JOSIAH WIGGLESWORTH, WOOLSTAPLER, HALIFAX YORKSHIRE
The cover was addressed to Josiah Wigglesworth Esq., Woolstapler, Near Railway Station, Halifax Yorkshire, England, and there were two other manuscripts: Via Australasian and ‘Paid’. The imperforate orange-yellow 6d ‘wood block’ Victoria stamp had an indistinct barred numeral ‘1' of Melbourne (Figure 1).
The reverse had two back-stamps, MELBOURNE/ JU 15/ 58 and a reception B/ HALIFAX/ AU 13/ (- - ) (Figure 2).
The Australasian was one of the European & Australian Royal Mail steamships that operated from Melbourne via Sydney to England in 1857-1859 and in its only sailing it is listed as leaving Sydney 11.6. 58 four days before the above Melbourne date (John S. White The Postal History of New South Wales 1788-1901, page 286).
Halifax is shown in the map of Yorkshire (red arrow) and the hamlet of Wigglesworth is close to the town of Skipton (green arrow) (Figure 3).
Josiah Wigglesworth has been identified as a woolstapler, Old Cock yard in the Halifax Directory of Trades and Professions for 1829. The occupation woolstapler was a dealer in wool, one who sorted wool by the quality of the staple or fibre (Figure 4).
The original Halifax railway station was built in 1844 approximately 200 metres west of the current Halifax railway station. The original station was extended and used as goods yards prior to the building of the current station. Thus I feel we have identified the person addressed and the approximate area of his domicile. The Old Cock hotel now fronts on the street still known as Old Cock Yard, Halifax. At its height of its prosperity in the 19th and early 20th century, Halifax was the greatest of the textile towns of West Yorkshire, a centre for woollen manufacture and clothing, larger than Leeds or Bradford.
The Wigglesworth surname, with its numerous variants, is thought to have originated in the village (or better hamlet on account of its small size and small population) of Wigglesworth, and the name is now widely spread not only in England, particularly in Yorkshire, but also in the United States, Canada and Australia, particularly Melbourne (the origination of this cover). The history of the family that acquired the area as a result of the Norman Conquest, begins about 950 in Normandy, but the first of Normandy descendants in the area with a name approximate to to-day’s spelling may have been de Arches de Wykelesworth in about 1240. In the 1300s there was a marriage between cousins, where the man was John Wigglesworth, and the main branch of the family may derive from him. Even in 1881 there were three times as many Wiggleworths in Yorkshire (around 1000) as there were in Lincolnshire (300), the county to the east.
A modern-day sign for the small rural village of Wigglesworth situated in lower Ribblesdale, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, close to Settle and Skipton, is seen in Figure 5.