The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) by Henry James Morehouse
The district which is here brought under the notice of the reader, adjoins upon, and forms a part of, the extensive mountain range called the English Apennines, the highest part of which is 1860 feet above the level of the sea. It is intersected by numerous ravines and deep narrow vallies. Two considerable rivers take their rise upon the moorlands within the Graveship of Holme, — the Dearne and the Don, which traverse the southern parts of Yorkshire. The rivulet which descends through the Burton valley, takes its rise in the townships of Shelley, Shepley, and Cumberworth; and unites with the Colne below Huddersfield. The river Holme or Holne, also takes its rise upon the high ground to the west, and is formed by the confluence of several small brooks and rivulets at Hinchliff Mill, whence it flows in a rapid stream in a northerly direction; receiving in its course through the Holme valley a number of rivulets until its junction with the Colne, near Huddersfield.
The whole of the district is composed of hill and dale, and abounds in fertile spots and romantic scenery ; and is the highest part of the southern boundary of the Upper Division of the Wapentake of Agbrigg. Notwithstanding the apparent irregularity of its surface, an attentive observer will perceive a great uniformity in the general contour of the hills, as well as of the more open plains, which stretch out and dip towards the east, or nearly so, while the different strata of underlying rocks are seen occasionally breaking out on the more abrupt western side. Yet the natural form of the hills which are covered with verdure is generally smooth and regular. On the high moorlands near “Cook’s Study,” are numerous quarries of slate and flags, which, since the enclosure of these commons, not only supply the surrounding neighbourhood, but a very large demand from the Lancashire and Cheshire manufacturing districts, whither the stone is conveyed from the Dunford Bridge Station, along the Sheffield and Manchester Railway, which traverses this high district.
In the eastern part of the parish, coal is being worked of a superior quality, being part of the Emley Moor beds; these are, however, quickly thrown out, while in the more western part, there are only two thin seams of coal varying from one to two feet in thickness, both of which are thrown out on approaching the principal stream of the Holme valley; and though of inferior quality are much in demand for manufacturing purposes. These are the lowest known beds, except the mountain mine, which is entirely worthless. In the shale, above the coal, occur several thin beds of iron-stone, which are found to yield a large percentage of metal, of a superior quality, affording sufficient encouragement to induce the formation of a highly respectable company, who have obtained a lease of the coal and minerals under the common lands of the Graveship, from the Lord of the Manor, and a considerable plant has recently been erected (1858) on Crowedge, in the township of Hepworth, for the smelting of the ore.
The district has the advantage of direct railway communication, it being intersected by the Huddersfield and Penistone line, belonging to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company, which passes north and south, from which a line of about two miles in length branches off at the Brockholes Station to Holmfirth, where it terminates.
The whole of Yorkshire constituted part of the territory of the Brigantines, and was occupied by that fearless and warlike people, who had, however, to succumb to the superior skill and prowess of the Romans. It can scarcely be questioned that when the Britons were driven from the more fertile parts of the country, they took refuge in these mountainous districts, which were then so covered with timber and underwood, intersected with bogs and swamps, as to render them, for a time at least, secure in these fastnesses.
Of the existence of this people here, few vestiges now remain, or at least have come under our observation. In 1830, a “British Celt (or stone battleaxe) was found near Pike-Law above Meal-Hill: it measured rather more than seven inches in length, and about three inches in breadth at the broadest part. Its weight was two pounds ten ounces. In shape it nearly resembled the common axe of the present day, — the cutting edge wedge-shaped, and about three inches broad on the face; the other end being rounded, and about five inches and a half in circumference.” This relic shortly afterwards fell into the hands of the late Mr. Thomas Pitt, of Huddersfield.
In 1845, another of these weapons was found near High-Flats, in the township of Denby, in a piece of common land, the property of Mr. Herbert Dickenson, of that place, by one of his workmen, while engaged in making a drain, and at about two feet from the surface. It is wedge-shaped, is six inches and three-quarters in length, and about three inches and a quarter on the cutting edge, gradually tapering to the other end to about two inches, being about one inch and three-quarters at the thickest part; the cutting edge is formed by a rapid slope on each side, of nearly two inches and a half, forming a uniform convex edge, like that of a common axe, and as fine as the quality of the stone would admit. It has a dusky white appearance, with a polished surface — of a close texture, having much the look of iron-stone where the polish has been slightly rubbed off. Its weight is two pounds nine ounces. (See engraving.)
No Roman roads traversed this district, or approached within several miles,— that which passed over Slack, in Longwood, being probably the nearest; and to which place Watson, and Whitaker of Manchester, have assigned the Cambodunum of the Romans, as described in the second Iter of Antoninus, from Mancunium (Manchester) to Eboracum (York). This is, however, by no means a settled question, and when all the evidences are duly considered, perhaps the suggestion of Horsley may appear the most probable, that in Greetland, in the parish of Halifax, was in reality the site of this long disputed Roman station.
The only existence of earthworks, probably appertaining to this remote period, occur on the Low Moor, adjoining the Denby enclosure; the most material part, however, being within that township, on a gentle eminence, at a considerable elevation, called Castle-Hill, about a quarter of a mile from the boundary of the Grraveship, on the right-hand side of the road leading to High-Flats. But whether of British, Roman, or early Saxon origin, it seems now difficult to determine, as one half of the trenches have been levelled for the purpose of agriculture. The subjoined sketch will best convey to the reader its precise appearance. At the low comer of the entrenchment, near where a stone quarry has been opened, is a fine spring of water.
It may be remarked here that the two large British weapons which have already been described, were found at no great distance from this place — the one found near High-Flats being within half-a-mile to the east, and the other scarcely exceeding a mile to the west of these earthworks. This would seem to give some countenance to the supposition that this encampment on Castle-Hill had a British origin. No remains have, however, been found on the spot to furnish satisfactory data for determining the question.
On the road from Piper Well, towards the Broadstone which runs nearly in a straight line from north to south, and forms the boundary of the Graveship, separating it from the townships of Cumberworth and Denby, is a plot of common land which has recently been brought into cultivation. It was purchased at the enclosure, by the late Mr. Isaac P. Newton, of Stagwood-Hill, but is now the property of Mr. Arthur B. Newton, his son, and of Mr. Charles Lockwood and Mr. John Robertson, in right of their respective wives.
This piece of ground was anciently called “Burnt Cumberworth.” Under what circumstances it came to be so designated it is now impossible satisfactorily to say.
Along these several plots of land previously to their being cultivated, were a considerable number of ridges, running in tolerably straight parallel lines of irregular lengths of six to ten or twelve yards; these were crossed at right angles, at irregular distances of from seven or eight yards to fifteen or twenty, the lines not always very straight or continuous. Into many of these comparatively square compartments there was an entrance left in the trench of from one to two yards in width. In some of them the trenches were complete, forming a square, while other portions had no corresponding trench at the opposite end. These ridges were very uniform in height, seldom exceeding half-a-yard; they disappeared suddenly on approaching the declivities, but reappeared at some distance on higher ground.
The stones which had been gathered off these plots were generally very small, and some of them of a red colour, indicating the effects of fire, but none, so far as could be learnt from the person who farms the property, shewed any appearance of having been employed for building purposes. On that piece of land adjoining the Broadstone rivulet, now the property of Mr. A. B. Newton, the farmer, when engaged in breaking it up, discovered a floor composed of moderate sized grit stones, not squared but fitted irregularly together, covering a space of about four yards square. Several of these stones lay near the place when I examined it, one side of each being rough and uneven, while the other was smooth and regular as if caused by the attrition of the feet; no other indication appeared of its having been a habitation.
About three hundred yards distant from this place on the declivity towards the rivulet, a considerable quantity of iron scoriae had been found, which the farmer had endeavoured to bury, by covering with soil; many pieces of the scoriae I readily found, which contain a considerable proportion of metal.
No coins have been found at Castle-Hill, or Burnt Cumberworth; but a British arrow head of flint was found in 1835, by Mr. Joseph Firth, of Carr-Hill, about three hundred yards to the west of Burnt Cumberworth, when the commons were being broken up. We subjoin an engraving of its actual size. Although it has been chipped into shape, the edges are remarkably fine, but the point has been broken off. These discoveries probably may give some force to the conjecture that Burnt Cumberworth was a British settlement, nevertheless the earthworks are not very characteristic of that people; therefore, amidst our conjectures, it still remains uncertain to what people these works are to be assigned.
It may here be mentioned that about fifteen years since a small flint weapon, weighing exactly six ounces and a half, was found on Meltham Moor, within about three hundred yards of the boundary lines which divide these commons from those of the Graveship of Holme, and Netherthong township. It was discovered by James Redfearn, while engaged in breaking up a piece of land, and is now in the author’s possession. It is five inches and a half in length, with a polished surface. Its cutting edge is about two inches, which is wrought very fine; it gradually tapers to about an inch at the other end. (See the engraving.)
If we have no positive appearance of earthworks belonging to the Romans in the district, we possess incontestable evidences of their presence, by the occasional discovery of their money; some of these coins we will proceed to notice. There is little doubt that single coins may occasionally have been picked up, which, having fallen into the hands of persons ignorant of their historic value, and regardless of their preservation, have been lost, and no account of them preserved.
In 1830, an Aureus of Carinus was found in Holmfirth by James Barroclough, in his garden, in South-Lane. It shortly afterwards passed into the hands of the late John Harpin, Esq., J.P., of Birk’s House. Obverse, a laureated bust, with legend, m. aur. carinus nob. cabs ; reverse, Victory-standing on a globe, with a palm-branch in the left hand, and a wreath in the right; legend, victoria aug. This coin is in very fine preservation.
A Theca of Roman money was found at Wistance in Thurstonland, on the 22nd May, 1838, by a labourer on the farm then occupied by Mrs. Crowther, the property of C. H. Bill, Esq. The person was employed in digging around the sides of a field near to the house, when he struck his spade into the treasure, to his no small astonishment and joy. It was estimated that there would be from six to eight hundred small copper pieces, most of which were quickly dispersed through the neighbourhood. They were all encrusted by a green oxide, by which many of them were closely cemented together, and on its removal, many were found so much corroded as to render it impossible to assign them to their respective reigns. Nearly all of them are of the third or small brass, while several are distinguished by somewhat rare reverses.
The following constitute the series in my possession, viz :—
Of the coins found at Wistance, those of Carausius were the most numerous and the largest in size, except those of Probus.
These constitute the whole series that have come under my observation.
About twenty years since a Roman coin was found near Meal-Hill, in the township of Hepworth, of a white metal (not silver); but owing to a small piece having been broken off, it is not very clear to what Emperor it is to be assigned. An experienced Numismatist assigns it to Caracalla.
A bronze spear-head, measuring about six inches in length, was found on Cartworth Moor, by one of the servants of the late Mr. Joseph Barber, of Hinchliffe Mill, while engaged in digging peat, about fifty years since, of which we here subjoin an engraving. The socket is much wasted, and the side loops are worn through. This interesting relic was presented to me by Mr. Barber, and is now in my possession. In the adjoining township of Meltham, are the remains of a Roman encampment, on the moor below West Nab, a short distance to the left of the road which leads thence to the village, and in the property of Mr. Uriah Tinker, of Bent House, forming nearly a square of about four chains. When I visited the place about twenty years since, in company with the owner and other friends, the whole was very distinct and perfect. This piece of ground has since been brought into cultivation, yet the trenches are still visible. This encampment would appear only to have been made to supply some temporary emergency.
We have no evidence to prove what progress had been made here by the Romans in the cultivation of the soil. It is to the Saxons we are indebted for all those political and social arrangements and institutions, arising from their conversion to Christianity, which through a series of changes and modifications have descended to our time: to them also we owe the origin of our villages and townships, and the division of our parishes. Their money, however, is seldom to be found; unlike the Romans in this particular. Neither are there any earthworks nearer than Castle-Hill, in the adjoining parish of Almonbury, to testify to their skill or mark them as a warlike people. That high and commanding situation so difficult of approach, must have impressed them with its great importance in regard to the surrounding country, and which they consequently fortified with deep trenches and strong breastworks, converting it into a triple fortification, rendering it at that period an almost impregnable fortress.
Connected with this period it may here be mentioned that Querns, or hand-mill stones, have been occasionally found in the district. These rude machines for the grinding of corn, are of great antiquity, having been introduced into this country by the Romans. Their form is pretty generally known, as their thickness no doubt has greatly contributed towards their preservation. Their grinding surface was about twelve or thirteen inches in diameter. This early invention was succeeded by another of a more efficient but of a more fragile construction, and therefore much more rarely met with perfect. One of these, an upper stone, of which a sketch is here given, was found about twenty years ago, in a very perfect state, on breaking up a piece of common land on Wooldale Cliff, and is now in the author’s possession. It consists of a flat circular grit stone, about three inches in thickness, and of about twenty inches in diameter, somewhat concave on the under surface; in the centre of the stone is a circular hole, of about two inches and a half in diameter, which is surrounded on the upper surface at a distance of about three inches, by a circular ridge. At the outer rim of the stone, is a small hole through which a cord had been attached, and by which it was turned about.
These rude machines had ultimately to give way, when lords of manors, after the Norman Conquest, erected water-mills to grind the com of their tenants.
We have already stated that the district adjoins upon, and forms a part of, that high range of hills which divides the northern counties, and which by attracting the clouds, renders the adjacent country subject to frequent and heavy falls of rain.
The draining and cultivation of large tracts of moorland, and the improved management of the ancient enclosures within the last quarter of a century, have materially contributed to the health, as well as the general prosperity, of the district.
Like many other parts of Yorkshire, we find these districts have occasionally been visited with pestilential disease.
At two distinct but remote periods, the parish of Kirkburton has been visited with the Plague. Its first appearance was in 1558, and was confined for the most part to Burton, Highburton, and adjacent townships, extending to Woodsome Mill, in the adjoining parish of Almonbury; a few cases also occurred in Holm-firth. It ought to be stated that Kirkburton and its immediate vicinity, was then the most populous part of the parish. The Plague began early in June, 1558, and continued till the following October, during which time 120 persons fell a sacrifice to its malignity. The first entry of the burials in the parish register took place on the 11th June; from which date one or more occurred daily up to the 23rd, after which no dates are given. Opposite the above-mentioned entries is written “Plague tyme.”
The following is the remainder of the entry of burials:—
During these four sad months there is neither baptism nor marriage recorded!
Dr. Whitaker gives the following extract from the register of the parish church of Almonbury. “The plague began at Woodsome Mill, in the house of Thomas Scammonden, whereby in some four days, the said Thomas, with Robert, Ralph, Elizabeth, and Dorothy, his sons and daughters, died, and were buried as follows:— Robert buried 26th [July], at ten o’clock at night, by William and Beatrix; his brother and sister; Ralph buried 27th, at nine at night, by the said William and Beatrix; Thomas and Elizabeth his daughter buried together the 30th, at nine at night, by his wife and the said William and Beatrix; Dorothy buried 10th August, at seven at night, by her mother and her brother William.”
These simple but touching recitals tell but too painfully their own sad story! But to arrive at a tolerably clear view of the extent of this calamitous visitation, it seems requisite that we should ascertain, by approximation, the amount of population in the parish at that time.
It is difficult to fix any precise data upon which to calculate the probable amount of population of parishes at that period. It has been stated by some writers, that by taking the average of births or baptisms for several consecutive years, and for every such baptism to multiply by 30, will lead to a pretty correct estimate. The number of baptisms within the parish of Kirkburton, for the five years preceding the plague, averaged about 70 per annum, which, multiplied by 30, gives us a population for the whole parish of 2,100 persons. Out of this number we find no less than about 120 persons carried off by the plague in the short space of four months, being nearly six per cent, of the whole population!
In 1665, the plague again appeared in the parish, within the township of Hep-worth, where the population was thinly scattered. Here, according to tradition, it had been occasioned through a quantity of the wearing apparel of a relative who had died of the plague, having been sent from London to Foster Place, a farm-house not far from the village. No contemporary records have been found of this visitation, neither is the number of its victims known. Since that time these parishes have not suffered from any similar visitation.
The following is a table of baptisms, marriages, and burials, at the parish church of Burton, from 1551 to 1685, being on the average of several years, except in particular instances where the mortality has been unusually large or otherwise in any one year.
|1551 to 1554 inclusive, the average||71||13||34|
|1558, died of the Plague 121, and 37 of ordinary sickness||29||1||158|
|1571 to 1573 inclusive, the average||66||16||33|
|1583 to 1586 inclusive, the average||71||19||48|
|1591 to 1595 inclusive, the average||69||20||38|
|1601 to 1605 inclusive, the average||71||16||41|
|1644, 1647, 1648, and 1649, the average of these years||40||9||64|
|1651 to 1656 inclusive, the average||44||13||33|
|1663 to 1666 inclusive, the average||86||21||61|
|1681 to 1685 inclusive, the average||86||24||68|
The year 1556 appears to have been one of unusual mortality, but from what cause does not appear. The great mortality in 1558 arose from the plague. The burials in the year 1561 were unusually small. In 1643, the number of burials were considerably larger than the average of years, and nearly double that of the preceding year, exhibiting the effects of the sanguinary contests of the civil war.
In the diary of Mr. Arthur Jessop, a medical practitioner near Holmfirth, in the first half of the last century, who was about forty years actively engaged in practice, we find recorded the periodical visitation of the small-pox, which produced a fearful mortality, more particularly among the juvenile population. When we contemplate these ravages, and call to mind the discovery of vaccination by Dr. Jenner, which has so happily arrested the progress of this loathsome scourge to humanity, we feel that the name of Jenner deserves to stand among the foremost benefactors of his species.
Perhaps a better opportunity may not present itself than here offers, to give a few brief particulars of Mr. Jessop, to whose diary I have been under many obligations for the notice of matters and incidents of contemporaneous history. He was a native of the district, and died in 1751, at the age of 69 years. The diary commences with the year 1730, and terminates on the 30th March, 1751, within three days of his death. It is written for the most part in short hand, and comprises a great variety of subjects, but more particularly those connected with his own professional and other engagements, and are, therefore, of too personal and domestic a character, to be largely quoted; but it may not be altogether uninteresting to give my readers some idea of the labours and trials to which a medical practitioner was exposed in this district a century ago.
Situated among a comparatively thin and scattered population—surrounded on every side with narrow and dreadfully bad roads, which seemed to meander through the valleys, as if they had no particular destination, winding their course up the steep hill sides along precipitous banks and rocks, and over the open plains of wild moorlands, which they intersected, unprotected by walls or fences — he had to pursue his weary way on horseback or on foot, in the discharge of his duties, even through pelting storms and winter snows.
These professional districts were then wide, but the roads were generally well known; yet the journeys were often perilous. The most frequent causes of danger arose from thick fogs, or sudden darkness rendering invisible the usual landmarks: several of these perilous journeys Mr. Jessop narrates—two of which we will here briefly record.
“1748, January 22nd, a cold frosty morning with snow. I was called to Joseph Horsfall’s, of Carlcoats, to visit his son; after leaving there I called at Mr. Empson’s; I came away from thence at a quarter-past three, but a heavy fog came on and I was unable to find my way. I wandered about I knew not where, for two hours and three-quarters, when I at last got to the Royd, to John Swinden’s, at six of the clock; at my request he took a horse to guide me towards Maythorn, but could not find his way, and said he would go no further, for we should both be lost; and we turned back, and I stayed all night. I was troubled for them at home, for I feared they would think I was lost, and make a great stir. I got up in the morning as soon as I could, and went home, but my brother, and a company with him, were gone to seek me. They went a long way to seek me, as they did not return till near two at clock.”
But before this time he had experienced a much worse fate, having fallen into a deep stone quarry, at Wooldale Cliff. He was then 63 years old. He afterwards measured the depth of the quarry, and found it “six yards and a half.”
“1744, December 15th, being Saturday; returning home on foot through the village of Wooldale, I mist my way through the West-field, it having suddenly come on very dark; I fell into a stonepit on my back and leg, and was so hurt that I could not stir, but was forced to lie there. I suppose it was about 6 of the clock in the evening when I fell in, and it was extremely dark. I lay in the stonepit all night, and till the afternoon service was done at Holmfirth (church), having laid nearly 23 hours, when Elias Radcliffe found me, and it was thought that about 200 persons came about me, and they carried me home, as I was very much hurt, and almost frozen to death.”
It is pleasing to find him at this time recording the kind sympathy of his surrounding friends, as indicated by a variety of substantial tokens; his professional brethren also manifested much thoughtful attention and kindness; among others, a Mr. Hardcastle, of Wakefield, a surgeon of some celebrity; although they seem to have had little previous acquaintance, yet having heard of Mr. Jessop’s “misfortune,” in the words of the diary, thus testified his sympathy: “hearing a good character of me, was very sorry for my misfortune, and could well find in his heart to come and see me.” Mr. Jessop observes that this “Mr. Hardcastle was the grandson of the Mr. Hardcastle who took Nevison prisoner.”
The atmospheric changes here are often greater and the air colder and more piercing than in the less elevated districts; it is, therefore, probable that the class of diseases connected with the respiratory organs, as incident to children, may prevail more at certain seasons, yet the general salubrity of the atmosphere, and its bracing and healthful character, will bear a comparison with most other parts of the West-Riding. This is borne out by the statistical tables published by the Registrar General in his annual reports, as given in connexion with the Poor Law Unions.
The rate of mortality within the following Unions on the average of five years, from 1851 to 1855 inclusive :—
It will be seen that the mortality in the Sheffield Union is considerably larger than in any of the other here mentioned, arising from the nature of its manufacture, in which a large proportion of the population is engaged, while that of Huddersfield holds a position scarcely inferior to any here mentioned, if we except the Hemsworth Union, which comprises only a small agricultural population.
The district comprised within our topographical survey is divided into three sub-districts, for registration purposes, viz. — Kirkburton, Newmill, and Holmfirth. The following table shows the number of deaths in each, taking the average of five years, and the percentage upon the population, according to the census of 1851.
|Sub-Districts||Area in Statute Acres||Population in 1851||The average of Deaths over 5 years, from 1851 to 1855 inclusive||Rate of Deaths percent|
It is necessary to state in connexion with the Holmfirth district, that the per centage here given is somewhat increased, in consequence of the calamitous loss of life in the Holme Yalley, in 1852, by the bursting of the Bilberry Reservoir, when upwards of eighty persons perished.
The following instances of extreme longevity are recorded in the Register of the parish church of Burton.
The Registers of the parish church of Almonbury supply us also with the following, in connexion with this district.
In 1695 occurs the following remarkable record:
The vicar adds “these four burials took place at the parish church, within the space of forty-eight hours, and their united ages amounted to 354 years!”
In the year 1813, the clergy were required to record in Parochial Registers, the ages of all persons interred by them : previous to that time it was at the discretion of the officiating minister, who might be more or less curious to note extraordinary instances of longevity.
The following list of the names of persons who had attained the age of 95 years and upwards in this district, since 1813, has been copied from the Parochial Registers of Kirkburton and Holmfirth, and from the Registers under the Registration Act.
In addition to these, it may be stated that there are forty-one persons recorded to have attained the ages of from 90 to 94 years.
The district furnishes few apparent objects to gratify antiquarian taste, or to stimulate enquiry or research. It can boast of no monastic foundations even of the lesser kind, and its ecclesiastical edifices possess no indications beyond the ordinary class of village churches, and they are more than usually barren of monumental inscriptions, or remains of the remote past; so that evidences of the families of the resident owners of the soil, of the Plantagenet, and the Tudor periods, must be sought for elsewhere. We find no inscriptions prior to the 17th century.
The Town of Burton, from the circumstance of its being the site chosen for the Parish Church, was undoubtedly the most important place in the parish, and being at the eastern extremity, clearly indicates that the western part, at that time, possessed a very small population. Its importance is still further shown by its being constituted a Market Town. After the introduction of the woollen manufacture, the western part of the parish began to increase, and Holmfirth took its rise, and became a new centre of population, and has now attained no inconsiderable importance.
It may not be uninteresting to shew the relative importance of some of the towns and vills within the Wapentake of Agbrigg, as given in an ancient “Taxe” of the whole Wapentake, made probably about the reign of Edward III. It was probably an estreat roll, the amount for the whole Wapentake being £40 4s. 10d. (West's MSS.)
- Burton — £0 12s 0d
Shelley — £0 14s 6d
Shepley — £0 14s 0d
Cumberworth — £0 10s 0d
Thurstonland — £0 12s 0d
Holmfyrth — £1 3s 0d
Honeley — £0 11s 0d
Meltham — £0 12s 0d
Farneley Tyas — £0 15s 0d
Almonbury — £0 16s 0d
Hoderesfeld — 0 13s 4d
It will be seen that the seven townships in “Holmfyrth,” or Graveship of Holme, were not then assessed in amount equal to the townships of Shepley and Cumberworth.
In tracing the several sub-enfeudations within the limits of our enquiries, and in setting forth the families and pedigrees in connexion therewith, we have been led to deviate from the usual custom of topographical enquirers, by recording a number of other families; to which some of our readers may possibly take exception : but topography may be regarded as having, like the sciences, greatly extended and widened its range; and it surely would be giving a very inadequate view of an active manufacturing and commercial district, were we merely to furnish a record of a few comparatively wealthy families who have resided there, whose easy circumstances have precluded the necessity for active exertions, and the result of whose general habits of life could inspire no earnest desire for scientific or commercial enterprise and progress.
The yeomen, the class whom we now propose to notice, take their rise from a very remote period, and were seated upon small estates of their own, which they managed with industry, and lived upon the produce in frugality — having sufficient spur to exertion without the depressing anxiety of impending want. Men inured to such physical exertions were always ready to take up arms at the call of their chief lord, when dangers threatened or foes menaced; and their indomitable courage was equal to every trial: but the time at length arrived, when the barons no longer possessed the power to call these lion-hearted men to their sides to “redress an insult, or avenge a wrong.” They were, therefore, left to pursue uninterruptedly their rural occupations, “converting their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” Thus left free, they applied themselves to trade and commerce, and by the progress of the woollen manufacture here, were enabled greatly to improve their domestic and social condition.
Chaucer’s lively picture, in his Canterbury Tales, of an English Yeoman, sufficiently indicates the estimation in which this class was then held; and when it is remembered that Chaucer himself became “Yeoman to King Edward III.” it is a convincing proof of his regard for so honourable a distinction, as the representative of an important and most effective branch of the military strength of the kingdom.
A yeoman is there introduced as one of the attendants upon a “worthy knight.”
“A yeoman had he, and servants no mo
At that time, for him pleased to ride so;
And he was clad in coat and hood of green,
A sheafe of peacock arrows bright and keen
Under his belt he bare full thriftily;
Well could he dress his tackel yeomanly:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low,
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow.
A round head had he, with a brown visage;
Of wood craft knew he well all the usage;
Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer,
And by his side a sword and buckler,
And on that other side a gay dagger,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear;
A cristofre on his breast of silver shene;
And horn he bare, the baudrick was of green.
A forester was he soothly I guess.”
The designation of Yeoman, is of great antiquity, but as its true origin has not been generally understood, we may here be permitted to give a brief explanation.
There exists some difference of opinion as to its derivation. It is by some supposed to be derived from the Saxon zemœne, a common man, or one of the commonalty. Spelman regards it as the first degree of the Commons, freeholders who have lands of their own and live on good husbandry. Sir Thomas Smith defines a yeoman to be “a free-born Englishman, who may lay out of his own free land in yearly revenue, the sum of forty shillings.” It seems to us, however, that the title yeoman has a somewhat different origin — that it has reference rather to a military than a civil rank, and that it is derived from yew-man, so called from the preference given to that species of wood for bows used in battle — that is, the class of men who used the yew bow.
By an Act of Parliament, 13 Edward I., all persons were obliged to be furnished with bow and arrows; “but,” says Grose, in his Military Antiquities, vol. i., p. 142, “yew at length became so scarce, to prevent a too great consumption of it, bowyers were directed to make four bows of witch-hazel, ash, or elm, to one of yew: and no person under seventeen, unless possessed of moveables worth forty marks, or the son of parents having an estate of ten pounds per annum, might shoot in a yew bow.”
The object in planting yew trees in churchyards in remote times, has drawn forth from antiquarians a variety of conjectures ; perhaps the most generally received opinion is, that they were intended for the supply of the yew-bow, for the bowmen of each parish. Without attempting to enter into the several views which have been advanced on this subject, which would, for the most part, be foreign to our present purpose, we may observe that it seems extremely improbable that the supply derived from such a source would be at all adequate to the requirements of the times.
In the range of our topographical observations, which, however, only extend over a small district, the yew is by no means of common or promiscuous growth, yet in the immediate vicinity of many of our more ancient messuages or homesteads, formerly belonging to the class called yeomen, one or more of these ancient trees are often to be seen — these, in some instances, being the only indications now left as to the class of persons who had once been seated there, all other outward vestiges having long since disappeared. These time-worn remains had no doubt been cultivated by their ancient possessors with great care and veneration. Thus “the old yeomanry” supplied themselves from these trees with those excellent bows which rendered them the best and most dreaded archers in Europe. They regarded the yew-bow with as much satisfaction as the hero of modern times surveys his Minie rifle. The very protracted contest of “the War of the Roses,” and the deep and implacable hostility of its leaders, afforded but too ample an opportunity for a display of the prowess of the English Yeomanry. That Henry VII. was duly impressed with their valour and prowess at the battle of Bosworth Field, we may readily infer, from his establishing in the following year the “Yeomen of the Guards.”
Of the style of house inhabited by this class of persons, we have no remains of a very remote period; the earliest we possess do not go beyond the latter years of the reign of Elizabeth, and even these specimens are few, and have undergone many alterations to suit the convenience of succeeding generations, more especially as to their internal arrangements. Houses belonging to this class had before that time been constructed with wood and plaster, or but partially built with stone. In Elizabeth’s reign, houses began to be built in a more commodious style, and of a more substantial character, as stone then, to a considerable extent, took the place of wood. The windows, which before that period had been small narrow lights, were then made considerably larger, with mullions, and among the better kind, with transoms in one or more windows. These houses had usually one or two gables to the front, the entrance being often by a porch, and the chimneys frequently forming large projections.
The interior of the house usually consisted on one side of a spacious room or “house,” and a parlour beyond it, and on the other of a large kitchen and offices. These were divided from each other by partitions of strong oak. The parlour was usually the sleeping room of the worthy yeoman. The chambers or other sleeping apartments were low, dark, and dreary, and open to the roof. Notwithstanding the gratifying change from wood to stone, we find it was regarded by some conservative minds with unfavourable forebodings. Thus Hollinshed, in 1570, alluding to the preceding times, when the ordinary houses were unprovided with chimneys to conduct away the smoke, says, “now we have many chimneys, and yet our tenderlings complain of reumes catarres and poses; then had we none but reredoses and yet our heads did never ake; for as smoke in those days was supposed to be a sufficient hardning for the timber of the house, so it was reputed a far better medicine to keep the good man and his family from the quack.” He also says, “of old time, our country houses instead of glass, did use lattis, and that made of wicker or of old riftes of oak in checkwise.”
The furniture in those days was entirely of oak, and consisted, for the most part, of a large dining table, with seats or benches to match; chairs, an aumbry, several large and small chests, of which one or more usually presented fronts neatly carved and ornamented — sometimes having initials of the names and the dates upon them. A neat chest was often brought by the thrifty wife on her marriage, containing a part of her wardrobe; the linen also, which she brought, being often of her own spinning. The bedsteads were of massive oak, and frequently carved, and sometimes ornamented with figures. The walls of the house or kitchen were usually decorated with such weapons of warfare as were then, or had been, in use, and for which their owner evinced much regard.
A pleasing instance of one of this class of persons, we have met with, who resided in the adjoining parish of Penistone. Thomas West, of Underbank, in Hunshelf, made a disposition of his estate and effects among his family. The whole displays so much of the habits and manners of our ancestors in their domestic character, that we shall here briefly record it as illustrative of those times.
He made his will 1543, in which he directs his body to be “buryed within the piste church, of Penyston.” He was living, however, in 7 Elizabeth (1564), when he executed a deed of feoffment to William Walker, of Hunshelf, yeoman, and Thomas Walker, of West Bretton, tanner, of his “capital, messuages, and lands at Hunshelf and Snodden-Hill, for and until such tyme as they shall have receyved out of the rents and profetts thereof the full sum of fourescore and sexe pounds, for ye only use, profett, and comoditye of Alice West and Dorothye West, my doghters, towards ye prferment and attaynment of their marriage.”
He had, however, executed a deed, bearing date the first year of Elizabeth (1558), in which “I freely grant to John West, my sone and heire apparent, and to his heires males for ever, all those parcells of goods following and remaynyng att my chief capitall messuage at Hunshelf, within the parish of Penyston, That is to say, one counter, one almbyrye or cupboard, one gamer or one grett arke, being in the lathe or bame ther, and all my bedstocks being at Hunshelf aforesaid, one brasen morter with a pestell, and one sylver spone with a marlion in the end thereof; my best jacke and one bowe with a quyver of arrowes and one stele cappe, for this intent and purpose, yt ther they shall for ever remayne as heire-lomes.” And “all other my deade goods whatsoever they be remanyng and being at Hunshelf aforeseid. And also I gyve to the seid John West, and to his assignes for ever, my best horse, my sadell and brydill, my best gyrdill and purse, my best dagger and swerd. And all my tymbre lying and being within my croft at Hunshelf afforseid, and all other my tymbre lying and being ther in pyles, and all my sawen bords, &c.” To his son Thomas West, he gives all his “cattle at Hunshelf,” (except what is here above mentioned,) “and also all his goods and cattle moveable, unmoveable, as well quyck as dedd, of what kind or make or facion soever they be, being pasturyng or remaynyng at Littlebretton aforseid.”
In the Civil War in the reign of Charles I., the people of these districts, as well as the nation at large, were deeply interested and actively engaged. Though involving principles of the highest importance, both civil and religious, yet they were regarded with very opposite views, and maintained by each party, with a pertinacity almost incredible. While some arrayed themselves under the banners of the Royalists, others, and those a more numerous class in the West-Riding of Yorkshire, joined with equal earnestness and zeal the standard of the Parliamentarians.
It would seem next to an impossibility that in an active display of “physical force,” prudence and moderation should at all times prevail. Struggles like these could not take place without producing great social disorganization. This we find exemplified, in the history of that period, in this district. More than two centuries have passed since the scenes were enacted which we are about to record, and of which tradition has preserved only a vague and indistinct account. Some contemporary evidences, however, have been preserved, enabling us to furnish the following facts, which will not be read without interest by many of our readers acquainted with the district.
The following extract is from a petition which was drawn up about the year 1650, by the inhabitants of the chapelry of Holmfirth, who were anxious for some ecclesiastical changes, and therein they record some of their recent sufferings in the cause of the parliament.
It may seem somewhat difficult to fix the precise time when a detachment of the Earl of Newcastle’s army visited Holmfirth. From a careful examination into the evidences we have been able to consult, it is with some degree of confidence we can state, that it took place in the spring of 1643.
The following are briefly the facts. The Earl of Newcastle came to the assistance of the Royalists in Yorkshire, about the 30th November, 1642, where he held the principal command, till he was joined by Prince Rupert, at York, immediately before the decisive battle of Marston Moor, 1644, which was fatal to the Royal cause. Soon after the Earl arrived in Yorkshire, he settled garrisons at Leeds and Wakefield; the latter of which he made the head quarters, surrounding these by many smaller posts; one of which was at Barnsley. Sir Francis Wortley, who had been a “fast friend” of the Earl of Strafford, had also fortified his own house at Wortley, and about the same time he likewise made the church of Penistone a garrison, “from whence he roved up and down the country, robbing and taxing many honest people.”
About the close of the month of April, 1643, the Earl marched from Wakefield with a part of his army towards Rotherham, and thence to Sheffield, (leaving the greater part of it at Wakefield;) and having reduced those places, he was intending to proceed into Derbyshire, but received information that Sir Thomas Fairfax had defeated his forces at Wakefield — having fallen suddenly on them on the 21st May, capturing nearly all the troops he had left there, with his General of the Horse, Lord Goring, and his whole magazine : he immediately changed his course, and fell back upon York.
About six weeks after, the battle of Adwalton Moor took place, when the Parliamentarians suffered a defeat by the Earl of Newcastle, who pursued them to the borders of Lancashire. He also possessed himself of Halifax. “When I had received this sad intelligence,” says Lieutenant Colonel Roseworm, “I informed myself of the nature of the passes by which the enemy could most easily come upon us, and finding them capable of a sudden fortification, by the consent of the Deputy Lieutenants, I quickly helped nature with art, and strengthening Blackstone Edge and Blackgate, and manning them with soldiers, to prevent the Earl’s dangerous approach, by which means, being diverted like an angry storm with a gust, he went to the siege of Hull, whither Lord Fairfax and his son Sir Thomas had already taken refuge.” The Earl appeared with his whole army before Hull on the 2nd September, and continued the siege till the 11th October, when he drew off his army and marched to York. He was afterwards engaged in more distant parts of the country.
It was while the Earl of Newcastle was lying with his large army at Wakefield, in the spring of 1643, that a detachment was sent into those mountainous districts of Yorkshire, immediately to the west of Wakefield, (viz. — the parishes of Almonbury, Kirk-Burton, and Penistone,) whence at that period they could most readily be approached; and where the bias in favour of the parliament was very strong. Of this we have corroborative testimony in a letter from Sir Thomas Fairfax to his father, the Lord General Fairfax, which points to this event, written from Bradford, April 20th, 1643, in which he says — “This town is very weak, by reason many are gone to defend Ambry [Almonbury] and those parts; but I hear Captain Ratliffe is revolted to the enemy, and most of his company if not all, the other company, being not strong enough, retired to Elam [qu. Elland]: there Captain Morgan, who hath raised some dragoons, joins with them for the defence of those parts this day; some of Peniston men came also to demand aid, there being seventeen colours in Barnsley, five miles off them. I advised them to seek help from Rotherham and Sheffield, and whilst they stood upon their guards, to get their goods to places of most safeguard, for it will be impossible, without more horse, to defend the country from spoil.” . . . “The enemy lies strong at Wakfield.”
It is evident that the inhabitants of this district were, for the most part, favourable to the parliament, and many of them were deeply tinctured with republican sentiments, as we find from the petition already referred to, wherein they complain that “the armes of the late tyrant King were continued up in both the churches of Kirkburton and Almonburie, contrarie to the Act of Parliament in that case made for the abolishinge of Kingship.” The vicar of the parish, the Rev. Gamaliel Whitaker, on the contrary, was warmly attached to the cause of the King. This appears to have manifested itself very early, for we find that in 1642—3, he was displaced; and that the Rev. Daniel Clarke “was on the 14th March appoynted to officiate as vicar in the parish church of Kirk-Burton, in his stead, and to receive the profitts of the said vicaridge for his paynes, till farther orders bee taken by both Houses of Parliament.”
Judging, therefore, from the political and religious bias of the parishioners, it is not improbable the displacement of Mr. Whitaker had arisen in a great measure through their agency.
In the autumn of the year 1643, the cause of the parliament began to brighten, and continued steadily to advance till these sanguinary conflicts were brought to a close, by the entire subversion of the Royalists, and the death of the King. Whether the attack made by the army under the Earl of Newcastle, upon the inhabitants of Holmfirth, had been at the instigation of Mr. Whitaker can now only be matter of conjecture; but what shortly afterwards befel him, seems to imply that the inhabitants regarded it as such; for, not long after, a party of soldiers from Woodhead (Parliamentarians) went in the night to Burton to carry off Mr. Whitaker to Manchester, “where he died in a month of grief and ill usage.” Whether any resistance had been offered on the part of the vicar or his friends, there exists no evidence to shew, but tradition states that Mrs. Whitaker was shot in the staircase of the parsonage.
The parish register has the following record — “Hester Whitaker, wife of Gamaliel Whitaker, vicar of Kirkburton, whoe was slaine the 12th day at night January instant, and was buried the 15th day, 1643-4.”
There is a tradition also which reports, that when the soldiers were on their way to Burton, they called upon a Mr. Firth, of Shepley Hall, to go along with them, to direct them to the vicarage. This he was unwilling to do, but was compelled to join them, and accordingly he had to mount on horseback behind one of the troopers. On their way, he, however, seized a favourable opportunity and slipped off the horse, and took refuge in an adjoining wood, and thus freed himself from their unwelcome company.
At this distance of time we must not expect to arrive at a precise knowledge of all the circumstances which influenced parties in these painful transactions. There are several concurring circumstances which go far to prove that Mr. Whitaker’s political views were very unpopular among a large proportion of his parishioners; and, that we may better understand his position in relation to the cause which he had espoused, it will be necessary to state something of his family and social connexions.
He was the son of the Rev. William Whitaker, rector of Thornhill, and had married Hester Marshall, sister to the wife of Thomas Wentworth, of Kirby, Esq., whose son, William Wentworth, was a captain under Sir George Wentworth, both of whom were active men in the Royal cause. Matthew Wentworth, of Cawthorne Park, Esq., had also married Dorothy Whitaker, a daughter of the rector of Thornhill. He was thus closely connected with one of the leading and most powerful Yorkshire families of that time, a member of which had taken a distinguished part, as the adviser of his Sovereign, and in the administration of the laws. Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford, the head of the House of Wentworth, and the most gifted of its members, set out in public life as a patriot, but suddenly changed his course to that of a courtier, and in consequence of his arbitrary conduct and treasonable practices, was executed the 12th May, 1641. The death of this high-spirited nobleman was undoubtedly felt by his kindred as a heavy and a painful sacrifice to popular resentment.
The adoption of measures, therefore, to check and subdue the growing spirit of liberty which had now begun to menace kingly power, and its ancient prerogative, not only engaged their sympathies, but received their active support. In this, the vicar of Kirkburton was not behind, and it is evident that many of the clergy were not silent spectators of the contest. We find, moreover, the Rev. Charles Greenwood, rector of the neighbouring parish of Thornhill, (the immediate successor of Mr. Whitaker’s father in that rectory,) who had been tutor and companion to the Bari of Stratford, and “a clergyman long honoured with the friendship and confidence of that great man,” was equally decided in his views, but an older man, and therefore less able to take an active part in the struggle.
Thus intimately connected, by near relatives and friends, with the cause of the Royalists, it is more than probable that Mr. Whitaker’s views and feelings had been strongly excited, and had, therefore, led him to adopt a prompt and decided course at the onset, in the great struggle which was about to ensue. This appears in some degree countenanced by the fact of his early displacement from the vicarage, when Mr. Clarke “was appointed in his stead.” That his conduct had rendered him particularly obnoxious to the dominant party, may be inferred from the fact, that a detachment of soldiers had been sent to take him prisoner to Manchester, which proceeding would suggest that he was suspected to be implicated in some open or secret design against the parliamentary cause, and this may serve to account for the severity of the treatment he received. His attachment to the Royal cause, doubtless, in the first instance, occasioned the sequestration of his living; but the imprisonment which he afterwards suffered, evidently points to some graver political offence, instances of which were not of unfrequent occurrence amongst his clerical brethren at this period. — “When Lambert was besieging Colonel Morris, in Pontefract Castle? the Rev. George Beaumont, vicar of South Kirkby, was detected holding an unlicensed correspondence with the Colonel. He was seized, imprisoned, and finally sentenced to death, and execution was immediately done upon him.”
Scarcely had another century rolled over, when the people of these districts heard the alarming news of rebellion. The dire effects of the civil war still lived in the memories of its inhabitants, for, notwithstanding the generation which had witnessed its horrors among them had passed away, yet not a few of their children still survived, to whom the sad tale had often been told, and on whose minds it still remained vividly impressed.
In 1745 the Scotch Rebellion broke out, when the Pretender, Charles Edward, the grandson of James II., having landed in Scotland on the 10th of August, was joined by a large body of highlanders, and they proceeded into England to claim, and to seize the British crown, which had been transferred to the Brunswick line. A feeble attempt had been made in 1715, to restore the Stuarts, in the person of the “Pretender” James, the father of Charles Edward, which utterly failed.
The progress of the rebels towards London was, however, slow, which afforded opportunity to those who possessed valuable personal property, to remove it to places of secrecy, and also to make some preparation against the advance of the enemy. The people of these districts were for the most part attached to the reigning family; there were, however, some — a small section — who were desirous of the restoration of the Stuart dynasty; among these were a few of the clergy, yet none of them took any active part, contenting themselves with giving expression to their wishes more or less openly. The Rev. William Eden, the presbyterian minister at Lydgate, entered with great spirit into the cause of the reigning monarch. His appeals to the people from the pulpit, in whieh he seems to have been assisted by the Rev. Benjamin Shaw, of Bullhouse Chapel, were calculated to arouse the people “to patriotism and to duty:” — “to stand fast to the liberty which had been so dearly won for them,” warning them “not to become entangled in the yoke of bondage, or the devices of popery, which led to both civil and religious slavery.” When the news was received here that the rebels had arrived in England, the state of alarm became very great. The chief constable of the district, and some of the principal inhabitants set about actively to solicit subscriptions, for the purpose of establishing watch and ward; and raising men to prepare to defend the district from pillage and violence. On the 1st of November, Watch and Ward was accordingly set up in Holmfirth and in the adjoining townships. The weather during that month was extremely cold and severe, often alternating between rain, frost, and snow. The accounts of the progress of the rebels, brought from day to day, were vague and often contradictory, and the numerous stories which were circulated of the enormities committed by them, and the severities exercised upon the people were very exciting; each day seemed to add to the excitement. But early on the morning of Saturday, the 30th November, a report had spread far and wide that the rebels had got to Marsden, and would be at Huddersfield in the course of the day. An express had been sent in the middle of the night from Huddersfield to all the principal clothiers in the Holme valley, to fetch away their cloth. “They were in a terrible consternation in Huddersfield,” as they were hourly expecting the arrival of the rebels. It was also reported that a large body of rebels had arrived in Saddleworth, and were expected to come over the moors to Holmfirth; the people here, and in the surrounding places, were in the greatest consternation and alarm. The “people flocked into Holmfirth from every side,” the young men, as well as the older ones, having provided themselves with either guns, swords, hay-forks, scythes, or such other deadly weapons as they could obtain, and formed themselves into a large and formidable force. At the head of this troop of mountaineers was the Rev. William Eden, who had displayed great zeal in the cause. For some days previous to this, Mr. Eden had been at considerable trouble “in going about to get men to sign their hands to a paper, to go with him if there should be occasion; upon which great numbers volunteered,” and now came prepared. He addressed the men before they marched away, urging them to be faithful and stand their ground, and resolutely to defend their king, their country, their families, and their homes. Thus prepared, they marched away in the direction in which the enemy was supposed to be coming, but they met with no resistance. This day has since been remembered as “Rebel Saturday.” From the circumstance of Mr. Eden having led this band of mountaineers, he afterwards received the appellation of “Captain” Eden.
The unexpected retreat of the rebels from Derby, northward, occasioned fresh consternation in Holmfirth and the surrounding country. On Tuesday, the 10th December, a report was extensively circulated, that a considerable body of the rebels had arrived at Woodhead, and were on their way over “Holme Causeway,” (i.e., the road over Holme Moss, constructed then of large stones.) Notwithstanding the excitement was very great, the troop of mountaineers does not seem to have again assembled, neither did occasion require it.
In entering on the subject of trade and manufactures, we must revert to the social condition of the people as it existed for many generations after the Norman Conquest, when the population was very thinly scattered over this high moorland district, which, from the general sterility of the soil, was rendered unfavourable to agricultural enterprise. This was especially the case in the western part of the district; the whole forming a constantly changing surface of hill and dale, better adapted for pasturage than for arable purposes, and oats were then nearly the only grain product. The abundant growth of native oak, however, in the valleys and other sheltered situations; and the valuable streams of soft water which take their rise on the hills and along their sides, furnished additional sources of wealth, which in some degree compensated for other defects. These advantages were rendered subservient, by an actively industrious and quick-sighted people, to the purposes of trade and manufactures, of which the woollen branch was destined to become the staple trade, long before the mineral wealth of the district was discovered.
Before we proceed to speak of the advancement of cloth manufactures we would here record a singular fact in regard to another of the ancient staple trades, which may be considered as now nearly extinct. We allude to the Tanning of Leather. The abundance of oak bark, and the valuable springs of water, rendered the locality singularly favourable to this branch of business, which seems to have formed an important trade from a very remote period.
Within the parish of Kirkburton alone, in the early part of the last century, there were at least a dozen tanyards in actual use, at several of which a considerable business was done. This branch of trade has, however, rapidly declined; for at the present time there exists only one, and that recently revived.
The introduction of “woollen cloth working ” is unquestionably of great antiquity; and there are strong reasons for believing that it was actively carried on here in the reign of Edward III. It would be a work of supererogation to enter into its early history, the elucidation of which, rather belongs to the county, than to so small a district, our object being simply to give a brief record of such facts as have immediate reference to the locality, either as illustrative on its social influence, or of its gradual progress and development.
In the reign of Henry VIII. we find one fulling mill at Mytham Bridge, in Thurstonland; and persons following the business of “clothiers,” at which time there existed a custom, in regard to the fulling of cloth, which we may infer had long been practised. This consisted in the Lord of the Manor requiring “clothiers” within the manor “freeholders and tenants” to full or mill their cloth at his said mill. In the reign of Edward VI. an Act was passed prohibiting any one from making cloth, unless he had served an apprenticeship of seven years; this was afterwards repealed, but was revived in Elizabeth’s reign. Notwithstanding this, a great impetus was given to the progress of woollen manufactures in that reign, during which two fulling mills were erected within the Graveship of Holme.
From a MS. book kept by a Mr. Hepworth, of Shepley Hall, written in the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth, and in the early part of James I.; one portion of which purports to be a register of “servants and apprentices,” we give the following extracts respecting “cloth working,” as illustrative of the times. The entries, it will be seen, are brief, simply recording the names of the parties, places of residence, the nature of the work, and the terms of agreement.
The next piece of evidence we have to record, having immediate reference to the district, is from an original document, containing a series of articles of agreement, entered into by the “Owners and Farmers of divers Fulling Mills, in the parishes of Kirkburton, Almondbury, Huddersfield, and Kirkheaton, dated 7th Oct., 6 Anne, 1707.”
Amidst the progressive changes which have taken place from time to time in the woollen branch, many evils must of necessity have arisen, and combinations been formed, requiring sound judgment, and often great forbearance, to counteract or modify; but it seems difficult at this distance of time to understand clearly the reasons for combining together on all the points here mentioned. That there existed in the minds of many of the mill occupiers, a strong desire to put down the milling or fulling of cloth on Sundays, as dishonouring the Christian Sabbath, there can be no doubt; and that there were other occupiers desirous of continuing the old custom is equally certain: thus far the attempt to bind each other to observe the Lord’s day was very laudable. That it might be expedient also, to fix a uniform rate for the milling of cloth of certain prescribed lengths, we readily understand; but that they should likewise require that all cloths so milled at any of the said mills, should be paid for before being delivered to the Owners, seems a strange anomaly, which we at least of the present time, should regard as a point best left to the consideration of the parties themselves.
Until the latter half of the last century, the kind of cloths manufactured here were called “Leeds Beds,” a coarse class of goods, manufactured in the white, or undyed state, and dyed red in the cloth, slightly finished, and then sold to the Leeds merchants. These goods were manufactured in the old form, — scribbled and carded by a single pair of cards, — spun by a single thread, and woven by the hand shuttle.
It was about the year 1776, when the first spinning jenny was introduced into the Holmfirth district. It contained about 18 spindles, and was hailed as a prodigy. They rapidly multiplied in numbers, as well as in spindles. The first scribbling engine set up in this district was in Ing Nook Mill, about 1780. It appeared in a rude state, before the invention of the fly-roller, and seemed to tumble the wool off the cards like flocks.
It was not till about the year 1798, that steam came to be applied to the aid of water power, and then the advantage of coal within the district contributed largely to the spread of the several manufacturing processes, and the general prosperity.
The introduction of machinery, however, occasioned a strong feeling of alarm, not only among the operatives, but also among a large body of manufacturers, — the cry being, “the domestic system is in danger.” This alarm arose, no doubt, from what they regarded as its obvious tendency to endanger the independence which was conceived to pervade the old system, to supersede a large amount of manual labour, and to reduce the rate of wages.
But the introduction of improved machinery into the finishing department, met with a more determined opposition from that class of operatives, than had been shewn in regard to improvements in other manufacturing processes. The whole body of croppers were aroused, and began to organise themselves to resist the innovations. The struggle of the Luddites was of a deeply exciting character. They were so called after an imaginary personage, styled General Lud, or Ned Lud, their reputed commander, whose short “reign” was indeed a “reign of terror.” It seems necessary we should briefly state some of the facts connected with those unhappy transactions, in which a few misguided persons within this district were implicated, while several others suffered in the destruction of their property, through their lawless conduct.
It remains to be stated that the class of woollen cloths which were manufactured in the Holme Talley thirty years ago, usually styled “plain goods,” have now, for the most part disappeared, giving place to what are called “fancy woollens.” It must likewise be observed that the districts of Kirkburton, Shelley, and Shepley, which were formerly much engaged in “fancy waistcoatings,” are now principally employed in the fancy woollen trade.
The rapid increase of machinery of late years in the various manufacturing processes which has so immensely facilitated production, has, it is gratifying to record, served to lessen the amount of excessive physical labour, while the rate of wages has been augmented.
The following statistical tables shew the number of mills and factories, within the district, engaged in woollen manufactures, with the amount of horse-power and number of persons employed, in 1835 and 1858 respectively, according to the returns made to the Inspector of Factories. With these returns, which will be found highly interesting to those of our readers intimately acquainted with the district, I have been obligingly favoured by Alexander Redgrave, Esq., Inspector of Factories, and James Bates, Esq., Sub-Inspector.
A Tabular View of the number of Mills and Factories in each Township, within the Parish of Kirkburton and Graveship of Holme, with the amount of Horse-power, the kind of Manufacture engaged in, and the Number of Persons employed, in the year 1835 :—
A Tabular View of the number of Mills and Factories in each Township within the Parish of Kirkburton and the Graveship of Holme, with the amount of Horse-power the kind of Manufacture engaged in, and the Nnmber of Persons employed, in the year 1858 :—
The Area, Annual Value; also a Comparative Account of the Population Returns of the several Townships within the Parish of Kirkburton and the Graveship of Holme :—
The rapid increase of population in manufacturing districts may be regarded as affording a satisfactory indication of prosperity and comparative wealth. There are, however, periodical depressions of trade from various causes, from which the operative classes have not unfrequently been exposed to great privations. Perhaps in no part of the kingdom are these classes more industrious than in the “English Apennines;” the principles of self-reliance and independence are strong characteristic features of the class, though by strangers these are sometimes mistaken for less estimable qualities.
The amount of crime committed within the district to which these enquiries refer is believed to be considerably less than in most districts of an equal population.
Respecting the Graveship of Holme, however, we are enabled to state more definitely, having been kindly favoured by Martin Kidd, Esq., of Holmfirth, who for twenty years has acted as clerk to the Holmfirth bench of magistrates, with the following interesting statement :—
The operative classes display very commendable forethought, by associating for mutual assistance during times of sickness and disease, as exemplified in the following statistical table of the various societies of secret orders and sick clubs. These institutions, when formed on a proper basis, are invaluable, no less by enabling their members to preserve a proper self-respect, than for the material support they provide.
We possess no statistical information to enable us to speak definitively as to the ratio which the members of sick clubs and secret societies bear to the population of the kingdom, or in regard to the agricultural, as compared with the manufacturing districts. It is to be regretted that means have not hitherto been adopted to obtain these statistics in connexion with taking the census of population periodically, which would have supplied the political economist, as well as the public, with interesting and important information.
A century ago, horse racing constituted one of the amusements of the district. Horse races were annually held on Cartworth Moor, which were usually styled Cartworth Moor Races.
But perhaps there was no kind of sport to which our ancestors were more devotedly attached than hunting with the beagles; and on account of the hilly state of the country, they were generally followed by persons on foot. In connexion with this kind of sport, tradition has preserved some remarkable incidents. Perhaps the most singular, if not the most remarkable, is that of “Old Nan Allen,” a tall gaunt woman, who not only joined in the sport, but acted as huntswoman, which tradition affirms she usually did, having a long staff in her hand, keeping up with the hounds with wonderful strength and agility. About the close of the last century there was, in the township of Thurlstone, a small public house, having for its sign “Nan Allen,” with the following couplet: