Times were tough then . . .

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TIMES were tough in the 1890s. In Lower Edge it was so bad that a soup kitchen was established in 1895 for the stone workers who were laid off.

The winter of that year was so bad these men were desperate for food. On Christmas Day free dinners were distributed by the ILP (Independent Labour Party) and the PSA (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon) Brotherhood. Local people not only supported local causes but national charities as well, ‘Lifeboat Saturday’ was one that was established by the Mayoress.

The Victorians decided that all children should go to school and the ‘board man’ ensured that they did go to school. If you didn’t go your parents or guardian would have to go to court with you and along with your name would be entered in the prosecutions book.

In those days it was not uncommon for explanations for absenteeism to include no shoes, lack of clothing, working, looking after an aged relative or suffering from some minor ailment of today but was seriously life threatening in the late 19th century.

Education had been going through a number of major changes from the 1870s and one significant change came in 1891 when the ‘pence fee’ was abolished, schooling was free.

In September 1893 Brighouse gained its Borough status – there was great celebration and rejoicing throughout the town. This all came together when James Parkinson the new Town Clerk read out the Incorporation of the Borough on ‘Charter Day’ September 30, 1893 in what is now Thornton Square.

This was the start of some major changes in the town – things that these days we take for granted. The disposal of sewage was greatly improved with the construction and opening of the sewage and outfall works at Cooper Bridge in 1895. The construction of the Mill Lane gas works started in 1895 and the municipal electricity supply was started when the new council bought out the plant of Mr A.B.Brook in Hall Street. In 1909 the new Huddersfield Road Transformer Station was opened.

With so much going on would the new borough have the time and money to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria? Of course it did and to commemorate that historic event the council sponsored a scheme securing the Rydings Park and buildings to be used for a library, museum and Park which was bought by public subscription.

There were obviously sad moments as well, none more so that when the Boer War broke out in October 1899. By Christmas there were about 30 men from our area serving in South Africa.

This seems unimaginable now when you consider that most of these brave young men would not have travelled much beyond the Brighouse boundary. Perhaps the occasional trip to Wyke or perhaps a rare outing to Halifax or Huddersfield but with transport being limited to either horse and cart or walking travel was limited. Even having seven railway stations dotted around the borough in the 1890s a train ride was for most financially out of the question.

Naturally the Echo was there for each of these events reporting in full the highs and the lows, the birth, marriages and of course the deaths.

n Next week we look back at some of the pubs and ale houses in the district.