The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter XII

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


(Benefit Clubs. — Working Man’s Club. — Conservative Club. — Liberal Club. — Labour Club. — Masonic Lodge. — Nurses’ Home).



During that time of storm and stress to which frequent references are made in this history, the people found out that the secret of self-help is thrift and knowledge. It was due to the great expansion of mind amongst all classes at that period that Benefit Clubs, Mechanics’ Institutes, etc. were formed. I cannot give in these pages the origin and history of each Benefit Club in Honley, which were striking features in the place before the advent of State aid. Following the example of Ancient Guilds, the members joined themselves together, the support of numbers being necessary for mutual help. They formed strict rules, such as paying contributions, providing for sickness, decent burial, meeting, eating and worshipping together. According to an old printed copy of the rules of one of the earliest formed of these Clubs, they were in existence in Honley as early as 1777. Upon the outside cover of the book (published by Thomas Smart, Bookseller, Huddersfield), is printed “Rules and orders to be observed by the members of the Brotherly Society at Honley, begun the 2nd day of August, 1777, at the house of Mary Sanderson, the sign of ‘Ye Wheat Sheaf.’”

Unitas et Amor. (Unity and love).

This little book contains a preface, expressive of religious piety and self-help in its most unselfish spirit, so that at first it seemed as if these Clubs were formed from highest Christian motives. The Loyal Albion Lodge, No. 354, opened on May 4th, 1829, at the Coach and Horses Inn, is a branch of the present Independent Order of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity. I can recall flourishing Societies in Honley numbering hundreds of members, such as “The Ancient Order of Druids,” “The Modern Druids,” “The Free Gardeners,” “The Shepherds,” etc. To show the importance of these Clubs and intelligence of their members, the Oddfellows published a Magazine named “The Oddfellows’ Magazine” over a hundred years ago, or perhaps earlier than that date. As Parliamentary Reforms were then burning questions of the day, the contents were chiefly political in character. The Magazine was read in nearly every workman’s home in the manufacturing districts. I possess some old copies, and one bearing date 1818 contains particulars of “The first trial of William Hone, the Secularist, for publishing a parody upon religion.”

Though Benefit Clubs were purely democratic in their origin, the members appointed officers who held superior positions to the rank and file; and on great festivals were distinguished by wearing the representative garb of their order. These uniforms were worn upon Easter Monday, which was the appointed day set apart for honouring the Anniversaries of the various Clubs in Honley to which previous references are made.


When describing sports common in Honley in the past, mention has been made of the George and Dragon race-ground. Mr. William Brooke purchased the Inn, and property comprising the race-ground, on July 1st, 1864. Both the public-house and race-ground were then closed. At this time vested interests in such property were strong, so that the purchase price to secure such a valuable investment was no small sum. The old Inn was transformed to the present Working Man’s Club, and the extensive grounds used as allotment gardens.

The Club was opened on October 23rd, 1865. As there was no similar Institution at that time in Honley, large numbers joined; membership not being limited to religious or political Creeds. Representative Committees were formed, and have since remained a feature of the Club’s management. A large Library, facilities for all kinds of games, reading, smoke, and lecture rooms were provided. During the earlier history of the Club, hot coffee could be obtained at any hour of the day. The Club became the centre for the providing of the intellectual and social progress of the village. Its enthusiastic President, Mr. William Brooke, was always ready to give all help possible. Many old members will recall the series of “Penny Readings,” Lectures, Entertainments, etc. floated by the Club, when gifted people in various walks in intellectual life came to Honley, and gave the people of their best. Space will not permit me to name all the ardent and self-sacrificing workers in the cause of the Club’s welfare during its long life. Rich and poor, young and old, took their willing share in offices of Secretaries, Librarians, acting on Committees, etc., as well as giving services for lectures, entertainments, etc. As time went on, modern requirements were not neglected, and the Club was always well supplied with the latest methods for instruction and amusement.

The twenty-first Anniversary of the Club was celebrated on October 23rd, 1886. Mr. William Brooke, the President, was in the chair, and the speakers included Viscount Lewisham, the late Mr. Frank Curzon, Mr. J. Dearden, and others. When the Club was first founded, Mr. Dearden was Schoolmaster at Honley; and was one of the most zealous workers amongst those who laboured for the good of the members.

The members of the Club, on May 31st, 1884, presented Mr. William Brooke, the President, with his portrait. He in turn presented it back to the Club, where it hangs in the large reading-room. Since the Club was opened in 1864, Political and other Clubs have been originated in Honley, which must of necessity have robbed the Working Man’s Club of many of its members. But the latter still remains a popular and flourishing Institute; and at the beginning of 1914, its members number over 200.


The Conservative Association was formed in Honley previous to the opening of the Club. A small band of enthusiastic workers in the cause met once a month at the Coach and Horses Inn and held meetings, at which lectures of a political and educational character were regularly given. In 1884, the present building originally erected by the late Miss Armitage, the donor of Brockholes Church, was secured. The opening ceremony of the Club in its new premises took place on January 30th, 1885, and the opening ceremony was performed by the late Sir Thomas Brooke. There was a large and imposing procession of members and friends, headed by Honley Brass Band. A tea was given in the Independent Chapel School. There was a large gathering at the evening meeting, when addresses were given by the late Hon. Gathorne Hardy, Sir Thomas Brooke, William Brooke, Esq., and Mr. Touchstone. At that time there was a large number of members, and much local interest was taken in the Club. William Brooke, Esq., was its first President, and its present President is George William Marsden, Esq.


I am indebted to Mr. James A. France, the present Secretary of the Liberal Club, for the following particulars. The first -formed Liberal Club was held in the room in New Street, which had formerly been occupied by the Mechanics’ Institute. The Club was opened on April 26th, 1879. Its first founders were Messrs. James Robinson, William France, Geo. Wm. Oldham, Thomas Littlewood, William Vickerman, Levi Crosland, Allen Priest, Charles Dean, Matthew Cocking, Thomas Sanderson, Charles France, William Charlesworth, John Jillott, William Henry Thornton, Alfred Jackson and Edwin Smith. Out of these original founders only Alderman G. W. Oldham and Mr. John Jillott remain.

The small building in New Street proved inadequate for modern ideas, and increasing number of members. A plot of land was purchased at the top of Cuckoo-lane. Eventually the handsome stone building was erected facing School-lane in front, and overlooking Thirstin behind. The foundation stones were laid August 5th, 1905. Alderman G. W. Oldham, President, was announced to lay the first stone, but was unable to be present on account of sickness. The duty was performed by Miss Oldham, on behalf of her father. Mrs. Benjamin Eastwood, Rose Cottage, laid the second stone, and the third was laid by Mr. George Vickerman, whose father had been a devoted worker in the cause of Liberalism. Mr. Willie Haigh and Mr. Allen France placed fourth and fifth stones, and Mr. John Jillott the sixth. The new building was erected at a cost of £1,641 7s. 0d. It was opened on July 7th, 1906, by the late Sir James Kitson, of Leeds, who at that time represented the Colne Valley in Parliament; Honley being in that division for Parliamentary voting. Alderman G. W. Oldham, the President, took the chair at the opening ceremony.

Amongst the earlier Presidents of the Liberal Club were Mr. G. W. Oldham, Mr. Thomas Littlewood, and Mr. Arthur Drake. Alderman Oldham was re-elected in 1893 and remains President.


Political parties are always in a state of evolution. The old-time Tory would scorn the easy principles of the present Conservative, as the Whig of old days would not recognise his politics in present Liberalism. As time passes, both parties have to broaden views to meet various opinions. Failing to do so, new political creeds spring into life; and thus has been formed the present Labour or Socialistic party in England. The present Labour Club is situated in Jagger Lane. The house was formerly the residence of the late Mr. Lupton Littlewood. The Club was opened on August 31st, 1907, when addresses were given by Mr. Victor Grayson, Mr. Cunninghame, Mr. Philip Snowden and others. Its members are very enthusiastic in their cause and take great pride in their Club-house, with its pretty garden situated in the most pleasant part of Honley.


In the past Honley has numbered many Freemasons amongst its inhabitants, and at one time there was a Masonic Lodge held in the place. It was founded about 1821, and named “The Peace Lodge.” The Lodge was removed to Meltham about 1826, and afterwards the members met at that place. A second Masonic Lodge was established in Honley on July 23rd, 1912, and named the Brooke Lodge, No. 3608, in honour of its patron, William Brooke, Esq. The Consecration, Ceremonial and Installation of the Worshipful Master designate brother Edwin Brook, took place on July 23rd, 1912, and was performed by W. B. Richard Wilson, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of West Yorkshire. The members meet in New Street, in the building formerly occupied by the Liberal Club. Being a Secret Society, I am unable to give much information regarding the Lodge. Its members are very enthusiastic, and are imbued with the true Masonic spirit. The Worshipful Master of the Brooke Lodge is W. B. Edwin Brook, P.P.S.G.D. Since its foundation, nine candidates have been admitted, amongst them being William Brooke, Esq., the patron of the Lodge. At his initiation, every founder and member were present, together with many Masonic visitors. The following are the founders of Honley Brooke Masonic Lodge, — Worshipful Brothers, Messrs. J. E. Heap, Edwin Brook, and A. H. J. Fletcher. Brothers, Messrs. David France, Thos. Eli Waite, H. Marsden, Harry Holdroyd, E. Lord, J. Noble, W. Marsden, and J. W. Tunstall.


The Nurses’ Home, in South-gate, was given by Mrs. Winder, the only daughter of the late Josiah France, Esq., to whose memory she dedicated this beautiful building. Mr. France was descended from a well-known old family of Honley Cloth-manufacturers, who owned works in Thirstin in the days of hand-loom and “out” weaving. Mr. Josiah France was known as one of the foremost and most successful highclass Fancy Worsted Manufacturers in the district. He occupied Steps Mill, and at the time of his death, resided at Parkton Grove; having left the old homestead in Thirstin some years previously. Mrs. Winder purchased the ground in South-gate, built the Nurses’ Home, and suitably furnished it entirely at her own cost. In addition, she endowed a sum of money for the purpose of providing a trained nurse for the sick and poor of Honley, at a salary of £100 0s. 0d. per year. The management of the Home, and also administration of the fund, has been given over by Mrs. Winder to the Committee of Honley Nursing Association.

The Nurses’ Home was built in 1908. The building is in the Gothic style, and the whole of the material used is of the best workmanship. It is also provided with all conveniences for the carrying on of the work of a Parish Sick-Nurse. Upon a slab fixed in the wall of the stone porch of the Home is inscribed — “Honley Nurses’ Home. Erected by Mrs. Winder in memory of her father, Mr. Josiah France, 1908.” Mrs. Winder refused to have any public ceremony in connection with the opening of the Nurses’ Home. A representative deputation however from Honley waited upon her at Blackpool, and presented to her a handsome testimonial for her beautiful gift to her native village, which had so long sheltered her fine old race once so typical of Honley soil.

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