Pioneers of the Textile Trade in Batley, Reminiscences
from 1909, Transcribed from the Batley News by Wendy Rose |
Pioneers of the Textile Trade in Batley, Reminiscences
from 1909, Transcriped from the Batley News by Wendy Rose |
In May of 2006 Wendy Rose of Batley emailed to graciously share some articles published in the Batley News in 1909. Wendy transcribed the following articles from microfilm.
I have taken the liberty of bold facing some of the key place, personalities and words and of added some notes taken from the censuses and other records in the parish.
Friday May 7th 1909
Reminiscences of the Taylor Family
Reminiscences of the Taylor Family
Near the church gates was a footpath which led up to the Cross Bank. When we had crossed over the first field we came to a narrow stretch of water, a beck we used to call it. In very wet weather it was much swollen. It ?ated in the fields in Healey Lane, passed through the premises known then as Tommy Taylor's mill and thence through the field and along by the vicarage gardens to a resevoir at the bottom near to the beck. It was an innocent peaceful stream of water, but it was the chief cause of a serious change in the religious history of Batley.
The Mssrs. Taylor thought they had a right to use this water - which they had - and having fouled it to turn it again into the beck thus transforming it into an open sewer. The vicar protested against an open sewer passing through his gardens. The result was a law suit and the Courts upheld the Vicar in his contention just as the County Council would do today. Another result was that the Taylor family absented themselves from the services of the Church and ultimately joined the community of the Calvinists. However for the moment I am not interested in the problems raised by religious controversy but in the life of the Taylor family.
(Note: A retraction of accusation of the Taylor's dirtying the water was made on 21 May 1909. See below.)
In the house which they occupied at Blakeridge Mills a difference presents itself. I see that it is devoted now to offices and caretaker's house. In the case of the Jubbs and the Sheards and others the houses were three stories high, in the top storey being a large room in which the loom and the bobbin wheel were in evidence. But with the Taylors the house was separate. The weaving was in a building behind the house. In front was the mill, a small three storied building and a little further away was a two storied building used as a press shop and for other purposes.
You got into the house. There was the father & the mother and around them were gathered 7 sons, I do not remember that they had a daughter. The old man was far more successful in raising sons than making money, he was not a successful man . Two of the brothers went away north. Joseph had at one time an interest in the firm, but ultimately the three brothers John, Thomas and Joshua constituted the firm of JT&J Taylor Blakeridge Mills which became one of the bulwarks of Batley's trade and reputation.
(Note: The father was Thomas Taylor born 1778, see notes below)
From pilots to devons hence to presidents then to matlasses may be given as the epoch of the firm's manufacturing progress. The fire by which the mill, nearly 90 yards long was destroyed put the firm back years. I do not know the amount of damage or the amount received from the insurance companies but there was a difference which amounted to some thousands of pounds. I understand things better than I once did and I do not wonder but that relief was sought in tears. I am aware of this that the fearful effects which followed of death in one case and lifelong suffering in others caused a very serious impression on a family highly sensitive to the sufferings of others, more so when they were interested in the cause of he sufferings.
(Note: Pilots, devons, etc. See below.)
There may be a doubt as to the reason of their purchasing Cheapside Mill. It certainly was a very serious step to take. Probably the coming into the firm of Mr. Theodore Taylor may be taken as the cause, or the story that the cost was covered by his grandfather Mr. Samuel Cook.
(Note: Theodore Cook Taylor. See below.)
The two brothers Thomas & Joshua had each married a daughter of Mr. Cook.
I do know for a certainty that the brother John resented the addition of the Cheapside Mill.
(Note: John, Thomas and Joshua Taylor. See below.)
The rise of the firm's trading operations may be associated with their entering upon the Mattelasse trade though their position as a sound firm was secured under the era of president cloth making. With the introduction of what, for simplicity, we shall call worsteds we were brought into closer touch with the business acumen of Theodore Taylor. I think it is safe to say that the initial work in this departure was his, it was certainly not that of his Uncle John for coming into contact with a number of ranges of pattern he threw them on to the floor and told the men not to spend their time with such rubbish. However, they got into the swim of this trade. Probably they were the second or third firm to become associated with it when there was a respectable profit of three pounds profit on each piece. Their turn-out week was in three figures; whether it would be proper to say 300 or 400 weekly I will leave for someone else to say. I submit that never before or since in the history of the firm did they make as much money in two years as the first two years they were in this trade.
It would have been a very bad speculation on the part of Mssrs. JT&J Taylor when they purchased the Cheapside Estate if they had just transferred the mortgage as has been done in some cases, and had been fettered with the payment of interest on the amount. It would have been a tax even on a firm with the resources which they had - seeing that with this new departure they could not use the mill proper. It was a lucky affair when it was destroyed by fire and it was well for them that being under no responsibility to rebuild it they allowed the ruins to remain untouched for nearly 20 years for it would have been a clog upon their industry most of that time.
I have wondered sometimes what the cash balance would have been if the amount of compound interest, the sum which would have been paid in rates for insurance and for upkeep had been added together, had been added together. If M Sheard and sons had had one of their mills burnt down - and they could for most of the time have done without one - they would have been a wealthy firm at the end. Luck! Surely there is such a thing. Coming back to the men as individuals they were men into whose natures were gathered all the principles which go even nowadays to make a man a Yorkshireman. In their day they were an honour to the town in which they lived. They were typical gentlemen. They died comparitively young. One is apt to wonder why such men die at the early age which so many of them do. In this great firm established by a man who had 7 sons all but 2 of whom are dead and in early life they seperated themselves from the firm - there is just one Taylor left in in the management. If they have any interest in it at all I think that it is just in the case of Mr. Fred who very recently severed his connection with it.
May 28th 1909
Reminiscences of the Sheard Family
Reminiscences of the Sheard Family
I have stood at the Woodlands and gazed across the valley to White Lee from thence to Healey and to other districts which add their quota to the constitution to the Borough of Batley. Hamlets they used to be called and in the early days the people who lived in them were very clannish. Turning round to view that portion of Batley which lies to the North, known as Brownhill and Howden Clough I was reminded that underneath some of these fields is a vast resevoir of water held up by a narrow band of coal - too small in area to be worth the winning - which if tapped by some boring operation would prove of great value to Batley people as the natural course it would take when released would be to the south. If by a seismic disturbance it was suddenly and violently rent open it would probably for a time change this valley right away to Dewsbury into its original condition.
Looking directly at the Woodland mansion and reviewing the changes that have taken place - notably the one that has transferred property which cost the owner 20 thousand pounds to the people of Batley for a fiver - the word Sheard occurs to me as the family name of the most noted of Batley's pioneers in trade and commerce. Just at the junction of Wellington Street and Commercial Street and Hick Lane is a pile of buildings 3 stories high. A portion is the residence of Dr. Broughton here turning down Hilberoyd Road and looking just over the top of the passage which leads to the yard behind is a stone on the face of which has been cut the letters M S S 1840. Here was the home of the family of the Sheards whose history I wish to epitomise. The information which this stone wishes to convey is that the then owners and builders were Michael Sheard and his wife Sarah. Evidently they took it for granted that in this house they had reached the zenith of their ambition. They had a numerous family of sons - Joseph, John, Benjamin, Michael, George and Arthur. Somehow or other Michael and Arthur were not associated with the firm of Michael Sheard & sons.
(Note: See Sheards below)
There used to be a little provincialism, it rhymed nicely or appeared to us to do so, with "theres young Mick and old Mick and young Mick's son". At one period there were 3 Michael Sheards in Batley and the first one takes us furthest back into history. Even this points to the importance of the family in the rise and progress of Batley. In the early 50's the sons took their share in the work. They did not keep drones(?) - I do not remember one in the family. I have seen them stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and I have seen them stretch their arms and bend their backs in the tenterfield. In those days to which I refer they were extensive makers of coloured blankets and each pair had to be whipped with real worsted yarn.
(Note: See Sheards below)
John Sheard had two daughters, there were no sons in his family that I remember. You might have seen those 2 girls at work with the blankets. "Where" you ask. The blankets were taken from the mill to the house - did this work make dirt and cover the house with dust? Yes it did but when the work was done and cleared away then a brush and a duster soon brought things to rights again. The principle of home work was very general in those days and had much to do with the rise and progress of Batley.
(Note: See John Sheard below)
It seemed a new era in the history of the family when the father removed to what was then considered to be the Mansion at Healey. Their aspirations through life had been so unpretentious that the removal to this higher sphere of life was somewhat unaccountable. But though removed from the centre of the trading movements the mother Mrs. Sheard (Note: Sarah Lister Sheard) did not lose her interest in the workers and learning, probably from conversations with the father, that the "lads" were going to stop smoking amongst the operatives during work hours she resented it so far as the old men were concerned. In a subsequent visit to the Valley Mills she came across some of the old hands. She advised them not to take any notice and if "they; said anything just to say that she had told them to go on smoking. There was in those days a familiarity between employers and employees that does not obtain today: it would be better if it did. Men and women were not rushed as they are today. There was no brutalised "penny hoil" man to turn back young girls who having tramped all the way from Lee Fair fighting against wind or rain or snow, just landed at the gate when this brutish fellow was shutting up and were refused admission, although he could see that they were wet through from head to foot.
Note: Surely there was justification for the no smoking ban as evidenced by the number of fires that are mentioned in the mills. All the rag, lanolin, wool etc. must have made the mills a tinderbox.
The building up of the firm of M Sheard and Sons, if not slow, was not hasty and the aptitude for certain departments of work seemed to have followed natural ability. Thus whilst Mr. John and Mr. George were closely allied with the cloth the other two brothers, Joseph and Benjamin were identified with all sections of the processes of manufacturing up to that state when their labours passed from weft to warp into picks and cloth. When John died in 1875 at the early age of 55 years the energy and resources of George came to the front and it seemed as natural as a duck taking to water for him to assume the responsibilities over the permanent affairs of the firm and also of the merchanting so far as to seeing to the cloth being got away as the orders received called for it.
The year following Joseph died thus leaving the whole responsibilities of this great concern on the shoulders of Benjamin and George. Under these altered conditions the firm was carried on but the stress on Benjamin was evidently too severe for his health failed him and he died in 1891 leaving his brother George, with the whole responsibility. The Sheard family were not what is termed a long living one. The elder Michael died at 60, his son Michael at 63, John at 55 Joseph at 55 Benjamin at 60 George at 67 and the Uncle George at 48. But the 3rd Michael, a former agent of the Earl of Wilton is still alive and living on the Isle of Ely.
The brothers Benjamin & George each proposed to bring into the firm a son. It would have been in the interests of the firm had they been allowed to do so but they were prohibited from taking this course through the ill advised trustee under the will of their brother Joseph whose interest in the firm had not been withdrawn according to the terms of agreement under which the firm had been established. Said the trustee "I will have no additions to the firm unless we are first paid out." Subsequently this course was adopted and the firm was changed into a limited company. The act was an injudicious one and carefully reviewing the subsequent history I think it is apposite to conclude that it was one of the contributory causes of Mr. George's death.
Mill property had so declined in value in the period between the death of the brother Joseph and the time when his executors received from Mr. George the amount of money which they were entitled to receive under the will that it would be no unwise assertion to make that the whole of the freehold of the estate of Michael Sheard & Sons would not have realised more by public auction than the amount paid out. Mr. George Sheard was ? left with the responsibilities of his other 2 brothers capital as well as his own, with practically no assets but the reputation of the firm.
It was not a beneficial act for the trustees at the time. It appears that under the terms and conditions of the will of Mr. Joseph Sheard his widow was to be paid £1000 a year. The whole interests under the will were of the value of about £1450 per annum, the bulk being received from the estate or firm of Michael Sheard & Sons at the rate of 5% per annum. This money was re-invested in approved securities at some 3% with the result that the income was so reduced that only sufficient income was received as paid the widow's claim. The children were accustomed to have some £400 a year divided amongst them, but with the alteration all this ceased.
I met one day the town's Missioner. We had just passed through a very severe winter. In the conversation which we had he told me that at the beginning of the straits through which the poor had passed he was sent for to the office of the Sheards and received instructions that £2 weekly would be placed at his disposal for the relief of acute cases. "I have for months gone every Saturday morning to the office and received that amount and by a judicious disposal have been enabled to relieve a vast number of cases. They may not have given large sums at once but for quiet acts of charity and help to religious associations the firm will be missed by those interested in these matters".
The same principle has often been in evidence in the matter of the rates. When the collectors have been instructed that an early collection of a given sum of money was required they have often paid the first visit to the office of Mssrs. Sheard & sons. The rise of the firm has been collateral with the rise of Batley from village to Borough - its passing away out of the chronicles and the rate books will cause a blank not easily to be filled. I should incline to the opinion that the decrease in the rateable value of this estate is responsible in part for the rising of the rates of the borough.
Death at a comparitively early age seems to have been of a common occurrence amongst the early prominent men of Batley. Prominent amongst them stands Mr. George Sheard of Hick Lane whose end came when he had just made a position in the town and at 48 years of age.
Reviewing his contemporaries and placing them in juxtaposition he stood head and shoulders above them all in the essentials associated with a successful man of business. I should incline to the opinion that if temperance and total abstinence had been too much in evidence amongst business men 60 years ago as these things are today, the probability is that the course of Batley's history would have been very different from what it is.
There is one pleasing feature which stands out very clearly and that feature is the earnest efforts put forth, not only by the tradesmen but also by the workers, to lift their home life onto a higher basis. I grant this zeal has been carried in some cases beyond what prudence would have dictated but we have benefited considerably through these efforts at betterment.
Standing at the top of Hick Lane were three houses. The original occupiers were representatives of the classes to which they belonged - the manufacturers, as in the case of Mr. Sheard: the shoddy man ( Note: George ), as in the case of Mr. Senior: and the ragger as in the case of Mr. Brook - but in each case what a jump from their former homes.
Men make mistakes now-a days; they made them 50 years ago. Sometimes the effects stay. It was folly to unite the brothers Sam and Henry Sheard together in business; it was a parody on common sense to add Mr. Sam Senior to the brothers, who as partners traded under the name of Sheard & Senior.
The mistakes of my life, said an old man, have been many. I presume that most men who have had time to think well have come to the same conclusion, but somehow or other we can see the failures in others better than our own. I will just conclude this article by narrating one more. The men who know the history of those referred to will I think come to the conclusion that I am right in this one. Mr. Mark Oldroyd, the father of the present Mr. Mark and the founder of the firm of Mark Oldroyd & sons, offered to Mr. Henry Sheard the position of head clerk and he would not accept it, being advised otherwise.
It is interesting that this generation of Sheards died relatively young. George Sheard's grandfather, George Sheard (1740-1824), lived into his eighties.
How Mssr. G&J Stubley's firm has been built up.
Sometime ago I had an article in one of your issues in which I described the operations of a local firm. It was acknowledged that I had done so correctly, but it has been stated that the inference which I drew as to the cause of the operations was not correct. The week following I referred again to the matter, put it more concisely and was surprised when I heard that I had made some matters worse. In seeking a solution of this problem I stated the case of to 2 of our JP's and asked them to give an opinion as to whether I had drawn a wrong impression or not. Both agreed that I had drawn such an inference as they themselves would have done.
I was sorry to hear that in my article on the Taylor family I had misrepresented them in at least one instance. A friend informs me that they did not use the water in the beck and then send it in its dirty condition to do duty elsewhere. All they did was simply to divert a portion of it away from the beck by a line of small pipes to a large stone trough, so that the water could be used for their cattle and domestic purposes, as they had none of their own. It was never returned to the beck, either dirty or clean. If that is the correct account I regret that I put it in the way in which I did.
My purpose in drawing attention to this matter is to show how things of no moment in themselves do at times have important bearings on other matters. I am inclined to the opinion that we should have not have got a cemetery at the time we did but for this little insignificant dream of water. The agitation to obtain a burial ground and the success of the movement around which Church & Chapel fought under the banner "cemetery or no cemetery" may be safely attributed to the Taylor family.
Reviewing a certain work a man once remarked "what hath he done?" In many changes for the better it is an easy matter to trace the labours of the Taylors. I have known men whose energies have been spent for others and their own affairs have come to grief but not so in this case. In the long ago - well just for a peg on which to hang the story say 60 years - in the weaving place of the small mill which I have previously described the in and out-door workers - that is those handloom weavers who fetched the warp and weft and wove it at home - did not, all told men and women and the 3 masters, number more than 30 persons. I have described the epochs of the firm's history noted its growth and expansion and I think it safe to say that there is but one larger firm than the Taylors in the trade. These are the men who have made Batley. That end might not have been their object, but that has been the result of their labours. There have been others whose history is associated with Batley, but Batley has made them.
We have had men whose methods were of the happy go lucky principle; we have had others whose policy has been a determination to make their way in the world. The history which gathers around this "who'd a thought it" mill is a case in point. People gave the mill that name but the owners called it Bottoms Mill. Usually we associate the brothers George & James Stubley with it but certain it is that at one portion of its history Abraham Fox was in the firm. There has always been a class of men who regard those who have succeeded in getting onto a higher platform than themselves with anything but good wishes for their success. That working men have in more cases than two succeeded in getting together a small mill and plant is a well known fact. Then why, one is led to ask, should the term "who'd a thought it" be applied in this instance.
I remember long years ago being told the following incident:- A young woman who was a layer on in the scribbling and carding department at the Old Mill was remonstrated with by her mother in the following manner: "Why are you putting up so much bread, you will never eat it". This was at a time when the workers did not leave work at 6 oclock at night and it was necessary to take something to eat with them when they went back after dinner. The reply which she gave to her mother was as follows :-"There are 2 little lads who work with me and when I bring my bread out they look so wistful and hungry that I cannot eat without letting them share".
A Batley lady was in Wakefield when she met with the late Mr. George Stubley who had gone from Batley to Wakefield to live. Entering into conversation they soon drifted into remeniscences of Batley. Old Batley was the theme on which Mr. Stubley wanted to talk. Turning to the lady and looking earnestly into her face he said "them were hard times for us and my brother James and I would more often have had to go hungry than we did but for the kindness of your mother who oftens shared her bread with us". That these 2 brothers should succeed in building a mill and equipping it was beyond the man in the street to account for hence the by-name which was attached to the beginning of Bottoms Mill.
Stubleys were fortunate in securing Mr. Joseph Taylor and Mr. John Clarkson who traded as Taylor & Clarkson as tenants for one room as the mill, small as it was, was too large for them to carry on and in their tenants they had men who would pay all that they agreed to and at the time specified.
They might have done wrong to fail - some people said it was wrong of them to do so. This operation is usually called "suspending payment" nowadays. Well that just fits in this case; they just suspended payment of a portion of their debts and afterwards paid up in full. When they had got settled and had arranged to continue business, both the brothers went to Mr. John Day's rag warehouse at Bank Foot in Bradford Road in order to purchase a quantity of rags. In the conversation which took place prior to any sale or purchase, one of the brothers said "Dey (Day) folks are saying who'll trust Stubleys?" Stubleys does not need credit they pay cash for all they buy.
Men talked more with each other than they do now, especially when they could afford to talk and you can take it for granted that there was a lot of truth in the statement afterwards made that in the 18 months following their suspension they succeeded in adding #10k to their capital.
I would not make a statement purposely to grieve any person associated with this history but things were not as they are to-day. I have watched the firm grow. I had to go there on business errands 50 years ago when in passing from one part to another we had to cross the open beck by means of planks thrown across in order to make a bridge. I know of no history so interesting as that which is associated with G&J Stubley. Perhaps there are few things as likely to upset a man as going home to dinner and finding that his wife's face bears evidence of tears. Such was Mr. James' experience one day. It came about in this way. The brothers were anxious to get on and at any rate stand abreast with Robert Brearleys and Sheards and Jubbs and Robert and David Wilson that they did not take out of the firm in weekly drawing sufficient for their families needs. I have heard the amount put at one pound weekly.
Both their wives were as careful as the husbands. But both had got the idea that they ought to have a piano in the house and out of their small allowance each was striving against the other to save the money to buy one with. Mr James's wife fell ill and had a long spell of sickness and was just getting on to her feet again when this incident occurred. She had found to her sorrow that during her illness nearly all her savings had gone and when her husband came in he wanted to know the reason and all this came out. He did not go back into the mill that afternoon until after tea-time but next day this was explained by the arrival of 2 pianos, one for each of the homes.
The firm had a fire one day - an extensive one (this reminds me that I have somewhere a list of the fires which have occurred between the Sloper Mill at Birstall and Walker Bros at Ravensthorpe where the damage ran into thousands). Stubleys were insured - fully so - a settlement was effected with the insurance companies and in due course a cheque was received for more than #10k. The sight of it lifted Mr. George out of himself and meeting with a friend in the street, he told him what they had got, describing it as being the grandest cheque which they had ever had in their lives.
I have heard men say "see what God hath done". It would be a trite saying "see what Stubley's hath done". On one occasion I was on the platform of the L&NW railway station at Batley and was looking over the railings towards the premises of Robert Brearley and sons and Stubleys when 2 men joined in conversation. It was evident that the tenor of it was in reference to the Mssrs. Stubley. "I think George that you are big enough", meaning their position as a firm. "I think so too but my brother James wants to pull down the warehouses at the end of the mill and clear away the rag grinding place and then extend the mill as far as our land goes, but rather than go further I would prefer coming out of the firm". All these alterations were carried out but George remained in the firm. I mention these matters simply as being epoch in the history of the firm.
A more close connection may be got from the following circumstance. I met with one of Dewsbury's manufacturers and in conversation he said "Stubleys have been doing it again". He just meant by that, that they had taken more orders than they could supply, the result being that merchants who could not get pieces from them were under the necessity of seeking them elsewhere. Stubley's cloth could not be beaten at the price.
A man walked into Mssrs. Stubley's office one day. They were pleased to see him, were both the brothers. Formerly he was one of their handloom weavers and at a time when it was utterly impossible for them to raise the money for the workpeople's wages, this man gained their respect because he never told them when he had to go home without wage. More than once they had told him that there would be no money that week, but he was to go for it like the others. The man's wife was as discreet as himself. But it was his object in calling to which I wish to draw attention. "Do you want to extend your business" said he. "For why" they asked. "I have been today at Sandal with XX" he said and they cannot utilise their plant; it is too big for them. They want a tenant for a portion and have asked me to see if I can find them someone and I have come to you. To cut the story short, that was the origin of the firm's attentions at Sandal. They - shrewd business men - very soon found out that the step which they had taken in going to this virgin ground was a wise one and they lost no time in securing a plot of land on which to erect mill premises of their own. I understood that the premises of which they were tenants were held under a short lease and it was necessary that no loss of time should be allowed for fear that the lease would expire before their own premises were ready for use. It could not have passed unnoticed that during the time they had been at Sandal their landlord's business was also increasing, the fact being that long before the lease did expire he would have been pleased for Mssrs. Stubley to clear out. But although they had such resources behind them Stubleys found it out that in building operations and in the equipment of a woollen mill there were trade organisations which resented being either pushed or hurried or were in favour of any other than their own "come-day go-day God send Sunday" method. However, all was finished at last. Both tenants and landlords practised some forebearance, with the result that there was no ill-feeling or falling-out as is usual in such cases.
One day Mr. James Stubley rode over to Sandal, sought an interview with these men. He apologised to them for any apparent discourtesy and expressed his regret for any pecuniary loss which they had sustained through his firm keeping possession of the premises. For this loss he was willing to pay them. "It is a matter" he said "that we cannot assess but we want to pay; we will trust you to fix the amount and for this purpose I have brought you a blank cheque, duly signed. Fill in the amount at which you assess your loss, then inform us of the date and the amount for which it is made out, so that we shall know and can enter it into our books." Thus ended the matter. If you wish to know how I got this information - well it was from the man who first introduced the business to the brothers Stubley. The statement was made some years ago that the Stubleys turned out year by year a heavier weight of cloth than any other firm in Dewsbury or Batley. Since then they have added to their frim Hick Lane Mills. Reviewing their history and putting it into juxtaposition with that of other firms, I hold the opinion that it is the most wonderful, as most as the successful of the whole lot.
4th June 1909
The Origin of the Firm of Robert Brearley & sons.
The Origin of the Firm of Robert Brearley & sons.
It would be no empty boast for me to write that it would be an easy task for me to select 20 points of interest in Batley and from these points to gather up history that to old Batley people would be interesting reading. But it is safe to say that there is no place in the whole area of Batley around which so many interesting events have gathered than around Purwell.
Opposite the Wesleyan Chapel in Purwell Lane are 2 cottages of the type common to the era of 80 years ago. They have been altered since they were first erected. Originally the building formed one house. The family occupied the rooms on the ground floor and the large upper room was used for a weaving place into which they managed to get 2 hand looms. At the end nearest to Mr. Christopher Robin's house was a flight of outside steps leading into the weaving place.
A manufacturer lived in the house - one of the pioneers of the woollen industry. I am not anxious just now to deal with the history of the family but with that of a young man who worked for the father. This young man received what was termed "lad's wages", but in order to encourage him in his work his master had entered into an arrangement with him that when his work ceased for the day all that he did in the shape of overtime was to be paid for on the terms of the men workers. So anxious was the young man to save money that night after night when opportunity offered he would weave on till a late hour.
Time passed on quickly and manhood found him still a weaver. I am reminded of a circumstance which brought a number of men together. There were over 20 of them. That they were not pigeon flyers you would soon have determined nor did politics of a party nature animate their conversation. The problem which these men discussed was the advisability of putting their money together and forming a company with the object of building a mill. As a result of the discussion an agreement was drawn up to the effect that there should be a certain number of shares the face value of which was settled. 22 men signed the deed and one of them was the lad I referred to. Ultimately he was joined by his two brothers in the business of woollen manufacturers, under the style or firm of Walker Brothers. And it would be safe to say that few firms made more money. But some will say that they are a Dewsbury firm. So they were, but they were Purwell lads. My point is this - out of his wealth John Walker set aside #1,300 towards defraying the cost of the new St Andrews church and but for this princely gift, there would not have been these preperations going on for the building of the church.
Let us get back to the house in Purwell and this time to the family. The father was old Robert Brearley and he was the head of Robert Brearley and Co of Clerk Green Mill. In this house he lived and brought up his family of six sons and one daughter. One peculiarity which obtained with the pioneers of the textile trade in Batley was the carefulness they manifested in their home expenditure.
Mr. Robert Brearley's six sons were trained in the work of manufacturing and I believe that each one of them became a manufacturer but four of them went out of it, or through it without much success. The race seemed at one time to be fairly equal between Robert and Joseph.
"What does ta think?" "Nay what is there nah?" "Well young Bob Brearley has got wed". "An hes it come off at last?" This colloquial conversation was correct.
Young Robert had got married and he wanted a home. There were no weekly payment systems in those days, nor were any required. If you have looked as you have passed either up or down Purwell Lane and noticed the 2 houses which I have described you will have seen joining up to them 2 houses, one storey high and evidently only one roomed. At the time about which I am writing there was but just one room and there was just but one house - the other was used for the storage of hay and other purposes. It was into this house that Robert took his young wife. Not an elaborate beginning you may say. If he had made a catalogue of his belongings and it had been carefully preserved and then put side by side with that drawn up of his grandson Arthur's furnishings (which were sold by auction last week) there would have been a very marked difference. Robert Brearley was a hand loom weaver and instead of a sideboard he put up in one corner of his new home his loom on which he purposed to earn an income on which to keep himself and his wife.
To the song which the loom incessantly sang, baby Thomas was often hushed to sleep. From his first commencement in business as a woollen manufacturer to the day of his death Robert Brearley was the most successful of any man who has been in the trade. It was a point held by him that with a proper grade of shoddy and a fair percentage mixed with his wool he could produce a cloth equal if not superior to any maker who used only wool. One thing is certain, he often made more profit out of one piece than other firms could sell theirs for.
His success was beneficial to Mssrs. Colbeck Bros who had just erected the Cheapside Mill. Finding that the facilities offered him at the Clerk Green Mill were not sufficient Mr. Brearley took rooms and power with the Colbecks and put in 4 sets of machines. This arrangement had continued for some time when Mr. Brearley was met with this problem:- "We"ll hev to hev some more machines for we cannot keep up wi' t'wark." In reply to that statement he said "I shall not increase my productions; I will not go further into the business". But he did. He secured a plot of land bordered by the beck on one side and Bradford Road on the other and on this site he began to build Queen Street mills. The principle on which he had been brought up as a tradesman was again brought into operation for he secured a plot of land at the bottom of Queen Street and built a house into which his family was taken. Some of your readers may be under the impression that I have forgotten his building operation in Dark Lane but I have not. Mr. Brearley's life came to an end in the year 1866 at the usual age of Batley's pioneers - nearly 60 to be exact, 58 years of age. He left a numerous family in just the opposite constitution to that of his father - six daughters and one son. They were very strongly in favour of Wesleyan methodism and the father left #1,000 to that connection which was used as a nucleus for the foundations of Cross Bank Society. Three of his daughters became Mayoresses of the borough of Batley.
At the time of the great flood, when most of those whose premises were near to the beck were flooded - amongst them those of Robert Brearley and son - so upset and unnerved was Mr. Thomas Brearley at the loss sustained by the firm through the flood that he went into the office and commenced to write a letter to his father, who had died a few weeks before the flood occurred! Mr. Thomas Brearley often went into his mother's house to get his tea after he had removed to the mansion which he had built at Upper Batley.
On one occasion his brothers in law Mssrs. JJ Carter and JP Middlebrook both called whilst he was there. The theme of their conversations turned upon Batley being associated with Dewsbury in the Infirmary scheme. Mr. Brearley entered a vigorous protest against this union and pleaded for a separate and distinct scheme for Batley. To emphasise his words he said "start a donation list with the object of raising money towards defraying the cost of a cottage hospital and I will give #500 towards it". That was the beginning of the effort to have a Batley hospital. (remainder of article re hospitals & chapel).
June 11th 1909
The Origin of the Brearley Family
The Origin of the Brearley Family
At the Clerk Green Mills Batley an altercation took place one day 2 or 3 men. You will not wonder at that if you will just consider that they were akin. The point in dispute was "which of the partners in the mill had the right to put down the next blend". Ultimately by the insistance of another man the point was settled. "It is Robert Brearley's turn to blend".
When it was settled about whose turn it was to blend the man who had charge of the blending went up to Mr. Brearley and quietly informed him that he could not blend because he had no wool but only shoddy in stock. "Ah'd forgotten t'wool" said Mr. Brearley, "but just stop here till I come back". He went to Bradford, walking all the way and having bought what would be required for his blend, lifted the sack onto his back and walked home with it. Not more than four hours had passed when he entered the willey place with the wool for his blend. This statement some will doubt but those who knew him gave him credit for being one of the fastest of long distance walkers. It is said that on one occasion, having walked to Manchester, he felt inclined to perspire and pulled from his pocket his handkerchief. Lifting it up to his face he found that he had forgotten to put on his hat before leaving home. When he had finished his business he walked back to Batley.
He was one of the pioneers in the work of transforming Batley from a village to a town and at the same time he succeeded in bringing up a family of six sons and supplying each of them with a sister. Looking over the names of the sons you are reminded at once that it is a Batley family - George, Henry, ??, Robert, John and Joseph. All of them were amongst our very early manufacturors. You may write "excelsior" in connection with the name of Robert. John at one time was in partnership with him and it would have been well had he continued so. Joseph continued long in the trade but was not in the running with his brother Robert. Perhaps it was a wise move when Henry gave it up and took the position of Registrar. Of the 6 none had a son following in his father's footsteps. In one case, that of Robert, he has 2 grandsons carrying on the business which he directly established.
Brearley Hall and company composed a second edition in connection with this mill. The members of the company were Joseph Brearley, William Harrison, Thomas Hall and William Smith. The four had grown up sons and when they were all at the mill - well it looked too lively. It was in those days an easy matter to increase expenses - the incomes were good. But there was a very strong incentive to others to begin business thus increasing the production of a cloth which certainly had a lot of suspicion attached to it. With the introduction of the power loom and the advent of cotton warps a slump seemed to come and there being no market in which to dump, manufacturers had to pull up.
As I have stated there were 4 masters and each having sons who were learning the business there was a fair preposition of onlookers to workers. The building of the shed and the stocking of it with power looms seems to have been the event of their lives. There were not more than 40 looms so divided by 4 we get 10 for each master. All the weavers were akin except 2 and these would probably have been offered up in sacrifice "but for a but". (tale of walking to Leeds and back and nearly losing five pounds).
Tom Hall was a cloth fuller originally working in partnership with Tommy Illingworth for Mr. Robert Brearley. They had a good job of it, being paid so much for each piece of cloth and receiving in addition the fluff or flock which came from the clothing during the process of fulling. He saved money and began to make for "hissen". This went on all right until it occurred to Mr. Brearley that it was not fair and he told Hall so. Mr. Hall thought he could do better for himself than even working under such favourable conditions and he took that course. That is how he came to be associated with the Clerk Green mill. He did not die a very wealthy man but he was certainly a well to do man for he was worth more than #5,000.
I have learnt it is folly to neglect your own business either for cases of philanthropy or for the benefit of the town in which you live. Mr. William Harrison's failure in business I should attribute it soley to the attention which he paid to the affairs of Batley. It is certain that his loss in prestiege in the commercial world was accelerated by this unwise policy. I wonder at times how it comes about that families lose all associations with projects which their fathers or grandfathers thought to be the most important in their lives. It occurs to me that when Mr. Joseph Brearley came away there was a total severance of that family with this old and historic mill.
It is a matter for regret that the mill ultimately got into the possession of a publican. I understand that it was redeemed by a teetotaller and is likely to remain either in his possession or that of his family. It seem to be a big stride for Mr. Joseph Brearley to take which ended in his acquisition of the Purwell Mill Estate. In dealing with the mill, around the history of which many interesting remeniscences gather, it will be germane to go further back than the time when it passed into the possession of the Brearleys.
Thomas Hall was the father of the Hall family. He had 4 sons with real Batley christian names; John, James, Joseph and Harry. That may not be the order in which they came into the world. James was the builder of the mill but beyond this fact there is little to record, for if a man dies and leaves neither son nor daughter his memory soon seems to be lost. If, however he had no family, one was found for him through the agency of his wife who took it into her head to adopt a nephew and made her husband believe that it was the proper thing to do. When nature asked for the payment of her dues and would not be put off he took the precaution to leave the Purwell Mill to this nephew whose name was William Dean. I am under the impression that though this transference from uncle to nephew took place more than 50 years ago the nephew is still living. Under his management and ownership the mill certainly had a chequered career. Mr. Dean passed out of the arena years ago when he went to America.
The passing of a mill from one firm to another indicates that some great change has taken place. This occurred not only in the case of Purwell Mill - but also in that of the shed that Mr. Dean had built, known then as Will Dean's shed though the proper name was Wheatcroft Mill. This passed into the hands of Mr. Joseph Preston whilst the Purwell mill passed on to Joseph Brearley & sons. Usually after a mill fire we expect an improvement and extension. New machinery seems generally to give new life to a business. We expected it in the case of this mill but somehow or other disappointment followed. There was no re-building and no new plant. We have the ruins today as they were left by the fire and I regret that the whole of the family are now out of the trade altogether. So far as the Brearley family is concerned it is represented by Mr. Arthur Brearley and Mr. Robert Brearley who are keeping up the name of the firm.
So far as the Halls are concerned I can only trace one and that is Mr. Robert Hall who is in partnership with Mr. Tankard. There is just this coincidence in this matter - the two Mr. Brearleys and Mr. Hall stand in the same relationship to the original Mr. Brearley.
How the Colbeck Family made their mark in the woollen industry.
In the graveyard in front of the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Wellington St, the headstone of an old Batley man around whose name gather many interesting incidents and problems. His name is William Colbeck and he was the father of a family whose history permeates that of Batley.
There is one feature in the history of Batley that it is wise not to lose sight of and that is the strong religious associations which gather round it early pioneers. It would be policy to write that the Primitive Methodists were not associated with this graveyard or with the chapel; it belonged to the sect of Calvinists who were as rigid in their faith and dogmas as were the original Pharsees. These Batley men carried their religious beliefs so far as to necessitate a separate and distinct repository for their dead.
One is led into the train of thought when one remembers that this strong minded Protestant had one or more sons who became as equally strong minded Roman Catholics and some of his granddaughters became associated with nunneries. As an evidence of the strong faith in the religion of his father and as a protest against Romanism, Simeon Colbeck had his son christened Luther and the probability is that he was one of the first who received that name in Batley proper.
I thought that I would have a look at the house where this man lived and from which Issac, Simeon, Israel and William Henry passed when they entered into that life which appears to be to be associated with the growth of Batley. Coming from Wellington Street into Commercial Street by way of Cross St I came to a halt opposite the back of the Exchange Buildings - brought to a standstill by the remembrance of the days, now long past, when Issac Colbeck lived there. The house which still remains, was on the principle very general in those days - part for the family to live in and the other part for trade purposes. When I first knew them Mr. Issac was building Lady Ann Mill.
At the end of Cross Street where it enters into Commercial St. stood the old post office and a little past the post office was a yard, facing which were 2 houses, the one occupied at one time by Mr. George Sheard and the other by Mr. William Brook, boot maker. Adjoining these premises was "Piccadilly" - passing through that and out the other end was the house where the Colbecks were born.
Mr. William Colbeck was the father of that branch of the Colbeck family which it is my purpose to associate with the growth of Batley. He was a pitman, not an ordinary coalgetter for he held a superior position. The sons were Israel Isaac, Simeon and William Henry. Their sisters' names I forget but one married Mr. Joseph Jubb jnr, and another became the landlady of the Wilton Arms. At one time the father kept a grocers shop, but at that time every one who had a few shillings to spend on Saturday evening walked to Dewsbury to purchase the provisions for the following week and never thought them too heavy to carry home to Batley. Dewsbury feels sore yet on this point. Little Batley has shops of her own now. Who would ever have thought that such a thing would come to pass. And they resent it. And this is another cause of the jealousy that exists between the 2 towns. Who would have thought that the 3 sons of this pitman would have been counted amongst the most successful woollen manufacturers of their days?
Two or more of the 4 brothers became associated with the business of old Mr. Jubb; they learnt it under his tuition. They began business in a very small way, as all these men did. Probably one of their first ventures was to take room and power at Simpson's mill. This mill was situated in Hilberoyd Road. It has been transformed by the owner Alderman JW Blackburn into cottages and a rag warehouse.
Probably the foresight of their father, whose knowledge of the water beds was extensive, led them to secure the very best sight in the valley on which to erect the mill (Cheapside) which they purposed to build. I do not know the exact area which they leased but the price was given to me at one farthing per yard. The value has so increased that it would be reasonable to conclude that the lease is worth today 10 times more than that which it was entered into.
Evidently Issac was not the only originator of the firm, but in its early history he was the leading spirit in it. Probably Mr. Simeon was in his employ and as such was his agent and lived in London. However the 3 got into line and built up the business of Mssr. Colbeck Bros collaterally with that of the Cheapside Estate.
Why did they elect to call it Cheapside? I think at times that the explanation would lie in the fact that right opposite to the house where they had been brought up a man of the name of Newsome had built a lot of property which became known as Piccadilly. The exact date on which the mill was built I have not been able to ascertain but it would be somewhere about 1852.
In writing the history of the mills of Batley I referred to the struggle which the Colbeck Brothers had to keep on their feet after getting their mill into working order. It will not be out of place to repeat the story again. It appears that they were being pressed by creditors for a sum of money - altogether £2,000. They decided to consult their old neighbour Mr. John Whitaker on the matter. After listening to their statements Mr. Whittaker suggested that as one of their creditors, whose account amounted to £1,000, was a wealthy man the should propose to him that he should accept a 2nd mortgage on the estate for £3,000 but that out of this money his account of £1,000 should be paid. "If", said Mr. Whittaker, "he accepts the offer then you will be able to clear off all these smaller matters and have a clear £1,000 of loose money to carry on your business". To this course they readily consented. But the Colbecks were workers and not talkers and they proposed that Mr. Whittaker should accompany them to Gomersal and lay the case before Mr. Crowther. To this John readily consented. Then another difficulty arose, Mr. Whittaker was a very stout man and the distance to Gomersal and back too far for him to walk. A horse and cart were borrowed and in this they went and in it they came back far more cheerfully than they went for their journey had been a successful one. Mr. Crowther agreed to the proposal and thus saved the firm, if not from failure, from many serious struggles.
What led to Mr. Colbeck severing his connection with his other brothers, so far as I can gather, was a very insignificant personal matter between him and his brother Simeon. Which was to blame? Well both of them, because it was it was a very foolish thing to fall out over. However, they did separate and Issac secured the site known as Lady Ann from its association with the stream of water said to be fed from the Lady Ann well in Soothill Wood. He commenced to build his mill in 1857 and the engine was set going on September 18th 1858. I had often been there with his son Tom during the building and we were there as soon as we could get on the day the engine started.
At one time Mr. Isaac Colbeck was building some property in Batley and it seemed to be his pleasure to go on a Sunday morning to see how the work was getting on. He was a picture to look at - without hat, no coat on his back, his vest open as if he had no buttons on to fasten it - a fit companion for Garibaldi. However he was a wonderful man. He made mistakes though and so far as business was concerned the greatest mistake of all was the purchase of the Briar Hall estate and the building of the mill upon it. Could he have cleared out of Lady Ann like his brothers cleared out of Cheapside it might have ended differently. The last time that I saw him was one day when he was riding out with Mrs. Colbeck. I looked Mr. Colbeck full in the face. All the fire had gone out of his eyes. He had the dark visage of his early manhood, but instead of the bearing of the commander he looked as if he needed the care of the nurse and non was more suitable than the wife who was with him.
Having lost their brother and gained a competitor, one would have thought that there was little need for extensions, but such was the boom in the trade and the facilities for making money that the brothers decided to add another storey to the mill and this they undertook in 1859. The working of the mill was not stopped; all went on as usual whilst the mason built up the walls. Precaution was taken to prevent damage to the machinery by a free use of wagon covers from the railway company but the workers were expected to take care of themselves. I am not aware of any serious accident occurring during these operations. In December 1860?/80? the whole mill was destroyed by fire. Probably it was a good move on the part of the Bros. Colbeck to clear out during a boom in trade and remove their works to Alverthorpe but it was not a good thing for Batley.
In the vicissitudes through which the trade passed during their history, the Colbecks at times felt the pinch. Mr. Simeon once said to a friend of mine "the Bank was very generous in their dealings with us". I can understand this better when to it was added "our overdraft at one time reached £40,000".
In the manufacture of cloth suitable for cavalry soldiers it was admitted that the Colbecks had no equal. But when in one contract there was a difference of £7,500 between them and the next competing firm it was felt advisable, when the contract was next let, to divide it between the Colbecks and others.
With the passing away of the Jubbs, the Sheards, the Colbecks and the evident passing away of other families from among the merchant princes of Batley, I fail to see any improvement in the standard of the men who have above all others made Batley.
9th July 1909
All the roads in Batley used to be repaired by covering the surface with a coating of broken dross, the refuse from the iron works. When, in wet weather, by frequent usage they had become very dirty, the dirt was scraped on to one side of the road and then thrown into small heaps and left for future use. The piles of dross, broken up into small pieces and ready for use and the lumps which had been brought from the iron works along with these cast up mounds at certain periods made Bradford Road as good as a Park for the pleasures which we used to derive from them....making enquiries about these days and where the dross came from I elicited the following information -"Well he wor a tall thin lad, dark complexioned. He worked for "Old Preston" at Carlinghow and he used to lead these drosses with a horse and cart from Farnley Iron Works. When he got back from there with a load and there was not time to go for a second load he had to work the day out with something else". "And who do you say the lad was" I enquired. "Why John Blackburn at t'owd mill".
Is not what followed a coincidence? I received a letter one day from the Isle of Wight. I turned it over and over again instead of opening it, wondering as I did who could have written to me from that place. When I did open it, I found it was from Mr. John Blackburn. Said he:- "My apology for writing to you is the long acquaintance which I had with your father and I thought that his son would be a likely person to write to and seek advice on the following matters. I am here in the Isle of Wight an old man of 80 years. I have a business in Scarbro' and besides the business in Batley, which you know well, I have extensive works in Germany. These works I have at this time the opportunity of selling. Wondering as to what would be the best course to follow, it occurred to me to write you, knowing from articles which have appeared in the Press that you would be a likely person to seek advice from".
In answer to that letter I wrote him advising that he should clear out of all his German engagements and concentrate his operations on things nearer home. Whether or not t hat advice influenced him to sell I know not, but he did sell and the price speaking from memory - I may be wrong - was over £70,000. And that was only one of his separate businesses. Putting 2 & 2 together - his leading dross with a horse and cart when a young lad at a few shillings a week and then by a long successful business career amassing wealth amounting to considerably over £100,000 - your readers will agree with me that John Blackburn, the shoddyman, deserves a place amongst the men who were pioneers in the shoddy and cloth trade of Batley.
I stood one Sunday morning quite recently near to the entrance of the Zion Chapel. I was interested in 2 matters - in the very few persons whom I notice to go in and in the changes which time and death have effected in the personnel of the congregation. I can "in my mind's eye" see another congregation coming out of the chapel. Amongst them were Jonas Sheard, Abraham Blakeley, James Talbot, Luke Blakeley, Benjamin Senior, Joseph Talbot, John Jubb, John Fox, Joseph Parker, John Brook, William Brook, Henry Wilson, John Newsome, Phineas Fox, Thomas Tomlinson, Joseph Preston. Taking these names one by one, it is not more than surprising that in nearly every case they were closely allied with the rag and shoddy industry, whilst at Hick Lane Chapel many of the congregation were manufacturers. There has always been a trait of brotherhood connected with Zion. It may not have been more that by repute, but still it has ever been proverbial in Batley that Zion people were clannish.
It appears from frequent statements I have heard made that no body of workers were more seriously put to it in order to maintain their lives during the panic of 1857 than the hand loom weavers. This was a very serious matter to Mr. Joseph Jubb and in order to assist them to tide over the difficulty he arranged to make a number of pieces to stock. For the weaving of them he paid 10s each but he so ordered it that each man was to have one every 2 weeks. One Monday morning there was just one warp too few or one weaver too many. One of the weavers remarked, "Well Benny, it's thy turn so take it". To this Benny Wilson replied, "nay lad, not till the master says so".....
In the Town Hall hang the portraits of 2 men. One died a poor man and the other a rich man. The 2 were typical men of the race to which Batley owes it pre-eminence in trade centres and they were typical of the race which gave to Zion its pre-eminence as a centre around which other communities started to flicker. The present generation has lost its pre-eminence in the matter of its religious element, having found that there are things which cannot be bought and paid for by cheque. But to come back to these 2 men. The tall one was Mr. Joseph Parker, sen(?) and the other Mr. John Jubb. Both were interested in the shoddy trade and Mr. Jubb continued so all through his business career. To please his sons, Mr. Parker turned into the groove of cloth manufacturing. It is an easy matter to see how one turned into the wrong way. It is a simple proceeding to get wrong; it is a very difficult matter to get right again. I have known men come to a sudden stop and shout "Lost!" and someone has put them straight again but I have known ten times more cases where the opposite course has been taken. Whether you are a religious man or a politician matters not, if you lose your money you lose your position. Money has a power, even in the religious world, which outweighs all the finer principles.
I remember listening to a conversation which took place between 2 men. Their chief subject was the failure of some men to make headway, whilst others had succeeded. Coming to more personal incidents, Mr. Parker was referred to. Both seemed to be perfectly acquainted with him and with his history and the tenor of their conversation turned on and around his inability to make headway in the commercial life of the town. One of the men gave the following incident as a possible cause for Mr. Parker's non success. Said he "I have heard it said that when he was a young man he received a call into the Methodist New Connexion ministry and that he refused to accede to the call". Possibly in that may be found a solution of his non-success. There may be more in this than is apparent at first sight. Be that as it may, I take it as confirmation of the opinion which I had formed, and which I still hold to- that he was one of the most intelligent men in Batley. He lived to a good old age - 85 years - an age only reached by another manufacturer and that was Mr. George Stubley.
The First Batley man to manufacture shoddy in Germany
Mr. John Blackburn was the first Batley man to borrow money from the Leeds Building Society. Whether it was in connection with the property in Providence St. or that in Bradford Road I cannot say but this he did assure me, that never, during his subsequent history, did he cease to be connected with it. The question has been asked "How did John become connected with Germany?" Well, probably in the same way that other firms afterwards transferred manufacturing plant to that country - it was owing to a tariff being put on rags but not on shoddy, the result being that by putting down machinery for grinding rags into shoddy in Germany this tax or tariff was evaded. I have tried to get at the name of the first man who, in the shoddy interest, went over to Germany. It appears the Blakeley family were at one time much more numerous and that three of them took their business away from Batley. Two - George and Robert - established a business at Dewsbury and from them sprung some of the most prominent of Dewsbury citizens. The third whose name I have forgotten went into Germany and is the pioneer of the shoddy trade in that country.
Mr. John Blackburn's business was at first in flocks made from the milling or raising of cloths. These could at that time be bought in small quantities - an important matter for a man with a very small quantity of capital. Rags and shoddies were added subsequently. In connection with Mssrs. Stubleys Mill was a small place let off to Mr. Luke Blakeley for 2 rag machines. One of these machines was let off to Mr. John Blackburn. I do not know how he managed to grow so quickly as a shoddy man but his connection with Germany seems to have opened the way for entering on to the yarn business which either led to the purchase of the Old Mill or followed that step.
Probably his history is the most romantic of any of our pioneers. I have on several occasions referred to the building of 3 storeyed houses. A new idea occurred to Mr. William Brook and that was if 3 storeys were essential it would be a wise policy to go down hill with one thus breaking the monotony of 3 flights of steps if you desired to go the top. He built a row of houses on that principle on Bradford Road. In one of them lived Mr. Robert Talbot and in the lowest storey you might have seen his son Henry busy, day after day with his wheel, winding bobbins for his father who was a weaver or for some other weavers. I should not have mentioned this but for this purpose: the history of this Talbot family differs from the other in this one point. From extreme poverty they rose to extreme wealth and even the bobbin winder, if health and prosperity continues, will rank as one of the richest of our tradesmen.
It is an incident in the history of Batley which gives pleasure to many that when these men were called into high positions they acquitted themselves with credit. But a more pleasing incident in their history is the number of ladies who, when their husbands took the responsibilities of chief magistrates, rose to the occasion and acted as Mayoress in a manner which brought credit not only to their husbands but also to the borough. The men were trained through having been brought into contact with men who had held similar positions, but not so their wives. It would be an interesting study to try and find out how many of our Mayoresses had, in their youthful days, to go out to work in order to keep things going at home. There is one point that I will be able to help you in - three sisters have in their turn been Mayoresses. It is generally known that the eldest was a worker, but there being some doubt as to the other two, I made enquires and met a man who, as a lad, use to carry their teas to the mill.
Mr Critchley, some inventions and a law suit.
There was a time when the men of Batley went mad on mansions. This started a generation ago so that we are now able to see the loss or the profit of mansion building. Mr. Critchley was dead against 2 things, the building of these fine houses and the folly of relying exclusively on the woollen industry for the maintenance of Batley. He pleaded earnestly and long for the establishment of an engineering industry. I have been forcibly reminded that some of the points which he raised in order to influence this project of his by the remark of a porter at the L&NW Railway. Said he "I get quite excited and sometimes lose my discretion at the incessant coming and going of mechanics from Lancashire. What a fearful expense it must be to the Batley manufacturers and what a loss it must be when machines needing repairs have to stand idle until these men get here."
Mr. Critchley saw what an advantage it would be if Batley could have a constant stream of men going out in order to repair or fix up new machinery. To strengthen his argument he promised to take up some #5,000 worth of shares and accept #5,000 more in debenture stock. "If" he said "we could get round so as to pay a wage sheet of #1,000 weekly, there is no end to the advantages which would follow. The houses will prove a snare and a cost". I wish at times Mr. Critchley was living now, it would be a treat to listen whilst he denounced men for their folly and their foolishness.
I have been down by the Batley "Day Hoils" as they were termed in those days and have looked around at the alterations that have taken place during the last 60 years. Mssrs. Jubb had their tenterfield there - with long stretches of cloth locked on to the tenters and then stretched after being pulled out so that in width and in length nothing would be lost when they were brought up for measurement. At the corner where the Paxton Society have been so busy improving the scenery, the old Bar House stood. Looking a little further down the road I was reminded of that awful event, the bursting of a boiler at Branch Mill.
As soon as I heard the noise and heard the steam I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, shouting "Fire". There were not many people there before me.
I looked at every erection associated with the New Branch Mills. I noticed all the associations of the old Grammar School, the Master's house and his gardens and passing the old entrance to the Parish Churchyard, I walked in. Turning to the left and looking at the gravestones I saw just under the wall the grave of a wonderful and historic man. Evidently he was not a poor man - or if he was, tradition has gone wrong for once. Amongst other things the following is engraved on the stone:- Ben Law died 1837 aged 65 years. He was the inventor and first manufacturer of Shoddy Cloth and his best monument is the prosperity of the town wherein he resided which has been raised by the industry he introduced from a mere hamlet to an important manufacturing town".
A man may be born poor and die rich and have his name held in lasting remembrance through his riches. A man may be born poor, do good work die poor and be forgotten. In the great period of prosperity when the machinery for making cloth was in evidence there was just one weak point. It seemed to offer a bar to progress and threatened to thwart other efforts. I refer to the difficulties arising out of the winding of the weft from the coppings to the bobbins for the weavers to weave.
It as well for Batley that no School Board existed and that there were few restrictions on child labour for much of this winding process was done by children. One of the mule spinners at Hick Lane mills, called Jess Roberts, thought that he could wind weft on to wooden bobbins for the weavers to weave as well as change stubbin on to warp coppings. He tried time after time but failed. He was impressed with the fact, however, that his repeated efforts had gradually brought him nearer to the desired end. He made another effort and suceeded. These bobbins were taken to one of the weavers who asserted that they were the best wound bobbins that he had ever woven with.
All these efforts were made without the masters knowing anything about what was in the man's mind. Having succeeded he went into the office, carrying some of the work which he had accomplished. The masters were pleased and gave out orders for the mules to be altered under the direction of Jess.
Another man thought that he could so operate on his "horse" that instead of spinning so that the "mule" could wind, he could carry it out to the end and thus do away not only with the mule winder but save the expense and he succeeded. I do not know his name but by the publication of this article the facts stated will become history and at least Jess will have a monument , if not in this Cemetery, in the columns of the "News".
The late Mr. John Jubb at four different periods built up the New Branch mills. The town was (?) of itself one day as it dawned upon (??) after all it was true that the (????) sold to three of our tradesmen (?) Woodcock, J Bradbury and Simon Cooper to have and to hold the estate. Probably he has seen more vicissitudes during his very long business life than any living man associated with the trade of this district. I do not wish to infer that these have been personal but bound up with the history of the town.
It is folly to fight a law suit with the Council of a Borough unless you are in possession of more money than you know what to do with. I was reminded of this the other day as I looked over the wall in Mayman Lane in order to get a better view of the old brick works which used to be associated with the Little Orme Mill Estate. Originally the field was used by the tenters of the Clerk Green mill company for drying their pieces. The road just here has been much improved and the hill, once called Clay Hill, has been lowered. It occurred to Mr. John Sheard (it was said at the time) who was living in Dryfield House, Healey, which his father had built and where he lived and at last died - that if a road could be opened out from the top of Clay Hill into East Street and thence forward into Wellington Street thus saving the pull up that steep portion of Welllington Street to where it enters Clerk Green, it would be a boon to Healey and Batley and would be an act of mercy to horses. Drivel drivel this didn't work as the road needed to pass through a piece of private property.
Friday July 2nd 1909
When Batley had an army of manufacturers & Mill companies which no longer exist
When Batley had an army of manufacturers & Mill companies which no longer exist
It appears that about 100 years ago a man named John Bromley was a woolen manufacturer at Liversedge. The plant was his but the mill was not and it occurred to him that it would be advisable to change his works from the Spen valley to this. He secured a site one of the best that could be found. This was prior to Bradford Road being opened but the site abutted on to the main road which led from Halifax to Wakefield - 2 very important trading towns at that time. It was also the main road between Batley, Hanging Heaton and Dewsbury. He began to build his mill single handed and had succeeded in getting the first 2 storeys erected when a calamity occurred which upset his plans. He went to bed one night a well to do man but in the morning he was a poor man. His premises were destroyed overnight by fire and as he was not insured the man was ruined. This necessitated all operations connected with the building of the mill to cease. In this condition it stood for years - some say nearly 20 - and it was owing to this that the term "Dumb" was applied to the mill which is now the property of Mssrs. J Brook Jubb & co and stands near Batley gasworks. Ultimately the concern was taken over by a Company who finished the building of the mill and carried it on under the style or name of Union Mill Company. Some unpleasant feelings were aroused in the breasts of Mr. Bromley's sons when it became known that not one shilling would accrue to the family out of what their father had spent on erecting the mill.
The list of members or shareholders given to me contains the names of James Thurmand, Richard Newsome, Joseph Hepplestone, Robert Wilson, and David Wilson. The last two who were brothers recall the memory of their father, Robert Wilson who lived in Illingworth's Fold, Wellington St. Looking up at this place one is reminded of the old principles, referred to in previous articles, of how careful these pioneers were in the expenses associated with family life. The first floor contained the living rooms, the upper rooms were for trade. On the left hand side and at each end were steps leading to the work-room. A few yards further on the street is another pile. In this case the family were given two upper rooms as bedrooms but the rest of the building was occupied by looms, whilst overall was an extensive attic. Turning back and going up Ward's Hill you are met with the same conditions, and again when you turn into Sheard's Fold. Reviewing the times when all this army of small manufacturers was at work - each a centre of interest around which gathered other centres - one is led to the opinion that after all, we were better and much safer under those conditions that we are now, when some half-dozen men reap the advantages of the toll of nearly as many thousands.
But it is the history which gathers around the 2 sons, Robert and David Wilson, to which I wish to draw attention. Both of them built houses which were separate and distinct from the business, but in each case was still in close touch with it. The history of Robert is that of a successful manufacturer. The history of David would lose much of its interest if it was confined to that of manufacturing. For many years he was closely allied with the Wesleyan Sunday School as one its superintendants. A peculiar incident occurred one Sunday. The cry was raised in the street that Bromley's mill was on fire - David Wilson ran out with all his pupils following him.
When the land through which Providence Street runs was brought into the market for building purposes, Zion people got to one end and the Wesleyan element to the other. It may have been just a coincidence but the fact remains that on the one side were John Jubb and Joseph Parker and on the other, David Wilson. The latter's purpose was to fill his share up with houses. What induced him to change his mind and build a mill may be explained by the fact that his business was increasing and that he required more extensive premises and machinery. It probably suited his purpose to do so but it was an unwise course, the site being altogether unsuitable. The estate came into the hands of the late Alderman John Blackburn and I was always surprised that the council allowed him to extend it. I am glad to see it in ruins and would prefer that it remained in such a state than a mill should be built up again in such place.
I asked one day how Mr. David Wilson became so extensive a maker of fancy cloths and the answer I got was "it were t' Lepton galliper that introduced these things". Whatever he made by these adventures into the realm of fancies, I should incline to the opinion that in the end he was the loser. I have known him have old stock which had cost him some thousands of pounds to make, but which for ordinary trade purposes, was of little value. One thing is certain, that his peace of mind was disturbed in his old age by the persistent efforts which he made to pay off the encumbrance which he had created in this way. I cannot tell what induced his brother Robert to clear out from the Union Mills and seek to become the owner of the Toad Pipes Mill. This was a Company Mill. I have heard it stated that there were 20 share holders but I am more inclined to the belief that the concern was divided into 20 shares and that some of the share holders held more than one share. It was suggested to me that the following persons composed the firm - John Brook, Sam Sheard, Tom Burnell, Henry Sheard, Samuel Senior, Benjamin Spedding, William Talbot, Abraham Talbot and Joseph Talbot. Be that as it may Mr. Robert Wilson bought up the whole concern and it was against the will of one of the Company - who swore heavily and drank continuously for nearly a month to show his contempt for what had been done by his fellow shareholders.
The coming away from the Union Mill of Mr. Robert Wilson was followed by the leaving of Mr. Richard Newsome, or probably that of his sons, who, along with their brother in law Mr. John Wailes, built Greenhill Mill. Mr. Joseph Hepplestone had been away from the firm for some time and I think that only James Thurman and David Wilson were left in the concern. The breaking up of the Toad Pipes community resulted in the two brothers Sheard and Sam Senior taking over the partly built mill at Carlinghow from a Mr. Hudswell (?) and this was carried on under the style of Sheard and Senior, Victoria Mill. The next transformation seems to have been the formation of the Alexaandra Mill Company. Two of the partners in this we have met with before - Mr. Henry Sheard and Mr Abraham Talbot. Mr. Talbot had, in the meantime, been to America. He was there at the time of the sale of the Toad Pipes, the deeds of which had to be sent abroad for his signature. There was another Wilson, Joseph, who hailed from Clerk Green and there were 2 brothers, William and George Hirst who had their work done at the Purwell Mills, the original owner of which was their uncle. Prior to this the brothers Hirst had been working together, along with another man who was also called George Hirst. This necessitated some distinctive name being applied to the 2 Georges so one was called "Red George" through his hair being of that colour and the other, having black hair, was called "Black George".
|1880 Article on Benjamin Law transcribed by Wendy Rose. Wendy Rose|
|Michael Sheard and Sarah Lister|
|Michael Sheard and Sarah Barber|
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