Last modified: 2010-07-17 by rob raeside
Keywords: dewsbury | yorkshire |
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Dewsbury is a town in West Yorkshire, northern England, with around 60,000
inhabitants. Legend has it that St Paulinus, the "Apostle of the North" preached
Dewsbury in 627 after being sent by the Pope to Christianize the kingdom of
Northumbria. A monastery was established and Dewsbury became a the centre of a
huge parish stretching over 400 km2. It became a royal manor and
stayed that way until the Norman conquest. Legendary outlaw Robin Hood is said
to be buried in the grounds of Kirklees Priory, which lay in the parish of
Dewsbury was a small village until the beginning of the nineteenth century. It built its fortune on the textile industry and following the industrial revolution became the thriving centre of the heavy woollen industry, exporting cloth and blankets throughout the world. One of its most famous wares was "shoddy" cloth, which was made from a mixture of wool and torn-up rags. Much of the clothes it produced were cheap and, some said, of inferior quality: hence the later pejorative meaning of the word "shoddy". The textile industry declined after the first world war. Among famous Dewsburians are Betty Boothroyd, the first female speaker of the UK House of Commons; Patrick Stewart, actor who appeared in Star Trek and the X-Men; Charlotte Bronte, author who based Jayne Eyre on her experiences of teaching in the town; and Tom Kilburn, inventor of the modern computer.
The flag of Dewsbury is based on the town's coat of arms, which were granted following Dewsbury's incorporation as a municipal borough in 1862. The blue and yellow checks are from the coat of arms of the de Warenne family. The Warennes came over with William the Conqueror after the Normans defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. They were created earls of Sussex and were granted patches of land throughout the country, including the manor of Dewsbury. The two owls are taken from the coat of arms of the Savile family. The Saviles have owned a great deal of land in the town since the middle ages: their hall was at Thornhill in the south of the town until the civil war, when it was blown up by accident. They are still major landowners. The cross is from the arms of the Copley family, another large landowner in the area. The head of the family is the Earl of Wilton.
Daniel Martin, 9 November 2004