Victorian Meltham

by Lauren Quarmby

Meltham, a small town six miles from Huddersfield, has dramatically changed since the Victorian era, however there are still prominent features that remain today such as the moors, Meltham Pleasure Ground and the churches. This biography will discuss what Meltham was like during the Victorian period and the remains of the Victorian world on Meltham today. Much of the information will relate to a wealthy entrepreneurial family called the Brooks as they had a big impact on Meltham throughout this time.

The first recorded history of Meltham dates back to the 1080s as it is featured in the Domesday book, which was ordered by William the Conqueror in 1086. This tells us that it was just two people which held a large proportion of the land in Meltham.[1] During the 19th century Meltham changed more significantly than during any other comparable time, the population grew at a phenomenal rate.[2]

Textiles were once one of England’s major manufacturing industries and they continue to be important today. During the late 18th and 19th century there was a high demand for silks, cotton and woollen yarns.[3] The construction of textile mills led to the expansion of many existing settlements as well as the growth of new ones, including a series of industrial communities and model villages.[4] The Brook family played an important role in the development of Meltham Mills. William Brook moved to Meltham in 1774, his first industrial venture was in 1780 establishing a scribbling mill.[5]  A scribbling mill was used for the preparation of raw fleece. These mills were the characteristic type of woollen mill in the years before 1825.[6]

Following William Brook’s death, his son Jonas took over the business and converted the manufacturing business from woollen to cotton, establishing Jonas Brooks and Bros.[7] This was the start of the textile industry in Meltham with the Brook family becoming very influential and key characters for the development of a prosperous village. The Brooks’ cotton spinning mill was made up of three multi-storeyed mills in 1833, with a further three mills erected before 1850, this created a major textile complex.[8] The cotton threads produced by Jonas Brook and Bros gained worldwide reputation and they were used in nearly every household.[9] The firm grew and became one of the industrial giants of 19th century Yorkshire.[10]

The scale of the Brooks textile business was considerable; in 1833 they had 623 employees and by the end of the 19th century they had almost 2000 employees.[11] Such numbers were difficult to accommodate in the immediate neighbourhood, however the Brooks built a significant amount of workers’ housing. By 1850 they had built around 46 cottages and in the next ten years they had erected a further terrace of 13 cottages.[12] Some of the buildings remain today such as the Bank Buildings which were built in 1858.

Bank Buildings, Meltham

(Photos by Lauren Quarmby) These photos show what Bank buildings look like today, these buildings were built to house the workers from the mills during the Victorian era.

The Brook family continued to develop both the centre of Meltham and the immediate neighbourhood including Meltham Mills. During this time, Meltham changed beyond recognition with a majority of buildings being erected throughout the 19th century. Ecclesiastical buildings together with the rest of the public buildings were mainly down to the Brook family.[13] The Brooks spent a great deal of money in building, extending and restoring churches as well as building schools in the neighbourhood of Meltham Mills.

The family were Anglicans and their first expenditure was in 1835, when they added a west tower to St Bartholomew’s Church, a church that contains a number of their family monuments.[14] James Brook went on to erect St James Church in 1845, this was to serve the double purpose of a church and a school.[15] As during this period education became the rule rather than the exception, meaning more children were expected to attend school.[16] There was residence included for a clergyman and a school master, and the church held 400 adults and 250 children.[17] This building was paid for by the Brooks, the national society and the committee of the council of education.[18] During the Victorian era education was changed and many features of modern British education were established.[19] In 1870 the state accepted responsibility for ensuring that a basic education was available to all and by the end of the century general literacy had been achieved.[20] Before the 1870s most organised working class education was given by charities or churches, the act of 1870 marked a shift of basic responsibility from church to state.

(Photo by Lauren Quarmby) This is a photo of St James’s Church, this was endowed by James Brook in 1845 and it was extensively remodelled in the 1980s for community use.

(Image from Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 178 Creative Commons.)

This map shows all of the property owned or built by Jonas Brook and Bros Ltd, which shows how successful they were and how they helped the development of Meltham centre and Meltham Mills. The Brooks came to dominate 19th century Meltham through their wealth; they provided houses, churches, schools and recreational facilities for their growing workforce.[21] This legacy remains visible today as much of what they build is still around, for example Charles Brook built the Meltham pleasure grounds for his workers to use in their leisure time.[22] Today people in Meltham are trying to ensure that this legacy lives on as there is a group called ‘Friends of Meltham Pleasure Grounds’ which wants to keep on top of the grounds and aims to install information boards and cut back the overgrowth making it a haven for wildlife and villagers.[23] The group also held a Meltham Pleasure Grounds Memories Afternoon in September 2015, in which people were encouraged to bring photographs and memories of the park, to ensure the Brook’s legacy lives on.[24]

The future development of the district relied on the new railway: the Meltham branch ran along three and half miles and was authorised by an act of Parliament in June 1861.[25] The railway opened for goods and passengers on August 10th 1869, and it was incredibly important for the Brook Bros employees, some workers would travel from Huddersfield on the purpose built Meltham mills branch line.[26] It was a single track branch, which stopped at three intermediate stations including Woodfield, Netherton and Healey House and the station itself had a single platform with a footbridge for access into the town centre.[27] A station at Meltham Mills halt was erected solely for the employees of the Brooks in return for sale of the land for building the railway.[28] Tickets were issued from the mill office until this station closed in 1934.[29] The passenger service into the other stations were cut on 23 May 1949, but goods trains continued to serve until April 1965.[30] The supermarket Morrison’s now occupies the old station site, whilst a housing estate has consumed the former goods yard and the old trackbed has been made into a public footpath now known as Meltham Greenway.

Not all industrial growth in Meltham was the result of wealthy merchants such as the Brook family, but the villagers themselves started a cotton spinning mill of their own in 1887, this was known as the Meltham Spinning Company.[31] However Meltham would not be what it is today if it was not for the Brook family, they showed much generosity and really wanted to benefit their workers and their workers lives both inside and outside of work.

Life in Meltham was not behind the times when it came to lighting the village, as there was an adequate supply of gas which was quite equal to the demand and consumption.[32] However, water was seen as a luxury throughout this period and was heavily valued. This was down to there being no reserve so the inhabitants were entirely dependent on the springs and wells for their supply and many had to carry their water great distances.[33]

From my research it concludes that those living in Meltham throughout the 19th century seemed like happy individuals, as the trade throughout this period was good, the work was plentiful and the wages earned by the work people were good. This along with good working conditions, provided by many employers as they took a deep interest in the welfare of their workers formed a bases for a strong sense of community among those living in Meltham, which is still noticeable today. The people of Meltham lived their lives in peace and contentment.[34] A. Haigh suggests that ‘the social life of the majority of the people was of a simple and primeval kind, as they lived in a pure and healthy atmosphere, far away from the “madding crowd” of town and cities.’[35]

(image from Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester Co-operative Wholesale Society. Licenced by Creative Commons.) This image is of the old Co-operative store built in 1861.

The co-operative society movement was founded by Robert Owen and it combined the great principles of effort and self-help, the Rochdale Pioneers opened the first store in 1844 on the basis that the store would make a great success.[36] Its principles were preached and co-operative stores were established in every town and village. Joseph Hirst took deep interest in the welfare of his workers and it came to his attention that a co-operative society should be formed, as it would be in the interest and desire of his workers. So in 1861 the Meltham Co-operative Society was established. On 27 July 1861 the Meltham Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd opened the premises to the members and general public. A. Haigh suggests that ‘through the strenuous efforts of men true to their principles, we see a flourishing and prosperous society, financially strong and a credit to the Co-operative movement’.[37] The Co-operative movement in Meltham were not confined solely to the making of profit and dividend, its early stages were for the comfort and convenience of the members. [38] As many working people preferred not to rely on their employers and so they gained a sense of independence from the Co-operative movement.

(First image from Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Licence by Creative Commons. Second image taken by Lauren Quarmby) This image compares the later Co-operative store with what it looks like now.

On 4 February 1869 the new premises were completed, the photo at the top is one which was taken in 1911 and the one below is what it looks like now.[39] As you can see it is still standing and it has not changed that much. The Meltham Mills branch merged with the Co-operative Society by the 1930s and it is believed that the Society ceased trading at the store in 1969.[40] After which it continued as a general convenience store as it is known today.

 

Key Buildings in Meltham

In 1890 James William Carlile, at his own expense co-founded a small public library and news room in Meltham, the premise was also used for community functions and adult education.[41] The Carlile Institute was designed by an architect called John Samuel Alder of London and the total cost for the build is estimated between £6,000 – £7,000.[42] The building was formally opened in 1891, however James William Carlile unfortunately could not attend due to ill health so his son and nephew represented him. The initial building consisted of a reading room, a library and a newspaper room on the ground floor and a classroom and large lecture hall on the first floor.[43] Regular events were held on Monday evenings, one of these events took place on 22 February 1892 by Mr. John Jaques of Liverpool who gave a lecture on his experiences of crossing Canada.[44] The Carlile Institute is still today the home of Meltham library and it now also occupies Meltham post office.

(Photo taken by Lauren Quarmby) This is a photo of what the Carlile Institute looks like today, the building belonged to James William Carlile and was formerly opened to the public in 1891. The building is now used for Meltham’s post office, library and it holds various events.

The town hall in Meltham is yet another visual reminder of the Brook family. Edward Brook presented a proposal to the Meltham Urban District Council for the town hall to be built and he paid £2,880 for the construction of the building.[45] The hall was finished in 1898 and the opening ceremony took place 5 February 1898 however, Edward was in retirement at this time so his son Charles junior attended on his behalf.[46] It was a big ceremony with the Meltham Mill Brass Band and local Fire Brigade all getting involved, the route was also lined with bunting and banners saying “Long Live Mr. E Brook”.[47]

(Photos taken by Lauren Quarmby) This is a photo of what the town hall looks like now, this was built by Edward Brook in 1898. The photo below shows what is engraved into the building.

Both of these Buildings still stand proudly in the heart of Meltham and provide us with strong visual reminders of our past history.

Walking in Meltham

The history of Meltham is an important one for many, especially for those who live there which is why the blue plaque trail was launched on 18 September 2016. This trail takes you all over Meltham and stops off at 13 historic sites. This is great for people who want to get out and learn more about the history of Meltham. Visiting these places allows us to interpret what life could have been like for people living in Meltham during the Victorian era, it is especially helpful that many of the buildings still remain today as it allows you to gain a really feel for the society at this time.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=16FNxldzt_Nda6ejNx-FGnrGsdrU&ll=53.59090873896549%2C-1.8426538230705773&z=16

This map shows a route which you can walk around Meltham to visit all the sites I have mentioned in the biography, you will start off at the Town Hall and the walk ends at the Carlile Institute. While doing this walk to you be able to see what Meltham Mills is like today and how it has developed into a key industrial place for the textile industry, now homing successful factories such as Camira Fabrics, a multi-million-pound textile firm.

http://walkingmeltham.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Meltham-Blue-Plaque-Trail-Route-v2.pdf

This link takes you to a detailed map with three different walking routes to ensure that you do not miss any of Melthams historical sites, as my map focuses on the main buildings I have mentioned. (source: http://walkingmeltham.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Meltham-Blue-Plaque-Trail-Route-v2.pdf )

Bibliography

 

Anderson, R. (2014). Learning – Education, Class and Culture. In M. Hewitt (Ed.) The Victorian World (pp. 484-499). London: Routledge.

Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O

Griffiths, D. (2014). INDUSTRIAL VILLAGES SOUTH OF HUDDERSFIELD. Retrieved from http://www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Vic-Soc-industrial-villages-notes.pdf.

Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight.

Lunn, S. (1913). History of Meltham Baptist church – centenary souvenir. Meltham: Albert Myers, printer & c. 1913.

Orton, R. (1977). The story of Meltham. Meltham: Meltham Town Council

Websites

Four by Three. (2016). Meltham Branch. Retrieved from www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/routes/meltham.html.

Himelfield, D. (2015, June 22). Meltham friends launch group to improve Victorian pleasure grounds. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/meltham-friends-launch-group-improve-9500180

Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Carlile Institute, Meltham. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/carlile-institute-meltham/.

Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Meltham Mills Provident Co-operative Trading Society Ltd. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/meltham-mills-provident-co-operative-trading-society-ltd/.

Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Meltham Town Hall. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/meltham-town-hall/.

A guide to digital resources

http://walkingmeltham.com/

This resource is useful as it provides lots of information on Meltham, in particularly from Victorian times such as the buildings in Meltham and how they came about.

www.victorianweb.org

This website is useful as it is a scholarly resource on a wide range of Victorian topics such as: political and social history, philosophy, literature, individual authors, visual arts, science, technology.

References

[1] Lunn, S. (1913). History of Meltham Baptist church – centenary souvenir. Meltham: Albert Myers, 1913.

[2] Orton, R. (1977). The story of Meltham. Meltham: Meltham Town Council. Page 41

[3] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 1

[4] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 171

[5] Griffiths, D. (2014). INDUSTRIAL VILLAGES SOUTH OF HUDDERSFIELD. Retrieved from http://www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Vic-Soc-industrial-villages-notes.pdf.

[6] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 32

[7] Griffiths, D. (2014). INDUSTRIAL VILLAGES SOUTH OF HUDDERSFIELD. Retrieved from http://www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Vic-Soc-industrial-villages-notes.pdf.

[8] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 176

[9] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 5

[10] Griffiths, D. (2014). INDUSTRIAL VILLAGES SOUTH OF HUDDERSFIELD. Retrieved from http://www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Vic-Soc-industrial-villages-notes.pdf.

[11] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 176

[12] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 176/177

[13] Orton, R. (1977). The story of Meltham. Meltham: Meltham Town Council. Page 49

[14] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O.  Page 178

[15] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 178

[16] Orton, R. (1977). The story of Meltham. Meltham: Meltham Town Council. Page 41

[17] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O.  Page 179

[18] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 179

[19] Anderson, R. (2014). Learning – Education, Class and Culture. In M. Hewitt (Ed.) The Victorian World (pp. 484-499). London: Routledge.

[20] Anderson, R. (2014). Learning – Education, Class and Culture. In M. Hewitt (Ed.) The Victorian World (pp. 484-499). London: Routledge. Page 484

[21] Griffiths, D. (2014). INDUSTRIAL VILLAGES SOUTH OF HUDDERSFIELD. Retrieved from http://www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Vic-Soc-industrial-villages-notes.pdf.

[22] Orton, R. (1977). The story of Meltham. Meltham: Meltham Town Council. Page. 49

[23] Himelfield, D. (2015, June 22). Meltham friends launch group to improve Victorian pleasure grounds. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/meltham-friends-launch-group-improve-9500180

[24] Himelfield, D. (2015, June 22). Meltham friends launch group to improve Victorian pleasure grounds. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/meltham-friends-launch-group-improve-9500180

[25] Four by Three. (2016). Meltham Branch. Retrieved from www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/routes/meltham.html.

[26] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 178

[27] www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/routes/meltham.html

[28] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O.

[29] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O.

[30] Four by Three. (2016). Meltham Branch. Retrieved from www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/routes/meltham.html.

[31] Orton, R. (1977). The story of Meltham. Meltham: Meltham Town Council. Page 49

[32] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 7

[33] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 7

[34] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 8

[35] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 7

[36] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 8

[37] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 11/12

[38] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 13

[39] Haigh, A. (1911). History of Meltham Industrial Cooperative Trading Society Limited. Jubilee Souvenir 1861-1911. Manchester: Manchester co-operative wholesale society’s printing works Longsight. Page 24

[40] Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Meltham Mills Provident Co-operative Trading Society Ltd. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/meltham-mills-provident-co-operative-trading-society-ltd/.

[41] Colum, G. & Goodall, I.H. (1992). Yorkshire Textile Mills 1700-1930. London: H.M.S.O. Page 179

[42] Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Carlile Institute, Meltham. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/carlile-institute-meltham/.

[43] Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Carlile Institute, Meltham. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/carlile-institute-meltham/.

[44] Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Carlile Institute, Meltham. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/carlile-institute-meltham/.

[45]Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Meltham Town Hall. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/meltham-town-hall/.

[46] Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Meltham Town Hall. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/meltham-town-hall/.

[47] Meltham Walkers Are Welcome. (2016). Meltham Town Hall. Retrieved from http://walkingmeltham.com/go-walking/meltham-blue-plaque-trail/meltham-town-hall/.

 

 

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