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Who killed Sarah Jane
On Saturday 5th July Anne Batchelor, our guest speaker, made a welcome return to once again enthral and entertain us with one of her mystery crime stories. This one was based on the brutal death of Sarah Jane Roberts in 1880. Anne asked ‘Who killed Sarah Jane.’ She explained that usually her research into such events had a beginning, a middle and an end. However this particular crime remains to this today unresolved. Therefore Anne invited those in attendance to try and make up their own minds after listening to her story put together by painstaking research. This consisted of newspaper reports, archival evidence based on letters etc and an autobiography written by Superintendent Bent who was in charge of the case in 1880. Sarah Jane was born in Pembroke in 1860 and at the age of seventeen was employed by a Mr Greenwood, a property developer living near Manchester, as a housekeeper. Neither Greenwood or his wife could read or write. Sarah Jane could and so could his book keeper, William Cooper. Greenwood responded to a letter delivered by hand to meet a prospective buyer at a local pub. The supposed author of the letter, Mr Wilson, did not turn up. Greenwood on returning home was greeted by a group of neighbours consoling his distraught wife who had discovered the battered dead body of Sarah Jane in the kitchen. Anne Batchelor went on to demonstrate, by referring to the many copies of research material she had accumulated over the years, how each of the protagonists in the story had a possible motive for the death. However the police had insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the leading players in the story. Anne ended her story by inviting members present to try and come up with their thoughts and suggest who might be responsible. Was Mrs Greenwood jealous of Sarah Jane because she thought Sarah might have had an affair with her husband? Was Mr Cooper fiddling the books and Sarah Jane had found out? Or was there someone else not mentioned, passing strangers, who might be responsible? Anne finished her talk with a telling remark. She said that family history is more than accumulating as many names on a family tree. It’s more about delving more deeply into the lives of individuals and bringing them to life. Anne was kept busy for some time after her talk dealing with many interested members who perused the many articles and photos that was on display. The next meeting is August 1st when Maria Glot returns to continue with ‘The story of Saltaire and Titus Salt.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan at: or 01924 373310.
AGM June 2014
WAKEFIELD & DISTRICT FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY On Saturday 7th June the Society held its Annual General Meeting. The Chairman, Chris Welch, asked our Patron, Lord St Oswald, to open the proceedings. He began by highlighting what Nostell Priory, under the National Trust, was doing to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War One under the heading of “ Red Poppies and White Butterflies.” This is a reflection on the great loss of life, great suffering and material damage caused by the Great War. He then gave a brief outline history of the Winn family’s involvement with Nostell since 1658 and how various members of his family were also involved in conflict during 1914-1918. Lord St Oswald also reflected on the part played by several local people who were associated with Nostell and the Great War. He concluded by reading four lines from the war poem 'The Fallen' by Laurence Binyon. The formal part of the AGM then took place. This included reports from the Chairman who reminded us that like many other societies there is a need for more volunteers to help. The Treasurer, David Tolfrey, provided us with the welcome news that the Society has shown a profit during 2013-2014 unlike previous years. Elsie Walton, Editor, thanked all those who had recently contributed articles for the Society's journal and also gave thanks to those who served as proof readers and helped with the graphics. Then occurred the election of a new President, Joan P Smith and a new Chairman, Chris Welch. The election of officers and committee members followed. Light relief was then provided by Tony Banks of the Outwood Video Club. Under the title of ' Those were the days,' we were entertained by a trip down memory lane with a film show of old local scenes accompanied by music and singing in which those present were encouraged to join in. The next meeting is 5th July when Anne Batchelor makes a welcome return with her family history mystery, ' Who killed Sarah Jane?' All enquiries to Ron Pullan, Secretary, 01924 373310.
Listed Buildings of Wakefield
Listed buildings of Wakefield On Saturday 3rd May our guest speaker was Kevin Trickett, President of Wakefield Civic Society. He began by explaining that listed buildings are those given protection because they are of Special Historical and Architectural Interest . There are over half a million in the UK. English Heritage has oversight for England while Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland have similar institutions. When listed they are then given legal protection. A national list can be located on a relevant website while Wakefield has its own local website. Landscapes, battlefields and monuments etc can also be listed. However money from a local council and elsewhere will of course determine whether a listed building can be saved and, if saved, must serve some purpose or use. Buildings of at least thirty years old can be considered if they are deemed sufficiently important or are under threat. All buildings pre 1700 are listed while most of those from 1700-1840 are also included. In the UK about 15% are pre 1600, the largest group are those in 19th century with 32% and post 1945 are at 0.2% The categories range from Grade 1, Grade 2*, Grade 2. In Wakefield those buildings in Grade 1 include the Cathedral, Wakefield Bridge and Chantry Chapel, Town Hall and the County Hall. Grade 2* include the Court House, Sandal Castle and the Mechanic’s Institute formerly the old Museum. Grade 2 - the Telephone kiosk on Wood Street and the Blue Police box in the grounds of Bishopgarth. Conservation areas include St John’s, Sandal Castle, Lower and Upper Westgate. What of the future? Kevin Trickett suggested the new railway station, Trinity Walk Shopping Mall, the current Market Hall, Hepworth Gallery. the Fire Control Centre at Pergamon Business Village and maybe the 19th century part of Clayton Hospital, could be considered. It is hoped that the Wakefield Civic Society can continue with its good work in fighting to protect buildings etc for future generations to enjoy our local heritage. The next meeting June 7th when the Society will be holding its AGM.
The Value of Old Photographs
On Saturday April 5th the monthly talk was provided by Jo Heron, Vice President of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society based in Leeds. Her topic was ‘The Value of Old Photographs.’ Using glass negatives inherited by the YAS, and with the aid of an digital projector, Jo explained how these negatives had been restored, scanned and indexed for future use. The photos were taken by William Rawlings, Headmaster of the Blue Coat School in Selby, over one hundred and fifty years ago. They showed scenes of the Abbey, of local dignitaries and workmen and street scenes, all taken from the 1860s up to the World War 1. A noticeable feature was that all the subjects usually wore solemn and even glum expressions. The explanation could be that poses had to be held for several minutes due to the long exposure needed. But such photos provided well defined detailed and were also valuable aid for dating photos by the styles of clothes worn. Jo particularly wanted to emphasise the need for all family historians who were in possession of similar old photos to take care in the their preservation. This means using acid free tissues or boxes for storage in order to prevent fading or discolouring. Then scanning, indexing and recording them to computers. Remembering to back the files to disc, external hard drives and memory sticks. Interest in the topic was obvious by the number of questions asked and also by the number of useful suggestions that came from those present. The next meeting is May 3rd when Kevin Trickett from the Wakefield Civic Society will give a talk on ‘Wakefield’s Listed Buildings.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan Secretary 01924 373310.
Bretton Hall
Wakefield & District Family History Society At our meeting on 1st March Cyril Pearce, who had lectured at Bretton Hall training college for over 30 years, gave us the story of the families who had lived at the Hall during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Bretton estate, in existence since the Middle Ages, reached its greatest extent in the 1820s when it covered over 30,000 acres. Cyril’s history began with Sir William Wentworth, who had made his fortune dealing with antiquities from Italy. Sir William married Diana Blackett from a wealthy Northumberland family and thereby inherited another fortune based on coal and shipping. In 1720 Sir William built a new Hall, the basis of the existing building, and Bretton Chapel. When Sir William died his son, Sir Thomas, inherited Bretton together with the Blackett estates from Northumberland, which by this time included very profitable lead and silver mines. Sir Thomas used his considerable wealth to extend the Hall and transform the grounds into a contemporary open landscape design. He also became famous, or infamous, locally for holding vast parties at the Hall. His lifestyle can best be described as “colourful”. Sir Thomas’ daughter, Diana, married Colonel Thomas Beaumont and they were amongst the richest commoners in the country. The estate remained in the Beaumont family until it was sold off in the 1950s.

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