Page revised 21 August 2001




Edward J Law

Thornton Lodge, which in the early ninteenth century held a place of some importance in Huddersfield, has received little notice from local historians. At the present time the area is very largely inhabited by an immigrant population and is a relatively isolated area in that it is not traversed by main roads.

This history commences three centuries ago. In 1686 Nicholas Fenay of Wakefield, but of the Fenay Hall family, married Jane Thornton. Included in the marriage settlement were cottages, mills and land in Fenay, Lockwood, Ewes, Longroyd Bridge and elsewhere. Nicholas and Jane had several children, but all but one died young. The heir to the above estates was their daughter Jane Fenay. A tradgedy befell her in her twenties, she was to have married John Savile of Methley but on 9 May 1713 after attending a cock-fight at the White Bear Inn in Wakefield he fell into a well in the yard. A rescuer was lowered in the bucket and both were being drawn up when the rope broke and they were drowned. It is said that Jane Fenay never got over the loss and certainly she never married.

She lived to the age of 75, dying in Wakefield in 1766. She left an interesting will which included 100 to the poor of the town of Almondbury. Almost the whole of her real estate was left to her cousin, Richard Thornton, a merchant in Hamburg, with the wish "that none of my ancient estates be ever sold but remain in the possession of one of good uncle Thornton's offspring." Uncle Thornton was Richard who had been Recorder of Leeds and grandfather to the Hamburg merchant.

Richard Thornton at least was true to Jane Fenay's wish and in 1790 he bequeathed the estates to his son John, whom he described as a member of the company of merchant adventurers to England residing in Hamburg, and daughter Johanna Catherine, the wife of Peter Godeffroy, also of Hamburg. They, however, took an early decision to realise the inheritance and a sale by auction was arranged at the George, Huddersfield on 23 and 24 November 1791.

At the sale the Longroyd Bridge property which had been mentioned in the settlement of 1686 was sold in two lots. The main portion, two messuages, 9 cottages, a barn and 19 acres of land was bought for 2,870 by Thomas Tipping of Manchester, and a further block of land of nearly 11 acres went for 1,125 to John Horsfall of Huddersfield, merchant. Ten years later Tipping sold his estate to John Horsfall for 2,950. It appears to have been about this time that John Horsfall decided to build a mansion for himself.

The Horsfalls had been clothiers at the Well in Huddersfield for centuries, John and his brotherAbraham had developed a merchanting business, which continued to operate from the family homestead, and a mill at Marsden. The Well stood alongside Beast Market, an area which was being given over to cropping shops and warehouses, and losing the status which it once had. The Horsfalls were clearly prospering and John probably felt that it was time to move out of the town to a modern residence in the country. The mason he chose to erect his mansion was Joseph Kaye, a local man who was to become Huddersfield's foremost builder.

Kaye was then a young man, at the beginning of his career. He was born about 1799 and started work at Manchester, walking there and back each week. We may assume that Horsfall would have had to be satisfied as to Kaye's ability to erect what was to be a substantial and far from straightforward building, and one in which he was prepared to invest a large amount of money. It would appear that his confidence was well placed for the building still stands with sound fabric, though much defaced by additions and partitioning. Part is now known as Thornton Lodge Hall, but originally it was just Thornton Lodge; the origins of that name clearly the Thornton family who, as we have seen, held the estate at one time. The name apparently came with the mansion, the first use I have seen was in April 1804, and I believe the mansion would have been built between then and February 1802 when John Horsfall purchased the additional land from Tipping. The grounds of Thornton Lodge were the area between Manchester Road and Yews Hill Road, its eastern boundary being where Thornton Lodge Road is now built and the western boundary would have been a line from the Griffin Inn bowling green to the southern end of Moorbottom Road.

John was evidently satisfied with his house and estate, one may imagine what a pleasant environment it was in which to bring up a family. Both he and his wife died at the house, his wife in 1820 and he in 1831. He had three sons, all of whom predeceased him without issue, and two daughters. Ellen was married to William John Norris, a Halifax man, and Ann was a spinster, he left them 10,000 each, and Thornton Lodge was left in trust for Ann.

Ann Horsfall does not appear to have resided long at Thornton Lodge after the death of her father, if at all. By 1834 James Brook was living there. In 1840 William Leigh Brook, and in the mid 1840s John Starkey, whose mills were at Longroyd Bridge. In 1847 the trustees of John Horsfall's will sold the estate on behalf of Ann Horsfall, who was then living in London, to Joseph Armitage of Milnsbridge House for 8,500. He continued to let the property, and during the 1850s the tenant was 'Squire' Brooke; the evangelical Edward Brooke whose memorialist (Rev J H Lord, Memorials of Edward Brooke) wrote:

  • Thornton Lodge was beautifully situated on gently rising ground and nestled among trees, which afforded pleasant and salubrious shelter. It was a spot where health might be supposed to make its home, but for some cause, at the time inexplicable, typhoid fever made its appearance and lingered about the place, and would not be driven away, prostrating Mrs Brooke and one and another of the family.
  • In 1854 Brooke moved to the Fieldhouse estate which he had bought, and where he developed extensive brickworks, and Thornton Lodge was offered for sale. It did not sell, but by 1857 a buyer was found, John Woodhead Crosland, woollen cloth manufacturer, who purchased the estate for 5,000,

    The vast decrease in the value of the estate is hard to understand. The main blight would undoubtedly have been the railway line from Huddersfield to Penistone which took a small corner of the estate. Howevere, the line had been promoted in 1845, two years before Armitage purchased and one would have thought the detrimental effects would have been discounted in the price he paid. The incidence of typhus may have affected the value and another important consideration would have been the pollution from the mills established in the valley bottom at Longroyd Bridge and those of the Croslands a little higher up the old Manchester Road.

    Some thirty years later, in 1886, the estate was sold by J W Crosland's executor for 7,000 to John Marsden, who died the following year. There is one sketch of the property which shows it in something approaching its original condition, made by Noel Spencer it was reproduced in the Huddersfield Examiner of 15 January 1957. The sketch shows an ornate iron porch above the front entry on which were the initials J.M. for John Marsden, also visible is the tower which was mentioned in sale particulars of 1887. Following John Marsdens death title passed again, Joseph Armytage Armitage of Storthes Hall and John Henry Hanson paying 6,250 for the estate. The latter sale probably signalled the eventual fate of the area for Hanson was a surveyor in Huddersf ield and no doubt recognised the potential of this freehold estate lying close to the town. It is significant that when development did come it was mainly working class housing, there were no middle class houses, no handsome villas, clearly the area wore the mask of industry which automatically marked it out for high density, relatively cheap housing. Dates on houses in Moorbottom Road show that development was in hand by 1889. In 1899 Hanson became the sole owner, purchasing Armitage's interest from his executors.

    Plans of the estate show it to have been a typical gentleman's residence. There were two lodges, both on the Manchester road at either extremity of the estate. The main entry was along a carriage drive off the main road by the easterly lodge, an entry by the west lodge was no doubt the service drive. Most of the grounds were laid out as parkland but there was an area to the west of the house which was probably laid out as amenity land, among which were a vinery and a pond, both of which were apparently casualties of the railway line.

    The old house is still there, partitioned into private dwellings and partly extended to house Thornton Lodge Bowling Club, its most distinguished feature the rounded section on the northern front which would have been the principal entrance. Its front has been much disfigured by an extension, part of the club, but the rear of the house is quite attractive and there are still interesting features though the tower no longer exists.

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