Deanhouse Mill history from ‘Wool & Worsit’

Michael Day has written and published a book titled Wool & Worsit which is a History of Textiles in the Holme Valley. It took him many years of diligent research to create a fantastic historical and essential book of what was the life- blood for all the inhabitants in the Valley. It includes maps and photographs and is full of interesting anecdotes about some of the people who worked in the mills. The titles of the chapters give you an idea of the scope of his book.

They are in numerical order. 1. From Home Production to Mills. 2. The Coming of Machinery. 3. Revolutions, Riots and Reform. 4. Employment of Children. 5. Trade Unions.  6. Clothiers to Manufacturers. 7. Floods.  8. Holme to Hinchliffe Mill. 9. Bottoms Mill to Holmfirth. 10. Holme Styes to Holmfirth.  11. Holmfirth to Mytholmbridge.  12. Upper House to New Mill. 13. Wooldale to Mytholmbridge. 14. Mytholmbridge to Honley.  15.  Honley and Mag Valley.

It was published by Laverock Publishing , Huddersfield and its ISBN number is 978-0-9576806-0-4

 Michael has very kindly allowed me to use information from his book and, although I have numerous references to Deanhouse Mills throughout my history, I’ve decided to create this new chapter using his information. The sketch below indicates the location of some of the mills.

Sketch map of the local mills
Sketch map of the local mills


Deanhouse Mill was the major employer for the villagers but some of them would also have been employed at Albert Mill, Bridge Mills and the various mills at Thongs Bridge.

Deanhouse Mill stood alongside Dean Brook mainly on the Honley side of the stream and was already in existence in 1791 when it was owned and occupied by Nathaniel and Godfrey Berry.  In 1800 the premises were conveyed to John Waterhouse and offered for sale again in 1803 by which time a steam engine had been fitted. In 1837 ownership passed to Joseph Firth of Shepley and Walter Walker of Thurstonland.

The mill was visited by the Plug Rioters in August 1842 when they withdrew the boiler plug to stop the mill from working and it is also probable that they drained the dam. Hiram and Abraham Littlewood were using the mill in 1848 but adverse financial circumstances forced them to assign the estate to Abraham Hirst, wool merchant, Edmund Eastwood, dyer, and John Armitage, wool merchant, all from Huddersfield.

In 1852 the mill was occupied by William Haigh but by 1859 he only occupied a part with Thomas Dyson occupying another part. William Haigh was the trustee for the creditors of James and Benjamin Estwood who were also using part of the mill. Haigh went to the mill on 19 May 1859 to find out why the mill was stopped and , on entering the yard, he was met by James Eastwood who abused him and followed him wherever he went. When Haigh entered the mill both Eastwood brothers followed him in and further abused him , swearing that they would knock his soul out and , when they all went back into the yard, they attempted to push him into a pig sty. Haigh reported that he believed his life to be in danger and that he dare not go back to the mill to look after the creditors’ interests. The Eastwoods were bound over in the amount of £20 each to keep the peace for 6 months.

The mill was advertised for sale in December 1859 when the only tenant was Thomas Dyson with parts untenanted. The building was described as having two mills, engine and boiler houses, dyehouse and dam, willey room and buildings, various cottages, gardens and outbuildings, three dwellings, a joiners’ shop, a steam engine and two boilers. The mills contained machinery for processing raw wool into yarn. A Gasworks was being built in Deanhouse in 1861 which would supply all the premises in Netherthong and Deanhouse including the mill and the new Workhouse. In September 1866 a new chimney was being built at the mill. Four years later on 23 July 1870 a fire was discovered in the stove. Neighbours tried to extinguish the blaze with buckets of water and were eventually joined by the fire engine from Josh Mellor & Sons, Thongs Bridge. The damage was estimated at £50. In December 1881 , Dysons were charged with three accounts of using unjust weight. Some of the weights used in the mill to weigh quantities of wool or yarm were found by the Inspectors to be incorrect. The 7lb. weights were between 1/4 oz. and 1/2 oz. light and the 14lb. weight was 2 1/2 oz. light. The defence counsel pointed out that the weavers were paid by yardage of pieces and not by weight. The Bench gave a nominal fine of 1s for each offence. In February 1883 about 170 members of Deanhouse Mills were treated at the house of Mr.Fenton Walker, Royal Oak Inn Thongsbridge. After tea the remainder of the evening was spent in games, dancing and singing.

A large number of alterations and extensions took place at the mills over a period of years and the number of workers also increased from 170 in 1883 to 200 in 1898. In April 1905, George Henry Senior, the foreman scourer at the mill, gave one week’s notice and was asked to leave the key to the Milling Room and the Boiler House when he went home that evening. He failed to do so and when he arrived at work the following day he was told he would not be paid as he had broken his contract. He sued Dyson’s for £1 16s unpaid wages but the Bench dismissed the case. The Yorkshire Textile Directory of 1910 listed Dyson’s as manufacturers of fancy cloths with 5,500 spindles and 50 looms. 

Mr. Edward Dyson, a scribbling engineer, retired in October 1932 after 57 years. Apart from six months absence due to illness, the whole of the time had been in the service of Messrs. Thomas Dyson & Sons and, as a token of respect, he was awarded a long service award and presented with a gold watch and chain. He was the third employee in the last three years to retire with over 50 years service, the others being Alfred Battye ( 55 years ) and Edwin Broadbent ( 51 years ).

A fire broke out in a 2-storey building at the mill, containing the wool warehouse and the finishing department, on 19 July 1946, which was enveloped in a mass of flames and the building was reduced to a shell. Fortunately the fire did not effect the main part of the mill on the opposite side of the road but did cause damages estimated at £ 20,000. Both the Holmfirth & Huddersfield units of the NFC were called. The fire had started in the warehouse on the ground floor probably by spontaneous combustion in a bale of wool. Mr.John Bontoft, who was employed at the mill, raced to a telephone about 1/4 of a mile away. The call was received at 6.24 and the local brigade turned out in three minutes. Mr.C.S.Floyd, the managing director, said that, in consequence of the fire, six or seven men in the finishing department would be thrown out of work.

Two years later thieves stole 14 pieces of cloth valued at £700 during the Whitsuntide weekend. Near to the end of the 1940s Dyson’s were taken over by Edwin Walker & Co of Field Mills, Huddersfield and production at Deanhouse appeared to have ceased in 1953/54. Yorkshire Textile Directory records that W.Fien & Sons , who were processors, blenders and carders of Rabbit Hair, Angora, Hares Fur, Cashmere and Camel fibres, were using parts of the mill in 1955. Heywod Yarns Ltd. also moved into part of the mill in 1955 and continued to use it into the 1970s. Fein’s moved production to Lower Mill around 1970 but continued to use Deanhouse mill as a warehouse. A company named Century Steel were using part of the premises in June 1983. A fire broke out which was subsequently attributed to arson and the damage was estimated at £70,000. Much of the mill was demolished in 1855 with only one building left in use. The final building was demolished in 1988 and houses were built on the site.

There is a short reference in Michael’s book about Deanhouse Dyehouse. The date of construction and its precise location are not known. The only reference is in a file in Kirklees Archives , dated 5 November 1819, which records the transfer of property from James Kenworthy, dyer of Netherthong, to Joshua Eastwood, clothier of Meltham, for £250. The dyehouse was equipped with four vats with lids and grates, three pans with grates, one cradle for grinding indigo, one cistern for washing wool, three troughs to carry the water to the utensils, various barrows and scrays for wool, woad rakes, one indigo tub, two barrels, three kits and one pigin dish.

Albion Mill, Thongs Bridge – precise date not known but it was in existence before 1848.

Another mill in Thongs Bridge was owned by Godfrey Mellor and Sons in the 1850s and Mr. Tom Mellor was a member of the Netherthong Local Board. In June 1852, John Bates ,the Factory Inspector, summoned D.Sykes ,a mule spinner of Netherthong ,working at Mellor’s, for working his own 12 year old son, John Sykes, after 1pm. when he had also worked in the morning and for not allowing his son to attend school. He pleaded guilty to both charges and the Bench imposed a fine of 5s plus costs on each charge. 

Alma Mill  was a woolen mill alongside the Huddersfield to Woodhead Turnpike road between the road and what is now the bowling club. The buildings known as Alma Mill were erected in 1854 built  and in 1855, J.Mellor submitted a plan to the Netherthong Local Board to enlarge the weaving shed and it was passed. It employed 300 workers. The Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner for November 1851 reported that the inauguration of the opening of the Mill, property of Messrs. Joseph Mellor & Sons, took place on November 3rd. The whole of the workforce, male and female totalling 300, were treated by their employers to a supper of roast beef and plum pudding, There were lots of toasts and speeches and a party of glee singers were in attendance to entertain.

Bridge Mills formerly stood either side of the Huddersfield to Woodhead Turnpike road at the junction with New Road. There was a small dam on the corner of the two  that was no longer required in the 1980s so it was decided that it should be dismantled, filled in and made into a car park. Whilst workmen were excavating the dam they found two bones that were probably human, shoes, a thimble, buttons from a Lancashire & Yorkshire railway uniform and a ring inscribed ” Annie ” on the inside. A report in 1985 said the artefacts came from a woman, one bone was from an arm and the other from a leg. They were probably betwen 50-200 years old and might have come from the 1852 flood. The remains of this unknown woman were buried in the Garden of Remembrance in Cemetary Road, Holmfirth.

The two photographs below are of Deanhouse Mills. The top photograph is thought to be possibly  the original weaving shed. The lower photo is of the mill and chimney.

Two photographs of Deanhouse Mill.
Two photographs of Deanhouse Mill.


Later addition.

There was an article headed ‘Serious Riot at the Mill’ in the issue of the Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner for July 3 1852 and it continued by saying ‘ a scene was enacted at the Deanhouse Mill such as is not of every day occurrence and one which will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it.’ Messrs.John Heap & Sons occupied the top floor of the Mill in which they had some spinning mules which  they wanted to re-site at Smithy-place Mill. They wanted to take them out the same way they were brought in but Messrs. Haigh Brothers refused to agree and ordered their mill hands to resist any attempt to move them. Mr. Haigh remained inflexible to Mr. Heap’s repeated requests and ordered his men to strike down the first man who attempted to get to the top floor. He armed them with sticks and pieces of iron. Mr. Heap led his men to the charge but was wounded in the head. The mill party seemed to have victory in their grasp and Mr. Tom Dyson tippled Mark Heap into the dam. However on getting out Mark Heap noticed a quantity of broken bricks and he called out ” Brick ’em lads – Brick ’em ” The mill party were now in a perilous position and they had to come down from the roof and several got a good ducking, in addition to being severley wounded by the missiles. The Heaps achieved a complete victory and took their machinery away without further annoyance. Doctors were speedily in requisition. Thus ended this awkward affair.

Diana Fish sent me the following email on 02/01/2019 which is a useful addition to the previous paragraph.

The list of church burials is not complete, one example is Mark Heap and his first wife Sarah Hannah nee Haigh. Mark was pushed into the dam under ‘Serious riots at mill’ taken from Wool & Worsit. He is quoted as saying ‘Brick’em lads, brick , em’ (although Wool & Worsit by Michael Day says Edward Heap shouted this). Sarah died Sept 1851 aged 20 years and a verse from a poem by D M Moir, an Edinburgh doctor, is inscribed on their tomb. Mark died Nov 1859 aged 33 years.
Mark was the nephew of my 4 x great grandparents, Joseph and Nancy Heap nee Armitage, who are buried close by and also not included on the burial list. I suspect none of the ‘old’ burial ground is included.

In November 2020, Haydn Boothroyd sent me two photographs of Deanhouse Mills. His father, mother, brother and other relatives had all worked at one time or another at the Mill. The first one, 1948? is of a mill outing to Blackpool for all the workers. The head of the scouring department, Albert Alsop, is the one peeping round the glass column on the left.

The second photo is of the “menders”, the girls who mended ( repaired ) the flaws in the cloth after it had been scoured and dried. They were highly skilled group who scrutinised the pieces and invisibly mended any flaws which they could detect from the weaving process when either warp or weft threads broke. Haydn’s father, William Boothroyd, is on the right with Mrs. Morley Mallinson sitting on his knee. He worked the tenter machine where the cloth was stretched and dried before being scoured – the cloth went from him to the menders. Also in the picture is Edgar Beardsell, in the flat cap, who worked in the scouring department. The lady in the front was Cissie Wild, who was the sister of John Arthur Wild, who at the time ran the Co-Op in Netherthong. He later went to the branch in Thongsbridge. The photo was taken outside the scouring department – it and the tenter room were either side of the boiler house to make maximum use of the hot water for the scouring process and the heat for drying the cloth.

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