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Dewsbury Town Hall
Dewsbury is located in West Yorkshire
 Dewsbury shown within West Yorkshire
Population 62,945 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference
Metropolitan borough Kirklees
Metropolitan county West Yorkshire
Region Yorkshire and the Humber
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town DEWSBURY
Postcode district WF12-13
Dialling code 01924
Police West Yorkshire
Fire West Yorkshire
Ambulance Yorkshire
EU Parliament Yorkshire and the Humber
UK Parliament Dewsbury
List of places

Dewsbury ([1]) is a minster town in the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees, in West Yorkshire, England. It is to the west of Wakefield, east of Huddersfield and south of Leeds. It lies by the River Calder and an arm of the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, after undergoing a period of major growth in the 19th century as a mill town, Dewsbury went through a period of decline. More recently there has been redevelopment of derelict mills into flats, and regenerating of city areas.

According to the 2011 census the Dewsbury urban sub-area had a population of 62,945. Dewsbury is the largest town in the Heavy Woollen District, a conurbation of small mill towns.



The dēaw refers to the town's proximity to the water of the River Calder.[2]

Historically other origins were proposed, such as an unattested "Dui's fort" (from Old English burg, "fort", and an unknown first name) or even "God's fort", from Cornish Duw, "God".[3] Dewsbury, for example, could mean 'Dewi's fortification'. (Dewi is the equivalent of David in Welsh, an early form of which was spoken by the people of Elmet.) It is not clear where this fortification lay, but early maps of Dewsbury show two areas of initial focus for development. One is adjacent to the Minster, but what may be the fortified site is in the area now known as Boothroyd where field-name evidence suggests the existence of a fortification here or close by, possibly on the Dewsbury Moor/Daw Green spur. Such a position could command both the ecclesiastical focus in the valley bottom and the ford across the Calder at Thornhill Lees (now the site of Cleggford Bridge).

Early history

In Saxon times, Dewsbury was a centre of considerable importance. The ecclesiastical parish of Dewsbury encompassed Huddersfield, Mirfield and Bradford. Ancient legend records that in 627 Paulinus, the first Bishop of York, preached here on the banks of the River Calder. Numerous Saxon graves have been found in Dewsbury and Thornhill.[4]

Dewsbury Minster lies near the River Calder, traditionally on the site where Paulinus preached. Some of the visible stonework in the nave is Saxon, and parts of the church also date to the 13th century. The tower houses "Black Tom", a bell which is rung each Christmas Eve, one toll for each year since Christ's birth, known as the "Devil's Knell", a tradition dating from the 15th century. The bell was given by Sir Thomas de Soothill, in penance for murdering a servant boy in a fit of rage. The tradition was commemorated on a Royal Mail postage stamp in 1986. [1]

Dewsbury market was established in the 14th century for local clothiers. Occurrences of the plague in 1593 and 1603 closed the market and it reopened in 1741.

Throughout the Middle Ages Dewsbury retained a measure of importance in ecclesiastical terms, collecting tithes from as far away as Halifax in the mid-14th century. John Wesley visited the area five times in the mid-18th century, and the first Methodist Society was established in 1746. Centenary Chapel on Daisy Hill commemorates the centenary of this event, and the Methodist tradition remained strong in the town. [2]

Industrial Revolution

Dewsbury County Court

In 1770, a short branch of the Calder and Hebble Navigation was completed, linking Dewsbury to the canal system giving access to Manchester and Hull. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, Dewsbury was a centre for the shoddy and mungo industries which recycled woollen items by mixing them with new wool and making heavy blankets and uniforms. The town benefited economically from the canal, its location at the heart of the Heavy Woollen District, and its proximity to coal mines. The railway arrived in 1848 when Dewsbury Wellington Road railway station on the London and North Western Railway opened; this is the only station which remains open. Other stations were Dewsbury Central on the Great Northern Railway which closed in 1964 and Dewsbury Market Place on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway which closed in 1930; a fourth goods-only railway station was built in the early 20th century at Savile Town by the Midland Railway. In 1985 a bypass road was built on the site of Central Station and its adjacent viaduct, and nothing remains of Market Place railway station. The 19th century saw a great increase in population, rising from 4,566 in 1801 to around 30,000 by 1890.

Steam engine, Providence Mills, Dewsbury

The town's rapid expansion and commitment to industrialisation resulted in social instability. In the early 19th century, Dewsbury was a centre of Luddite opposition to mechanisation in which workers retaliated against the mill owners who installed textile machinery and smashed the machines which threatened their way of life. In the 1830s, Dewsbury was a centre of Chartist agitation. In August 1838, after a speech by Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor, a mob of between five and seven thousand people besieged the Dewsbury Poor Law Guardians in the town's Royal Hotel. The mob was dispersed by troops. Trouble flared in 1840 when radical agitators seized control of the town, and troops were stationed to maintain order. This radical tradition left a legacy in the town's political life, its first elected MP in 1867 was John Simon, a Jewish lawyer from Jamaica and a Liberal. The tradition of firing the "Ten o'Clock" gun was a hangover from the Luddite problems. Presumably it was fired to reassure that all was well. (or it may have been the other way round) Except for a period during war time, it could be heard all over the area. It was resumed after the Second World War but later discontinued. The mills were family businesses and continued manufacturing after the wool crisis in 1950–51, which saw Australian sheep farmers begin to charge higher prices. However, the recovery of the late 1960s was reversed by the 1973 oil crisis, and the textile industry in Dewsbury declined, with only bed manufacturing remaining a large scale employer.

Recent history

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was questioned at Dewsbury Police Station after his arrest in January 1981.

After 2005 Dewsbury was labelled a troubled town after negative press reports[5] and became "the town that dare not speak its name"[6] after high profile crimes brought it into the media spotlight. In June, a girl of 12 was charged with grievous bodily harm after attempting to hang a five-year-old boy from Chickenley.[7] Mohammad Sidique Khan, ringleader of the group responsible for the 7 July 2005 London bombings lived in Lees Holm. On 19 February 2008, Shannon Matthews, aged nine, disappeared in Dewsbury Moor. She was found hidden in Batley Carr on 14 March 2008.

Kirklees Council compulsorily purchased Pioneer House, a listed building formerly owned by the Co-operative Society and named for the Rochdale Pioneers. Previously owned by a property developer, it was in a dangerous condition, it is currently under redevelopment. Concerns were raised by residents questioning the legality of the installation of white UPVC windows to the listed building, these concerns however were left unanswered by the council.

In October 2010 the Dewsbury Revival Centre opened, in the refurbished former St Mark's Church on Halifax Road, the church attended by the Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley.

In July 2014 Kirklees Council enforced a media ban covering the visit of the Princess Royal who was due to deliver a 1-minute and 15 second speech on the importance of restorative justice. Kirklees Council later responded that the highly unusual media ban had been insisted upon by the Royal Household. Buckingham Palace however was mystified over the ban with a Royal spokesman stating: “This visit has been openly listed in the future engagements section on the Royal website for the last eight weeks. There are no restrictions on reporting on the event from the Royal Household.”[8]


Dewsbury was incorporated as a Reform Act of 1868 constituted Dewsbury a parliamentary borough, and Liberal candidate John Simon, serjeant-at-law, was returned as the borough's first MP. The Victorian town hall standing in front of the old marketplace dates from 1886–89. Dewsbury's boundaries were expanded to include the urban districts of Ravensthorpe, Thornhill, and Soothill Nether, and part of Soothill Upper, in 1910, and in 1913 it was elevated to county borough status. "Soothill Nether" refers to the current east end of the town, although at that time Chickenley and Chidswell were hamlets, and Earlsheaton contained the bulk of the area's population. The covered market was opened in 1904 and during the 1920s trade moved from the original market place to the area around the covered market.

In 1974 responsibility for local government passed to Kirklees Metropolitan Council, with its headquarters in Huddersfield. The population of Dewsbury has remained broadly static over the past century: the 1911 census recorded 53,351 people [4], and the 1971 census 51,326 people, making it the fourth least populous county borough in England (after Canterbury, Burton upon Trent and Great Yarmouth).


Market Place

Dewsbury is situated between Leeds and Bradford eight miles to the north, Huddersfield a similar distance to the south west, and Wakefield six miles east. Its proximity to these major urban centres, the M1 and M62 motorways and its position on the Huddersfield Line, served by the TransPennine Express, have contributed to its popularity as a commuter town.

Dewsbury is part of the West Yorkshire Urban Area, although its natural boundaries are not well defined, with built up areas of the town running into Batley, Heckmondwike and Ossett.

Geologically, the town is situated on rocks of the Carboniferous Period, consisting of coal measures and gritstones. Quaternary Period rock, glacial deposits and gravels exist in the Calder Valley. Coal, sandstone and gravel have been exploited commercially. Average rainfall is 100 cm per annum.[5]

The town is dominated by hills, notably Earlsheaton, Dewsbury Moor, Staincliffe and Thornhill. The town centre is between 130 feet-180 feet above sea level, rising to 360 feet at Earlsheaton and Batley Carr, and 755 feet at Grange Moor. The approach from Earlsheaton through the Wakefield Road cutting, constructed in 1830, is dramatic with the view of the town centre in the Calder Valley opening up.

Machell's Shoddy and Mungo Mill in Dewsbury town centre

Most of the older buildings were built in Yorkshire stone, many have been cleaned by sandblasting. Notable structures include the railway viaduct, and Machell's Shoddy and Mungo Mill, converted into flats but bearing the name of its original occupants.

Divisions and suburbs

Dewsbury has a number of districts with different geographical and socio-economic patterns, they are, Chickenley, Crackenedge, Dewsbury Moor, Earlsheaton, Eastborough, Eightlands, Flatts, Ravensthorpe, Savile Town, Shaw Cross, Scout Hill, Thornhill Lees, Westborough, Westtown. Batley Carr, Hanging Heaton and Staincliffe have areas which lie in both Dewsbury and neighbouring Batley. Thornhill, Briestfield and Whitley are part of Dewsbury. Thornhill was annexed in 1910.

Demography and economy

Dewsbury Market

From the outset of the industrialisation of the town with its many mills, a large influx of Irish workers arrived in the town, settling in the Westtown area. This area has the large and imposing Our Lady and St. Paulinus Roman Catholic Church and its school, once run by the nuns of the area. The Irish National Club also is home to Dewsbury Celtic amateur rugby league club, with its many age groups of players. Starting in the late 1950s and continuing until the 1970s, many families from South Asia, particularly Pakistan, settled in Dewsbury. By 1966 around 2,000 immigrants from Commonwealth countries had made Dewsbury their home. Many worked in the woollen mills, making good the labour shortage in that sector.

The town has a large Asian community. Savile Town and Ravensthorpe are populated mainly by Muslims of Indian and Pakistani origin. In recent years, there has also been an immigration of Iraqi Kurds and Hungarians into the town.[9] Dewsbury is known for having a Shariah arbitration court, which has caused some controversy.[10] The Dewsbury Moor, Ravensthorpe and Chickenley areas are classed among the 10% most deprived areas in the UK [6]. In contrast to some British towns and cities, the east side of the town is generally more affluent. The majority of houses in the town are in the cheapest band for council tax, for house prices are amongst the lowest in the country.[7]

The town centre is starting to see a something of a revival, with large retailers such as Sainsbury's, Next and Matalan it also has many other stores. The local market comprising 400 stalls is one of the busiest in Yorkshire and today draws coach-loads of visitors to the town: in April 2007, Dewsbury Market won the award of "Britain's Best Market". Wednesdays and Saturdays are the normal market days with the popular flea market on Fridays. The town's mills were located just south of the River Calder in the town centre. As the mills closed, this area became a large brownfield site. However, many of the units have been reoccupied and the town's largest employer, Carlton Cards, is based in this area. A large shopping centre, planned to occupy a large area, has as many supporters as detractors.

Dewsbury bus station

Inside Dewsbury bus station in

Dewsbury bus station serves the town of Dewsbury. The bus station is managed and owned by Metro (West Yorkshire PTE). The bus station was rebuilt in 1994 with a main passenger concourse and 19 bus stands.


Dewsbury RLFC play in the Kingstone Press Championship.They play at the Crown Flatt, on Owl Lane, towards Ossett, on the site of the old Savile & Shaw Cross Colliery. Their original and famous ground Crown Flatt stood on Leeds Road, at Earlsheaton, for many years until it was burned down, by arsonists in the late 1980s. It has been replaced with a modern housing estate. Dewsbury are one of the first rugby league sides to have their own TV website Shaw Cross Sharks are perhaps the most famous amateur Rugby League club in the area. The club was founded in 1947 and has proved a great conveyor belt for players into the professional game, including some of the great players of the past in Mick Stevenson, Nigel Stephenson and David Ward. They operate from Shaw Cross Club for Young People and play their home fixtures at the adjacent Paul Lee Hinchcliffe Memorial Playing Fields. The open age first team is the National Conference League. They have junior teams ranging from under 7s right through to under 18s. Dewsbury Celtic play in National League 3, their ground is on the west side of the town, in Crow Nest Park. The club's headquarters are at the Dewsbury Irish National Club on Park Parade. Also the home of the Dewsbury Rangers Football club, with over 300 members from the ages of six through to the old boys' teams it is one of the largest in the area and new members always welcome. And thanks to the hard work of the committee and all involved with the club and local community the club is due to have a purpose built clubhouse on the Wakefield Road Playing Fields about 1 mile from Dewsbury town centre.


Dewsbury Museum, in Crow Nest Park

Dewsbury Museum is located within the mansion house in Crow Nest Park. After an extensive 18-month programme of building and gallery refurbishment the museum reopened in the summer of 2010. Nearby attractions include the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

In 2009 Dewsbury hosted Kirklees Council's Concerts in the Park and over 8,000 came to watch pop stars McFly, Ironik and the Yeah You's play a free concert.

The town also has an annual event called Spirit, a street theatre show every winter which takes place in the town centre.


Dewsbury had two grammar schools – The Wheelwright Grammar School for Boys and, further up the hill, the Wheelwright Grammar School for Girls. The 1970s education reforms downgraded these two establishments to high schools and they were renamed Dewsbury College and Birkdale High School. Birkdale High School closed in July 2011. In the 2005 School League Tables, Dewsbury's Eastborough Junior, Infants and Nursery schools were reported to have the most consistently improved results over the past four years. However, the headteacher of the school, Nicola Roth, has been highly critical of School League Tables in the UK and has been reported to have said, "It would be better if league tables did not exist".[11]

Batley College of Art and Design, which is part of Dewsbury College, has a strong reputation for print and textile-based art work, whilst St John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy is a specialist Sports College and is one of the few schools in the area with a Sixth Form.

Notable people

Due to the placement of Dewsbury and District Hospital, many notable people have been born in the town. For a fuller list, see Category:People from Dewsbury

The following people were born in Dewsbury:

References in popular culture

Dewsbury is referenced in the Beatles' 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour. A line of dialogue in the film has one of the magicians (all portrayed by the Beatles themselves) – who are keeping an eye on the whereabouts of the bus that is taking its passengers on the journey of the film's title – exclaim: "The bus is ten miles north on the Dewsbury road and they're having a lovely time!" [12] Dewsbury is also referenced in the 1991 single "It's Grim Up North" by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (also known as the KLF).

The 1960 book A Kind of Loving is set in a fictional city named "Cressley", but its description was based upon Dewsbury. The author, Stan Barstow, was born in Horbury and grew up in Ossett – both of which are just to the east of Dewsbury.

More recently, the phrase "Dewsbury noir" has been used to describe the violent novels of David Peace, who was born in Dewsbury but lives in neighbouring Ossett.[13]

Channel 4 documentary Educating Yorkshire followed the everyday lives of the staff and students of Thornhill Community Academy, a secondary school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. A Christmas special entitled Educating Yorkshire at Christmas was aired on 19 December 2013. In January 2014, the show won best Documentary Programme at the National Television Awards.


  1. ^ Oxford B.B.C. Guide to Pronunciation, Oxford, 2006, page 99
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Antiquarians supposed the name, Dewsbury, to be derived from the original planter of the village, Dui or Dew, who … had fixed his abode and fortified his "Bury". Another conjecture holds, that the original name is Dewsborough, or God's Town" (1837).
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Hungarians referred to in these articles Kurds referred to in this article
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ [8]
  13. ^ , Sunday 1 March 2009, page 19The Sunday TimesSee also the article "Riding high with his Ripper yarns" from

External links

  • Local Newspaper "The Dewsbury Reporter" Est.1858
  • Area profile and statistics
  • Batley & Dewsbury Towns' Management Association
  • Visitors to Dewsbury Page
  • Dewsbury Museum
  • The registers of Dewbury, Yorkshire (1538–1653)
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