Life in the area at the end of the 19th century as seen through the eyes of the Brighouse Echo and Brighouse News presents a very different picture from what we see to today. The articles and advertisements present us with an interesting glimpse of life when Queen Victoria’s long reign was coming to an end. The new century was not actually celebrated until January 1901, and readers will recall the debate that occurred in 1999 as to when we should celebrate the millennium. On Friday 4 January 1901 the Echo greeted readers with an editorial column headed ‘The New Century’, and went on to wish ‘A joyous New Year to all our readers, and may their lives be happily prolonged far into the new century which has dawned upon this world’. The century which had closed the previous Monday was proclaimed to be ‘the most wonderful in the world’s history’. As today, the papers included many items relating to education, trade, sport, politics, social life, local court cases and entertainment. There was, however, a greater emphasis on religion and, as many from the Brighouse area were fighting in the Boer War, much concern for ‘our local lads’.
The advertisements, especially remedies for virtually all ills, are particularly interesting. It was not uncommon for a box of tablets or a bottle of medicine to claim to cure just about everything that affects the human body! Veno’s Seaweed Tonic was but one example. Readers were informed that it strengthens the stomach, cures indigestion, wind and constipation, clears the liver and head, steadies action of heart, purifies blood, removes backache and invigorates the whole system. All were urged to TRY IT TODAY AND YOU WILL FEEL BETTER TOMORROW. There were also advertisements from local businesses seeking workers. T.F. Firth’s at Bailiff Bridge wanted ‘a few smart lads’, 12 to 16 years of age (the school leaving age, still 12, rose to 14 following the 1918 Education Act). The Lightcliffe Steam Laundry wanted, at once, ironers for ‘fancy work and plain body linen, and also a girl about 18’.