Even today, the village of Upper Hopton, West Yorkshire, is dominated by the old timbered Hopton Hall. The original Hall is thought to have been built before the Norman Conquest and was the manorial seat of Alric, Lord of the Manor. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, William the Conqueror had given the Hall to Ilbert de Lacy, his Tenant-in-Chief. In the 16th Century it passed to the Mirfield Family and was later reconstructed by Richard Thorpe, when it became known as the Thorpe Manor House.
In the early 1900’s, Upper Hopton was just a hamlet in the township and parish of Mirfield. The pretty church of St John the Evangelist stands close to the top of the hill on which the village is built and next to Hopton Hall.
The churchyard is well tended, with some fine old monuments and a curiously macabre looking set of coffin shaped graves.
Before the Industrial Revolution, most Hopton residents must have worked on the land or in the production of woollen cloth. The landscape around the village is still largely unspoiled with land suitable for arable and dairy farming.
In the 1750’s Hopton was listed as having forty weaving looms, the industry in those days being largely domestic, based in cottage homes. Local families specialised in the different processes involved in the manufacture; even the children were put to work.
A system of outworking known as “putting-out” was operated – raw wool and yarn was delivered by the “Master Clothier”, probably by packhorse or cart, to the to separate cottages to be spun into yarn or woven into fabric. Later this would have been collected to be taken on to other cottages to be fulled, a process where the cloth is pounded to “full out” the fibres giving it a softer and thicker feel. Then finally it would have been delivered to a “dressing shop” for finishing and from there to market. Putting-out began to die out with the introduction of the new “flying shuttle” looms and the “spinning jenny”, which greatly increased production. The whole production process was transferred to the new mills and workers now had to walk a distance to their place of work.
The cottage dwellers whose services where no longer required began to relocate from their isolated hamlet to the towns that were rapidly growing around the new mills and this is probably why my own ancestors moved towards Ravensthope and Dewsbury in the 1800’s.
The area around Hopton, as in neighbouring Kirkheaton, was also rich in coal and a thriving coal industry grew up there too. The entry for Hopton in Baines’s Directory and Gazetteer of 1822, describes, as well as gentry and merchants, a list of tradesmen, which was divided between coal masters and woollen manufacturers.
Ancestors: Senior, Jessop