The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger
As years passed, Norman and Saxon had been merged in marriage, serf become tenant, tenant landowner, Feudal law gradually abolished, and Popish Church become Protestant. The wooden houses of an earlier date had been replaced by erections built of stone to which chimneys were attached, the Hearth Tax being abolished in 1664. According to the returns of the Hearth Tax of that date, there was not a great dividing line in social position between the dwellers in Honley. At the beginning of 1700, they were still a race of small landed proprietors, tradesmen and persons in their employment. The climate being bleak, and land unproductive, the small land owner had been forced by necessity to add another industry to that of farming. The clothing trade had been generally chosen on account of natural advantages favourable to its production, and the two trades were carried on side by side. Here then had gradually come again into greater prominence the “free-necked” race of men, named yeomen, who, having one gained their freedom never again bent their neck to Priestly or Aristocratic tyranny. Those men of a past day, who, in obscure village or hamlet silently built up the greatness of an Empire, were a distinct class in Honley, generally engaged in the farming and clothing industries. Master and man, mistress and maid worked side by side under household roofs from early dawn to sunset. Their dwellings were grouped together in lanes, folds and yards; or spread about upon hill-sides or in valleys. As the spinning-wheels whirred on hearths, and looms clacked over heads, long rows of windows ran the whole length of the buildings for purposes of light. If the Hearth Tax had been abolished, a Window-Tax had now to be paid for this blessing of light.
In a will in my possession, drawn up by Jonathan Sanderson, Clothier, of Honley, one of my forbears, mention is made of the Window-Tax. His daughter Nancy was my great grand-mother, and in his will, dated November, 1790, he bequeaths to her property upon which the Window-Tax had to be paid, so that at this date the tax had not been repealed in Honley.
At this date civilization had not multiplied wants, so that domestic arrangements in Honley houses were simple. The food was frugal in character, chiefly consisting of oatmeal porridge, tea being 16/- per pound, and flour 8/- per stone. A Clothier in Honley, whose standing at that time was equal to a present-day local manufacturer, drew up his will at this date. He describes in detail his household furnishings, such as buffet, bed-stocks, flock-bed, vallance, seeing-glass, etc. (looking-glass considered an unnecessary luxury). These primitive furnishings were looked upon as valuable assets by his heirs. If carpets were in use, they were too precious for every day wear, scattered sand serving as a covering for stone floors. The ornaments, if any, were only of the kind which proved useful in domestic, farming or clothing industries. The smaller houses were generally one storey in height, or “one-deckers,” and as a rule, sounding with the throb of hand-loom weaving. The furnishings could be taken in at a glance. A loom or spinning-wheel perhaps stood close to a turn-up bed, which served as a resting place at night and ornament for daytime. A few three-legged stools of home manufacture, a table, and baskets filled with materials for weaving or spinning, would occupy the rest of the floor, whilst perhaps a shelf might contain a meagre supply of cooking utensils of a primitive character. The mention of artificial illumination, save that of candles, which were a great luxury, would have conveyed no meaning to Honley people of this date, who awoke at dawn and retired at sunset. They would have regarded gas and electricity as akin “to th’ owd lad,” and best left alone.
With regard to the roads of Honley at the beginning of 1700, they were chiefly bridle-gates, footpaths and lanes leading up steep hill-sides, along cliff tops, or across open moorlands as if having no destination in particular. Picturesque they might be, but very bad, the mud in winter being up to the knees of persons or saddle-girths of horses. The clothier driving in his gig, riding upon horseback, or carrying his piece of cloth upon his shoulder to Huddersfield market would not find fault with bad roads. They had been hewn out and walked upon by the founders of his blood, and if quagmires, the mud was native soil. When riding home late, his emotions would be more stirred by the dread of seeing footpads “with eyes as large as saucers,” or hearing the rattling of chains at the four cross roads, where a parish apprentice had been buried at midnight for ending a miserable life. People who seldom left the sight of their homesteads, had no use for highways stretching away to unknown regions and frequented by robbers, cut-throats, body-snatchers, and other terrible creatures. If a native was forced to travel upon them to reach that distant place, London, there arose the necessity of drawing up his will; for he might never return “to the nest where he was born.” True, a daring innovation in the shape of a stagecoach had challenged the old mode of travelling by stage-waggon, pack-horse, or privately owned vehicle. A stage-coach had commenced to run at the cost of much horse-flesh and wanton risk of lives on April 12th, 1706, from York to London. It was timed to reach the latter place in four days (God permitting). It was seldom, however, that the journey was accomplished in the advertised time unless in summer, so that only persons bent upon self-destruction would venture upon such a foolhardy trip, even if the “Flying Machine,” as it was named, passed in tempting distance of Honley, which was not the case.
But new forces were gathering. The century was to bring forth greater wonders than a stage-coach able to travel with relays of horses, fifty miles in one day. The Yorkshire prophetess, Mother Shipton, of Knaresborough, had predicted wonderful events, the foundations for such achievements being laid in this dramatic century. A great preacher was also to arouse England to her old ideas of piety and religion, like as Savonarolo stirred the Florentines in the 15th century. Many of these events which greatly affected the dwellers in Honley, will be recorded in their due order of dates.
In Mr. Hughes’ “History of Meltham,” there is reference to James Roberts, of Steps Milne, in Honley, who rents a fulling-Milne in Meltham, at the yearly rental of £11 0s. 0d.
An assessment was made in this year for relief of the poor of Honley, by Joseph Swallow, Overseer at that date. The total amount raised and disbursed by him was £9 3s. 11d. This assessment shows that there were only 91 inhabitants who were worth being assessed. The highest rate of 12/11 was paid by William Crosley, and the lowest was one penny.
There are no records that the inhabitants of a past Honley had much experience of invasions or sieges since the time of Norman William, though threatened hostile entrances of a varied character had produced, in turn, reigns of terror. With the exception of the anticipated visit of the Scotch Pretender, and the expected landing of the French, the invasions have been of local character, such as “Luddism,” “Plugging,” etc.; the particulars of which appear in their dated order.
When the first Scotch Pretender, James Stuart, made his attempt upon the British Crown, orders were issued in 1715 for each town and village to find men and furnish them with arms and clothing for the purpose of defence; for we must remember that we had no standing army at this date. The writer, when a child, saw a dilapidated military coat and hat at the house of an aged relative that had been in use at this time. The coat was of red cloth, trimmed with brass buttons and a band of yellow lace adorned the hat.
In Almondbury Registers, is entered the burial in this year of Robertus Scholefield de Honley Equite, Equestic, Honley More. (Robert Schofield of Honley, Knight, Honley Moor). The Schofields are an old Honley family whose dwelling was situated upon Honley Moor, and descendants are still living in the place. The word Knight, or as it is written in Latin, Equite, was a military term in use under Feudal Law, distinguishing between the position of a person who could follow his Lord on horseback, or only on foot. Robert Schofield evidently held a considerable area of land thus to be able to render the Knight’s service.
Though Feudalism had gradually fallen into disuse, it is difficult to trace the exact date when it became extinct. In an isolated place like Honley evidently a few lingering remains of the old observances existed, for it was not until 1750 that Lord Mansfield pronounced the death-blow of Feudalism from the judicial bench in his famous sentence, that “the air of England has long since been too free for a slave.”
In December, 1744, it was rumoured that Charles Stuart, the son of the old Pretender, James Stuart, was in this neighbourhood, and great consternation reigned. “Watch and Ward” was ordered. Before the days of policemen the “Watch and Ward Act” gave authority to Magistrates to order all people, who were rated for relief of the poor, to take up the duty of watching by night and warding by day. During the Civil War, the greater number of Honley dwellers had fought on the side of Puritanism. They looked with suspicious eyes upon Popery, or those professing that religion; so that young Charles Stuart, who was a Roman Catholic, found no favour in the eyes of Honley dwellers. Even if their Puritanism had not been of that sturdy growth, which is not soon uprooted, the law-abiding inhabitants had not forgotten the misery of the Civil Wars, and, therefore, had no wish to disturb a settled dynasty. According to old traditions handed down in the neighbourhood, the natives to a man were hostile to the young Pretender and his Scotch followers. It is recorded that the dwellers in Honley barricaded the steep hill, known as Green Cliffe, with bags of wool. On the heights around sentries kept watch. The bottom portion of Green Cliffe still retains its name as “Sentry” on account of this once narrow defile being thus guarded by watchers. If the young Pretender sighted Honley, he entered from the opposite direction when on his march over the moorlands. The place is still pointed out where he is supposed to have reached, and named Scot-Gate Head. Personally, I am inclined to think, that Scot-Gate Head was so named on account of offering the nearest way to and from Scotland; or that it was the road used by the Moss-troopers.
Previous to the uniting of Scotland to England, and long after the union, bands of Scottish Border Marauders were wont to sweep down upon the Northern Counties, pillaging, driving off cattle, and murdering, if necessary. Parishes (and persons also whose dwellings were isolated) kept in readiness bloodhounds or sleuth-hounds to scent, — mastiff dogs to worry, — boiling water to scald, and large stones to crush the freebooters. During the earlier and middle part of the 19th century, descendants of these dogs were common in Honley and the neighbourhood. It is recorded that the son of a farmer living upon Honley Moor, had occasion to go to Meltham upon his father’s business. Hearing that Scottish raiders had been sighted, he hastened back home. With the assistance of neighbours, the family prepared for resistance, one great help of defence being boiling lead which was poured over the intruders from an upper window. In the end, the Moss-troopers were repulsed. A galloway foal running by the side of its dam was left behind and retained by the farmer. One of its foals was sold to my great grandfather, James Tilburn, and proved of wonderful stamina. Being “war nor a heighlander” (worse than a highlander) was a common proverb in my early days, if describing the character of a person who was not particular with regard to theft. Though conjectures should not become realities, yet the many old tales to which I listened when a child regarding both the advance of Bonnie Price Charlie,” and previously Moss-troopers’ raids, rather inclines me to think that Scot-Gate received its name either from being connected with the latter, or that it was the “gate” to and from Scotland. There may have been a skirmish of some kind with the Stuart followers, but there are no records only oral tradition. No doubt accounts brought into the village day by day would be vague and contradictory. If any of the followers of Charles Stuart reached Scot-Gate, they would perhaps be stragglers, bent on plunder to sustain themselves upon what would be at that time a terrible march in the depth of winter. I am, however, open to correction on this point.
We have another old legend, handed down in Honley, that the road leading from Magbridge to Netherton Moor was, during the Wars of the Roses, held by the followers of the House of York, whose distinguishing mark was the wearing of a white rose. Hence its present name of White-gate. Previous to the Enclosure Act, this road, though only a narrow defile surrounded by forest and moorland, was in existence, but it had no name. Whether a battle was fought here during the wars of the Roses, (which was probable), or that the defile was only held by the followers of the White Rose of Yoikshire, I am unable to say.
An Assessment, made in February, 1747, of the whole township, comprising Brockholes, Deanhouse, and Oldfield, was of the rateable value of £14 18s. 10d., showing an increase of £3 14s. 11d. since 1709.
By the kindness of William Brooke, Esq., an old book in his possession has been lent to me from the contents of which may be gathered much insight regarding the literary tastes prevailing during the middle of the 18th century, amongst that class of men who have not only built up the commercial prosperity of the country, but kept alive its best traditions, and taken the keenest interest in the welfare of the people. This home-made book of faded leaves and cardboard backs, contains particulars of the formation, rules, list of members, names of books, etc. of a Society named “The Honley Book Club,” established 1750. I believe that this Club was the first of its kind in the neighbourhood, the earliest Subscription Library in Huddersfield not being formed until 1807, when many of the Honley Book Club members joined, after the disbanding of their own in 1823. The following are the founders of the Club. Each member signed his name in the book, and the signatures are characteristic of the striking personality of those who wrote them.
The Rev. R. Rishton, Vicar of Almondbury (noted for his methodical care of Almondbury Registers); Rev. J. Harrop, Incumbent of Holmfirth; Mr. Battye, Surveyor, Huddersfield; Mr. Joseph Armitage (Ancestor of present Armitages); Rev. W. Croft, Curate-in-Charge, Honley; Mr. James Haigh; Mr. W. Thompson; Mr. Learoyd; Mr. Anthony Armytage, Thickhollins, Meltham; Mr. D. Crosland, Crosland Hill; Mr. Whitacre, Whitacre Mill, Huddersfield and Mr. Atkinson, Bradley Mills, Huddersfield.
On May 1st, 1762, the membership of the Club had increased considerably. The following are a few representative names of the leading families in the district at that period who belonged to the Honley Book Club:— Mr. Robson, Drysalter; Mr. Robert and Charles Walker, Far End (Ancestors of the Waddingtons); Mr. Abraham and Joseph Horsfall (the former either father or uncle to Mr. Horsfall who was shot by Luddites); Mr. Joseph Wilson, Netherthong; Mr. Eli Winpenny, Holmfirth; Mr. Richard Gill, Thurstonland; Mr. Joseph Jagger, Hagg; Rev. E. Hasleham, Curate-in-Charge, Honley (opposed to the rise of Wesleyanism); Rev. E. Armistead, Incumbent of Meltham; Nathaniel Berry, Deanhouse; Mr. Thomas Leigh, Town Head (Grandfather to the late Mr. Wm. Leigh Brook, Meltham); Mr. William Brooke and Mr. John Brooke, Merchants and Manufacturers (Ancestors of the Brooke family); Mr. William Roberts, Farnley Tyas; Mr. William Leigh, Church Street (father of the late Mrs. Hough, of South Crosland); Rev. J. Alexander, Curate-in-Charge, Honley (he read prayers for John Wesley when preaching at Honley); Mr. Benjamin Robinson, Town Head, Merchant; Mr. Joseph and Thomas Kaye, Roydhouse, Almondbury; Mr. Cookson Stephenson, Holmfirth; Mr. Walter Beaumont; Captain Moorhouse, New Mill; Dr. Stocks and Dr. Wordsworth, Holmfirth; Rev. John Mattinson, Master of Kirkheaton Grammar School and sometime Curate-in-Charge of Honley; Mr. Jonas Brook, Meltham Mills and founder of the firm, etc.
Literary food was so scanty at this period, that these virile men of a past day, whose physical and mental capacities were unimpaired, valued books as rare treasures. They journeyed from surrounding districts to Honley once a month, for the purpose of loaning precious volumes obtained at much trouble and cost — a copy of which can now be bought for a penny, and read by the poorest child.
The members of the Honley Book Club first met at the George and Dragon Inn, now converted into the Working Man’s Club. The landlord was Mr. Benjamin Batley, under whose symbolical signboard the fruit of the vine was found in its cob-webbed perfection. From the rules in the book, I infer that the members met once a month, not only to obtain books to read, but also to criticise and assimilate all that was best in the literary output of that period. Smollet’s “History of England,” which the author was publishing at that time, was in great request by the members. They also appreciated his humorous works, “Roderick Random,” “Expedition of Humphrey Clinker,” etc., being favourites. “Gangannell’s Letters,” Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” also his “Universal History,” and other Histories appeared, according to entries in the book, to be held in great esteem. The 18th century was proving such an age of expansion and discovery, that accounts of tours, travels, and descriptions of then unknown countries were eagerly read. Brave explorers were setting out on voyages of risk and adventure to find places, the names of which are now household words. The scanty accounts of the discoveries of such men as Captain Cook, proved of thrilling interest to men, whose descendants nearly two hundred years afterwards would perhaps have business dealings with the then unknown parts of the earth. The new form of publication, known as a Magazine, had become a feature of general literature of that date. The “Tatler,” “Spectator,” “Rambler,” “Lounger,” “Adventurer,” etc. were placed on the list of books. As time went on, the circulation of Goldsmith’s “Vicar of Wakefield,” Montesquien’s “Spirit of Laws,” “Gil Bias,” “Don Quixote,” Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,” “Burke,” “Arabian Nights,” “Edgeworth’s Tales,” etc., all prove that these men, in the middle of the 18th century, could appreciate with fine discrimination what was best in literature.
The members of the Club, after meeting for fifty years at the George and Dragon Inn, resolved upon a change. At a meeting, held July 31st, 1800, it was agreed to remove to “Ye Wheat Sheaf Inn,” the house of Will Theaker, famed for its Holland’s gin, and Jamaica rum. The landlord was an ancestor of the present family of that name. New rules were formed, a dinner provided when the members met, etc., but interest in the Club gradually waned. On April 17th, 1823, only seven members remained of the original number. It was decided to disband the Club after being carried on 73 years short of one month. The books were equally divided amongst the remaining seven, whose names were Mr. James Stocks, Fisher Green; Mr. Edward Lees, Surgeon; Mr. J. G. Armitage; Mr. Thomas Beaumont; Mr. Joshua Hinchliffe, Holmfirth; Mr. Robert Wrigley, Netherton; and Mr. William Leigh, Church Street.
In 1761, an Assessment was again made upon Honley property. It is interesting to know the value placed upon certain properties for purposes of assessment at this date. “Pound of pepper,” in Gynn Lane, was valued at 15/-, so that, perhaps, the old tradition of this ground once being exchanged for a pound of pepper may be true (spices being not only rare but expensive). Park Riding was valued at 13/-, Wood-top brows at 9/-, Marsh Platt at 15/-, Hagg-Lays (leys) at 14/-, etc.
Since the Norman Conquest, we have seen that the Court Leet and Inquistion dispensed a rugged kind of justice until the time of Edward III., when Constables were in existence. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Overseers of the poor were also ordered to be appointed in every parish on account of the dreadful state of the country. Honley, at this date, was still under the Lord of the Manor with regard to its Court Leet, but its feudal obedience was not rigorous. The Court was held once a year, at Almondbury, when a Constable to keep in order unruly spirits, an Overseer to relieve the poor, and a pinder to impound straying cattle, were appointed to Honley. We had a Will-Brooke de Honley (William Brooke, of Honley) serving as Constable in 1685. He signed at this date the terrier or inventory of the lands and tenements left by Godfrey Beaumont, for the maintenance of Honley and Meltham Church Ministers, the particulars of which are given in Church history. From this time, or probably earlier, until the office became merged in that of Churchwarden, the parochial duties and the affairs of the township were carried on side by .side. The Church Vestry was the appointed place of meeting for transacting all business relating to either religious or civil government. The duties of the Overseer were almost identical and the two offices were generally combined, the Constable being able to act as Overseer by virtue of his office.
Policemen not being in existence until the Police Act of 1850 came into force ; the duty of keeping a turbulent neighbourhood in order fell to the lot of the Constable, so that he was chosen not only on account of high moral character, but also for his strength, assaults upon his person being common. So many and varied were the duties that a Constable was called upon to perform, that a list of names of persons eligible for the office had to be yearly furnished on account of disinclination to accept the responsibilities. Constables were invested with great powers and authority according to old Parish Laws. They had to levy, collect and distribute all taxes, take care of churches, see that no sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, fighting, theft, etc., took place in their townships, and in general, look after the moral, spiritual and physical well-being of the neighbourhood.
In an old Honley Parish Book, dating from 1663, is a list of “ye names of ye Overseers of ye poor of Honley, and ye places which ye served for,” and particulars of their duties. Extracts from this book will show the extent of their powers, the disagreeable nature of their tasks, and the state of the country at this period. There is also an account in the book of the poor 1767 of Honley who were “badged” in the year 1767, and their names. Badging was the wearing by persons in receipt of parish relief of a piece of blue or red cloth with the letter “P” upon it, stitched upon the sleeve of the right shoulder. A penalty was imposed upon all Chapelwardens or Overseers relieving anyone who was not wearing the badge. At this period, according to authorities, nearly one-tenth of the people were paupers, so that badging was introduced as an attempt to lessen, if possible, the great evil.
Amongst other duties which had to be undertaken by Constable and Overseer, was the maintenance of illegitimate children. On account of the debased morals of the people, the births of illegitimate children were common. The Constables and Overseers did not encourage this immorality in Honley. They were vigilant in tracing out fathers of such children, and also ridding the parish of the keep of the latter as soon as possible. As the maintenance from the father ceased at the child’s seventh year, these unfortunate children were bound out as parish apprentices at such tender ages as 4, 6, 7, and 11 years of age, according to entries in the old parish book. If the great Novelist Dickens had not described so vividly the woes of a parish apprentice, a few people, yet living, have heard parents and grandparents speak of the ill-usage to which many were subjected in Honley, for it was a rugged age for both master and apprentice. There are records, however, that others were treated kindly, and many rose to affluence in after life.
Thus we have seen that the local maintenance of law and order had been slowly transferred from the power of the Court Leet, and invested in the persons of Magistrates and Constables. Representatives of these offices, at time, strangely administered justice in our midst, if old traditions are to be believed. Yet if rude, and often tyrannical, it was better than no justice at all. It is interesting also to know, that Honley is still under the present Lord of the Manor with regard to its Court Leet. This ancient Court of Law, to which customs all modern modes of administering justice owe their origin, was held until recent years, when Constable and Pinder were appointed. The yearly custom of holding the Court Leet has now fallen into disuse, and its officers have no duties to perform. If its ancient jurisdiction, however, has been superseded by modern methods, it has not yet become legally obsolete.
The following extracts are copied from “The Accounts of William Jagger, Chapelwarden (Constable) and Overseer, dated 1773-4 from June 22nd, 1773 to June 5th, 1774.” Written in the old parish book before mentioned, these accounts of one year’s town business, testify to the various duties performed by Constable and Overseer. At this date, the Ecclesiastical and Secular entries cannot be separated, but their meaning will be better understood when reading the history of the Church. Earlier entries are more interesting. Written in too blunt language, the words in use are too expressive for these pages, so are therefore omitted.
|June||22||To court fees 1/8, Paid Mr. Hasleham for a horse to ride on 1/-, to my journey and horse and expenses there 8/6 in all||8||6|
|27||Spent 1 /- admittance according to custom||1||0|
|Paid Sexton for mowing docks in Chapel-yard my ⅓ part||6|
|July||11||Paid at the dinner at Sacrament day||2||0|
|11||Paid Sexton for washing surplifefs (surplices) and cleaning plate my ⅓ is||2||6|
|Aug.||14||A journey to Wakefield to get some Indentures signed||3||6|
|Sep.||19||Paid at a dinner at Sacrament day||2||0|
|19||Paid Clerk his half-year’s wage||7||6|
|Nov.||22||Paid Sexton his half-year’s wage||4||6|
|Dec.||10||Spent when the Rev. Mr. Harrop preached at Honley Chapel||1||0|
|26||Paid at a dinner at Sacramental day||2||0|
|27||Spent on the Singers as agreed to by the inhabitants||5||0|
|Jan.||3||Was called on by the Overseer to go and remove Hannah Rowbottom and Mary Chapel into Workhouse, and to see some other poor people. For my time and charge 1/-, and spent 6d.||1||6|
|16||David Hobson, his wife and 3 children was brought by an order from Netherthong to my house and demanded relief. I charge 1/6, for I went with them to Honley, and called a few of the principal inhabitants which deemed me to pay in the shot||3||6|
|(I was told that the “shot” was a kind of “sending the cap around,” or collecting from those who would pay, and lived nearest If wrong, I am open to correction).|
|I was sent for to meet the Overseers of Thong and Honley to sign and seal a certificate which was wrong done before, our townspeople deemed me 2/- to pay in the shot||2||0|
|23||Paid Sexton for cleaning snow out of chapel yards walks my ⅓ part||6|
|Jan.||23||Went with Overseers of the Poor with a family by an order to Farnley, for loss of time and expenses||1||6|
|Feb.||27||Spent at a meeting by order of the inhabitants when the ornaments were letten||1||0|
|Mar.||30||Paid Clark his half-year’s wages||7||6|
|Paid Sexton his half-year’s wages||4||6|
|Paid for fires making in vestry my ⅓ part||2||6|
|Paid at dinner at Sacramental day in Passion week||2||0|
|June||4||Paid for my assessment bill writing||4½|
|12||Paid when we met to read the Visitation articles||1||0|
|15||Paid when we was at Wakefield to Almondbury Churchwarden||5||0||0|
|To Jonathan Sanderson for book-keeping and giving in my accounts||18||0|
|Disbursed jointly £1 9s. 3½d., Honley share 12s. 6¼d.||12||6¼|
|These accounts were examined and found correct, and allowed by us. Abel Hobson, Joseph Armitage, George Batley, William Crosley, Joseph Sanderson, Joseph Jagger, John Jagger, Jonathan Sanderson.|
The names of Constables or Chapelwardens who served the Township from 1685 to 1798 and their dates of service are as follows:— 1685, Will-Brooke, de Honley; 1746, William Brooke; 1747-8, John Cockin; 1750, John Sykes, Wood-bottom; 1751-5, William Crosley; 1756-8, Emmanuel Bot-tomley Gynn; 1759, Richard Armitage, Hall Ing; 1760-1, Joseph Moorhouse; 1762, John Lockwood, Brockholes; 1763, Matthew Haigh, Ridings; 1764, Joseph Walker; 1765-6, Joseph Swallow, Oldfield; 1767, Godfrey Berry, Deanhouse; 1768, Richard Woffenden, Stagwood-bottom; 1769-70, John Littlewood, Banks; 1771-2, Jonathan Sanderson; 1773-5, William Jagger; 1776-7, Joseph Armitage; 1778-80, Thomas Cockin; 1781-3, George Armitage; 1785-6, Benjamin Batley; 1787, Matthew Kaye; 1788-95, John Brooke; 1796, Benjamin Townsend; 1797, James Armitage; 1798, Nathaniel Berry, Deanhouse; 1799-1800, Joseph Woodhead, Thirstin.
In the middle of this century, the dwellers in “Merrie England” were not in very joyful mood. Wonderful inventions were bringing great changes, amongst which was the transfer of the woollen industry from the household to the mill. This transition, from the domestic mode of manufacturing to its concentration in large buildings, brought many evils in its train. Religious and educational facilities had not kept pace with the rapid increase in population, and the country was in a state of lawlessness and poverty. There had been such a re-action from the time of Puritanism, that the pendulum had swung to the opposite extreme. If historians are correct, the age was godless, the Church sunk in apathy, the people debased, sports and pastimes brutal in character, and virtue looked upon as vice. But religious faith is never really dead in a nation. A small knot of students at Oxford, noted for their piety, were named Methodists in scorn, on account of their methodical or regular way in which they governed their lives. These young men banded themselves together, not only to protest against the deadness of the Church at this period, but also with a determination to bring religion to the masses who, like their betters, were ignorant and brutal to a degree. Three figures stand out of this small group of religious enthusiasts at Oxford, in the persons of White field and the brothers Wesley, whose trumpet-blasts were to sound throughout the world. If Wycliffe was “the morning star of the Reformation,” so John Wesley was not only the star, but the bright sun of the great religious revival of the 18th century. Such earnest intense preaching had not been heard before, and soon the pulpits of the Established Church were closed against these men. They then commenced preaching in the ‘highways and hedges’ with what result is known to the student of history.
We, in this present century, can never realise what the preaching of Wesley meant during the time of anguish and suffering prevailing amongst the people at this period. His dramatic form of preaching with its intense fervour and simple pathos, appealed strongly to people of mental limitations and circumscribed lives. Spirits thrilled in response to that easy flowing rhetoric which transformed dark existence to romance, and touched lips hitherto dumb in ignorance with the ‘live coal’ of eloquence. Wesleyanism had its converts in every obscure place in the kingdom, and it was said that only the prevailing religious fervour prevented a revolution in the North. Wesleyanism took deep root in the hearts of Honley people. It would have been difficult at one time to have found a home which did not contain the picture of John Wesley. Devotional hymn singing was a feature of his services, and as years have passed, the passionate love for his grand old hymns has strengthened rather than waned amongst us.
Before giving particulars of the visit of John Wesley to Deanhouse and Honley, a great religious work was performed in the neighbourhood by disciples of Whitefield and Wesley, whose labours have since faded in the background of years. The work of these men are worthy of recall. They travelled long distances to preach the gospel in the open air, or in any cottage that would shelter them, and often went in fear of their lives. Wesleyanism had taken firm root in districts around Leeds, and the pioneers who came to this neighbourhood were chiefly from Birstall and its surrounding villages. It was due to the labours of those early Methodist Missionaries that the first Methodist Chapel was erected in the valley of the Holme. This was built at Deanhouse in the year 1769, a hamlet which was included in Honley township until recently.
John Pawson, a Birstall Methodist, writes in 1765 as follows:— “Mr. Wesley had withdrawn preaching from Huddersfield at the request of the Reverend Mr. Venn, who thought himself sufficient for that parish ; but now we began preaching there again, and by this means a way was opened out into the mountains above, where the people in general are little better than heathens, ignorant and wicked to a degree. The Lord hath since wrought a great change amongst them. Several Chapels have been built in that part, and many souls savingly converted to God. When I was preaching at Thong (Deanhouse), the Minister of Honley sent the Constable to take me up. He happened to come in just when I was taking my text. The man was so surprised to find that I took a text out of the Bible that he resolved he would stay and hear me out, he did so, and was converted to the truth, turned to the Lord, found salvation, lived a few years’ happy in the love of God, and died in peace. So far was Satan disappointed of his hope in sending the poor man to the preaching.”
The Curate-in-Charge of Honley, at this time, was the Rev. Edward Hasleham, B.A., who was strongly opposed to the preaching of the Methodists, or “enthusiasts,” as they were named at this time. He was the author of a famous sermon preached in the Parish Church of Batley in 1753, condemning the Methodists of that place. The Rev. Henry Venn, to whom reference is made by John Pawson, was the Vicar of Huddersfield. The preaching of Wesley had not only aroused the people, but also the lethargy of the Clergy, and many awoke to the new enthusiasm. The Rev. Henry Venn was one who joined in the religious revival, and his life was one long day of Christian zeal and activity. His earnest preaching, like the discourse of John Wesley, was of that striking character which aroused all classes of society in his own neighbourhood; and people streamed in crowds each Sunday to listen — walking six, eight and even ten miles.
We now come to the visit of John Wesley to Deanhouse Chapel. In his Journals, he records that he visited the Chapel on July 6th, 1772. He writes :—“ At ten I preached in the new house at Thong.” (Deanhouse).
At this time the level highway between Huddersfield and Holmfirth was not constructed. The main road led from Honley Bridge by way of old Turnpike, Banks and Hagg. At the latter place John Wesley dismounted from his carriage to walk to Deanhouse, the present road being only a bridle-path. After service, Mrs. Dinah Bates, a well-known Deanhouse Methodist of that date, accompanied or came “agatards” with him on his return to Hagg. She was a person of religious zeal and practical activities, being a noted “leech-woman,” and in great request by her neighbours for the curing of ailments. Other worshippers also walked with John Wesley back to Hagg, for his visit must have been a great event in restricted lives. On arrival at Hagg, prompted by the beautiful scenery of the wooded valley which can still be viewed from this old world road, John Wesley shouted forth, in those impassioned tones which generally aroused his hearers to the same religious fervour as his own:—
The four lines are a verse of one of his hymns. A well-known tune was stuck up by one of the assembled group. The elevating melody was taken up with vigour by strong voices so often exercised in prayer and singing, the harmony being mingled with softer feminine tones. My great grandmother was amongst the small assembly, and my father has often repeated her description of the scene. Mr. Benjamin Jagger Littlewood, of Netherthong, now 86 years of age, a grandson of Mrs. Dinah Bates, also frequently heard his grandmother graphically describe the circumstance. Being thus familiar from hearsay with this scene of a by-gone day, imagination can vividly re-construct the picture of those toil-worn men and women who knew so little of the gay and sunny side of life, gathered around the great preacher on the secluded country road. Repeating the verse of the hymn again and again, hillside and valley echoing the sound of the strain, Wesley’s arms uplifted in religious rapture, and the faces of his hearers luminous with the hope of that heaven where all wounded souls would be healed ; what an inspiring scene for the brush of a great painter ! Only great artists are not present at such opportune times.
John Wesley, when preaching again at Deanhouse in 1788, records in his Journal visiting Honley, at eleven o’clock, on April 30th, 1788. The Rev. John Alexander, M.A., who was Curate-in-Charge at this period, was a strong supporter of Wesley. John Wesley writes in his diary as follows:— “After the Curate had read prayers to a large and serious congregation, I preached on the text ‘It is appointed unto all men once to die.’ I believe many felt as well as heard the word.”
I must again quote from oral tradition. My father also often repeated his grandmother’s account of Wesley’s visit to Honley, his preaching in the Churchyard, and that he possessed a beautiful head of hair. Dressed in the black gown and white cravat, so familiar to those who have seen his picture (the orthodox Church of England garment at the time), he stood upon the churchyard wall which was a low structure flagged at the top. With uncovered head and Bible clasped to breast, he preached “as a dying man to dying men” to people, who, twenty years previously, according to the account of John Pawson, were little better than heathens.
The pulpit cushion used by John Wesley when he preached at Deanhouse, in 1788, eventually came into the possession of the Rev. Charles Drawbridge, Incumbent of Honley, in 1823, who highly valued the relic.
The Enclosure Act altered the whole face of England. Forests which hitherto had sheltered the outlaw were gradually broken up into small remnants, or came under cultivation, moorlands and open spaces were parcelled out and hedged around. As we have seen Honley Moor was unenclosed. Its aspect also was completely changed when it came under the Enclosure Act in 1788. A copy of the “Award of Honley Manor” was published by the late Mr. Joseph Whitworth, who was interested in all ancient belongings of Honley. I am indebted for the following particulars taken from his book. The freeholders had the right of “cutting timber for house-boot, hain-boot, plough-boot, cart-boot and fire-boot” on Honley Moor. Also they could obtain slates and stones for purposes of building. In return for these privileges, they were required to keep the mill-dam and dam-stakes of Honley water-mill in repair (Honley Mill). When Honley Moor came under the Enclosure Act, their rights in respect to the Cutting of timber in the lands of the Lord of the Manor were abolished, but they were exonerated from keeping the mill-dam and dam-stakes in repair. The freeholders however were allowed to obtain stone and slates from the delf-spring wood and the old wood.
In this Award made by John Sharp, Nathan Jowett and Benjamin Patchett, Commissioners, they order the “setting out and appointing one public carriage road of the breadth of 40 feet, which we name Bradshaw Road, which leads from the antient (ancient) main carriage road at the bottom of Houley Moor.” The same order is to be observed regarding Mag-bridge Road, Delf Road, Miry Lane Road, Thurstonland Road and others. Next follows the order of staking out roads of the breadth of 21 feet, such as Gib Lane, Wood Nook, Cross Road, Thirstin, Scot-gate, Wood-bottom Roads, etc. There are also strict injunctions regarding the making of occupation roads to the newly allotted lands, the preserving of footpaths, wells, etc.
I have been told on trustworthy authority, that the wages of the labourers employed on making these roads were 1/- per day.
The breaking up of the romantic domain of Honley Moor must have been ruthless, when so many new roads were parcelled out over its heather and gorse ; and the present stone walls set with chess-board monotony, substituted for its once free and open spaces. Destructive indeed must have been the cutting down of fir and oak trees when so few, if any, of the rustling denizens of the forest remain, with the exception of scattered belts of woodland still preserved by private ownership. During the last century, there were few people in Honley who did not possess a trophy of the destruction of Honley Moor, either in one shape or another about their homes. For over fifty years after the Enclosure Act, glorious bonfires lighted in Honley on November 5th, were composed of the massive roots of ancient oak trees uprooted from this soil.
During the ferment in France, there was panic and distress in England. The French Revolution found a strong echo in the hearts of that class of the community who were also struggling for the principles of Representative Government, and freedom of conscience. Revolutionary enthusiasm and seditious assemblies gathered such force, that local people had to be enrolled for purposes of defence. Constables were called upon to furnish without delay returns of men, horses and arms available in their parishes. Honley supplied 72 volunteers. At a meeting held in 1794, those who volunteered to form a regiment of cavalry for the protection of the neighbourhood in addition to 72 volunteers, — were Mr. George Armitage, High Royd, Mr. Leigh and Mr. Brooke. Towards the expenses incurred for purposes of defence, Mr. George Armitage gave £50 0s. 0d., Mr. William and Mr. John Brooke £50 0s. 0d., Mr. Thomas and Mr. William Leigh £50 0s. 0d., Mr. James Armitage £21 0s. 0d., Mr. Joshua Rcbinson £10 10s. 0d., Mr. Benjamin Robinson £5 5s. 0d., Mr. George Jessop £5 5s. 0d., Mr. Abraham Hanson £1 1s. 0d., and others contributed smaller amounts. Mr. George Armitage, of High Royd, who, at that time was the only Magistrate in the neighbourhood dispensing justice at High Royd, not only enrolled Honley Volunteers, but administered the oath of allegiance to King George III. to Volunteers dwelling in 16 adjoining townships. (See Armitage family).