Fracas at Kirkhamgate pub

Leeds Times
Saturday 21 May 1881


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.

Miners scrap at Silcoates

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 1 July 1892


To-day, at the West Riding Court, Wakefield, James Jackson, miner, Bragg Lane End, and Joseph Farrer, miner, Brandicarr, were bound over their own recognisances of £5 to keep the for six months, and ordered to pay 18s costs each, on charge of committing breach the peace by fighting. The offence took place at Silcoates on the 18th ult., and describing the fight, the Rev W Field, headmaster Silcoates Hall, said the two men were stripped to the waist, and were very furious indeed, being half covered with blood. They were surrounded by a ring of people.

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.

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.


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 pub in the middle of nowhere

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Wednesday 31 May 1911


The principal meeting of the West Riding Licensing Justices was commenced at the Court House, Wakefield, yesterday to consider the advisability or otherwise of the renewal of licences to which objection has been taken on the ground of non-necessity…

There was no objection to the refusal of the renewal of the licence of the Gardeners’ Arms, Lindale Lane, Kirkhamgate, an ante-1869 beerhouse [a partially licensed pub]. Mr Cooke said there were three public houses at Kirkhamgate, which was equal to one licensed house for every 213 of the population. The two fully licenced houses were on the main road, but the Gardeners’ Arms was situated in an old by-road which at certain times of year was almost impassable. On one side of the house it was 900 yards to the nearest dwelling, and on the other side 120 yards.

Toads in the hole at Kirkhamgate

London Globe
Thursday 20 August 1903


1807 – In July, 1805, two toads were shut up in small empty box, and the box deposited about two feet below the surface of the earth, where it was closely covered up; in July, 1806, the toads were taken up, examined, and exhibited all the appearance good health; they were then returned to their subterraneous abode, enclosed in the box as before. In July, 1807, they were again taken up and examined, and looked as healthy and well as they did when first enclosed in their dark dwelling, having lived two years apparently without either food or air. Kirkhamgate, near Wakefield, is the place where these animals are deposited.

A slow news day in 1903

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 19 June 1903


On Saturday last, 103 homing pigeons were sent from Potovens to Hitchin, and only 30 have returned. Yesterday Mr G Taylor, of Bragg Lane End, received a letter from Yarm saving that a pigeon with his ring on had flown into a confectioner’s shop at Yarm on Tuesday, alighted on the counter, and began eating biscuits. It would not be driven away, and was captured.

The chips are down

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 30 May 1899


At Wakefield yesterday George Herriot, fish and chipped potato dealer, Potovens, was ordered to pay 12s. 6d. for using a striking machine in such a manner as to make it a game of chance.

It appeared that on Whit Monday the defendant had his machine on the highway at Potovens and took coppers from children, who were awarded prizes of fish and potatoes if the iron reached the inked numbers which had been added opposite to those painted upon it.

Carving out a career

Between the wars ox roasting was a popular means of fund raising at villages fates. In Wrenthorpe it was organised by the Hospital Committee who, in 1931, engaged the professional services of Fred Tyler, the so-called official ox-roaster of England, who carved out a career out of roasting oxen at fates.

The first carving of the Wrenthorpe oxen was by local Labour MP William Lunn, as from 1918-45 Stanley UDC was part of the Rothwell constituency.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 4 August 1930


Mr William Lunn, MP for Rothwell, carving the first slice of roast ox at a Carnival held at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, in aid of the Clayton Hospital. The slice was sold by auction, and realised good price for the funds.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 3 August 1931

William Lunn, MP, Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions, carved the first slice off a roasted ox at the Wrenthorpe (near Wakefield) charity fete on Saturday, before it was cut by local butchers and sold in sandwiches to the villagers. The ox was roasted Mr Fred Tyler, of Stratford-on-Avon, in the middle of the field which had been set aside for the fete. Houses and shops in the village were decorated with bunting, and during the afternoon a procession toured the streets.