Leeds: the Longley family of builders

Pestles and mortars: the Longley inheritance

Pestles and mortars: the Longley inheritance

The Lamberts were always quite well documented: my uncle Gerald had traced them back to the late 1600s, so the existence of Alfred’s second wife was a surprise. However, I had always been unsure about the Longleys. Having two Canon Longleys in the family, and a grandmother whose maiden name was the same as her married name, was confusing. All I knew was that she and my grandfather were second cousins, but I knew nothing else about the Longleys except that my grandfather’s father was a pharmacist. I remembered a set of at least seven big heavy brass or copper pestles and mortars as ornaments in the front hall at Banham Rectory, which were surviving relics of his trade. Two of them are still in the house at Rickmansworth, and I believe my cousins have some of the others.

A lot of research on the internet had been frustrated by mis-transcribed census records, with families of Longley recorded one time as Langley and another time as Singley; by the habit of families of using the same Christian names again and again; and by the preponderance of Longley families in nineteenth century Leeds all following the trade of builder or brickmaker  (though some with more success than others). I had even contacted a present-dayLeeds builder called Barry Longley: but he had no knowledge of nineteenth century Longleys.

However, by the time I arrived in Leeds (actually two days before my visit to Monk Bretton) I believed I had it all sorted out: it was just a matter of visiting the places to help see it all clearly in my mind. First I had to find my hotel. Leeds is the most confusing city I have ever driven in. I suppose after a couple of days of Norfolk and Lincolnshire, any city would be a nightmare – but l think I drove twice around the entire one way system in Leeds before I found a way to turn off it, pull over and check my map. As it turned out, I spotted my hotel as soon as I had pulled over: it was on the other side of about fourteen lanes of traffic, and I had to go halfway round the city again to reach it. I was pleased to notice that it was opposite St Peter’s, the parish church of Leeds, where all the Longleys I had discovered had been christened, married and buried.

To sort out the jigsaw puzzle of Longleys, I need to go back to a Thomas Longley (why are there so many Thomases in every family?), who married Sarah Mitchell in 1803. He was probably the founder of the builders firm Thomas Longley and sons, who are listed in various directories through the first half of the century, based in St Peters Square Leeds, with a variety of residential addresses for various other Longleys. See the family tree for this part of the family at the end of this document.

There were three sons: Thomas (1805), then William (1811), and then John William (1815).

Park Square, Leeds in 2009 - Park Street is nearby

Park Square, Leeds in 2009 - Park Street is nearby

William was difficult to trace: he is the one who turns up as Singley or Langley in the records: but he had a large family and the ages and Christian names fit perfectly, so I am confident that the census-taker’s Singley is my Longley. William married Elizabeth Munday in 1830. They lived comfortably at Park Street, adjoiningPark Squarein the north-west corner ofLeeds, behind the Town Hall. It is a large square originally laid out in the 1790s, with elegant Georgian houses, some of which still stand. I think Park Streetwas slightly less grand: but in any case all of Park Street except the pub on the corner has been demolished recently and replaced by the central police station and Leeds Magistrates Court.

In 1851 William Longley is recorded as a builder employing 46 men. Among his seven children is Thomas, aged 8 – who was to become the vicar of Conisholme.

But not before tragedy had struck. A newspaper report in 1860 says:

December 25th. An accident of a serious and fatal character occurred in Park Street, near St. George’s Church, Leeds, on Christmas-day, by the explosion of a small boiler in the dwelling-house of Mr. W. Longley, builder, &c., and a member of the town council. Mrs. Longley was killed on the spot; Miss Longley was severely scalded, and had a leg broken, and Mr. Longley was severely injured. The boiler supplied water to the house, and was heated by the kitchen fire. The pipes had become frozen, so that when the fire was lighted, more steam was generated than the waste pipe could carry off, hence the accident.

Miss Longley was the only daughter of the family, Hannah, then aged 28. But with sons as young as 15 and 10, William was a widower in need of a stepmother for his children. Within a year he had remarried – to Mary Brook, who might have been a dressmaker living alone in Headingley, then just outside Leeds, now an inner suburb. They moved to Clifford-cum-Boston, halfway between Leeds andYorkwhere William is listed as a retired builder until his death sometime after 1881.

Might have been a dressmaker? Still some work to do to be sure I have the right person. The dressmaker is the right age, but that’s not enough to be sure.

Anyway, our Canon Thomas Longley survived the upheaval: he would have gone up to Cambridgea few months before his father remarried.

St Peter's Square, Leeds, 2009

St Peter's Square, Leeds, 2009

Thomas and Sarah’s youngest son was John William. He married Elizabeth Demain in 1838. At first they lived inWoodhouse Lane in Leeds, but a later census shows them at St Peter’s Square, probably adjoining their business premises. I visited St Peters Square. Unlike Park Square, it is simply a street, not far from St Peters, in the Southeast corner of the city. Adjoining streets are Brick Street, and Quarry Hill – so it was probably well-placed for a builders’ yard. However, in 2009, one side of the street is modern – the BBC are there, as is the Leeds School of Music, both very new buildings. Opposite is a large nineteenth century warehouse building that could also have had residential areas. However, it is now home to a dance studio, a fashionable nightclub, and a French restaurant. The neighbourhood has changed!  I had been to have a look just after I arrived in Leeds, and as I was staying nearby, I went back to the restaurant for an early, and very enjoyable dinner. I told the manageress that I suspected my great grandfather had had a builder’s business there. She was intrigued and I promised to send any more information I got about the building.

John W Longley's very own Tooth Powder

John W Longley's very own Tooth Powder

John and Elizabeth had three daughters and then a son, also called John William. He is the one who became a pharmacist (he’s shown as a chemist and druggist in the censuses), and had a shop and residence with his wife Christiana Hodgson at 73 North StreetLeeds, in the 1870s and 80s. That is where Reginald Walter Longley, his older brother Percy and his sisters Marie Elsie and Nora Christine were born and brought up.

North Streetstarts more or less at the northern edge of the city centre and runs outwards, probably part of the nineteenth century expansion ofLeeds. Number 73  seems to have disappeared amidst the modern road system, but a block of late Victorian shops with houses (or offices) above, with even numbers in the 70s, still stands (although at least part of it is slightly later, dated at the turn of the century). As a chemist’s shop, 73 could have been similar though: and at least these shops give a clue to the character of the area,

If I have the Longleys sorted out correctly, then I have found the common ancestor for my Longley grandparents. But I don’t know how they met, apart from being second cousins. Reginald graduated from Cambridge in 1900 – his first posting was in Norwich in 1903. Alice Monica was living at home in Conisholme in 1901, and they were married in 1902. Would a builder’s family in Leeds have visited a cousin who was vicar of a country parish i nLincolnshire, nearly a hundred miles away? Perhaps they stayed at Conisholme for summer holidays – certainly the younger Longleys did, some years later, with their children. But was Reginald drawn to the church through his family links (especially his future father-in-law), or did he seek out his father’s cousin because of an existing religious leaning?


One response to this post.

  1. Hi – just came across your blog on the Longley family. William Longley (1811-1892) was my 3rd great-grandfather – so I suspect we are distant cousins! William had a son (also called William) who was born in 1840. William (junior) qualified as an architect and moved to Bradford as an adult and was pretty successful building several public buildings around Bradford. William (junior) went on to have a son called Henry Banks Longley who was born in 1870. HBL became an architect and surveyor. He married Ada Beet from Darween, Lancs and they had a daughter Kathleen and son Leslie who was born in 1909 (Leslie was my grandfather). They moved to Epsom in the south of England in 1910. I have done a lot of research on the Longley family on http://www.ancestry.co.uk (you should be able to view it as my family tree is public). Best wishes – James


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