The Hannahs of Huddersfield

huddrsfieldtwnhalThe first Hannah who appears to have lived in Huddersfield was another John, who also died unmarried. He was a son of Alexander Hannah and Rachel Blount and was born in 1758. We know nothing of why he went to Yorkshire but it would seem he was joined by his nephew, yet another John (the same John who was promised the Hannahfield property). The latter’s father, Alexander, was buried at Manchester and some of his family at Blackburn, so perhaps the two brothers both entered the textile trade – one in wool and the other in cotton.

A trade directory for 1845, when he was 48, shows John Hannah & Company, Woollen cloth manufacturers and merchants, and the petition referred to him as “head of one of the oldest established firms in Huddersfield”. There is an album which belonged to his wife Margaret, showing their address as Bay Hall, Huddersfield.

I imagined this to be a mill owners mansion and when I saw the name mentioned in a book about Huddersfield, I wrote to the author to make enquiries, as I intended to visit Huddersfield. He replied that four or five families now lived in the original house but it may have given its name to the surrounding district. In fact when I visited there I found it difficult to picture as a complete house, as it appears to be a conglomeration of odd buildings and a far cry from what I had imagined.
There used to be large paintings of this mid-Victorian couple in my grandmothers home in London – forbidding looking pair, especially John – or so they seemed to me as a child. These, together with a much more interesting portrait of an earlier Hannah – a man with red hair and holding a document bearing a seal – had to be abandoned when I inherited them. It was war time and we had other things on our minds. They would never have fitted in a modern flat anyway. My Hannah grandfather died long before I was born, so I was never able to ask him who the red haired man was.
I also own a silhouette which could be of the same man. On the back is written Mr Hanay (one N and a Y) but no trade label showing the artist. This started my interest in silhouettes, and from seeing others in an identical style, I am almost certain this was by William Bullock of Liverpool.


To be more accurate, the artist was William Alport, who rented a studio in Bullocks museum in Liverpool. The subject could be one of three Hannah’s – all born around 1760 – if it was John Hannah of Hannahfield, could he have been in Liverpool enroute to or from Jamaica? My guess is that it is of Alexander Hannah, who lived either in Blackburn or Manchester.

Among other relics, there is a fob seal with the Hannay coat of arms and a set of coachman’s buttons bearing the crest. I believe these belonged to Alexander Hannah, born 1823, and that it was his wife who had them made. It was the thing in Victorian days to be able to produce a family coat of arms, but of course these Hannah’s were not armigerous.
In Margaret Hannah’s album there are some examples of the fine penmanship of the 1830’s. I had owned it for a long time before I noticed the signature J. Craik on one page. This name seemed familiar and on re-reading a book on Dumfries dated 1832, which belonged to her son, Alexander, I found that a Mr Craik taught penmanship at the academy. Perhaps this means that the Huddersfield Hannah’s visited Dumfries. There are many place names in the album, which Margaret Hannah must have taken on her travels, such as Kendal, Matlock and Lytham, but not Dumfries. Such are the small clues which tantalize us.

Margaret Hannah must have been musical, or perhaps it was merely politeness which made one contributor to the album write a typical Victorian poem “To Mrs Hannah” containing the verse “then raise thy voice thou favour’d one and others please as thou’st pleased me thy varied song when thou art gone will still be sweet to memory”.

I turn to the album again for sad news – the last entry is by Robert Bell (perhaps the Reverend Robert Bell) and dated 1868. It says “Succour and hope – words affectionately offered to Mr & Mrs John Hannah and their only son in their season of deep and long continued trial” and then followed some verses. As John died in 1869 it may have referred to his illness. When I visited Huddersfield I was able to see a notebook kept by Isaac Horden, cashier of the Ramsden Estate in the 19th Century. A brief entry in 1877 said “Hannah’s property purchased”.