Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Dewsbury Town Hall is 125 years old and going strong!

HISTORIC LANDMARK Not much has changed about this part of Dewsbury since this picture was taken around one hundred years ago. The railway station on the right has gone, but the town hall, opened in 1889, is the same, and the bank on the left is still there.
HISTORIC LANDMARK Not much has changed about this part of Dewsbury since this picture was taken around one hundred years ago. The railway station on the right has gone, but the town hall, opened in 1889, is the same, and the bank on the left is still there.

Next week Dewsbury Town Hall will celebrate its 125th birthday and I am sure this important occasion will be celebrated in some way by the powers that be.

But whatever plans are afoot they cannot compare with the festivities which took place when the town hall was officially opened on September 17, 1889.

It was a magnificent event, watched by some 20,000 spectators, and it was such a momentous occasion that a general holiday was declared.

Nine bands took part in the civic procession which started from the old council offices in Bond Street, where the council meetings used to be held, continuing through the town centre to the new town hall.

Civic dignitaries from surrounding towns also took part in what was the biggest procession of its kind Dewsbury had seen.

A special song to mark the occasion was written by a local singer, Robert Cave, of 21 Kiln Road, Longcauseway, Dewsbury, who afterwards sang it with great success at various concerts throughout the town.

Tens of thousands of spectators came to Dewsbury that day to witness this magnificent spectacle and people would talk about it for years to come.

There had been many such parades in Dewsbury before, but spectators on this particular day had to admit this had been the finest.

Mill owner Mark Oldroyd, later to become MP for the town, said Dewsbury had never seen the like before and never would again for generations to come. He was right. They never did.

A special programme was produced for this important occasion which gave details of the day and the speeches to be given and the music to be played.

On the back page it stated which roads were to be closed by police on that day which prevented any cattle, horses or carriages to pass on them, except those taking part in the procession.

Guests permitted into the town hall were given different coloured tickets specifying which of the three doors they could enter by.

Those sitting in the main area entered by the door in Wakefield Road and were given a white ticket. Those sitting in the balcony entered by the south-west door in Railway Street, and were given a red ticket. Those sitting in the orchestra entered by the east door in Rishworth Street, and were given a green ticket.

The song written for the occasion is published below. It isn’t a sophisticated song, but it represents the pride which ordinary Dewsbury people had in their town in those days.

It was written 125 years ago and is an important part of our social history. I am indebted to Peter Robinson for providing me with a copy, and I thank Paul Ellis for loaning me the souvenir programme.

DEWSBURY TOWN HALL

Come all ye good inhabitants, no matter great or small,

And listen while I sing about our lovely new Town Hall,

It is about the opening day I now will sing to you,

And show the people far and wide what Dewsbury can do,

Although our town is not so large as others that we know,

Still we’re never wanting, for good enterprise we show:

So give attention while I sing, and I’ll tell you one and all

Some things about the opening of our lovely new Town Hall.

On the 17th of September, in 1889

The town was gaily decked that day, and all things were sublime;

The decorations were so grand, the like we’ve seldom seen,

Also some portraits we know well, likewise our gracious Queen.

There was Bateman Fox and Mark Oldroyd (he is now our MP),

And also Sir John Simon I was very glad to see,

Also our worthy Mayor, these hung outside the wall,

They formed a splendid feature of our lovely new Town Hall.

Now people came from far and near on that eventful day,

They all seemed to enjoy themselves, for everyone was gay,

And when John Walker did appear, the gates he did unlock,

They cheered, and then cheered Mark Oldroyd, the giver of the clock.

The royal standard was unfurled, it looked so mighty grand

While waving o’er the building to the music of the band.

The rejoicings which took place that day I think were shared by all;

We’ll ne’er forget the opening of our lovely new Town Hall.

Now a word on the procession, just to keep your memories green,

Every branch of trade in town was on the waggons seen,

There were nine bands of music, each playing a lively strain,

We may travel far, and never see a sight like this one again.

Our sports were represented by the famous Savile team,

With Otley and the rowing club (such clubs there ne’er was seen).

So here’s success to town and trade, prosperity to all.

We’ll ne’er forget the opening of our lovely new Town Hall.