Honley Feast (1864)

The 1864 Honley Feast took place between Sunday 25 September and Wednesday 28 September.

The Chronicle reported that, as usual, the housewives of Honley used the weeks before the feast to thoroughly clean their houses and to prepare home-brewed ale, often sharing the necessary brewing equipment with their neighbours. A number of "pot-hawkers" plied their trade with cries of "Dun you want onny pickle-pots?" although it was noted that these were unlikely to be filled as the price of cabbages was high, as was the price of beef. On the other hand, the price of both flour and fruit was low, so it was predicted that puddings and pies would be in abundance.[1]

The expected limited supply of meat caused the Chronicle to remind its readers who were planning to visit the feast to "have mercy on the beef." The concerns about the pickle pots not being filled were allayed when local greengrocer Joseph Eastwood reported that he had already sold "45 dozens of red cabbages, and seven hundred weight of pickling onions." It was also reported that a travelling knife-grinder was doing very good business in the village.[2]

At one house in Thongsbridge, where a batch of ale was being brewed for the feast, the wife had decided to make it a "real stingo" (i.e. a very strong beer) so put less water in than usual. Unfortunately, after being placed in a barrel, the beer "seemed determined to remain no longer in bondage" and exploded. Her cries brought the neighbours running, thinking that the house must be on fire, but she cried out "Drink it, drink it, it's too gooyd to be lost!" Pots and pans were quickly fetched and whatever could be salvaged was quickly drunk — "and thus an inglorious end was made of the 'Honley feast drink'."[3]

According to the Chronicle, it was felt by many that visitor numbers at the feast had been disappointingly low and "there were few stalls, no roundabouts, fly-boats, etc". The main attraction had been Wild's Theatre, although they only put on one act each night. Despite the drop in visitors, it was estimated that around £3,000 was "spent in extra eating and drinking at the feast."[4]

On the Monday of the feast, a young woman named Ann Bradley took advantage of the cheap rail tickets on offer during the feast to travel to Manchester. She caught a train back to Denby Dale which should have arrived around midnight, but was severely delayed and didn't pull into the station until 4am by which time it was in pitch darkness. Ordered by railway officials to alight, Miss Bradley stumbled her way through the dark and had the misfortune to fall down an open coal shoot, sustaining "very severe injuries." She sued the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company for negligence and was awarded £150 in court.[5]

Stallholders John Whittington of Shelley[6] and John Wilkinson of Leeds were charged with having defective weights at Huddersfield Police Court.[7]

James Wilson was charged under the Vagrancy Act after Police Constable Stansfield found him "presiding at a kind of rouge-et-noir table [...] enticing the simple by-standers to stake their pence and make upon the various colours displayed upon a circular board." Wilson was sent to the Wakefield House of Correction for one month.

William Denton, "a young man attired in a calico jacket", was caught picking pockets by Police Sergeant Sedgwick. Found guilty, he was sentenced to three months.[8]

During the early hours of the Wednesday morning, Police Constable 483 observed Luke Hobson and James Kinder damaging a stall belonging to William Holdsworth, "leaving it in a heap of ruins." Holdsworth estimated the damage as 10s. and the two defendants were ordered to pay 24s. each or face fourteen days in prison.[9]

On the Wednesday of the feast, Andrew Dearnley of Castlegate[10] of went to Honley "swellishly attired" and wearing a "highly-polished white velvet-napped hat." On his return to Huddersfield, he called in at the Fox and Grapes beerhouse in Lockwood where a quarrel was taking place. Dearnley was "too careful of his fine clothes to interfere", however George Bennett came forward and gave him "a bat on the hat", breaking it. Although Bennett then offered to pay for the damage, Dearnley instead summoned him to court. The magistrates obviously felt that in light of Bennett's offer, Dearnley was wasting the court's time and they dismissed the case, "much to the surprise of the owner of the superfine hat."[11]

Notes and References

  1. "Honley: Signs of the Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Sep/1864).
  2. "Honley: Better Signs of the Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Sep/1864).
  3. "Thongsbridge: The Honley Feast Drink" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Oct/1864).
  4. "Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Oct/1864).
  5. "Bradley v. the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company" in Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser (08/Apr/1865).
  6. Named as "George Whittington of Shepley" in the Huddersfield Chronicle.
  7. "False Weights" in Leeds Mercury (30/Sep/1864).
  8. "Incidents of Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Oct/1864).
  9. "Mischief at Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Oct/1864).
  10. Named as Andrew Dearnaley of the "Beer Shop, Castlegate", he was born circa 1831 in Almondbury, the son beerseller Samuel and his wife Nancy.
  11. "The Adventures of a White Hat at Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Oct/1864).