Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Upstairs and downstairs life

Lots of servants worked in the grand houses

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 6:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 8:46 am
LYLES CHILDREN: 18-year old Sarah Ellen Waring, nanny in the 1880s (picture kindly loaned by Ray Brace).

Labour was cheap and plentiful in Dewsbury in Victorian times when most people worked in the mills and factories and their employers lived in large mansions near to their factories.

Their large homes, usually situated in extensive grounds, needed a host of servants to maintain them, which provided much-needed jobs for local people and sometimes even accommodation as well.

Many of these houses still survive, and I have written about them in the past because fortunately they are still with us and haven’t fallen victim to the bulldozer.

Fortunately, most have been put to good use and converted into flats, especially those in the Oxford Road area of Dewsbury near where I grew up as a child.

The people working in these grand houses included gardeners, cooks, groomsmen, maids, stable-hands, as well as a number of other servants who carried out more menial tasks.

It seems strange when we look back at the history of our working class towns to observe the ‘upstairs and downstairs’ existence which was going on in many of the large houses,

It was on a much smaller and less grand scale than we see portrayed in television programmes like Downton Abbey but nevertheless it was a way of life which went on in smaller towns like Dewsbury.

During the Industrial Revolution, these large houses in Dewsbury attracted young girls from outside the district looking for work.

One such young lady was Sarah Ellen Waring, who came to Dewsbury from Barnsley in the 1880s to work in service.

She became nanny to three of the Lyles children whose family owned a number of carpet yarn mills in the town.

In 1900 she married Arthur Waring, a close relative of rugby league commentator Eddie Waring, who was born in Dewsbury.

The picture on this page showing her with the children in her charge, was sent to me by her grandson, Ray Brace, who some may remember was stage manager at the Empire Theatre before it closed in 1955.

Sarah was only 18 when the picture was taken, and although we do not have the names of the children pictured, we do know they were part of the mill-owning Lyles family.

How long she worked for the family, or which branch of the Lyles family employed her, we do not know.

But we do know that she and her husband, Arthur, lived for some years in Ripon Road, Earlsheaton, and that she died in 1956. Perhaps there are some readers who may remember them.

There were other very big houses in Dewsbury which stood in acres of land and employed large numbers of staff to maintain them, and some I have written about before.

One was Crow Nest Hall, where Dewsbury Museum was situated until it closed some years ago, and it employed scores of staff including gardeners and farm labourers tending the estate’s farm.

Another large mansion, which has sadly disappeared, was Grove House, which was demolished to make way for the West Riding Magistrates Court.

Its first owner had been Dr Fearnley, who became the first Mayor of Dewsbury.

But it was later occupied by the Halliley family, who owned Aldams Mill, near where Dewsbury Police Station now stands.

To understand just how many industries were up and running in Dewsbury when Sarah Waring was working as a nanny, you only have to look through the jobs vacancies columns in old Reporter files.

You soon realise just how many different occupations once existed in Dewsbury.

The Industrial Revolution, as we all know, brought prosperity to Dewsbury with new industries opening at an amazing rate, mainly those connected with the textile and mining industries.

But there were also others which were started to support the running of the mills and mines, mainly those connected with the engineering industry.

And when you look back and read about them all, you have to wonder where they went, all those engineering firms, iron foundries, chemical works, dyeworks, steel works, boilermakers, weighing machine makers.

Change is inevitable and time moves on, but how sad it is to see the demise of so many industries which provided so many people with highly-skilled jobs, not to mention the prosperity they brought to the town.

In 1895 an interesting publication called Dewsbury Illustrated gave a descriptive account of the various firms which once flourished in the town.

The list may seem boring to some, but anyone interested in social history will find them fascinating.

There were Messrs J Flatlow and Sons, importers and exporters of woollen rags, shoddies and mungos in Bond Street; Perseverance Mills, George Street and Messrs Hopkinson and Bailey, millwright works, Aldams Road.

Thomas Hirst, wool and flock merchant, Mill Road, Batley Carr; Messrs Wallis and Sons, carpet manufacturers and yarn spinners, Watergate, and Messrs E Fox, and Sons, manufacturers of shoddy, Calder Bank Mills.

Others included Messrs Tolson and Fox, woollen yarn spinners, dyers, finishers and wool and hair merchants, Providence Mills, Watergate; Messrs David Lumb, cart and wagon builder, Wakefield Road.

There were also Messrs Abraham Preston and Sons, manufacturers of blankets, rugs, linings, Earlsheaton and Messrs Thomas Chadwick and Sons, wool and hair merchants, Crackenedge Lane.

Also, Messrs Clay, Henriques and Co, engineers and brass, iron founders, Victoria Foundry, Savile Town, and Messrs John Birkhead, Globe Mills, Boothroyd Lane.

A more interesting one was Messrs Bodenhelm and Carlebach, woollen rag importers and exporters, South Street, Dewsbury, and also at 39 Rue d’Enghien, Paris.

Many, many more were listed, now all gone, and I do not include in this list, the big names we all grew up with like Wormalds and Walker, Mark Oldroyd’s

Ellis’s, Joseph Newsome’s, Speddings, Crabtrees and Bunzl and Biach’s

The names I mention on the list are those which disappeared long before our time.

But these are names our grandparents would have known and probably worked for.

■ You can email your recollections of Dewsbury in years gone by to: [email protected]