Daniel Defoe


The surname of Daniel Defoe was originally Foe.

The London-born writer first visited the area in 1705 and again in 1712, and described his travels in and around the Calderdale area in his Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain [1724-6].

He fled from London on account of the threat of prosecution for treason over his political writings, and it is claimed that he wrote a part of Robinson Crusoe – published in 1719 – and his poem De Jure Divino whilst staying at the Rose & Crown, Cheapside, Halifax. Whilst he was there, he started The Surprising Adventures, completing it in 1718 and it was published the following year. He attended Northgate End Unitarian Chapel.

He died penniless in Cripplegate, London, leaving a widow and six children.

He said of the parish of Halifax:

If not the largest, certainly the most populous in England

and that the houses and farms on the hillsides were:

... hardly a house standing out of a speaking distance from another ... almost at every house there was a tenter, and almost on every tenter a piece of cloth ... look which way we would, high to the tops, and low to the bottoms, it was all the same, innumerable houses and tenters, and a white piece upon every tenter

Elsewhere, he writes:

From Blackstone Edge to Halifax is eight miles and all the way, except from Sorby to Halifax is thus up Hill and down; so that I suppose, we mounted to the Clouds and descended to the Water level about eight times in that little part of the journey

and ...

These hills are so furnished by nature with springs and mines that not only on the sides but even at the very top there is scarcely a hill but you find on the highest part of it a spring of water and a coal mine

and ...

We quitted Halifax not without some astonishment at its situation, being so surrounded with hills, and those so high as makes the coming in and going out of it exceedingly troublesome, and indeed for carriages hardly practicable, particularly the hill which they go up to come out of the town to the east towards Leeds, which is so steep, so rugged, and sometimes so slippery, that, to a town of so much business as this, it is exceedingly troublesome and dangerous

and ...

as to corn ... they sow little and hardly enough to feed their poultry, if they were to be corn fed

and of the working life in the district ...

... all were busy ... some at the dye vat, some at the loom, others dressing the cloths; the women and children carding or spinning, all employed from the youngest to the oldest, scarce anything above four years old but its hands were sufficient for its own support

... and he though it admirable that ...

... in the vicinity of Halifax, scarcely anybody above the age of 4 was idle

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 02:53 / 22nd February 2023 / 4997

Page Ref: MMD18

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