BRETHEREN IN THE TEMPLE OF SCIENCE – Natural History across the class divide, Huddersfield, c1848-1865

This essay  was first published  in ‘The Naturalist’ (Journal of the Yorkshire Naturalists Union)   Dec 2012. Vol. 137. No. 1081,


Despite the prominence of well known Yorkshire naturalists like Charles Waterton and the Rev F O Morris, the study of natural history was never the exclusive preserve of clergymen or gentlemen and, by the second half of the nineteenth century, increasing interest in the subject was marked by the proliferation of local societies in the industrial towns and villages of the West Riding .  The pursuit of natural history accorded well with the rising ethos of self education and improvement, evident in the growth of mechanics institutes.  It likewise provided an intellectual outlet for working men detached from the ideologies which had dominated many working class communities during the political and social conflicts of the turbulent 1830’s and 1840’s.  Indeed, natural history provided a forum for all classes of society to meet in a fraternal atmosphere, where a person’s merits were judged by the size of their herbarium, or insect cabinet, rather than social status.   The societies brought into contact the autodidact handloom weaver, mill worker, artisan and  small shopkeeper, together with the educated professional clergy men, teacher and doctor,  the  wealthy  merchant or manufacturer and even the occasional aristocrat.  No doubt some degree of deference and observance of social protocols remained, but the picture that emerges is one of a degree of social, and intellectual interaction across the class divide which is unparalleled, even at a time when local paternalism meant that events at church and chapel, at the mechanics institute, or the annual mill treat, made direct social contact between people of otherwise disparate social backgrounds far more common than today.

The development of Huddersfield Naturalists’ Society (HNS) provides not merely an example of this process.  In many ways it pioneered and promoted it. The  HNS, although initiated by workingmen, flourished in little over a decade because of increased middle class support.  It also provided the impetus for a county wide organisation, the West Riding Consolidated Naturalists Society (WRCNS), which evolved into the still surviving Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union (YNU).  Indeed in 1904 the president of the YNU emphasised the importance of Huddersfield, ‘The great stronghold of naturalists in those early days was the south-western corner of the West Riding with Huddersfield as its centre and radiating point…’.  This paper looks at the early years of the HNS, the men who founded it, their interests and activities and the intellectual and social relations which were established across class boundaries.[1]

The national background to the origin of natural history societies has been discussed in the seminal work The Naturalist in Britain, by David Elliston Allen, but here Huddersfield receives no mention.  Fortunately this has been redressed to some extent by David Griffith’s study of the Huddersfield Philosophical Society, which included the creation of a museum housing natural history specimens amongst its aims.  He also draws attention to a short lived Huddersfield and Halifax Naturalists Society which existed in the late 1830’s.  However, there appears to be no direct continuity between these bodies and the birth of the HNS. [2]

HNS long retained its’ reputation for being created by working men. This was alluded to by the then president, G T Porritt in his presidential address to the society in 1898:

‘Will it not always be a credit to working men in Yorkshire and Lancashire that they had tastes which led them to band themselves together in societies in so many of the towns and even villages long before the better and upper classes thought of doing such a thing and have had vitality enough to hold together over and over again, while more pretentious societies organised by men of better education and social position have been abandoned through sheer lack of interest in a few years time.’[3]

Although HNS claimed to be the first of its kind in Yorkshire and one of the earliest in the country, there was some confusion about whether it should be dated from the birth of the  organisation, or the conception of the idea.  The HNS reports routinely bore the title ‘Founded in 1847’, but while preparing for its 50th Jubilee in 1897, G T Porritt discovered the original minute book, recording the first meeting at  the house of Richard Brook on 21 July 1850.  Richard Brook himself, at a HNS ‘anniversary’ meeting on 26 December 1856, stated that, ‘We have met together for about ten years’.[4]

Some clarification is to be found in an extract from that first minute book (apparently now lost),  reproduced in 1968.  Richard Brook and John Dodson of Paddock ‘the originators’ of the society, met the botanist Jethro Tinker of Staleybridge in 1847. The Huddersfield society grew from a discussion with him at the moorland inn of Bill’s O’ Jacks, on the Holmfirth to Greenfield road, in August 1848, initially meeting at Brook’s house and afterwards every two months in a ‘schoolroom’, the main activities being the recording and naming of plants.[5]

Botany had long been a favourite study of working men, partly because of its’ utilitarian value to the herbalist[6], but other branches of natural history, especially entomology, had also grown in popularity.  Elizabeth Gaskell in her novel Mary Barton, paints a classic description of the handloom weaver scientist[7], whilst the former handloom weaver Samuel Bamford paid tribute to the number of working men of South Lancashire who had achieved expertise in botany and other fields of science.[8]  Although from the adjacent part of Cheshire rather than Lancashire, Jethro Tinker was one such self educated former handloom weaver turned power loom weaver who had built up a reputation for his vast knowledge not only of botany but also of insects and shells and the Linnaean system of classification of the various species.  Born in 1788 he was around 59 when he put his knowledge at the service of the Huddersfield naturalists.[9]


It was to be another two years before the informal meetings in Richard Brook’s house were transformed into a structured society.  A notice was inserted in the Huddersfield Chronicle announcing a meeting on Monday 29 July 1850in a room over the Auction Mart on Ramsden Street to establish a HNS.   Although Jethro Tinker was unable to attend and sent his apologies his inspiration is evident in the declaration of the ‘promoters of this society to follow the organisation and plan of the Lancashire Society whose practical operations extend into our own county.’   The aim of was to give members the opportunity to compare and exchange specimens, ‘cultivate a taste for the practical study of those vast and varied fields of nature…’ and, somewhat more grandly, ‘draw the mind forth to contemplation of the design and structure of the universe, thus elevating and refining the tastes of those who come under its influence.’ Entomology, botany and geology were identified as the three main areas of study.   Richard Brook was elected president, along with two vice presidents, a secretary and an eight man committee drawn from several villages and hamlets around Huddersfield, as well as someone from Dewsbury.  There were about twenty four members present.  By the time of the second meeting the following month it was reported that ‘this society promises to have a considerable accession of members from the surrounding district’. This meeting, held in Dearden’s schoolrooms, Albion Street, set the basic format for the future.  First the almost ritual naming, description and classification of plants, followed by a more theoretical lecture on some aspect of natural history illustrated by  drawings  and specimens, concluding with a discussion.   On this occasion Richard Brook showed his botanical expertise, while the vice president John Hanson spoke on geology with the aid of a diagram of Lyell’s scheme of strata formation, samples of minerals and a trilobite fossil.[10]

The initial optimism about acquiring new members was not to be realised.  According to the 1864 secretary’s report, soon after the initial meetings, membership fell to a dozen[11].  This may account for the paucity of references in the local press and the comments in the Examiner report of the HNS ‘third anniversary meeting’, on 26 December 1852, in the Prince Albert, Cross Church St,

‘The society, which is comparatively unknown, is composed wholly of working men.  In the several villages in the vicinity, a number of young men had occupied their leisure time as collectors of objects relating to natural science. Some had got up very extensive cabinets of the Lepidoptera class of insects, others had directed their attention to ornithological pursuits, and were in possession of many beautiful and rare specimens, together with a great variety of eggs from those of the large ostrich to the tiny wren: others again had developed their attention to botany.

In the latter field, members’ activities were not just confined to collecting, but to the detailed scientific recording of plants.

 ‘A book was shown at the meeting, in a state fit for publication, containing the history and description, with the generic and specific names, place of growth, time of flowering and other particulars of nearly five hundred native British plants, growing within a radius of six miles of Huddersfield’.

The scientific and intellectual basis of the society was emphasised by Brook who, describing the ‘usefulness of botany’ urged the importance of the ‘reasoning faculties’ in its pursuit, since ‘Nature does not give up her secrets but to the importunate.’ This was followed by a toast to Linnaeus, and an account of his life by John Dodson, a 22 year old cloth finisher and co-founder of the society.[12]

At the anniversary dinner in the same venue four years later Brook reported to the 20 members present that they had now entered into their book about 600 wild plants growing within six miles of the town[13].  The task of recording was almost exhausted, since ‘It is rare indeed to for any of us to meet with a plant we have not seen before…’  He proposed that in the coming year their research should include other branches, particularly entomology.  Members agreed that, following the established practice with plants, specimens of insects should be brought to meetings and named and described.

But often the study of nature was not regarded simply as an intellectual and scientific pursuit.  It had a wider spiritual and aesthetic dimension. For some it was almost a fulfilment of a religious duty, redemptive even, since they were engaged, as Brook said in 1856, in the ‘study of the works of God’, which would bring moral improvement through ‘the sweat of their brow’.  It was literally a labour of love, ‘the great Author of nature has decreed that we shall neither enjoy the fruits of the earth, nor become acquainted with any of the advantages with which we are surrounded without much labour…’.  while one time atheist, Hanson, referred to ‘God’s marvellous museum’ and how ‘Lovers of wisdom had laboriously explored the works of nature and nature’s God…’.

But both science and religion still left scope for imagination, and reverence for nature found legitimate expression in poetic reverie.  Brook embraced the Romantic apprehension that ‘The student of natural history is never alone…’, surrounded by other creatures and free ‘to sit on rocks to muse o’er flood or fell/ To slowly trace the forest’s stately scene…’, while Hanson urged the naturalist to leave the counting house ‘for the green fields , the sylvan retreats and the flowery solitudes…’.

Richard Jessop[14], quoted from the poets ‘in a manner which’, remarked the Examiner slightly patronisingly, ‘with some perseverance, augurs well for the future worth of this young man.’  On the one hand he could speak ably on the chemistry of plants and the production of starch and on the other of ‘the delight he found in rambling by hedgerows and in woods.’     Another member, Dan Robinson, ‘related his progressive steps in botany and entomology’, revealing his initial motivation,

 ‘When a boy, he was fond of catching butterflies as an amusement, but on becoming a worker he happened to be with a man who proved to be a collector of natural specimens and seeing his large boxes took them to be large books or folio Bibles.  At last he requested a peep into one and was astonished at the insect-treasures there enclosed. He afterwards joined a mechanic’s institute, and was greatly delighted with the information he there obtained, especially in reference to the transformations of insects.  He then related his own observations as to how the caterpillar throws off one of its coverings, having marked the process at several intervals in twenty four hours.’[15]

 ‘Delight’, ‘pleasure’, ‘fondness’, ‘love’ are all expressions that frequently reoccur when NHS members describe their fascination for natural history in that period when such terms comfortably coexisted with scientific observation and discourse.[16]


Who then made up the early membership of the Society ?  There are no membership lists from this time so biographical details have to be gleaned from reports in newspapers and journals.  There are scattered references to the early days of the HNS and its members in the various writings of Seth Lister Mosley (1848-1929), who emerged as the HNS’s best known member due to his prolific output of illustrations, pamphlets, newspapers columns and occasional books, as well as his long struggle to establish a museum for Huddersfield[17].

 Although considering themselves working men, Richard Brook and John Hanson, were small tradesmen, formerly active in the working class political movements of the 1830s and 40s.  Hanson, a former handloom weaver, aged around 60 when the HNS was established, had been a leading Owenite Socialist, one of the founders of the Hall of Science and a prolific lecturer and pamphleteer[18].  In 1842 he had delivered a course of 12 lectures on geology at the Hall of Science and it appears to have been his main interest.  Hopefully his scientific style was clearer than his political pamphlets, which were often convoluted and obscure. .By the 1850’s Hanson had abandoned his earlier atheism. Disillusionment with the labour movement, as a result of the internal bickering and the defeats of the 1840’s, had led many workers to divert their energies and interests away from politics, into education and ‘self improvement’.  He left the HNS and the area in the late 1850’s, only to return in impoverished circumstances in old age .  His 1877 obituary described him as ‘a great writer to the newspapers [he]  had embraced all shades of politics from communism up to conservatism… He became a sceptic and fell into the black abyss of atheism and ultimately, by God’s grace, became a true believer.” [19]

Richard Brook, however, continued radical activity even as he was establishing the HNS.  Aged 49 in 1851 he had previously been a tailor, cotton spinner and shopkeeper before in 1843 becoming a printer and bookseller with premises on Buxton Road.  His political leanings are evident from the name ‘Junius’ he gave to his son, after the anonymous 18th century pamphleteer who lambasted state corruption.  In 1848 he was an active Chartist, chairing at least one public meeting and challenging the Liberal candidate at the hustings on the disproportionate taxation paid by the poor.  A question about the tithes paid by Catholics drew the retort from the candidate that he presumed that Brook was also a Catholic, which drew cries from the crowd of ‘He is He is.’[20]

Brook united his interest in botany and politics with an enthusiasm for herbalism, advertising in his publications ‘Dr Torrens pills’, although some suspected that he was, in fact, Dr Torrens.  One publication of 1850, a version of ‘Old Moore’s Almanac’, included an advert for Dr Torrens as well as some of Brook’s own ‘sentiments’ against tithes and rents, demanding;  ‘What greater right has a lord, duke, or squire to call the land his own property, than he has to call the sunshine and air his own property.’  It also carried the rallying cry:

‘The time is now coming on – nay it has begun indeed – when that important body, the working classes, will begin to enjoy the fruits of their labour without having to submit to such enormous plunder from those who do not work.  The idlers, oppressors and blood-suckers, are now falling out among themselves…’

Two ‘little books’ were advertised, ‘called “Politics for Workers”, one penny each, which may be had of the person who sells this almanac’.  From 1847 he also published in parts  Culpepper’s  Herbal Improved: A New Family Herbal, …or a history and description of all the British and Foreign Plants, which are useful to man, either as food, medicine, farming purposes, or in the arts and manufactures.’, which also promoted Dr Torrens pills[21].  This proved so popular it was still being reprinted in the 1880s.  His interest in botany therefore also had a very practical, commercial application.  An announcement in January 1855 that he was now confining himself to the printing business may indicate a withdrawal from pamphleteering, although he appears simply as ‘bookseller in 1861[22].  He remained president of the HNS for about a decade and there is no evidence of any activity after 1862, when he provided some plants to the HNS public exhibition and addressed a Wakefield meeting of the West Riding Consolidated Naturalists’ Society (WRCNS) on his specialist subject of the Linnaean names and medical properties of plants.[23]

Thanks to Seth Lister Mosley, who was both his neighbour and a pupil, the only biography we have of a local naturalist is that of James Varley. Born in 1817 at Primrose. (then Bunkers). Hill, a hamlet outside of Huddersfield, he first appears at a HNS meeting in 1855 seconding the annual report.  His interest in natural history stemmed from his youth when ‘in the companionship of his gun’, he was an avid collector of birds.  Having little formal education he learned to name bird species and gained his first knowledge of lepidoptera from ‘Johnny-at-Bum’, a well known ,’bird stuffer’, as taxidermists were then more popularly known.  After a sojourn working in Clayton West he returned to the area, eventually settling at Almondbury Bank around 1853.  Here he renewed his acquaintance with James Mosley, Seth’s father, a fellow collector and a leading bird stuffer.

James Varley contemplating an 'acquired' Ring Ouzel.

James Varley contemplating an ‘acquired’ Ring Ouzel.

Varley is typical of many naturalists at that time who combined obsessive collecting with an extensive scientific knowledge.  He also collected and bred moths which he sold, or exchanged, with leading entomologists throughout the country.  In 1864 he bred a hitherto unknown melanic variety of the Magpie Moth, (Abraxas grossulariata) which was named varleyata in his honour.  Trading in specimens could be lucrative, but not sufficient to make a living.  Exactly how he did this is not clear, describing himself in 1851 as a tea dealer, in 1861 as a cloth finisher and shopkeeper and a decade later as grocer and clothdresser.  He passed on his knowledge to the rising generation of naturalists, including George T Porritt, who recollected ‘the fear and trembling with which, as a small schoolboy, I used to take my specimens to him to name’.  He also made his collections of birds, eggs and Lepidoptera  available to any local organisation that held an exhibition, being the largest contributor at Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institution Christmas festival in 1861.  ‘His success inspired others,’ commented Seth Mosley, ‘and Varley looked upon a love for nature as a means of saving men from the evils of intemperance.’  After several years of ill health, through which he continued to serve the HNS,  and following a short bout of insanity, he died in January 1883.[24]

We also have some glimpses of less prominent working men naturalists at home. George Goddard, a handloom weaver, lived in a cottage near the top of Castle Hill, an ancient prehistoric hillfort to the south of Almondbury.  On  Sunday 7 June 1863 it was struck by lightning, damaging  furniture and blowing out the windows, as well as breaking, ‘ two small cases of stuffed birds belonging to Mr Goddard, who is a humble student of nature, and a member of the HNS.  Two or three other cases, containing moths &c, together with an aquarium, escaped destruction’.  Mrs Goddard, holding a knife, was slightly injured and his ‘loom containing unwoven material was rendered useless’.  His friends raised subscriptions to help pay for his repairs.  This spirit of camaraderie was apparent when George Godward, 38, a woollen slubber of Almondbury, whose botanical collection had been displayed at the HNS 1862 exhibition, died suddenly from apoplexy earlier that year. ‘A most persevering member’ of the HNS  ‘his remains were followed to the grave by a number of his brother naturalists.’  He left a widow and six small children ‘unprovided for.’ [25]

Henry Charlesworth, of Thirstin, Honley, who entertained members with a patriotic song at the 1856 dinner, was a woollen spinner.  As well as being an esteemed member of   the HNS he was involved with the Literary and Scientific Society, and ‘was well known in the district as an expert and diligent collector of entomological and other specimens and as a devoted student of natural history.  Those who have visited him in his home, which was also his study, his laboratory and his museum, will not forget the pleasure they derived from the examination of his beautiful collection, tastefully arranged in cabinets made by himself.’  He died aged only 32 in 1863 leaving a wife and two small children.  His widow loaned some of his bird cases to an exhibition at Honley National School three years later.[26]

Although he appears never to have joined the HNS, no account of Huddersfield working men naturalists can ignore the handloom fancy weaver and joiner James Reid Mosley, both on account of  his practical contribution to natural history and to the impact he had on others, not least his son Seth Lister Mosley.  Seth was devoted to his father’s memory and throughout his life recorded numerous anecdotes and reminiscences, although sometimes cryptically[27].  This is evident in his reference to James temporary disappearance from the district in the 1830’s.  He was, Seth recollected later with some misgivings, ‘passionately fond of a gun’, and, caught poaching, fled to Keswick.  However, it appears that James may not have fled the authorities but members of his own community in Kirkburton since he was involved in an dispute culminating in the  conviction and execution of another weaver for murder  in 1835.  His brother Charles acted as prosecution witness, in the course of which he revealed that he had been arrested for poaching and shooting a cow.[28]  This possibly explains Seth’s garbled account of the incident and confirms his view that uncle Charles was also an inveterate poacher.  Seth remained guarded about how his father came back to the area about three years later, ‘it would be unkind of me to chronicle the circumstance of his return’, but he could not have been under too much of a cloud since he married Mary, daughter of Matthew Lodge, a small fancy manufacturer of Toll Bar House at Highgate Lane and sister of several brothers also in the fancy trade . Her family were not poor handloom weavers and it is unlikely they would have allowed Mary to marry someone who was indigent or disreputable.[29]

After living for a while at Cowm Top, Lepton, where Seth was born in 1848, James moved to Almondbury Bank shortly after 1851 when he abandoned fancy weaving to become a joiner on cottages built by a brother in law.   Seth admitted that his father was sometimes still overcome by ‘the old poaching spirit’.  This is corroborated by an incident in 1850 when James was fined 20s by a Huddersfield magistrate for ‘trespassing in search of game’ with a dog and gun.  Also accused, but acquitted, was George Bedford, a member of HNS.  Three witnesses were produced by the defence, one of them also a HNS member who claimed that they were merely, ‘ indulging their curiosity on the road by collecting insects, but had no such idea as searching after game’.[30]  On a later occasion, on the way to Halifax before dawn, Mosley walked all the way back from Elland to fetch his gun to shoot a roosting pheasant.   Apart from game he shot a vast number of birds for his own and other’s collections. One year particularly large flocks of waxwings and siskins occurred, seeking the seeds on the Alder trees at Fenay.  Several of these were shot and stuffed by Mosley and found their way 70 years later into the birdroom of the Tolson Museum where his son was curator.

When his father actually began bird stuffing Seth never made quite clear,  but he had already built up a collection at Cowm Top by 1847 and printed  blue cards with gilt lettering advertising ‘Mosley’s Museum’. He learned the craft from Hugh Reid of Doncaster, walking there for four lessons costing him a guinea.  He was probably the best teacher to be found  in Yorkshire.  Hugh had rich patrons throughout the country and is credited with work on some rare specimens, including a Bartram’s Sandpiper, which ended up in the collection of Lord Willoughby de Broke.  Hugh used white Flamborough sand in fitting up his cases, which he claimed  was expensive, but James found his own source and sold it to other stuffers for 6d a pint.   According to Seth this added a neat and clean finish to the cases.[31]

Mosley’s daughter  Hannah was among the 12 workers killed on 23 November 1857 when the boiler at the small cotton spinning mill of  George Kaye,  near Shorefoot weir at Aspley, exploded, flinging masonry and shrapnel in all directions.  Two gentlemen from a relief committee set up to help the injured and bereaved visited Mosley, who was described as a ‘naturalist’.   Hannah was said to have been the only child in work and James was ‘grateful for something to help him carry on business as a bird stuffer’ having expended  £7 on funeral expenses.[32]

James did not just case birds for collectors interested in natural history, or preserving hunting trophies.  Much of it in the early days was purely ornamental work ‘for public houses and the like…embellished with artificial flowers, tinsel trimmings or silk cords and tassels’  Along with Crabtree of  Halifax, James had the reputation as the best stuffer in district.  One collector, so disgusted with the inferiority of his own specimen compared to Mosley’s work, was said to have thrown a candlestick, complete with lit candle, through the glass.  In addition to bird stuffing, Mosley literally became a poacher turned gamekeeper at Heaton Lodge Woods, as well as looking after sporting gentlemen’s guns and dogs.

He built up a large entomological collection sometimes assisted by his wife and Seth, also breeding butterflies in tea chests for making framed pictures, an art form which was to die out as naturalists realised its’ dubious scientific or moral value  On some Sundays James met other collectors at Leeds or Wakefield, or travel to some half way house, such as Kayes’ Arms, Grange Moor, to exchange butterflies or moths.  Even when reflecting on the darker side of the Victorian view of nature, the obsession with acquisition and collections, the moth and butterfly hunting, (to the extent of driving some local species to extinction), activities which he later considered indefensibly destructive of life,  Seth Mosley still saw some redeeming  virtue in his father’s activities  ‘I have to be thankful for the fact that I possibly should not have been what I am if my father had spent his time in more un-intellectual amusement instead of being a collector of insects.’[33]

Collecting also took its’ toll of the bird population.  Nearly every year throughout the 1850s and 60s James, sometimes accompanied by James Varley, led shooting parties of between two to five to Flamborough Head.[34]  The wholesale slaughter wreaked by such expeditions resulted in the first attempt at wild bird protection, the Sea Birds Protection Act of 1869.  Seth sometimes accompanied his father later, recollecting the guns echoing like cannonades and the ‘boat bottom covered with birds’.  He admitted his father ‘killed perhaps more birds than any one man besides’ and ‘deeply regretted’ that ‘he was perhaps the main cause of agitation against shooting.’  Nor was it just seabirds that suffered.  The gun was standard equipment for Victorian naturalists of all classes, leading Seth Mosley to describe his 1915 book The Birds of the Huddersfield District, as ‘a record of murder and plunder from beginning to end’.[35]

He was not the only local stuffer but, according to Seth at least James Mosley was the best in the district and even allowing for Seth’s filial bias there is no doubt of his repute, which gained him contacts across the social scale. At one end were the working class bird clubs in pubs where members paid each week and then ordered skins from Cook of London or Dunn of Orkney, which James would stuff.  They usually met on Sunday evenings and Seth went as boy to the Ship, the Commercial (Paddock), the  Bridge (Lockwood), the  Wharfe (Aspley), the  Green Cross (Moldgreen), the Ramsden Arms and the Saracen’s Head.  Some landlords would also order birds of their own for display.[36]

The house at Almondbury Bank now had a parlour filled floor to ceiling with cases of birds which functioned as a showroom for his work and as a ‘museum’ for the curious.  Most of the visitors were working men who arrived nearly every Sunday.  One in particular Seth later recalled,  ‘When I was a little boy, just about sixty years ago, a man called William Goddard used to bring birds for my father to stuff for him, or to pay a weekly contribution for others he wished to purchase’.  On Sunday ‘our house was the rendezvous for bird fanciers from all the country round’, including Wakefield, Halifax and Leeds, ‘some Sundays the house never cooled’.[37]

At the other end of the social scale were those gentlemen who occasionally called during the week, to see how the fitting up of their cases was progressing.  This included the manufacturers Alfred Beaumont of Steps Mill, George Armitage, Snr and Jnr,  of Milnsbridge Mills , George Brook Jnr.  of  Larchfield Mill,  and  John Burgess of Brighouse who operated Seed Hill dyeworks, as well as the schoolmaster Peter Inchbald and the Rev. Job Johnson of  Denby.  For Seth Mosley contact with Inchbald, Beaumont and others who visited his home provided an enlightening glimpse of different cultural values ‘I feel that if I have any goodness in my nature the seed was sown by these persons who for a few minutes of their brief visits I could see and listen to a refinement I knew little of otherwise…’[38]

Despite these social contacts neither Seth nor his father were social or political conformists.  Both James and all his brothers-in-law were ‘sceptical’, and the only memory Seth had of the mention of religion in the home was when his mother asked if he knew a prayer. James’ scepticism did not just entail a disbelief in God.  He had an active interest in secularist ideas and Seth remembered how, aged seven or eight, he accompanied his father to town to collect the weekly secularist journal, the National Reformer.  However, since this was not published until 1860, it was more likely the journal was its’  forerunner, the Reasoner,  which was certainly circulating in the town at this time.[39]  Seth attended Huddersfield Secularist Sunday School in 1866 and for about six years was active in the Secularist Society.  When the visiting ‘infidel’ lecturer, Charles Bradlaugh, was locked out of the Philosophical Hall, it was the young Seth Mosley who brought the crow bar to attempt a forced entry ![40]


Peter Inchbald arrived at Storthes Hall, set in a steep wooded valley near Kirkburton, three miles from Huddersfield, in mid 1846 aged 30.  He had previously run a school at Adwick Hall, near Doncaster, since the death of his father, the Rev. Peter Inchbald, a decade before.  In the 1851 census Peter is described as ‘Principal of School’,  Jabez Abbott, a BA from Queens College, Cambridge, who had also formerly taught at Adwick, was assistant master and maths teacher, while Jabez Greenwood is described as ‘writing master’.  In 1851 nine pupils are recorded aged between 8 and 16.

The school was advertised in January 1848 as intending to combine ‘the advantages of private instruction, imparted to a limited number of pupils, with those of the large Public Schools’.  Peter Inchbald, ‘who has resided for some time on the Continent’ also taught French, German and Italian. The education offered was to be tailored to the ‘future destination of each pupil.’, but particularly for those ‘designed for mercantile life’.  Even though the subject was not part of mainstream education, the principal’s interest in nature was also used as a selling point; ‘During the hours of relaxation, the minds of the pupils are led to the study of BOTANY, and those branches of NATURAL HISTORY which tend to furnish them with useful knowledge and rational amusement.’   Emphasis was placed on the benefits of the school’s location, described as, ‘particularly healthy: the Grounds and Woods about it are extensive, and well adapted for the purpose of exercise and amusement.’  It was in these idyllic surroundings that Inchbald trained a generation of naturalists.[41]

One such was Joseph William Dunning of Leeds (1833-1897), a later president of the Entomologists Society, who had also been a scholar at Adwick. Hand written notes in his 1832 edition of Rennies Conspectus of Butterflies and Moths, based on observations by himself, or by Inchbald, throw some light on activities at Storthes Hall.  The records end at Adwick in July in 1846 and begin at Storthes Hall the following month enabling us to date the relocation of the school. The references to the number of butterflies and moths ‘taken’ shows that collecting continued without interruption. One entry, for the Small White, refers to this butterfly’s occurrence at both places – ‘Taken at Adwick in May 1846 and at Storthes Hall in August 1846’[42].

Other pupils included T H Allis, (another leading entomologist), John Collins, (later vicar of Shepley, another avid insect collector) and Alfred Beaumont, the son of a woollen manufacturer at Steps Mill, Honley.  The boys probably had opportunity to meet visiting naturalists such as the renowned lepidopterist H.T. Stainton, with whom Alfred Beaumont became closely acquainted in later life.

Observations made by Inchbald and his students were published in an occasional column in the Huddersfield Chronicle between June 1853 and March 1854 on such topics as ‘Summer Butterflies’ aimed at the general reader.  But Inchbald was also a renowned expert on gall flies writing detailed accounts of the life cycle of the Yellow Gall-gnat[43]  and on the local occurrence of galls on Willows.  He hatched specimens of the saw-fly (Cryptocampus angustus), which he said was new to the British Museum list of hymenoptera and also refuted the view that no insects fed on the Yew by describing the gall gnat which he hatched in ‘considerable number’ in 1861.  The galls this insect created. ‘occur, often abundantly, on yew trees near Woodsome Hall.’[44].  However his researches were not confined to the vicinity of Storthes Hall. In 1864-65 alone he reported on field trips to Forge Valley, (Scarborough), Strensall Common, Stockton Forest, the Isle of Wight, Loch Lomond and Llandudno.[45]

In July 1865 it was announced that he was moving his establishment after the summer vacation to Hovingham Lodge, near Castle Howard, and his belongings at Storthes Hall, including furniture, paintings, a mare colt and farming implements were auctioned. He was later made a life member of HNS.[46]

As Peter Inchbald’s pupils explored the woods and fields around, Alfred Beaumont was one of those who developed a life-long passion for collecting birds and insects.  This was recognised by his election to the Entomological Society when he was only 20. He was the eldest son of Joshua Beaumont of the firm of woollen manufacturers of Steps Mill, near Honley.  Following his marriage in 1858 to Mary, the daughter of Joseph Hirst, a wealthy merchant-manufacturer, he lived at Greave, Wilshaw.  She died in childbirth eight months later and after the death of his father in 1866 he returned to Steps.

Alfred was a member and a vice-president of Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society (HLSS), and also served terms as patron and a president (1864-1866) of HNS. Eighty cases of British birds from his collection were loaned for the 1860 Annual Conversazione of the HLSS.  Some appeared in the HNS exhibitions at the Philosophical Hall 1862 and at the Gymnasium Hall in 1864 and  1873 , among them several of his albino specimens, as well 16 cases of butterflies and moths, clearwings, bugs and caddis flies. Alfred augmented his bird collection by buying some cases from John Burgess of Brighouse, another of J.R. Mosley’s clients.

Alfred typifies how the common love of nature broke down social barriers. The 23 July 1864 meeting of the HNS, composed mainly of working men, was held at his residence at Greave, where they had tea and inspected Alfred’s ‘beautiful collection of Birds and Insects’, followed by a discussion on annual migration of small birds and other topics[47].  On 21 June the following year the HNS again held a ‘grand field day’ at Greave, ‘picturesquely seated at the edge of lofty moorlands,’ when there were  70 members present. After their ramble which resulted in ‘well filled vasculums’, (metal collecting boxes with a shoulder strap), they enjoyed an ‘excellent tea’ and  visited the church at Wilshaw built in memory of Alfred’s first wife , ‘This edifice together with the beautiful grounds attached, elicited much admiration.’  His former teacher Peter Inchbald was present to name the large number of plants which had been gathered.  Alfred showed his guests some rare birds, an Andalusian Hemipode,  only the third captured in England, a Wilson’s Petrel and a Kite from Bolton Abbey, as well as cases of beautifully mounted micro-lepidoptera.  ‘The evening was afterwards spent in a most hearty and convivial manner as naturalists generally know how…’[48]

In the tradition of Gilbert White and Charles Kingsley, there were several clergymen in the area who were interested in natural history.  The most prominent of these, and a visitor to the Mosleys, was the Rev. Job Johnson, incumbent of Denby, ( aged 44 in 1861). He used to bring birds for Seth’s father to stuff until the schoolroom at the vicarage was full to the ceiling with cases, as well as cabinets of butterflies and moths.  He took his pupils on rambles turning some of them into ardent naturalists. The duties of a straggling rural parish meant Job increasingly had less time for nature study, but he made his mark as the discoverer of the hiding place of the Brindled Ochre moth, Dasypolia templi, specimens of which he hunted himself, or bought from quarrymen for a few coppers.  ‘Whether it follows upon the trade of the mason or aspires to the profession of the priest, I cannot quite divine, for I find it both in the quarry and the church’, he joked in the Naturalist. ‘But apart from this, a two hours hunt for D. templi is generally no joke, but on the contrary, a matter of real labour…’[49]

The Rev Job Johnson of Denby - naturalist.

The Rev Job Johnson of Denby – naturalist.

Job’s interests were by no means confined to this creature and at a WRCNS meeting at Heckmondwike on 17 April 1865 he described the need for a wider, ‘Science of general natural history, showing the proper spirit in which the pursuit should be followed, leading the mind gradually from nature up to nature’s author.’   Whether this was a paraphrase of the actual expression, or whether the clergymen did refer to ‘nature’s author’ rather than ‘Nature’s God’, this widely quoted sentiment of Alexander Pope was current amongst naturalists of both deistical and orthodox Christian persuasion.  Job returned to the theme of the love of nature when he again spoke to a meeting of the WRCNS,  hosted by the recently formed Clayton West Naturalists’ Society in 1865[50].


Charles P Hobkirk, a bank clerk, (later bank manager), born in 1837, acknowledged the help given by both Inchbald and Dunning when compiling his lists of Lepidoptera for his 1859 Huddersfield: its History and Natural History, the first comprehensive survey of the flora and fauna of the district[51].  Indeed, Seth Mosley includes Hobkirk among Inchbald’s pupils, but I have not been able to confirm this.  Whatever the case, Inchbald undoubtedly was a major influence. Some of Hobkirk’s bird records also came from Inchbald, such as the Nuthatch , (then very rare), shot in Storthes Wood in the Autumn of 1847.  Interestingly, one of the local naturalists omitted from Hobkirk’s acknowledgements was James Mosley.  Seth later expressed regret that his father had not shared his knowledge with him, but did not disclose the reason.  It may have been because Hobkirk was a devout Christian and Mosley an equally devout freethinker.  But, whatever the reason, it is a rare example of lack of cooperation between fellow local naturalists.


A vignette from Charles P Hobkirk’s ‘Huddersfield – its’ History and natural History’

Hobkirk was one of the founders and first secretary of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society ,which he, later recollected, was ‘concocted’ in the kitchen of Thomas Robert Tatham, the medical officer for the northern division of the Huddersfield Union.[52]  David Brown, Tatham’s assistant, another medical man, George Winter Rhodes and the printer George Tindall drew up the initial plan for a society to promote ‘mutual improvement in all branches of science and literature.’  The inaugural meeting was held in the library of the (now defunct) Philosophical Society on 16 March 1857.  G W Rhodes, as president, delivered an address on the aims of the society distinguishing between the inductive and deductive sciences, ‘The inductive or natural sciences had a greater claim on the time of society, both from the vastness and variety of the treasures they have already yielded and the untold beauties and wealth which remain as yet hidden…’[53]  According to Tatham, Rhodes was well educated, ‘above the ordinary class of medical men.’[54]  He had begun work at Huddersfield Infirmary in 1840, becoming house surgeon, before taking up studies at King’s College and earning diplomas from the Royal College of Surgeons and the Society of Apothecaries.   He had been in Paris during the 1848 revolution, where he had studied ‘military as well as civil surgery.’ before returning to Huddersfield the following year to practice[55].  On Tatham’s resignation in 1862 he was elected to his post.    David Brown studied comparative anatomy and physiology, winning the Dalton natural history prize at Owen’s University. At the first ordinary meeting of the HLSS he spoke on ‘the three great plans of animal structure, the terrestrial the aerial and the aquatic’.[56]  The HLSS also initiated science classes and in 1861 entered students for the first national examinations set by the Science and Arts Department of the Committee of Council on Education[57].

From the start, therefore, natural history was one of the main interests and activities of the society.  Hobkirk’s close links with Inchbald are underlined by an invitation to HLSS ‘”naturalists” section’ to visit Storthes Hall on 27 May 1859 where they enjoyed ‘the picturesque views of woods, streams, hills and dales’ as well as seeing Inchbald’s  bird and insect collections.[58]  By 1862 a Field Club had been established and at the Annual Conversazione the HLSS president Edward  Brooke Jun, announced that it ‘.. had been so far successful as to be now possessed of more specimens than they had cases to contain them in… the society had been compelled to remove to more eligible premises and they had selected the old Mechanics Institution in Queens Street, which afforded facilities for the formation of a museum.’[59]   Edward Brooke’s family firm owned coal and clay mines and a brickworks at Fieldhouse on Leeds Road.  His special interest was, unsurprisingly, geology, becoming by 1869 a Fellow of the Geological Society.  Brooke, like Hobkirk, Rhodes, Tindall, Beaumont and others increasingly cooperated with members of the HNS in such activities as lectures and exhibitions, enjoying dual HLSS/HNS membership, and it was mainly through this synergy that the HNS expanded its social base in the early 1860s.


The first opportunity for the HNS to reach out across the social and political divide came on 12 April 1853, with the presentation of an Address from the society by Brook and Hanson to Lord Goderich, the Liberal candidate for Huddersfield, at a ceremony at the Albion.  This was a marked contrast to Brook’s stance only five years earlier when, as a Chartist, he had criticised the Liberals as champions of the wealthy classes.  Goderich, however, was a supporter of Christian Socialism and strong advocate of working class improvement, including cooperative societies.  The Address declared that the study of nature transcended social boundaries and fostered unity since ‘The great Author of nature has not left it possible for her bounties to be monopolised by any class’. and ‘in the temple of science, all men are brethren’.  A sense of pride in the achievements of members despite their adverse circumstances was evident.  Referring to the rows of cases on view, containing about 2,000 specimens of lepidoptera and several of birds eggs,  John Hanson remarked, ‘The truly splendid collection before them was entirely the work of men many of whom, and the principle part, were engaged in the factories and this was all overwork (applause)…’.  Goderich, who had a genuine interest in natural history, recounted his stay in a country inn while he searched Sherwood Forest for insects. Unlike working men, who neglected politics to collect, Goderich’s political ambitions had meant neglect of his collection, which he hoped was destined one day for a museum in one of Yorkshire’s Mechanic’s Institutes.  He was presented with honorary membership and his patronage continued after his election win, for example in 1855 donating Wood’s Index to British Moths and Butterflies to the society’s small but growing library. Goderich’s interest in the HNS appears genuine[60].  He had nothing to gain electorally from it since most, if not all, of the members were non-electors.[61]

By the close of 1860 both membership and the library were growing and ‘a very handsome and powerful microscope’, had been ordered from Joseph Wood of Birkby.  There was also a new and influential patron – the Earl of Dartmouth, whose endorsement was vital since he owned so much land in the area. To demonstrate the importance of access to his estates, a cabinet of insects, collected in Farnley, Woodsome, Honley and Slaithwaite, was dedicated to the Earl. With the inscription, ‘as a token of their appreciation of his lordship’s kindness in allowing them free permission to wander in his lordship’s grounds…’  As well as Goderich, (now Earl de Grey and Ripon),  the other patrons were the present and past Huddersfield MPs Edward  Aldam  Leatham and Edward Ackroyd.[62]

In 1862 the Society was reported to be ‘flourishing’ due to the ‘generous support’ from its’ patrons and the permission conferred on members by Dartmouth to collect specimens while ‘rambling over his estates.’  The Dartmouth link was highlighted on Sunday 17 August by the attendance of  ‘60 or 70 members’, each sporting a symbolic plant on his coat, at a sermon at the rural church of Farnley Tyas delivered by the incumbent, Rev Cutfield Wardroper, , who owed his living to the estate.   The psalm ‘O Lord how manifold are thy works…’ was used to illustrate ‘the great truths which the society recognise as the foundation of their studies.’  The members, ‘principally working men’, had ‘ hitherto not brought the society before the public.’  This they were intending to do by holding a public exhibition with the Earl of  Dartmouth presiding at the opening ceremony.[63]

The ‘Grand Exhibition’ opened for a week at the Philosophical Hall on 22 September.  This was the first time that working class members and their supporters from the other classes were brought together at a public event, demonstrating how the social composition of the society and appeal across class boundaries had developed in little over a decade.  In a hall ‘emblazoned’ with quotes from the psalms, most prominently the one quoted at the Farnley sermon, the members set out their collections of lepidoptera, birds and eggs, shells and geological specimens.  There were also displays of plants and flowers, aquaria and microscopes, while among the curiosities was the Dartmouth coat of arms made out of insects by John Varley a 42-year-old cloth finisher of Almondbury.   There were more than 30 exhibitors, most of them working men, including small tradesmen[64].

At the opening ceremony three clergymen and three HNS members closely involved with the HLSS,  Hobkirk, Rhodes and George Tindall,  joined the platform alongside the Earl, who praised the work of the society as an ‘elevating pursuit’ and wished that it would progress as it deserved,  ‘…not the less so because its members are working men. (Hear, hear).’  It was duty of all thinking men of whatever ‘rank or occupation’ to encourage such efforts.  He also thanked the society for the cabinet of insects collected on his estate two years previously, which he now intended to make his daughter ‘curatoress’ of, since she was ‘devotedly attached to the pursuit of entomology.’  Hobkirk in his report also referred to the privilege members now had of ‘entering all the woods and parks in the neighbourhood,’ on presenting their membership ticket.  However, landowners had been given the assurance that a stringent rule would be enforced and ‘any member found poaching or otherwise misconducting himself shall be immediately expelled’.  Clearly a form of moral improvement the landowners found highly commendable and a marked contrast to 1850 when HNS members seemingly condoned Mosley and Bedford’s dubious activities.  Dartmouth’s gamekeepers were even invited to the annual dinner and toasted in 1862.[65].

Although there was no specific reference to Charles Darwin, the controversy surrounding the publication of the The Origin of Species in 1859 must have been known to all present.   A concern voiced by Hobkirk, and the two clergy men speakers, was the perception that natural history was at odds with and even refuted, revealed religion.  Hobkirk quoted Herschel in his support regarding astronomy and came to the defence of geology, which was being attacked ‘with more virulence than ever.’  He urged that no one should be deterred from studying the sciences out of fear that Nature would usurp ‘God from His throne’.  The Rev Hulbert of Slaithwaite believed that the appreciation of the works of nature would lead to the contemplation of nature’s God,  but he warned against pursuing nature study ‘on the Lord’s day’.[66]  These reservations were reiterated by the Rev. T R Jones of Trinity Church, who cautioned that the society would only expand if people were satisfied that the study of nature was compatible with the scriptures and that the ‘practical working’ was sound, since ‘it had been spoken of in many quarters that the society pursued its avocations on the Lord’s Day.’   Nature should be ‘studied in a proper manner at a proper time’.

The clergymen’s complaints were taken to heart and the HNS annual dinner at the Ramsden’s Arms that year decided on a rule change, so that ‘conversational meetings on Sunday, as heretofore complained of; and clergy men and gentlemen of talent who had hitherto stood all of from the society on this account, were now invited to come forward and manifest their sympathy with the working men of which the society is now principally composed…’  Since these meetings were held in public houses this concession may have removed the main bone of contention and there was certainly a stronger representation of clergymen at the next exhibition in 1864.  The 1862 exhibition had also led to 17 new members joining.  .[67]

The second Grand Exhibition opened at the Gymnasium Hall on 14 October 1864 with an impressive line-up of supporters.  Dartmouth was again in the chair alongside the president the woollen manufacturer Alfred Beaumont, who shared the platform with his former teacher Peter Inchbald and fellow Storthes Hall alumnus J W Dunning from London.  The clergy included the Reverends  T R Jones, C A Hulbert, C Wardroper, George Lloyd, of Thurstonland; J M’Cann,  St Paul’s; John Collins, Shepley; J S Spencer, Wilshaw; W Gilchrist, Slaithwaite and   Job Johnson, Denby Dale[68].   There were also the manufacturers Joseph Hirst, JP, of Wilshaw (Beaumont’s former father in law), Thomas Brooke JP, of Armitage Bridge and  Edward Brooke Esq of Fieldhouse fireclay works..  Ben Bradley of Sheepridge, the secretary, one of those joining after 1862, was also of some means, having retired from woollen manufacturing aged only 30.  He delivered the report stating that, mainly as a result of the previous exhibition, membership had now risen to almost 100.

Beaumont pointed out that with an entry fee of 2s.6d and 1d a week subscription the society was ‘ ‘accessible to every poor person, however humble his circumstances’.[69]

This exhibition was even more successful than its predecessor, attracting about 800 visitors daily[70] and making £36.  The HNS was now in a healthy position both financially, (including assets such as books and microscopes), and in terms of membership.[71]  At the 1865 dinner, now the ‘annual soiree’, the gardener John Armitage attributed the growing success of the society to ‘new blood’ and ‘new germs of life.’  There were now 130 members. One ‘gentleman of talent’ who appears to have joined after the exhibition also provides a link with the past.  William Eddison had been active in the Philosophical Society and the defunct Huddersfield and Halifax Naturalists’ Society in the 1830s and early 40s.[72]  Eddison was a Tory, an Anglican, a freemason, and quartermaster of the local rifle volunteers as well as being passionate about birds. Born near Worksop in 1800, he served as a draper’s apprentice before learning fancy manufacturing with Wood of Dalton and then, after a spell as a Huddersfield wine merchant (and connoisseur), began a partnership with  the fancy manufacturer J T Clay of Rastrick,  until the firm’s bankruptcy in 1847[73].  He left the area, returning to Huddersfield in 1851 to found a successful firm of auctioneers.  An accomplished taxidermist, with a large collection of his own, he gave several lectures to the HNS about birds, including their edible properties, (which he appears to have sampled), and had his own theory that flight was aided by a lighter than air gas in their bones.  But he was no dispassionate scientist since ‘it was in the pursuits of a naturalist that he recalled, and always with almost boyish delight, the experiences of his early life.’[74]

John Armitage of Almondbury, gardener and naturalist.

John Armitage of Almondbury, gardener and naturalist.

The boost to the HNS provided by increased middle class support was not just reflected in membership but also in the geographical scope of the society’s influence.  The HNS played a vital role in the foundation of the West Riding Consolidated Naturalists’ Society (WRCNS), if it did not actually initiate it.  In late 1861 discussions were taking place for a ‘more combined and regular organised intercourse’ and a preliminary meeting was held in Heckmondwike in September with 60 Huddersfield, Wakefield and Halifax naturalists present.  William Henry Charlesworth and Richard Jessop of Huddersfield supported the resolution to found a society and hold the inaugural meeting at the Ramsden Arms in Huddersfield on 18 January 1862, chaired by HNS secretary J S Booth.  Ben Bradley of the HNS became its first secretary and the first annual meeting was also held at the Ramsden Arms, on 7 December that year, ‘in consequence of the demise of the Holmfirth Naturalists’ Society, at which place it had been appointed to be held.’[75]  This meeting decided to offer Dartmouth the WRCNS presidency, but he declined, as he later explained, due to ‘lack of practical knowledge’.   By the following year it was reported that the WRCNS membership consisted of the HNS with 72 members; the Halifax society , 45; Wakefield, 15, Heckmondwike, 25; Leeds, 25 and Norland, 14.  Although some societies like Holmfirth may have proved short lived, others were forming and in 1865 Clayton West Naturalists’ Society affiliated to the WRCNS, which held its quarterly meeting on 6 June, at Clayton School Room with the Rev Christopher Bird, curate of High Hoyland and president of the local society, in the chair.  As we have seen above, the Rev Job Johnson was the main speaker.  Morley was also added to the roll call of WR societies.[76]

The WRCNS’ first journal, The Naturalist, was published in Huddersfield in 1864 with Hobkirk and George Tindall as editors, under the motto ‘Labor Omnia Vincit’. It was also intended to fill the gap left by the folding of the Weekly Entomologist, and be a means of ‘binding…still more firmly together’ societies throughout the country.  It claimed that in Yorkshire and Lancashire alone, where ‘scarcely a village’ was without a society, there existed around 2,000 naturalists.[77]


From an isolated society of working men and artisans the HNS grew, in just over a decade, to an organisation with a wide social base, fully integrated into the intellectual life of Huddersfield. It could be claimed that this was a process of co-option, that moral improvement meant accepting the dominant moral values, (strictures against poaching and Sunday meetings for example), and that patronage and paternalism were as much about control as fostering cultural improvements. There was indeed a fear that the spread of science among working men would encourage materialist ideas, with all their incubi of atheism, republicanism and communism.  But this does not explain why a small organisation, with less than 20 members, should attract the interest and support of aristocrats, clergymen and manufacturers.  Although, as Rev Hulbert said at the 1862 Exhibition, ‘Whatever brought the different ranks of society together was attended with a certain amount of benefit’, and the fact that natural history demanded qualities such as diligence, perseverance, hard work and intellectual stimulus, all ‘elevating’ characteristics which met the ideals of self help and mutual improvement,[78]also fails to explain the involvement of Hulbert and others.

One common factor that does emerge is that working man, divine, or capitalist – all HNS members shared the amateur’s love and enthusiasm for nature.  Whether the Book of Nature complemented, or contradicted, the Book of Scripture it could be read by all and shared by all.  For some it may have not progressed far from an obsession with collecting, for others, like Seth Lister Mosley, who was a product of this milieu, it opened up a world of beauty and awe.  But even the collector appreciated the beauty of his lifeless, glass coffined specimens.  How far this aesthetic was a response to industrialisation and its’ ugliness, so eloquently condemned by Ruskin, is not locally apparent.  Huddersfield, noted in the 1840s for its’ rural setting,[79] was certainly suffering the encroachments of industry by the 1860s, as were many of the villages in its hinterland, and concern with smoke pollution and fouling of rivers was gaining ground[80].

On the other hand science was seen as an essential part of the drive towards progress as manifested in industrial growth.  The main division among the ‘bretheren in the temple of science’ in the latter part of the century did not arise from naturalists’ different social backgrounds, but between the self-taught amateur enthusiast and the professional university educated scientist, best exemplified in Huddersfield by S L Mosley and Dr Thomas W Woodhead[81].  Unlike many biologists though, Dr Woodhead retained his roots in the local society and community.  How far the process of social integration in Huddersfield was typical of natural history societies in the rest of the West Riding awaits further research[82], but it was certainly a feature cherished by the Yorkshire Naturalists Union.  In his 1900 YNU presidential address, George T Porritt, a relatively wealthy wool merchant who  had risen to national prominence as an entomologist via the HNS,  pointed out the union’s achievement,

            ‘…we have been successful in breaking down class distinctions, and making our meetings occasions on which naturalists of all grades of life meet on common ground.’[83]

As someone who acknowledged his own debt to both the worker James Varley and the manufacturer Alfred Beaumont, he was well qualified to make this conclusion.[84]

For an account of later Naturalist Societies in the Huddersfield area see:


 I would like to thank Chris Yeates, collections officer, Tolson Memorial Museum, Ravensknowle, Huddersfield, for facilitating access to journals and documents relating to the HNS and YNU.  Also Martin Limbert of Doncaster Museum and Andrea Marshall for background information on taxidermists and naturalists in South Yorkshire.  I would also like to thank Lesely Kipling, former librarian at Huddersfield Local Studies Library for material on Seth Lister Mosley,  Lesley Abernethy for help with genealogical research into the occupations of Huddersfield naturalists and Geoffrey Fryer for his advice and encouragement in pursuing research into natural history.

 Abbreviations used in text and footnotes.


HNS                            Huddersfield Naturalists Society

HLSS                          Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society.

HSS                             Huddersfield Secularist Society

WRCNS                      West Riding Consolidated Naturalists Society.

YNU                           Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union

Journals and Newspapers

HC                              Huddersfield Chronicle

HE                               Huddersfield Examiner

LM                               Leeds Mercury.

NMW                           New Moral World

NR                               National Reformer

YNR                             Yorkshire Naturalists’ Recorder.

                                    The Naturalist




Alberti, Samuel           ‘ Amateurs and Professionals in One County: Biology and Natural History in Late Victorian Yorkshire’ Journal of the History of Biology 34:2001.

Allen, David Elliston   The Naturalist in Britain – a social history. (1976).

Bamford, Samuel         Walks in South Lancashire,1844p,14-15.

Barber, J M                 ‘History and Progress of the WRCNS’ in Yorkshire Naturalists’ Rrecorder

Bradlaugh Bonner, Hypatia, Charles Bradlaugh – a record of his life and work. (1908),

Davies, Stuart             ‘The Making of a Municipal Museum’, in Haigh, Hilary (ed), Huddersfield: A Most Handsome Town , (Huddersfield: Kirklees Cultural Services) 1992.

Denholme, Anthony    Lord Ripon 1827-1909: A Political Biography  (1982)

Fryer, Geoffrey et. al.  Porritt’s Lists Butterfly Conservation and YNU publication 2011

Fryer, Geoffrey,          ‘On J W Dunnings authorship of some early observations on Yorkshire’, the Naturalist , 1998 pp.117-118.

Griffiths, David           ‘Blending Instruction with Amusement’:The Huddersfield Philosophical Society Exhibition of 1840,  Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 83, 2011, 175–98.

Hulbert,  Canon,         Annals of Almondbury, 1882

Marshall, Andrea,       ‘Notes on the Life and Family Background of Hugh Reid, the Doncaster Taxidermist and Naturalist’, Collected Papers, Doncaster & District Ornithological Society, Martin Limbert ed.  2004 pp.19-23.

Marshall, Andrea,       Yorkshire Taxidermists: A preliminary catalogue and gazetteer. Friends of Doncaster Museums Occasional Papers No. 1 2007.

Mosley, Seth Lister     The Development of a Soul (an Autobiography) undated pamphlet. Huddersfield Local Studies Library;

Mosley, Seth Lister     ‘Reminiscenses’ Naturalists Journal and Guide vol.VII.No.78. Dec 1898

Mosley, Seth Lister,    The Birds of the Huddersfield District,  Huddersfield 1915.

Mosley, Seth Lister     Secularism to Christianity – Twenty Years Wandering in the Land of Doubt  n.d.

Percy, John                  ‘Scientists in Humble Life, the Artisan Naturalists of South Lancashire’ Manchester Regional History Review  Vol 5. No 1  Spring/Summer 1991.  p.5-6.

Philips, George S,       Walks Round Huddersfield ,1848

Remington W.E. and Beaumont H.T ‘Joseph William Dunning 1833-1897 –informal annotations in a copy of Rennie (1832) by a forgotten Yorkshire naturalist’  Naturalist 1996.

Roebuck, W Denison   ‘Salient Features in the History of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union’ Transactions of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union   1913

Royle, Edward ,          Victorian Infidels (Manchester 1974)

Secord, Anne              ‘Science in the Pub: Artisan Botanists in Early Nineteenth-Century Lancashire’. British Journal of the History of Science 32: 1994. 269–315.

Secord, Anne              ‘Corresponding Interests: Artisans and Gentlemen in Nineteenth-Century Natural History’. British Journal for the History of Science 1994. 27: 383–408.

Smiles, Samuel            Life of a Scotch Naturalist – Thomas Edward. (London) 1875

Smiles, Samuel ,          Robert Dick, Geologist and Botanist (London) 1878


Alan Brooke       Winning Submission for the Yorkshire History Prize, (Beresford Award)  2012

(Words  –  10,065   Pages 39)

 [1] W Denison Roebuck ‘Salient Features in the History of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union’ Transactions of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union   1913 a reprint of Roebuck’s presidential address delivered at Sheffield 29 January 1904.

[2] David Elliston Allen, The Naturalist in Britain – a social history. (1976).                                    David Griffiths,‘Blending Instruction with Amusement’:The Huddersfield Philosophical Society Exhibition of 1840,  Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 83, 2011, 175–98.

[3] A century after the reputed date of the HNS foundation the : Yorkshire Naturalists Union  met in Huddersfield  when Porritt’s comments were recalled in the report by the Huddersfield Examiner (HE  6 Dec 1947), which refers to the HNS, founded in the house of Richard Brook on 21 Jul 1850,  as the oldest provincial Naturalist Society in country. See also HE 11 Oct 1873  report on  the HNS Exhibition. opened by Lord Dartmouth at Gymnasium Hall –  the society ‘dates its existence from the year 1847’.

[4] Huddersfield Examiner  (HE)3 Jan: 1857 why this and other New Year Eve dinners were described as ‘anniversary meetings’,  is also not apparent. ;

[5]The History of a Society 1950-1968’ , Huddersfield Naturalist, Photographic and Antiquarian Society pamphlet (1968), Huddersfield Local Studies Library.  The HNP&AS was a direct descendent of the HNS.

[6] Anne Secord, ‘Science in the Pub: Artisan Botanists in Early Nineteenth-Century Lancashire’.  History of Science , 1994, 32: 269–315.

[7] Elizabeth Gaskell Mary Barton opening paragraph of Chapter 5.

[8] Samuel Bamford, Walks in South Lancashire,1844p,14-15. John Percy, ‘Scientists in Humble Life, the Artisan Naturalists of South Lancashire’ Manchester Regional History Review  Vol 5. No 1  Spring/Summer 1991.  p.5-6.

[9] Samuel Hill, Bygone Stalybridge, Biographical Sketches pp. 210-214. 

[10] Huddersfield Chronicle (HC)  27 Jul 1850, HC 3 Aug 1850.  The HNS was initially called the Huddersfield Naturalist Society, but in the first newspaper report of the meeting is refers to as the Huddersfield Naturalists’ Society, the terms often being used interchangeably. The officers and committee were R Brook, president;  Laycock and J Hanson vice presidents; Jos Swift, Secretary;  J S Webb, Newhouse; W Priestly (Dewsbury);  Thornton, (Huddersfield); G Liversedge (Castle Hill), R Royston (Lindley);  J W Hanson (Marsh); J Buckley (Almondbury)., E Carter (Paddock) committee.; HC 7 Sep 1850.  Around this time Brook published his An Introduction to the Science of Botany, according to the arrangement of Linnaeus, with a Defence of that Arrangement. 

[11] At the 1862 HNS Exhibition the President C P Hobkirk alludes to ‘about 20 members’ at the inaugural meeting HC  27 Sep 1862.  In 1864 the secretary’s report refers to 24. HC 15 Oct 1864.

[12] HE 1Jan 1853. 

[13] In 1862 the society still had a range of 6 miles from the town for collecting and recording specimens, (see account of 1862 Exhibition, HC 27 Sep 1862).  It later extended south to the Pennine moors and as far east as Bretton Hall. 

[14]  In 1892 Richard Jessop of Lascelles Hall was acknowledged as one of the ‘veteran artisan botanists’ who founded the HNS.  HNS Report, Annual Conservazione, C P Hobkirk’s address.  He was active in the HNS until at least 1882 Northern Pioneer, 10 Jun. From the 1861-1881 census he appears as ‘manufacturing chemist’, which would explain his interest in plant chemistry.

[15] HE 3 Jan1857.

[16] Even the meetings were governed by the cycle of nature taking place at seven  in the evening, ‘each Wednesday on or before the full moon of each month’.  It is not recorded whether, like Erasmus Darwin’s earlier and more illustrious society, which met on Sundays around the full moon, they were dubbed ‘Lunatics’!  The Society relocated to ‘more commodious’ premises at the Greyhound Inn on Manchester Road when Isaac Hammond, landlord of the Albert, moved there.

[17] Stuart Davies, ‘The Making of a Municipal Museum’, pp. 681–, Haigh, Hilary, ed. (1992), Huddersfield: A Most Handsome Town (Huddersfield: Kirklees Cultural Services).

[18] Hanson appears as ‘shopkeeper’ on the 1839 deed for the Hall of Science, what his occupation was c.1850 I have not been able to establish.

[19] For Hanson see Alan Brooke,  The Hall of Science – cooperation and socialism in Huddersfield 1830-1848  (1993) .; New Moral World  Vol.X 19 Feb 1842.  The title of one of his 1837 pamphlets gives a taste of his style,   View extraordinary of Sir John’s Huddersfield menagerie: of political houhynims, ourang outangs, kangaroos, lizards, camelions, crocadiles, locusts, and hyænas, with a variety of other sectarian oddities of dissent, cantwells, mawworms, boobies, humbugs, and hypocrites, in the Broughamic order of democracy ; Obituary Huddersfield Weekly News (HWN ) 19 Jan 1877; the Socialist John Hanson is not to be confused with the Rev. John Hanson, , who ironically, was Baptist minister at the Chapel at Bath Buildings which had formerly been the Hall of Science.

[20] Leeds Mercury (LM )24 Jun 1848; LM 2 Dec 1848

[21] Details of Dr Torrens pills arose during a court case in 1850 when Brook sued another Huddersfield printer for producing a libellous poster bearing Brook’s imprimatur, Brook won the first round of the case but withdrew the charge before it went to appeal, burdening himself with £40 expenses HC, 16 : Nov  HC 14 Dec ; HC  21 Dec 1850.

[22] HE 13 Jan 1855 Advert, Richard Brook, Buxton Rd.  Various editions of Brook’s ‘Herbal’ are frequently available on the internet.

[23] J M Barber, ‘History and Progress of the WRCNS’ in Yorkshire Naturalists’ Rrecorder, p.23.

Richard Brook later moved to London and in 1872 he presented the HNS with 20 copies of the new edition of his Introduction to the study of Botany., HC 16 Mar 1872

[24] Mosley’s biography of Varley was published in pamphlet form and abridged in HE 26 Jan  and 2 February 1884. I have relied on the latter since the pamphlet does not appear to have survived; HE 12 Jan1856;  ‘Bum is abbreviation for  Bumroyd; Varley’s account of one of his collecting trips to Sherwood Forest appears in the Naturalist December 1864; G T Porritt wrote a brief obituary of Varley in the Naturalist, January 1883.

[25] HC 13 Jun1863; HC 7 Feb1863

[26] HC 26 Dec 1863, HC 29 Sep 1869.

[27] S L Mosley The Development of a Soul (an Autobiography) undated pamphlet.Huddersfield Local Studies Library; S L Mosley ‘Reminiscenses’ Naturalists Journal and Guide vol.VII.No.78. Dec 1898 pp.183-190. His column ‘Nature Around Huddersfield’ (NAH) ran in the Huddersfield Examiner from 30 May 1914 until 19 Jan 1929. He died 6 Feb of that year.

[28] Hull Packet 10 Apr 1835   Thanks to Lesley Abernethy for this reference and genealogical information on the Mosleys and other naturalists.

[29] Mary had a knowledge of herbs and her brother John was an admirer of the unreassuringly named herbalist Dr Coffin of Sheffield ‘NAH’ HE 13 Oct 1928.

[30] HC 23 Nov: 1850.  Lodge and Mosley shared mutual in-laws.  

[31]  ‘NAH’,HE 9 Jan 1926, Birds…Dedication.

Thanks to  Mr Martin Limbert, Doncaster Museum Natural Sciences Officer, for information on Hugh Reid, who also adds that  at Doncaster Museum the floors of some of Reids cases. ‘have a chalky sand affixed to them, doubtless that originating from Flamborough’. Whether Mosley’s middle name, ‘Reid’ shows any relationship to Hugh is also not recorded.

[32] HE 28 Nov 1857

[33]  [3 May 1927] HE 20 Feb   HE 13 Oct 1928. HE 5 Jun 1926.

[34] This could be an hazardous undertaking. In 1861 ten ‘gentlemen’ visitors from Cheshire drowned off Flamborough on a shooting expedition HC 24 Aug 1861.

[35]  Seth Lister Mosley, The Birds of the Huddersfield District,  published 1915, Huddersfield, Preface.

[36] Others local stuffers included  Emsley,  King St, Huddersfield,  John Gough,  Almondbury Bank and J. Bradbury of Brierly Wood. For the association of naturalists and pubs see Secord, op.cit.

[37] The working class collectors Seth remembered from this time included Jack Dyson of Paddock;  Wm Boothroyd of Leeds Road, John Walker of Broad Lane, William Hudson of Folly Hall, William Ward of Paddock as well as James Varley. ‘NAH’ HE 7 May 1927; Godward ‘NAH’ HE Oct 31 1914

[38] ‘NAH’ HE 19 Dec 1925.

[39] For secularism in Huddersfield at this time see Edward Royle, Victorian Infidels (Manchester 1974) passim.

[40] Mosley, SL Secularism to Christianty – Twenty Years Wandering in the Land of Doubt undated pamphlet (Huddersfield Local Studies Library);  See National Reformer 1 Nov 1868, S L Mosley gives Secularist Sunday School Report. Mosley also appears in the NR list of officers of HSS 12 Jan 1868 and 28 Jan 1872.  The crowbar story is in HE supplement 14 Jun 1919 on the occasion of his golden wedding. See Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner Charles Bradlaugh – a record of his life and work. (1908),  pp.241-242, ‘the twisted iron was preserved in triumph by some Huddersfield friends until a few years ago.’

[41]   Leeds Mercury 8 Jan 1848, a similar advert with uppercase emphasis appears in HC 2 Jul 1853. The Rev Hulbert, who probably knew Inchbald personally through their later involvement with the Huddersfield Naturalist Society, described it as a place of ‘superior education’. Annals of Almondbury, 1882 p267

[42]  Dunning Obituary, The Naturalist  Jan 1898, pp11-12;  Remington W.E. and Beaumont H.T ‘Joseph William Dunning 1833-1897 –informal annotations in a copy of Rennie (1832) by a forgotten Yorkshire naturalist’ the Naturalist 1996, pp.145-155;  Geoffrey Fryer ‘On J W Dunnings authorship of some early observations on Yorkshire’, the Naturalist , 1998 pp.117-118.

[43] Entomologists Weekly Intelligencer  1860. (8:195-196)

[44] The Naturalist 1964.pp46-47, 79-80.

[45] The Naturalist 1864, Reports dated  16 May and June .

[46] HC 22 Jul 1865. After moving to Harrogate and then Hornsea he died in 1896 aged 82. Obituary, Science Gossip New Series Vol III,  1897.p53. his pupil Dunning died the following year.

[47] The Naturalist. 1864, p.126.

[48]The Naturalist. 1865 p.82, HC 1 Jul1865; The hemipode turned out not to be authentic and since it was obtained from J R Mosley, along with the fabricated story of its capture, it seems hard to escape the conclusion that there was some deception. Seth Mosley later referred to it as ‘an unfortunate mistake’. After Beaumont’s bankruptcy in 1883 his bird collection was purchased to form ‘the nucleus’ of a proposed museum. Those that survived became just that, in the Tolson Museum birdroom.  See also G T Porritt obituary, he expressed his own gratitude to Alfred for the encouragement he had received as a boy. The Naturalist 1905.pp.102-105.

[49]  The Naturalist 1865 p.286

[50] Mosley ‘NAH’  HE 19 May 1923,  HE 19 Dec 1925; J M Barber, ‘History and Progress of the WRCNS’ in Yorkshire Naturalists’Rrecorder, 1872 pp.134-135; for Clayton West meeting  p.147-148.

[51]  A second edition appeared in 1868. Hobkirk’s special interest was bryology.

[52] HE 1 Nov1884.Geo Hotel, presentation to Mr Charles C P Hobkirk on leaving the town.

[53] HC 14 Mar 1857, notice of HLSS; 21 Mar 1857 report of meeting..

[54] HC 21 Jun 1862, letter re Poor Law medical officer elections.

[55] HC 7 Jun 1862, notice of Rhodes’ candidacy for medical officer.

[56] HC 18 Apr 1857, D Brown. His Obituary  HC 7 Sep 1861.

[57]  George Tindall won silver medals for zoology and animal physiology and Hobkirk for vegetable physiology and economic botany.  Both were referred to as ‘self taught’. Daily News 6 Aug 1861;HC 3 Aug 1861.

[58] HC 4 Jun 1859.

[59] 1863 HC 14 Feb ; 1862-63 HLSS Report.(Some records and reports of the HLSS are held in the University of Huddersfield Archives, others in the HLSL)

[60] HE 12 Jan1856 for donation of William Wood (1774-1857)  Index Entomologicus, this essential reference work with colour plates first appeared in 1839 followed be an 1852 edition. Goderich’s gift was also referred to in 1865 along with his ‘liberal donations’, HC 6 Jan 1866.

[61] HE 16 Apr 1853; Lord Ripon 1827-1909: A Political Biography Anthony Denholme.p19-33; perhaps Brooks sympathy for Goderich was helped by the fact that he was opposed by the renegade Chartist and Socialist Joshua Hobson, who Brook blamed for his expensive court case in 1850.

[62] HC 12 Jan1861

[63] HC 23 Aug:1862; Hobkirk in his report to the 1862 Exhibition refers to only 50 members.

[64] Some of these cannot be identified with any certainty, but comparison of the 1862 HNS list of exhibitors  (Tolson Memorial Museum), with the census reveals, (as well as those we have met above),  George Bedford, of Lascelles Hall, 33, (described as a labouring man in the court case with James Mosley in 1850 , when both were handloom weavers), in 1861 he describes himself as a ‘Naturalist’;  Gibson Thornton, 55, Lockwood, shoemaker; Elijah Carter, 38, Paddock, hairdresser, (a founder member of the society); William Guthrie, 40, gardener at Fixby Hall; George Liversedge,49, Bumroyd, joiner; John Williamson, 49, Paddock, fancy weaver; Alfred Priestly, 26, Paddock, cloth finisher; James Liversedge, 28, Paddock, cloth finisher; William Goddard, 26,Primrose Hill, slubber; John Gough,69, Almondbury Bank, former handloom weaver turned grocer and bird stuffer;;  Hugh Finch, 33, Aspley, cloth dresser;  Robert Kaye, 37, Newsome, handloom fancy weaver; John Williamson, 49, Paddock Foot, woollen weaver; William Briggs,41, Bradford Road, grocer; John Armitage, 54, Almondbury Bank, gardener; George Tindall, 29, Grove Street, printer, also member of the HLSS; HC 27 Sep1862. 

[65] HC 3 Jan 1863

[66] Rev Hulbert later described Natural History as an ‘attractive and diverting field… too seductive on the Sabbath from the “Tree of Life” to that of knowledge, otherwise not forbidden.’ Annals of Almondbury, 1882, p267.

[67] HC 3 Jan1863.

[68] As we have seen, the Revs. Johnson and Collins were keen naturalists. The Rev Jones had an interest in microscopy. HC 24 Feb 1866

[69] HC 8 Oct, 15 Oct 1864.

[70] HC 22 Oct 1864 

[71] HC 31 Dec 1864.

[72] Griffiths, op.cit. p.190,(from Halifax and Huddersfield Express 28 Dec 1839).  Eddison also contributed his Huddersfield records to Thomas Allis’ 1844 report on the Birds of Yorkshire.

[73] Leeds Mercury 15 Dec 1849

[74] Obituary HE 19 Nov 1870. Bird talks, HC 31 Dec 184;  HC 6 Jan 1866  HC 11 Mar 1866; He found that  38 aquatic and 33 land birds were fit for food; HC 2 Apr  1870. ‘The adaptation of birds to their mode of life.  ‘his theory was assailed by Mr S L Mosley who contended that the bird excluding the air from its bones and quills would sufficiently account for its buoyancy.’

[75] J M Barber, ‘History and Progress of the WRCNS’ in Yorkshire Naturalists’Rrecorder, 1872  pp.3-4,22-23,40-41, membership figures p.98.  An outline of the WRCNS also appears in W Denison Roebuck, op. cit. p.4.

[76]; Barber op.cit. for Clayton West meeting  p.147-148.

[77]  The Naturalist, May 1864-May 1865. ‘Appeal’.

[78] These aspects of natural history led Samuel Smiles to use two working men naturalists as exemplars of the values of self help he sought to promote see Robert Dick, Geologist and Botanist 1878 and Life of a Scotch Naturalist – Thomas Edward.1875.

[79]  As well as Engels’ famous description, George S Philips says ‘Even as we walk along the streets, fine openings of landscape burst upon us and nature seems always tempting us there with her sweetest smile’. Walks Round Huddersfield ,1848 p.15

[80] See for example letter from ‘A Cloud of Smoke’, HC 10 Feb 1855.; Pollution of Rivers Commission Enquiry at Huddersfield, HC 27 Oct 1866 et. Seq.

[81]  Samuel Alberti ‘ Amateurs and Professionals in One County: Biology and Natural History in Late Victorian Yorkshire’Journal of the History of Biology 34: 115–147, 2001.

[82] The only published work to even approach this specific subject focuses only on the relationship maintained between the classes by mail,  Anne Secord ‘Corresponding Interests: Artisans and Gentlemen in Nineteenth-Century Natural History’. British Journal for the History of Science 1994. 27: 383–408.

[83] Roebuck op.cit. p.13.

[84]   For  a brief biography of Porritt see Geoffrey Fryer et. al.  Porritt’s Lists (Butterfly Conservation and YNU publication 2011) pp13-33.

Also for more on the work of Huddersfield naturalists see:

9 thoughts on “BRETHEREN IN THE TEMPLE OF SCIENCE – Natural History across the class divide, Huddersfield, c1848-1865

  1. Pingback: Huddersfield Naturalists’ Society | Underground Histories

  2. Hi
    I enjoyed your talk last night and belated congratulations on the success of your essay!
    I didn’t catch the names given to the Beech trees in Spring Wood by Henry Wright – I have to tell the grandchildren as the spring is a favourite spot.
    Where can I see the I Sq. mile surveys completed by Thomas William Woodhead?
    Sorry to bother you but I can’t find the answers on your website.
    Best wishes

    • Dear Richard, Thanks for your kind words. The Square Miles were done by Seth Mosley. Woodhead did the ecological surveys of Spring and Mag Woods. The three sisters are: Angelina, Anaminta and Domina. Which has gone I don’t know ! I could email you the Honley Sq mile and Woodhead maps if you send me your email address.

  3. Dear Alan
    Back again! Our grandchildren have listened to the story of the beech trees and their names with varying degrees of interest! However, the last lot measured the circumference of the two remaining trees and using some sort of formula estimated that they were propagated somewhere around 1735 and 1758.
    Do you think the Tithe or Enclosure map would provide any evidence for this hypothesis?
    Best wishes,

    • Thanks for that gem. A pity that the three sisters haven’t all survived. Sadly few people have the reverence for the natural world that we seem to share. !

    • Forgot to say – I don’t think that maps would helps since we know that the wood was there when they were surveyed, but it wouldn’t help with particular trees. The spring which they are next to was used while Netherton Moor was a common and, before the recent occupants of the house at the end of the wood filled it in, there was a remnant of a hollow way from the spring to the Moor.

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