The ‘Wrenthorpe-ification’ of Potovens

Here’s a strange filler piece from the Yorkshire Evening Post a few weeks before the outbreak of World War II.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 30 June 1939

DIARY OF A YORKSHIREMAN
HOUSE OF MANY ADDRESSES

Several years ago two brothers at Wakefield Grammar School used to delight in puzzling their masters by giving their address differently. One put Sunny Hill, Silcoates; the other, City View, Wrenthorpe. Letters addressed in either fashion would arrive in equal safety and expectation.

The house had no number. Sunny Hill was part of an interminable road called Potovens Lane. Wrenthorpe was the village that sprawled at the bottom of the hill, and Silcoates was the general name for the district. City View was a fancy name the builder had put on the block of houses at the top of the hill. On a clear day they commanded a clear view of Wakefield Town Hall and Cathedral, two miles distant.

Two or three years ago the district was absorbed into the Stanley area, and the correct address became Sunny Hill, Kirkhamgate.

Then the Stanley Urban District Council was petitioned to alter the name of this part of Potovens Lane, and it became Wrenthorpe Lane. Now, at long last, the houses have been numbered, and the correct address of the old house is 74 Wrenthorpe Lane.

The changes had come about when Kirkhamgate, Silcoates and Jerry Clay Lane were transferred from Wakefield Rural District Council to Stanley Urban District in 1935. The ‘Potovens’ street names were changed a couple of years later. But the Evening Post still manages to get things mixed up. Wrenthorpe Lane was formerly called Potovens Road (not Lane). Wrenthorpe Road was called Potovens Lane. The brothers in question were Calverts. Either the house has since been renumbered or it’s another error, as City View is number 66-68 Wrenthorpe Lane.

Before the rec’ in Silcoates Lane

The site of the recreation ground at the bottom of Silcoates Lane was, for over a century, a mill complex consisting of factory buildings, a chimney, workers’ cottages, and small reservoirs filled with water from Balne Back. The mill opened in 1794. Much of its history can be traced using the British Newspaper Archive.

The first reference to Silcoates Mill dates from November 1828. Its owner, Joseph Rhodes has placed public notices in newspapers in the north and Midlands – including Derby, Leeds and Liverpool – trying to cash in on an innovative manufacturing process he’d recently patented and was demonstrating at the mill.

Leeds Intelligencer
Thursday 6 November 1828

TO SPINNERS OF WORSTED COTTON FLAX &c. His Majesty having granted his Royal Letters Patent to JOSEPH RHODES, the Younger, of Alverthorp, near Wakefield, Worsted Spinner, for an improved Plan of Spinning and Doubling the above Materials, he takes this Opportunity of stating some of the Advantages which his newly-invented Spindle and Spinning Frame has over the Frame now in general Use. – After a Trial several Months, he finds that owing to the Formation and Lightness of the Spindle, it will admit of much greater Speed, is less liable to wear itself untrue, makes a smoother Thread, will Spin with less Twine, to smaller Numbers and with less of Waste. The Operation of Doffing is also performed in less than One-Half of the usual Time.

J R solicits the Notice of Machine Makers and Spinners to this Invention, and is ready to exhibit a Frame, working on the above Principles, Silcoats Mill, near Wakefield, and any Application by Letter (Post-paid) will be duly attended to, and every Explanation given.

Drawing of his Frame may be inspected Application to Mr J A RHODES, Solicitor, No. 5, Upper Bean-Street, Liverpool.

Alverthorp, near Wakefield, 5th Nov, 1828.

Move forward 20 years, and the mill’s up for sale. This advert in the Intelligencer provides an inventory of its rooms and equipment.

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 7 September 1850

IMPORTANT SALE OF WORSTED MACHINERY, DYE WARES, and EFFECTS,at Silcoates Mill near Wakefield. – Mr Becket begs to announce that he has received positive Instructions from the Assignees of Messrs John Robinson & Co to SELL by AUCTION, on Wednesday the 18th Day of September, 1850, and Following Day, on the Premises at Silcoates Mil, near Wakefield, all the valuable MACHINERY as fitted with the most recent improvements, comprising, in the

PREPARING ROOM – Four 4-Spindled Finishing Boxes, with Creels and Frames complete; Four 2-Spindled Stubbing Boxes and Creels, One Sliver Box and Board, Two Open Gill Boxes, Two Gill Boxes with 2 Spindles each, Three Carding Engines, Seven 6-Spindled Roving Boxes with Creels, One 30 Inch Tenter Hook Willey, One Inch Do., Turning Laithe, &c., &c..
WILLEY ROOM – One Shake Willey, with Fittings complete; Skeining Machine, and other Effects.
SPINNING ROOM – Nine Spinning Frames with 96 Spindles each, Six Do. with 84 Spindles each, One Twisting Frame with 72 Spindles, Two 6-Splndled Roving Boxes with 6 Inch Traverse, One 2-Spindled Finishing Box with 11½ Inch Traverse, Two 2-Spindled Drawing Boxes, 14 Inch Traverse, One 1-Spindled Silvering Box, 14 Inch Traverse, One 15 Feet Reel with 40 Spindles.
DOUBLING ROOM – Three Twisting Frames with 64 Spindles, Two Do. with 72 Do., One Do. with 96 Do., One Reeling Frame with 56 Do., One Single Do. with 34 Do., One Do. 48 Do.
MILL ROOM – Two Pairs Mules, 800 Spindles each, Slubbing Skips, Skeining Machines, &c., &c.
SLUBBING ROOM – One 60-Spindled Billey, Carding Machine, (32 Inches), with 2 Swifts, One Scribbler, Swifts, and Breast 48 Inches.
Also, Nine 60-Spindled Jennies, Washing Machines, Soap Pans with Steam Pipes, Iron Vats and Dyeing Material, Copper Pans, Oil, Soap, and Dye Wares, Anvil, Bellows and Smiths’ Tools, Large Cisterns, Weighing Machines, Lead Water Pumps, Shafting and Steam Pipes, Sorting Boards, Hanking Machines, Bobbins, Cans, Wool Sheets, Combs, Canvass and Paper, Counting House Furniture.
Also, a Valuable GASOMETER, 12 Feet Diameter, with Three Iron Pillars, Retorts, Pipes and Fittings to the whole Premises, Two Strong Carts with Patent Arms, One useful Draft Horse, Gearing, and various other Articles
Descriptive Catalogues will ready in a few Days, and may be bad at the Intelligencer and Mercury Offices, Leeds, the Observer office, Bradford, the Auctioneer, Wakefield, and at the Place of Sale. May be Viewed Monday and Tuesday previous to the Days of Sale.
Sale to commence at Eleven am precisely.
N.B. The Owner of the Mill and Trade Premises at Silcoates, is ready to treat with the Purchaser of the Machinery, or any respectable Person desirous of becoming Tenant.

Wakefield, 6th September, 1850.

Between this sale and the mill’s closure, there are many references in the press to new ownership, dissolved partnerships and sales notices. An unexpected find however, was a short piece relating to working conditions at the mill, a prosecution under the Factories Act for employing women on a 12-hour night shift.

Huddersfield Chronicle
Saturday 22 November 1856

INFORMATIONS FOR INFRINGEMENT OF FACTORY ACT

At the Wakefield Court House, before the bench of magistrates, on Monday last, J Bates, Esq, factory inspector of this district, laid the following informations, to which the parties pleaded guilty: George Conyers, of Silcoates Mill, Wakefield, 13 cases, only four of which were pressed, for keeping women at work from six o’clock at night till six o’clock in the morning. A fine of £15 was inflicted, with expenses, which amounted to £3 7s.

The Mill is advertised for sale in 1886, 1887 and 1894. Here’s the advert from October 1887.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 8 October 1887

TO LET, SILCOATES MILL, near Wakefield, with good House, Garden, and Orchard, Stabling, Mistal [cow shed], large Barn, Nine Cottages, and 17 acres of Land. Machinery, which is in good working order, consists of two sets scribbling and carding engines, with condensers to follow: 1 pair mules and little mules (in all 1,090 spindles), 19 dandy looms and 12 box looms, milling machines, &c., &c., which will be sold at a valuation. Water, coals, and hands plentiful. Rates low. Full rental £300 per annum, £l50 of which can re-let. For further particulars apply to Haigh & Haigh, 8 Park Place, Leeds.

By the turn of the 20th century, Silcoates Mill was trading as Lister and Glover. By now it was described as ‘rag merchants and mungo manufacturers’ (the the production of recovered wool cloth made from rags, known as mungo), a far cry from the days of Joseph Rhodes and his cutting edge machinery in the 1820s.

Lister and Glover’s partnership was dissolved on 31 December 1902 and the mill seems to have closed down shortly afterwards. As a last throw of the dice, the mill was put up for sale in May 1906. The sales particulars even tell us the surnames of the tenants in the mill cottages. Unfortunately some of the words in the advert are obliterated.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Thursday 17 May 1906

SILCOATES MILLS, POTOVENS, NEAR WAKEFIELD.
VALUABLE FREEHOLD MANUFACTURING PREMISES AND DWELLING HOUSES.

Messrs BEAUMONT and GLOVER will Sell by Auction, at their Sale Rooms, King Street, Wakefield, on Friday, 18th May, 1906, at Seven o’clock in the Evening, subject to the general conditions of Sale of the Wakefield Incorporated Law Society, and to such special conditions as will be then read, and which may be inspected at the office of the Vendor’s solicitor seven days prior to the sale.

Lot 1
The Valuable FREEHOLD MANUFACTURING PREMISES, formerly used as a cloth mill, but recently as a rag mill, known as SILCOATES MILL, situate on the south side of Silcoates Road, at Potovens, near Wakefield, consisting of a substantial stone-built three-storeyed building, 84ft long and 31ft wide; a small store room adjoining, 36ft by 12[?]ft; engine and boiler house; drying place [?] by [?]; blacksmith’s shop, 17ft by 12ft; shaking place, 23ft by 25ft; grinding place 19[?]ft by 24ft; and shed 3ft by 7ft. Also a two-storeyed building formerly used as a storeroom, sample room and offices; and also a two-storeyed building 48ft by 30ft; the ground floor formerly used as stores and stables, and the upper floor as stores and offices; and also all that MESSUAGE or COTTAGE, situate in the mill yard.

All which said premises, including the sites of the said building and reservoirs, contain 1a. 2r. 38p., or thereabouts, and are surrounded (except one reservoir) by a substantial stone wall. The engine, boiler, pumps, and shafting are included in the sale. A supply of water can be obtained from Balne Beck. The buildings are conveniently arranged, and vacant possession may be had at once.

Lot 2

All those five FREEHOLD MESSUAGES or COTTAGES, with the yards or gardens in front, on the south side of Silcoates Road, in Potovens, aforesaid, adjoining Lot 1, on the east side [?], in the occupations of Messrs Carr, Cole, Asquith, Newby and Cottam. The gross rental is £32 10s.

The Minerals under all the above Properties are reserved.

For further particulars application may be made to the Auctioneers, King Street, Wakefield: to Messrs Claude Leatham and Co, Solicitors, Wakefield or to Basil S Briggs, Solicitor, King Street Chambers.

The mill remained disused for 30 years not being demolished until 1936. Its site was left as wasteland until the mid-1950s when the National Playing Fields Association offered a grant of £210 to Stanley Urban District Council, as part of the Association’s campaign to address the lack of playing fields across the Yorkshire coalfield.

The wrong side of the beck

A small piece in the Leeds Mercury about a fire at Calvert Brothers rope factory in Jerry Clay Lane in the autumn of 1901, all but predicts a local disaster. And, had the burning building been the other side of the Foster Ford Beck, it would have been within the Stanley Urban District, not Wakefield Rural and had a much better chance of being saved.

Leeds Mercury
Saturday 16 November 1901

WAKEFIELD RURAL COUNCIL & FIRES
AWKWARD PREDICAMENT AT POTOVENS

Early yesterday morning a large shed at Potovens, near Wakefield, belonging Messrs Calvert Bros, rope and twine manufacturers, was found to be on fire.

A message was at once despatched for the Wakefield City Fire Brigade, but it could not turn out owing to the Corporation having declined to enter into arrangements with the Rural Council to serve the district in case of fire.

The result was that the fire was allowed to burn itself out, and damage to the extent of £800 was done, including the destruction of about £500 of stock.

Two-and-a-half years later, Wakefield Rural District Council still hadn’t sorted out adequate fire fighting provision when Silcoates School burnt down in April 1904.

 

Silcoates School fire

The Leeds Mercury’s take on Silcoates fire, 1904. Interesting that the paper starts its news coverage with a paragraph on the famous Silcoates alumni.

The article also sheds lights on the problems in dealing with the fire. Not only the Wakefield Fire Brigade’s refusal to attend a fire outside its boundaries, but also the inadequate water supply in the vicinity of the School. The ‘Stanley main’ referred to was Stanley Urban District Council’s mains water supply which ended in what’s now Wrenthorpe Lane, at the bridge over Foster Ford Beck, the boundary between Stanley UDC and Wakefield Rural District Council.

Leeds Mercury
Friday 15 April 1904

THE DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT SILCOATES SCHOOL
SOME DISTINGUISHED FORMER PUPILS

The Northern Congregational School, which situate at the top of the hill at Silcoates, near Wakefield, and which was destroyed by fire early yesterday morning, was established on 24th August, 1831; and is well-known for the education many men who have made their mark in the world.

Amongst them we may mention names of Mr Godkin, editor of the “New York Evening Post”; Mr W T Stead, of “The Review of Reviews”; Mr T C Taylor MP, Sir George Newnes MP; Mr John Stubley, Batley; Mr Gerard Ford, Manchester; Mr John Ely, FRIBA, Manchester; and a number of well-known Congregational ministers. Since the school was established, about eight hundred sons of Congregational ministers have been educated there.

During the Easter vacation the school was thoroughly renovated, and the buildings would have presented a most attractive appearance when the pupils, numbering about eighty, returned from their holidays.

The fire was first discovered near what is known as the Juvenile Dormitory, and it had then got a firm hold. The appliances at hand were not sufficient to cope with the flames, which spread with great rapidity; and notwithstanding the efforts of many willing workers, the school building was soon doomed.

About one o’clock the Dewsbury Fire Brigade was sent for, but when they arrived they found they had not sufficient piping enable them to pump the water from the mill dam [Silcoates Mill] and the Stanley [water] main, a couple of fields away, their impression being that the building was situate near the main road. The only supply they were able to obtain was from a 3-inch main near the school, and the force was not strong enough to reach the topmost part of the building.

Before the Dewsbury men arrived, however, it was obvious that all chances of saving any portion of the school building had gone, and the efforts of the workers were concentrated on saving the house of the headmaster (Mr J A Yonge), who was spending his holidays in Switzerland. Sergeant Barraclough, of Dewsbury, handled his men splendidly, and he himself worked like a Trojan, with the result that they bad their efforts rewarded in seeing Mr Young’s house and furniture probably saved.

Soon after the fire was discovered, the Wakefield Fire Brigade were requested to attend, but the request was not complied with owing the fact that a couple of years ago a resolution was passed by the Wakefield Corporation to the effect that the brigade should not attend any more fires outside the city, as the rural authority declined to enter into an agreement to contribute towards the maintenance of a second engine and increased staff.

Painters and decorators have been busily at work since the school “broke up”, renovating the interior of the school building; and at first it was thought the fire was due the carelessness of the workmen. From the position of the fire, however, first discovered, the supposition is that it was caused through the overheating of a flue.

The damage, which roughly estimated at about £12,000, is only partly covered by insurance.

Vicar dabbles in politics

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 7 August 1905

WRENTHORPE BY-ELECTION

A by-election for the Wrenthorpe Ward of Stanley Urban District Council took place Saturday. Tom Lumb was returned by 205 votes. His unsuccessful opponent, Rev Philip S Brown, Vicar of Wrenthorpe, polling 150 votes.

Wrenthorpe, Potovens, Alverthorpe or Kirkhamgate?

If it’s bewildering today to say exactly where Wrenthorpe starts and Kirkhamgate, Alverthorpe, Newton Hill or Outwood ends, it’s no easier for people tracing their family history and finding ancestors living in Alverthorpe-with-Thornes or Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe.

The dividing line of those two ancient townships was the Foster Ford/Balne Beck – right in the middle of modern day Wrenthorpe. The area’s informal but widely used name ‘Potovens’ referred to the densely populated area in the village centre. Under the old boundaries, Silcoates, Jerry Clay Lane, Brandy Carr and Kirkhamgate were all part of Alverthorpe-with-Thornes.

When the Stanley Urban District Council was created in 1899 its western boundary stuck to the old township divide. During the following year Wakefield City Council incorporated much of Alverthorpe, leaving Silcoates, Jerry Clay Lane, Brandy Carr and Kirkhamgate as something of a backwater in the Wakefield Rural District Council. The area wasn’t absorbed into Stanley UDC until 1935.

Here’s a couple of confusing articles about Alverthorpe and Kirkhamgate from the WW1 era.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 13 July 1915

ALVERTHORPE PARISH COUNCIL AND ITS NAME

The announcement that the Parish Council Alverthorpe, near Wakefield have applied for the name the township to be changed to Kirkhamgate does not mean that there is a prospect of the name of the village of Alverthorpe itself being altered. In 1900 the parish of Alverthorpe had an area of 2,481 acres, and a population (according to the 1891 Census) of 4,811, and included Alverthorpe village and several small hamlets, all coming within the area of the Wakefield Rural District Council. The borough of Wakefield then sought to extend its boundaries by the inclusion of the district of the Alverthorpe Pariah Council, and terms were arranged between the two bodies.

The Local Government Board, however, only consented to the addition part of the area, comprising 573 acres and a population 3,631 and including the village Alverthorpe, the added area becoming the Alverthorpe Ward in the borough of Wakefield. At one end of the old district was left an area of 999 acres, with a population of 164 and this became Lupset. At the other end the Alverthorpe Parish Council were left with an area of 909 acres and a population of 1,116 made up of the hamlets of Kirkhamgate, Brandy Carr, Silcoates and Beck Bottom, the first named being the largest. Officially, this small area continued to be known as that of the Alverthorpe Parish Council. As already pointed out, Alverthorpe itself is now part of Wakefield, and it is with the object of getting rid of the confusion of names that the Parish Council have decided to rename themselves the Kirkhamgate Parish Council. Though rather long delayed, the action is considered locally to be a logical outcome of the absorption of Alverthorpe into the Wakefield borough boundary, and it is not thought likely that there will any opposition to the proposal when the Subcommittee of the West Riding County Council inquires into the matter.

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 27 July 1915

ALVERTHORPE NO LONGER
CHANGE OF NAME DESIRED TO KIRKHAMGATE

Alderman P H Booth and Councillor W Ormerod, representing the County Council, held am inquiry at Kirkhamgate, yesterday, relative to the application of the Alverthorpe Parish Council to change the name to Kirkhamgate Parish Council.

Mr W J Skinner, clerk to the Parish Council, pointed out that in 1900 the Alverthorpe township became part of Wakefield, but the name of Alverthorpe Parish Council remained. The part which was not in the jurisdiction of Wakefield was Brandy Carr, Silcoates, and Beck Bottom. The change of name would be a great advantage, particularly with regard to postal arrangements.

At present when letters were addressed Kirkhamgate, Alverthorpe, they were sent out with the Alverthorpe letters, and were returned to Wakefield to be re-directed Kirkhamgate with the result that sometimes there was a delay of twenty-four hours.

There was no opposition.