The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter XIII

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


(Brockholes. — Smithy Place. — St. George’s Church. — Clergy House. — National School. — Wesleyan Church. — Elon Crowther, Esq., J.P. — Alfred Sykes, Esq., J.P. — James Robinson, Esq. — John Mitchell, Esq.).


In the history of Honley it will have been noted that the hamlets of the township were also dwelling-places for that race of “free-necked men” known as yeomen. Living in their scattered homesteads, they too bought lands and houses, contributed to good work, and shouldered the responsibilities of public duties. Other dwellers also, who neither bought nor sold lands or houses, would experience the joys and sorrows of life, each little community having its births, marriages, deaths, romances and tragedies as at present.


These two places may' be named together as one hamlet in the township of Honley, though on account of modern progress the term village may now be more applicable than that of hamlet. A certain part of Brockholes is in the township of Thurstonland, this dividing line being due to the course of the stream. Wherever part of the body of Brockholes may be, its heart and all its past memories rest in Honley. Whether it was a habitable place like Honley at the time of the Norman Conquest I cannot say, my researches going no further back than 1406. No doubt its history is equally as old. There is one fact, however, of which we can be confident, and to which its present rocky headlands and picturesque woods testify. Brockholes would be part of that vast forest which once stretched over the neighbourhood in which wild animals of the chase sheltered, and to which reference is made in Chapter I. Its name, like so many of our local place-names, is purely Anglo-Saxon in its derivation. “Broc” is Anglo-Saxon for badger, “Holth” means cave or hollow in earth — hence Brockholes; so that we can conclude that badgers were most plentiful in this part of the forest. In old ballads, border-sketches, dialect language, etc., the badger retained its old name of “broc,” and it has not undergone change in our neighbourhood. The saying of “sweating like a broc” is still common amongst us, proving that the nature of the animal was well understood by the people.


Smithy Place is also an old part of the hamlet. There is a tradition that a Smithy once stood by the stream on a piece of land now occupied by a part of Messrs. Robinson’s Mill. I have no proof of this, so must leave the derivation of Smithy Place to imagination.

In a Charter devising lands in 1406, appears the name of John de Brockholes, who lived in the reign of Edward III. The old custom of receiving surnames from lands, houses or personal traits, prove that the family must have been in existence previous to this date. John de Brockholes dwelt in a house of considerable importance as far as primitive civilization of that time allowed at Over Brockholes, now named Bank End. In the family shield of Beaumonts, of Whitley Hall, there appears also the shield of Brockholes, so that the two families must have been connected by marriage or relationship. In this Charter of 1406, John of Brockholes, granted his estates at Over Brockholes to John Dyson, of Linthwaite. Whether this was due to the fortunes of war in which John of Brockholes, would be forced to engage, or that he changed his residence is not known. There is no further record of him, and he appears to be the last of the name. The estate in turn descended to the families of Lockwoods, Kayes, etc., eventually becoming the property of one Arthur Bynnes (Binns). (This mode of spelling Binns at that time is copied from old deeds translated by the late Mr. J. Nowell). From the “Yorkshire Society” Records, — Dr. Morehouse’s “History of Kirkburton,” — Mrs. Collins’ “Registers of Kirkburton,” and other sources, I find the first mention of Arthur Bynnes. In the year 1556, he stands as sponsor along with John Walker for the son of a John Morehouse. In the same year, Arthur Bynnes bought lands from Robert Jagger, John Hoyle, and Isabel Walker. In an indenture, dated 1574, one acre of wood named “Seynt Marye Wood” (St. Mary’s Wood) is conveyed to him. His six children were all baptized at Kirkburton, and he was buried there on October 30th, 1587. His wife died the following year of the visitation of the Plague, and was also buried at Kirkburton. John, the eldest son, occupied the paternal home, also buying houses and lands in 1588. He had to pay a tax of 8/- for £3 worth of goods in 1597, and again in 1603, 2/8 for 20/- worth of goods. His brother Michael, linked Brockholes with Honley in the close ties which have been customary since that day. He married Sara, daughter of the Rev. Robert Cryer, Curate-in-charge at Honley, from 1575 to 1582. In the will of Dame Johanna Hepworth, of Honley, dated 1620, of which previous mention is made in Chapter I., she names “four score pounds that I owe to Michael Bynnes, to be paid him.” John had a son also named John, who became Curate-in-charge of Honley. This Rev. John Bynnes married Mary, daughter of William Crosley, yeoman of Honley, named in the history of the Church, and also Honley families. The marriage settlement is dated November 17th, 1619. The Rev. John Bynnes after officiating at Honley 18 years, was Curate-in-charge at Holmfirth nine years. Whilst at the latter place, he was at variance with the parishioners regarding pew rents and other matters until his death, which took place at Bank End, in 1646. One part of his parishioners petitioned for his removal. Others protested against it, saying “That he had served as Minister of God’s word at Honley Chappell for the space of eighteen years, and since at the Chappell of Holmfirth for some nine years, we have adjudged his doctrines to be sound, orthodox and profitable, and conversation peaceable, ready to compose differences and self-peace among his neighbours upon all occasions.”

This Rev. John Bynnes had an only son, named Christian, who received his education at Cambridge, taking his degree of B.A. in 1646, the same year of his father’s death. When the inhabitants of Meltham erected their own Church in 1650, the Rev. Christian Bynnes was appointed first Curate-incharge. He was a remarkable young man of great natural gifts, and refused to take the Oath of the King’s Supremacy; yet retained his Curacy during that time, when so many Church of England Clergymen were ejected from their pulpits. Anthony Armytage, of Thickhollins, Meltham (see Armitage family), married his sister Elizabeth, who was the granddaughter of William Crosley before mentioned. The Rev. Christian Bynnes died at Bank End, and was buried at Kirk-burton, June 27th, 1669, leaving his money and estate to his sister Elizabeth, wife of Anthony Armytage. The Rev. Christian appears to be the last of this good yeoman family who resided at the old homestead, and the estate passed into the family of the Armytages.

After the death of the Rev. Christian Bynnes, a Curate named the Rev. E. Robinson resided at Bank End. Under the ancient edifice of that date was a large cellar in which he carried on “clipping and coining.” An Act of 1695, made this crime, which had become common, punishable by death. The Rev. E. Robinson had much more money to spend than his salary warranted, which aroused suspicion. He was discovered and executed at York Castle. His son was a clever assistant, but his life was spared on account of his youth. Afterwards this son was employed in the Royal Mint, and eventually occupied an important position.

There are records that a family of Lockwoods next owned and occupied the house at Bank End. In 1762, John Lock-wood served as Constable at Honley. Matthew Haigh, of Ridings, also served as Constable in 1763. As time passed on, the property came into the possession of the late B. H. Allen, Esq., thence to the present Brooke family. The residence has shared the fate of many old houses, and is now converted into three dwellings, its old-time dwellers and ancient name forgotten. Facing the South (for our forefathers knew the best position where to build their homes), and commanding still a magnificent panorama of earth and sky, imagination can replace the surroundings of the ancient residence in the days of John of Brockholes. Below would be the forest with the bridle-path scoring the hill-side leading to the dwelling. The path with its ancient causeway, flanked by old-world growths, is still left.

We will now come to the Brockholes and Smithy Place of eighty years ago, when there were no Railway, Church, Chapel, Mansion, Villas, Mills, Engineering works, Recreation-ground, Co-operative Stores, Post Office, long rows of houses, etc. as at present. The few dwellings which stood in the hollow of the place were old and of humble architecture, many being what is locally known as “one deckers.” There were, perhaps, three or four small homesteads scattered here and there upon the steep upland sides, where the farming and clothing industry would be carried on under the roof. An old building stood by the side of the Occupation Road leading to Riding’s farm, in which one of the early Sunday Schools was held. It is now destroyed. Holmfirth flood swept away an old Smithy, in which nail-making was carried on. There were also a dyehouse and mill-wright’s shop. A stream known as “th’ ochre dyke,” so named on account of its yellow colour, ran down from colliery workings, wandering through the place at its own sweet will. The present road to the railway station could only be named a bridle-path. It was sheltered on either side by grand old trees and luxuriant hedges which almost met overhead. The chief occupation of the dwellers in Brockholes and Smithy place eighty and ninety years ago was that of coal-getting, with the exception of a few who would be employed at the dye-house, mill-wright’s shop, or on farms.

As we have seen, the Enclosure Act was the means of stripping Honley Moor of its trees, so that there was no supply of fuel from that source as in old days. There were no railways to bring to our doors coal from Barnsley and elsewhere, as at present. The getting of coal under the remnants of the forest was therefore an important local industry at that period. The Haighs of Hall Ing, worked the Collieries at Brockholes. (See Hall Ing history). There was a pit-head near what is now Thurstonland railway tunnel, numerous “day-holes,” pit-banks, etc. in surrounding woods, and one in Station Lane.

Life was hard for the people of Brockholes and Smithy Place in those days, as it was for others, especially for women and children, who took a brave share in the daily toil under the earth. Children of tender years were carried upon the backs of older people down the pits to act as “hurriers,” whilst women worked by the side of fathers, brothers and husbands. I can recall to mind two old dames, robust and healthy at eighty years of age, who worked in Brockholes and Hall Ing Coal-pits, both before and after marriage. It would have been difficult to have found in their limited sphere more comely types of womanhood, heard more intelligent conversation, or seen more beautiful old age. I have often listened to their tales of early hardships, simple recreations, and religious gatherings in humble Bethel or dwellings. Brockholes also possessed its local poet in the person of Mr. Charles Robinson. When over sixty years of age, he published in 1867 his book of poems on the subject of Holmfirth flood, and other circumstances connected with the sad event. I recall to mind also, the old nail-maker, James Moseley, and his spare trim wife Betty. The history of his life was written by the Rev. George Lloyd, Vicar of Thurstonland, under the title of “The Yorkshire Blacksmith.” Both these little books were presented to me when a girl by their respective authors. No doubt there are a few old natives of Brockholes and Smithy Place still left who also possess copies of these books. The little community, whose dwellers were a distinct class to themselves, remained unchanged until modern developements which will be fresh in the minds of the present generation.

The modern progress of Brockholes has been helped onwards by the opening of the railway in 1850. The highway also which runs through the place has been another aid in linking the hamlet with the outside world. In 1861, the Church was built, and in 1872, an enlargement made of the then existing Schools, particulars of which appear under their respective headings. Formerly the nearest place of worship was at Honley, so that the erection of a Church was a great event in the history of Brockholes and Smithy Place. The next change was the beginning of the hum of industry, which followed the erection of a large cotton-mill in 1870, suitably named Rock Mill, on account of its near vicinity to the elevated headlands. The interior of this building was destroyed by fire in 1877. Mr. Joseph Sykes bought the property, and re-constructed the premises for a Woollen Mill, trading under the name of Messrs. Joseph Sykes & Co. The untimely death of Mr. Sykes, in 1881, cut short the career of a noted business man. Rock Mill was next taken over in 1882 by Mr. Elon Crowther and Mr. Alfred Sykes, and is still carried on under the name of Joseph Sykes & Co. The extensive works employ such a large number of workpeople, that erection of houses became a necessity. Rock-terrace, Rose-terrace, and other terraces were built. Dwellings of larger size gradually enclosed the Station Lane. The latter also came under extensive alterations in order to prove less dangerous to increased traffic. Formerly letters had been delivered from Honley once a day. Modern and business requirements demanded earlier and quicker postal facilities than the old belated methods which satisfied the inhabitants of an earlier day, and a Post Office was established. In an increasing industrial community, the formation of Co-operative Stores, Working Man’s Club, Cricket and Football Clubs followed in due course. Church and Schools were altered, improved, and enlarged at various times. A Clergy House was erected, so that the Curate-in-charge of Brockholes and Smithy Place was able to reside near the Church in place of walking to and from Honley as hitherto. The Mill owned by Messrs. Robinson had also gradually increased its size. The mill-wright’s shop had been replaced by a larger building to meet the demands of modern progress which must be obeyed. It is erected upon the old site by the descendants of its original owner. Electricity was first publicly used in Brockholes, which was generated at these works before being adapted by Honley District Council. Mr. Elon Crowther, one of the heads of the great manufacturing firm before mentioned, decided to live in Brockholes. He erected a mansion named Rockleigh commanding a fine view of the grand valley below, even if dotted with smoky chimneys. He first occupied the house in 1897. Mr. Wright Schofield has also erected a handsome residence in Station Lane. The highway which runs through the heart of the place continually covered by traffic of various kinds was proving a death trap to venturesome children. Mr. Elon Crowther and Mr. Alfred Sykes secured on a lease a piece of ground in the centre of Brockholes, and undertook to pay the yearly rental. Trees were planted which now when grown give a restful effect. It was opened for a recreation ground to commemorate the late Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A Wesleyan Chapel was next erected for those who did not wish to attend the services of the Church, the particulars of which will appear under its own heading. Brockholes has also two resident Magistrates, and one closely bound up with its social and religious life in the persons of Mr. Elon Crowther, Mr. W. Schofield, and Mr. Alfred Sykes. Thus the oldest dwellers in the once sleepy hamlet have seen the old world character of the place and its people changed by commercial enterprise.

Old echoes from a past, however, have not wholly died away. The magnificent headland jutting out, the beautiful woodlands skirting roads and lanes, and the Church perched on top of picturesque rocks, still serve to make a picture of rural beauty from a distance. A few houses characteristic of the Brockholes and Smithy Place of my childhood are yet left. Their original appearance is changed on account of modern demands for more domestic comfort. Two bear date 1798, a third 1791, whilst another old house has had its humble family shield defaced. There is also an old homestead of the Tudor period, situated in Station Lane, bat it has suffered from many changes. There are still dwelling in the place descendants of the old families, such as Robinsons, Mitchells, Heeleys, etc. The family of Renshaw, noted for their love and practical knowledge of music for many generations, have representatives yet left, whose musical gifts keep up the reputation of their forefathers.


The pretty Church overlooking hill and dale was erected in 1861 at the sole cost of Miss Marianne Armitage, of Honley. (For particulars regarding this lady, who placed the Church on the top of the hill encircled with its “God’s Acre,” see family history of the Armitages). It is built in the Gothic style. The site was given by the late William Walter, 5th Earl of Dartmouth, whose family have always been generous contributors to all good work in the neighbourhood. The Church, when first erected was small, costing £1,000 0s. 0d., the dwellers ill Brockholes and Smithy Place being few in number at that time. It was consecrated for public worship in 1862 by the late Bishop Bickersteth, of Ripon, the Diocese of Wakefield not being formed at that date. When first built, there was seating accommodation for two hundred people, but there have been numerous alterations and additions to the original structure. I have been unable to obtain particulars of many important improvements; but in 1873 £900 0s. 0d. was spent on the edifice. The body of the Church had been re-seated, a Chancel and Baptistry added, and other outlays. In 1886, the Church was re-opened after extensive alterations, when Canon Pigou, Vicar of Halifax, and Canon Bardsley, Vicar of Huddersfield preached at the opening services. In 1890-1, a new organ chamber and vestry were added. The new organ cost £250 0s. 0d. The introduction of a surpliced choir of men and boys followed in place of the mixed choir of males and females who had previously occupied the stalls since the erection of the Church. Many other improvements have also taken place, which cannot be here recorded. On May 3rd, 1905, Mr. Elon Crowther gave a beautiful stained glass window in memory of his late wife. In the “History of Almondbury,” the late Canon Hulbert refers to the bell of Brockholes Church, formerly the property of his father who lived in Shropshire. The bell was rung at the marriage of his parents, and at his own birth. When Miss Armitage built the Church at Brockholes, Canon Hulbert presented the bell to her, and it was hung in the turret of the building.

Previous to the erection of the Church, Honley had always provided for the spiritual needs of Brockholes and Smithy Place, and there existed close connection between the two places. After the building of the Church, which had not been endowed by Miss Armitage, Honley still loyally responded to all appeals for help from its daughter, both in religious and social matters, — the Brooke family especially being generous contributors with money and personal service. During the early part of the history of the Church, the late Mr. James Robinson and the late Mr. John Mitchell were also generous in their support. Various members of the Armitage family have at times taken great interest in the Church.

Brockholes has no legal standing as a separate Ecclesiastical parish, and is still dependent upon Honley for its supply of a Curate-in-charge. Since Messrs. Joseph Sykes & Co. took over Rock Mill, both Mr. Crowther and Mr. Sykes have been generous yearly subscribers towards Honley Curate’s fund. Other people also are helping to provide for spiritual needs by giving smaller yearly subscriptions.


This erection was due to the kind thoughtfulness of the late Mrs. Brooke, of Northgate House. Previous to her death, she was anxious that one of the Assistant Honley Curates should reside in Brockholes and devote his whole time to- its spiritual needs on account of fast increasing population. The Rev. T. Haworth, the present Vicar of Linthwaite, was the Senior Curate of Honley at that time, and Mrs. Brooke expressed a desire to him for the erection of a house, so that he could reside there. The land for the site was again given by Lord Dart-mouth, and the erection was finished in 1892, costing upwards of £1,000 0s. 0d. The construction of the road to the house proved rather a costly business. With the help, however, of kind friends in Honley and Brockholes, contributions by Sales of Work and other means, the whole amount was collected. In the meantime, the Rev. T. Haworth had accepted the living of Linthwaite, and the Rev. F. R. Lambourne, now Vicar of Farnley Tyas, was the first Honley Curate to occupy the house.


During the earlier part of last century, the only means of education in Brockholes were of the same primitive order existing in Honley described in Chapters on “Education” and “Sunday Schools.” Mention has been made of an old building once standing near Ridings’ farm, in which the first Sunday School was held. The erection of the building was due to the Evangelical awakening of the people of England at the latter end of the 18th century due to Wesley’s preaching. The site was given by Lord Dartmouth, and the cost of the building defrayed by public subscriptions. Upon the stone over the doorway was carved — “Built by Subscriptions. To do good is our aim.” My memory cannot recall the exact date, and no doubt the stone has shared the same fate as the building. The small hamlet contained few children at this time, but they were gathered together, and taught by self-sacrificing people in this building on a Sunday. Evidently creed was not to influence the motto over the doorway. As time went on, perhaps those who taught thought differently. The adherents of the Church formed their own Sunday School, which was in existence about 1836. Religion and politics must have had a clear dividing line in Brockholes at this period, the Church building being named the “Blue School,” and the one in Riding’s Lane the “Yellow School.” The former eventually developed into the present large National School. This was erected in 1842 by public subscription, chiefly contributed by kind friends from Honley, the inhabitants of Brockholes and Smithy Place not being a prosperous community as at present. The site was given by Lord Dartmouth. This first erection was small and of primitive character, but sufficient for the few children which the hamlet contained at this time. There was no week-day teaching, the custom of learning to read and write on a Sunday still being followed. In the meantime, the “Yellow” School had ceased its Sunday labours. The scholars who did not attend the Church School on Sundays, came to the various dissenting Chapels in Honley, which had sprung into existence one by one after the visit of John Wesley to the valley. The Church School was now the only means of obtaining either secular or religious education for the young. It was opened for week-day teaching about the same time as Honley Schools. The Managers of the latter took the keenest interest in the welfare of Brockholes Schools. The same generous support was given, and the progress of each went on side by side. Certificated Masters and Mistresses were appointed, enlargements to the building continually taking place, and all modern appliances supplied which the Education Department demanded. It is a significant fact, that a Certificated Mistress was appointed to Brockholes School by Honley Managers before one was supplied to Honley Schools.

In 1872-3, the School was re-built and enlarged at a cost of over £700 0s. 0d. This did not include the site, the extra land required again being given by Lord Dartmouth. In 1882 and 1887, considerable outlay was also demanded, the particulars of which cannot be given. The School, like the Church, has required continual enlargements and improvements, not only to meet the requirements of a fast-growing population, but also the demands of the Government Board of Education. Mr. William Brooke can almost be named a life-long Manager of the Schools to the duties of which he has attended with his well-known zeal and regularity. He has also been one of its most generous supporters.


We have seen that the building has been in use for a Sunday School since its first erection. Previous to the erection of the Church, the scholars walked to Honley on Sundays to attend afternoon service. It was customary also to hold the Whitsuntide Festival on the Tuesday. Honley friends engaged in the pleasant duties of entertaining their own scholars on the Monday, were thus left free to perform the same pleasant duties for Brockholes Scholars, who marched to Honley, on Whit-Tuesday. This custom has been discontinued many years. I suppose up to a certain age, youth .should be led, but there comes a time when youth prefers to walk alone. Evidently the daughter Church thought that she was old enough to take her affairs into her own hands, and act independently of the Mother Church. Last year, however, the old custom of holding the festival on a Tuesday was revived.


When Brockholes became a centre of industry, many families came to settle in the place who had been reared in the principles of Wesleyan Methodism. A few of the old natives also had attended the Chapels at Honley, Deanhouse, or Thurstonland. Like unto the earlier history of Wesleyan Methodism, the cause at Brockholes had a humble beginning in the shape of cottage services, which were held at the house of Mrs. Emma Brook. As members increased, a temporary Mission room to seat about seventy persons was erected, to which was added a Sunday School. When the debt incurred for the building of the room was cleared off, members next secured ground upon which to build a new Chapel. Part of the site was given by the late Sir Thomas Brooke, and the rest purchased at a cost of £217 14s. 10d. Mr. J. H. Mitchell, who had long been a devoted member of the Wesleyan body, cut the first sod for the new Chapel on June 20th, 1903. The Rev. W. H. Gregory, Superintendent Minister, on behalf of the Trustees, presented Mr. Mitchell (who was seventy years old the previous month) with a silver spade suitably inscribed, as a momento of the red-letter day. The next sod was cut by Mr. Uriah Brook, who was 98 years of age the previous year. The Rev. G. Frayn presented the old Wesleyan patriarch also with a spade similar to that handed to Mr. Mitchell. Mrs. Healey, of London, a native of Brockholes, cut the third sod. Miss Smailes, of Honley, presented to her also a silver spade in memory of the occasion. On September 30th, 1905, Memorial Stones were laid for the new Chapel, and the day was again observed with much rejoicing. Between the first sod cutting and stones laying, death had claimed Mr. J. H. Mitchell, who had served in every office open to a layman in the Methodist Church. Feeling references were made at the ceremony to his life work. Stones were laid and mallets presented by representative friends in the various circuits, and from other neighbouring places. The opening services took place on September 1st, 1906, and were continued the following Saturday and Sunday. Interesting tree-planting ceremonies were also duly observed.

The new Wesleyan Chapel was erected at a proposed outlay of about £2,200, and will seat two hundred persons. It is a beautiful building of an Ecclesiastical style of architecture, designed by Mr. E. W. Lockwood, Architect. In the interior is a nave, chancel, Minister’s vestry and organ chamber. There is also a Church parlour and kitchen attached for use of meetings and social purposes. To complete such a handsome structure, there must have been much self-sacrifice and unselfish labour. Mr. Wright Schofield, Mr. Isaac Mitchell, and others may be named whose work is recorded in the published souvenir of the Chapel. The book is a valuable momento of the first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel erected in Brockholes, and all particulars connected therewith. This praiseworthy plan of preserving records of important events in the history of a Church or Chapel might with advantage be followed.

The long list of subscribers to the Chapel is headed by a donation of £50 from Mr. Elon Crowther, and also £50 from the late Mr. J. H. Mitchell. Amongst the list of subscribers, in addition to those who made presentations at the stones laying ceremony, will be found names of well-known friends from Honley; thus renewing the close relationship which existed of old between the two places.

The history of Brockholes would not be complete without a brief notice of people who in the past, as at present, have stamped their personality upon the place, either in the old life or under new conditions.


The lives of self-made men are generally greater romances than can be found in the pages of a novel. That leap from a hand-loom in a cottage to the concentrated industry in a large mill may read like a fairy tale in print, but the space between has not been bridged over without knowing the “burden and heat of the day.” Neither is the industrial organizer made, else many humble homes would not have proved favourable nurseries for that sharp detection of possibilities, patient endurance, and concentrated action which are necessary to success in any walk of life.

Mr. Elon Crowther is a member of a remarkable Colne Valley family cf four brothers, who have transformed little hamlets into busy centres of industry. Each member of this family can truly be named a great Captain of industry, whose characters can be summed up in their work. Mr. Elon Crowther is of the type of those men who have silently built up the commercial greatness of England, whilst others have done the talking. Thus to have made the best of natural abilities is greater and nobler than inheriting a name of high social rank. It may be, and often is, that greatness of soul does not grow side by side with increase of wealth, but Mr. Crowther has that well-balanced mind which makes him keenly alive to his responsibilities. A generous contributor to all good works around him, his gifts are generally hid in modest privacy. As a person more of achievement than words, his utterances may be brief in public; but they are always weighty with knowledge and personal experience;— that experience which answers to Ruskin’s description of the true Captain of industry that “The market may have its martyrdom as well as the pulpit, and trade its heroism as well as war.” Mr. Crowther is a man of sturdy Liberal principles, but has never allowed party politics to bias his public actions. When taking his part in public duty, which is of all duties the most thankless, he has always ignored self-interest for the general well-being of the whole community.

We have noted that Mr. Crowther and Mr. Alfred Sykes purchased Rock Mill in 1882. When their eldest sons came of age, the business of Messrs. Joseph Sykes & Co. was then changed into a Limited Company. Rock Mill may be counted as one of the most important in the neighbourhood. It is furnished and equipped not only with all modern aids to success in business, but also for the comfort and well-being of the workpeople. In the summing up of the progress of Brockholes, reference was made to Mr. Crowther building his home in the place, and also of the Recreation ground. Mr. Crowther and Mr. Sykes were the chief movers with regard to bringing about the extensive alterations to the old steep lane leading to Brockholes Station which was widened, and its steepness modified as much as possible; the improvements costing about £800 0s. 0d. Honley township contributed £356 11s. 6d. and Thurstonland £150 0s. 0d. towards this sum. The rest of the cost was paid by the firm. To enable the workpeople to purchase their own dwellings, if wishful, Messrs. Joseph Sykes & Co. built 24 cottages, and also made favourable terms with the Co-operative Society with the same end in view. The firm has also provided a Working Man’s Club, and other recreative facilities which cannot be here enumerated.

It is often a truism, that the busy man has most leisure. We find that, as a rule, the head of a great industrial concern generally devotes more time to public work than a man of idleness. Mr. Crowther has not only expended energy and intellect upon his own business, but has brought the same qualities to bear upon local public work. Chairman of many important undertakings not connected with this history, he was elected Chairman of Honley Gas Works. Next elected a member of Honley Urban District Council, he was appointed Chairman of the Joint Sewage Board of Honley and South Crosland in 1900, his personal capacity and trained judgment being highly valued. He was also elected Chairman of Honley Urban District Council, from 1899 to 1908, and from 1910 to the present. In 1906, Mr. Crowther was made a J.P. When the ratepayers of Honley undertook the ambitious purchase of the Gas Works, they had to thank Mr. Crowther for his help; and still more to thank him for bringing his ripe judgment, personal knowledge, and ability to bear upon its success.

Mr. Crowther placing a stained glass window in Brockholes Church, in memory of his wife, is previously named. In addition, he formed a. Trust fund in her memory, known as “The Mrs. Elon Crowther Benevolent Fund,” investing the sum of £2,500 0s. 0d. for the purpose. The interest arising from this money is to pay pensions of 5/- per week to men or women who may be incapable of work from old age, sickness or accident. Persons receiving such benefits must have been workers and residents in Brockholes or immediate neighbourhood for three years, preference being given to those who have been employed at Rock Mill. The Fund is invested in the hands of representative trustees, so that its distribution is not controlled by party or sect. Other Societies formed for the benefit of the workpeople, and guaranteed by Messrs. Joseph Sykes & Co., are also managed upon the same principles.


It is not within the scope of this history to review the careers from starting point to goal of all the men in the neighbourhood, who, left to their own resources have filled the valley with industrial prosperity. Mr. Alfred Sykes, without those modern aids which are now a common feature is one of the most notable men in the neighbourhood. Though more identified with Thongsbridge and Holmfirth than Honley history, his close connection with Brockholes justifies mention of his public life, and intellectual energy in the outside world. Never a robust man, he has won his laurels against wind and tide — the success of a brave man worthy of success. In striking contrast to his business partner, Mr. Crowther, who may be termed a silent man of deeds; Mr. Sykes is a brilliant speaker and public man of action. Often the intellectual training of the brisk determined son of the people does not keep pace with his business energy. Mr. Sykes is not only a Captain of industry, but possessing those rare mixture of qualities — the practical and imaginative, he has also a high appreciation of all that is most intellectual and elevating in life. When publicly honouring his parents by building the Netherton Cottage Homes in their memory, we might infer that his bringing up by a “good father and exemplary mother” had fostered and fashioned his constructive genuis. We know, however, that humble or luxurious homes, good or bad parents are not always conducive to success. Mr. Sykes was sent early to work, but later on trained himself for a Solicitor by passing examinations under difficulties common to all who have overcome adverse circumstances. “The Alfred Sykes” Gold Medal,” and “Alfred Sykes Law Students’ Library,” as incentives to study, are probably in remembrance of those early unaided struggles. When the change from legal study to the financial management of an important industrial undertaking was necessary, Mr. Sykes successfully adapted himself to new conditions. Serving in turn the offices of Sunday School-teacher, Superintendent, and Churchwarden, he did not neglect the religious duties of life for the secular. Taking upon his shoulders his fair share in local administration, he was elected in 1885 at the head of the poll as a member of Thurstonland Local Board. The following year he was appointed Chairman, retaining the office 27 years until retiring from ill-health in 1912. In 1906, Mr. Sykes was made a J.P. Appointed Director and Chairman of important public Companies, Associations, etc., not connected with Brockholes, his trained judgement has often helped to secure the industrial peace of the neighbourhood. Mr. Sykes was President of Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce, from 1901 to 1911, having previously filled the offices of Treasurer, Junior and Senior Vice-Presidents. In addition, he has a seat on the Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain; and was chosen as one of a deputation of men representing the commercial interests of the country to present an address to the French President when visiting this country in 1913. In the year 1910, Mr. Sykes erected and endowed five model cottage-homes at Netherton for aged people of his native village. These were built in memory of “a good father and exemplary mother.” Mr. Sykes was Chairman of Halifax Joint Stock Banking Company, when it was joined by the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Banking Company, in 1911, under the name of the West Yorkshire Bank, Ltd., and was appointed Chairman of the newly amalgamated Banks. Perhaps no other local person was more intellectually fitted for carrying through the equitable unity of the two Banks. In recognition of his services, he was presented with his portrait in oils, executed by A. S. Cope, R.A. This was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1913, afterwards presented to the Huddersfield Corporation, and placed in the Art Gallery. Mr. Sykes became President of Huddersfield Young Men’s Christian Association in 1911, and was associated with the erection of a Statue to the late King Edward VII., and the raising of £24,000 for further endowment of Huddersfield Infirmary in memory of his reign. To commemorate the late Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, in 1897, Mr. Sykes presented a new organ to St. Andrew’s Church, Thongsbridge, of which he is a generous supporter. Space forbids further mention of many more public and philanthropic works with which he has been and is still identified. To sum up, it is characteristic of Mr. Sykes that his name is yet on the law-list, and that he renews his certificate to act as a Solicitor.


Reference has been made to a dyehouse in Smithy Place. It stood upon ground now occupied by Messrs. Robinson’s Mill. The dyehouse was owned by Mr. Joshua Robinson, who in 1750 was a noted blue dyer for the manufacturers or clothiers who had not dye-houses attached to their premises. He had three sons named George, John and James, George removed to Thongsbridge. John, after marriage, resided at Cliffe House, Honley, carrying on the trade at Thirstin dye-house, afterwards occupied by two well-known brothers, Mr. George William and Thomas Farrar; and at present by Mr. Lewis Littlewood. Mr. James Robinson remained at Smithy Place until his death. The three brothers were all noted men in their day. John was a gifted man who, when President of Honley Mechanics' Institute, kept it in full life. (See account of Mechanics’ Institute). His brother George was also a clever man. I have heard old pupils recall the intellectual speeches of the two brothers at the Annual Easter Monday Soiree of the Institute, and also upon other public occasions.

The name of Mr. James Robinson, however, is more familiar in the ears of Brockholes people of a later date. He built Wheatfield House, and resided there in 1850. He was one of the earlier teachers in the “yellow” School. When Honley Independent Chapel was built, it was customary for the scholars to walk from Brockholes on a Sunday afternoon to attend the service. For many years, Mr. James Robinson conducted the children to and from Honley. He also took an active part in all public life. For eighteen years, he was one of the most respected members of Honley Local Board, serving as Chairman from 1865-8, and again from 1873-5. He was one of the earlier members and deacons of the old Independent Chapel at Honley. A man of strong Nonconformist belief and staunch Liberalism, there was no person more respected by those who differed from him in religious or political principles than Mr. James Robinson. In season and out of season he always worked unselfishly for the public good, acted justly, and lived uprightly.

The three sons of Mr. James Robinson inherited much of the character of their worthy parent. Mr. Joshua James, named after his father and grandfather, was also a member of Honley Local Board from 1883-6, and was appointed Chair-man from 1886-9. Of the same firmness of religious and political convictions as his father, he walked worthily in his footsteps, and laboured at all times for the welfare of the township. Mr. William Henry and Mr. Joe Robinson also inherited the fine traits of the family, the former being a member of Honley Local Board from 1883-6. The latter was also a member from 1889 to 1894. They too, were regular attenders at, and generous supporters of the Independent Chapel at Honley, but death claimed both in early manhood.

It is interesting to note, that there are Robinsons of the fifth generation still actively engaged in the same place of business at Smithy Place.


The name of Mr. John Mitchell was a household word in Brockholes forty or fifty years ago. He was one of the old-time workers, who combined the Christian virtues with the daily duties of industrial life; and would have looked out of his element away from the Church, School, or Brockholes. The quaint mill-wright’s shop surrounded with arches of sweet-smelling wood waiting to be fashioned into droning mill-wheels or thumping stocks, was typical of the master. Here was no haste to be rich, but only steady modest industry, which matched the old primitive mode of manufacturing to which it ministered before steam-power had made speed a necessity. Dating from the commencement of the building of Brockholes Church, Mr. John Mitchell acted as Churchwarden until eighty years of age. He was also Superintendent of the Church Sunday School from its beginning until that age, retiring in 1880, when he was presented with a large family Bible by the teachers and scholars. This token of respect is greatly valued by the family.

Such regularity and attention to religious duties during a long number of years may be looked upon by many persons as irksome confinement. Not so with Mr. John Mitchell. He kept to his self-imposed duties in bright and dark days, living a life of blameless satisfaction to himself and those around him. When the Sunday School scholars attached to the Church marched to Honley on Whit-Tuesday, he always headed the procession, and I believe he valued that honour more than rank or riches. And what an approachable Churchwarden! With his kindly face he would welcome strangers to the little Church on the hill. No Sunday School scholar stood in awe of him, and no person was afraid of his gentle authority.

The once picturesque mill-wright’s shop is gone like its mild-eyed master, but many memories of Mr. John Mitchell, will come back to old scholars; for he was part and parcel of an old life now passed away.

The descendants of Mr. John Mitchell are still associated with the religious life of Brockholes, though their activities are now devoted to the Wesleyan body of worshippers.

Continue to Chapter XIV...