Halifax

 

 

 

 

In 1851, all of David and Martha's family were living together, their census address 105 Murraygate. By 1861 only the three youngest children were still at home, most of their older siblings having decamped to Halifax, West Yorkshire.

Western Yorkshire has a long textiles history that evolved into it becoming a major production centre, once the Luddites were

subdued, through the technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Originally agricultural, farming families augmented their incomes by value-adding through processing the wool from their sheep’s backs. Over time, Halifax grew to become a manufacturing and market centre dominated by the textile industry. Gradually, a hierarchy of workers developed topped by a merchant class. At the beginning of the C19th, what legislative protection there was for workers was abandoned and market forces were allowed to restructure work arrangements. This, of course, benefited the propertied class more than the proletariat. In 1843, the effects of creating a factory town saw Halifax described as a "mass of little, miserable, ill-looking streets, jumbled together in chaotic confusion" as the workers were moved from their home-based small-scale production methods to serve centralised mechanisation.

The British woollen textile industry became centred in West Yorkshire and it is likely many stories of the wealth to be made there by

those of an entrepreneurial bent were known to Dundee’s textile and banking industries. At the time of the Andersons’ residence, Halifax was coming out of the worst effects of industrialisation although the pall of pollution caused by burning coal to run the factories hung heavy over the town. Social reform was beginning to restore some degree of acceptable housing and social amenity to the workers while public and private building boldly proclaimed the wealth and status of the new industrial entrepreneurs.  

It is not clear which of the Andersons moved to Halifax first or why. Dundee had a thriving economy although the banking sector was 

undergoing a shake-up in the 1850s when three of the four Anderson sons were in their father’s bank. Perhaps it was the driving force of opportunity that characterises Scottish migration - to go where fortunes are to be made - that encouraged them to put their belongings in a bag on a stick over their shoulder and go on the road. That last was mere fantasy: I suspect their adventures were undertaken in a much more luxurious manner, possibly with a porter running along behind towing a trolley of luggage.

Perhaps 'the boys' were first to move to Yorkshire and it was through their business contacts that their sisters met and married

Yorkshire husbands. Perhaps Maria was the first to move to Halifax when she married and her husband's influence attracted her brothers there. For whatever reason, that generation of Andersons had a strong presence in Halifax's textile industry from the 1850s.

While many of the buildings and mills of that era have gone, when I visited in 2018 I paused for breakfast in the Piece Hall (below

left). This was once a huge market place for weavers to show their wares and is now a cultural attraction housing the tourism centre and a museum as well as performing venues and food outlets. I wandered up and down The Woolshops in central Halifax (below right), now a shopping mall but originally where local farmers sold their fleeces to middlemen who then sent it on to cottage weavers to make cloth for sale in the Piece Hall. I was also blessed by meeting a volunteer working to restore the old mill adjoining the Piece Hall who gave me a guided tour of the building, on his day off, for nothing more than a donation in the box.

 

 

 

© 2019 by Andrea Shoebridge. All rights reserved.