Looking back through the details of your local census returns can prove to be very informative. For the purpose of this lecture I initially looked at the 1891 census, which then led me to research other census returns about one small area of Lightcliffe even more deeply.
The Lydgate Park area of today is a small group of modern detached houses which was built around an old large detached house, ‘Lydgate House’. The old house, which gave its name to the new street where the housing development was built, has a long history but has rarely been mentioned in local history books.
Looking back, this area of land where the house is was sold from the Crow Nest Estate in 1874 to a Joshua Smithson. The land had previously been part of Langley Farm and Lidgate Farm. Just how old the Lydgate House is remains a mystery. I was once told that the 1722 sundial on the front elevation was only put there for ornamentation and was nothing to do with the original house. One theory could be that the house was originally the old farmhouse, which over a period of time was enlarged and enhanced.
Joshua Smithson had business premises at the bottom of Horton Street in Halifax and in 1891 lived at Lydgate House with his niece and three servants. In 1923, thanks to Charles and Joseph, his two sons, 12½ acres of land known as Smithson Park, situated behind the house, were sold and in September of that year the area was opened as the Lightcliffe Stray.
Across the road from Lydgate Park is a group of houses that, before they too were split up for multi-occupation, were a singular building known as ‘The Horse Shoe Inn’. This was one of four hostelries that appeared on the 1867 auction sale of the Crow Nest Estate. It was purchased in 1875 and then occupied by Charles Horner, the jeweller and watchmaker, and his family.
Charles Horner (born in 1837, died in 1896) achieved much in his 59 years with his innovative designs and undoubted marketing skills and his Dorcas thimble. He laid the foundations of a thriving business, which survived two world wars. It finally went into voluntary liquidation in 1984, at a time when a large sector of British manufacturing industry disappeared.