Echoes of the past: Story of the first Mayor of Brighouse

Reading the new Borough Charter in 1893
Reading the new Borough Charter in 1893

Brighouse became a borough in 1893 and once the amalgamation into what was to become Calderdale in 1974, the old borough council had appointed sixty six Aldermen, two hundred and eighty five Councillors, which included twelve ladies, eleven Freemen and forty two Mayors, which included two ladies.

It is now forty-three years since our last mayor the late Councillor Stanley Womersley completed his term of office as the last Mayor of Brighouse. I am sure some readers would have known that, but how many can say who the first Mayor of Brighouse was called?

I am sure many readers will know it was William Smith and seen the large framed paintings in the library. I have written about him many times and the gifts he gave to the town and still stand as a permanent memory of him today. But how many knew that William Smith was not actually the first choice for mayor?

The Local Board, the fore runner to the Borough Council came into being in 1865, following the formal separation of the Hipperholme cum Brighouse Township. The new local board was under the under the chairmanship of Kaye Aspinall and from its inception there were only five other chairmen up to the incorporation of the borough.

Kaye Aspinall 1865 - 1870; Thomas Blackburn 1870 - 1872; John Carr Bottomley 1872 - 1884; Henry Sugden 1884 - 1887; Richard Kershaw 1887 - 1891 and Frederick Laxton 1891 - 1893.

Kaye Aspinall was a local businessman and along with his wife supported many local causes. It was Mrs Aspinall, who in her own right was no stranger when it came to subscribing to the town’s worthy causes. In July of 1903 she was asked to lay the memorial stone at the Parish Church’s new Chancel.

In October 1892 Brighouse solicitor Chambers drafted the new Borough Charter and it was agreed that Frederick Laxton, as Board Chairman would be the provisional Mayor for the new Borough.

On Saturday August 19 the following year the Charter arrived in Brighouse having been legally accepted and completed by the Home Office. This was the most important day in the history of Brighouse and it decided a Charter celebration day would be held on September 30.

Following a long procession through the town culminating at the Town Pump in Thornton Square. The Town Clerk Mr James Parkinson read out the Charter in its entirety to one of the largest crowds ever gathered in the town centre.

Once the initial excitement was over the ad-hoc committees from the Local Board set about nominating the town’s first councillors. The initial list of 49 nominations would all have to fight it out for the 24 places on the new council.

Sadly, during the elections Frederick Laxton died which inevitably left a cloud over the whole proceedings. As it was traditionally the job of the Mayor to be the Returning Officer on these occasions, Alexander Oldfield Stocks had to stand in for Frederick Laxton.

The twenty four members of the new Borough Council met for the first time on November 9, 1893 when they elected the first eight Aldermen and first Mayor who was following the death of Frederick Laxton the name William Smith was universally accept.

William Smith was Mayor from 1893 to 1895, but in 1904 he had to step in once again following the death of the sitting Mayor Samuel Edgar Hirst who died on January 16 1904. He carried on as the town’s first citizen through to 1907.