Turner’s lasting legacy in town

The public garden in Granny Hall Road, Brighouse - On the site of Granny Hall which was demolished in 1907, where Joseph Horsfall Turner was born in 1845 (photograph courtesy of Humphrey Bolton)

The public garden in Granny Hall Road, Brighouse - On the site of Granny Hall which was demolished in 1907, where Joseph Horsfall Turner was born in 1845 (photograph courtesy of Humphrey Bolton)

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The name of J. Horsfall Turner will mean little to some readers but for anyone who is interested in local history his books on the subject are a must.

It was announced on May 2, 1915, that Joseph Horsfall Turner died at his home in Idle, Bradford aged 71.

I first came across his name almost 40 years ago when my own interest in the local history of Brighouse and its surrounding communities started. The first book I purchased was his 1893 history of ‘Brighouse, Rastrick and Hipperholme’.

In those far off days I remember paying almost £20. Since then the same book soared in price but has now dropped back to a more realistic price.

A copy in very good condition with the front fly sheet at the front and the map half-way through still intact can cost between £40 - £70.

Horsfall Turner was born at Granny Hall on Granny Hall Lane (where the rose garden is) on April 10, 1845. In 1869, he married Mary Bentley.

In his adult life he became a school teacher and it is recorded on the Calderdale Council website ‘Glimpse at the Past’ pages that he opened the Albert Academy.

I believe this will be the Albert Place Academy, which was situated behind the present day Yorkshire Bank. It is also recorded that he opened the YMCA in Brighouse in 1870. The name Albert Place can still be seen over the passageway next to the bank.

In 1873 he left Brighouse having accepted an appointment at Idle, near Bradford. He lived at Cockshott Lane, Idle in 1901 and Westfield, Idle at the time of his death.

His output was phenomenal covering a vast area far beyond his home town of Brighouse.

I have bought many of Horsfall Turner’s publications and to describe them as fascinating is an understatement. We have all probably bought history books where you get a few facts on each page but usually supplemented with the rest of the page being made up of ‘padding’.

In Horsfall Turner’s books every line tells you something new.

Horsfall Turner’s research interests made him a prolific writer and editor. Over a hundred titles, relevant to his antiquarian and naturalist interests and many of these can be found under his name in the Calderdale Central Library catalogue.

These publications represent only a fraction of his work, which also included frequent contributions to local newspapers. He also took it upon himself to reprint a number of scarce local works.

His research also attracted vast quantities of correspondence. It was because of the sheer volume he was receiving that he founded the quarterly periodicals Yorkshire Notes and Queries, Yorkshire Folk-Lore Journal, Yorkshire Bibliographer, Yorkshire Genealogist and the Yorkshire County Magazine.

In December 1901, he was declared bankrupt. However, his creditors were paid in full by January 1902.

Part of his collection of books was acquired by Halifax Corporation for the sum of £50. This is a unique collection that has been carefully maintained and continues to this day encouraging people’s interest in local history.