Thursday, August 21, 2008

Savile Town - the Way We Were

I found this on what appears to be a family history website, and thought it worth preserving. Savile Town is now "perhaps most famous for its role in the British Muslim community. The area is "some 97-100% Muslim".

From a local Dewsbury paper. I'm not sure what the reference to 'boiler tapping' refers to - ah ! found it. To stop the mills, employees would 'tap' i.e. drain the boilers which powered them. Some fascinating stuff here and in Disraeli's Sybil.

"Every engine was stopped, the plug was driven out of every boiler, every fire was extinguished, every man was turned out. The decree went forth that labour was to cease until the Charter was the law of the land: the mine and the mill, the foundry and the loom-shop were until that consummation to be idle ..."

JULY 29, 1911

On July 25th, 1861, fifty years ago last Tuesday, Mr. and Mrs. Rawson Preston, of Wharfe Street, Savile Town, were made man and wife. Since that time they have travelled many rough roads together, but have been spared to share a calm and peaceful old age, and now can look back upon the past with few regrets. Our representative interviewed the old couple, if such they can be called, on Thursday, and was impressed by the youthfulness they displayed--by Mrs. Preston especially, for she was able to enter into an animated conversation, which was altogether interesting and amusing, without showing the least signs of fatigue.
In answer to the first question as to where they were married, Mrs. Preston proceeded to air what was evidently a long-standing grievance. She and her husband went through a ceremony at the age of 19, at the Dewsbury Parish Church, but the same ceremony sufficed for the marriage of two other couples at the same time, and this did not seem to her to be quite in order. Asked the name of the clergyman who officiated, Mrs. Preston made reply, "Oh, we didn't bother about ministers; we were satisfied with each other. I believe they called him Allbutt, but I'm not sure." Mrs. Preston did not forget to add that she was no lover of the Church of England, and further conversation revealed the fact that experience of early girlhood had created this feeling of bitterness.
A native of Earlsheaton, Mrs. Preston, whose maiden name was Sarah Hirst, attended for a while the Church Sunday School. The vicar's wife, however, to quote Mrs. Preston's own words, used "to put on airs", and would not allow the girls to attend church with either flowers or feathers in their hats; in fact, if she noticed any such form of feminine adornment she would promptly remove it. They were expected to curtsey to the lady as she passed them in the street, and this Mrs. Preston refused to do. She left the Church school, and afterwards attended Ebenezer up to the time of her marriage.


It did not take long for one to discover that Mrs. Preston was a woman with plenty of determination and grit which has doubtless stood her in good steed, during the course of many trying years. When it is stated that Mr. and Mrs. Preston have had fourteen children, eleven of whom are living (six daughters and five sons), it will be gathered that life for them has not been a bed of roses: though they have now the satisfaction of knowing that the members of their family have all done well and are blessed, like their parents, with the best of health.
Mrs. Preston was born with her father's blood in her veins. He was Mr. Joseph Hirst, a land-loom weaver and an old Chartist, who when "boiler tapping" operations were in progress, had to be hidden away for a fortnight. Mr. Hirst lived until he was close upon eighty. He was a Radical of the sternest type, and his views are as zealously advocated by his daughter, who has been Mr. Preston's helpmate for the past fifty years. Mrs. Preston informed our representative that she was still an ardent reader of "Reynolds" and added that she would like to see a few more in the Cabinet, "like Lloyd George". "Asquith", she said, "was all right", but she wished he had a little more of Lloyd George about him. Yet, at the same time, she does not hold any brief for the Suffragette.
Mr. Preston was born at Staincliffe, and for nearly twenty years worked at Eastfield Mills, Dewsbury, as a weaver and tenter. For the past forty years he has been in the greengrocery business, which, our representative gathered, was started originally through Mrs. Preston's initiative at a time when there were may mouths to fill, and the means to finding the wherewithal considerably limited.


"We started," Mrs. Preston explained, "with the proverbial sixpence. I sent my eldest lad, who was then between six and seven years of age, to buy sixpennyworth of oranges, and these he afterwards disposed of at a profit, and by the end of the day returned home with a basket of oranges and some coppers to spare." Owing to Mr. Preston's employment being uncertain, all manner of means had to be adopted to obtain food. Mrs. Preston baked cakes for her lads to hawk, along with the oranges, and gradually the business developed, and is still carried on by the old couple.
All Mr. and Mrs. Preston's children are married, and three sons and one daughter are now well settled in Canada. Six years ago, Mrs. Preston paid a visit to Canada, and explained her reason for going there in the following words: "My husband said it was a wilderness where no one could live. I wanted to know whether my lads could live there, so I went to see, and found it a grand place."
Mrs. Preston remained six weeks, and returned home to fetch her husband, but he was not to be persuaded to leave the old country. His good wife is still anxious that they should settle there, and a few months back had arranged to "sell up", but when it came to a question of having to part with their old horse Robin - described by Mrs. Preston as a "Lloyd George" --having been bought from a Welsh drover at Lee Fair, their hearts failed them, and, consequently, they are still at Savile Town.


After carrying on business in Savile Town for some years, Mr. and Mrs. Preston took a farm at Kirkheaton, and later occupied Waste Farm, Hopton, but had to leave there when their sons left for Canada. They then resided in Ravensthorpe for several years, but were ordered away from there two years ago when Mr. Preston had a slight seizure. Both are exceedingly proud of the fact that they have reared a healthy brood, without the aid of doctors, and especially are they proud to know that all their children are teetotalers. Mr. and Mrs. Preston both signed the pledge some thirty years ago, and are regular attenders at the Dewsbury Temperance Hall, where the golden wedding celebrations are to take place today (Saturday). They have never had a doctor to see either of them--except when Mr. Preston was taken ill at Ravensthorpe--"They have all been butchers' and bakers' bills at our house," Mrs. Preston facetiously remarked. The magnitude of these bills may be gauged from the fact that when flour was 16lb. to the stone, Mrs. Preston had to bake four stones of flour every week, at 3s. a stone, and they could have done with more if funds would have allowed.
Asked for the total number of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Mrs. Preston replied that they were "sixty all told" up to last September, when a grandson was drowned in Canada, and a granddaughter had also died, leaving two children.
Mr. and Mrs, Preston's eldest son is a tuner, working at Glen Williams, near Toronto, for a concern of which the late Mayor of Batley (Alderman Stubley) was president. Another son has a homestead about a hundred miles from Winnipeg, and one holds a good position on the railway. Other members of the family reside locally.
Asked whether any of their offspring who have settled across the water would be present at Saturday's celebrations, Mrs. Preston humourously replied, "We have sent word to them to engage a flying machine for the day."