Batley the Borough
The huge population growth and rapid industrial change of this period presented new problems to handle, of overcrowding, pollution, the need for better services such as lighting, water supply, and drainage, and better roads.
To develop these needed greater powers than possessed by bodies such as the Board of Health, and led to a movement urging incorporation as a borough. There was something of a battle against inclusion with Dewsbury, which had achieved borough status in 1862, but in 1868 Batley received its own Charter of Incorporation, and appointed its first Mayor. Not all the local worthies then were men of much education, but in John Jubb they elected one who could speak for his town with some eloquence. Later John also tried his hand at verse, and in my account of him I attach a poem which is of interest. As poetry it is not his best, but I include it for the way it relates the changes in Batley during his lifetime with a mixture of amazement and civic pride.
He tells of open fields now built upon and the noise of factories replacing birdsong. Yet this rural world was not wholly an idyll; whilst some poor housing was built in his day, some mean thatched dwellings then replaced may have seemed no better in themselves, though not so built up around.
He saw the increasing adoption of steam power, but speaks of a time, Batley being deficient in water power, when horse power in the sense of gins turned by horses were used to power machinery
Few could once afford to own a horse, and would walk to market to sell their cloth. Now not only do more in his time own horses, but some have their own carriages. The railways have come, with good and busy local connections, and serve for longer journeys for passengers and goods. He tells us the journey to London which once took some thirty-two hours can now be made in nearer four.
As to Civic achievements, he boasts that Batley now has gas light, By 1845 there were gas mains in Batley, and street lighting was proposed, but there was some local opposition at parish meetings. Eventually, Jubb, an advocate of the scheme, called for a poll of the parish, which came out in favour. In the early years, however, lamps were not lit for four nights around the full moonBatley was getting waterworks. There had been no piped water till 1860, and at first supplies were poor, but later came reservoirs which long met requirements well.
He speaks of the Public Hall, that designed by Michael Sheard in 1851, used as a Mechanics Institute for further education, and the venue for many functions, lectures and concerts. The new council, which had at first held meetings at the Wilton Arms, leased it as a Town Hall, and it was the foundation of the present one, though substantially damaged by fire and later extended.
He speaks of ten chapels where there were none such, and many Sunday and other schools.
It was perhaps this same civic pride, and a new sense of place, that led others too, startled themselves by how their new fledged town had become an important place, to investigate Batley's earlier history as well as document that development.. It is as if the feeling of coming from a newly important place gave to them a kind of confidence