Dewsbury’s prosperity was founded on the woollen trade. It is therefore not surprising that, with the renowned local skill in stone carving, many of the town’s warehouses and other buildings are adorned with ram’s head carvings.
It has been claimed that the heads were intended to show foreign customers where they could buy cloth. This is perhaps stretching credibility too far. What, I wonder, would those customers have made of the garlanded female heads displayed elsewhere?
Here are a few rams from the town centre.
A fine garlanded ram adorns the warehouse at 43-45 Bradford Road. Insurance plans from about 1900 show the building being used to store canvas, paper and waste.
In 1961 the owner is not listed, though its neighbours were Victor Galaup Ltd and Handley & Drury Ltd, both rag merchants. Now, in 2020, next door to Dewsbury Collegians Amateur Dramatic Society.
This is splendid fellow with a Roman nose and very curly horns can be seen at 44 Bradford Road, later the home of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
In the 1890’s the building was Cardwell Brothers’ woollen warehouse. 70 years later Hamilton Phillips & Co., hosiery and knitting yam spinners operated from here.
Now he faces almost directly across to the new 6th form college in the Springfield Centre.
The West Riding Union Bank, built in the 1870’s is the home of this chap with a fine mop of curls, long ears and droopy horns. Alone among the Dewsbury rams he has his mouth open. What’s he saying? “B-a-a- clays” perhaps!
These four rams (two above and two below) can be seen on the ornate facade of the 1880’s building of the Huddersfield Banking Company (est 1827), now the HSBC bank. Each of the panels has been individually designed and beautifully executed, and the rams show variations in horns, ears and facial expression.
The final example is from number 21 at the top end of Bond Street, from a building that has served at different times as a warehouse from Flakow & Sons and H Sykes & Co., rag dealers and now (in 2020) the offices of Connect Housing Association.
Rather uncomfortably squeezed into a shell-like background, half of his face has been sacrificed.
I feel sure that there are other rams to be found. Good hunting!
Dewsbury History Group
This article by Graham Sykes was first published in the Winter-Spring Bulletin 5 of Dewsbury Matters, the former name of the Dewsbury History Group in March 2004. Later additions are shown in italics.