The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter V

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


(Modern Honley. — Its Natural History. — Characteristics and Sayings of Honley People. — Various Trades. — Old Homestead and Houses. — Honley Clothiers. — The Wives of Honley Clothiers. — Sun-dials. — Old Sign Boards).


We have now marked the death of the old, and birth of the new in the annals of Honley. We have also seen that it has survived the ups and downs of generations of religious, political, and social struggles in the outside world; and also weathered its own storms. During its gradual advance from the old to the new, it has had experience of dark and bright days. There have been murders, suicides, accidents, tragedies and romances. The present generation enjoying the blessings due to those upheavals of a past, can form no idea of the conditions prevailing a hundred years ago in Honley. If the present advantages which are now within the reach of all had been described to our forefathers at the beginning of last century, they would have declared that such stories of progress were more suitable for the pages of “Arabian Nights” tales, than for sober reality. Our forefathers were left to fight out their own battles, and shoulder their own responsibilities sustained upon oat-meal porridge. If a few of the once hardy dwellers in Honley who never minced their words could return, I know what they would say whatever they might think. With sweeping condemnation, they would probably compare the present generation to infants wrapped in swaddling clothes who were only fit to be waked up to be fed, and then put to bed again without even the trouble of chewing their food. History however is always repeating itself even in recalling the good old days. We have seen that Hollinshed considered modern degeneracy far advanced when chimneys were added to houses in 1570. I have heard old manufacturers in Honley declare that when the wearing of good black cloth went out of fashion, respectability also died out. People are so accustomed to the state of things in which they live, that they think it must be absolutely necessary to remain so. Probably many old people think now that England has seen her best days on account of the introduction of such evils as Reform Bills, railways, penny post, cheap printing, etc., preferring the blessings of ignorance and restricted travel.

We must now look upon Honley and its surroundings as it stands before our eyes under modern conditions at the beginning of 1914.

In one of the deep valleys which intersect the extensive range of hills known as The Pennine Chain, Honley stands upon the identical place, and is situated upon the same Holme watercourse as in the days of Cola and Suuen. On one side Castle Hill mound, surrounded by belts of woodlands can still be seen, and on the other, the open space retaining its old name of Honley Moor. Stretching away to sky-lines like a silent grey sea are the wildest and bleakest spurs of the Pennine Chain, the highest standing 1860 feet above sea level. The valley where fairies, boggarts and other mysteries once haunted stream, field and wood at the approach of gloaming is still enclosed by wooded uplands, though its peacefulness and beauty have been disturbed by modern progress. The grand outlook upon earth and sky that can yet be obtained from any of the hill-sides of Honley may be a little dimmed by smoke, but the same moorlands and watercourses, the same beauty of rising and setting suns can still be viewed.

Honley of the present day, with its hamlets of Brockholes, Oldfield, Hall Ing, and until recently, Deanhouse can no longer be termed a village, but rather named a straggling small town. Situated upon an eminence, which in ancient days would probably be the first clearing in the forest, the houses would gradually increase near this first site of importance. The older dwellings are described in “Old homesteads and houses.” Built with careless disregard to building lines, their general style of architecture can be named as “straight up and straight down.” We cannot boast of historical mansions where visitors can be shown around at so much per head. In the last century, however, when the cloth-trade was rapidly developing, larger residences were built, whose surroundings of timbered park lands help to retain the rural beauty of Honley. In marked contrast to the progress of the village fifty years ago, when new erections were built in that slow meditative manner typical of its dwellers, a large number of better-class houses for working men have been built. The first erection of 24 new houses by the Co-operative Society was the beginning of a great change in the character of a place once covered by the forest. The building of other houses quickly followed, and now the bottom of Honley Moor may be named a small suburb. Numerous villa erections have also sprung up in various parts of the place. If taking a bird’s eye view of Honley from one of her hill-tops, the picture of mansions, villas, old and new buildings crowded together as if in neighbourly attachment, shadowed by the Church tower, and enclosed by woods and uplands gives a picturesque effect. The particulars regarding erection of other buildings, whether for religious, educational or social use, will be found under their own headings. The present large Woollen Mills with their modern machinery that can perform the labour of a hundred men in place of the single worker of old days, are witnesses that the woollen trade in its various branches is still an important industry in the place. Other trades have also been introduced. The three most important of modern origin which have taken root and give employment to a large number of workpeople are Mr. G. W. Oldham’s Silk-Dyeing Works, Messrs. J. Shaw & Sons, Ruling Machine Makers, Messrs. B. Robinson & Sons, Laundry Works, and Messrs. S. Waite & Sons, Ruling Machine Makers. Motor Car Works have also sprung up to supply modern demands for greater speed.

The Dartmouths still remain Lords of the Manor of Honley, which is yet in the upper division of the ancient Wapentake of Agbrigg. As the old Feudal observances of the Wapentake are only evolved under new forms and names, Honley is now in the Administration area of the West Riding County Council, the Colne Valley Parliamentary Division of the West Riding, the County Court district of Holmfirth, and Huddersfield Union. Its local government is controlled by the Urban District Council, the members of which are elected by the ratepayers once in three years. Its Poor-law affairs are in the hands of two Guardians, also elected once in three years. The Ecclesiastical Parish is in the Rural Deanery of Huddersfield and Diocese of Wakefield. The area of the present civil Parish and Urban District is 2175 acres, and its rateable value £20,501 0s. 0d. Its dimensions on account of the loss of Meltham Mills and Deanhouse have decreased, but as we have seen, its rateable value has gradually increased since 1344, when its worth was only 40/-. The present dividing boundaries of the Parish are part of Mytholm Bridge, Oldfield Ridge, Spinner-gate and Meltham Road tops, Wood-bottom, Wrigley Mill, Lords Mill, part of Mag-bridge, Upper Steps Mill, Wood-top, Scale hill, and Hall Ing. The population of Honley has not varied much in numbers. This is due to any increase being balanced by the loss of other parts of the Township. If, however, people now numbered in other parishes were again added, population has not increased as rapidly as its expenditure; thus testifying to the greater comforts enjoyed by the people in comparison to by-gone times. The population of Honley during the last eighty years is as follows:—

1831 — 4,523
1841 — 5,381
1851 — 5,597
1861 — 4,626
1871 — 4,906
1881 — 5,070
1891 — 4,904
1901 — 5,466
1905 — 5,033
1911 — 5,100

At the next Census the dwellers in Deanhouse and part of Mytholm Bridge will be included in Holmfirth, so that the present population of Honley at the beginning of 1914, if estimated, must be smaller than when counted in the Census of 1911.

Too much space would be occupied to enumerate all the wonderful improvements which have taken place within the last twenty years conducive to cleanliness, health and greater comfort. People if disinclined to walk to Honley Station, can travel to and from Huddersfield in electric cars from early morning until late at night. New streets have been made, old roads widened and flanked by broad pavements. The whole of the roads in the Township are now lighted by its own electricity. Provision for sewerage has been both extensive and costly. Water is supplied by Huddersfield and Batley Corporations, and the Urban District Council attends to all Sanitary and Scavenging matters. An Isolation Hospital is also provided for infectious diseases. Street-name plates and house numbers have been affixed. Guide-posts point out the right path to travellers, and inviting seats are placed for them to rest upon. The present names of members of Honley Urban District Council, and the chief officers employed in their service, are as follows :—

Elon Crowther, Esq., J.P., Chairman.
George Thompson Oldham, Esq., Vice-Chairman.
Central Ward.
Mr. John Ed. Heap, Solicitor.
Mr. Samuel Jagger, Woollen Merchant.
Mr. Albert Littlewood, Cloth Merchant.
Mr. Frank Oldfield, Joiner and Builder.
Mr. George Pearson, Woollen Weaver.
Mr. Thomas Smailes, M.D., Doctor of Medicine.
East Ward.
Mr. George Henry Barraclough, Blacksmith.
Mr. Elon Crowther (Chairman), Cloth Manufacturer.
Mr. Tom Edgar Littlewood, Cloth Finisher.
South Ward.
Mr. James Arthur Beaumont, Wool Dyer.
Mr. Harry Holdroyd, Joiner and Builder.
Mr. Lewis Matthewman, Commercial Traveller.
West Ward.
Mr. Thomas Chapman, Warehouseman.
Mr. George Thompson Oldham (Vice-Chairman), Silk Dyer.
Mr. Thomas Henry Sykes, Woollen Manufacturer.

The past and present Chairmen of the old Local Board and Urban District Council are as follows :—

1865-1868 — Mr. James Robinson, Smithy Place.
1868-1869 — Mr. William Brooke, Northgate Mount.
1869-1870 — Mr. David Bradley, Wood-bottom.
1870-1873 — Mr. Lupton Littlewood, Enfield House.
1873-1878 — Mr. James Robinson, Smithy Place.
1878-1880 — Mr. Lupton Littlewood, Enfield House.
1880-1886 — Mr. George Wm. Oldham, The Stubbings.
1886-1889 — Mr. Joshua James Robinson, Smithy Place.
1889-1890 — Mr. Thomas Smailes, M.D., Town-head.
1890-1891 — Mr. Geo. Wm. Oldham, The Stubbings.
1891-1892 — Mr. France Littlewood, Grove House.
1892-1899 — Mr. Thomas Smailes, Town-head.
1899-1908 — Mr. Elon Crowther, Brockholes.
1908-1910 — Mr. Thomas Smailes, Town-head.
1910 — Mr. Elon Crowther, Brockholes.

The present Parliamentary Representative for Colne Valley in which division Honley is included is Mr. Charles Leach, Liberal, who resides in London. The Electoral division of Honley, for the West Riding County Council, is represented by Alderman George Wm. Oldham, The Stubbings, Netherton, and County Councillor Samuel Jagger, Lane House, Honley. The two Poor Law Guardians are Mr. France Littlewood and Mr. J. E. Heap, with Miss Siddon as co-opted member. The Overseers of the poor are Mr. John Pennington, Mr. J. R. Sharp, Mr. Samuel Jagger and Mr. Allen Boothroyd.

The Officers of the Urban District Council are as follows :—

Mr. Thomas Smailes, Clerk; Mr. J. R. Thornton, Collector of Rates; Mr. T. H. Smith, Assistant Overseer; Mr. Richard Beaumont, Road Surveyor; Mr. Henry Marsden, Gas Manager; Mr. R. H. Trotter, M.D., Medical Officer of Health; Mr. R. V. Rigby, Treasurer; Mr. J. Berry, Building Surveyor, and Mr. Joseph Carter, Inspector of Nuisances.

It is not my intention to give a learned disquisition upon the Geological, Botanical and Zoological history of Honley, not being an expert in these various subjects. Our bleak hillsides, “the incense arising from modern industry,” and the ever increasing population of neighbouring towns as well as our own continually swarming over them, are not favourable to a rich display of floral growth. Honley at present abounds more in spots of romantic beauty than in natural history specimens. I am only capable of describing a few of the birds, flowers, etc., which are common around us, and give to them the old-fashioned names of Shakespere’s days, and which are still in use amongst us. I am a devoted lover and keen observer of nature, but I prefer to gaze upon her numerous beauties as a whole rather than analyze one single specimen. There is, however, one distinct characteristic of our neghbourhood which seems to have escaped the observation of people who pay homage to the height of Castle Hill, and that is, we have a knoll in the Township of higher altitude. Having a great respect for old beliefs, I am sorry to shatter and destroy this accepted faith in the height of Castle Hill. Swinny or Swiney knoll, the most elevated piece of land in Honley, situated at the top of Honley Moor, is 1000 feet above sea level, which exceeds the height of Castle Hill. The knoll has retained its name from the time when acorns in the forest were the food of the Swine that fed there. Rocky headlands, craggy declivities, buildings, walls, roads, etc., proclaim that stone is plentiful in the neighbourhood. Honley is particularly rich in her strata or beds of stone. We have been so accustomed to this natural abundance of building material, that stone will not be valued until scarce. In this history it will be seen that coal was plentiful underneath our soil.


I cannot write much regarding the farming industry which is neither picturesque nor scientific, due no doubt to climatic conditions. The West and South-West winds which are forerunners of tempest and rain generally prevail. Our nearness to the hills also accounts for the frequency of rainfalls, and the bracing winds are due to our elevated position. The land has been broken up into small enclosures or holdings. The names of Royd, Ing, Intake, etc., occur frequently, proving the many clearings which have been made in the forest as generations have rolled over. These clearings have been wrested almost yard by yard to cultivation, but the barren and exposed nature of the ground, combined with small holdings, does not seem to contribute to the success of farming. Even in “Bonnie Honley” nature is often so stern and uncompromising around, that I have known hay-crops gathered with difficulty in September, and wheat and corn carried to barns knee deep in snow to be used as bedding for cattle. At present the production of milk is the chief aim of our small farmers, which finds a ready sale amongst our industrial community, so that grass land is more in favour than corn-growing.


The many varieties of field and wood flowers are of course too numerous to mention here. When I was a girl, primroses and daffodills, or as we named them “daffy-down-dillys in green petticoats and yellow gowns” grew in West-woods. Wild strawberries also were plentiful. I don’t suppose that there is a single root left of a primrose or daffodill. I am afraid that before long the present ferns and blue-bells, — the latter spreading before our eyes in May like a mist of sapphire — will share the same fate. Wild violets in secluded dells, and forget-me-nots by the sides of our running springs of water once grew in abundance. I can recall the day when bull-rushes of a fine size covered Mytholm Bridge Mill-dam. The early wood anemone or “cuckoo flower,” and the marsh marigold decked those miry grounds which were the supposed resort of “Will o’th Wisp” and “Peggy o’th Lanthorn.” The wild dog-rose and honeysuckle still spread over our few remaining old hedges, but are quickly plucked. The delicate hare-bell bound up with fairy legends loves its barren soil, and is to be found growing by the side of old lanes and bridle-gates until torn up and cast aside. The fox-glove or “ poppy ” common on our banks and fringing fields is also quickly claimed and its roots taken away by visitors. Hen-roosts and destructive children have nearly exterminated the bushes of yellow gorse that coloured our hill-sides. Heather, cotton-grass and bilberry bushes hold strongly to their native heath upon Honley Moor. Not long ago, the heather was so abundant that it was cut in large quantities for making besoms, etc. Even now it is used for thatching and fuel. We once were able to gather elderberries in a few hours sufficient to make wine to last during the winter months. Blackberries, wild raspberries and bilberries are yet plentiful in woods, hedges and moorlands.


Birds do not fare so badly as plants and flowers in our midst, the woods affording them sanctuary; but bird-nesting is still a favourite pastime. The Red-breast can fearlessly hop about us on account of many local superstitions attached to the bird. The house-martin also returns to its unmolested old nests in window-corners, or repairs them with feet as if the hands of cunning builders. It would be deemed unlucky to disturb a martin’s nest. The voice of the cuckoo is always welcome after our long winters, for “she brings us good tidings and tells us no lies.” If we find money in our pockets when hearing her first cry, we are only too delighted to turn it over in secret joy, even if its value is only a single half-penny, and recall to mind the old rhymes. The rooks or “crows,” and the magpies or “pinots” are all plentiful, for they too are birds of good or evil omen and are generally left unmolested. I could name many more of our familiar wild-birds, for the blackbird’s song after a summer evening’s shower, the throstle’s jubilant note at early dawn, and the mounting skylark’s rippling trill are still with us; but space is limited.


As we have seen, nearly all our wild animals have been exterminated since the time when the forest afforded a day’s sport either for pleasure or profit. I can remember when the last wild-cat was caught in a trap by Mr. Charles Carter who at that time was gamekeeper for Mr. Alfred Beaumont, of Parkton Grove. The latter married for his first wife the only child of the late Mr. Joseph Hirst, the founder of Wilshaw (or Wildshaw). Mr. Beaumont was a keen naturalist and sportsman. The “pow-cat,” as he was locally named, had long committed havoc in grounds shot over by Mr. Beaumont at that time, but the animal was too cunning to be caught. Mr. Beaumont understanding wild nature set a trap which at last proved too tempting. I was in the neighbourhood at the time the cat was caught, and not only saw the animal but felt its stench. It was about as large as an undersized fox with striped yellow fur, formidable fangs, and seemed very old. No doubt it was the last of the race of wild-cats once common in the neighbourhood. I can also remember the great excitement prevailing amongst us children when a snake of considerable length was killed in Spring-wood. Hedgehogs or “urchants,” weasles, moles or “mold-warps,” etc., were once very numerous. Efts, or “askers,” which gave us the idea of scorpions, toads, which were supposed to spit fire on account of the convulsive action of the throat; and other inhabitants of marshy grounds and miry lanes were often disturbing elements in childish wanderings. These, and other kinds of reptile life were more abundant than at present. Hares and rabbits are still plentiful if not poached. We must now leave the natural" history of Honley, if such it can be named, and content ourselves that we have still with us Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter; during which cycle the romance and tragedy of nature is still going on if further apart from us than in the days when heather-clad Honley Moor stretched down almost to our doors.


Dr. Whitaker writes in 1816 regarding the people of this neighbourhood, as follows:— “Ignorant and savage, yet cunning and attentive to their own interests, under few restraints from law and fewer from conscience, it is a singular phenomenon that almost all the people are under one demonination or another religionists.” Thiers the French historian wrote that “mountainous countries are favourable for the preservation of institutions, habits and manners of a people.”

The distinguishing traits of past dwellers in Honley and also its situation, answer to the above description. Combative and rebellious against all innovations our fathers and grandfathers might have been, but they did not play with religion. They also looked askance at atheism. With regard to the preservation of institutions, habits and manners. If the moorlands and forests of our neighbourhood did not find shelter for escape at the time of the Conquest, at least they preserved our individuality. Certainly Norman William did not crush our independent spirit, nor uproot our old customs. Even when Norman and Saxon dwellers have since become one race by intermixture and the flight of years, the Norman element is merged; not many names, manners, or much of their speech remaining amongst us. If the Church has become Protestant, we still hold tenaciously to religious observances, customs and superstitions of the old race from which we are descended. So firmly bound up with our lives is ancient mythology, that the old beliefs and myths still linger around upland, wood, hollow and stream. We are apt to hold aloof from strangers, looking upon such restless mortals who are unable to remain at home in the light of wandering vagabonds. I have known “Comers in” who have lived in the place forty years considered as strangers by an old native. If hailing from Lancashire, they were generally named as coming from a vague region known as “Th’ Uvver Country.” Many of our old dwellers were never known to move or act with speed. If however a few of us are a little slow of limb as well as speech, we are swift to wrath, and quick to resent an injury. When suffering from real or imaginary wrongs, we often scorn the help of law, preferring to retaliate in the old Norse fashion of having eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. If the contest is not settled, it can be handed down as a legacy to be fought out to a finish at a future day. Family feuds in addition to family names are inherited in Honley. We also do not like people to be too inquisitive about our private affairs, nor too ready in offering sympathy when they see that gloom upon our faces which is akin to rock and moor around us. We are neither sorrowful nor dejected, only silently determined not to be trifled with. If strangers will wait patiently, they will soon learn all about us, without any unwary approaches to our confidences. We may be also rather destitute of compliments, but that is because we are apt to hide our feelings either beneath rude speech or silence. During the last century, we did not seem to have much use for surnames. Perhaps that was due to the fact that they had been so long out of use, that their owners had forgotten them. Certainly at one time many owners of surnames could not have been found by inquiring strangers. That fact, however, was of small moment. We could always have been sorted out by our trades, dwellings, or personal characteristics. Failing these means of identification, we were known by our different breeds, such as drinking, fighting, sober, drunken, idle, industrious, greedy, generous, poaching, honest, thieving, harmless, leet-geen, (sensual) and various other family traits.

Strangers, or those not born in Honley, when thus reading the description of our characteristics might think that we are rather a strange people. Not at all. It is only that we are strong in our own individuality. If at one time the dwellers in Honley might have been rather bleak and grey in character, that was on account of their kinship to the moorlands which were once around them. If in the past many were almost as wild and uncultivated as the moorlands, there was the pathetic beauty and humble grandeur of life in their midst. When heaven’s gleams brightened up the surroundings of hill-side homes, their owners considered the neighbourhood the most beautiful place in all the world. The homes in the village however humble were looked upon with eyes of love, for everything about those old folds and yards carried their own memories, and were of value to those who lived there.

At present, however, Honley is in a state of transition. During my life-time it has lost much of its old-world character with its once unaffected interchange of life and old attachments. We exchange calls and visiting cards in place of pouring scalding water or boiling lead upon the heads of visitors. Old buildings are now condemned in which people once lived to patriarchal ages. These have either been pulled down or left a blot of desolation. Old landmarks have been removed, individual characters are disappearing, old faces rapidly passing away, and few remain who remember the place and its once distinctive dwellers fifty years ago. Yet there are still left numerous old links connecting the old with the new. In many of our cottage-homes are still to be found flagged stone-floors once carpeted with sand, white-washed walls, bread-reels suspended from oak-beams, funeral cards and samplers framed in rosewood hung upon walls, corner-cupboards and delf-cases filled with heirlooms, long-cased clocks with sun and moon on dials, and other adornments of a by-gone day. House-leek can still be found upon house-roofs, cultivated for its medicinal and supersitious power. The word street has crept into our local vocabulary, but “gates,” “fowds,” “yerds ” and “loins” are yet familiar in our ears. Honley has also to be approached by the hill known as “the gate,” or the equally steep turnpike road. Old buildings in the village and homesteads on the hill-sides, speak in silence of the sturdy race of men who dwelt there, and who helped either to uphold or destroy the power of a king. Standing upon the pinnacle of their yeoman’s pride, toiling night and day almost in their isolated homes to retain their little freeholds, they were at least industrious if accused by Dr. Whitaker of being too “attentive to their own interests.” Perhaps there was not much evidence of the courtesies of life amongst many, and a few would be inclined to wreak vengeance in the old Norse fashion. But under those roofs existed faithful service, neighbourly friendship, and kindly deed. Savage actions and coarse language however have given place to more moral conduct and intellectual knowledge. Yet the sturdy independent spirit still flows on. It may be a little modified, but Honley natives of the present day call a spade a spade. If forced, they can repeat with wonderful fluency the past and present misdoings of any breed with which they may be at variance. If necessity arises, they can also act in their own defence without the help of law.

Fashion has now introduced a sheaf of new names which are in striking contrast to the Biblical names common in my childhood. Fifty years ago, it would have been difficult to find a person in Honley who did not own a Biblical name, proving that Puritanism had taken deep root, and that the old piety had lived on in the good yeoman families, when the highest and lowest stratas of society were sunk in wickedness and brutality. I can recall a Cain who was not destined by nature for bloodthirsty deeds, so was given the prefix of “Smiling” to atone for the mistake. Such names as Moses, Tobias, Habakkuk, Lot, Laban, Solomon, Philemon, Job, Ammon, Emmanuel, etc., were common, and re-appeared in each generation. Honley being sparing of long words as well as speech, these Biblical Christian names were laid aside after baptism. We shortened Noah to Ni, Abraham to Abe, Isaac to Ike, Hezekiah to Ki, Simeon to Si, Zechariah to Zack, Nathaniel to Nat, Jeremiah to Jere, Hosea to Oozy, and so on. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back to the old fashion, which will again bring into existence the grand rugged names redolent of Honley soil.

With regard to the old place-names of Saxon, Danish, and Norse origin; these remain unchanged amongst us such as Shaw, Holme, Ing, Royd, Ley, Rein, etc. Honey-head recalls past days when it was customary for the natives to carry their bee-hives to that part of the forest upland. Local dialect may have died out in towns, with their changing population, but not in Honley. The old Saxon words handed down generation after generation, and of which strangers could form no idea of their meaning are still in daily use amongst us. Space restricts me to enumerate only a few in which we express our meaning. “Arran” (means Spider), “to brade” (to act like him), “bown” (ready), “cahrin” (bending), “cussen” (down-spirited), “flayed” (frightened), “galcar” (beer in a state of fermentation), “haver-cake” (oat-cake), homed” (fatigued), “hug” (carry), “kink-host” (whooping-cough), “lig” (lie down), “Neive” (fist), “pawse” (kick), “poite” (to thrust with the feet), “reek” (smoke), “sam” (to gather), “sagar” and “sage” (sawyer and saw), “spein” (wean a child), “smittle” (infectious), “snod” (smooth or neat), “thack” (roof), “wark” (ache), “oss” (begin), etc. Even the “gee-whoo” (much better to pronounce than write) used by teamers to their horses has been in use amongst us since the days of Chaucer.


Before the discovery of printing, which provides the present literary wealth of reading matter, the mental faculties of people had to feed upon very bare pastures. Old sayings, whether pathetic, witty, amusing, or scornful, were often the only means of acquiring self-knowledge, or giving effect to every-day speech in restricted lives. These sayings in place of book-learning were remembered, quoted, and handed down year after year until they passed into proverbs. Many expressions uttered by members of Honley families cannot be here recalled for fear of wounding the susceptibilities of families still represented in the place. Personally, I should feel proud of many of these undying sayings so distinctive of Honley soil. Education, like our village, being in a state of transition, we have not yet arrived at that stage to distinguish whether a sentence uttered by our forbears was vigorous and strong in character, or only vulgar and indecent. I have chosen a few sayings often quoted in our midst as representative of the old type of Honley dwellers, though the most racy are omitted for reasons given above.

(1) We will first recall the well-known but short sentence of “Is it we then?” uttered by Joseph Broadley, alias “Joe Sprod,” celebrated as the first self-appointed strike-leader in Honley. As we shall note, Joe was an inmate of the old Workhouse when it stood upon ground at Lane-head hill, and acted as organ-blower for Mr. John Hirst, once a well-known and clever organist at the Church. In its history, references are made to the “great-sings” that formerly took place upon Feast Sundays. A previous rehearsal of the music to be sung proved so successful, that singers and organist congratulated each other upon their abilities. “Joe Sprod” listened in sulky silence to the discourse of self-praise in which the man who supplied the wind to the organ held no share. Joe did not pour out vials of wrath upon the heads of those who thus ignored his importance, but silently determined upon performing a great deed. He resolved to strike a blow that would compel instant recognition. The following Sunday, the Church was filled with a listening congregation, when at a critical part of a difficult accompaniment, the organ suddenly became silent for lack of breath.

“Blow! Blow!” loudly whispered the enraged organist.
Joe swelled with pride and importance.
“Is it we then?” he questioned with stinging brevity.
The organist was quick-witted, and instantly replied:—
“Yes! Yes, Joe! It is we. Blow, lad, blow.”

(2) When Chartism had many adherents in Honley, one well-known follower of the cause was rather fond of obtaining necessaries without paying for them. Having relatives in “T’h Uvver Country.” (Lancashire), he generally reminded them of his relationship a few weeks previous to the Feast. For this purpose he would come to the Post Office, obtain a stamp for his letter, and after gaily informing my father that “Everything i’th world belonged to everybody, and that he meant to have his share,” would depart without payment. This went on for many years until at last my father demanded payment, which of course was not forthcoming.

“Thou sees Joah lad, everything i’th world does not belong to everybody yet” was the dismissal of my father in his well-known tones of dry humour.

(3) Another inmate of the Workhouse, an innocent, harmless man who “cowled” the roads, was asked his age by my father to settle a disputed point. “Charlie,” as he was familiar named by all, pondered long before dubiously supplying the information until a bright idea struck him:

“But I should ha been owder if I had’nt been poorly” he added in joyful apology.

(4) One of Honley’s most respected gentlemen had an old servant whose lapses of duty became too frequent. The former decided to pension the old retainer, and fill his place with a more steady man. The old servant however remained stoically indifferent to the master’s dismissal. When brought to task, he exclaimed with pitying contempt:—

“Why, Maister, if yo don’t know you’ve a good sarvant, I know I’ve a good Maister; and I’m not going to be turned off.”

(5) Another well-known resident had a gardener, who was noted for his strong resistive power against being disturbed in his occupation. A young mistress of more modern ideas ventured upon suggesting changes in garden architecture. The old gardener quickly informed her that he should go on “bedding out as he had always bedded out.” When she asserted herself and made him understand that she was not thus to be trifled with, he told her with laconic surliness to go to that region which is supposed to be the place of punishment for the wicked after death. On condition that the old retainer begged pardon for this speech, all would be forgiven. Begging pardon was a terrible degradation to one who refused to bend the neck to “young upstarts.” After much persuasion, he was induced to seek the presence of the youthful mistress. Suffering acutely from a sense of injury, he said with a snort of scorn:—

“I told yo yesterday to goa to — (shall we say Hades?). I shall noane beg pardon, but I’ve come to-day to tell you you’ve no need to goa.”

(6) Mention has been made of the duties of the old-time Constable. One noted officer boasting the prefix of “Great,” on account of his fine stature, when fetched in haste to part angry combatants always cautiously asked how long they had been fighting. If the conflict had only just begun, he was wont to exclaim with a shrewd smile:—

“Leave em alone a bit — leave em alone. They’ll be better for me to part when I come.”

(7) As we have seen, the change from the domestic mode of manufacturing to its concentration in Mills brought tragedy in its train to many clothiers in Honley. One, who was not a man to be trifled with had a family that during the distress of the “hungry forties” was out of work with the exception of one son. The latter, with the arrogance of youth, boasted that he was “the main prop o’th house.” The father, brooking no interference either active or passive from his household smiled in grim scorn.

“Main prop o’th house art thou ? Then th’ prop shall fall,” he exclaimed, knocking down the youth with one blow. “Thou sees th’ house is still standing” he added, when the boaster was thus humbled.

(8) The wife of a rugged son of the village died. He was a man who always wondered “where th’ nice lasses went to, and where th’ ugly wives cam from.” The usual funeral custom of relatives and friends taking last looks at the dead was duly observed by all present except the husband. When the undertaker reminded him of his forgetfulness, he exclaimed impatiently: “Shut her up! Shut her up! I’ve seen her before.”

(9) A carter, who drove the horse and cart at a mill in Honley was sternly lectured by his master upon his drunken habits, and advised to practise resolution when passing public-houses which lay in his daily path. The carter asking for an explanation of the word resolution promised to live up to its meaning in future. The following day he passed the public-houses with averted head. His only reply when questioned about such strange behaviour was invariably “resolution,” until the hour arrived for ceasing work. Then in boastful pride at his victory, he shouted to the horse:—

“Well done resolution! Maister can’t say that I hav’nt had resolution to-day. Now lad, we’ll turn back, and make resolution pay his footing.”

With alacrity, horse and man returned to the usual stopping-places, and the champion of resolution went home in a more fuddled condition than usual.

(10) A hand-loom weaver, who did not live one hundred miles from Moorbottom, had the greatest disinclination to leave the domestic hearth. When his wife was cleaning down for Honley Feast, his presence proved a continual hindrance to such operations. With womanly stratagems she endeavoured to wheedle him forth on various pretences, but he refused to be enticed away even from the scene of disorder. Strife and contention ensued, when the household sultan threatened a dire revenge.

“Aye I will go out! I will run away, and when I once start, I shall goa to Meltham before I stop,” he said with valiant determination. (Meltham was about two miles distant from his home).

(11) Another resident in the neighbourhood lived at a long distance from the mill in which he was employed. He was asked one stormy winter’s morning why he did not remove nearer to his work, at which he had been engaged thirty years. His reply was characteristic of the old type of dweller who generally worked for one master a life-time, and was not eager for changes. After due thought he said :—

“I’ve nobbut worked here thirty years, and I want to see if its’a regular job before I flit.” (Remove).

Old Honley sayings are so numerous that they would fill a large-sized book, but these given must suffice in this history.


The woollen industry in its different branches did not altogether monopolise the energies of Honley people who had to be supplied with the necessaries of life. In addition to Woollen Mills we had coal-pits, farmsteads, corn-mills, tan-pits, brewery, etc. The trades of tailor and shoemaker requiring long apprenticeships were important callings before the days of ready-made clothing and foot-wear. The trades of butcher, grocer, candle-maker, etc., were even of greater consequence. I can recall the day when the thresher with his flail, thatcher carrying his stack-brods, mole catcher, mower with scythe on shoulder, wood-cutter, pinder, bell-man, whisk and besom-maker, pig-ringer, furmitty hawker, yeast hawker, cow-jobber, leech woman, oat-bread baker, etc., were familiar figures in our midst. In addition, we were accustomed to the sight of evenly balanced panniers and milk-cans strapped upon donkey’s backs. The panniers contained wares of varying character vended not by ordinary hawkers, but local citizens of repute and respectability, whose goods were above reproach, and whose advent was duly welcomed. The contents of these panniers ranged from coal to potatoes, — from fish to “idle-back” and yellow-stone. The two latter commodities were in great request by Honley housewives when hearthstones were made white, and doorsteps yellow. There existed a sacred tradition that all these various trades “ran in families,” and that no other person could perform the duties so well as the members of that particular household, and that their abilities were beyond question. The Walker and Eastwood families were butchers, Swifts, tailors, Wood and Brook families, shoemakers, Lees, size-makers, Smith, cloggers, Woods, tanners, Frances, grocers, Walkers, dry-wallers, Kayes, masons, Boothroyd and Firths, blacksmiths, Midwood and Kayes, tallow-chandlers, etc.

When doctors pinned their faith upon blood-letting for relief of all human ills, leech-women were represented in the persons of Mrs. Dinah Bates, Deanhouse, Mrs. Phyllis Downing, Honley, and later Mrs. Sarah Oldfield, or Sally Oldfield as she was familiarly named. A cheerful bustling dame was Mrs. Oldfield, ready to answer every call of sick emergency, and learned in knowledge of all bodily ailments. With what dread we watched her fearlessly handle the snake-like horrors known as leeches that were destined to perform such blood-thirsty deeds upon our trembling bodies, whilst she tried to disarm our fears by humourous jests or soothing words! Before the advent of washing-machines or the building of laundries, the mangle played an important part both as a source of income, and in domestic management. These large unwieldy mangles were prominent objects in many cottage-homes of Honley to which the good housewife, after a hard day’s work at the wash-tub, repaired with her basket of clothes for the purpose of the garments being smoothed out. Many of us older people may yet recall the misery of the mangling evening, when in place of play-time was the irksome task of turning the mangle-wheel. If a few of the old-time housewives of Honley could return, visit the laundry stocked with the most modern machinery and employing upwards of 60 workpeople, their angry outbursts and stinging remarks against their own sex who had dared to erase the washing-day from the woman’s calendar, would be worthy of record. No doubt these old dames, who pinned their faith in wash-tubs, mangles, and March drought, would consider a machine that washes, boils, blues, and starches altogether with only the aid of a few playful turnings of a wheel, as responsible for present feminine unrest; and a drying-room that is independent of wet-days, as a place to be eschewed.

There were many other trades also in Honley which are now extinct on account of changing conditions. If a few remain of these old-time occupations, they are but shrunken remnants of once distinctive industries. There are, however, families in the place who have retained the trades chosen by their forefathers who considered their calling not only a noble occupation, but a duty which they had come into the world to perform. In addition to families holding premier positions in the woollen industry for many generations, we had also the trades of doctors, grocers, joiners, blacksmiths, postmasters, etc., in which son followed father generation after generation. It would have been interesting reading if families of the oldest tradesmen still carrying on business in Honley had preserved records of their forefather’s primitive mode of conducting business, when almost all food and wares were of home manufacture, the staple food oat-meal porridge, clogs the foot-wear, and a suit of clothes had to last a life-time.

The Dyson family have followed the profession of medicine from grandfather to grandson, notably the late Mr. John Dyson, the late Mr. Alexander Dyson, and at present Mr. J. R. H. Dyson, Physican and Surgeon. The Dysons are an old Hon ley family descended from good yeoman stock of high local standing. Ministering so long to the bodily ailments of the village, they understood the characteristics of their patients, as the latter also comprehended the plain speaking of their doctor. A family of rugged honesty, it was always a well-known fact, that the grandfather and father of the present Mr. Dyson never gave encouragement to pretended ailments of their patients, even to the detriment of their pockets. Their strong protests against dupery or quackery in any form were noted, and their pithy sayings are often quoted. The Drake family have followed the profession of grocery and provision merchants since 1829, being well-known tradesmen of high local repute. Descended also from good yeoman families, the present generation maintain the high personal character of their forbears, whilst keeping abreast in the march of business progress. The Holdroyd family have sustained an unbroken record of over 100 years in the trade of joiners of high local standing. Their forefathers were noted for making good articles of household furniture which were handed down as heirlooms. Honley’s old-time manufacturers made cloth with the intention of never wearing out, so the furniture constructed by the Holdroyds of a past day was put together on the same principle. The present members of the family have upheld the reputation for high-class workmanship as of old, whilst also keeping abreast with modern requirements and rapid changes. Son has followed father as blacksmiths in the family of Boothroyds for over 200 years, when a younger representative recently disposed of the business. A race of silent contemplative men, minding their own business, and not meddling in the affairs of neighbours, the Boothroyds in their mode of business were typical of the old-time Honley tradesmen. Each member as they came into the world receiving a Biblical name, they held to the soil like an old tree unheeding the great changes going on around them, their only ambition being to live an honest life, and perform good work free from trickishness or fraud. The Firths also had an unbroken record in the trade of blacksmiths for over 100 years, but the once familiar blacksmith’s shop with its flying sparks from the fire has now changed hands, and their place knows them no more. Of robust and almost giant-like proportions, they were a race of honest craftsmen who were in no hurry to be rich, often forgetting to send out their bills until a dozen years or so had elapsed. It was a difficult business to pay the Firths what was justly owing to them, and often had to be accomplished by main force. They too were not inclined for much speaking, preferring to grasp the hammer and perform honest and lasting workmanship.


The office of Postmaster has been held by the male side of my family for four generations, dating from 1780 to 1887, during which time I have records of the wonderful advances made from the days when there was on an average five or six letters per week for the people scattered over the whole area between Halifax and Holmfirth. The present generation will accept this fact with a smile of disbelief. So would our forefathers think that we now live in a world of miracles and magic if they could return. The coaches did not begin to carry mails until 1784; and they were confined to limited distances. Previous to that date, the few letters were carried on horseback by messengers or post boys as they were named. My great grandfather, James Tilburn, had no inclination to follow the family trade of clothier, preferring a free out-door life. This breaking away from family traditions gave offence to his own parent and a father-in-law, who was considered a “warm” man, or one with “plenty of wool upon his back,” owning freeholds, and three square pews in Honley Church adorned with his name as owner. These he occupied in turn, not to keep people out, but only for the purpose of keeping them warm. My great grandfather, James Tilburn, ignoring stormy threats from a disappointed father-in-law, who had no son of his own, and unheeding the shedding of a whole lake of tears from a young wife who dreaded the dangers of the highways, undertook the post of messenger. His duties lay between Halifax and Holmfirth, riding upon the grey galloway, whose dam when a foal had been left behind by moss-troopers. According to family traditions, “Laddie,” as he was named, was rather a noted animal, sure-footed, full of courage, wonderful stamina; and could always be relied upon to land his rider punctually or near the expected time, — so punctual, that at the passing of horse and rider, people set their clocks to the correct time even in days of snow-drifts and floods. James Tilburn was a man of spare but sinewy frame, rosy handsome face, and merry twinkle of eye. Clad in close fitting drab kersey garments befitting a good horseman, the material for which was supplied yearly from Penistone district as a present, one of these garments in the shape of a huge overcoat, with brass buttons, was still in use in the family in my early days, and was always named “The drab laddie.” Thereby hangs a tale. A chaise in which a Scottish gentleman, not highly favoured by nature, was travelling to Fenay Hall, Almondbury, then occupied by the Fenay family, to sue for the hand of one of the young ladies who was not only wealthy but also a noted beauty. His chaise became stuck fast in snow-drifts at the top of “The Ainleys,” which at that time was an exposed and dangerous road. Seeing my great grandfather approaching on his way from Halifax, enveloped in his drab overcoat with the pouch containing the few mails of His Majesty’s King George III. strapped upon his back, the gentleman mistook his slight form for that of a boy, and also the nature of his sturdy independent spirit.

“Ah! Here comes a drab laddie riding a good horse,” exclaimed the gentleman with relief, as my great grandfather drew rein, not only to ease his blown steed, but to see if help was required.

The gentleman disclosed his destination, expressed impatience to reach Fenay Hall in time for the Christmas festivities, and intimated that it was the duty of the “drab laddie” to descend from the saddle and lend him his horse for that purpose, offering a small sum—a very small sum of money. My great grandfather smiled in pitying scorn at the want of discernment in a man who mistook the carrier of His Majesty’s mails for a “ laddie ” who could thus be tempted to forget his duties, even when eyes were blinded with love. His pride was hurt also that so little value was placed upon the services of his good horse. In addition, he had been given hints of the expected arrival of a persevering ugly lover who was not wanted by the Fenay family. My great grandfather sat bolt upright in his saddle, and with that directness of speech which a true bred son of the soil will address either peer or peasant, he said : “My horse is not a drab, but a grey laddie. And so you are coming seeking a wife are you ? Not for th’ brass, of course not, but seemingly you have scented where it is,” he added in biting sarcasm. “Well, all I can say is — you are better to follow than meet” eyeing the gentleman’s countenance with disfavour. “And tell Miss Fenay from me, that she’d better have a known nowt (good-for-nothing) than an unknown one, and that such sweethearts as you are far-fetched and dear bought even if hung around with diamonds,” riding off with a backward glance of anger at the impertinence and meanness of the Scotchman.

He had not proceeded far before being again stopped by a couple of wayfarers inclined to be aggressive. He was, however, generally ready for emergencies.

“The Scotch gander has sent his feathers flying after me, has he?” unbuckling his stout leather pouch and swinging it around with such dangerous rapidity, that the two men were still rolling in the snow, when horse and rider were at a safe distance. Afterwards James Tilburn always named the overcoat his “Drab Laddie.”

Being the only bringer of news from an outside world, it is recorded that there was no person or sound so eagerly awaited and listened for as the drab-clad figure on horseback, and the blast of his horn which he blew when nearing each village. People rushed down hill-sides or streamed from yards and folds as if by magic at the musical blast of his horn, greeting his arrival in eager hope. Often one missive comprised the extent of Honley’s correspondence with an outside world, for the price of a letter was beyond the means of poor people. The verbal communications of James Tilburn, however, were many and varied. He whispered messages to pretty maidens, imparted more sober information to older women, and brought news of grave or gay import for the benefit of all around. Then with merry quip and jest he would ride away to the next village, where his advent was awaited in joyous expectation.

Mention is made of the important position held by George Armitage Esq., J.P., High Royd, during this century in the Armitage family records. There existed close friendship between my great grandfather and “Justice” Armitage, until the latter in his capacity of Magistrate punished a relative more severely than was his usual custom with a Honley native. This did not meet with the approval of James Tilburn, who intended to know the reason for such harshness being meted out to his relative when next the “Justice” and himself came across each other. They met upon a narrow elevated causeway which flanked one side of the road known as Northgate Lane. The road at that time left to nature’s repairs was generally knee-deep in mud, whilst the causeway only allowed of one foot-passenger at a time. There was often much play of wit between them when they met. The “Justice,” innocent of a grievance told James Tilburn with a merry jest to make way for His Majesty’s august representative of the Law.

“If you carry His Majesty’s Justice in your pocket, I carry His Majesty’s Mails upon my back, so make way for my august person,” replied James Tilburn, knocking the dignified Mr. Armitage from the causeway into the mud, and proceeding on his journey satisfied that he had expressed his anger in a manner to be understood.

When the outraged feelings of each had gradually been smoothed and softened, it is recorded that they were no worse friends in after years.

James Tilburn was the first person to officially bring the news of the battle of Waterloo to places between Halifax and Holmfirth. He had ridden into the town with the mails, when the news of the famous battle which took place on June 18th, 1815, was brought in post haste on horseback. That was of course the quickest mode of transit at that time. His hat and horse were decorated with ribbons by a rejoicing crowd, and with the authority of the Constable in his hand, he was also sent back post haste to convey the news all along the route to Holmfirth. If no telegraphs in those days, the news reached Honley and Holmfirth before his arrival due to delays of eager questionings and joyful greetings on the road. The crowds however at Holmfirth and Honley awaited his coming with the proper official information. Though his horse was so jaded that it was said only a good horseman could have kept him on his legs, he refused to dismount at Honley, and rode on to Holmfirth. Here the good steed (not the grey galloway, but a horse of equal stamina) had a pint of old port wine poured down his throat, and his rider carried shoulder height. In memory of that great day (for indeed the battle, and Wellington’s celebrated sentence were landmarks in people’s lives and memories) the Postmaster General made a gift of a new horn to my great grandfather. It was a short copper horn with one twist, and mounted in brass. Figures of a coach, a coach-horse, and a greyhound coursing were embossed on the brass. Inside the horn was engraved “Waterloo Gift.” With typical male indifference to household gods, this horn was allowed to be taken away by the female branch of the family, and am afraid is now lost.

James Tilburn died Sept. 1st, 1846, at the age of 88 years. His son-in-law, Mr. James Hawkyard, assisted him in his duties at Lockwood, beginning in 1803, and after his death was appointed Postmaster of that place when increasing correspondence warranted a Post Office. Since that time, the Post Office at Lockwood has remained in the family of Hawkyards, the third generation being represented in the person of the present Postmistress, Miss Hawkyard. A relative named Mrs. Murgatroyd was also Postmistress of Huddersfield, and delivered all letters received from my great grandfather when passing through. My grandfather, William Tilburn, born in 1783, followed his father in the postal duties at Honley, modern progress also allowing a Stationary Post Office at Honley. My father, born 1805, followed his father as Postmaster, and was appointed in 1849 on account of my grandfather’s illness. Owing to advancing age and failing health, and at the earnest wish of my father, I took up the duties until his death, when I resigned them in 1887. My grandfather and father were also men of noted local character who earned well-deserved respect from all, and whose typical sayings would fill a book.

It is interesting to know the amount of wages received by James Tilburn, whose “family influence” in the Post Office was such that his son could be appointed Postmaster at Honley, his son-in-law at Lockwood, and female cousin at Huddersfield. I note in a letter dated January 4th 1811, that he was congratulated upon his good fortune of having his wages raised from 10/- to 14/- per week. In 1843, shortly before his death, he had a salary of £10 per year, and a ½d. for delivering each letter. Probably there were other sources of Post Office income not recorded in Honley accounts.

It would take up too much space in this history to give in detail the price of a letter to and from each town in days when the penny post was undreamed about. The price was beyond poor people’s pockets unless an absolute necessity. Means however were always found to defraud the Post Office by a kind of arranged code of signals, such as sending an empty envelope which would be refused. This mode of communication was often greatly abused by people able to pay. A family at Brockholes, who practised this custom of saving postage, at last raised the ire of my great grandfather who, if loyal to his neighbours, was also a loyal servant to the Crown. His comments upon such conduct were more forcible than polite, but the custom did not cease. He adopted another method. When carrying the empty envelope, he always shouted out for the benefit of the people who came to their doorways at the sound of his horn; “Another unpaid letter. However will our soldiers and sailors get clothed and fed, I wonder?” This had the desired effect. In 1822, letters to or from London had been reduced to one shilling each, and from Birmingham to London to 9d. each. The particulars regarding each letter, where it had come from, its destination, full address, and price of postage, were duly entered in a book. From these entries, a knowledge of the social standing of the people in the neighbourhood at the beginning of last century can be formed. The few newspapers published at that time were all conveyed by post, notably “The York Mercury” previously named. The invention of printing, and later, the new-found freedom of the press were great forces in diffusing knowledge; so that newspapers rapidly increased. In 1836, Fergus O’Conner, who at that time was publishing the fiery luminary known as “The Northern Star,” sent bundles once per week to agents through the Post Office. The circulation of “The Northern Star” in Honley was extensive when the extreme distress prevailing at this date is taken into account. When railways became general, the bundles of newspapers were then sent by trains. Money Orders were introduced into the Post Office in 1838. At first this process of sending or receiving money was little understood by the bulk of the population, and its business was of a primitive order. When the scheme for one universal rate of penny postage was introduced in 1837 by Mr. Rowland Hill, he was looked upon as a fit inmate for Bedlam; and his project was strongly opposed in Parliament. When penny postage was adopted in 1840, my great grandfather was aged 82 and still active. According to entries in his books, he considered that Doomsday had arrived, and that it would be impossible for his son to live upon such cheapness. This introduction of penny postage was only accomplished with the greatest difficulty. Obstacles of a varied character, which had been raised against such a mad scheme, had to be surmounted; but in 1849, the system was in good working order. At first there was also much trouble about stamps, franking being previously in use. The first adhesive stamp was invented by a printer named Chalmers, who lived in Dundee. This was a black stamp, and it was defaced by a red mark. At this time, the knowledge of chemistry was also developing by leaps and bounds. It was soon discovered by chemistry experts, that the obliterating mark of red upon the black stamp could be washed out, and the stamp again used. After many trials, the brick red stamp, so familiar to us older people, was adopted in 1841, and remained in use a long time. Though penny postage had been introduced, there was a small charge made upon each letter; and it was not until August 12th, 1855, that there were free deliveries of letters in this neighbourhood. The Savings’ Bank, with chances of investing in Government Stock came into use in 1861. Next followed the purchase of Public Telegraphs by Government, and their introduction into the Post Office. Telegrams were 1/- each, delivered free within a mile of the receiving Post Office, but beyond that distance charged 6d. per mile for porterage. Post Cards were introduced in 1870. This innovation was looked upon with detestation by old-fashioned people who believed in their correspondence being kept secret from prying eyes. Parcel post followed, commencing on August 1st, 1883. This change caused great discontent, on account of Postmasters and Letter-carriers finding themselves over-weighted with heavy parcels — hampers and larger bags not being readily supplied to country districts at first. On October 1st, 1885, 6d. Telegrams came into operation. Since the latter date, the Post Office has undertaken many additional public duties which are too numerous to give in detail.

I have copied a few averages of letters received at various times according to entries in old Post Office books in my possession. Previous to 1800, there appear to be only five or six per week received by people scattered over a wider area than the bounds of Honley Township; for instance — residents at Dudmanstone, Crosland Hall, Fenay Hall, etc. being named. In 1826, letters received at Honley averaged seven per day, and did not greatly increase during the next ten years. In 1853, about 90 were received and despatched each day. In 1865, the average number was about 150 each day, when no further entries are recorded. On account of the blessings of cheap postage, letters increased fast in numbers, and the custom of writing down the particulars of each letter would no doubt lapse at this time.

Many more interesting items could be given in connection with the early history of the Post Office. Oral traditions also are numerous relating to noted local people who were of necessity brought into contact with public servants of long standing, but we must pass on.


Since the days of Richard de Waley, successive Lords of the Manor of Honley have been non-resident, so that as we have seen, we cannot boast of any Mansion or historical Hall, the annals of which are bound up with the history of the country. The present appearance of High Royd House, though belonging to one of the oldest families in the place, does not indicate any distinct period of architecture. It has been so altered during successive generations that I believe only the cellars remain of the original structure. There are, however, dwellings yet standing in a good state of preservation which are characteristics of our neighbourhood, and typical of the sturdy race of men who once occupied them who built up their own history. Erected of stone, taken from the nearest wood or field, they are more solid than pretentious. Our forefathers built their dwellings not for show or shelters for art treasures, but for use in the domestic mode of manufacturing. In addition, there arose the necessity of resistance against the storms of wind and rain which beat down upon them, hence their substantial character. The Chief art treasures valued by our forefathers would be those of the type of warming-pans, tally-irons, pestles, etc. Hams, or rounds of cured beef suspended from household beams would be considered of even greater worth. The houses in the village are grouped together either for warmth or company. Their owners, who in those days were in blissful ignorance of interfering District Councils, placed them in strange nooks and corners according to their fancy. The love of independence and personal freedom, so distinguishing a trait of Honley dwellers, prompted them thus to build their homes. Other houses at scattered distances are larger. Over many of the doorways of these latter, owners built into the wall their family shields in the shape of square stones, upon which is proclaimed ownership and date of erection. A few outbuildings once in use for cloth-making, or shelter for horse or cow snuggle close to the house. There is generally a small orchard behind, a plot of greensward in front, a few sheltering trees bent back by long wrestling with the West wind, and the whole surrounded with a massive wall; the owners being rather jealous of their little freeholds. The folds and yards, named after those who once occupied them, or the trade which they followed, record the time when the little enclosure was a community to itself, — master and man living and dying on the spot.

Such are the old homes still left in Honley, speaking in silence of the race who once dwelt under their roofs; — men of culture and worth, and men as uncultivated and rough as the wild moorlands around their homes.

The ancient dwellings in a place are generally to be found near the Church if the latter dates back to old days. Though many of the oldest houses in Honley dated and undated are situated in S. Mary’s Square and Church Street, these houses are not the oldest dwellings according to dates. The oldest date upon a house is at Hall Ing, formerly owned by the Armitage family. (See their family history). Over the lintel is

R. A.

Two old cottages at Banks Mill (now Hope Bank), lately renovated had carved over the doorway 1616. Previous reference will be found relating to the building once standing in Church Street on the site occupied by present modern shops. A stone built into the back portion of these shops is carved

J. A.

Below the figures is beautiful scroll work. If the building had been occupied by Richard Waley during the earlier part of the 13th century, the house would be the victim of varying circumstances after the confiscation of this property. No doubt alterations, additions, or even re-building might have been made in 1680 by Charles Nettleton who resided in the house at that date. When the ancient building was destroyed for the erection of the present shops, a thoughtful builder or owner preserved one stone for future generations, by building it into the wall of the modern shops. In St. Mary’s Square, the initials carved upon the stone door-head are

I. & N.

This house and those adjoining of similar architecture were at one time a single residence of importance, and occupied by the Crosleys, (see their family history). Many of the oldest traditions in Honley cling around the building and its enclosure. The next house in order of date is at Gynn. Under the pent-house window, still in a good state of preservation is

H. A.

This house was formerly built and owned by the Armitage family. A later date of

W. H.

records change of ownership to the family of Haighs. To return back to Honley. The row of fine old dwellings on the right hand side of Church Street, leading to the Church, has carved over the doorway of one house

I. & F.

The residence now owned and occupied by Mr. Thomas Smailes, M.D., formerly the residence of Mr. Thomas Leigh has carved upon the wall

J. & M.

In a fold at Oldfield, consisting of all old buildings, over the doorway of one is carved

I. & S.

Next in date is one in Exchange, built by the forefathers of the present Brooke family

W. & S.

Upon an old homestead at Reins, now owned by William Brooke, Esq., Northgate Mount is

J. A.

The present dwellings on the left hand side of Church Street facing the Church are very ancient, though an older building was once in existence upon the site. It has now been divided and sub-divided, that only the stone still left in the wall testifies to its once old-time importance. Circled with fine scroll work of the mason order is

J. A.


Upon the gable end of a building at Oldfield, is to be seen

R. & A.

At Lower Thirstin, not far from the scene of the bull-baitings is engraved upon a house

C. & M.

At Town-head the initials of the builder are erased, but the date 1799 is clear. At Field End, a typical Clothier’s home is in a good state of preservation, whose original dwellers I can distinctly recall. Over the doorway is

J. & A.

There are also numerous isolated houses scattered around Honley and its hamlets, the architecture and building being of the Tudor period. The owners did not adopt the excellent plan of placing over the doorways their names and dates of building. Many of these have been so altered or suffered from careless tenants, that little of their original appearance remain. There are specimens of old Elizabethean homesteads still left at Brockholes, Hall Ing, Oldfield, etc., which observing eyes can easily recognise even if they have undergone hard usage.


Dwelling in these old houses were a race of men as varying in character as in position. There are few parish records that do not bear testimony to their good qualities. They lingered long on our hill-sides, standing upon their pinnacle of yeoman’s pride, but were gradually exterminated by new forces. I cannot give each of these gentlemen workers of a past day individual mention, so must sum up their fine characters as a whole. Clad in their own “blue plain” or “black doeskin” on Sundays, and “drab kersey” on week-days, they were grand figures either on foot or horseback. There was not only a sense of rugged strength typical of the moorlands overshadowing their homes, but also an air of old-world dignity about their persons. Dwelling amongst their own people, they acted almost as parents concerning the religious and moral welfare of their dependants. They were frugal in food, simple in domestic arrangements, and saving in habits. Toiling night and day almost in their isolated homes, or in their folds and yards; their mode of life was in striking contrast to present-day luxury. If, perhaps, their great aim in life seemed the gaining of money, they were honest, God-fearing, home-loving men. They were too serious to play at religion, and all their dearest associations clung around their own hill-sides. Left to their own resources in obscure village and hamlet, they have raised the structure of England’s commercial prosperity by their morality, industry and intelligence.

The memory also of the mothers, wives and daughters of these yeomen of a past day must be recalled. With a man’s grasp, combined with a woman’s daintiness, they shared in men’s toil, and in addition, walked the harder road, and carried the heavier burden of womanhood; for perhaps unconsciously men exacted hard service from their womenkind in those days. The mistress of a household, who possessed more tangible advantages than her neighbour, would probably keep one servant, whose diligence was praised, or idleness gently reproved. Side by side with her excellent handmaiden she performed the thousand and one duties which fell to her lot, all household necessities being then produced in the home. In addition to rearing a family of children, she baked, brewed, churned, washed clothes, spun household linen, and made garments. At this period, women were skilled in preserving fruit, curing bacon, making cowslip, elderberry and other home-manufactured wines. Yet industry did not coarsen their persons, nor prudence narrow their minds. Kindly of heart, and generous of hand to their poorer neighbours, they were women of earnest religious faith, gracious personality, and ruled over homes of peaceful order. The designs of such fabrics for feminine wear as calimancoes, camblets, grograms, tammies, bombazines, etc., would no doubt engage their attention, as present fashions interest modern women’s thoughts. Richly but plainly dressed, their best gowns for outside wear were composed of Norwich crape or silk, perhaps brought back by the good yeoman on horseback from a distant town when forced to travel there for purposes of trade. With placid beauty of mind and body, and faces of gentle repose, these women were features in homes of past days which were made sweeter and purer by their presence. The wives of clothiers in a more modest way of business possessed also the same strength of heart and hand. In addition to their household duties and family cares, they spun or wound bobbins for their husband’s cloth-trade, often rocking the cradle with one hand, and turning the spinning-wheel with the other. The attire of one old master clothier in Honley was always made by his wife’s industrious fingers. Another clothier of sterling character, and who eventually became a wealthy man, was taught to read in his earlier married life by the unwearied efforts of his wife.

The lives of these noble and self-sacrificing women of a past day, whose only path in life was love or duty, are unhonoured, and their praises unsung; but they shall have their place in Honley history. Here and there they look down upon us from the walls of Honley homes with long ringlets hanging around faces of tranquil sweetness, or surmounted by caps covering neatly folded hair; and their memory comes down to us like the fragrance of a May morning.


Sundials, telling people to go to bed at sunset and rise with the dawn, were fit emblems to place in old-world gardens, with their scents and flowers. There are not many sundials left of an old date in Honley though formerly common in the place. There is one, however, remaining upon the wall of an old homestead in Thirstin occupied by Miss Donkersley, a descendant of a once well-known Wesleyan family. Upon the sundial is carved the name of John Sanderson, A.D. 1791, and the Roman numericals are in a good state of preservation. A sundial upon the roof of an old house in Exchange is more interesting. It bears date 1681 with the initials A.H. The inscription “U Hora Sic Vita” (as the hour, so life flies) is now nearly effaced, though the numericals are clear. Evidently this sundial would be discarded when the re-building of the Church took place, and was preserved by some person and placed in its present lofty position, the height of which has probably saved it from destruction. (See Church history).


The swinging signboards outside our old Inns were once familiar pictures in our streets, and thought to be the finest works of art in the village. The signboard of “Ye Wheat Sheaf Inn,” pictured a husbandman binding together sheaves of corn upon a stretching upland. We always considered the painter a genius who could thus produce such a wealth of suggestive beauty in that harvest scene. There was the exact representation of Jacob’s Well painted over the Inn whose more modern well was supposed never to run dry. This Scriptural picture was not only valued for its beauty, but also for its help in diffusing Biblical knowledge in youthful minds. The symbolical sign of “Ye George and Dragon” aroused patriotic feelings. Perhaps also it might have been the innocent means of nourishing the fighting instincts in Honley youths of a past day, so that they generally proved the victor in personal or other encounters. These once picturesque signboards, swinging upon their hinges overhead, are now no longer seen in our midst, any more than the old-time landlord or landlady who awaited the advent of the mail coach or stage-wagon. These latter brewed their own beer in those days. Their bar and best parlour were privileged places where National and important events were nightly discussed, and their friendship was esteemed a great honour.

Continue to Chapter VI...