schools, the Huddersfield College and Collegiate and the various private schools, were, however, drawn almost exclusively from the middle classes of the people. Down to a comparatively recent period the provision for the education of the children of the working classes was of the most meagre. Before a select committee of the House of Commons, sitting in 1832, two Huddersfield witnesses gave evidence on this subject. Abram Whitehead said: There is not any possibility of children employed in the mills obtaining any instruction from day schools; but since this factory bill was agitated, when I have been at mills the children have gathered round me for a minute or two as I passed along, and have said, ‘When shall we have to work ten hours a day? Will you get the ten hours’ bill? We shall have a rare time then; surely somebody will set up a night school; I will learn to write, that I will!’” The other witness, J. Habergans, said: “When at the factory I had not any opportunity of learning to read and write — only a little on the Sabbath day, I have tried to learn to write within these last ten or eleven weeks. I do not think there is above one in a hundred in the factories that can write.” Such knowledge of the two elemental R’s as the bulk of the population was able to acquire was perforce imparted in the Sunday Schools. The first Sunday School in England, probably in the world, was opened in 1780 in Gloucester, by Robert Raikes. The experiment achieved instant success. Why? Because it satisfied, in part, a national craving. In Huddersfield, down to the year 1771, the Rev. Henry Venn, the enlightened Vicar of Huddersfield, and the Rev. W. Moorhouse, who was the Pastor of Highfield Chapel from 1772 to 1823 were in the habit of catechising the children of their congregation and teaching them the essential truths of the Gospel. But there was no Sunday School proper in the town till 1811, tho’ prior to that date there were, says Dr. Bruce, in the Huddersfield Sunday School Centenary Memorial, (1880), small semi-private Schools taught on Sundays by paid Teachers mostly in connection with the Established Church, though not apparently managed and scarcely visited by the Clergy, and seldom if ever opened or closed with prayer or any distinctly religious service. Thus Jonathan Hanley, a shoemaker, a stout man, with a brave kind heart and considerable common sense, but with no special faculty of imparting instruction,” taught a mixed School for boys and girls on Sundays, first in his own shop in Denton lane, afterwards in a room in the Rose and Crown Yard. An old scholar of the latter seminary informed Dr. Bruce that the Teacher sat in his chair with hazel stick in hand or by his side, as the symbol of his authority, and the instrument of his discipline. The children read in the Old and New Testament, verse by verse, and chapter after chapter, without a single note or comment, religious questions or appeal, the object, at that time, being mainly to teach reading and spelling. Besides this they occasionally repeated the Church Catechism, and a few simple Hymns and Collects. The scholars were generally divided into two parts and whilst one was standing up to read and spell in a circle round the enthroned teacher with his hazel sceptre, the other was sitting behind, committing to memory their Catechism or Hymn. The children were generally taken to the Parish Church and sat on the old narrow benches in the “middle alley.” A similar school was conducted by one Phinehas Holroyd, a tailor, in an old bake house, near the top of King Cliffe, in Hillhouse, and another at Royds Hall, Paddock, by Iredale Hurstwood, a weaver and others, chiefly Methodists and Independents, who assisted Hurstwood. In these Schools the teachers did not hesitate to resort to methods of compelling attention which would now-a-days ensure the intervention of the magistrates. The children’s Bibles and Testaments were strapped together and put away after lessons. These straps were occasionally used for chastisement in various ways, not only by direct application to the palm of the culprit’s hands, but by strapping him to a pillar, or by making him stand on one leg, whilst he held up the other by a strap over his shoulder. These schools however were not entirely voluntary, a small payment being made to the teachers. The oldest Sunday School in the Borough as we now understand the term, was probably organized at the commencement of the century in connection with the Salendine Nook Baptist Chapel. Among the scholars at this School were boys who in after years were known to fame as the Rev. Dr. Mellor, of Halifax, and his brother, Alderman Wright Mellor, J.P., D.L., four times Mayor of Huddersfield. How great was the need for the most elementary instruction may be judged from the fact that when the Salendine Nook Chapel was founded in 1743, “of the eleven first members only three could write, seven put his or her mark, and one a single letter; amongst these was the minister’s wife.” If we may argue from a specimen hymn preserved by Dr. Bruce, the melodious outpourings of the scholars at some of these early schools had a distinctly practical application.
- Why do we on the Sunday meet
- At School, while others in the street
- Do run about and play?
- It is that we may there be taught,
- And learn to read as children ought,
- While in their early days.
- Oh! see how many friends unite
- To teach us reading with delight,
- And make it all their care.
- They buy us books, their money spend,
- Give us their time and well attend
- For our instruction there.
In 1880, the centenary of the Sunday School was celebrated with much circumstance in Huddersfield, and a meeting was held in the Armoury, over which Mr. William Mallinson, J.P., presided. The Rev. Marmaduke Miller, one of the speakers, claimed that there had been millions of Englishmen, who during the last century had been taught to read and write in their Sunday Schools, and who but for the Sunday Schools would have passed on from the cradle to the grave without being able to read. One of the noblest men in his Church in Manchester — a man who had faithfully served his God, and blessed his generation — told him, the speaker, that when he was about nine years of age he had to work in the mill, from five in a morning to eight at night, and that many times he had returned home from the mill so wearied that he had sat on the doorsteps and fallen fast asleep. He got all his school learning in the Sunday Schools.
From the little compendium of Dr. Bruce it appears that in the centenary year there were in the Borough 55 Non-conformist Sunday Schools, with 15,541 Scholars on the books.
I have been favoured by the Rev. W. H. Verity, with the subjoined Scholar Statement of Sunday Schools connected with the established Church.
|Church of England Sunday Schools|
|Rashcliffe (S. Stephen’s)||800||60|
|Paddock (All Saints’)||765||43|
|Moldgreen (Christ Church)||270||21|
|Longwood (no returns)|
The provision of secular weekday education was down to 1872 left largely with the various religious communities of the town, and they nobly discharged the trusts that the absence of a national system of instruction thrust upon them. Nor was activity in this sphere confined to any denomination. There was a British School for boys and girls at Outcote Bank, the Huddersfield Church Ragged Schools in Queen Street, the Independent School in Clara Street, Fartown, St. Andrew’s Lane School (girls and infants) in Leeds Road, St. John’s National School (mixed) in Clara Street, St. Peters’ National and Infants’ at Seed Hill, St. Peter’s Infant’s in Northgate, St. Paul’s National and Infants’ in Princess Street, St. Thomas’ National in Manchester Road, Trinity National in Portland Street, the Wesleyan in Queen Street, and the Ragged and Industrial in Fitzwilliam Street. The blue book for 1843 gives the total number of scholars at all the schools in the borough, including the higher academies, at 4,023, whilst the blue book for 1864 gives the total attendance at Elementary Schools in the Borough at 2,500.
In 1841 a serious attempt was made to provide by night classes chiefly, popular instruction in the higher branches of secular knowledge. The school started in Outcote Bank, under the name of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society, and according to an early report was “originated with a few friends of popular education who were desirous of affording to the young men of the town and neighbourhood an opportunity for the improvement of their mental faculties.” The subjects taught were reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, drawing, ornamental designs and French. In 1843 the society moved to Nelson’s Buildings, New Street, again in 1850 to Queen Street, and again to a more fitting site in 1859, when the foundation stone of the Mechanics’ Institute was laid in October of that year, by the Countess de Grey and Ripon, and it was opened on February 25, 1861. The cost of the site and building, a handsome edifice in the Italian style, of three stories, with eighteen classrooms for evening instruction, was £4,000, and this sum was raised by voluntary contributions. There was also a library, to which Sir Robert Peel and the late Frederick Schwann were liberal donors; reading rooms, and a lecture and concert room. The students at the Institute were drawn largely, though not quite exclusively, from the working classes, and the curriculum embraced not only the ordinary subjects of elementary instruction, but tuition in foreign languages, art, and some of the applied sciences. A Penny Bank, not confined to members, initiated by the late Sir C. W. Sikes, was a valuable adjunct to the institution.
The Mechanics Institute became in time quite inadequate for the provision of secondary and technical instruction. In September 1884, the Technical College in Queen Street was opened, having been erected at a cost of £20,000. The
subscription list nobly headed by Sir Joseph Crosland with a gift of Five Thousand Guineas and containing the names of not only the Lord of the Manor but the leading firms of the district and augmented munificently by the Worshipful Company of Cloth Workers is evidence enough, not only of generous spirit of the wealthier residents of the town, but also of their keen appreciation of the necessity and utility of higher education. The subjects of instruction are varied and arduous. There are Textile, Dyeing, Chemistry, Engineering, Physical, Technical, Biological Departments; classes for Mathematics and Physiography, for Languages and Literature, Commercial classes and classes for Woodwork, Dressmaking and Needlework. Since the opening of the college many distinctions have been gained by its scholars at the London Matriculation, Inter-Art and Science Examinations ; at the Science and Art Examinations of South Kensington, and the City and Guilds of London Institute. From the college calendar, 1896-7, it appears there are now 1,100 students, and 3,830 class attendances. Alderman J. Fligg Brigg is the president, and Mr. Thos. Thorp, whom I have to thank for assistance in more than one way in writing this narrative, the secretary of the governors, and Mr. S. G. Rawson, D. Sc., the principal of the teaching staff. The extensions now being carried out will about double the present area of the College devoted to trading, and will comprise large and thoroughly equipped laboratories in Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering. The Art Department will be nearly doubled in area and ample provision is made for a Museum and Patent Gallery.
The keen appreciation by the industrial classes of secular education manifested itself almost immediately after their polititical enfranchisement in a demand for a national system of education. In all the history of the nation I know of nothing so significant and so touching as this great fact. Almost the first, if not the first use, made by the toiling millions of this country was to demand not the panem et circenses of the Roman populace, but that education for their children which had been denied themselves. Robert Lowe, always cynical, had said: “We must educate our masters.” But the truth is the people were bent on educating themselves. The first School Board in Huddersfield under the Elementary Education Act of 1870 was elected on February 6th, 1871. The members of the Board are chosen triennially. At each recurring contest there has been hitherto acrimonious rivalry between what are called the Church and the Unsectarian parties in the Borough for numerical supremacy on the Board. Hitherto there has been an unsectarian majority. The following schedule setting forth the several schools under the Board with their average attendance well illustrates the activity of the Board:
Number of Board Schools, together with the number of Scholars on the Register of each school, and the average attendance:—
|Name of School||Department.||No. on Register.||Avg. Attendance|
|2. Beaumont Street||Boys||272||226|
|3. Berry Brow||Boys||150||135|
|4. Brierley Wood||Infants||58||44|
|5. College Higher Grade||Higher Section||171||154|
|6. Crosland Moor||Mixed||258||242|
|11. Mount Pleasant||Boys||261||231|
|15. Spark Hall||Girls||152||141|
|16. Spring Grove||Mixed||780||660|
|17. Stile Common||Boys||249||233|
In the year 1894 the Huddersfield College was purchased by the School Board and opened in June of that year as a Higher Grade School under the Board, with a numerical accommodation of 532.
From the Inspector’s Report of the year 1895-6 we learn that there are now 40 departments under the control of the Board, viz.: Boys’ 8; Girls’ 8; Mixed 9; Infants’ 15. The teaching staff is thus set out:
|Certificated Assistant Masters||33|
|Certificated Assistant Mistresses||67|
|Candidates and Monitors||24|
One of the Head Masters, says the Report is a B.A., of London University, another an Undergratuate of the Royal University of Ireland. One of the Assistant Masters is a M.A. of Edinburgh, two hold the London B.A. diploma, seven are undergraduates of the same University, and one is an Associate of the Royal College of Science. It may, then, be fairly claimed that the training of the Children in the People’s Schools is directed by teachers not less efficient and not less academically distinguished than those professors of endowed and private schools whose swelling titles appeal so strongly to the parental imagination; and if we regard the buildings in which the children gather to their daily tasks the people may point with just pride to the imposing structures architecturally beautiful, nobly posed and furnished with every modern appliance for ministering to the health, comfort, and mental progress of the scholars, by whose sides the ancient abodes of learning monopolized by the middle classes, are dwarfed and shamed.
The number of children on the roll of the Huddersfield Board Schools on August 31st, 1896, was 9,554. The number of pupils on the books of the College Higher Grade School on the same date was 464, of whom 237 were in the science section, and 227 in the elementary section. The teaching staff consists of the Principal, a Senior Mistress, a Lecturer on Chemistry, a Lecturer on Physics, and eight Class Teachers, of whom five are employed in the science section, and three in the elementary section.
There are four Scholarships in connection with the Board Schools, three founded by Mr. James E. Willans, J.P., formerly Chairman of the Board; and one by the Huddersfield Industrial Society.
The reports of the Inspectors on the work of the schools are in the main very satisfactory, and show that the children have not failed to avail themselves of the great facilities they now enjoy for mental culture. Libraries have been formed at many of the schools, and School Banks, the accounts of which show that during the year ending December 31, 1895, 3,025 little capitalists had deposited £2,270 12s. 6d.
The Financial Statement of the Board School for the year ending March 25, 1897, shows an income made up thus:—
|To Government Grants||11738||8||5|
|Technical Instruction Grant||600||0||0|
The £19,250 0s. 0d. entails a rate of 11⅞ d. in the £.
I should do violence, both to my inclinations and to the demands of impartiality and justice, if I failed to make mention of the great work of secular education performed by the Church Day Schools, work which, whilst permitting of doctrinal teaching dear to the Church, also relieves the Borough of a large addition to an education rate which has already assumed proportions little contemplated thirty years ago. I subjoin a statement of the schools showing the Number of Denominational Schools, together with the number of Scholars on the Register of each school, and the average attendance:—
|Name of School||Department.||No. on Register.||Avg. Attendance.|
|5. Crosland Moor||Mixed||75||61|
|7. Holy Trinity||Mixed||165||136|
|15. Parish Church||Boys||204||167|
|18. St. Andrew’s||Mixed||199||161|
|19. (Roman Catholic) St. Patrick’s||Mixed||390||297|
|20. St. Paul’s||Mixed||281||226|
|21. St. Thomas’||Mixed||202||164|
I have dwelt, I hope not with undue proportion of space, upon the educational progress of the town. The commencement of the Queen’s reign saw knowledge the prerogative of the rich: it is now the birthright of the poor. The vaunt of the Emperor who claimed that he had found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble pales by the side of the work accomplished by those who found education costly and hard of access, but will leave it cheap and within the reach of the humblest in our land. With a true appreciation of the relative value of events, Thomas Carlyle once said that a day would come when the opening of the first Mechanics’ Institute would be regarded as more important than the day of Waterloo, and for our own town it may be confidently claimed that its citizens yield to none in the sacrifices they have made to secure for those within its gates the inestimable blessings of education. It is I trust not invidious to mention that amongst those of men still living in our midst the names of William Mallinson, David Johnston, John Fligg Brigg, Dr. Bruce, William Marriott, Joshua Robson, Charles Glendinning, show forth conspiciously in the long and honourable roll of those who have devoted long hours and anxious thought to this noblest of public services.
The social observer in seeking evidence of progressive civilization would look no doubt with approbation upon the schools with which Huddersfield abounds. If he sought for witnesses to our religion he might regard with complacency the numerous churches whose spires and towers point the heavenward road, but he would look with ampler gratification upon the institutions devoted to the sick and the poor. They are the purest outcome of a Divine compassion. Noblest amongst these is the Huddersfield and Upper Agbrigg Infirmary in the New North Road. This was opened in 1831 replacing a small Public Dispensary which an experience of fourteen years had proved to be absolutely inadequate to the exigencies of a population increasingly engaged in perilous mechanical pursuits, the very instruments of their daily toil a constant menace to life and limb. Over ten thousand pounds were contributed by public subscription towards its construction and support. In 1862 a new wing was added, increasing the accommodation to sixty beds. The cost of this, too, was contributed by the voluntary efforts of the people. In 1874 a new wing was added at a cost of £7,700. But the buildings, though thus extended, have not yet kept pace with the growing needs of an ever swelling population, and for some years past the Governors of the Infirmary, of whom Mr. William Mallinson has since 1885 been Chairman and Mr. Joseph Bate since 1879 the indefatigable Secretary, and Mr. Frederick Eastwood, Hon. Sec. since 1876, have been urgent in their appeals to the public charity. A grievous lack of the necessary funds to carry out, in their entirety, the plans of the Governors has, in happy commemoration of this joyous Jubilee, and in graceful following of the way pointed by Royal hands, been met by the noble bounty of Mr. E. H. Carlile, whose munificent donation of £8,000 has solved many difficulties and has won the admiration of the just, stirred the gratitude of the poor, and stimulated the generous emulation of the rich. A Convalescent Home, bowered in a smiling valley, so picturesque and so healthful as to be called the Happy Valley, fanned by the life-laden breezes from the encircling moors, was erected at Meltham by the late Charles Brook, at a cost of £40,000, and allied with the Huddersfield Infirmary — another of the many instances of the public beneficence of the Brook family.
To the Infirmary and the Convalescent Home must be added the Fever Hospital and the Small Pox Hospital at Mill Hill, for the isolation of cases of infectious diseases, and the Nurses’ Institute in Trinity Street, and it will be seen that the claims of the sick and the protection of the healthy have alike secured abundant provision.
Of all the taxes that pressed upon our forefathers the poor rate was far in excess of any other. Neither the wages of the labouring classes, nor their own habits, permitted of any provision against old age or infirmity. The rateable property of the Borough was, at the beginning of the century, small in extent, and of value comparatively so small, that in 1815 the poor rate was 16/- in the £. It is now 8d. The poor were housed in an ugly brick building at Birkby, which seems to have at one time been singularly unfortunate in having to accommodate the Cemetery, and both the Lazar House and the Fever Chambers of the Town.
The Cemetery and the Small Pox Hospital are still there, but the Workhouse, a large and handsome building, is now on Crosland Moor, and so healthfully situated, as to prove that the Guardians, whatever else may be alleged against them, have no desire to shorten the pauper’s life. The Workhouse was built in 1872, at a cost of about £26,000, and a small Fever Hospital was added in 1877, at a cost of about £5,000. There is also another Workhouse at Dean-house, near Holmfirth. The Huddersfield Poor Law Union was formed in 1837, and embraces a much larger area than the actual Borough. The actual expenditure of the Union for the year ending March 25th, 1897, was £39,570, inclusive of the sum of £9,181 17s. 3d., paid to the County Council for County and Police Rates. In 1871, the year in which the Crosland Moor Workhouse was opened, the number of persons relieved was 4,689, at a total cost for In-Maintenance and Out-Relief, Loans, and Salaries, of £29,474. In the year ending March 25th, 1897, 2,257 persons received relief, and the total expenditure on all accounts was £30,388. It must afford a theme of pleasing meditation to all, that within the period 1871-1897, number of the extremely indigent has decreased by more than one-half, notwithstanding that the population in the area of the Union has increased by some thirty thousand. The Board of Guardians of this Union covers a period almost identic with Her Majesty’s Reign. The introduction of the "New Poor Laws,” we are informed by the Guardians’ last Report, was very much opposed in Huddersfield and neighbouring boroughs, and several abortive meetings were held before the Guardians would take any steps towards the establishment of the Union in this district. Ultimately on January 29, 1838, a Clerk was elected, and steps were taken to bring the Poor Law Act and the Registration Acts into operation. The first birth was registered in Huddersfield, on April 21st, 1838. Mr. Cookson Stephenson Floyd was the first Clerk to the Union. The present Clerk, Mr. E. A. Rigby, was appointed November 9, 1896. The population of the Union in 1837 was 88,792; in 1896 it was 168,399. The Board has succeeded in retaining in the Chair at least three gentlemen for exceptionally long periods of honourable and useful service, Mr. Matthew Sykes filling that arduous post for twelve consecutive years, Mr. James Wrigley for eighteen, and the late Chairman, Mr. James Kilburn, for thirteen years, after an apprenticeship in the Vice-Chair of eleven years.
Whilst on this subject of the Poor, one may, not unfittingly, allude to the Model Lodging House in Chapel Hill, constructed by the Town Commissioners in 1864, at a cost of about £6,000, and which for many years was the only Lodging House in England conducted by the governing body of its town. I believe that the Common Lodging. House, which now affords accommodation for about 200 people, is regarded by the nomad elements of the population with considerable approval. The large establishments in London, Rowton House and others, which have been erected in recent years, and have done so much to alleviate the lot of the very poor who are striving to keep out of the workhouse, are merely enlarged copies of the Huddersfield Lodging House, which has amply justified the title “Model.” The provisions ensuring cleanliness, decency, and comfort, render the house a striking contrast to the more expensive but noisome dens of Blackfriars and other London centres of cheap shelters for the unhoused poor.
It has ever been the custom of those historians whose eyes have been fixed rather on the gradual processes of social evolution, on the glad emergence of the general masses of the people from serfdom, squalor, and ignorance to freedom, comfort, and knowledge, rather than on the scandal of courts, the intrigues of senates, and the strife and din of battle, to dwell with complacency upon the slow but sure development in our midst of local self-government. The citizens of this land have learned in guild, in town-mote, and in shire-mote, those lessons and habits of government which have stamped Englishmen the world over as an imperial race. Down to the year 1820, the governing body of Huddersfield was the Court Leet. The power to hold a court and preside over it is an appanage of feudal lordship, and such a court has, from time immemorial, attached to the Manor of Huddersfield, and was confirmed by the Crown to the Ramsden family as Lords of the Manor, in the seventeenth century. With the Court Leet rested the appointment of chief-constable of the town, and he claimed to be its official head. As years passed an infringement upon the prerogatives of the Court might have been resented in the appointment by the inhabitants in vestry of an assistant standing constable. This was done in 1812. Again in 1816 we find the following formidable minute in the records of the vestry:
“9 Jan., 1816. — In pursuance of legal notice having been given in the Parish Church, of the 28 December last, a general meeting of the inhabitants within the Constabulary of Huddersfield was this day held, for the purpose of taking into consideration the present alarming state of the country and the more effectual preservation of the peace. When, after duly deliberating on the enormous burglaries and other depredations recently committed, to an extent almost without example, in this neighbourhood, we have thought it necessary to advertise for and engage an active and experienced man who will devote the whole of his time to the discharge of his duty as an assistant constable, &c.” By resolution of the Vestry of date Feb. 19th, 1817, the following duties were, inter alia, entrusted to the standing police-constable :—
- “To look after, detect, and take thieves.
- “To visit the lodging-houses frequently.
- “Vagrants of all kinds to take up.
- “To examine hawkers and pedlars, or those likely to have stolen goods in their possession.
- “To visit the public houses frequently.”
It is not stated whether or not, as in some ancient boroughs, the constable had also to discharge the functions of ale tester or taster, but it may be presumed the constable put a liberal construction upon his powers.
The Court Leet appointed, in addition to the Chief Constable, a pinder, a bellman, and a River Conservancy officer, whose duty it was to remove dead dogs, cats, and vermin from the rivers and streams. These officers, with the assistant constables appointed by the Vestry and possibly a Vestry and Court Leet clerk, constituted the executive of the town. From an anecdote preserved by the late Mr. W. R. Croft and quoted by Mr. Balmforth, it would seem that the Chief Constable had acquired the saving grace of tempering his zeal by discretion, for when roused from his slumbers by intelligence of the riots that so oft in those boisterous days disturbed the midnight peace, it was his prudent custom to dally in his chamber for such time as he deemed sufficient to exhaust the strength and cool the ardour of the combatants, before he ventured to interpose that awful symbol of his authority, the constable’s staff. A little blood-letting, he deemed, was an excellent febrifuge.
In 1820 the “Lighting and Watching” Act was passed, stating that: “The town of Huddersfield is large and populous, and a place of considerable trade, and is also a great thoroughfare for travellers, and some of the streets, lanes, and other public passages within the said town, are not lighted or watched, and that all of them are not properly cleansed, but are subject to various nuisances, and it would tend to the safety, convenience, and advantage of the inhabitants of the said town, and of the public, if the same were properly lighted, watched, cleansed, and regulated, and the nuisance abated and prevented for the future.” The Commissioners under the Act were nominated in the schedule to the Act. They met once every three weeks at the Old George Hotel. Vacancies in their number caused by death, &c., were filled up by the Commissioners themselves, so that the body was virtually self-elected. The Commissioners must have a property qualification of £1,000. One feature of the Act, would probably find special favour at the present day—Ratepayers under £6 were exempt from taxes. Considerable jealousy is said to have existed between the Chief Constable of the Court Leet and the Chairman of the Commissioners, and their disputes for official precedence raised a point of etiquette that might have perplexed even a Court Chamberlain.
In the years 1841 and 1842, whilst the town’s affairs were still administered by the Commissioners, an attempt was made to obtain a Charter of Incorporation. A petition was framed and very numerously signed, and supported by a deputation to the Privy Council. The petition was countenanced by Earl Fitzwilliam and Earl Zetland, the trustees of Sir John Ramsden, who was then a Minor, but a change of Government necessitated the abandonment of the petition. In 1848, however, the attempt to secure more extensive power of local government was renewed with success, and the Huddersfield Improvement Act, 1848, incorporating the Town’s Improvement Clauses Act, 1847, the Commissioners’ Clauses Act, 1847, and the Town Police Clauses Act, 1847, was passed, and under it was constituted the Board of Improvement Commissioners, which from that date to the grant of the Charter of Incorporation, constituted the administrative body of the town. The Board consisted of 21 members, of whom the Lord of the Manor had the right to appoint three. The other 18 Commissioners were elected by the Ratepayers annually, six retiring each year by rotation. Every Commissioner must have an annual rating qualification of £30, or be possessed of £1,000 personalty after discharge of his debts. The franchise under this Act was nominally vested in the Ratepayer at large, but, inasmuch as under the Towns’ Improvement Acts, all owners of rateable property of which the full nett annual value did not exceed £10, or which were let to monthly or weekly tenants, or in apartments, were to be rated to the rates instead of the occupiers, it was found in practise that the franchise was confined to the wealthier residents, the professional classes, the mill owners, merchants, publicans, and shopkeepers. The working classes were virtually disfranchised, being shorn even of the powers which the democratic constitution of the ancient vestry confided to them. The rating qualification, moreover, was cumulative, conferring on those rated under £50 one vote, and rising by an ascending scale until those rated under £250 enjoyed no less than six. The modern doctrine of one man one vote was then probably discussed only in Utopia.
In the area included in the present County Borough there were prior to its incorporation no less than eleven governing bodies :— The Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners, and the Local Boards of Marsh, Deighton, Bradley, Fartown, Lindley, Lockwood, Moldgreen, Almondbury, Newsome, and Longwood. Each of these had separate and independent jurisdiction, and it will be readily understood that “it was impossible under such circumstances to secure that harmony and unity of action on subjects of common importance which the public welfare required.”
The many embarrassments, conflicts of jurisdiction, overlapping of district powers, the difficulty of securing a comprehensive scheme of water supply, intricacies of drainage and road construction and maintenance, and other inconveniences inseparable from the jaxtaposition of so many petty powers in close contiguity and ruling what was more and more becoming one community lent gathering strength to the feeling that only a charter of incorporation would set free the growing town from its confining swaddling clothes. Definitive proceedings originated with the Improvement Commissioners in March, 1867, public meetings and private conferences ensued, and ultimately petitions for and against the proposed scheme of incorporation were signed by the ratepayers in the affected districts. The following summary of the petitions will probably be of interest as showing in what light the proposal for incorporation was viewed thirty years ago and what were the apprehensions, ill or well grounded, of those who resisted it.
|Huddersfield within Improvement Limits||2,289||62,054||8||4|
|Moldgreen with Dalton||450||10,032||0||0|
|Almondbury in Almondbury District||129||2,177||15||6|
|Almondbury in Newsome||111||5,558||4||6|
The petitions against ranged as follows:
In all, 4,933 ratepayers, of an aggregate ratal of £106,782 1s. 2d., supported, whilst 2,049, of a ratal of £16,750 10s. 11d., opposed incorporation.
Ultimately, however, all the petitions against, with the exception of that of Bradley and Deighton, were withdrawn. The opposition of that district originated, it was stated, “with Messrs. Haigh, who were the leading ratepayers of the hamlet. They were owners and occupiers of extensive mills, and as employers of labour and otherwise, they had great influence and control over the other ratepayers, who were chiefly the operatives employed by them, or small farmers, or shopkeepers, dependent upon or connected with them. They, in substance, ruled and governed the district, and they probably apprehended an extinction of their personal rule, as well as some possible increase in their rates.” Great importance, however, was attached to the inclusion of Bradley, as “it held the key of the sewerage of the entire district.”
A Public Inquiry was held in response to the petition at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, by Captain Donelly, R.E., the Commissioner appointed by Her Majesty’s Privy Council. The case for the petititioners was presented with great sagacity by Mr. Joseph Batley, the Clerk to the Improvement Commissioners, subsequently and deservedly the first Town Clerk of Huddersfield, than whom probably no man ever existed more conversant with municipal law, more zealous, more adroit in the conduct of public affairs, or more tactful and successful in conciliating opposition. He sat by the cradle of the infant Borough and guided with loving care its early steps. It is to me a great gratification to have this opportunity of paying this feeble tribute to the memory of such a man. The petition was supported by Sir John Ramsden, and the Charter was granted Feby. 9th, 1868. The included area had an acreage of 10,436. The population was then estimated at 72,455, and the rateable value at £199,477. In 1890 Longwood was included in the Borough, increasing the acreage to 11,788. The rateable value for the year 1896-7 is £435,342, 12s. od., having more than doubled itself in the thirty years of incorporation, and the number of burgesses on the roll is 18,657 exclusive of duplicate voters.
The supply of pure, wholesome, and abundant water to the new borough was the first concern of the maiden Council. The parent waterworks, if they may be so dignified, were constructed by the Lord of the Manor in 1743. According to “An Old Resident,” the source of our water supply was the river at Folly Hall or Engine Bridge. In a cottage near to Mr. Eastwood’s dyeworks was erected a forcing-engine or pump. This was driven by a water-wheel and sent the turbid waters up to Huddersfield. The main pipes were composed of tree trunks pierced by a 3½ in. bore and connected by faucet-joints. These ran under the canal, up the hill to the top of Outcote Bank, along the Upper Road, and so to a small reservoir near the bottom of George Street. The pumping engine was so feeble that the comparatively slight elevation of Chapel Hill taxed its powers to the utmost and the pipes so contracted that on one occasion, it is vouched by the “Old Resident,” a stray trout which had been sucked into the main cut off, for a time, the water supply of the whole town. But if the presence of the trout led to mechanical difficulties it had at least the merits of attesting the purity of the water from which the supply was drawn. Shallow the basket and long the patience of him need be who would angle to-day for trout in the Colne, within many a long line-cast of Huddersfield. In 1827 the Waterworks Commissioners were constituted by Act of Parliament, and under that Act and an enlarging statute of 1828, the town was supplied with water up to the period of incorporation. The water was collected from springs situate in the neighbouring township of Longwood, was impounded in large reservoirs and conducted in large iron pipes for the distance of two or three miles to the store reservoirs, in or near the town, and thence distributed to the houses of the inhabitants. The Commissioners and Shareholders under this Act were saved from the temptation to raise the price of water to exorbitant rates to which their monopoly exposed them by a proviso that they should not make a profit on the share capital in excess of £5 per cent. These Waterworks were purchased by the new Corporation in 1869 for the sum of £58,633 and other Works followed in quick succession. The following extract from the Corporation Year Book (1887) impresses one profoundly with the magnitude of the interests safeguarded by the Corporation, no less than with the fidelity and zeal its members have brought to the task:
“The Longwood Reservoirs are two in number, situate at the foot of the east side of Scapegoat Hill, and distant from Huddersfield 2¾ miles. The supply to these reservoirs is from three separate springs, which rise near the top of the hill above, and the water is piped direct into the upper storage reservoir, which contains when full 50,000,000 gallons and covers an area of 8 acres. The lower reservoir, situate at the foot of the embankment of the upper one, is also supplied with water from the same, and acts as a service reservoir. It has a capacity of 20,299,134 gallons, and covers an area of 3¼ acres. The water from this source is piped down to a service tank at Clough Head, Long wood, and to Spring Street Tank, Huddersfield. It has also a connection with the Snodley Service Reservoir. The Longwood Millowners’ Compensation Reservoir is constructed on the Longwood Brook, with a capacity of 40½ million gallons, and water area of 8½ acres when full.
The Blackmoorfoot Reservoir is situate on the southwest side of Huddersfield, at a distance of four miles, and at an elevation of 831 feet above sea level to top water line. This Reservoir contains 700 million gallons.
The water covers an area of 102 acres when the Reservoir is full. The drainage area is 1,900 acres, and the water from this gathering ground is conveyed into the reservoir by means of catchwater conduits constructed along the contours of the hills for a distance of 5½ miles.
There are two embankments to this reservoir, one on the North side, and one on the South side.
The larger embankment is that on the North side, being 850 yards long, 400 feet wide at its base, and 70 feet high.
The Southern embankment is 500 yards long, 240 feet wide at its base, and 40 feet high.
The supply of water for the town and neighbourhood from this reservoir is three million gallons per day, exclusive of compensation water, 841,680 gallons, which is given out during 12 hours of every lawful working day.
The main pipe from this reservoir to Huddersfield is laid from the North tunnel entrance, along the highway in the township of Linthwaite, to the village of Milnsbridge, where it crosses under the bed of the River Colne, and thence under the Viaduct of the London and North Western Railway at Longwood Station, near which there is a connection with the Longwood Reservoir main, whereby water can be sent into that reservoir to supplement its own supplies as required. The main then passes on to Paddock, and thence across the fields to Marsh, and along the New Hey Road into the Snodley Service Reservoir at West Hill, which is situated at a height of 500 feet above sea level, and is constructed to hold 1,250,000 gallons. From this Service Reservoir water is distributed through the town, and is also taken forward along the Leeds Road for the supply of Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.
The main from the South entrance tunnel at Blackmoorfoot conveys the water to the villages of Netherton, Armitage Bridge, Berry Brow, Honley, Almondbury, Kirkheaton, Lepton, Kirkburton, Shelley, and Shepley, and also to a portion of Huddersfield.
The Deerhill Reservoir is situate in Lingards Township, on the slope of the West side of the hill from which it derives its name. Its top water level is 1,144 feet above sea level. It contains 160 million gallons of water, covers 38 acres, and has a drainage area of 800 acres. The water is conveyed in the reservoir by means of a Catchwater Conduit 2½ miles long, in Marsden Township. Compensation to the millowners in the Wessenden and Colne Valleys is delivered from this reservoir at various points, amounting in the aggregate to 481,680 gallons every working day. There is also a connection from this reservoir with the Wessenden main, which supplies the high levels, so as to supplement that supply as occasion requires.
The Wessenden Springs are situated on the West side of the Wessenden Reservoir, consisting of the Great Dyke Springs, the Blake Clough and Blakeley Clough Springs which are piped into a tank situate at an elevation of 1,025 feet above sea level, from which the water is conveyed by a 9-inch main laid down the Valley to Marsden, and thence passing along the Manchester and Huddersfield Turnpike Road to Slaithwaite, where there is a connection with the Deerhill main. From thence the main that supplies Golcar branches off up the Crimble Valley to the Service Reservoir at Clough Head, and thence to Outlane. The main continues along the Manchester Road, through Milnsbridge and Quarmby, to the Service Reservoir at Lindley. These Springs yield on an average 500,000 gallons per diem.
The surplus water after supplying the 9-inch main above referred to, passes into an 18-inch main laid across the valley to the Catchwater Conduit at Scout, and thence along such Conduit into the Blackmoorfoot Reservoir. This main was laid in the year 1887.
There are two Compensation Reservoirs in the Wessenden Valley. The old Wessenden Reservoir situate at an elevation of 984 feet above sea level, and of a capacity of 107 million gallons.
The new Wessenden Head Reservoir is situate at an elevation of 1,268 feet above sea level, with a capacity of 82 million gallons.
The Butterley Reservoir, now in course of construction and authorised by the Act of 1890, will be formed by an embankment placed upon the side of Upper Bank Bottom Mills at the lower end of the Wessenden Valley, the top of which is 111 feet above the bed of the stream. The capacity will be 400 million gallons, surface area 43 acres, the greatest depth of water 98 feet 6 inches. As soon as this reservoir is completed, the two high level reservoirs situate higher up the valley will be utilised for domestic supply, and compensation water will be turned out of the Butterley Reservoir in respect of the whole of the Wessenden Valley, namely, 2,258,640 gallons per working day.
The whole of the supply is by gravitation, and the drainage area of the reservoir is chiefly moorland, or high mountain pasture, and millstone grit formation, which is the best known natural filter.
The total area of the limits of supply is 51,824 acres.
The existing reservoirs have a total storage capacity of 1,159 million gallons, to which must be added the capacity of 40 million gallons of the one in process of construction. The total capital expenditure on waterworks account has considerably exceeded one million pounds sterling.
Moorland waters, percolating through peaty soil, are what is popularly termed “soft,” that is, they have an exceptionally rapid solvent power. This quality, possessed by the Huddersfield waters in common with others in different parts of the country derived from similar watersheds, whilst grateful to the dyer who seeks purity and brilliancy of colour, to the miller who dreads askness in the fleece, to the housewife concerned about her wash-tub and her tea-pot, and not less perhaps to the beauty who regards her complexion, has one dangerous, nay fatal, element. The water acts quickly upon the lead pipes by which it is usually conveyed from the street mains to the house tap. Lead is a cumulative poison, and some years ago several cases of severe attacks of lead poisoning among the inhabitants drew painful attention to this undesirable feature. An attempt was made to fix pecuniary liability on the Corporation, but on final appeal to the House of Lords it was held that the liability of the Corporation terminated with the delivery of the water into the street mains. The Council, however, rightly felt that so momentous a matter called for their most strenuous care. The danger has been guarded against by filtration and chemical treatment, and under the guidance of the eminent chemist, Professor Dewar, it is believed the trustees of the public health have at length secured the immunity of the people from a painful and deadly peril.
Down to 1822 the streets of Huddersfield were lighted by oil lamps, and long after that date the residents dispelled the shades of night only by the flickering flame of ill-made or costly candles or the dangerous portable lamp. In that year a private company established gasworks in Leeds Road, and their mains were gradually extended till they supplied not only the ancient town but several of the hamlets on the outskirts. The works were so small that the site they occupied was but 843 square yards in extent, and the quantity of gas demanded by the consumers was inconsiderable. The new illumining power, however, grew rapidly in public favour. The works were extended, and in 1849 the yearly production of the Leeds Road Company rose to 33,000,000 cubic feet, and in 1866 it was estimated at 140,000,000. Besides the Company in Leeds Road, Mr. Anthony Kaye, of Moldgreen, and Mr. Thomas Midgley, of Almondbury, were engaged in the manufacture and supply of gas to the area surrounding their respective works. The works of all these undertakings were soon acquired by the Corporation, those in Leeds Road in 1872, at a cost for plant, mains, and good-will of £130,336, and those of Mr. Kaye in 1874, for £17,000. It must be borne in mind that the area now supplied by the Corporation has been considerably enlarged, but allowance made for this, the increase in consumption is still very impressive. The Council now manufactures and supplies some 580 millions cubic feet of gas yearly. The price charged to the consumer enables the Gas Department to make each year a considerable annual profit, and this is applied in the reduction of the general burdens of the municipality.
In 1893 the system of Electric lighting was introduced by the Corporation, and the pale cold light now illumines the Town Hall and other public buildings, parts of some of the leading streets, the Market Hall, most of the places of worship and the leading shops.
The first Market established within the confines of the present County Borough was established in 1272, when Edward I. granted to Henry Lacy the privilege of a Market, to be holden at Almondbury on the Monday in every week. As it was not till four hundred years that a Market was granted to John Ramsden at Huddersfield, the reader may draw such conclusions as he deems just as to the relative importance in ancient days of Almondbury and the town which has now annexed it. But the claims of antiquity yield to the dictates of convenience, and the Market at Huddersfield soon threw its other rival into the shade, and the Almondbury Mart has for centuries existed only on parchment. About the year 1857 the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners took a lease from Sir John Wm. Ramsden of the markets tolls and rights which he held under charter from the Crown, and under that lease controlled and regulated the public markets and fairs in the town. In 1876 the Corporation purchased from Sir John Ramsden all the markets rights and tolls, paying therefor, and for the sites of markets, slaughter-houses subsequently purchased, a sum of £43,303. In 1880 the Corporation erected a covered Market Hall on the site of the old market in King Street, at a cost of about £30,000; a Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market in Brook Street, at a cost, inclusive of the site, of £14,700; slaughter-houses at a cost of £15,000; and a Cattle Market in Great Northern Street, at a cost of £11,700. It one may judge from the dense throngs that crowd, to inconvenience, the markets on Saturday nights, when visitors from the adjacent villages flock to town, sight-seeing and purchasing, the purse of the Council must before long be again opened for market extensions.
Just as the Governing Body of Huddersfield was for many years the only one in England having the Model Lodging House under its own control, so was the Huddersfield Council the first to undertake the laying down of the Tramway and the management of the service. The first lines were laid from Fartown to Lockwood, and were opened in January 1882, and since that date the arms and branches of the service have spread themselves over every portion of the Borough. The steep gradients that are to be found on most of the routes have taxed the ingenuity of our engineers, and the introduction of steam locomotion into the streets has not been unaccompanied by serious disaster. In July, 1883, the tram-car descending from Lindley into the heart of the town broke loose from the control of the driver, owing to the snapping or curvature of a part of the internal mechanism of the engine. The brake refused its functions, and the engine and car rushed down the incline towards the Square with ever-increasing velocity, and in taking the curve towards their destination turned over on their near wheels and fell upon their sides. Seven passengers were killed and twenty-eight more or less seriously injured. Compensation was paid by the Corporation to the sufferers by this untoward calamity.
The tram-cars are furnished with a letter box under the control of the Post Office, a useful and original device emanating, I believe, from the ingenious mind of Alderman C. Glendinning, J.P.
It is probable that the Huddersfield Council Chamber has never, since the Charter was granted in 1868, seen upon the green seats of the Aldermen and Councillors more than one, or at the outside two gentlemen professing Socialistic principles. This fact notwithstanding, the Council has from the first acted upon the main lines of a well-considered, just, and practical Socialism. It has municipalized the great instruments of public utility and convenience. With the Council and its Committees as their executive, the inhabitants of Huddersfield have stored and distributed their own water, manufactured and consumed their own gas and electric lighting, acquired and conducted their own markets. They have, too, provided, mostly from the common purse, Parks, Baths, and an Assembly Hall.
The Greenhead Park is rather a bijou parterre than a park. It was purchased by the Corporation, in 1883, from Sir John Ramsden for £30,000, towards which Sir John contributed £5,000. Its present appearance is due rather to the art of the landscape gardener than to any natural graces of the site. On Wednesday evening in the summer months various musical bands discourse melodious strains. During the day-time it is much affected by the nurse-maids and their perambulators; but one misses the accompanying grenadier. The Beaumont Park is a triumph of engineering skill and broad treatment. It consists of an upward sweep of crag upon crag, looking down from giddy altitudes upon the pleasant vale of Lockwood, and up the gorges that there debouch. Winding walks and cunningly devised retreats give glimpses of great breadth and beauty over the rich level beneath, and every branch and leaf is swayed and stirred by the breathing of the breezes from the hills the entranced vision distant scans.
It needs only to add that the Huddersfield Corporation owns the Cemetery which it acquired at a cost of some £18,000 ; that it has thrown open to the public at moderate charges, the Lockwood and the Central Baths; that it was one of the if not the first municipal bodies to take advantage of the Artizans Dwellings’ Act, by erecting in 1880-82, at Turnbridge, commodious dwelling-houses, let to working men at rents ranging from 3/4 to 6/- a week, and it will be seen how thoroughly, how comprehensively, the governing body has seized every statutory power the legislature has conferred upon it for securing the welfare, safeguarding the health and furthering the interests of the inhabitants. It was but fitting that the Council should house itself becomingly. The Municipal Offices, comprising the Council Chamber, the Mayor’s Parlour, and Reception Room, the Town Clerk’s Rooms, and other Departmental Offices, was built in 1878, at a cost of about £19,000, and save that the central corridor is usually shrouded in a gloom that we may piously hope never invades the Council Chamber, the abode of the Council is not unworthy of the town it has done so much to mould and fashion. The Town Hall, erected in 1879, at a cost of about £57,000, is a noble building, ignobly posed. Had such a building, devoted to such a purpose, replaced the ugly rotundity, hideous as a nightmare, in Cloth Hall Street, how fitly would it have capped the town!
The following gentlemen have occupied the Mayoral Chair :—
- CHARLES HENRY JONES, J.P., 1868—1871. Elected four times.
- WRIGHT MELLOR, J.P., D.L., 1871—1873, 1883-4, 1886-7. Elected four times.
- HENRY BROOKE, J.P., 1873-4.
- DAVID SYKES, J.P., 1874-5.
- JOHN FLIGG BRIGG, J.P., 1875-6, 1881-3. Elected thrice.
- JOSEPH WOODHEAD, J.P., 1876-8. Elected twice.
- ALFRED WALKER, J.P., 1878-80.
- THOMAS DENHAM, J.P., 1880-1.
- JOHN VARLEY, J.P., 1884-6. Elected twice.
- JOSEPH BROOKE, J.P., 1887-9. Elected twice.
- GODFREY SYKES, J.P., 1889-1891.
- REUBEN HIRST, J.P., 1891-1893.
- JOHN JOSHUA BROOK, J.P., 1893-1895. Elected twice.
- JOHN LEE WALKER, 1895. Vivat et regnat.
The present Mayor is the head of the firm of John Lee Walker & Son, which carries on an extensive business in the dyeing of large worsteds, fanceys, &c. Mr. Walker was born at Kirkheaton in 1839, but shortly afterwards the family removed to Deighton. The future Mayor received his early education at the Woodhouse Church School, supplementing that elementary course by attendance at the classes of the Mechanics’ Institute, of which he was subsequently a teacher. He was elected to the Council for the Bradley and Deighton Ward in 1882; was raised to the Aldermanic Bench in 1893 by a unanimous vote of the Council, a remarkable tribute to his popularity with the members of the governing body of the Town; and in 1895 and 1896 a similar vote constituted him Chief Magistrate of what is practically his native town. Alderman Walker is a typical Yorkshireman. His work is thorough, hearty, and earnest. His bonhommie conciliates all parties, his open-mindedness and firmness disarm opposition, and his good humour and tact secure support for his measures that might be sought, in vain, by eloquence and ingenuity.
During the thirty years the Town Council has directed the destinies of the town the face of the borough has been almost transfigured. Wide streets, stately public buildings, noble parks, adequate sewage works, ample lighting, and crowning blessing of all, a very cornucopia of water, unsurpassed in excellence and abundance, are the abiding testimony of the Council’s unremitting labours for the public weal. Well may the Huddersfield Corporation say, as was said of Wren, Si monumentum vis, circumspice. On every side are the silent witnesses of the loving devotion of our civic rulers. How successfully they have guarded the health of the thousands who pursue their daily task, often unmindful, sometimes unjustly critical, of those who fill the aedile chairs, may be gathered from the fact that, in its death rate, Croydon alone of all the populous centres of the country shows a clearer health bill, and Croydon is rather an aristocratic suburb of London than an industrial focus. In one important respect, it must in candour be said, Huddersfield lags behind other towns of less pretensions and of less intelligence. There is no Public Free Library. This cannot but be regarded as a blot on its municipal escutcheon. The future, however is pregnant of possibilities, and Huddersfield will ere long, one cannot but hope, abandon the cruel anomaly of creating in the elementary schools an intellectual hunger which there exists, at present, no public means of satisfying.
Prior to 1832 Huddersfield returned no representative to Parliament. Its voice in the National Council was mute. County voters rode to York to record their open declarations of party allegiance, and many were the frays on the road between the Whig and Tory freeholders. The Reform Act of 1832, however, enfranchised Huddersfield. The population at that time was some nineteen thousand, and the franchise was limited. This notwithstanding, the electors seem to have been overwhelmingly Liberal in their political faith, for at the first election, in December, 1832, the maiden constituency was wooed not by Whig and Tory suitors but by a Whig and Liberal. This is the more noteworthy when one considers the oligarchical character of the electorate before the introduction of household suffrage. The following table gives in brief the parliamentary history of the town:—
|Fenton, Captain Lewis (W)||263|
|Wood, Captain Joseph (L)||152|
|1834, January (on death of Captain Fenton).|
|Blackburne, John (W)||234|
|Sadler, Michael Thomas (C)||147|
|Wood, Captain Joseph (R)||108|
|Blackburne, John (W)||241|
|Johnson, Geo. W. A. (R)||109|
|1837, May (on death of Mr. Blackburne).|
|Ellis, Edward, Junr. (L)||340|
|Oastler, Richard (C)||290|
|Stansfield, W. R. C. (L)||323|
|Oastler, Richard (C)||301|
|Stansfield, W. R. C. (L). Unopposed.|
|Stansfield, W. R. C. (W)||542|
|Cheetham, John (L)||487|
|Stansfield, W. R. C. (W)||625|
|Willans, Wm. (L)||590|
|1853 (April,), Mr. Stansfield having been unseated on petition.|
|Goderich, Viscount (L)||675|
|Starkey, Joseph (C)||593|
|Akroyd, Edward (W)||833|
|Cobden, Richard (L)||587|
|Leatham, E. A. (L)||779|
|Akroyd, Edward (W)||760|
|Crosland, T. P. (L.C.)||1,019|
|Leatham, E. A. (L)||787|
|1868 (on the death of Mr. Crosland).|
|Leatham, E. A. (L)||1,111|
|Sleigh, W. C. (C)||789|
|Leatham, E. A. (L) (unopposed).|
|Leatham, E. A. (L)||5,668|
|Brooke, Col. Thos. (C)||4,985|
|Leatham, E. A. (L)||7,008|
|Lindsay, W. A. (C)||4,486|
|Leatham, E. A. (L)||6,960|
|Crosland, Joseph (C)||6,194|
|Summers, William (L)||6,210|
|Crosland, Joseph (C)||6,026|
|Summers, William (L)||7,098|
|Crosland, Sir Joseph (C)||6,837|
|1893, February (on the death of Mr. Summers).|
|Crosland, Sir Joseph (C)||7,068|
|Woodhead, Joseph (L)||7,033|
|July 15th, 1895.|
|Woodhouse.Sir J. T. (L)||6,755|
|Crosland, Sir Joseph (C)||5,808|
Huddersfield, it will be seen, has associated its name with more than one statesman whose fame is more than national. Viscount Goderich, who represented the Borough from 1853 to 1837, is the present Marquis of Ripon, and under that title has represented the Majesty of Britain as Viceroy of India. It is needless to speak of Richard Cobden — Huddersfield rejected the apostle of Free Trade. It rejected, too, Richard Oastler, the strenuous denouncer of child labour. But, in extenuation, it may be pleaded that the Huddersfield electorate of 1837 and of 1857 was composed largely of those whose interests were supposed — foolishly supposed, but still supposed — to be menaced by the reforms they advocated.
The population of Huddersfield has increased by leaps and bounds within the century, witness the following figures:
The present population may therefore be estimated at over 300,000 souls, but the extension of the Borough boundaries must not be overlooked.
The following table will enable the reader at his leisure to institute a comparison between the ratio of populous increase in our own and adjacent communities:—
How far the volume of trade has kept progress with the rapid strides of the population is not easily determined by statistics, though some guidance may be obtained from them. There are, for instance, in Huddersfield, ten cloth finishers, 18 cotton spinners, 19 dyers and finishers, ten fullers, scribblers and wool openers, ten mungo and shoddy manufacturers, one hundred and nine woollen and worsted spinners and manufacturers working some 6,000 looms and 1,730,000 spindles. Let it be remembered that sixty years ago almost all the wool imported into the district was Spanish wool, and the bales sold at the London market to our staplers did not probably exceed 1,000 bales annually, whilst now they fall not short of one and a quarter millions. It is still told how Mr. C. Hirst followed the army of Napoleon through the Spanish Peninsula, buying up the wool from the panic stricken farmers.
But there are not wanting other indices than statistics. One has only to point to the mansions of our manufacturers and merchants, and to the homes of the industrious, thrifty, and sober artizans. They speak with eloquent tongues. On every side the suburbs of Huddersfield are adorned by stately abodes, luxuriously appointed, their walls adorned with costly canvasses from the studios of world-famed artists; surrounded by trim lawns and beds, many coloured with rich blooms, whose fragrance scents the air. These are the homes which the successful manufacturers and merchants of the district have built for themselves, far surpassing in elegance and in luxury the Halls and Manor Houses of the Squire and Knight of a hundred years ago.
Stretching from the heart of the town up the hill side are line after line of well-built roomy cottages, each with its little garden patch. They are built of good freestone, enter one — you will find a kitchen or house with good range, well papered and druggeted, the shelves rich in crockery, and the walls glistening with brightly polished tins. There is a sitting-room, well furnished, its wall adornment betraying some aspirations after art. There are many books, tastefully bound, flanking the Family Bible, and it is odds there is a harmonium or a piano. Study the children. They are soft spoken and neatly dressed. Their manners and their speech are pleasing. They attend the Board School and Sunday School. The husband probably grumbles about the hard times and low wages. It is an Englishman’s privilege to grumble. But look back to the days when many still with us were young:—
Those were the days of Child Labour. Children were sent to the mill when between five and six years old, and were kept at work for sixteen and seventeen hours a day. Mr. Owen Balmforth, in the work which I have already quoted more than once, and from which I have drawn assistance I gratefully acknowledge, quotes a speech of the late Rev. W. Madden, Incumbent of Woodhouse, Huddersfield, who said at a public meeting “He could remember, in 1825, seeing from his residence the factories of Huddersfield illuminated all night. He would relate an instance which came under his own observation. He had visited one of his poor people, and saw a girl in bed. He asked what was the matter, and if she was sick? The answer was, No! she was tired, and had been working too hard! He asked for particulars. That child had been in the factory from six in the morning on Monday, until six o’clock on Tuesday night, on Wednesday morning she again went to work till Thursday night; Thursday night she came home and slept that night, if she could; she went on Friday, and remained on until five o’clock on Saturday night. He observed that this was cruel. She replied, ‘If I don’t go they will get another, and some must do it!’ He said it was impossible, and that they could not subsist thus; but they said ‘The men and the children worked and got rest at different times beneath the machines!’ At that time he knew it was not uncommon for children to sleep in the mill, under the machines that they worked at. Such treatment it was impossible for nature to stand.’
In January, 1818, the conscience of the nation was violently shocked by a catastrophe at Atkinson’s Mill, Colne Bridge, near Huddersfield. A fire broke out in the mill. At the inquest, says my friend the late Mr. W. R. Croft, in his monograph on the Factory Movement, it was shown that “the iniquitous system of working children in the night time, when their employers were in bed, prevailed in this mill, and that it was customary to lock the children in. To this latter cause was due the lamentable loss of life which occurred.” Seventeen young girls between the age of nine and eighteen years were burned to death or suffocated. Sir Robert Peel referred to this grim tragedy when introducing into the Commons his Factory Regulation Bill of that year, and he assured the House that it was notorious that children of a very tender age were dragged from their beds some hours before daylight, and confined in the factories not less than fifteen hours; and it was also notoriously the opinion of the faculty, that no children of eight or nine years of age could bear that degree of hardship with impunity to their health and constitution. When I read, mostly in novels, and those by ladies, of the stately, graceful bearing and swan-like movements of patrician beauties and see it claimed that these are the hall mark of lofty birth and ancient lineage, I wonder how long blue blood would maintain a successful contest against the daily hardships, stunting the growth and distorting the body, endured by the grandmothers of the lads and lasses of to-day.
In 1830 Mr. Richard Oastler, of Fixby Hall, Huddersfield, came forward definitely as the champion of the oppressed factory operators. Mr. Oastler, according to the narrative of Mr. Croft, was tall, manly, and commanding, a fearless and eloquent speaker, and though he had not the polish of the schools, was a natural and gifted orator. Frequently his large audiences, men, women, and children, would alternately tremble with fear, be roused to anger and hate, or melted to tears, under the spell of his irresistible eloquence. When assailed by formidable opposition, he rose to the highest pitch of energy, and then there was a "touch me not” air in his manner which often proved a terror to men not deficient in moral courage. When he entered the field to advocate the claims of the factory workers he was in the prime of manhood, a respected, honoured, and influential citizen of the West Riding. He was a Churchman and a Tory. Naturally he was regarded by some of the manufacturers as a traitor to his order, and the working classes rewarded him with the affection they ever bestow on those whom they perceive the victims of obloquy for their sakes. A great meeting was held at Huddersfield on December 26th, 1831, at which Mr. Oastler proclaimed his policy— "Ten hours for five days and eight for Saturdays.” Mr. James Booth (Chief Constable) presided over the meeting, and it was addressed by Mr. Wm. Stocks, Mr. Geo. Beaumont, a working man; Mr. John Hunter, Mr. Lawrence Pit-keithley, Mr. John Leech, and Mr. Samuel Glendinning, father, I believe of, Ald. Chas. Glendinning, J.P. Consequent upon the meeting, the Huddersfield Short-Time Committee was formed, and the original members, whose names I transcribe, are surely worthy of the loving reverence of the posterity they blessed so abundantly:— Wm. Holt, Cotton Twister; John Leech, General Dealer; Lawrence Pit-keithley, General Dealer; Samuel Glendinning, Cloth Merchant; Job Bolland, Cloth Finisher; Wm. Kitson, Cloth Finisher; John Hanson, Fancy Weaver; Jos. Brooke, Furniture Dealer; George Beaumont, Weaver, Almondbury; John Hirst, Co-operative Stores Manager; John Rawson and Wm. Rawson, late Cotton Spinners, Bradford; Thos. Johnson, Weaver, Paddock; Charles Earnshaw, Cloth Finisher, Paddock; George Armitage, Paddock; and, subsequently, William Armitage, South Crosland. On April 24th, 1832, a meeting in support of the Ten Hours Bill was held in the Castle Yard, York, “for the purpose of demonstrating to Parliament that Yorkshire was in earnest for the Ten Hours Bill.” The air was cold, the rain during the previous night fell in torrents, the weather was described in the Castle Yard to be the most inclement within memory. Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Bingley, Keighley, Dewsbury, Batley, Honley, Holmfirth, Meltham, Pudsey, Elland, Rawden, Otley, and other towns and villages, were that day represented in the Castle Yard. Thousands of men, footsore but not faint of heart, who had walked from 24 to 50 miles, were deeply thankful when their eyes that morning saw York Minster. Not only men, but factory boys and girls, mothers with infants in their arms, fifty miles from their own homes, were there to hold up their hands to heaven as an earnest of their desire to be freed from a worse than an Egyptian bondage. It was a sight to have made a man love his kind to have seen how the stronger helped the weaker along the road to York, and from York home again; to mark them share each other’s food, to behold the noble spirit of self-sacrifice which made those in front wait for and often return to help onward those of the rear. Oastler and Ball were everywhere, cheering and encouraging the straggling bands. Fatigue, hunger, and thirst were borne with courage and self-denial. It was a great undertaking to conduct so many thousands to York. The night before the meeting Leeds was filled with people, who, having been refreshed and provided for a few hours rest, moved forward all that tempestuous night, many could not proceed in consequence of the weather. Thousands proceeded, mostly on foot, but some in carts and waggons which they provided for themselves. The appearance of the road was novel and impressive; it resounded with cheers, which were uttered by the pilgrims as others passed them in carriages of various sorts. Some groups had torches, composed of old ropes, and the undulations of the road afforded many views of illuminated groups, successively rising over the hills and disappearing the next instant, leaving a loud, long cheer behind as they sank out of view. With the early dawn, the race course at York began to teem with multitudes. Numbers were seen whose footsteps were traced in their own blood into the Castle Yard, and out of it homewards, occasioned by the length and wetness of the journey and the badness of their shoes and clogs. The night after the meeting, when Oastler undressed, the skin of the sides of his feet peeled off with his stockings.
The operatives did not have it all their own way during this agitation. A Petition of Manufacturers, Millowners, and other persons interested in the Woollen Trade resident at Huddersfield and the neighbourhood, was presented to Parliament in August, 1831. The Petitioners took their stand on the principles of political economy, which had not then been relegated by Mr. Gladstone to the planet Saturn. They declared that “all legislative interference in regard to the price of labour, or the mode in which masters should employ their servants, is injurious to the principles of sound commercial policy, and so far as respects the woollen manufacture is uncalled for;” ... that “the burthen of a large family is much alleviated to a poor man when he can get his own children into early employment. Those who are engaged in visiting the poor can testify that the first thing asked for is their influence in getting their children into a woollen mill, ... that the keeping of a time book is an oppressive regulation; the master may keep one if he chooses for his own safeguard, but he ought not to be compelled to do so.” The Millowners’ Petition was signed by M. and W. H. Stables, Crosland Mills; Starkey Bros., Longroyd Bridge; Jonas Brook & Bros., Meltham Mills; Thomas Nelson & Co., Huddersfield; Henry Brook & Sons, Huddersfield; Roberts Brothers, Huddersfield; David Shaw, Son, & Co., Huddersfield; Norris, Sykes, and Fisher, Huddersfield ; John Hannah & Co., Huddersfield; Thomas Kilner, Huddersfield; and the Solicitor to the Millowners’ Committee was Mr. J. C. Laycock.
Twice Oastler was solicited by the working men of Huddersfield to become a candidate for the representation of the then limited Parliamentary Borough during the year 1837. Twice he contested the seat. On the first occasion his opponent was Mr. Edward Ellice, Junr., posing as a Whig, and generally supposed to be the nominee of Mr. Edward Baines, the proprietor of the Leeds Mercury. Mr. Ellice secured the seat by a majority of 50 votes. Mr. Oastler came nearer victory at the General Election in the same year, when he was opposed in the Whig interest by Mr. W. R. C. Stansfield, who headed the poll by 22 votes.
I have dwelt at some length on this chapter of Huddersfield’s history because I could wish that all the young people who now work in our mills and factories may remember with gratitude the sacrifices of those by whom their privileges were won, and learn from the deeds of poorer and less happy days that it should be a point of honour with them to maintain, wherever and whenever needful, the cause of the poor and oppressed.
It will not need insisting that the artizan of to-day plies his craft under conditions far better than prevailed in his father’s time. How about wages? A Select Committee of the House of Commons, sitting in 1825, took evidence as to the condition of the woollen industry at that time. John Swift, of Newsome, was one of the witnesses. He averred that his employer, Mr. Joshua Boothroyd of Almondbury, who had about 300 men working as weavers in their own homes, paid those who were weaving “checks” an average wage of 10/6 a week, and out of this each man had to pay his winder. At Mr. Eli Chadwick’s,. Shawl and Waistcoat Manufacturer, a sober, steady man might make 17/- a week. Amos Cowgill, of Lepton, said the weekly wages in his neighbourhood were about 15/- on a twelve months’ book; but that was for a day of 14 or 15 hours. Writing of the years 1852-3, Mr. O. Balmforth quotes an instance of a married .couple, the wife earning 4/8½ weekly and the husband 12/9 weekly, a grand total of 17/5½ per week for two adults. Rent, however, was much lower in the early times than it is now, and some other of the prime necessaries of life were cheaper. From 1736 to 1776 the following prices are said to have obtained in Meltham: Butter, 4d. Veal, 8d. a shoulder; Mutton, 1/2 a shoulder; and a leg of Veal, 1/2. When one thinks of the enormous quantities of imported meat that now keep down prices, one is apt to wonder that meat should have been so much cheaper in the days of our grandfathers. But I believe the reason to have been simply that the working classes did not seriously affect the meat markets in those days, any more than they affect the diamond tariff to-day. They had meat sometimes on a Sunday, but as for sitting down to it at least once a day, as a sober, thrifty working man does to-day, why the thought was mere madness. If one regards the price of other household commodities, the necessities of to-day, the luxuries of a generation not yet passed away, the wonder should grow that people lived at all:—
- Black Tea was so recently as 1816 — 8s per lb.
- Raw Sugar — 1s
- Lump Sugar — 1s 4d
- Candles — 9d
- Coffee — 3s 6d
- Salt — 5s 4d per stone.
- Soap — 13s
The price of the quartern loaf in 1800, was 22½ d.; in 1812, the year of the Luddite rising, 21½ d.
Whilst upon this subject I owe a reference — want of space compels but a reference — to the Co-operative Societies, whose history Mr. Balmforth has however done justice to. The same consideration and reluctance to obtrude painful reminiscences has dictated the omission of the bitter Tenant-Right Agitation, and the critical reader will doubtless observe many other omissions, but I trust, not many inaccuracies. It must be reserved to a future date, tho’ not necessarily to another’s pen, to give to the citizens of Huddersfield a full and comprehensive record of its past, replete with interest and pregnant with inspiration for the future.
If one surveys the progress of the masses of the district during the reign of the Gracious Lady, whose Diamond Jubilee we now celebrate, the heart of every lover of his kind cannot, I think, but swell with thanksgiving. The advance is all along the line. The religious facilities are at least abreast of the requirements of the people, and there is less of sectarian strife and bitterness. The moral tone is higher. The convictions for drunkenness are less by one half than even twenty years ago. Temperance, so far from being sneered at, bids fair to become fashionable. The people no longer take their pleasures at bull-baits and cock-fights. Football and cricket have supplanted the baser and cruel sports that might have been witnessed at Paddock at the beginning of the century. A theatre and a music hall now afford a stage to excellent companies, and the higher drama appeals to senses once ravished by the strolling players of Tom Wild’s booth. As to the educational condition of the people you may contrast, you cannot compare, the past with the present of the Queen’s long and prosperous reign.
In this district, at all events, however other parts of the country may have fared, the material possessions and environments of the general people are immeasurably superior to those of sixty years ago. The wisdom of Parliament has entrusted the destinies of the nation and the government of the municipalities largely to an electorate so extended that little enthusiasm exists for its further expansion. These boons have not come unsought. They are the precious heritage of our fathers’ strife. There is a danger that the rising generation may lightly prize the blessings that have come to them by inheritance and not won by its own sacrifice and toil, but this brief narrative will not have been written in vain if it impress on the minds of those, with whom, under God, the future rests, the labours and the sacrifices that have sanctified the past.