Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners (1850)

The following is a summary of the activities of the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners.

Under the terms of the Huddersfield Improvement Act of 1848, the Improvement Commissioners were authorised to take responsibility for highways, public health and policing within a 1,200 yard radius boundary from the Market Place.


In January, the Improvement Commissioners gave notice that William Lee had been appointed by the Board of Health to investigate the "state of the burial grounds within the township of Huddersfield". Lee heard evidence that within the previous 20 years, 4,646 burials had taken place in the Huddersfield Parish Church graveyard. Since burial registers began, it was estimated that 38,000 internments had taken place in the graveyard, which measured 5,037 square yards (equating to just over 7.5 burials per square yard). Lee approved of a new cemetery being situated at Edgerton.[1]

A special meeting of the Commissioners was held towards the end of January to receive a report from accountant Mr. Bolton of Leeds who had been asked to examine the accounts in regards of claimed irregularities. Bolton was critical that solicitor Thomas W. Clough, clerk to the commissioners, had seemingly been using three different methods of bookkeeping and recommended that adopt the use of double entry in future.[2]

On 5 April, the fire bridge appointed by the commissioners tested their new fire extinguishing apparatus in King Street. Using the existing fire plus for a water source, they had enough pressure to "throw water entirely over the highest buildings".[3]

At the April meeting, the issues regarding the Parish Church graveyard were raised again including the fact that several of the councillors owned private vaults in the crypt which they might have to forego once the burial ground was closed. The Fire & Lighting Committee reported that night constable Haywood had been given a reward of 2s. 6d. for discovering the fire at Messrs. Beaumont & Son's tobacco factory and summoning the fire engine. The Paving Committee reported on plans for the laying out of "the open space behind the present George Hotel" and appointed a deputation to confer with the Ramsden Estate and its agent George Loch — in particular, there were concerns over the Estate's plans to "crowd the largest mass of buildings possible upon the smallest ineffable space" in what would become St. George's Square.[4]

At the May meeting, Luke Swallow[5] was elected to the vacancy left by commissioner Abraham Hirst who had stopped attending due to ill health. After a heated debate caused by William Moore's proposal that they should acquire the Huddersfield Gas Company, it was carried that "at present the Commissioners will not enter into negotiations with the Gas Company, for the purchase of their works, nor erect gas works of their own" by a narrow 4 votes to 3.[6]

An adjourned meeting was held at the start of June in order to examine the annual accounts which were prepared by Joshua Hobson (Clerk of the Board of Works), who reiterated the need to hire someone to ensure the Commissioner's accounts "upon the plan, and in the form laid down by Mr. Bolton" in January.[7]

The meeting held on 7 June returned the question of the Huddersfield Gas Company's thirty-year monopoly, driven by a memorial supported by the Huddersfield Chronicle and signed by many of the town's inhabitants. William Moore's arguments for the commissioners to take control of the town's gas supply — which eventually happened in 1872 — was rejected by those who had vested interests in the existing company, particularly Lucas Swallow. At the end of a heated and sometimes acrimonious debate, a majority of commissioners voted to adjourn further discussion on the topic for six months.[8]

Notes and References

  1. "Huddersfield" in Leeds Intelligencer (05/Jan/1850) and (12/Jan/1850).
  2. "The Huddersfield Commissioners" in Leeds Intelligencer (02/Feb/1850).
  3. "Huddersfield" in Leeds Intelligencer (13/Apr/1850).
  4. "Meeting of the Improvement Commissioners Last Night" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Apr/1850), "The Projected New Town" in Huddersfield Chronicle (13/Apr/1850), and "Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners' Meeting" in Leeds Mercury (13/Apr/1850).
  5. Sometimes referred to as Lucas Swallow, he was a retired worsted manufacturer.
  6. "Meeting of the Improvement Commissioners Last Night" in Huddersfield Chronicle (18/May/1850) and "Meeting of the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners" in Leeds Mercury (25/May/1850).
  7. "The Improvement Commissioners" in Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Jun/1850).
  8. The fellow commissioners who sided with William Moore were Henry Charlesworth, T.P. Crosland and John Brook. "The Meeting of the Improvement Commissions" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Jun/1850).