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New Publications from Pen and Sword

Reviews by Dr Phil Judkins

Melvyn Jones (Pen & Sword, £14.99) ISBN 9781473880771

Professor Jones has produced a robustly-researched book drawing on a number of his published papers to produce this well-written account of a neglected subject; as he comments, there are many books on mining disasters, but few on the developments of the village communities themselves. A landscape historian of long standing, Prof Jones makes excellent use of historic maps in describing the development of each village, and of census information in analysing the places from which the new inhabitants of these rapidly-expanding communities originated – sometimes quite surprisingly distant locations, for although most migration was internal to the UK (again an under-researched subject) some was international, indeed inter-continental. This reviewer can offer the footnote that the Welsh community around Trelew in the Chubut Province of central Patagonia (!) has recently been given prominence by an interesting hour’s documentary presented by the BBC’s Huw Edwards, and Prof Jones identifies other most interesting sources. Well-illustrated both with maps and photographs (but please, Pen & Sword, ensure authors date the photos in future), I would have only one, probably unavoidable, quibble with this work – in pursuit of making it academically robust, Prof Jones has rightly applied the same analytical process to each village he has described, and though his text is both accessible and absorbing, those who read the whole work, rather than use it for reference, may find that, by the twentieth such description, there is something of a feeling of déjà vu. However, this is a minor point - this book is both a good read in itself and a useful permanent research tool for the shelf, where it could so easily have been a turgid recitation of names, dates, company restructurings and the minutiae of personalities.

4 stars – A sound and easy-to-read work on a neglected subject of considerable interest.  

NURSES OF PASSCHENDAELE Christine E Hallett (Pen & Sword, pbk, £12.99).

An absolute joy of a book both to read and to review, written by an acknowledged expert in her field and written to be readable! Professor Hallett sets the story of the nurses of the First World War in the contexts both of the history of the military conflict and the history of the development of nursing practice, against the background of the changes in medical methods which changed so markedly to meet the new demands imposed by modern warfare – specifically, the ghastly wounds imposed by shrapnel, the infections acquired in years of trench warfare, and the deadly new effects of poison gas, which could have the same crippling and deadly effects on nurses as easily as on soldiers. The scale of casualties appals the modern reader, as it should, and sharpens our appreciation of the resourcefulness and heroism of the nurses faced with the multiple challenges of handling many hundreds of badly-wounded soldiers while themselves grossly inadequate in numbers and in many cases with only modest skills, while under shell-fire, poison gas, and aerial bombing. 

Professor Hallett, who will be one of our lecturers this winter, marshals a superb array of original sources with wisdom and sensitivity, from the well-known such as Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, the “Angels of Pervyse” (where she finds new material to write and new observations to make) to the less well known such as our own Wakefield nurses, Nellie Spindler of Aberford Road, the centenary of whose death falls on 21 August this year, and Minnie Wood. This book is well worth buying for the stories of the nurses themselves, but is especially so for setting those stories against a background which is so often lacking in such works, and in doing so in such a way that the general reader can appreciate the magnitude of the nurses’ achievement as well as their sacrifice.

5-star rating. Thoroughly recommended.

WOMEN IN THE GREAT WAR Stephen Wynn and Tanya Wynn (Pen & Sword, pbk, £12.99)
Stephen and Tanya Wynn’s book seeks to cover the sweep of women’s experience in the First World War, which is a challenging canvas to cover. They have relied almost exclusively upon websites to do so, and, as both family and general historians know, websites have the attraction of ease of access and the danger of simply being the equivalent of “I heard this tale down the pub”. Websites also suffer the defect of differing levels of interest in those who fill them with content – hence, there is much in this book on nurses, some 80 of 140 pages, although much in the form of lists; by contrast, munitions workers receive just one-tenth of that, at 8 pages, and the 25,000 women of the Women’s Land Army receive just half-a-page. There is a place waiting for a balanced introduction to the width of new experiences in war service which women undertook in the Great War, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, this book sadly does not fill that need. Another 60 pages based on structured archival research could have made this book more balanced, and still only of the same length and price as Prof Hallett’s book reviewed above; what a pity this was not done!

3-star rating. Readable, but alas, of variable quality and depth.

Plans for Clayton Hospital

You may remember that last year the Society objected to plans by the Wakefield Grammar School Foundation to completely demolish Clayton Hospital and use the site for new buildings for sports and arts facilities. At the time the Society wrote to object to the application for outline permission. Both English Heritage and The Victorian Society also objected on the grounds that it would unnecessarily damage the value of the St John's Conservation Area in which the buildings sit, even though the buildings are not listed.

A revised application by the Wakefield Grammar School Foundation proposed to keep the central block of the original hospital with its iconic tower. We felt that this was a sensible compromise, as it would provide a substantial reminder of the previous philanthropic use of the site while still allowing redevelopment.

Wakefield Historical Society, English Heritage and The Victorian Society objected to this revised application, wanting much more substantial retention of the original hospital, but in the five years the site has been empty and vandalised no other viable plans for the site have come forward. So both this Society and the Wakefield Civic Society spoke in favour of the revised application when it was considered by the Wakefield Council Planning Committee on 20 July. The application was passed with only one objection.

The application was for outline permission only, so the detail of what will replace most of the hospital buildings will have to be agreed in further applications, and a keen eye will have to be kept to ensure the new buildings provide the architectural quality promised by the Grammar School Foundation.

Gissing centre new exhibition

For information about the new exhibition please look on the dedicated page: Gissing Trust

West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees at Heritage Quay project

Kirklees Archives have received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees at Heritage Quay project. The project aims to improve access to Kirklees' archive collections, create opportunities for volunteering, formal and informal learning and exhibitions for the first time, and to radically improve the storage and physical conditions for the collections. This work will be achieved through a partnership between Kirklees MBC, West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee and the University of Huddersfield.

Thanks to National Lottery players development funding of £80,100 has also been awarded to help the project partners progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. If successful, the Kirklees archive collections will move to the multi-award winning facilities at Heritage Quay on the University campus in 2019.

More information: Kirklees Archives project

Heritage of Walton - the HOW Project

Do you live in Walton, or are you interested in the history of Walton? It is hoped that in 2017 a group of people from the village will explore the history of Walton in order to develop a history trail extending the Walton Colliery Nature Park Heritage Trail to Waterton Historic Park and Haw Park Woods. For more information and to see the suggested areas for research please download this flyer:

The HOW Project










Wakefield Rotary Club Centenary

In the years prior to 1920 a Rotary Club was formed in Leeds and moves were afoot to start similar clubs in areas around Leeds. These clubs consisted of local businessmen, many of whom were well known in the local area. A recruitment campaign was launched under the leadership of the Leeds Club and the then Mayor of Wakefield Alderman George Foster. On 3 June 1921 the inaugural dinner was held when the club was formed with Alderman Foster as President. The Rotary year is from 1 July, so Alderman Foster remained President of the newly formed club, with around 40 members until 30 June 1922 when a Mr. H.Womersley took over.

The club are now trying to find as many records as they can of the first years of the club, perhaps even a photograph of Alderman Foster, newspaper cuttings, etc. etc.

Please contact us if you can help and we will pass the information on:

Event at pontefract castle
2nd September, 1pm - 2pm

Expand your knowledge on the medieval garden and join us for our adult talk on Gardens in the Age of Chivalry?
Tickets £2. Why not make a bit of a day of it and have lunch in our new Liquorice Café?
To book visit

Exhibition at Leeds City Museum

Skeletons: Our Buried Bones
22 Sept – 7 Jan 2018

Unearth the fascinating stories of 12 people from Yorkshire and London, told through their skeletons. This unique exhibition, in partnership with the Museum of London and Wellcome Collection, provides a rare glimpse into the lives of the individuals who have gone before us and the history beneath our feet.

From an Iron Age male and female found buried together at Wattle Syke near Wetherby to a Medieval soldier killed at the Battle of Towton and a victim of the Black Death from London, discover what bones can reveal about people from the past and the places all around us. Explore the effects of disease, broken bones and tooth decay, as well as the results of violence and murder.

Alongside the exhibition, discover more about skeletons in Leeds and the science behind the stories in our Leeds Lab. Be a scientist and test your knowledge of human bones, learn more about local excavations and the museum's collection, and hear from the experts who work with human skeletons. This exhibition contains human remains.

More information: Leeds City Museum

Pre-2011 Yorkshire Archaeological JouRnals now free online

Scanning has been completed of all 82 Yorkshire Archaeological Journal volumes published up to 2010. They are now online, searchable, and available free of charge to everyone.

Yorkshire Archaeological Journals

Saturday 16 September 1pm at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1

Event organised by Wakefield Socialist History Group
Granville Williams (journalist and campaigner: NUJ member)
Brian Bamford on "Professor Preston and George Orwell: The varieties of historical investigation and experience."
Robin Stocks on "Orwell and the Barcelona May Days."
Alan Stewart on "The Road to Wigan Pier: How Orwell ended up in Barnsley."
Free admission and free light buffet.
Bar with excellent real ale.
All welcome.

the James Paine Festival -a Celebration of the Works of James Paine
Doncaster Mansion House, 7th October 2017

On Saturday 7th October at the Mansion House there will be a Celebration of the Works of James Paine. There will be an Open Day in the morning and in the afternoon, a panel of distinguished speakers will talk about aspects of James Paine's works. Professor Anthony Geraghty of York University will be chairing the event. The speakers will be George Norton, MA student at York University; Gareth Williams, the Curator of Weston Park, Shropshire; Frances Sands of the Sir John Soanes Museum and Peter Leach, the author of the definitive book on James Paine. The event in the afternoon will be free but you will need to apply for a ticket.

Heritage Open Days at The Hepworth
9th and 10th September 2017

On 9 and 10 September, Wakefield Historical Society are doing a joint event with The Hepworth about the Wakefield Waterfront. They are running boat trips and we will be doing short talks, showing the DVD we made as part of our HLF funded Waterfront project in 2012, having books for sale and talking to the public.

Civic Society Walk for heritage open days
Friday, 8th September

Kevin Swift will lead a guided tour of Wakefield's Town and County Halls. The tour will start with a short talk in our office at the Town Hall at 3.00 pm and will end no later than 5.30pm

The Rainbow Trail Exhibition
Wakefield Museum

Wakefield Museum is holding its first ever LGBT+ exhibition The Rainbow Trail. Launched the day before Wakefield Pride, The Rainbow Trail shines a light on the often overlooked or hidden LGBT+ stories of Wakefield.

More information and booking: Rainbow Trail

event at the West Yorkshire History Centre
Thursday 24th August - Archive Surgery

New to using archives or stuck on a piece of research? Book a 45 minute slot with one of our archive team to help guide you through using our fascinating collections.

Booking required, slots at 10:00am, 11:00am and 1:00pm


Full list of events July - December

South Leeds Archaeology
23rd August 2017 Brian Elsey
Prehistoric North Duffield – Glimpses of the past

How a small community group gained Heritage Lottery Funding to investigate its historic landscape driving the evidence for settlement in North Duffield back from 1086AD to 2545BC(+ or – 28 years).

Brian has been the director of the North Duffield project since the first ideas were established. Brian provides an enthusiastic and practical approach to how other groups might approach similar projects.

More information: South Leeds Archaeology

Royal Archaeological Institute's conference, York from 17 - 19 November

Arras 200 – Celebrating the Iron Age
Annual Conference 2017

In partnership with the University of Hull and Yorkshire Museum and in association with Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society and East Riding Archaeological Society

The conference will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first excavations on the Middle Iron Age cemetery at Arras in East Yorkshire and will coincide with a special exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum displaying artefacts from those excavations.

More information and booking form: Arras 200
Website: RAI Conference

Wakefield Cathedral to mark the First World War Centenary

Wakefield Cathedral has received a grant of £9,200 from the National Lottery for a special project called ‘Then and Now, There and Here: The Imprint of the First World War in Wakefield’. Awarded through The Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) First World War: Then and Now programme the project will ask local people to help uncover the lesser known stories of Wakefield’s experience of The Great War.

This new project will mark the Centenary of the First World War by enabling local people in Wakefield to come together and find out more about the role the city and its people played; discovering the impact of the First World War on the people of Wakefield both at the time and in the 21st century.

More information: WW1 Centenary at Wakefield Cathedral

Contact Gillian Bunn at Wakefield Cathedral on 01924 373923 for more information.