Lecture notes 2015-2016

Rugby League: A Threat to the Establishment by David Hinchliffe. 13th April 2016

David began by expressing his indebtedness to Kate (Taylor) and John (Goodchild) for their support in his decision to study local and regional history following his retirement from politics. In this talk he hoped to share his perspective on the significance of social class for the game of rugby league. His view is that this game has been shunned and attacked throughout its history.

He began by explaining his own passion for rugby league as a boy. From childhood days at Lawefield Lane School David was obsessed by the game. When he went to the Cathedral Secondary School he began to play himself. The talk’s first image was of the Wakefield Trinity team which won the Rugby League Challenge Cup in 1960. Some of these great players from his youth still feature in David’s life today as they cheer on the present Wakefield ‘Wildcats’ together.

Wakefield Trinity was founded by a group of men from the Holy Trinity Church on Thornhill Street in 1873. A doctor in the Young Men’s Society there saw rugby as a way of maintaining the Englishman’s reputation for superior strength and power.
In 1878 the Trinity three-quarter Harry Hayley was the first player without a public school background to be selected to play rugby for Yorkshire. Many members of our audience recalled the Hayley family’s shop in mid-twentieth century Wakefield.

The game of rugby union was an amateur sport at this time, but as it grew in popularity working men in the north were often losing money if they missed shifts to play. The dispute over this became known as the ‘broken time issue’. The northern clubs argued for the acceptance of compensation for loss of earnings but when it was voted down they were faced with expulsion from the amateur Rugby Union. These clubs therefore decided to withdraw from the Rugby Football Union and form the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895. This division made anyone associated with rugby league an outcast, whether amateur or professional. They were banned forever from playing rugby union. After this schism the separate codes were named “rugby league” and “rugby union’. The only period when the ban on certain league players was lifted was for inter-services matches during Second World War conscription.

 From 1895 until today, many newspaper pundits and rugby union players and officials have been eager to pronounced the sport of rugby league dead or dying. David illustrated this through a series of dismissive quotations including the description of league as ‘the sport of the sewers’. In France the Vichy Government even banned the game. However, under pressure from the players and from other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, rugby union itself became a professional sport in 1995. The effect of this was to renew the view that rugby league would die out. It seems clear that it was the game of rugby league itself and not payment for playing that caused the real offence in the union ranks.

How has more recent change come about?  Following the foundation of the British Amateur Rugby League Association in 1973 the rugby union authorities finally agreed to allow amateur rugby league players to play union. In 1989 the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group was set up. In 1994 David introduced a Private Members’ Bill, the Sports Discrimination Bill, which stated that it was illegal for one sport to have rules which discriminated against another sport. This never became law but a Select Committee Enquiry was held, and things began to change: for example, rugby league was included in sports played by the armed forces. Gradually rugby league has spread around Britain and many parts of the world.

The question remains about whether the rugby establishment has accepted the league game. David cited examples of how far there is still to go. The number of honours conferred on rugby sportsmen continues to show a huge disparity between the two codes. In 2013 the Rugby League World Cup was held in the UK with capacity crowds at Wembley, but no members of the Royal Family attended, whereas in the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup there were royal representatives at every match.

Questions came from guests as well as members. Rugby League was described as the ‘M62’ game by one member, with soccer generally the game of working men.  This lead to discussion on spaces to play and schools’ sport policy. In the late 1900s soccer came through the middle of the two rugby codes. However David emphasised that league is now played in every county of England.

In considering the profile of the sport there was discussion on the perception of the league game as presented in the commentaries of Eddie Waring and the film ‘This Sporting Life’. This latter stirred memories of Lindsey Anderson filming at Belle Vue.

How the league game had gradually evolved was explored. There was agreement that fewer players made the game better to watch. The ball is thrown about in an open handling game. However many of us were lost in the discussion of the technicalities of scrum arrangements which made for a cleaner game.

Questions compared class differentiation in other sports like cricket in which the classes had co-existed as Gentlemen and Players, the ‘Gentlemen’ were nominally amateurs, coming through the schools and universities, and the ‘Players’ were working men paid a wage, but matches between the two were played for many years.

From his own experiences in the game David’s view is that the league code has been despised by the establishment. His life-long devotion to the sport and the account of the changes he helped to bring about at a national level provided a fascinating talk which engaged non-rugby enthusiasts as well as the game’s fans. The local context too provided much audience involvement and the Chantry was often filled with laughter during this last talk of the season.

Members’ Evening, 9th March 2016

Following the AGM there were two items for Members’ Evening. Firstly Julie Trueman gave an illustrated talk on how the development of manufacturing in Wakefield and West Yorkshire affected the River Calder and the local population from 1852 to 1870. The substance of her talk provides the basis for an essay which we hope will be included in a volume of the collected research that was undertaken during our Waterfront Project.

Julie described the huge increase of population in the West Riding throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the concurrent increase in industrial processing beside the Calder upstream of and in the town of Wakefield. Outbreaks of cholera from the 1830s inspired the Council to invite a survey into the condition of water supplies in the town from the General Board of Health in 1852. However pollution of the town’s major water source, the Calder, continued and in 1865 a Royal Commission visited Wakefield during their investigation into the state of Britain’s rivers.

There were gasps of horror from our members as Julie read some short extracts from these reports. The descriptions of the effects on the river and its tributaries of the effluent from woollen, iron, or malting industries, amongst others, as well as the sewage generated by the growing population, were graphic. Equally disturbing was the apparent helplessness of the authorities to implement improvements in the face of the economic power of the Calder valley’s industries, mills and navigation companies.

The second members’ evening item was presented by Deborah Scriven. She showed a selection of pictures of the Bull Ring taken in the second half of the twentieth century. These were chosen by Deborah with the help of Denise Thorpe and Lesley Taylor and were kindly supplied to us by the Library from the Twixt Aire and Calder website, and by the Museum from their on-line Photograph Collection. Brian Holding also provided a couple of more recent photographs. Deborah encouraged members to share their knowledge and memories inspired by each photograph.

She began by using some aerial shots of the Bull Ring and then moved round the area at ground level exploring specific changes over several decades, particularly to the shops and other buildings. Gradually more and more voices from the audience started to contribute.

There was some discussion of the slum clearances, which had left large empty areas in the 1950s behind the Bull Ring and up Northgate. A bonfire had been held on VE night on waste ground, later the former bus station. Many of the slides showed aspects of the Bull Ring as a transport hub over the years. As redevelopments of the Bull Ring’s public space occurred the movements of Queen Victoria’s statue were traced by members: she appeared in different Bull Ring sites in the photographs, and twice disappeared completely to other parts of the town.

The most imposing building in the post-war pictures was the Strafford Arms with its revolving doors and up-market clientele: one member volunteered that Franz Liszt had stayed there. Today the name survives in a modest building on a part of the same site but in the mid-twentieth century the Strafford Arms had extended around the corner into Northgate. At ground level at this corner was Southcotts, a store known to many of us because it supplied school uniforms. A series of shops from different periods were recalled such as Brothertons, Baines and Son, Hepworth’s the tailors, and Ledgards a leather specialist. There was the fashionable post-war grocer, Lewis Hughes, with Chianti bottles and huge selection of cheeses. One member recalled that the job of Mr Hughes’s daughter was to take the points during rationing. Kingswells, another shop familiar to many, had been Wakefield’s first department store in its heyday, filling the short row of houses leading out of the Bull Ring towards the Cathedral. Austrian cakes in their top floor café were mentioned to me afterwards. Many of these businesses were run by local families.

The top of Westmoreland Street was very narrow on one of the early photographs but redevelopment opened the street out. The Maypole was a small proto-supermarket, and there was Findleys the tobacconists and Liptons the grocers, all shops in national chains. When the eastern side of the Bull Ring between Union Street and Northgate was redeveloped a row of shops was built underneath flats. The names of some of the early shops here were recalled, such as Cravens, the sports shop, and Judges, the chemist.

There seemed to be consensus that this had been an enjoyable activity. Now memories have been jogged, if members wish to jot down any snippets of information in more detail these would be welcome. The Library is happy to collect new material to include where appropriate in future revisions of their excellent Twixt Aire and Calder website: www.twixtaireandcalder.org.uk.

10 February 2016, A Tale of Three Cities: Newcastle, Leeds and Wakefield: the Brandling family and their activities as country gentry and colliery owners, and in politics and local life by John Goodchild M Univ

John has been a leading member of Wakefield Historical Society for many years, giving well over hundred lectures for us and writing regularly for our journals.  All his work is based on original research from his own archives, which he continues to accumulate. This lecture was prompted by a purchase of family papers recently sold by the Brandling family. John has combined information from these materials with another collection which came from the cellars of Leathams and Co, the Wakefield solicitors.

The Brandlings have been a significant family in the north-east since the 1400s. In the medieval period, they were mayors of Newcastle, then MPs for the town, and Henry VIII knighted a Brandling. Their country house was at Felling, County Durham near Gateshead, south of the river Tyne. They were country gentry but also developed commercial interests in mining coal from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, a profitable business as this area supplied London and the South east.

The family’s Yorkshire connection began when, in 1697, the heir of the main Brandling line, Ralph, married the daughter and heir of John Leigh of Middleton in the parish of Rothwell.  Leigh, too, had exploited coal reserves on his land and in 1706 Ralph became owner of his Middleton estate, with Middleton Hall as his family’s Yorkshire residence until his death in 1749. Unfortunately Ralph and Anne had no children and so it was his younger brother’s grandson, Charles, to whom the estates passed.

In 1751 Charles Brandling was about eighteen.  Amongst the documents and maps in John’s display of sources was a miniature of Charles, showing a fresh-faced bewigged young man. He lived until 1802, holding the estates in Durham and the West Riding for over fifty years. In 1756 he married an heiress from a County Durham family who brought him a fortune of £15,000 and with whom he had five sons and eight daughters.

Upon his marriage Charles began his estate developments. Firstly he built a new mansion in the north-east, Gosforth House, designed by James Paine, which still exists. Then he built Middleton Lodge in 1766-69. Sources such as sale plans and tax assessments on luxury items show the elegance and comfort in which the family lived there. The old Middleton Hall, built in the seventeenth century and surviving until the end of the twentieth century, became the home of his estate managers. Charles also had a town house in Newcastle but sold Felling Hall when he made Gosforth Hall his main residence in that area.

He continued to exploit the coal on his Tyneside estates and at Middleton, where the seams were shallow and of good quality. However, the Fentons at Rothwell Haigh, rival coal owners of the area, had easier access to the River Aire and therefore to the Leeds market.  Charles negotiated with a number of local landowners through whose property he proposed a better route to the river for his coal. This started as a plan for a new road, but by 1758 it had become a scheme for a wooden wagonway using horse- drawn vehicles.  Eventually leases for sixty years were arranged with the intervening landowners secured by an Act of Parliament. Today Middleton Railway is the world’s oldest continuously working public railway.

Charles was active as an MP for Newcastle from 1784, he served as High Sheriff of Northumberland from 1781-2, he became a mason in Leeds and he was a successful racehorse owner. Richard Humble, his agent, prospered too, becoming a partner in a Hunslet pottery in Leeds and living in some luxury at Middleton Hall. An interesting local connection is that in 1782 the younger son of another of the Brandlings’ Leeds managers, called Gilpin, sailed as an astronomer with Captain Cook under William Wales from Warmfield.

Charles was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles John, who married into the Fawkes family of Farnley Hall, but had no surviving children. He moved to Durham but his younger brother, Ralph Henry, remained at Rothwell. The family had been Roman Catholics but Charles, Ralph Henry’s grandfather began to attend Rothwell Church, purchasing the tythes in 1786 which gave him the presentation of this valuable living worth £850. A newly-qualified young Reverend Ralph Henry Brandling became minister there in 1796 and stayed until 1829. He lived at Thorpe Hall, still to be seen today from the train in a dilapidated state. The village of Middleton was largely owned by the Brandlings and housed their colliers.  The family employed a teacher from 1811, building a school-cum-church there in 1833. The Brandlings were reputed to have never put a widow out of her house.

In 1826 Ralph Henry inherited the estates and collieries but found that the business was mortgaged to the hilt.  In 1811 it owed £4,000, in 1823 £20,000 and in 1835 £35,0000. In that era gentlemen and noblemen did not go bankrupt but Ralph Henry had to agree with his creditors to pay £500 a year.  He also lost control of the collieries to trustees, and the estate eventually went into a long Chancery case. The Colliery and the estate passed into the hands of a new company, Middleton Estate and Colliery Company.

Answers to members’ questions explored the reason for Ralph Henry’s debts, such as the costs of modernization and the need to buy new land with fresh coal reserves. Also John was prompted to give a brief account of the first practical steam locomotives in the world which were designed for the Brandlings by their agent John Blenkinsop.

John has introduced us to a significant family, both locally and more widely, over several generations, linking their personal lives and activities to their major coal mining interests and the innovations in rail development for which they are now remembered.

‘Kirkgate Calling‘: aspects of the history of Wakefield’s Kirkgate Station, by Groundwork’s Kirkgate Station research volunteers and Dr Phil Judkins
January 13th 2016

During the last year a research group organised by Phil Judkins, our Secretary, has been meeting as part of the ‘Kirkgate Calling’ project, to complement the refurbishment of the station by learning about aspects of the station’s history. Our joint meeting with the Civic Society seemed an ideal opportunity to showcase the outcome of this research. Our Society booked the large and comfortable Conference Room One in the recently re-furbished Unity Works. Display stands with pictures and information stood down each side of the room, and ‘Kirkgate Calling’ ‘goody’ bags of leaflets and information were spread over the seats. We were delighted to find that by 7.30pm an audience of over ninety people had congregated.

As well as introducing the other speakers, Phil provided a general introduction to the subject. The research group’s role in the project was to rediscover the importance of Kirkgate station in the past, allowing glimpses into the activities which had made it a major railway hub, and into the lives of all the people who had been involved. Phil quickly sketched the growth of rail systems and rail facilities which had arisen in the Kirkgate area from the earliest colliery tramways. Early rail development was to carry goods such as coal, grain and freight, and heavy industry in Wakefield developed close to these rail outlets.

The short lectures which followed were excellent examples of history at its best. Using a wide range of archival sources and accompanied by fascinating illustrations, the talks amply demonstrated the research skills which the project had encouraged. In each a focus on one main subject, Kirkgate Station, had inspired research into a particular personal enthusiasm or interest. The many questions which the sources raised had clearly prompted each presenter to set the local events and circumstances they discovered within a far wider historical context.

Ken Rowley’s stories of rail accidents in the past – sometimes tragic, sometimes more entertaining – allowed him to explore their cause, and to explain the many changes in such technical areas as couplings, signals, brakes, and points which gradually led to improved safety on the railways. The struggle to keep up with the varied consequences of this new form of transport, which emerged so quickly in the mid-nineteenth century, was very clear from Ken’s talk.

Sally Bigwood’s focus was on a class of children in 1881 at St Mary’s, the local school, where the children of many railwaymen were taught. Not only did this provide evidence of the education available for children in a poor area of the town, but Sally also followed several children throughout their lives showing many aspects of the life and work of the poor at the end of the nineteenth century. It was the children from St Mary’s who recently collected items to go into a time capsule at Kirkgate.

Lorraine Simpson’s research followed the tragically short life of Frank Holt, who started as a shunt boy and moved on to be a cleaner in the Kirkgate yard, but who enlisted in 1914 at the age of eighteen. She sketched the type of war experiences he faced, and his eventual injury on the Somme. Lorraine described the hospital trains which dispersing the wounded around the country. Frank was taken to Aberdeen Military Hospital where he died, but around the country many large houses were used as wartime hospitals too, such as Wakefield Girls’ High School and Heath Hall.

John Seacombe’s choice of subject was obviously inspired by his own happy memories of rail excursions. Kirkgate was a great centre of excursions of all types from the 1840s to the 1870s but then management changed and this type of traffic from Kirkgate was sidelined. Kirkgate had a second heyday from the 1920s to the 1950s, only interrupted by the second world war. Eventually the motorcoach and then the private car became more convenient ways to travel. This was an amusing introduction to the many aspects of the ‘British day out’ on the railways for over a century and a half.

Phil’s final announcements were evidence that the project and the renovations had raised the profile of the station: Grand Central is naming an express ‘Kirkgate Calling’; and the group’s visit to the National Archives in Kew has led to major conservation work on the original station plans.

More information about the researchers and their work is available on the Kirkgate Calling website http://www.kirkgatecalling.co.uk/volunteer-projects

The Kaye Arms at Grange Moor, transcription of the talk by John Goodchild M Univ, at the WHS Christmas Dinner on 17 December 2015

It is curious, friends, how sometimes quite unconnected facts come together to form a story, almost like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which only together tell their visual secret. Such is the case with this short story about the Kaye Arms here.

When I was a boy, I remember the late Mr Kilburn, the father of our former President Heather Lawrence, tell me that he had been responsible for disposing of the contents of Denby Grange, the great mansion close by here, and on whose estate this inn lay and from which it was tenanted. This was done by auction, but it also involved a great bonfire on which were thrown all the old account books and papers of the Lister Kaye family, baronets, who had lived there for some 300 years, so that no records of the rents or details of the inn’s tenancy are likely to have survived.

Then in later years Stephen Beaumont, the Wakefield solicitor, gave me the old contents of his lawyer’s cellars, which included the deeds of the Denby Grange estates, and he told me various tales about the Lister Kaye family before they moved from this area just after World War 2 and how their possessions were auctioned and the great mansion pulled down, but at least among the title deeds which I was given there were lists of the properties on the estate and the tenants at various periods from the 1820s.
And finally, some years ago now, a lawyer at Penistone gave me the contents of his large attic, packed with old documents: he had tried to give these to an archive repository or to sell them, but the fact that the ceiling of the room had collapsed on the documents meant that they were in appalling condition, and no-one wanted to bother sorting them out from the filthy rubble in which they lay, so I managed to save them – and a truly fascinating and worthwhile lot they were too.

Now as it happened, the founder of this Penistone solicitor’s business in 1830 one John Dransfield, was a Huddersfield innkeeper’s son, while his mother was daughter of John Ness, for a long time innkeeper here at the Kaye Arms, named of course from the Lister Kayes of Denby Grange. As a boy John Dransfield had spent holidays with his grandparents here, and his huge collections of lawyer’s papers  was unusual if not unique in including many personal papers illustrating his own and his descendants’ personal as well as professional interests – a truly fascinating collection, which includes, very much as a small part, his recollections of life with grandpa in this house in the 1820s.

Now we must remember that the reason for this inn is that it lay approximately halfway between Wakefield and Huddersfield, on a turnpike or toll road created in 1759, which rose steeply from some 100 ft above sea level at Horbury Bridge in one direction and from Waterloo in the other, to a summit hereabouts at some 600 ft above sea level. It was a long drag for horses coming in either direction, although the route of the road had been improved and its hills made less fearsome by improvements which resulted in the present route about 1830 – one new part, that from Horbury Bridge to just past the National Coal Mining Museum, is still curiously know today as New Road. John Dransfield recollected the stage coach from Huddersfield to Wakefield refreshing its horses at the Kaye Arms after the long drag uphill and before the long and difficult (for horses) run down to Horbury Bridge: he would often hitch a lift with the driver on the box as they sped downhill until he got off at the Bridge.

When the inn here was licensed first I can find no record; it is possible that a Walter Kaye of adjacent Grange Ash, described as a blacksmith and innkeeper in 1766, was at this inn, but certainly the need for the keeper of a country inn to augment his publican’s earnings with another trade was felt here in the person of John Ness, who in fact was  innkeeper, farmer and colliery owner, but described as an innkeeper when in 1789 he bought 10 nearby cottages and is so described in his will of 1827: his widow was to carry on the business. He rented land for his farm totalling £300, a considerable sum. When his estate was valued after his death, the contents of the inn were £200, the farm was worth some £1000, his collieries worth some £700, he had £100 in the bank, £71 cash in the inn and a security on money loaned to the turnpike trustees of £100 – quite a warm man for his time.

The colliery was comprised of a number of small working pits, with local sales for its coal, having neither railway nor canal close by: he sold coal to Huddersfield, Almondbury, New Mill near Holmfirth and High Burton. There were coal picks sufficient for 90 men at the pits called the Jabez, the Elijah and Cockermouth at Flockton Moor and Lepton and nearby Grange Moor, the last of which he owned, and was a shareholder in the others.

So the Kaye Arms is an old pub, situated on an always important main road, and with landlords of some character going back at least into the 18th century.

9 December 2015, A Winter’s Dream by Peter Taylor,

Most of our regular members turned out for the December meeting to enjoy mince pies and a drink followed by an entertaining talk from Peter Taylor from the Wakefield Historical Appreciation Society

Peter took us on a visual tour around the Kirkgate area of Wakefield focusing on the buildings and other features which a maid from the 1880s might still recognise in 2015. Her errands gave Peter the opportunity to explore aspects of life at the time, such as the use of the railways and the post. To establish the general period context he referred to notable local events such as the opening of the Town Hall in 1880 and the granting of City status in 1888, as well as the writing of New Grub Street, the book which made the name of the Wakefield-born author, George Gissing.

Mary-Anne Eccles aged 21, from Dewsbury, set off from 1 South Parade where she worked as a maid. She passed the houses which still stand around the West Parade area, and skirted the former chapel churchyard into Thornhill Street opposite the Methodist School. On the corner of Charlotte Street there remain a cluster of businesses relating to cloth, fabric and upholstery, just as they had been in Mary-Anne’s time. As we followed her trail Peter introduced us to many of the families who had occupied the surviving buildings at the time of the 1881 Census.

Mary-Anne crossed Kirkgate to pick up a parcel from Wakefield’s first station, Kirkgate, opened in 1840: until the 1880s there was no parcel post. She passed the home of Joseph Aspdin, now listed but derelict. Aspdin was the inventor of Portland cement, a cheap alternative to Portland stone. Most recently known as ‘The Wakefield Arms’ the cement rendering of his house is still to be seen, and other buildings in Kirkgate also display this type of finish. Back across Kirkgate Mary-Anne posted a letter at one of the new sub-post offices, and walked up the road where she would have known the haberdasher’s and umbrella shops. Her expedition then led us up Kirkgate, still a street with numbers of impressive frontages above the ground floor shops. The backs of many buildings such as those in Cass Yard show clearly their period and give intimations of the dense housing which filled these yards at the time.

Mary-Anne took a diversion into Sun Lane, passing the Rainbow pub and arriving at the Gas Company Offices in Warrengate to pay a bill. Crossing to Upper Kirkgate she passed hat shops and shoe shops, including a branch of Freeman Hardy and Willis, which was an early national chain. Finally Mary-Anne headed home to South Parade down Almshouse Lane, passing Crowther’s Almshouses (for poor nonconformists), and Zion Chapel.

Peter identified small pockets of similar types of occupants within a mix of town dwellers. For example in South Parade there were a number of single women, often widowed, who took in lodgers. At the Kirkgate end of Charlotte Street were skilled workers such as a boiler-maker and an engine driver. He also noted a variety of features and architectural details which are easily missed but carry information about the past. For example butcher’s poles still survive in Avison Yard beside what is now a fast food shop, and there is an impressive foundation stone in Gas House Yard. He passed round documents like the letter written to Henry Clarkson to illustrate his postal theme. The personal details which peppered Peter’s talk gave special interest to different locations on this walk, like the grave in the West Parade churchyard of John Craven of Bradley and Craven, a Wakefield company for which he had worked in his early career, or the pubs which he remembered from his youth.

Peter’s enthusiasm as a collector of information, photographs and documents relating to Wakefield was infectious. As we were guided around the town he was constantly pointing out the many research possibilities that these surviving buildings and streets opened up. Behind it all was a serious crusade to make people aware that, although Wakefield had lost many fine buildings, there is much still to be found if we look, and that these substantial remains from many earlier periods deserve our attention and care.

Peter’s final flourish was the donning of a top hat to match his tailcoat, providing an amusing end to our Christmas meeting.

Cathedral Double Bill on 11 November 2015

The Chantry Chapel was packed, including a number of Cathedral volunteers, for our November meeting to listen to two speakers whose professional disciplines gave us different perspectives on the past and present of Wakefield Cathedral.

A review of archaeological investigation and interpretation at Wakefield Cathedral by Ian Roberts FSA MCIfA the Cathedral Archaeologist

Ian is a senior archaeologist with over thirty years experience with West Yorkshire Archaeology Service and is also the Diocesan Archaeologist. He reviewed past archaeological investigations at the Cathedral right up to the recent work preceding the re-ordering of nave and choir, to see if the excavations have brought a better understanding of the development of the Cathedral. .
The 1823 Walker plan of Wakefield shows the church, then the Parish Church of All Saints as the central focus of the town’s great streets. The most significant early find related to the church’s history is an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft found in 1861. This was being used as the doorstep of a shop in Little Westgate and has been dated to the late 9th century. This seemed to bear out historical reference to a cross in the churchyard, suggesting that the present church had an Anglo-Saxon predecessor.

The most comprehensive interpretation of the development of the building has been that of J T Micklethwaite in 1880. In a series of simplified floor plans he showed the stages of change to the building over the centuries. His work was based on examination of the fabric during the restoration of George Gilbert Scott from 1858-74. There are, however, features of his development sequence which have remained uncorroborated.

A possible Anglo-Saxon church was noted by J W Walker during the excavations by Pearson in 1900 for the new East end, but no dateable objects were retrieved. In 1974 two trenches dug in the nave across the arcade exposed many deep and intercutting burials, of which the two deepest and earliest were a stone – lined cist apparently of an early date but without any dating material, while the other contained a finger ring probably Anglo-Saxon in origin. Drawings of the ring made at the time suggest it was 10th century, but unfortunately the ring had been lost by 1982. 3

In 1980 three trenches dug to evaluate the impact of building the Treacy Hall only revealed human remains from the late 18th and 19th century. During the landscaping of the precinct in the 1990s vaults were found in the area of the outside steps but there was no need to exhume burials as they were below the level of the work being done.

In 2010 before the recent major renovations 11 trial trenches were put in. Burials and coffins were found at 500 – 700mm below the level of the floor. The piers had been bolstered below ground by brickwork but Norman or Anglo-Saxon wall foundations remained immediately under them. When the renovation work began in 2012-13 it was decided not to go as far down as originally intended. So when the floor was stripped out, the work mainly involved taking out Scott’s floor and disturbed very few burials.
The most important finds were 2 stone-lined cist burials running parallel to the south arcade. One of these was undisturbed and contained two skeletons, one of a young adult and another of a juvenile. They produced radiocarbon dates of 930-1040 AD.These agree roughly with the dates for the Anglo-Saxon ring and the Anglo-Saxon cross shaft, and seem to confirm the existence of an Anglo-Saxon church on the site.

Ian ended by looking again at Micklethwaite’s interpretation of the church’s development. Some features shown by Micklethwaite remain uncorrobated. No evidence has been found for a central cruciform plan or tower in the 12th century, and there is no evidence at all for narrow aisles. But no contradictory evidence has emerged for his idea of a detached tower at the west end. However, by far the most significant evidence from this recent work is the confirmation that the church did have an Anglo-Saxon predecessor.

19th and 21st century interventions in the fabric of the Cathedral, and their significance in the building’s conservation history by Joanne Harrison RIBA

Joanne is an architect with wide general experience. She is now planning to specialise as a conservation architect and is about to embark on a PhD. She compared the two most recent major interventions in the fabric of the Cathedral building. These were the restoration of 1857-1874 by the eminent architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, when it was still the Parish Church of All Saints, and John Bailey’s very recent restoration of 2012-2013. Joanne’s study of these works has provided an assessment of the significance of the interventions on the building’s conservation history. She introduced us to conservation theory, laid down during the later decades of the 20th century to provide a framework for the conservation and restoration of buildings. It is concerned with understanding a cultural asset and assessing its value, significance and authenticity.

Joanne hopes to publish her work later.

14th October 2015, Local Newspapers 

Our second meeting of this season was the showing of the film, ‘Wakefield Express, a Portrait of a Newspaper’, made by Lindsey Anderson in 1952. It was presented by Julie Marshall, feature writer for the Yorkshire Post, who then explained how digital publishing has, in the intervening years, dramatically changed the face of local newspapers.

Julie introduced the subject with a brief chronology of the history of the Wakefield Express.  It was established by John Robinson in 1852 as a Liberal weekly paper serving Wakefield and local West Riding areas. At that time Wakefield was a centre for grain and cattle, its heavier industrial development still to come. The first editions were produced on a steam-powered press and had eight densely-packed pages. The newspaper cost four pence halfpenny and came out on a Saturday from its offices in Southgate. By 1880 a sister paper, the Pontefract and Castleford Express, was launched, and by 1923 the Express Series included further papers covering Hemsworth and South Elmsall, and Selby and Tadcaster. The Express remained in the ownership of the Robinson family until it was bought by the Johnson Press, an Edinburgh company, in 1985.

Julie then introduced the film which was made for the hundredth anniversary of the Express in 1952.  The director of the paper at the time, John Robinson, invited his friend, Lindsay Anderson, to make this film, and it was one of his earliest projects. The first section followed reporters around their local patches collecting news as they observed local events, visited individuals and called in at regular suppliers of items such as churches, courts, shops and council offices. There are scenes of Horbury, of Selby, of Sharlston, and of Fitzwilliam, as well as around Wakefield town centre. The traditional community events of the period are recorded, such as the carnivals of the small towns, and children’s entertainments in the villages.  Reports and pictures were shown from amateur dramatics, cinema, and art gallery events. Many sports were mentioned, particularly Rugby League, presaging Anderson’s return to Wakefield several years later to make the feature film ‘This Sporting Life’. Throughout the week advertising was collected and the little announcements from individuals were brought in or phoned in to the Express offices.

The second part of the film followed the production of the newspaper. Articles were reset in lead type, and a rough proof taken for proof reading.  The blocks were stored until the paper was ready to be put together for the Friday deadline of 4pm.  The selected photographs were then inserted. A final proof was taken from the composed pages to check positioning and general layout, and then a lead casting was made from which the newspaper was printed. The front page was the last to be made up. At 7pm on Friday the paper was finished, and printing, using 90 miles of newsprint, began.  The next morning the early distribution began and a newpaper boy was shown on his round along South Parade.

It was a film in which many of us recognised our own lives as part of this history.  The sound track to the film was of children’s songs of the period sung by the choirs of Snapethorpe and Horbury Secondary Modern School, with other music from the Horbury Victoria Prize Band.  The pace of life was relaxed: the reporters had time to chat and get to know people.  There were glimpses of sights familiar from the period: the smoking chimneys, pit heaps and pit heads of the south of the area, with rows of back-to-backs and outside toilets, and in the towns the smoke-blackened stone buildings, and the fashions of the time in cars and clothes. Many people noticed that obesity was clearly not a problem in this post-war period.  Anderson added touches of gentle humour, too, like the inquisitive budgerigar on the mantlepiece behind one interviewee in Horbury.

After the film Julie quickly outlined the changes that have occurred in our lifetimes and have transformed the paper.  In 1960 the news first appeared on the front pages, in 1965 web off-set printing began and the 1990s saw the introduction of new off-set machinery. In 1989 the free Midweek Extra was launched and delivered to 65,000 households. In 1982 on-line computerised keyboards were used, replacing the paper-tape system, and word processors increasingly became the norm. By 1988 full-page make-up was all done working on computers.  In 2000 the Wakefield Express website was set up and in 2007 the paper changed from broadsheet to tabloid. The centre of the business moved from Southgate in Wakefield and is now based at Dinnington in South Yorkshire.  Today the Johnson Press owns twenty-seven different newspapers across Yorkshire and the reporters are split into two teams, one for hard news and another for community news, to cover all the titles.

The circulation for the Wakefield Express has changed over the years: in the 1950s this was 39,000, in 2005 33,000, in 2012 24,000.  Today only 15-16,000 papers are sold each week. The way people are accessing news is changing and the Wakefield Express is changing too, putting stories on the website every day with journalism becoming a multimedia profession.

Members had many questions to ask or views to express after the talk.  Clearly there was regret that the news content was much reduced: in the early 1990s, Julie told us, Normanton had four broadsheet pages of news. Reporters now spend almost all their time at desks rather than out and about, and there are no dedicated staff for different titles.  Such economies are to cover the high cost of newsprint. The question of the culture or politics of the newspaper was raised and Julie described the route into journalism as a career.

We are grateful to Julie, who shared her experience of working on the paper since the 1980s and for setting the film in context for us.  As always, it is fascinating when people talk about their own work. For many of us the film itself raised nostalgic memories of our own early lives, and aspects of the history of the Wakefield Express reminded us of the changes that have occurred to our local paper over the years.

THE LIFE AND WORK OF CHARLES WATERTON, talk by John Goodchild on 21 September

Continuing our programme of celebrating the work of Charles Waterton on the 150th anniversary of his death John Goodchild gave a talk on his life and work in his former home, Walton Hall, based on documents in his own collection. The room in which we met was called the drawing room in Waterton’s day, and John read out the contents of the room from an inventory taken at Waterton’s death, showing it to be grossly overfurnished with armchairs, small tables, mirrors and china dragons etc, but with the addition of a telescope. Charles had been born in the hall and had owned it for 60 years, dying in 1865. He was more famous then than now for his books on natural history.

The hall is first known of when Thomas de Burgh had a licence to build a wall with crenellations. In 1435 the estate came to the Waterton family, who remained Catholics and so were later prevented from holding public office and taking part in Protestant society. The hall was the site of a skirmish in the English Civil War. For a time the family were too poor to keep it up and in 1672 the Hearth Tax returns show it was let. In 1674 Thomas Waterton acquired money by marriage and built new buildings before his death in 1698.This house was a courtyard building with internal galleries and rooms each side of a gatehouse.

The present house was built by Charles’ father, a Thomas Waterton. He was the second son of 7 brothers and sisters, but his older brother became a Jesuit priest. He was 29 when his father died and he set about building the house and the lake. The architect is not known. He married a Norfolk heiress at the age of 42 and they had 7 children. In his will he left his wife only one guinea plus the return of her marriage settlement (later increased to £80 per year). Although she lived on at Park Place in Liverpool until 1829 after her husband died in 1805, Charles seem to have made no mention of his mother.

Thomas had a sugar estate at Demarara in South America to provide for his younger children, Charles had already been out to the estate before his father died in 1805, when he was 23, and he went out again in 1807. In later journeys he collected natural history speciments. In 1812 he resigned the management of the estate at Demarara and in 1828 the estate was sold. There are references in Waterton papers to clothing for slaves being sent out to Charles. The surname Blackamoor occurs on the Walton estate, suggesting slaves may have been brought back.

Charles met a child in South America who he had educated at the English convent in Bruges and then married when she was 17 in 1829. Unfortunately she died of puerpereal fever shortly after giving birth to Edmund, their only child. Her two sisters came to Walton to run the household.

In 1821 he decided to establish his park at Walton Hall as a nature reserve, probably the first ever. From 1821-6 he built a wall round the park at the immense cost of £9,000. It varied from 8ft to 16ft high (higher close to the canal to prevent trespassing). He opened the park and also a museum in the hall to the public. He continued to write about natural history, publishing his Wanderings in South America in 1825. Charles Darwin and Joseph Banks were among his friends and visitors. He did interest himself in other matters – supporting the building of a Roman Catholic chapel in Wentworth Terrace in 1827-8 and opposing the closure of Heath Common in 1844. In 1824 Yorkshire newspapers reported that Charles had gone out to South America again to the Panama Congress.

Charles was not wealthy. His income consisted only of agricultural rents, at a time when rents were declining, and he had no securities. In the early 1860s he received several thousand pounds as compensation for the West Riding and Grimsby Railway taking land from the estate, but he spent it unwisely acquiring land adjoining his estate. He kept a large staff for his income, having in 1861 a housekeeper, ladies’ maid, 2 house maids, a laundry maid, a kitchen maid, a scullery maid, a footman, a page and a washerwoman. When he died, his entire estate was worth only £10,500. He died at the age of 63 on 27 May following an accident, and was buried on 3 June at the edge of the lake at Walton Hall.

His son, Edmund, acquired the house and estate. After becoming bankrupt in the early 1870s he sold the estate in 1877 to Edward Simpson for the huge sum of £114,000 because it was thought coal could be mined on the estate.

9 September 2015. The Letters of Esther Milnes of Wakefield 1771-3
Discovering aspects of family life in the dissenting merchant communities of the North of England.
by Shirley Levon and Lesley Taylor MA.

This talk was based on a cache of twelve letters from Esther Milnes of Wakefield (1724-1799) to her husband’s relative Esther Milnes of Chesterfield (1752-1792). The letters were found in the Essex County Record Office by the two speakers while they were studying the history of eighteenth century Westgate, then a fine thoroughfare which could be compared favourably to the streets of London. Having researched the complex background to the letters they have now published them, together with a detailed introduction and conclusion, in ‘The Two Esthers’.

At the time the letters were written the elder Esther was the widow of Robert Milnes and stepmother to Richard and Bessy, living in a fine house on Westgate, while the younger Esther was an orphaned heiress with no close male relatives to look after her interests.  As well as revealing the warm friendship between the two women, the letters throw light on the world of the wealthy Dissenting businessmen of the north of England. They also emphasise the role of women in fostering the complex family networks which helped promote successful business partnerships.  The Wakefield and Chesterfield  Milneses were prosperous merchants, while Esther senior’s own family, the Shores, were Sheffield industrialists with a country house at Norton in Derbyshire. Links between the different branches of the extended Milnes and Shore families were maintained not only by letter, but by frequent visits. The younger Esther, for example, spent prolonged periods with her Milnes relatives in Wakefield.

Naturally the letters deal with family matters such as the health of children and the comings and goings of friends and relatives, but they also detail the elder Esther’s concern for the future of her young friend who as a rich heiress was a tempting prize for a fortune hunter. Fortunately the younger Esther escaped the clutches of one suitor who was rumoured to be ‘rather profane in his conversation’ and ‘fond of Liquor’ and she eventually married Thomas Day, a rather eccentric member of the Birmingham Lunar Society. The couple settled at Anningsley in Surrey where they tried to put into practice Day’s philanthropic ideas. Unhappily the marriage was short lived as Thomas was killed in a riding accident and Esther only survived him by a few years.

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