Page created 4 January 2004




Edward J Law.


The absence of knowledge of architects who produced plans for buildings in the town in the 18th century has been remarked upon in Architects of Huddersfield and District to 1860, in this series. There is a similar lack of information relating to the first quarter of the 19th century and this at a time when some important buildings were being erected, notably Queen Street Chapel and the Court House. There was, however, at that time a group of men who were almost certainly involved in minor architectural projects. They were the land agents and surveyors who, for the most part, were retained by the larger landowners of the area.

As a result of the personal association between the land agent and the owners of estates, it is not unusual to find successive generations of families acting for the same estate; an outstanding example in this area is the Crowther family.

This Lockwood family were concerned with surveying through several generations The first of whom we know was Thomas (1766-1826) who was surveyor for the Birstall to Huddersfield Turnpike in 1818 and for the Lockwood to Meltham Turnpike in 1822. He is noted in a deed of 1825, described as a surveyor, involved with the Lockwood Estate. In his will of the following year1 he described himself as a road surveyor.

Thomas married twice and had a large family of whom four sons are known to have followed .him as surveyors: Thomas jnr., Mallinson, William and John, the last three were, in turn, all followed by one of their sons. Frank Abbey, a grandson of Mallinson was practising as an architect in Huddersfield down to. The firm in which he was a partner, the Abbey Hanson Rowe Partnership, now with an international clientele, continued to be retained by the Lockwood Estate to 1963.

John Abbey ( -1847) was responsible for the design of a bridge over the Colne at Salford, Lockwood in 18332. Mallinson Abbey (1811-1857) was the surveyor in 1851 for the widening of the Lockwood to Meltham Turnpike at Netherton. Perhaps the best known member of the family was his son, John Henry Abbey (1831-1880) who is first noted in 1854 when he was appointed surveyor to the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners3. At that time the post was considered full-time, and in 1857 when John Henry and his cousin succeeded to the business of his uncle, Mallinson Abbey, he had to resign the appointment. In his letter of resignation he reveals that the appointment was taken primarily to publicise his name with a long term view of. building up a private practice.

At a later date John Henry Abbey was to serve as Huddersfield Borough Surveyor, combining the post with a private practice which extended to architecture. The earliest known building to his design is Lockwood Mechanic's Institute (1865), and the best known, the Huddersfield Town Hall which was in course of construction at his death.

JAMES ARMYTAGE (c1821-1873)
James Armytage was born in Halifax4, the son of William Armytage. It is known from an advertisement in 1857 when James announced his succession to the practice of his father, that he too was a land agent and surveyor. Two references have been noted to a William Armytage, firstly in 1795 when a William Armytage of Almondbury was the Clerk to the Halifax and Sheffield Turnpike Road, a post which may have necessitated his removal to Halifax, and another in 1849 when a William Armytage of Kirkdeighton, Wetherby, was acting as agent for a Mr Whitehead who held property in Huddersfield6. It is possible that William Armytage was some relation of the Armytages of Kirklees Hall for the offices of clerks, treasurers, surveyors etc. to the Turnpike Trusts were much sought after and were often subject to the influence of the major land-owners over whose property the roads were constructed. It may also be significant that at the time of his death in 1859 he was living at Clifton, close by Kirklees Hall.

James is first noted as a land surveyor in 1847 when his offices were in King Street. The following year he successfully applied for the post of Surveyor to the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners7 and must have met their requirements of a properly qualified surveyor, qualified to act as a civil engineer. It is interesting that he asked for a salary of just 35 per year when the other applicants were asking from 80 to 100. Possibly, like John Henry Abbey at a later date, he was hoping to achieve a name in municipal affairs to benefit his private practice. He was allowed to continue his practice and in fact worked from his own offices for a time. In 1854 he was removed from office, the post being merged with that of the Clerk to the Board, in a contentious decision which led to the resignation of the Chairman of the Board, Mr Joseph Brook, who opposed the move.

It seems that following the loss of his public office James continued in private practice; in 1857, he announced8 "James Armytage, land agent and surveyor, having succeeded to the practice of his father, 3 New Street, opposite the Post Office." The combined practices cannot have been entirely satisfactory for the same year he applied for the post of Surveyor and Clerk of Works to the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners9 and was appointed from 40 applicants.

In July 1866 James was appointed Surveyor for the Borough of Preston, a post he held to the date of his death in 187310. James was for many years in the middle of the century permitted to shoot on the Ramsdens' Byram estate11, which may be another indication that he came from a family of some standing.

James Brook kept the Star inn at Bridge End; he is noted in the directory of 1830 as an architect, but was better known as a surveyor. His gravestone at St Paul's Church records that he died in 1834 aged 37, but the family continued to be surveyors for the Ramsden estate for some years and one member, Thomas Brook, produced the well known map of Almondbury of 1844.

Thomas was the son of Joseph Brook of Bridge End, a builder, and was described as early as 1841 as a surveyor; by the late 1840s he was living at Colne Villa though he continued to work from Bridge End. He was a land agent etc. in Huddersfield for many years working extensively for the Ramsden estate; the practice becoming Thomas Brook & Nephew by the 1880s.

William Henry Brook who is recorded in the 1853 directory in partnership with William Sugden as architects in New Street is thought to have been of the same family.

May well have been connected with Thomas Dinsley (qv) for he was a Commissioner in the Barkisland (1814) and Stainland (1816) Enclosures, for both of which Dinsley was the Surveyor. Although at that time Brown was described as a gentleman he had been a surveyor, and acted in that capacity in 1799 in the Dalton enclosure. He was probably a man of some standing, for he surveyed the canal from Huddersfield to Ashton under Lyne, and was a Commissioner in no less than ten enclosures between 1803 and 1820.

In 1805 Brown was engaged to survey part of the line of the Huddersfield to New Hey Turnpike and acted as Surveyor until September 1808 when he resigned the office "on account of the multiplicity of business in other concerns which he has to attend to." He was reluctant to give up the books and plans which he had, and in November 1810 the Trustees had to take action against him for the recovery of a balance of 35-8-3 which he held. He was living in Huddersfield in 1803 but had removed to Wakefield by 1816.

This family have a unique local record in the continuity of occupation as land agents and surveyors, exceeding even that of the Abbey family (qv).

The first of the line was George Crowther (1780-1829), the son of a gamekeeper on the Fixby estate, who is said to have commenced with the Thornhill family as their resident land steward about 1808. He lived at Fixby Hall, was paid 40 guineas per annum and had a horse provided for business12. The Thornhill family's steward at that time was Robert Oastler who had held the post from the turn of the century and who resided in Leeds. George Crowther's wife was Frances Garside, and it seems likely that there was a connection with James Garside (qv) who had been the land surveyor for the Thornhill estate for many years.

By 1813 George Crowther was living at Fixby Hall where he remained until at least 1824. In 1820 Robert Oastler had been succeeded by his son, Richard, a succession which was probably a great disappointment to George Crowther. Richard Oastler moved to Fixby Hall in 1821 and there appears to have been some friction between the two men which led eventually to George removing from the Hall, and presumably from direct employment with the Thornhill family. George Crowther's son writing some years later records13 "In 1820 old Mr Oastler the head steward who lived in Leeds died and the situation was given to his son who had been unfortunate in business, he came to live at Fixby and became a tyrant and persecuted my father." A very different view of the Factory King from that which is normally received. There was not only friction with Oastler, in a letter tendering for a survey of Rastrick in 1824 George stated14 "For although I have to regret that a little prejudice has arisen against me, but I beg leave to assert without any foundation." Probably he disclosed this because all that passed at Fixby Hall would be well known in Rastrick and not to have mentioned it would have gone against him.

Soon after this George settled at Birkby, where he was located in 1826 when he was one of the Commissioners under the Netherthong Inclosure Act. The award under that Act was signed by George Crowther, and witnessed by George Crowther junior, land surveyor. When the father died in 1829 George junior was able to continue the practice as appears from a journal commenced by him in that year, which remains in the possession of the family.

It is probable that from the first setting up of a private practice much work was done for the Thornhills for the Crowthers had been their tenants for very many years, succeeding generation's having kept the Warren House Inn on Lindley Moor. As the bulk of the work probably cane from Fixby Hall it would be convenient for George to work from his home, The Wood, a property which he had had built above Grimscar Road in 1831. In due course the opportunities in the expanding town of Huddersfield must have attracted him for in 1837 he is recorded with offices in King Street. In 1838 he was appointed Surveyor for the new reservoirs being planned by the Holme Reservoir Commissioners15. In the 1840s he was the surveyor for the Leeds, Dewsbury and Manchester Railway, and in the 1850s for the Dewsbury, Osset and Wakefield Railway16. George's father had been Surveyor for the Huddersfield to New Hey Turnpike Road from 1817 to his death in 1829, he was succeeded by Northend Hamerton, also of Fixby Hall, who four years later was succeeded by George junior. It seems likely that Thomas Thornhill, the major subscriber to the road, was instrumental in the appointments; no doubt all three could be relied upon to protect his interests.

George was in turn joined by his son, George Henry, who is best known for carrying through the scheme of the Huddersfield Corporation Waterworks. George Henry was able to renew the direct links with the Thornhill estate when he was appointed their agent c1869. He was joined by his eldest son, Frederick Cartledge in 1890, and the direct line continued with Frederick Bryan, Richard Guy and Frederick Charles. The two last named are the present partners of the firm, which has been known for many years as G & G H Crowther. Richard continues the association with the Fixby Estate, holding the office of Secretary of the Thornhill Estate Company.

In all a remarkable achievement; seven generations of the family involved with estate management for over 175 years, and looking forward to making it 200 years!

THOMAS DINSLEY (c1791-1843)
Thomas Dinsley of Huddersfield, land surveyor, is first noted in 1814 when he was the Surveyor for the Barkisland Enclosure. He subsequently acted in several enclosure surveys including Stainland (1816), Golcar (1820), Whitley (1821), Netherthong (1826) and the Graveship of Holme (1828). Additionally when one of the Commissioners for the Longwood and Deanhead Enclosure died he was appointed to the post.

He surveyed a proposed turnpike road from Saddleworth to Shepley Lane Head via Holmfirth in 1819 and the line of the Halifax to Huddersfield Turnpike in 1823, a pursuit in which he was widely employed as appears from the following extract from a letter17 of 28th March 1823 from John Lister Kaye of Denby Grange to John Broughton of Thornton, near Skipton:

  • if you want a surveyor who has been much employed in road surveying and making, I would recommend Thomas Dinsley, of Huddersfield, who has given great satisfaction in the accuracy of his levels and concomitant expenses in the survey and letting [of] fourteen miles of new road in this neighbourhood (from Marsden to Horbury Bridge) which has done him infinite credit.
  • With recommendations like the foregoing it is little wonder that Dinsley prospered. In 1838 he qualified as a Commissioner under the Act for the Lighting and Cleansing of the town of Huddersfield, and when he died in 1843 he left some 5,00019. He is buried in Holy Trinity burial ground.

    Whilst he is best remembered for his plan of the town of Huddersfield of 1825, he produced at least two others, one in 1828 for the Waterwork's Commissioners and another which was purchased by the Lighting and Cleansing Commissioners for twenty guineas in 1841. Other plans from his hand are for the sale of estates in Stainland and Old Lindley, no doubt in connection with the Stainland Enclosure of 1816, one relating to the Golcar Enclosure, one of the Huddersfield Water supply in 1819, and in 1824 for an intended Turnpike road from Wakefield to Denby Dale.

    James Garside was land surveyor for the Thornhills of Fixby Hall. He is first noted in 1799 when he prepared a Survey Book20 of their estates, in which he is described as of Quarmby Hall, though, as will be seen, he had been employed by them since c.1783. Also in 1799 he prepared a plan of the Division of Lindley Town Fields21, in which division the Thornhills of Fixby were very much involved as Lords of the Manor and the principal land owners.

    A letter preserved amongst the Clarke Thornhill estate papers22 throws some light on Garside and is reproduced in full as an example of the variety of work which 'estate surveyors' of that period might undertake.

    [To] Thomas Thornhill Esq, Berkley Square, London.
    Thomas Thornhill Esq.
    Hon. Sr. I have been employed for 19 years past as Land Surveyor have had the care of the Title Deeds.
    I have made one book of the extract of the Title deeds of the family to their several manors Royalties and Estate and how the same came to and descended in the family their marriage settlements and what estate hath been purchased since they became Lords of Fixby which was about the 1 Richd. 2 1377. The same book being prefaced by the Armoury Pedigree Genealogy Lives Deaths Burials and Donations of the same family. Also a second book of the Tythe rents, common land, Freehold and Customary Estate, the deeds of the Tythe as paid in Rastrick with necessary remarks.
    Deeds of Brighouse Mills with the land and appurtenances thereto and the rents paid to the Lords of the Manors of Wakefield and Brighouse.
    Also extracts of the Manor and rents of Hipperholme and Old Lindley, Longwoodhouse, Hillhouse and Cowcliffe estates.
    Also the old and new Moieties of the Manor lands, Tenements, Tythes and hereditaments of and in Deighton with estate in Dalton, Fartown and Huddersfield with evidences of the seats and burial place in Elland Church.
    Also the 3rd book contains the abstract of the Title Deeds to the Manor of Quarmby and the lands, tenemts, Chief and Tythe rents in Lindley cum Quarmby, Longwood, Deanhead and Netherton with the estates since purchased and grants of the waste of the same manor.
    Also Leeshall estate in Thornhill, Littleboro Estate and Lancashire and Hunton.
    Also a book of the boundaries of the Manor of Fixby with Old Lindley and Quarmby.
    Also I had the care of the title deeds to produce when wanted in dispute and all other purposes.
    Also I have surveyed and planned the collieries and other premises when wanted.
    Also drawn and engrossed leases, Articles etc. when wanted.
    Also I surveyed planned and divided the several allotments of land in Lindley fields to settle with the tenants in Lindley.
    Also I surveyed and planned the land part of Littleboro estate taken to the use of the canal and reservoir and settled the amount with the Commissioners there. Also wrote the survey book of the last Settlement with the tenants which contains the measure, value and what now let for the several estates called Fixby, Lindley cum Quarmby, Longwood, Deighton, Huddersfield, Rastrick, Leeshall, and Littleboro with the detached estates.
    I have also corrected the Rentals, restored neglected rights to Chief rents and had the care of 3 Spring Woods in Quarmby and the improvement of the waste with sundry other things too tedious to mention.
    I hope you will settle such things as you think proper to engage me in … I shall prefer to have a yearly Sum what your honour think right.
    I should have wrote sooner but there happened a circumstance to intervene.
    I remain Hon. Sr.
    Your most Obt.
    Hble. Servt.
    Jas. Garside
    Quarmby 2 Apl. 1802.

    We may assume that he received some satisfaction following the above for he continued to work for the Thornhills; in 1808 he produced a plan of Brighouse Mill23. In 1807 he was appointed a Commissioner and the surveyor for the Old Lindley Enclosure, probably as nominee of the Thornhills with a view to protecting their interests. The only independent work he is known to have undertaken was in 1802. In January of that year he was appointed at the Wakefield Quarter Sessions24 to be employed; along with William Newton, by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of Lindley, in producing a new valuation for the Township.

    We have noted briefly in treating with the Crowther family a possible connection with James through marriage. A further indication of some link is given in the 1841 census. At Wood, the family home of the Crowthers, were two households, Frances Crowther (nee Garside) and her children, and Thomas Garside a 29 year old surveyor, in whose house were two of the Crowther, siblings. There seems little doubt that Frances and Thomas were related, and taking the common occupation, we may suppose that Thomas was related to James, possibly a grandson. Nothing further is known of Thomas Garside the surveyor, possibly he was an employee in George Crowther's practice

    JOHN JOHNSON. (c1760-1842)
    The original Surveyor for the Meltham Enclosure in 1817, he resigned the post, possibly as a result of the scandalous behaviour of the Commissioners (see William Rayner). He may have, been related to an S Johnson who was producing estate plans for the Beaumonts of Whitley Beaumont in the early 1790s. He was the Surveyor for the enclosure of Cleckheaton open fields in 1795.

    Like George Crowther (qv) he tendered for the survey of Rastrick25 in 1824, in his letter he wrote:-

  • It may be needful to state that I am upwards of 60, have resided here [Meltham] 26 years, am well known in the Country as a regular Surveyor & Valuer. Last year I gave in a valuation of the very extensive District of Quick & Saddleworth. … for character, and abilities refer to James Buckley of Greenfield. Also Messrs James and Joseph Brook, woolstaplers, Huddersfield or Mr Jonas Brook of this place.
  • The three Brooks were partners in the Meltham Mills firm of Jonas Brook and Brothers, and James and Joseph had been partners in the Huddersfield banking house of William Brook and Sons, commercial connections which would have been useful to Johnson who appears not to have had the advantage of links with a landed estate.

    In July 1804 a valuation and survey of South Crosland, for Poor Law purposes, was undertaken by Mr John Johnson at a cost of 31-10-026. There is a plan of an estate at South Crosland27 of 1808, surveyed by J Johnson, and in the following year he surveyed the plan of an intended Turnpike road from Lockwood to Meltham. He was still being described as a land surveyor, of Meltham, in 1835, and is so described on his gravestone at Meltham Church.

    F R Jones was the land agent and surveyor for Sir Joseph Radcliffe of Milnsbridge House. He lived on the estate at Birk House and had his office in King Street, Huddersfield, where he is first noted in the Huddersfield Directory of 1822.

    Nothing is known of his origins, but in a document of 185528 he stated that he was a land agent and surveyor of upwards of forty years standing. It is thought that he was in fact brother-in-law to Sir Joseph for the third wife of the latter, whom he married in 1807, was Elizabeth Creswick of Sheffield and Frederick's first marriage, in 1814, was to a Miss A Creswick of Milnsbridge. Whether he had met her as a result of his position or whether the position came as a result of the marriage does not appear, but it is another indication that such posts were important ones, quite suited to the lower levels of gentry, or to a landowner's relatives.

    Like other land agents of the period he was much involved in enclosures, acting as Commissioner in respect of Golcar (1820), Holme (1828), and Meltham (1830), and as the Surveyor for the Shepley Enclosure of 1829. No doubt he would be safeguarding, if not enhancing, the interests of Sir Joseph.

    He is noted in 1845 in the post of Clerk to the Wessenden Reservoir Commissioners29. He was evidently involved also with road surveying; he drew the plans of the Huddersfield to Bradford Turnpike in 1838. No doubt he also produced numerous plans of land and buildings for the Radcliffe estate.

    William Rayner is first noted in 1817 when he was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Meltham Enclosure. It is probable that he was then already living at Whitley Hall where he is noted from 1821 to 1825 acting as land agent for the Beaumont family. He undertook a survey of the Beaumont estates in 1822, producing a plan of them and of the Township of South Crosland in the same year30.

    William must have seen his appointment as an Enclosure Commissioner as a great good fortune, but it led to his disgrace. The duties of the Commissioners were to apportion the wastes of a township amongst existing landowners and others with certain rights, and the expenses of acting were met from the sale of parts of the land. In the case of the Meltham Enclosure William and his fellow Commissioner, Joseph Taylor, appear to have been intent upon extracting as much in fees as possible. By 1823 they had sold land for 6,900, but had made no award31.

    In 1828 William was living at Fieldhouse, Huddersfield, and in the directory of 1830 is recorded as a land and coal agent in Queen Street, though he was in fact bankrupt by that time, despite the excessive fees which he had been levying in the Meltham Enclosure. His fate is not known, there was a William Rayner, a land agent, at Lockwood in 1834, but whether the same does not appear.

    * * * * *

    There are others who are known to have been surveyors in the Huddersfield area, or who had Huddersfield origins, of whom little is known.

    JOSHUA BIRAM. It is said that Joshua Biram was trained, possibly in Huddersfield, by a Mr Crossley, circa 1783. In 1805 he succeeded his uncle, Benjamin Hall, a native of Golcar, as steward at Wentworth Woodhouse. Joshua, who was described as 'of Wentworth, gentleman' in 1804, was the son of Benjamin Biram who had been the fulling miller at Bradley Mill in the 18th century.

    WILLIAM CROSSLEY. Was the surveyor for the Honley Enclosure Act of 1788, and drew a map of the Manor of Honley in that year33. It seems likely that he lived in Honley for there is a will of William Crossley of Honley, gentleman, dated 1785. No doubt he is the surveyor under whom Joshua Biram (qv) is said to have trained.

    THOMAS GREENWOOD. Recorded as a building surveyor in Huddersfield directories of 1834 and 1837.

    JOSEPH HALL. Land surveyor of Milnsbridge, who was appointed Surveyor for the Meltham Enclosure in 1831, following the resignation of John Johnson (qv). Joseph may well have been of the same family as Benjamin Hall, the uncle of Joshua Biram (qv).

    JOSEPH JAGGER. He lived at Highroyd in Honley in 1777 when he was appointed Surveyor for the Huddersfield to Penistone Turnpike. He acted as Commissioner for the enclosures of Clifton and Northowram, both in 1778, and for Lepton in the following year.

    JOSHUA RADCLIFFE. Noted in the Huddersfield directories of 1834, as a building surveyor, and 1837, as a land and building surveyor of 15 Trinity Street.


    The author is indebted to Mr P R Nash of the Abbey Hanson Rowe Partnership for information provided on the Abbey family, and to Mr R G Crowther for information on his family and for access to records held by the firm of G & G H Crowther. Thanks are also due to Lancashire County Council, Preston District Central Library for information provided.


    General. A number of references have been obtained from Memorials of Deeds at the West Riding Registry of Deeds, Wakefield. Turnpike references are from the Turnpike collections of West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield. All the directories quoted are held at Huddersfield Public Library, Local Studies Department. The numerous references to Enclosures are from Barbara English's Yorkshire Enclosure Awards.

    1 Borthwick Institute, York, August 1821.
    2 B Clarke, History of Lockwood & North Crosland.
    3 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, KHT/2-1,
    4 Census 1851.
    5 Huddersfield Chronicle, 4.4.1857.
    6 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, DD/RE/c/56.
    7 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, KHT/2-1.
    8 Huddersfield Chronicle, 4.4.1857.
    9 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, KHT/2-1.
    10 Obituary, Preston Guardian, 12.11.1873.
    11 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, DD/RA/c/26.
    12 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, T/C/33.
    13 Ibid.
    14 West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale, Misc 333 18/11.
    15 Holmfirth Local History Research Group, A History of the Holme Reservoir Commissioners.
    16 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, Deposited Plans, Vol. 1.
    17 Leeds District Archives, Badgery 1056/313.
    18 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, KHT/2-1.
    19 Borthwick Institute, York, December 1843.
    20 Private Collection.
    21 Tolson Memorial Museum.
    22 Yorkshire Archaeological Society, DD/12/11/30-34.
    23 Yorkshire Archaeological Society, DD/12/11/30-35.
    24 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, Quarter Sessions Order Book, 14.1.1802.
    25 West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale, Misc 333 18/8.
    26 P Ahier, History & Topography of South Crosland, Armitage Bridge & Netherton.
    27 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, KC/173/4.
    28 Private Collection.
    29 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, C296/242.
    30 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, DD/WB/pe/6 & 7.
    31 W S Rodgers, West Riding Commissioners of Enclosure 1729-1850 in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 40.
    32 P Eden (ed), Dictionary of Land Surveyors & Local Cartographers of Great Britain & Ireland, 1550-1850.
    33 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, DD/WBE/II/8.

    1988 and 2004, Edward J Law.

    Return to HOME.