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Wakefield & District Family History Society

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Finding Uncle Harold
‘ Finding Uncle Harold.’ On Saturday 5th November we had the military historian Tim Lynch whose ancestor, Harold Wiseman from Keighley, fought and died in WW1in 1918. His records, like many others, were destroyed during the Blitz of WW11. Only a picture of him in the local newspaper survived along with a description of Harold’s background. Tim wanted to find out more. His talk showed how this could be done. Generally the WW1 medal indexes survived and these provide a regimental number. From this could be determined the battalion he served in. This can help in determining an action that such a battalion was involved in from the War Diaries that were written by a responsible officer involved in the action. Records of other casualties that were in the same battalion may have survived and would help to build up a picture of an action in which Harold and others were involved. Tim was particularly interested in the local background of these lads. What was the attitude taken locally and nationally towards men in the army; how men were allotted to a particular battalion based on status, education and occupation; at what age or even height and physical condition a recruit was that determine how or where he was allocated. Tim was also interested in their training and what happened to these young men when first sent to the Front. What he wanted was to become familiar with ‘his-story’ rather than just ‘history.’ Tim stressed the importance of the ‘archaeology ‘of war that is the use of imagination through more personal approach. The research led to the publication of his book ‘They did not grow old.’ This is a detailed account of the conditions that these men had to endure and written in such a way that the reader cannot fail to become emotionally involved. It also leaves one in no doubt of the thorough research undertaken and knowledge of the subject by Tim Lynch. Next meeting is December 3rd when Wendy Wales will talk on her book, ‘ Captain Cook’s Computer.’ This is an account of local man William Wales who accompanied Captain Cook on one of his voyages. Enquiries to Ron Pullan: ronaldpullan@hotmail’co.uk
Strawberries & Cream Cakes
Strawberries & Cream Cakes – Rationing in WW1 At the October meeting Dr Kathryn Hughes had carried out research which recorded how Bradford remembered food supplies 1914-18. With the aid of photographs of actual documents from the period she illustrated her talk with slides that showed what life was like for the inhabitants of Bradford. Panic buying of food occurred early in 1914 when it was rumoured that stores would soon run out and that prices would increase. In fact there were no shortages at the beginning of the war and the government realised that shop keepers were making an unfair profit. Therefore legal steps were taken to fix prices. However as the war progressed and German submarines began to take a toll on imports, shortages did occur. The government decided that rationing had to be introduced and emphasised the need for the public to play its part and to enter a period of ‘National Lent.’ Even the King made a proclamation and that people were encouraged to sign a pledge in which the public were given a badge to show their loyalty for ‘its bit to conserve stocks.’ The gravity of the situation was sometimes highlighted with humorous adverts that suggested that ice cream could be eaten without wafers as they were seen as a luxury. Keighley a few miles away attracted attention when a national survey was published that showed food consumption was well below the national average! By 1917 a number of consumable items were restricted. First was sugar then butter and margarine followed by meat. Even a ‘meatless Wednesday’ was tried. A potato shortage due to a failed crop led to every available bit of surplus land being dug up from road side verges to golf greens for the growing of vegetables. An incident involving strawberries occurred when a crop was harvested that was sent directly to a jam factory rather than be eaten fresh. The factory was closed so it was decided to sell them fresh but this was against government rules so the owner of the crop simply got rid of the strawberries which went to waste. By March 1919 and margarine, butter and meat were still rationed but were by now everyone was issued with one rationing book instead of separate cards. An incident at the Savoy Hotel in Bradford upset one particular customer who was outraged at the price of their cream tarts and accused the establishment of profiteering. Kathryn’s final photo was shown entitled ‘Don’t Grouse.’ It had listed foodstuffs in English diets dating back centuries such as sugar which was introduced in 13th century and potatoes in the 15th century. In other words be grateful for what you can get! Kathryn’s well researched book certainly ‘gave food for thought’ and people talk about the good old times! Next meeting is 5th November when Tim Lynch recounts what happened when he went in search of his uncle Harold with the latter’s involvement in WW1. Enquiries to: ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
The History of the Thackray Medical Museum
On Saturday 3rd September Alan Humphries gave an account of the story behind the development of this museum in Leeds. Alan, a librarian at the museum, illustrated with a digital projector how a partnership between two Leeds men, Charles Thackray and Henry Wainwright, led to the growth of an international business. Charles was a pharmacist and Henry a chartered accountant. They agreed to buy a pharmacist shop on Great George Street close to the Leeds General Infirmary in 1902. At first the business dealt with the sale of remedies for various ailments but went on to develop surgical dressings for the infirmary and later on surgical instruments. This aspect of the business was given a boost when Berkeley Moynihan [ later Lord Moynihan ] a renown surgeon who specialised in abdominal surgery, asked Thackray to produce surgical instruments for his personal use in 1908. Apparently he had rather large hands! It was also Moynihan who introduced rubber gloves for surgical use these being recently invented in America. The business grew and larger premises was needed which was found in 1926 nearby on Park Street which had been the old Medical School. Continuing growth meant another move in the 1980s to Beeston in Leeds where the company is still in production of surgical instruments etc. but is now owned by DePuy. A museum tracing the history of medicine was promoted by a descendant of Charles Thackray which found a home in 1996 in a The Leeds Union Workhouse which opened in 1858. This was later used as a hospital before it became museum in 1996. The Thackray Museum has since become a popular tourist attraction. Alan, with the aid of still photographs, illustrated some of the exhibits on display. These include a reconstruction of a street in Leeds in a poor part of the city before Public Health Acts came into force and also waxwork figures are used to demonstrate surgery on a factory girl’s crushed leg! The Museum is justly proud of a rare collection of British Delftware Apothecary Jar display. Display cases include an historical collection of surgical instruments and equipment used in surgery.There is a reconstruction of pharmacist shop that once occupied a site in Victorian Leeds. There was much that was of interest for those in attendance with roughly a third who said they had made a visit to the Museum, many others said they would now make the effort to go. The next meeting is October 1st when Kathryn Hughes will talk on ‘ Strawberries & Cream Cakes – rationing in WW1.’ Enquiries to ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
The Borthwick Archive and Cause Papers
The Borthwick Institute for Archives and Cause Papers. Gary Brannan was the guest speaker on 6th August. He reminded us that this body, which began in the city of York in 1953, moved to its present location at the library in The University of York 2004. The records that can be accessed date from 1267 and cover what was the Diocese and Province of York. This meant a good portion of northern England. Records include parish registers, wills, marriage bonds, bishops transcripts and Cause papers. Many can now be accessed online with Find My Past. These can also be viewed on microfilm at the Borthwick and after studying the indexes for wills etc you can download them to your USB. The oldest Wakefield record is from 1375 which is a will by Richard Bunney and lists all his worldly goods and names the beneficiaries. There is an online catalogue which includes business records of the chocolate manufacturers of Rowntree and Terrys. Then there are some hospital and health records. Then Gary began to explain the meaning of Cause Papers which he guessed quite rightly few had ever heard of. These date from 1300 to 1858 and refer to Church Court Records. All manner of cases were dealt with by the Church until 1858 when the State took over. Gary recounted a particular case with reference to a dispute in Wakefield in 1821. The details reflect a social history of the times when description of the streets, yards, occupations and actual words spoken by the defendants etc. Even the weather was commented upon. Gary emphasised that such records are a must for genealogists because they not only give dates but provide an insight to the way our ancestor’s lived. Much of Gary’s delivery was received with laughter but also provided much useful information. Next meeting is 3rd September when Alan Humphries will talk on’ The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds.’ Enquiries to: ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
Ordinary Shitlington folk in Exraordinary Times
The AGM was opened by the Society’s Vice President, Deborah Scriven on Saturday 2nd July. The Society’s Patron, Lord St Oswald, followed by reflecting on the part that his great grandfather and other members of his family had played in World War One. Once the formal part of the AGM was dealt with Christine Hewitt our guest speaker began by announcing that she became involved in ‘grave spotting’ relatively recently. Beginning with her research at the National Mining Museum when she became interested in a commemorative plaque at Shitlington just a few miles south of Wakefield. The name of this mining village has since had the ‘h’ dropped after a protest movement developed in 1929 and now is known as Sitlington. The plaque had three names that Christine became particularly interested in. These were Fred Earnshaw, Eliza Ann Hampshire and Leonard Shire. So with the aid of her lap top and projector Christine showed copies of census returns, photos, birth marriage and death certificates, World War One medal certificates etc. Fred Earnshaw 1895-1916 worked in a timber yard before joining the Lincolnshire Regiment. He was killed on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the start of the Battle of the Somme. His name appears on a roadside memorial stone near Midgley along with three others killed including his uncle. The timber yard of Earnshaws is still in business today. Eliza Ann Hampshire 1876-1932 at the outbreak of the war was still single. She volunteered to join the VAD [ Volunteer Aid Detachment]. She was a nurse assistant and tended the sick and wounded at Wentworth House in Wakefield. This is today part of Wakefield Girls’ High School. She lived on until the age of 59 when she was admitted to Leeds Infirmary with a liver disease from which she eventually died, Leonard Shires 1894-1917 Was a blacksmith’s striker at a local forge. He joined the King’s Own Light Infantry and lost his life at Sanctuary Wood near Zillebecke. Christine’s interest in her subject was both heartfelt and moving because she was able to bring the her subjects to life of real but ordinary people living and dying in extraordinary times. The next meeting is 6th August when Gary Bannan will talk on’ Borthwick Archives and Cause Papers.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan Secretary: ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk

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