The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter I

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The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger


CHAPTER I.

(Ancient Honley. — Old Coins. — William the Conqueror. — First mention of Honley in Domesday Book. — Saxon Thanes. — Lord of Honley. — Woollen Industry. — Wapentake. — Poll Tax. — Honley in 1379. — Honley Moor. — Ancient Dwelling in Church Street. — St. Mary’s Chapel. — Honley Tax-payers in 1524. — Value of Clothing. — The Plague. — Sales of land by Sir Robert Stapylton. — Various Extracts. — The Civil War. — Hearth Tax. — Extracts from Almondbury Registers).

ANCIENT HONLEY.

I must ask my readers to throw back their imaginations if possible beyond the time of Romish Conquests, when this neighbourhood was part of a vast forest perhaps haunted by woad-stained Briton. This is for the purpose of obtaining our first twilight glimpse of Honley, following its advance from the dark ages, and gradually arriving at the Honley of to-day.

Julius Caesar first came to England 55 B.C. and wrote an account of the people he found inhabiting our Island, describing them as fierce and warlike, whose hair was long, and bodies coloured with blue woad. They were known as Brigantes. The discovery of ancient coins, implements of varied character, and excavations at Slack, have proved Romish settlement in our district. The finding of coins and antique remains on Nov. 7th, 1893 in a cavity of a rock upon the property of William Brooke, Esq., J.P., Northgate Mount; and also the unearthing, at Longwood, of an altar, give proofs that the Brigantes or Ancient Britons occupied the neighbourhood, or when harried by Roman invaders, took shelter in the forest which covered the ground upon which Honley of to-day stands. The silver coins are similar in size to the 4d. piece when in circulation, and the copper ones resemble a penny piece. The coins and remains were presented to the British Museum by Mr. Brooke, and have been named “Honley Find.” G. F. Hill, Esq., M.A., has written a description of their various devices, inscriptions, and relation to the history of that period. This “Honley Find” is another valuable link added towards bringing into clearer light the ancient history of this romantic neighbourhood.

The pictures of the coins and remains, together with the learned description written by Mr. Hill, will be found re-printed in detail at the end of this history. About a hundred years previously to this “Honley Find” of 1893, a similar discovery was made in Thirstin. The word Brigante means noble, — free, — unconquered. Green in his “History of the English people” names him “the free-necked man, whose long hair floated over a neck that had never bent to a lord.” The natives of Honley still inherit the same characteristics, liberty being as necessary to them as the air they breathe. Before however describing the distinctive traits of Honley people, we must first locate their dwelling place. Imagination must now take a leap from the landing of Julius Caesar to the arrival of William the Conqueror. Over a thousand years had glided away between the two events. During this space of time there had been much internal warfare, learning of arts and manners of civilization, law and order slowly evolved; and the gradual merging of the tribes of Jutes, Saxons, Angles and Ancient Britons into one race, viz:— English.

History tells us that when William the Conqueror was subduing England to his rule, the inhabitants of the Northern part proved so stubborn in their resistance against him, that before bringing them under subjection, he had finally to burn with fire and destroy with sword all the land and its dwellers (except those who escaped). The first authentic mention of Honley is in the ancient survey of the country named Domesday Book. This great work was undertaken after William the Conqueror had finally brought England under his sway. Written in 1086, the survey was carried out with such exactitude, that according to Saxon Chronicles there was not a yard of land, ox, cow, hog or implement that was not set down, so that every man should be satisfied with his right, and respect the right of others.

In Domesday Book is written:— “In Haneleia (Honley) and Meltham, Cola and Suuen held four carucates of land to be taxed where three ploughs might be employed. Ilbert now has it, but it is waste.”

Here then from this brief entry in Domesday Book we obtain our first glimpse of Honley which had been given a name to distinguish it from other places. Hane (Hone) means dwelling, leia (ley) an open space in a wood, thus the word indicates a dwelling or clearing in a wood. Our Saxon forefathers had cut down trees and erected their forest homes; the two short but comprehensive sentences in Domesday Book pointing out a place, ownership, loss and tragedy. Girt by its own border line, Honley was owned or held by two Saxon Thanes or “free-necked men,” named Cola and Suuen, whose names are typical of the ancient dwellers of the soil previous to the Conquest.

A Saxon Thane varied in position. As a rule, he was the great man of the neighbourhood holding his lands direct from his King, and rendering him service according to his possessions. With regard to the meaning of carucate, opinions differ according to the period and nature of the ground. One authority writes that it was as much land as could be ploughed in a year and a day, and another, that it measured about 100 or 120 acres.

In the year 1198, one hundred acres went to a carucate. The word waste used in describing the condition of Honley, may prove that it was included in the devastation wrought by the Conqueror. The word may also convey a different meaning. The moorlands in our neighbourhood were at this time the most inaccessible and desolate in Britain. A few of the dwellers in such a remote place, situated at the extremity of this isolated district, might thus be able to seek shelter until the army of the Conqueror had passed onward on its ravaging course. The deserted appearance might thus convey the idea that the place was not inhabited. Certainly our sturdy North-bred Spirit has never been subdued, so that its character must have been preserved by some means.

Cola and Suuen supported by kinsmen and followers, would no doubt fight long and fiercely in defence of their liberties and possessions. No record however has come down to us from that stalwart age describing their resistance, there being no newspapers in those days to report warlike bravery or grievous wounds. We only know that Norman William was merciless in exacting abject submission, depriving those who had been spared in battle of their lands, and giving them to his own knights. Perhaps Cola died fighting, or sought refuge in the forest and thus became an outlaw, there being no further record of this Hon ley landowner or Thane. It is not my province to enter into a controversy in this history whether Castle Hill became a Norman stronghold after the Conquest, or that previously it had been held by Cola and Suuen as a Saxon fortress. Mr. R. Holmes an expert in early Yorkshire history states that Suuen did not dwell in this neighbourhood though holding lands in Honley, Meltham and Almondbury. These were given by Norman William to Ilbert-de-Lacy one of his favoured and most powerful Barons.

Suuen was the son of Alric the owner of Pontefract Castle, who was also deprived of his possessions in favour of Ilbert-de-Lacy. According to various authorities Suuen was not altogether reduced to penury. His descendants can be traced to the time of Charles I. as holding estates in different parts of Yorkshire, but not in this neighbourhood. This can be accounted for by the fact that Norman William took lands from those who refused to bend their necks to him, but allowed others to retain a certain part of their possessions if loyal subjects to his rule. This favour however was loaded with unjust restrictions. The Saxon Thanes held their lands only as tenants in Capite, that is, they had to pay rents and render certain kinds of service to their king or the more favoured Norman Baron.

Feudalism was in existence in Honley during the time of Cola and Suuen, but of a different nature from that introduced after the Conquest. A native dweller had no inclination to struggle against his Lord bred and born in the same place, and attached to each other by close ties. If “suite and service” had to be rendered, the vassal had the protection and support of his Lord in return. If he could not marry his daughter without consent, this was necessary in a rugged age when the sword had to rule, as a precaution against becoming united with his Lord’s enemies. The vassalage therefore accepted by the dwellers previous to the Conquest was voluntary on their part, but the Norman was hated, not only as an oppressor, but as a stranger.

No better idea of a Cola and Suuen, the characteristics of our neighbourhood, and existence of Norman Feudalism at this period can be gained than by reading the opening chapters of Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” in which he describes Cedric of Rotherwood dwelling near Sheffield.

From the time of the Conquest the track of years now leads us on to the days of Edward II., when Honley is again mentioned in the person of its Lord. During these three hundred years much conflict had again been raging. Crown had struggled against Church — Church against Crown — and powerful Barons had wrested their Magna Charta from a reluctant king; thus winning English liberty.

In an old deed dated 1315, it appears that Thomas Planta-genet Earl of Lancaster the grandson of Henry III., was Lord of the Manors of Huddersfield, Almondbury, Meltham and Holme ; these estates coming to him on account of his marriage with Alice, the heiress of the great house of De Lacy. Amongst the names who were giving him rents and services was that of Richard Waley, Lord of Honley, the word Lord having been substituted for that of Thane under Norman rule. Forced since the Conquest to render service to the Norman Barons in whatever rash expedition they undertook, there was no other alternative for Richard Waley but to support the Earl of Lancaster in his claim to the crown against Edward II. As the defeated side always fared badly in those days, the Earl was beheaded in his own Castle at Pontefract, which had previously been taken from Alric, the father of Suuen and given to Ilbert-de-Lacy. The life of Richard Waley only was spared by paying a heavy ransom, and giving bond under his own seal, that he would submit himself to the king’s will; and henceforth be a faithful and obedient servant. The Lord of Honley was fined 2,000 marks, and all his lands confiscated. The English mark was worth about 13/4 at this period. This sum represented much more in value than at present, so that the fine was a large sum of money. There is no further record of Richard Waley, for the Lord of Honley would not only be penniless, but landless; and the “landless man” was a term which held bitter meaning.

We next find that in 1344, the Wallis family of Burg Wallis were Lords of Honley for a short period. Its value was forty shillings, and size two miles long, and a mile and a-half broad. The Stapyltons followed the Wallis family in possession, and held the Manor until the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

We obtained our earliest glimpse of Honley from Domesday Book, and now comes the first mention of the Woollen industry which would then take root, and has since flourished in the neighbourhood. (The history of the staple trade of the district will be found under its own Chapter). At this time there are not only records of a corn-mill, but also a “walk” or fulling-mill, at Honley and Steps. Both places retain their names in memory of the ancient mills which once stood upon the ground, viz: Steps Mill and Honley Mill. At this period, I have no trace of names of tenants of these Mills, or the value of rents paid until 200 years later. The present name of Lord’s Mill is suggestive also of those Feudal days, when free-holder and tenant were forced to grind corn and mill their cloth at the Lord’s Mill.

Wars were costly even in that age, and the dwellers in Honley were not overlooked in the matter of taxes, having to pay their share in helping to fill a Treasury which was generally empty. In the particulars of an ancient tax made in 1379 of the Wapentake of Aggebrigge (Agbrigg), Honley was taxed at 11/–. At the same time, Huddersfield was taxed at 13/4, which establishes the fact that Honley of that date was not far behind Huddersfield in importance. Before the time of the Conquest, Yorkshire had been mapped out into districts known as Shires, Hundreds, Wapentakes, etc., and Agbrigg is the name of one of the ancient divisions in this neighbourhood in which Honley was included. The mapping out was not only for purposes of strict control and oversight of the dwellers under Feudal law, but also to know the number of fighting men available in the district, this being a necessity in an age when might was the only right. The word Aggebrigge (Agbrigg) owes its derivation to Saxon Mythology and its situation. Wapentake means Wappen (weapon) tac (touch or take) — hence Wapentake, that is men, dwelling there who are able to touch or take a weapon.

The Yorkshire Archaeological Society published a list of names in the Wapentake of Aggebrigge (Agbrigg) mentioned in this Subsidy Roll of 1379. This was an obnoxious exaction known as the Poll Tax, so named on account of one shilling per head being charged upon each person, rich or poor, over fifteen years of age. It may, or may not, be interesting to those ignorant of the fact, to know that our surnames originated from the trade, residence or characteristics of our forefathers. Amongst the twenty-five Honley persons who were forced to pay this hateful tax are to be found the same names still existing in our midst. In the list are such names as Rogerus Couper and Alicia, (Roger the Cooper and Alice), Johannes Dene and Agnes, (John of the dean and Agnes), William de fforest and Alicia, (William of the forest and Alice), Elizabeth de Wellshill, (Elizabeth of Well-hill), Henricus de Raynerd, (Henry of the Reynard), Thomas de Walker and Agnes, etc. Roger would be a Cooper, John of the Dene would be named from his dwelling at the head of a valley, likewise Elizabeth living upon Well-hill. The ancient trade of a cloth-fuller was named “Walker,” on account of treading the pieces of cloth by the feet in the act of milling — hence Thomas the Walker was a cloth-fuller. Henry of the Reynard probably dwelt in the forest, acting in the capacity of fox-killer. Reynard has gradually changed in local vocabulary to the present “Onyard” which is a small remnant still left of the forest. William of the forest also would no doubt dwell there.

HONLEY IN 1379.

We will try and realise what Honley would be like at the time of this Poll Tax in 1379. It had been given its name, so the low level land which stretches from the river’s source down the whole length of the valley had been named Holm or Holme, which indicates a tract of flat land on either side of water. As generations passed, clearings from the forest had been made for open spaces, dwellings, and other buildings. The latter were built near the stream on account of the more favourable formation of the ground, and also of the necessity for water. Elizabeth, of Well-hill, had erected her home near a well, and no doubt many dwellings would also be planted upon higher land near springs of water. The houses constructed of wood, from the plentiful supply of timber near at hand, were without chimneys, holes serving for windows not only in hut, but in hall. The interiors perhaps would only contain an oak bench, table, and a few primitive cooking utensils; and the dwellers would be in ignorance of the most elementary laws of health. Flocks, herds, river and nature around supplied food and clothing. Dwelling together, side by side, in a small group, weaving, spinning, and tilling the ground ; they lived secluded and far apart from such places as York or Leeds — names having but dim meaning for the generality of Honley dwellers of that date. News would travel slowly to their ears, if at all. Myths and superstitions formed the greater part of their religion. Education was unknown amongst them, personal strength and feats of arms being more valued than learning. A rough kind of justice was in existence, a local Court being held at Almondbury, which kept up a semblance of law and order. It was named the Court Leet, and exercised full power both in civil and criminal cases. (Leet is Saxon for Little Court). Thus we see that if Norman rule exacted hard service, Feudal tyranny had not deterred Honley dwellers from building homesteads, tilling lands, making clothing, and learning trades. With regard to amusements, no doubt they would indulge in the same sports and pastimes which were common at that period. The youth who twanged his arrow further than that of his rival, or wielded his quarter-staff quicker than his opponent, would be the object of the same kind of hero worship as the present football or cricket champion. As the sun went down, the fighting, running, or wrestling victor would perhaps cool his lips, and the shock-headed waistrel dip his wounded head in the clear Honley well stream, as at present.

Honley Moor.

There is reliable evidence that at this period the forest which spread over Honley Moor was tenanted by wolves, deer, and other wild animals — place-names, such as Wolf-stones, Stagwood-bottom, etc., keeping their haunts in memory. People are familiar with the ancient tragedy of the Beaumont and Elland feud from the many written accounts of the quarrel between the two families. It is not my intention to dwell upon the feud so typical of the life of the period when blood-bond was still honoured, and kinsmen joined in family quarrels; only to prove that wild animals of the chase roamed at liberty upon Honley Moor and its vicinity at this time.

Beaumont, of Crosland Hall, and Elland, of Elland, were two powerful Barons in their own domains between whom hatred and contention existed. When a Beaumont, assisted by his kinsmen, Quarmby of Quarmby, and Lockwood of Lockwood, had finally slain the last of the Ellands; Beaumont and Lockwood escaped to Canon Hall, Cawthorne. For a time, Lockwood was sheltered from justice, but was eventually betrayed and cruelly put to death. It is recorded that Adam Beaumont returned to Crosland Hall, and lived for a time unmolested “hunting the red and fallow deer at Honley and Holmfirth.” When the seclusion of this once picturesque domain was gradually disturbed by erections of dwellings here and there, many of the wild animals became extinct for reasons of safety. The Enclosure Act, the particulars of which follow in order of dates, was the cause of extermination of the rest — the wild or pole-cat locally named “pow-cat” struggling longest for existence amongst us. The saying of “stinking like a pow-cat,” is still in common use. In Almondbury Registers are frequent entries relating to payments to Honley of one shilling per head for “foomards” and foxes which continued until the beginning of 1700. (Pole-cats are also locally named foomards.)

There is an oral tradition in Honley connected with this time, but as we do not live in the dark ages when people “held such strange tale devoutly true;” my readers must accept it with reserve. The present modern shops on the left hand side of Church Street, leading to the Church, replaced a massive old building of timber that was formerly used in the business of tallow-chandling or candlemaking by an old Honley family named Midwood. There may be people yet left in our long-lived neighbourhood, who can recall this ancient dwelling before its destruction. If not, I have often heard in my earlier years, old people describe its overhanging oak-gabled front, general architecture and size; all giving indications of having been at one time a dwelling of importance. There was a tradition handed down in the family of the late owner of the property, that a petty king had once occupied the house. No doubt a historical dwelling once stood upon the place holding a commanding position, the various entrances to Honley known as “gates,” all leading to the site. Perhaps the dwelling of a Saxon Thane, or later that of Richard Waley, Lord of Honley occupied the ground; but no records are forthcoming.

The Roman Catholic religion prevailed at this time, and we shall find proofs in the history of the Church, that an Oratory was in existence in Honley previous to 1503. It was customary, at this period, for the great man in the place to provide and uphold his own private Oratory for himself and dependents. Only a person of importance would thus be able to maintain a religious building and Chaplain, so that this is evidence of such a person living in the village at this period who might have occupied the house in Church Street.

I must here make a digression. The word Chapel will frequently come into use when alluding to the early history of the Chuich, and many of its ancient offices. This may convey a wrong idea to people who associate the name with a dissenting place of worship. Its ancient meaning is different. St. Martin, before conversion, possessed a cloak or capella which he divided with a beggar. The garment became one of the most treasured possessions of the Merovingian kings who carried the cloak with them on their journeys, and when at rest placed it in an Oratory. On account of sheltering the cloak or capella, the Oratory came to be named capella or chapel. When the dwellers in Honley erected their own place of worship, the building would again be named chapel, meaning relief or ease for the inhabitants from attending the Mother Church at Almondbury. The word remained in use until the re-building of the Church in 1843. The meaning of the word chapel when brought into use in the early history of Honley will, therefore, be understood in its true sense.

With regard to the names of four of our oldest roads, I am unable to say why they were originally designated “gates,” the names of which are still retained. In the old Saxon the meaning of gate is a passage, way, or street. The modern meaning, of course, indicates entrance to a walled city. There are no records that Honley was surrounded by walls, or withstood sieges. The names of Eastgate, Westgate, Nortgate and Southgate, may, therefore hold the same meaning as in Saxon days — the chief entrance leading for all purposes to the centre of the village being distinguished by the name of “the gate” as at present.

In the reign of King Henry VIII., a Subsidy Roll of the Wapentake of Agbrigg was again made to help to meet the 1524 expenses of the French war. In the year 1524, Honley paid 9/- as its share in the persons of Thomas Taylour (Taylor) who paid 4/- for 8/- worth of goods, Roger Armytage (Armitage) 4/- for 8/- worth of goods, and Henry Wilson 12d. for 4/- worth of goods. (When giving extracts from ancient deeds, their old mode of spelling names will be copied). It is interesting to note the names of these early tax-payers in Honley — grand old Christian names and surnames redolent of our hillsides. It is also of value to know the worth of clothing at this date, which was so great, that legacies of garments frequently occur in many old wills in Honley. Giles Ermytage (Armitage), son of Roger, of Hall Ing made a will dated 1568, bequeathing his wedding doublet, coat, pair of hose, etc. (The history of the Armitage family will be found in the Chapter of Honley families).

The Plague.

The unsanitary conditions of the people were favourable to disease, such as the dreadful scourge named the Plague or “Black Death,” which was prevalent at various times, striking panic into the hearts of people who only dared to bury their dead by night. Dr. Whitaker gives records of its fearful havoc in this neighbourhood in 1558, and describes burials at night by a solitary kinsman or kinswoman. Woodsome, Holmfirth and Scammonden were visited by the Plague, but Honley is not mentioned. Small pox, however, was a common visitation in Honley until the vaccination discovery of Dr. Jenner. The inhabitants not being favourable to innovations, stoutly refused to accept this blessing until forced.

At this period, the Stapyltons were still Lords of the Manor, having held the Lordship of Honley for over 300 years, when the fortunes of war brought changes. Sir Robert Stapylton fighting on a defeated side in battle was fined so heavily for this mischance, that he was forced to sell his lands, estates and royalties in Honley. The deeds bearing dates 1569 recording the sales have been transcribed by the late Mr. John Nowell, and it is due to the interest taken by local antiquarians, that the particulars were printed in the journals of the Yorkshire Archaeological Association. Previous to the Norman Conquest, transfer of land was not shackled by legal phrases and expensive conveyances which at present have a tendency to drive people mad. — Buyer and seller adopted a more simple process by delivering a piece of turf cut from the soil. Having had access to many ancient Honley deeds, for purposes of tracing family pedigrees and finding materials for this history, I noted that the old custom of delivering earth from the land that was bought or sold was still in existence in Honley in 1569. Fastened to many of these deeds are small canvas bags, yellow with age, containing earth taken from the land to which the writings relate. Another old custom in existence when the surrender or changing of lands took place was the placing of a straw into the hands of steward or copyholder. The stem of straw is attached to the seal upon many of these old deeds.

In the Stapylton deeds mentioned, dated Oct. 24th, 1569, Sir Robert sold lands and premises at Honley to Leonard Berye (Berry), Yeoman, Oldfield, for a certain sum, an annual rental of 11/4 and services to his Lord. Other deeds contain particulars of sales of other lands and dwellings on the same conditions to various Yeomen in Honley — notably John Beaumont, Richard Wilson, Edward Hirst, James Lockwood, Roger Lockwood, John Crosley, James Taylour (Taylor), Edward Lockwood, John Baylie (Bailey) and others. Sir John Kaye, of Woodsome, (the ancestor of the present Dart-mouths), bought the largest share of Honley property from Sir Robert Stapylton. This purchase included woods, a corn-mill, walk-mill (probably Honley and Steps Mills) and other estates, together with the Royalties. The Dartmouth family have held the Lordship of Honley since that time. In details of the various buildings sold by Sir Robert Stapylton the turf-house is of importance, showing that the moorlands around provided good supplies of turf for warmth.

In 1574, mention is again made of the staple trade of the district, which proves that not only had Honley retained its woollen industry, but its clothiers exported cloth. An extract from “Gregson’s Fragments of Liverpool,” is as follows:— “1574. To register the losse of the small boat, the Swanne of Liv’pole, Wynstanleys’ owners, Edward Lawrence, of Liv’pole, Master under God. The good Marchant, Mr. John Armetage, of Farnley Tyas (High Royd), in the Countie of York, alais Clothier, with rich stocke from Liv’pole to Knockfergus after shipwreck came to hand and fell among the Rebell Kernes, and were then most vilianouslie murthered, slayne, and cut in pieces as if the vilest kind of fleshe, contrarie to the will and pleasure of God.”

In a will drawn up by Dame Johanna Hepworth, dated Aug. 11th, 1620, reference is again made to our staple industry. She mentions owing £20 to Michael Bynnes and Sara, his wife, of Brockholes, which sum is to be paid, and proceeds as follows: “I give to said Michael Bynnes and Sara, his wife, of Brock-holes, my long newe table, a flock bed, and two new blankets, and he to dye all his cloth at my lead till able to get a lead of his own, and I give him the second pair of my best cloth-shears.” (For particulars of the family of Bynnes, see Brockholes history).

In 1634, the Rev. Geo. Crosland, Vicar of Almondbury, refers to Honley in the Registers of Almondbury. Written in Latin, he describes one of the protracted and vigorous old-fashioned winters of that date. Mr. Morehouse publishes the translation in his “History of Kirkburton,” which reads:—“This year, 1634-5, was remarkable for frost and cold. The snow was in such abundance that it was not possible to go out of door to the corn-mill or to the butchers. Many travellers perished in the storm through hunger and, at which time the inhabitants of Over Thong, bringing for burial the corpse of Marmaduke Pepper, were detained in Honley, and brought it to Church the following day.”

In the same history also, is mention of Charles Nettleton, of Honley, whose family held a high position in the neighbourhood, and whose name is associated with the ancient charities of Almondbury. The family seat was at Thornhill, one Thomas Nettleton dwelling there, marrying Mary, the only daughter of John Baylie (Bailey), previously named, who purchased land from Sir Robert Stapylton. Charles Nettleton probably inherited the property on the female side, and was either born in Honley or came to reside here, living in the old hall in Church Street, to which reference is previously made. He married Catherine, sister to Captain Horsfall, of Storthes Hall. (The present Asylum now stands in the grounds). During the civil wars between Royalists and Roundheads, Charles Nettleton, along with his brother-in-law, fought on the side of the Royal cause. An extract from the diary of Captain Adam Eyre, of Hazlehead, near Penistone, who supported the opposite party, gives us a picture of merry and neighbourly intercourse between these men before the great civil contest, when kindred was slain by kindred, and friend by friend. Captain Adam Eyre, write as follows:—“Jany. 29th, 1643, spent two shillings with Captain Horsfall and Charles Nettleton of Honley.” (Surtees Society). Charles Nettleton died in 1664, and was buried at Almondbury.

In 1570, Hollinshed, who chronicled the events of this period, complained of modern degeneracy on account of chimneys being added to houses ; and lamented the return of the good old days when smoke choked the inmates. The opinion of Hollinshed in 1570 regarding chimneys, is as follows. He writes:—“ Now we have many chimneys, and yet our tenderlings complain of reumes, catarres, and poses; then had we none but re redoses, and yet our heads did never ake, for as smoke in those days was a hardening for the timber of the house, so it was a better medicine to keep the good man from the quack.” The luxury of a fire or a chimney to carry off smoke was productive of another imposition named the Hearth Tax. This tax levied 2/- upon each hearth or fire-place in all houses except cottages.

Mr. D. F. E. Sykes, in his “History of Huddersfield,” gives the names of Honley people taxed in this Subsidy Roll of 1664. There were 71 persons who had hearths which were chargeable, and 45 persons not liable for the tax. The latter had only one hearth each. Out of the 71 persons who were charged, only three people could boast of four hearths each. There were three persons who were taxed for three hearths, seven for two; and the rest only one each. Mr. Sykes states that at this time there were 117 occupied houses in Honley, affording an estimated population of about six hundred people. The three persons who were so wealthy as to afford four hearths each, were Mrs. Nettleton, William Crosley and Robert Hey.

The widow and daughter of Robert Nettleton, of Thornhill, sold their free rents in Honley property to Joseph Armytage, on April 27th, 1675, which at that time amounted to £9 5s. 4½ d. From these particulars, it may be surmised that the Honley branch of Nettletons had returned back to the family seat at Thornhill, there being no further records of Nettletons dwelling in Honley after payment of the Hearth Tax.

Mr. Hughes in his “History of Meltham,” records an Inquisition in 1677, being the Court Baron of the Lords of Meltham Manor, when John Wood, of Honley, was fined 3/4 for unlawfully fishing in the Meltham Stream which flowed down by way of Wood-bottom and Mag-bridge as at present.

Two extracts from the diary of the Rev. Robert Meeke, who was Incumbent or Curate-in-Charge of Slaithwaite from 1685 to 1724, throws light not only upon the Sunday recreations of Honley dwellers, but also its hospitality at this period. He writes:— “Sept 17th, 1689. Went to Huddersfield and from thence to Honley. There was a race there. I rode with them amongst the crowd, looking for Mr. Philipson but found him not.” (Mr. Philipson was curate-in-Charge of Honley). “Afterwards I found him, and he granted my request. There was multitudes. Oh! how fond is the generality of men to see such vanities more prone to meet on such occasions than for spiritual things.”

“Sept. 27th, 1693. Rode to Honley to see Dame H— and about half-dozen of our neighbouring wives went with me. Dined there and returned.”

I infer that according to dates and other circumstances, Dame H—, is Dame Johanna Hepworth, who, according to her will had close connection with the Clerical family of Bynnes. (See Brockholes history).

An extract from Almondbury Register is interesting, not only on account of local names, but proving that the district was as favourable to long life as at present, if the laws of health are not abused. The Vicar of Almondbury recorded four burials of persons which took place in that Church within the space of 48 hours. Their united ages amounted to 354 years. Their names are Nicholas Grime (Graham), of Brockholes, buried March 9th 1695, aged 96 years. Maria Earnshaw, of Honley, widow, buried March 11th, 1695, aged 90 years. Dina Kaye, of Castle Hill, widow, buried March 10th, 1695, aged 105 years. Alice, widow of Daniel Dyson Crosland, buried March 10th, aged 63 years.

Many interesting extracts from ancient deeds, wills, etc., bearing dates previous to those already given will be found in the history under headings with which they are more closely connected.


Continue to Chapter II...


The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter I

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