Dewsbury ancestors:  Archer, Whitworth, Greenwood, Wright, Thompson, Sheard, Whitaker, Hemingway, Auty, Fox, Longley, Westerman. 

Early 20th Century – Dewbury Town Hall

Dewsbury is a Minster Town in West Yorkshire. For hundreds of years it was an important manufacturing town, due to its growth as a woollen mill town, and it stood on one of the richest sources of coal in Yorkshire. As part of the West Riding Heavy Woollen District, it was a major manufacturer of woollen blankets, carpets and fine woollen cloth, until the decline of manufacturing in the later part of the 20th century.

Dewsbury 1775

Origin of the Name

There are a number of theories on the origin of the name “Dewsbury”. They are:

  • An Anglo-Saxon name referring to a watery “burgh”, or fortified manor.
  • A Mercian name, after the founder of a fortified settlement in the area, named Dui, Dew or Deus – “beria” meaning strongold.
  • “God’s Hill”, from the old British word “Duw”, meaning God, and “burg”, meaning a hill.
  • “Tiu’s Hill”, as above, but derived from the Norse and Germanic god Tiu.

Saxon Dewsbury

In Saxon times, Dewsbury was a centre of great importance.The parish included Huddersfield, Mirfield and Bradford. The endowment deed of the church, dated 1349, mentions the payment of tithes, etc from Halifax and other towns of that parish, to the incumbent of Dewsbury.

The remains of Saxon tombs are still to be seen in the Vicarage gardens, near the church, and in digging the foundations for a pillar in the body of the church a few years ago, a stone was discovered curiously worked, and the inscription in Saxon characters.

Partial demolition of the parish church in 1766 and 1766 uncovered two stones dating probably to the time of Paulinus, carved in basso relief with a variety of figures showing Christ with fingers uplifted in the act of blessing. This carving, from an illustration in "The Early History of Dewsbury" is shown here.

Stones dating probably to the time of Paulinus, carved in basso relief with a variety of figures showing Christ with fingers uplifted in the act of blessing.

Also found was a saxon tomb shaped like a cottage. There have been many Saxon graves found in the area and it is believed that, in 627 Paulinus, the first bishop of York, preached in the church situated here. Paulinus appears in Bede's history. Legend says that he was the son of a Welsh King, who was sent to England in 601, by Pope Gregory, to become a missionary and spent 23 years as a monk at Canterbury before becoming Bishop of Rochester then of York. He was also appointed chaplain to the Queen Aethelburh and became King Edwin's Secretary and Advisor, no doubt one of the most powerful positions in England.

Saxon tomb shaped like a cottage, found at Dewsbury

From Dewsbury Minster Records:

On Easter Day 626 two things happened that Paulinus believed to be “the hand of God”. An assassination attempt on the King failed and the Queen gave birth to a daughter. Grateful King Edwin “gives his infant daughter to Paulinus to be consecrated to Christ. She was . . . the first of the Northumbrian race to be baptised”. King Edwin promised that if he defeated the attempted assassin’s king he would “renounce his idols and serve Christ”. He reneged on this and was “unwilling to accept the mysteries of the Christian faith at once.

Meanwhile Paulinus arranged for the Pope to write to both the King and Queen. It was possibly the first letter that Edwin had ever received. Probably in Latin he would have needed to have Paulinus translate it. The king was converted finally after a Council at Derwent when Coifi, the pagan high priest “took a spear in his hand” and destroyed the idols. So “King Edwin, with all the nobles of his race and a vast number of the common people received Holy Baptism in the year of our Lord 627. He was baptised at York on Easter Day in the church … which he had hastily built of wood”. Paulinus’ patience, skill and faith had been rewarded.

Domesday Book

The Domesday Book of 1086 records the name as Deusberia and Deusberie. It is believed to mean “fortified place by a stream”, from Old English deaw “dew” (stream) and burg “fort”. Other suggestions include the Burg of David, from the old pre-Norman-Conquest British Gaelic for David, being Deu, similar to the Welsh form, Dai. There are other theories on the name’s origins such as a Mercian name, after the founder of a fortified settlement, named Dui, Dew or Deus–“beria” meaning fort or stronghold, “God’s Hill”, from the old British word “Duw”, meaning God (cf Latin “Deus”), and “burg”, meaning a hill or “Tiw’s Burh”, derived from the Germanic god Tyr from the same Indo-European origin. (Wikipedia)

Dewsbury’s record in the Domesday Book states,

In Deusberia there are three carucates to be taxed, which two ploughs may till. This land belongs to Wakefield, yet King Edward had in it a manor. It now belongs to the King, and there are six villains and two bordars, with four ploughs, a priest, and a church. The whole manor is four quarentens long, and six broad, In the time of King Edward, the value was ten shillings, and it is the same now.

Domesday Book

(A quarenten is 40 paces long).

Earlsheaton had 2 households at that time and Hanging Heaton 0 households.

Dewsbury Minster

Dewsbury Minster lies near the banks of the Calder, traditionally on the site where Paulinus preached. Parts of the church are said to date to the 13th century. It houses the “Devil’s Knell”, a bell rung each Christmas Eve, one toll for each year, in a tradition dating back to the 15th century. It was donated by Sir Thomas de Soothill, in penance for murdering a servant boy in a fit of rage. The Minster has the remnants of a Saxon Cross in three  fragments, which is believed to be part of the old cross that commemorated the preaching of St Paulinus in the Town. The fragments probably date from the early 9th Century. Medieval stained glass in the Minster is from the 14th Century.

Through the middle ages Dewsbury retained a measure of importance in ecclesiastical terms, collecting tithes from as far away as Halifax in the mid-14th century. John Wesley visited the area five times in the mid-18th century, and the first Methodist Society was established in 1746. Centenary Chapel on Daisy Hill commemorates the centenary of this event, and the Methodist tradition remained strong in the town.Market Dewsbury market was established in the 14th century for local clothiers. Occurrences of the plague in 1593 and 1603 closed the market until it was reopened in 1741.

Town Hall from Longcauseway

Industrial Revolution, late 18th and early 19th centuries

In 1770, a short branch of the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal was completed, linking Dewsbury to the main canal system and giving access to distribution centres in Manchester and Hull. By the time of the industrial revolution, Dewsbury and surrounding districts were important centres for the "shoddy" industry, the recycling of old woollen items by mixing them with new wool and making them into heavy blankets and uniforms. The town benefited economically from the canal, its location at the heart of the Heavy Woollen District, and its proximity to the coal mines. The railways arrived in 1848 when three stations were opened in the town.

The 1800s saw a great increase in population, rising from 4,566 in 1801 to around 30,000 by 1890. The town’s rapid expansion and  industrialisation resulted in social instability. In the early 1800’s Dewsbury was one of the areas of Luddite opposition to industrialisation, in which workers retaliated against the introduction of mechanisation and smashed the new machinery which threatened their livelihood.

In 1880, there were 33 working collieries in Dewsbury.

Geographical and Historical information from the year 1868

DEWSBURY, a borough in the parish of its name, partly in the wapentake of Morley, but chiefly in the wapentake of Agbrigg, in the West Riding of the county of York, 5 miles W. of Wakefield, and 27 S.W. of York. The charter of incorporation was granted in 1861, with mayor, aldermen, and common council. It is a station on the Manchester and Leeds section of the London and North-Western railway, and is also connected with the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire lines.

This parish in the Saxon times was of vast extent, comprising nearly 400 square miles, and is at present very considerable, including the townships of Ossett-with-Gawthorpe, South Ossett, Hartshead, Earl's Heaton, Batley Carr, and Hanging Heaton, together comprising about 9,551 acres. The soil is fertile, resting on a substratum of carboniferous ,limestone and coal, which is extensively wrought.

The town of Dewsbury is pleasantly situated at the base of a hill by the river Calder, and is a place of great antiquity, though most of the buildings of the present town are modern. There is, however, one most interesting building, now used as a granary and malt-kiln. It was formerly a rectorial manor court-house, and has some choice specimens of 13th century work. Its name is believed to have been derived from Dui, the tutelary deity of the Brigantes, to whom a votive altar, dedicated by Aureliapus, was found in the vicinity, and is still preserved at Bradley. Edwin, King of Northumbria, resided here, and was, with his whole court, converted to Christianity by Paulinus, the first Archbishop of York. This event was commemorated by a cross bearing the inscription, "Paulinus hic prædicavit et celebravit." It was placed on a gable end of the chancel of the parish church, blown down in 1805, and a fac-simile put up in 1811.

For several centuries the town remained nearly stationary, but has recently greatly increased in wealth and population, owing to its situation in the midst of a rich manufacturing and mining district. The extension of the Calder and Hebble navigation, and the opening of the several lines of railway, have brought it into connection with Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Halifax, and Wakefield, and also with the river Humber.

The cloth and blanket hall was erected in 1837, and the Dewsbury Church Institute established in 1842. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the manufacture of blankets, carpets, worsted, and fine woollen cloth, for the fulling of which last the water of the Calder is reckoned peculiarly suitable. Many of the houses are well built and even spacious, and the streets are lighted with gas.

The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ripon, value £296, in the patronage of the crown. The parish church was rebuilt in 1767. There are district churches at West Town, Dewsbury Moor, Earls Heaton, Ranging Heaton, Batley Carr, Hartshead-cum-Clifton, Ossett-cum-Gawthorpe, and South Ossett, all of which are noticed under their respective heads. The livings are all perpetual curacies, varying in value from £150 to £200. The charities produce £131 per annum. There are chapels for Wesleyans, New Connection Methodists, Baptists, Independents, Roman Catholics, and Society of Friends. There are several schools, one endowed with £100 per annum, a subscription library, and a mechanics' institute. The market day is Thursday, but a provision market is also held on Saturday. There are two annual fairs in May and September.

Bartholomew's Gazeteer 1887 described Dewsbury as:

Dewsbury, parl. and mun. bor., market town, par. and township, S. div. West-Riding Yorkshire, on river Calder, 9 miles S. of Leeds and 182 miles N. of London by rail — par., 10,102 ac., pop. 54,012; parl. bor., 4759 ac., pop. 69,566; mun. bor. and township, 1468 ac., pop. 29,637; 3 Banks, 3 newspapers. Market-days, Wednesday and Saturday. D. has water communication with Liverpool and Hull by means of the river Calder, and has stations on the London and North-Western, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Great Northern Railways. The trade of the town is chiefly connected with the mfr. of blankets, flannels, carpets, druggets, baizes, and other heavy textile goods. Coal is worked in the neighbourhood. D. was a place of importance early in the 7th century. It was made a mun. bor. in 1862, and a parl. bor. in 1867. The bor. returns 1 member to Parliament.

Brontë Connection

Patrick Brontë, father of the famous Brontë sisters of Hawarth, was Curate at Dewsbury Minster from December 1809-1811. The sisters, Charlotte (born 21 April 1816), Emily (born 30 July 1818), and Anne (born 17 January 1820), were well known as poets and novelists. The family moved to Haworth in 1820, where he served as Minister for 41 years. Patrick's wife died a year after the move and all his five children pre-deceased him.


Wallace Hartley (born in Colne Lancashire) lived at 48 West Park Street, Dewsbury, with his parents from 1896 until 1912.

From Kirklees Visitor Documents:

A talented violinist, Wallace Hartley became a bandmaster on Atlantic liners. He and his fellow bandsmen gained lasting fame for their heroism in remaining on the deck of the Titanic, playing popular music and hymns to comfort those in the lifeboats until the great ship slipped beneath the waves.

Hartley's body was recovered by the Mackay–Bennett almost two weeks after the sinking. Several press reports confirmed that Wallace was found "fully dressed with his music case strapped to his body".


Dewsbury was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1862. In 1974 it became part of the Kirklees Metropolitan District.

Ancient Parish of Dewsbury on GenUKI

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