THE OLD NORTHOWRAM TOWNSHIP BROUGHT TO LIFE
A SELECTION OF STORIES CONCERNING NORTHOWRAM HISTORY
Instigation of the Halifax Council in 1848 and its relationship to Northowram Township
Iorthowram was a large Township in the 1800’s . Due to the enlargement of Halifax and its municipal powers it started to become more under the influence of its ever-growing neighbour. In 1848 Northowram possibly differed very little from Halifax other than Halifax having its commercial centre of shops, where as Northowram differed with its commercial interests spread in a wider areas such as textile, coal and stone extraction. In the early 1800’s, Halifax centre had 3,918 houses, of which 220 were vacant and 150 were being built. The centre of Halifax was growing and the need for proper sanitation as disease was prevalent. Places like Charlestown were the worst effected. Charlestown being in the Township of Northowram. 46% of mortality in Halifax was of children under five, and the average age at death was 26.
By 1848 Halifax had a Charter of Incorporation. This gave powers to buy land and tenements and provided a common seal for transmitting business; it also had to have a Town Council and Mayor being within a Parliamentary Borough. It also led to the establishing of a police force and a Bench of Magistrates. This led to the council adopting the Public Health Act of 1848. This Act gave governmental powers, or interference, that the new Council didn’t want. However, Northowram Township ratepayers had a different view and made a petition for an inquiry into the need for applying the Act to Halifax.
In 1851 William Ranger was sent to make a report of the area and gave a first hand report of the appalling conditions people worked and lived in. Some councillors however thought it not worth considering as Halifax compared favourably with other industrial towns! Ranger had reported on the poor sanitary conditions in Northowram, this would have been the area around North Bridge, Akroyden and New Bank. The Halifax Town Council made opposition to the Ranger report but approved the Northowram portions of it. The interesting fact here is that the legal person involved in bringing the Charter to Halifax was Michael Stocks. Possibly he had influence, maybe he recognised the humanitarian issues, or was it the pressure of all the Northowram ratepayers wanting to bring about change to living and working conditions? Another Northowram person of influence, Edward Akroyd, the great mill owner, pushed for an inquiry into health matters in Halifax. The Council were at last empowered to get water from outside its own area and were provided with funds to instigate lighting, gas and sewage systems. At this time it was decided to set public clocks to keep a common time. Anne Lister commented that there was a 45 minute difference in time keeping at Manchester compared to Halifax!
Highway robbery in the nineteenth century
Reported in 1851 – William Salisbury, warp-dresser, of Bradford; Joseph Eastwood, weaver, Halifax and Simon Crossley, presser, Wheatley, were brought before the West Riding Magistrates, on Thursday, charged with robbing Charles Horatio Gill, Spa House, Northowram, of 12s. and upwards, and using considerable personal violence to him. On Monday night when the affair happened the whole of the parties were together in a public house in the lower part of Halifax, and after Gill had left to journey homewards the others appear to have followed him, and about eight o’clock effected the robbery in Godley Lane. The Magistrates sent the three worthies to take their trials at the next gaol delivery.
Reported in 1841 – On Saturday evening last, betwixt seven and eight o’clock, as Mr. Thomas Bottomley, manufacturer, of Shibden Mill, near this town, was returning home, he was stopped by three men, two of them seized hold of him whilst the other stood by and watched, at a place within 100 yards of the top of New Bank, near Godley Lane, and took from his person £55 in bank notes, and a bill of £85 10s.
Reported in 1843 – On Tuesday morning last, betwixt one and two o’clock, as a young man and his wife were returning home from Halifax, towards Hipperholme, they were attacked on the bridge over the cutting, in Godley Lane, by four men. The parties gave alarm, and the thieves hearing someone approach, immediately made off in different directions. One of them named Henry Tetley, a coal hawker, from Shelf, mistaking his leap, jumped over the bridge into the road below, a height of between 20 and 30 feet. Another made down the New Bank towards town, and was secured by a person coming up at the time. His name is Henry Jagger, alias “Buck,” of Clayton Heights, near Bradford; the other two escaped. Tetley was conveyed to the Infirmary, when it was found that he had received a compound fracture of his thigh, both his wrists broken, and his jaw bone smashed to pieces; little hopes are entertained of his recovery. Jagger was brought before the magistrates the same day, and remanded until Thursday.
A slightly later report gives more information to this robbery…
It will be remembered that on a highway robbery taking place here in April last, one Henry Tetley, in attempting to escape, jumped over the bridge and fell into the deep cutting of Godley Lane road, thereby fracturing his right leg and the left side of his jaw, and otherwise severely injuring himself. Of these injuries he has ever since been confined at the Halifax Infirmary. By the exercise, however, of the ability and skill of the medical officers of that institution aided by their patient’s excellent constitution, Tetley has so far recovered as to be able to move about on crutches. He was therefore, last week discharged from the Infirmary, taken into custody by the Northowram constable, and committed to York Castle to take his trial at the next assizes. Two of his companions in the robbery were transported at the last assizes.
Landslide at Stump Cross – 1856
Sunday night of December 6th 1856, was an alarming and an unenviable one for the few people then living at the foot of Shibden Valley where it merges into Stump Cross. After a heavy snowfall there had been a sudden thaw on the Friday, much rain had fallen since. About midnight on Sunday people were awakened by rumbling noises that brought most of them from their beds in panic. The upper part of the steep hillside began to slide towards the valley, gathering with it as it descended trees and large stones and a tremendous weight of earth and sludge.
Not until daylight could it be seen precisely what had happened during the night, nor the extent of the damage be discovered. It was then found that the wood on the upper part of the hillside had entirely disappeared, all trees having been uprooted and carried down under pressure of the slipping soil to the roadway at the bottom. Twenty yards of the road itself had been forced ten yards from its original position, but had remained more or less intact. Fences and walls had been torn down, and the whole locality looked as if it been the scene of an earthquake.
On the lower slope earth seemed to have been pushed upwards, reports stated, under the pressure from the slipping hillside; it was piled with trees, tree roots and blocks of stone. Streams of sludge were oozing down Brow Lane, and this collected near the Stump Cross Inn, a plank had to be laid to the back entrance.
There had been no serious injury to anyone, but several people had narrow escapes. Three young men, one of whom was the son of the toll-bar keeper at Stump Cross, were up on the hill when the landslide started. They sank up to their thighs in the wet soil and sludge as the ground gave way under them, and they had difficulty in extricating themselves from the slipping mass. A pedestrian on the road at the foot declared that he had to “run for his life” to escape from the descending mass.
The previous year there had been a minor landslide near the hilltop, which had left a crevice ten feet deep, and the accumulation of water in this long, deep hole, seeping under the soil, and the pressure of earth higher up, were believed to be the source of this 1856 landslide.
An extract from It Happened Here
By Arthur Porrit
The Question of Railways in the 1830s
The feasibility of constructing railways and the permanent value together with their usefulness was a major point of discussion in the 1830’s. Mr. Thomas Bradley, for many years the engineer to the Calder and Hebble Navigation Company, and the constructor of the canal from Salterhebble to Halifax, published his thoughts, that railways were never going to supersede the canals. The Stockton to Darlington Railway was completed in 1825, and the Manchester to Liverpool opened in September 1830.
One of the chief investors in the canals was Anne Lister. Her diary of the times feature various information to her families investment into the canals and the high value of these investments. By 1825 the canal was still being cut towards Halifax. Miss Lister comments on 9th July that when the improvements are completed the proprietors will make 25% on their stock. Navigation stock was difficult to buy at this time as it was deemed to be a good investment.
Six years later in 1831, Mr. Bradley comments that this ‘new fangled’ system is a speculation of capital and will have too many difficulties to contend with, besides managing the every day running of it.
His main objection is, that it can never be available to everyone on account of the great expense and the hilly and irregular landscape of the country. He goes on to say; that a speed of eight to ten miles an hour will satisfy the merchant, so why not employ them on the turnpike roads! There were a number of new lines being contemplated at this time that Mr. Bradley says will be beyond the skills of engineers. Looking back forty years with the construction of the canal network, he says, there is no need for the railways. He cannot believe that the many millions of ‘sterling’ spent on the canal system that ‘connects all rivers and gives a cheap and ready conveyance to almost every village and town in the kingdom,’ can possibly be swept away! A final statement concludes that the ‘aquatic medium shall maintain superiority,’ and that our navy will suffer the consequences of railway mania. ‘British seamen must continue to be protected and encouraged for the benefit and security of the empire.’
Strong words in the face of the impending changes that were soon to echo through time. We now know through further developments and inventions, that these changed our ancestors daily lives in a massive way.
Later in Anne Lister’s diaries we find that she too starts to ask questions about the shares she holds in canals. There are discussions in 1831 that the railway could carry goods cheaper than the canals. Anne says they will lower their costs if needed to beat them. Another diary entry at this time refers to the proposed Manchester to Selby railway, saying that it is cause for discussion, as the rich men of Todmorden think it a bad investment.
Eventually she rides on the railways. On September 11th 1831 she takes an omnibus (horse drawn transport) to the steam carriage station on the Liverpool Manchester Line. The train leaves from Edgehill Grand area, Liverpool, and travels towards Manchester. She gets in the last carriage, a German wagon (a covered top with glass windows all along the back), being able to see the line of the railroad. She writes; ‘it would be impossible to be surprised and gratified at the steam expedition; I would not have missed it on any account. We went twenty miles an hour.’ She says that when she arrived at Manchester, there was talk that the Manchester Leeds railroad had be ‘given up,’ therefore the canal was not under threat.
By October of 1834 there was a plan to widen the canal at Salterhebble for larger vessels. Miss Lister thinks her shares are worth £430 each. In 1837 Miss Lister tells the reader that a boat and horse are worth £250 and that the young man who owned the boat could carry 18 to 19 tons of stones from the area to Macclesfield, at a freightage of 1d. per ton per mile, or about £3 a trip and he could make three trips a fortnight. June 5th 1837 another comment at this time by Miss Lister to Mr. Rawdon Briggs, says the railways can’t hurt the canals, they will never pay.
In 1838 Miss Lister has sold some shares in the Navigation at £432, a good price. But by April 1839 there is some panic about Navigation stock! One of the gentlemen of Halifax, Mr. Lewis Alexander had ‘hawked some stock,’ which had a bad effect, no doubt having doubts about investments in the canals. Although Anne sold a few shares at this time, she still gets a good price of £434 per share.
There are no more entries that confirm whether Anne Lister had to sell more shares before her death in 1840. The railways established themselves and the canals declined.