Time finally called on Royal Oak pub

Standing on a site later occupied by Wrenthorpe Health Centre, the Royal Oak pub was at the heart of Potovens village life throughout the 1800s. Clubs and associations held their dinners and formal events there, and it was also the venue for most coroner’s inquest proceedings.

Despite its popularity, the pub’s owners couldn’t counter the force of the early 20th century Temperance Movement, nor was it deemed necessary to have so many pubs following the opening of Wrenthorpe Working Men’s Club in 1901. There were three pubs in the village centre in close proximity – The Malt Shovel, New Wheel and Royal Oak – one of them had to go.

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 5 February 1907


The annual licensing meeting for the Lower Agbrigg Division of the West Riding was held at Wakefield yesterday, Mr Percy Tew presiding over a large attendance of members.

The Chairman observed that they had about an average number of public houses in the division, compared with other parts of the West Riding, but there were districts in the division where there were far too many public houses in proportion to the population.

The Justices were sorry to notice that whilst they were intrusted with very much larger powers of reducing the number of public houses there was a marked increase in the number of clubs, and there was not much encouragement to try to reduce facilities for drinking by a reduction of licences when they found the number of clubs increasing.

Apart from that question, however, they were of opinion there was a good number of public houses in the division which could be spared, and which were not required for the needs of the district. They were not in a position to deal with the question that day, but there were fourteen public houses, chiefly beerhouses, concerning which they had decided to consider at the adjourned Sessions a month hence whether or not they should be referred to the compensation authority.

The houses be considered at the adjourned Sessions are –Floating Light, Flockton Moor; Little Bull, Flockton; Farmer’s Boy, Flockton; Moulders’ Arms, Middlestown; Foresters’ Arms, Stocksmoor; Travellers’ Rest, Lofthouse Gate; Royal Oak, Potovens; Lord Nelson Inn, Carlton; Prince of Wales Inn, Carlton; Miners’ Arms, Ouchthorpe Lane, Stanley; Garden Gate, Stanley Lane End; Commercial Inn, Horbury; Ring o’Bells Inn, Horbury; Spotted Cow Tavern, Horbury Junction.

At the adjourned licensing meeting on 18 March, the Royal Oak was one of four pubs magistrates decided to refer to the Compensation Authority.

By early June the pub was among those publicised as having their licences refused and seeking compensation claims. Its landlord at the time was Thomas Walker, its owner The Tadcaster Tower Brewery.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 10 July 1907 briefly reports the conclusions of the Compensation Committee, which was to pay the hefty sum of £1,608 for the loss of the Royal Oak’s licence. I wonder how the compensation was shared out between the brewery and the landlord.

Striking miners opencast coal protest

In the early 1990s as many deep coal mines were being closed, opencast coal workings at Kirkhamgate and off Jerry Clay Lane whipped up controversy. Something similar was happening in the 1920s, just a month after the General Strike when the coal miners hadn’t gone back to work.

Opencast sites in the area were being used to produce coal during the national miners’ strike. Local unemployed men were coerced into working at these sites or they forfeited their dole money. And opencast work paid a much lower rate than a typical coal miner’s wage.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Thursday 24 June 1926

Wakefield Demonstration

Another demonstration by miners in the Wakefield district against day hole and outcrop coal workers was made yesterday at Kirkhamgate, a village three miles out of the city. Miners on strike turned up several thousand strong, and paraded past each working headed by a brass band. The day hole workers, however, were missing for the time being, and the demonstration was a peaceful affair.

After the march round, the miners gathered in the old quarry on Lindle Hill, and were addressed Mr Walter Dyson JP and Mr Tom Smith, ex-MP for Pontefract [and later MP for Normanton]. Mr Dyson, in opening the meeting, said they objected strongly to the working of day holes, not that the amount of so-called coal produced was of any great consequence, but they stood out against the principle the thing, and protested also against the Government affording the men police protection. The Labour Exchanges were sending men to day-hole work under the classification of “navvying” and such men were practically compelled to take up the work or lose the dole.

The Brooklyn bill sticker

The words ‘Stick no bills on these premises’ are carved in stone on the boundary wall of Melbourne House, near the lodge at the corner of Bradford Road/Brandy Carr Road. The inscription dates from the early 1860s when ‘Judge’ Daniel Milton was daubing the walls with posters, attempting to assert his claim to the Mansion.

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 15 December 1863


Yesterday, at the Wakefield Court House, before Colonel Smyth, MP, Mr H W Stansfeld, and Mr G H Westerman, an American named Daniel Milton, who is connected with the Southcottian sect and who appears to call himself “the Promised Shiloh”, was charged with, on the 7th December, wilfully and maliciously committing damage, injury, and spoil to and upon the property of the executors of John Wroe, deceased. Mr Barratt appeared in support of the complaint. It appeared that notwithstanding a notice to the contrary which is cut in stone on the boundary walls of Melbourne House, the residence of the late John Wroe, at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, the defendant, on the day in question, posted certain bills on the property. It may perhaps be remembered that about two years ago the defendant was in this neighbourhood, and that then he made some kind of claim with regard to Melbourne House.

The defendant did not deny that he had posted bills, but said that when he was in the court before, he told the bench that the property in question was joint-stock; and for proof he produced the records of the church, which, however, were not received. It had cost him expense in going across the Atlantic, and two years of privation, and having now sufficient proof he had posted the following circular:-

“Important notice! – Christian Israelite Church, Wakefield, 7th of 12th month, 1863. – All believers In the Divine visitation of Joanna Southcott, and the visitations of George Turner, William Show, John Wroe, and the ‘coming of Shiloh’, throughout the island of Great Britain and the British provinces, who have subscribed towards the building of ‘Israel’s Mansion’, in Wrenthorpe, and who have not signed over the said subscription to either John Wroe, John Laden Bishop, or Benjamin Eddowes, are requested to send their names and addresses, with the amount of their subscriptions, with immediate dispatch to Wakefield, in Yorkshire, England. Direct to ‘Premised Shiloh’, or ‘Perfect Gospel Advocate’. By order of the President of Church. J.A.J.”

If he were called on for his defence, it was “the munition of rocks”, “the law of Moses”, and he wanted his accusers to be brought, that he might question them as to their right to distress him further.

Colonel Smyth said that the defendant had committed an offence against the statute law of this country, and they had nothing to do with the law of Moses. The defendant: “I am president of the Christian Israelite Church.” The Bench inflicted a fine of 10s., with 21s. expenses additional, or, in default, fourteen days’ imprisonment. Defendant: “I have been used to be[ing] in prison for defending my rights; I can go again.”

Name that tune!

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Friday 16 June 1939


Sir, The head master of Silcoates School, Wakefield, Mr Sydney Moore, will be grateful to anyone who can give him any particulars of a song, which used to be sung Silcoates 50 years ago – “When this old coët (coat) war new”. I visited Silcoates recently and said I would try to get some information.

Carter falls beneath moving cart

Leeds Mercury
Thursday 17 March 1887


Yesterday noon a shocking accident, which terminated fatally in the evening, took place on the Wakefield and Bradford road, near the large building at Carr Gate known as “Prophet Wroe’s Mansion”, about a couple of miles from Wakefield. About the time named William Jones, a carter living in Elm Street, Halifax, and in the employ of Mr Brears of Halifax, was in charge of a light lorry or waggon. He was jumping off the waggon, when one of his feet slipped, and he fell under the waggon, and the wheels passed over him. He was removed to the Clayton Hospital at Wakefield, where it was found that he was in a very critical state, having sustained a compound fracture of the skull, a fracture of the ribs on the left side, and a fracture of the left leg. The sufferer, who was a single man, and apparently between thirty-five and forty years of age, was admitted into the hospital at 1.15pm and died from shock to the system.

Potovens women’s rugby team on the other side of the world

It was surprising to see Potovens, the old name for Wrenthorpe, crop up in of all places, Papua New Guinea. This account from over 80 years ago speaks volumes of  imperial attitudes to the indigenous people. But also outlines the life of a redoubtable woman who introduced rugby league to Papua New Guinea. Janet Cowling taught the natives rugby following the death of her husband in 1929.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Friday 21 January 1938


I like the story of Mrs Janet Cowling, the West Riding woman who has taught the natives of Papua to play football as a method of keeping them out of mischief. Since it first appeared I have learnt further details of this epic of South Seas.

Mrs Cowling must be one the most remarkable women to represent the Yorkshire spirit and tradition in this far-flung Empire of ours. She left the Spen Valley district, something like 20 years ago for Papua, otherwise New Guinea, one of the South Sea Islands, to become housekeeper to a planter on the Fly River. Later she married him, and when he died a few years ago she inherited the estate upon which she now rules like a queen – every ounce a queen, I should say, since she is reputed weigh 20 stone, and is tall in proportion.

Even for woman of Mrs Cowling’s bulk, stature and mental calibre, the job keeping the natives in order upon her extensive plantations is no easy matter, as can be imagined when one recalls that within this present century inland tribes were known to be savage and addicted to cannibalism.

Keen Rivalry

That was why she hit upon the idea or teaching them to play Rugby – rather upon Rugby League lines, I suspect. Anyhow, she has organised four men’s teams, which she has named Bradford, Sheffield, Wakefield and Leeds. They play league matches every week, and, visitors say, the rivalry between teams and followers is as keen as anything you ever heard or saw on grounds ’twixt Trent and Tweed.

It appears that the enthusiasm engendered the male teams induced Mrs Cowling to organise two women’s teams, which, doubt in memory of happy days at home, she named Heckmondwike and Potovens. Unfortunately, however, the women’s teams and their supporters permit the combative spirit to overcome decorum, and matches had be suspended for a time by way of necessary discipline until the players learned not to fight one another for possession of the ball.

There is trophy for the winners of the men’s league championship – a sow. Friendly matches, I gather, are fairly friendly, but the final for the trophy rarely ends until one team or the other is completely disabled.

I don’t know the name of the referee. They apparently want one with a loud whistle and a strong hand.

Four years later, following the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea, the Evening Post expresses its concern as to her safety.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Thursday 29 January 1942


All this news from New Guinea raises speculation about Mrs Janet Cowling, Yorkshirewoman who managed a big rubber estate and controlled large native population In Western Papua…

Mrs Cowling was a busy, modest woman who would say very little about herself, but she described how, with her baby daughter, she had gone trading in a small sea launch in all weathers, and how alligators meandered under her house. I hope all is well with her.

Presumably Cowling and her daughter spent part of he war in a Japanese internment camp. A quick bit of Googling turns up a photo of her grave. She died in November 1945.


Attack on Italian

Leeds Times
Saturday 4 September 1880


At the Wakefield Court House, yesterday, a rough-looking fellow, named William Ashton, a labourer, of Potovens, was charged with breaking three images, the property of an Italian lad, Jaccheri Luigi. Mr J J Dunne acted as interpreter, complainant being able to speak French. He stated that on the 24th ult., while on the Bradford Road, on his way to Wakefield, and carrying the images, he met a waggon, in which was defendant and five others. As he passed them defendant threw stones at him, and broke the images. He was quite positive that defendant was the person. Ashton denied that he committed the damage. The Court held the charge proved, and with fine and costs, and allowing complainant 6s. damages, defendant was ordered to pay £1 or ten days.

1890s child neglect at Engine Fold

Leeds Times
Saturday 12 January 1895


At Wakefield, yesterday, Mr Wordsworth on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, made an application in respect of the custody of five children belonging to the Old Engine Fold, Kirkhamgate. It transpired that on Wednesday Inspector Smith visited the house of a man named Joseph Totty, who, it was stated, lived with a single woman named Emma Willoughby, and there found five children, who, as well as the house, were in a dreadfully filthy condition. There was very little food in the house, the mother was absent, and there was scarcely any fire. The three boys had nothing on but shirts and trousers, and the baby was rolling on the floor naked. Their clothing, as well as two beds upstairs, was very filthy. The Bench ordered the children to remain in the workhouse until Monday when the case has to be dealt with.

Leeds Times
Saturday 19 January 1895


On Monday, at Wakefield, Emma Willoughby and a man named Joseph Totty, who have lived together, were charged with neglecting their five illegitimate children.

It seemed that the house occupied by the defendants, at Alverthorpe, being visited in October last, and again last week, it was found to be in an indescribably filthy state. The children were insufficiently clad and covered with dirt, sores, and filth, and there was very little bread and coals in the house.

Each defendant was sent to prison for two months.

Lindale Hill and the Mayfair society wedding

It’s 6 November 1923, and crowds have gathered on Lindale Hill for a massive bonfire and fireworks display. No, they’re not a day late for Guy Fawkes night, it’s to celebrate the wedding of landowner George Lionel Thomas Brudenell-Bruce to Maria Julia Schilizzi. The wedding took place in Central London at a church in Mayfair. Could we imagine such oddly-placed deference today?

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 6 November 1923


The Brudenell-Schilizzi wedding which takes place at St Mark’s Church, North Audley Street, London, to-day, has a special interest for Yorkshire people for Mr Brudenell is the present owner of the Cardigan Estates which include large tracts of land between Ossett, Ardsley and Morley, and Wakefield and Leeds.

He is the first Brudenell owner of the estate to be married since the late Earl Cardigan who achieved fame at Balaclava, and to mark the happy event a huge bonfire is to be lighted on Lindale Hill, Kirkhamgate, two miles out from Wakefield, the highest point on the estate. A fireworks display is also to the place and there will be similar fires on the estates in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

The C of E’s youngest vicar

Birmingham Daily Gazette
Monday 25 November 1929


The Rev Eric Victor Jones, youngest, son of Mr and Mrs Fred Jones of Stafford House, Oakengates, who was recently instituted to the living of Wrenthorpe, Wakefield, is only 28 years of age and is the youngest vicar in the Anglican Church.

Mr Jones received his early education at Wombridge Schools, and was afterwards transferred to Mirfield and Kelham College. When 23 he was ordained deacon, and in the next year became a priest. His first curacy was at Elland, Yorkshire, and after a short period he went to the West Indies where he did splendid work for two and a half years as a missionary.

He returned recently and only a fortnight ago was instituted by the Bishop of Wakefield to his present living. His wide circle of friends in Oakengates and district will be pleased to learn of his success, for when on a visit to his home at Oakengates, he has on each occasion conducted the services at the parish church. He is an eloquent preacher.