YORKSHIRE PAST AND PRESENT.
THE HISTORY OF THE BOROUGH OF DEWSBURY.
DESCENDING the river Calder, we next come to Dewsbury, a large and rapidly increasing town on the banks of that river, and standing also on one of the richest parts of the Yorkshire coal-field. It is a place of very great antiquity, which has increased rapidly during the present century in population and wealth, has risen to the rank of a parliamentary and municipal borough, and is now accounted one of the six great manufacturing towns of the woollen district of Yorkshire.
The history of Dewsbury is supposed to date from the seventh century, when Paulinus, the apostle and bishop of the Northumbrians, introduced Christianity into this part of England. When Camden visited Yorkshire in the time of Queen Elizabeth, Dewsbury was chiefly remarkable for the extent of its parish, for its church, and for an ancient Anglian cross, which bore an inscription stating that Paulinus had preached and ministered there. This tradition is in no respect improbable, for we know, from the Venerable Bede's history of the English church and nation, that Paulinus visited many parts of the kingdom of Northumbria, of which this was then a portion, and that he baptized numbers of his Anglian converts in the rivers of that district. The river Swale in the North Riding of Yorkshire, below the old Roman station at Catterick Bridge, but near to Topcliffe, is mentioned as one of those rivers; and there is no improbability, at least, in the tradition of his having done, on the banks of the Calder, what we are expressly informed that he did on the banks of the Swale. In connection with this tradition respecting Paulinus, we are disposed to attach some importance to the first part of the name of Dewsbury, which seems either to mean the Hill of God from Duw (God) and burg (a hill), in the language of the Christian Britons, or the Hill of Tui or Tuisco, that particular god who was most venerated amongst the German tribes, and from whom our name of Tuesday is derived. Tacitus, in his account of the Germans, says, "In their songs, their only mode of remembering and recording the past, they celebrated an earth- born god, Tuisco, and his son Mannus, as the origin and founders of their race." The missionaries of the age of Paulinus willingly adopted the Anglian names, places, and seasons of worship, in spreading the doctrines of Christianity. Thus the name of Easter is derived from one of the Anglian months of spring, which was honoured in their religion before it became the great feast of the Christian world; and for ages the name of the Anglian festival or season of Yule has been preserved as one of the names of Christmas. In the same age we find that Godmundham (the God- protected home), in the East Riding of Yorkshire, was made the site of a Christian church, after having previously been that of an Anglian temple, and perhaps after having also been the site of a British temple in a still earlier age, and that the name of Almondbury (the all-protected hill), which may also have had a religious origin, was supposed to be connected with the name of St. Alban, the first British martyr. Daw- green, Dewsbury, is probably named from the old British word Duw, which, as nearly as possible, resembles the French word Dieu (God) in form and meaning.
There is thus no doubt that Dewsbury is a place of great antiquity. Early in the present century, about the year 1819, an old iron spear in good preservation, supposed to be of Roman, or of very ancient workmanship, was found in making an excavation on the estate of Mr. Halliley, of Dewsbury; and in the year 1821 Mr. Carrett of that place, in digging foundations for new buildings near the parish church, found inclosed in a small building of stone about five feet square, covered with a strong arch of stone, three feet below the surface, an ancient drinking vessel of small size, supposed also to be of Roman workmanship. At the same time was found an old well about eight yards deep, walled round with stone and filled up with rubble stones. In 1766-67, the walls of Dewsbury church gave way, and it became necessary to pull them down to some extent, though as much of the inside of the church as could be preserved was carefully sustained. This partial demolition of the ancient church brought to light, not indeed the original cross of Paulinus, but some remains probably of equal antiquity, which were deposited carefully in the garden of the vicarage house. Amongst the most interesting of these was part of a Saxon tomb. They are now to be seen in the parish church. The greater portion of the borough is included in the rectory manor of Dewsbury, "to which a court baron is attached; all the manor court rolls from the time of Queen Elizabeth, who was lady thereof, which are fairly written on parchment, up to the present time, are now in the possession of Charles Henry Marriott of Dewsbury, who is the present lord thereof."
Early Lords of Dewsbury.- The manor of Dewsbury was part of the great lordship of Wakefield, which extended over nearly the whole of the valley of the Calder, at the time when the Domesday Survey was made. Previous to the Norman conquest it had been a portion of the possessions of Edward the Confessor, from whom it passed, after the Conquest, into the hands of William the Conqueror. It was subsequently granted to the earls of Warren, who were among the most powerful lords of this district, in whose hands it remained for several ages. There was a church there, and a considerable amount of arable land, amounting to several hundred acres in modern measurement, at the time of the Domesday Survey. The church had no doubt existed from very early times, and has since then been frequently renewed.
The Thornhills and the Saviles.- In the year 1236, Thornhill, near Dewsbury, was in possession of Sir John Thornhill, Kt., of Thornhill Hall; and in the year 1370-71, Elizabeth, heiress of Simon de Thornhill, married Henry Savile and took the estates into that celebrated family. The Saviles in various branches have produced many able men, and have risen to great honours in the state, some of which they still retain. We have spoken of the Saviles, marquises of Halifax and barons of Elland, in our history of Halifax; and, in our history of Leeds, of Viscount Savile of Howley, who assisted in obtaining the first municipal charter for that borough, and whose descendants became earls of Sussex. Sir Henry Savile, who lived in the reign of Henry VII., was the father of Sir Robert Savile, the ancestor of the Saviles of Howley. Sir John Savile of Howley, whom we have mentioned, held a most prominent position in the county of York, which he represented in several successive parliaments in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. He claimed to be the great patron of the woollen manufacturers of that day, and his stately house at Howley Hall, Dewsbury, which was erected in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was completed about the year 1590, was said to have been built, amongst other reasons connected with his large estates, in order to uphold the influence of the Savile family among the small manufacturers, many of whom had votes for the county. In the year 1614, Sir John Savile, being at that time one of the members for Yorkshire, took a very conspicuous part in a debate in the House of Commons about a new patent for dyeing and dressing woollen cloth, or in other words about a new monopoly, intended to regulate the trade by turning a portion of the profits into the hands of the patentees, who were people of great influence about court. "He told his hearers that some thousands of pounds' worth of cloth remained upon the hands of the manufacturers in his county, the buyers (of cloth under the new law) being so few; that 13,000 men were occupied xvith this kind of work (the woollen manufacture) within ten miles of his house, 2000 of whom were freeholders, and the value of whose respective stocks varied between £5 and £20 of money. There were also 800 house-holders, makers of cottons (which, however, was only another name for a particular kind of woollen goods resembling fustians), who were not worth 30s. each." In conclusion he told the house that "he thought the state of the country could not endure a month longer;" and there can be no doubt that the frequent granting of patents, which were in general nothing better than monopolies, was one cause of the extreme unpopularity of the court in the time of James I. and Charles I.
It was chiefly by the assistance of the clothiers of the West Riding thatir John Savile, as he then was, was raised to the position of one of the representatives of the county of York; but the latter part of his career was unfortunate, for he came into direct collision with a still more celebrated Yorkshire politician, viz., Sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards the great earl of Strafford, who also commenced his career as one of the members for the county of York, and whose extraordinary talents and determination enabled him to crush all who came in his way, in the early part of his most successful, though ultimately most unfortunate, career. In the great Civil War the son and successor of Viscount Savile took the part of the king, and his mansion at Howley Hall was fortified and held as a royal garrison, until the great success of the Fairfaxes, and of the parliamentary party of the West Riding, rendered further resistance useless. Even after the Civil War, Howley Hall was considered one of the finest mansions in Yorkshire, although it has long since been reduced to ruin, and almost entirely destroyed. Ralph Thoresby, who visited both Dewsbury and Howley Hall in the latter part of the seventeenth century, speaks with admiration of the magnificence of the hall, but states that he could not find any remains of Paulinus, either at the town or the church of Dewsbury. That might well be so after a lapse of a thousand years; but from the authority of Camden there can be no doubt that the visit of Paulinus to this part of the vale of Calder was long authenticated, both by a cross and an inscription. We know from the Venerable Bede that the labours of Paulinus extended northward from the city of York to the borders of Scotland, and southward to Lincoln and Lindsey, and there is no reason to doubt that they extended westward, at least to the valley of the Calder. For many ages nearly all the parishes around Dewsbury paid a slight tribute to the parish church there, which can only be accounted for on the supposition that church possessed a certain superiority in very early times. No other mode of accounting for those payments has ever been suggested.
Amongst the greatest and noblest members of the house of Savile, was Sir George Savile, Bart., the friend of Edmund Burke, of the marquis of Rockingham, and of the most distinguished public men of the eighteenth century, who died in the year 1784, and was interred, amidst the sincere and well-merited respect and affection of the people of Yorkshire of all classes, in that great Yorkshire mausoleum, the minster at York, where an inscription which still remains does nothing more than justice to his memory. He died unmarried; and by a will made in the year 1743 his estates were devised to the second son of his sister Barbara, wife to Richard Lumley Sanderson, the representative of the ancient family of Lumley, who became earl of Scarborough, and from whom they have come down to the present possessor. "Between Thornhill-lees and Dewsbury, going by the right bank of the river Calder, stands the newly-built Savile Town, having many new mills and other buildings, and connected with the rest of the town by a bridge built in 1862. To encourage the erection of solid and substantial buildings, the land was conveyed, by trustees of the late earl of Scarborough, on leases for 999 years for buildings not costing less than £500 each, and for 99 years in cases of smaller buildings."
Rapid Rise of the Modern Town of Dewsbury.- Dewsbury always had considerable advantage, from its position on the river Calder at the point at which that river approaches nearest to the river Aire, and on the shortest line of road between the towns of Manchester, Huddersfield, and Leeds. Even before the Calder was made navigable as high up the river as Dewsbury, there was a considerable intercourse through that place between Leeds and Huddersfield, which was then carried on over the hills that separate the valleys of the Aire and the Calder, chiefly on the backs of pack-horses. An account of this traffic is found in Mr. Scatcherd's "History of Morley," that being one of the places through which the trade was carried on. Speaking of packhorses or, as he calls them, "bell-horses," he says:-"I have a faint recollection of their passing through Morley twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. As I am told, they were called pack-horses from carrying large packs of cloth, &c., on their backs. When I saw the bell-horses at Morley, passing on to Dewsbury and Thornhill, the first horse only wore a bell. The roads were then narrow and rugged, with deep ruts, and the causeways generally were single and uneven. The bell-horses always kept this footpath, and forced therefrom travellers of every description, so that on dark nights, and especially in the winter time, the bell of the proud leader was a most useful appendage. These roadsters ceased to travel, some time, as I fancy, about 1794, but I cannot ascertain the precise date."
Commencement of Water-carriage at Dewsbury.- Near the end of the last century a still further impulse was given to the prosperity of Dewsbury by the opening of the navigation of the river Calder, both upwards and downwards, through Dewsbury, to Halifax, Huddersfield, and Wakefield. This was still further increased by the forming of the Ramsden and the Huddersfield canals, which completed the line of internal navigation from Dewsbury to Manchester, and rendered that the shortest line for conveying merchandise between Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool. But instead of pack-horses being then used between Leeds and Dewsbury, light spring vans were introduced, by which the goods sold in the Leeds markets were forwarded to Dewsbury the same evening, where they were put on board the canal and river boats, and were sent on to Manchester, so as to reach that place in sixty hours from Leeds, which was then considered a remarkably short time for the conveyance of heavy goods a distance of forty or fifty miles.
Already, at the beginning of the present century, a number of woollen factories had been erected on this rich portion of the Yorkshire coal-field, which were drawing together and employing artizans and mechanics from the neighbouring villages and from more distant places. Describing Dewsbury as it was about the year 1823, as we well remember it, a very competent authority says:-"This town" (Dewsbury) "stands at the foot of a hill, near the river Calder, and is a place of great antiquity. For some years it has been again rising into consequence. It can now boast many extensive manufacturing establishments for blankets, woollen cloths, and carpets; and the population, as well as the wealth of the town, is rapidly on the increase. Three new churches are about to be erected in this parish" (1823) "under the Million Act" (passed for erecting churches, at the close of the great French war), "the sites of which are to be at Earls-Heaton, Hanging- Heaton, and Dewsbury Moor. Besides the Established church, there are two Methodist chapels and one Calvinistic dissenters' chapel; there are likewise two free schools for boys and girls, and one school where the national system of education prevails. This place is admirably situated for its inland navigation, which extends along the whole of the navigable part of the river Calder, and affords a canal communication to Huddersfield, from which place goods are forwarded to Manchester and to the western sea with great despatch and regularity. Within the last few years a fine spacious new road has been cut at great expense, by a number of public-spirited inhabitants, from Dewsbury to Leeds, and hopes are entertained that one of the mails, which already runs between Leeds and Huddersfield, will speedily pass on this route from Hull to Liverpool."*
These hopes of seeing the royal mail pass through Dewsbury were very soon after fulfilled, and down to the time of the establishment of railways in this part of England, the trade of Dewsbury and the intercourse through it to the east and west, and up and down the valley of the Calder, continued to increase rapidly. But for a short time this was checked by the difficulty of forming a railway through the steep hills which separate the valleys of the Calder and the Aire from each other. In a few years, however, these difficulties were overcome by running a long and wide tunnel through the hills near Morley. The formation of this great work, which was in some degree owing to the public spirit of Leeds and Dewsbury merchants, greatly shortened the railway communication between Leeds and Dewsbury, and again restored to the latter town all the advantages of its natural position.
The Morley Tunnel.- It was in the month of February, 1846, that the first stone of the railway tunnel, which is nearly two miles long (3420 yards), was laid at the Batley end of the tunnel on the Leeds, Dewsbury, and Manchester Railway. On the mallet and also on the trowel were neatly engraved the coat of arms of Mr. Gott, and the following inscription:- "Presented by the contractors of the Morley tunnel to John Gott, Esq., chairman of the Leeds, Dewsbury, and Manchester Railway, on the occasion of laying the first stone of that work. Feb. 23rd, 1846." Upon the stone was fixed a brass plate, with the following inscription.-"This, the first stone of the Morley tunnel of the Leeds, Dewsbury, and Manchester Railway, was laid by the chairman, John Gott, Esq., of Armley, near Leeds, on Monday, 23rd February, 1846. Directors, Christopher Beckett, Thomas Benyon, Joseph Brook, William Brown, Thomas Cooke, James Garth Marshall, David William Nell, and Thomas Starkey. Thomas Granger, engineer. Jones and Pickering, contractors. "Since that time the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company have erected a station at Dewsbury, and the Great Northern Railway Company are just about to open their new line (1874).
The town of Dewsbury was first lighted with gas on the 8th April, 1829. On Sunday, 14th June, 1846, there was a public baptism at Dewsbury after the manner of Paulinus. On that day nine persons from the neighbourhood of Batley were publicly baptized in the river Calder at Dewsbury, according to the rites of the Primitive Baptist Church, in the presence of more than 1000 persons. In the year 1856, March 25, the foundation stone of Springfield Independent Chapel was laid at Dewsbury.± Subsequently Trinity Congregational Church and the Baptist Church have been erected also St. Mark's Church, Halifax Road, and other places of worship. Since the establishment of a school board, in 1871, upwards of £20,000 has been expended in the erection of three large schools, for the accommodation of nearly 2000 children.
Municipal Charter of Dewsbury.- The first election of town councillors, under the municipal charter granted to the town of Dewsbury, took place in July, 1862. George Fearnley, Esq., M.D., had the honour of being unanimously elected to the office of first mayor of that borough. The corporation of Dewsbury consists of a mayor, eight aldermen, and twenty-four town councillors.
Dewsbury Represented in Parliament.- By the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1867-68 Dewsbury was made a parliamentary borough. The first election took place in 1868, when Mr. Sergeant Simon was returned, as the first member for Dewsbury. The same learned gentleman was elected a second time, as member for the same borough, at the general election of 1874.
Dewsbury (New Borough).- The borough of Dewsbury, according to the boundary commissioners of 1867, stands on the northern bank of the river Calder, near the point at which it is joined by large brooks, which, with the river, furnish abundant water-power. The neighbourhood abounds with coal and building stone. Dewsbury has possessed the advantage of cheap water-power ever since the river Calder was made navigable, and for many years from sea to sea. The parliamentary borough of Dewsbury is formed of the township of Dewsbury, and parts of Batley, Thornhill, and Soothill. At the Census of 1861, the population of these three townships was returned as 38,559 and in 1867, it was estimated to be 49,750 persons. At the Census of 1871, it was found that the population of the parliamentary borough amounted to 54,000 persons.
The Principal Occupations and Sources of Wealth in Dewsbury and Batley.- The woollen
manufacture is the great means of employment here, as in the whole of this part of Yorkshire.
The number of persons of both sexes, but above the age of twenty years, employed in that
manufacture at Dewsbury, amounted in the year 1871 to-males, 8367, and females, 5574. The
other great characteristic occupations of Dewsbury in that year were-
engine and machine makers, 341;
woollen dyers, 294;
worsted manufacturers-males, 194; females, 435;
blanket manufacturers- males, 1042; females, 292;
carpet, rug manufacturers-males, 1244; females, 61;
cotton manufacturers-males, 172; females, 103;
curriers- males, 150; females, 2;
coal miners, 2171;
stone quarriers, 264;
iron manufacturers-males, 413; female, 1.
Appearance of the Modern Town of Dewsbury.- Writing in the year 1871, a very fair and candid judge says:-"Go where we may into the streets of this busy town and we see great changes in the buildings. The streets are not any where of an imposing size or aspect, but numerous good new buildings meet the eye as we walk through them; and it is a notable fact that the newer they are, the more they improve in style, leaving the older buildings far behind. Thornhill-lees church, built in 1858, and St. Mark's in Malkroyd Lane, built in 1865, are examples of improvement in ecclesiastical structures. The various dissenting chapels and schools also show the progress of changes for the better. The county court and the two banks, at opposite sides of the market-place, are instances of improved buildings for civil purposes. Many large and good places of business may be seen in different parts of the town, amongst which the extensive and handsome new mill and other buildings belonging to Messrs. Mark Oldroyd & Sons, manufacturers of woollen cloth, are notable.
The Parish Church of Dewsbury.- The parish church is the most interesting building in the town, but has been a good deal injured by comparatively modern reparations. The pillars on the northern side of the nave are very good, being light and open, each of them consisting of a central shaft with slender detached shafts around it. They are said to be as old as the reign of Henry III. (1216-72), except the most easterly, which was added in 1830. They are the oldest parts of the present building; but fragments of much older buildings have been preserved, and are built into the west wall of the south aisle. These carvings have been recently described by the Rev. J. T. Fowler, in part iii. of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal, 1870. He assigns them to the seventh century, the period of the visit of Paulinus, and they are certainly of great antiquity. The chancel has no aisle. It is part of the second church, and is of considerable age. On the top is an ancient cross, which is believed to retain the form of the cross which bore the words, "Paulinus hic praedicavit et celebravit, 627;" that is, "Here Paulinus preached and celebrated divine service." There was a church at Dewsbury before the Norman conquest which is mentioned in the Domesday Survey, 1084-86. The Dewsbury parish registers began more than 300 years ago, on the 10th February, 1538. In that year Sir Henry Savile, Kt., had a child christened, named Edward. On the north side of the churchyard is the old court of the rectory manor of Dewsbury, which is evidently of a great age.
The Municipal Borough of Batley.- Batley is a municipal borough with a town hall, a corporation, and a great and flourishing trade; but it is united with Dewsbury for parliamentary purposes. The chief manufacture of Batley is in the kind of woollen cloths known as pilots, witneys, army and police cloths, and the like. Batley is the head of this trade, which has made very rapid progress during the last twenty years.
In 1853 Batley erected a town hall at a cost of £2000. It has also a mechanics' institution and a chamber of commerce. It is now a municipal borough, made so in 1869, and the district of a local board of health, and part of the parliamentary borough of Dewsbury. Dewsbury and Batley are densely-peopled parts of the great clothing district of the West Riding. Adjoining to Batley are Birstal and Heckmondwike, and other large places engaged in the woollen manufacture, of which we shall speak in a subsequent part of this work.
Coal-Fields of Dewsbury.- It appears from Mr. F. N. Wardell's return of coal mines in Yorkshire, that the number of collieries in the Dewsbury district in 1872 was thirty-two, and that they that year produced 507,517 tons of coal.
DATES OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS CONNECTED WITH THE HISTORY OF DEWSBURY.
Anglian Period, about A.D. 610.-Paulinus, archbishop of Northumberland, or of York, supposed to have visited Dewsbury, and to have preached and ministered there.-Yorkshire: Past and Present, vol. ii. p. 445.
1236.-Sir John Thornhill, Kt., in possession of Thornhill Hall.-Vol. ii. p. 447.
1370-71.-Elizabeth, heiress of Simon de Thornhill, marries Henry Savile, and takes the estates into that celebrated family.-Vol. ii. p. 447.
1590.-Howley Hall, the principal seat of the Saviles, erected near Dewsbury.-Vol. ii. p. 447.
1614.-Sir John Savile of Howley, one of the members for Yorkshire, and the patron of the manufacturing interest.-Vol. ii. p. 447.
1743.-The estates of Sir George Savile, Bart., settled upon his sister Barbara, married to Richard Lumley Sanderson, the representative of the earls of Scarborough.-Vol. ii. p. 449.
1780-90.-The river Calder made navigable from above and below Dewsbury.- Vol. ii. p. 450.
1823.-The town of Dewsbury at this time.-Vol. ii. p. 451.
1846.-The Morley tunnel to unite Leeds and Dewsbury commenced.-Vol. ii. p. 452.
1862.-George Fearnley, Esq., M.D., appointed first mayor of Dewsbury.- Vol. ii. p. 453.
1862.-Savile Town, Dewsbury, commenced.-Vol. ii. p. 449.
1862.-Municipal charter of Dewsbury granted.-Vol. ii. p. 452.
1867-68.-Dewsbury made a parliamentary borough.-Vol. ii. p. 452.
1868.-Mr. Sergeant Simon elected as the first member for Dewsbury.-Vol. ii. p. 453.
1871.-Population of the parliamentary borough of Dewsbury 54,000 persons. -Vol. ii. p. 453.
1871.-Principal occupations of Dewsbury in this year.-Vol. ii. p. 453.
1872.-Produce of the coal-field of Dewsbury.-Vol. ii. p. 455.