A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester (1795) by John Aikin

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A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester

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n.b. in the following extracts, the letter "ſ" has been altered to "s", otherwise spellings have been retained


The manufacturing town of Huddersfield has obtained the advantage of a communication by canal with the river Calder. In 1774 an act passed enabling Sir John Ramsden, Bart, (proprietor of the town of Huddersfield) to make a canal from the Calder at Cooper’s Bridge, where the river Colne falls into it, to King’s Mill, near the town of Huddersfield. This has been executed, and is eight miles in length, with a fall of fifty-fix feet ten inches divided into nine locks. It opens a communication with Hull and all its associated rivers and canals, and its benefits are manifest.


So active was now become the spirit of adventure, that another communication between the two seas, passing through a line of country somewhat to the south of the former [Rochdale Canal], was undertaken. This is the Huddersfield canal, the act for which passed in April 1794. Its two extremities are the Ashton-under-Lyne canal on the western side, and Sir John Ramsden’s canal to the Calder on the eastern. Its general direction is north-east. From Ashton it takes its course parallel to the Tame, often crossing its windings, by Stayley Bridge, and enters Yorkshire in the manufacturing township of Saddleworth. Arriving at its head level, it penetrates the high grounds by a tunnel of three miles in length, passing beneath Pule Moss, and coming out near Marsden: thence it proceeds by Slaighthwaite to Huddersfield, closely accompanying, and often crossing, the Coln. Its extreme length is nineteen miles and near three quarters; its fall from the head level is 436 feet on the Huddersfield side, and 334 feet eight inches on the Ashton side. Several of the little brooks in the hills are widened into reservoirs for its supply of water. This navigation claims similar advantages with the Rochdale canal with respect to general communication ; and as it passes through one of the most populous tracts of the clothing country, it may expect a proportionate share of employment in the export and import of raw materials, manufactured goods, and other articles. The supply of lime to the lands in its course is also likely to be very beneficial, in promoting agricultural improvements.


We begin our account of the cloathing country with this town, which is peculiarly the creation of the woollen manufactory, whereby it has been raised from an inconsiderable place, to a great degree of prosperity and population.

The parish of Huddersfield, situated in Agbridge hundred, is very extensive, stretching from the river Calder on the north and north-east, to the borders of Lancashire on the west. Its breadth is less considerable. It contains, besides the township of Huddersfield, those of Quarmby with Lindley, Longwood, Golcarr, and part of Scamanden, of Slaughthwaite, and of Marsden. The church is a vicarage, in the gift of Sir John Ramsden; and has under it the chapels of Dean Head and Slaughthwaite.

The town of Huddersfield, except two or three houses, is entirely the property of Sir John Ramsden, who has for some years past granted building leases renewable every twenty years on payment of two years ground rent. He built a very good cloth hall some years since, and made a navigation from hence to the Calder, of which an account is [above]. Within the township there are several freeholders. The highest officer is a constable, who, with his deputy, is yearly chosen at the court leet held at Michaelmas at Almondsbury, the manor of which also belongs to Sir John Ramsden.

The markets of Huddersfield are very well supplied with beef, mutton, veal, and pork, which are exposed for sale in shambles built by the lord of the manor. The market-day is Tuesday, but mutton and veal may be had on other days at the butcher’s shops. It is also tolerably supplied for a considerable part of the year with sea-fish from the Yorkshire coast. The fat cattle and sheep are brought out of Lincolnshire and the neighbouring counties, and generally bought at the fortnight fairs of Wakefield, which supply much of the western part of Yorkshire and the adjacent parts of Lancashire. Butter, eggs, and fowls, are not usually fold at the market cross, but may sometimes be bought in the neighbourhood. A moderate quantity of corn is brought to the market by the farmers round, and a larger quantity is brought by water from the more southern counties, much of which is carried forwards into Lancashire.

There are small quarterly fairs, at which some horses and lean cattle are exposed to sale; but the principal fair for this purpose is on May 4.

The progress of population in this town will appear from the following extract from its register:

Year Marriages Christenings Burials
1710 30 113 112
1720 33 148 133
1730 48 178 149
1740 41 196 100
1750 39 235 120
1760 65 190 99
1770 100 283 132
1780 115 296 135
1790 113 377 267
1791 140 381 270
1792 119 395 274

The chapelry of Slaughthwaite in this parish, which equally partakes of the increased population from trade, has afforded the following lift of births and burials for a space of five years:

Year Christenings Burials
1784 124 53
1785 135 29
1786 140 49
1787 140 90
1788 153 37

From this and the preceding table a very favourable idea may be deduced of the healthiness of this district, and the advantages it offers for the increase of the human species. These chiefly proceed from the comparative healthiness of a manufacture carried on in rural situations and at the workmen's own houses; from the plenty of employ and high price of labour, encouraging to early matrimony; and from the warm cloathing, good fare, and abundant fuel, enjoyed by the industrious in this place.

The trade of Huddersfield comprizes a large share of the cloathing trade of Yorkshire, particularly the finer articles of it. These consist of broad and narrow cloths; fancy cloths, as elastics, beaverettes, &c. also honleys, and kerseymeres. The qualities run from 10d. to 8s. per yard, narrows; and broads as high as the superfines in the weft of England. The finest broads in Yorkshire are made at Saddleworth, the manufadlures of which place are included in this diftridl, being all fold at Huddersfield market. These goods are made from all sorts of short English wool, from £.6 to £.35 per pack; and from Spanish wool. The lowest priced English wool is chiefly short wool sorted from large fleeces of combing wool bought in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and the neighbouring counties. The finest English wool is from small fleeces in Herefordshire, Shropshire, and other western counties; and also from Kent, Sussex, and their neighbourhood.

The markets for these goods are almost wholly Great Britain and Ireland, and America. They are bought up by the merchants of the cloathing towns in a slate ready for cropping, dressing, and finishing, and are then sent to London and the country towns, or exported from Liverpool or Hull. All the branches of trade here may be considered as in a thriving state, making allowance for the temporary check of the war, which, however, has been less than might have been supposed, as appears from the annual accounts of cloths stamped and registered at Pontefract. It is to be considered, too, that kerseymeres and all other goods carried to the market at Huddersfield which are white and quilled, are not registered; and these sorts are on the increase.

The new canal planned from Huddersfield to join the Manchester and Ashton canal, which is expected to be of great advantage to its trade, has been mentioned [above].

The principal gentlemens' seats near Huddersfield are, Whitley Hall, the seat of Richard Henry Beaumont, Esq. whose family possessed this place in the reign of Henry II.; Kirklees Hall, belonging to Sir George Armytage, Bart.; Fixby Hall and park, the seat of Thomas Thornhill, Esq.; and Mills Bridge to William Radcliffe, Esq. To the west of Almondsbury is Castle Hill, an old fortress, supposed by some to be the Roman Cambodunum; but Mr. Watson conceives it rather to be a Saxon remain, and that Slack, to the north of Huddersfield, was Cambodunum.

A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester (1795) by John Aikin


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This page was last modified on 24 January 2018 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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