The Honley Feast was traditionally the last one to occur in the district, taking place on the first Sunday after 19 September, and was widely known for the copious amounts of roast beef and pickled cabbage consumed each year.
In common with some of the other local feasts, it began on a Sunday and ran through to the middle of the week.
This feast is remarkable, and embraces a circuit of nearly eight miles. Beef, pickled cabbage, and ale, are the staple provisions of each household; and on the evening of the first day of the feast, Huddersfield, Lockwood, and all the adjoining hamlets, are in a state of commotion. Carriages rattle along the streets, filled with merry men and women, who scent the good things afar off, and hasten to enjoy them. The roads are fairly blocked up, and darkened with the long lines of foot-passengers, drawn by the same attraction. The feast lasts for a full week; and the usual quantity of sins are committed there, to the satisfaction of all concerned.
In December 1874, the Huddersfield Chronicle noted that spirit of the Honley Feast had "even been transplanted to America by enthusiastic emigrants, who are desirous of preserving the traditions of their forefathers." Indeed, the posthumously published letters of local emigrant Edwin Bottomley made reference to him celebrating Honley Feast in Wisconsin in 1847.
As many visitors walked to the feast from Huddersfield, the road through Lockwood and Berry Brew to Honley would be lined with stalls and booths. By the 1870s, the outdoor entertainments began to increasingly move to Lockwood and, by 1879, Huddersfield Corporation had begun signposting the event as "Lockwood Feast".
The standardisation of school holidays across districts in the area led to a decision in 1912 that the first full week in September would be the holiday week. However, the Examiner noted that "there have been so many variations [across the districts] that scarcely yet have people become accustomed to it".
By 1918, the Huddersfield Examiner reported that "there is no fair at Lockwood, and in other directions no signs of the event observable" and "Honley Feast as it was known ten or a dozen years ago may now be described as a thing of the past."
In 1930, the Leeds Mercury lamented "the old feasts" in an article about circuses and showmen:
Let them take warning by Honley. The feast may be one of those things we do not appreciate until we have lost them. Honley had a feast that was the joy of all the young men and maidens of the town. Doubtless it was noisy — it would be a poor feast otherwise. But Honley Feast fell upon evil days. There was some question of a field for it, and this year there is no feast at all. The lamentations of Honley folk have reached the ears of the local Council so convincingly that there is actually talk of offering the showmen the town recreation ground if they will but come again. We must be kind to the showmen and make them welcome, for if we drive them away we may, like Honley, be sorry for it.
In 1939, the Halifax Courier noted that "nowadays almost the only features of [Honley Feast] are the various preaching services at some of the Methodist churches".
Despite the standardisation of annual holidays, engineers in the Huddersfield continued to have their own two-day holiday — which was timed to coincide with the Honley Feast — until 1950.
The Holme Valley Beagles continued to hold an annual hunt on the Monday of Honley Feast week until at least the mid 1950s.
Feasts by Year
based on contemporary newspaper articles
Notes and References
- Tait's Edinburgh Magazine (April 1849) page 239, quoted in The Mechanics' Institutes of Lancashire and Yorkshire Before 1851 (1957).
- "Huddersfield Subscription Library: Seventh Notice" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle" (08/Dec/1874).
- An English Settler in Pioneer Wisconsin: The Letters of Edwin Bottomley, 1842-1850 (1918). page 169.
- "Observance of the Local Holiday" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (03/Sep/1915).
- "The Passing of Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (23/Sep/1918).
- "The Old Feasts" in Leeds Mercury (24/Sep/1930).
- Halifax Courier (30/Sep/1939).
- "Workers Offered £10,000 2 Week Holiday Plan" in Yorkshire Post (18/Oct/1850).