Echoes of the past: A tribute to George Hepworth

George Hepworth Senior, shown here, died in 1875 at the age of 76
George Hepworth Senior, shown here, died in 1875 at the age of 76

I was very pleased to read that the house building contractors McCarthy, who are developing its new retirement complex in Parsonage Lane are naming it Hepworth Court.

Followers of local history in and around Brighouse will have heard of both George Hepworth and his son George. Two giants from the nineteenth century involved in the development of our town.

The Hepworth family lived at Yew Trees, St Giles Road and Hove Edge for almost three hundred years. George Hepworth, senior, shown in this photograph died in 1875, aged 76 and was interred in Brighouse church cemetery, and his wife Elizabeth died two years later, aged 67. He was and architect, surveyor and a builder.

His son George, who died in 1929, aged 80, was a founder member of the Brighouse Photographic Society in 1895, and was the society’s president. Many of the old photographs we can see today are a product of his work and his fellow members. He was a vice president of the Yorkshire Photographic Union.

He was also very active with the Brighouse Mechanic’s Institute which was started in 1846 and was the earliest form of adult education in Brighouse. Throughout his life he was connected to many historical and archaeological societies and gave numerous slide presentations of old Brighouse. Many of his old lantern slides and glass plate negatives are at the Kirklees Photograph Archives at the Tolson Museum which was set up in 1997.

His architectural work included many large mill premises including Woodvale Mills, at the back of Brighouse Police Station. He was commissioned to draw up the plans for Richard Kershaw for what was to be one of the largest silk mills in Brighouse. This new mill was opened on the 29 April 1882. At its peak this mill employed 600 people and ran 40,000 spindles.

He wrote a number of articles about the history of Brighouse. Two of the rarest I have are one he wrote and published in 1898, ‘Brighouse, a short history of the Town’. By far his best is the hard backed book ‘Brighouse Its Scenery and Antiquities’ which he published in 1885. This book was a limited edition of about 100 copies. It is a series of local photographic views all taken by George Hepworth, who has then written on the opposite page to each photograph a detailed history of the view.

In years to come I am sure residents in the new Hepworth Court will wonder, ‘Who was Hepworth?’. Well, even today 88 years after his death you don’t have to look far to see examples of his work. Whether it be a mill building or one of his brilliantly produced nineteenth century photographs.