Heritage Open Days at the Hepworth, Wakefield, 9th and 10th September 2017

On both days:

Display by Wakefield Historical Society
Short talks at 10.30am, 12.30am, 2pm and 3.30pm followed by walk to Chantry Bridge and 30 minute boat trips.
Longer talk and film at 12 noon
Please note, these need to be pre-booked through the Hepworth:

Heritage Weekend at the Hepworth

Visit to Fall Ings Lock, 6 March 2016

The Canal & River Trust’s open day at Fall Ings Lock was well attended and was well worth a visit. Various British Waterways staff who have been doing the work were on hand to talk to visitors, including the (female) engineer in charge of the work. The pair of gates at the Fall Ings Cut end of the lock have been replaced by new ones built at the workshops at Stanley Ferry. This has to be done about every 25 years, as the wood deteriorates quickly at the surface, even though it survives well underwater. The gates at the end of the lock giving onto the River Calder have not been replaced this time as a previous pair made in hardwood is still in good condition. However, they will not be made again in hardwood: they are heavier and put strain on the fixings to the stonework, and also there are difficulties getting sustainable supplies.

This regular programme of frequent replacement of lock gates together with damage to waterways from the Boxing Day floods is a huge burden on the Canal & River Trust. However, some of the damaged sections of the Calder & Hebble Navigation are now re-opening.

Open Day at Thornes Lock, 16 November 2014

Although not a Waterfront project event, several members who had contributed to our project visited the Canal and River Trust Open Day.  Thornes Lock had been drained to enable new lock gates to be fitted.  It was possible to see how the original lock had been doubled in length to enable boats pulling long lines of Tom Puddings to pass through. A heritage officer from the Trust was interested to hear about the Waterfront project and will keep it in mind if they stage future events in Wakefield.

Waterfront Project, Heritage Open Day at the Hepworth, 13 September 2014
Photo Gallery

​The Wakefield Waterfront Project was invited by the Hepworth for Heritage Open Day on the 13th September. People who had contributed to the project with photographs, documents and interviews were invited to the exhibition.

The film about the waterfront was shown both in the morning and the afternoon, and Pam Judkins the project leader provided a guided walk of the waterfront.  Lesley Taylor talked about her research on John Smeaton, the engineer who planned the first Calder and Hebble Navigation in the 1760s.  Some of the people who lived on Wellington Street, and their stories were described by Stella Robinson.  Phil Judkins explained the process of malting and how the waterfront  area was crowded with maltkilns.

The project had interviewed many people who lived or worked on the waterfront, and visitors were able to listen to their stories via headphones.  Photographs, old and new, were shown in a changing display, and the research done by members of the project was available to browse.

The event was well attended with over 140 visitors, including a number who had not previously been involved but were interested in the history of the waterfront.

12th March 2014, 7.30pm, Chantry Chapel Wakefield

Excerpts from the oral history recordings made by members of the public who once lived and worked on the Waterfront, with photographs illustrating the subjects and places referred to, were shown following the Society’s AGM.  Other members of Wakefield Historical Society described their ongoing research on the Waterfront. 

Waterfront Celebration 17th-19th October 2013
Photo Gallery

17th, 18th and 19th October, Exhibition in the Ridings Shopping Centre

The exhibition displayed the Waterfront events during 2013, including the recordings made by people with memories of living and working on the waterfront, and some of the research that members of the project are pursuing.

19th October, Chantry Chapel

During the day the various events of 2013, including visits to archives,  were shown  in a photographic presentation, as were  audio recordings made by members of the public who had lived and worked on the waterfront. Maps, images and ongoing research were available to browse.

The morning walk of the area, led by Pam Judkins, introduced the history of the area, the mills, maltings,  houses and many businesses that once existed. The afternoon walk led by Kate Taylor explored the history of the bridges that span the canal and river.

Clarty Sough, a folk duo, entertained the visitors during the afternoon with songs about the canals, the mills and maltings.

During this well-attended event Wakefield Historical Society were pleased to welcome back those who had contributed their knowledge of the waterfront, and to meet those who were exploring the history of the waterfront for the first time.

National Archives LondonThursday 15th August. Visit to the National Archives in London

The previous week’s training proved an essential introduction to the National Archives.  A considerable amount of research for the Waterfront was conducted in the time that was available and possibilities for further research were explored. Tithe maps, wills, the 1910 Rating Valuation, documents relating to maltsters were amongst the documents viewed.  Phil Judkins’ experience was an asset to those new to research in the National Archives. 

Thursday August 8th, Pre-training for the visit to Kew at the Local Studies Library in Wakefield One – Photo Gallery

Phil Judkins provided the group intending to visit the National Archives at Kew with  information about the registration process, the ordering of documents, and advice about how to use the online “Discovery” catalogue. The huge collection of documents will enable researchers to follow their own particular interest to do with the Waterfront Project.

1st August, One to One Development Trust training on Social Media

The Waterfront Project planning team were given advice by professional trainers on the use of social media including  websites, Facebook, and Twitter.  This should enable the team to provide better access for the general public to information on both the Waterfront project, and any future project. 

17th July, One to One photo Training Session Photo Gallery

The Waterfront project planning team were given training in the use of their cameras, and photographic techniques by the One to One Development Trust. They were encouraged to look at ways of presenting images, followed by a practical session using their own cameras to take photographs in the town centre.

Wednesday July 24th,  Visit to the Registry of Deeds, Wakefield Archives  Photo Gallery

The Waterfront Project arranged a visit to the Registry of Deeds, home of the Wakefield Archives, part of the West Yorkshire Archives Service. Our guide was archivist Gary Brannan, who is responsible for the Wakefield office and is also one of our number as a Council member of the Wakefield Historical Society.

Gary provided an entertaining and informative introduction to the work of the Archive Service, and to the Wakefield collections. His tour started in the search room where he had laid out a selection of documents and maps relating to the waterfront. We progressed into the Registry of Deeds with its huge volumes recording West Riding property transactions from 1704 to 1970. The ease of indexing makes this an excellent resource for pursuing the history of buildings.  Finally we descended into the basement storage areas from which the documents emerge  when requested.

Our thanks go to Gary for providing plenty of ideas for further research at the Archives during an enjoyable morning. A sheet listing the selected documents related to the waterfront  is available for potential researchers by contacting us through this website .

Thursday July 18th: Guided walk along the east side of the River Calder, starting with  the Chantry Chapel.  Photo Gallery

Despite the soaring temperatures a considerable group of ‘walkers’ gathered in the relative cool of the Chantry Chapel to hear Pam Judkins describe some of the history of the east side of the Calder accompanied by maps showing its development. Once outside we viewed the old bridge; the different shaped arches demonstrating the widening that had been necessary to accommodate horse drawn vehicles.  At the northern end of the old bridge had been the Soke mill, where tenants were obliged to have their corn milled; this was demolished to make way for the new bridge built in 1933.  Crossing the road towards the Hepworth we were shown Upper Mill, an early 18th century example of a cloth fulling mill, now encased in a protective covering.  We were fortunate to be able to have a brief look into part of the brick built Rutland Mills complex before proceeding to the Calder and Hebble Navigation Warehouse.  Here we were given a description by a member of the company involved in the restoration of the warehouse, of the work that was undertaken, and shown over the warehouse.  Pride had clearly been taken in the appropriate use of materials, and sympathy shown for the original building itself, resulting in an excellent restoration of this fine Georgian building.

Once outside again, we viewed the flood lock and the site of the large maltings that had once stood on the far side.  Beyond this site is the Arriva Bus Depot where there had once been the many buildings related to the various processes of the Belle Isle Dyeworks, previously described by Pam.  Our walk was completed by the canal on the far side of Barnsley Road, where Pam pointed out that a short distance further on there was still a community of resident boat owners.

9-14 July, Exhibition at the Ridings Shopping Centre, Wakefield – Photo Gallery

During a successful and busy week at Gallery 102, the exhibition was visited by a wide range of people; some had come especially to tell us their experiences of living and working on the waterfront, others were interested in the history of the area, and remembered it as it had once been.  Younger people often had no idea that the area had once been a hub of industry, and one visitor did not even know that there was a river in Wakefield. The maps and photographs stirred many memories, and we were able to record a number of these, for example: a woman who had worked at Double 2 in the 1960s told us her experiences; a gentleman who had lived in Tootal Street as a child told us of throwing stones at the rats that inhabited the factories.  We were also handed some interesting documents and other memorabilia to copy.  Interest was also shown in our events during the rest of the summer.

1st July 2013. Visit to the Simply Leisure Group at St Swithun’s Community Centre, Eastmoor

Two members of the Waterfront Project group visited the ‘Simply Leisure’ group at the Centre. The aims of the project were described and a short presentation showing maps of the area and other images was screened.  A member of the group whose husband had worked at the Sunvi Maltings on Thornes Wharf expressed interest in the project, and offered to contribute her reminiscences if she was able to visit the exhibition being staged in the Ridings Shopping Centre between 9th – 14th July.

22nd June 2013.  Walk along the west bank of the River Calder – Photo Gallery

A selection of maps of the waterfront spanning over two centuries were displayed for the considerable group gathered at the Wharfside Inn.  Pam Judkins gave a brief illustrated talk about the development of the waterfront, partly using historical directories to show the changes that took place.  Several members of the group volunteered further information.

We embarked on the walk towards the north end of Thornes Lane, where one of the group explained the history of the hydraulic lift which had moved wagons of coal from the railway viaduct to the ground level below.  Near the junction of Thornes Lane and Thornes Wharf is a building that was once a malting, and Phil Judkins described the process that had once happened there.  Proceeding on to Commercial Street  Phil spoke of a murder that had happened there during the 19th century, and it seemed that the murderer, although seen committing the act, had been declared ‘not guilty’ at trial.

Turning on to Church Street,  we saw the site of Christ Church, built in the 19th century to serve the needs of the residential community that lived there, and the school that was in the same area.  The church was eventually demolished in 1957.  Further on, Tadman Street was one of the last places to have its housing demolished during the slum clearance of the 20th century. On Thornes Lane we were told of Bethel Chapel, now a motorbike shop, and of the old maltings opposite.  Lastly we walked along Thornes Wharf towards the building that is now part of Double Two shirts.  We were able to compare what is there now, with an illustration of the extensive Porto Bello mills shown in a historical directory.

Although the built environment has changed so much during the last century, the walk enabled us to envisage what was once there, and also the geographical lay-out of the area.

12th June 2013  Visit to Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds – Photo Gallery

As part of the research for the Waterfront Project, 6 members visited the Yorkshire Archaeological Society library and archive in Leeds on Wednesday 12th June.  The archivists had produced a number of maps and documents, including details of the enclosures along the waterfront in the 19th century.  Most of the latter came from the Duke of Leeds collection and detailed his holdings in Wakefield and specifically along the waterfront.  The early maps demonstrated just how little had been in that area until the industrialisation of the mid 18th-19th centuries, with the booming trade in imported goods, malting and milling, and boat building.

Members spent the morning exploring the material produced, and then followed up by looking at trade directories and other items of interest.  Brian Holding and Phil Judkins took photos of some of the material for the project archive.  All in all it was felt to be a very useful session, pointing the way to future work on the volumes and archives of the Society, and we look forward to even more useful researches at the more local archive in Wakefield.

8th June 2013  Visit to Wharf side Inn for  oral recording – Photo Gallery

22nd May 2013, Visit to the John Goodchild Collection at Wakefield Archives, Newstead Road – Photo Gallery

The wealth of material connected to Wakefield was demonstrated by John Goodchild, and we were encouraged by the many opportunities for further research about the waterfront that his collection offers.  Apart from the many articles and books that John himself has written, we were shown images, directories, maps, documents and much more – John pointed out that his collection includes a section of the rails from the early railway at the waterfront.  John also suggested a list of books and articles that had already been published containing information about the waterfront.  We were shown part of the collection, stored in the basement which has yet to be sorted since the recent move from Drury Lane Library.

18th May 2013 Oral History Recording at Wakefield Sea Cadets – Photo Gallery

Two local people joined the research team at the Sea Cadets and shared their memories of the waterfront.  The first had been employed for many years in a job connected to the canal and remembered the cargoes that had been brought to the waterfront  or had been shipped from there.  The second person had lived there as a child and remembered the church, schools and shops, and the people who lived and worked there at that time. Wakefield Historical Society are grateful to those who are willing to give their time to record their memories, as this oral history will form an important resource for researchers in the future.

18th April 2013,  Local Studies Library Wakefield – Photo Gallery

Deborah Scriven, retired Local Studies Librarian, ably assisted by Wendy Jewitt, present Librarian, described the wide range of material that is held by the Local Studies Library.  For researchers, it was suggested that their starting point should be to discover what had already been researched and published in books, pamphlets and individual articles, both by 19th century authors like J.W. Walker, and modern historians such as Kate Taylor, and John Goodchild.  The library holds a wide selection of maps, ranging from the 1820s to more recent Ordnance Survey maps.  These provide a clear picture of how a particular area changes over a period of time.  Businesses can be researched through trade directories and telephone directories, and the early directories often give details of the more substantial individual residents.  The library holds newspapers and press cuttings dating from the mid-18th century onwards which are a fascinating source of information about people and places.  Electoral registers also provide  information about individuals and their movements, although early poll books only include the more substantial male residents.  The library has a collection of ephemera, including leaflets, bills and souvenir booklets.  Online resources at the library provide access to the digital collection of Wakefield photographs Twixt Aire and Calder, and free access to websites such as Ancestry, and Find My Past, which have census images from 1841 to 1911, and images of West Yorkshire parish registers showing baptisms, marriages and burials.

Deborah and Wendy had provided various maps, documents and newspapers that were relevant to research about Wakefield Waterfront, and whetted the appetite of the group to explore further the many sources held by the library.

13th April 2013 Sea Cadets Reunion – Photo Gallery

The Sea Cadets have maintained a presence on Thornes Wharf for 70 years; their anniversary falls this year.  Members of the Waterfront project group attended the Sea Cadets reunion, and were able to hear some memories of past events on the Waterfront.

6th April 2013, Opening Event at Chantry Chapel – Photo Gallery
By the opening time of 10 o’clock, visitors were already waiting to come in to view the exhibition of historic photographs and maps, and also the display provided by the Sea Cadets.  During the day a steady stream of visitors brought photographs and press cuttings to do with the past, including a folder of artwork and written work done by junior school children in the 1960s following a visit to the waterfront.  People contributed memories of the businesses and homes that existed, and events that had happened on the waterfront, and we hope to record these in the near future. There were also enquiries about our future events.

By the time of John Goodchild’s talk at 2.30pm, the chantry was completely full.  His talk encompassed the very early history of the area we are studying, through to the present day, describing the founding of the many profitable businesses that existed on the waterfront; the maltings, the dyeworks, the mills and many more.

It was encouraging for society members involved in the project to meet so many people from all walks of life, and of all ages, who were interested in Wakefield’s historic waterfront.

13th March 2013.  Waterfront slideshow by Brian Holding, and talk on Maltings by Phil Judkins
Following Wakefield Historical Society’s AGM, members and visitors were entertained by a slideshow of scenes of the Waterfront, which included the building of the Hepworth gallery.  Designed as a historical record for the future, it gave a vivid picture of the changes to the built landscape that are occurring in Wakefield. This was followed by Phil Judkins’ talk that described the process of malting and the importance to Wakefield’s economy of the many maltings  on the waterfront.  At the end of the evening several people expressed a wish to be involved in the project.

20th February 2013
Led by the President of Wakefield Historical Society, Pam Judkins, the planning of events through 2013 is well under way, and publicity in the Press should shortly be appearing about our opening event on 6th April at the Chantry Chapel

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