Nostalgia with Margaret Watson:

Books about Dewsbury have been rolling off the printing presses lately at a fast pace, and the latest - Dewsbury Through Time - is the one I have long been waiting to see.

Friday, 22nd November 2013, 6:59 am
This photograph clearly shows how quickly Dewsbury town centre developed once the town hall was built. The building on the right is the Yorkshire and Lancashire Railway station, which is long gone but the town hall still remains unchanged..

It has been produced by John Ketton and Stuart Hartley, both members of the local history group, Dewsbury Matters.

The book is excellent and shows, with the aid of superb before and after photographs, the many changes that have taken place in Dewsbury over the years.

But, it is comforting to note that despite the many changes, not always for the better I’m afraid, at least many of our beautiful old buildings still remain.

This cluttered group of buildings pictured in 1885 were demolished to make way for Dewsbury Town Hall which was officially opened in 1889.

These are clearly shown to good advantage in the many photographs featured in the book, and many look even better now they’ve been stone cleaned.

The vast majority of the old images shown, come from Stuart Hartley’s own collection of postcards, while the more recent images were taken by John Ketton and his brother Paul.

For those who are still looking for Christmas presents for family and friends, this book, which is selling at £14.99, would be a brilliant buy and would certainly be well received by lovers of local history.

If you would like a signed copy, then Stuart and John will be selling the book at Dewsbury Library on Saturday from 10am to 12pm, and in the afternoon at Thornhill Parish Church Christmas Bazaar. On that day the book will be sold at a discounted price of £12.50.

For those who cannot make it on Saturday, they can order the book online at, and Stuart and John promise it will be sent the following day.

Books ordered online will be signed and delivered free in the UK. If you live in Dewsbury they will be delivered personally.

You can also order them by ringing either Stuart on 01924 456810 or John on 01924 464165.

John and Stuart will also be giving a presentation that reflects the contents of the book at Dewsbury Minster on Thursday November 28 at 7.30pm, as part of a Dewsbury Matter’s evening. There will be a small admission charge to cover rental of the room.

The authors will also be showing a number of ‘Now and Then’ photographs which weren’t used in the book.

Stuart said they had so many spare photographs left over from the book, they nearly had enough to do another book.

This is a book I know many local people have been hoping someone would produce and it has been well worth waiting for.

No-one makes a profit out of writing such books because they are always labours of love, carried out by people who want to preserve the town’s history.

The time and effort and research which goes into producing such books is immense, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to people like Stuart and John who work tirelessly, supported by fellow members of Dewsbury Matters, to ensure that Dewsbury’s proud history will be remembered.

Well done.

The first photograph to be shown in the book was taken in 1885 and shows the site where the present Town Hall stands.

It shows a cluttered group of buildings which were later demolished to make way for the present town hall which was officially opened in 1889.

Among the shops and premises cleared were Ballance’s fruit, vegetables and seed merchant, Craven Spivey, blacksmith and the Albion Hotel.

As Dewsbury expanded, it needed public buildings to hold council meetings, worthy enough to reflect the status of the town.

The total expenditure on the building was over £40,000 and local benefactors provided the extra money needed to complete the project, including mill owner Sir Mark Oldroyd, who paid £1,000 for the clock and bell chimes.

The impressive building was modelled on Leeds Town Hall and stood on the higher ground, overlooking the market place.

The style is Italianate, three storeys high and five bays wide, with Corinthian orders, supporting a cupola.

The plans for the building which still stands proudly today overlooking the town centre, were drawn up by local Dewsbury architects, Holtom & Fox.