The Handby brothers

The stories of these three brothers demonstrate how different siblings’ lives can be, despite being brought up together in a secure home.

The brothers were sons of James Handby, a gardener, and his wife Ann who lived in Castle Hill, Settle. The eldest, John (1841—1918) was a successful plumber who also managed Settle Gas Company. He was a churchwarden at Holy Ascension for over 40 years. He was one of the contractors who built the top storey of the Shambles in the 1890s. John married three times — his first two wives died in childbirth.

The second son, James Tomlinson Handby (1846—1895) was never a settled man. Initially, he ran a tailoring business, but took his wife and son to New Zealand for ten years. He returned as a vocal teetotaller and Wesleyan preacher. Two years later, he ended his own life by shooting, aged 51. James’s son, another James, went back out to New Zealand once his mother had died and worked in the armed forces.

The third son, Edmund (1850—1918) was incredibly talented. He painted, designed, decorated, acted and sang. He ran a decorating business but also exhibited water colour and oil paintings. He painted the fire screen still in use at the Victoria Hall. He and his wife had five children. Edmund was a founder member of Settle’s Amateur Operatic Society. He decorated the sets and had many lead roles. He was a chorister at Holy Ascension Church for 60 years.