Lionel Holliday was both Captain of the Territorials before the First World War and, for a time, a leading member of the community. He lived at Oaklands in Kirkburton and could be counted on to loan out his park for a various village functions and he often made generous contributions to various worthy causes.
Lionel was the son of Read Holliday’s eldest son, Thomas, who worked in the family business, Read Holliday and Sons, manufacturing chemicals and dyestuffs. He was born on 12 January 1880 in Huddersfield, baptized Lionel Holliday at St Stephen’s Church, Lindley on 15 February 1880 and his mother was Maria Holliday, nee Brook. He added the family name of Brook as his middle name and was known as Lionel Brook Holliday during his time in the army until his death. However, his death certificate states his name as just Lionel Holliday.
Lionel’s grandfather, Read Holliday, was the first son of Abraham Holliday and Mary Read and he was born on 15 September 1809 in Bradford. He referred to himself as a chemist and founded the business Read Holliday, manufacturing dyestuffs and chemicals in 1830 at Tanfield and then, as the business grew, the plant moved to bigger premises at Turnbridge, Aspley in 1859.
Although census records show Read’s occupation as a chemist, he lacked formal training in chemistry but he read technical publications and applied what he learned to expand his product range. He began to produce ammonia salts, washing powder, soda ash, Epsom salts and dye products.
In 1845 Read started by acquiring waste coal tar from the local Huddersfield gas works and distilled ammonia to sell on to textile mills for wool scouring, becoming the biggest distiller in the north of England by 1860. He received a patent for an improved naphtha lamp and the ‘Holliday Peerless Lamp’ became widely used. By now the company had six plants in northern England as well as one in Bromley, London and a warehouse at Holborn Hill.
Read married Emma Copley on 29 July 1839 at St Peter’s Church, Leeds. They had eight children, five sons and three daughters – Thomas (1840), Charles (1842), John (1846), Edgar (1848), Eliza (1848 – 1856), Mary Edith (1850), Robert (1856) and Betty (1849).
When Reid’s daughter, Eliza, died at the age of nine, Read became concerned about the environmental conditions of the Turnbridge area and built a new home, Lunn Clough Hall at Edgerton, Huddersfield which was a palatial family residence and had 34 rooms.
By 1861, Read was offering violet, red, and blue artificial dyes for sale and gained several patents. Then in 1864 the company became the first producers of aniline and aniline dyes in the USA, when sons Charles and Thomas Holliday set up a factory in Brooklyn. Later, a subsidiary company was set up in Montreal, Canada.
Read retired in 1868 and the business, now known as Read Holliday and Sons was run by his sons Thomas, Charles, Edgar and Robert until 1890. Under their leadership, the company developed dyestuffs and chemicals and became one of Huddersfield’s major industries complementing the textile trade by exploiting the Yorkshire coalfield for both fuel and the coal tar from which early dyes were distilled.
In the 1881 Census, Lionel was shown as living with his parents and sister Ethel, together with three servants, at 2 Glen Wood, Lindley, Huddersfield. In the 1891 census he was shown as a boarder at Wedderburn House School, Bilton, Harrogate. He went on to study at Uppingham School, Victoria University in Manchester and Bonn University in Germany.
In 1890, Lionel’s father Thomas became Chairman and Managing Director of Read Holliday and Sons and his uncle Robert Holliday took over the chairmanship of the firm when his grandfather Read died in 1897. By 1899 the firm was near to bankruptcy because of competition from lower priced German dye manufacturers. Profits in their New York branch were also falling. However, in the same year the Boer War started, the War Office granted a large contract to the firm to manufacture picric acid for use in explosives.
In 1901, when Lionel Holliday was 21 years old he joined the Board of Directors of Read Holliday and Sons.
On 31 March 1908, Lionel married Alice Woolger (born in New York in 1884) at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield. Alice was the daughter of Morris Woolger, a Huddersfield woollen merchant and his wife Mary Elizabeth, nee Garner. Morris was born in Brighton and came to Huddersfield to live when he married Mary on 12 May 1882. Morris and Mary had three children, Alice, Clarence and Doris. 3
In the 1911 census, Lionel was listed as an Aniline manufacturer, living at Oaklands, Turnshaw Road, Kirkburton with his wife Alice, 27, and their son, Thomas Lionel who was seven months old and five servants. Thomas was born on 30 August 1910 and their daughter Alice Mary was born on 24 October 1913. Alice’s brother, Clarence Woolger, is listed on the Memorial Board in Kirkburton Library.
Prior to the First World War, Lionel joined the Leicestershire Regiment as a Private on 06 February 1897 and was commissioned to Second Lieutenant 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment on 12 January 1898. On 28 May 1900 he was commissioned to Captain, 5th Battalion West Riding Regiment, became Captain of the Territorials 04 August 1914 and was mobilised to France with the 5th Battalion West Riding Regiment on 13 April 1915. During his service in France he was promoted to the rank of Major on 06 August 1913.
On 04 September 1914 the London Gazette reported that Lionel had had been appointed as Assistant Provost Marshall. On 01 January 1916 the London Gazette also reported that he had been mentioned in Dispatches on 15 October 1915.
World War One forced Read Holliday and Sons to concentrate on explosives manufacture and by 1915 the shortage of explosives in Britain was a matter of grave concern. Lord Moulton was the chairman of a committee which advised the Government on the supply of explosives which was a difficult problem because the British at that time had only a very small organic chemistry industry. The committee was aware that Major Holliday had invented a new process for picric acid manufacture which was key to the production of explosives. Consequently, he was seconded to the Ministry of Munitions and was returned to Huddersfield to be responsible for a plant known as the Huddersfield National Shell Factory at Bradley producing picric acid. By the end of 1915 the plant was producing 100 tons of picric acid a week.
Meanwhile, in 1915, British Dyes was formed by the takeover by the Government of Read Holliday and Sons. Lionel was not asked to join British Dyes, but he received £10,000 as his share of the money from the takeover. With this he bought land in Deighton, next door to the picric acid works he was running at Bradley. On this 30-acre site, which was the former Huddersfield racecourse, he set up the manufacture of dyes under the name of L. B. Holliday and Co Ltd.
Tragedy struck the family in October 1915 when both Alice, aged 32 years, and their baby daughter Joan died, leaving Lionel a widower with two small children.
In 1917 Lionel acquired a large number of German-owned British dye patents which were under Government control, and by 1918 L. B. Holliday and Co had 20 dyes in the line. The company was producing 50 tons of dye a month with a workforce of 20 men. Lionel recruited many of the workers, customers and processes previously linked to Read Holliday and Sons which caused lasting friction between his company and British Dyes. British Dyes acquired a site at Dalton and became neighbours of Lionel’s Deighton works.
In September 1918 Lionel married Marguerite Woodhead Taylor in Knaresborough, when she was 26 years old. Marguerite was baptised at Holy Trinity, Huddersfield 4
on 21 April 1892 and was the daughter of George Washington Taylor, an engineer, and his wife Mary Ann of Marsh, Huddersfield. They also had a son Edward who was baptized on the same day as his sister. At the 1911 census, Marguerite was working as a governess in Heywood, Lancashire
On 12 May 1919 the London Gazette reported that Major LB Holliday had been restored to the establishment 5th Battalion West Riding Regiment.
In the 1920’s L. B. Holliday and Co prospered under the leadership of Lionel and he took advantage of import barriers to expand the business. In the late 1950s there were between 800-900 employees on the Leeds Road site.
On 13 May 1920, Lionel and Marguerite had a daughter, Diana Brook Holliday, who was born in Scarborough and on 26 May 1928, their son Lionel Brook Holliday (junior) was born in Huddersfield.
Lionel became a very wealthy man and he and both his wives travelled extensively overseas both for business and pleasure.
In the 1950’s Lionel and Marguerite moved from Kirkburton to Copgrove Hall, Burton Leonard, Harrogate but Oaklands remained in the family until 1966. Lionel’s will stated that Oaklands should be converted into an Old People’s Home and a committee was formed to oversee the work with the local retired doctor, John Stephens, as chairman. The new owners of Oaklands Old People’s Home were Mr and Mrs E Simms.
Following World War II, Lionel became well known as an owner and breeder of racehorses, from his stud farm at Copgrove Hall. He was not a betting man and never put any money on his horses.
Marguerite died in Harrogate on 13 December 1965 and Lionel died just four days later on 17 December 1965, also in Harrogate – they had been married for 47 years. In his will, Lionel left over 1.3 million pounds to his children.
Lionel junior, known as Brook, took over the company following his father’s death. During his time in charge, he was awarded the Queen’s Award for Exports in 1979 and the firm was innovative in the production of fluorescent dyes (optical brighteners) for safety wear and dyes for emergency flares. Despite these successes the business was caught between the growth of emerging businesses in the East and the strength of the pound and the company went into receivership in 1981.
Brook inherited all his father’s racehorses and breeding stock at the Copgrove Hall Stud and became very successful breeder himself until his death in 2014 aged 85.
Major Lionel Holliday is commemorated in our Debt of Honour Register and on the Village Memorial to all those who served in the Great War.