The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger
Oldfield is one of the oldest hamlets in the township, and at one time branches of our oldest families dwelt there. Perched upon its eminence overlooking Honley, and of which passing travellers on the Railway catch a glimpse; Oldfield seems only to require a Church spire embowered in its midst to complete as pretty a picture as can be found in an English landscape. Perhaps it is that the cluster of old-world houses built on the ridge is such a familiar sight, that we do not value the picturesque beauty of its situation and character. In the past, stage coaches did not pass through the hamlet, and later, railways have not disturbed its peacefulness. This isolation of a place may retard its progress, but it keeps alive its individuality. The Armitages and Berrys were important families at one time at Oldfield, and seemed to have owned all the land. The Berrys, when married, had evidently to leave the home-pasture, and provide dwelling-places of their own. They did not, however, go far away, choosing Hagg, Deanhouse, or some other place in close proximity to the old homestead.
Oldfield is mentioned in 1560, when John Ermytage (Armitage), of Oldfield, made a will, the witnesses to which were John Ermytage (Armitage), Edwin Taylier (Taylor), John Berye (Berry), and Nicholas Swalowe (Swallow). In the early history of Honley will be found records of the purchase of land by Leonard Berye (Berry) from Sir Robert Stapylton in 1569. Leonard Berye (Berry) was married at Kirkburton to Elizabeth Grene (Green) in 1569, so that it appears as if he was beginning his married life by purchasing his own homestead. In the same year, the will of John Berye (Berry), of Hagg, is drawn up. It is dated October 1st, 1569. There is an entry in Latin in Kirkburton Church registers of a daughter of a Berry being baptized. Translated it reads:— “Margaret, daughter of Herre Byrre, of Ag, Honley, was baptized May 20th, 1571, at Kirkburton.” The following is an extract from the Almondbury register which is full of human pathos. Written three centuries and a half ago, we see the same shadow and anguish darkening a human life as to-day.
“Agnes, ye wyffe of Richard Littlewood, off Oldfelde, by ye instigation of ye devell within XIII. dayes, that she was delivered off child; ye XIII. day of Marchee about or before midnight, rose out off hyrr chylde bedde, privilie went to a little well not halfe a yarde deepe of water, and drowned herself, and was buried ye XVI. day off March. From the infestations and instigations of an unclean spirit, and from so undesired a death, most merciful God deliver us.”
We come again to Leonard Berye (Berry). An old document, dated 1579, records the sale of land from Leonard Berye, of ye Hag, Clothier to Wylliam Ermitage, of ye Bankes, 4 acres of land named Bacon Royd for £60 0s. 0d. Oldfield is again mentioned in 1601 in relation to the Armitages. John Ermy-tage, who bequeathed “Heigroyd and Clyffe Inge” (High-Royd and Cliffe Ing) named as witnesses to his will dated 1601, John Taylier (Taylor), the elder, and John, the younger, all residing at Oldfield. In 1614, Thomas Berrye, of Hagg, died and his wife Alice in 1617. Next the death is recorded of Richard Berye, of Hagg, who was buried at Almondbury, November 18th, 1626. In 1610, there is mention of Andrew Berrye, of Hagg. Andrew and Richard were brother and son of John Beirye, in whose will, dated 1569, they are named. In Almondbury Registers No. II., dated January, 1657, it is recorded that Joseph Berrye, of Oldfield when returning from Wakefield Market met his death from snow and cold when near his own home. At that time the road would be only a bridlepath over wild moorlands.
The Swallow family dwelling at Oldfield were also persons of good local standing. Joseph Swallow acted as Chapel-warden for Honley in 1765. An old Honley family who followed the Berrys in residence at Hagg was that of Hobson. They were Clothiers of repute, and married into the best families in the neighbourhood. At one time a Hobson married a Crosley. In 1778, Thomas Hobson, son of David Hobson, of Hagg, was married to Mary Armitage, of Kirkburton. Many old people will recall these family names in their descendants. The Heaps were another good family dwelling at Oldfield, who followed the occupation of Clothiers. I have heard old residents recall the time when the little hamlet throbbed with whirr of hand-looms in every cottage weaving for the Heaps; and they would also declare that this period was the most prosperous and ideal in Oldfield’s history. The Heaps became manufacturers on a large scale and removed to Lord’s Mill and Crosland Factory. The clothing industry, however, did not forsake the little hamlet for a number of years after the removal of the Heaps. The Haighs, Dysons, Mr. Law Lee and other families indigenous to Oldfield soil were all well-known and respected Clothiers, but eventually their primitive mode of industry withered and died. The trade of hand-loom weaving lingered on until recently, Mr. William Platt being the last hand-loom weaver in Oldfield.
The peacefulness of Oldfield remained undisturbed until the race-course could find no standing room in Honley. Its proprietor constructed another track at Oldfield, and erected a public house, naming it “Star of the Day.” The unfitness of the old-world hamlet proved too much for the strife and tumult of alien crowds, and the race-course ceased to exist. For a time the “Star of the Day” struggled to keep its luminary shining, helped by a Brewery Company. Eventually the public-house had also to close its doors, but whether this was due to the fact that the brewing of home-brewed beer had not wholly ceased in Oldfield Cottages, or that thirsty customers did not prove numerous, I cannot say. Thus Oldfield was again left to its original repose, and the place remains almost unchanged in its old-world character. The folds with their houses, out-buildings, gardens, and walls, speak of a past generation of clothiers, farmers and hand-loom weavers. It does not require much imagination to again picture the master-clothier sat in his gig, or riding on horseback regularly attending the weekly market; whilst previously perhaps he had been sizing his warps, and drying them in the lanes around his homestead. We can bring back to our mind’s eye the hand-loom weaver who, liatless and coatless, would sit smoking at his door, or saunter to his “yerd” end for a neighbourly chat, in which his “piece,” — “treddle,” — “Shuttle,” etc. would form no small part.
Before leaving Oldfield history, mention must be made of Mr. John Carter, who performed for Honley township the duties of rate-collector, road-surveyor, constable, and a few other supplementary offices for 21 years. And what a task to keep roads in repair, almost solely by the aid of pauper labour! Yet John Carter always remained tranquil. To the time of his death, he kept the child’s heart which annoyances failed to ruffle. Since his days fashion has changed, not only in collecting rates, but in their bulk. At that time rates were 8d. in £. When they leaped to 10d. in the £1, there were strong rumblings in Honley. John Carter was grieved in spirit that he should be thus called upon to collect such a large sum. His cheery chirps, however, disarmed all anger, for his presence was always like gentle spring in comparison to blustering winter. Thus the great crisis of a tenpenny rate passed over without revolution. To many the mention of John Carter, with his old-world courtesy of manner and tenderness to defaulting ratepayers, will bring back many pleasant memories.
About eighty years ago, a few of the dwellers in Oldfield, together with their neighbours at Honley, contemplated the erection of a National or Church of England School. The land was given by Lord Dartmouth, and with help from Honley subscribers, the most generous being members of the Brooke family, the present School was built in 1838. The Dartmouths and Brookes are still annual subscribers. A few of the dwellers in Oldfield also subscribed amounts according to their means, and those who were unable to give money helped in other ways. Others again helped with horse and hand labour. Sunday evening services were held in the building for a number of years after its erection. Also a Sunday School was formed, and in addition, week-day teaching was carried on. The spiritual welfare of Oldfield was looked after at that time by Honley. The late Rev. Charles Drawbridge and his Curate supplied the religious services, and formerly the ties between Honley and Oldfield were very close.
We have seen that there are records of sorrow and death in Oldfield history. I will recall one of its romances. The Rev. C. Drawbridge, with the true soldier’s impatience of incompetent men, generally made choice of the best type of divine to serve under him. One Sunday evening in January, when a heavy snowstorm had been raging all day, it was the turn for one of his energetic Curates to preach at Oldfield. Though persuaded not to venture through the deep drifts by his landlady, he started in the whirling blast and forced his way as far as the cross road. Here he found himself suddenly buried overhead in a snow-drift. For a long time he endeavoured to find his way out, when his cries were heard by the inmates of the nearest farm-house who happened to be crossing the yard to attend to the cattle. He was rescued almost insensible, and conveyed upon the farmer’s back to the house of Mr. John Carter, who at that time had a young lady relative staying with him. The Curate when fully restored, was not allowed to return to Honley that night, as the roads were impassable. The acquaintance thus made that Sunday evening resulted in marriage between the young lady and the belated Curate, who afterwards became a hard-working Missionary in Australia.
As time went on, improvements were required to the School-building, and it was restored in 1874, helped again by generous supporters from Honley. Though Oldfield is in the township of Honley, it is now in the Ecclesiastical parish of Netherthong. The restored School was re-named the Mission-room. For many years after its restoration, Sunday services were held, which were supplied by the Vicar of Netherthong. Eventually these were discontinued, and the building was used for a Working Man’s Club. In 1908, chiefly due to the exertion of Mr. J. Pennington, the School was restored to its original use. Mr. Pennington, since residing at Oldfield, has taken a deep interest in the welfare of the place. The last restoration of the School cost over £50 0s. 0d., and it was again re-named the Mission-room. It is now licensed for the celebration of Holy Communion, and Sunday services are regularly held under the direction of the Vicar of Netherthong. Mr. T. H. Smith, of Honley, who, in addition to his public duties, has taken upon himself the office of Lay Preacher, being licensed by the Bishop of Wakefield, conducts the services on alternate Sunday evenings. The sacrifice of devoting a day of rest to the welfare of others is always worthy of record.
Deanhouse was in the township of Honley until transferred to the Urban District of Holmfirth on April 1st, 1912. The event has been so recent, that the history of Honley would be incomplete if Deanhouse was not included in its annals. “Owfield at th’ top, and Deynhaase at th’ botham,” is a local saying, which aptly describes the two hamlets. From Oldfield can be seen the first streak of dawn, and the last ray of sunset; whilst Deanhouse is situated in a deep valley. Its dwellers have been a race of clothiers, farmers and hand-loom weavers. The hamlet takes its name from an ancient homestead which once stood at the head of a sequestered and beautiful valley or dean on the Oldfield side of Honley. The rivulet which runs down the valley is named dean-brook or “th’ Deyne-brook” as the dwellers pronounce the still pellucid stream.
When the Stapyltons sold their property in Honley to families then living in the place named in the early part of this modern dwelling-house occupies the other part of the ground upon which the old homestead stood from which the hamlet takes its name.
There existed close relationship between Honley and Deanhouse in past days, the Oldfield-paths linking up the two places, being silent witnesses of the days when its dwellers came to the Mill to grind their corn. Deanhouse loyally honoured Honley Feast, sending its fighting champion to help to uphold the reputation of the township. The little hamlet also supplied its fair share of Constables and Chapelwardens. The first breaking away from old ties took place when Netherthong Church was erected in 1830. Deanhouse being so close to Netherthong, it was included in the new Ecclesiastical parish, and familiar figures no longer were seen coming down the old field-paths to attend Honley Church. The change from the domestic mode of manufacturing cloth to the factory system also was the cause of alterations. A woollen mill was erected, and if the old race of “out”-weavers refused to learn the new way of making cloth, their descendants grew with the new order of things. Next followed the erection of Huddersfield Union Workhouse, which also brought great changes in the once sequestered hamlet. Last, but not least; the civil government of Deanhouse was transferred from Honley to Holmfirth. These last new conditions have now finally severed old ties. This sub-division of an ancient township should not have been allowed.
There is, however, one close bond between the two places which the future student of history will not everlook, and that is the Wesleyan revival. The inhabitants of Deanhouse should for ever keep in memory the two visits of the great unwearied field-preacher, whose preaching was the means of forming a religious body which now numbers its members by millions. But they have more reason to feel proud of that old race of sturdy dwellers, whose hearts had been so stirred that they erected the first Wesleyan Chapel in the valley of the Holme against all opposition and persecution.
Hall Ing is one of the oldest and most interesting hamlets in the township. The word Ing (a clearing) is suggestive of land cleared from the forest for a dwelling, which at that time would be named or looked upon as the Hall. Hall Ing first comes into notice in connection with the Armitage family when Roger dwelt there in 1524 (see Armitage history). Hall Ing of a later date is, however, more associated with the name of Haigh than that of Armitage. The latter family had left the place, and about the middle of the 17th century a Haigh who had married an Armitage resided there, though the family had evidently dwelt in the hamlet at the same time as the Armitages. In an indenture, dated 1626, relating to a mill-dam, at Armitage Bridge, the Hall Ing Haighs are named. Am unable to say what relationship they held to “Chapman” Haigh, of Netherton, a noted Cloth-merchant, who according to Hunter “was an honest stitcher and full of wealth,” but they were of the same family. At the time that Thomas Haigh named in Wood Royd Chapel history changed his mode of life in 1770 at the age of 23, the family was carrying on the business of clothiers, combined with the farming interest. I have no date when they added the getting of coal to the family business, but probably when they purchased part of Hall Ing estate owned by the Armitages about 1792. Hall Ing of that date would then be one of the little communities in the township, where the dwellers worked for one master, either in one capacity or another. They would be plain Godfearing men and women seldom going further afield than their own lanes or folds, unless to a marriage or funeral. The way of life would be almost patriarchal in character. The master not only provided for the spiritual wants of his dependants, but undertook the duties; son following father in their zeal for the good of the workpeople and neighbours around them.
When Hall Ing property owned by the Armitages came into possession of the Haighs, coal-getting was carried out upon a more extensive scale. They opened out more collieries, and also leased land from Lord Dartmouth for the same purpose. The coal obtained from these collieries was the chief supply of fuel to the neighbourhood, — pit-heads, — day-holes, etc. being a feature in the neighbourhood of Hall Ing as at Brockholes. The carrying of coals in panniers strapped upon donkeys’ backs was one of the familiar sights of the country side. Gynn or Gin Lane takes its name from a gin being in use there. The horse yoked to one gin for drawing up coal at Shaw-head was driven by a woman. In 1833, Mr. Joseph Haigh, the son of Thomas, purchased the remainder of Hall Ing property from Mr. Thomas Armitage for £2,150 0s. 0d., a sum which shows the depreciation of land since that date, the area of the ground being small. The coal however under the property which had made the land valuable became exhausted. When the Railway was constructed so that coals could be conveyed from Barnsley districts, the Haighs ceased to work the collieries, and they were closed. Mr. Joseph Haigh died in 1851. Mr. John Haigh, the son of Joseph, who was a member of the first Local Board formed in Honley, next opened out Victoria Collieries at Morley, near Leeds, leasing land from Lord Dartmouth for that purpose. His sons went to reside at that place, and Joseph, one of the sons, was elected Mayor of Morley in 1909, but died in the second year of his Mayoralty. The Haighs, in addition to once being land owners of importance, have been farm tenants and lessees for coal-getting under the Earl of Dartmouth for over 100 years. There are still descendants, in the same capacity, notably, a grandson of Joseph Haigh who is the present lessee of Victoria Collieries, Morley, opened out by his grandfather. There are still direct descendants of the Haigh family living in Honley.