A Wrenthorpe ghost story

Yorkshire Evening Post
Saturday 11 September 1937

DIARY OF A YORKSHIREMAN
THE LITTLE OLD WOMAN

I am informed that the truth of the following story is vouched for by a miner’s widow living in Wrenthorpe.

Seven years ago her husband died after a pit accident, and went live an old stone house Wrenthorpe village to be near her father, whose health was failing. Often the early days of her bereavement she would sit the firelight when her days’ work was done, staring into the fire, and whenever she looked across to the armchair on the other side the hearth she could see a figure sitting in it. It was figure of an old woman, with white and rosy cheeks. On her head was white cap with heliotrope bow in the front. A white frill edged the neck of her bodice, and white trills showed at her wrists. She wore a little black satin apron edged with lace, and her hands were folded on her lap.

Every time the widow sat alone in the firelight the little old woman would appear in the armchair opposite. It naturally made her nervous, and she would get up and light the gas. When she told her father about the apparition, he only laughed, and set it down to her Imagination: but he was forced to admit that her description of the old woman exactly fitted the appearance his mother. It was just in that way she had been used to drees when her wort for the day was done.

Nine months after the death of the women’s husband her father died: and from that time the apparition of the old woman did not again appear.

The demise of the Outwood Grandstand

A short piece from just before the First World War on the theft of lead off a roof. Not just any old roof though, this was the former Grandstand building for the Wakefield-Outwood racecourse at Lawns, Carr Gate. Dating from the mid-18th century, the building was reputedly designed by architect John Carr.

Leeds Mercury
Saturday 13 December 1913

YORKSHIRE NEWS IN BRIEF

Wakefield, yesterday, John Winter, teamer, Outwood, was sent to prison for four months for having stolen a quantity of lead, value £6 10s. from the roof the old grand-stand at Outwood.

The theft left the old building open to the elements, leading to its demolition a decade later.

Fracas at Kirkhamgate pub

Leeds Times
Saturday 21 May 1881

TURNING A LANDLORD OUT OF HIS OWN HOUSE AND TAKING POSSESSION

Yesterday, at the Wakefield Court House, nine Lofthouse colliers were charged with damaging the property of William Smith, landlord of the Gardeners’ Arms [Lindale Lane], Kirkhamgate. It appeared from the statement of Mr Lodge and the evidence of the witnesses, that on Saturday, the 7th instant, a pigeon match took place near complainant’s house, between two men named Pickersgill and Steele. Some dispute occurred, and afterwards a crowd of men came into Smith’s house. After they had been there some time, a disturbance took place, Littlewood, it was alleged, being the ringleader, and almost immediately afterwards glasses and pots were thrown about the place The landlord tried to quell the disturbance, on which two men took hold of him by the shoulder and actually pushed him out of his own house by the back door. They ran him up the garden, and his wife went for the police, on which the mob took possession of the premises. While the landlord was in the garden stones were thrown at him, and when he got back, after the crowed had gone away, he found the place in utter confusion, and eighteen glasses and ten pint pots were broken. Three or four holes were cut in the back door and the furniture was more or less broken. Mr Lodge added that when he was first consulted it was a question whether the prisoners ought not to be indicted for a riot, but it was decided to go on with the case of wilful damage – the complainant estimating the damage at the sum of 21s. 6d. – Two of the accused were discharged, and the others fined 5s. and costs.

Big extension to Carr Gate Hospital

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Thursday 1 December 1904

SMALLPOX HOSPITAL FOR WAKEFIELD

An inquiry, conducted by members of the West Riding Sanitary Committee, was held at the County Hall, Wakefield, yesterday. The business was in connection with an application by the Wakefield and District Smallpox Isolation Hospital Committee, for the approval of the County Council to the acquisition by the Hospital Committee of a site upon which to erect an isolation hospital, and for a loan of £6,000 to cover the cost. Alderman H Dunn presided.

The land referred to consists of about 14 acres, and is situate near Carr Gate, in the township of Outwood and in the parish of Wakefield. The period of repayment was fixed by the applicants at 20 years. The case for the applicants was conducted by Mr Herbert Beaumont, clerk to the Hospital Committee, and witnesses called were Alderman Hudson (chairman), Dr Jackson (medical officer of the existing Carr Gate Hospital for general infectious diseases), Dr Gibson (Officer of Health for Wakefield) and Mr Frank Massie.

There was opposition, and the scheme seemed to very favourably received by County Council representatives, who report in due course.

The Gate or the Star: which pub gets the push?

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 3 March 1925

PUBLIC HOUSES TO GO

At the adjourned licensing sessions for the Lower Agbrigg Division at Wakefield yesterday the magistrates referred to the Compensation Authority the licences the Moulders’ Arms, Middlestown and the Prospect Inn, Altofts (beer houses), on the ground of redundancy.

The licences of the Gate Inn and Star Inn, Kirkhamgate, were both renewed for one year on the definite understanding that one of these licences must eventually go.

Leeds Mercury
Saturday 4 June 1927

LICENCES REFERRED

The following licence was referred for compensation without opposition Gate Inn, Kirkhamgate, Ardsley; licensee, W Hornshaw; owners, John Smith and Co.

Sad death at Broom Hall

Leicester Guardian
Wednesday 6 November 1872

A FARMER’S WIFE POISONING HERSELF WHEN DRUNK

On Wednesday an inquest was held before T Taylor Esq, at Snow Hill, near Wakefield, on the body of Sophia Thompson, wife of Mr George Thompson, farmer, Broom Hall, Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, who had died from the effects of a large dose of arsenic taken by her in a gloss of brandy, whilst under the influence of drink. The deceased, who was forty-seven years of age, was addicted to drinking, and although she had generally drank at home, she had often returned from Wakefield the worse for liquor. She began drinking on Wednesday night week, and continued to do so for the next three days. Last Saturday morning the servant girl heard someone downstairs, about four o’clock, and, on going into the cellar, she found her mistress, who had been in the habit of getting up at nights and sometimes sleeping in the kitchen, talking to herself. The girl returned to bed, and some time afterwards she heard the deceased, who was tipsy, talking to herself in her room. The deceased went downstairs and stood before the kitchen fire a few minutes, and then returned upstairs. Mr Thompson had bought a pound of arsenic on the 18th instant to use in dressing wheat, and the deceased seems to have got some of it and drank it along with some brandy, for between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday morning the servant found her seated on a box upstairs with a glass of brandy before her. It was subsequently discovered, and she admitted that she had taken a large dose of arsenic in the brandy. Mr W Statter, of Wakefield, and his son were called in during the evening, and administered the usual antidotes for arsenic, but with little hope of success, and the woman died on Monday. – The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased had poisoned herself when drunk.

Boers and the King’s appendectomy: Daniel Milton’s last hurrahs

A final piece on Daniel Milton, from an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post less than 18 months before his death. Here ‘Judge’ Milton brings his prophecy into the 20th century. The illness alluded to is Edward VII’s appendicitis which postponed his coronation.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 4 July 1902

PROPHET WROE’S SUCCESSOR
AN OCTOGENARIAN SEER NEAR WAKEFIELD

In a cottage at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, lives a stately old man, just over eighty years of age, with spare locks and white beard. The name of Daniel Milton has been familiar to everyone within a radius of some miles for a score of years. Despite the decision of the law courts and the arguments of those who wish him well, he continues to maintain with stubbornness that is the head of the Church of Christian Israelites, and that Melbourne House, a fine Doric stone mansion, built at Wrenthorpe in 1856 by the notorious “Prophet” Wroe, should be given into his charge.

He has had several unsuccessful disputes with the present rightful owners the building, but still old man lives on in the belief that he holds some Divine mission on earth, and that Melbourne House is his lawful earthly habitation.

He is a pathetic figure, and his stone-floored living room is strangely furnished and stocked. There are no blinds or curtains to the window – only newspaper pinned across to keep out the draught and to obstruct the view of the many curious people who from time to time assemble in the vicinity…

Daniel Milton was [once] an official this so-called church in New York, where he annexed the title of Judge. On coming over to Wakefield he had differences with the man Wroe, but notwithstanding that, he is fully convinced that the prophet’s robe fell upon him.

He does a little prophetic line himself, and he claims to have predicted the Boer war. “The first shot was fired,” said he in an interview the other day, “on the day I was 78 years of age, and it lasted 2 years, 8 months, and 23 days. Just after the war broke out I announced that it was the Devil’s own war, and that it would be the last the Boers would fight.”

“I said to a friend a few weeks ago,” he went on, “that something serious would happen before the Coronation. My prophecy has been fulfilled. It is intended as a rebuke of the people who were preparing to worship King Edward a Divine being.”

“Come, Mr Milton,” asked the visitor, “what do you say about the King’s illness before the result is definitely known?”

“I have not had a Divine revelation on that matter,” replied the cautious seer.

Manslaughter charge for lighting candle in local coal pit

Yorkshire Gazette
Tuesday 30 August 1836

FATAL EXPLOSION OF FIRE DAMP AT A COLLIERY NEAR WAKEFIELD

On Saturday last an explosion of inflammable air took place in Bull Pit, at Kirkhamgate, about two miles to the west of Wakefield, which occasioned a serious loss of life and other damage. Although the accident was serious enough, in point of fact, the accounts, as they reached Wakefield were much exaggerated, and excited intense interest. It was recently reported that ten men had been killed, and twice as many scorched, many of whom were not expected to recover. On inquiry, it was found that, at the moment the explosion took place, there were about twenty men and boys in the pit, three of whom were killed, and the remainder, with the exception of two, more or less scorched. Up to Monday night no other death had occurred, but several of the unfortunate creatures were reported to be in a very precarious state.

John Pickford, aged 17, William Brooke, aged 10, and William Broadhead, aged 9, were the persons who lost their lives. Amongst the other sufferers the following were seriously hurt – David Broadhead, Thomas Brooke, George Lumb, Charles Hartley, David Hartley, Thomas Becher, Benjamin Scott, James Bedford, George Broadhead, and Edward Throit.

The Bull Pit belongs to Messrs Smithson and Co. On Sunday, Thomas Lee, jun. Esq, empanelled a jury, in order to inquire into the cause of the death of John Pickford. The jury came, to the conclusion that the poor fellow lost his life in consequence of the incautious use of a candle at one of the “banks” by a pitman. On Monday evening at six o’clock, a second inquest was held the house of Mr Percival Brooke, innkeeper, of Kirkhamgate, before Mr Lee and a very respectable and attentive jury, on view of the bodies of the two boys, when additional evidence was adduced, and the inquiry was adjourned till Thursday, at Potovens, when after a protracted and minute investigation and the examination of Mr Walsh[?] surgeon, and particularly Benjamin Scott, a lad who was working at the same time in the same place with Benjamin [sic] Bedford, the man who took the candle which caused the explosion and after hearing Bedford’s voluntary statement, the Jury returned a verdict of “Manslaughter against James Bedford”. Two of the sufferers are expected not to recover.

James Bedford was found not guilty at the York Spring Assizes in March of the following year.

Road death outside Bay Horse

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 6 April 1844

DISTRESSING AND FATAL ACCIDENT

On Monday last, a very distressing occurrence took place at Snow Hill, by which a son of Benjamin Dixon, Esq, of Wakefield, solicitor, lost his life. It appears that in the afternoon of that day, he had been walking towards Potovens, in company with some other children; and as they were returning, a cart was descending the hill from the bar just at the time the young people had reached the junction of the Bradford Road with Potovens Lane [now Wrenthorpe Road]. As they were playing, they unfortunately did not notice the approach of the cart, and Mr Dixon’s son ran backwards against the horse, which knocked him down on his face, and the wheel passed over his loins in slanting direction upwards; and though no bones were broken the injuries done to the spine were so great that death ensued before medical aid could reach him. An inquest was held on the same day, which was adjourned to Tuesday, before Thomas Lee, Esq, coroner, at the Bay Horse at Snow Hill, when the above facts were given in evidence, and a verdict of Accidental Death was returned. The driver, who was also the owner of the cart, was stated to be a very respectable and steady man, and showed deep concern at the lamentable occurrence. The coroner cautioned him to be more careful in future to be near the head of his horse when driving, remarking, at the same time, that nothing was more common than to see drivers loitering at an unwarrantable distance from their teams.

The Bensons and Lane Foxes

A little background on the family history of the one-time residents of Red Hall and prominent local landowners until the end of the 19th century.

Knaresborough Post
Saturday 26 July 1884

THE YORKSHIRE BENSONS

H V T writes to the Leeds Mercury Supplement:

A Dorothy Benson, according to Young’s “History of Whitby”, was living there in sixteen hundred and something, and that William Benson, of Whitby and of Ruswarp Hall, married Dorothy, daughter of Ingram Chapman, born April 28th, 1682, and had issue Thomas Benson, leaving William Benson, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Walker, and left Henry Walker Benson, who married Martha, daughter of John Hugo, and left issue (1) William, who had Robert; (2) Alfred; (3) Henry Walker Benson, now of Sunderland, who has Leofric de Temple Benson, and William Marsden Benson, &c.

A family of this name has long been seated at Halton, near Skipton-in-Craven. Whitaker states under this place, “One of the principal estates has long been held by the Benson family, from whom, probably, Lord Bingley was descended.”

“In 1699, Edmund Benson, of Halton, in the parish of Skipton, made his will, mentioning considerable property at Halton, Skipton, Halton East, and Appletreewick, and leaving three sons – Christopher, William, and Robert; and three daughters – Margaret, Sarah, and Mary.” There is a monument in Skipton Church to a Robert Benson, Esq, of Halton, dated 1818.

From the Plumpton Correspondence a family of this name resided at Plumpton or at Knaresborough, and were employed in legal work by the Plumptons in the latter half of the fifteenth and early part of the sixteenth centuries. Henry Benson, of Knaresborough, was elected MP for Knaresborough in 1641, but unseated for opposition to the dominant Parliamentary faction. He had two sons, according to the Fairfax Correspondence, who assisted in his election. Robert Benson, of Red Hall, near Wakefield, attorney and Clerk of Assize in Northern Circuit, was returned MP for Aldborough in 1673. He had issue Robert Benson (only son), of Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, and of Bramham, who was created first Lord Bingley, and died in 1730, leaving an only daughter who married James Lane Fox, the ancestor of the present Squire of Bramham. Lord Bingley had very considerable property in Airedale, and especially around Skipton. Robert Benson, of York, made his will in 1765, describing himself as formerly of Leeds, leaving considerable property about York and in the North Riding, and mentioning three sons, Robert, John, and Thomas. Robert Benson, of Bradford and Leeds, married in 1773, Hannah, daughter of Stephen Parkinson, of Cragg Hall, and whose descendants, wealthy and in good position, still reside in the neighbourhood of Leeds. In 1799, a Robert Benson (probably the above) was appointed a trustee (qualification £100 a year, or £4,000 personality) of the Knaresborough and Skipton turnpike road. From 1801 to 1810 George Benson was Vicar of Ilkley.