Hebden Township Historical Data

Newspaper Article on Jeremiah Metcalfe

The following is a transcript of an article about Jeremiah Metcalfe (1858-1938) published on Friday, September 4th 1936, in the Yorkshire Observer. It is considerably richer in style than in facts!

Dales Boy who Made Good
Cut out Garments for Queen
Romantic Story

Should Queen Mary chance to look over the wall of a certain field when she makes her customary round of the Yorkshire Dales, during her visit to the North, she may see a man, hayrake in hand, helping with the late harvest, whom she met - and knew - on several occasions at St. James's Palace years ago.

It is a romantic story.

Some 65 years ago "Jerry" Metcalfe - as he was known and still familiarly styled by the villagers of his boyhood - the son of the proprietor of the old 'bus which did daily journeys to Skipton for visitors to the Dales, was sent to that Town as apprentice to Johnson, the tailor, whose shop stood next door to the Bay Horse of other days. He sat at the board, kept his eyes open, and learned all that was to be learned in the country tailor's shop.

A Great Adventure

Possibly with his mind on the romance of a neighbouring village lad named William Craven, who in the sixteenth century left Appletreewick, got to London the best way he could, developed a big silk mercer's business, became Lord Mayor, earned titles, and became the friends of Royalty, and in 1604 built the Burnsall Grammar School, Jeremiah Metcalfe made the great adventure of his life, and once installed in a tailor's shop in the Metropolis, showed the "natives" how they did things in the Dales.

He soon made his mark. Tales of his progress, and the great people which the skill of his hands and his eye for figure brought him in contact with, filtered through to Hebden, his native village, stories all of which proved to be true. Another William Craven seemed to them to have arrived.

Waited and Wondered

If a farmer's lad from "Aprtick" could do all these wonderful things why not Jerry? Hebden was a bigger place than the village over the hill, and what's more it once worked a lead mine. Besides its feast was a bigger "do" and as for pigeon shooting and quoits "wha Aptrick worn't in it." So the Hebdeners wondered and waited.

Then Jerry came home to see the lads again. And they were all disappointed. He was just the Jerry Metcalfe they had been with to the little school, and played with on the village green. Hebden wanted a "big" man they could talk about and boast about to envious "Gerstoners."

Well it didn't come off. Jerry persisted in his natural role and even looked in at the Clarenden for his gill and a game of "doms". The last straw was when he was seen yoking the old mare in the old 'bus - just as he did yesteryear. Hebden was stunned.

But the village was not to be diddled in this way. A big-hearted villager tho't Hebden should have an institute - not only tho't but provided the funds. Here as a chance to immortalise Jeremiah Metcalfe, for there was sure to be foundation stones laid. By a united effort they him proud, and we read on the Ibbotson Institute:

This stone was laid by
J. Metcalfe, Esq., of London,
on February 24th, 1903.

Now this "London" intrigued me when I first saw it, as it must have done others. Anyway, Jeremiah Metcalfe has been cut in deep letters - and Hebden is satisfied. One wonders what London thinks about it!

Strange Coincidence

Strange how this story came about. It seems to me worth telling. Some three years ago I happened to be one of a little "Sweep party lunching with the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. "Alfy" Byrne) - holding the office to-day for the fifth year - when a young lady sitting opposite remarked to my daughter, "My word, your father's talk reminds me of a gentleman I know in London. He comes from Yorkshire."

I sat up - and listened. Like the Hebden lads, I was intrigued. Politely interposing, and trying to forget I had the Yorkshire accent, I enquired: "Might I ask the name of this remarkable Yorkshireman I have the distinction to resemble in speech?"

"Mr. Metcalfe," the fair one replied.

"Metcalfe?" I ruminated. Could it be -?

I had known of the great adventure from boyhood; in fact I had lived in the Dales and ridden on the old 'bus.

"Well," I replied, "when you next see Mr. Metcalfe at the Regent Palace Hotel - (with which it transpired the young lady was connected and where Mr. Metcalfe resided) - tell him you have met a chap from Gerson, and that he can talk Yorkshire like him."

So that's that!

And now for some hard facts.

At the Clarendon

The scene is the Clarendon, Hebden, Wednesday night of last week. Two men are sitting over a game of dominoes. One of them is Mr. Jeremiah Metcalfe engaged in a hard-fought batte of "best of five" with Tom Waddilove, an old friend of his boyhood. They sit back and laugh as Dalesmen do laugh, when Jerry chipped out. Fresh drinks are ordered, and in a quiet moment I get the story - at least I have it corroborated - in the offhand, matter of fact, simple way that we have with us in the Dales.

When Mr. Metcalfe first secured employment in London it was as a gentlemen's tailoring hand, but he ultimately transferred to the ladies side. At different times he was head cutter for the foremost ladies' tailoring establishments in Regent Street - the centre of fashion where the fair sex are concerned, and certainly an impressive contrast with the tailor's shop down the passage next to the Bay Horse, in Craven's capital. The firm is yet to-day the leader of West End costumiers. The patrons included Queen Mary (when she was the Duchess of York), whom he had the honour to fit at St. James's Palace with the garments made by his firm and cut by his own hands on five separate occasions, while he came to know several duchesses under similar circumstances and many other great ladies of the day.

Happy Memory

Mr. Metcalfe preserves a happy memory of the late Mrs. William Roundell, of Gledstone, West Marton, near Skipton, mother of Captain Roundell, a former M.P. for the Skipton Division. All who recall the lady will need no telling of the bustling unceremonious way she had when entering a shop. Before she quitted the place, it used to be said, even at Skipton, that she would have the shop upside down and the assistants almost scared to death. But she was a great lady, loved by her intimates and especially by her tenantry. It so happened that she patronised the very costumier where Mr. Metcalfe was engaged, and whenever she called her custom was to shout: "I don't want to see anybody else but Mr. Metcalfe, that Yorkshireman."

The time came when Mr. Metcalfe decided to start in business on his own account, but a ten-years radius agreement stood in his way. Not to be outdone, he opened in Brighton, waited until the time restriction expired, and then immediately returned to London, to open in Lower Bond Street, to which place his old customers followed him.

The rest needs no telling. Thirty years ago he retired, and though he feels he cannot quit the scene of his successes he is pulled the other way by the ties of affection which bind him to his native village and the old friends he still finds there.The hayfields of the Wharfe will not let him forget.

-W.F.