Mobility aid for the disabled market gardener

A heart-warming piece. Following on from the Wakefield Express article about the severely disabled market gardener, Mark Frost, an appeal to purchase a self-propelling chair was launched by well-wishers. In less than two months, a local committee had not only raised the money but presented Frost with the chair.

Wakefield Express
Saturday 26 October 1918


“Owd Mark Frost,” the octogenarian crippled gardener of Bragg Lane End, was a happy man on Tuesday evening, when at a social gathering at the Victoria Hotel, Outwood, he received at the hands of Mr Lewis Twigge, on behalf of the local committee, the handsome and useful self-propelling chair which had been purchased for him as a result of the appeal made through the columns of the “Wakefield Express.” When the subscription list was opened the matter was taken on with much enthusiasm by Mr Joe Whitworth, the genial host at the Victoria Hotel, and the company which foregather there, and when funds began to come in they started out with the idea of making the affair a big success. Subscriptions were got in and a committee formed to go into the question of the best type of machine to be purchased, this involving several journeys to neighbouring towns to inspect machines which were thought suitable. The machine purchased is a “Raybeck” hand-propelling tricycle, with double driving action, ball-bearing wheels, free-wheel, hand reverse brake, comfortable seat with box underneath, and adjustable back-rest. It is completely fitted with two lamps and all the necessary appliances and accessories. The trustees are Messrs. Lewis Twigge, Joe Whitworth, and William Hartley, and a deed has been drawn up by Mr. J. R. Green, solicitor, and signed by Mr. Frost and his sons, undertaking to deliver it up to the trustees for the benefit of the district when no longer required by him.

The presentation ceremony on Tuesday evening was presided over by Mr William Hartley, who described at length what had been done in connexion with the scheme, how the money had been raised, and the work put in by the committee, of whom Mr. J. Thorpe is the secretary. As a result of the newspaper appeal and the efforts of the committee a total of over £30 has been raised, all of which would go the benefit of their old friend Mark, as the whole of the expenses in connexion with the effort had been borne voluntarily. They were greatly indebted to Mr Waller of Stanley, who was the possessor of a similar machine to the one which was being presented that evening, for his helpful practical advice.

Mr. Twigge (with whom the idea of purchasing the chair originated), in making the presentation, said he had known Mark Frost for over 47 years, when he was a smart young man full of health and vigour, and when his garden on the railway-side was the best in the district. He was a hard-working, practical, persevering, and persistent gardener, and a very successful exhibitor at local shows. Even to-day, crippled though he was, he was cultivating three allotments, in which he did the whole of the work. Mr Twigge said that in addition to the kind help of the “Wakefield Express” in this matter, the committee were grateful for the help given by both Outwood and Wrenthorpe friends.

“Mark,” as he prefers to be called, in returning thanks, said he had not been able to get about much lately, but with that carriage he would be able to go “like steam and hair oil” (laughter), and that when he had done with it it would do for someone else in the parish. He then explained that some time ago Mr. Fred Smith, of the Outwood Hotel, gave him £5, raised a result of a concert to help him to purchase a chair, but as it was not sufficient it was banked and put where (as he naively put it) he “could not get at it.”

Complimentary speeches followed, in which high praise for much voluntary work was given by several who had taken an interest in the scheme, Mr. Whitworth, Mr. T. Hulme (the treasurer), and Mr. and Mrs. Thorpe coming in for special mention. The committee and the whole the workers, together with the proprietor of the “Wakefield Express,” were also warmly thanked for their services in the matter.

An hour was afterwards spent in harmony, amongst the contributors being the guest of the evening, who fancied himself somewhat as a fiddler. A whip-round for “a bit o’ bacca for Mark” realised £1 0s. 3d. Songs were given by Messrs. Hartley and Frost (two), with Mr. Hulme at the piano.

Mark Frost died in August the following year, whilst eating a meal.*

* Wakefield Advertiser & Gazette, 2 September 1919, p. 4.

Working class men get the vote

The 1885 general election was the first in which a large proportion of working class men could vote. Wrenthorpe now formed part of a new constituency – Normanton – and leading mining trade unionist Ben Pickard successfully fought the new seat as a ‘Lib-Lab’ (Liberal) candidate, remaining its MP until his death in 1904. The seat was seen as a shoo-in for the Liberals, and Free Press believed the Potovens district was overwhelmingly supportive. Alderman Milthorp was a ‘local boy made good’ character – an industrialist who’d served as Mayor of Wakefield in 1881.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 21 November 1885


Continuing his successful tour of the Normanton Division, Mr B. Pickard, the Liberal candidate, visited Wrenthorpe (Potovens), on Wednesday evening, arriving from Durham shortly before the time of the meeting, which took place in the Board School [later Wrenthorpe Council School]. There was a large attendance of working men, and we believe that in this part of the Division the voting for the Liberal candidate will be three to one for his opponent. The Rev. W. Field, M.A., of Silcoates School, presided, and in opening the proceedings delivered a brief but appropriate address. He described the Tories as the Jumbo party, seeing that they would not get out of the way of the approaching express train, thus acting like the well-known elephant when it met with its death.* Mr Edward Cowey moved the usual resolution approving of Mr Pickard’s candidature and pledging the meeting to support him by all legitimate means. This was seconded by Alderman Milthorp, of Wakefield, who met with a flattering reception, he being a native of the district. He said that it gave him great pleasure to be present on that occasion in his native place, although he must say that at one time he never expected to be able to stand there and congratulate them on having a vote. For the first time in English history working men throughout the country could be called citizens of their country, and he proceeded to point out the manner in which the Liberal party had worked in order to secure the people their rights. Mr Gladstone, he said, had done more for the country than any man, living or dead, and he was prepared to work for the future. As for the Tory party they never initiated or carried a measure in favour of the people (hear, hear, and applause). Mr Pickard, on rising, was received with loud applause, and he spoke at some length in explanation of his views and the position be took. Very telling were his remarks when, on speaking of free education, he referred to the fact that he and others in a similar position in life, had not when young the chance of acquiring a good education. They had had to pick up their knowledge in after years as best they could, and he remembered with gratitude the kindness of a schoolmaster who used to come from Castleford to Kippax in the evenings to instruct another young man and him. That young man was now a Wesleyan minister, and he (Mr Pickard) was where he was. The resolution on being put to the meeting was adopted amid great enthusiasm with only one dissentient, and the proceedings closed with a vote of thanks to the chairman.

* An odd contemporary reference to a Barnum circus elephant who had been struck by a locomotive in Ontario a couple of months before.

Grinding poverty

The headline says Wrenthorpe, the address, Alverthorpe – confused? It’s all down to the Alverthorpe/Stanley township boundary along Foster Ford Beck/Balne Beck again. Pearson’s Buildings stood near the junction of Jerry Clay Lane with Wrenthorpe Lane (then called Potovens Road). The Royal Oak was almost next door, on the other side of the beck.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 27 March 1880


Yesterday, the Coroner, T. Taylor, Esq., held an inquest at the Royal Oak Inn, Wrenthorpe, on the body of Thomas Moorhouse, a farm labourer, aged 56, who lived at Pearson’s Buildings, Alverthorpe. It appears that deceased lived with his son in a wretched hovel, containing one room, and that entirely devoid of furniture, excepting a stool and some sacks upon which to lie. He had for some time past been suffering from a cold, but would not see a doctor. On Thursday night he laid down on the sacks to go to sleep, and awoke between eleven and twelve o’clock, and appeared to be worse than usual. His son asked him whether he was to fetch a doctor, but he only replied by cursing him. About 20 minutes past one o’clock the son was awakened by hearing his father gasping. He called in a neighbour named Martin Quinn, but deceased expired almost immediately. A verdict of “Died from natural causes” was returned.

The pages of the West Riding coroner’s record book give more details on Moorhouse’s wretched life. Note how his son tries to sign his initials in the book and his neighbour his name.

A ‘useful and highly ornamental institution’: the origin of Wrenthorpe Cricket Club

Wrenthorpe or Potovens has had a village cricket team for over 150 years. Early local press coverage is scant, the first reference to a Wrenthorpe cricket club tracked down so far, is the result of a New Scarborough [Alverthorpe] v Potovens match, in the Wakefield Express of 6 August 1870. The first full score (Wrenthorpe v Eastmoor) is covered in the 3 September edition of the Wakefield Free Press. Later that decade, there was even a second XI.

The current cricket club appears to have been founded in 1889, as mentioned in this article about a fund-raising event from the following year.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 26 April 1890


What was described as a “grand concert” took place in the Church school-room [School Lane] of the above rural village on Monday evening, and it was largely patronised, the room proving almost inadequate in its accommodating capacity. The Rev. T. J. Puckle, the vicar, who presided, after the proceedings had been opened by the playing of a solo on the pianoforte by Mr. George Hepworth, narrated the objects of the gathering. He said the concert had been got up by the members of the local cricket club, which organisation, he hoped, would prove a useful and highly ornamental institution in the village. The club was quite in its infancy, and the progress it made last year – the first year of its existence – fully justified them in hoping that it would live and grow and prosper, and he trusted that that if the large audience was only a forecast of the large audiences that would come and witness the cricket matches when played at home.

The disabled market gardener at Bragg Lane End

A long item from page one of the Wakefield Express about a severely-disabled man still working in his mid-80s. Although a poignant piece, not least because it’s written during the First World War, the idea of making substitute tobacco out of rhubarb leaves does at least raise a smile, but why does the article end so abruptly?

Wakefield Express
Saturday 17 August 1918


Curiosity as to how a man of 85 with a crippled hand and with both legs cut off above the knee managed to look after a fairly large market garden led an “Express” representative to go in search of Mark Frost, of Bragg Lane End. He found him busily engaged “cleaning up” one portion of his garden, and quite in the mood for a chat and a smoke. Mark in very proud of the fact that though he is “86 come next January 2nd” he is still able to do something toward earning his own living, in spite of the handicap of having no legs.

In telling his own story, Mark says that he started work “twining band at t’top o’Langley,” when only four years old and in petticoats, and he appears to have been working ever since. Really, he is to-day as much up against poverty an ever his own parents were in the days that forced a child of the tender ago of four to go out to help to earn the family’s daily bread. For nearly seventy years after that – though he served an apprenticeship to the rope trade – he has worked in the pits, his last journey underground being to fetch a forgotten syphon pipe from workings under Lindle Hill. It was after he left the mine that he contracted the disease which resulted in the eventual loss, about four years ago, of both legs and one finger. Now, however, he seems pretty healthy, and is putting up a gallant struggle against both old age and infirmity. Though the difficulties must be enormous, we must say we have never seen a better-kept kitchen garden. Kind friends have provided him with specially shortened gardening tools, and, with the aid of a board and two wooden hand-grips, he is able to propel himself about the garden. As he says, he is bound to do something, seeing that the army has taken his son and 7s. 6d. “Lloyd George” is all he has to live on.

Before he happened his misfortune, Mark was a familiar figure in Wakefield, especially at the week-end, for he has attended the market two days a week ever since he was a child, and says that with his “owd grey galloway” he had “taen peys inter Wakefield Market for ower fifty year.” To-day he still attends the market, but he has to go in a wheel chair, which means that someone must push both him and the produce. His present stand is just inside the Clarence Hotel Yard, where he is to be found any Friday or Saturday. Perhaps a kindly reader will remember Mark when seeking vegetables, salad, or flowers in the market.

It was with much pride that he showed the writer his little bit of garden land, with its neat rows of healthy potatoes, celery, etc., and the remnants of what was once a particularly good flower garden – for flowers seem to have been his ruling passion – and it was only when gardeners were called upon to produce more food that he reluctantly sacrificed some of his beloved flower beds for the more prosaic growing of food-stuffs. He still, however, has a few yards of flower-producing land, and any reader who is requiring sound and healthy wallflowers guaranteed to be the much sought-after dark stock, could not do better than pay a visit to Bragg Lane End, as there are at least fifty to sixty score plants for disposal. These are not mere seedlings, but all were properly transplanted and “fit for any gentleman living, and I don’t care who gets ’em.”

It was then that he brought out his home-made tobacco, which certainly, smoked very well indeed, and to an inveterate smoker must represent a big saving in these days. It was made, he explained, of rhubarb leaves and twist scalded, rolled, dried, etc., just as tobacco leaves are treated, the twist being just sufficient to give it a “genuine” flavour.

Mark lives by himself, and he has one big trouble, and that is – he is dependent upon others when he wants to go into Wakefield or elsewhere to dispose of his produce; and he is very anxious to get a self-propelling chair so that he can get about by himself. He has already got about £6 banked towards the cost of such a contrivance, but he says the other “takes a lot of getting,” so that if there are any kindly-disposed people who would like to help a really deserving case, they could not find a more worthy thing to do than to assist poor old Mark to keep his independence, and, possibly, to set aside a little money for the dreaded winter months when he can earn nothing.

Old Mark’s is a worthy case, and a few extra orders for greenstuff at the week-ends, or orders for wallflower plants, will help to make life easier for one who has struggled through life and has worked for over 80 years. It is a long time for a man to keep going, and especially when brought to such an apparently helpless position as he was at eighty years of age. Certainly such pluck and independence are worthy of recognition.

We understand that Mr. Lewis Twigge [Wakefield florist and leading tradesperson] has taken a great interest in Mark’s gardening work, especially since he happened his misfortune. It was through Mr Twigge’s kindness three years ago that he was supplied with the special tools to enable him “carry on” with his gardening work in spite of his severe handicap. He had been able to do his work with only the first leg off – he lost this some eleven years ago – but it is the loss of the second which seemed the greatest blow of all, and the way he faced it all is very commendable. Mark has long been a most successful exhibitor at local shows.

Mark’s grandson (another Mark) private, Royal Scots Regiment, died of wounds in France on 4 June 1918, aged 19.*

* Wakefield Express, 22 June 1918, pp. 6, 8.

State education comes to Wrenthorpe

The 1870 Forster Elementary Education Act introduced state education for children aged 5-12. School Boards were to be elected by ratepayers, and these bodies were responsible for the building of schools and employment of teachers.

Wrenthorpe was part of the Stanley School Board, which covered the ancient Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe Township boundary (from Bottom Boat to Balne Beck/Forster Ford Beck). Its first election took place in 1875. The foundation stone for the new school was laid just over two years later. The school building was later part of Wrenthorpe Council School, then Wrenthorpe Junior School. It was demolished in 2000.

Three observations about the proceedings: (1) The non-secular nature of the event, even though it’s supposedly state education. The Board elections were presented as a liberal/nonconformist versus conservative/Church of England contest. This echoes the previous nonconformist/established hold the churches had on education in British schools versus National schools. (2) Bonham’s observation about the British economy losing out because of better-educated foreign competition is causing concern even then. (3) And, there’s not actually anyone from Wrenthorpe represented on the Board. This was to change in the following year’s election when the Wrenthorpe ratepayers indulged in tactical voting. [More in a future blog].

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 21 July 1877


In our issue of this day three weeks ago, we gave, in the course of an article on educational provision at Outwood, Wrenthorpe, and Crofton, a description of a Board School about to be built at Wrenthorpe, under the auspices of the Stanley-with-Wrenthorpe School Board, and on Saturday afternoon the foundation stone of this school laid. To say the weather was wet on the occasion is only to state that which appears a matter of course in the neighbourhood in connection with events of this character; and certainly the day was very wet. At the hour appointed for the commencement of the ceremony the only persons present were the men whose duty it was to make the necessary preparations for the occasion; but shortly afterwards there appeared upon the scene Mr. Wallis [a hosier from Newton Lodge], the chairman of the Board, accompanied by the following members, viz., the Revs. J. S. Gammell [Vicar of Outwood] and R. Burrell [Vicar of Stanley], and Mr. Cookson [a colliery manager]; the Rev. C. P. Bonham [Minister, Zion Chapel, Aberford Road, Stanley]; the Clerk (Mr. Masterman), and the Architect (Mr. F. Simpson). A few residents in the locality also came around the spot. The bad weather, however, was not the only untoward feature of the case, for it now appeared that Mr. C. E. Charlesworth [a colliery owner who lived at Moor House, Stanley], the vice-chairman of the Board, by whom the stone was to have been laid, was unavoidably absent from home, and consequently unable to perform the duty for which he had been announced, and which therefore devolved upon the chairman of the Board. The proceedings were commenced with a brief prayer by the Rev. J. S. Gammell, at the conclusion of which the stone was laid, and Mr. Wallis said: In the faith of Jesus Christ I place this corner stone in the foundation, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; that this building may be set apart for the instruction of the young, and for the honour of Almighty God. Continuing, Mr. Wallis said that upon such an event it was only fitting that the members of the Board should make some remarks. The object they had in meeting on that occasion was to lay the foundation of a new school for the neighbourhood. It was the hope of the members of the School Board that that school might tend to the instruction of the young people in the locality, and be beneficial to every household. They also hoped that those who had the task of conducting the school would receive the hearty support of all parents, in order that the institution might become a real blessing to the district. He was, he believed, expressing the views of his colleagues in saying that the beneficial working of the school depended largely upon the parents, and it was of the greatest importance that the latter should aid the Board in getting the children in regular attendance at the school. Those parents, whose education had been neglected in early life, would, he was sure, have always regretted that, and would realize the importance of imparting a sound education to their children. Now that so much attention was being given in our country to the question of education, and so many schools were being everywhere erected, it was hoped that before long it would not be possible to find a child who was unable to read, to write, and to cipher, and to do other work of a similar character.

The doxology was then sung, after which The Rev. R. Burrell spoke. He said he would merely confine himself to congratulating the villagers upon the approaching possession of that school, which would, he believed, prove a great blessing to the place. It was only intended to build a somewhat small school at present, be explained, because the members of the Alverthorpe Board were desirous of providing accommodation for their own district. Although the school would therefore not be so large as it was at first intended to have been, the Board would be glad to furnish more accommodation immediately it was found to be required. He was happy to say that the Board unanimously agreed at their last meeting that religious education should be imparted in the schools, and the parents might therefore with confidence send their children there. The syllabus of the Manchester Board Schools had been adopted, and that would provide a wide and broad basis upon which any denomination might build their own tenets if they desired. It was intended that the Bible should be read in the schools, and instruction upon it given, and prayer would be offered daily at the opening and closing of the school.

Mr. Cookson said he was personally very gratified that the legislature of our country had taken in hand the work of education, and so widely extended its benefits throughout the country. He expressed pleasure that it had extended to that locality, where, he knew from his long acquaintance with it, the want of greater educational advantages had for many years been felt, and be hoped the building which was to be erected would remedy that state of things, and that every child would soon be in a position to have a fair education. He advised the mothers of the children to co-operate with the Board, and with the master and mistress of the school. The Board would endeavour to appoint suitable persons to the posts of master and mistress, and would do their utmost to secure the efficiency of the schools; and he hoped all parents would allow their children to avail themselves of the advantages thus placed within their reach.

The Rev. J. S. Gammell said there was another reason besides that given by Mr. Burrell why the school was not being made larger, and that was that there was already a school in the district [Potovens National School, in School Lane, which had opened in 1844]. He hoped they would keep both the schools full, otherwise the intentions of the Government would not be carried out. If no more children came to the two schools than at present attended the one school it would be useless to build that school and appoint a master to it; but, on the other hand, if more accommodation was required it would be provided. If the people would send the children, the Board would find room for them.

The Rev. C. P. Bonham was very pleased to be present. He had always taken great interest in an advanced and liberal education, and he hoped that was the sort of education that would he given in every Board School. Board Schools were very good things but they were capable of improvement, and as civilization advanced so must intelligence. In this respect other countries had outstripped England, and trade was leaving this country and passing into the hands of foreigners. The great reason for that was found in the fact that in the past foreigners had been better educated than had been the masses of the people in our own country. He congratulated the district upon the possession of a School Board, and he wished one had been established in the district in which he lived; but as they had sufficient school accommodation they did not require a School Board. He hoped the time would come when there would be no denominational schools, but that one system of national education would obtain throughout the land. He was glad they had adopted a certain system of religious education, because when only a child’s mind was educated he was not properly educated – his soul also required educating by religious teaching. He was glad to find the School Board had adopted economical charges. He should have regretted if they had charged 6d. a week, in fact, it would been a gross injustice and a great calamity; therefore he was glad the highest charge was to be fourpence.

The proceedings then terminated, and the small assemblage hastened away to shelter from the drenching rain.

Little did those present at the ceremony know what a fiasco the first six months of the Board School’s existence would turn out to be. [More in a future blog].

The vicar, the hat and the black eye

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 26 October 1878


To the Editor of the Free Press.

Sir, My attention has been called to a paragraph in your last week’s issue, headed “A Fracas at Potovens.” I shall be obliged if, in the interests of truth, you will correct in your next certain mis-statements of your correspondent.

I can hardly be wrong in supposing that I am the “clergyman” referred to; but I did not say to anybody, “Is that all the respect you have for your clergyman!” I did not “knock” the hat off the offender’s head. No “row” took place in the schoolroom, and no “young lady hailing from Silcoates,” nor any one at all, “received a fine black eye.”

I must decline to enter into any further correspondence on the subject.

I am, sir, yours, Francis Dudley,
Vicar of St. Anne’s, Wrenthorpe.
Wrenthorpe Vicarage, Wakefield, Oct. 23rd, 1878

{We gladly give insertion to the above, and are pleased to learn that no row took place in the schoolroom. The rev. gentleman is perhaps discreetly silent as to what took place outside the school but immediately adjoining. We may state further that the person referred to as taking part in the above, and described as wearing her Majesty’s livery, was not Police-constable Hollis, or indeed any one connected with the constabulary; and we regret that this much respected officer should have been mistaken for the person intended. – Ed. W. F. P.}

The Rev Dudley clearly doesn’t want to be associated with the nonconformist Free Press. Looking back at the previous week’s edition of that newspaper, we read:

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 19 October 1878


A Wrenthorpe correspondent writes: “Our city is becoming somewhat famous for its strange goings on and its pugilistic qualities. On Monday evening last a bazaar was held in the Church School-room, when a little scene took place. A young man in walking up and down the room had the temerity to do so with his hat on, which brought out the ejaculation ‘Arthur, is that all the respect you have for your clergyman!’ The said clergyman without more to do, is alleged to have knocked the hat off the offender’s head, and tried to exclude him by force from the room. This was resisted and a regular row took place, during which a gentleman wearing Her Majesty’s livery struck at Arthur, but missing his mark, a young lady hailing from Silcoates received a fine black eye.”

Biodiversity and Balne Beck

A couple of nature-related pieces about Balne Beck. The first is a curious letter from to the Wakefield and West Riding Herald from Thomas Walter Gissing, who took a keen interest in natural history. He kept a chemist shop in Wakefield and was the father of the Victorian novelist George Gissing. T W Gissing’s Materials for A Flora of Wakefield and its Neighbourhood was published in 1867.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Friday 26 September 1856


To the Editor of the Wakefield Journal and Examiner.

Dear sir, — I have much pleasure in announcing the discovery of some botanical rarities in the immediate vicinity of Wakefield.

My sister, walking from Balne-lane Mill towards Silcoates, discovered trifolium resupinatum (reversed trefoil), and on returning showed it me.

I immediately walked to the spot, found the plant, and in addition four others, viz, medicago falcata (sickle medick), melilotus arvensis (field melilot), medicago denticulata (toothed medick), and phalaris canariensis (canary grass).

Now I think it highly improbable that all these plants should be indigenous to that one spot of ground; but from their meagre and unattractive appearance they would never be cultivated in a garden; at least, with the exception of the canary grass, I never heard of their being used as ornamental plants. The probability, therefore, comes to me that these plants have been brought from adjacent fields with rubbish, and so sprung up in this locality. I would therefore strongly recommend all Wakefield botanists to closely inspect the neighbourhood of Balne-lane, &c.

– I am, dear sir, truly yours,

Wakefield, Sept 22, 1856.

And a not-so-constructive item. Wonder if the poor bird was kept in a cage or stuffed.

Leeds Times
Saturday 2 April 1853


On Good-Friday, a man, named Armitage, was walking along the side of the Balne Beck, when he observed a fine kingfisher on a stone in the water, attempting to gorge a fish which he held in his bill. The finny prey was too large for his majesty, however, and he could not well get off the ground with such an encumbrance sticking in his gizzard, Armitage made him an easy capture.

A lucky escape

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 23 May 1891


Yesterday afternoon week, during the thunderstorm which then prevailed, the chimney of a house (in a block of buildings) occupied by a person named Haines, at the bottom of Silcoates Hill, was struck by the electric fluid and partly demolished, the bricks falling, some down the chimney and others upon the roof, and from thence sliding on to the floor, with a loud report. It was evident that the lightning had passed into the home, as not a vestige of soot could be found in the chimney, whilst the house floor was covered as with a “black carpet,” and the pictures had been ruthlessly torn from the walls and most of them smashed. Fortunately, Mrs. Haines had just gone across the road into a relative’s house with a few loaves of bread, and thus escaped what might have been a most serious injury.

As the 1891 census had only taken place six weeks earlier, it’s possible to find more details on Haines, including where he lived. His address is given in the Alverthorpe-with-Thornes census returns as at ‘Potovens Bridge’, so he must have lived in Pearson’s Buildings at the junction of Jerry Clay Lane and Wrenthorpe Lane (then called Potovens Road). James Haines was 49, married, and his recorded occupation ‘foreman/platelayer railway’. He was born in Macclesfield. His wife, Mary Anne (42) was born in Wrenthorpe. Their 19-year-old daughter was born in Ossett and worked as a ‘mill hand woollen weaver’, probably at the nearby Silcoates Mill.

A picture of life in 1880s Potovens

Although this article is primarily concerned with services at St Anne’s Church, its introduction contains a fascinating description of mid-1880s Wrenthorpe.

Wakefield & West Riding Herald
Saturday 1 August 1885


The annual dedication services in connection with the Church built for Wrenthorpe about ten years ago calls public attention to the labours of an indefatigable young vicar who works under great difficulties to promote the religious benefit of a poor population. It is not an extensive parish, reaching only from Carr Gate to Snow Hill and from Bradford Road to Alverthorpe Beck, but it embraces an area chiefly agricultural, and a village known by the not attractive title of Potovens. It is, however, a village that might well interest the curious, for it has features that are unique if not picturesque. Wrenthorpe is said to be a modification of Earl Warren’s Thorpe or village, and Potovens tells of a time that the historian has failed to chronicle, when the staple industry here was the making of pots and pans. All trace of the ovens has disappeared, but sometimes broken earthenware is dug up indicating the proximity of an oven, just as Roman urns sometimes lead to the discovery of a pottery bakery of the time of Julius Caesar; and just as the plough has turned up gold rings and sovereigns in the field where sixty years ago the Wakefield races were run [Lawns, Carr Gate]. To find an address at Potovens (which is literally in a hole) a guide is needed, for every ‘street’ seems to end in a piggery or garden. The stone-built cottages are not in the best repair, and, indeed, a stranger might think not a few of the little freeholds were in Chancery. The houses have been built at every angle to each other, and a journey, with the aid of a guide, will reveal some singularities in the habits of the villagers. If the collier section is badly off, the market gardeners would appear to be having a good time of it, for they live in a wealth of flowers; and their grounds are covered with fruitfulness.

The lengthy piece continues in great (too much) detail about church-related events. But it does give a striking impression of the poverty in the district and how a Church of England clergyman had been pragmatic in improving the lives of local people.

The object of the Church anniversary is to raise funds to meet the current expenses owing to the inability of the parishioners to make the offertories sufficient. The services commenced on Sunday, and will be continued on the 2nd of August. There was early Communion on Sunday, and a choral Communion service with sermon at the regular morning hour, the Rev. T. J. Puckle, the Vicar, officiating. At the floral service in the afternoon the Rev. J. H. D. Hill, vicar of East Ardsley, was the preacher. The children and their friends brought bouquets which were handed to the clergyman in the chancel, and will be sent to the Clayton Hospital and the Workhouse. The chancel screen, altar, and font were ornamented with flowers for the occasion, and altogether the services were most interesting, and attracted large congregations. In the evening the Rev. H. E. Alderson, assistant curate of Mirfield, was the preacher, and delivered an appropriate sermon before a full congregation. The number attending Communion and the amount of the offertories were an improvement upon last year. On Tuesday afternoon there was the annual sale of work at the school-room – a stone building out of repair, in a bad position – formerly the day school of the village, and now for the Sunday School [later Wrenthorpe Mission]. When the funds admit of a new school being built near the Church it will tend much to promote better order and decorum. But few persons attended the sale, and when the soiree followed in evening the pretty articles of needlework did not tempt the poor people to invest in them. About 100 persons sat down to a substantial tea, in charge of Miss Thomas, Miss Scott (Wakefield), Mrs. Parkin, Miss Jaques, and Mrs. Bland.

At the soiree the Rev. T. J. Puckle presided, when the, room was crowded. Before the entertainment commented he made a few remarks. He said they had rather a long programme, and therefore he would be brief. He wanted to say a little bit about the year and what they hoped to do in the coming year. They might remember that last year he spoke of their proposal to have one or two improvements. Among other things he mentioned a savings and a parish magazine. They had gained those objects. Mr. Joseph Marsland had had the chief work and merit in opening a branch of the Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank in November last, and up to Christmas, when the accounts closed, they had £92 9s. 7d. in the bank. Since then there had been paid in £158 4s. 9d, and altogether 186 accounts had been opened, of which 81 had been closed by people drawing out their money. They retained their books and could re-open the accounts whenever they chose. They had 107 accounts and £177 5s. 6d. in the bank. Considering that the times were so very bad he did not think that anything to be ashamed of; but he hoped that £177 would get much larger instead of smaller; if they went on at the rate of the last month they would he soon cleared out. When the pits were working longer hours they would no doubt have more money paid in. This year he should like to see that £177 doubled, and trebled next year… They had started the parish magazine, and no far they had 100 subscribers, which did not pay; if they had 150 they would just make the magazine pay the expenses, and leave a little at the end of the year…

He had been talking to some friends about whether they should not start a branch of the Church of England Temperance Society. He would mention it and leave it in their hands… Miss Scott had also spoken to him about beginning a clothing club. She had one at Westgate Common, with about 450 members, at one time. They might manage to get 200 persons to put in their pennies or shillings weekly in order to take out a useful sum at the year’s end for warm clothing. All depositors would get a bonus. They must not pay in for half the year and think to get a large bonus. The bonus was not so much per cent, but a certain sum to encourage regular savings. He wished them to continue collecting money for foreign missions because they believed that in giving to others they would be paid back, and if they wanted to raise money for the pariah purposes they must show a disposition to raise money for the Church outside the parish.