Morley's Prime Minister
One-hundred years ago yesterday, the last Morley man (alright, the only Morley man) to become Prime Minister lost office. Herbert Henry Asquith was also the last man to lead a single party Liberal government. The photograph above shows Asquith opening Morley's distinctly grand Town Hall in October 1895 - by which time he had already held the office of Home Secretary.
To tell the truth, Asquith's links with Morley were fairly tenuous. He was born in September 1852, and his childhood home was Croft House, which still stands. It's a 'solidly built dwelling of dark Yorkshire stone', in the words of Roy Jenkins, Asquith's biographer. His father was 'a minor employer' in the local woollen industry - he inherited Gillroyd Mill, it seems - but died in his mid-thirties, leaving four young children. The family were Congregationalists and regular attenders at the Rehoboth Chapel which stood close to Morley Hall.
The young Asquith only spent a few years of his life in Morley - he was six or seven when the family moved, shortly before his father's death. He had only the vaguest memories of the place: attending chapel stiffly attired, and leading a children's procession around town to mark the end of the Crimean War.
His association with Morley was sufficient to make him guest of honor at the opening of the Town Hall. There's a primary school named after him. And the first big road project of Morley Borough Council - between Morley and Gildersome - was named Asquith Avenue.
The Liberal tradition he represented still finds a foothold in some corners of the West Riding - but not Morley. This was the constituency which Ed Balls contrived to lose (to the Tories) in the last election.
Below is Gillroyd Mill in Morley as Asquith would have seen. The mill dated from the 1830s and was rebuilt over five storeys in 1860 - this drawing shows the new mill a few years after it opened. Gillroyd Mill closed in 1966 and has now been demolished.
The Rehoboth Chapel on Dawson's Hill had a similar history - built in the 1830s, with the last services in the 1960s. It too is now demolished, though the graveyard survives - it's where Asquith's mother and some of his siblings are buried.
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