John Crabtree.

A concise history of the parish and vicarage of Halifax, in the county of York online

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Online LibraryJohn CrabtreeA concise history of the parish and vicarage of Halifax, in the county of York → online text (page 1 of 52)
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3 1833 00727 7079

























(under DIVINE providence)






March 1, 183f).

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Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center


WHEN it is considered that many important changes
and improvements have taken place in this extensive parish
since Mr. Watson's valuable "History and Antiquities"
issued from the press ; that its circulation is at the present
very circumscribed : that new discoveries have been brought
to light ; and, above all, that much local information of an
interesting nature may be found in the elegant and elaborate
works of Dr. Whitaker, Hunter, and other eminent topo-
graphical writers, (works too costly to find a place in the
library of the general reader,) the Compiler of the following
pages is induced to hope that a Concise history of the Parish
and Vicarage of Halifax, founded on the labors of her able
and zealous antiquary, and embodying additional information
gleaned from the rich and fertile fields of literature before
referred to, will not be unacceptable to those for whose pe-
culiar use the present volume was intended, namely, the
parishioners of Halifax.

It has been his endeavour to make such selections as
appeared to him best calculated to illustrate the general his-
tory of the parish, not omitting matters of minor detail ;
and to arrange the whole in a manner adapted to edify, to
instruct, and to amuse. It is highly probable that defective
information, or too great a regard for brevity, have caused
him to pass over many things which would have materially
illustrated the various subjects of the history, and particu-
larly matters of legal detail. An adherence to facts has been
his primary object.



There is no royal road to the knowledge of the law. No
man can render an obscure and intricate disquisition of title
either perspicuous or entertaining. While it has been
the Compiler's endeavour to afford general satisfaction,
there are two classes of readers whom he fears he shall
have some difficulty in pleasing. To the first class, (whom
without intending any offence) he must term the super-
ficial reader, he fears his selections will frequently ap-
pear injudicious or ill-chosen ; this class in general have
a rooted aversion for any thing that savours of antiquity ;
to them the very word is bodied out in the form of a spec-
tral old man, poring over some rust eaten weapon, or
handling with affection some crazy vessel, which they
could scarcely bring themselves to touch ; or if they can
fancy him unrolling ancient records, and attempting to
decipher old characters, they regard him as a vision of the
past, a being who has buried himself alive, and over whose
living remains it is seemly and decent to draw the veil
of forgetfulness. The other class run into an opposite ex-
treme, and whose displeasure he fears he shall incur by the
omission of pedigrees, armorial bearings, and family genea-
logies ; he is free to confess that his own inclinations and pur-
suits would have led him to conciliate this class by entering
fully upon enquiries of this sort, had his limits permitted him
so to do : but he looks for some extenuation of his error (if
such it be) in the confidence that the omission will be both
ably and fully supplied in a forthcoming work on a larger

It is stated by Dr. Whitaker, that "the antiquary who
looks through this extensive district for those appearances
which most delight him, will be disappointed. In a tract of
more than 124 square miles there exists not the remnant of
a castle ; there never was a monastic foundation. He must
therefore content himself with a few earth-works which in-

• Troposod " Histury and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by E. N. Alexaudci
F. S. A. &c. &c."


dicate that some inconsiderable fortresses once existed within
it; and with respect to ecclesiastical antiquity, he must take
up with the appropriation of its rectory to a remote house,
and with a few scattered donations of acres and ox-gangs to
such neighboring convents whose popularity extended beyond
their own immediate bounds." Be it so. Does it thence
follow that all is barren ? The labors of Watson attest the
contrary. Do they not present us a field for enquiry — a
storehouse of relics from whence we may glean some memorial
of generations who breathed two thousand years ago ; that
if the dust of the valley could spring to life, the sounds which
our mountains and moorlands reverberated, in years of which
scarcely a tradition remains, would again awaken the slum-
bering echo, and the wild solitude would be once more
peopled with human beings.

If it be asked — Are there no memorials in existence to
indicate that aught but the forest tree or the heath has ten-
anted the soil, since the retiring waters crept into the ocean ?
The learned Doctor has proved the contrary, as may be seen
by his opinions, embodied in the following pages, to which
the Compiler craves, with all humility to refer ; opinions which
encouraged him in this attempt, from a conviction that they
contained interesting local information, too valuable to slum-
ber on the shelves of the antiquary and topographer. The past
state of a country cannot be known, until its antiquities have
been thoroughly and accurately investigated. Disclaiming the
arrogant assumption of one single qualification necessary to
constitute a true antiquary, save a guileless enthusiasm, the
Compiler has ventured occasionally to offer an hypothesis or
conjecture when connected with the early history of the
parish, in the hope that it might conduce to stimulate the
reflection, and to guide the researches of others ; and should
he have succeeded in the attempt he shall hereafter reflect
with honest pride that his labors have not proved fruitless.
His own personal conviction has been strengthened by the
opinions of individuals, for whose judgment he has the high-
est respect, (among the number he may be permitted to


mention the late Mr. Watkinson, who was well acquainted
with the localities of this extensive parish,) that notwith-
standing much has been done of a valuable character, and
the ground comparatively cleared of many of its obstructions,
and the journey of future historians rendered comparatively
easy, an unexplored field of enquiry is yet open in which
both pleasurable occupation and honor may be gained.

Already have the inmost recesses of her woods been pe-
netrated for the advancement of science, and trodden by the
foot of the naturalist. That there are few districts which
afford opportunities so valuable for the cultivation of natural
philosophy, the labors of a Bolton bear ample testimony.

If we descend into the bosom of her moorlands and her
mountains. Are we not presentedwith an instructive field for
geological examination in its varied and interesting charac-
ters ? Ask the Geologist, he will not only tell us of the
treasures that are hidden under the surface, and of their
value in a scientific and commercial point of view ; but he
will pause and ponder over the mysterious things which have
already been brought to light as tending to illustrate some
of the most imposing theories of that sublime science.

But why mention these facts to stimulate the exertions
of others when it is borne in mind that a great desideratum
has been attained for Halifax in the union of literary feeling
and sentiment. Already is the ivy clinging to the oak, and
the admirer of nature, in the cultivation of his favorite pur-
suit will in the end have the satisfaction of finding that she
" never betrayed the heart that loved her."

It was the intention of the Compiler to have added a
Chronological Table of the principal events connected with
the parish ; but finding so many opportunities in the course
of his progress for introducing matter originally set apart
for this table, he was induced to embody it in the work
rather than add it in the form originally intended, which
would have considerably increased the bulk of the volume.
He begs most explicitly to state that no information which he
contemplated inserting in that table, has been omitted here.


To some of his professional friends the Compiler is under
great obligations for much valuable information ; particularly
to Mr. James Edward Norris and Mr. Edward Nelson Alex-
ander his best thanks are due ; to the former gentleman for
several important historical facts relating to the early history
of the Advowson, and other ecclesiastical matters of much
and valued interest : the latter for some additional information
relating to matters of title, and for correcting some errors
connected with that intricate subject. To Mr. F.A. Leyland,
jun. he also tenders his acknowledgements for some inform-
ation relating to the antiquities of the Parish.

He can neither forget nor be ungrateful for the very kind
and flattering manner in which his proposals for publication
were honored by his subscribers ; he shall ever reflect with
pride on the confidence reposed in him, assuring them that
it has been not only the highest object of his ambition, but
that of his Publishers, to merit their approbation.

It is with extreme reluctance that the compiler adverts
to a personal affliction which precludes him from enjoying
the pleasures of colloquial society ; nor would he have intru-
ded the subject in these his prefaratory remarks had not that
affliction prevented him from obtaining much information
that might have proved both interesting and instructive, and
driven him to seek for that in the society of books, which
others more favored obtain by the "hearing of the ear."

He is not impervious to criticism. To those who are
inclined to censure he cries, "your mercy gentlemen." "Do
not pursue with a weighty scourge the man who deserves
only a slight whip."



General description of the Parish and

Vicarage of Halifax 1

The British JEm 24

The Roman jEra 31

The Saxon ^Era 41

The Norman ^Era 47

The Manor, (as part of the Manor of

Wakefield) 50

TheGibbetLaw 61

TheAdvowson 77

The Manor of Halifax 91

Tho Parish Church 97

The Middle Ages 133

The Modern ^ra I45

The Public Charities 157

Biography 257

Tho Woollen Trade and Manufactures 296

Population 310

Parochial Government 317

The Township of Halifax 323

Northowram 361

~ Southowram 367

Ovenden 374

~ Hipperholme-cum-

Brighouse 38i


The Township of Shelf 393

Sowerby 401

Warley 41s

Midgley 434

The Parochial Chapelry of Elland 430

Township of Elland-cum-Greetland ..431
Greetland 456

Barkisland 457

i'ixby 469

Norland 474

' Rastrick 475

Rishworth 436

— Soyland 490

————— Stainland 494

The Parochial Chapelry of Heptonstall 501

Township of Heptonstall ib.

Erringden 509

Langflold 513

Stansfield 530

' ' Wadsworth 505

Borough of Halifax 539

Appendix 546

Index 553



1. View of the Town of Halifax, to face the title.

2. Altar of Fortune, discovered at Cambodunum

3. Votive Altar, discovered in Greetland

4. View of the Gibbet, Halifax

5. North- West view of the Parish Church, Halifax

6. South-East view of the Parish Church, Halifax

7. Rishworth School

8. Population Tabic from the Parliamentary Returns of 1831

9. Wesley Chapel, Broad Street, Halifax

10. Sion Chapel, Wade Street, Halifax

11. Hanover Street Chapel, Halifax

12. Assembly Rooms, Harrison Lane, Halifax

13. Plan of the town of Halifax, taken in 1835

14. Ancient Cross at Stainland 495

15. Holy Well, (Saint Helen's) in the Township of Stainland 498

16. Plan of the Borough of Halifax to face 529





. .


to face


to face





to face


to face


to face




to face





The Parish of Halifax, within the Wapentake of Morley, in the
"West Riding of the County of York, comprises a mountainous and
bleak region of country forming a portion of what are sometimes
termed the English Apennines, It extends seventeen miles from
East to West, and on an average eleven miles from North to South,
and contains an area of 75,740 English Statute Acres : it is con-
sidered the largest Parish in England, and the population thereof at
the last census was computed at 109,899 souls. Its boundaries on the
North- West, West, and South-West, are the Parishes of Rochdale,
and Whalley , in the County of Lancaster ; on the South the Parish of
Huddersfield ; on the South-East the chapelry of Hartishead ; on
the East the Parish of Birstall ; and on the North that of Bradford,
in the County of York. It is divided into twenty-three Divisions or
Townships ; viz. Halifax, Barkisland, Elland with Greetland, Fixby,
Erringden, Heptonstall, Hipperholme with Brighouse, Langfield,
Midgley, Norland, North Owram, Ovenden, Rastrick, Rishworth,
Skircoat, South Owram, Sowerby, Soyland, Stainland, Stansfield,
Shelf, Wadsworth, and Warley.

The tow of Halifax, from whence the Parish takes its name,
may be con .. iered the centre of the populous manufacturing district
of the North of England, it lies fourteen miles from Leeds, seven


from Bradford, sixteen from Wakefield, and twelve from the borders
of Lancashire ; and on the direct line of communication between
the ports of Livei-pool and Hull,

Various have been the conjectures as to the true origin of the
name. Camden says "all ancient records that ever were, do give it
the name of Halifax, the reason of which seems to have been this :
that at first it was a hermitage of very great antiquity ; the Church
that now is built from, or rather added to, a Chapel long since built,
was consecrated and dedicated to Saint John Baptist, who is styled
by some ancients the first father of hermits, and in which place, as
they pretend, was kept the real face of Saint John Baptist ; hence
was it named Halifax or ?^oIg=jFatc." " The place is situate at the
foot of a mighty and almost inaccessible rock, [for so doubtless at
the first it was,] all overgrown with trees and thick underwoods,
intermixed with great and bulky stones, standing very high above
ground, in a dark and solemn grove, on the bank of a small mur-
muring rivulet ; for such places were always chosen by ancient and
solitary hermits, where, being removed far from all human converse,
they found every circumstance thereunto appertaining very much to
contribute to, and heighten contemplation, insomuch that whoever
was the first that set this place apart, [as the face of things then stood]
could not in all these parts have found out a place of greater privacy
and retirement." So much for the learned author of the Britannia.

This opinion, notwithstanding it has been received and adopted
by all authors who have hitherto attempted a history of the Parish,
with the exception of the late Dr. Whitaker, has been so success-
fully combated by that learned antiquarian, and with such sound
reasoning as to carry conviction at once to the mind of the reader,
and dispel all doubt relative to the true origin of the name.

" The name of Halifax" he observes, " is a singularly compounded
name, half Saxon, and half Norman ; which, not having been
understood, has occasioned the invention of an idle fable to explain
it.* It appears, however, to have been no fable that in the deep
valley, then embosomed in woods, where the Parish Church now

• The fable here alluded to, is the story told by Camden, for the change of the name
from Horton, which it is alledged the place was formerly called, to that of Halifax.

I should have given the story verbatim, but finding its leading features so fully em-
bodied in honest Fuller's reason for omitting all mention of the Maid alluded to in the
story, in his Catalogue of Yorkshire Saints, and so quaintly commented on by him, I


stands, was an Hermitage dedicated to St. John the Baptist ; the
imagined sanctity of which attracted a great concourse of pilgi-ims in
every direction. Four ways, by which the modern town of Halifax
is entered, still distinctly point at the Parish Church as their common
centre, though at one extremity of the place. These were the roads
by which the pilgrims approached the object of their devotion, and
hence the name ^i^aUfai or |t)ol}?=toag5 ; for fax, in Norman French,
is an old plural noun, denoting high-ways. Thus Car-fax in Oxford
(a case exactly in point) is the four roads ; and Fair-fax, whatever
may be pretended to the contrary, is neither more nor less than the
fair roads."

"This hermitage, however, (continues my author) the approaches
to which must have received their name very soon after the conquest,
became, at a short period afterwards the parent of a Parish
Church, to which was attached a wild, and almost unpeopled district
of vast extent. The inconveniences of superstition have, in this
instance, been felt during seven centuries ; for the Church, which,
after a vast increase of population, continued for half its duration to
the present time without the aid of more than two Chapels, is situated
almost in a corner of the Parish ; and the genius of commerce itself,
which usually despises ancient prejudice and attends to its own
convenience alone, has, in this instance, been made to bend to the
ancient religion of the place. The respective situations of a great

here insert his Remarks, trusting that my readers will pardon the digression, many
of them probably thinking that I might with impunity have omitted all mention of the
stor}' for the reason assigned by that "Worthy of worthies," namely, "because the
judicious behold the whole contrivance devoid of Historical truth."

"Expect not here," (says Fuller) "that I should add to this Catalogue that
Maiden, who to secure her virginity from his unchaste embraces that assaulted it, was
by him barbarously murdered, whereby she got the reputation of a Sjiint, and the
place the scene of his cruelty, (formerly called Horton) the name of Hali-fax or Holy-hair.
For the credulous people conceited that the veins, which in form of little threds spred
themselves between the bark and body of that Yew-Tree (whereon the head of this maid
was hung up,) were the verj' hairs indeed of this Virgin head, to whom thej' flock in
pilgrimage." "Oh! how sharp sighted, and yet how bUnd, is superstition ! Yet these
country folks fancies had the advantage of Daphne's being turned into a laurel tree. "

In frondem crines, in ramos brachia crescunt.

Ovid's Melamorph. lib. 1. /«/. 9.

" Into a bough her hair did spread.
And from her arms two branches bred."

"But here she is wholly omitted, not so much because hername and time are un-
known, but because the judicious behold the whole contrivance devoid of Historical truth."
B 2


trading town, and of a sequestered hermitage, might appear to be
little adapted to each other, and an early separation might have been
expected between them ; yet so it is, that within two miles of a fine
open vallej'-, the great line of communication between the Eastern
and Western seas, and on a navigable stream, the principal town of
this extensive and po^Dulous district, after every improvement which
wealth and skUl could apply in the diversion of roads, can only be
approached by ascending or descending a precipice."*

"Nature and common sense would have pointed out EUand as
the proper site for the capital of the Parish."

"The whole district now comprising this great Parish, may be
considered as one valley, with its numerous collateral forks, bounded
at very unequal and constantly varying distances, by two high and
barren ridges of moor stone. The general appearance of the bottoms
is pleasing and picturesque ; scarcely a foot of level ground appears,
except the alluvial lands which are unusually fertile. The sides of
the hills immediately above are hung with woods of native oak,
which delights in the clefts and crevices of sand stone, though it
rarely attains in such situations, the bulk and majesty of form which
it acquires in deeper soils."

" So various is the course of the principal valley, that the eye is
never fatigued by resting on one uniform and protracted expanse, but
delights in sudden and unexpected turns, producing new and varied
beauties. Above these are long and widely extended slopes, where
art and expense, which manufactures alone could have aiforded,
have triumphed over what otherwise would have been deemed
unconquerable barrenness, and produced a verdure not unequal to
that of native fertility. Above all appear the purple ridges of the
mountains, defying all the power of man, and destined for ever to
contrast the original face of savage nature, with the effects of toil and
industry. On the brows of these hills fi-owns many a sturdy block
of free stone, sometimes perhaps worn away by storms to a narrow
and immovable point, which the fondness of antiquarian fancy has
decreed to be druidical. From the boundary of Lancashire to the
valley which separates the townships of Halifax and Ovenden from

* Twenty years have elapsed since these remarks were written ; considerable improve-
ments have taken place, and the Town can now be approached on all sides without inconve-
nience : the entrance from Bradford by the Godley Lane Road is a fair specimen of what art
can aecompUsh w hen difficulties of the description alluded to are in the way.


North Owram the whole basis of the Parish is grit-stone. Immediately
to the East of this vaUey, argillaceous strata, with their general
concomitants, stone and iron, once more appear ; and to this cause,
together with the copiousness and rapid descent of its numerous
brooks the Parish of Halifax is indebted for its wealth and population.
Unequal surfaces, rapid streams, and plentiful fuel, are the soul of

"The antiquary who looks through this extensive district for
those appearances which most delight him will be disappointed. In
a tract of more than 124 square miles, there exists not the remnant
of a Castle ; there never was a monastic foundation. He must
therefore content himself with a few earth works which indicate
that some inconsiderable fortresses once existed within it; and,
Avith respect to ecclesiastical antiquity, he must take up with the
appropriation of its rectory to a remote house, and with a few
scattered donations of acres and ox-gangs to such neighbouring
convents whose popularity extended beyond their own immediate

"The unfavorable situation of Halifax may serve to prove how
completely the wealth, and industry of man can trample over the
most stubborn indispositions of nature. In a farming district the
whole Township must have lain waste for ever. A basis of quartz
not half covered by a few stunted bushes of ling, would have held
out no temptation to the husbandman, and would have been im-
moveable by all his efforts, because animal manures, the egesta of
a large town must have been wanting. Yet how astonishing is the
effect actually produced ! Look on one side of a fence and you have
nature yet remaining in the state not exaggerated by this account.
Look on the other, and you have a creation of vegetable mould,
covered with a rich and abundant coat of artificial grasses. In short,
it is here the tiller who has made tlie soil, and not the soil which
has enriched the tiller."

" It appeared to Camden a singular fact, that in this Parish then

Online LibraryJohn CrabtreeA concise history of the parish and vicarage of Halifax, in the county of York → online text (page 1 of 52)