Echoes of the past: Revisiting Mayors old and new

Congratulations to Councillor Howard Blagbrough and his partner Mrs Catherine Kirk as the new 2016–2017 Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale.

Brighouse became a Borough 1893 and during the life of the borough, until it became part of Calderdale in 1974, there were sixty-six Aldermen, 285 councillors which included 12 ladies, 11 Freemen and forty-two Mayors, which included two ladies.

I am sure many readers will remember the name of our last Mayor in Brighouse, the late Councillor Stanley Womersley, but how many know the name of the first Mayor of Brighouse?

Many of you will know it was William Smith.

He has been written about on many occasions and his gifts to the town still stand as a permanent memory of him today.

It will come as a surprise that William Smith was not actually the first choice.

The Local Board, the fore-runner to the borough council, was started in 1865 under the chairmanship of Mr Kaye Aspinall, and from its inception there were only five other chairmen.

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

In October 1892 Chambers the Brighouse solicitor drafted the Borough Charter and it was agreed that Frederick Laxton as board chairman would be the provisional first Mayor of the 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 was decided that 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.

With all the initial excitement over the ad-hoc committees from the local board had the task of nominating the town’s first councillors.

The initial list of 49 nominations would have to be reduced for the twenty-four 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 function of the Mayor to be the returning officer on these occasions, Mr Alexander Oldfield Stocks had to stand in for Mr Laxton.

The 24 members of the new borough council met for the first time on November 9, 1893 when they elected their first eight Aldermen and first Mayor, who was unanimously William Smith.

William Smith was Mayor from 1893 to 1895 but in 1904 had to step in following the death of the sitting Mayor Samuel Edgar Hirst, who died on January 16 1904.

William Smith continued as the town’s first citizen until 1907.

In this photograph is Mayor William Smith JP in his ceremonial robes of office.