The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) by Henry James Morehouse
To the Right Honourable George Frederick Samuel, Earl de Grey and Ripon.
In the desire to Dedicate to your Lordship the result of my humble Topographical labours, I was influenced by the relation in which your Lordship stood towards the West-Riding of Yorkshire, as one of its Representatives in Parliament, at the time when this work was announced for publication. Although that relation exists no longer, the desire which prompted my wish remains unabated; and I gladly embrace the opportunity afforded me of expressing my sincere admiration of the zeal which your Lordship still manifests in promoting the welfare of all classes of the community, by upholding in their efficiency our time-honoured institutions — both civil and religious : whilst consistently supporting every measure tending to adapt them to the altered circumstances and requirements of the age.
With sentiments of sincere and grateful respect, I avail myself of the permission so courteously granted to DEDICATE this work to your Lordship ; and have the honour to remain
In giving to the public the result of his labours, the Author feels it due both to them and himself, briefly to state some of the circumstances which led him to engage in this work.
On settling down, more than thirty years ago, to the active duties of a laborious profession, in his native valley, surrounded by an industrious and enterprising people actively engaged in manufactures, and amidst scenery highly diversified and pleasing, the desire to know something of the district and its inhabitants in the “ olden time,” would seem a natural and perhaps a grateful curiosity.
On referring to the topographical works connected with this part of Yorkshire, he found them almost silent in relation to his own parish.
Dr. Whitaker, whose learned and comprehensive labours in the field of topography are deserving of grateful remembrance, gives in his large and expensive work, “Loidis et Elmete,” only a very brief account of the Church of Burton, the materials for which seem to have been hastily gathered, and after describing the descent of the lordship of Burton, he incidentally mentions Storthes Hall, the residence of the Horsfalls, and then he says, “ Scarce another family seems to have arisen in the parish, which begins almost immediately to approach the hills, and where the climate becomes more ungenial, and the soil less productive.” He therefore passes over the remainder of the parish, recording only the names of the townships, and their population; except that in relation to Holmfirth Chapel [Church], he furnishes some data respecting its early foundation.
Watson’s and other histories of Halifax contain allusions to the district; but with the exception of it being part of the same baronial fee, they furnish little directly to the Author’s purpose.
Mr. Hunter, in his “South Yorkshire,” records incidentally some interesting facts. From that very excellent and valuable work, and from his “Hallamshire,” the Author has derived considerable assistance in the prosecution of his labours, either in guiding his enquiries or in furnishing more material aid.
While the concluding sheets of this work were passing through the press, the Author received the painful intelligence of Mr. Hunter’s death, at the advanced age of seventy-eight years.
He had been many years an Assistant Commissioner of Public Records,—a situation for which he was eminently fitted by his extensive knowledge and accurate attainments. It is due to Mr. Hunter’s memory that the Author also acknowledge here his personal obligations, for the readiness and uniform courtesy with which he replied to his numerous enquiries in relation to Yorkshire topography : a subject with which he was peculiarly conversant, and in the advancement of which he manifested a lively interest.
In the summer of 1852, shortly after the Holmfirth catastrophe, Mr. Hunter was led to visit this neighbourhood. On that occasion he did the Author the honour of spending the day with him, when they went, in company with a mutual friend, over the course of the devastating flood, which seemed deeply and painfully to impress him. His unabated attachment to his native county — the scenes of his early topographical labours — was remarkably manifested on the occasion of a visit a few years ago, by the circumstance of choosing for himself a resting-place in the church-yard of Ecclesfield, a pleasant village in Hallamshire. There he was interred, May 15th, 1861.
The Author has already intimated the comparative absence of published records connected with the district, and he believes no attempt had hitherto been made towards compiling its historical materials. With a view to satisfy his own curiosity, he adopted the plan of jotting down from time to time, when opportunity offered, traditions and facts communicated by aged intelligent persons, which seemed deserving of notice ; and likewise took notes of all deeds and other evidences connected with “olden time,” which came in his way ; also copies of ancient charters, whether belonging to his own or the surrounding districts : thus his materials accumulated insensibly, when at length an unexpected circumstance occurred, which placed in his possession a number of family documents and evidences, some of which proved of considerable local historic value.
Although it must be admitted that by this plan, many documents of no real importance have been noted, still, on the whole, he believes much interesting matter has been preserved which otherwise might have perished.
What was, therefore, first begun to satisfy his own curiosity, at length so far rewarded his researches, and enlisted his sympathies, that at the desire of some of his friends, for whose judgment he felt great deference, he was led, in 1844, to issue a prospectus, with the intention of laying before the public the result of his labours. The public did not then evince much interest in the undertaking, and it was therefore postponed, if not abandoned.
It was not till the autumn of 1858 that some of his friends again urged upon him the importance of supplying such a desideratum, and kindly undertook to interest themselves to obtain subscribers among their acquaintance. The question of the intrinsic value of the materials here laid before the public, the Author leaves to the decision of his readers, feeling more solicitous himself respecting a judicious selection and appreciation of them for topographical purposes.
While thus engaged, he has experienced much inconvenience and serious disadvantage in being so remote from a good topographical library, to which he could, consequently, only have an occasional access, and for very brief periods. This circumstance must necessarily have rendered his work deficient in literary research and taste, although he believes it has had the effect of stimulating his enquiries, and leading him to rely more upon the result of his own collections of local evidences, which perhaps may be accepted by those of his readers in the district, as compensating to some extent for the deficiency in artistic merit.
Humble as his efforts have been, the Author is free to confess that as his enquiries and researches advanced, the subject itself rose in interest and importance ; he trusts that something of this feeling may be excited in his readers ; and if the work should in any degree contribute to increase the taste for such enquiries in districts where little has hitherto been done, the Author will feel satisfied.
Another remark the Author takes leave to make respecting himself in relation to his topographical labours. He first began to arrange his materials and to give them an historical character, during a period of protracted ill health, when the subject was taken up with a view to “beguile the tedious hours ;” had it been otherwise, the time which must necessarily have been bestowed upon their arrangement could not have been given; and he would have rested content with the pleasure derived from collecting them.
Since the first issue of his prospectus in 1844, several of his friends to whom he had been under obligation, have passed from among us, and are now beyond the reach of grateful acknowledgments.
To the Clergy and Dissenting Ministers of the district, the Author has been much indebted ; and from many other friends — especially Henry Lumb, Esq., the venerable Deputy-Steward of the Manor of Wakefield — the Author has received valuable aid : to each and all he begs to return his cordial thanks.