Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Magnificent Tweedale Hall

One of the most select estates in the district

By Margaret Watson
Sunday, 11th July 2021, 6:30 pm
Tweedale Hall: Taken in 1940, just 20 years after it was sold by Miss Emily Tweedale and converted into Moorlands Maternity Home where many thousands of local babies were born. The house still stands today but is now a residential home.
Tweedale Hall: Taken in 1940, just 20 years after it was sold by Miss Emily Tweedale and converted into Moorlands Maternity Home where many thousands of local babies were born. The house still stands today but is now a residential home.

My passion for the history of old houses never ceases, which is why I write so often about them and also the acres of land on which they stood. One such house is Tweedale Hall at the top of Moorlands Road, Dewsbury which started life in the 1800s and was named after the family who built it.

In 1920 it was vacated by Miss Emily Tweedale, the last survivor of the Tweedale family, and converted into the town’s first maternity home. News that Miss Tweedale was leaving Dewsbury to live in Scarborough came as a great shock to the people of Dewsbury. And, when her magnificent house, situated in five acres of beautiful parkland, went on the market, it aroused great interest.

Miss Tweedale made one condition of the sale, which concerned one of her old retainers, an 84 year-old lady who occupied the gardener’s lodge on the estate. She stipulated that this elderly and loyal servant should not be disturbed unless similar suitable accommodation was provided for her. Dewsbury Corporation, who bought the house at auction for £4,900, honoured this condition. The auctioneer, Mr Herbert Pickersgill, said Miss Tweedale’s family had had notable associations with the town for many years.

Miss Tweedale’s departure from the district was particularly regretted by the congregation of Dewsbury Parish Church, of which she had been a most generous benefactor.

Tweedale Hall and the land on which it stood were known together as The Moorlands and for the remainder of this article this is the name I will refer to.

At the time of the sale, Miss Tweedale was the last representative of the Tweedale family resident in Dewsbury, her two sisters having gone to live in Harrogate and Lincoln some years earlier.

Her grandfather, John Tweedale, was originator of Dewsbury and Heckmondwike Waterworks, and one of the beautiful stained glass windows in Dewsbury Town Hall was built in his memory. A feature of the window is a picture of Dunford Reservoir, of which Mr Tweedale, who was Mayor of Dewsbury in 1864, was the initiator. It was for him The Moorlands was built in 1850, and upon his death, his son, also named John, took over the tenancy in 1878.

Upon his death, his son, also named John, and daughter, Emily, took over the tenancy, and Miss Tweedale became sole occupier when her brother, a bachelor, died in 1908.

John and Emily’s father and grandfather had been woollen merchants in Dewsbury, and were held in the highest regard by Dewsbury residents. So much so that a street in Westtown – Tweedale Street – was named after them, but this was demolished in the 1960s due to slum clearance of the area.

The name of the Tweedale family was held in such high esteem that it was no wonder that in 1920 great interest was taken in the sale of their family home. It was readily rated as one of the most select estates in the district and occupied a commanding position off Moorlands Road.

This picturesque residence was one of the landmarks of the borough, standing in five acres of well-timbered, park-like grounds. It contained entrance halls, a drawing room, library, breakfast room, study, kitchen and domestic offices, six bedrooms and a fully equipped bathroom.

The appointments were described as being of the most handsome, and included costly mahogany bookcases, over mantels, and panelling, all included in the sale of the freehold.

The outbuildings included a three-stall stable, a large harness room, a large garage, a storage chamber and pigeon cote overhead, a boiler house with heating apparatus complete, and a storehouse.

The picturesque gardener’s lodge at the entrance to the carriage drive contained a living room, scullery, bedroom, attic and outhouses.

The whole of the buildings were of stone and showed fine examples of particularly substantial workmanship and material. The lawns, ground, paddock and ornamental gardens were in beautiful order, and the principal walks were asphalted.

Mr Pickersgill told potential bidders that the Tweedale family had lavished great affection on the property, which was why it was in such an excellent condition.

The time, however, had arrived when there was no male member of the family residing in Dewsbury. Miss Tweedale had therefore decided to leave the borough to live in a seaside town and had thought it desirable to place the estate on the market.

Mr Pickersgill said “The Moorlands” was one of the few remaining ideal residences left in Dewsbury. Auctioneers had been exceedingly busy of late disposing not only of warehouses and business premises, but also of some of the large houses in the district. He himself had recently sold two of them - the Marlborough Estate on Halifax Road and Bankfield in Earlsheaton.

Bidding started at £2,500 and there were advances of £500 until it reached £4,500 when the Mayor of Dewsbury, Alderman William Naylor, bid £4,600. There were further rises of £100 but when the figure of £4,800 was reached, the Mayor offered £4,900, and as there were no further bids, the property was knocked down to him at that figure.

Shortly afterwards Tweedale Hall was converted into Moorlands Maternity Home, and eventually, most of the land was used to develop the old Dewsbury General Infirmary and Moorlands Open Air School.

Sadly, these were later demolished – well before their time – to make way for private housing.

Fortunately, historic Tweedale Hall still remains and is serving a good purpose, albeit with a new name.

■ I would be grateful if someone could contact me regarding a trip to Cliffe House by St Paulinus School. Jack Manning was on the trip and supplied me with a photograph. Please contact me by email: [email protected]