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New Book: 'The Buildings of Tudor and Stuart england', by Peter Brears

Peter Brears

Wakefield Historical Society will be hosting a lecture by the author, Peter Brears, for the members of the Wakefield Civic Society and other members of the public. After his talk Peter will be available to sign copies of the book. The talk is at 7.30pm in the Kingswood Suite in the Town Hall.

Until the 1950s Wakefield was a city with many timber framed buildings, richly decorated with carvings. In the late 1950s/early 1960s almost all was swept away in redevelopment of the town centre. At the time a teenage Peter Brears was recording buildings as they were demolished and saving carvings and plaster mouldings for Wakefield’s City Museum. In his book Peter provides his own meticulously detailed drawings and paintings reconstructing Wakefield’s lost buildings. These are accompanied by a scholarly text discussing Wakefield’s architectural heritage, together with notes, appendix and index.

“The medieval woollen trade moved from old established towns like York, with their rules and regulations, to newer towns like Wakefield in the 16th century,” says author Peter Brears. “In the 16th century and early 17th century Wakefield became the regional centre of the woollen trade. As a result it developed half timber and stone inns, shops, houses and warehouses of the finest design and craftsmanship. I hope this book will give pleasure and knowledge, and persuade readers that the best of the past is superior in its human qualities than anything they put in its place.”

Peter, who is Wakefield born and bred, has had a long and varied career as archaeologist, historic building specialist and food historian. For over thirty years he has worked in English museums and great houses. He was curator of Shibden Hall and Clarke Hall before moving on to direct the Castle Museum, York and Leeds City Museum. He has specialised in the study of domestic life, and has done research, restoration and interpretation projects for many properties including Hampton Court Palace and Harewood House.

He has written many articles, catalogues and books on aspects of domestic and social life in the past. Those most relevant to readers of this new book, are The Gentlewoman’s Kitchen (1984), Traditional Food in Yorkshire (1987) and The Country House Kitchen (1996).

Peter Brears’ talk is on Wednesday 8 January at 7.30pm in the Kingswood Suite in the Town Hall, Wood Street, Wakefield. Members of the public are welcome to attend for a small fee of £2. Peter Brears’ book costs £19.95 and he will be available to sign copies for purchasers.

You can buy the book through our Society:

It is also available through the Cathedral Shop, or Rickaro Books in Horbury

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

























Reading the Past
16th and 17th century handwriting guide

To help researchers the Borthwick Institute at the University of York have added a free downloadable guide to reading documents from the 16th and 17th centuries. It contains facsimilies, transcripts & reading notes

Handwriting guide

Premiere of 'Clara'
8 March 2020

Clara is a TV drama about a woman who lived in 1850s Wakefield. Clara Clarkson was a suffragist, an abolitionist and a lover and protector of women in the Merrie City.

Clara struggles to balance her relationship with companion Harriet and what is expected from her in Victorian society, dodging the charms of doting widower Henry and the vehement disapproval of her mother Sarah.

The premier will be screened on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2020 at the Mechanics’ Theatre in Wakefield.

More information: Clara

CBA Archaeology Day in york
1 February, 10am - 4pm

Yorkshire Archaeology Day involves a day of talks on recent archaeological work in Yorkshire from both professional archaeologists and members of community groups starting at 11.00am. It is preceded by the CBA Yorkshire AGM which starts at 10.00am.

Fountains Lecture Theatre, York St John University
Non-members £14

More information and tickets: CBA Yorkshire Archaeology Day

Talks and Exhibition at Leeds Central Library

Several events may be of particular interest:
11 February: Three Leeds Architects, W H Thorp, William Hill and Percy Robinson. In partnership with the Victorian Society.
11 March: Working-Class Leeds in the Early 20th Century
3-28 February: Exhibition: A Brief History of Radical News Printing in Leeds

More information: Leeds Central Library Events

public Lectures at the University of York

The programme of public lectures for Spring 2020 at the University of York is now available. Of particular interest to our members may be a talk entitled Revising Pevsner on Thursday 20 February by Jane Grenville.

She has the task of revising the North Riding volume of Professor Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's iconic series of 46 books The Buildings of England. She will talk about Pevsner, a German Jewish refugee architectural historian, his original project and the delights of her own work on the revised volume.

Public Lectures at the University of York

Can you help? Pigeon Racing in Wakefield

Can you help? The Society has been contacted by a student who is currently studying for an MA in History at the University of York. His research topic is the history and development of pigeon racing between 1870 and 1914. He believes that Wakefield was one of the main centres for the sport at this time and wonders if any of our members have any information relating to pigeon racing clubs in the Wakefield area during this period.

If you can help please email:

South Leeds Archaeology

The 2020 programme of meetings at South Leeds Archaeology has been published. Of particular interest may be a talk on 26th February by Dave Russ: 'Lost' Industries of Wakefield.

South Leeds Archaeology Programme

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.

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 8 Jan Methodism Locally, by Ruth Nettleton

Contact: Peter Phillips at or phone 07552 302319