Yorkshire, Past and Present (1875) - The History of the Borough of Huddersfield

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The following is a transcription of a historic book and may contain occasional small errors.

The following chapter about the Huddersfield area is reproduced from Yorkshire, Past and Present: A History and a Description of the Three Ridings of the Great County of York - volume 2, part 2 (1875) by Thomas Baines.



THE HISTORY OF THE BOROUGH OF HUDDERSFIELD.

The parliamentary and municipal borough of Huddersfield is situated on the Colne, a tributary of the river Calder, and on the western part of the great coal-field of Yorkshire. It is a large manufacturing town, with a population of upwards of 74,000 inhabitants, chiefly engaged in the woollen trade, and is a place of considerable antiquity, being mentioned under the name of Oderesfelt in Domesday Book, in A.D. 1084-86. It was supposed by the learned Camden that the site of the Roman station of Cambodunum was to be found at Almondbury, which is within the present limits of the borough of Huddersfield ; but it is now generally believed that the site of Cambodunum was not at Almondbury, but at Slack, in the western part of the parish of Huddersfield, near the point where several roads join to pass through the mountains of the Pennine chain — the Backbone of England — by lines that can still be traced. That opinion was strongly confirmed by careful researches made in the year 1865, by the members of the Huddersfield Archaeological Society, who found in and around Slack the remains of Roman baths, pavements, and inscriptions, with numerous coins. These, joined to the results of previous examinations and discoveries at the same spot, leave little doubt of the former existence of a Roman station, supposed to be Cambodunum, on the western side of this extensive parish.[1]

After the retreat of the Romans from this island the Britons of the Celtic race, and the Angles of the Teutonic race, contended for dominion in this part of Yorkshire. Some of the local names around Huddersfield, including that of the river Colne, and that of Cumberworth, evidently belong to the time when the British Cymri or Cumbers, from whom Cumberland was named, still occupied these hills ; and a recent writer has hazarded the opinion that the chief Oder or Other, from whom the name of Huddersfield or Oderesfelt is derived, was a no less distinguished person than the British chief, Uther, the father of the British king, Arthur, whose name is familiar to the readers of Milton in the lines —

"And what resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son,
Begirt with British and Armoric knights."[2]

The Angles of Northumbria, after subduing the Britons, appear to have erected a fortress, the remains of which still exist at Almondbury, the meaning of which word probably is "the All or well protected burgh or fort," as that of Godmondham, named in the same age, is the "God-protected home ;" mund being an Anglian word implying protection. The Anglo-Saxons also, probably here formed a mark, or the territory of a sept or tribe, the memory of which is preserved in the two Marsdens, or Marksdens, the one in Almondbury, the other in Huddersfield.[3] At a later period the Danes of Northumbria, whose capital was York and whose southern boundary extended beyond the Humber, penetrated through the valley of the Calder, from the eastern to the western side of England, and established themselves in the more fertile parts of the valley of the Colne, which enters the Calder three or four miles below the town of Huddersfield. Amongst the Danish names are Birkby, "the town of the birch trees," Quernby, "the town of the quern or millstone," Slathwaite, or Slaithwaite, "the clearance in the Sloe-trees," and Kirkheaton, "the church of the high town," a prefix which is seldom found in England except in places that were occupied by the Danes at or after their conversion to Christianity. It is not unlikely that the local names of Nether Thong and Upper Thong in this neighbourhood are both of them corruptions of the Danish word Thing, which was the name given by that free and warlike people to the places at which they held their military gatherings and their national assemblies.

Huddersfield, or Oderesfelt, is mentioned in Domesday Book as one of the numerous manors of Yorkshire that then belonged to the Norman earl, Ilbert de Laci, the lord of the honour of Pontefract, whose possessions extended over the greater part of the valley of the river Aire, including the sites of the towns of Leeds and Bradford, and stretched into the valley of the Calder and its tributaries at Huddersfield and Almondbury, as well as at Elland, one of the fords of the Calder, at Southowram, and at Heptonstall. The following is the brief but interesting account given of Huddersfield in Domesday Book :— "In Oderesfelt (before the Conquest), Godwin, a Saxon thane, had six carucates of land to be taxed (together equal to 1000 to 1:200 acres), being sufficient to employ eight ploughs. Now (in 1084-SG) the same (Godwin) has or holds it of Ilbert (de Laci), but it is waste. Wood pasture one mile long and one wide. In the time of King Edward (the Confessor), it was valued at 100s. a year" (equal to about £75 a year in modern money). With regard to Almondbury Domesday Book says :— "In Almaneberie, Chetel and Suuen (Ketel and Sweyn, two Danish chiefs, judging from their names), held four carucates of land to be taxed, and four ploughs might be employed there. Now Leusin holds it of Ilbert (de Laci), but it is waste. In the time of King Edward the value was £3 a year (£45 modern money). Wood pasture one mile long and one mile broad."

Huddersfield under the De Lacis.

Huddersfield appears to have remained in the hands of the De Lacis, lords of the honour of Pontefract, for nearly 300 years after the Norman conquest (though once or twice forfeited and restored) ; and the little that we know of their proceedings on this part of their great estates is favourable to them, and is consistent with a fair amount of improvement according to the notions of those times. We have already mentioned, in our accounts of Leeds and Bradford, the improvement which took place in those two towns under their rule. We have fewer particulars with regard to Huddersfield ; but it would appear that the De Lacis established burgage tenure (the freest of all then existing tenures) at Huddersfield and Almondbury, as they also did at Leeds, Bradford, Clitheroe, and several other places. Burgage tenure is expressly mentioned as existing at Huddersfield. We find also that there were mills, probably both corn and fulling mills, at Huddersfield and Almondbury at that time, and that the De Lacis made grants for the repair of those mills. With regard to the land and also to the lordship of Huddersfield, we find accounts of several grants made by them both to laymen and to the priory of Nostel, of which they were the founders and the liberal patrons. Thus we learn from the Rolls of the third year of King Richard I., 1191-92, that Roger de Laci granted free warren in the manor of Huddersfield, or the right of hunting and hawking, to the prior and the canons of Nostel. It also appears that in the first year of the reign of King John, 1199-1200, the same Roger de Laci granted to William de Bellemont or Beaumont, an ancestor of the ancient family of the Beaumonts of Whitley Hall, near Huddersfield, twelve bovates or ox-gangs of land within that manor. Roger also granted to another of his followers, Colin de Danville, no less than twenty-four bovates of land in Huddersfield, and all his lordship there, with other lands in the same neighbourhood, together with twenty shillings a year (equal to £15 of modern money), from the mill at Huddersfield, with other appurtenances in the same town. It further appears that Roger de Laci granted a portion of the rents of the mill on the river Colne at Huddersfield, to the prior and monks of Whalley, near Clitheroe. At a somewhat later time Colin de Danville, who had received, as above stated, large estates in Huddersfield from Roger de Laci, made a will, by which "for the soul of his lord, Roger de Laci, he gave to God, to the blessed St. Mary, and to the abbot and monks of Stanelaw" (another religious house founded by the De Laci family, and situated on the Cheshire side of the river Mersey), "all his part of the mill at Hudresfelt upon the river Caune" (Colne), "and 20s. annual rent," equal, as already stated, to about £15 a year of modern money.

The Vicarage of Huddersfield.

The original church of Huddersfield is supposed to have been built by one of the Lacies, the holders of the honour of Pontefract, to whom it was given by William the Conqueror when he divided the lands of the dispossessed Saxon thanes amongst his Norman followers. The living, however, seems to have been first granted to St. Oswald's Priory at Nostel by Hugh de la Val (during the temporary attainder of the Lacies) in the time of Archbishop Thurston A.D. 1114, as appears from the chartulary in the British museum. At this period the incumbent appointed by the priory enjoyed the entire profits of the living, and continued to do so until the time of Archbishop Walter Gray, when the most valuable portions of it, consisting of the tithes of hay, corn, and pulse, were awarded to the canons of Nostel Priory, leaving to the clerk only the oblations and emoluments from offerings at the altar, as appears from the following deed of ordination :— Ordination of the vicarage of Huddersfield, extr. chartulary of the priory of St. Oswald of Nostel (Brit. Mus. Cotton MSS. (Vespasian E. 19, fol. 182, et seq.) "A.D. 1216. — Walter, by the grace of God archbishop of York, primate of England, to all the faithful in Christ, greeting in the Lord. Know ye that we, on the presentation of the prior and convent of St. Oswald, have admitted Michael de Wakefield, chaplain, to the vicarage of Huddersfield, and have canonically instituted him to the said vicarage, and caused him to be inducted into corporal possession of the same, which vicar also, in respect of his vicarage, shall receive all the oblations and emoluments from offerings at the altar, reserving to the said prior and convent the tithes of corn, hay, of pease and beans, in the lands and farms belonging to the said church, save a suitable manse for the vicar to be assigned to him by the same (prior and convent) ; and the vicar himself shall sustain all customary charges and obligations of the said church : and that this may remain firm and stable for ever, we have directed that our seal shall be affixed to the present writing."

The Cotton MSS. (Vespæsian E. 19, fol. 436) contains also the following confirmation of the church of Huddersfield to Nostel Priory by Archbishop Walter Gray :—

Walter, by the grace of God, archbishop of York, primate of England, to his beloved son in Christ, the dean of Pontefract, health, grace, and benediction. Whereas, we have understood that the church of Huddersfield was granted to the sons in Christ, the prior and convent of St. Oswald, for their own use, previous to our having the government of the church of York, [and] unwilling that what was granted to them for pious uses should be in any way invalidated, we command you, as much as in you lies, that you permit them to enjoy peaceable possession of the said church ; unwilling also to be prejudicial in any way to them, because Master Robert [no name, but probably Talbot] held the church in farm of them, as appears to us by deeds which we have seen concerning this matter, perfected between them. Given at London the 17 Kalends of February, in the 27th year of our pontificate. Fare-ye-well.

The following grant of the church of Huddersfield to Robert Talbot by the prior and convent, is without seal or date. Deed of John the prior, and of the convent of St. Oswald, of the church of Huddersfield, granted to Master Robert Talbot :— "To all the faithful [servants] of Christ who shall inspect this present deed, John the prior and the convent of St. Oswald, of Nostel (wish), health in the Lord for ever. Know ye, from a regard to piety, we have granted our church of Huddersfield to our beloved clerk, Master Robert Talbot, during his life, to be held with all its appurtenances, and that he shall render to us annually eight marks (abuut £S0 of modern money) ; namely, four within fifteen days from the day of Pentecost, and four within fifteen days from the day of St. Martin in winter ; and that he shall undertake all the duties of the said church, and every year in which he shall not pay to us our rent (unless by our will he shall be excused), he shall pay to us as a fine half a mark ; and that he will be faithful to us, he hath taken an oath in our Chapter. That, however, this grant may be held good and stable for the future, we have thought it right to confirm and strengthen it by affixing our seal to the present deed." (Cotton MSS. Vespæsian E. 19, folio 43.)

Huddersfield at the Time of Pope Nicholas Valuation, 1292.

The value of the church and vicarage of Huddersfield is shown in an extract from the valuation of English livings, made in the reign of Edward I., with the sanction of Pope Nicholas IV., in the year above named. The following are amongst the principal livings in the deanery of Pontefract and the archdeaconry of York, with their value given in the money of that time, as well as in the money of the present day :—

Money in Time
of Edward I.
Equal in Money
the Present
Time to about
Church of Halifax £93 6 8 £1,500 0 0
Vicarage of the same 16 0 0
Church of Almondbury 40 0 0 600 0 0
Church of Huddersfield 9 6 8 240 0 0
Vicarage of the same 6 13 4
Church of Heton 20 0 0 300 0 0

The entry with regard to Huddersfield, viz., £9 6s. 8d. for the church, and £6 13s. 8d. for the vicarage, is mentioned in another part of this volume.

The Manor of Huddersfield.

The manor of Huddersfield remained in the hands of the De Laci family, with occasional breaks in the possession, until the time of the marriage of Alicia De Laci, the heiress of that great house, to Thomas Plantagenet,

the second carl of Lancaster, when it became part of the possessions of the house of Lancaster. In the 9th Edward II., 1315, Thomas, earl of Lancaster, was lord of Huddersfield, as well as of a multitude of other lordships and manors in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in many other parts of England. But his possession was short; for in the year 1322, the 15th-16th Edward II., the earl headed a formidable rebellion against the king, was defeated in a severe battle fought at Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, was taken prisoner, and was afterwards conducted to his own castle of Pontefract, where he- was tried, convicted of high treason, and executed as a traitor. The whole of his estates were forfeited to the crown during the life of Edward II., and though most of them were afterwards restored or re-granted to Henry, earl of Lancaster, the brother of Earl Thomas, on the accession of King Edward III., this does not appear to have been the case, at least immediately, with the manor of Huddersfield. That manor we find in the year 1333, the 6th Edward III., in possession of Sir Richard de Birton, who in that year bequeathed to his son, John de Birton, all his manor of Hodresfield, with the rents and services of his tenants, Richard de Hanley, Margery de Quernby, Adam de Hepworth, Adam de Lockwood, and Adam de Blackburne ; the witnesses of the will being Sir John de Elland, Brian de Thornhill, and John de Hemming, Kts. But in course of time the manor of Huddersfield, like most of the manors of this district, got back into the hands of the dukes of Lancaster, and ultimately into those of the crown ; and we find that on the 30th August, 1599, 41st Elizabeth, the manor of Huddersfield was sold by the crown to William Ramsden, Esq., whose descendants hold it to the present time. We learn from Mr. Joseph J. Cartwright's interesting "Chapters of Yorkshire History," recently published, that there was an inquisition as to the estates of William Ramsden, Esq., taken at Halifax on the 28th August, 1623, shortly after his death, before Thomas Lovell, Esq., the escheator of Yorkshire, and a jury, who found that William Ramsden de Longley, was seized of the manor of Saddleworth, formerly part of the priory of Kirklees ; of the manor of Huddersfield, and all houses, buildings, lands, tenements, meadows, pastures, roads, reversions, and hereditaments belonging to the same ; and of a capital messuage in the town of Almondbury called Longley Hall, &c, &c. Sir John Ramsden, Kt., is declared to be the son and heir of the above William, and to have been twenty-eight years old at the time of his father's death.

Grant of a Market to Huddersfield.

The progress of the town of Huddersfield down to the time when it passed into the hands of the Ramsden family, and for some years later, appears to have been considerably impeded by the want of a charter or prescription authorizing the holding of a weekly market there. We are told by the Rev. Mr. Watson that there was a market at Halifax, not by charter but by prescription, which, as he states, is just as good as a charter when once it is established. Attempts were also made to create a market at Elland on the river Calder, between Halifax and Huddersfield ; but although a charter was obtained there the course of the local trade of the district could not be drawn to that point, although Dr. T. D. Whitaker stoutly maintains that Elland is incomparably the best position for a market, far surpassing in that respect, not merely Huddersfield, but Halifax. This does not appear to have been the opinion of those who were engaged in the trade of the district ; and hence the markets of Halifax were well attended from very early times, and those of Huddersfield from the time when the crown authorized them to be held. It was not until after the close of the great civil war, and in the reign of Charles II., that the Ramsdens, the lords of the manor of Huddersfield, obtained the right of holding a weekly market there, which market has gradually grown up and extended until it has become one of the most important in Yorkshire. The following is the charter granted by King Charles II. in the 23rd year of his reign, 1671-72 :—

Charter of Huddersfield.

I, the King, to whom these presents shall come send greeting :—
Whereas, from a certain Inquisition taken by our command at Huddersfield, in the county of York, the 12th day of September last past, before the date of these presents, and returned in due form, and now to be found remaining upon record, it appears to us that it will not be to the damage or prejudice of us or any others if we do grant unto John Ramsden, Esq., that he and his heirs may have and hold one market in the town of Huddersfield, on Tuesday in every week for ever, for the buying and selling of all manner of goods and merchandise, and receive the tolls, profits, and advantages from thence coming and arising for him and his heirs for ever, as by the said inquisition may more fully and at large appear.
Know ye therefore that we, for divers good causes and considerations us hereunto especially moving, have given and granted, and by these presents for us, our heirs and successors, do give and grant unto the said John Ramsden, his heirs and assigns, that he and they shall have and hold one market in the town of Huddersfield aforesaid, upon Tuesday in every week for ever, for the buying and selling of all sorts of cattle, goods, and merchandise whatsoever ; and further, that the said John Ramsden, his heirs and assigns, shall and may have, take and receive to his and their own proper use and uses, all and singular the tolls and profits, and advantages, and emoluments, to such market in any wise belonging, or of right appertaining, or from thence coming and arising, and may have, hold, and enjoy the aforesaid tolls, profits, and other the premises aforesaid, unto the said John Ramsden, his heirs and assigns, to his and their own proper use and uses for ever, without anything to us, our heirs or successors, to be paid or performed. And we do by these presents finally command that the said John Ramsden, his heirs and assigns, shall freely, lawfully, and wholly have, hold, and enjoy the aforesaid market and the tolls and profits to the same belonging, or from thence from time to time coming and arising, according to the tenour and true meaning of these our letters-patent, without any molestation, hindrance, or denial of us, our heirs or successors, or of our sheriffs, bailiffs, officers, or ministers, or any other persons whatsoever.
Dated the first day of November, in the twenty-third year of our reign. (Charles II., 1671-72).

Daniel Defoe's Visit to Huddersfield.

The progress of the trade of Huddersfield was tolerably rapid during the whole of the eighteenth century, but it greatly increased after canal and river navigation had been introduced. About the year 1727 Huddersfield was visited by Daniel Defoe, on his tour through England. It was at that time a considerable town and the market of the whole of the surrounding country, even to the foot of the Lancashire hills. Defoe speaks of the trade as chiefly consisting in the woollen goods called kersies, which were produced in abundance in all the neighbouring villages, and were sold at Huddersfield. Oaten bread and oat-cakes were the favourite food of the people, and lie speaks of the ale of Huddersfield as being remarkably good. About twenty years later another celebrated man, John Wesley, visited Huddersfield, in his successful attempts to spread his opinions and doctrines ; and after encountering and overcoming great difficulties, he was very successful, and obtained a strong hold on the respect and affection of large classes of the people of this district, which his followers retain to the present day.

Introduction of River and Canal Navigation at Huddersfield.

Great as were the natural advantages of Huddersfield for manufacturing purposes, owing to the water-power furnished by its numerous streams, and the large supplies of coal obtained from the great coal-field of Yorkshire, on the western border of which it stands, it had to contend with great disadvantages up to the middle of the last century, from the want of good roads over the hills that approach it on the west, and from the want of river and canal navigation for the cheap conveyance of minerals and merchandise on the east. The river Calder is the great natural outlet from this district towards the east, and the first step towards the improvement of Huddersfield was the rendering of that river navigable from Wakefield to Halifax, about the year 1780. This established cheap water-carriage within three or four miles of the town of Huddersfield; and soon after the improvement of the Calder was completed a short canal was formed, named the Ramsden Canal, which started from the Calder at Cooper's Bridge, passed under the Blackhouse Brook and the high road from Huddersfield to Leeds, and reached Huddersfield near the King's Mills. In this manner an excellent communication was formed eastward from Huddersfield to the great trading towns of Halifax, Dewsbury, Wakefield, Leeds, and York, as well as to the port of Hull. But far greater and more costly undertakings were required, for the purpose of establishing a system of water-carriage from Huddersfield westward, through and over the mountains forming the Backbone of England, and thence to the city of Manchester and the port of Liverpool. This object was at length effected by means of the Huddersfield Canal, which joined the Ramsden Canal at the south end of the town of Huddersfield, and conveyed goods westward by way of Longwood, Slaithwaite, and Marsden, to the foot of what have been called the English Apennines. There a tunnel, nearly three miles and a half in length, was cut through the mountains to within two miles of Dobcross on the western side of the hills, through which the canal was carried to the river Tame. After following the valley of the Tame in several of its windings, the Huddersfield Canal united with the Ashton and Oldham Canal near Ashton-under-Lyne. The further navigation to Manchester was then direct, and thence communication was made to Liverpool by a line of water carriage, which was the shortest then existing between Leeds and Liverpool. The forming of the Huddersfield Canal was one of the most difficult and costly works of the last century, especially the cutting of the tunnel, about three miles in length, through the almost impenetrable rocks of the millstone grit. The labour of no less than eighteen years was required to finish this great undertaking; and its projectors, whilst they conferred a great service on the trade of the district, failed to reap any adequate return for their great expenditure. Early in the present century good roads were formed over Stand edge (one of the highest and steepest parts of the chain of hills), by means of which a rapid coach communication was kept up for several years between Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Oldham, and Manchester. But about the thirtieth year of the present century the railway system was introduced between Liverpool and Manchester, and during the next twenty years that system was extended through the deep valleys and the lofty ridges of this district ; thus connecting Huddersfield and the whole of the manufacturing district by which it is surrounded, with every part of Yorkshire and Lancashire, and ultimately with the whole of England, and with the German Ocean on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

The Manufactures of Huddersfield.

The manufactures of Huddersfield in early times consisted chiefly of kersies, and the manufactures of the town and neighbourhood are still principally woollens. Down to the middle of the last century the small manufacturers brought their goods to market, and exposed them for sale in the open square in the middle of the town. But in the year 1768 a commodious Piece Hall was erected for their accommodation, by the Sir John Ramsden, Bart., of that time, which was further improved by his son about the year 1780. "The Cloth Hall," says Mr. Charles P. Hobkirk in his Huddersfield; its History and Natural History, "is a circular brick-building, situated at the top of the street to which it gives its name. It is two stories high externally, and has an internal diametrical range one story high, which divides the interior into two semicircles. Above the door a cupola supported on pillars is placed, containing a clock and bell for the purpose of regulating the time for commencing and terminating the business of the day. The doors are opened early on the morning of the market day (Tuesday), and closed for business at half-past twelve at noon. They are again re-opened at three o'clock for the removal of cloth, &c, and also on Friday afternoon." Friday has now become, in fact, a second market-day.

Huddersfield obtained an unenviable notoriety in 1812, in connection with the Luddite insurrections. The leaders in the famous attack on Mr. Cartwright's mill at Rawfolds, Cleckheaton, were Huddersfield croppers ; and partly in revenge of their failure in that attack, these men plotted and perpetrated that murder of Mr. Horsfall, a local manufacturer, which really brought about the overthrow of their ignorant and baneful movement against machinery. For the sharp retribution which overtook both themselves and many of their confederates, in the Rawfold expedition, cowed and dissolved their bands ; many of whom, indeed, were relieved to be rid of leaders whom they had followed more in fear than in sympathy.

Progress of Huddersfield daring the Present Century.

At the commencement of the nineteenth century, at the census of 1801, the population of the town of Huddersfield did not amount to more than 7268 persons. During the next ten years, although it was a period of great distress caused by war, by high prices of food, and by the introduction of machinery, which diminished the demand for labour at first, although it has increased it enormously in later times, the population rose to 9671 persons. After the restoration of peace the progress of the town was somewhat more rapid, the population having increased to 13,284 persons in the year 1821 ; to 19,035 in 1831 ; to 25,068 in 1841 ; and to 30,880 at the middle of the present century, according to the census returns for 1851. During the next ten years the population continued to increase, and in 1861 had risen to 34,877 persons. But between the census of 1861 and that of 1871 the boundaries of the borough of Huddersfield were very considerably enlarged for parliamentary purposes ; and partly owing to the increase of the trade and prosperity of the district, and partly to this enlargement in the area of the town, the population of the parliamentary borough of Huddersfield had increased at the census of 1871 to 74,358, being about ten times as large as it was at the beginning of the century, when, as it was seen, it amounted to not more than 7268 persons.

Present Appearance of the Town of Huddersfield.

Huddersfield has always been a handsome town, having been well laid out by the Ramsden family, the sole proprietors, and having great abundance of fine building stone in the neighbourhood. It is well paved, drained, and lighted, and for a manufacturing town, remarkably clean. The new part of the town, north of the old marketplace, is laid out in wide and handsome streets. It has, moreover, many fine buildings. Amongst these are the Railway Station, which gave the first impetus to the recent improvements of the town, and caused the opening up of the new part ; the Lion Arcade, which faces the station from the lower side of St. George's Square ; the Britannia Buildings in the same square; several of the banks ; and perhaps finest of all, the lofty and extensive Ramsden Estate Buildings, in which the Huddersfield club has its location. Of late years, too, a portion of the adjoining Thornhill Estate, on the hillside north-east of the town, having become available, the prosperous men of Huddersfield have built themselves commodious and, in many cases, beautiful residences, in great variety. The entrance to the town from that side is unusually attractive. The statue of Sir Robert Peel in St. George's Square, in front of the Railway Station, deserves high rank amongst the many that have been erected to the memory of that eminent statesman.

Churches and Chapels.

In what may be called the town proper, and without including the districts which have been incorporated within the very modern municipality of Huddersfield, there are six Episcopalian churches, one Roman Catholic, and twelve Protestant Dissenters' churches and chapels. The original parish church, as we have already seen, was of great antiquity. It was dedicated to St. Peter, and according to Mr. Hobkirk it "is said to have been built by Walter de Laci in 1073, in pursuance of a vow made when his life was in danger in the morass situate between this place and Halifax. It was a very plain specimen of Norman architecture, small, and furnished with a spire." Its patronage remained in the gift of the prior of St. Oswald of Nostel until the reign of Henry VIII. During the reign of Henry VII. (1506) it was rebuilt and somewhat enlarged. In 1836 it was again rebuilt, at a cost of nearly £10,000, in the form in which it at present stands, with a tower instead of the old spire." In the annexed list of the vicars of Huddersfield will be found the name of Henry Venn, the eminent author of "The Complete Duty of Man," whom Sir James Stephen, in his celebrated essay "The Evangelical Succession," ranks along with John Newton, Thomas Scott, and Joseph Milner, as one of the four great evangelists of the Church of England in these latter days. "The church of Holy Trinity situate in Trinity Street, opposite the entrance of Greenhead Park, was erected by B. Haigh Allen, Esq., at a cost, including site and endowment, of upwards of £16,000. It was opened for public worship on Sunday, 10th October, 1819, and contains upwards of 1500 sittings, of which one-third are free. St. Paul's Church in Ramsden Street was built in 1829-30, and contains 1243 sittings. Some few years since this church was thoroughly renovated and beautified inside, and in 1865 the organ was completely rebuilt at an expense of more than £300. St. John's Church, Birkby, was built and endowed by Lady Ramsden in 1852-53, and is one of the handsomest churches in the town. Built in the ornamental Gothic style from designs by Mr. Butterworth of London, it is not, like the older ones, of a mixed character, but every part is in strict harmony. Situate almost in the country, surrounded by pasture land, and backed to the north by the Fixby Hills and Grimscar Wood, it presents from every point of view a very pleasing aspect ; a neat parsonage house has recently been built on the west side. St. Thomas' Church near Longroyd Bridge is the gift of the Starkey family, and is a very handsome building, rivalling, if not surpassing, St. John's in beauty and character of architecture, but so buried by factories and houses that it is almost impossible to obtain a good view of it from any point : the best is certainly from the canal bridge at Folly Hall." St. Andrew's Church, opened in August 1870, was built by public subscription on land of the value of £1000, given by Sir John William Ramsden, Bart. The cost of the church was a little over £5000, and it contains 550 sittings, all free and unappropriated. The adjoining school buildings cost a little more than £1600, and accommodate 250 scholars. There are good school-buildings connected with each of the other churches above mentioned.

When Instituted. Names of Vicars. Patrons. How Vacant.
Sept. 2. 1316 Robert de Ponteburgh Priory of Nostel Died
Jan. 19 1334 Robert de Apethorpe Priory of Nostel Died
May 15 1335 Robert de Sartine Priory of Nostel Died
Thomas Clippeston Priory of Nostel Died
Sept. 13 1349 William de Bolton, or William de Lath de Bolton, chaplain Priory of Nostel Died
Oct. 31 1369 Robert de L. Priory of Nostel Died
John de Wath Priory of Nostel Died
Feb. 28 1406 John de Thornton Priory of Nostel Resigned
June 5 1409 John de Byngham Priory of Nostel Died
Oct. 16 1409 John Morlay Priory of Nostel Resigned
June 5 1420 Thomas Lanwell Priory of Nostel Resigned
Oct. 28 1423 William Bentley Priory of Nostel Died
April 18 1460 Rodger Hicks Priory of Nostel Died
Jan. 22 1508 Peter Longfellowe Priory of Nostel Resigned
Feb. 8 — Phil. Brode, D.D. Priory of Nostel Died
April 5 1552 Gabriel Raynes Archbishop Deprived
Oct. 26 1554 Edward Baynes William Ramsden Died
Hugo Gledhill William Ramsden Died
June 5 1581 Robert Ramsden, A.M., archdeacon John Ramsden Died
Jan. 11 1598 Joshua Smyth William Ramsden Died
Sept. 2 1619 Edward Hill, A.M. William Ramsden Died
Henry Hyrst William Ramsden Died
May 10 1673 Richard Wilson John Ramsden Died
March 9 1673 Thomas Clarke John Ramsden Died
Thomas Heald John Ramsden Died 1734
Thomas Twissellow John Ramsden Died 1741
Charles Danbury John Ramsden Resigned 1753
Samuel Sandford John Ramsden Resigned 1759
Henry Venn John Ramsden Resigned 1772
Harcar Brook John Ramsden Died 1773
Joseph Trotter John Ramsden Died 1784
John Lowe, B.A. John Ramsden Resigned 1789
John Ramsden, LL.B. John Ramsden Resigned 1791
Dec. 10 1791 John Coates, M.A. John Ramsden Died 1823
Dec. 24 1823 James C. Franks, M.A. John Ramsden Resigned 1839
Aug. 20 1840 Josiah Bateman, M.A. John Ramsden Exchanged 1855
Oct. 10 1855 Samuel Holmes, M.A. John Ramsden Exchanged 1866
Aug. 4 1867 W. B. Calvert, M.A. John Ramsden

The vicar pays an annual pension to the parish church of Dewsbury (the mother church of this neighbourhood) of £2 13s. 6d., which also receives the following amounts from the parishes named below :—

Kirkheaton £1 3s. 4d.
Almondbury £2 6s 8d.
Kirkburton £4 0s. 0d.
Bradford 8s. 0d.
Thornhill 14s. 0d.

All the other Christian bodies have their places of public worship at Huddersfield. The Independents or Congregationalists have four ; namely, Highfield, where their first chapel was opened in 1772, and where a second was erected, on the same site but on a larger scale, in 1844, containing 1086 sittings, and built at a cost of nearly £4770. A former minister of this chapel was Dr. Samuel Boothroyd, whose translation of the Hebrew Scriptures obtained for him deserved repute. The Independent chapel in Ramsden Street contains 1400 sittings, and was built in 1825 at a cost of £6500. The first minister of this chapel, the Rev. John Eagleton, was a preacher of rare ability and eloquence, as appears from his published sermons. His sermons, on special occasions, drew crowds from many miles around. Mr. Eagleton died in 1832. The Hillhouse Congregational Church, opened on the 15th February, 1865, contains about 750 sittings, and cost £3650. The George Street Independent chapel, originally built for members of the Evangelical Union in 1856, contains about 750 sittings, and cost £3650. The Baptists have a chapel in Bath Buildings. The Unitarians have a handsome chapel in Fitzwilliam Street, built in 1854 in the Gothic style, at a cost of about £3000. The Roman Catholic chapel in New North Road, built by subscription in 1832 at a cost of £2000, is a neat and commodious building, dedicated to St. Patrick. The Wesleyan Methodists have a chapel in Queen Street, which is one of the largest in the kingdom. It replaced an old one, was built in 1819 at a cost of £15,000, and has accommodation for about 2000 persons. The other Wesleyan chapel, in Buxton Road, was built in the year 1775, but rebuilt in 1837 at a cost of £10,000, and contains about 1400 sittings. The New Connection Methodists have a superb Gothic chapel in High Street, rebuilt in the year 1867, which has cost nearly £10,000, and affords accommodation for 1500 persons. Brunswick Street chapel, in the New North Road, was built by the Free Wesleyans in 1859 at a cost of £7500, and has 1400 sittings. They are also just finishing a new and beautiful chapel at Hillhouse. The Primitive Methodists have one large chapel in Northumberland Street, and a small one in South Street. There are Sunday schools connected with all the above chapels, and some of them have separate buildings, both large and handsome, as Queen Street, High Street, and Highfield, whilst Ramsden Street chapel has turned the old court house into a series of class-rooms.

Literary Scientific and Educational Institutions.

Huddersfield is well supplied with literary and scientific institutions. The hall of the Mechanics' Institution, a large and commodious building situate in Northumberland Street, was erected in 1860 at a cost of about £4000, the previous building having become too small. This institution was founded in 1840, mainly through the zeal of Mr. Frederic Schwann, who, not succeeding in his first efforts to obtain co-operation, conducted evening classes for young men in his own warehouse for many months. It has long been known as one of the best, in England, of the valuable class of institutions to which it belongs. Its work is more decidedly and methodically educational than that of most mechanics' institutes; having in the year 1873 671 pupils in its classes, and a large staff of paid and unpaid teachers. The total number of members was 1459. It has a library of more than 5000 volumes. The building contains a lecture hall, a reading-room, library, class-rooms, and a penny bank ; the latter is in a very flourishing condition, the deposits having in 1873 amounted to nearly £2700, and the depositors to upwards of 7000 persons. The Huddersfield Subscription Library is of many years' standing, and well supplied with books. The Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society, formed in 1857, has for its object the study of the higher branches of science, literature, and art. During the winter months meetings are held every fortnight, at which papers on various subjects are read and discussed ; and in the summer months excursions are taken by the members to different parts of the neighbourhood for the practical study of natural history. There is in connection with this society a small museum, containing a good collection of specimens, geological, mineralogical, entomological, and conchological, and a small herbarium ; there is also a standard library of reference. The Huddersfield Naturalist Society was formed in 1848 under the patronage of the earl of Dartmouth, one of the great landowners of the neighbourhood. The Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association was established in 1863 for the purpose of examining, preserving, and illustrating the history, architecture, manners, customs, arts, and traditions of our ancestors, with a view of compiling a history of the southwestern portion of the county of York. It has since extended the field of its operations to the whole of this great county. The Huddersfield College was founded in 1838, on the initiative of the late Mr. William Willans, and at midsummer of the year 1874 had 226 pupils. It is affiliated to the London University, and has done good service not only to the town, but to the county. The Girls' College, recently established, is also a flourishing institution. Both are on the undenominational principle. The Collegiate School was founded shortly after the college, and is connected with the Established Church. The Huddersfield School Board has taken the working of the new Education Act zealously in hand, and its first school-building, now erected, is worthy of the character of the town. The first chairman of the board was Mr. Wright Mellor, and the second is Mr. C. H. Jones. Amongst other institutions at Huddersfield are an athletic club and a riding school, now used as the armoury of the 12th West Riding volunteers. The Huddersfield Infirmary, which grew out of a dispensary founded in 1814, was built in 1829-31. It is a handsome building, with Grecian front, beautifully situated in its own grounds. A wing was added to it in 1861, and in May of the present year (1874) a second wing was opened by Sir J. W. Ramsden, Bart., whose family and himself have been generous contributors to the funds of the charity. On this occasion there were present Dr. Turnbull, who has been one of the physicians to the institution since 1817, and Mr. J. C. Laycock, who has been honorary secretary since 1821 ; both gentlemen took an active part in the proceedings of the day. In 1869 the benefits of the infirmary were extended "by the invaluable accession to its resources, of the availability and use of the Meltham Mills Convalescent Home for its recovering patients" — a home built and munificently endowed by the late Mr. Charles Brook. The present capacity of the infirmary is 120 beds. Huddersfield also possesses a model lodging-house, with ample and well-kept accommodation.

The Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce.

This most useful institution, which was founded in the year 1853, has done much to advance the trading and commercial interests of this town and neighbourhood, and also to promote sound commercial principles. The reading-room connected with it is supplied with all the best daily papers, both metropolitan and provincial, and telegraphic despatches are there received from London several times in the day.

Banks.

Huddersfield is well supplied with banking facilities. Besides flourishing branches of several of the leading Yorkshire banking companies, it has its own local association — the Huddersfield Banking Company — which has from the first been conducted with combined prudence and enterprise. Its present manager, Mr. Charles W. Sikes, deserves to be known as having been the originator of the Post Office Savings Banks, having in 1859 taken the first steps towards their establishment by bringing his proposals before Sir Rowland Hill, then postmaster-general, and Mr. Gladstone, chancellor of the Exchequer, to both of whom he was introduced by Mr. Edward Baines, then member of Parliament for Leeds.

Representation of Huddersfield in Parliament.

Since the Reform Act of 1832, Huddersfield has returned one member to the House of Commons, and still only returns one, although the present population of the parliamentary borough is upwards of 74,000 persons. The following is a list of the members returned to Parliament by the borough of Huddersfield since the franchise was conferred upon it :—

1832 — Captain Fenton
1834 — J. Blackburne, Barrister-at-Law
1835 — J. Blackburne, Barrister-at-Law
1837 — Edward Ellice, junior
1841 — Edward Ellice, junior
1847 — Edward Ellice, junior
1852 — W. R. C. Stansfield
1852 — Lord Goderich (now marquis of Ripon)
1857 — Edward Akroyd
1859 — E. A. Leatham
1865 — T. P. Crosland
1868 — E. A. Leatham
1876 — E. A. Leatham

Municipal Government of Huddersfield.

Huddersfield has a commission of the peace, and since the year 1868 has been a municipal borough. It is divided into wards, of which the following are the names :— Almondbury and Newsome, Bradley, Central, Dalton, Deighton, East, Fartown, Lindley, Lockwood, Marsh, Moldgreen, North, South, and West. In 1871 the municipal borough of Huddersfield contained 14,738 inhabited houses, 661 uninhabited, and 187 building. The population was 70,253.[4] The first mayor was Mr. Charles Henry Jones. He was elected in September, 1868, and was re-elected successively in November of the same year, in 1869 and in 1870. His successor, in 1871, was Mr. Wright Mellor, and he also was re-elected in 1872. Mr. James Brooke succeeded in 1873.

Population and Occupations of the Inhabitants of Huddersfield at the Census of 1871.

It appears from the Census returns of 1871, that in the year 1861 the number of houses in Huddersfield was 6955, and the population 34,877. As already stated, the limits of the borough were greatly extended by the Reform Act of 1868, which included within the parliamentary borough 15,610 houses, and a population of 74,358 persons, dwelling on an area of 10,498 statute acres. The increase between 1861 and 1871, partly owing to the extension of the limits, and partly owing to the rapid growth of the population, was 39,481 persons. The occupations of the people of Huddersfield show very clearly what are the great sources of its wealth and industry. Amongst the male population above twenty-one years of age, the number of persons employed in all capacities in the wool and cloth manufacture was 4590 ; the number of wool and woollen dyers was 143 ; the number of cloth merchants and dealers was 180 ; the number of woolstaplers was 18, and of fullers, 18. The number of males above twenty years of age engaged in the worsted manufacture was 67 ; of blanket manufacturers, 1 ; of carpet and rug manufacturers, 30 ; of silk and satin manufacturers, 74 ; of silk dyers, 7 ; of silk merchants, 2 ; of flax and linen manufacturers, 3 ; of cotton manufacturers, 488 ; of calico and cotton dyers, 38 ; and of weavers not otherwise described, 182. But the number of females above twenty years of age engaged in these manufactures was also very large, independent of children. The number of females above twenty years of age employed in the wool and cloth manufacture was 2368 ; in the worsted manufacture, 25 ; in the silk and satin manufacture, 42 ; and in the cotton manufacture, 577. The number of persons engaged in minerals, or in works connected with them, was — coal merchants and dealers, 68 ; gas-work service, 57 ; stone quarriers, 107 ; stone merchants, 40 ; labourers in clay, 18 ; brickmakers, 95 ; and railway labourers, 119. The number of iron manufacturers was 291 ; tinplate workers, 50 ; brass manufacturers, 29 ; whitesmiths, 66 ; and blacksmiths, 155. The local occupations of Huddersfield are better shown from table 108, vol. iv., in the Census of 1871 than from the above numbers, which are taken from the same work :— Engine and machine makers, 334 ; spindle makers, 141 ; wool and cloth manufacturers, 11,292 (males), 6005 (females), all above twenty years of age, independent of children ; wool and woollen dyers, 332 ; worsted manufacturers, 232 (males), 84 (females) ; silk manufacturers, 108 (males), 148 (females) ; cotton manufacturers, 938 (males), 1223 (females) ; coal miners, 569 ; stone quarriers, 627 ; iron manufacturers, 404."[5]

Antiquities and Objects of Interest in the Neighbourhood of Huddersfield.

We have already mentioned that the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association, founded in the year 1863, had in the year 1865 made careful examinations, with very successful results, at Slack, the supposed site of the Roman station of Cambodunum, on the western side of the parish of Huddersfield, at and near to which place numerous Roman remains have been discovered during the last 130 years. The result of these examinations was to confirm the opinion that a Roman station had existed at that spot. So long ago as the year 1736 a Roman altar was discovered at Slack, with respect to which the Rev. Mr. Watson, the historian of Halifax, writing in 1775, observed :—

When I was examining the course of the Roman way in 1757, I chanced to see this altar standing in a farmer's yard, and desiring to be shown where it was found, was conducted to that part of the station where not only three stone walls centre, but also three lordships. Having had this curiosity for some years in my own possession, I presented it at last to the Rev. Mr. Whitaker, who in his History of Manchester, has given the public an engraving of this and another stone found here, which I also gave him, with the word OPUS upon it. The reading on the altar I take to be "Fortunæ Sacrum. Caius Antonius Modestus, Centurio Legionis Sextæ Victricis, Posuit et Votum Solvit", that is, "Sacred to Fortuna (the goddess), Caius Antonius Modestus, Centurion of the sixth Roman Legion, placed in fulfilment of a vow." It was discovered, in 1736, amongst the ruins of a building manifestly composed of Roman bricks, many of which are yet to be seen in the common fence walls there. I measured one [brick] which was seven inches and a half square, and three inches thick, but was informed that bricks had been dug up there twenty-two inches square. One room in this building, according to the report of some workmen who destroyed it, was four yards long and about two and a half broad, but betwixt three and four yards below the surface of the ground paved nearly a yard thick with lime and bricks brayed (beaten) together extremely hard. In one corner of this room was a drain about five inches square, into which as much water was conveyed as would have turned an overfall mill, yet no vent could be discovered.

A few years ago the Rev. J. K. Walker, of Dean Head in Slack, discovered the undoubted remains of a Roman hypocaust, formed for the purpose of heating a set of Roman baths at the same spot. The remains discovered by him consisted of a large mass of Roman cement ; of seven tiers of pilasters, of which there were seven in each tier ; of the roof of a furnace, composed of square stones, above which was a layer of Roman bricks of handsome appearance, each twenty-one inches square, and a series of closely-cemented flues that nearly surrounded this quadrangular structure, some of which being scored very regularly gave it such an air of neatness and symmetry that it was compared by the bystanders to the front of an organ. This hypocaust has been carefully preserved, and now stands on the grounds of Greenhead, under an arch composed of tiles, stones, &c, found at Slack, over which ivy has grown, giving to the whole a venerable appearance.[6] Under the direction of the committee of the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Society further researches were made in October, 1865, and on the 22nd October of that year the whole of the foundations of a large building were uncovered, the external walls of which were about sixty-eight feet long by fifty-six feet wide, two feet in thickness, and laid upon a course three feet six inches in breath, and including several cross walls evidently the basement of separate rooms. In. the month of November of the same year another floor, twenty-four feet by twenty feet, resting upon pillars, was also discovered ; and on the 28th November the floor of a bath was found in a corner of No. 2 hypocaust, about fifteen feet by eight feet in size. Altogether the number of hypocausts discovered was five, from which it is concluded that this building was the "public baths" of the station, with separate accommodations for the officers and the common soldiers. In 1866 a sepulchre of very interesting character was found in the same neighbourhood, and in addition to these buildings a considerable number of coins were found, chiefly of the reigns of Vespasian (A.D. 70-9) and Nerva (A.D. 96-8). On one of the coins of Vespasian is a palm tree, with the inscription, "Judæa Capta," to celebrate the capture of Jerusalem a few years before.

It may be well to mention that Cambodunum, besides commanding one of the most important military passes, and much the longest and most important Roman road in Britain, stood within a short distance of the line at which the outposts of the sixth Roman legion, whose headquarters were at Eboracum or York, met the outposts of the twentieth Roman legion, whose head-quarters were at Deva or Chester. Nearly the whole of the Roman works found on what we call the Yorkshire side of the Pennine chain or Backbone of England, were constructed by the officers and soldiers of the sixth victorious legion, whilst nearly all the works constructed on what we now call the Lancashire and Cheshire side of that range, were constructed by the soldiers of the twentieth victorious legion. At Mancunium or Manchester there are remains of both legions.

The erecting a temple to the imaginary goddess named Fortuna, or Fortune, is very characteristic of the age when the worship of Jupiter and the other gods and goddesses of the Greek and Homan Pantheon was rapidly dying out, and when the belief in Christianity was not generally diffused throughout the empire. At that time Fortune, whom they described as a goddess, was alone worshipped. As Pliny says, "throughout the whole world, in all places, at all times, and by the voices of all, Fortune alone is invoked." It is not without interest that an officer of this legion should have erected an altar to Fortune on the wildest parts of the moors of Britain, at the time when this imaginary goddess was worshipped by emperors and their flatterers. Some years before the date of the inscription at Camboclunum, one of the greatest of Latin poets (Horace), addressed an ode to the goddess Fortune, who had a splendid temple at Antium on the shores of the Mediterranean, praying her to preserve Caesar, that is, Augustus, who was then proposing to proceed to Britain, though he never succeeded in effecting that somewhat dangerous expedition. But in anticipation of one of his expeditions to Britain, Horace wrote as follows :—

O Diva, gratum quæ regis Antium,
Pæsens vel imo tollere de gradu
Mortale corpus, vel superbos
Vertere funeribus triumphos :
Serves iturum Cæsarem in ultimos
Orbis Britannos, et juvenum recens
Examen, Eois timendum
Partibus, Oceanoque Rubro :

That is, "O goddess, who presidest over beautiful Antium ; thou that art able to exalt mortal men from the most abject state, or to convert superb triumphs into funerals ! … Preserve thou Csesar, about to undertake an expedition against the Britons, the most distant people in the world, and also (preserve) the new levy of (Roman) youths, to be dreaded by the eastern regions, and (on the shores of) the Bed Sea" — the two most distant points over which the Roman emperors claimed dominion at that time.[7]

Kirkburton Church, Woodsome Hall, Almondbury Church, and Whitley Hall.

At the meeting of the British Archaeological Association, held at Sheffield in September, 1873, the members, under the able guidance of Mr. Fairless Barber, visited a number of the interesting objects of antiquity still remaining in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield.

Kirkburton Church was first visited, Mr. Fairless Barber explaining its history. Fragments of a Saxon crucifix, which were found in the chancel wall during the recent restoration, were examined ; as was also the hagioscope, through which lepers or infected persons could witness from the outside the elevation of the Host. The church records show that a dispute between two parishioners as to the respective places of kneeling, was settled in 1490 by Kirkgrave de Grey. Mr. Birch, palaeographer to the association, recommended additional care in the keeping the register, dating from Henry VIII. At Woodsome Hall, Lord Dartmouth conducted the party over that oil-fashioned and interesting building, portions of which appear to belong to the sixteenth century. After inspecting Almondbury Church, Castle Hill, with its prehistoric earthworks, was ascended, affording a magnificent view of distant hills and vales. Proceeding to Armitage Bridge, the party were handsomely entertained by Colonel Brooke, who exhibited a fine collection of Roman remains from Slack, as well as some rare illuminated manuscripts and copies of the first four editions of Shakspeare. Mr. Charles Hobkirk mentions the following facts respecting Almondbury and Elland in his "History of Huddersfield" :— In the desperate civil wars between King Stephen and the Empress Maude, the daughter of King Henry I., Stephen is said to have built, or possibly to have repaired, a castle at Almondbury (on Castle Hill, as it is still called), which was afterwards again confirmed to Henry de Laci, the lord of the manor. In the reign of King Edward I., in the year 1272, the king granted to Henry de Laci the right to hold a market at Almondbury on Monday in every week. But the attempt to establish a market at Almondbury, at least on an extensive scale, seems to have failed, just as the attempt to establish a market at Elland failed, although a royal charter was granted for the latter object in the 10th year of Edward II., A.D. 1317.

Whitley Hall, or Whitley Beaumont, the ancient seat of the Whitleys of Beaumont, was also visited. As we have already mentioned, these estates were granted to William de Bellemonte by Johannes de Laci, in the time of the early Plantagenet kings of England. It is one of the finest residences existing in this part of Yorkshire, and possesses many beautiful ornaments and interesting associations.

Kirklees, the Burial Place of Robin Hood.

Kirklees, the ancient seat of the family of the Armitages, also possesses interest as the site of an ancient camp supposed to have been formed by the Romans, of the only monastic house in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield, and as the place where the famous outlaw, Robin Hood, is said to have died and to have been buried. In the present age it derives an additional interest from the charming descriptions given by Charlotte Bronte, in her delightful Yorkshire story of "Shirley," the scene of which is laid in this neighbourhood. The camp at Kirklees was described by Dr. Richardson in a letter to the well known Oxford antiquary, Thomas Hearne, as "a camp of a square form, containing two or three acres of ground, secured by a bank of earth and a ditch which has given name to the ground, being called Castle Field, though there was never any building on it." The Rev. Mr. Watson says, "I am clearly of opinion that this was an ancient military station, but cannot learn that any Roman way went near it, so that it might not belong to that people."

The fact of the early existence of the priory, however, admits of no doubt ; and it is the only ruin of antiquity, in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield, of this class. It was founded by Regner le Fleming in the year 1155, 2nd Henry II., was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. James, and was inhabited by an order of Benedictine nuns. The foundation was confirmed by William, earl of Warren, and also the possession of a donation made by Regner, the son of William Flandrensis, or the Fleming. There is here in the park a tombstone and an inscription, on what is supposed to have been the burial-place of that famous outlaw, Robin Hood. The inscription is not now regarded as authentic, and recent researches throw even greater doubt than before existed on the date, 1247, and on the assumption that Robin Hood ever was or claimed to be, Robert, earl of Huntingdon. But there is little reason to doubt that Robin Hood died and was buried at the priory of Kirklees.


Footnotes

  1. Huddersfield, its History and Natural History. A descriptive, historical, geological, botanical, and zoological sketch of the town and neighbourhood, by Charles P. Hobkirk. Huddersfield: George Tindall, Minerva Press, New Street. London : Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., Paternoster Row, 1868.
  2. Milton's Paradise Lost, Book i.
  3. Census, 1871. Index, p. 685.
  4. Census Returns, 1871, p 13.
  5. Census of England and Wales, 1871, vol. iv. pp. 116-122.
  6. Hubkirk's Huddersfield, p. 17.
  7. Q. Horatii Flacci Carminum Liber, vol. i. p. 35, Ad Fortunam.

Yorkshire, Past and Present (1875) - The History of the Borough of Huddersfield

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