The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger
The family of Armitage is the oldest in Honley, having held to the soil since 1319. They are of that stout and valiant race of yeoman freeholders so often described in this history who owned and tilled lands, engaged in commerce, and whose name for generations is associated with the best traditions of the neighbourhood. It is difficult to trace out clearly a long family pedigree in which the same name re-appears in each generation, so that if errors occur, they are due more to recurrence of names than carelessness. The Armitage family in their different branches have been friends and connections by marriage with the oldest families in Yorkshire and Lancashire as well as local families of note, such as the Kayes of Woodsome, Beaumonts of Whitley, etc. This history will not allow mention of each individual member of a family that like an old tree must of necessity have spread out its branches. Many interesting ancient deeds regarding purchases of land, wills, etc., dating on generation after generation, are also too numerous to enumerate, so that only a few will be drawn upon.
The family originally sprung from Armitage Bridge, or “Th’ Ermytage,” which was the site of a Hermitage in ancient days; the family and place thus deriving their names. In the Poll Tax of 1319 is mention of Willelmus del Ermytache and Agnes his wife (William of Armitage). In an old charter of this date Heighroyd is also named. This manner of spelling the place still remains the local mode of its pronunciation. To this charter is attached small bags of “Heighroyd” earth, a custom at that time to which reference is made in Chapter I. The next authentic reference to the family is in 1524, regarding the payment of taxes by Roger Armytage, of Hall Ing, when money was being raised for the French war. He had eight sons who settled in various parts of the neighbourhood. It is presumed that the Kirklees branch of the family are descended from this Roger, of Hall Ing. His brother, John Ermytage, evidently lived at Armitage Bridge at this time, but seemed to have close connection with Honley. The Highroyd branch of the family is descended from this John. In Honley Church history it is noted that he left “4/- to the Chapel of St. Mary’s, Honley, for Mass to be said for the repose of his soul,” and in the same will he appointed his brother Roger his executor. The will was proved in York, in 1527. He had a son named John, who married Elizabeth, daughter of John Beaumont, of Deanhouse, one of the good yeomen who purchased lands from the Stapyltons named in Chapter I. John Ermytage during the latter part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign bought most of the Kirklees estates in Clifton and Hartshead. In addition, he purchased the Rectory and advowson of Mirfield, Glebe lands, tithes, etc.; and that property has since remained in the Kirklees Armytage family, except the advowson of Mirfield, which became the property of the Ingham family of Blake Hall.
John Ermytage was still residing at Armitage Bridge in 1584. In that year he acted as one of the jurors at an Inquisition relating to the Manor of Almondbury. He was also a capable business man who exported cloth to Ireland in 1574, being that “good marchant” named in Chapter I. John had a son named Anthony, who was baptized on September 8th, 1558, and settled at Thickhollins, Meltham. He had also a son named Anthony, and the name is renewed in each generation of this branch. This latter Anthony married the granddaughter of William Crosley, Honley. (See Church history).
Mention is made in Chapter I. of the value of clothing at this date when Giles Ermytage, son of Roger, of Hall Ing, drew up his will. The Wylliam Ermytage, of ye Bankes, named in Oldfield history as buying land from Leonard Berye, in 1579, was a grandson of Roger. John Ermytage, that “good marchant” died in 1601, and was buried at Almondbury. One branch of the Hall Ing Armitages remained at that place for a long time. They evidently added the getting of coal to the trade of clothiers. In the will of a John Armitage, of Hall Ing, dated 1723, he mentions coal, and cuts off his daughter Hannah with a shilling, who had married Mr. John Haigh of that place. Both a Richard and John Armitage were still working the coal pits in 1751-2. Richard had an agreement with the Earl of Dartmouth for working the coal under the land dated January, 1777, and there are records that they were still obtaining coal in 1792. It will be seen that this branch of the family was serving in all public and patriotic offices, such as Constables, Chapelwardens, loc.al defence, etc.
We now come to a Mr. George Armitage, generally named “Th’ Justice,” one of the most noted members of the family. He was born at High Royd, November 2nd, 1738, and was the son of Joseph, and grandson of George, all born at High Royd. He married Sarah, the daughter of Mr. Walker, of Lascelles Hall. I have no date when Mr. George Armitage was appointed a Magistrate. The title then held a different meaning than at present. Magistrates were few and far between. Whether learned or ignorant, bigoted or impartial, they possessed much power. The man to whom the title was given was supposed to be a gentleman above reproach, and in addition, to own a stake in the country in the shape of lands and possessions of a certain value. At that time there were no Police Courts at Huddersfield and Holmfirth, and justice was dispensed by Mr. George Armitage in the entrance hall at High Royd. During the unsettled period of the French Revolution, in 1794, we have seen that he administered the oath of allegiance to King George III. to Volunteers residing in sixteen adjoining townships; so that there must have been stirring times in the neighbourhood of High Royd at that date.
Having so often heard the personal appearance of “Th’ owd Justice” described, his sayings and doings recalled, his name was familiar in my childish ears. At this time, the dignity of the office of a Magistrate carried much of its old exclusiveness and power in the person of Mr. George Armitage. His appearance even at a distance had greater effect upon the unruly spirits of the village than the staff of the Constable. Having the titles of Magistrate and country gentleman to maintain, he scorned to clothe himself in Penistone “plains,” blue “broads,” or any other kind of modern material which was being manufactured at that date; though composed of all wool, and made with the intention of never wearing out. He clung as long as possible to his powdered wig tied behind, flowered vest reaching half way down to knees, silk stockings, knee breeches, and diamond buckled shoes. There were times, however, when his old-world dignity relaxed, and severity was tempered with mercy. Often shrewd advice racy of the soil was more liberally meted out than punishment. I have heard many amusing accounts of his mode of administering justice to disturbers of His Majesty’s peace when they appeared before him in the entrance hall at High Royd. A Honley native, as a rule, was either dismissed with a fatherly reproof, or if fined, Mr. Armitage generally paid the fine himself. A Honley Feast bull-baiting ended with a battle between the spectators with only nature’s weapons for attack and defence. It was alleged that the chief aggressors were people who hailed from Skelmanthorpe — a village in which it was said that a whole man did not exist at that time, having lost fingers, ears, noses, etc., owing to their love of personal warfare. “Honleyers” however succeeded at this particular feast in thrashing or “skelping” “Skelmanthorpers” out of the town. When Honley combatants were hauled by the Constable to appear before Mr. Armitage, they were forgiven with a gentle reminder from his stick; for it was an open secret that he was highly delighted at the local victory. If a son of the village was placed in the stocks until he had slept off the effects of drinking too much beer, Mr. Armitage generally considered that the indignity had proved sufficient punishment; but solemnly warned such offenders not to appear before him a second time. Once when a burly out-weaver more noted for his fighting powers than industry, had thrashed the pinder, kicked down the pinfold door, and rescued his donkey; Mr. Armitage thought that pinders could be too officious at times even with regard to straying donkeys, only the owner must not repeat the offence. Many more accounts of Mr. Armitage’s mode of tempering justice with mercy, his neighbouring fellowship, wise counsel, and generous help to those around him could be given, but space forbids. He administered justice at High Royd until 1813, died in 1815, and was buried at Almondbury.
Miss Marianne Armitage, one of his daughters, who remained unmarried, inherited his strong characteristics. She first resided at Park Riding, the family dower-house near the old homestead, and afterwards built a house in St. Mary’s Square, living there until her death. The house is now occupied as a Conservative Club. A most liberal supporter of all religious work, Brockholes Church was built at her sole cost in 1861. She gave £1,000 0s. 0d. towards the erection of St. Luke’s Church, Milnsbridge, £500 towards the re-building of Honley Church in 1842-3, was a generous subscriber to Almondbury Church, and a liberal contributor to all good work in Honley. She died on January 13th, 1861, aged 76 years, and a tablet placed in the Church at Milnsbridge to her memory, records her many virtues.
Miss Marianne Armitage in a letter explained the reason of the change from y to i in spelling the Armitage name. Her grandfather who built Dudmanstone had two brothers, both unmarried, who were next heirs to the Kirklees estates. They were fine spirited gentlemen, wealthy, generous, and known as the “splendid uncles” to youthful nephews and nieces who benefited from their free-handed generosity. On account of a quarrel between these two bachelors and the Kirklees branch of the family, the former changed the y to i in spelling the name. In deeds relating to family estates the mode of spelling the name remained.
Joseph Armitage, Esq., J.P., D.L., eldest son of “Justice” Armitage, and brother to Miss Marianne, purchased Milnsbridge House from Sir Joseph Radcliffe and removed there in 1820. During the Plug riots both gentlemen had many difficult duties to perform. Mr. Joseph Armitage was the father of fifteen children, and inherited the fine business traits of that “good marchant” who exported cloth in 1574. He built a woollen-mill at Milnsbridge, in 1822, to find occupation for his sons. This was the first woollen-mill erected at Milnsbridge, which is now a busy hive of industry. Afterwards he built Burdett mill, the foundation stone of which was laid by Sir Francis Burdett, on April 20th, 1838, which is recorded on a stone tablet in front of the mill. The erection of Milnsbridge Church followed, and it will have been noted that Miss Marianne gave £1,000 towards the building of the Church; thus helping to provide for the spiritual welfare of her brother’s workpeople. The family, after the removal to Milnsbridge, became more identified with the public and religious life of Huddersfield and its neighbourhood than with the affairs of Honley. The estate of Milnsbridge House still belongs to the Armitage family, but has been divided into smaller residences since the days when it was a centre of great local influence. From 1820 to 1884 High Royd was let. Charles Ingram Armitage, Esq., J.P., a great grandson of the “Justice,” and grandson of Joseph before mentioned who erected the first woollen-mill at Milnsbridge considered to return to the old family seat. He restored High Royd, and came to reside there in May, 1885, — a direct descendant of a family who have lived well and acted bravely in the past.
Mr. Charles Ingram Armitage married a daughter of the late Major Coates. Their second son, Captain Clement C. Armitage, is Captain in the Royal Field Artillery, at present stationed at the Staff College, Camberley. The public welcome given to him on his return from the South African War is previously recorded.
The Brooke family is not one of the oldest in Honley, but it is the most noted. They are descended from that race of yeoman freeholders who, in the past helped to steadily build up the commercial greatness of England, whilst at the same time taking an important share in all public and religious duties. Their pedigree dates back in an unbroken line to the year 1596. They were God-fearing men, yet free from cant; attentive to business, yet intensely patriotic; prudent, yet generous regarding all public and private claims upon their purse. Descendants who can thus claim a birthright of character from their forefathers have reason to feel proud. The faces of three generations of Brookes here portrayed, are strikingly characteristic of this race of clean-handed men who have helped to keep alive the best traditions of the country and neighbourhood. This legacy of character from a truehearted race has been inherited by a remarkable family of sons and daughters, who have also acted justly and walked uprightly. To quote a local saying which is racy of the soil, “They are thirteen to th’ dozen, and not a bad un amongst em.” The same simplicity, energy and virtue have marked all their lives. In all good work, the motto has been “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” In all generous deeds, “Let not thy left hand know what thy right doeth.” The sons, from the statesman-like Sir Thomas to the sunny generous soul who gave his life to bringing God’s kingdom a little nearer in the slums of London, were strongly alike in holding to one high standard of life, yet brothers of splendid contrasts. The daughters were women of goodness, and sweetness of character, whose key-note in life has been self-effacement and unselfish service.
In the account of the staple trade of the district, references are made, and reminiscences recalled relating to the early history of the firm of Messrs. John Brooke & Sons. Like as in other old families, the same name re-appears in each generation. The firm was founded at Honley in the early part of the 18th century, by Mr. John Brooke, who died in 1798. Mr. William Brooke, whose picture is here reproduced, was the son of this John, and grandfather to the present William Brooke, Esq., of Northgate Mount. He married Miss Hannah Clapham, of Leeds, August 4th, 1789, the family of Claphams being one of the most influential in Leeds at that time. Merchant as well as Manufacturer, trade did not move for him in small and narrow ways common to those around him at that period. In early life he had ridden far afield to buy his wool, when journeys were hazardous undertakings. When the domestic mode of manufacturing was altering its character, he grasped the nature of the great and wonderful changes, taking place around him, and “marched breast forward.” He erected the second steam-engine in the neighbourhood to replace wooden wheels turned by water, and dependent upon its supply. I have heard his character and sayings often described. A God-fearing man of strong sense and worth, he was not only energetic in business, but in all public and religious services. He built Northgate House, Northgate Mount, Armitage Bridge Mills and Armitage Bridge House. This “fine old English gentleman” died in 1846, aged 82 years. A marble tablet to his memory is placed in the chancel of Honley Church. He too had sons who walked in the footsteps of a worthy sire. John removed to Armitage Bridge House, built for him by his father. Edward, the celebrated Wesleyan preacher whose life has been written by the late Rev. J. H. Lord, went to Huddersfield. Thomas, the father of the present well-known family of brothers and sisters remained at Northgate House.
When Armitage Bridge Mills were built, and the firm removed the business there in 1825, the beautiful Church and Schools were afterwards erected almost at the sole cost of Mr. John and Mr. Thomas Brooke, with the exception of a small grant from Ripon Church Building Society towards the Church. The history of Armitage Bridge Mills and the firm since that time must of necessity be separated from Honley history. It is, however, well-known that after the removal, the old links existing in Honley between master and man were not broken. Workmen still claimed employment as an inheritance. If there was a sudden stagnation in trade, men were not discharged. Even if old retainers had been dismissed, they would have ref used to leave “Th’ Maister,” and rebuked him with that reply which will be found in “Characteristic speeches of Honley.” Long before old age pensions were dreamed about, they were practical realities at Armitage Bridge Mills.
We must leave the great industrial concern where son has followed father generation after generation, and which has kept abreast in the march of progress; and write of a home in which were reared the brothers and sisters before mentioned.
MR. THOMAS BROOKE, the father of the present family, who married in 1828 Miss Anne Ingham, of Hunslet, a member of an old and influential Leeds family, remained upon Honley soil, bound by the strongest ties of interest and affection to his native place. One of my earliest remembrances was of his tall fine figure dressed in the best black cloth that his mill could produce, walking to Church on Sundays. He was a man of grave simplicity, yet elevated mind; careful not to indulge in random remarks, refraining from words of blame even when deserved, and walking on the straight road of rectitude and honour. Gentle, yet manly; unostentatious yet capable; Mr. Thomas Brooke was a man who loved mercy, walked humbly with his God, and “wore the white flower of a blameless life.” Mrs. Brooke, a lady of gracious personality, kindly heart, and generous hand, presided over a home of refinement, progressive thought, and busy activities. She was the mother of thirteen children, the two eldest daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, dying at the age of sixteen in 1847 and 1849. Mr. Thomas Brooke died on August 31st, 1859, aged 61 years, and Mrs. Brooke, August 10th, 1889. Their memories are consecrated in the hearts of children who were taught by them that their life-work was to do true and noble things. At the funeral of Mrs. Brooke, five sons and six daughters followed a revered mother, as thirty years previously the same sons and daughters had followed an honoured father to the same resting-place. It will be seen in the Church history and Honley events, how their memory has been honoured by thankful children for their examples of good and holy lives.
SIR THOMAS BROOKE, the eldest son had a distinguished public career. Whilst a young unmarried man, living with his parents at Northgate House, he undertook active duties in connection with Sunday School and parochial work. His first public service for his native place was that of Poor Law Guardian for Honley, in 1864, the memory of which voluntary duty he always recalled with great pleasure. After his first marriage, Sir Thomas lived at Almondbury, returned to Honley after the death of his wife; and afterwards resided at Armitage Bridge House until his death, having purchased the estate from his cousin. An active member of the firm of Messrs. John Brooke & Sons until middle fife, he threw himself with that zest which is characteristic of the family into all kinds of religious and public life. A true patriot like the race he sprang from, he joined the Huddersfield Volunteer Corps, formed in 1859, rising from the rank of private to taking the command as Colonel. His great personal capacity, broadminded views, and well-balanced mind, marked him out as one of the most distinguished men in the neighbourhood. With that fine-trained intelligence which can appreciate the intellectual as well as the practical in life, he was also a celebrated antiquarian, a noted collector of rare books, and an honoured President and member of many learned Societies, The fringe of his numerous and varied activities can only be touched upon here. President and Chairman of many Political and Educational Societies, he rendered invaluable service and help to the Huddersfield Technical College when that Institute was first established and finding its feet from 1879 to 1886. His portrait, and a stained glass window in the College testify to his great help and self-sacrifice in the cause of Technical Education. President of the Young Men’s Christian Association in Huddersfield, in which he took a practical and keen interest, he was also President of the Chamber of Commerce in 1879-80, rendering distinguished services to both Institutions. Director of Railways, Insurance Companies, etc., he filled the office of Deputy Chairman, and Chairman of Goods-traffic Committee of the London and North Western Railway Company. Sir Thomas was appointed a Magistrate of the West Riding of Yorkshire on February 23rd, 1864, and soon afterwards filled the office of Chairman of Quarter Sessions. He was one of the first members of the West Riding County Council representing Honley division, and was at once elected Alderman and Vice-Chairman of the Council. A staunch upholder of his own political views, Sir Thomas was asked to stand as Conservative Candidate for the Borough of Huddersfield, in 1874, and Candidate for the Colne Valley Parliamentary division in 1885. A member of a family of prominent Church laymen, he was one of the foremost to help in forming the new Diocese of Wakefield, and active member of the Building Committee during the enlargement of the Cathedral.
The speeches of Sir Thomas were always weighty with knowledge and practical experience of the many public subjects he had to speak upon. His varied qualities of mind so well-balanced in one whole, enabled him to discuss even burning questions with moderation and calmness. On the other hand, he was equally as ready to indulge in dry humour and witty mirth typical of the soil and his race. The bestowal of Royal and Civic honours was a fitting ending to a career in which the small as well as the large duties in life had been so nobly and justly performed. He was created a Baronet in 1899, and universal approval welcomed the honour. Presentations, Addresses, etc., of all kinds were presented to him, not only locally, but from the great outside world in which he had taken a stirring part; and a public banquet in Huddersfield celebrated the event. Sir Thomas was next made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Huddersfield on July 25th, 1906.
Sir Thomas was thrice married. His first wife was Miss Eliza Vickerman, daughter of Mr. Enoch Vickerman, of Steps, 1855 who died in 1855, a year after marriage. In 1860, he married 1860 Miss Dewar, of Dumferline, who died in 1901. In 1902, he married Mrs. Foster, widow of the late Rev. C. F. Foster, and daughter of James Priestley, Esq., J.P., who survives him. Francis, the only son of Sir Thomas, died at the dawn of young manhood, at the age of seventeen years. Sir Thomas died on July 16th, 1908. Though his funeral was characterised by beautiful simplicity, the vast assembly of public men in all walks of life who attended was eloquent testimony of the esteem in which he was held.
WILLIAM BROOKE, Esq., J.P., the second son of the family, was born at the old home at Northgate House, on December 2nd, 1834. He married on October 19th, 1871, Miss Gertrude Elizabeth Ingham, a daughter of the late Joshua Ingham, Esq., Blake Hall, Mirfield, an old and influential family. Mrs. Brooke is a lady of gracious personality, many accomplishments, true womanly worth, and whose kindly actions are generally hid in modest retirement. There were great rejoicings and presentations at the marriage, which took place at Mirfield, and was the first marriage solemnized in the then newly-erected Parish Church. Their only son, Mr. Thomas Brooke, born November 16th, 1875, married the daughter of Sir E. Hildred Carlisle, on June 13th, 1904, and resides at Healey House — a son who gives rich promise in his young manhood of following in his father’s footsteps, and upholding the traditions of the family. The only daughter, Gertrude Elizabeth, was married to Captain Holdich, of the 5th Ghurka Regiment, eldest son of Colonel Sir Thomas H. Holdich, on June 15th, 1910. As none of the marriages of the male side of the family took place in Honley, it was customary to celebrate the marriages of the females with all the more rejoicings, both in the past and present. At the marriage of Miss Gertrude Elizabeth Brooke all mills in the neighbourhood were closed, arches erected in the streets of Honley, and the latter was one mass of colour and brightness, the streets having been spontaneously decorated by the inhabitants. The day was observed as a general holiday by all parties, who were anxious to honour a daughter in whom all the graces and energy of the womanhood of her race are harmoniously blended. On her return from the honeymoon, a large and representative gathering took place at Northgate Mount, when an illuminated address and silver tea service was presented to her from the inhabitants of Honley, embracing all sects and shades of opinions. Presentations from the tenants, Sunday School, etc., had previously taken place.
Mr. William Brooke, like his father, has remained upon Honley soil, taking up his residence, after marriage, at Northgate Mount, overlooking his old home. Old natives always designated “Mr. Willie” (the distinguishing name in his early home) as his own father’s lad.” Inheriting the same natural generosity and pity, the same deep religious principles, the same personal love for his native place, he holds the same keen responsibility towards it. Still named “Mr. Willie” in our midst, he has that rare nature which looks for the best in every thing, and believes that people are as good as they pretend. Perhaps this faith in human nature has made many faithful.
“Aye,” once said a rough son of the village to his much tried mother, “I mun try and be a goid lad, because Mr. Willie thinks I am.”
This spirit of finding the best in human nature has been carried out in all his public life. As a man of fairness to political opponents, he has the same trust in their fairness to others. Learning to rule by first obeying, Mr. William Brooke beginning at the age of 17 years went through each department of the great industrial works at Armitage Bridge before taking upon himself the role of master. Always loyally submissive, and reverent to those of older years placed over him during his youth; no duty was too obscure to perform in connection with religious, educational, parochial or business work, passing through all degrees of humble service. When the time came that the claims of an outside world had to be equally considered with local duties, Mr. William Brooke threw himself heart and soul into whatever kind of work he undertook. Whether religious, philanthropic, or political, the same vigorous energy combined with careful investigation were brought to bear upon those duties; whilst not neglecting the great industrial business which also absorbed much of his time and attention.
As in the case of his brother, the late Sir Thomas, I can only touch upon a few of those public duties which he has in season and out of season so loyally performed. He was a member of Honley Local Board from 1864-70. A Sunday School teacher for over 50 years, he has attended his class of young men in dark and bright days, and during storm and stress of a busy public life. He has been a Manager of Honley National Schools for over 50 years, in the history of which will be found recorded his many generous gifts, and life-long devotion to the good of the School. As one of the most loyal Churchmen in the West Riding of Yorkshire, he has held the office of Churchwarden in Honley Church since 1887, in the history of which is also recorded those many noble gifts of himself and family. In addition, he has not only been President of those many numerous Societies of a varied character which have been launched into life during his life-time, but has also generously supported all. These latter are enumerated in the history of the National School. To the duties of the larger outside world, Mr. William Brooke brought the same sincerity of purpose, genuine love, and deep earnestness as in local matters. Always an advocate for religious teaching, he was one of the Candidates for Huddersfield School Board in favour of religious instruction, and was elected in 1874. Chairman of Huddersfield College, from 1887 to 1893, he struggled vigorously, and helped generously to keep the College from being closed. A Governor of long standing of Almondbury Grammar School, that ancient institution has greatly benefited from his generous support and interest. President of some and identified with several such Institutions as the Deaf and Dumb Society, Royal Albert Asylum, Lancashire, Charity Organizations of various kinds, Mirfield Reformatory, etc., which have all profited not only from that open-handed munificence, but from his keen and practical interest in their welfare. As Senior Trustee of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, he has always performed yeoman service for the Institution; and about 30 years ago gave £1,000 0s. 0d. for the purpose of sending suitable cases to Southport and Buxton.
Being brought into personal contact with a practical everyday world, he early in life realised the effects of drunkenness. Throwing himself with his well-known enthusiasm and energy into the work of temperance, he zealously wished his native village to realise its blessings. His purchase of the George and Dragon, and Commerical Inns with this purpose in view, has been previously noted in due order of dates. Mr. William Brooke, like his brothers, has not confined gifts to the narrow confines of a parish. He too contributed nobly to the fund for establishing the Bishopric of Wakefield, and to the enlargement of the Cathedral. Mr. William Brooke was made a J.P. for the West Riding in 1868, and succeeded his brother, the late Sir Thomas, as Chairman of the County Bench of Magistrates, retiring in 1906, but still attends the sittings at Holmfirth Court. Perhaps no other Magistrate has been more assiduous during long years of duty. The office must of necessity be trying to a man whose nature is more prone to pity than blame, and more ready to forgive than punish. In the long calendar of offenders which have come before Mr. William Brooke, the most notorious have always realised that if Mr. Brooke was full of charity towards them, or ready to seize upon any mitigating circumstance in their favour; he justly upheld the authority of the law.
Mr. William Brooke is the most welcomed speaker in the neighbourhood, his speeches impressing others with his own intense belief and sincerity of purpose when speaking for causes dear to him, whether religious or political. At the great open-air Demonstration held in Longley Hall Park, in July, 1913, to protest against the Welsh Church Disestablishment Bill, he spoke in defence of the Church he loved so well with all the fire and energy of his youth. A few months later, he was actuated by the same patriotic fervour for his country when speaking upon the subject of National Defence. The references in this history to the public benefactions of Mr. Brooke to Honley as they occurred, prove his deep love for his native place. No person, however, will know the extent of his private charities, not only to the poor, but to those whose silent tragedies are often greater. These will never be quoted on a public platform, or printed in pamphlet statistics; for the greatest of his charities are unknown. His long useful life was fittingly honoured by the visit of King George V. and Queen Mary to his home on July 11th, 1912, and the conferring of the freedom of the Borough of Huddersfield on October 15th, 1913; the particulars of which have appeared previously. It is seldom that a man received more universal testimony of his worth when these honours were bestowed upon him. Much as Mr. William Brooke values these public tributes of respect for him, he also places high value upon more humble testimonials from those whom he can justly claim as his own people, bred and born upon the same soil, and bound together by close ties. On February 25th, 1895, Mr. Brooke’s Sunday School Class of Young Men honoured his 60th birthday, by a presentation of an Album containing sketches of Northgate House, Northgate Mount, Church, Parish-room, and Mr. Brooke himself. On January 18th, 1902, they also presented to him a chair and malacca walking-stick as a recognition of his fifty years’ teaching of the class. A silver plate affixed to the chair record those long years of Sunday School teaching. Mr. Brooke was also presented on behalf of the parishioners with a roll-top cabinet, a picture of himself, and volumes of books, as a recognition of his 50 years of teaching.
The honouring of his Diamond Jubilee as an active partner in the firm of Messrs. John Brooke and Sons for 60 years, was probably unique in the history of the staple trade of the district. The proceedings commenced on Friday, February 10th, 1912, the date on which he attained his Diamond Jubilee. On the following day, the celebrations were opened with a thanksgiving service at Armitage Bridge Church. Afterwards, Mr. Brooke entertained all employees at the mill to tea. An illuminated address, congratulating Mr. Brooke on his 60 years active interest in the firm, was presented to him, and a silver rose-bowl to Mrs. Brooke. Congratulatory speeches from the heads of departments in the mill, and an entertainment provided also by the employees brought an event to a close which will live long in the memory of those who were fortunate enough to take part in it. In thankfulness for his Diamond Jubilee at the mill, Mr. Brooke instituted a Workman’s Benevolent Fund.
Carlyle writes: “That a man’s religion is the chief fact with regard to him.” By this Carlyle meant not a profession of creeds, but what a man does. To sum up Mr. Brooke’s character, — it radiates from his countenance; for he has that perfect charity which “thinketh no evil.”
Mr. Joshua Ingham Brooke, the third son, was born February 14th, 1836. Taking his degree in 1859, he married in the same year Grace Charlotte, daughter of General Godby. Early in life he decided to take upon himself the office of Clergyman, and entered upon the task with the usual ardour so characteristic of the family. Of a joyous sympathising and generous disposition, the character of which shone out from the radiant countenance even to the end of his life, he was eminently fitted for that office whose representatives are not only expected to share the sorrows of the lives of others, but also their joys. The Rev. Joshua Ingham Brooke, with the same modesty and simplicity of purpose which distinguished his brothers, served as Curate of Retford in 1860-3, and Curate of Batheaston, 1863-6. Afterwards he was Rector of East-hope, in Shropshire, in 1866-7, and then Rector of Thornhill, from 1867 to 1888. It was here that he performed a great work for the Church in a district perhaps unfavourable. If not a captain of industry in the West Riding, he became a great spiritual captain whilst at Thornhill. The key-note of his every day life was individual exertion, no detail being too small for his consideration. Churches, Schools, and all kinds of parochial organizations were built and formed in the colliery districts around Thornhill, due not only to his words, but substantial actions. He was appointed examining chaplain to the Bishop of Wakefield in 1869. The Rev. Joshua Ingham Brooke, like unto his brother Sir Thomas, possessed that refined intelligence which can appreciate the beauty of the old without ignoring the importance of the new. Perhaps his greatest undertaking at Thornhill was the restoration of its old historical Church to which he gave individual exertion, attention, and generous help; and it was only his intense energy which could have truimphed over such a voluntary task. He also greatly helped and took an active part in the formation of Wakefield Diocese. In 1889, he was appointed Archdeacon of Halifax, and Hon. Canon of Wakefield Cathedral. The Venerable Archdeacon Brooke was next appointed Vicar of Halifax. Details of his work cannot be given, but his vigorous energies, cordial manner, and generous spirit endeared him to all classes of the people; and his name became a household word in Halifax. When bodily infirmity laid its restraining hand upon his powerful energies; elasticity and courage still distinguished his actions. Pain did not cause him to cease from his herculean drudgery until his shattered frame ended a life of self-sacrifice, lived for the good of others, — a life which had been nobly shared by a devoted wife and family.
MR. JOHN ARTHUR, the fourth son of Mr. Thomas Brooke, was born in 1844, and educated at Repton and Oriel College. He also learned to rule by first obeying, and served in the mill at Armitage Bridge until he became a member of the firm, 1868 in 1868, at the age of 24 years. During the time that his brothers and sisters were actively engaged in Sunday School work at Honley and Brockholes, he undertook the duties of Sunday School teacher at Armitage Bridge until marriage. In 1873, he married the daughter, of Major Weston, Morvich, Sutherlandshire, late of the Indian Army. For a short time after marriage he lived at Meltham until taking up his residence at Fenay Hall, Almondbury. Since that time, his life has been one long day of active duties, both religious and public. Appointed a Magistrate of the Borough of Huddersfield, on February 7th, 1876, he was also made a County Magistrate, April 4th, 1887. Mr. John Arthur Brooke was next elected an Alderman of the Borough of Huddersfield from outside the Council, from 1901 to 1907. He has been Chairman for many years of the Colne Valley Conservative Association, and Huddersfield Conservative Association. Taking the deepest interest in the cause of education, he was Chairman of the Governors of Huddersfield Technical College, from 1887 to 1889, and has also held the office since 1899. Appointed a Governor of the ancient Grammar School of Almondbury in 1877, he became President Governor in 1896. His keen interest in all educational matters is most marked in his consistent championship of Church of England Schools. He is Chairman of the Huddersfield and Saddleworth Church Day Schools’ Association, which was formed for the protection and preservation of Church of England Schools. Acting as Churchwarden at Almondbury Parish Church for a long number of years, he is one of the most prominent laymen in the Diocese of Wakefield, which he also took an active part in forming.
It is difficult to draw one single character of a family, and fill up its outline with the colour of fife, when all its members hold to one standard of conduct. There are, however, always contrasts, if slight. The tastes of Mr. J. A. Brooke as a young man inclined to the pursuits of a country gentleman. He realised, however, that he had a race to run in which his own inclinations must not enter, and took up the duties of life with the usual ardour so distinctive of the family. Since that time, he has never allowed his natural tastes to interfere with his ideas of public and religious duties. A solid genuine man, he has a rugged candour of character, typical of the soil he springs from, but can be silent when unwise to speak. Strong in his political convictions, he proclaims his creed with no uncertain sound; and is the Samson of the Conservative cause in Huddersfield. Strong also in his religious principles, he is never at any pains to disguise his leanings, and champion the cause of Church of England Schools, not merely in words, but by generous help. With that comprehensive and logical outlook upon fife, Mr. John Arthur Brooke is too sagacious and shrewd to tolerate cant and pretence in any form; yet be has that fine nature which looks for the best in all things.
John Arthur Brooke, Esq., J.P., had two sons and two daughters. The sons are Mr. Robert Weston, and the late Mr. John Weston. The eldest daughter, Blanche, married the Rev. S. C. D. Hoste, Vicar of Almondbury, and the second daughter, Dorothy, married Captain W. H. P. Law, Army Service Corps. Mr. Robert Weston Brooke is a director of Messrs. John Brooke & Sons, and married the daughter of the late Alexander Geddes, Esq., of Blairmore, Scotland. Mrs. Brooke and family have endeared themselves to the whole neighbourhood by their ready sympathies, cordial manners, and unpretentious intercourse with all classes. A tragic interest surrounds the name of the elder son of Mr. John Arthur Brooke, who met the Explorer’s fate. The late Mr. John Weston had also a race to run, but the task was to be far away from hill-side scenes of his native place that would probably be recalled in last thoughts of home. The Explorer’s blood was in his veins, and there was no other alternative but to leave the beaten ground around his home, and seek an untried wilderness of his own. Educated at Repton, he fought in the Boer War, and joined the 7th Hussars in 1902. He however turned Explorer in 1903, being fitted both mentally and physically for all daring enterprises. His first expedition was to British East Africa, in 1903-4. He next left for India, in 1906, to explore the junction of the Sampo and Brahmapootra rivers. Being unable to enter Tibet via Assam, he sailed for Shanghai, journeyed across China, and made his way alone through Northern Tibet to within 200 miles of his objective. Here he was surrounded by Tibetan troops, and had to return to China. His third expedition was into Western Syechuen, where a year was spent surveying and mapping on the borders of Tibet. His fourth expedition was in Southern Syechuen and Loland where he was killed by natives, December 24th, 1908. Thus ended in tragedy, the life of a brave and feailess young man.
CHARLES EDWARD BROOKE, born July 9th, 1847, was the fifth and youngest son of the late Mr. Thomas Brooke, and also the youngest child of 13 children. A sunny generous boy whose joyful laughter resounded in his home and the village, the natives would have declared that he was more fitted for fun and frolic than the great task he undertook in after years of wearing out a noble life amongst London’s submerged. One old native of Honley, who had a fixed idea that all Clergymen were of sour visage, when told that “Mr. Charles Edward” intended to become a Clergyman, received the news with amused contempt.
“Yond lad a parson!” he questioned. “He will have to give up laughing and shouting then, for I can always yer him a mile off. Nay! Yond lad’s too cheerful to make a parson.”
Mr. Charles Edward Brooke was educated at Repton School, and University College, Oxford, taking his degree in 1870. During his term at Oxford, he made a tour in the United States and Canada. Though full of youthful exuberance, he had made up his mind with regard to his career in life. Passing to Cuddesdon Theological College, his first Curacy was at the Church of St. John the Divine, Kennington, London, an obscure edifice situated in an unlovely neighbourhood where fashion never came, but where abject and sordid poverty abounded. Distinguished by strong physical and mental vigour, endowed with ample means, inspired by sincere devotion, and of a gladsome spirit; the Rev. C. E. Brooke choose this unattractive place for his great life’s work. (In after years he always went to Cuddesdon College for his large staff of Curates). A magnificent Church replaced the small place of worship. Practically the building could be named his own, and when ready for opening he gave £10,000 to finish the nave. This Church to which he was afterwards appointed Vicar, became one of the most noted places of worship in London, and a place of pilgrimage to thousands, as its Vicar became one of the greatest pillars of the Church. Mission-Churches, Mission-rooms, Colleges, Schools, Clubs, Classes, Guilds and Religious Societies of all kinds rose up, or were formed in unfashionable quarters which the Rev. C. E. Brooke looked upon as his parish. He took over and included in the latter, what Mr. Charles Booth when writing about this part, described as “the darkest spots in South London.” The life of the Rev. C. E. Brooke has been written by the Rev. A. G. Deedes, Honorary Canon of Southwark, and the book contains an eloquent preface from the pen of Lord Halifax. These men confessed their inability to do justice to his wonderful personality, so that I am ill qualified to sketch a life, whose manifold activities, princely gifts, and life-long sacrifices would fill many volumes. With strong intensity of purpose, the Rev. C. E. Brooke, when serving as Curate, soon became the mainspring and dominant force in all religious and social work in a neighbourhood, whose dwellers are slow to give tribute even to those whose lives are spent in their service. Yet in time, those who lived in a neighbourhood where even policemen had to hunt in couples,” recognised consistent devotion to duty and generous sympathy. True, the Rev. C. E. Brooke lavished gifts upon the vast parochial machinery he had set in motion, but he poured out his wealth also for the relief of the poor he loved so well. If no faltering preacher of dogmatic teaching, yet he had such a wide outlook of a Churchman’s responsibilities, that he combined with all kinds of Societies and Municipal bodies in their schemes for the good of the people. At the London School-Board Election, when the battle for religious teaching was being contested, he was placed at the head of the poll by votes numbering 34,896, polling 12,000 more votes than any other candidate. This was proof that London had recognised his great services in the cause of education, which had not been confined to Voluntary Colleges, Schools, and religious Societies; but also for the provision of Board Schools where necessary. His own large and well equipped Schools were amongst the finest in the country. A member of Lambeth Board of Guardians, he was also actively identified either as Chairman or serving on Committees with those numerous Societies formed in the interests of the poor and unfortunate. With that wide outlook upon the work of the Church, he threw himself heart and soul into the work of Foreign Missions of a varied character. Details cannot here be given of his many acts of splendid Missionary enterprise, any more than can be enumerated all those projects in parochial organizations which he floated into life, and controlled. They spread like a network, and yet such were his powers of organization and concentration of purpose, that no trifle however small escaped his notice. Money meant nothing to the Rev. C. E. Brooke only to provide opportunity of doing good, yet he was a strong upholder of thrift; often spending less upon himself than those spent whom he helped. Though his generosity was so abundant, he did not believe in pauperising people. A man of intense energy in all things, he did not expect the same activity from others, and made allowance for shortcomings. Yet he had no tolerance for laziness or shiftless conduct in whatever form. His part as Joseph, which he always undertook in the beautiful Bethlehem Tableaux he had organized was typical of the man; — tender, — simple, — dignified. The Rev. C. E. Brooke was made an Honorary Canon of Southwark in 1900. Bishop Talbot, in whose Diocese Kennington was included, declaring “that he felt it a great honour thus to recognise his unrivalled services.” The Rev. Canon Brooke died July 1st, 1911, spending and being spent until the last week of his life. The sunny youth who had voluntarily left a home of wealth and ease to take up a life of strenuous work was brought back to his native soil, — a tired labourer at rest. His great work in South London, and the sorrow of the vast crowd that gathered in his Church to bid farewell to his remains, are the highest tributes that can be paid to his memory.
It is difficult to pay due homage to the female side of the Brooke family, whose unostentatious self-sacrifice was no sudden impulse of undisciplined enthusiasm, or eargerness for the world’s applause. Each had their own self-appointed tasks in fife, whether as Sunday School teachers, active parish workers, etc. in their native place, or duties beyond its limits. These were followed with unshrinking self-denial and steadfast zeal. The name of Miss Brooke, the eldest sister, is a household word of love in Honley, for her fife-work has been ministering to its moral, and physical needs. Inheriting the attractive features of her race, her face is also luminous of her character; kindness, meekness, and comfort being ever on her tongue. She never turned away from pain, weariness, wrong or sin; and there was no home in Honley, rich or poor, that did not eagerly welcome her smiling face. She was so full of that angel charity, that her belief in people’s goodness made them good. Perhaps no greater testimony to the true sincerity of her life, and that understanding sympathy with human nature in all its varying shades of character is needed than the fact, that often the last wish expressed by rugged or refined men, chaste or sinful women, loved or neglected children was to see Miss Brooke before they died.
Miss Brooke has possessed the same active vigour that distinguishes the family. A life-long teacher at the Sunday School, she also made use of her highly cultivated musical talents, both in religious and secular services. Though dwelling in a land of song, Honley people preferred hearing Miss Brooke’s singing of “Home Sweet Home” and other old songs, rather than listening to the most world-renowned vocalist. Previous to the introduction of a surpliced choir in Honley Church, Miss Brooke undertook the position of leading soprano in the mixed choir, and also the training of other female members of the choir. This arduous duty was faithfully performed for 22 years, until the restoration of the Church in 1888, when a male surpliced choir replaced the previous mixed choir. Directly after this change, a deputation representing Clergy, Churchwardens, Choir, and Congregation, waited upon Miss Brooke and presented to her an illuminated address in recognition of her faithful services. Miss Brooke’s life-long connection with the Sunday School was only recently severed on account of advancing years. First a teacher of younger children, she took charge of the large Bible Class of young women after her sister’s marriage, and taught them for over 30 years until her recent retirement. Taking a deep personal interest in each member of the class, this large gathering of young women has been a great feature of Church Sunday School work, and proved of far reaching moral influence. Enjoyable re-unions of all old scholars formerly took place, and many presentations and illuminated addresses have been given to Miss Brooke at various times by the scholars. Many are now scattered far and wide. Time and change of scene however can never obliterate tender and sacred memories of a loved teacher, whose personal interest and help did not end with her teaching.
Marriage claimed three other sisters younger than Miss Brooke, viz:— MISS MARY, who was married to the Rev. R. G. Benson, of Hope Bowdler Rectory, Shropshire; MISS EMMA, married to Edward Brook, Esq., of Hoddom Castle and Meltham; and MISS FRANCES, married to the Rev. J. T. Bartlet, Vicar of Mansfield. Miss Mary was generally named the “Flower of Honley,” on account of her beautiful features and sweet disposition. Miss Emma, possessed a calm and gracious personality combined with a vigorous activity. Miss Frances, whose unobtrusive goodness and tender sympathy for the sick, sorrowing and erring, earned for her the love and esteem of all in Honley. The marriage days of each were marked by great festivities and joy in the place. On the marriage day of Miss Frances, June 3rd, 1871, 250 inhabitants both rich and poor over 60 years of age had dinner at Northgate House; and the school children at Honley and Brockholes entertained.
MISS EDITH and MISS OCTAVIA came next in age to their married sisters. Miss Edith was a lady possessing great intellectual gifts which eminently fitted her to take a high place in life. Though so richly endowed by nature, she did not walk with her head amongst the stars, or looked down with contempt from intellectual heights; but chose the plain track of duty. Though full of womanly tenderness, and distinguished by beautiful simplicity of character in each small detail in life, she had a hatred of shams and untruthfulness, and could be sternly just towards imposture of all kinds. This much-beloved sister died in London, on April 14th, 1893, where, after the death of her mother, she had decided to take up some noble purpose in life. A service was held in Honley Church at her funeral typical in its simplicity of her life and character.
MISS OCTAVIA, the youngest and eighth daughter, whose joyous nature and personal charm were so well-known in Honley, before taking up her work in London with that earnestness and intensity of purpose characteristic of the family. Like unto her sisters, she chose the most obscure and least-sought duties in life, for she did not dream of the world’s applause. Such would have proved painful to one whose sense of duty only claimed to minister to those whom the world neither sees nor knows. An active worker in Sunday School and parish work in Honley during early life, she decided to give her personal services more particularly to Brockholes, which at that time was a hamlet of sparse population and sparser pockets. When leaving Honley to take up work in London, by the side of her brother, the late Canon Brooke, the Sunday School Teachers and Congregation of Brockholes Church gave to her a present which went with their blessings to one who had laboured so unselfishly amongst them. To quote the words of the late Mr. John Mitchell, under whose Sunday School Superintendence she served, is the most eloquent testimony of her self effacement and self sacrifice. When making the presentation in the presence of Clergymen and Curates, Mr. John Mitchell said, “She has been a good un. When the weather has been too rough for any parson to walk from Honley, she’s walked, drabbled up to th’ knees with snow and sleet, and wouldn’t change her stockings. Ah! and she’s preached too. We liked th’ parson to miss, because Miss Octavia could preach better than any parson.”
Since that time, Miss Octavia Brooke is working out a life’s task in homes of want and shame, devoting her wealth and a richly-endowed personality to London’s submerged.
The members of the Jessop family were at one time well-known personalities in the place. The late MR. GEORGE JESSOP, descended from yeoman stock typical of the soil, followed the family trade of drysalter. In earlier fife he lived in the house in Church Street which formed part of the family property. Afterwards he built the present Honley House which he occupied until his death. Mr. George Jessop was upright in character, attentive to business; and of that type of law-abiding men who have helped to keep alive the best traditions of the country. It will be seen that his name frequently occurs in this history as helping in all religious and patriotic work of an earlier day. He served as Chapel-warden at Honley Church, in 1828, and also took an active part in Sunday School work. During that period of storm and stress in the country which prevailed at the time of his early manhood, he was always ready to join the band of patriotic men who volunteered for protection of life and property in their neighbourhood. Mr. George Jessop had three sons, — George, Richard, and Thomas. His wife died December 15th, 1840, aged 38 years, and he died on March 14th, 1868, aged 72 years. MR. RICHARD JESSOP, the second son died February 5th, 1865, aged 34 years, and GEORGE, the eldest died the following year, on January 20th, 1866, aged 37 years. The death of these men in the prime of manhood, came as a great shock to the neighbourhood, especially that of MR. GEORGE JESSOP, JUNIOR, who had been more closely identified with his native place than his brother. The unaffected manner of Mr. George Jessop, Junior, had endeared him to all the dwellers in Honley where he was welcomed in hall or cottage. An alert business man, of amiable disposition, generous nature, and homely merriment; his death caused great sorrow in the place. A freehanded giver to all who appealed to him, his gifts were not bestowed as patronage, but rather as if the receiver was conferring a favour upon the giver. Mr. George Jessop, Junior, served upon the old Local Board from 1864 to 1867. A monumental tablet is placed on the wall in Honley Church to the memory of Mr. George Jessop, his wife, and two sons. Also the present pulpit has been dedicated to their memory. (See Church history).
MR. THOMAS JESSOP, the youngest son, was educated at Cheltenham College, and afterwards Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered the Army as a Cornet in the Scots Greys, and afterwards became Captain. He also held an appointment for some years at the Intelligence department of the War Office. After retiring from the Army he lived in London, though his native place had always a warm place in his heart. He was made a Magistrate for the West Riding in 1876. Captain Jessop always took an interest in many religious and educational Societies, presenting to Almondbury School an annual prize of £5 0s. 0d. for the scholars most proficient in Mathematics. He also gave an annual prize to Fartown Grammar School. Captain Jessop remained a bachelor. He died June 27th, 1913, aged 77 years, and was buried July 2nd. His remains were brought to be laid in his native earth by the side of the members of his family. Amongst his generous bequests, he left locally £5,000 0s. 0d. upon trust for the deserving poor of Honley, the interest of which is to be distributed half-yearly. Also £1,000 0s. 0d. to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Lord Wolseley, in his book of “The Story of a Soldier’s Life,” refers to Captain Jessop as “an able clever all round man, full of energy, and bright modern views; a good hard working man of business, free from prejudice, and of a most liberal turn of mind.” This description sums up the character of Captain Jessop. He was typical of the sturdy race he sprang from, yet those forcible traits were softened by a chivalrous disposition, generous spirit, and prevailing good nature. As became a good soldier, he was always a loyal comrade; and many memories of his kindly personalty will long remain in the hearts of those who had the pleasure of his friendship.
MISS SIDDON, who is half-cousin to the late Captain Jessop, is a native of Nottinghamshire. She can, however, claim to be a citizen of Honley, having come to Honley House about fifty years ago. She was elected as one of the Poor Law Guardians for Honley, in April, 1882, being the first lady Guardian sent to the Huddersfield Union. At that time, the ancient opposition to women taking part in any public duty outside the household circle, was still rooted deeply in men’s minds. They did not think that there could be added spheres of usefulness for capable women which meant not home-obligations any less, but humanity more. Miss Siddon is a born leader. When such is the case, there is always the irresistible impulse, and imperative call in any man or woman to exert their powers. When Miss Siddon was elected Guardian, a new element was thus introduced to the common work of the Union which required mental capacity, clear-headed judgment, and much self-reliance to convince male members of a woman’s capability. Since first acting as Guardian, Miss Siddon has devoted long years of incessant labour to work connected with Poor Law administration, the details of which I am unable to give. This sphere of activity, however; has not absorbed all her energies. She is always willing to take part in any schemes for social reforms or usefulness, and has served on Committees of various Societies; whilst always taking a kindly interest in homely pursuits in Honley. She is also President of the Huddersfield Branch of the National Union Society for Woman’s Suffrage. Serving for a number of years as Vice-Chairman to the Board of Guardians, she was Co-opted Chairman in April, 1913. Male members of the Board now accept, without question, the ruling and guidance of a keen-witted and judicial woman. The office of Chairmanship confers the title of J.P. to its holder, so that Honley can claim amongst its residents the first lady Magistrate in these parts. The political disabilities, however, attached to women, only make the title ornamental, and not useful. As an appreciation of her almost life-long work, Miss Siddon was presented with her portrait in oils by members of the Union; and the picture now hangs in the Board-room at the Huddersfield Union Offices.
Miss Siddon’s interest in all public affairs remains unabated. A self-contained lady of great strength of will, logical mind, and administrative ability; she has a keen sense of humour. With almost a child’s frank merriment, hearty laugh, and breezy manner, she can crack a joke with any one.
The Crosleys were an old family in Honley, having connections both by marriage and friendship with all the best yeoman families in the district. Each generation helped in all good and patriotic work of an earlier day. It will have been noted that the name frequently appears in the past history of Honley. A John Crosley was one of the Honley yeomen purchasing lands from the Stapyltons in 1569. They owned lands upon which the present Shaw’s Factory now stands, and the oldest part of the building is still named Crosley Mill. In 1661, Thomas Crosley and Sara, his wife, sold to Joseph Armytage (Armitage) “Croft, Ely Close, (Neiley), Froste Bank and Bankes.” William Crosley was witness to the will of Richard Armitage, proved April 19th, 1666. Reference is made to William Crosley in the account of Brockholes, and also in Church history. The family followed the occupation of clothiers, occupying the old house in St. Mary’s Square, one part of which is still named Crosley entry. (See old homesteads and houses). They carried on the trade both in St. Mary’s Square and in the buildings bearing their name, now known as Shaw’s Factory or Neiley Mill. Amongst inherited heirlooms of the family was a ghost. When I was a child, the many legends regarding “Owd Crosley’s ghost” were all accepted as truth. The family appears to have died out during the early part of last century, and only traditions are left of a true-hearted and generous race of men.
The Names of William and Thomas Leigh at one time were household words in Honley, though they did not originally spring from the soil. Their birthplace was at High Leigh, in Cheshire, at which village the family name was so numerous, that King Charles I., when in Chester, is reported to have said that “There were as many Leighs as fleas.” Mr. William Leigh, the writer of the graphic account in his diary, which is given at length in Chapter III., was born in 1759. Evidently his father agreed with King Charles I. that there were sufficient Leighs at High Leigh. He sent his son to Honley at the age of 15 to be bound apprentice to Jonathan Sanderson, Clothier, father to my great-grandmother. We have seen that apprentices were features of the clothing trade of that time. The indenture of apprenticeship is dated May 21st, 1774. He was followed by his brother Thomas. According to family traditions, both were exemplary apprentices, refusing to join in the brutal amusements which were then common. When their term of apprenticeship was completed, the two brothers commenced business as clothiers and afterwards as cloth-manufacturers; continuing in the trade for 36 years. Thomas lived at Town-head in the house now occupied and owned by Dr. Smailes. One of his daughters married into the family of Meltham Brooks, and was the mother of Mr. William Leigh Brook, who died of cholera, at Cologne, in 1855. Another daughter was married to the Rev. T. B. Bensted, Curate of Honley, and afterwards Rector of Lockwood for 30 years. A third daughter remained unmarried. Betty, the wife of Thomas Leigh, died on January 18th, 1814, aged 76 years; and he died March 27th, 1825. The unmarried daughter died suddenly April 24th, 1837. A monumental tablet on the East wall of Honley Church is placed to their memory.
Mr. William Leigh married a Kaye, of Royd House, Almondbury, a branch of the Kaye family, who were ancestors of the Dart mouths. Mr. William Leigh resided after marriage in the house in Church Street, opposite the Church, carrying on the cloth business in the outbuildings behind the dwelling. (Late in life he removed to Royd House, Almondbury). The house in Church Street at that time belonged to the Armitage family, and was a single residence, not having been divided and sub-divided as at present. In the description given by Mr. William Leigh, in his diary of the visit of the mob to his dwelling during the unsettled period when “Ludism” prevailed, he mentions his two daughters. Ann is particularly quoted. She married the Rev. George Hough, who was Incumbent of South Crosland for 48 years. From records in this history, it will be seen that the Leighs took an active part in the religious and public work of Honley, serving as Chapel-wardens, undertaking voluntary work in Sunday Schools, etc. The descriptive simplicity of the written records of Mr. William Leigh, given in this history, proclaim him to be a person typical of that race of God-fearing men whose daily literary food was the Bible.
THE WADDINGTON FAMILY name is only known to the present generation as owners of the old-world estate at Far End. In its present dilapidated condition, and also suffering from the many changes it has undergone; people can form no idea of this once beautiful home. Formerly the buildings were one residence surrounded by plantations, park-lands, orchards, gardens, and a fish-pond. A fine beech avenue, now part of the cricket field, led to the front entrance, before which stood the rising-steps upon an extensive green mentioned in “old landmarks.” At the back were stablings, carriage houses, and flower-covered lodge. At that time Far End was one of the secluded places of Honley, where after dark wandering demons of various characters were supposed to haunt. Now dwellings cover its park-lands, and its orchards and beech-avenue are no more. Even in its present condition, with its once pretty lodge a blot of desolation, Far End must appeal to observing eyes if its history is unknown. Even yet it is suggestive of its once old-world beauty and solidity.
THE WALKER FAMILY built Far End. They were one of the leading families in the district, following the occupation of wool merchants or wool staplers as they were then named, and took an active part in all good work. (See Church History). At a period when a black native of a foreign country would be a startling novelty in Honley, the family had a negro acting as coachman. His ebony face was such a source of terror to children, that the threat of sending for the “black man” was an effective deterrent to youthful disobedience. The last of the family who lived at Far End appears to be Mr. Robert Walker and his wife Lydia, whose daughter inherited the estate after their death. She was born in 1762, and married a Mr. John Wadding ton, afterwards going out to America with her husband, who had business interests in that country. At his death, she returned to England, settling at Liverpool until her own death, which took place in 1846, aged 84 years. She had a large family, and a marble tablet on the South wall in Honley Church is erected to her memory, and also to the memory of two of her sons and one daughter. She cherished tender memories of her early life and native place, and the connecting links were not broken until death.
MR. GEORGE WILLIAM OLDHAM is descended from a race of Cheshire yeomen. Coming to this neighbourhood nearly seventy years ago, he can however justly claim the title of a Honley citizen. Born in 1830, this fine old gentleman of 84 years, has been closely identified with all public work in Honley. The old saying that a busy person has the most leisure can be truly applied to him. During his long life of strenuous business activity, he has also found time to undertake all kinds of public service, and is still quitting himself like a man. He commenced business as a silk-dyer, which was a new trade in our neighbourhood, where the woollen industry is indigenous. The world hears little of struggles, but much of success; so that the uphill fight of surmounting the elementary stage of a new business is generally performed in obscurity. Mr. Oldham hewed his way through a world of difficulties until he earned the honest success of a brave persevering man. Without neglecting his business, he considered it his duty to take his fair share in public work, throwing the same energy and resolute purpose into their performance which he had brought to bear upon his business. Reference is previously made to the ancient Court Leet which if fallen into disuse, has not been made legally obsolete. It is of interest to note that Mr. Oldham was appointed Constable at the last Court Leet, and can still claim to be Constable of Honley. Mr. Oldham has served as Overseer for the township, and was a member of the Local Board 27 years, dating from 1870 to 1897. He was elected Chairman from 1880 to 1886, and also from 1890 to 1891. Elected one of the Guardians for Honley in April, 1882, he was returned until April, 1907, when he retired after 25 years* service in his 77th year. Whilst acting as Guardian, he was Chairman of Deanhouse Workhouse Visiting Committee six years. Mr. Oldham received a deputation in 1892 asking him to stand as a County Council Candidate. He contested the seat and was returned. In 1905, he was made a Magistrate for the West Riding; and in 1910 an Alderman by the County Council. A man of staunch Liberal principles, he has always loyally and generously supported his party, though he has never allowed political creed to influence his public actions. It will be seen in the account of the Liberal Club, that Mr. Oldham was one of its founders. He was elected President of the Club in 1893, and still remains its President.
It is not an easy task to sum up the character of an individual in a few words, but I should say that the key-note of Mr. Oldham’s life has been industry; and his motto the wise advice of Solomon, that “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” These qualities combined with a high sense of public usefulness produce a type of man of whom any community should be justly proud.
There have been other families in Honley whose names I would fain recall, but space forbids their extended memoirs. Many members of native families may have been rugged in character, yet each possessed their own striking individuality. Often mental gifts and powers of intellect had to be expended upon the toil for daily bread, or were crushed by other kinds of stern necessities. Those who failed to answer the call to vigorous action when required, or whose energy was not equal to aspirations were left behind in the race of life. There were many such silent tragedies in Honley. Others made sacrifices for principles, whilst many, filled with generous ardour for the public good, benefited others more than themselves. There were noble mothers, wives, and daughters also in Honley households, whose fidelity to their mankind obscured their own talents. I have known gifted women who were too timid or modest to give what was best in them only to that household drudgery which is the least rewarded or noticed of all human services.
Many worthy and useful men of the past have been named in this history. Amongst others whose well-known personalities I can recall were Mr. Enoch Vickerman, Steps Mill, — Joshua Beaumont and his son Alfred, Parkton Grove, — Benjamin Mellor, Newtown House, — Godfrey Drake, Moor Park, — William Wilkinson, Town Gate, — Dr. Lees, Bleak House, — Richard Haigh, Gynn, — George A. Haigh, Grove House, — William Haigh, Banks, — Timothy, Daniel, and Jonas Donkersley, Magdale, — John France, France Fold, — Thomas Armitage, Lower West House, — William Walker, Bleak House, — Joseph Whitworth, South Gate, — Henry Thackray, West-gate, — Robert Roebuck, Thirstin, — the Frances in Thirstin, — Schofield families, — Hirsts, of Town-head, — Walker families, etc. There have been members of other families who have not spared time and money in promoting the welfare of Honley, amongst whom can be named Mr. Lupton Littlewood, Mr. George William and Thomas Farrar, and Mr. Richard Mellor, once large employers of labour.
LUPTON LITTLEWOOD, Esq., of the firm of Messrs. John Littlewood & Sons, Cloth Manufacturers, was descended from an old Honley family who had followed the occupation of Clothiers. They were a race of God-fearing men, and helped in all good and religious work. It will be seen in the history of the Independent Chapel, that John Littlewood, the founder of the firm, gave the land for the site of the first Chapel. Mr. Lupton Littlewood always called a spade a spade, but he was a genuine, sincere, and upright man, typical of the rugged soil from which he sprang. A just and generous master to his workpeople, a sound Liberal in politics, yet a devoted Churchman; he was in his day one of the most useful public men in Honley. He was also a generous supporter and helper in all religious and social work of the place. During his 16 years’ service on the Local Board, he grudged neither time nor money for the good of the township. He was elected as a member of the Local Board from 1864 to 1880, and was Chairman from 1870 to 1873. Mr. Littlewood was Churchwarden in 1875-6, and his brother Richard in 1877. Mr. Lupton Littlewood was also a Manager of the National Schools, and took the most active part in looking after “bricks and mortar” when extensive additions were made to the Schools in 1882 named in School history.
MR. GEORGE WILLIAM AND THOMAS FARRAR were well-known brothers following the trade of blue dyers. Men of open-handed generosity and unfailing cheerfulness, they threw themselves heart and soul into every good work in Honley, whether religious or social. Generous employers of labour, celebrated for their fine horses as for their good dyeing, Mr. George William and Thomas Farrar were at one time two of the most popular men in Honley. Full of ardour in whatever cause their sympathies were enlisted, they were considered generous to a fault. Both brothers were robust Conservatives, and did not spare either work or money in the cause of their creed. An election time to them took the form of a crusade in which they expended much fiery vigour. They were also loyal and devoted Churchmen. Mr. George William Farrar served on the Local Board from 1864 to 1881. He was Churchwarden in 1858 to 1867, and from 1883 to 1885. Mr. Thomas Farrar also sat on the Local Board from 1884 to 1887, and was Churchwarden in 1878 to 1880. During his term of office, great improvements were carried out in Church, to which he gave incessant attention.
MR. RICHARD MELLOR was a cloth manufacturer and large employer of labour. Amidst the strenuous duties of a business life, he also gave up time to take his fair share in all public service conducive to the good of the township. He was an honest homely man, a just and reasonable master to his workpeople, and carried out conscientiously his public duties. During the time that he acted as Guardian for Honley, no person feared to approach him, and his name was a household word for kindness and consideration. Brought up amongst the stern realities of life, he thoroughly understood the position of the poor, and his name is still quoted with affection. A man of quiet discernment, and a worker rather than a talker, his services were highly valued. Mr. Richard Mellor was elected Guardian for Honley from 1875 to 1880, and served on the Local Board from 1870 to 1879.
MR. WILLIAM DAY is not a native of Honley, but being now closely identified with the place; his public services in the neighbourhood are worthy of mention. During a long fife, he has performed good work. Descended from a noted family of local cloth manufacturers, Mr. Day can be truly named one of the grand old gentlemen of Honley, being now on the way to “four score years and ten.” A solid man without cant or pretence, he has the typical directness of speech about which we pride ourselves in this part of Yorkshire. His views upon any subject are always distinguished by practical knowledge and sound sense, due to his life-long experience of public affairs, which have been many and varied. He served as Churchwarden at Moldgreen Church when residing there, and was appointed one of the Managers of Huddersfield and Agbrigg Savings’ Bank. Mr. Day has served long years as a Guardian in Huddersfield Union. Elected as Guardian for Dalton town-ship in 1878, he represented that place until 1894. During that time, he was appointed Chairman in 1885-6, and was Vice-Chairman from 1889 to 1894. He was again elected Guardian for Farnley Tyas in 1895, and remained in office until 1904. Mr. Day was elected a Town Councillor for Huddersfield in 1884, and represented his wards six years, acting as Vice-Chairman of the Gas Committee for two years. When he took up his residence in Honley, at the request of a deputation, he again continued his activities, serving upon Honley District Council from 1892-7. Director of the West Riding Bank until its amalgamation took place with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank, Mr. Day was then appointed on the Advisory Committee.
The name of Donkersley is indigenous to Honley soil. Though the name was common, the various families were not related. As previously stated, old natives of the place were frugal with regard to speech, and the name of Donkersley was generally shortened to “Donks.” To distinguish the various families, they were namedy “Donks o’th Dale,” — “Donks i’th Thirstin,” and other “Donks” who lived in certain “fowds” and “yerds.” Nearly all members of the various families were engaged in the clothing trade. The most noted were the Donkersleys of Mag-dale, who had held to that once picturesque place generation after generation. There were four well-known brothers, three of whom remained bachelors, viz:— Jonas, Timothy and Daniel. John married, and his three sons, Joseph Bedford, Fenton, and John Bentley, were once well known in the local woollen trade. The members of the family were not only great lovers of music, but possessed good voices; and had many friends amongst musical celebrities of a by-gone day. Many will remember Miss Isabella Donkersley, the daughter of the late Mr. Joseph Bedford Donkersley, of Mag-dale. She was a talented performer upon the violin, and her genius was recognised by the best musical judges in the neighbourhood. She married MR. A. J. JAEGAR, the well-known musical critic of London, and resides there. The members of the Mag-dale family of Donkersley were staunch Tories and Churchmen. During an election time, the three bachelor brothers invariably displayed as flags their blue indigo-dyed woollen aprons, which old-time manufacturers were not too proud to wear at that day. To draw a comparison between past and present treatment of youthful disobedience, Mr. Daniel Donkersley and my father when boys were bathing against parental warnings one summer’s evening in Steps Mill dam in the year 1820. The water at that time was pellucid, and though of great depth was a favourite bathing place for good swimmers. Daniel Donkersley, then a boy of 13 years, was seized with cramp, and though my father made desperate efforts to save his companion, Daniel Donkersley sunk for the last time. The water was so clear that my father dived after him, laid hold of one of his heels, and brought him to the side, where one lay insensible, and the other fainted from exhaustion. When the boys were restored to consciousness, then parental anxieties quickly changed to exasperation against youthful disobedience. In place of contemplating obtaining a medal from the Royal Humane Society for the rescuer, or joyfully killing the fatted calf for the rescued; both boys were severely thrashed, and sent supperless to bed.
The Donkersleys of Thirstin, were also all well-known clothiers, and staunch leaders of Wesleyanism in the Honley of a past day.