Some Notes on the Huddersfield Shipping Company and its Associates

The following article by E.A. Hilary Haigh appeared in the Huddersfield Local History Society Newsletter No. 1 (1983).

For a shipping company to be found in Huddersfield today seems unlikely. In 1824, when the “Rules and Regulations of the Huddersfield Shipping Company” (1) were published, Huddersfield stood beside a transpennine waterway. The Sir John Ramsden canal from Cooper Bridge to Kings Mill, near Aspley, Huddersfield had been started in 1774 and was navigable by 1778 thus linking Huddersfield with Selby and Hull. The Huddersfield to Ashton canal had linked Aspley in Huddersfield with Ashton-under-Lyne and the Manchester Ship Canal to the west on the opening of the Standedge Tunnel in 1811. By the time Edward Baines published his “History, Directory and Gazetteer of the County of York” in 1822 four firms were providing conveyance by water from the canal Wharf. Widow Welsh and Sons conveyed goods by fly boat daily to Manchester in 24 hours, the Aire and Calder Navigation Company conveyed goods regularly to Hull, Edmund Buckley and Co’s fly boats went daily to Dewsbury whence goods were conveyed by land to Leeds and J. & L. Marsden’s boats went daily to Manchester. Richard Clay was agent for Sir John Ramsden’s Navigation.

The Huddersfield Shipping Company was formed because “much convenience and advantage would result from the trade betwixt London and Huddersfield being carried on in Vessels adapted to the whole line of Navigation, so that goods may be transmitted in one Bottom, without being subject to transhipment, ae has been hitherto done…”(2) The capital stock of the Company was to be £8,000 divided into 320 shares of £25.00 each. At the Annual General Meeting to be held on the second Friday of September five directors were to be elected from amongst the shareholders. Also at the Annual General Meeting a manager was to be elected along with a wharfinger for London.

The document mentioned above (1) is the only one so far traced which was published by the Huddersfield Shipping Company. It would be interesting to discover if any working documents exist which were actually produced by the Company. The Rules provide for books to be kept and balance sheets to be issued to shareholders.

The Company did take form, however, as this following reports from the “Leeds Mercury” indicates:

“On Thursday week The Huddersfield Shipping Company launched a very fine sloop built at Huddersfield by Mr. Bradley Clay called the “Ramsden” intended for their London trade. (3)

Mr. Bradley Clay may be said to be a product of the canal era. In 1818 he was the agent in Huddersfield for the Aire and Calder Navigation Company which shipped goods to Hull. By 1830 he had become a timber merchant, rope manufacturer and lime burner as well as a carrier to and from London and the Agent to Sir John Ramsden Bart at Aspley. His boats sailed daily from the Navigation warehouse to Selby “and from thence by the New Shipping Company’s Brigs which sail to Symond’s Wharf, London, every four days”. (4)

When Bradley Clay’s property was sold in 1834, Lot 3 was described as ”All that Timber and Boat Builder’s yard with the timber sheds, workshops and the dry dock therein situate at the bottom of Dock Street in Huddersfield … adjoining to Sir John Ramsden’s Canal there and where the Business of Timber Merchant and Boat Builder have for several years been extensively carried on. (5). The purchase price was £400 and the purchaser Mr. Luke Marsden (of J. and L. Marsden, carriers by water to Manchester etc.) (6). Presumably it was in this shipyard that the “Ramsden” was built in 1825.

1825 was an optimistic year for the Huddersfield Shipping Company. On 13th June a “superior sloop” was launched by them at Barugh Lock near Barnsley and on the 20th June a further two sloops were launched at Mirfield; these were built expressly for their London trade (7). 1828 saw the building of their sloop the “Perseverance” (8) and by the time Parson and White published their Directory (9) in 1830 the Huddersfield Shipping Company of Engine Bridge, Huddersfield could offer sloops direct to and from Irongate Wharf, London. It also operated fly boats daily to Saddleworth, Stayley Bridge, Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham, Stockport and Manchester, whence goods were forwarded to Liverpool, Chester, North and South Wales, Staffordshire and to all parts of the south of England; also to Wakefield, Leeds, York, Hull and all parts of the North of England and Scotland. The Company’s Agent was Richard Robinson of Aspley.

By 1837 the Huddersfield Shipping Company was, perhaps significantly, less ambitious. Its traffic was eastward to Selby and London, but under the same heading in the Directory appeared “and L. Dyson to Manchester etc. twice a week”. (10)

Law Dyson was to become a significant figure in Huddersfield transport. He founded his business in c.1829 and operations gradually expanded. In 1830 he was a book-keeper in Dock Street. (11) By 1890 his sons Herbert presided over one of the largest fuller’s earth merchants in Yorkshire. (12) Law Dyson & Sons, Agents for Yorkshire for the Fuller’s Earth Union Ltd., were manufacturers of white and tarred ropes, spun yarn, cords and twines, waggon, cart, boat, stack and horse covers. The firm had large stores at Huddersfield, Thornhill Lees and Goole, ready for transport to all parts of the West Riding and elsewhere.

Their Huddersfield warehouse at Aspley was erected in c.1781 and was one of the original carriers’ receiving houses for the town. In 1890 it was described as being “situated on the canal wharf just off the main street.” By 1853 (13) Law Dyson’s vessels went daily from the wharf to Manchester, Liverpool, etc, and this daily service continued into the 1860’s. The cover shops were also at Aspley Place and the rope and twine works were at Bradley Mills. When Law Dyson died in 1874 however, he was largely thought of as being “extensively connected with railway traffic.” (14) He must have been a man to move with the times! By 1874 he was also a director of the West Riding Union Banking Company.

By this time the Huddersfield Shipping Company had long since disappeared. 10 shares had been sold off in 1827 (15). It last appeared in the 1837 Directory and by 1842 disappeared, leaving only its “Rules” to evoke its memory.

© E.A. Hilary Haigh


  1. Rules and Regulations of the Huddersfield Shipping Company, established September 1824. Huddersfield, T. Kemp, 1824. In Kirklees Local Studies Department, Huddersfield Library.
  2. Op. cit. 1.
  3. Leeds Mercury. 23rd April, 1825.
  4. Parson and White. Directory of the Borough of Leeds and the Clothing District of Yorkshire. 1830.
  5. Letter from Mr. Heap to Messrs. Fenton and Jones, Solicitors, 29th November 1844. DD/RE/c/6 in Ramsden Archives, Kirklees Archives Department, Huddersfield Library.
  6. Ramsden Estate Rentals. 1831-1837, Ramsden Archives.
  7. Leeds Mercury. 25th June 1825.
  8. Leeds Mercury. 13th December 1828.
  9. Op. cit. 4.
  10. W. White. History, Gazetteer and Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire … Volume 1 1837.
  11. Op. cit. 4.
  12. Industries of Yorkshire. Part 2 1890.
  13. W. White. Directory and Gazetteer of Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield and the whole of the Clothing Districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire. 1853.
  14. Obituary of Law Dyson. Huddersfield Weekly Chronicle and Huddersfield Weekly Examiner. 31st October 1874.
  15. Leeds Mercury. 16th June 1827.