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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter LX. - The Landed Gentry


THE Duke of Devonshire, owner of the Bolton Priory lands, and Sir Richard Tuffcon, heir of the Cliffords, were our big landed magnates, and as they had their chief seats elsewhere, they only paid visits to their Yorkshire estates. The Duke and his sons were sure to come for a week or two to Bolton in the shooting seasons. Sir Richard seldom left Appleby Castle and his southern residence to visit Skipton, whose castle stood a three years' siege on behalf of Charles I., and when at last famished into surrender, was dismantled by order of Parliament, and rebuilt after the Restoration. If these two landed magnates were practically absentees, it must be said for them that they were just and generous landlords. Sir Richard indeed had the name of being the easiest going landlord in the whole of the West Riding.

As for the rest of our district, it had got, as far back as the reign of Edward I., parcelled out into moderate-sized manors, smaller township estates, single-farm yeoman properties, and urban freehold or burghal holdings. That parcelling-out, however owners might change, passed on essentially unaltered through the political earthquakes of the Wars of the Roses, the Pilgrimage of Grace Uprising, the Commonwealth War, the Restoration, and the Revolution of 1688, and stiffly endured until the industrial revolution assailed it with sap and mine forces of a wholly new and irresistible kind. The parcelling-out led to the building of many manorial and other halls; few of which, however, could claim a higher antiquity than the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth. The proprietors of the manors and smaller estates who built these halls were men of English names and lineage. They formed the ruling class, but were not by caste, pride, or difference of blood so separated from the rest of the inhabitants as the Normans had been.

I met many old people who remembered the time when the minor landed gentry were, as Justices of the Peace, lords of manors, and owners of small properties of different kinds, "the quality" or ruling aristocracy of what soon afterwards steam and machinery turned into manufacturing towns and villages, which by degrees bought out most of the old families. Bradford itself was a manor, and so were Bowling, Horton, and Manningham, which it clutched into its embrace and incorporated with itself. The estate of the manor of Bradford was almost all covered by streets and buildings before 1860. Years after I saw the town, the Corporation at long last bought the Manor House and the manorial rights at a high price. An old-world ceremony ushered in the twice-a-year market held in the streets. The bellman and his attendants were like the Tower beefeaters in quaint uniforms, and the "Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!" proclamation ended with: "God bless the Queen and Elizabeth Rawsou, the Lady of this Manor!" "Elizabeth Rawson, the Lady of this Manor," did not live in the Manor House, nor anywhere else in the Bradford district. The lands and minerals of Bowling Manor had been acquired long before my time by the Bowling Iron Foundry Company, and its hall had got buried and degraded amidst street buildings. The great inventor, familiarly called Sam Lister, who in old age was created Lord Masham, retained portions of Manningham, his ancestral patrimony. He generously half-gifted, half-sold, his new hall and its grounds for a public park to the town when the profits from his Manningham mill and his latest invention for silk manufacturing enabled him to buy the Masham estate near Ripon. He never took much part in Parliamentary or municipal politics. But a brother of his, who died young, was the first member Bradford sent to the House of Commons. The inventor was a churchman and a Conservative, whose influence would have been great in public affairs had he chosen to exert it. But he was all his life one of the hardest workers in the United Kingdom, and his work resulted in adding to the industrial development of his country, and in making others wealthy before wealth, to stay, came to himself. Horton Hall, and the strips of land which encroaching streets and buildings yet left to it, belonged to Mr afterwards Sir Francis Sharpe Powell, who resided in Lancashire. The Sharpe name, with the Horton Hall estate, had come to him through the Dean of York, who was the son of James Sharp, Archbishop of St. Andrews, too well known in the miserable history of Scotland during the Restoration period.

Bolton Manor and Heaton Manor were still considerable landed estates, although slices of them had been sold. Bolton Hall, with a slice of its land, were purchased for Peel Park. Saltaire was built on a purchased slice of Heaton Manor. About the time I went to Bradford, the old Bolton Manor family had died out. But Mr Atkinson-Jowett, who had till then been a small farmer who went round selling his milk, proved his descent from a far-back cadet of that family, and succeeded to a property which, I was told, brought him an income of about 8000 a year. He built himself a new hall overlooking Peel Park from the hill-top, and com- ported himself with kindness and modest discretion in his new position. His children got the better education which he missed himself. As for Heaton Manor, Mr John Filmer Field was succeeded by two daughters co-heiresses. Mary, the elder of the two, married the Irish Earl of Rosse, of monster telescope and scientific fame, and became the mother of four sons. She, of course, resided with her husband in Ireland at Birr Castle, Parsonstown, King's County. Her younger sister also seldom or never visited the Heaton estate, the hall of which was let on lease for many years to Mr S. Laycock, banker, who remembered Bradford before it had gone through its industrial revolution transformation.

When with irresistible force the new order of things was superseding the old one, which, in its main features, had existed from the Norman Conquest, there was one stieve squire in the district who constantly resided on his property near Bingley, and who stood up like the grim keep tower of a dilapidated feudal fortress amidst its ruined battlements and lower buildings. This was Mr William Busfield Fearand, to whom had descended the compact united estates of Harden Grange and St Ives. Mr Ferrand was a Tory of the Tories, who hated innovations in State and Church, and detested the political economy thinkers of the Manchester school. Mr Disraeli's Reform Bill made him angry with the leaders of his own party, and when Mr Gladstone disestablished the Church of Ireland, and began his Irish land legislation, it was said he felt for a moment inclined to sell his estate to Sir Titus Salt, who would give half a million for it. But if he had such an intention he soon changed it. Selling out at any price would leave him without a vocation. He was by nature a fighting man, and the greater the odds against him the greater his pleasure in his natural vocation. Socialism is an elusive term, which has many meanings. Mr Ferrand might be truly called a Tory-Socialist. As against the new aristocracy or plutocrats of manufactures and commerce, his sympathies were with the labouring classes. He was a member of the House of Commons when the first Factory Bill was introduced, and so vehemently supported it that the Cobden-Bright party, who opposed it on what they called economic principles, nicknamed him "the Bull of Bingley." It was not only in the House of Commons, but on platforms and at open- air mass meetings, along with Richard Oastler and other agitators, that his strong voice resounded on behalf of the children and women, on whose virtual slavery he maintained large fortunes were being made by unscrupulous tyrants. They were not as a class intentionally cruel, but yet Mr Ferrand, who thoroughly knew the state of things in his own district, had too many facts not to be disputed at the back of his denunciations. So "Bill Ferrand," as they familiarly called him, earned the affection and gratitude of the working classes of his own district in particular, and of Yorkshire and Lancashire in general, although he was such a Tory of the Tories. Vain attempts were made to show him up as a landlord tyrant. But his relations with his tenants and dependents were such as could bear any inspection. He was a good farmer himself, and the tenants were spurred on by his example, and sometimes by his scoldings, if he saw that they were not making the best of their opportunities. They were a comfortably-off lot, and when undeserved misfortunes fell on any of them, they had a forbearing and helping landlord in the gentleman whose bark, they said, was worse than his bite. As he constantly lived among them, and went daily in and out among them, he intimately knew them and they intimately knew him and his ways. He could get angry over a trifle, and scold intemperately, but it was all a passing storm which left no bad feeling behind it. Under appearance of masterful despotism, he was in reality a kind-hearted man, who sincerely sought to do his duty to his own people and also to abate evils and nuisances in his neighbourhood. I may here relate one instance of his kindness which came under my own observation. John Mitchell, an old labourer, who was fond of gardening, had a cottage and a garden plot on Mr Ferrand's outskirt farm of Morley, near Thwaites' House, where I and my family lived for eleven years. Old John told me the story himself when doing some gardening for me. John was nearing eighty when he told me how kind Mr Ferrand had been. Some ten years before when age and stiffness had knocked him out of the ranks of able-bodied farm labourers. He took then to gardening for himself, and to putting in order the small gardens of other people, while his wife brought in a small revenue from eggs and poultry. They were like many of the labouring section of the native race, far too independent-minded to fall back upon parish relief or charity of any kind. That was the sort of people whom Mr Ferrand most heartily admired. So he gave John a well-grown apricot tree, and told him he would give so much 3d I think for every apricot he sold to him. For years the fruit of this tree paid more than John's moderate rent. But from some cause or another the profitable tree suddenly died, and John was left forlorn, until one day a waggon came to his cottage from Harden Grange, and on it, carefully packed with roots and earth on them, was another well-grown apricot tree to replace the lost one.

Mr Ferrand was hard on poachers, and yet the story ran among them that in his youth he had been an audacious poacher himself on the lands which were bound to come to him, because the relatives then in possession did not give him the shooting liberties he required. He was a preserver of game for sport, and not for profit. When he and his friends and dogs had had their sport, much of the game killed was freely given away, partly to tenants and partly to charitable institutions and persons in the towns whom the squire respected. On his own lands the poachers had small chance, because the tenants were as opposed to them as Mr Ferrand was himself. The poachers indeed were, upon the whole, thievish loafers from the towns and villages, whom Mr Ferrand stigmatised as Irishmen and tramp incomers from other districts. With the full-blown prejudices of local patriotism, he wished to persuade himself that criminals and offenders were rarely of the native stock of people, and that the few of them who lapsed owed their fall to the demoralisation of mills, factories, and other employments of the new industrial era by which the atmosphere was clouded with smoke and deleterious fumes damaging to animal and vegetable life, and the once- clear hill stream and the Aire itself were polluted into stinking sewage. Although urban and industrial necessities made it impossible to fully restore the natural beauties of a really beautiful region of dales and glens, moors and bushy recesses, and to make the Aire and the Wharfe as pure as they were when salmon ran up in shoals from the sea to their head waters, and when they and the streams which flowed into them were full of fine trout, Mr Ferrand lived long enough to see a vast abatement of the smoke and water-pollution nuisances, and child and woman slavery in crowded and insanitary mills abolished, or at least reduced to a minimum. He had a right to rejoice in these ameliorations, for he had laboured long and vigorously to bring them about. He had a powerful voice, and was an able and ready speaker who had always the courage of his convictions or, as opponents said, of his invincible Tory prejudices.

He paid constant attention to his duties as Justice of the Peace, and made an excellent chairman of the local Bench. He had a good knowledge of law and procedure, and seemed always to leave all his prejudices and prepossessions outside when he entered the court-house, but took them up again as soon as he went out. He scolded first offenders for their good, and then let them off with as lenient sentences as law and custom permitted. Liberal colleagues admitted his thorough impartiality, and valued his guiding common-sense and experience. Ritualists found as little favour in his sight as did agitating Radicals. He looked upon them both as being, in their different ways, enemies of the Church of England, who were working for bringing about disestablishment, the formerly Popish or foolish innovations which all sound-hearted Protestants abominated, and the latter by open assaults, at the back of which were sectarian spitefulness and hopes of plunder. Although he usually held himself discreetly aloof during trade disputes, the working people believed that he always sympathised far more with them than with their employers, but they knew well if they committed riots and breaches of the peace they would change him at once into a formidable foe.

His keen watchfulness on one occasion saved the district from what might have been another Holmfirth or Sheffield valley reservoir disaster. When Bradford polluted its own becks and wells, it made water dams in the nearest places to it where water for household purposes could be gathered and impounded. The supply from these dams soon became insufficient, and then the Corporation foraged far along the moors for more pure water sources, and under Parliamentary powers bought gathering rights and sites for dams. Two of these dams were made in the Cottingley valley, one above the other. The lower one was on Mr Ferrand's land, but I don't recollect from whom the moor water rights and the site for the dam were purchased. If the moor dam burst, the roaring flood from it, rushing down from a height, would certainly have broken the other dam, and the combined flood, besides destroying many farmsteads and small villages, would have swept Saltaire and other places along the Aire. The Corporation believed that all was right with the two having had no information from their own officials to the contrary when suddenly Mr Ferrand raised a loud alarm about the moor dam's embankment, which he said was about to give way. For a few hours he was supposed to have raised a false alarm, but as soon as the embankment was inspected by the Corporation's engineers, they said the alarm had just been raised in time to prevent what would have been a deplorable catastrophe. I drove out next day, on behalf of the Observer, to see what was the true state, and found that the embankment was letting a stream large enough to turn a mill wheel through a hole it had made in the puddle that ought to have been water tight. By that time the danger was nearly over, because the water in both dams was being allowed to flow by the proper outlets in a properly controlled manner.


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