Soap Works - Soap House Yard
& the Battle Between Charles Waterton and Edward Thornhill Simpson
founded by Mr William Thornhill Hodgson in 1818 (or thereabouts), the soap works continued to flourish on a small scale until the business was taken over by Edward Thornhill Simpson*. Mr Simpson
was the unofficial adopted son of William Thornhill Hodgson. It was when Simpson took over the business that the stage was set for one of the early battles against polluters of the environment.
(* ■ Read the announcement in 'The Gazette' (London) of the dissolution of the partnership on 5th May 1845. The business carried on under Edward Thornhill Simpson using the same name, i.e. Hodgson and Simpson.)
first, a bit of soapy background:
stated, soap is made from boiling fat with alkali and salt. Many
fatty substances, fats from animals such as suet, blubber, and vegetable
fats such as palm oil, etc., suffice as the fat part of the raw
material. In the 19th century, man-made alkalis were developed.
The soap manufacturer could produce his own alkali from common salt
and sulphuric acid. To save on costs and improve the manufacturing
process, the manufacturer could produce his own sulphuric acid.
The by-product of the manufacturing process was hydrochloric acid,
which could then be used in the manufacture of bleaching powders.
a North Yorkshireman, arrived in Walton in 1815, when he started
production, he had assured Charles Waterton that he would never
produce his own acids. The business grew in size and in 1839, Hodgson
& Simpson acquired the small triangle of land by High Town ("Soap
House") Bridge to create Soap House Yard. A second chimney
was added and a furnace added for the processing of salted cake
and the manufacture of sulphuric acid.
just as things were looking good for soap manufacturing in Walton,
Hodgson went bankrupt and committed suicide, leaving Edward Thornhill
Simpson to acquire his partner's share in the business. Under Simpson,
the business prospered and expanded. Mr Simpson did well for himself
and became a respected member of the local community.
soap works contributed to serious pollution in and around the village.
It was the cause of a long running bitter dispute between Squire
Waterton and the Pilkingtons on the one hand and the Simpson family
on the other.
court room saga seemed endless but then a solution presented itself.
As it happened, the Watertons had acquired a piece of land at Thornes
in Wakefield and offered it for sale at a bargain price, Simpson
knew a good thing when he saw it and bought the land.
Then in October
1849, the battle went to court for a third time, and this time
the Squire managed to get an injunction served on the soap-boiler
that required the Walton works to be closed down and shipped off
to the new site at Thornes - "much closer to the 15,000 inhabitants
of the Once Merry Wakefield" (Charles
Waterton, A Biography by Brian Edginton). Dallying somewhat,
Simpson eventually moved to the new site and by 1853, the soap works
in Walton had stopped making soap.
the Squire won the battle, and Edward Thornhill Simpson went off to pollute
Wakefield (and to create employment, it must be said), Waterton
lost the war when the Simpsons acquired Walton Hall after his death.
Edmund Waterton was forced to sell the estate to pay his creditors,
and it was the Simpsons who bought it.
the bitter end, the soap works had continued in production. Walton
would have been a much grimmer place today if the soap works had
more ... Julia Blackburn provides an excellent account
of the Soap House Yard Battle in her book Charles
Waterton, Traveller & Conservationist.