Some 19th Century Business Women

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023 we are taking a look at women in business in the 19th century. You may have heard of Martha Crossley of Crossley Carpets, but did you know just how influential she was? And what about all the women you never hear about who ran small, local businesses. We took a look through a few trade directories and found plenty of entries. Here are just a handful:

Baines Directory of Yorkshire 1822 lists:

Martha Simpson – Circulating Library, Crown Street

Eliza Metcalfe – Boot and Shoe Maker, Old Market

Elizabeth Thomas –  Brazier and Tinsmith, North Bridge

Margaret Crabtree –  Rope and Twine Manufacturer, Northgate

Mary Lewthwaite –  Pawnbroker, Woolshops

White’s Directory 1837 lists:

Mrs R Coates –  Butcher, 47 Silver Street

Mary Ann Bales –  Cabinet Maker, 14 Southgate

Alice Mudd – Cheese and Flour Dealer, 44 Silver Street

Mary Bairstow – Horse and Gig Letter, Wards End

Amelia Lawson – Plumber and Glazier, 23 Southgate

Continue reading “Some 19th Century Business Women”

All about the Goux: Joseph Rideal Smith  – Artist and Sanitation Inspector…

If you have heard of J R smith it is probably because you have come across some of his illustrations of Old Halifax. They were produced in the 1890s but are based on earlier drawings and photographs. They are a fabulous resource and worth looking at to get an idea of how Halifax streets would have looked in the 19th Century.

Less well known however is that JR Smith was Halifax’s first Sanitary Inspector and was responsible for implementing a new and innovative sanitation system – the Goux System.

Continue reading “All about the Goux: Joseph Rideal Smith  – Artist and Sanitation Inspector…”

“I’ve been waiting 19 years to see these”: The mystery of William Hardaker, Part Two

After Part One came out, I began asking around within my professional (and unprofessional – we library people run in packs) circles about what could have happened to the contents of the Hardaker room. A lot of research went into the preparation of Part Two…but in the end, it turned out that the answer to this mystery laid much closer to home than I expected. Read on to find out how we got from the last post to the photo above, which is of John Hardaker – William’s great-great-grandson – stood with what we think are the only remaining pieces of art from this curious and obscure man’s life’s work.

Continue reading ““I’ve been waiting 19 years to see these”: The mystery of William Hardaker, Part Two”

How times change: the “local hospitals and asylums” pamphlet box

Any reader with even the most basic knowledge of the history of asylums and mental institutions – whether from academic reading or from popular fiction – knows that such places could, until shamefully recently, often be terrible places for people with mental health issues or learning disabilities to live. One of our interesting but at times less enjoyable-to-read pamphlet boxes that contains various reports into institutions in Calderdale is Box 362: “Local Hospitals and Asylums”. Many different ways of treating and viewing asylum patients and attitudes towards people with disabilities are reflected in some of its contents, which we will discuss in this post.

WARNING: some parts of the following post, direct quotations mainly, may be distressing to read but are included as they are reflective of the attitudes of those in charge of these places at the time.

Continue reading “How times change: the “local hospitals and asylums” pamphlet box”

The Mystery of William Hardaker: Part One

While rummaging through yet another Pamphlet Box – the “unidentified photographs” one – I came across this small sketch. On the back was a typed label which read “Particulars on back of original framing: Drawn by William Hardaker 1840.” The initial Google search brought up a Bradford-based confectioner named William Hardaker who deliberately poisoned several children in 1858, which was a bit of a “how did he get there from here, oh no” moment, but more searching revealed the more likely identity of this artist – William Hardaker of Todmorden, 1824-1904, a clogmaker and also painter and natural history collector. But we can’t prove it; and we need your help. Read on to find out more about the presumed artist and what you might be able to do to help.

Continue reading “The Mystery of William Hardaker: Part One”

Red bricks and radicals: the beginning stages of the Todmorden Hippodrome (1908 – 1911)

Image of the proscenium stage at Todmorden Hippodrome taken from the circle. The stage is simply set for the 2022 production of 'Little Women' with a writing desk, trunks, a doll's house, and chairs.

Library assistant’s image: Todmorden Hippodrome’s proscenium stage set-up for the Todmorden Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of Little Women, performed 16 – 19 Feb 2022

Todmorden Hippodrome, known locally and lovingly as “the Hip”, is a stately looking red brick building on Halifax Road. It has, and continues to, house popular plays from Shakespeare to contemporary drama, musical theatre and operettas to burlesque. Many amateur and professional entertainers have stood on the slightly sloped stage. Stan Laurel, for example, trod its boards, and comedian Ken Dodd was one of its Patrons for many years. The venue can even be hired for weddings and civil ceremonies! Primarily, though, the Hip is all about entertainment made for, and by, the local community.

Prior to its opening in October 1908, however, theatre-making activity had taken occurred in places such as: the short-lived Victoria Theatre in Salford, Todmorden; Oddfellows Hall; and within Todmorden Town Hall where, in 1899, ‘a proscenium [stage] and accessories for the performance of stage plays’ was inserted (Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter, Friday 22 September 1899, p.7).

Less than a decade later, Richard Dewhirst, owner of Dewhirst & Sons printers, publishers, and stationers, began the construction of the “New” Hippodrome in 1908. No stranger to playmaking, according to The Era – a national paper referred to at the time as “the actors bible” that ran from 1837 until the end of the second world war – Dewhirst had previously been involved with the Victoria Theatre in 1881 as a lessee. Construction took place over the spring and summer of 1908.

Image of an article from the Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter, Friday 26 June 1908. The article is entitled 'The Todmorden Hippodrome. License granted conditionally.' There is an advert for Eiffel Tower Lemonade above the article.

‘The place was practically built’ – lessons in retrospective planning by Richard Dewhirst!
‘The Todmorden Hippodrome. Licence granted conditionally.’ Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter, Friday 26 June 1908, p.5.

The architects were Sutcliffe and Sutcliffe, and the original, rather aesthetically pleasing, blueprints for the building can be seen on Todmorden Amateur Operatic and Dramatic society’s website:

During construction there was an accident involving John Mellor, a plasterer, who fell from the roof of the Hippodrome. (Are you a relative? We’d love to know what happened next to poor John.)

Image from The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Saturday 29 August 1908, p.9. The text is: 'A plasterer, named John Mellor, aged fifty, fell from the roof of the new Todmorden Hippodrome, and fractured his skull, yesterday.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Saturday 29 August 1908, p.9

The Hip officially opened on Monday 5 October 1908 with its ‘considerable frontage to Halifax Road … seating for 1,600 [with a] well equipped stage with a fire-proof curtain and the necessary dressing rooms for the artistes’ (from ‘Todmorden Hippodrome. Preparation for the opening’ Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter Friday 2 October 1908, p.3).

Image of an article:  ‘Opening of Todmorden Hippodrome’ Halifax Evening Courier Wednesday 7 October 1908 p.3.

 ‘Opening of Todmorden Hippodrome’ Halifax Evening Courier Wednesday 7 October 1908 p.3. The opening performance was also listed on the 5 October 1908 in The Stage, the newspaper and journal for theatre news and reviews in the UK.

A couple of months after the Hip officially opened, Dewhirst applied for a music licence that would have allowed for music on “sacred days” (Sunday, Christmas Day, and Good Friday). The answer was, unsurprisingly, a resounding no.

Image of article: ‘MUSIC LICENCE FOR THE HIPPODROME REFUSED’, The Todmorden Advertiser, Friday 4 December 1908, p.8.

‘MUSIC LICENCE FOR THE HIPPODROME REFUSED’, The Todmorden Advertiser, Friday 4 December 1908, p.8.

From the end of 1908 and in 1909 there were glowing reviews in the local news for shows such as A Royal Divorce, The Merry Widow, and The Merchant of Venice. The Era, which listed productions “in the provinces”, wrote a warm review of the pantomime Sinbad the Sailor with ‘Miss Lily Simms [making] a dashing and handsome Sinbad’, ‘Miss Dolly Andrews a dainty principal girl’, comic villains ‘Messrs. Rand and O’Ryan’s … quips and cranks calling forth loud applause’, and featuring a ‘well received’ acrobatic troupe (The Era Saturday 12 March 1910, p. 11. More reviews can be seen in this newspaper via the British Newspaper Archive from our digital collection accessible for free in the library).

Nationally, and internationally, the first few decades of the twentieth century were tumultuous. In England, women fought for their right to vote, the power and force of the British Empire was waning, and the mood in Europe grew increasingly darker. The threat of a global war was becoming less of an idea and more of an inevitability. The British Left movement during this period held meetings and debates around military action, forced conscription, and anti-armaments. 

Forced conscription was not introduced in England until 1914 – when the First World War was in full force. In October 1910, however, the ‘murderous craze of war’ was condemned at a meeting of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) to a ‘moderate audience’ at the Hip. At the heart of the discussion was the ‘blood-tax on labour’ and the profitability of munitions and ‘militarianism…profitable to certain financial interests’. Many of these assertions were greeted with ‘hear hear’ by the audience and those representing the ILP (‘Anti-Armament Meeting at Todmorden. Conscription condemned’ Todmorden and District News, Friday 4 November 1910, pp. 6 – 7).

To learn more about the anti-war and Independent Labour Movement in Calderdale in the early twentieth century see: Keith Laybourn and David James ‘The Rising Sun of Socialism’: The Independent Labour Party in the Textile District of the West Riding of Yorkshire between 1890 and 1914 (329.94 lending and reference, Central Library); Jonathan Timbers Resistance to the War (World War One): The Independent Labour Party in Hebden Royd and the Sowerby Bridge Division in 1914 and 1915 (P 940.4, reference only in Central Library);  and Halifax Independent Labour’s production The Record (P 329, reference only in Central Library).

In 1911, Richard Dewhirst declared bankruptcy and the building was sold to the Hartleys (possibly Herbert Hartley who owned Nelson Palace in Nelson, Blackburn – if you know more, do let us know!).

For a fuller account of the histories of theatre making in Todmorden and of the Hippodrome see Freda & Malcom Heywood’s Todmorden Hippodrome: One Hundred Years of Theatre 1908 – 2008. Upper Calder Valley Publications: Todmorden. This book is is available from various branches of the library service under shelf number 942.746 HEY.

If you’re interested in local performance and theatre making, these two articles may whet your appetite: A. Porritt’s ‘The Old Halifax Theatre, 1789-1904’, Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society (1956), pp. 17 – 30, and Kate Taylor’s ‘Theatre in Halifax c1750-1840’, Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society (2002), pp. 58-67.

Halifax gets a mention in Dave Russell’s chapter ‘Popular entertainment, 1776-1895’ In Joseph Donahue (Ed.) (2004) The Cambridge History of British Theatre. Volume 2: 1660 – 1895. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  pp. 368 – 387 (792.0941 MIL, lending). This collection covers a general history British theatre over the centuries.

Finally, dedicated volunteers at the Hip are currently compiling an archive of shows, actors, set plans, building design blueprints, and other media. If you can help with identifying photographs of actors and shows, then get in touch with the society:

The hidden value of monumental inscriptions

You’ve seen our previous blog post about parish registers, and you’ve been on one of our free courses about how to research your family tree (you have, haven’t you?), but do you also know the value of a hearty and comprehensive monumental inscription (MI) transcript to your research? We’re here to spread the good news about this underutilised but incredibly important tool for discovering and confirming who’s really meant to be in your family tree.

Detail from the MI transcript for St. John’s, Coley
Read more: The hidden value of monumental inscriptions

MI transcripts may seem like a nice extra, but they can be incredibly useful. Because gravestones don’t just include husband, wife, and children – they can include grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or even entirely unrelated individuals altogether. They can also include information on them such as the address of the inhabitants, their professions, or how and where they died. Don’t just think of war graves – occupational hazards also make an appearance. Over the decades many have seen the value in MI transcripts for local and family historians. In Bradford, Arthur Blackburn saw the dangers of gravestones eroding or being removed and set about making transcriptions of over 100 graveyards – no small task! His work is available to view in Bradford Libraries or included within downloads of other MI transcripts, alongside newer ones, which sometimes can be illuminating itself as to how quickly that information can be lost to the weather or vandalism. Some graveyards he transcribed fall within Calderdale or the border areas and we hold printed copies of those here.

Just some of many MI books and files in Local Studies

Many churches and volunteer groups within Calderdale have over the years taken it on themselves to do similar work, and many of these can be found in Local Studies or in other Calderdale libraries. Some even include maps, which for larger graveyards are a godsend for a researcher who wants to go and view the stone itself. A group in Todmorden, Friends Of Christ Church, is updating and expanding the MI transcript and map of that graveyard originally put together by the Todmorden Antiquarian Society. Some of the gravestones uncovered have a wealth of information on them beyond what you would find in a parish register. Outside of Calderdale, one notable gravestone in Thornton, outside Bradford, has engraved on its base “His mother was at the expence [sic] of this stone, his wife none, for shame for shame.” There’s a story there! Gravestones like these serve as springboards for other lines of research and can flesh out the bones of an otherwise vague ancestor whose life you’d otherwise know nothing about.

An informative gravestone from Christ Church graveyard, Todmorden

The Calderdale Family History Society has a number of transcripts available online which were put together by themselves and other groups, but these must always be taken with a pinch of salt – another reason multiple transcriptions should be done over time is to catch errors made in previous ones. If in doubt, get your good boots on and prepare to take a trip. Errors are understandable when you look at the scale of the work it takes to capture these details and the many hazards of what may involve crawling through brambles and undergrowth to try and read a gravestone that has already suffered decades of weathering. Local Studies holds a number of printed MI transcriptions put together by the CFHS, so if you’d rather page through a physical object, get in touch and see if we have the one you’re after.

Some of the printed volumes produced by the Calderdale Family History Society

One church whose MI transcript might be interesting to many is Square Church. The transcript we hold here in Local Studies was put together some time ago and is a basic guide to who was once buried there, with a surname index at the front and in the back, a list of who was on which stone and for some, their relationships to each other. West Yorkshire Archives, in addition, have this MI transcript on microfilm in a different form – actual inscriptions and a map. You see the value in having access to more than one attempt at transcribing…different groups have different priorities, and what you find on one transcript might not be precisely what you want. These gravestones are long gone, but their records are still here, so if your ancestor search leads you back to this area you can still find out what you need to find out with the help of this item.

Detail from the MI transcript for Square Church, Halifax

Another useful tool for those putting a transcript together, or for those wishing to check a transcript that was taken prior to stone removal was accurately taken, are sexton’s books and burial registers. Sometimes one or both will include extra information such as the owner of the burial plot, the number of people buried there (it might not match the number of people on the stone!), and the names of those buried there. That last item might seem obvious, but perusal of these can show that sometimes people – often very young babies – were interred alongside what seems to be a complete stranger. This could be for a number of reasons such as the parents being paupers, or the child being unbaptised or stillborn. But it could also be a clue as to other family relationships that you’ve not yet uncovered. Sadly we do not have any such items in our collection in Local Studies, but contacting West Yorkshire Archives, the church or chapel itself, local family history societies, or local history groups may bring you some joy.

In the meantime groups wishing to double-check an old transcript or start a new one, and who are bored or have enough free time to want to start a “Friends Of…” group, can get in touch with the National Federation of Cemetery Friends, who can help advise you on getting started and the various hoops you might have to jump through if your interest goes beyond recording and into restoration. Also check out our History Out Loud podcast episode where we interview David Glover and talk about the history of Lister Lane Cemetery. And, as always, if you have any questions at all…just ask us.

The Halifax Gibbet

The gibbet in Halifax continued to survive for centuries after others had disappeared elsewhere.  Why?  The most commonly held theory is that it was a powerful deterrent due to the large amounts of cloth being produced in the area; the textile trade being especially vulnerable to thieves due to it being an easily transportable commodity.  This and the fact that use of gibbets was not governed by any Acts of Parliament meant it was a local decision whether its use was continued.  However, by 1650 beheading was starting to be considered an excessive punishment for petty theft and Oliver Cromwell spoke out in Parliament forbidding its use.

Although the actual installation date is not known, it is thought that it dates back as far as 1286 however, the first recorded victim is Richard Bentley from Sowerby on 20 March 1541.  The last two victims were Anthony Mitchell and John Wilkinson who were found guilty of stealing cloth valued at 9 shillings, and two colts valued at £5 8shillings – they were executed on 30 April 1650.  Records are patchy but it is thought that 53 people were executed between 1541 and 1650 for what we today would describe as petty crimes.

There was a system of trial by jury whereby the accused would be brought before the court along with the accuser and the stolen items.  If the jury acquitted the accused, then the individual was at liberty after paying their fees.  However, if condemned execution would be immediate if it was a principal market day otherwise, they would be kept in the stocks until the next.

The gibbet employed a unique method of decapitation whereby a horse was attached by string to the safety pin and would trigger the blade by moving forwards and removing the pin.  This enabled the heads to be removed without the direct intervention of human hands.

The whole device weighted 7lbs 12oz and was rediscovered in 1840 when it was fenced off and became overgrown with time.  On Feb 1974 a non-working replica was erected on the site.  The Gibbet’s original blade has been preserved and is on display at Bankfield Museum, Halifax.

“The Abstainer’s Companion” – some Temperance movements in Calderdale

What with pub culture being so prevalent in Britain, it’s easy to forget that the Temperance movement – think teetotallers, abstention, and sobriety – was for many years a cultural force for alehouses and breweries to contend with. The law made its own attempts to curtail drinking and the many crimes and abuses that stemmed from it through banning the sale of alcohol after certain times of day or on certain days, or over a certain amount, or in containers that weren’t sealed…but as we all know, people find ways of getting around laws they don’t agree with. Temperance societies understood that changing people’s thinking would be key to destroying what they saw as alcohol’s damaging and degrading hold on people’s lives, and some of the logic behind their activities or guidance on staying sober will be familiar to those in addiction recovery today. Here is a selection of items from various societies across Calderdale who tried their best to “fight the good fight”.

Continue reading ““The Abstainer’s Companion” – some Temperance movements in Calderdale”

Mini-post: “Shops and Shopping” pamphlet box, and what comes next…

Sometimes, you see something and you think – huh? And then – why??? That was my reaction on seeing the cover of the book produced for the 1900 Universal Trades Exhibition in Halifax, which was held at Thrum Hall. So I looked inside to find out more. Read on for a selection of interesting advertisements and a plug for our upcoming “Picking Up The Threads: Researching Crossley’s Carpets” event on September 16th 2022.

Continue reading “Mini-post: “Shops and Shopping” pamphlet box, and what comes next…”