Another Scandal in Yorkshire!

Wainhouse Tower

Any visitor to Halifax in West Yorkshire cannot fail to notice the Wainhouse Tower – particularly at night when it shines out from the hills at the West end of the town and points directly to ‘the Grand Lodge above’  as illustrated here in this brilliant, rather spooky,  photo taken by Christian Wilkinson.

The tower was originally intended to be a chimney for John Edward Wainhouse’s dye-works. However, before construction was finished, he sold the mill but kept the chimney to use as an observatory, adding steps inside it along with viewing galleries and the ornamental top that we see today.

For a few years before this, Wainhouse and Henry Edwards, the owner of the estate which neighboured the dye-works, had been feuding over such issues as water rights, nuisance smoke emissions, nuisance trees, blocked highways and the like. Wainhouse, who was somewhat eccentric, had published pamphlets criticising and lampooning Edwards and the two had faced each other in court several times. At one of these hearings, Wainhouse was asked if he had ever threatened or attempted to knock Henry’s brother’s teeth down his throat. “I have not” was the reply”, but I have no objection to try”!

John Edward Wainhouse
John Edward Wainhouse, 1817-1883

Edwards was no shrinking violet either and had boasted that he had the most private estate in Halifax, which no-one could overlook, but after the opening of Wainhouse’s viewing galleries in 1875, he could never make that boast again.

Henry Edwards (later Sir Henry Edwards, 1st Baronet of Pye Nest) was initiated into Freemasonry in the Lodge of Probity No 73 (now No 61) in Halifax in 1847. He was also a joining member of Constitutional Lodge No 371 in Beverley in 1858, a founder member of The Lodge of Sincerity No 1019 in Wakefield in 1864, a joining member of Westminster and Keystone Lodge No 10 in London in 1867 and a joining member of St James’s Lodge No 448 in Halifax in 1876.

He served as the Conservative MP for Halifax from 1847 to 1852 and was elected as the MP for Beverley in 1857 where he served for several terms. During Sir Henry’s tenure, Beverley became known as a notorious ‘rotten borough’ and after the election in 1868, there were allegations of corruption against Sir Henry and the other successful Tory candidate, Edmund Kennard (who was also a member of Westminster and Keystone Lodge No. 10). The famous author, Anthony Trollope, was one of their Liberal rivals at this election.

In 1869, a Government enquiry revealed corruption with at least 900 people (about half the electorate!) having received bribes. The election was pronounced null and void and Beverley was disenfranchised as a parliamentary constituency. It was said at the enquiry that, in Beverley, the price of a vote “was as well-known as the price of butter”.

British (English) School; Henry Edwards, JP, Chairman (1879-1886)
Henry Edwards, 1879-1886

Subsequently, in 1870, Sir Henry was tried for bribery at the Yorkshire Assizes before Mr Justice Brett with the Solicitor-General appearing for the prosecution. At this trial, it was revealed that “a perfect holocaust of correspondence and documents” which had existed at the time of the initial Government enquiry had been destroyed “on the advice of a Conservative Agent”.

Although the Government enquiry had shown that bribery had secured Beverley for the Tories in all the elections since Sir Henry first stood in 1857, and verbal evidence was given at the trial that a Mr Norfolk and a Mr Cronheim, one a  business partner and the other an employee  of Sir Henry, had delivered some of the funds from which the bribes were paid, Mr Justice Brett – a Tory politician – expressed the opinion that there was insufficient evidence to show that Sir Henry – also a Tory politician – was involved. The Solicitor-General then announced that he did not propose to offer any further evidence (maybe because there was no other evidence that had escaped destruction?). Consequently, Sir Henry was found not guilty and on leaving the court was “loudly cheered by his friends”.

This was not the result of a ‘Masonic conspiracy’ – no Masons were sitting in judgement – but was there an ‘establishment conspiracy’? ……..No comment!

Five years after these events, in 1875 – the same year that Wainhouse Tower was completed to take its place in the history of the town – Sir Henry was installed as the Provincial Grand Master of The Freemasons of West Yorkshire.

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