Writing of Batley could be said to follow in a family tradition, for my three times great uncle, Michael Sheard was the author of "Records of the Parish of Batley", published in 1894, but still a standard work. "From Village to Town" by my great grandfather, Isaac Binns, is a slighter work, but one which yet gives much insight into how people lived in a period of dramatic change
My father, Brian Eley, in his later years, was assembling a body of material, part genealogy, part scrapbook,on his Batley ancestry. Much focussed on the BLACKBURNS and the family business founded by his great-grandfather John Blackburn at the Old Mill in Batley, but there was also material on the SHEARDS and others. His intention was to compile a record of interest to family members, but also a resource for local libraries. Sadly this was never finished, and since he suffered from Alzheimer's disease these papers became confused, whilst cuttings were not dated and have had to be re-sourced. However, when in Mirfield then, in trying to sort these papers, I began myself to explore material in libraries. On my mother's side I had a tree sketched out by my uncle, William Senior in his youth which provided a basis, and when looking for my father's ancestors I would find references to hers as well, so the whole grew into a much broader study of my family history, with an emphasis on Batley, and which might be useful to others in the spirit of my father's intentions. Work on Sheards and Blackburns and that network of families with whom they were associated in the woollen industry and the shoddy trade was where my researches began, and has been seen particularly through the years of building this as a memorial to my father who started it, and wished to make a contribution to Batley himself
My paternal grandfather, Norman Eley, though from Derbyshire, was a Batley Doctor. My maternal grandfather Arthur Senior, the son of weavers, came to Batley from Skelmanthorpe as a baby. Educated at Batley Parish Church School, he continued there as monitor, pupil teacher and assistant master. Returning as Headmaster, he was well known in Batley. On both parents' maternal lines the Batley roots are strong, and reach back through the centuries. Many were in the textile trade, so this, the early mills, and the development of the Shoddy trade, that wool recycling process which brought Batley fame, have been at the core of my researches. Other occupations included farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, and masons who must have played a part in building Batley. Some held Parish or Civic office,or achieved material success, and often these are the best documented, but that is not to forget the many relatives among the ranks of humbler workers, working long hours even as children as bobbin winders, piecers twisting together yarns for spinners, and rag sorters.
This has been an interest I have pursued for over a dozen busy years, and looking to have more time in future, I plan to consolidate and further develop these researches. With a lack of close relatives in the immediate area now, it is an interest which provides a pretext for visits and contacts there and a continued feeling of linkage. Having started in an amateur and self-taught fashion, I am now a member of the Society of Genealogists and several Yorkshire Family History Societies, on the committee of the London Group of the Yorkshire Family History Societies, and have an Advanced Certificate in Family History.