Page revised 12 January 2005




Edward Law

The death of Ivor Walker, tragically, in March, 1991, brought to a close a piece of Lindley history.

John Walker, born in Lindley c.1822, one of the numerous family which included the founders of the one-time leading Lindley firm of Joseph Walker & Sons, Plover mills, became a cabinet maker1 and was in business on his own account by 1845. In Westgate2 in 1851, he bought ground in Thornhill Street from the Thornhill estate3 in 1855 on which to build two houses, and it was here that the family and the business were to remain for the rest of the century.

From the details in census returns we may imagine a steady growth in the business. In 1861 John employed two men and by 1881 he was employing three men and three boys, one of the men no doubt his son Ivor, who, with his family occupied the second of the Thornhill Street houses. In 1891 John, Ivor and two of the latter's sons, Fred and Walter were all joiners. They were to be joined later by a third son, Stephen.

The business was still in the same premises in 1909 though the name of the street had by then been altered to Thorncliffe Street. It would seem that the years prior to the outbreak of war were a period of expansion for the firm. In 1912 they stated that they had extended their business and had commenced as contractors and builders; by the following year there appear to have been at least fifteen people engaged in the business, including a bookkeeper. This expanded activity was no doubt the reason for their removal from the Thorncliffe Street premises to Acre Street early in 1915. They had decided on this new site in May 1914 when they offered 4 shillings a yard for the land fronting both Acre Street and Occupation Road. The business was to operate from this site until Ivor's death in 1991.

The machine-shop with office over.

By 1916 the three brothers, Fred, Walter and Stephen were equal partners. It had altered to a joint partnership of Fred and Stephen by 1930, and the latter was sole proprietor by 1937. I do not know the year when Ivor went into partnership with Stephen, but some time after 1948, and he became sole proprietor in 1961. The business appears to have begun to run down in the early 1970s and by 1980 Ivor was working on his own. (See postscript).

The foregoing is a brief outline of the bare facts relating to a family business in the village of Lindley through four generations, garnered largely from the business records, However, not only do those records yield genealogical and business history, they provide many insights into village life.

It was suggested above that there may have been a steady growth in the business in the nineteenth century. However, the first list of wages which appears 2 July 1853 suggests that this interpretation is incorrect, and more likely the business was cyclical. The first list suggests that John Walker had then six employees: William Thornton, John Cookson, Paul Kinder, Job Walker, Samuel Gooder and Joseph Iredale. Other employees in the 1850s were Radcliffe Walker, Anthony Lindley, Wright Briggs, George Lodge and Alfred Langley. In the 1860s Crowther Walker. In the 1870s Milnes Dawson, Joe Bailey, Edward Jackson, Joseph Langley, John Pilling and Ben Howard. In 1880 William Shaw and Brook Oxley.

The later letter books contain a little more detail so we find that J Richard Firth served his apprenticeship with the firm, commencing in 1894 and staying until 1901. By 1914 Newton Hirst who had been employed as a handy man had left to take up motor engineering. In 1914 they wrote a reference for Ernest Frend, a past employee. Another local man who served his apprenticeship with the firm in more modern times was my late cousin, John Armstrong.

It would appear that the firm were undertakers from an early date. There is a record in 1853 of the purchase of "coffin flanel". The accounts for 1884 include a pitch pine coffin and shroud. The earliest letterhead which I have noted, for 190_ records that the firm of John Walker and Sons were joiners, cabinetmakers and undertakers. Among the staff in 1913 were undertakers. Part of the paraphernalia of a funeral at this time was the memorial ribbon. On 4 May 1914 they ordered two dozen ribbons:

In loving memory of George, relict of Maria Louisa Royston who departed this life 1.5.1914 aged 72 and was this day interred at St Phillip's Church, Birchencliffe.
Halifax Road, Birchencliffe. 5.5.1914.

A few months later they ordered three dozen ribbons for Elizabeth relict of Henry Hepworth who was interred at Zion Chapel from 11 Temple Street on 4 July 1914. By the end of that year the War had reached Lindley and on 19 November ribbons were ordered for Private Harry Taylor, son of Martha Ann Taylor, killed in action in the north of France on 13 October aged 23 years.

Among later records is a list of funeral accounts from 1936-37 to 1941-42, among them that for my grandfather, James Law in 1940-41, for a figure of 38 19s. l0d.

In the nineteenth century the manufacture of household furniture seems to have been an important facet of the business. Accounts survive for the 1870s and 1880s, one of the larger ones is:

23.11.1874 - Mr John Earnshaw,  
Mahogany Dresser 8.10.0
Mahogany Sofa 7.10.0
Burch Rocking chair 2. 0.0
3 Burch chairs 1.11.6
Long table and stand 2.12.0
Wardrobe 5. 0.0
Dressing chest & wash stand 4.10.0

Other furniture included: turn-up beds, tudor beds (10 in mahogany, 4.10.0. in deal), chiffonier beds, tables of varying forms: Pembroke; stand; Loo and writing. Among the smaller items were bread creal, board for bird box (2s. 0d.), a tea-pot frame, box for long frame [grandfather] clock and a clothes prop! Apart from the utilitarian deal and birch they also worked in mahogany, a secretaire and bookcase were made from Pollard Oak and a stocking stretcher from walnut.

It is probable that in the earliest days John Walker received encouragement from his well-to-do relations, the Walkers of Plover Mills: he received 85 from Joseph Walker & Sons in 1853. In the 1870s he did work for Messrs Liddell & Brearley of Wellington Mills and their successors, Messrs Martin & Co. to whom he rendered some quite substantial accounts. As well as working for the textile and related industries (card clothing; rag pulling) the firm received a good deal of work from the local chemical industry, an industry which thrived in various forms in the village over the years. Their customers included Stephen Dean (chemist & druggist) in 1853, the Trustees of Anthony Kaye (copperas works) in 1881, Ellis Barlow (dyewares) in 1881 and 1903, Kaputine Co (patent medicines) in 1908. They undertook work for Enos and Robert Morton, the Salendine Nook potters in 1874, and for Edward Kitson, (brickworks) in 1854. In 1879 the Thornhill estate engaged him to do work at Robert Garside's at Knowl in Fixby, and at John Crowther's at Stone; later he did work for them at Mr Stricklands house, the present Dearne House. Tom Mitchell was charged 9 12s. 0d. in 1887 (Queen Victoria's Jubilee year) for enlarging his tripe stall at Lindley. In 1906 the records show that the firm was undertaking extensive work for Joseph Sykes Bros (card clothing).

Joseph Sykes Brothers' Acre Mills, Acre Street, Lindley

Many of the local pubs and beerhouses were their customers: Royal Hotel, Black Horse, Thornhill Arms, Cavalry Arms, Friendly Inn, Marsh House Inn, Olive Branch, and Red Lion Inn. Several of these were owned by Ainley's for whom he also did work both at the brewery and at their private residences: in 1907 he did out Walter Ainley's sitting room, in East Street, in mahogany.

The records for the early 1900s show that the firm was quoting for and undertaking very many small jobs from 6d to 1. These included a trombone box for Lindley band, a cupboard for Lindley Bible Class, repairing the billiard marker at the Working Men's Club. Other clubs for whom they also worked or quoted were: Huddersfield United Lawn Tennis (1905); Lindley Conservative Club (1906); [Lindley] Bicycle Club (1906), Lindley and Oakes Working Men's Clubs (1906).

Walkers were working for the Post Office from an early date, in 1879 they fixed a letter box at Lindley Post Office. Fifty years later they were quoting for work on postal vans, and 100 years later Ivor continued to have contracts from the postal service, which I believe were the bread and butter of his business in later years.

The firm were never above doing the small jobbing work of a village carpenter and a bill of April 1951 to Mr Harry Law, 6 Cressfield Road for reglazing bedroom window recalls the occasion when my brother, already confined to his bedroom for some misdemeanour, managed to compound the matter by putting a football through the window! More directly concerned with the sport was the supply the same year of goal posts for Lindley Church Football Club.

It is probable that the premises which the firm erected between Acre Street and Occupation Road about the time of the First World War remained largely unaltered until they were demolished. A stock-taking book lists the various premises in 1918: the first alley, middle alley, back alley and gang way in the large shed; the open deal shed; shop (with its pine, coffin board, chestnut and elm); saw shed, short end rack in yard; hardwood shed containing walnut, oak, mahogany, Spanish mahogany, Cuban mahogany, Gaboon mahogany and baywood; office; store room behind office and floor over office.

Our 'gang' played in the yard as children, clambering over the hardwoods. It was also the source of sawdust for rabbit hutches. I have vague memories of visiting the 'large shed', in the period of austerity of the late 40s or early 50s and feeding acorns to the pigs which were housed in it. My father was a keen, and talented, amateur woodworker, and I would often accompany him when he went to purchase timber from Ivor. Memories still linger of the layer of fine wood dust which covered everything, the flying pulleys which worked the circular saw, planing, and other machinery and the smell of freshly worked wood.

Whilst the records have great significance for me from personal and family connections dating back to my Simeon forebears in the 1880s, they are also significant in depicting social history.

The telegraph came to the village4 in 1870 to be followed in the 1880s by the telephone5, By 1890 four of the local mills -Oakes, Wellington, Acre and Plover- had telephones, as did three private residences; Reinwood, Willow Bank and Stoneleigh House. In 1911 the 'phone number for John Walker & Sons of Thorncliffe Street was 116Y, Huddersfield.

In 1903 we find them making a gramophone stand for the Cavalry Arms. 1914 apparently saw the arrival of the cinema in Lindley for the firm was responsible for the conversion of Lindley Conservative Club to a Picture Palace in that year.

The introduction of motor vehicles must have been one of the most important and obvious advances of the new century. The Motor Car Act of 1903 introduced registration and the first record6 relating to Lindley occurs in 1906 when a Starling, CX529 was registered to E Bottomley of Lidget Street. In 1902 Walter Hamer of Quarmby Road had applied for planning permission7 in respect of a wooden "motor car shed" which suggests that some residents of the village had acquired vehicles before the introduction of registration; others may have been registered to garages before being sold on. The naming of the No Worry Garage at Syringa Street, reminds us that there would have been many problems in the early motoring days. We have already seen that one of the firm's employees left to become a motor engineer in 1914.

Amongst the earliest individuals to own cars were the medical men who would previously have relied on pony and trap. In 1915 the firm quoted for a "motor garage" for Dr Orr, then living at Park House on Acre Street. In 1922 Walkers sold their shandy and the following year bought a motor chassis and a motor, no doubt to fabricate the bodywork to their own requirements. The small tradesman pulling his hand cart or shandy with his bag of tools and materials would have been a common sight on the streets of Lindley. Many villagers will recall the hand cart which stood, unused, for many years in the entry next to Harper's (now Carl Livesey's) butchers. In the 1960s Walkers had successively, an Austin truck, a Standard truck and a Bedford van.

Verandah in front of general shop, large shed and open shed

In 1950 they erected a garage for David Bentley, our neighbour in Cressfield Road. I think at that time there were only three houses in the road which had garages. (Traffic was so sparse that we had no trouble playing cricket at the junction of Cressfield Road and Occupation Road, using as our wicket the unusually wide telegraph pole which still stands.) The Bentleys did not have garage space and the wood-yard was fairly convenient; no doubt it was about this time that Walkers erected the rental garages which were largely in a state of dereliction by the 1990s.

When I purchased my cottage at Plover Road in the 1980s I engaged Edwin Dysons, another old-established local firm, to install the bathroom and do other works, and was surprised, but pleased, to find Ivor working on the cottage: he was a partner also in that firm.

All those with an interest in the history of Lindley should be thankful to Ivor's family who deposited the records in the local archives. Nothing now remains of the wood-yard which has been developed for housing. I hope the foregoing notes, culled from the business records, and the pictures, will evoke some of the atmosphere of the place for those who never knew it, and generations to come, and I urge all those with responsibility for records, however mundane they may appear, to deposit them where they will be safely preserved.

On completing this essay I passed a copy to Ivor Walker's daughter. In her acknowledgment to me she mentioned two factors which led her father to revert to a one-man business:

1) The factories safety act meant that my father would have had to replace all his machinery as it would have failed safety regulations for others to use it. Hence he had to work alone.

2) An Act of Parliament meant that apprentices were an expensive proposition with no guarantee of loyalty after training.

It is an anachronism that legislation introduced for the benefit of employees led to the retrenchment of a business which might have continued to employ ten or a dozen men and to impart skills acquired over 150 years.


General: The business records of 'John Walker, Joiner, Lindley, 1853-1991' are held at West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, the Public Library, Huddersfield, KC 559. Much of the information on which this article is based has been drawn from that collection.


1 Directory 1845.
2 Census 1851.
3 West Riding Registry of Deeds, Wakefield, BK 355 414.
4 Huddersfield Chronicle 19.11.1870.
5 Directory, National Telephone Co. Ltd., March 1890.
6 West Yorkshire Archives, Wakefield, C192. [Early Lindley motor registrations]
7 West Yorkshire Archives, Kirklees, Building Plan Register, Lindley District 1886-1906.

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