Origin of the Wrenthorpe Lane water meter building

The water meter house building in Wrenthorpe Lane dates from the early 1890s. The Wakefield Rural Sanitary Authority placed an advert seeking tenders in the Wakefield Free Press of 30 November 1889 (see below). At their meeting of 11 December,* the Sanitary Authority on 11 December 1889, the clerk reported that land had been purchased as a site for the meter house at Potovens Road End in Alverthorpe-with-Thornes township, and that several tenders for the building had been received. The Board accepted the tender of £108 from T. & G. Wilson.

* Wakefield Express, 14 December 1889, p.2.

Shock result: tactical voting 1870s style

Ratepayers in Wrenthorpe – men and women – could vote and stand to be elected as members of the Stanley School Board for three-year terms. The School Board’s area covered almost all of the ancient Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe Township boundary (from Balne Beck/Forster Ford Beck at Wrenthorpe in the west to Bottom Boat in the east).

Elections were contests between Liberal/nonconformist versus Conservative/Church of England candidates vying for control of the seven-seat Board. As expected, the Liberal/nonconformist candidates won four of the seven seats at the first election on 24 July 1875:

elected
Mr J H Cookman, colliery manager, Stanley (L) 1,096
Mr W R Hall, farmer, Outwood (L) 978
Mr T Boston, woollen draper and farmer, Wrenthorpe (L) 962
Mr C E Charlesworth, colliery proprietor, Moor House, Stanley (C) 957
Mr I G Wallis, hosier, Outwood (L) 911
Rev R Burrell, Vicar of Stanley, (C) 766
Rev J S Gammell, Vicar of Outwood (C) 758

not elected
Mr Joseph Thomas, shoemaker, Wrenthorpe (C) 560
Mr George Jaques, market gardener, Wrenthorpe (Ind) 366
Mr Mark Pape, farmer, Lake Lock (Ind) 237

The Herald reports on the victors’ celebrations.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 31 July 1875

THE STANLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

… About eight o’clock in the evening there was a meeting of the successful Liberals in the open air, by the highway near Newton-lane-end, over which the Rev. C. Bonham, Independent minister, presided. Mr. Cookson was the first to address the assemblage, returning thanks for the general support he had received; Mr. Hall, the next to come forward, reading a couple of pages of an address which he had previously written; and Mr. Wallis followed him, dwelling upon the advantages of securing full religious equality, and saying that he looked upon that battle as having far more important issues than those which might seem more immediately involved. Mr. Boston very briefly returned thanks, and they were succeeded by Mr. J. Warburton, Mr. J. Robinson, a working man of “poetical” aspirations, reading a ditty he had composed for the occasion, the refrain of which was –

Hurrah for the Liberal cause, my boys,
Hurrah for the Liberal cause.

Voting for the Board took place across the entire Stanley/Wrenthorpe area – there were no separate wards. Each voter had seven votes. This made it difficult for political parties to judge how many candidates to field. As hinted at in the Herald, if the Liberals had fielded five candidates, they may have been successful, but if they’d put up six or seven, their vote might have been too thinly spread, which would have handed the Tories a majority instead.

The composition of the Board remained unchanged until Boston’s sudden death in 1877, following which the Liberal/nonconformists coopted the Rev. Charles Bonham of Zion Chapel, Aberford Road, Stanley to serve until the election the following year. By-elections were not required to fill vacancies.

As Wrenthorpe was the smallest and poorest part of the district, its voters felt left out. Boston had owned property in Wrenthorpe (a small farm at Robin Hood Hill) but had never lived there. His unelected replacement was from Stanley. It had been argued that the next candidate on the 1875 ballot paper – Joseph Thomas – should have been cooped but that would have handed control of the Board to its Conservative/Church of England members.

Resentment at Wrenthorpe’s non-representation grew and, by the 1878 election enough local voters had decided to vote tactically to ensure their minority candidate got elected. Under the school board voting rules, a voter could use their seven votes in any way they wished. They could even cast all seven votes for a single candidate – a process known as ‘plumping’.

Through the Newspaper Archive, it’s possible to contrast the news coverage in two local papers which had no love lost between them: the Herald (a diehard Conservative-supporting newspaper) and the Free Press (passionately Liberal). Reading both takes on the School Board election, the Free Press’s anger, frustration and disbelief is pitched against the Herald’s surprise and glee.

The Free Press’s piece paints a farcical picture of the Rev James Stewart Gammell, Vicar of Outwood’s carriage displaying his opponents’ posters out of courtesy – the point at which magnanimity gives way to stupidity. The nonconformists detested the outspoken Tory Vicar and repeatedly criticised him in their newspaper, mocking him as a ‘kind of archbishop in the neighbourhood’.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 20 July 1878

STANLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

It was no doubt the success of the Liberal party at the last election that induced the Conservatives to put forth every effort to secure the victory on this occasion – to secure it, honestly, if possible, but still to secure it. The manoeuvres resorted to in order to gain voters, however creditable they might be to crafty politicians of the Beaconsfield [Tory Prime Minister, Disraeli] school, could scarcely be said to be equally so to the cloth worn by the clerical members of the Board. Neither intimidation nor corruption was scorned, as we shall have occasion to show further on. All the retiring members were renominated along with Mr Joseph Thomas, shoemaker, of Wrenthorpe, and Mr Matthew Hall, colliery manager, of Rook Nest. The latter, however, withdrew from the contest, but used all his powerful influence on behalf of the four denominational candidates (whether rightly or wrongly some of the voters could better say than ourselves).

On the opening of the poll the respective partisans began busily to bring up the voters, and great excitement prevailed throughout the day on both sides. It was manifest that a determined struggle was to take place between the two parties for supremacy on the new Board. Conveyances of all descriptions were plying to and fro, though, as usual, the denominationalists had taken time by the forelock in engaging the greater number.

The arrangements in the Outwood and Stanley districts on the Liberal side were admirably planned and carried out, the only hitch being at Wrenthorpe, where the ratepayers seemed to have “Thomas on the brain” and disregarded political considerations in favour of a local man who professed independence of both parties. This profession there is no doubt contributed very materially to his success, and secured him a large preponderance of Liberal votes in that district. Time will show how for his professions will be verified and the confidence of the ratepayers justified. Many of them are determined to exercise a close scrutiny as to his future conduct. Another weakness at Wrenthorpe was the insufficiency of good workers and the refusal of many of the ratepayers to enter the Liberal Committee room, for what reason it is difficult to say, though several have been alleged. On account of this refusal no idea could be formed as to the progress of the election. […] A rather amusing incident occurred at Outwood during the morning. Two Liberal canvassers were despatched to Newton to await the arrival of one of the waggonettes engaged by the Liberal party, but by mistake they got hold of a conveyance engaged by Mr Gammell. No wonder they made this mistake, for Mr Gammell’s conveyances, with that consideration that he always manifests for the opposite party, displayed yellow placards, and this incident may be a lesson to him to retain his own colour in any future election; for out of the fifteen occupants of the waggonette thirteen were said to have voted against the reverend gentleman. There appeared to be no lull in the voting during the day, each party working vigorously and bringing up the voters by ones, twos, and threes, and larger bands, the men employed at the Leeds and Yorkshire Coal Company’s Works being brought down in waggon loads, like sheep to the slaughter, from the Robin Hood and other pits. All the candidates were present in the district and exhibited due interest in the proceedings. At five o’clock the polling closed, and the counting up of the votes was commenced at the Lake Lock National School, the next morning at ten o’clock.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 31 July 1878

WRENTHORPE

The polling station for the district of Wrenthorpe was provided at the Board School, Mr. George Roberts of Wakefield, who was assisted by Mr. Mason, of Wrenthorpe and Mr. Robert Wilson, of Alverthorpe, bring the presiding officer. The only agent appointed by either party attended at this polling station, namely, Mr. J. W. R. Mellor, of Albion Street, who represented the interests of Mr. Thomas, one of the Conservative candidates. The number of persons who had to record their votes at this station is much smaller than at the two other polling stations, and consequently the proceedings were not so brisk as at Lake Lock and Outwood. During the day a number of conveyances were engaged in bringing up the voters, and the votes were recorded in a steady, though comparatively slow manner. Of the 371 votes upon the register 268 exercised the right of voting, and we understand that a number of voters “plumped” for Thomas, by giving him the seven votes to which they were entitled.

Like today’s elections in the United States, during the count, regular updates of how the votes were stacking up, are reported. The Free Press even included a table of how the count progressed. It became clear there was a close fight for seventh place between Charlesworth and the Board’s chairman Wallis. The Herald continues.

THE COUNT

…it was now evident that one of these gentlemen would have to suffer defeat, and upon the election of either of them depended the settlement of the question whether the Conservatives or the Radicals would have a majority on the newly constituted Board. About quarter to seven o’clock all doubt upon this point was set to rest, when the unofficial statement showing the result of the poll to be a grand victory for the Conservatives… Mr Gammell remarked that so close was the struggle between Mr Charlesworth and Mr Wallis that there was a tie between them until the [last] voting paper came to be turned up, which showed a plumper for Mr Charlesworth, and he had thus beaten his opponent by seven votes.

elected
Rev J S Gammell, Vicar of Outwood (C) 1,634
Mr Joseph Thomas, shoemaker, Wrenthorpe (C) 1,434
Mr W R Hall farmer, Outwood (L) 1,352
Rev R Burrell, Vicar of Stanley, (C) 1,257
Mr J H Cookson, colliery manager, Stanley (L) 1,130
Rev C Bonham, independent, Stanley (L) 1,096
Mr C E Charlesworth, colliery proprietor, Moor House, Stanley (C) 1,060

not elected
Mr I G Wallis, hosier, Outwood (L) 1,053

Thanks to ‘plumping’, Thomas came a ridiculously high second place in the poll (although as few as 205 voters could have voted to give him 1,434 votes); and to everyone’s surprise – especially the Tory-supporting Herald, which had regarded the area as a dead loss for them politically – the Liberal/nonconformists lost control of the Board.

Before St Anne’s Church: the clergyman of Warren Terrace

Searching through the newspaper archive has turned up important new information about the history of St Anne’s Church, and the long-serving vicar of Alverthorpe, Rev Joseph Walton’s struggle to build a Church in Wrenthorpe. Walton had already established Potovens National School in 1844. By the mid-1860s he had set about finding the resources to build a church.

The nonconformist Free Press is somewhat scathing about Walton’s ambition.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 6 August 1864

THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF ALVERTHORPE

We are informed that an attempt is to be made by a number of gentlemen to provide for the spiritual destitution of Potovens, Carr-gate, Kirkhamgate, and the other little spots around Alverthorpe, which are at present almost totally neglected. A committee is to be formed to co-operate with the Rev. J. Walton in this praiseworthy object. The population thus intended to be cared for, is large but poor, and doubtless will need assisting with money at the outset. But surely so benevolent an object will be supported by the many rich Churchmen in our town and neighbourhood.

By the end of the decade, Walton had the found funding for a curate for Wrenthorpe and launched an appeal for funding to build a new church. He’s also been granted a special faculty by the Bishop of Ripon allowing Church of England services to be held in the school building.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Friday 8 October 1869

PROPOSED NEW CHURCH AT WRENTHORP (POTOVENS)

In our advertising columns will be found a proposal for a new church at Wrenthorp, or Potovens. A church with a resident clergyman in that neighbourhood is a want which has been long felt, and we are heartily glad that there appears now a probability of its being met. The Rev William Stephenson, M.A., (Oxon.) has been appointed by the vicar of Alverthorp, the resident clergyman of Wrenthorp and its neighbourhood; and, as will be seen by the appeal, the rev gentleman is in full work, holding three services every Sunday, with daily morning prayer, and a Wednesday evening service with short sermon, in the Wrenthorp National School [in School Lane]. During the past three or four months the number of scholars attending the day school [Potovens National School] has increased threefold; but the continued changing of desks, school material, &c, preparatory to divine worship is extremely inconvenient, to say nothing of the heat of the room is summer, and the extreme cold in winter through the want of height in the walls and ceiling beneath the slates. The congregation, therefore, are anxious for better accommodation for divine worship. The spiritual condition of Wrenthorp has long been a cause of great anxiety, and when the labours of a curate were devoted more directly to it, on the foundation of the new parish of St Michael’s, Westgate Common [1851], hopes were entertained of a speedy and permanent provision. The work, however, was delayed, but now there appears to be a reasonable hope of the completion of it, all that is required being the hearty assistance of all who profess to be friends of the church in aid of the great work. We are aware that with many who are always ready and willing to help forward a good church work, there have been trade depressions and anxious times. Perhaps some have been compelled to be as economical as possible; but we think in an appeal for God’s work, which comes so direct as this cry from Wrenthorp and the neighbourhood does, all who profess to be anxious about the extension of church principles will give it a favourable reception. That it is a cause which calls for the proper application of christian charity, no one will we suppose deny who knows anything of the real position of Wrenthorp, and the poverty of the locality. The amount required is about £2950; that is, £l000 for endowment, £1800 for building, and £150 for repair fund. We think a plain statement of these facts are; quite sufficient to enlist the sympathies of our readers to the scheme.

The advert under Public Notices on the same page, headed ‘Proposal for a New Church at Wrenthorp (Potovens) near Wakefield’, states:

The population of Wrenthorp and its neighbourhood, irrespective of Kirkhamgate and neighbourhood is 1400; with Kirkhamgate it is upwards of 2000, most of whom reside from a mile to nearly two miles from Alverthorp church, and a mile and a half to two miles and a half from Alverthorp parsonage.

When it is remembered that the present parish of Alverthorp contains the villages of Alverthorp-with-Flanshaw and Ossett-street-side, the scattered hamlets of Kirkhamgate, Brandy Carr, Carr Gate, and the village of Wrenthorp, with a population of not less than 4000, it will be evident that it is not in the power of the Incumbent of Alverthorp to attend to the spiritual wants of Wrenthorp, Carr Gate, Brandy Carr, and Kirkhamgate, which (with a population of some 2000) forms the north part of the parish.

It is therefore proposed to erect a Church at Wrenthorp, to supply a want which has been long felt – the seats to be entirely free. The cost of a substantial building to accommodate 300 or 350, if a site be given, may be reckoned at £1800, to which must be added, before consecration, £1000 for endowment, and £150 for Repair Fund.

By help of a grant made to Alverthorp by the Society for the Employment of Additional Curates, a resident clergyman has been provided as curate, to labour chiefly in Wrenthorp and neighbourhood.

The proposed plane has received the special attention and approval of the Bishop of the Diocese, the Archdeacon, the Rural Dean, and patron of Alverthorp.

At present, divine service is celebrated (by permission of the Bishop) in the National School Room, Wrenthorp, on Sundays, morning, afternoon, and evening; morning prayer daily; and evening prayer every Wednesday, with short sermon.

The increased attendance of day scholars (being three times the number of that in the early part of the year), demands more school room accommodation; and the removal of desks and school material for divine worship becomes more and more difficult and irksome.

The earnest attention of Church people is called to this plain statement, which will be followed up as soon as possible by more definite propositions for carrying out the good work, and the names of the gentlemen who have kindly undertaken the trusts of the funds raised or to be raised for the purpose.

The population of Wrenthorp and neighbourhood consists mainly of poor persons, who are unable to do much for themselves in this matter; and as they form part of the old parish of Wakefield, they may be considered to have a claim on the sympathy of all Wakefield people.

Any suggestions or communications on the subject will be thankfully received by

JOSEPH WALTON, M.A.,
Vicar of Alverthorp

The 1871 census returns find the Rev Stephenson and his young family living in the end house of Warren Terrace, on the corner of what’s now called Lindale Lane/Wrenthorpe Lane. He describes himself as ‘Priest of the Church of England’ and gives his place of birth as Portland, Dorset. The family even has a servant.

By the following year, the Rev Charles John Naters – who was to become Wrenthorpe’s first vicar – had taken over as curate.

The Rev Stephenson died in London in January 1880, aged 48.

The advent of mass political parties

Now that three of the Wakefield newspaper titles in the Archive have been digitalised, it’s possible to revisit some of the previous blog post newspaper articles covered in the regional press to get a clearer picture of what was going on.

Looking again at Knitting Fog, or the 80-year wait, what was the Mines’ Regulation Bill which local ‘Lib-Lab’ MP Ben Pickard had come to Wrenthorpe to speak about? Had the Tories set up their local Association in response to this inaugural Liberals’ meeting? What was it about the proposed legislation which was causing such uproar?

The franchise had been extended in 1885, giving a large proportion of working class men the vote, and creating the Normanton constituency, which was a Liberal (or ‘Lib-Lab’) stronghold. That general election had resulted in a Liberal government which only lasted six months before another election was called, this time won by the Conservatives. Both the main political parties were starting to realise the importance of local branches for ‘boots on the ground’, hence the formation of Tory and Liberal branches in Wrenthorpe. It’s actually the local Tories, with the most ground to make up, who made the first move, holding a meeting at the Royal Oak in April 1886.*

The proposed mining legislation was Tory ‘divide and rule’ politics on the appointment of colliery check weighers, aimed at deliberately causing divisions among the miners. This, despite there already being acceptable weight-checking system in place which had, ironically, been introduced by former Conservative Home Secretary, Sir Richard Cross.

Lengthy coverage of the Liberals’ meeting is given in the Wakefield Free Press. Although the introductory paragraph is of some interest, it suggests the newspaper so rarely covered any Potovens or Wrenthorpe-related news that it has to introduce the article by setting the scene about Wrenthorpe itself. The article’s rather patronising in its attitude towards working men. Why shouldn’t they be just as clued up about the ‘events of the times’? Who does the journalist think was in the vanguard of the major working class movements? And, if anyone was to understand the implications of the new legislation, it’s the men who encounter these issues everyday of their working lives. Pickard, in contrast, is respectful of his audience – his constituents, and values their opinion.

* Wakefield and West Riding Herald, 3 April 1886, p.8.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 23 April 1887

LIBERALISM AT POTOVENS
Interesting Proceedings
Mr B. Pickard M.P., and the New Mines’ Bill

We prefer the more popular name of Potovens to the strictly legal designation of Wrenthorpe. For one thing, it carries us back to the time when this pleasantly-situated village was a busy industrial centre. The familiar name indicates the trade carried on, and it appears to have been more extensive than most people imagine. Indeed, so important was it considered by the natives themselves, that they called their hamlet Little London! Thoresby, writing in his diary about the beginning of last century, stated that he walked to Pott-ovens, where he stayed a little to observe the manner in which the work was carried on. But the ovens have long since ceased to burn, and the people now find employment, some in coal-mining, some is band-spinning, and others in the market gardens of the neighbourhood. The name Wrenthorpe is supposed to be derived from the Warrens and thorpe, the latter an old term indicative of Danish occupation, and applied to a collection of houses, especially of the poorer class.

It was, then, to this old-fashioned village that we made our way last Saturday evening to “assist” at the annual social meeting in connection with the Liberal Association of the district. Excellent preparations had been made for the event by the committee, consisting of Messrs T. Asquith, G. Brooke, W. Calvert, J. Wilkes, C. Howden, J. Nichols, J. Ramsden, G. Boyce, J. Ainley, and J. Roberts, with the energetic secretary, Mr J. Parkin. General interest appeared to be excited amongst the people, as will be seen from the fact that nearly 300 persons sat down to the sumptuous tea provided in the Board School. This was supplied by Mrs Senior, of Kent House, Wakefield, whose catering was, as usual, most satisfactory. The comfort of the guests was carefully attended to by the following who presided at the tables:- Mrs Hustler, Mrs Howden, Mrs Wilkes, Mrs Calvert, Mrs Kershaw, Misses Calvert (two), and Miss Terry. The scene presented to the eye was a most pleasing one, nearly every person present being decorated with yellow flowers, and the neatly set out tables having a most tempting appearance. Later on in the evening a most public meeting was held. We confess to our surprise at seeing such a large and encouraging gathering. There need be no fear of the decided Liberalism of Potovens, and we almost feel inclined to believe the remark of an enthusiast who, subsequently, on a resolution being put to the meeting, shouted out that “all the Conservatives had left the place except Joseph Thomas.”*

The speeches were listened to with an intelligent interest that proved how carefully the working men followed the events of the times, and how complete is their knowledge of the political position. It was, too, a happy thought to have the meeting in a Board School, for the elementary tuition there given to the young people could not be better supplemented than by their fathers and mothers listening to the excellent addresses delivered last Saturday night. Important historical facts were mingled with caustic criticisms of the actions and speeches of the Tories and their new allies. The chair was occupied by Mr J. H. Cookson, of Stanley, a staunch and consistent Liberal, who gave an excellent tone to the proceedings by his opening speech. He was in Ireland, he said, when the Earl of Aberdeen, the late Lord Lieutenant, left Dublin, and the demonstration he then saw showed the esteem in which that nobleman was held. He considered that the claims of the Irish to Local Self-Government were reasonable in deed. He believed that when the next election took place they would again see the Grand Old Man [Gladstone] in a majority, and that he would live to see this scheme carried out as he had seen many other great measure, which had been opposed quite as much as this (applause).

The Rev C. Bonham, of Stanley, proposed the following resolution: “That this meeting expresses its strong indignation at the proposals of the Government to suppress the liberties of the Irish people by a new Coercion Bill when the necessity for remedial measures has been acknowledged by them, and also declares its confidence in the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone and the policy adopted by the Gladstonian Liberals.” He congratulated those present on the success of the first meeting of the Liberal Association for Wrenthorpe, and was pleased to see such a fine representation of the ladies (applause). Now that they had Primrose Dames [Primrose League] on the one hand, they wanted some Liberal Dames on the other (hear, hear). The Tories made a strong point of boycotting in Ireland, but they did not need to go to Ireland for boycotting, He knew where some took place not 100 miles from where they stood (applause) – most systematically took place, and where shopkeepers dare not declare themselves Liberal for fear of losing their custom (cries of “Shame”). Alter congratulating them upon the presence of Mr. Pickard, he asked where had the Conservatives brought forward a working man’s candidate with any intention of returning him. The fact was that the Tories simply used the working men as tools, and flung them aside when it suited their purpose (applause).

Mr George Thornton, of Horbury, in seconding the resolution, delivered a telling speech, in which he showed the reasonableness of the Home Rule principle, and especially how successful it had been in Canada. When it was proposed for Canada, the cry was raised, as it was in the present case, that it meant separation, but the fact was that to-day Canada was more loyal than ever.

Mr B Pickard, M.P., on rising to support the resolution, was loudly applauded. He said he was glad to be amongst them once more at Wrenthorpe because he was certain of a hearty reception there. Interested as many of them were in mining legislation there was one matter to which he wished to direct their attention. In the late Government of Mr Gladstone a bill had been brought in by Mr Childers upon which there never had been an opportunity of taking a second reading. We had heard a great deal within the last two months about what the Tory Party is to do for the mining population in the bill that they have introduced in the House of Commons. By a little trickery they had got it read a second time, and that without discussion. Before he left London it had been stated in the House that there was an objection to the bill being passed without discussion on the second reading; but some two days after he left town it was stated by the Home Secretary that he fix a day when it would be possible that a fair discussion could be taken on the bill (a voice: “That is the way they do it”). On Thursday morning, however, he was surprised to find that the Home Secretary had persisted in taking the second reading on Wednesday afternoon, when it was impossible that a discussion could have taken place, and in the absence of all the mining representatives, who were away on other business, in the firm belief that the second reading would not be taken before the Easter holidays. They would all agree that an important measure affecting some 500,000 people employed in the mines should be passed without some discussion (applause). He had been told that some of the underviewers were a little alarmed about this bill. He would say that they need not be alarmed because second class certificates would be given to the holders of certificates under the Act of 1882, and they would find that no harm can come to them under this bill. Therefore if any of the underviewers felt alarm, he hoped this statement would appease them. There were, however, certain clauses in the bill which affected check weighmen, and he hoped the latter would read the clauses for themselves. If Causes 13 and 14 became law it was his opinion that check weighmen would have no freedom whatever. In fact we were told by some colliery owners that the check weighmen in the past had had too much to do with politics and matters that did not belong to their ordinary work, and that their toe nails should he cut; and as far as he could judge the toe nails had pared down considerably. That afternoon, at Barnsley, there had been a meeting of 86 check weighmen, representing nearly every portion of Yorkshire, and these men had condemned the changes referred to, asserting that they would sooner be without any clause whatever regulating their conduct, and rely upon the consideration of the men who appointed them and paid their wages (load cheers). As they all knew, there had been a great deal of eulogy passed upon Sir R. Cross’s bill, which was now the law. Under that bill they had power to select a check weigher from any class of workmen they thought fit, and were not confined to the pit bank or bottom. This portion of the clause was still admitted, but a change was made with regard to another portion, according to which, if a majority of the workmen at any colliery agreed to appoint a check weigher, every man would have to pay his proportion for the payment of this check weigher. In the new bill, however, the clause was that only those men who were in favour of a check weigher being appointed should be called upon to assist in paying his wages. That would introduce anarchy at collieries, and they would have nothing but disturbances. For instance, if there were 200 men at a colliery and if 101 agreed upon a man, the remaining 99 would, under this bill, be at liberty, in his opinion, to refuse to pay towards the man’s wages; or, if they selected a man of their own, there would be two check weighers, and if that was net a fine thing he did not know what was. He trusted miners would read the bill carefully, and communicate with him if they had any amendments to suggest. By thus doing they would materially help him to fight this bill so as to make it the best that could be got, for no doubt it would be a bill for this generation and the next (applause). Mr Pickard proceeded to speak at some length on current political questions, and in doing so, was warmly applauded.

The resolution on being put, was unanimously agreed to amid loud cheers.

On the motion of Mr J Marshall, Horbury, seconded by Mr I Mason, of Silcoates, it was agreed to send copies of the resolution to Mr Gladstone and Mr John Morley.

Mr T P Robinson proposed and Mr David Burnley seconded a vote of thanks to the chairman, which was very warmly recorded and acknowledged by Mr Cookson and a similar compliment having been paid to the managers of the school for the use of the same, the proceedings ended.

We may that during the evening a petition against the Bill was unanimously signed.

* Thinking ‘Joseph Thomas’ was a euphemism for nobody, similar to Sweet FA; it’s something of a surprise to find there really was a man called Joseph Thomas in 19th century Wrenthorpe. He was a boot and shoe maker who lived at Bragg Lane End and was elected to the Stanley-Wrenthorpe Township School Board. [More in a future blog].

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

PRESENTATION OF THE “MARK FROST” CHAIR.
INTERESTING GATHERING AT OUTWOOD

“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.

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

SHOCKING DEATH IN A HOVEL AT WRENTHORPE

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.

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

THE OLDEST TRADER IN WAKEFIELD MARKET.
HIS GALLANT STRUGGLE AGAINST POVERTY.
HAS WORKED SINCE HE WAS FOUR.
EXPERT GARDENING UNDER DIFFICULTIES.

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

THE NEW BOARD SCHOOL AT WRENTHORPE: LAYING THE FOUNDATION STONE

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].

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

ST ANNE’S DEDICATION FESTIVAL AND PAROCHIAL SOIREE

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.

Cyclists introduce Labour Party to Wrenthorpe

A seemingly odd piece from 1910, explaining how the Wrenthorpe branch of the Labour Party came about.

Labour Leader
Friday 8 April 1910

OUR CYCLE SCOUTS

An encouraging letter, full of fire and swing, has been sent by A E Stubbs, Secretary of the Scouts in Yorkshire. He opens thus:

I am glad to learn from the Labour Leader this week that we are to have a National Army of I.L.P. [Independent Labour Party] Cycling Scouts to convey the gospel of Socialism to our toiling brothers in the country, and I write these few lines to welcome its inception. The agricultural labourer is ignorant of Socialism and what it means to him, and the Scouts can do a great work. They have done some good work already in Yorkshire. Organised last May, we have had forty runs, held twelve meetings, established one new branch of the I.L.P., and there are two more in the making. Leaflets, Labour Leaders, and Pamphlets were distributed in the homes of the people, and some of the seed fell on good ground. The Yorkshire Scouts have commenced work already for the season, and are about to form a new branch at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. Several other places on the Yorkshire Coalfield are down to receive attention from the Scouts.

Stubbs concludes his letter as follows:

I am an old racer, but I never raced in such a hurry nor enjoyed any race so much as the race I am now engaged in, namely, the race to win converts to Socialism.

The idea of teams of cyclists spreading a political message has got lost in time. Before the First World War, ILP cycle scouts took socialism to English villages, distributing literature to households.* Local MP Frederick Hall (Normanton), had stood as a Labour candidate for the first time at the January 1910 general election, following the MFGB’s (miners’ union) political affiliation with the Labour Party the previous year.

* Griffiths, Clare V J, Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1939, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp.110-111.