The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter XI

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


(Education. — National Schools. — Private Schools. — Dame Schools. — Mechanics’ Institute).


The present-day school boy or girl who receive free education as their due, are naturally in ignorance of the great forces which have been at work to enable them thus to be taught. To-day when cheap books, periodicals, newspapers, etc., numbered by millions are sent broadcast throughout the land, and copies of the once most famous books in the world bought for a penny; much imagination is required to think of the time when there were no books, and when nearly all the people were unlettered. Previous to the Elementary Education Act of 1870, Government did not trouble its head much about educating the rank and file of the people. Those who had no wish for enlightenment could be left in peaceful possession of their ignorance, whilst those who were troubled with “Divine discontent” found their own mental food. The education of people in the lower ranks of life was dependent upon religious zeal, private charity, or voluntary effort. The British and Foreign Bible Society, founded in 1808, and the National Society, founded in 1811, for the purpose of educating the poor in the principles of the Established Church, were the pioneers in promoting Elementary Education amongst the people. Both these Societies had generous supporters and subscribers in Honley. Other Voluntary Societies have also rendered invaluable aid in the past, such as Endowed Grammar Schools, etc. Before giving details of the efforts which have placed the present National Schools in our midst, I will give a brief sketch of the progress of Elementary Education question which generally provokes hostility. But differences of opinion have to meet and unite for the benefit of the whole. Various amendments in the Act were made in 1872 and 1873. The Trust Deeds of National Schools that had been aided by the National Society for educating the poor in the principles of the Church of England caused difficulties. These were met by the “Conscience Clause” which gave freedom to parents to withdraw children from religious teaching if wishful, whilst allowing others to be taught religious instruction as before. The country was now quickly dotted with rate-built Schools which became so numerous, that such abundant provision was not valued. Many parents did not see the necessity for their children to be better taught than they had been themselves, and took no trouble to send their children to school. To force careless parents to a sense of their duty, the Government passed an Act in 1876, compelling the attendance of all children at School. Then came the Act of 1903, taking the power from School Boards, and Voluntary School-Managers; and handing over every branch of secular education to the various County Councils.

During all this time that Royal Commissions had been sitting, demonstrations held, and religious differences being settled; Honley National School had been educating its children before many of our present-day Educationists were born. We will take a retrospect of its history.


When Sunday Schools became general, children who worked long hours were taught to read and write at the same time that they received religious instruction. During the early part of last century it has been noted that this mode of education was a feature of Sunday School work in Honley, and the primitive instruction was often the only education received by many intelligent and respected inhabitants of a past day. Though the National Society, and the British and Foreign Bible Society were founded in 1808 and 1811, which really were the beginnings of popular education for the people, it will be seen in the history of Sunday Schools that there were persons in Honley before these Societies were formed who realised their duties as Christians by helping to educate the poor and ignorant. There is a record that James Hawkyard was a Schoolmaster in Honley in 1792, but no trustworthy information that he taught scholars attending the first Sunday School at Steps Mill. There is an oral tradition that he taught the Church scholars at the old Town Hall, when they were removed there in 1814. During the short time that they assembled in the latter building, a few good Church people contemplated providing a more suitable room and this project was carried out in 1816. The National Society sent £50 0s. 0d., the Earl of Dartmouth gave £21 0s. 0d., William Brooke, Esq. (grandfather of the present Mr. William Brooke) £10 0s. 0d., and the site upon which to build the school, and other Honley families contributed smaller amounts. There are a few recorded subscriptions of 3d. each. Other persons also worked for the cause by giving labour, and finding horse-teams for three or four days each. The total subscriptions amounted to £207 13s. 9d. There were also furnishings of the School to be added to the cost, which were met by subscriptions.

Thus the first National School was erected in Honley in 1816, according to the tenets of the National Society, that the children should be educated in the religious principles of the Church of England; and also for their instruction according to Mr. Bell’s plan. The latter was at that time a great authority upon education, and his ideas were carried out in all National Schools. This first erection continued to be used until the present National School was built in 1846. Those persons who had contributed to the building, continued to subscribe annually to its maintenance, the names of which are still recorded as present-day subscribers, notably the Dartmouth and Brooke families. The original Trustees of the first Elementary School (as well as Sunday School) in Honley are as follows. We find, as in many other records of good work performed, that son has followed father, generation after generation.

Trustees:— Rev. Peter Ashworth, Curate-in-charge; John Brooke; Thomas Brooke; William Leigh, Sen.; Thomas Leigh, Junior; Joseph Armitage; John Jessop; John Lock-wood; William Booth Gartside and Thomas Swift. Visitors for boys:— George Jessop; Joseph Leigh; William Leigh, Junior; Edward Brooke; Wm. Lees and James Jessop. Visitors for girls:— Miss Sarah Brooke and Miss Ann Leigh.

When the building was opened in 1817, the first recorded Schoolmaster was Mr. Hawkswell, There was no salary paid, but £5 0s. 0d. was given to him as a present at Christmas. During the first year that the School was opened, there was an average attendance of 72 boys and 38 girls, and the attendance increased yearly. The number attending the School each Sunday was regularly returned to the National Society in London for many years. There was a Library attached to the School to which books were added year by year, and their titles given. In 1823; there are recorded payments of 2/-yearly to persons teaching on a Sunday. Details relating to fires, cleaning, purchase of battledores, etc., all prove that the scholars were not neglected. It was customary, and continued for a long number of years to have an annual collection in Church on behalf of the School. Special preachers were engaged, to whom payment was made. The Choir also was augmented by singers from neighbouring parishes who were remunerated. It will be seen, when giving particulars of Church Collections at these services, that in 1828 £1 notes were still in circulation. Children also were as mischievous 80 and 90 years ago as at present, payments for broken windows being frequent entries in the School book. Have copied the following extracts from the Sunday School book, thus showing the secular, combined with the religious work carried on side by side.

1821 £ s. d.
Jan. 3 Pd. Ann Winter ½ year’s wages for Sweeping School. 5 0
April 15 Paid Almondbury Singers 10/- at Will Sandersons. 10 0
June 25 Paid at Coronation of King George IV. to the scholars, 6d. each. 4 11 0
Dec. 25 A present from the Trustees and Subscribers to Mr. Hawkswell for his services. (Evidently a Xmas Day present) 5 0 0
Jan. Paid Charles Hawkyard, Singer. 10 6
May 23 Postage of letter to National Society, London. 1 0
Sept. 15 Collection in Honley Chapel for aid of scholars copper, £2 13s. 6d.; silver, £4 5s, 6d; notes, £3 0s. 0d.; gold, £2 2s. 0d. Total £13 9s. 0d. Out of this pd. Singers, £1 0s. 0d., and to Mr. Foster, preacher, £1 0s. 0d. 11 9 0
April 20 Sermon preached by the Rev. N. Padwick for School. Copper, £1 15s. 7d.; notes, £7 0s. 0d.; gold, £2 0s. 0d.; silver, £1 8s. 6d. Total. 12 4 1
Jan. 25 A donation to James Walker, Teacher, in lieu of wages. 1 0 0
April 3 Rev. James preached for benefit of School Collection. 10 3 0
Mar. 31 A National Fast Day.

Mr. William Leigh, who at that time was 72 years of age, but still taking an active part in the School, writes in the book on January 26th, 1835, expressing his earnest wish that “before long the Honley Schools will be carried on as a daily school agreeably to Bell’s system of education, and on the principles and doctrine of the Church of England.” Also expressing a hope “to raise the School a storey higher for a dwelling for a Master and Mistress to live in.” On February 12th, 1835, is a record of the death of Mr. James Walker, Schoolmaster. Mr. George Donkersley was appointed in his place at more remuneration than his predecessor. The next record of importance, is that on June 25th, 1836, Mr. George Donkersley was paid for teaching writing to the scholars on Saturday evening for six months, the sum of £3 13s. 6d. This is a proof of the good effects of the Factory Act of 1833, limiting the hours of children’s labour. Though their hours were still long in comparison to the present, children evidently could “lay away” in time on a Saturday to come to be taught in the evening. (I believe that they could cease work at four o’clock about this date).

Mr. William Leigh, who had kept the School book with such exact detail, resigned on February 22nd, 1838, on account of advancing age and ill-health. He expresses himself in writing to this effect, and delivered up the title deeds respecting Honley National School to George Jessop on this date, who next undertook the office of Treasurer until 1846.

As time went on, the building was not considered adequate, and the present National Schools were built in 1846 in close proximity to the old. The Managers, under the original deed of 1817, converted the old building into cottages, the rents of which are applied for the benefit of the School. A stone built into the wall at the South end of these cottages, will keep in memory the site and building of the first National School erected in Honley.

When the present. School was finished in 1846, it had been built by voluntary effort, and also supported afterwards by the same means until Government Grants were given. I have no record that the old building was used as a day school according to Mr. Leigh’s wish. The new Schools, however, would fulfil his desire. I have no particulars of the cost of its erection or a list of its subscribers, so that this interesting information cannot be given. The Earl of Dartmouth presented the site, and the National Society sent £565 0s. 0d. The late Rev. C. Drawbridge writes in an old Churchwarden’s book, that the late Mr. Thomas Brooke, of Northgate House, was a most generous subscriber, and infers that but for his help, the building would not have been finished; but no amount is given. So numerous have been the improvements and alterations to the School since 1846 to meet the continual demands of the Education Department, that I am unable to record all in detail, but will enumerate a few. To provide for the growing population of Honley, the Managers enlarged the Schools by adding class-rooms and other buildings in 1872 and 1873. To meet all requirements of the Elementary

Education Act of 1872 and its many subsequent demands, the Managers again enlarged the Schools; adding out-buildings, sanitary improvements, a large piece of land to play-ground, substantial boundary walls, and other outside requirements, at an estimated cost of about £1,500 0s. 0d. These extensive additions were completed in 1882. The late Mr. Lupton Littlewood, who was one of the School Managers at this date, took a very active part in this great scheme. Mr. William Brooke, the Chairman of the School Managers, gave £500 0s. 0d. The Earl of Dartmouth presented the land for the additional playground, and also gave a subscription. Other Church people also subscribed generously. To clear off the debt, an Exhibition of all kinds of works of art and a Bazaar were held, which was opened on Honley Feast Monday, September 25th, 1882, and remained open for two weeks. The Earl of Dartmouth was announced to open the Exhibition and Bazaar, but was unable to be present on account of sickness. His place was filled by the late Sir Thomas Brooke. The Exhibition and Bazaar, managed by a small but capable committee, was a great success. Entertainments of a high-class character were given each evening by friends and supporters of the School, not only in Honley, but from neighbouring parishes. So great a success did this two weeks’ Exhibition and Bazaar prove, that at its close £1,000 0s. 0d. had been raised.

After these great alterations which placed Honley National Schools amongst the best Denominational Schools in the neighbourhood, there were constant growing demands from the Education Department. Being no rate-aided School, these claims had to be met by voluntary effort. In 1884, another plot of land was added to the playground. Next followed an epoch in the history of the School. Free Education was adopted on September 1st, 1891, when the finding of the weekly school-pence, and necessary books by parents ceased. Mr. William Brooke had long contemplated erecting a house as a residence for the Schoolmaster. Inability to secure a suitable site for a time prevented his desire being carried out until 1898. Lord Dartmouth gave the land, and the present handsome School-house was built, together with extensive outside additions to the School, — notably, large exercising shed for wet days, boundary walls, taking in additional ground, etc., at a cost of about £1,500 0s. 0d. Towards this sum Mr. William Brooke gave £1,000 0s. 0d., thus defraying all cost of Schoolmaster’s house, and leaving a margin to help to pay for remainder of School alterations. In 1906, £150 was again spent for sanitary alterations and improvements in ventilators. In 1910, a boy’s cloak room was built, lavatories erected on latest principles, asphalting yard, and other alterations, which cost £377 0s. 0d. Towards this sum Mr. William Brooke gave £100 0s. 0d., and the rest of the amount was raised by a Bazaar; the members of the Congregation working enthusiastically to raise the balance. In the same year, a new boiler and other alterations to warming apparatus were required, towards the cost of which Miss Brooke gave £50 0s. 0d. The Education Department next demanded partitions. These were erected in each School, followed by the installation of electric light. The last alteration was the laying down of new floors in each School, at a cost of over £100 0s. 0d. The expenses of these numerous alterations have all been met by gifts of money or labour expended in Bazaars, etc. I have often thought that the original walls of the Schools must have been of the most substantial character to have withstood the various assaults and batteries which have been brought to bear upon them under the name of improvements. The Schools have accommodation for 700 scholars, and there is an average attendance of 550.

When the Schools were built in 1846, children were not expected to know a little of everything, which ends in knowing nothing; but a little was left to imagination. There were no Training Colleges established for teachers at that date, and Mr. George Donkersley, who had taught in the old building since 1835, was again appointed Schoolmaster in the present Schools. I have no record when he retired from teaching only my own memory. I think that it was about the year 1859, when Mr. John Dearden was the first Certificated Master who was appointed. He had been trained at Battersea College. A young man at that time full of ardour and energy, he was not only the life and soul of all Intellectual and Social Societies formed in Honley for the welfare of its dwellers; but he brought the School to a high state of efficiency. When Mr. Dearden was appointed to Thornhill Grammar School he was followed by Mr. Charles Wall, then Mr. Josiah Stacey, who vacated the position on his appointment to the office of Sub-Inspector of Schools. The boys are now under the kindly and capable sway of Mr. George Borwell, the present Schoolmaster, who was appointed in 1893. With the help of his Assistant Teachers, he has also upheld the School in a high state of efficiency. He not only guides the boys in their intellectual training, but also takes an intelligent interest and shares in their games and recreations. The boys in the Honley National School won 1st Prize and Medal at the Annual “Mrs. Sunderland Musical Competition,” held at Huddersfield in 1904. The following year they also won 1st Prize and Medal. In 1906, the boys in the Competition had to take second place, in 1908, fourth place, but in 1909 they again gained 2nd Prize. The boys have also won high honours in Cricket and Football Competitions. In 1904, 1905, and 1912, they won the “Marshall Cricket Shield.” In the Football struggles, they carried off the “Huddersfield Shield” in 1906 and 1910, also the “Crowther Cup” in 1910. These notable victories were the cause of much rejoicing in Honley at the time.

The first Schoolmistress in the Girls’ School was Miss Elliott. The next was Miss Beaumont, who at that time resided at Stubbins, Netherton. A member of an old family of Clothiers, she was appointed like Mr. George Donkersley before the days of Training Colleges. If not very learned, she taught us thoroughly the arts of sewing, knitting, and all kinds of useful needlework. Her personality had that human touch which changes the unit to the individual, and she exercised a strong influence upon ductile minds. She was married to Mr. Dearden about the year 1861. Miss Jane Brook was appointed Head Schoolmistress in succession to Miss Beaumont. Miss Jane Brook was trained at Ripon College, and was the first Certificated Schoolmistress appointed in the Girls’ School. She resigned in 1887, after 26 years of faithful duty, not only performed on week-days, but also in the Sunday School. She received a handsome presentation as a recognition of her long years of service. She was followed for a short period by a Miss Mellor.

The present Head Schoolmistress was appointed in 1887. For this long number of years, Miss Bartle has worthily carried out her delicate duty of guiding the youthful feminine sex, whose education is now as exacting as in the Boys’ School. She is helped by Assistants, whose gentle reminders or wise approbation, like her own, leave happy memories. Miss Bartle has not varied in her long years of service of sustaining the reputation of the Schools. Miss S. A. Brook was the first Certificated Mistress appointed to the Infants’ School. She was sister to Miss Jane Brook, and before taking charge of Honley School, was Head Mistress at Brockholes Church School. She resigned along with her sister in 1887. Since her resignation, there have been others appointed, amongst whom was Miss Wilkinson. The present Head Mistress is Miss Evans, who took up her duties in 1901. With her soothing persuasive voice, helped by Assistants, who follow her example, Miss Evans faithfully and unobtrusively carries out her duties of planting the first seeds of learning in the minds of Honley Infants.

It is no light task or ignoble calling which is called upon to foster and succour into life the first growth of knowledge in a child’s mind. Great intelligence, much intuition, and broad understanding are required to train a motley assemblage of children. The excellence of the Education given at these Schools, under the capable heads of each department, cannot be surpassed. Such good training must leave an impress upon our future men and women, whose fair life garden is now bounded by its walls.

Mention has been made that pupil-teachers were established by Government in 1846, but it was not until 1862 that they were introduced into Honley Schools. George Crosland was the first pupil-teacher in the Boys’ School, I was the first in the Girls’ School, and Ada Smith the first in the Infants’. The latter, and myself, served as Monitors until we had reached the age of 13 years, when we were then appointed. Previously, the head-teacher in each school had not a single helper, only friends who offered their services voluntarily. The difference between the duties of a pupil-teacher of to-day, and the time when we were appointed is very great. A pupil-teacher of to-day would smile in scorn at the restrictions which were then placed upon us by our teachers. After the marriage of Miss Beaumont, I was awakened from a dreaming idyllic school existence to find that the duties of life were not so easy of accomplishment as copy-book texts to write. Our teachers believed in youthful obedience, even if we had been promoted to instruct others, and we were under the most rigid discipline both in and out of School hours. At that date both teachers and pupil-teachers had to work hard. In addition to teaching all day, we had to assist in the night-school, which was held during the winter months. In order to gain instruction so as to be able to pass the yearly examinations as pupil-teachers, we had to rise early, and go to bed late, having no aids as at present. There was no School-Attendance Officer in those days, and we had to hunt up on a Saturday absentee scholars who were very numerous. Memory can still vividly recall the weekly martyrdom I endured from irate parents who resented my youthful zeal and enquiries. It was as imperative that we should teach in the Sunday School as it was for our headteachers to take the post of Sunday School Superintendents. Also we must attend all religious observances, and help in all the numerous social and instructive activities which were then features of School-work. A visit to a theatre would have proved a terrible discovery, and we should have gasped with apprehension if absent from one service at Church. Yet if there existed spartan rules in comparison to present-day latitude, and if young shoulders carried heavy responsibilities in those days, we eventually realised that discipline and obedience were necessary for our future welfare.

The National Schools apart from the daily education of the children have also been the nursery for intellectual, social, and all kinds of Societies formed in connection with the religious and secular welfare of the parish. Previous to these modern activities, the Clothing Club was a great feature in the early history of the Schools. Weekly contributions, ranging from one penny to one shilling per week, were paid by parents of the children, and at the end of the year, the capital and interest took the form of a ticket, upon which the amount was entered. This sum was spent upon useful clothing, or home requirements at any shop, either in Honley or Huddersfield, of good local standing. This paying-out or ticket-day was a great event, answering to the present Co-operative dividend distribution. Many families were yearly clothed from these once useful Clothing Clubs. Modern Societies for saving money came into existence, which gradually supplanted the old Clothing Club. As one who formerly took an active part in the work of Sunday and week-day School activities, I recall the formation of Musical Societies of a varied character, — Drum and Fife Bands, — Hand-bell Ringers, — Ambulance Classes, — Gymnastic Societies, — Football and Cricket Clubs, — Nursing Lectures, — Cookery Classes,—Conversaziones, — Socials. — Dramatic and Mutual Improvement Societies, — Bands of Hope, — Savings’ Banks, and other Associations of a varied character. Is it not written in the book of our memories how all these in turn were launched into life with great enthusiasm, ran their course, and then the cold fit succeeded hot zeal?

We will now turn from recounting dry facts and recall bright memories. Since the present building was erected in 1846, merry boys, and laughing girls, who in succession have been taught in the Schools, have become old men and women; whilst memories are only left of others. Those who are still alive, will like myself, recall to mind past scenes and events in connection with a building in which we were not only taught the first alphabet, but also learnt the alphabet of fife. What did it matter if cane or ferule were wont to awaken and stimulate slumbering intellects into activity. We were not troubled with foolish illusions of our own importance in those days. If we had been punished, there was no demand for a Parliamentary enquiry from parents, but generally an added reminder from them of our youthful misdeeds. Whether under the care of a grim and austere master, or a benign mistress, all the happiness of life was once concentrated within the walls of the Schools. Previous to a Certificated Mistress being appointed to the Girls’ School, about the sixties, kind friends who took the deepest interest in the moral and religious welfare of the children of Honley daily visited the School, and helped in our teaching. Each scholar was known by name, noticed, praised, reprimanded, and all deficiencies helped. Perhaps many parents who are in deadly fear of religious teaching, prefer the blatant mode of training their children to have no respect for God, man, or anything upon earth; not even for their own selves. I value the teaching which left memories behind, and nourished thoughts for a future.

The numerous alterations to the Schools may have been acquisitions, but they have changed well-known landmarks which were once associated with the building. Many will recall the pulpit situated aloft between the boys and girls’ school-rooms, from where the School-master daily opened and closed the School by prayer and singing of morning and evening hymns. The word standard held no meaning for us in those days, the highest seat of learning being known as the “Bible Class.” There was the Schoolmaster’s old oak desk to which trembling male culprits crept to receive punishment, and the table of the Schoolmistress from whose vicinity came milder reproofs. Many women, both those whose path in fife has been on the sunny side, and others who have had to shoulder heavy burdens, will recall Miss Beaumont. With what fearless joy we went each morning to meet her, caught her smile of welcome at our approach, and struggled for the honour of carrying her basket! On our arrival at School each day, we were always greeted with the familiar faces of Moses and Aaron, whose pictures hung upon the wall at the top end of the room. We were not defrauded in our young years of religious teaching, and Bible stories and pictures took shape and form in active imaginations. Did we not also take part in the wanderings of the twelve tribes, sit under palm-trees, lead the camels, and see the burning bush? All these, and much more were symbolized in those two old pictures, now alas! destroyed. There was also the lofty gallery in the Infants’ room upon which we have all sat in turn, and slided down its banister to the accompaniment of falls and bruises when watchful eyes were off their guard. Then there was the exciting event of the annual visit of the Government Inspector. He filled our youthful imaginations with such awe, that for many days previous to his arrival, sleep and appetite were affected. Our persons had been polished to misery from head to foot, and we shone with cleanliness. When questions of a varied character were hurled at us from his Jovian altitude, we were in such a state of agitated awe and excited fear, that abilities were paralyzed and knowledge generally scattered to the winds. And what red-letter days were our holidays! There was the happy rush out of School at the ringing of the “pancake-bell,” — the “barring-out” days, — the early release upon November 5th, so as to have ample time to prepare bonfires, — Christmas joy, — and the grand summary in which all the holidays of the year were concentrated — Honley Feast.

It speaks well for the generous supporters of Honley and Brockholes Schools, that the Managers have met all demands of educational legislature, both before and since the Elementary Education Act was passed in 1870; so that no School-Board has been required for either place. This would not have been possible, but for the liberal support and life-long interest of Mr. William Brooke, its oldest Manager. No words of mine are required to remind Honley people of the debt of gratitude to him for helping to provide educational facilities so long enjoyed without a school-rate, until Government handed over the secular education of the children to County Council management, when a rate was levied. According to the original Trust Deed of the School, the Vicar of the parish is constituted for the time being one of the Managers. Successive Clergymen in turn have also undertaken the instruction of the scholars in religious knowledge in the past. Also the same duties are performed at present at the stated time allowed by Government. There have been also other hard-working and unselfish Managers of the School, who have sacrificed time and money for its welfare and good management. Generous donors, annual subscribers, and willing helpers at Bazaars have not been wanting. But it is chiefly due to Mr. Brooke’s unfailing help that the School has been kept to what its original founders meant it be.

It is interesting to note that according to returns issued in 1908, the Church of England Schools still numbered 11,180, whilst all other Voluntary Schools, such as Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, Jewish, Undenominational, etc., numbered together 13,152. The Blue Book of 1913 gives the number of Church Schools as 10,877, whilst the rest of other Voluntary Schools are 1,760. Also that the National Society, founded in 1811, has not only been the parent of 12,000 National Schools to which it has given its name; but the Society has also built 24 out of 31 residential Church Training Colleges. The National Society, in addition, also subsidises these Colleges to the amount of £4,000 0s. 0d. per year.


The National Schools were not the only means of education in Honley forty or fifty years ago. There were Private Academies to which prosperous manufacturers or tradesmen sent their sons to be educated or “finished” after leaving the National Schools. There were also “Ladies” Schools, in which “ladylike” education was taught. Parents, who to make use of a local saying “were the better end out of the worse pannier,” gave their daughters the benefit of these means of instruction, so that they also could be considered “finished.” There were also numerous Dame-Schools held in sequestered cottages, or situated in yards and folds so abundant in Honley. In addition, there existed Evening Schools, such .as the Mechanics’ Institute, for those whose eager thirst for knowledge was not quenched by a day’s hard toil. My earliest remembrances of the fine old race of male pedagogues in Honley, were Mr. George Donkersley, National Schoolmaster, Mr. William Hoyle, who taught a Private Academy held in the Independent Chapel School, and Mr. James Ainley, who carried on private teaching for boys at Brockholes, held in the “yellow” school, now demolished. Mr. Hoyle was a man of learning, and austere religious character; who always adopted one method with conceited and spoiled children. His School was held in great repute, both for its intellectual and moral training, and many of his scholars have become noted men in different walks of life. Mr. James Ainley, or “one-legged Jim,” as he was generally named by his rebellious pupils when out of School, who had so often to “kiss the rod,” was a person of different calibre. Physically, he was a fine robust man, but walked with a crutch, having had the misfortune to lose one leg. This loss altered the course of a life. The careless boy became a studious youth, reading books upon philosophy, and of the Tom Paine order, which altered his views upon religion. An avowed Deist of that date would soon be brought into collision with people of orthodox convictions. When Mr. Ainley took up teaching to earn his living, he was considered a pernicious person by many parents whose School must be shunned. Yet he was a man of ability, knowledge, and a successful Schoolmaster, who, if he had to suffer for his convictions did not teach them to his scholars.

Having to keep in order the young male barbarians of that time, the sway of these Schoolmasters would seem harsh in comparison to present-day methods of correction. They were men who believed not only in energetic punishment for disobedience and vicious conduct in the young, but also as a stimulant for dull intellects. There was a parent in Honley who thrashed his boys once a week whether they deserved punishment or not, declaring that if their conduct had been good, they would require the usual chastisement before the week had expired. Like unto this parent “who nursed his wrath to keep it warm,” I have seen one Schoolmaster whose influence for good has been great, and whose memory is now honoured, thrash all the boys in his School, beginning at the eldest and ending with the youngest. I have also listened to oral experiences from old scholars of the punishing qualities which were special gifts of Mr. Ainley. He was wont to make use of his crutch when the cane proved useless. But the breed of these old-time Schoolmasters is now extinct whose discipline was so severe.


We had once many well-known Dame Schools, from where many of the natives of Honley graduated; backward scholars perhaps able to make “strokes” and “pot-hooks,” and clever pupils able to read the Bible. These Dame Schools were presided over by women of knowledge, who did not stunt young plants in their growth by over cramming. They allowed scholars a wide margin of playtime whilst preparing meals for surly husbands, or performing other domestic duties. One well-known Dame School was presided over by Mrs. Clementina Swift, but better known as “Clemmy” Swift. The Swifts were an old Honley family of Clothiers who had been left behind in the march of progress. The School was held in a cottage in Swift-fold, so named after the family. I do not know what mysterious agency led my youthful feet to “Clemmy’s” School, unless it was enticements of childish playmates, or a preventative to mischief. Nor can I recall time, circumstance, or person that helped me to learn the meaning of those strange symbols, known as the alphabet. I must have mastered the rudiments of learning quickly at “Clemmy’s” School, for I was transferred to the “Bible-class” on account of being able to read the Bible. When scholar outran teacher, Mrs. Swift was wont to solemnly affirm to my mother, that “I wor too sharp for this world,” and always prophesied for me an early death. When a little older, I was then commanded to attend the National School. The Jaggers who lived at the top of Honley Moor, — mother and daughter were also long engaged in teaching children whose scattered homes were at long distances from National Schools. This “top o’th Spinner-gate” School was one of the most typical, as its teachers were the most characteristic of old-time Dame Schools. Miss Hawkyard, Mrs. Guest, and Mrs. Bean also kept Dame Schools. Other persons also I can recall who held small week-day Schools. Presided over by matrons in blissful ignorance of tense, mood, or Rule of Three; they had derived their religious knowledge from the Bible, and their secular perhaps from Zadkiel’s Almanack. We have travelled far since those days. But at least Honley Dame Schools of the past served their day and generation before the advent of Government Education Bills, and other aids to learning. Many happy recollections may remain of days, wdien one book, — and that perhaps only containing a few torn leaves, had to serve for a noisy but happy throng gathered in some humble cottage.

Honley has also never been wholly destitute of its “Ladies’ Seminaries.” These were held in great esteem before the days of Ladies Colleges or Girls’ High Schools. Miss Platt, of Lower West House, was long noted for her excellent teaching of the daughters of well-to-do parents in Honley. At present, Miss Beaumont presides over a Mixed Private School of good standing.


The Mechanics’ Institute was formed about 1838, or perhaps a little earlier. Am open to correction about exact date. The pupils, whose hungry faculties had to find their own mental food, first met in a room in Church Street. This was in a building which formerly was part of the premises used by the late Mr. William Leigh in his business of cloth-manufacturing. The building is now the present “Live and let live” Inn. Afterwards the Institute was moved to a room in New Street. There it continued doing a good work until superseded by more modern facilities for instructions. Its members were generally the most intelligent young men in the place a thirst for knowledge. There were teachers and students of Astronomy, who, according to village ideas “weighed the moon,” — lovers of Science whose tastes were “akin to th’ owd lad,” — poets and orators who were considered “off th’ side.” The students were taught by men of intellect, who unselfishly gave time, and the fruit of what had been so earnestly striven for by themselves. The members formed their own Library, and various Societies for the study of special subjects. They held Debating Classes which trained thinking and reasoning powers, whilst members of the Dramatic Society drew upon Shakespere, Sheridan, Goldsmith, etc. for their plays. Perhaps the memory of many old members, yet living, can recall the elocutionary powers of the late Mr. William Vickerman when taking the parts of Macbeth, Shylock, Jack Absolute, etc. Mr. Jeremiah Donkersley, Benjamin Theaker, the brothers Roberts, Charles Vickerman and others also possessed declamatory gifts of a high order.

Mr. John Robinson, of Cliffe House, whose family history appears in Brockholes history, was the first President, and a most enthusiastic worker in the formation of the Institute. Mr. Thomas Mellor, of Newtown House, followed Mr. Robinson in the office of President, — members of the Mellor family at that time taking a leading part in all religious and social work in Honley. Mr. George Donkersley, the National Schoolmaster, had the general supervision of the Classes. These were taught by men as eager to impart information, as the pupils were as keen for enlightenment. Mr. John Robinson, the brother of the President, was also a great worker in the cause; also the Rev. T. B. Bensted, then Curate of Honley, and afterwards Rector of Lockwood. He undertook the Class devoted to English literature and geography. Mr. William Vickerman taught Mathematics Mr. John Lockwood and Mr. Jeremiah Donkersley instructed the students in Chemistry. These men of genius in their own sphere left their impress upon many pupils who, in after fife fought manhood’s battles with greater nobility and success due to the influence of their teaching.

The members of the Mechanics’ Institute, in addition to indulging in “The feast of reason and the flow of soul,” also provided entertainment. They honoured the Anniversary of the birth of their Institute upon Easter Monday, naming their Feast day a “Soiree.” Great were the crowds which flocked to Honley on that day all eager with anticipation. This was for the purpose of seeing paper balloons sent up from Town-gate into the air without human aid, which was considered a miraculous feat. I have stated previously, that amongst teachers and members of the Institute were men of genius and originality, who were certainly born before their time. The late Mr. Edwin France, Plumber, a clever man of Science, was the first person to make gas in Honley. A small retort in Marsh, behind the dwelling he then occupied, contained the supposed dangerous lighting power. The late Mr. William Vickerman, a poet and elocutionist of no mean order, undertook the making of the balloons, assisted by once well-known members in the persons of Mr. Allen Moss, Levi Crosland, Joseph Green, John Lockwood, John Littlewood, Joshua Littlewood and others. The balloons were conveyed to Marsh, filled with gas, taken back to Town-gate, and then sent away into space sometimes reaching as far as York before collapsing. One reached Leicester, and another year one was picked up near Derby. Such achievements held captive youthful imaginations, and filled the minds of older people with wondering admiration. When a Gas Company had been formed in Honley, the balloons were then filled with gas in Town-gate from the Company’s mains.

The evening meetings held in connection with the “Soiree” were generally addressed by men holding with no unsteady hand the rights of conscience and representative government. I can distinctly remember visits of the late Mr. Joseph Wood-head, Mr. Frank Curzon and others, whose ideas at that time were also in advance of their time, and therefore considered rather revolutionary. These speeches were of course enlivened by music and singing as befitting the dwellers in a land of song. Old people will recall the visit of Mrs. Sunderland, the “Yorkshire Queen of Song” to one of these Easter Monday Soirees, held in the old National School, which are now cottages. Also they will remember the visits of other celebrated vocalists of that date, such as Miss Whitham, Miss Crosland, Mrs. Lister Peace (mother of the celebrated Organist, Doctor Peace), William Hirst and others. Mrs. Sunderland sung best what appealed to her own nature. Such songs also held the same sentiments for her hearers, in whose hearts was implanted the deep love of home and their own hill-sides. Old people will yet speak of her impassioned fervour, when pouring out all the golden wealth of her great gift under the roof of the old building in “Home Sweet Home” and other old songs; bringing back to world-weary men and women the dreams of their youth.

I must now refrain from giving more details relating to the old Mechanics’ Institute. A few of its old scholars are left, but more have been scattered far and wide like a parted household. If by chance this history should fall into their hands, they will be reminded of long-past evenings when by candle-fight, and in a small unventilated room, they learned the way to acquire knowledge.

Continue to Chapter XII...

The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter XI


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