Autin Friars has a rich and interesting history

PAST TIMES: This lovely picture of Austin Friars in Springfield Terrace, Dewsbury, once home to the Austin family, gives some idea of the kind of houses the rich of Dewsbury once lived in. The man pictured is James Austin founder of one of the biggest steelworks in the country, James Austin Steel, Thornhill Lees. The house is still there but in recent years has been converted into apartments. (d241011100)
PAST TIMES: This lovely picture of Austin Friars in Springfield Terrace, Dewsbury, once home to the Austin family, gives some idea of the kind of houses the rich of Dewsbury once lived in. The man pictured is James Austin founder of one of the biggest steelworks in the country, James Austin Steel, Thornhill Lees. The house is still there but in recent years has been converted into apartments. (d241011100)

A LOT of people have shown an interest in recent articles on this page about the houses where the rich and famous of Dewsbury once lived.

My article about Overthorpe Hall in Thornhill, where the Ingham family once lived, prompted a lady to ring to say her mother had been a seamstress there.

When I showed a photograph of Marlborough House, the couple now living there rang to give me more information and to invite me to look round.

Then I got an e-mail from Norfolk from a couple wanting more information about Marlborough House, which they had read about on the internet.

Last week I wrote about Austin Friars in Springfield Terrace, once the home of the founder of Austin Steel Works, and received a call from Christine Wood who now lives there.

The photograph which accompanied my article was taken 100 years ago and showed a room in Austin Friars which turned out to be what is now Christine’s front room.

But Christine wasn’t the only member of her family to be surprised to see her front room in the Reporter. Her parents, Sandra and Roger Wood, were just as surprised.

They had both worked at Austin Steel Works in Thornhill Lees, where they met. When visiting their daughter they had never realised it had been the home of James Austin.

“My parents first met at Austin’s Steel Works 55 years ago,” said Christine. “My mother, then Sandra Lawton, worked in the office and my dad was a draughtsman.

“They had never linked the name Austin Friars with the name of the man who had owned the company where they worked.”

Christine loves living in the house. She believes old houses have an atmosphere which new houses haven’t.

“When I first came here, I knew as soon as I walked in that it was for me. I felt as though I had come home,” she said.

James Austin was a self-made man who came to Dewsbury in 1848 to make his fortune, which eventually he did.

By 29 he was running his own millwright business in Watergate and as his business grew he moved to bigger premises in other parts of the town.

One was to Victoria Road, Springfield, and soon he was moving his family into a fine big house in Springfield Terrace near to his factory.

He named it Austin Friars and lived there until his death in 1892, aged 69.

Later Austin Steel Works moved to Thornhill Lees on the site of the old Thornhill Iron and Steel Works.

The company remained there until it was closed down in the 1980s, not long after being taken over by Truman’s Steel.

MY RECENT article on Marlborough House was a revelation to Chris and Lesley Wainwright, who live in Norfolk.

Only weeks before reading it on the internet they had bought an old brown leather document case which had a connection with Dewsbury.

Engraved inside were the words, ‘From the past and present pupils of the Marlboro Terrace School, Dewsbury, April 1919,’ and on the front were the initials AFS.

They thought I had led them to the home of the case’s original owner and two weeks later they visited Dewsbury to find out.

They visited Dewsbury Library and were able to ascertain from a document that there had been a Marlboro Terrace School in Dewsbury run by a Miss Sturt, which had closed in 1919.

And they learned from residents in Marlborough Terrace that while refurbishments had been going on in one of the houses, doors were discovered which had been covered.

This could suggest that a school had once been there, and it could so easily have been the one run by Miss Sturt, whose school had been replaced by another private school in nearby Marlborough House.

This was run for many years by Mrs E C Sadler, the wife of Leslie Sadler, headmaster of Wheelwright Grammar School.

Chris and Lesley believe the document case could have been presented to Miss Sturt when her school closed down.

They would still like to find out more about who AFS was and who the case belonged to. They would also like to know more about a lady called Mrs Stead who also lived in Marlborough Terrace.

If you have any information about either of these two ladies, please e-mail - tresham3@gmail.com - and I will pass it on.

l I have a copy of a photograph of children playing marbles in Crackenedge taken about 70 years ago. It is in colour and it won a photographic competition. I do not have the name of the family concerned. Can they please get in touch on 01924 468282.