HIRAM CRAVEN

20N + 21N + 20O + 21O      FAMILY OF HIRAM CRAVEN

   Maureen Silversides says “I noticed the inscription of Abraham Craven on this grave when I was walking my dogs one day and wrote a short article about it which KFHS printed in their August 2008 Journal.  The photographs I sent are in their archives at Keighley Library.”

ABRAHAM CRAVEN’S MI:  

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
ABRAHAM CRAVEN OF THIS CITY, BUILDER,
LATE OF DOCKROYD NEAR KEIGHLEY IN THIS COUNTY
THIRD SON OF HIRAM CRAVEN, BUILDER,
AND CONTRACTOR FOR THE RE-ERECTION OF OUSE BRIDGE,
THE CIRCUMMURAL AND PUBLIC EDIFICES OF THE CASTLE OF THIS PLACE
HE DIED OF THE ASIATIC CHOLERA
ON SATURDAY THE TWENTY THIRD OF JUNE ANNO DOMINI 1832
IN HIS TWENTY EIGHTH YEAR
AND WAS INTERRED THE SAME DAY,
IN THIS, THEN APPROPRIATED CEMETERY, AMICABLE IN HIS DISPOSITIONS,
PERSEVERING, AND ASPIRING IN HIS PROFESSION,
HE, LIKE THE PROMISING FLOWER THAT PERISHETH UNDER THE PASSING STORM,
WAS SMITTEN IN THE BLOOM OF MANHOOD BY THE UNKNOWN PESTILENCE
WHICH VISITED THIS CITY, AS IT TRAVERSED ITS DARK PATH OVER THE EARTH.
THIS MONUMENT BUT COLDLY RECORDS THE BEREAVEMENT,
WHICH REMAINS DEEPLY IMPRESSED UPON HIS WIDOW AND KINDRED SURVIVORS,
WHOSE ONLY CONSOLATION IS, A BLESSED IMMORTALITY.

   Maureen continues “As a result, I received a letter from a descendant of the Cravens and I did some research for him.  I found quite a lot about the family in the Yorkshire Gazette. It is as follows:”

1.  Death of Abraham’s wife Betty. On Thursday, the 9th inst, Betty, wife of Mr Abraham Craven, of this city, architect.   YG 25-4-1829.  

2.  Craven, Hiram and Sons.  Marble and Stonemasons, Skeldergate.  Succeeded William Stead and Sons.  YG 11-2-1832.

3.  Craven, Abraham, of York.  Builder.  Late of Dockroyd, near Keighley.  3rd son of Hiram Craven, builder and contractor for the re-erection of Ouse Bridge, the circummural and public edifices of the Castle of York.  Died of cholera.  23-6-1832, aged 27 years.

4.  Craven and Sons, York.  Contract to build new swing-bridge at Whitby.  YG 15-6-1833.

5.  Craven, Samuel.  Late of Keighley.  Died 10-7-1837, aged 45.

     Daughter Nancy, died 5-9-1834, aged 8 years.

     Daughter Mary, died 21-10-1835, aged 1 year.

     Wife, Nancy, died 27-9-1853, aged ? 61.

     They are buried in the Churchyard of St Denys’ Church, Walmgate, York.

      I have a map of the graveyard with the grave marked on it.

6.  Craven, Hiram.  Railway Contractor, of Keighley, formerly of York.  Death of son, Jonas, aged 30, at Fairburn, near Ferrybridge.  YG 29-6-1839.

7.  Craven and others v Sunderland Dock Company.  YG 26-7-1851.

8.  Craven, John.  On Sunday, the 28th October, after a long illness, aged 35, Mr John Craven, of this city, stonemason.  YG 4-10-1851. (I’m not sure whether this is one of the Keighley Cravens, or not.  There’s also a death for his widow, Ann in 1854).

9.  Abraham must have remarried after the death of Betty because:  Death of widow, Hannah:.  

     On Tuesday, the 8th inst, at Grove Terrace, after a protracted and painful illness, aged 52, Hannah, relict of Mr Abraham Craven, of this city.  YG 12-5-1855.

10.  Death of son, Abraham.  YG 28-3-1857.

     On Thursday, the 26th inst, sincerely respected, aged 24, Abraham, son of the late Mr Abraham Craven, of the firm of Craven and Sons, of this city, contractors. (If you do the maths on that one, obviously Hannah must just have been pregnant when Abraham died and Abraham Jnr never knew his father).  Ahhh….

11.  Craven, Edward.  On the 2nd inst, aged 38, Mr Edward Craven, Stonemason, of this city. Late of Keighley.  YG 5-5-1860.

   The book “A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland” has this entry for Hiram Craven.

   Hiram Craven (1779-1842), stonemason, civil engineering contractor and mill owner, was the eighth of twelve children of John Craven (c1743-1791), stonemason of Colne, Lancashire, and Jennet Whitaker (c1747-1785). Craven was baptized in Colne on 9th January 1780 and lived there until the age of fifteen when he was apprenticed to a mason, possibly a member of his mother’s family, as the Whitakers were masons in the Keighley area to which he moved in 1795. He married Alice Calvert (c1778-1844) of Bingley in 1798 and made his home at Dockroyd, Oakworth. They had twelve children, several of whom joined him in business or became otherwise involved in the construction industry.

   On completion of his apprenticeship Craven set up in business and came into association with Samuel Whitaker, probably his cousin, and Joseph Nowell; although originally concentrated in the Yorkshire area the firm was to acquire national importance. Craven’s earliest work was a small mill, known as Forks House Mill near the Bronte waterfall, Haworth. It was followed by various roads in the area, their Pennine location necessitating embankments and retaining walls. According to Whitaker the partnership was responsible for twenty to thirty bridges, the earliest attributed to Craven being the widening of Spinksburn Bridge (1809-1810). This was followed over the next decade by work at Hazelwood Bridge near Harrogate, Goose Edge Bridge near Keighley, Wreaks Bridge (Birtsworth), Ramsgill Bridge (Pateley Bridge), Collingham Bridge, Hansworth Bridge (Cleckheaton), Pickle Hill Bridge (Bradford) and Saltersbrook Bridge. These contracts totalled c£12,000 in value, additional to his other contracts with Joseph Nowell and Samuel Whitaker. From Whitaker and Craven’s tender for Wreaks Bridge it would appear they may have worked on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and Hull Docks before 1811.

   There most important work was in York, notably the Ouse Bridge (c1810-1820), associated with works at Foss Bridge and to the Castle and City walls. Craven made use of bales of wool to control the flow of the river during construction. This contract brought them to national prominence and led them to be consulted over London Bridge. They also took out masonry contracts on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal and it was on his return from Edinburgh, possibly on route to London, in June 1821 that Whitaker fell from the roof of the London-Edinburgh coach which was speeding over Sunderland Bridge and died from his injuries. His death perhaps restricted the partnership’s activities and although it was continued until 1828 by Joseph Nowell and Craven, little civil engineering work is known of, and the partnership was dissolved, presumably because both parties now wished to expand as family businesses.

   There is abundant evidence that by this time Craven had diversified his business activities. Members of the family had been active in the local textile industry from the late eighteenth century. A John Craven bought Walk Mill, Keighley, in 1776 and it remained in the family, operated by John and Joseph Craven, worsted spinners and manufacturers until 1841. John acquired East Greengate Mill, Keighley, for cotton spinning in 1795 although it appears to have been given up by the family in c1810 – after his death- and also had a share in Goose Eye Mill, Keighley.

   At that time, most of the industry was still water powered, and mill buildings were relatively modest structures. With a little capital, technical knowledge and access to water a mill could readily be built. Generally, partnerships of local farmers and businessmen proliferated and with Craven’s extensive family and business connections it would have been easy to get started. It is unclear what first prompted Craven’s interest in the textile trade, but from about 1819 he was very active. His brother Edward (1783-1861) was trained as an engineer and in 1808 he became partner in a cotton mill, the Ellam Carr Mill at Cullingworth. His original business associate was John Haggas of Oakworth Hall but the firm failed in in 1816 and John Greenwood became Edward Craven’s new business partner. He was one of the most active mill owners in the area and Edward acted as engineer on the other Greenwood mills, as well as marrying into the family. Hiram Craven appears to have acquired some, if not all, of Edward’s previous partner’s property; soon after he began exploiting water power in the Oakworth area, as well as installing his youngest son Thomas (b1814), as a farmer at Oakworth Hall. Around 1819 Craven built Ebor Mill to manufacture worsted, with Ebor House alongside for the mill manager. The reservoir and a three arch bridge over the sluice survive alongside the original water powered mill building, a three storey structure of seven bays, originally fitted with a water-wheel of c 23 feet diameter. The Mill originally leased to Townsend & Co and to provide access to it, and others, Craven acquired and enlarged in the 1820a Mytholmes, Upper and possibly Lower Providence Mills, building an occupation road, Providence Lane. This activity probably explains why his interest in masonry contracts waned.

   His eldest son, John “one eye” Craven (1800-1872) was now well established having worked on the Union Canal and may have taken the lead in the contracting business. He married Joseph Nowell’s sister Frances (d.1870) in 1819. In 8132 he was a shareholder in the Mytholme Mill, originally used as a cotton mill, with John Greenwood and William Newsholme and may have been responsible for the installation of a 40 feet diameter water wheel in 1843. He also became a partner in the Hepworth Iron Company of Penistone. The third son Abraham (1804-1832) became an architect in York where he died of cholera. At the time of his death the family had a yard in Skeldergate, Yoek and John was resident there c 1828-1834. Another son Edward (1811-1833) died on a contract at Whitby docks; he was married to Joseph Nowell’s daughter Mary Willans. Of Hiram Craven’s other children Benjamin (1800-1869) and William (1803-1847) are known to have worked with Hiram as contractors, Benjamin also having shares in the Hepworth Iron Company. After 1828 the firm operated as Hiram Craven and Sons, and subsequently as John Craven and Sone.

   The family was involved in railway contracting from the first, tendering unsuccessfully for Contract No 3 on the Leeds-Selby Railway in December 1830 and making unsuccessful enquiries about the Tees bridge on the Stockton-Darlington Railway in 1832. Their first work was on the Birmingham Railway (1834-1839), followed by the Manchester and Leeds Railway (1838-1842), the Manchester and Birmingham Railway (1838) and the York and North Midlands Railway (1839-1841). While working on the latter Hiram’s son Jonas Craven (1809-1839) died, he was possibly acting as sub-contractor on the Shade Bridge.

   Some impression of the high estimation in which the firm was held can be obtained from their success on the London and Birmingham Railway. The contracts at either end of the Wolverton viaduct – Contracts 2C and 3C – were originally awarded to William Soars but it soon became apparent that he was unable to fulfil both, and, at Robert Stephenson’s suggestion, Craven took over Contract 3C. Progress was generally good and in 1836 the earthworks on Contract 2C were re-divided so that Craven took on more of the work, engineering problems being experienced with the peculiar qualities of the ground in the area. Sours gave up his contract in 1837.

   Hiram Craven’s epitaph in Keighley churchyard reads that “though his public works may testify his professional skill, his family’s hearts only can appreciate his tenderness as a husband, affection as a father, uprightness as a master, and firmness as a friend.” Hiram died on 26th August 1842 and his son John continued his success, leaving a fortune of £140,000.