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Dewsbury in 1837

DEWSBURY, a market-town, parish, and township in the West Riding of the county of York, in the wapentake's of Aggbrigg and Morley, and in the liberty and manor of Wakefield. It is 5 miles west of Wakefield, 8 miles south-west of Leeds, 33 south-west of York, and 187 north-west of London. The ancient importance of Dewsbury is connected more with ecclesiastical than with civil history. In the time of the Saxons it was one of the most extensive parishes in England, and comprised an area of 400 square miles, including the present parishes of Thornhill, Burton, Almondbury, Kirkneaton, Huddersfield, Bradford, Mirfield and Halifax. Dewsbury was the centre from which Christianity was diffused through this part of the island in Saxon times. The name is supposed by some to have been derived from its first Saxon proprietor ; others consider that the success of the preaching of Paulinus, the first archbishop of York, caused the place of his residence to be called Duisborough, (God's town). The remains of Saxon tombs are still to be seen in the vicarage garden, near the church. Other relics of the same people have also been found, the most remarkable of which exhibits the Saviour in the act of bestowing his benediction. At the east end of the chancel, placed on a cross on the outside of the church, is the following inscription : 'Paulinus hic praedicavit et celebravit, AD. 627.' This is not the identical Saxon wheel-cross, but a facsimile of it. The church is the mother-church of the district, several neighbouring parishes acknowledging their original dependence by their prescriptive payments. No appearance of Saxon architecture is presented in the existing edifice, which comprises a nave and aisles ; a chancel ; an octagonal vestry on the north side ; and a tower finished with pinnacles at the west end. The living is a discharged vicarage ; it is endowed with £200 private benefactions, and £200 royal bounty. Its average gross income is £238 per annum ; it is in the patronage of the crown. There is a second church in the township of Dewsbury, which was erected by the parliamentary commissioners in 1827 ; the dissenting places of worship in the township are, two for Wesleyan Methodists, one for the New Connexion Methodists, one for Primitive Methodists, one for Independents, and one for Quakers ; there are several other dissenting chapels in the parish.

The public educational establishments at Dewsbury are Wheelwrights' Charity, a school recently erected under a decree of the Court of Chancery at an expense of £600, for the instruction of 100 boys and 100 girls on the national system ; the Dewsbury charity school, containing 100 boys, which has an endowment of £100 per annum (the master's salary is £80 a year) ; an infants' school ; and several daily schools. The Sunday-schools of Dewsbury are attached to different places of worship, and instruct about 1,500 children.

The town is pleasantly situated at the base of a hill rising from the river Calder. It has several good street's, and is lighted with gas. As a place of manufacture it is rising in importance, and its factories furnish large supplies of blankets, woollen cloths, and carpets. Coal is abundant in the neighbourhood ; and the water of the Calder has a high reputation for its fulling properties. The commercial facilities of the town are increased by good roads ; and the communication by water is, eastward by the Calder navigation, and westward by the Calder and Huddersfield canal. Thus access is obtained to Wakefield, Leeds, Selby, and Hull ; and by Huddersfield to Manchester, Rochdale, Liverpool, and the other commercial towns in Lancashire. The population of the parish of Dewsbury is as follows : Dewsbury 8,272 ; Osset 5,325 ; Soothill 3,849 ; Hartshead-cum-Clifton 2,408 ; making a total of 19,854. The population of the parish in 1821 was 16,261. The market-day at Dewsbury is Wednesday. There are three fairs in the course of the year. Ossett is a large manufacturing township, midway between Dewsbury and Wakefield ; it has a chapel of ease to Dewsbury, and several dissenting places of worship. In the township of Soothill are two villages, called Earls' Heaton and Hanging Heaton, each of which have churches which were erected in 1825-7 by the parliamentary commissioners.

Hartshead-cum-Clifton is in the wapentake of Morley ; it has a chapel of ease to Dewsbury, in a fine situation, commanding an extensive view of the vale of the Calder. In this township the tomb of the notorious free-booter, Robin Hood, is pointed out. Whether he was an outlaw of noble parentage or of humble birth is not clear ; the epitaph upon his tomb designates him as 'Robert, earl of Huntingdon.'