Page created 29 December 2003




Edward J Law.


We are fortunate to have on record in the autobiography of Thomas Smart, a printer, some facts relating to the origins of the printing trade in Huddersfield. His book The Prisoner(1) records that the first printer in the town was the father of Joseph Brook, some time around 1778. He had originally kept a small school, and picking up some hints from a person with some knowledge of the bookselling and binding business he had first set up a stall in the market, afterwards advancing to a shop. This was John Brook who in 1747 was conducting a school at "top of town"(2) and is noted selling and binding books in 1749. In 1752 the churchwardens of Almondbury purchased a prayer book from him and paid him for the binding of another, two years later when the Parish Registers were "very ill out of repair" they were sent to him for rebinding(3).

Smart relates that Joseph Brook, the son, was sent to Leeds to learn the printing trade, his further statement that the master sent Joseph back with the comment that he would have to go back to school before he would ever make a printer may have been affected by bias, as will appear. Whatever the professional opinion the Brooks did become printers; there are two titles in 1778, A Letter from H Venn AM to Jonathan Scott Esq. and Faith in God(4), both printed by J Brook, Huddersfield, it does not appear whether this was for John, the father, or Joseph who was just twenty-one years old. John died in January 1784 and all his real estate passed to Joseph as his only surviving son(5). Smart arrived in Huddersfield that same year and Joseph, who had only been employing a young apprentice, took him into the business as a journeyman printer.

The origins and circumstances of Smart leaving Brook indicate that the latter was the first Huddersfield banker. A Joseph Brook is reputed to have founded a bank in the town in 1779, though the earliest evidence is a bank note of 1797 signed by Silvester Sikes(6). Smart, recording grievances over the amount of his salary, states "I now had to attend in the shop, look to his accounts which were much deranged, and which, with particular care I brought into order, assist him in the banking business, solely manage the Tontine and overlook the printing." As a consequence in 1793 he agreed a new salary with Brook. It is apparent from this that the banking business was in existence in 1793; it may well have been this facility which led to Brook's appointment as treasurer to the Huddersfield Canal Company.

By 1798 Smart had resolved to commence business upon his own account and gave notice to leave Brook on August 11th, however; he was arrested in June, when preparing to go to London to purchase requirements for the new venture, at the instigation of Joseph Brook on the grounds that he was absconding. Relating the details of his arrest he notes the arrival of Brook and his intended partner, Josiah Lancashire, with whom in August 1799 Brook registered three printing presses in accord with the requirements of the Unlawful Societies Act of that year(7). The earliest printing noted for the partnership is The Letters of Junius in 1798, and the latest are small handbills showing the state of the poll in the County election of May 1807. The partnership must have ceased shortly after this for Brook was printing under his own name by 1808. After 1808 output with the Brook imprint is very sparse, and it is probable that he was having to devote most of his energies to his other enterprises. As a result of the failure of the banking house of Seaton Brook, in which he was a partner, he was made bankrupt and by the end of 1811 his assignees in bankruptcy, who included Edward Baines the Leeds printer, were disposing of his premises on the corner of Market Place(8), a site he had leased from February 1793. The first printing noted after Brook's bankruptcy is in 1817, and it may be that he had to wait until his son, born in 1801, could be shown as the nominal owner of the business before continuing the trade. When Joseph died in 1829 the son, also Joseph, continued the press which, on his death in 1879, passed to his son-in-law and partner, Edwin Learoyd. There is to this day a firm of lithographic printers, Brook & Learoyd of Chancery Lane, whom one would like to think may be the successors to a family who were the town's first printers over two hundred years ago.

In April 1808 Josiah Lancashire, "Stationer, bookseller and bookbinder" announced that he had opened a shop in Kirkgate, near the Market Place(9). By 1810 he was printing under his own name, though it was not until April 1812 that he registered his two presses. The impression that his trade was prospering is confirmed by the following advertisement for staff which appeared in the Leeds Mercury on 21st May, 1814:-

  • Wanted immediately a very clever man who perfectly understands the printing business in a Job and Book office. It is requested that none will apply but such as are fully competent to fill every department. Likewise a good workman in the book binding business. Steady men who can be well recommended for sobriety and attention will find this a comfortable and permanent situation.
    Wanted as an apprentice, a youth of respectable connexion, a handsome premium will be expected.
    Applications by letter, post paid, to J Lancashire, bookseller and printer, Huddersfield, will be duly attended to.
    On sale a small font of new music type.
  • Lancashire continued in the trade until his death early in 1830, his widow and two of his sons died in 1831 and 1832 leaving the business to be run by his son Thomas Green Lancashire, whose imprint is noted from 1833 to 1845, his death occurring in January 1846. The family are buried at Holy Trinity and are commemorated by a monument within the church. The successors to the business were Bond & Hardy, and, in the 1850s, Waters Hardy who had married Keziah Elizabeth Lancashire in 1847. The business was originally located in Kirkgate where it remained down to 1830. By 1832 it was situated in the Market Place where it continued to the time of Waters Hardy.

    When Thomas Smart was arrested in 1798 he was accompanied to the prison in Wakefield by his partner, Silvester Sikes. Sikes seems to have been intent on emulating his previous master, Joseph Brook, for he was to found two banks as well as entering the printing trade. The printing partnership which was only in existence during the three years to 1800 was variously styled Sikes & Co., Sikes & Smart and Sikes, Smart & Earnshaw. In August 1799 when they registered their two presses the partners were Silvester Sikes and Thomas Smart, but the witness to the notification was Chr. Earnshaw, no doubt an employee and probably the same C Earnshaw who wrote a book of poetry which Smart later printed.

    The output of the partnership was quite substantial, one of the earlier works was Smart's book The Prisoner with a dedication dated 2nd January 1799. In another printing The British Poetical Miscellany, third edition, two of the cuts are by Brook but they were obviously made for the printers as one contains the wording "Sikes & Co. - printers, booksellers, binders, stationers, Huddersfield."(10)

    By September 1800 Sikes had been made bankrupt following the failure of his banks, this led to his departure from the printing business and the disposal of one of the presses, for Smart registered a single press in the same month. Smart may well have kept on the partnership premises for he remained in Kirkgate to 1812, being first noted in King Street in 1814 where he continued the business to the day of his death in 1840.

    The next printer to be noted. is Thomas Kemp who registered a press in February 1815 and is recorded in the Market Place in the same year. Much of his output is undated until as late as 1834 though some of the material can be dated from the contents, the earliest such being A Sermon on the Death of Princess Charlotte Augusta - 23rd November 1817. It seems that the whole of his business life was spent; in New Street, directories from 1816 to 1845 record him there. He died in 1846 and Elizabeth, his widow, continued the trade with the aid of a manager, Alfred Palmer, until 1853 when she retired in favour of Messrs Wild & Wheatley. Wild had been with T G Lancashire and his successor, Waters Hardy, for 13 years; it is not known when he ceased to be a partner but a billhead of 1857 shows James E Wheatley to be trading on his own as a printer in New Street(11).

    Early in his career Kemp appears to have taken a partner for notification of a press was submitted to the Clerk of the Peace in August 1819 from Thomas Kemp and Charles Greaves. It seems likely that the partnership was established with the specific object of publishing a newspaper, for the following month the first number of the West Yorkshire Gazette or the Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, Wakefield and Barnsley Advertiser appeared, published by Greaves and Kemp of Huddersfield and Barnsley No editions of the paper are known, references have been noted in Joseph Berry's journal(12), and the Leeds Mercury which carried an advertisement on 28th August 1819. I have not encountered any local material with Greaves's imprint, and there is no doubt that he was the Barnsley half of the partnership; he is recorded at Barnsley in Baines's directory of 1822.

    When Greaves & Kemp registered their press in 1819 the only location given was Huddersfield, from which I assume that the West Riding Gazette was published in the town. If this was the case, and no copies of the paper have been seen to give positive confirmation, then it predates by fourteen years what was previously thought to be the earliest locally published paper, Joshua Hobson's Voice of the West Riding.

    No evidence has been seen of any output of James Bentley Barber who registered a printing press "within my dwelling house in King Street, Huddersfield" in August 1816. Pigot's directory of 1816-7 notes him at King Street under the headings of Booksellers etc.: Tea Dealers: and Confectioners & Toy Man; besides this miscellany there is an indication that he also conducted a school. He is not recorded at all in the 1818-20 directory, but has been noted at Leeds, in 1833, and Walton le Dale, in 1843, described on both occasions as a schoolmaster(13).

    William Moore registered his press in January 1823 but had been printing in Huddersfield for some time prior to this; there is a handbill reproducing a letter dated January 1817. The latest printing noted is December 1829 but he certainly continued in business after this and in 1832 he was advertising for a printer and bookbinder(14), probably as a consequence of his appointment that year as the post master of the town. It was almost certainly that appointment which led eventually to his declining printing altogether, some time after 1834, though he continued as a bookseller to 1838 at least. It is said that Moore was brought to Huddersfield from Pontefract by the Rev. Benjamin Boothroyd on his appointment as the minister of Highfield Chapel in 1818, specifically to complete the printing of Boothroyd's New Family Bible of 1823. These origins pointed to a possible relationship to a Fred Moore of Huddersfield, bookseller, who voted in the County elections of 1807 with a freehold qualification at Castleford. However, deeds of the early1800s show that he was in fact Frederick Moon of Birkhouse, probably the same F Moon who became the first librarian of the Huddersfield Subscription Library(15) on its foundation in March 1807.

    There are two pieces printed by a G Bolland of King Street, both dated 1832, but no other evidence appears.

    December 1832 saw the registration of Joshua Hobson's press which was to be virtually dedicated to the support of Richard Oastler. The whole of the output noted emanated from Swan Yard where he founded the newspaper The Voice of the West Riding in 1833. Like Thomas Smart some thirty-five years earlier, he was imprisoned at Wakefield; his crime the publication of an unstamped newspaper. The business seems to have passed to Christopher Tinker who had witnessed Hobson's notification in 1832, and who submitted his own in 1834, following Hobson's removal to Leeds, when his witness was another supporter of Oastler, Lawrence Pitkiethley. The latest printing seen is 1840, and the output was very much in the Hobson/Oastler tradition.

    A press was notified in December 1833 by the firm of Pass & Roebuck (John Pass and Henry Roebuck) who in the same year are noted in King Street from whence the only item noted in the partnership name was printed. Titled The Knitting Needle Candidate it is undated but probably refers to the election of May 1837. Publications under Roebuck's imprint cover the period 1840 to 1848 and were all issued from King Street. It would appear that Roebuck was the printer and Pass a bookbinder, for the latter is noted in 1845 as a bookbinder and stationer with business premises in Corn Market.

    William Dewhirst is recorded in New Street in both the 1837 and 1845 directories of the town and has dated output from 1836 to 1841.

    A Samuel Easton of Cross Church Street printing from 1837 to 1841 inclusive is noted in the 1837 directory, but does not figure in that of 1845. Samuel is probably the same S Easton who is noted(16) as a printer at New Road, Brighouse in 1835.

    Neither Dewhirst nor Easton appear in the surviving press notifications, and it may be that the law, which had never been observed to the letter, was falling into a tolerated disuse by that time, though the requirements were not repealed until 1869.

    Two other Huddersfield printers are recorded in the period prior to 1840. G W Tomlinson in a brief article on Huddersfield typography(17) lists a "Collection of Hymns from Various Authors, Huddersfield; Printed by T Frost bookseller, 1809." I have not been able to trace either the printer or the book, and wonder if there was some confusion with T Smart. Pigot's directory of 1834 records Samuel Hodgson of Market Place, copper plate printer and engraver, he is not included under the heading of bookseller, as are all the other printers, and it is possible that he produced only commercial stationery.

    In conclusion it may be of interest to note that two notifications were submitted in respect of presses in Holmfirth; one by Joseph Crosland in October 1833, the other in August 1840 by Francis Hirst. There is a "Table of Poundship Fees as ordered at Holmfirth Great Court Leet in 1808" with the imprint of J Crosland, printer and bookseller, Holmfirth(18), though it would not necessarily be printed at that date.

    1 The Prisoner and other Huddersfield printings, unless stated otherwise, are held by the Huddersfield Library, Local Studies section.
    2 Edward J Law, 18th Century Huddersfield – The Day-books of John Turner 1732-1773, p7.
    3 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, D12/181.
    4 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, Tomlinson Collection.
    5 West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds, EP/242/101.
    6 WCE Hart1ey, Banking in Yorkshire.
    7 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, QE36.
    8 West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds, FR/184/187.
    9 Leeds Mercury, 9.4.1808.
    10 Private Collection,
    11 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, C296/204.
    12 Yorkshire Notes & Queries, Vol. 1, Journal of Joseph Berry of Wakefield.
    13 West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds.
    14 Leeds Mercury, 15.9.1832.
    15 Huddersfield Library, Local Studies section, Local Pamphlets Vol. 16.
    16 J Horsfall Turner, The History of Brighouse, Rastrick and Hipperholm.
    17 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, Tomlinson Collection.
    18 Tolson Memorial Museum, Huddersfield.

    1988 Edward J Law.

    Return to HOME.