Celebration of borough status

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On August 10 1893 it was known in the council chamber that Brighouse was to become a borough. But the official celebrations and public announcement outside the town hall took place the following month on September 30.

It was said at the original charter day celebrations that the town took its name from two houses – one on each side of the bridge over the Calder. It is interesting to note that the local board which was formed some years earlier in 1866 had on its official seal of office a picture of a house on a bridge overlooking the canal.

There actually was a Brighouse family who for many years lived at Bonegate Hall. Today at the bottom of Bonegate Road there is a gateway with the initials HB - the initials of Henry Brighouse - and the date 1635.

The prosperity of the town was largely due to the transportation networks with Liverpool on the one side and Hull and Goole on the other. Both these coastal ports were accessible firstly by water and then by railway. Brighouse had the distinction of boasting it had these networks in place before Halifax, Huddersfield and even Bradford. The exact date when Brighouse began to see industrial progress can easily be marked by the granting of the necessary Acts in 1757 and 1768 to construct and maintain the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal.

The great auction sale by Sir George Armytage of some of his Brighouse estates at the Black Swan Inn on July 12, 13 and 14, 1816, was another major change.

The Brighouse estates were sold in 113 lots, which in total amounted to 100 acres of freehold land, a rare commodity in the nineteenth century, with building work beginning soon after the sale.

The Incorporation Charter, which I now believe is securely lodged at Halifax Town Hall, comprises of eight large sheets of closely written parchment with the first sheet bearing a £30 stamp and the last one bearing The Great Seal, which is about four inches in diameter.

Quite often it is the facts and figures that interest readers the most – for example the population of the Brighouse Local Board District was 7,911 and then the population of the amalgamated areas making up the new borough was just less than 13,000. The population by 1937 had risen to 20,000 and then following the amalgamation of the additional areas in the borough the population rose to almost 30,000.

The first major undertaking for the new council came in 1895 when the members had to initiate the new sewerage scheme, which involved a loan of £95,000 for the construction of the new outfall works at Cooper Bridge. Shortly afterwards the new council bought the Rastrick gas works with the construction of the Brighouse gas works in Mill Lane following soon after.

Once the council had been elected the first Mayor was duly elected. Frederick Laxton was to be Mayor but sadly he died, so the distinction of being the first Mayor of Brighouse went to Alderman and Mrs William Smith.

The town has seen many changes since James Parkinson, the town clerk to the new borough council, formally read out the Charter of Incorporation on that September day in 1893.

This photograph shows James Parkinson reading out the charter outside the town hall.