The Moorlands – history of a home

TODAY we are upset when we read of a Dewsbury shop closing down, but in the old days it was news that an old and respected family was leaving the town which upset people most.

Friday, 10th June 2011, 10:15 am

For many of Dewsbury’s notable families had links with the town going back generations and were generous benefactors to the borough.

When they decided to take up residence elsewhere, mainly in places like Ilkley and Harrogate, it was headline news in the local paper.

This is what happened when Emily Tweedale put her family home, The Moorlands, on the market to go live in Scarborough.

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Her magnificent house, situated at the top of Moorlands Road in acres of beautiful park land, was put up for auction in 1920. She did, however, make one condition of the sale concerning one of her old retainers, an elderly lady of 84 who occupied the gardener’s lodge on the estate.

Miss Tweedale stipulated she should not be disturbed unless similar suitable accommodation was provided for her.

It turned out Dewsbury Corporation would eventually buy the house for £4,900 to convert into a maternity home, and they said they would honour Miss Tweedale’s condition.

The auctioneer dealing with the sale, Herbert Pickersgill, reminded prospective purchasers, that Miss Tweedale’s family had had notable associations with the town for many years.

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

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 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 and daughter, Emily and John, took over tenancy, and Miss Tweedale became sole occupier when her brother John, a bachelor, died in 1908.

John and Emily’s father and grandfather had been woollen merchants in Dewsbury, and were held in the highest respect by Dewsbury residents, a street in Westtown being named after them.

GREAT interest was taken in the sale of The Moorlands, which was regarded as easily one of the most select estates in the district.

It occupied a commanding position off Moorlands Road, and this picturesque residence was one of the landmarks of the borough.

The house, which still stands and is a residential home for sufferers of dementia, once stood in five acres of well-timbered, park-like grounds.

It contained entrance halls, 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 fine examples of workmanship and material, which were particularly substantial.

The lawns, ground, paddock and ornamental gardens were in beautiful order and the principal walks were asphalted.

The total area of the estate was five acres, three roods and 38 perches.

Before bidding started, Mr Pickersgill told potential bidders that the Tweedale family had lavished great affection on the property which was in excellent condition.

But the time had arrived when no male member of the family now resided in Dewsbury, and as Miss Tweedale had decided to leave the borough to reside in a seaside town, she thought it desirable to place the estate on the market.

Mr Pickersgill said The Moorlands was one of the few remaining ideal residences in Dewsbury.

Auctioneers had been exceedingly busy recently in disposing not only of warehouses and business premises, but also of some of the large houses in the district.

He himself had recently sold the Marlborough Estate in Halifax Road and Bankfields 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, who had already taken part in the bidding, offered £4,600.

By further rises of £100 the figure of £4,800 was reached, and when the Mayor offered £4,900, and there were no other bids, the property was knocked down to the Mayor at that figure.

Shortly afterwards The Moorlands was converted into Dewsbury’s first maternity home, and eventually most of the land used to develop Dewsbury General Infirmary and Moorlands Open Air School.