DEWSBURY: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1837.


"DEWSBURY, a parish-town, on the north side of the river Calder, in the Lower Division of the Wapentake of Agbrigg, and in the liberty of the manor of Wakefield, is distant 8 miles S.S.W. of Leeds, 9 miles S.E. of Bradford and N.E. of Huddersfield, 10 miles E. by S. of Halifax, 6 miles W. by N. of Wakefield, and 187 miles N.N.W of London. Though it is a place of great antiquity, and was in Saxon times the head of a parish comprisiing an area of no less than 400 miles, it does not appear to have begun to rise from the rank of a village, till the early part of the eighteenth century, the charter for its market, (held every Wednesday) not being obtained till 1740, after which, its growing prosperity and increasing woollen manufactures, received a powerful impetus by the extension of the navigation of the Calder from the river Aire to Salter Hebble, in 1760; thus opening a direct communication from the town to the eastern and western oceans, and to the principal towns in the north of England. It is now a flourishing and populous town, delightfully seated in the picturesque vale of the Calder, at the foot, and partly upon a bold south-eastern acclivity, environed to the north and west with gently undulating hills, rising to a considerable elevation above the valley; the south side of which is bounded by hanging woods. The old parts of the town have not a very prepossessing appearance; no regular plan having been adopted in the erection of the building and the formation of the streets, except in the modern parts and in the suburbs, which now extend to the populous village of Batley Car, in the parish of Batley and Wapentake of Morley, and comprise, Boothroyd, Daw Green, Moor Side, Spink Well and Street Side, which (less than twenty years ago) were detached hamlets in the township of Dewsbury. The population of the town and suburbs may now be estimated at about 12,000; the township of Dewsbury having nearly doubled its number of inhabitants, from the year 1801 to 1831, as will be seen in the following enumeration of the four township of Dewsbury Parish with the number of Inhabitants in each at the four decennial periods of the Parliamentary census.

Population in A.D. 1801 1811 1821 1831
Dewsbury* township 4566 5059 6380 8272
Hartshead-cum-Clifton township 1628 1728 2007 2408
Soothill township+ 2134 2609 3699 3849
------- ------- ------- -------
Total 11,752 13,479 16,261 19,854

* That part of Batley Car which adjoins the town contains about 3,000 inhabitants
Soothill includes the large villages of Earls Heaton and Hanging Heaton.

THE DEWSBURY UNION, formed under the new Poor Law, in January, 1837, comprises the parishes of Dewsbury, Batley, Mirfield, Thornhill, West Ardsley, and part of Birstal, and is superintended by a Board of 24 Guardians: to whom Mr. Wm, Carr of Gomersall, is clerk.

Dewsbury is in the heart of the Yorkshire woollen district, being in the centre of that populous division which is engaged chiefly in the manufacture of blanket, duggets, flushings, coverlets, and carpets: besides which, the finer descriptions of cloth are now made here. For the convenience of the merchants and manufacturers of the town and neighbourhood, a CLOTH AND BLANKET HALL was erected here in 1836, and opened April 12th, 1837, when the shareholders and others, to the number of 200, honoured this important epoch in the commercial history of Dewsbury with a public dinner. The hall is a large and commodious stone building, and is opened for the sale of cloth and blankets every Wednesday; when here is also a good Market for provisions, ec. Three Fairs are held annually, on the Wednesday before Old May day, the Wednesday before New Michaelmas day, and on Oct. 15th. The town was first lighted with gas in 1829, and the approaches to it have been greatly improved by the formation of a broad and spacious new road to Leeds, in 1821, and another to Bradford, in 1813, and by cutting through a steep and lofty hill, in the latter year, and filling up the deep valley on the Wakefield road, near Earls Heaton, on the east side of the town. The Leeds road is now lined with respectable dwellings and factories, extending from the town to Batley car, and many more have been erected on the other new roads. Petty Sessions have been held here on every alternate Saturday, since 1829, when several of the neighbouring gentlemen, qualified as magistrates. On the long causeway, is a small Prison, and at Balm hill is the Workhouse, which has long served the township, but will soon have to be enlarged for the reception of paupers form all parts of the "Dewsbury Union." Considering the combustible nature of its manufactures, destructive fires are happily of rare occurrence in this town; but one of them, which happened in 1826, at the dyehouse of Messers, Halliley, Son, and Brooke, was marked by a most singular and affecting fatality. W,. Hanson, who had been a faithful servant of the firm about 33 years, was called out of bed to assist in extinguishing the flames/ but he had no sooner obtained a view of the conflagration, that he fell to the ground a corpse. On the following day, while Mr. Wigglesworth, the coroner, was preparing to hold an inquest on the body, he was suddenly seized with a fit of apoplexy, and died in a few hours.

ANCIENT HISTORY : - That late reverend historian, Dr. Whitaker, says, Dewsbury was the common centre from which the light of Christianity diverged over the vale of Calder to the north, and to the east and west far beyond it; the parent of the parishes of Thornhill and Burton, which are known to have existed in the time of the Conqueror, and of those of Almondbury, Kirkheaton, Huddersfield and Bradford, all of which continue to attest their ancient dependence by prescriptive payments to the incumbent of the mother church; to which may be added, on the clearest evidence, those of Halifax and Mirfield, though they have either ceased to pay such an acknowledgement, or were not originally charged with it. The whole of the Saxon parish of Dewsbury may be estimated at an area of 400 miles. In all these circumstances it forms an exact counterpart to the original parish of Whalley, in Lancashire. The two churches were placed in the first expansion of their respective vallies, those of East and West Calder: and the point at which the two original parishes touched is about 23 miles from Dewsbury, and 14 from Whalley. An opinion has obtained currency, that the Parish Church of Dewsbury was built during the missionary labours of Paulinus. This opinion, Dr Whitaker combats in his "Loidis and Elmete" he, however, maintains, that though the personal ministry of Paulinus was not immediately followed by the erection of churches, yet that this apostle of Northumbria erected basilica or crosses, and it is probable that the present Parish Church of Dewsbury stand upon the site of one of these Saxon edifices. The following inscription of placed on a cross which at present stands at the east end of the chancel, on the outside of the church - "Paulinus hic praedicavit et Celebravit, A.D. 627." This is, however, not the identical Saxon wheel cross, but a fac simile of it, made probably from Camden's traditionary copy. Some years ago, there was found in making an excavation, on the estate of Mr. Halliley, an old iron spear in good preservation, supposed to be Roman; and in the Spring of 1821, the late Mr Carrett, in digging foundations for his offices, found enclosed in a small building of stone about 5 feet square, covered with a strong arch of stone, about 3 feet below the surface, an ancient jug or pitcher, of small size, supposed also to be Roman: at the same time was found, and within four yards of the above, an ancient well, walled round with stone, about 8 yards deep, filled up with rubble stones, which has since been cleaned out, but nothing particular discovered. It is supposed to have been filled up for centuries. In the years 1766 and 1767, the walls of the church gave way, and were pulled down but with a laudable regard to the preservation of the productions of antiquity, all the inside of the church which could be preserved, was permitted to stand. This partial demolition brought to light, not the original cross of Paulinus, but some remnants probably of equal antiquity, amongst the most singular and valuable of which is part of a Saxon tomb. These are now deposited in the garden of the Vicarage house. Antiquarians supposed the name, Dewsbury, to be derived from the original planter of the village, Dui or Dew, who, previous to the arrival of Paulinus, had fixed his abode and fortified his "Bury". Another conjecture holds, that the original name is Dewsborough, or God's Town. A superstitious practice of considerable antiquity still exists here, which consists in ringing the large bell of the church at midnight on Christmas eve, and this knell is called "the Devil's passing bell."

In Domesday Book, it is said, "in Deusberia there are three carucates to be taxed, which two ploughs may till. This land belongs to Wakefield, yet King Edward had in it a manor. It now belongs to the King, and there are six villains and two bordars, with four ploughs, a priest, and a church. The whole manor is four quarentens long, and six broad, In the time of King Edward, the value was ten shillings, and it is the same now." This it is seen that Dewsbury was an ancient demesne of the crown; and as a part of the manor of Wakefield, it has passed to the successive lords of that liberty, which is now held by the Duke of Leeds; but the soil is mostly free hold, and belongs to a great number or proprietors.

THE PARISH CHURCH, dedicated to All Saints, is of great antiquity, though its external walls bear a modern aspect, having been rebuilt in 1766-7, as has already been seen; and it received a further reparation and enlargement in 1823. It is a tolerably spacious edifice, comprising a nave, aisles, chancel, an octagonal vestry on the north side, and a tower at the west end. The columns are of the age of Henry III., and over the communion table is a painting of the Resurrection. The great bell is said to have been given by Sir Thomas Soothill, as a compensation for the murder of a boy, whom he threw into the forge dam. The chapel of the Soothills, at the head of the north aisle, contains the monument of Bishop Tilson, who like some others, "had to lament his own imprudence in quitting a good English benefice for an Irish bishopric." Here is also a monument, with a very elegant Latin inscription to the memory of Dr. Nettleton, the amiable author of the Essay on Virtue and Happiness. The vicarage, valued in the Liber Regis at £22.13s. 9d., is now worth £233per annum, exclusive of the vicarage house. The King, is patron, and the Rev Thomas Allbutt, A,M., is the present incumbent. The Rev. Henry Nussey, B.A., is curate, and Mr. Joseph Ward is the clerk.

ST. JOHN'S CHURCH, on Dewsbury Moor, is a handsome modern fabric, erected under the million act; the whole cost £5502.16s.8d.being defrayed by a parliamentary grant. It is of Carpenter's Gothic, comprising a body and aisles, with a tower at the west end, from a design by Mr. J. Taylor, of Leeds. It has only 600 sittings, of which 248 are free. The first stone was laid August 7th 1823, but the building was not consecrated till September 4th, 1827. The curacy has been endowed with £600 of Queen Anne's Bounty, and is enjoyed by the Rev. John Paine. The vicar has the patronage of this, and also of two other churches in the parish, built under this million act, at Earls Heaton and Hanging Heaton, from designs by the same architect, and of about the same dimensions.

Here are three Methodist Chapels; viz, one belonging to the Wesleyans, built about 50 years ago, of stone; one to the New Connexion, erected in 1836; and one to the Primitives, built in 1824. Here is likewise a Friends' Meeting house, rebuilt 1831; and an Independent Chapel, erected in 1814. These places of worship are neat and commodious, and like th churches, have well- attended Sunday schools.

Dewsbury CHARITY School was founded about the middle of the last century, when £1100, being the amount of donations given by Mary Bedford, Wm Walker, and Thos Bedford, for the education of the poor of Dewsbury, was laid out in the purchase of Hedge-end- farm, at North Bierley, except about £100, expended in erecting a school-house. The farm contains about 40 acres, and is let for £59 per annum. In 1795, the trustees sold the coal under the farm for £2800; and in 1810, they expended upwards of £1300 in purchasing land, and erecting thereon a house for the teachers, and a large school-room, with a yard and play ground. They are also possessed of a house in Dewsbury, formerly used as a Girls' school, but now let for £10. 10s a year. They have likewise £1100, three and a half per cent, annuities, purchased with money arising form the sale of coal and swelling the yearly income of the school to about £108, of which £80 is paid to the master, with £2 for books; and the surplus income has been for many years accumulating for the purpose of re-establishing the Girls' school. About 80 boys are instructed as free scholars in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Wheelwright's Free School, in Dewsbury, is now conducted on the National system, and was endowed in 1727, by John Wheelwright, with a portion of the valuable property, which he bequeathed for the foundation and support of schools at Rishworth and Dewsbury. His trustees pay £100 per annum to the Dewsbury National school, which is now attended by 100 boys and 100 girls; who each pay 1d per week, towards the cost of ink, pens, copy books, &c. The master has a yearly salary of £50, and the mistress £40; and the former has the free use of the school dwelling. The Poor's Doles of Dewsbury consist only of two annuities of 20s., left by Michael Bentley, in 1617, out of Pepper royd close, and 20s. 8d. left by Michael Bentley jun. In 1621, out of Lady close. These donors also gave some cottages for the poor, and their site is now occupied by three houses built by the township, for the residence of poor families.

The Post-Office is at Mr Paul Fletcher's, Westgate. Letters arrive by a horse post from Wakefield at 7 morning, and ½ past 5 afternoon, and are dispatched at 5 morning and half past two afternoon."

[Transcribed from White's History, gazetteer and directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1837]