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Shahid Malik Member of Parliament for Dewsbury and Mirfield


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Dewsbury is situated between a number of larger towns and cities. Leeds and Bradford lie eight miles to the north, Huddersfield a similar distance to the south west, and Wakefield some six miles east. In recent years 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 rising popularity as a commuter town.

Dewsbury has a number of different districts with very different geographical and socio-economic patterns. Some of the districts of Dewsbury are, Chickenley, Crackenedge, Dewsbury Moor, Thornhill, 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 is sometimes classified as part of Dewsbury and sometimes as a separate settlement. It was annexed by the town's council in 1910, along with Briestfield and Whitley, but there have been no official definitions of Dewsbury's boundaries since the 1974 local government reforms.

Dewsbury is part of the West Yorkshire urban area, and the natural boundaries of the town are not well defined, with built up areas of the town running into neighbouring Batley, Heckmondwike and Ossett.


In Saxon times, Dewsbury was a centre of considerable importance. The Parish of Dewsbury extended east of the Pennines to encompass Huddersfield, Mirfield and Bradford. Ancient legend records that in 627 Paulinus, the first Bishop of York, preached in the church situated here. Numerous Saxon graves have been found in Dewsbury and Thornhill.

Dewsbury Minster lies near the banks of the River Calder, traditionally on the site where Paulinus preached. Parts of the church are said to date to the 13th century. It houses "Black Tom", a bell which is rung each Christmas Eve, one toll for each year since Christ's birth, and is known as the "Devil's Knell", a tradition dating back to the 15th century. It was donated 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.

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

In 1770 a short branch of the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal was completed, linking Dewsbury to the main canal system and giving access to distribution centres in Manchester and Hull. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, Dewsbury was one of the centres for the "shoddy" industry, the recycling of old woollen items by mixing them with new wool and making them into 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 the coal mines. The railways arrived in 1848 when Dewsbury Wellington Road railway station on the London and North Western Railway opened; this is the only station which remains. Other stations were Dewsbury Central (Great Northern Railway) which closed in 1964 and Dewsbury Market Place (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) which closed in 1930; a fourth goods-only station was built in the early 1900s at Savile Town (Midland Railway). In 1985 a road bypass was built on the site of Central Station and its adjacent viaduct, and nothing remains of Market Place Station. The 1800s saw a great increase in population, rising from 4,566 in 1801 to around 30,000 by 1890.

The town’s rapid expansion and commitment to industrialisation was not without problems, resulting in social instability. In the early 1800s Dewsbury was one of the centres of Luddite opposition to industrialisation in which workers retaliated against the onset of mechanisation and smashed the new machinery which threatened their way of life. In the 1830s Dewsbury was also one of the centres of Chartist agitation. The C vote to the working classes. In August 1838, after a speech by Chartist leader Fergus O’Connell, a mob of between five and seven thousand people besieged the Dewsbury Poor Law Guardians in the town’s Royal Hotel. The mob had to be dispersed by troops. Trouble again flared in 1840 when radical agitators seized control of the town, again troops were called in and stationed in the town to maintain order. This radical tradition left a legacy in the political life of the town, in fact the town’s first elected MP in 1867 was John Simon, a Jewish lawyer from Jamaica and a Liberal.

The mills were still often run as 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.

Source: Wikipedia

More Information

Dewsbury Wikipedia entry

Aerial view from Google Maps

Local links

Dewsbury Reporter - Local newspaper

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What your town means to you

Get in touch and let us know what Dewsbury means to you, and what makes you proud to live there (no more than 100 words). Shahid will select the best entries and post them up here on the web site.
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