Honley Feast (1852)

The 1852 Honley Feast took place between Sunday 26 September and Wednesday 29 September.

A couple of years earlier, two new Huddersfield-based newspapers had been launched — the conservative Huddersfield Chronicle and the liberal Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (later to become the Huddersfield Examiner). In their early years, the Chronicle tended to celebrate the local feasts whereas the Examiner felt they encouraged excessive drinking amongst the working classes, and this was reflected in their respective coverage of the 1852 Feast.

Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (28/Aug/1852)

The Examiner (21/Aug/1852) reported that the Honley and Berry Brow Temperance Societies were organising a trip to the Belle Vue Gardens near Manchester to coincide with the Feast. The Examiner journalist felt that "the working classes would do well to avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded them to see the country rather than spend their money [at the Feast] in folly and dissipation."

As for the Feast itself, the Examiner reported that sales of beef were down on the previous year and instead everyone wanted "pickled cabbage" instead. This was in part driven by the novelty of there being a "cabbage cutting machine" which could "cut up a large sized cabbage in three minutes".[1]

On the first day of the Feast, a "monster train" comprising nineteen carriages and two engines deposited visitors at Honley. Those who attended the Sunday service in the afternoon "heard an earnest discourse against Sunday feasting."

Of interest on the second day was an event to see if "whether a Meltham or a Netherton man could run the faster." Presumably this entailed a race where the two men set off from the centres of their respective villages at the same time to see who could get to Honley first — "the Netherton man beat the other." The reported highlight was the Berry Brow Drum and Fire Band, who "paraded the streets, in their uniform, playing enlivening airs."

Tuesday was a wash-out and "all out-door feasting was suspended" as "torrents of rain" fell throughout the day. Ironically, the Temperance excursion to the Belle Vue Gardens enjoyed fine weather!

A slight gloom was cast over the Wednesday events when the body of Joseph Brearley was conveyed to the George and Dragon Inn in Honley. Brearley had been driving a wagon full of coal from Honley towards Meltham Mills when it ran out of control down Knowl Top. It seemed Brearley had attempted to regain control of his horses but ended up falling under the cart, which then passed over his head and killed him instantly. The runaway cart then hit another wagon, knocking the driver off but luckily he fell between the wheels.

As a footnote, the Examiner reported that "Bacchhus has many worshippers in Honley" and that one drunken man had returned to his room and found that his "turn up bedstead" (i.e one which pulls down from the wall) had not been pulled down. In his inebriated state he instead managed to grab a grandfather clock in the room and brought that crashing to the floor.

The Chronicle recorded the following verse about the cows that were slaughtered for the feast:

With beef and cabbage now the festive board is crown'd,
Light hearts and cheerful faces gather round,
The cottage neatly trimm'd with blazing fire,
And all the luxuries which health or peace desire.
Yet stay ! refuse not just one passing tear
For the slaughter'd ones whose bones are lying here !

The paper also reported that the local Police Constable had told them that "there has been fewer drunkards, less gambling, etc, on this than on any former occasion."[2]

A number of minor cases were brought before magistrates in the wake of the Feast. John Eastwood, an "itinerant vendor of lollypops", was told by Superintendent Heaton to move his stall as it was blocking the public highway. When Heaton returned half an hour later, he found Eastwood in the same location and the vendor then used "scurrilous and abusive language". Eastwood was fined 5s. plus expenses.[3]

Notes and References

  1. "Honley: The Village Feast" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (02/Oct/1852).
  2. "Honely Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Oct/1852).
  3. "Obstructing the Highway" in Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Oct/1852).