John Henry Abbey (1831-1880)

John Henry Abbey was a surveyor and architect from Lockwood.

He served in the post of Huddersfield Borough Surveyor and amongst his best-known designs are the Huddersfield Town Hall and the Mechanics' Institute in Lockwood.


He was born in Lockwood in 1831, the son of road surveyor John William Abbey and his wife Mary, and was baptised on 25 September 1831 at Emmanuel Church.

In September 1854, he was appointed to the post of Surveyor and Clerk of Works by the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners, succeeding Joshua Hobson.[1]

Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Apr/1855)

In April 1855, Abbey found himself at the receiving end of a barbed editorial piece in the Huddersfield Chronicle. The newspaper had published some incorrect figures and had then taken umbrage at the way in which Abbey had pointed out the error (apparently by writing a letter to the rival Huddersfield Examiner newspaper).[2]

He resigned from the post in 1857 when, together with his cousin, he took over the business of uncle, Mallinson Abbey. According to local historian Edward J. Law, Abbey's resignation letter revealed that he had taken the post "primarily to publicise his name with a long term view of building up a private practice."[3]

He married Ann North, daughter of fruiterer William North, on 16 October 1856 at Huddersfield Parish Church. They had eight children:

  • Thomas Abbey (1857-1888)[4]
  • Mary Ann Abbey (1859-?)[5]
  • Harold Abbey (1860-1922)[6]became a surveyor and architect
  • John Edgar Abbey (1863-1933)[7]
  • William Herbert Abbey (1863-1891)[8]
  • Frances Elizabeth Abbey (1867-?)[9]
  • Eveline North Abbey (1869-1963)[10]
  • Ann Isabel Abbey (1874-1915)[11]

The family resided at Royds House, off Swan Lane, also known as "Sun Royd".

He was initiated into the Huddersfield Lodge of Freemasons on 8 February 1860.

On the evening of Sunday 12 July 1863, Abbey apprehended a burglar by the name of Kyrle Ward[12] who had entered the house via an unlocked kitchen door. In front of the Magistrates, Ward's defence "that he was very drunk at the time" fell on deaf ears and he was sentenced to 1 month at the Wakefield House of Correction.[13]

By 1865, he was involved with the Lockwood Mechanics' Institute and was the architect of their Mechanics' Hall, the foundation stone of which was laid on Wednesday 19 April 1865.[14]

He was appointed to the role of Borough Surveyor in October 1868, although concerns were raised by several councillors that Abbey might not devote his full attention to the post if he also continued to run a private business.[15]

Abbey designed the Huddersfield Town Hall, which was built during 1875 and 1876, as well as the later Concert Hall extension which was still under construction at the time of his death.

Possibly one of his final pieces of work for Huddersfield Corporation was the preliminary laying out of Beaumont Park following the gifting of Dungeon Wood to the Corporation by land-owner Henry F. Beaumont. Abbey's map is dated 6 August 1879 and is reproduced courtesy of the Friends of Beaumont Park:

He resigned from the post of Borough Surveyor on 20 August 1879, partly due to ongoing concerns that the post-holder should devote his entire time to the job. It is also possible that he was suffering from ill-health. His representation letter was reported by the Huddersfield Chronicle:

Dear Sir

The committee appointed, in the motion of Mr. Councillor John Haigh, on the 19th of March last, to enquire "As to the present position and relation of the borough surveyor to the Corporation, and also as to whether the time has not now arrived when it would be to the interests of the Corporation to have a surveyor to devote his whole time and attention to the duties of the office," having met on Tuesday, the 11st inst., and again on the motion of Mr. Councillor Haigh having resolved : "That in the opinion of this committee the time has now arrived when it is desirable, in the interests of this borough, that the borough surveyor should devote his whole time to the duties of the office, and that this committee report to the Council accordingly," and not having had the honour to be present at any of the deliberations of that committee, except on the 24th March last, when I was requested to withdraw before the business had commenced, I am totally at a loss to understand on what grounds the committee have based their recommendations. As, however, the resolution of the 11th inst. was carried in committee by a majority of 17 to 3, I have no reason to suppose that any change will arise from a discussion on Mr. Councillor Haigh's motion as announced on the agenda paper for to-day's Council meeting. The action of the committee had been so pronounced that I cannot divest my mind of the idea that their vote was a "foregone conclusion," and whether "in the interests of the borough" or not I will leave the public to judge. But the members of the committee will remember that before retiring from your meeting on March 24th, I offered to place the whole of my staff, "plans, books, and documents of every description at the disposal of the committee," but not a single enquiry has been made of either myself of my clerks, and no examination whatever had taken place of the working of my department.

The only thing that I can hear that the committee have done is to prepare a tabulated statement of information as to the remuneration of borough surveyors of other towns, a course which was adopted on my appointment as borough surveyor in 1868, and in which the circumstances are in no way altered to-day. While I am satisfied in my own mind that the borough will neither be better nor cheaper managed by the proposed change, I feel that it would be useless on my part to shut my eyes to the feeling which at present predominates in the Council on that subject. I feel it my duty, therefore — much as I regret having to sever a long official connection with what I look upon as the best managed manufacturing town in England — to place my resignation in your hands, with my heartfelt thanks for the many kindesses shown to me by those friends with whom I have so harmoniously worked since my appointment eleven years ago.

I am, dear Sir, your obedient servant.
John H. Abbey

Richard Swarbrick Dugdale succeeded him the role of Borough Surveyor.

John Henry Abbey died of stomach cancer in November 1880, aged 49, and was buried on 30 November at Emmanuel Church in Lockwood.

Following his death, his friends paid for a new pulpit to be installed at Emmanuel Church in his memory.[16]


Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1881):

MR. JOHN HENRY ABBEY was born in the year 1831, and began his professional career as a pupil of Mr. Thomas Brook, surveyor, Huddersfield, after which he entered the office of Mr. Martin, a civil engineer of Leeds.

In the year 1853 he was appointed surveyor to the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners but resigned in 1857 to commence practice on his own account, and to take up appointments rendered vacant by the death of his uncle Mr. Mallinson Abbey, as surveyor to several important turnpike trusts and landed estates. On the incorporation of the borough of Huddersfield in 1868 he was elected borough surveyor, and in that capacity rendered valuable assistance to the corporation in the promotion of and carrying into effect several improvement bills; but owing to numerous engagements he resigned that appointment in August 1879.

He attained considerable eminence as a valuer, and his general knowledge and experience led to his being extensively employed in arbitration cases. He was architect of the new borough offices in Ramsden Street, and also of the public hall now in course of completion in Princess Street. Mr. Abbey was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 11th of May, 1869, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 27th of November, 1877. He died, after a short illness, of cancer in the stomach, in the fiftieth year of his age, on the 27th of November, 1880.

Selection of Local Works

Courtesy of Christopher Marsden's list of Huddersfield Architects:

Further Reading


Notes and References

  1. Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Oct/1854).
  2. "Mr. John Henry Abbey and Ourselves" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Apr/1855).
  3. Edward J. Law: Abbey Family.
  4. Born 27 July 1857 and baptised 21 August 1857 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Died aged 30 and was buried on 26 June 1888 at Emmanuel Church.
  5. Born 9 March 1859 and baptised 5 May 1857 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Married 29 August 1905 to widower cotton merchant Captain Whiteley Tolson at St. Andrew, Huddersfield, and then moved to Oaklands, Greenhead Lane, Dalton.
  6. Born 15 November 1860 and baptised 13 December 1860 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Likely didn't marry. Died 1922 in Cheshire, aged 61.
  7. Born 15 January 1863 and baptised 27 February 1863 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Lived at Rockland House, Bradford Road, Huddersfield. Died 29 September 1933, aged 70, and was buried on 2 October at Emmanuel Church.
  8. Born 15 January 1863 and baptised 27 February 1863 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Died March 1891, aged 28, and was buried on 27 March at Emmanuel Church.
  9. Born 1 April 1867 and baptised 2 May 1867 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Married 10 October 1888 to banker's clerk Arthur Neild at Huddersfield Parish Church. Died October 1929, aged 62, and was buried on 30 October at Emmanuel Church.
  10. Born 12 November 1869 and baptised 23 December 1869 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Died 13 March 1963.
  11. Born 6 November 1874 and baptised 24 December 1874 at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood. Died July 1915, aged 40, and was buried on 30 July at Emmanuel Church.
  12. Kyrle's name appears several times in contemporary newspapers, and was charged with being "drunk and disorderly" in Leamington (May 1852 & October 1863) and in Oxford (November 1878). The timing of the second offence in Leamington means that Ward returned there after serving his month-long sentence at the Wakefield House of Correction.
  13. "Magistrates in Petty Sessions" in Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Jul/1863).
  14. "Lockwood Mechanics' Institute: Foundation Stone Laying" in Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Apr/1865).
  15. "Meeting of the Town Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Oct/1868).
  16. "The Late Mr. J. H. Abbey: Erection of a Memorial Pulpit" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (18/Oct/1881).

John Henry Abbey (1831-1880)


Architects | Borough Engineers | Buried at Emmanuel Church, Lockwood | People | People connected to Lockwood | Surveyors
This page was last modified on 29 May 2019 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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