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Wars of the roses abridged at chantry chapel
by Richard Atkinson, Friends of Chantry Chapel
Fri 15th December 2017 19:00 – 20:30

Christmas 1460 and Richard Duke of York hasn't even had chance to play with his Christmas presents of devour the customary box of Roses sent to him at Sandal Castle. He's drawn out of the comfort of the castle not only is Christmas ruined he doesn't even get to see in the New Year, the course of history is changed forever but his legacy lives on through his surviving sons.

Following a successful whistlestop tour of the Wars of the Roses in September expect more historical tales of the Medieval Period taking you through the Wars of the Roses 1455 to 1487. Aimed at all ages from 8 to 88.
As this talk is held just before Christmas (and on the 1st day of release for the new Star Wars movie) we'll throw in some bits about what it was like to celebrate a Medieval Christmas.
Refreshments available during the interval.
Please book via eventbrite

Photographs of Pinderfields and Clayton Hospital

We have been asked if anyone has photographs from 1948 to the present day of these buildings and 'working' photographs of staff as a calendar is being planned to commemorate 70 years of the NHS. Please contact us and we will put you in touch:

New Publications from Pen and Sword Reviews by Dr Phil Judkins

WAKEFIELD IN THE GREAT WAR Tim Lynch (Pen & Sword, 12.99), ISBN 9781473847415
A volume in the Pen & Sword series on Your Towns and Cities in the Great War, this book on Wakefield’s contribution follows author Tim Lynch’s Great War Britain – Sheffield from the History Press, and was a work in preparation by our own Kate Taylor before her sad death; Tim handsomely acknowledges his use of her papers in the preparation of this book on Wakefield. A challenge to all historians working on one volume of a series of books with a powerful central theme, such as in this case the Great War, is to find out the information which will allow a fresh and local treatment of the facts, rather than a repetition of the national story – by now, thanks to radio and TV as well as books, a well-trodden path. This is perhaps the more difficult when the author has already published on the same theme as it relates to a nearby city. Fortunately, Tim Lynch has an eye for the little-known and interesting facts which can create a very readable work, and this he has produced, with stories of the local volunteers, hospitals, war industries, which make for a most interesting book. There are, inevitably, areas which with a little work might have made it even better – as just two examples, many of the photos early in the book are not credited and one wonders if they are even local; and much of the detail of Lofthouse Part Internment Centre comes from Paul Cohen-Portheim’s book Time Stood Still, referenced in the text but not credited in the brief bibliography, and so misses the best story, of the interned prisoner who escaped home to Austria, was there conscripted, and appealed to the British Ambassador to be allowed to come back to Lofthouse. Many copies of this book will doubtless be purchased as Christmas presents; I would recommend it as a good read, and I recommend even more Tim’s most interesting talk on the subject!

4 stars -  very readable history, illuminated with lesser-known and intriguing stories.

SOUTH YORKSHIRE MINING VILLAGES 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.














dewsbury to be a heritage action town in 2018

Wakefield's near neighbour, Dewsbury, has been chosen by Historic England to be a Heritage Action Zone in the spring/summer of 2018.

Dewsbury was the capital of textile recycling in Britain, collecting rags from across the world to recycle into new heavy woollen materials (Shoddy & Mungo). The town is in transition with retail and commercial activity contracting and housing opportunities emerging.

The Heritage Action Zone aims to help drive regeneration of the town centre by: improving the condition and appearance of key buildings within the conservation area 'at risk'; introducing new activity through re-use of vacant buildings and sites and; improving public spaces within the town centre.

More information: Heritage Action Zones

queens of Industry at Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills

Celebrate the untold stories of women in industry during the 20th Century in this exciting new exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum.

Discover the working class 'queens' elected to represent some of Britain's greatest industries, from coal to cotton.

From the 1920s-80s, Queens of Industry flew the flag for their industry, county or even country. These young workers' lives were changed forever, with opportunities to star on screen, meet political figures like Joseph Stalin and simply become a female voice for their industry.

Opening hours: Sat 10-5pm / Sun 1-5pm
Included with admission to the museum (adult £3.80).The exhibition is open until 29 Sept 2019.

Leeds Industrial Museum

Nursing Memorial Appeal

If you attended our meeting on 11 October when there was a talk about the nurses of Passchendaele and wish to support the Nursing Memorial Appeal, information about the appeal can be found here:

Yorkshire in History Group
This group is run by Peter Elliot at the Manygates Lane Adult Education Centre. Participants share the costs of room hire on an informal basis. Apart from the November and March meetings the venue will be Room 7 at Manygates starting at 10am.
Peter can be contacted at

Wednesday 11 Oct Captain Bligh, by Alwyn Peel
Wednesday 15 Nov Talk on Wood Street followed by a tour, led by Kevin Trickett (Meet at Town Hall)
Wednesday 13 Dec A History of Sandal, by Peter Elliott
Wednesday 19 Jan 2018 To be confirmed
Wednesday 14 Feb The Yorkshire Musical Tradition, by Sheena Vigor plus Dickens in Wakefield by Ken Rowley
Wednesday 14 March Yorkshire Sculpture Park - a talk and a tour


Fourth Monday of the month, 1.30pm - 3.00pm
Wakefield One

Programme: October 2017 – April 2018
23 October  -  Adoption records
27 November  -  Exploring the Archives
25 December  -  No meeting
22 January  -  Advice and Problem-solving
26 February  -  Heart of Wakefield
26 March  -  West Riding Quarter Sessions records
23 April  -  To be announced


Second Friday of the month 11.00am – 12.30pm
Currently meeting in Horbury Library

Programme: September 2017 – March 2018
8th September  -  No meeting
25th October  -  Visit to the British Library, Boston Spa
(NB. This is a Wednesday)
10th November  -  Nurses of World War One
8th December  -  Origins of superstitions
12th January  -  Debt & Bankruptcy records
9th February  -  Advice & Problem-solving session
9th March  -  Education & School records

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:

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

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.