Lecture notes 2014-2015

15, 22 and 29 April 2015  

15 April, Talk 1: A background history of the development of the railway network in our area
The development of the early railway network had a rapid impact on the transportation of people and goods.  For example, in 1836 the Royal Mail coach took 20 hours to London from Wakefield via Sheffield travelling at 10 miles an hour; by 1843 the journey to London by train from Oakenshaw Station took less than 10 hours with an overall average speed of some 20 mph, and by 1850 with a new route via Doncaster, the best train to London took 7 hours with average speeds of 30 mph, and by 1881 trains travelled at 50 mph.
Before the railways the transportation of heavier goods was by water, which was slow. Costs were halved by the coming of rail. For example carrying flour from Hull to Manchester by water cost 24/- a ton but by rail it was only 13/-. Use of the railways increased rapidly for both passengers and goods: from 1844 to 1846 rail passenger numbers increased by 60% and goods carried by rail by 25%.
Several early railway developments in the West Riding may be regarded as ‘firsts’.  In 1798 there was the first railway investment company, introducing the idea of establishing a company in order to build a railway. The Lake Lock Rail Road was the first independent railway to allow private wagons to operate. The Middleton railway obtained the first Act of Parliament to facilitate land acquisition for railway building in 1758, and it was there that the first practical steam locomotive ran from 1812. Iron strips were used on top of the wooden rails in our area even before their introduction at Coalbrookdale. Probably the oldest surviving railway tunnel in the world is at Flockton and there has been a 20-arch railway viaduct in that area since 1803. The railway at Denby Grange built in 1854 pioneered a complex system using locomotives with four inclined planes, a tunnel and reversing necks.
There was great enthusiasm in the region for public railway construction in the 1820s, with proposals for several lines, including a Manchester to Leeds railway. However the depression of 1825 killed off all the proposals; the first modern railway in the West Riding was the Leeds & Selby line which finally opened in 1834. Further proposals were opposed by the navigation companies, the Aire & Calder and the Calder & Hebble, as they feared competition from the railways. However, a third Manchester – Leeds proposal, put forward and surveyed by Stephenson, from Manchester to Todmorden to Wakefield, and on to Normanton and then Leeds was finally passed by Parliament in 1836.
A prospectus of 1836 presented the arguments for a railway on this route.  It would serve the huge populations estimated at 1.5 million of this wealthy region, and provide communications between the two seas and beyond. The great corn market and malt production at Wakefield were noted in particular. The disadvantages of waterways were noted as variations in water supply, the slow speed, and the need for transhipment on the trans-Pennine route at Sowerby Bridge and Wakefield because of differences in depth and width of waterways. At a public meeting at the Court House in Wakefield in February 1836 support for the railway was strong.
An Act of Parliament was necessary to set up the powers of compulsory purchase which underpinned such large-scale infrastructure developments. Papers in John’s collection show the detailed preparation required to plan the cross-country lines. They needed to check all owners and occupiers of land required for the railway and arrange compensation. Arrangements with turnpike trustees for crossings were also required. Eventually consents were obtained, petitions prepared, maps and books of reference checked and the solicitors and their clerks arrived in London to support the bill which was passed in 1836.

22 April, Talk 2: The history of three major lines: the North Midland Railway, the Manchester to Leeds line, and the Wakefield – Pontefract – Goole line
The North Midland was the first railway to come to Wakefield (at Oakenshaw). It went on to Normanton and then to Hunslet, Leeds. Later, the Manchester & Leeds met the North Midland Railway at Normanton, where they also met the line to York, the York & North Midland Railway. All three were authorised by Parliament in 1836 and were open in part in 1840.
Then railways began to extend north and south of Wakefield.

  • To the east the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole Railway opened in 1848.
  • In 1850 the Great Northern Railway opened the Towns line from London north to Doncaster. It finished at Askern, where it joined the Askern branch of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, providing a shorter route to the West Riding than previously. Trains from Kings Cross came to Knottingley and then across country to Leeds. It was also possible to travel to Wakefield from Knottingley. A new station at Kirkgate became necessary, and this station was run jointly by the Manchester & Leeds (from 1854 the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway) and the Great Northern Railway.
  • In 1853 there was an Act allowing for a railway from Kirkgate north to Leeds.
  • When the West Riding & Grimsby Railway was established in 1862, most of the ‘99 Arches’ were built to carry the line to Doncaster to join the Great Northern mainline, making the quickest route to London.

Railways began to join together. The Manchester & Leeds became part of the Lancashire & Yorkshire, much later becoming part of the LMS in 1923.

Manchester & Leeds Railway
In July 1837 the contracts were let for the land acquisition for the railway. There was acrimonious correspondence with Joseph Aspdin, whose pioneering cement furnaces were on land needed for Kirkgate Station. 100 temporary cottages were built to house the navvies, but it isn’t known where those were. There were riots between English and Irish navvies in 1839.
The Wakefield building contract was let to William Billinton, but he couldn’t find the necessary backers and the contract was relet to Smith & Hattersley.
Earth from cuttings had to be balanced with soil for embankments, and this dictated the route to some extent. Most of the work on bridges was carried out in 1839. At the end of 1838 2 arches over Ings Road collapsed and men were killed. Later 2 more collapsed in the viaduct over Kirkgate, which had a large arch and 2 smaller pedestrian ones. They had failed to follow the plans approved, and the bridge was partly pulled down and rebuilt with 3 arches. The arches to its west of of 1838-9 were filled in later.
The first Kirkgate Station was built in 1839. It was small and inconvenient. The ‘Views of the Manchester & Leeds Railway’ contain one view showing this first station.
The line from Goosehill to Manchester was opened in 1840, but the summit tunnel allowing trains to travel the whole line wasn’t finished until later.
North Midland Railway
Wakefield surveyor Henry Clarkson was responsible for surveying part of the route of this railway via Derby to London. He was a member of Wakefield’s Westgate Chapel and lived at Pemberton House. He did the survey from Oakenshaw to Cudworth, and records some difficulties in his book, Memories of Merry Wakefield. The Act to authorise compulsory purchase was passed in July 1836 and contracts were let in 1837.
The local contract was let to William Shaw of Milnthorpe, later of Stanley Hall, and details of the contract survive. The line followed the easiest route, avoiding Sheffield, Barnsley and Wakefield because of the east-west valleys. The line opened in 1840. Oakenshaw Station (originally called Wakefield) opened in 1840, and was later replaced by Sandal & Walton Station in 1870.
Sir William Pilkington, who succeeded in 1811 and died in 1850, opposed his land being used, but he was eventually bought off. He wanted the line to look aesthetically pleasing (he had studied art under J M W Turner) and demanded a longer tunnel and ornamental viaduct across his land. The parapet and stone facing cost £600.

Wakefield to Pontefract and Goole Railway
The port of Goole was opened in 1826 on the new canal from Knottingley as the port for the Aire & Calder Navigation. It was the nearest port for the West Yorkshire coalfield and was the most successful inland port. The Dutch River also brought part of the Don Valley trade to Goole. The new port originally provided only for the Aire & Calder, but with the opening of railways across from Liverpool to Hull, the Aire & Calder began to feel the competition.
The third bout of railway mania finally brought the railway to Goole. In 1844 three Pontefract businessmen, George Fox, William Moxon and Dr Buchanan, led proposals for a new railway, and the Aire & Calder finally agreed to have the railway join at Goole. There followed the necessary survey, negotiations and a bill in Parliament to carry out the compulsory purchase. The line cost £365,000 and the Manchester & Leeds Railway contributed 50%. The Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole Railway finally opened in 1848.

29 April, Talk 3: A look at some of the earliest railway developments in the Wakefield area
Before the arrival of the main railways there were 100 miles of horse or bullock drawn railways, railways with inclined planes, and steam powered railways in existence locally. The earliest steam powered railway was the Middleton Railway from 1812. Some of them are shown on the OS 1”: 1 mile map of 1838-40. None of them carried passengers formally, although Smithson’s Railway of 1798, which carried coal down to staithes on the River Calder, did allow passengers. Their main purpose was to carry coal from the collieries to get it to market, but they also carried limestone, pit props and large scale iron castings, for example from the predecessors of Bradley & Craven. John then looked at three early railways in more detail.
Lake Lock Rail Road
This was the first railway to introduce the idea of a railway run by a public company. It ran from the Wakefield to Bradford Road at East Ardsley through the Outwood down to the Aire & Calder Navigation at Bottomboat, providing an outlet for large scale collieries in East Ardsley and on the Outwood.  In 1793 the Commissioners for enclosure laid out the path for a road/railway, which was advertised for sale. The Wakefield lawyer and developer of St John’s, John Lee, bought it. In 1796 he formed the very first railway company, the Lake Lock Rail Road Company, getting local investors to come in with him.
The railway opened in 1798, and was built of iron rails screwed to wooden baulks. The rails broke easily and it was soon necessary to rebuild them. Anyone could take their own wagon on the railway. It became extended by other private railways joining into it. For example, it was linked to Kirkhamgate in 1798. The road laid out by the Commissioners alongside the railway was Grandstand Road, and it is still possible to see part of the route by the side of that road.
Flockton Railway
The Milnes family, of a father and 4 brothers, were farmers and maltsters, who took up mining in the 1770s. In about 1772 they started a colliery at Flockton. When the Calder & Hebble Navigation was authorised in 1758, the Act forbade the carrying of coal downstream, but when the original trust was turned into a company in 1769, this prohibition was not renewed so coal could be moved using the Navigation. The colliery was connected to the river by turnpike road authorised in 1759, and  they also spent about £6,000 laying a railway for some 3 miles from Lane End on Barnsley Road to Grange Moor and then down to the Navigation at Horbury Bridge. It had cross sleepers with soft wood rails with hard wood on top.  This was later replaced with an iron rail to increase loadings. The Ossett spy reported in 1802 that the wagons travelled in trains of 24 drawn by 3 horses. In 1807 the loading was 48 cwts per wagon. To get over the height difference down to the Navigation, the railway had an inclined plane from Middlestown, in existence from the 1770s, perhaps the first in the West Riding.
When her husband died in 1803, Mary Anne Milnes took over the running of the family colliery and ironworks; she was a widow for 55 years. Her two daughters married men in textiles who came to Flockton and joined in the running of the company. A model system was introduced: from 1803 there was a Sunday School; good cottages with gardens were provided for workers; there was a horticultural society and sports ground and running track; a barn was converted into a theatre; there was a choir and a library. In a weekly class the manager met workers to discuss cultural matters.
Eventually Henry William Stansfeld took over the colliery and trade union relations got worse. In 1893, when Henry William had already died, Mrs Stansfeld told the workers that the colliery would shut if they joined in strikes, and in 1895 the colliery was sold off.
Denby Grange Railway
The railway served Caphouse Colliery and ran for 4 miles. It was a mixture of 2 double inclined planes worked by steam power and gravity and 2 sets of reversing necks and a tunnel, to reach the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Barnsley branch railway at Calder Grove.
The owners were the Lister Kaye family who lived at Denby Grange. At first they let the colliery, but later ran it themselves. Sir John’s wife ran the colliery in the time of Sir J L L Kaye, and wrote a book in which she described its story.
The colliery ran alongside a turnpike road, but by the 1840s they were paying £4,000 a year in tolls for the movement of coal to Horbury Bridge. So they decided they must have a railway but they had problems with other local collieries who wouldn’t agree to let the railway cross their land, so they had difficulties with the route. The line was opened in 1854. The stationary engines for the inclined planes were built by Bradley & Craven.


Following a short AGM members enjoyed a showing of the Society’s excellent Waterfront video made during our project last year.  This can be seen on the Waterfront website at http://wakefieldwaterfront.weebly.com

Gary Brannan provided the first of two short talks. Gary is a Society Council Member who until recently worked at Wakefield Archives.  In this role he has been instrumental in facilitating the establishment of the John Goodchild Collection within the Wakefield Archive building, and has worked in the team to develop the bid for the new Wakefield Archives in Kirkgate. However Wakefield’s loss is York’s gain as Gary recently took a new job as Access Officer at the Borthwick Institute in York sited at the University of York. Speaking about the Institute’s Archives is therefore part of his job description, and on May 1st one of our summer excursions will be to the Borthwick where Gary will show us round the archives and point us in the direction of sources held there useful for Wakefield research.

Gary quickly ran through the history of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research. It was opened by the York Civic Trust in 1953 as part of a plan to found a university in York. At that time it was housed at St Anthony’s Hall, a fifteenth century building, where Canon J S Purvis was the first director. Although the Borthwick was part of the new University of York established in 1963, it was not until 2005 that it moved into  purpose-built accommodation on the Heslington Campus.

Gary showed pictures of this state-of-the-art archive and its facilities such as the electronic shelving in the stacks, the search room and the surrogates room which is open from 8am to 10pm every day. He outlined the Borthwick’s important collections, in particular all the Diocesan records, much on the treatment of mental health problems, a field in which the Retreat in York was a pioneer, and business records including those of the chocolate makers of the town. More unusually it holds a large collection of South African documents, as well as the papers of several modern comedy scriptwriters and playwrights including Alan Ayckbourn. He also mentioned recent projects such as research into the Aero girls’ photographs.

Finally he listed the sources with relevance to local history in Wakefield and provided us with one or two examples from these. They are:

Bishop’s transcripts of parish registers 1600-1846
Will and probate records for the Northern Province 1267-1858
Marriage Bonds and Allegations to 1734
Archbishops’ registers from 1225 (indexing at present)
Cause Papers for the church courts

To find out more about the Borthwick or its Collections go to: www.york.ac.uk/borthwick

To contact Gary directly: Email: gary.brannan@york.ac.uk

Chris Welsh, a well-known member of several Wakefield societies including our own, is very active in the Friends of ChaT Parks group. This group were established  in 2009 in order to encourage the use of the three Wakefield parks, to protect them, and to bring in investment for them. The initial impetus for the group was the threat of the siting of a Rugby Stadium there and they have since gone on to work very successfully on many aspects of the parks’ facilities and development.

Chris then looked at a current CHaT project, supported by our own Society, to find out more about the site of the medieval castle on Lowe Hill, also known as Lawe Hill or Cannonball Hill. Evidence of the castle structure was clear from the modern photos shown of the bailey, motte and ditch despite the covering of trees and undergrowth.

CHaT are working in conjunction with the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service who are investigating the castle site and its relationship to the extensive ridge and furrow features between the castle area and the College. On 9th Feb 2015 non-intrusive archaeological investigations were conducted including a magnetometry survey, a topographical survey using GPS, and an earth resistance survey. The results of these will help to decide what further investigation is needed. The last work done on the castle site was led by Brian Hope-Taylor whose report of the small excavations and the findings from these were published by the Historical Society in 1953.  Hope-Taylor had dug several trenches to ascertain the layout of the castle and he produced a map showing two bailey areas. A hearth and small quantities of metalwork and twelfth century pottery were found.

The early history of the site is unclear as little documentary evidence survives. One theory is that it was an adulterine castle, that is one built without license from the king, probably during a period of civil strife. Dating of pottery suggests that it could have been constructed by the third Earl Warenne during the war of 1138-49 between Stephen and Matilda. Traditionally, Lowe Hill Castle is believed to have been destroyed by the great gale of 1330. More recent stories include its use as a site for meetings of Thornes and Wakefield boys to fight each other.

The CHaT group has been allocated a grant of £10,000 for a variety of activities around the archaeological survey. Some members of our Society have already been involved in clearing undergrowth last year and we hope to support the CHaT Friends in this project. Other proposed outcomes will include a video to be made by One-to-One Development Trust, and work to make a safer and more accessible area around the hill with interpretation boards to explain its historical significance. Later this school year archaeologists and volunteers will work with local primary school children who will be learning about this little-known Wakefield Castle. A room on the Thornes campus has been made available by the College as a base for the project and a classroom.  It is intended to hold an exhibition in the College at the end of the project in June.

website: CHaT Parks


Our February talk at the Orangery was a joint meeting with the Kirkgate Calling Project. Railway enthusiasts and project workers joined our members, filling the lecture room to overflowing. In the reception area was space for coffee, chatting and the displays prepared by the Kirkgate Calling team and Phil Judkins, our Secretary, who is leading the project’s training sessions on historical research and resources based on Kirkgate Station.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) came into existence in 1847. During the First World War the government ran the railways and the system was only just reverting to private hands after the war when there was a major national reorganisation of more than 120 such companies into four main groups. In the case of the L&YR it then became part of the London and North Western Railway and a year later the latter became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway.

Before 1847 there were already a number of companies building lines in the region, the most significant being the Manchester and Leeds line which had been granted Royal Assent in 1837. The superintendent, George Stevenson, designed the line which went from Manchester to Rochdale on to Todmorden and down the Calder Valley. The six-wheeled Stevenson locomotives used initially were not powerful enough for the steep gradients out of the valley to major West Riding towns so Stevenson favoured water-level routes. Thus the line down the Calder made Wakefield a major centre at the Eastern end of this railway and Goosehill Junction near Warmfield became the point at which the North Midland Railway route to Leeds could be picked up. In the east a number of other lines were part of the 1847 merger, such as the Pontefract and Goole railway from Wakefield and the line between Huddersfield and Sheffield, and there were more on the Lancashire side.

After 1847 many more lines were added to the network on both sides of the Pennines.
Many small lines at the time were constructed to carry coal, such as that between Barnsley and Horbury.  Later deep mines were developed in areas like the Dearne valley with a serious tonnage of desirable good-quality coal, and a line was established by the L&YR so that links into eastern and western networks could be made at Crofton.

All along the Calder links were built to West Riding towns such as the Halifax and Ovenden Joint. Lines run by different companies were accessed too, for example the North Eastern line from Altofts to York was useful for linking in with the north-eastern system.  By 1921 when it was merged into the London and North Western the full extent of the L&YR was 601 miles of routes. A lot of this rail mileage is still in action, now often run by Northern Rail, such as the Penistone line or that to Pontefract and Goole.

The history of the company has been quite chequered. In the 1860s and 70s the L&YR was rated as a poor service provider interested only in making profits and it had became the butt of music hall jokes. However George Armitage became Chairman from 1888-1918 and there was a renaissance. Sir John Aspinell was first Chief Mechanical Engineer and he started to build L&YR’s own locomotives and parts. When deciding on the site for the locomotive works Crofton was considered but Horwich, Chorley was eventually chosen. The company’s coaches, the Standard Attocks and Bogie Stock Attocks were the most popular coach design in British history, with 880 built. They had six compartments for 12 people each, with gas lighting. A signal school was established in Manchester using a large-scale model railway still to be seen in the National Railway Museum in York.

L&YR maritime activities began when the company bought shipping from the turn of the century and by 1914 the company had east and west coast fleets. Steamers sailed from Goole and Liverpool and served most of Northern Europe with over 25 ships altogether by 1913 providing both passenger and cargo transport. The company also devised a transport package for Central European emigrants to America: such travellers would have passed through Wakefield during the rail section of their journey.

In the years of the First World War women worked at Horwich making shells, howitzers and 2-foot gauge railways which could be shifted around rapidly in the trenches. Under the Defence of the Realm Act some locomotives were requisitioned for services in France. The L&YR also provided ten ambulance trains with ten coaches each fitted out as hospitals. In this way remarkable speed was achieved in dispersing wartime casualties around the country, filling the hospitals and country houses.

In general approximately 2/3 of rail mileage in the company was in Lancashire and 1/3 in Yorkshire. Manchester Victoria became one of the largest railway stations in the country. The L&YR was the most densely trafficked system in the country using three locomotives per route mile when the national average was one.

Throughout the talk David illustrated a remarkable number of aspects of the L&YR such as the company’s coat-of-arms and identifying symbols, the introduction of ticketing, the great variety of locomotive, wagon and carriage designs depending on the lines and usage, the electrification projects, and station facilities and transport.  Some interesting connections were also pointed out, for example that Branwell Bronte had worked at Luddenden Foot, one of the original stations along the Manchester and Leeds line, or that the L&YR Manchester football team became Manchester United when a local man took them over and they moved to Old Trafford in the early twentieth century.

David made sure that aspects of the rail provision in Wakefield were covered: he pointed out that the low-level goods yard on Thornes Wharf had a hydraulic lift to raise and lower goods between river and railway. The site of this beside the railway is still quite clear. The nearby Smithsons trackway from the collieries north of the town, shown on early maps, linked into the goods yard. At the eastern end of Kirkgate station there was a goods yard with inclines running down to serve the businesses in Calder Vale.

The talk finished with a consideration of Wakefield’s Kirkgate station. It had been one of the most important stations of the L&YR and the Great Northern. The building is still imposing, built with premises for the stationmaster, separate waiting rooms for the different passenger classes, and control rooms on the top floor. When catalogue selling became an important part of Wakefield’s economy in the 1960s Kirkgate took on the parcel transport whilst Westgate retained the intercity passenger business. With the decline of catalogue sales so the usage of the station declined. David expressed his hope that the current renovation work would bring a brighter future for the station and the Kirkgate area.

“THE STYLE, HISTORY AND INFLUENCE OF ART DECO – AN OVERVIEW” by Kevin Trickett, President of Wakefield Civic Society, 15 January 2015

Robert Powell, Creative Director of Beam, welcomed us to the Orangery as guests of the Civic Society, and introduced the evening’s speaker.  In his bow tie and dinner jacket, Kevin Trickett brought a reminder of the glamorous world associated with the heyday of Art Deco into the Orangery even before his talk began. Kevin’s main theme was that Art Deco was an idea that pervaded many aspects of life for much of the twentieth century and even today, and he illustrated this fully throughout.

Kevin’s first images were from ‘The Great Gatsby’, the recent film adaptation of Scott Fitzgerald’s novel depicting the lives of the young rich after the First World War. This period of new styles, greater freedom and a sense of flamboyant excess was the decade in which Art Deco emerged. Other illustrations here were from the television adaptations of Poirot and P G Wodehouse. The significance of Art Deco in architecture by the 1930s can be seen in such examples as the Empire State building or the Chrysler building.  In fashion and interior design the glamorous sets and costumes of the Hollywood films of Busby Berkeley took Art Deco ideas all around the world.

The name ‘Art Deco’ is the French abbreviation of the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes which was held in 1925, although originally planned for 1915 around the ‘moderne’ theme.  In 1925 there were no displays from Germany or the USA and the British Pavilion was still somewhat colonial, but the French contributions, particularly the acclaimed Pavilion de Collectioneur and its contents, were clear statements of what became known as Art Deco.

The main characteristic of the style, which was already emerging in the late nineteenth century, was the geometric, streamlined design in which form followed function. Decorative elements were inspired by new discoveries from ancient civilisations – the Egyptians, the Aztecs and the Minoans – using sinuous curls and curves, often with athletic figures of people and animals. Many different styles from around the world were encompassed in Art Deco, such as the French Decorative, the Geometric, the Moderne, the International, the Streamlined, Functionalism, Bauhaus, Neo-classical and Brutalism, Werkbund and Russian Constructivism. Art Deco was used in the design and construction of all manner of things from luxury liners to furniture, from railway stations to tableware, from motor cars to carpets.

Products and designs ranged from the greatest luxury to the mass-produced so that Art Deco became part of the lives of everyone. Locally the architecture of Boots and Marks and Spencers in Upper Kirkgate, of the former Jockey pub in Northgate, and the Barristers Bar in Wood Street, as well as the former Regal Cinema complex are examples of the style. Even the design of Civic Society’s King Street office was influenced by Art Deco. The local glass firm of Bagley’s at Knottingley produced inexpensive glassware in the Art Deco style from the 1930s to the1960s.

Art Deco first became popular after the First World War when attitudes were changing: women had been working and felt liberated in terms of fashion and social interaction; people wanted to enjoy the peace. After the Second World War there was less money available so that when the style was employed in the 1950s it appeared in many cheaper items and more functional buildings.  Wakefield bus station built in 1952 and only recently demolished was in the Art Deco style. Members of the audience began to realise that their parent’s homes had examples of Art Deco ornaments or household wares.

Following the talk, discussion focussed around even more examples of Art Deco. One member of the audience pointed out that the New Zealand city of Napier has a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture, built after much of the city was razed in the 1931 earthquake. Kevin was also reminded that many schools were in the Art Deco style such as Three Lane Ends in Castleford.

Our thanks go to the Civic Society for their warm welcome and for Kevin’s very enjoyable and comprehensively illustrated lecture.

“A YORKSHIRE GLOSSARY: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WORDS” by George Redmonds, 10th December 2014

A glass of sherry, a mince pie and the warmth and comfort of the Orangery were very welcome on the cold, wet and windy night of our December lecture.

George Redmonds has been excited by words for much of his life, whether names of people, names of places or other local words. These are often related and he feels they should not be considered separately. A lifetime of research into our county’s vocabulary has built up to his huge Yorkshire glossary of regional terms.

This interest soon showed George some of the inadequacies of printed sources including place-name studies and etymological dictionaries. Too often assumptions were made about what words and names meant at particular points in history without clear proof. A word from the Middle Ages might be presumed to have the same meaning today without intermediate research.  Therefore he has attempted to adopt a more sceptical methodology, searching for meanings through documents from many periods and analysing their meaning in context.  His lecture was full of illustrations of lazy assumptions, for instance commentators have asserted that ‘Mary’ has been a very common Christian name except during the period when Mary Tudor was an unpopular queen. By counting up actual names George has shown that the reverse is actually the case.

He also felt that place-name specialists were often students of Anglo-Saxon or Norse, focusing on the relatively few places that existed at Domesday. The Middle English place-names that surround us have therefore been very much neglected.  Even where this is not the case local variation is often not recognised.  His example was of the word ‘wheel’ which is used in Sheffield in the names for buildings in which a cutler’s wheel was situated. Similarly in the West Riding the term ‘mill’ was used for the buildings housing the mill stones themselves, and the word has remained in use for the increasingly large structures housing a variety of cloth-making processes. These examples show how words have developed in different ways in different parts of the country so that all words have many meanings both chronologically and spatially.

Some words do not appear in any printed dictionaries. An example here is the word ‘clatch’ from coal-mining, a common word in many documents and in printed materials concerning coal mining from the 1600s.  This neglect would suggest that dictionary content depends on the interest or expertise of the compilers.  George has also noted examples from the Oxford English Dictionary in which definitions are incorrect. For example the word ‘moormaister’ used in York, is recorded from 1700 under the term ‘moor’ in the OED. Looking more carefully at the York context the term seems to come from ‘mur’, the moormaister collecting the dues of those entering the city walls from medieval times. Similarly the term ‘feeman’ is assumed to mean vassal coming from ‘fief’ but in monastic records ‘fee’ comes from a Germanic word meaning cattle and the ‘feemen’ are those who work with cattle.

This shows that collecting and researching words should be done on a local basis. In the north of England George has identified the influence of scribes in centralising vocabulary from the sixteenth century. In Yorkshire the term tithe is not used in older documents, rather they are ‘teind’ and the word ‘laith’ applies to buildings like barns: ‘Teenley’ as the name of a farm probably originates from these two words, which have been gradually squeezed out of the vocabulary although still continuing to be used in Scottish dialect.  George has often identified a stronger link with Scottish usage in documents from the north of England but this is often unacknowledged in etymological studies.

Many words occur very much earlier than they are currently recorded, for example the name Cutler and Naylor reflect occupations and have been found in Court Rolls from the 1290s, over 200 years before the earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary.

George enjoys the serendipity nature of his work. He entertained us with lists of by-names, the additional, non-hereditary names sometimes occurring in Medieval Court Rolls, such as John Never-at-home, or Agnes Drink-all-day. All suggest characteristics of specific individuals and give a unique insight into life at the time.

George’s experience of dialect came from his own father who, for example, would describe his son as ‘as wick as a scockrill’: ‘wick’ means quick or restless, and a ‘scockrill’ is a disc of wood which children set whizzing round on a string.  Imagine George’s delight when he found a man called Scockrill in the thirteenth century. The occupational name of ‘botchcollact’ has been found in various places. ‘Colleck’ has two meanings in medieval English, both a pail and a drinking vessel. ‘Botch’ was to make good or repair in the 1300s, but also meant a swelling or tumour, two meanings which appear to have coalesced over time to indicate an ugly, poor repair. An early meaning of carbuncle in the 1200s was a ruby or garnet, and later it was a glowing coal. Charbottle land in Drax was land burnt dry by the sun.

In the York Freemen’s Rolls there are occupations that are not in the OED, for example ‘treaclers’.  They were the apothecaries of their day making concoctions of spices and herbs to be used a medicine and because these were unpleasant they were sweetened. The term ‘dearbought’ is a common field name used all over the country which has been explained as expensive land or land that is a poor bargain, but in 1677 George found a definition from the Parson of Melmerby who said that the peats collected for fires in the village were difficult to bring back to the village, or ‘dear bought’ that is hard won rather than connected with money.

There was little time for questions because of the many entertaining examples given, but when asked if dialect words and phrases have disappeared recently George referred to the work of the late Stanley Ellis, one of the country’s foremost linguistics and dialect experts. He believed that language changed of necessity:  if you don’t use a ‘posser’ the word disappears, but where there is a good case for a word it survives.  As an example George mentioned the current local use of the phrase ‘he gave backword’, still useful but not widespread outside the region. New vocabulary is constantly emerging too. Some discussion ensued about the varied vocabularies used by people within different groups on different occasions, suggesting that many people are bilingual in their use of language.

LOCAL AND GLOBAL: 190 YEARS OF JOSEPH RHODES, Kate Taylor, 12th November 2014

For our November talk we were joined by several representatives from Joseph Rhodes to listen to Kate’s history of this important Wakefield engineering business which has existed from the early nineteenth century.

Kate introduced the main characters in the history of the company in her first section on people and places. The Rhodes dynasty began with Joseph Rhodes, born in 1804, who as a young man designed machines for the Wakefield spinning industry, inventing a spinning frame in 1824. By the mid-nineteenth century he was settled in premises off Kirkgate devising machines to make small metal items. By 1861 he worked with his two sons, employing 36 men and 25 boys. He also went into politics as a Liberal councillor, serving as Mayor in 1865. By his death in 1876 his sons George and William were already running the business.

Soon after the founder’s death, the Colossus of Rhodes was registered as the company’s trademark. William leased Fall Ing Foundry on the cut from the Aire and Calder Navigation. Around this time he also purchased land in Elm Tree Street, Belle Vue. He followed his father’s footsteps into politics as local councillor and then Mayor and died in 1904.  William’s son, Charles, the next chairman, extended the works, developing the export side of the business with a Paris office. The company made machines such as those producing shell cases for the War Department during the First Word War. In 1921 Charles moved into the Elm Tree Street site which ran along the railway with sidings for transporting goods directly to and from the factory. Here he provided workers’ facilities like a club house, bowling green and tennis courts. Later he bought part of the Chevet estate for football and cricket fields. After the war Slater and Crabtree, a Barnsley firm, joined them on site to make components for their machines. By 1931 Charles was able to buy out shareholders so that he was again in total charge. In the 1930s the company established a showroom in Birmingham. A major change came with the use of steel fabrication and a new steel fabrication shop was opened in 1967.
In 1969 when Charles died the death duties were so great that his son Stanley had to sell the firm. At first it was run as part of Lindustries, a firm which regarded the Rhodes factory as its jewel. However, in 1979 the Hanson Trust took over and began to asset strip at Rhodes. The Birmingham Office was closed and there were plans to sell off the sports facilities at Chevet. In 1984 the Hanson Trust was ready to liquidate the business but instead a management buy-out was agreed with the support of the Yorkshire Enterprise Board. This began a period to the present in which the company has been led by members of the Ridgway family.
From the early days the company produced machines that work metal such as the gutter-forming press which is in a small museum at the Works. At first machines were operated manually or by foot but by the mid 19 century steam-operated machine were being made.  In 1900 the tins containing chocolates which Queen Victoria sent to all her soldiers in the Boer War were made on Rhodes machines. Patents from the twentieth century show that the firm were always finding ways to improve on existing machinery to make such items as tins, caddies, saucepans, and tubes or inventing machines such as one for stamping metal. In the Second World War Rhodes made such items as jerry can presses and provided the machines for sheet metal shops on naval ships. In 1943 Harry Ridgway invented a hydraulic shear and press brake, a machine tool for cutting and bending sheet and plate material into predetermined shapes. After the war the impact extrusion press was designed to make tubes such as toothpaste or batteries. The firm’s archives show that since the post-war period they have had customers around the world and in many great firms such as Chivers, Leyland, Rolls Royce and Vickers Armstrong. Many orders have been for parts like guillotine blades or clutch plates. Now everything is computer-controlled and today’s technology includes the superplastic forming presses which are an efficient and accurate way of creating increasingly complex components from titanium for, for example, aeroplane parts.

Finally Kate tried to analysed the factors which have contributed to the firm’s longevity and continuing success.

First came flexibility, versatility and opportunism. Rhodes have kept abreast of change and technology. The firm was completely electrical by 1904; today the firm is fully automated, designing hi-tech computer controlled machines.

Secondly Kate pointed out their long history of excellent publicity, often through trade exhibitions, from the Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition of 1865 to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. After World War II Rhodes have exhibited around Europe and today forward planning always includes these events. This year they exhibited at MACH 2014, in Birmingham, the UK’s largest event for Manufacturing Technologies, as well as in in North Africa and in Mexico.

Another aspect of their success has been their creative response to bespoke orders for specialised machinery from customers such as the minting presses designed and made for the Royal Mint, and recently a waste management autoclave for Wakefield Council’s contractors.

Rhodes has worked closely with many different companies throughout its long history. From the 1980s Rhodes has acquired a number of these, renaming itself Group Rhodes in 1904 to acknowledge this. Some of these are international businesses and others local firms such as Craven Fawcett and Slater and Crabtree. Recently they have established a new firm in India, Rhodes India, for brick-making machines, and Mark Ridgway joined Nick Clegg on a trade mission to India this year. The firm also has partnerships with higher education to contribute to and benefit from PhD research.

Like Ian Ridgway, the leader of the company buy-out in the 1980s, who began work there as a young man, the Rhodes’ workforce continues to contain many long-standing employees whose families remain loyal to the firm over generations. The recognition that a skilled loyal workforce has been essential from the beginning has meant that the company have provided both training and leisure facilities over many years. The Ridgways have encouraged schemes in co-operation with Wakefield and Whitwood techs for HND and sandwich courses for their apprentices. Today ten per cent of the workforce are apprentices and this year they held their apprentice awards ceremony at the Hepworth.

Rhodes are active in the local community too and have provided equipment for the Cathedral such as a portable font and a candelabra for candlelight services as well as an arch providing temporary access arrangements during the recent refurbishment. Their workforce has funded a pony for Riding for the Disabled. (Our own Society too has benefited from their generosity in designing and producing the Pontefract to Fotheringhay plaques which we presented to the host churches along the route of Richard, Duke of York’s funeral cortege in 2010.)

Group Rhodes are now being recognised for their achievements. In 2010 they won he Queen’s award for Enterprise and Innovation and in 2012 the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade. Politicians use them as an example of good practice and success when promoting the current hoped-for resurgence of manufacturing.

Tucked away off Doncaster Road on Elm Tree Street in Belle Vue the Rhodes Group is little known to many of us. Our thanks go to Kate for making us aware of the history and significance of the Rhodes Group. The Civic Society are soon to unveil a plaque to the company’s founder, Joseph Rhodes, whose innovative skills continue to be the key to the success of the firm.

 ‘SERVANTS NOWADAYS ARE SO INCONSISTENT…’ Uncovering the social history of Nostell Priory in the eighteenth century: Dr. Julie Day, 8 October 2014

This season’s second lecture attracted another good audience to learn more about the social history of Nostell Priory in the eighteenth century.

Julie began by describing the extent of the Nostell Priory archives, which span a time period from the thirteenth century Augustinian Priory to the conveyance of the present house and parkland to the National Trust in the 1950s.  The collection encompasses a huge range of documents, providing rare insights into the organisation of the estates and lands, and the lives of the people who worked and lived there. Recently the West Yorkshire Archive Service has re-catalogued them more thoroughly to promote public access.

Those papers which date from the eighteenth century are particularly extensive and rich, serving not only to highlight the construction of the present house, but also the intricacies of elite family life there. They have allowed Julie to create a vivid picture of the characters and tastes of individual members of the Winn family and the Nostell household, and some of their more personal stories, showing how the disorder of a house under construction for much of the century was the backdrop for a turbulent period in the Winn family’s history.

The fourth baronet had planned a new house at Nostell in the fashionable Palladian style following his extensive grand tour in the 1720s, and work was begun in 1736. His eldest son also travelled abroad as a young man from 1756 to 1762 and eventually returned home with a Swiss wife, Sabine. It was a loving relationship but family disapproval was strong, and the marriage continued to cause disputes with his sisters even after Roland became the fifth baronet in 1765.

By then only part of the house had been completed and work continued. Many tradesmen from the area and from London were helping to furnish and equip the house and household, and the archive includes their tradecards, samples, letters and bills. Some of these show Sabine’s love of French goods and designs. She was also much occupied by exploring medicinal remedies of all sorts, especially as she grew older.

There were household menus and recipes too, but Sabine was little prepared for the housekeeping role of the lady of a great house and was handicapped by the prejudice relating to her foreign origins. Her own personality tended to be laissez-faire and disorganised and the correspondence in the archives indicates that Nostell was fraught with staff quarrels and problems. Neither had the pair kept careful accounts, so that when the fifth baronet died in 1785 Sabine was left in debt, with continuing family conflicts, and still surrounded by unfinished work at Nostell.

Finally Julie outlined briefly the history of Sabine’s relationships with her children. Her son, Rowland, the 6th baronet, was a child when he inherited the title, and her daughter Esther became estranged when she eloped with the Nostell baker. However it was Esther’s children, John and Charles, who stabilized the dynasty at Nostell in the early nineteenth century.

A lively question and answer session concluded the evening. Julie described the numbers of staff required in the Nostell household of perhaps 15-20 men and 30-40 women at any one time. Recruitment of servants was often done by networking and recommendations, with a high turnover of staff. Many audience members were familiar with the house and it was clear that Julie’s introduction to the Archives had added a new dimension to their understanding and appreciation of its history.

Julie hopes to co-curate an exhibition at Nostell in 2016 with her colleague Dr Kerry Bristol from the University of Leeds, with contributions by Dr Frances Sands from Sir John Sloane’s Museum, London. We wish her luck in this venture.  Members might also like to look up Julie’s blog: countryhousereader.wordpress.com

Zeppelin: the air defence of Yorkshire in the First World War: Dr Phil Judkins. 10th September 2014

Phil’s first image of the twin towers communicated vividly the feelings of horror and disbelief when Zeppelins arrived over England. The appearance of these gigantic terror weapons seemed something out of a fantasy story as they hovered over Britain unchallenged, undermining all sense of security.

In 1914 invasion by sea had seemed the real threat and so anti-aircraft defences were almost non-existent, and fighter planes not in use. However, intercepting German wireless messages was made possible by the capture of German code books early in   the war. From then on it was known not only when and where Zeppelins were to be deployed but also which were decoys and which real. Wireless intercept stations were then set up, often operated by women: in Yorkshire the main ones were at Flamborough and York. Concrete sound locators were also constructed along the east coast to listen for Zeppelin engines.

The first phase of German air attack during the First World War from 1914-17 consisted of night attacks by Zeppelins over the eastern parts of the country within range of Germany. These were described by Phil as the first Battle of Britain. In January 1915 the target of the first Yorkshire raid was Hull: although in fact they reached Yarmouth and King’s Lynn – Zeppelins were difficult to control and therefore inaccurate. In April 1915 there were raids to Blythe and Wallsend and the following year there was a successful attack on Hull which left 24 people dead.

Gradually homeland defences were planned and co-ordinated. Anti-aircraft gun posts were built: a single gun defended Wakefield, perhaps sited on Park Hill to the east of the town. The Royal Flying Corp grew, with two Squadrons based in Yorkshire, although fighters were not greatly successful against Zeppelins, taking three hours to reach the airship height of 10,000 feet. On 27th November 1916 an airship meandered around the skies above Wakefield: one bomb was found at Walton. Other local raids left evidence of bombing but were not highly destructive and improved defences led to airships losses. From 1917 the focus of German air attacks was on London and the south-east, using bomber aircraft in daytime attacks.

However, Zeppelins were seen again over Britain in the 1930s: the Hindenburg cruised over Yorkshire towns with fare-paying passengers in 1933, probably on a spying mission to collect information about potential targets. In 1939 the Graf Zeppelin was deployed to find out about British radar, but not recognising the crackly hum they heard from the radar stations, became convinced that these were simply radio stations. In fact the development of British radar was sophisticated and pilot training well advanced so that Britain had good early warning, able to track the simultaneous German attacks on both the north and south of England on the most intense day of the Battle of Britain, 15th Aug 1940.

Many members of the audience were keen to find out more about the Zeppelins in the questions that followed. Bombs were dropped out of the gondola until bombing tubes started to be used: incendiary bullets were required to ignite the hydrogen: Zeppelins dropped to 5000 feet when bombing. Phil’s talk had attracted a good audience for our first meeting of the season and we were, as usual, not only expertly informed but also entertained by his presentation.

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