History of Horbury is a follow-up web site based on the success of ossett.net and seeks to bring some of the history of Horbury to the Internet. As far as the authors are aware, there is no existing web page that covers Horbury's rich and varied history. This site is still work in progress with at least five more chapters to come on-line later.

Please take a look below by clicking on each of the pictures for an entire chapter about that part of Horbury or the person featured. Find out who Matty Marsden really was and why Matty Marsden Lane was named after her. Did you know that Charles Roberts of Horbury Wagon Works fame had four wives and died aged 62? Read the story of Irish mining equipment pioneer Richard Sutcliffe and how Field-Marshall Montgomery, WW2 hero of El Alamein visited the Sutcliffe Horbury factory. Read about life in Horbury Bridge 150 years ago and how the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould married an 18 year-old mill girl Grace Taylor and wrote "Onward Christian Soldiers." Horbury has had four railway stations over the years and also a cinema. Horbury Hall and the Shepherd's Arms date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The Horbury House of Mercy was built to help turn around the lives of young fallen women back in Victorian times. Learn why the spire of St. Peter's Church had to be rebuilt and strengthened after part of it fell through the church roof. How did Benton Hill get it's name? It is all here with information from a wide variety of sources.

If you see any errors or if you wish to provide pictures or share more information about Horbury, please see the contact email at the bottom of the page and let us know.

Horbury Hall Queen Street St. Peter's Church Canon John Sharp House of Mercy
Horbury Hall Queen St. and High St. St. Peter's Church Canon John Sharp Houses of Mercy
Horbury Library Carr Lodge Horbury Cinema Horbury Town Hall Benton Hill
Horbury Library Carr Lodge Horbury Cinema Horbury Town Hall Benton Hill
Henry Fallas Horbury Stations Halfway House Shepherd's Arms Horbury Bridge
Henry Fallas Horbury's Stations Halfway House Shepherd's Arms Horbury Bridge
Horbury Junction Tithe Barne Street Plaque Sabine Baring-Gould Readicut Horbury Rock House
Horbury Junction Tithe Barn Street Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould Horbury Readicut Harrops of Rock House
Skyes factory later Slazengers Lee and Briggs Charles Roberts Richard Sutcliffe Universal Works John Carr
Slazengers Lee and Briggs Charles Roberts Richard Sutcliffe John Carr
Quarry Hill Poppleton's Mill St. Peter's Graveyard William Baines Horbury Academy
Quarry Hill Richard Poppleton St. Peter's Graveyard William Baines Horbury Schools
Hagenbach TE_Green Alfred Radley Briggs Boer War William George Fearnsides
Charles A. Hagenbach Thomas E. Green Alfred Radley Briggs Horbury Boer War Fearnsides of Horbury
High Bank Horbury Vicars Cellist Coroners Notebook Tragedy
Arthur Horsfield Some Horbury Vicars David Turton Coroner's Notebook Horbury Tragedies
Methodist Chapel Queen Street      
Methodist Churches Queen Street 1911

Click on the picture above for more information, which will open in a new window.

Horbury is a small town of 10,000 people located three miles south west of Wakefield. It occupies a strategically important site on a hill just north of an ancient crossing point of the River Calder. The M1 now crosses the river a mile east of Horbury.

There is evidence of occupation in the district dating back to Roman times, but settlement in Horbury probably began in the Anglo-Saxon period. Its name derives from the Old English words horh or horu meaning dirt or mud and burh meaning fortification; so Horbury probably began as a simple stronghold on muddy land. Early spellings included Horbiry and Horberie, but it is recorded as Orberie in the Domesday Book of 1086 along with Crigeston (Crigglestone) south of the Calder. Significantly Domesday describes this as the only part of the Manor of Wakefield not in ‘waste’. Which implies the district somehow managed to escape William I’s ‘Harrying of the North’ during 1069-70; a systematic destruction of villages, crops, livestock and genocide in punishment for the northern rebellion against Norman rule. What had survived in Horbury and Crigglestone was 350-400 acres of plough land, woodland and a combined population of about 40 people. It also records Horbury had its own church by 1086.

In 1106, Henry I granted the Manor of Wakefield, including Horbury, to Earl William de Warrenne. Construction of a new Norman church probably began in the same year. In 1302, Sir John de Horbiry, a Warrenne steward, was granted the village and lands for life. His silver and black coat of arms with three castles is still the town coat of arms to this day. By this time there was a corn mill and a fulling mill for woollen cloth working near Horbury ford though the village population was probably little more than one hundred. The first wooden bridge across the Calder was built during the 15th century and the oldest surviving building, Horbury Hall on Church Street, has been dated to 1474. Horbury began to prosper during the Elizabethan period as more people gave up subsistence work on the land for better wages as wool weavers or spinners. Others began working in drift mines extracting coal from local shallow seams. The timber framed houses in the village were gradually replaced by stone and the wooden bridge over the Calder was replaced by a stone arched one which survived into the early 20th century.

During the 18th century improved transportation by canal and turnpike road paved the way for the Industrial Revolution. The Calder & Hebble Navigation was an ambitious scheme of dredging and canalisation to construct a navigable waterway upstream of Wakefield. It reached Horbury in the 1760s and the first steam powered woollen mills were built nearby in 1795 to take advantage of the much improved bulk transportation for bringing raw materials in and exporting the finished cloth.

The 19th century shaped the town we recognise today, first with the Horbury Enclosure Act of 1809 which divided up and sold the remaining common land, then the arrival of the Leeds & Manchester Railway in 1840 constructed under the supervision of the famous railway engineer George Stephenson (1781-1848). By 1851, the town’s population had reached 2,803. In the 1870s the larger Albion and Millfield textile mills were constructed and a railway wagon factory opened at Horbury Junction which continued to build rolling stock right up until 2005. By the end of the 19th century the population had reached 7,000.

Most of Horbury’s manufacturing and engineering activity declined through the 20th century and has now all but disappeared. The town centre remains an attractive shopping destination and has been designated a conservation area because it retains several interesting buildings from the last five hundred years.

Focal point of the town is the church of St Peter and St Leonard which dominates the town from the hill top. The Norman church was demolished in 1790 when architect and sometime Mayor of York John Carr (b. 1723), the town’s most famous son, offered to rebuild it. He replaced it in the fashionable neo-classical style at a personal cost of £8,000. The new church opened in 1794 to general approval and is still a very striking building with a huge portico supported by ionic columns on the south side and a four tiered tower topped by a spire. By the time he died in 1807 Carr had completed many nationally important buildings like The Crescent in Buxton and built or renovated numerous country houses and estate monuments including the mausoleum at Wentworth Woodhouse. He was buried in the crypt of his Horbury church and there are monuments to him and his parents in the chancel. Another interesting character associated with the church was the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) who wrote the hymn ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ for the children of Horbury Bridge to sing as they marched up the long hill to church in the annual Whitsunday procession.

Opposite the west front of the church on Northgate is a range of late 18th century brick houses with a carriage entrance which featured in the filming of Stan Barstow’s novel Joby for television. Barstow (1928-2011) was also a Horbury boy and is best known for his 1960 novel A Kind Of Loving. Narrow Tithebarn Street runs west away from the church and was the site of the tithe barn which burnt down in 1904. Opposite is the former Sunday school (1798), later parish hall and by it with a blue plaque dated 1710 is the old parish lock-up or kidcote. North of Tithebarn Street is St Peter’s Anglican Convent and school which were founded as the House of Mercy in 1858 to rescue ‘fallen women from sin and destruction.’

Along High Street at no 48 is Lydgate Manor, a three storey Georgian house now converted into flats. Victorian Gothic Horbury Methodist Church used to stand nearby, but has recently been demolished. Queen Street has a couple of 15th century timber framed buildings at nos 37 and 39. On Church Street facing the church’s south façade is Horbury Hall, as previously mentioned, which is a Grade 1 listed building built for Ralph Amyas who was deputy steward of the Manor of Wakefield in the late 15th century. There are more Georgian houses in School Yard. On Cluntergate the Shepherd’s Arms public house is a timber framed building dating from 1538 formerly known as Nether Hall.

Besides varied shopping and free parking Horbury holds a Street Fayre every June with arts and crafts stalls, dancing and family entertainments. This years Craft and Street Fayre will be held again in June. Also in June, Carr Lodge Park is home to the Horbury Show, there are vegetable and flower shows, a Remembrance Day parade in November and carol singing with Horbury Victoria Band at Christmas.1


1. "Discover the History of Horbury", from "Around Town Magazine" by ATP, posted May 2012