We were very pleased to welcome Mrs Joan Taylor, our speaker for June. We were glad she felt able to come as planned, as her husband, Alan, recently passed away.
Her talk was entitled “Batley Mill Owners” She started by telling us about St Paul’s Church, Hanging Heaton, where she worships. It is called a Waterloo Church. After the Battle of Waterloo, £1 million was given to build new churches to celebrate the victory, and that was how St Paul’s Church came to be built in 1923. A fire broke out in 1918 and the Batley and Dewsbury fire brigades had great difficulty in reaching the church and putting out the fire. The church was rebuilt as near as possible to the original building and was completed in 1923.
Derek Boothroyd wrote a book called “Nowt so Queer as Folk which contains much of the history of the mills and mill owners. It was turned into a film, “Value for Money” starring John Gregson and Diana Dors, and much of it was filmed in Batley. Audrey told us that Alan Evans was spotted in the film in his school cap!
Batley started off as a farming village, but with the Industrial Revolution, it became a wealthy town. The mill workers worked hard, saved up their meagre wages, sometimes joined with others to buy a building, and became wealthy mill owners with huge mansions, trying to outdo their neighbours with the size of their houses.
I wrote copious notes, too much detail to include here. I found the talk fascinating, so much so that I have read more about the subject. It was really interesting to have comments from Mavis May, whose family were mill owners, and from Wendy Bailey, who was the last employee to leave the mill of Charles Robinson when it closed.
We heard the story of the development of Mungo & Shoddy, the colour Khaki and the production of uniform material and blankets for “both sides” in wars such as the Crimea. The owners had a thriving business at the time. All the famous mill owners were named and their stories were told. I’m sure many of you know the history of the local towns, but it was new to me and a really interesting afternoon.
There is an extra meeting on 1st July, when we will be learning new crafts.