From Cottage to Mill (2022) by Bob Hirst

From Cottage to Mill: A family story of clothiers and woollen manufacturers in the West Riding of Yorkshire was written by Bob Hirst and published privately by the author in 2022.

Several copies of the book have been donated to Kirklees Libraries.

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This book is reproduced with the express permission of the author, Bob Hirst. The text remains the copyright of the author and should not be reproduced further without their permission. Unless otherwise specified, all photographs and illustrations remain the copyright of the credited source. The book includes images licensed from the following collections:


From Cottage to Mill (2022) by Bob Hirst.jpg

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


  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Greave and Wilshaw
  • Chapter 3: Early Greave Hirsts
  • Chapter 4: Cloth making
  • Chapter 5: The life of clothiers in the late 18th century
  • Chapter 6: The market
  • Chapter 7: Getting to and from Greave in the 18th century
  • Chapter 8: Changes for the Hirst clothiers in the early 19th century
  • Chapter 9: Mechanising cloth production and its opposition
  • Chapter 10: “Beginning the world” of Joseph Hirst
  • Chapter 11: The Spirit of the Age
  • Chapter 12: Joseph Hirst – manufacturer, 1836-1849
  • Chapter 13: Joseph Hirst – manufacturer, 1850-1874
  • Chapter 14: The mores of mid-Victorian Britain
  • Chapter 15: Joseph Hirst - Landowner
  • Chapter 16: Joseph Hirst - Conservative
  • Chapter 17: Joseph Hirst - Father of the Village
  • Chapter 18: Death of Joseph Hirst and afterwards
  • Chapter 19: A summary of the changes in Wilshaw between the late 18th and early 20th centuries
  • Appendix 1: Family trees
    • Tree 1: The main Hirst line; Tree 2: Joseph Hirst and Eleanor Ramsey; Tree 3: The family of Elizabeth Hirst and John Hinchliffe; Tree 4: The family of William Brook of Manningham.
  • Appendix 2: Timeline for Hirsts of Greave
  • Appendix 3: Mary Hirst and Alfred Beaumont
    • Mary Hirst; Alfred Beaumont; their marriage; Mary’s death and afterwards.
  • Appendix 4: The Hirst house of Greave, 1760s-1990s
  • Appendix 5: Thornton Hough
  • Appendix 6: The Great Exhibition of 1851
  • Appendix 7: Processes of Woollen Manufacture
  • Appendix 8: Cloth Glossary
  • Appendix 9: Measurements
  • Appendix 10: Population analysis of Greave / Wilshaw 1841-1911
  • Appendix 11: Hirsts in the news