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Blue plaque unveiling to John Goodchild

On Wednesday, 23rd October at 3.00pm at the Art House on Drury Lane, Wakefield Civic Society will add to their plaques remembering significant Wakefield people with one to John Goodchild. John brought together his amazing collection of archives, documents, maps, books and historical objects over a lifetime's collecting. After his retirement he opened his John Goodchild archive to the public in Drury Lane Library, now the Art House. So it is appropriate that the plaque should be placed here. The Collection was gifted on his death to Wakefield Council so it could be freely available. It is now cared for by the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

Wakefield Socialist History group
Saturday 12th October 1pm-4pm.

'Clarion and the Woodcraft Folk.'
In the 1890s and early 1900s the socialist Clarion Newspaper inspired a movement of clubs dedicated to leisure and educational pursuits, based on the motto Fellowship is Life. The Woodcraft Folk is an organisation for children and young people based on principles of co-operation, international friendship and education for social change- and linked to the Co-operative movement.

Speakers: Dr. Alison (Ali) Ronan, and Bob Sproule
Wakefield Labour Club (The Red Shed) WF1 1QX

south Yorkshire Archaeology day
30 November

South Yorkshire Archaeology Day will be held at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield on the 30th November. The event showcases the results of recent fieldwork and research undertaken into sites in South Yorkshire, and is aimed at an interested but non-specialist audience.

More information and booking at:
South Yorkshire Archaeology Day

Discovery of a wakefield 18th century seal in New York State


Image courtesy of John Kosek

The Society has been contacted by an archaeologist in New York State. A lead seal had been found inscribed with "John Milnes" and "Wakefield". A summer archaeological field school have been digging on a British Officers' Hut at a site called Fort Edward on Roger's Island in the middle of the Hudson River. We were asked if we had any information about John Milnes.

Pam Judkins was able to confirm that it was a merchant's lead seal from a  bale of cloth or an individual bolt of cloth, and it would have been wool, not linen. Similar seals have been found at Fort Michilimackinac on the straits between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

There are a number of 'John Milnes' in the extended Milnes' family that were based in Westgate, but it is possible that this is the John Milnes (1710 - 1771) who built the imposing house on the south side of Westgate which was partly demolished when the railway was built.

The enquirer comments that they have found many interesting items: coins, buttons, ceramics, an Iron key, clay pipe stems, and gold laced braid for an officer. The finds date from the 1750s when up to 16000 British regulars and colonial militia camped on the sites at Roger's island and Fort Edward during the French and Indian War (1754-1763)

Fort Edward and Rogers Island

New Appointment for Society Member at the Borthwick Institute

Gary Brannan

Congratulations to Gary Brannan who has just been appointed as the new Keeper of Archives and Special Collections at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York. 

Gary is an active member of our Society and has delivered talks at our meetings on many occasions. 

New Keeper of Archives
























Can you help? Research into the Leatham family of Heath.

Leatham's engine

Image courtesy of "Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum"

Do you know the history of the Leatham family? We have been contacted by an enquirer whose research into the Leathams arises from an interest in miniature railways. There is, in the collections of the Head of Steam Museum at Darlington, a small version of a very early steam locomotive which is made to run on rails of about 12 inches gauge and which was quite clearly intended by its maker to be a working engine running on some kind of garden railway rather than an accurate scale model. This locomotive carries a works plate which states that it is locomotive no 1 built by 'Leatham & Co, Engineers, Heath, near Wakefield'.

The enquirer is researching the history and archaeology of this machine. His working hypothesis is that the engine was built about the year 1840 by, or for, Charles Albert Leatham who was William Leatham's sixth child and fourth son, and was later a partner in the firm of Gilkes, Wilson & Co who operate the Tees Engine Works and are major suppliers of locomotives to the Stockton & Darlington Railway. The enquirer believes the engine may have run on a track at the home of the Leathams at Beech Lawn, Heath and that the Leatham engine is almost certainly the oldest surviving miniature railway locomotive in the world.

Autumn Programme at South Leeds Archaeology
Rothwell Community Hub, 7.30 pm.

Public meetings are on the 4th Wednesday of each month. Members' meetings are partly for business, but also include informal talks, however non-members are also welcome.

Wednesday 23rd October: Recycling Historic Buildings Alasdair Beale is going to describe his work as a structural engineer looking at historic buildings, A new topic for us and sounds very interesting.

Thursday 14th November: Members Meeting. Jim Jackson will be talking about the Waggon Ways which were everywhere in West Yorkshire supporting the development of the industrial revolution. May well have relevance to Birstall as well.

Wednesday 27th November: Our final public meeting for 2019 will be Ray Newtons account of the highly successful HLF funded project at Monk Fryston.

Thursday 12th December: Christmas Book Sale. Our members meeting will provide an opportunity to get shot of archaeology books you no longer want and the chance to buy some early Christmas presents for all the family ?!?!

To find out about ongoing fieldwork at Birstall that the Society are involved in, please see their website.

More information: South Leeds Archaeology

History and Heritage Courses at the University of York

The University of York have released their programme of public courses for 2019-2020. Their non-accredited courses include Saturday day courses and weekday evening courses on a wide range of topics.

To findout what is on offer in the History and Heritage section see: University of York Courses

Yorkshire in History Group
New venue: The group will now meet at St Swithun's Community Centre in Eastmoor, on Arncliffe Road, WF1 4RR.

Wednesday 2 Oct Leeds Suffragette Leonora Cohen, by Helen Pratt from Temple Newsam

Wednesday 6 Nov Talk on the History of Bretton Park by Leonard Bartle (postponed from March).

Wednesday 4 Dec The Emergence and Growth of Methodism Nationally, by Ruth Nettleton

Wednesday 8 Jan Methodism Locally, by Ruth Nettleton

Contact: Peter Phillips at or phone 07552 302319