Yorkshire Post (15/Jan/1936) - Huddersfield and its Woollens: Remarkable Record of Family Businesses

A review of History of the Huddersfield Woollen Industry (1935) by W.B. Crump & Gertrude Ghorbal.


The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.

HUDDERSFIELD AND ITS WOOLLENS

Remarkable Record of Family Businesses

By A. N. SHIMMIN

History of the Huddersfield Woollen Industry. By W.B. Crump and Gertrude Ghorbal, pp. 132. (Tolson Memorial Museum. Price 3s. paper, 1s. 3d. limp cloth.)

Ten years ago the first M.A. degree in geography granted by the University of Leeds was awarded to Miss Gertrude Humberstone for a thesis on the woollen industry of the Huddersfield district. When Miss Humberstone married arid removed to Egypt. Mr. W.B. Crump took charge of her material and broadened the thesis into a history of the industry. This very interesting volume is the result.

Having pointed out that there is "no foundation in fact" for the old story that cloth manufacture in the West Riding originated with the settlement of Flemish weavers in the reign of Edward III, the authors fittingly suggest that the Cistercian abbeys played an important part in establishing the industry.

Fifteen Generations

Larger treatises like these of Professors Heaton, Unwin. and Lipson have told the story of wool textile developments in broad outline. The peculiar charm of this little volume is the local colour provided by the intimate references to the family businesses ot the Huddersfield area — many of which are still in existence. Thus the Brooke family (of John Brooke and Sons. Armitage Bridge) have for 15 generations and through four centuries been making cloth, and have owned or occupied a mill on the waters of the Holme.

Rugged people tolled in a rugged setting to lay the foundations of a prosperous industry. Coal measures and the millstone gnts defined the location of that industry, but we are reminded that the traveller to-day, by road or rail, "sees little of the older industrialism that lies above him on the hills."

The product of that hill top industry was the coarse "kersey," one yard wide and 18 yards long. Here Huddersfield followed the lead of Halifax, for the speciality of Leeds was "broad cloth" or "northern dozens." Until the days of the Industrial Revolution output was small (ten kerseys to eight weavers in a week), but progress was steady. For the yeoman class weaving at first was a subsidiary occupation, but in the 16th century it rapidly became the mainstay of a growing population.

The dissolution of the monasteries "had a profound effect on the woollen industry," for the prosperous clothier invested in larger landed estates and encouraged the provision of fulling mills. After 1760 the clothier's house and warehouse in an upland village were transformed into a weaving mill; the fulling mill in the valley grew into a scribbling mill and then into a spinning mill — a pointed confirmation of the apparent paradox that "the separation of weaving and spinning illustrates the historic continuity of the change from domestic manufacture to modern methods."

"Inheritance"

In the late 18th and early 19th century the woollen industry derived its inspiration from inventions in the cotton industry. But the action was provided by sturdy individualists. What we learn in the later part of this volume has been put graphically in the form of a novel by Phyllis Bentley in "Inheritance." Steam power, railways, machinery meant progress by bitter conflict, and Huddersfield had its share. But the Cloth Halls were the emblem of success, and at the Exhibition of 1851 — the concluding item in this record — the town was worthily represented. Huddersfield owes its principal industry to the qualities the authors mention — the skill, courage, pertinacity and resourcefulness of the "wild people" John Wesley met.

This study is a worthy addition to the Tolson Museum handbooks, and every reader will be grateful for the liberal supply of illustrations carefully chosen to explain points raised in the text.