Local History

The Heavy Woollen District

GoDewsbury covers Dewsbury and surrounding area which was historically known as The Heavy Woollen District. It acquired this name because of the heavyweight cloth manufactured in the area covering principally Dewsbury, Batley, Heckmondwike and Ossett.

Satellite towns of Liversedge, Gomersal, Gildersome, Birkenshaw, Mirfield, Cleckheaton, Morley, Tingley, East Ardsley, Birstall and Horbury are often included. The manufacture of wool for clothing and blankets and rope and twine continues in the area though at a much reduced level.

Yorkshire woollen mill

There is still a Heavy Woollen District football association and junior cricket association, both with representative teams - and, of course, a Heavy Woollen Branch of CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale!  The area was one of the key textile centres in Yorkshire, famed for its production of "shoddy and mungo".

map of The Heavy Woollen District

The Heavy Woollen District

Shoddy & Mungo

For years companies had tried to blend different fibres without success leading to the term, "munt go", i.e. "mustn't go" as a Yorkshire colloquialism.The inventions of machines to grind soft rags (shoddy) devised in 1813, and for hard rags (mungo) in 1835 were made in Batley.

The nearest transport link out of what became known as the Heavy Woollen District was the Savile Town canal wharf in Dewsbury.  With canal connections to Liverpool in the west and Hull to the east Dewsbury was therefore in a favourable position for transport and at the very beginning of the environmental recycling movement as rags were collected and shipped back to the area for reprocessing from all over the British Empire of the time to be remanufactured into new cloth.

The cheaper cost of the recycled material meant that it found a ready market with the growing working class and for export world wide to the British Empire.

The majority of mills have now either closed or have been put to other uses, but some shoddy/mungo mills remain (e.g. Edward Clay & Son Ltd. in Ossett).

Click this link for a potted history of Dewsbury and particularly of the Mansion House in Crow Nest Park and its former owners.

Conservation Area

The Dewsbury Conservation Area was designated in March 1981 and includes most of the historic core of the town.

It covers almost 11 hectares and contains approximately 280 pre-1939 buildings – of which 57 are Listed as of Architectural or Historic Interest.

You can see and download the Kirklees Conservation Area Appraisal here

map of Dewsbury Conservation Area

More practically, try looking UP at the buildings instead of at the ground floor shop fronts to see the style of the Victorian architecture.

Dewsbury Heritage Walks

You can learn much of the historic importance of Dewsbury by following one of the several Blue Plaque Trails described in Dewsbury Heritage Walks booklet.  

Important historical buildings in the town are marked by Blue Plaques organised by local historical society, Dewsbury Matters, and provide an intriguing insight into the history of this old mill town.​

You can pick the Dewsbury Heritage Walks leaflet up from the Town Hall or any local library or download it here

Heritage

Dewsbury played a major part in the industrial revolution and retains substantial heritage particularly in the architecture remaining in the town both splendidly ?Victorian and sometimes downright ugly - but all representative of an industrial era.

​We hope to improve access to Dewsbury's history by providing more information on the Heritage pages about what is currently being done to preserve the past and what might be planned in the future to retain the distinctive character of the town while benefiting the residents of today.

Now check out what is being done about The Future of Dewsbury.

And some posts about the heritage of Dewsbury

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