Almondbury, 1¾ miles south-east of Huddersfield, lies on the old road to Sheffield, in the Agbrigg division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Pontefract…and was, in medieval times, an important parish-town, both in respect of its commercial activity and its large area, being nearly ten miles in length.
The origin of the town’s name may have been from the Norse “almond” meaning “all men” and “bury” meaning “a fortified hilltop settlement”. However, it has also been suggested that it has been previously called “Albanbury” after a church erected there by St Paulinus and dedicated to St Alban.
Almondbury Hill or “Castle Hill” can be seen from many miles in most directions. The tall Victorian Folly that stands at its summit, which was built to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign, is a familiar landmark. The hill stands at about 1000 feet above sea level and gives a panoramic view of the area.
The origins of the town of Almondbury are far older than those of nearby Huddersfield and Almondbury was an important centre for commerce during medieval and Tudor times. A charter was obtained in 1294 for a market in woollen cloth and was held on Mondays for 300 years, but during the 17th Century, Huddersfield began to replace Almondbury as the main centre of commercial importance in the area.
In 1608, the local school became a grammar school, bearing the name “Almondbury Grammar School. It was later re-named King James’ Grammar School and today is called King James’ School.
In the 19th Century, local industries included woollen manufacture and some cotton and silk mills and collieries.
Domesday Book Entry
- Hundred: Agbrigg
- Area: West Riding
- County: Yorkshire
- Total tax assessed: 4 geld units
- Taxable units: Taxable value 4 geld units.
- Value: Value to lord in 1066 £3.
- Ploughland: 4 ploughlands
- Other resources: Woodland 1 * 1 leagues.
- Lords in 1066: Ketil; Swein.
- Lord in 1086: Leofsi.
- Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Ilbert de Lacy.
The site is now known to have been settled since the Neolithic period, remains having been radiocarbon dated to circa 2151 BC…on through the bronze and iron ages. A large Iron Age Hill Fort, built c590 BC, in a roughly almond shape, comprised a surrounding ditch, behind which stood a 6 foot high stone rampart topped with a wooden palisade fence. The site enclosed an area of around five acres to create the hill fort, which was further fortified in later years. In the 5th century, the Brigantes tribe occupied the hill fort, but recent archaeological investigation indicates that the settlement was destroyed by fire (excavations indicate the fire could have been accidental) in about 400 BC and the settlement abandoned, afterwards being left unoccupied for 1500 years.
Six miles from Halifax, not far from the right side of the river Calder, and near Almondbury, a little village, there is a steep hill, Cambodunum, only accessible by one way from the plain; where the marks of an old rampire, and some ruins of a wall, and of a castle well guarded with a round triple fortification, are plainly visible. Some would have it to be the remains of Olicana; but it is really the ruins of Cambodunum (by a mistake in Ptolemy, call’d Camulodunum, and made two words by Bede, Campo-dunum,) as appears by the distance which Antoninus makes from Mancunium on the one hand, and Calcaria on the other. ⌈It is, in King Alfred’s Paraphrase, render’d Donafelda. A Manuscript Copy of Bede has it, Attamen in campo dono, and so it is in the Lovain Edition; whence probably came that mistake of Stapleton, in translating it Champion, called Down.⌉ In the beginning of the Saxon times, it seems to have made a great figure. For it was then a Royal Seat, and graced with a Basilica Church built by Paulinus the Apostle of these parts, and dedicated to St. Alban; whence, for Albanbury, it is now ⌈by corruption⌉ call’d Almonbury. But in those cruel wars that Ceadwall the Britain and Penda the Mercian made upon Edwin the Prince of these Territories, it was burnt-down: which † † Appears, C.hath been thought in some measure to appear in the colour of the stones to this day. ⌈It was probably built mostly of wood, there being no manner of appearance of stone or brick. The fire that burnt it down seems to have been exceeding vehement, from the cinders which are strangely solder’d together. One lump was found, of above two foot every way, the earth being melted rather than burnt. But the conjecture of a burning there, from the blackness of the stones in the present buildings, is groundless: for the edges of them are so in the Quarry which is half a mile off; and so deep, that for fire to reach them there, is a thing impossible.⌉ Afterwards, a Castle was built here, which, as I have read, was confirm’d to Henry Lacy by King Stephen.Camden Britannia
The De Lacy Family
Ilbert De Lacy, a Norman-born nobleman from Calvados, who may have only been about 21 years old at the battle of Hastings in 1066, was made a knight and granted a fiefdom in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, by William I, as a reward for his service. He received over 150 manors in the west of Yorkshire, ten in Nottinghamshire and four in Lincolnshire. De Lacy built a castle at Pontefract and a motte-and-bailey at Almondbury Hill. At Almondbury, he re-used the existing Iron Age earthworks, but added extra ditches to create three enclosures for the motte and two baileys. The outer bailey was used for a settlement which grew up to serve the castle.
Ilbert De Lacy died between 1090 ad 1100. Henry De Lacy, Ilbert’s younger brother, inherited the De Lacy lands after Ilbert died without leaving an heir. King Stephen granted Henry De Lacy a licence to crenellate the building in the early-twelfth century, when he undertook a partial rebuilding of the structure in stone. Nevertheless, the castle was abandoned in the late 13th Century and was in ruin by 1320, when the hill became the property of the Crownafter the execution of the Earl of Lancaster. However, the settlement around the castle continued and was still occupied in the 15th Century.
… at Almondbury, a little town standing upon a high and steep hill, which has an easy passage of even ground upon it but on one side, are seen the manifest tokens of a rampart, some ruin of walls and a castle, which was guarded with a triple strength of forts and bulwarks.William Camden; 1584
The ancient parish included many villages; South Crossland, Farnley-Tyas, Henley, Linthwaite, Lockwood, Meltham, Netherthong, Overthong (Upperthong), Holme Bridge, Meltham Mills, Milns Bridge, Armitage Bridge, Helme, and part of Marsden, along with the townships of Almondbury, Austonley, and Lingarths and several hamlets, including Thick Hollins.
The present church of All Hallows is a gothic structure.The graveyard is well tended, but many old stones have been moved and used to create paths and steps, overlapped so that the inscriptions cannot be read. This “systemmatic vandalism” was carried out to commemorate the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Opposite the church is a fine old half-timbered building dated 1631, which now houses the Almondbury Conservative club.
Beamonnt, Wodehead, Lockwodde, Senior
Some of my earliest known ancestors came from Almondbury. Henry Beammont (Beaumont) of Thick Hollins, Meltham, in the parish of Almondbury married Jane Wodehead at Almondbury on the 22nd July 1571. Thick Hollins was a hamlet in those days but now it is a well populated village with an estate of modern houses. The manor house still exists, the seat of the Armytages, and is now used as the club room of the Meltham Golf Course. About the year 1200, Roger de Lacy, Lord of the extensive honorial liberty of Pontefract, had granted to William de Bellomonte, ancestor of the powerful Beaumonts of Whitley, a portion of land for his homage and service. There have been Beaumonts in the Almondbury area since that time.
My ancestors Thomas Senior and Joanna Lockwodde married in Almondbury on 25th July 1560 and their son William married Anna, the daughter of Henry and Jane Beamonnt. The Lockwodde (Lockwood) name almost certainly originated in the village of Lockwood in the parish of Almondbury. There are still many Lockwood graves in the Parish Churchyard. In the 1881 census 54.53% of Lockwoods still lived in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
A map of Almondbury dated in the early 1600’s shows that the Wodehead family were still living and farming strips of land in Almondbury village close to the church. In Pigot’s Directory of 1834, Beaumonts, Lockwoods and Woodheads were listed in the professions and trades in Meltham and Honley. A transcribed extract from the Manor Court Rolls of Meltham 1677 refers to oaths sworn by members of the Lockwood, Beaumont and Woodhead families, who must therefore have at least been of the status of Yeomen. The Senior family were probably from Marsden, only part of which came within the parish boundary of Almondbury.
Extracts from Watson’s Halifax:
An extract from Watson’s book on Halifax notes “William Lockwood, of Lockwood, Esq. was slain in his own house…. by Sir John Elland of Elland and his adherents, in the reign of Edward III.”.
Crosland Hall. in the township of South-Crosland, and parish of Almondbury, liberty of Wakefield; 4 miles from Huddersfield: Crosland-Hall, an ancient Mansion of the Beaumonts, which was surrounded by a Ditch…………. This mansion is rendered famous in local history, by the family feuds of the Elands of Eland, Beaumonts of Crosland, and Lockwoods of Lockwood, in the time of Edward III, when Sir Robert Beaumont was slain in this Hall.
Cannon-hall, anciently pronounced Camel-Hull, is rendered famous by being the retreat of William Lockwood, of Lockwood, after the battle at Eland, with the Elanders, in the reign of Edward III. In this house, Lockwood commenced an amour with a young woman of loose principles, who betrayed him into the hands of his enemies. In the library, which contains a valuable collection of books, among other curiosities, is the bow of Little John, the famous outlaw and companion of Robin Hood. It was brought many years ago from Wathersage, in Derbyshire, an estate formerly belonging to the Spencer family, where Little John was buried. The bow bears the name of Colonel Naylor, 1715, who is said to have been the last man who bent it. It is of Yew, and though the two ends, where the horns were affixed, are broken, it still measures above six feet.