Edward Akroyd (1810–1887), industrialist, politician and philanthropist, was born at Brockholes near Halifax to Jonathan Akroyd (1782–1847) and his wife, Sarah Wright. He was a prominent textile manufacturer in Halifax and became its Member of Parliament in 1865. He was appointed an honorary colonel of the 4th West Yorkshire rifle volunteers in 1870. Akroyd is known for the model villagesType of mostly self-contained community, built from the late 18th century onwards by landowners and industrialists to house their workers. he created for his employees.
Akroyd died in St Leonards in 1887, and was interred at AkroydonModel village developed near Edward Akroyd’s Bankfield mansion in Haley Hill, Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The houses are in blocks of six to ten around the park in streets named after cathedral cities. . His former home, Bankfield, is now a museum.
Educated locally, Akroyd and his brother Henry became partners in the textile business started by his grandfather, James Akroyd & Son, in 1839. Akroyd had married Elizabeth Fearby in 10 October 1838 and bought Bankfield, a Regency villa at Haley Hill in Halifax, which he transformed into a Gothic Italianate palazzo. The couple had no children. He was elected to parliament as whig member for Huddersfield in 1857 until 1859 but was returned for Halifax from 1865 until 1874. He was appointed an honorary colonel of the 4th West Yorkshire rifle volunteers in 1870.
After his wife’s death in 1884, Akroyd who had fallen from his horse and received severe head injuries retired to St Leonards in Sussex. By then he was in poor health and had financial worries. He died suddenly 19 November 1887 in St Leonards and four days later, after a large funeral in Halifax, he was interred at All Souls, the church he had built in Akroydon. He left little more than £1200, having spent or given away most of his weath.
James Akroyd (1753–1830) a yeoman clothier developed his business in the putting out trade to spinners in villages around Halifax. He built a water-powered spinning mill at Brookhouse in 1805 and diversified into weaving. His sons, Jonathan and James transformed the company by installing imported steam-powered Jacquard looms in the 1820s. Edward and his brother, Henry inherited their father’s estate in 1847. By then the family’s textile business was one of the most successful in the country. Their partnership was dissolved in 1853 and Edward took sole responsibility. The company which experienced commercial difficulties after 1850 became a limited liability company in 1871 with Akroyd as chairman.
Religion and politics
Akroyd was raised in the radical Methodist New Connexion but later became a staunch Anglican and became a defender of the established church against its nonconformist critics. Akroyd paid for All Souls Church which cost of £100,000 in 1859 and St Stephen’s Church on the far side of the River Calder from Copley on ground in the Skircoat Parish.
Akroyd entered parliament as the Whig member for Huddersfield in 1857 defeating Richard Cobden but lost in 1859. He was returned unopposed for Halifax in 1865, and held the seat until 1874 by which time he was regularly voting with the Conservatives.
Akroyd realised that employers should have “an interest in the physical well-being of the factory operatives” after the passing of the Factory Act of 1833 which he had opposed. His home and mills were attacked by Chartist rioters in 1842 but he sought to develop “a kindly feeling between the opposing classes of employer and employed.” Concerned for the welfare of his workers, he retrained redundant handcombers as weavers in the 1850s and provided pensions for his employees. Akroyd considered that the penny savings movement helped “the poor to help themselves” and was a founder of the Yorkshire Penny Bank in 1859. He built two model communities, one at CopleyModel village built by Colonel Edward Akroyd in the Calder Valley to the south of Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. where he had acquired a mill in 1844 and the other, Akroyden, close to his residence at Haley Hill in Halifax.