Batley's charter to get major makeover

Batley's charter to get major makeover

Photo: West Yorkshire Archive Service

THE remarkable document that marked the creation of the Borough of Batley is being restored.

The Charter of Incorporation, which was issued by Queen Victoria in December 1868, gave the people of Batley the power to elect a council, and has had pride of place in the town hall’s council chamber for decades.

The first meeting of Batley Borough Council took place at 12 noon on March 25, 1869, in the Public Hall – almost exactly 150 years ago.

Now, as part of the Batley 150 celebrations, Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Archive Service are restoring the charter to its former glory.

The Royal Charter of Incorporation consists of three large sheets of parchment, which have been taken to the West Yorkshire Archive Service’s base in Huddersfield.

Once fully restored it will be kept at the Archive Service’s premises, where it will be on public view. 

A facsimile of the charter will be framed and displayed in Batley Town Hall. 

Officials hope to organise an unveiling ceremony in mid-May, when the restored original and the copy will be on show together in the town hall. 

Featuring Queen Victoria’s seal, the charter was the culmination of years of campaigning and petitioning by Batley residents, who wanted the democratic powers to be able to transform their town, which had dramatically grown in size and stature due to industrialisation and urbanisation throughout the 19th century.

The powers created by the charter led to Batley Borough Council developing and creating such as the town hall and Market Place, Batley General Hospital, cemeteries, council housing, the public baths and library, Wilton Park and Bagshaw Museum.

In depth:

In the 1850s Local Boards of Health were formed across England and Wales in response to cholera epidemics and were given powers to control sewers, clean the streets, regulate environmental health risks and ensure the proper supply of water to their districts.

But as Batley grew, the board did not have the necessary powers needed to develop the town. 

Dewsbury was incorporated in 1862 and many people in Batley were concerned that if Batley didn’t achieve borough status on its own then Dewsbury’s boundaries would be extended to include Batley.

In 1867 Dewsbury intended to present a Bill for taking Batley and other surrounding areas into its boundaries. The Bill was abandoned, but the threat lingered.

In July 1867 the chairman of the board of health called a public meeting to consider applying for a Charter of Incorporation.

In September 1867 a petition was taken to householders and ratepayers to sign.

The government then appointed commissioners to undertake an inquiry, which heard evidence in the ‘Public Hall’ (Batley Town Hall).

The commissioners reported back to the Privy Council, who decided Batley should become a borough and made arrangements for Queen Victoria to issue the Royal Charter of Incorporation.

The Royal Charter received a great pomp and show at the railway station and paraded through the town amid a noisy and colourful celebration.

Elections were held on January 13, 1869, and the first council meeting took place on Thursday March 25, 1869, with 18 councillors from the three wards in attendance.

During the first meeting, councillors voted and appointed the six aldermen of the borough and appointed John Jubb (one of the councillors and alderman) as the first Mayor of Batley.

They also appointed the town clerk, treasurer, the watch committee (responsible for basic policing), appointed new members to the local board of health committee, appointed the finance committee and several other posts including those responsible for the collection of rates.

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