Category Archives: Random History

In Defence Of Josh Matthewman

ALLEGED FRAUD ON A RAILWAY – On Saturday, at the West Riding Court, Halifax, Josh Matthewman, of Huddersfield, was charged with having travelled from the latter place to Brighouse, on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, in a second-class carriage, he having a third-class ticket. It appeared that defendant was put into the carriage by the officials at Huddersfield, and at Brighouse, when he was remonstrated with by a porter, he said he did not know that he was riding in a class superior to the one for which he had paid. He, however, offered to pay the difference, which was three half-pence, and the case was dismissed.

Bradford Observer 11 January 1875

It is never too late to correct a miscarriage of justice. 145 years after this report appeared in the Bradford Observer, I would like to protest on behalf of Josh Matthewson for the way in which he was dragged in front of the courts, like a common criminal, for “riding in a class superior to the one for which he had paid“. He was put in the wrong carriage when he boarded the train in Huddersfield, he explained his innocence when he was remonstrated with by a porter in Brighouse: and yet is name is paraded across the pages of the popular press and left on public view for almost a century and a half. During his life, Mr Matthewman may have rescued stray puppy dogs, raised children who changed the world, endowed homes for the poor and downtrodden: but all he is remembered for is his missing three half-pence ticket. What a perfect example of what was petty about the petty session courts.

A Bath, Some Militia, And An Ode To Japan Blacking

As we enter the year 2020, everything in the news is far too depressing to dwell upon. I am therefore taking refuge in the news of the past – if for no other reason, than to confirm that things were just as depressing in the past.

Today I am returning 200 years to the 3 January 1820, and my newspaper of choice is the splendidly named Leeds Intelligencer And Yorkshire General Advertiser.

Let us start with a look at education (for the privileged classes) two hundred years ago; and an announcement from Mrs Wilks of Parsonage House, Thornhill, near Wakefield. Mrs Wilks “takes a limited number of young ladies into her house for the purpose of instruction”. Yorkshire parents will have been pleased to learn that they “may rely on every attention being paid to (their daughters) health, morals and general improvement”. The pricing structure looks a little complicated – there appears to be a flat rate for accommodation, extra for tuition, not to mention an additional fifteen shillings a quarter for washing (although whether that is for the child or their clothes isn’t stated). The most delightful sentence in the entire announcement is undoubtedly the penultimate one: – “The Young Ladies are accommodated with Cold and Warm Baths”!

Page two contains a piece that possibly deserves a three-year PhD thesis. It is a public announcement from the officers of the Halifax Regiment of the Local Militia which regrets that the Commanding Officer of Regiment has resigned his commission at a time when “sedition and disloyalty are so notoriously abroad”. Context is everything in understanding this somewhat strange announcement by the Halifax militia officers: the battle of Waterloo was less than five years in the past, and the massacre at Peterloo took place only the previous August. The officers proclaim in their statement that “until it is formally intimated to us, that our services, as a body, are no longer needed, we shall be found at our post, ready for such service, as we may consistently be called upon to perform”. Before we all give the Halifax officers a resounding cheer, it must be remembered that the perceived enemy at the gates was not a foreign army, but the impoverished and disenfranchised English working man and woman.

Let us finish on a more light-hearted note, with an advertisement from Richard Turner, the manufacturer of “Real Japan Blacking”. Japan blacking was a varnish used to coat iron and steel and was very popular in the early nineteenth century. At a time of the year when we have all had a surfeit of mindless television commercial jingles, it is worth remember that the genre is not all that new. All together now ….

“Turner, it is to thee we oweThis all resplendent beauteous glow”

Random History : Mr and Mrs Kirby Get The Job

HALIFAX BOARD OF GUARDIANS – Yesterday, an ordinary meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians was held, presided over by Mr John Taylor, the chairman. The minutes and reports of the various committees were approved; and the number of paupers in the home was stated to be 391. The treasurer’s account showed a balance in the bank of £761 5s 10d. The number of outdoor recipients of relief was 2052, and their cost for the preceding week £163 6s 11d. In the corresponding week of last year the number was 2165, and the amount of relief £175 13s 1d. For the positions of master and matron of the Workhouse there have been fifty applications, and these had been reduced by a sub-committee to seven, who, it was resolved should be requested to attend before the Board at an adjourned meeting, to be held next Wednesday; second-class railway fare being allowed to those travelling. These seven are – Mr and Mrs Griffiths, Nantwich; Mr and Mrs Roach, Cheltenham; Mr and Mrs Hope, Kidderminster; Mr and Mrs Simmons, Truro; Mr and Mrs Glaister, North Aylesforth; Mr and Mrs Kirby, Loughborough; and Mr and Mrs Whelen, of Halifax.

Our random number generating time machine directs us this week to the year 1875, where we drop in on a meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians. The workhouse was built in 1841 and occupied a site between Gibbet Street and Hanson Lane. 25 years after this report the workhouse changed its name to St John’s Hospital, but its main function of providing relief for the poor of the Borough continued right the way through until the introduction of the Welfare State in the 1940s. From 1948 until 1970 it was a hospital specialising in geriatric care, but I can still remember the reluctance of older people to be admitted to the building they still saw as the workhouse. Geriatric care was eventually moved to Northowram Hospital in 1970.

In addition to providing rudimentary shelter and work within the workhouse itself, the Board of Guardians were also responsible for what was known as “outdoor relief” – small weekly sums for families in need, living outside the workhouse. During the week in question, £163 had been spent of outdoor relief for the support of 2052 recipients; which works out at about 1/6d (8 pence) per person per week.

By searching the 1881 census records we can discover who was successful in being appointed as the master and matron of the workhouse: it was John and Annie Kirby of Loughborough.

Random History : 13 February 1961

Today, our random number generated time machine is a rocket. 58 years ago today, the papers were full of the latest Soviet achievements in space. There is evidence that the spaceship – Venera 1 – did manage to fly past Venus, but sadly all communications were lost within a week of the launch, so we will never know what it found there.

Random History : Giving Way To The Enjoyment Of The Conservative Ball

This week, our random-number-driven time machine takes us back to the year 1893 and to Huddersfield, where someone has been giving way to the enjoyment of the Conservative Ball. It resulted in ten bob fine plus expenses! Serves him right is all I can say.

OBSTRUCTING A POLICE OFFICER AT THE CONSERVATIVE BALL : Joseph Crow Taylor, innkeeper, Crosland Moor, was charged with having, on the 26th inst., obstructed a police-officer whilst he was in the execution of his duty. Defendant did not appear. The Chief Constable (Mr. Ward) said that on the morning, which would be stated by the officer, in accordance with orders, the officer went to the Town Hall, where the Conservative Ball was being held, to see that proper order was being kept and that the sale of drink had been stopped at the hour fixed by the license. The officer was met by the defendant, who said he should not go up. He said he should, and the defendant used bad language, and tried to prevent him going up. This was not the first time that sort of thing had occurred at balls. The defendant had been to see him and said he was very sorry, and that he had given way to the enjoyment of the evening more than he should have done, and that, perhaps. caused him to do what he did. But it was his (Mr. Ward’s) duty to protect his men, and to see that the orders of the magistrates were carried out. Police-sergeant Jagger proved time facts as stated by Mr. Ward, and the Bench inflicted a fine of 10s. and the expenses.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner 6th February 1893
« Older Entries