Holdsworth, Col. William Irving, of Shaw Lodge, off Shaw Hill, Halifax,
and of Greenroyd, Halifax
1821 - 1885

William Irving Holdsworth, Mayor of Halifax 1863-1865
W I Holdsworth, Mayor of Halifax 1863-65
Photograph taken in 1864

William Irving Holdsworth was a member of a well known Halifax family, long associated with manufacturing in Halifax, as indeed they are to this day.

He was the eldest of four sons of John Holdsworth, who was the founder of the textile firm John Holdsworth & Co. Ltd at Shaw Lodge Mills in Halifax, established in 1822.

William was born on the 9th January 1821, and was fortunate in having a comfortable start to his career, his father being established in a thriving and profitable business. On leaving school he worked in the mill helping his father, as did his younger brothers Tom and John, although William was always the driving force. When his father died, William took over the running of the firm with his brothers. Eventually his brothers died and he was left with the awesome responsibility of running the large enterprise alone. Later he was joined by his two nephews Walter and Clement.

In politics he was a Conservative, and at the close of 1860 he entered Halifax Town Council, being present at the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone of the Halifax Town Hall - having been delayed by a stone masons' strike. The building opened on Tuesday, 4th August 1863 by HRH The Prince of Wales - later King Edward VII; the Princess of Wales was ill and could not attend. 358 trains brought around 70,000 people to the town on the opening day, and 870 police were in attendance. There was a special Piece Hall Sing for the Prince of Wales.

He became Alderman, was made a Justice of the Peace for the Borough, and was later elected Mayor of Halifax in 1863-4; and 1864-5, devoting much of his time to the welfare of the townspeople of Halifax.

Prince Consort Memorial 2000

He unveiled the Prince Consort Memorial in Southgate, Halifax. This was later moved to Sparrow Park, where it can be seen today. (See photo, right)

During his Mayorality he was active against very strong opposition, including John Crossley, in pressing forward the issue of extension of the borough, having the satisfaction of bringing to fulfilment the Halifax Borough Extensions and Improvement Act 1865.

For a long time he had considered it to be an advantage if Halifax were able to obtain an Inland Bonding Warehouse, and his efforts in this direction were crowned with success on the building of the present warehouse, on the site at the bottom of Gibbet Street.

It is rather ironical, at this present time, when the Halifax Piece Hall is restored to something of its former glory, to learn that he took an active part for the removal of the wool business from the Piece Hall, which he considered inconvenient for the volume of trade at that time.

He convened a meeting of the principal merchants and manufacturers, and with the support of Col. Akroyd and John Crossley and Exchange was founded at the Halifax Town Hall where business was conducted from 12 noon to 5pm.

William was a member of the Loyal Georgian Society but withdrew his membership because "The funds were sufficient for the society's Needs and Objects" and since now the Objects are superseded by the "Tradesmen's Benevolent Society" (July 1869.)"

He took a leading part in the construction of new reservoirs as the town expanded, making many speeches on the subject, and having the satisfaction of cutting the first sod at Fly Flatts resevoir.

He took part in the formation of the local Corps of the Rifle Volunteers and on the retirement of Col. Akroyd he succeeded him in command.

The brothers (William, George, Tom and John) became the principal benefactors of the new parish of All Saints, Salterhebble, created in 1846. The firm subscribed towards the new church at Dudwell, Salterhebble and William laid the foundation stone in 1857, an event attended by prominent manufacturers like Edward Akroyd, John Crossley, William and John Foster and Henry Edwards. Salterhebble's first vicar, John Warneford, was persistent in tackling millowners about some of the appalling conditions in which his parishioners lived.

His concern for education was always at the forefront, at a time when it was expensive for working parents to give their children even the rudiments of it. In this respect he financed the building of the schools in Siddal in 1869 and headed the subscription list to establish the Technical College in Francis Street.

For fifteen years he lived at Greenroyd, and whilst there accumulated a fine and valuable collection of paintings, in which he displayed great interest. In 1880 after he had removed to Shaw Lodge, some of the collection was sold at Sotheby's in London and realised £33,000 at that date.

For the last 19 years of his life he suffered prolonged bouts of ill health, although still attending to business at the mill.

He died at his home, Shaw Lodge, at 3.00am. on Sunday 13th December 1885 aged 64 and was buried in the large family mausoleum at All Saints' Church. At his death the only surviving member of the family in the business was his nephew, Mr. Clement Holdsworth.

The high quality moquettes produced by the firm have attracted international markets over the years.

Contemporary accounts reveal that Mr. Holdsworth was proud of his town and county; an excellent speaker, an enlightened employer popular with his workpeople. Several times he was invited to stand as M.P. for the town but always declined. The business that he left behind and the large mills at Shaw Lodge are a monument to him and his generation.

William was married at St. Martin in the Fields, London in 1874 to Mary Greenwood, who was born 9th May 1823. She died ten years later on 5th November 1884, aged 61 and is interred at St. Mary's Illingworth.

From the Photograph Album

Statue of Prince Albert in Pride of Place in Halifax Town Hall, 9 Sept 2008
Statue of Prince Albert

in Halifax Town Hall

Statue of Queen Victoria in Pride of Place in Halifax Town Hall, 9 Sept 2008
Statue of Queen Victoria

in Halifax Town Hall

Statue of Prince Albert Edward in Pride of Place in Halifax Town Hall, 9 Sept 2008
Statue of Prince Albert Edward

in Halifax Town Hall

Statue of Princess Alexandra in Pride of Place in Halifax Town Hall, 9 Sept 2008
Statue of Princess Alexandra

in Halifax Town Hall

© 2024 David W. Holdsworth  

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