Chantry Bridge, Normanton All Saints Church, St Catherine's Font Belle Vue, Heath Water Tower, Sharlston Pit Wheel
Wakefield & District Family History Society

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Wakefield in old picture postcards.
Wakefield in old picture postcards. On Saturday 7th April, Christine Leveridge brought along part of her large collection of old postcards. She is, as she explained, a deltiologist and being from Dewsbury confessed that she had little knowledge of Wakefield and district. However, Christine invited her audience to feel free to respond to the scenes displayed on screen. The postcards were mainly from the period spanning the early 1900s. There were street scenes of Wakefield and surrounding townships; celebrations attending the opening of Ossett town hall, industrial landscapes and pretty unspoilt villages. There were school children dancing around the Maypole; a group photograph of the local constabulary and local people dressed in their Sunday best. Members were quick to respond and share their memories invoked by a trip down memory lane. Judging from the reaction of many the show was an unqualified success. The next meeting is May 5th when Phil Judkins will give a talk on ‘ Wood Street – Heart of Wakefield.’
Wakefield Waterfront Project
In place of the advertised topic for Saturday 3rd March the Society was fortunate to have the services of Pam and Phil Judkins. This project has involved members of Wakefield Historical Society as well as our own members. For the first twenty minutes a dvd was shown with Pam as a guide explaining the aims of the project. She showed how the growth of Wakefield through the centuries led to it becoming an important inland port. A series of maps were on display that showed the increasing number of mills and warehouses that were built along the river along with pockets of terrace houses for the workers. Many of these buildings have now gone but those remaining have been or will be converted for other uses such as office space or leisure. An example of the latter is Rutland Mill that will become an extension of the Hepworth Gallery. Phil then continued the story elaborating on issues raised in the film. For example he showed how the importance that malting mills had on Wakefield’s economy. The barley grown came by boat, later by rail, from Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. After it was processed much of the finished product was transported to breweries in Lancashire as well as the rest of Yorkshire. In the 1930s slum clearance saw the removal of a number of mills and old housing. The Soke mill by the weir that had stood for centuries was demolished and a new bridge was constructed over the river Calder. Phil ended his talk by praising the work done by Stella Robinson and for the display she had arranged based on the waterfront project. The next meeting April 7th is Christine Leveridge and ‘Wakefield in old picture postcards.’ All enquiries to ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
The Topping Tooters of the Town
Our Christmas treat on Saturday 2nd December was a musical presentation by the Doncaster Waites. This was an assembly of five players dressed in early 17th century costume playing a medley of songs from the said period. The Waites were originally medieval ‘watchmen’ who patrolled towns during the night. However the musical tradition dates from the 15th century. Doncaster’s Waites provided music for dances, marriages and various civic occasions from 1557 until 1832. The players, three women and two men, described the instruments used which ranged from recorders and an early form of trombone to bagpipes and a hurdy gurdy! Their explanations were followed in turn by renaissance style music and song. For those who would like to find out if any ancestor was a member of a Waites group several suggestions were offered. Anyone with the name of Waite or any derivation of that name or the surname Piper, could provide a link. Also try searching for a will or look into various trades that an ancestor might have. The enjoyment provided was evident and also the amount of interest shown was highlighted by the many questions asked at the end. There is no meeting in January. We meet 3rd February when Claudia Sternberg’s talk is ‘WW1Internment camps in Lofthouse and Ruhleben.’
Life in a Victorian Workhouse
Life in a Victorian workhouse. On Saturday 4th November we had a welcome return of a very popular speaker, Ian Dewhirst. Ian is from Keighley and has made an in depth study of the Keighley workhouse using the excellent records held by the local library. He covered the period from when the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was passed when a Board of Guardians was set up to provide the ‘social security’ of the day for the poor which was in place until 1930. A new Union workhouse was begun in 1858 which would accommodate people not just from Keighley but also from Bingley and surrounding areas. Ian was concerned to point out that although conditions could be hard they did at least provide work, accommodation and a reasonable diet for those on hard times. Some inmates might only spend a short time there but there were cases of those who needed care for many years. Work was made hard from crushing granite for road building to grinding corn while women were employed with washing floors, clothes and bedding. The diet ranged from gruel and dry bread to several meals that might even contain meat and vegetables. Sleeping conditions were rudimentary ranging from bare wooden boards to iron bedsteads. The Board of Guardians consisted of local business men such as small mill owners, farmers and perhaps various artisans or craftsmen. The Master had to be married and received a salary, accommodation and food. There was some light relief such as at Christmas when a touring pantomime company visited and there was for some a trip to Morecombe for a week! Life was not always as grim as perhaps Charles Dickens portrayed in Oliver Twist as there was good community spirit shown in the care and humane approach by local people. Even a local business man might go bankrupt and have to rely on the Union workhouse. Ian’s talk while often having his audience in fits of laughter also reminded us of the detail provided in workhouse records and of the conditions some of our ancestors had to endure. Next month’s meeting 2nd December when the Doncaster Waites entertain as ‘The Topping Tooters of the Town.’
John Croft: The StoryPioneer of a Mormon
John Croft: The story of a Mormon Pioneer. The speaker on Saturday 7th October was Gaynor Haliday who recounted how she had researched her 4 times great uncle, John Croft. She described the epic journey he undertook with his new wife in 1860, from Manchester, England, to Salt Lake City. Born in 1837 near Bingley in Yorkshire, John’s family moved to Manchester. As a young man John, on reading the Millennial Star Newspaper a Mormon publication, and attended meetings organised by the Manchester Conference. This led to him being baptised in the Mormon faith. In 1860 he married Amelia Mitchell and soon after made preparations to emigrate to America. Gaynor quoted from a series of diaries, letters and using family photos, described the journey undertaken by John and his wife to Salt Lake City. The starting point was Liverpool where on boarding a ship along with about five hundred other Mormon passengers, they sailed to New York a journey of almost four weeks. From New York the journey was undertaken using river transport through the Great Lakes and finally by rail and river again to Florence in Nebraska. Here the last leg to Salt Lake City meant getting organised with oxen cart to carry their worldly goods but which also entailed a great deal of walking on a journey that took almost four months. Covering over 1000 miles the wagon train arrived in September and Amelia gave birth to a child in November! There were to be another seven children. John soon became immersed in pioneer life along with other Mormon settlers which meant not only becoming self sufficient in providing a home and food but was also involved in building the tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the building of the Union Pacific Railroad and liaising with Buffalo Bill Cody to obtain fresh bison meat for the rail workers. John died in 1909 and Amelia lived on to 1926. Gaynor emphasised the usefulness of the Brigham Young University website from which she had gained so much for her research. Next meeting is November 4th when the ever popular Ian Dewhirst will talk on ‘life in a Victorian Workhouse.’

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