THEY LIVED IN LEEDS
George Hayward (1797-1854)
Road Surveyor and Land Agent – Lord Cardigan’s Yorkshire Steward
When you drive along the main road from Headingley to Otley, with its smooth comfortable gradient, spare a thought for travellers 200 years ago. Then the only road was the muddy and pot-holed turnpike (still known today as Otley Old Road), which wound over the top of the Chevin before plunging suddenly and terrifyingly down into the town. The steep descent put a dreadful strain on the horses pulling the heavy carts and stage coaches, and passengers, fearing for life and limb, had to get out and walk. Accidents were commonplace. But in the 1830s commercial pressures forced the turnpike trustees to seek an alternative route to Otley, an important hub in the national turnpike network. They commissioned the surveyor George Hayward, and he mapped out a new diversion starting from Lawnswood, then following a lower contour along the side of the Chevin with gentler gradients. It meant cutting into the hillside and constructing miles of new highway, a huge and expensive enterprise. When the necessary Act was passed in 1837, he was appointed to oversee the work. The project took five years to complete, encountered numerous problems especially with slippage, and went massively over budget, but the new road finally opened in 1842.
Alongside this major project, George Hayward’s principal job was as the Yorkshire steward for Lord Cardigan, and in this role he played a significant part in the development of Headingley itself. Lord Cardigan, based at Deene in Northamptonshire, had extensive and valuable estates in Yorkshire, and needed a locally-based steward to look after his interests. George Hayward, originally from Hampshire, came to Leeds about 1829 to take this on, an arrangement set up by his elder brother, the Cardigan head steward. Initially he worked from offices in Albion Street, but in 1832 Lord Cardigan agreed that he could move into Headingley Hall, the old manor house (still there, much altered, in Shire Oak Road). In the same year he married Eleanora Whitaker, eldest daughter of Jonas Whitaker, the wealthy owner of the vast Greenholme Mills at Burley-in-Wharfedale. They had six children, but sadly three died in childhood, and she herself died in 1845, leaving him a widower.
As agent for Lord Cardigan, who was Lord of the Manor of Headingley and the principal landowner, George Hayward was closely involved in local affairs. He took over in 1830 as Commissioner for the enclosure of all the common land - as a result Headingley Moor (between Grove Lane and Moor Road) was lost forever to the local people who had used it for grazing their animals, and digging stone and peat. When the notorious and spendthrift Seventh Earl (later of Crimean War fame) inherited the title in 1837 he had to deal with the mortgaging and then the sale of land (the Earl was in desperate need of ready cash). It was George Hayward who planned the sales and determined what new roads were needed. Claremont Road, Grove Road, Chapel Street, Cross Chapel Street, Bennett Road were all roads he mapped out, giving Headingley village the familiar shape we know today.
He was under constant pressure to guard the Cardigan interest in all his day-to-day dealings with tenants, even in the political arena – it was said tenants were threatened with eviction if they were not going to support the Tory candidate. He dabbled himself in local politics, serving for a time as a town councillor. He was known as an irascible figure, given to losing his temper and shouting at his opponents!
By the 1850s he was suffering from ill health and in 1854, on a visit to London, he died quite suddenly. His working papers were bundled together and fortunately preserved: they are now held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service and are a valuable historical resource. But he left another legacy, preserved in the physical landscape of Headingley and its road connections.