Malcolm Bull's Calderdale Companion : Background Information : N

Background Information



Used in place names, the element comes from the Norse language and refers to the end of a ridge or a hill

The state of being born in bondage or serfdom

A unit of length equal to 2¼ inches

A fine cloth made of cotton. It is similar to lawn but not as crisp. The cloth is often embroidered and used for blouses, night wear, lingerie, and children's wear

A term used in registers to indicate that a person was buried without a shroud and in an unlined coffin

See Buried in Wool


The raised pile on cloth and other textiles, such as velvet and frieze.

The term was also used to refer to long threads of wool

See Frizing

[1769-1821] Aka Napoleon I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Boney.

Emperor of France 1804-14 and 1814-15.

He was a general during the French Revolution.

In 1799, he overthrew the ruling Directory and made himself dictator, conquered most of Europe and installed his brothers as puppet kings.

After the Peninsular War and his retreat from Moscow [1812], he was forced to abdicate [1814] and was banished to the island of Elba.

In 1815, he regained power but was defeated by British and Prussian forces at the Battle of Waterloo – see Napoleonic Wars – and exiled to the island of St Helena

Napoleonic Wars
[1803-1815] The series of wars between Napoleonic France and various European forces.

The conflicts ended with the Duke of Wellington's victory at the Battle of Waterloo [18th June 1815]

British exports were badly affected by the blockades which the French imposed on European ports.

See William Kershaw, King's Hanoverian Army, Peninsular War and Dorothy Wordsworth

Narrow boat
Aka Monkey boat, Long boat. Originally a craft measuring around 70 ft in length and 7 ft in width. These were designed for use in the locks of the narrow canals. They were first used in the 1770s on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

The term now refers to boats with a length of 72 ft or less and a width of around 6 ft 10 ins.

See Barge, Box boat, Calder keel, Starvationer and Yorkshire narrowboat

Narrow cloth
A piece of cheap, coarse cloth, such as a kersey, measuring 12 yards by 1 yard. It was half the size of a broad cloth

National Burial Index
Abbr: NBI. An index of burials taken from the parish registers and cemetery registers of Anglican, nonconformist, and Roman Catholic sources. The first edition was published by the Federation of Family History Societies in 2001. The second edition was released in 2004, and lists about 13.1 million burials in England and Wales from 1538 onwards. It is available on CD

National Kitchen
A government initiative by the Ministry of Food during World War I.

Charles Frederic Spencer was appointed Director of the scheme [17th January 1918].

Some local examples were

See British restaurant and Tram Number 96

National Land Company
A scheme – started as the Chartist Co-operative Land Company – by Feargus O'Connor in 1845. The company proposed to provide smallholdings in order to enable Chartists to live and work independently. The men subscribed a small sum – 3d per week – and this was used to buy land which was then allocated by ballot.

In 1855, there were branches at Halifax, Ovenden, Mixenden, Mountain, Lower Warley, Elland, Sowerby Longroyd, Sowerby Helm, Hebden Bridge, and Todmorden.

The local branch held many of their meetings at Nicholl's Temperance Hotel, Halifax

National Schools Society

National Trust
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty is an independent conservation charity founded in 1895.

The Trust owns many properties – rural land, coastal areas, historic houses, and gardens – throughout Britain, including Hardcastle Crags and East Riddlesden Hall.

See English Heritage

An old term for an illegitimate child. Recorded in 1854

Nautical mile
A unit of measurement equivalent to 1·150779 miles, and 1·852 kilometres.

A knot is equivalent to 1 nautical mile per hour

The main part of the church west of the transept where the congregation stood or sat. It was separated from the chancel by the rood screen.

In mediæval times, the chancel belonged to the lord of the manor, whilst the nave and the tower belonged to the people of the parish. The nave was often used for secular and public purposes Manor courts were often held here, and tenants came here to pay their rent, or scot.

See Crossing and Pew

Navigations and cuts are found earlier than canals. In 1571, an Act was passed to make the River Welland in Lincolnshire navigable. In 1720, an Act was passed to make the River Weaver in Cheshire navigable; this opened in 1732 and carried salt and coal. In 1755, an Act was passed for the construction of the Sankey Navigation in Cheshire.

The workers who dug these navigations – and later, the railways – were known as navvies.

Several local places – and pubs such as Navigation, Gauxholme, Navigation, Siddal, and Navigation, Sowerby Bridge - were built for and used by the workers on the navigations

An ox, a cow, calf, or a bull

Someone who was responsible for the care of the combined cattle herd of a village.

See Neat

Neck verse
See Benefit of clergy

A disease which results in the decay and death of body tissue

The element is used in the names of several places and features which were considered unnecessary when they were created.

See Lower Needless, Hebden Bridge, Needless, Halifax, Needless Hall Quarry, Brighouse, Needless Hall, Brighouse, Needless Road, Heptonstall and Upper Needless, Hebden Bridge

An alcoholic drink made from wine, water, sugar, nutmeg, and lemon juice

This element is used in place names – such as Nell Carr, Nell Cote and Nell Mires - may be a form of Helen, or St Helen, who was associated with holy wells

See St Helen's Well, Holywell Green

A wooden frame in which cloth was held whilst the nap was raised with teasels

Nelson, New Zealand
The second colony to be established by the New Zealand Company [1841].

See John Jowett

Neolithic Age
The period of human development following the Mesolithic when agriculture began to appear. In Britain, this occurred around 4000 BC. Around 2000 BC, it gave way to the Bronze Age.

There is some evidence of Neolithic occupation in the Calderdale district, including Bedlam Hill, Pecket Well, Bent Head, Todmorden, Calderstones, Cant Clough, Heptonstall, Castle Carr Barrows, Clough Head Hill, Heptonstall, Cup-and-Ring marks, Dean Head Stony Edge, Midgley Moor, Dole, Flints, High Brown Knowl, Wadsworth, Holdsworth, Krumlin, Manshead, Miller's Grave, Midgley Moor, Old Hold Edge, Wadsworth, Rishworth Moor, Shore End Top, Midgley Moor, Tom Bell's Cave, Widdop and Widdop Reservoir

Originally, this referred to any male descendant or kinsman, but, since the 18th century, this is used for the son of a brother, brother-in-law, sister, or sister-in-law.

It has also been used to mean an illegitimate son

A term used in cloth making for the knot of fibres which is produced during the process of carding

Any of several varieties of plant [genus: Urtica] with stinging hairs.

The plant is an indicator of former/current human habitation of a site

New Ague
An epidemic in the 1550s which may have been a virulent form of influenza

See Hot Ague

New draperies
A scheme to encourage the production of light-weight cloths was introduced in the 16th century as a part of a plan to diversify traditional work patterns. The immigration of French and Flemish workers helped to spread the new techniques, starting in the south-east and then to other parts of England.

See Bay and Old draperies

New year
In Saxon times, the year began on 25th December.

When England adopted the Julian calendar around 1190, the first day of the year was 25th March – the Feast of the Annunciation or Lady Day – and the last day of the year was 24th March.

This was in use until 1752, when Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar, and the first day of the year was 1st January from 1st January 1752

New Zealand Company
Established in 1837 by the Wakefield brothers to promote systematic colonisation of New Zealand.

By the mid-1843s, the company ran into financial difficulties.

It closed in 1858.

See John Jowett, Nelson and New Plymouth

New Zealand Land Wars
[1845-1872] A series of wars between the Maori and the settlers in New Zealand. Aka Maori Wars, Land Wars.

The wars included

  • The First Taranaki War of 1860/1861

    • The Battle of Te Kohia [February 1860]
    • The Battle of Waireka [March 1860]
    • The Battle of Puketakauere [April 1860]

See G. D. Hammerton, John Kenyon and Thomas Smith

Newspaper stamps
Postage stamps issued for mailing newspapers. These were introduced in the mid-19th century and offered a reduced rate from ordinary mail.

The number of stamps issued is an indication of the circulation of the individual newspapers.

The following table shows the number of 1d newspaper stamps which were sold in the 1850s

Newspaper 1851 1852 1853
Halifax Guardian 126,000 143,000 115,000
Leeds Mercury 485,500 541,000 574,000
Leeds Times 281,500 312,000 353,800

An alternative name, or an eke name, which was used to distinguish one John from another John, one Mary from another Mary. Nicknames were often derived in much the same manner as surnames.

Nicknames were also used to disguise leaders such as Captain Cobbler, Ned Ludd, Captain Pouch, and Captain Swing.

See Alias

Originally, this referred to any female descendant or kinswoman, but from the 17th century it has been used for the daughter of a brother, brother-in-law, sister, or sister-in-law.

It has also be used to mean a granddaughter

Night soil
Until the early 20th century, this was human waste which was collected from domestic earth closets and cesspits for use as fertiliser and manure for crops.

This was a source of disease in the densely-packed housing of the period.

Urine or lant was also collected for use in fulling.

The waste was collected by a goux collector / gaux collector / scavenger

A unit of volume – typically for beers, wine and spirits – equal to ¼ pint = = 1 gills

Nip machine
Wool combing machine designed by Samuel Cunliffe Lister and G. E. Donisthorpe in 1841.

See Nip principle

Nip principle
Method of holding wool during combing, invented by Frenchman, Josué Heilmann.

See Nip machine

Nisi Prius
A legal action tried before judges of the Queen's/King's Bench division

Nobel prize
Local people who won the Nobel Prize have included

A gold coin first issued by Edward III in 1344-1351, when it was worth 6s/8d or 80 silver pennies = half a mark. The coin showed Edward standing on a ship with his sword drawn – the image may commemorate the victory at Sluys in 1340. There was also a half noble coin worth 3s/4d, and a quarter noble coin worth 1s/8d. Edward IV replaced the coin by a noble-angel and introduced the rose-noble – or ryal – worth 10/-. Henry VIII issued the George Noble worth 6s/8d in 1526

Or angel-nobel. A coin which was a reissue of the noble. Came to be known as the angel

A unit of liquid usually ¼ pint

Short wool or worsted fibres combed out and used for making felt, coarse cloth and blankets – as distinct from the longer tops

Until 1642 and the Civil War, all worship was that of the established Church of England.

There then appeared a Puritan division of the Church of England whose clergy, in the 17th century, refused to conform to certain practices, such as wearing the surplice and kneeling to receive Holy Communion.

After 1662, the term was used to describe those who left the church rather than abide by the Act of Uniformity which demanded the use of the new Prayer Book in churches.

They met in secret meetings, fearful of detection by the soldiers of Charles II.

It was only in 1688, that the lifting of legal and other constraints gave the nonconformists freedom of worship. Freedom of worship came with the Declaration of Indulgence and the Act of Toleration of 1689.

Many local manufacturers, including the Crossleys, were Nonconformists, although there was a shift towards the Church of England at the beginning of the 20th century.

See Baptism, Baptists, Dissenter, Marriage, Nonconformist Records and Nonconformist names

Nonconformist names

Failure to act, especially when legally obliged to do so.

Compare Malfeasance

A fine-quality wool produced in Australia and ideal for production of worsted yarn.

Locally, it was bought and processed by I. & I. Calvert

Norman Conquest
The defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings and the conquest of England by the Normans under William the Conqueror in 1066.

By 1072, they had conquered Scotland, followed by conquest of parts of Wales and Ireland.

They introduced feudalism into Britain, Latin as the language of government, and Norman French as the language of literature. English church architecture was also influenced by the Normans.

The French monasteries and nobility who had supported William, were rewarded with gifts of land in England

Around the same time, the Normans occupied Southern Italy, Sicily, and Malta, and took a prominent part in the Crusades.

After the 13th century, the Normans ceased to exist as a distinct people

The North-West Company
The headquarters of the fur trading business in Montréal. It was established in 1779, and competed with the Hudson Bay Company.

It ceased in 1821.

In 1967, the northern trading posts of the Hudson Bay Company were acquired by a group of employees and a new North-West Company was established [1990].

See Beaver Club

Northern dozens
A name for the kersey

Norwich crapes
A type of cloth.

Records for Akroyd's mill show that they produced the fabric in 1819

A small personal item or possession

Number one
A canal boat owned by the boatmen who work them, as distinct from boats owned by a company

Nuncupative will
A will made orally – typically on the testator's deathbed – and before witnesses who later made a sworn statement in the courts. Not signed by the deceased

Nursery rhyme
A short traditional poem or song for children. They are usually simple rhymes and are passed on by oral tradition

Nymph of the Pave
A euphemism for a prostitute.

See Mary Ann Bolton, Elizabeth Jackson and Ellen Womersley


© Malcolm Bull 2017 / [email protected]
Revised 17:48 on 19th December 2017 / b113_n / 43