Who would have thought that forty years could make such a difference in Slaithwaite? Pause for a moment to think. Messrs. John and Samuel Horsfall at Clough House, Tape Mill, and later at Spa Mill — not one left to tell the tale. John Farrar, the fine old English sportsman, who was one of the most truthful men I ever knew, had Carr Lane fields (now filled with mills and cottages) as a rabbit warren. He was a woollen scribbler at Bank Gate. The mills were burnt down, the old gentleman died, and everyone of the remaining family have gone away. Waterside, once the busy cotton mill, under Messrs. Scholes and Varley, now in ruins by fire.
Not one of these two respectable families, who were once the pride of the place and held all the leading positions, remain in Slaithwaite. The Haighs, of Upper Mill, are much the same; the factory has been rebuilt; changed in its business; and none of the old stock left to tell the tale. But the saddest loss is that of Mr. R. Beaumont, one of the most honoured and respected men in the Colne Valley. A man who led a quiet religious life, and who could never do too much for Pole Moor Baptist Chapel, where he was a life-long member; liberal to a fault, if this could be, in its support; I don’t believe he ever spent 20s. per week on himself. He was a good alto singer in his day, a very successful man of business, only two sons, to whom, when he died, he left ample fortunes; and yet, all the money has been lost, the two sons dead, and Spa Mill sold to pay the debts of the late Mr. Andrew. What a recital, and what a lesson!
Mr. G. Haigh and Mr. J. Brierley at one time were the rising hope of Slaithwaite; interested in everything that was for the good and advancement of the place. They began with nothing, and yet made good fortunes. The former made not less than £120,000 in twenty years, and unfortunately died at 43 years of age, leaving a large business at Brook Mills, which were built in the early part of his life, and at which he made most of his money. But after his death things went badly. The two boys who took it over were rather unfortunate. So much so, and with good sense, that, rather than lose all they had, the business was given up, and they deemed it best to sell the mills to Mr. William Crowther, their nearest neighbour, to whom everybody wishes continued success.
Everyone must regret that the vicissitudes of life should be such that, in the space of forty years, splendid mills should be built, large fortunes made, a gigantic trade established; and now all gone, save and except the handsome fortune made secure to the rest of the family, who, happily, did not go into the trade. Mr. Brierley died early. Soon after his wife followed. The children are living and filling into honourable positions. But the trade has been given up and the mills sold to Messrs. Pogson and Company, a firm connected with the rising hope and great prosperity of the Colne Valley.
Such is birth, life, and death in business, as well as in anything else. May those who are up take heed of these lessons, lest they fall also; and those who are down for a time take to heart again the saying: the sun, though dark to-day, will undoubtedly shine to-morrow, which has been the motto of Slaithwaite’s modern life.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden