The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger
A public meeting of ratepayers was held on March 17th, 1843 for the purpose of forming a committee to manage the affairs of the village in conjunction with Constable, Chapelwarden, Overseer and Guardians. The latter had now become a part of parochial organization. Amongst the numerous Poor Law Acts was that of 1819, empowering vestries to appoint fit and proper person to act as Guardians of the poor in each parish. This Act was for the purpose of placing a check upon the indiscriminate relief of the poor by Overseers, so that the latter could not give money without the consent and oversight of such duly qualified persons. A public meeting, held on March 24th, 1843, appointed twenty-one of the leading inhabitants of Honley to act as its first committee in the management of its local affairs. They not only worked in concert with the before-mentioned officers, but afterwards the appointment of these public officers was vested in the Committee. The management of old-time officers as we shall see in this history was more picturesque than efficient, so that the members of this first formed governing body had no light task in front of them. Sanitary Laws, of which we have at present a surfeit, were then unheeded. Honley at this time adopted an easy and inexpensive mode of drainage by having open sewers on either side of roads, so that people passing to and fro had to have an eye to their avoidance. We were so proud of these uncovered channels, that they were given their proper and significant names; Sordes (foul matter) hole (cavity), hence Sordes-hole, which in local vocabulary was pronounced “Sor-hoil.” Honley boasted of many “Sor-hoils” at this date, and its dwellers being proof against new-fangled innovations brought strong resistive force against their “Sor-hoils” being disturbed, looking upon them as adjuncts to health. I have heard many old natives recall the memory of these open sewers with great affection, holding modern drainage responsible for all epidemics. They also clung to the old-fashioned idea that measles were a necessity, — the sooner children caught them by being sent out to play with those who were suffering from the disease — the better. From this time, however, affairs in the village were better looked after and important improvements carried out.
During this time of outcry for Reform and Repeal of the Corn Laws, nearly all the mills in the neighbourhood were idle; and the firm of Messrs. Benjamin Shaw & Co., Shaw’s Factory, ceased manufacturing. It was a familiar saying when I was a child that “three mechanics and one hammer” caused the ruin of this firm. Another reason given was that these generous employers impoverished themselves by helping others too generously at this time of misery and destitution. After the closing of Shaw’s Factory, Honley passed through its darkest days. A song, sung to a cheerful inspiring tune, was popular at that time:—
Many of the sons and daughters of Honley crossed the Atlantic at this time, not so much for freedom as for the bare necessaries of life. Previous to 1838, the journey to America in small sailing ships with no accommodation and less comfort was a long and terrible voyage. It was not until 1838, when the great feat of crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool to New York by steam was accomplished, that future journeys were hopefully prophesied. In reply to such foolish ideas, Dr. Dionyseus Lardner said that “as well might they attempt a voyage to the moon as run regularly between England and New York.”
After the closing of Shaw’s Factory, so great was the exit out of Honley to America and other towns to find employment, that over 200 houses were empty, and the rateable value was very low.
The advent of railways opened a new era in human history. People who hitherto had not left the sight of their hill-sides were now able to travel to distant towns that were being rapidly linked up with each other. We felt the effect of closing our vast system of railways for a few days during the Railway strike; yet at first there was the most violent opposition against what are now of national importance. Railways were not welcomed even by the most progressive people. The public held all kinds of grievances against them, especially landowners and farmers, who demanded extortionate prices for their land. So strong was the opposition to one of the greatest forces of modern progress and usefulness, that not only each place through which a railway passed, but almost each person had to be conciliated. The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in September 1825 was only made at the cost of much labour, experiment, and strong opposition. The speed was 25 miles per hour. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830, when the unheard of speed of 36 miles per hour was attained. When the Railway between Manchester and Sheffield was opened in 1845, it was common for people in Honley to walk to Dunford Bridge for the purpose of seeing the train emerge from Woodhead tunnel. They returned home convinced that they had seen one of the wonders of the age. The greatest event, however, to Honley people, was when the line to Holmfirth and Penistone was opened in 1850, and the village found itself in possession of a Railway Station.
The introduction of cheap trips next caused a great sensation. Whilst the novelty was new, it was customary for people to rise as early as the travellers who were so rich and courageous as to travel to such distant places as London or Scarborough. After seeing them off, their return at unearthly hours was also eagerly awaited. I have heard old people describe the earliest mode of railway travelling. This was in carriages similar to the present goods’ trucks. They were open to wind and weather, and had no seats. There were persons living in Honley twenty years ago who had not ridden in a railway train, and firmly refused to do so until their death. When the line was opened in 1850, a great aunt of mine declared that “people would soon be toe idle to walk to Huddersfield.” She lived to hear a younger generation complain of walking to Honley Station. Honley is on the Lancashire and Yorkshire section of railways with connections to all parts.
One of the greatest forces in helping to diffuse knowledge amongst the people has been the newspaper, its advent due to the wonderful improvements in the printing press. The early struggles of newspaper-promoters for freedom of speech met with the usual reward which falls to the lot of pioneers. They were persecuted and imprisoned. The first newspaper which found its way to Honley was the “York Mercury,” printed weekly in 1718. The stamp duty upon newspapers was 4d., and the price of the “York Mercury” in 1767 was 6d. I can distinctly recall the appearance of this red stamp upon an old copy preserved by my father. The paper was the most important issued in the North of England, and long retained its popularity. Its weekly arrival at Honley was eagerly awaited by a group of enlightened citizens who joined in its purchase and perusal. The reduction of the stamp duty on newspapers from 4d. to one penny in 1836 paved the way to greater circulation, until in 1855 the tax was abolished. The “York Mercury” continued to be read in this neighbourhood until 1850, when the first local newspaper was published. This was the “Huddersfield Chronicle,” Conservative in politics, published April 6th, 1850. The issue of the “Huddersfield Weekly Examiner,” Liberal in policy, followed closely being published on September 6th, 1851.
At this date, and long afterwards, there were many people in Honley as elsewhere who were unable to read or write; so that at first the circulation of both newspapers was limited. I can recall evenings when I was called upon to lead the contents of both newspapers to aged relatives and friends. How their souls were stirred with indignation at the frivolities of that age! With what sweeping condemnation they would denounce, or heartily agree with the policy of the Government according to their views! When reading on with youthful disregard of political principles, their bursts of indignant protest or approval sounded rather foolish in my ears, but became more significant as time went on. I can remember that the “Huddersfield Chronicle,” in its earlier days, had a stationary reporter at Honley in the person of Mr. James Farrington. The history of the two local newspapers, the accounts of difficulties swept aside, and their influence in the neighbourhood does not come within the scope of Honley history.
In the year 1852 Holmfirth Flood devastated the whole of the Holme valley. The bursting of the Bilberry reservoir, situated in its moorland hollow between Good-bent and Digley, in the early morning of February 5th, 1852, has long been a fireside story in our midst. The flood in which 81 people lost their fives has formed a theme for many writers, and its memory will be handed down to future generations. Even if such had not been the case, its history belongs to the annals of Holmfirth save the mention that one life in our township was lost. When the flood reached Smithy Place and Honley, its force was somewhat checked by having more room for spreading. Even then, the wreck and damage left behind was awful. One child, named Elizabeth Healey, aged 8, of Smithy Place, was drowned. She was washed out of the cottage near the bridge which was in the track of the flood. Other persons in Smithy Place had hair-breadth escapes. Allen Kaye, a child at that time whose parents resided in the mill-yard, was saved by swimming about in a drawer.
England declared war against Russia with a shout and flourish of trumpets in 1854. The song of:—
was upon every lip. At this period, Honley had perhaps more of her sons serving in the army than had been enlisted from any other neighbouring townships, so that a large number of natives were engaged in the Crimean War. Many of these did not return from a campaign that lost England twenty-four thousand men, and cost forty millions of money. Others who came back were burdened with last messages of their comrades, which proved as trying in delivering as facing the enemy’s guns. I could record many of these pathetic messages sent by dying sons to Honley mothers, how their last thoughts had winged their way to home, and last words had babbled in delirium of earlier scenes. The returned Crimean Veterans lived long to dissipate their pensions at each quarter-day, recall past hardships, and fight their battles over again by firesides or in village alehouses.
The long and terrible Crimean War ended in 1856. The people were so thankful at the cessation of hostilities, that “Peace Rejoicings” were held in every town, village and hamlet in the land. One of the earliest recollections of my life was one vivid flash of walking up the Gate in the procession of School children. I was very young at the time, and cannot recall any other detail in connection with the affair all the rest being blank in my childish memory. I have copied a few particulars from an old subscription list of “Honley Peace Rejoicing” lent to me by Mr. David France. The Celebration took place on June 14th, 1856, and was a red-letter day in the annals of the village. Four large Committees were appointed, viz:— Provisions, Music, Accommodation and Procession Committees. Mr. James Robinson was appointed Chairman and Mr. Joseph Heap, Vice-Chairman. The two Secretaries were Mr. Josiah France and Mr. George Jagger, and Mr. Henry Thackray was Treasurer. The list of subscribers numbered over 500. The highest subscription of £20 was given by the late Mr. Thomas Brooke, of Northgate House; and the lowest of 3d. by Mr. Thomas Oldfield.
By the kindness of Mr. Frank Oldfield, I have been supplied with a printed copy relating to the formation of the first Gas Company as a Joint Stock Company in 1856. It was printed by Mr. George Green, and headed “A deed of settlement of the Honley Gas Company.” The Company had been previously registered in May, 1855, under the Act of Parliament then in force regarding Companies. It was made a Joint Stock Company on February 22nd, 1856. The capital was £1,000 0s. 0d., in 1,000 shares of £1 each. The newly-formed Company drew up careful rules, appointed 15 Directors, Treasurer, and two Auditors; so that its members were cautious individuals. Though so careful to avoid evils, they were so liberal-minded as to allow females to hold shares. This concession however was on account of the difficulty experienced in persuading men to invest money in such a dangerous compound as gas. The first Directors were Mr. George Dodson, Grocer; Mr. Charles Parker Drawbridge, Attorney’s Clerk; Mr. Thomas Eastwood, Joiner; Mr. William France, Plumber; Mr. Benjamin France, Manufacturer; Mr. George Green, Stationer; Mr. George Greenwood, Cloth-dresser; Mr. David Hobson, Cloth-dresser; Mr. Edwin Hinchliffe, Manufacturer; Mr. Joseph Kaye, Cloth-dresser; Mr. Robert Littlewood, Manufacturer; Mr. John Schofield, Clothier; Mr. Joshua Midwood, Grocer; Mr. Richard Mellor, Manufacturer, and Mr. William Taylor, Manufacturer. The Company appointed Mr. Robert Littlewood, Manufacturer, and Mr. George Jagger, Assistant Overseer, as Auditors. The office of Treasurer was filled by the late Mr. Thomas Brooke, of Northgate House, and Mr. Joseph Jagger, Manufacturer, was appointed Secretary.
This first small Gas Company which had to struggle hard, and overcome many prejudices and hindrances was so well managed, that eventually the undertaking became one of the most prosperous concerns in the valley. The bravery of those persons who took its future into their hands, and boldly invested in £1 shares was in the end rewarded. When Honley decided by the vote of its ratepayers to purchase the Gas Works and all its belongings after 45 years of existence, the purchase price paid to the shareholders was £18,500 0s. 0d.
The introduction of Gas was looked upon with the same fear and suspicion which marked the beginning of railways. The new illuminating power was considered one of the black arts, and akin to “th’ owd lad.” It was thought to be so dangerous, that people could not sleep in their beds when they knew of its existence in their midst. In the account of the old Mechanics Institute, mention is made of Mr. Edwin France as being the first person to make gas in Honley. He suffered from the usual penalties assigned to people who are too progressive, and was quickly involved in law-suits regarding fumes from his small private retort. Mr. France, after much persuasion induced my father, who held the office of Postmaster, to adopt the new light, the retort being close behind the house. This was for the purpose of advertisement, so that people who came to the Post Office could behold the brightness of the new illuminating power. They came to view, but were content with the sight. So apprehensive were they of its great danger, that the comments made upon such rash daring, were often laughingly recalled in after years. At that time, however, the verbal denunciations — domestic and otherwise — made such a deep impression upon the mind of my father that when the Company was floated, he refused to be enticed into investing in shares.
At a town’s meeting, held in December, 1859, it was decided to light the Streets of Honley with gas. Evidently the “city fathers” had realised its value, for not only had they previously sanctioned the laying of mains in the streets to convey gas to private houses, but also decided to give the public the benefit of light. This illumination was not spread over outside roads and lanes, but confined to a restricted area within the village; so that lanthorns were still required by outside dwellers on dark nights. In the days when water had to be fetched from Honley well, its neighbourhood was a busy place from early morning until late at night. I believe that the first public lamp was placed upon the stonework of the well a year previous to gas lamps being set up in the streets. This solitary lamp was first lighted on December 31st, 1858.
The history of Co-operation is well-known, though once imagination would have failed to picture its wonderful developements since the first efforts of the Rochdale Pioneers. Twelve characteristic dwellers in Honley in December, 1839 raised 30/- amongst themselves for the purpose of buying provisions cheaper in a lump than in scattered fragments. Christmas was approaching, and even during the “hungry forties” the poorest person in Honley honoured its feast and the festival of Christmas. The twelve “Honleyers” walked to Huddersfield, no doubt with happy anticipations of coming Christmas cheer, for they purchased a cheese, returned home and sold the cheese at a profit of 1d. in the lb. These early pioneers next filled the ambitious role of capitalists, and employers of labour. In 1860, they rented a cottage in Oldfield Buildings, employed a Salesman and issued yearly balance-sheets to members. The cottage soon proved too small for increasing business, and the Society removed to a larger shop in Church Street, previously occupied by the late Mr. William Wilkinson, Draper. Here the business made such progress, that in 1867 the members were able to build their own premises, the first building being erected to the front of Westgate. At first the sales in the new store were confined to grocery and drapery. So able was the oversight of the intelligent and industrious class of men who generally formed the Managing Committees of the Society, that the business went forward by leaps and bounds. Investments had now to be found for fast accumulating capital, and a row of houses was erected at the bottom of Honley Moor, which members were able to purchase by paying easy instalments. Other trades in all their branches were gradually added, including the sale of corn, coals, meat, boots, clogs, fish, green-grocery, etc. These necessitated increased accommodation. Spacious and handsome buildings have risen one by one including a large hall around the original erection. Thus from the small beginning of the purchase of one cheese, the Honley Cooperative Society has now the largest trading business in the place; which proves that the common-place of every day life is really a great marvel. Its assets comprise houses and landed property, large stores, stock property, railway wagons, horses, carts, farm, etc. From the half-yearly report, issued August 25th, 1913, the present number of members is 1,210. The share capital amounts to £21,741 14s.0d. The sales for the half-year ending August, 1913 amounted to £19,663 5s. 11½d.
The Local Committee formed in 1843 to manage the affairs of the village continued until 1864. A town’s meeting was held on June 29th, 1864, when it was decided to adopt the Local Government Act of 1858, which ordered properly constituted bodies of men, sent by votes of ratepayers, to manage local affairs. The new Act came into force in Honley on August 29th, 1864, and on December 7th the same year, the newly-appointed Board held its first meeting. Mr. James Robinson, of Smithy Place, was appointed its first chairman. In 1865, Honley was divided into four wards for the better division of its local government, viz :— Central, East, South and West. Each ward is entitled to send three representatives to the Governing Board.
A narrow footway aptly named “Spider’s Alley,” which had its entrance near to the Vicarage Gates and led to the stepping-stones was closed in 1870. This ancient path passed through fields which at this date were being enclosed for a Park. The late Captain Jessop, the owner of the property, gave its equivalent in land to widen the Gate. This was not only a great improvement, but the alterations to private property also beautified the main entrance to Honley.
In March, 1870, the Rateable Value of Honley was £13,072 0s. 0d.
Previous to 1870, the only way to Honley Station was either by the present Gynn Lane, or wading through an old narrow bridle-path, which was left to nature for repair, known as Cow-lane. To the left of this generally impassable road diverged another bridle-gate named Windy-Cap, which led into Northgate lane — the highway to Farnley Tyas, Kirkburton, Wakefield, etc. When toll-bars were abolished, the land for the present road to the railway station, and for the widening of Windy Cap to its present broad dimensions was given by Mr. William Brooke in exchange for the closing of the bottom part of Northgate lane, which lay between his private grounds. The making of this road which was a great undertaking, and the widening of Windy Cap, which was at that time a deep gully banked by rocks, heather, and gorse bushes, was one of the greatest of modern improvements in Honley considerably shortening the distance to the station. The first sod for the present road was turned by Mr. Lupton Littlewood, on December 24th, 1870, who at that time was Chairman of the Local Board. The road was finished in August, 1871.
Formerly the only way to reach the National Schools was by a narrow dirty lane leading from Church Street. This was widened, and the present fine broad road constructed, I believe, at no cost to Honley Ratepayers.
Before old names are forgotten by a new generation, it is of interest to ask why two of Honley’s oldest “gates” were thus named. Cow Lane may have received its name from being used as a cow-gate. On the other hand, there are many Norse superstitions linking the names of Cow Lane and Windy-Cap together. It was an old belief, and is still in remote places in Lancashire, that the “milky-way” in the firmament is the road to heaven at death; and many hill-side dwellers still name the “milky-way” as the “Cow Lane.” Another Norse legend is that Ericus, a nephew of Regnerus, King of Denmark, was so deeply versed in witchcraft that whichever way he turned his cap, the wind would blow in that direction. For possessing this magical power, he was named Windy-Cap. His uncle by this supposed supernatural aid was able to conquer all countries, and extend his piracy into most remote parts. In these old legends, there seems close connection between the name of this old road and our early Danish invaders. On the other hand, “Winde” means swamp, and “cap” a headland, which also answers to its old-time character and situation.
On the night of Oct. 27th, 1880, Wood Royd Mill was burnt down. The weather was very bad, and fire engines had great difficulty in reaching the scene of the fire on account of the deep snow underfoot.
In the short history of our wells, it will be seen that we have no lack of springs. One would have thought that the sound of running water in every nook and corner of Honley would have satisfied the most thirsty soul. Such however was not the case. The water supplied by Huddersfield Corporation to Honley dwellers was officially turned on by Mr. Lupton Littlewood, who was Chairman of the Local Board at the time. This ceremony took place upon Honley Feast Monday, 1881.
The first Jubilee in honour of fifty years’ reign of the late Queen Victoria was held on June 20th, 1887. Wonderful enthusiasm, pomp, loyalty and splendour marked the day in London, provincial towns and all parts of Her Majesty’s Dominions. Honley honoured the Queen’s Jubilee with great enthusiasm, processions, speeches, and loyal cheers. Free teas and medals were provided for both week-day and Sunday scholars of all Denominations. The day’s proceedings were closed by the lighting of a huge bonfire in the most elevated part of the estate of Mr. William Brooke, Northgate Mount, and a display of fireworks.
This once well-known old Inn was purchased by Mr. William Brooke in 1887, and closed. The work of pulling down commenced in March, 1892, for the purpose of erecting a Parish Room on the site. (See Church History).
The formation of first Local Government in Honley was named a Local Committee. In 1894, the village governing body was designated a Local Board, when its title was again changed. By virtue of the Local Government Act of that year, our Local Governing Board was to be known in future as the Urban District Council and its members as Councillors. The first election of Councillors under new names book place in December in 1894, and the first meeting on December 31st in the same year. Dr. Thomas Smailes was the first appointed Chairman under its new title.
The ancient boundaries of Honley which had not been disturbed since the days of the Norman Conquest, (and probably earlier), fell a victim to modern change in 1897. The limits of stream and forest were no longer to form the boundary line of one part of the township. A community had arisen on ground once covered by the forest which demanded its own local government. Meltham Mills was taken from Honley township on March 15th, 1897, and transferred to Meltham Urban District Council. What may seem a trivial event in a place has often more far-reaching effects than other happenings which attract greater attention for the time being. The substantial sum hitherto paid in rates to Honley by Messrs. Jonas Brook & Sons for their large Cotton-thread Works, and also rates from other sources was a loss to our township if a great acquisition to the finances of Meltham.
On June 20th, 1897, the late Queen Victoria had reigned sixty years. This second Jubilee surpassed the first in wonderful outbursts of joy, loyalty and gratitude; money being given for all kinds of charitable objects throughout the country. The Queen passed in State through London. One striking feature of the Celebrations were the simultaneous lightings of bonfires or beacon-fires at ten o’clock on the evening of the Jubilee. The bonfires were placed not only upon sites where the beacon-fires had blazed in olden days, but upon every hill-top and elevated piece of land throughout the country. A June day of “Queen’s weather” had been succeeded by an equally perfect June night, so that local fires, especially upon historical Castle Hill could be seen by all. The writer, from a favourable standpoint at the top of Honley Moor, counted seven flaring beacons. This eventful night brought to more vivid realization Lord Macaulay’s stirring ballad relating to the anticipated landing of the Spanish Armada upon our shores, with the difference that the lighting of the fires was the signal for one long shout of loyalty in place of a war-flame. Four lines taken from Lord Macaulay’s Ballad of the Armada can be applied as descriptive of the Diamond Jubilee night.
Honley again duly honoured the Diamond Jubilee. A Special Service had been held in Church the previous Sunday. The main streets had been decorated by a willing band of workers ready for the day. The school children joined together in singing at Lane Head Hill, walked in procession through the streets, and were regaled with a good tea at their respective Schools. After the evening’s sports and pastimes, a bonfire and fireworks concluded an eventful day. Two days afterwards, the late Captain Jessop gave a dinner at the National Schools to all persons over 60 years of age in the township of Honley, when speeches were made and loyal toasts drunk. To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee in Honley, £500 0s. 0d. was given to the Sick Nursing Fund, and £25 0s. 0d. to Brockholes Recreation Ground.
A gas explosion took place upon the premises, killing four men and injuring another, on Tuesday, July 4th, 1899. The accident caused much excitement at the time, and large crowds of people visited the scene of the explosion.
On October 22nd, 1900, Honley took the bold leap of becoming a capitalist township by purchasing the Gas Works. The original Shareholders and fifteen Directors who in 1856 had floated the Company by risking £1000 0s. 0d. amongst themselves had been looked upon as wild speculators who turned worlds upside down, and would not allow people to slumber peacefully in their beds. What would be the views of ancient critics now? The township purchased the Gas Works by agreement on October 22nd, 1900, which was confirmed on July 2nd, 1901 by the Urban District Council. The purchase price was £18,500 0s. 0d.
A great landmark in the history of the country was the death of Queen Victoria of England on January 22nd, 1901, aged 81 years, after a reign of 63 years. Honley added its loyal tribute of mourning to her memory. Being an eye witness to that notable State funeral in London, when Kings and Princes from all parts of the World personally paid their sorrowing homage to a great Queen, the sight can never be forgotten.
On February 1st, 1902, the residents of Honley publicly welcomed and honoured Private Arnold Taylor, and previously Private Auty, who had served in the South African War.
The first Steam-car by road to Honley was run from Huddersfield, on a trial trip, on June 4th, 1902. The following day, June 5th, the cars conveyed passengers. The cars are now run by electricity.
This historical event of a King’s crowning after his mother’s long reign, took place on August 9th, 1902.
The plant laid down for Electricity in conjunction with the Gas Works, was\prepared in 1901, and the Electric-light was first used experimentally on November 11th 1903. It was not, however, until March 21st, 1904, that the plant was officially opened. A large company of local gentlemen were present at the opening ceremony. A gold key, suitably inscribed, was presented to Elon Crowther, Esq., J.P., Chairman of the District Council, with which Mr. Crowther opened the door of the generating room, and set the engine in motion. William Brooke, Esq., J.P., switched on the light.
On May 23rd, 1904, Captain Clement Armitage, son of C. I. Armitage, Esq., J.P., High Royd, was also publicly welcomed and honoured in Honley on his return from South Africa from where his military duties prevented his earlier return. The rateable value of Honley in 1905 was £16,714 0s. 0d.
On May 7th, 1910, King Edward, after his short reign of eight years, died the previous midnight, and was buried on May 20th. On the day of the funeral, a public service was held in Honley Church at 12 o’clock. All sections of the community and public bodies attended, when special hymns were sung and special prayers offered. An eloquent and appropriate sermon was preached by the Rev. H. F. T. Barter, Vicar.
The Coronation of King George V., after the death of his father, took place on June 22nd, 1911. The day was loyally celebrated at Honley. Houses and public streets had been decorated for the occasion, and generous subscriptions given to provide a fitting celebration of the day. A morning service was held in Church which was largely attended. Early afternoon, members of all public bodies and societies, children of all the Sunday Schools, and general public again assembled at Lanehead-hill. Headed by Honley Brass Band, all marched around the main streets, massing together in the old historical meeting place in Town-gate, where hymns were sung and cheers given. Afterwards the children adjourned for tea to their respective schools, when every person in Honley under sixteen years of age had Coronation Mugs presented to them. A huge bonfire, fireworks, sports, etc., ended a day which had been joyfully and loyally celebrated in Honley.
A change in the Township’s limits again took place on April 1st, 1912. The order from the West Riding County Council transferring 260 acres at Deanhouse and Mytholm Bridge to Holmfirth Urban District Council came into operation on April 1st, 1912. In the history of Deanhouse, reference is made to this severing of ancient landmarks.
This large field, situated in the most picturesque and healthy part of Honley, was first secured by Mr. William Brooke as a play ground for the school children. Its area is 5a. 3r. 55p. It was managed by a small representative Committee for a long number of years, who have quietly watched over its interests, providing seats and keeping walls in repair. Mr. Brooke was able to purchase the property in 1912 at a cost of £740 0s. 0d. On February 18th, 1912, he presented it to the Urban District Council by deed to be used only for purposes of a children’s playground, and for the use of the public at all times. Sufficient space and provision must always be made for the games of children of Elementary School age. Bye-laws relating to its management have been adopted by the District Council and approved by the Local Government Board.
It is related of an American visitor to this country, that when making a tour of England’s historical houses, he grew tired of seeing beds in which Queen Elizabeth was supposed to have slept. One day when the guide in a well-known mansion was describing celebrated relics amongst which was the historical bed, the American impatiently exclaimed :—
We in Honley have not been sated by the sight of a local bed in which Royalty has slept, so that when the announcement went forth that the King and Queen were coming to our village, all were keenly alive to the honour, — the pleasure being all the greater when it was known who was to be honoured by their visit. His Majesty had expressed a wish that the series of visits undertaken in our industrial district should be of a simple character. The desire was obeyed, only the school children being given tea by Mr. Brooke to commemorate the visit to Honley. When the day arrived there was a general holiday in the place, and great crowds assembled along the route which would be taken by the King and Queen on their way from Huddersfield. The School children and inmates of Deanhouse Workhouse had been provided with platforms in Mr. Brooke’s plantations from where a good view was obtained, and private platforms all along the route were numerous. The King and Queen arrived at the appointed time, on July 11th, 1912, loyally cheered by the great crowds. After partaking of tea with Mr. and Mrs. Brooke, at Northgate Mount, they left, passing through Brockholes on their way, where they were also loyally cheered.
On Wednesday, October 15th, 1913, the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Huddersfield was conferred upon William Brooke, Esq. Universal approval from all sections of the public welcomed the honour for one who had spent a strenuous life for the good of the whole community. The ceremony in Huddersfield was marked by great enthusiasm, and public testimony to Mr. Brooke’s worth. Honley people do not carry their hearts upon their sleeves, neither are they inclined to express their approval too rashly. This public honour however to a “Honley lad” to make use of Mr. Brooke’s own words gave unbounded satisfaction to its natives and dwellers.
A list of the persons who served the town as Constables during 1700 ended with the name of Joseph Woodhead (Thurston) Thirstin. At the beginning of 1800 the Constables were still responsible for the good order of the place; but before the end of the century, the once important personage would be a relic of the past. The Police Act was due to Sir Robert Peel, whose name was applied in derision to the new guardians of the peace whom he had called into existence. “Bobby’’ and “Peeler” were and are still names commonly given to the police by young outlaws. I have no date when the first policeman was appointed to Honley after the passing of the Act in 1856. I think that it was about two years afterwards. I can remember that his name was James Howe, and that his head covering was a long hat with a shining crown. Neither have I the correct date when the office of Constable officially ceased in Honley. According to old Parish Laws, Constables could still be appointed until 1872. When the present Church was re-built in 1843, the office became gradually merged in that of policeman and churchwarden. Even at the present time, many old people still name the latter person Constable, and the place he occupies in Church as “The Constable pew.” It will be seen in the history of Honley Church that it had to suffice for the spiritual needs of Meltham, Crosland, and Netherthong at one time. It had been the Sabbath-Day custom of the Constables to visit the extreme ends of the three parishes for the purpose of detecting Sabbath breakers. Upon Honley Feast Sunday, the Constables made a circuit of the whole place carrying their staves of office which were massive, and rather formidable weapons for defence or attack. It was also the custom along with other Constables from neighbouring parishes to proceed to Almondbury on Easter Sunday, perambulate the streets, and afterwards attend Church. This was an old observance due to the Mother Church of Almondbury from her daughters in other parts of the parish, dating back to the time previous to granting the Faculty in 1503. The dwellers in Kaye Lane, Almondbury at that time were chiefly bird-fanciers and weavers. They generally lay in wait for the return of Honley Constables, having various feuds of long standing against our township, which were nursed back to fresh life each Honley Feast. It was a well-known fact, that no Honley Constable however powerful and brave, dare venture home alone from Almondbury on Easter Sunday night. The following is the list of the remainder of Constables’ names who served in 1800 until superseded by Churchwardens:—
1801, William Brooke; 1802-3, James Armitage, Reins; 1804-14, Thomas Leigh, Town-head; 1815-16, Robert Bradley; 1816-19, Joseph Armitage, High Royd; 1820-21, Charles Littlewood; 1822, Joshua Robinson; 1823, Robert Robinson; 1824, Joshua Charlesworth (who died in office); 1824-28, Thomas Sanderson; 1828, George Jessop; 1829, John Littlewood; 1830-1, Thomas Brooke; 1832-3, Thomas Hallas; 1834-5, John Dyson, Wood Nook; 1836-7, William Wilkinson; 1838, George Beaumont; 1839, Richard Haigh (chosen but refused to serve); 1840-4, James Stocks.
The names of the Churchwardens who have served since 1844 will be found under the “History of the Church.”