Church plans double tax for township

Ambiguities about boundaries again, in this intriguing paragraph from a London paper on the Vicar of Stanley’s attempt to impose a church rate on the inhabitants of Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe township. Although the ancient township spread as far west as Foster Ford Beck/Balne Beck, Wrenthorpe was well outside of his parish.

London Sun
Monday 27 December 1841


Three persons recently met in the vestry of Stanley Church for the purpose of levying a church-rate, in addition to the one now attempting to be collected, for the Wakefield district, thus making a double close for the poor Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe rate-payers. The three individuals present were the Churchwardens and the parson; and these three officials had the audacity and cold-heartedness to impose a rate on their starving neighbours, many of whom are now existing for days together on nothing but common Swede turnips. We know instances of some families who have been fed and life sustained by nothing but this beasts’ food. Shame upon the men who thus attempt to wring money from these poor wretches, to support the overfed and overgrown State Church; and who threaten all who do not, on a certain day, by them appointed, pay this iniquitous demand with the terrors of the Church ecclesiastic. Is there none in this large district to protect the poor from such a disgraceful imposition.

It’d be interesting to follow this story up using primary source material such as surviving churchwardens’ books and township records, to find out if the malicious scheme came about.

In search of Wrenthorpe’s long lost pottery industry

Might it be possible to find evidence of the last gasps of Wrenthorpe’s long-established cottage industry in late 18th century newspapers? A bankruptcy perhaps? Or a court case against a potter for non payment of rent?

Sadly, no luck so far, other than the sale of a pottery at the far side of the Wakefield Outwood, at West Hall (just north of Moorhouse), Stanley.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 16 May 1780


Situate at Wakefield Out-Wood Side, near Wakefield,
AN exceedingly valuable POTTERY, for Making of Common BROWN-WARE, with a Dwelling-House, Warehouse, and all the other Appurtenances thereunto belonging; also a Croft thereto adjoining, now in the Occupation of John Errington.
The Premises are well situated for Trade, and may be entered upon immediately.
For other Particulars enquire of Mr John Hodgson, of West Hall, near Lofthouse.

While the odd spelling of ‘lett’, and the writing of some s’s as f’s, is terribly old-fashioned, the advert like many in these late 18th century newspapers – does come with a right-pointing backhand index emoji.


Only a few years later the pottery’s up for rent again.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 5 August 1788


…Also, A POTTERY, situate at Wakefield Outwood, very near the Navigation.
With the Pottery, a Tenant may be accommodated with a Dwelling house and Stable adjoining it, and a few Acres of Land, if required.

For Particulars apply to Mr Lee, Attorney at Law, in Wakefield.

After almost giving up hope, this 23-word death announcement gives us the link to pottery at Potovens.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 12 March 1782

On Sunday last died at Red Hall, near Wakefield, aged 100 years, Mrs Mary Willans, relict of the late Mr John Willans, potter.

The Willans were arguably the most successful of the Wrenthorpe potters – Jacob Willans built a house with his initials and the year ‘1663’ inscribed in stone over its front door.* The property survived for 300 years, regrettably the building conservation movement wasn’t up to much in 1960s Wrenthorpe.

Take Mrs Willans’ given age with a handful of salt, as further up the newspaper column, there’s a sentence on a Jane Wells a woman from Whitehaven, ‘who’ it boasts, ‘is in the 111th year her age’, and ‘is still at this time employed in carding wool.’

* Brears, Peter, ‘Excavations at Potovens, near Wakefield’, Post Medieval Archaeology, Vol 1, 1967.