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.

Inquests into two very different deaths

As strange as this now sounds, during the 19th and early 20th century inquests into sudden deaths were usually carried out in pubs. In Potovens in the 1800s, this was almost always at the Royal Oak. The following report relates to an inquest at the Malt Shovel – a suicide and a death demonstrating the dangers of working in the textile industry.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 6 June 1881

FATAL OCCURRENCES NEAR WAKEFIELD

On Saturday Captain Taylor, of Wakefield, held an inquiry at Mr Wild’s, the Malt Shovel Inn, Potovens, near Wakefield, on the bodies of two persons who had come to their death under sad and extraordinary circumstances.

One of the parties was a widow 57 years of age, named Mary Ann Garside. Sometime ago the deceased lived with Mr John Hawley, colliery agent, The Haugh [later called Sunny Hill House], Silcoates, who married her daughter about two and a half years ago. The mother and daughter did not appear to agree very well, and in January last the deceased left her son-in-law’s residence, and had lately been living in lodgings in Park Street, Wakefield. On Thursday night she went and sat under a pear tree near Mr Hawley’s house, and it is supposed that she then took a quantity of laudanum, and laid down air to die, having frequently told a commercial traveller who lived near her daughter that she would commit suicide, and afterwards wrote a letter to that effect. Next morning she was found under the pear tree in a stupefied and is dying state, and was carried by her son-in-law and another gentleman into Mr Hawley’s stable, where she died shortly afterwards, apparently from the effects of poison.

The other sufferer was a man named James Hudson, a labourer at Messrs Colbeck’s Mills, at Alverthorpe. On Friday night a fire took place in a dust hole at the mills and whilst it was being extinguished Hudson was found quite dead and much burnt. It is supposed that the man upset his lamp among some woollen waste and set it on fire, and that the dense smoke suffocated him, and then he was roasted by the flames. The poor fellow leaves a wife and seven little children.