8th March 2017 Members' talks following the AGM, The Red Shed: A Prehistory by Ken Rowley and 20th Century Piano Lessons and an Eighteenth Century Dancing Master by Lesley Taylor
Two members of the Society gave talks after the AGM in March. In the first Ken Rowley traced the pre- history of Wakefield Labour Club, otherwise known as "The Red Shed". This research had been done as part of a book produced to contribute to the Club’s 50th birthday celebrations.
Wakefield Labour Party had previously hired rooms in the Trades and Labour Club on George Street but had then obtained their own premises at 5 Cheapside. They tried to hire rooms out to trade unions and other bodies to cover the costs but this did not prove successful. By the end of 1965 they were looking at other venues, but without success. They eventually threw their lot in with Wakefield Borough Labour Party and put some money into purchasing and fitting out an old army/RAF barracks hut. All the work was done by volunteers - just as it is today.
Ken explained that the space now occupied by the Red Shed had become available due to Wakefield Council’s slum clearance in the early 1960's. The space had previously had eight one-up and one-down terraced houses on the site, each with an outdoor lavatory in the rear yard. As late as 1962 the electoral rolls showed that sixteen adults of voting age had lived in the area now occupied by the Club.
The banner on the front of the Red Shed proudly proclaims "50 years a Socialist Shed" and there it stands proudly and defiantly, cocking a snook at the monument to mammon, Trinity Walk, that towers over it.
The second speaker was Lesley Taylor whose talk linked details from various pieces of her research into eighteenth century Wakefield with her childhood piano lessons in a large garden shed on Northgate. The main part of her talk described her discovery of a dancing master, Robert Graves, who taught dancing in Wakefield from before 1740 for the best part of fifty years. Mr Graves was a tenant of the Earl of Strafford at Northgate Head House for most of this time. His activities there also included organising outdoor subscription concerts where the polite society of Wakefield would meet to enjoy the garden and the music on summer evenings.
A variety of sources suggest that the name Northgate (or Norgate) Head House was used during the eighteenth century for the large house which is more usually identified as Haselden Hall. This stood at the top of Northgate and was the main house of a large estate to the north of the town. The Saville family lived there in the seventeenth century, and it was owned by the Earl of Strafford in the eighteenth. Lesley’s memories of a long building beside the garden suggest that she had visited the north wing of this ancient hall when carol singing at the house of Miss Heap, her piano teacher, and that the shed may have been in what had been the pleasure gardens there.
For those members of the audience with long memories who might be straining to remember the Hall, it is important to know that it was greatly changed before the twentieth century. The central parts of the east and west sides of the house were demolished in 1851, leaving only two separate buildings standing at right angles to Northgate. These were then encased in brick. The Wakefield Archaeological Research Group led by Ken Bartlett conducted a survey and excavations at the site of the north wing before and after demolition in 1967, and their findings, published by our Society in 1772, can be studied in the Local Studies Library.
8 February 2017 A Stamford Ware pottery kiln in Pontefract: a geographical enigma and a dating dilemma, by Ian Roberts FSA, MCIfA
Ian began with what was understood about pre-Conquest and Medieval Pontefract before the discovery of the kiln in 2007. The castle was at the centre of the pre-Norman town and the 11th to 12th century borough grew up to the south-west. To the north-east was a mill and watercourse and beyond that the site of the 11th century Cluniac Priory. Further to the north and north-east nothing from the period was known and no finds were expected. However from some of the known sites, the Norman Motte, the Cluniac Priory and the Baileygate, a very small number of fragments identified as Stamford Ware jugs were found, with a previously unknown wheel pattern, a point of interest noted by John Hurst in 1965.
In 2007 a malt factory site across the Ferrybridge Road to the north of the Priory was closed and the site earmarked for houses. An archaeological survey put in several trenches revealing some medieval features and so the archaeology was investigated further. Four excavations at different parts of the site revealed various features of Roman and medieval field systems and a settlement at Monk Hill to the west. A 100m to the east a kiln full of fragments of pot was found. The high–quality pottery of creamy clay from this kiln was identical to pots known as Stamford Ware from a kiln discovered in Stamford in 1963, which had been dated to around 1200AD. However the Pontefract pottery had a unique wheel stamp used to decorate the pots. In addition fragments of gritty ware were found in the kiln, a coarser, darker pot, common in West Yorkshire and previously dated to after the Norman Conquest.
English Heritage funded analysis of the kiln, but they intended to look at only a small portion of the pottery to keep the costs down. There were, however, over 14,500 sherds and the find was already significant because it was the only kiln to have been found in Pontefract. It was felt that the entire assemblage should to be made available for study. Therefore Pam Judkins, our President, who then worked for Wakefield Museum Service, contacted several local societies, including our own, to find volunteers to wash, mark and reconstruct the pottery. The pots which emerged took several different forms, but were mostly spouted jars, 9% of them having the wheel pattern. The kiln itself was very like that at Stamford discovered in 1963.
The first archeomagnetic dating of samples from the kiln floor was surprising and was treated with some scepticism in that the range suggested was AD 538-1014. However radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the kiln appeared to confirm this early date, placing the last firing of the kiln in the early 11th century, that is pre-Conquest.
It is now known that such pots have so far only been made in Stamford and Pontefract, with the wheel stamp pots not found outside Pontefract. This suggests that this kiln did not really flourish and was quickly abandoned with itinerant potters probably moving elsewhere. However the dating evidence suggests that the techniques for making Stamford Ware were probably known before the Stamford kiln was used, raising the possibility of other undiscovered kilns and bringing into question the dating of pots from many locations.
This talk was of special interest for our Society as some of Ian's audience had worked on the pot sherds at Pontefract Museum. The subsequent dating and the potential implications of this added an intriguing new dimension to the original work.
19th January 2017, Travels on the Orient Express by Kevin Trickett
On Thursday 19th January our meeting was hosted by the Civic Society in the Town Hall’s Kingswood Suite. President of the Civic Society, Kevin Trickett, shared his life-long passion for trains and his recent experience of luxury travel on the Orient Express.
Sharing a birthday with George Stevenson has always made Kevin feel that he has a special relationship with trains and railways. Kevin described his childhood progression from a Hornby clockwork train set to a plastic Triang train set and then a treasured Princess Elizabeth locomotive. As a boy he loved to watch the trains at Kirkgate Station and he has been delighted to see the steam locomotives taking day-trippers off to Scarborough in recent summers.
Tracing changes in the transport of goods and people from earliest times, Kevin picked out a number of features showing continuity in the evolution of modes of transport. From Roman times the wheels of carts have eroded grooves in stone surfaces indicating that they are designed at set distances apart. The first horse-drawn railways carried carts on rails so that rail gauges were taken from such cart measurements. On eighteenth century coaches there were different seat prices according to the comfort of travel and, as trains became more widespread in the mid-nineteenth century, this passenger division continued in three classes with the cheapest seats being in open wagons. Kevin illustrated the continuity of exterior design as horse-drawn carriages and coaches evolved into train coaches. The most luxurious early interior coach designs for trains were those for Queen Victoria, in marked contrast to modern royal trains which are very functional.
Kevin then concentrated on the development of general luxury train travel. He introduced us to George Nagelmackers, the Belgian founder of the Compagnie Internationals des Wagons-Lits. When Nagelmackers went to America as a young man he was exposed to train travel on Pullman carriages with sleeper cars and other services. He brought the concept of long-distance luxury train travel back to Europe and, in 1882, his first Orient Express return trip carried invited guests from Paris to Vienna. Further routes followed crossing Europe to Constantinople. The high period of this service known as ‘le train bleu’ was during the 1930s but the final service left Paris in 1977.
Other trains have provided luxury travel over the years, for example, Le Train Bleu, the Flying Scotsman, the Cornish Riviera Express, the Brighton Belle and the Fleche D’Or. The Night Ferry was an international sleeper train between London Victoria and Paris Gare du Nord: a train ferry was used between Dover and Dunkirk to convey the first class sleeper coaches as passengers slept.
The current Venice Simplon Orient Express was established in 1977 by James Sherwood who bought old SNCF rail coaches and many others to refurbish them, but it is is now run by Belmond. Kevin and Brian’s Orient Express experience was a journey from Venice to London on the Belmond Orient Express. During their overnight stay they enjoyed all the services, comforts and décor of such travel, which was described in detail by Kevin.
Other such luxury travel experiences are still available as leisure events like the Train Bleu Fonce in the Nene Valley, the East Lancs railway now run by volunteers, or the spectacular Livingstone Express which travels across the rail bridge just below the Victoria Falls.
The meeting was followed by refreshments of wine and soft drinks.
14th December 2016, Wood Street: the Heart of Wakefield. Led by Phil and Pam Judkins
Our December meeting was held in the Elizabethan Gallery in Brook Street, a change of venue for this meeting in order to have more space to write down memories and enjoy some seasonal sociability. We also needed to accommodate members of the Civic Society, a partner in the Wood Street Project, and other researchers and guests. Despite difficulties with parking a good number of participants eventually arrived. Fortified with wine and mince pies everyone found places around the ‘cabaret’ arrangement of tables to listen to Pam and Phil.
Pam introduced the whole Wood Street project very briefly. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by Wakefield Council to focus attention on the future of the Court House. Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield Civic Society and Leeds Beckett University are partners, with the locally-based company Faceless Arts organising creative community projects around the theme. The aim is to explore the rich heritage of Wood Street and the institutions and businesses which have existed there over the years.
Phil then provided a whistle-stop chronological tour of some of the significant buildings which have appeared - and sometimes disappeared - since Wood Street was opened up in 1807. He touched on many events, such as the very successful Wakefield Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition in 1865, and told entertaining stories of circuses and ballooning demonstrations. As he arrived at aspects of Wood Street’s history in living memory many of us could recall the times he was illustrating.
Pam then led a short session using photographs of Wood Street to point out buildings and businesses. The focus of research will include not only Wood Street itself but also Radcliffe Place to its east, Crown Court, George and Crown Yard, King Street and Barstow Square to the west, with Silver Street to the south. This area attracted several public institutions, particularly related to legal services and health, although the street frontages near the town and on Silver Street have been densely packed with shops and pubs for most of the history of the street. Pam illustrated some of the many businesses which have been advertised in newspapers, directories and other publicity material. Finally, she used a detailed plan of the area from the 1980s, reminding many of us how quickly things change and how difficult it is to remember the day before yesterday.
We were then supplied with paper, maps and plans and were requested to record some of our own memories of the area, however fleeting or seemingly insignificant. Gradually the occupants of the tables began to chat about what they remembered and note it down. The evening continued with more recollections emerging in discussion, until eventually people started to disperse. This meant that there was no appropriate moment to offer a vote of thanks to Phil and Pam, not only for this very pleasant evening, but also for the time and energy they have already expended on planning the project as a whole with the Council and other partners, researching, training, preparing publicity and illustrative materials, and addressing meetings. So, many thanks, Pam and Phil.
9 November 2016
Slavery in Yorkshire: The historical significance and reputation of Richard Oastler who launched the ten-hour factory movement to protect child labour in Yorkshire factories.
Dr John A Hargreaves, FRHistS, FHA, FSA.
John Hargreaves prefaced his November talk by paying tribute to our former President, Kate Taylor, in particular for her work for the Wakefield Court Rolls Committee of Yorkshire Archaeological Society on which he had worked with her.
'Slavery in Yorkshire' was the stirring phrase used by Richard Oastler to publicise the exploitation of child labour in the 1830s. He had been awakened to the problem by John Wood, a Bradford manufacturer who wanted children to be better treated by all employers. In September 1830 a letter from Oastler appeared in the Leeds Mercury addressing those who were able to perceive the injustice of colonial slavery but were blind to the suffering of the children in their mills. The language used was shocking, challenging the worsted manufacturers of Bradford who professed the virtues of Christian charity but sacrificed their own workers 'on the shrine of avarice'. William Wilberforce's effective campaigning against the transatlantic slave trade was bringing success in the fight against this form of slavery - the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. Oastler learnt from this movement, borrowing its language and tactics.
In addition to the support of his friend Wilberforce, Oastler collaborated with Michael Sadler of Leeds who became Tory MP for Aldborough just before this borough ceased to exist in the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832. Sadler pressed for a select committee, thus putting the child labour issue on the political agenda. Joseph Habergham of Hudderfield was a witness testifying to the Parliamentary Factory Commission of 1833. He had begun work at the age of seven and worked from five in the morning to eight at night with a half hour interval, when cleaning the machines was sometimes required. He earned 2s 6d a week. The children were beaten to keep them awake. Tragedies occurred, for example when seventeen girls were burnt to death in a mill in Colnbridge in 1818. Although Parliamentary progress was at first very limited the situation of children became widely known and in 1833 legislation was passed for each child to have two hours schooling a day. Sadler and Oastler continued to push for a ten hour bill and when the West Riding textile workers of the local Short Time committees demonstrated for this Oastler worked with them to organise events, emerging as an inspiring public speaker as well as a skilled publicist.
Born in 1789 Oastler had attended the Moravian School at Fulneck. His father was the steward of the extensive estates of the absentee Thornhill family, and the Oastlers lived like squires at Fixby Hall near Huddersfield (now Huddersfield Golf Club). As a young man Richard had been assigned to the architectural practice of the Wakefield architect, Charles Watson, who designed the Court House and other important buildings in the town. However Oastler's poor eyesight made this close work difficult. Oastler then became a commission agent in the West Riding, travelling round the county and purchasing dye stuff. When his father retired as steward at Fixby Richard took over this work.
However, in 1836 when Oastler tried to stir up the Fixby tenants against the proposed changes to the poor law which he considered would split families and punish rather than help those in difficulties, he was sacked. Soon he was in the Fleet Prison as a bankrupt. Whilst there he churned out tracts, propaganda and satirical pieces, including the Fleet papers of the early 1840s. Eventually a national testimonial paid off his debts. A triumphant return to Yorkshire followed where he spoke at a great rally and was welcomed as the 'Factory King'.
There were counter movements amongst the factory masters and the struggle was hard fought, but over the following years a series of factory acts improved the hours and conditions of children, then women and eventually working men. Over this time Oastler went to live in Guildford but visited Yorkshire, joining the continued campaigning. He died here in 1861, and was buried at St Stephen's, Kirkstall. Lord Shaftesbury unveiled Oastler's statue in Bradford with 100,000 people gathered there. Dr Hargreaves likened Oastler's ability to raise awareness and support to that of Bob Geldof in recent times. He was admired and loved for his dedication to the factory movement.
Throughout the lecture Dr Hargreaves explored the question of whether Oastler could be described as a revolutionary. There was much criticism of Oastler from some quarters: by allying himself to the factory movement he could be seen as inciting disorder. As a campaigner he was extremely outspoken in his passionate denouncement of the treatment of factory children and the brutality of the workhouse. But he cannot be easily pigeon-holed: he was a Church and King Tory, very much against the Chartist aspirations of Parliamentary reform. The label of 'Tory radical' given to Oastler by Cecil Driver, his biographer, has stuck.
John has co-edited and contributed to the following recently published volume of essays on Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour.
Slavery in Yorkshire: Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour in the Industrial Revolution Edited by John A. Hargreaves and E. A. Hilary Haigh
Paperback, 238 pages, ISBN: 978-1-86218-107-6
Foreword Inderjit Bhogal
Preface Timothy J. Thornton
Chapter 1 John A. Hargreaves, Introduction: 'Victims of slavery even on the threshold of our homes': Richard Oastler and Yorkshire Slavery
Chapter 2 James Walvin, William Wilberforce, Yorkshire and the campaign to end transatlantic slavery. 1787–1838
Chapter 3 D. Colin Dews, Richard Oastler: the Methodist background, 1789–1820
Chapter 4 John Halstead, The Huddersfield Short Time Committee and its radical associations, c.1820– 1876
Chapter 5 Edward Royle, Press and People: Oastler's Yorkshire Slavery campaign in 1830–32
Chapter 6 Janette Martin, 'Oastler is welcome': Richard Oastler's triumphant return to Huddersfield, 1844
Chapter 7 John A. Hargreaves, Treading on the edge of revolution?' Richard Oastler (1789–1861) a reassessment
12th October 2016
The National Coal Mining Museum for England: the first thirty years, 1985-2015
Dr Margaret Faull, OBE, Director and Company Secretary of the Mining Museum 1986-2015
The National Coal Mining Museum for England is a successful and vibrant museum of English coal mining and its communities, but in attaining this position it has gone through many vicissitudes.
Since the Industrial Revolution coal mining has shaped the landscape of the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the 1970s the local authorities in the western part of the county decided to set up the Yorkshire Mining Museum to preserve their coal-mining heritage. The 1791 shaft was relined, displays on mining over the previous 200 years were set up in the 140-metre-deep New Hards Seam, with tours underground lasting an hour, and facilities, such as a café, provided on the surface. Work took place between 1986 and the Museum opened to the public on 6 June 1988. The total capital cost of the initial phase of setting up the Museum in 1986-8 was £3 million, of which the underground work cost £1.65 million. With the privatisation of the coal industry in 1995, the Museum acquired books and art from British Coal and collected extensively from the many collieries that were closing. With the greatly extended nature of the collections, in early 1995 the Museum achieved national status.
The main aims of the Museum are to show people, as far as is possible commensurate with safety, what a colliery is like both above and below ground, and to act as the collecting museum for the English coalfields. In line with these aims, the site of the colliery has been developed as sensitively as possible, as a colliery would be developed in modern times. Caphouse Colliery has all the buildings found at a traditional colliery and these were all repaired, with the addition of some new buildings. Buildings at Hope Pit to the west have also been renovated and the railway from Caphouse has been reinstated; Hope Pit is the only colliery in the UK preserved intact without any new buildings. In 2002 the Museum opened a £6½ million scheme, with a grant of £4.66 million From the HLF, of redesigned galleries on coal mining throughout England, new conference facilities and a new stores building for the collections.
In 1995 rising water underground threated to flood the underground tour, which had to be shut to the public for nearly eighteen months. To deal with this, between 2002 and 2006, the Museum constructed four additional settling tanks, a reed-bed system, bird hides and displays at Hope Pit about water underground and the science of coal mining. In 2008 the Museum fully conserved the unique furnace shaft in the lamp room, and developed new roadways underground for a second, specialised tour, intended in particular for education groups and visitors with mobility disabilities.
Increasing financial pressure on the Museum came as a result of cuts in local government grants in the early 1990s and the loss of help in kind from British Coal with the privatisation of the coal industry in 1995, which led to debates in Parliament and a grant from the government of £100,000 a year for three years. In 1998 the new Labour Secretary of State, Chris Smith, MP, set up a working party, which recommended that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should fund the running costs of the Museum. In 2002 the Museum was also given funds for free admission and visitor numbers doubled. From 2010 the new Conservative Government made cuts in grants to national museums totalling 18%. To deal with this the Museum had to cut all but essential budgets by 10% and offered staff voluntary redundancy/early retirement. The Museum weathered these cuts, visitor figures are approximately 138,000 a year and the Museum is now on a firm footing.
14th September 2016
Gil Moody’s Journal: the story, work, and adventures of an 18th Century middle-class gentleman.
John Goodchild M Univ
John Goodchild spoke at the first autumn meeting organised by the Wakefield Historical Society at a meeting in the Chantry Chapel on Wakefield Bridge on 14th September. He had chosen as his subject for discussion the life of one Gil Moody, who lived between 1742 and 1816 and who maintained what he described as a Journal of his interests and doings which is now in the John Goodchild Collection at Wakefield Archives.
Moody’s Journal is a rare example of a detailed account of a life kept by a man who was essentially of the then much smaller middle class in society: he came from well-to-do origins in East Anglia, but spent most of his life in London, doing not a great deal but revealing many aspects of the lives of the reasonably well-off during the later Georgian period. His comments range between his underclothing, the weather, national politics and his own domestic life. As a small businessman he was unsuccessful, an elder brother stepping in eventually with a £100 annuity, quite enough to live comfortably upon. Moody had a housekeeper, with whom he had a number of illegitimate children before marrying the lady, who died many years before him; they lived in various houses, and he records details of house heating wallpapering, window cleaning, clothing and visitors – some of whom were of social standing. He (and later his wife too) travelled extensively, and enjoyed at least some of the more respectable delights of Georgian London and the seaside. He was addicted to some degree of sartorial finery, and he was much addicted to the enjoyment of bad health, including blood-letting and his teeth, while he even records his weight at one stage, at 9st 2lbs.
The very ordinariness of Moody’s life as he records it must surely mirror the lives of many of his time and modest income and status, offering glimpses into so many aspects of life which are little known. His children all died young, and his wife – rather younger than he – some fourteen years before his own death. His continuing social status is marked by his own death being recorded, albeit briefly, in The Gentleman’s Magazine, a principal social record of his time.