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West Riding
Batley - Carnegie Library .jpg
Carnegie Library, Batley
Grid reference: SE245245
Location: 53°42’58"N, 1°37’37"W
Population: 49,448
Post town: Batley
Postcode: WF17
Dialling code: 01924
Local Government
Council: Kirklees
Batley and Spen

Batley is a town in the West Riding of Yorkshire, seven miles south-east of Bradford, seven miles south-west of Leeds and just a mile north of Dewsbury, near the M62 motorway. It had a population of 49,448 (including Birstall) in 2001. Other nearby towns include: Morley to the north-east, Ossett to the south-east and Brighouse west.

Its textile trade declined and its mining closed, Batley has become a poor town, with the indignity of being designated a European Union "transformation zone".


St Paul's church

The name Batley is of uncertain origin. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as 'Bateleia'. After the Norman Conquest, the manor was granted to Ilbert de Lacy. It subsequently passed into the ownership of the de Batleys, and by the 12th century had passed by marriage to the Copley family. Their residence at Batley Hall was held directly from the Crown. The population at this time was 30 to 40 people. By the late 14th century, the population has increased to around 100.

There has been a church in Batley since the 11th century. Batley Parish Church was built in the reign of Henry VI (1422–1461), and parts of the original remain. Despite Batley being an ancient settlement, this is all that remains of any great antiquity.

Howley Hall at Soothill was built during the 1580s by Sir John Savile, a member of the great Yorkshire landowners, the Savile family. The house was besieged during the Civil War in 1643 before the Battle of Adwalton Moor but appears to have sustained no serious damage. It continued to be occupied during the 17th century but fell into disrepair. Howley Hall was demolished in 1730. Many ruins exist including the cellars of its great hall.

Batley Grammar School was founded in 1612 by the Rev. William Lee and is still in existence.

Methodism came to Batley in the 1740s and took a strong hold in the town which continued into the 20th century. John Nelson from Birstall was a leading lay preacher in the early Methodist movement. Areas of the town, such as Mount Pleasant, were noted for their absence of public houses due to the Methodist beliefs of the populations.

During the late 18th century the main occupations in the town were farming and weaving. The Industrial Revolution reached Batley in 1796 with the arrival of its first water powered mills for carding and spinning. During the next half century the population grew rapidly, from around 2,500 at the start of the 19th century to 9,308 at the 1851 census. The wider parish of Batley at this point included Morley, Churwell and Gildersome, with a total population of 17,359.

A toll road built in 1832 between Gomersal and Dewsbury had a branch to Batley (the present day Branch Road) which allowed for "the growing volumes of wool, cloth and coal" to be transported. Until then there had only been foot and cart tracks. Around the same time there were strikes]] in the mills, which led to an influx of Irish workers who settled permanently. Initially this led to antagonism from residents, due to the lower wages demanded by the Irish workers and general sentiment against Roman Catholicism, but this faded in time. By 1853 Roman services were held regularly in the town; its first Roman Catholic church, St Mary of the Angels, was not built until 1870.

By 1848 there was a railway station in Batley, and in 1853 Batley Town Hall was erected. It was enlarged in 1905, and is in the Neoclassical style style, with a corbelled parapet and pilasters rising to a centre pediment. In 1868 Batley was large enough to be incorporated as a municipal borough.

1853 also saw the establishment of a small confectionery shop by Michael Spedding. His business expanded, moving to larger premises in 1927 becoming Fox's Biscuits. Today, along with Tesco, it is one of the largest employers in the town.

During the late 19th century, Batley was the centre of the "shoddy trade" in which wool rags and clothes were recycled by reweaving them into blankets, carpets, uniforms. In 1861 there were at least 30 shoddy mills in Batley. The owners of the recycling businesses were known as the "shoddy barons". There was a "shoddy king" and a "shoddy temple", properly known as the Zion Chapel. This imposing building in the town centre was opened in 1870, and reflected the popularity of the Methodist movement. The library was built in 1907 with funds donated by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The library has been modernised, with a new microfilm viewer, and reels of the Batley News dating back over 120 years. The newspaper was founded by James Fearnsides – a local printer. His grandson Clement, later became the mayor of Batley. There was coal mining in Batley at this time. The first records of coal mining in Batley date back to the 16th century at White Lee; the last pit in the town closed in 1973. From the end of the 1950s, the need for cheap labour in the town's textile industries drew in migrant labourers from Gujarat, the Punjab and other parts of modern-day Pakistan and India. The South Asian population of Batley is now around 30%.


Commercial Street

Batley has a modest commercial and retail centre along Commercial Street. The largest shop here is Tesco which is linked to the main shopping street by footbridge. There are several chain shops, including Boots the Chemist and until its collapse, a Woolworth's store which lies empty.

Batley Shopping Centre is a small shopping centre which has become somewhat rundown since being acquired by Tesco. The supermarket signpost the shopping centre as a thoroughfare to their supermarket. The main retailer in the shopping centre is Iceland, they are currently surrounded by many vacant shops.

Renovated former textile mills form the major part of shopping in Batley. The Mill, Batley The Mill Batley is one of the UK's largest retail mills and is a factory outlet or shopping village with many national & independent fashion & homeware operators. The conception of The Mill, Batley in 2000 provided a consistent contribution to the area's employment and economic status. Redbrick Mill, houses many top end furniture retailers such as Heal's and Multi York and local textile manufacturers Skopos. Shackletons occupy one of the many former mills along Bradford Road. This 'golden mile' of retail is collectively known as the Yorkshire Mill Mile.

Sport and culture

  • Cricket: Several teams
  • Football: Batley Juniors FC (formerly Carlinghow Boys FC)
  • Rugby league: Batley RLFC (professional), known as the Batley Bulldogs

Wilton Park (Batley Park) is a large park between the town centre and Birstall. In its grounds are a butterfly house, the Milner K. Ford Observatory (built in 1966 and home to the Batley & Spenborough Astronomical Society) and Bagshaw Museum. The museum is located in a house built by the "shoddy baron", George Sheard, and features local history, natural history, curios from around the world, and an Ancient Egyptian exhibition. The museum (originally the Wilton Park Museum) is named after its first curator Walter Bagshaw, a Batley councillor and extensive traveller.

The Yorkshire Motor Museum has a small but varied collection of cars dating back to 1885, and reflecting local car makers as well as more famous marques.

Batley Art Gallery, in the Batley Library building, features contemporary art, craft and photography.

Between 1966 and 1977 the Batley Variety Club was frequented by many notable acts including Louis Armstrong, Johnny Mathis, Eartha Kitt, The Bee Gees, Roy Orbison, The Hollies and Cliff Richard, among others. For a brief period it was named The Crumpet, after which it was closed for four years surviving numerous applications to have the building demolished. It is now the Frontier nightclub, as it has been since the late 1970s, and hasn't had a refit since. The Frontier was sold to businessmen in April 2005 and continues to operate as a nightclub whilst hosting variety shows and sporting events such as boxing, snooker and darts.

Other nightlife venues include Brooklands, Mr Smith's, Le Choix Bar, The Bank, Legends, Bar Deco & Audio Nightclub.

A dramatic society was founded in October 1913 at Shelton’s café at 53 Commercial Street to present dramatic works to raise funds for Batley and District Hospital. On January 8, 1914 at a meeting in the Temperance Hall, it was decided that it would be known as the “Batley Amateur Thespian Society” and it became affiliated with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association.

In popular culture

Monty Python's Flying Circus had a series of recurring sketches in which the members of the Batley Ladies Townswomen's Guild would present famous plays or musicals, or reenact various historical battles, simply by charging at each other, swinging purses and wrestling in the mud.

Batley is also the setting for the children's television programme My Spy Family.

Batley was used for location filming of the fictional town of Barfield in the 1955 film Value for Money, starring John Gregson and Diana Dors.

Outside links