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Wakefield & District Family History Society

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Last Meeting

The Role of the Lord Leiutenant of West Yorkshire
The Role of the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire. On Saturday 4th June our guest speaker was Kevin Sharp. He is the clerk to the Lord Lieutenant based at Bramham near Leeds. The role is unpaid and dates back to the reign of Henry VIII. He appointed a number of Lords to act as Lieutenants in order to help in the protection of the realm. The current holder for West Yorkshire is Dr Ingrid Roscoe. She has a Vice Lord Lieutenant and about sixty three deputies. This may seem an a lot but in 2015 the office was involved in over five hundred engagements. Kevin as her clerk is involved in coordinating the meetings that lead to the various functions that the Lord Lieutenant or deputies might be involved. These include being in attendance when a royal visit occurs plus Remembrance ceremonies, investitures such as for the BEM and Citizenship Ceremonies. Of the latter there were one hundred and twenty five in West Yorkshire in 2015. All these have to be dealt with by the prime minister and his cabinet before being passed to the Queen. Kevin also deals with the meetings and the documentation generated for commendations regarding a 60th wedding anniversary of a couple, an individual’s 100th birthday or to discuss which charities might be supported. Kevin has met the Queen on a number of occasions as well as other members of the royal family and had some amusing anecdotes to recount. On one occasion the Queen had returned from a three week tour of the USA which meant travelling through several time zones. On her return she attended a function in West Yorkshire. A guest at a civic reception was heard to ask the Queen if she suffered from jet lag. After a moment’s pause she replied, ‘No,’ then added, ‘Do I look as though I do? Prince Philip once paid a visit to Leeds Kirkgate market and as he was being shown around, paused by a butcher’s stall. He noticed a lady peering closely at what was to offer on the stall. He suggested she might purchase some sausages! Kevin outlined some of tasks that involved the Princess Royal, Prince Charles and other members of the royal family. Then concluded by suggesting that if anyone fancied attending the Queen’s Garden Party they could have their name put forward and if justified by the Lord Lieutenant’s office it could become a reality. The next meeting is July 2nd when our patron, Lord St Oswald will attend the AGM. This will be followed by a talk by Christine Hewitt on ‘Ordinary Shitlington folk in extraordinary times.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan, Secretary: ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
A Batchelor's Delight
A Batchelor’s Delight. It is always a delight to welcome back one of our favourite speakers, Anne Batchelor. Her brief was not only to show how to carry out family history research but also how to make it fun. She reminded us not to forget the many dead people in a family tree because every living individual is a result of such people. Each one could have an interesting story to tell. Anne brought a large array of documents and photos to display which were accumulated over the years and enabled her to put together her story. Anne referred to a TV programme called ‘ Roots’ in which an African American traced his ancestry back to West Africa. This inspired her to trace her roots which was helped by a family bible that had entries from 1527 which noted the death of Andrew Batchelor. The documents that Anne accessed, such as census returns, wills and parish registers, enabled her to discover the occupations her ancestors had from straw plaiting for hats, a musician who played at the court of Elizabeth I and a gardener of the Rothchilds. She also unearthed a villain who broke into Shandy Hall home of the author, Lawrence Sterne, and stole ‘socks, food and some silver spoons.’ He was eventually caught and sent to a House of Correction. Anne loves solving problems that are thrown up by her research. These have also enabled her to visit many parts of the country associated with her family. Anne was born in Leeds but her parents had links with York while many ‘Batchelors’ came from Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Thus proving that our ancestors often had to travel in order to find work. Anne not only enjoys solving her personal family history puzzles she is also delighted when helping others. A TV programme, Timewatch, which Anne helped to make, can be accessed on You Tube by typing in ‘A Batchelor’s Delight.’ Next meeting is June 4th when Kevin Sharp will explain the ‘Role of the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire,’ which is also the month of the Queen’s birthday. Any enquiries to Ron Pullan, Secretary: ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
Early Asylum Life
Early Asylum Life. On Saturday April 2nd David Scrimgeour gave a talk based on his recently published book, ‘Proper People,’ which is an account of life of some of the patients admitted to the West Yorkshire Pauper Lunatic Asylum between 1818 and 1869. This institution was in Wakefield and would later become known as Stanley Royd Hospital. David’s interest developed when researching his family history he learned that his great grandmother had died in 1919 in an asylum in Scotland. Living in Wakefield and passing the Hospital many times his interest in the subject of mental health grew. He also realised that there was a wealth of material on the subject he could access at the West Yorkshire Archives in Wakefield. Using case notes from ledgers David gave examples why people might be committed, how they were treated and finally show what happened to them. First example given was Hannah Brierley who was arrested for receiving stolen goods but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity as it was discovered that she had previously tried to destroy herself. She was admitted to the asylum but the staff became convinced that she was in fact sane. She was given a position of trust as a nurse and was released four months later. Another example was John Walker who had spent some time in Bethlem because of insanity. He was later released and in 1850 he was on trial for stealing a pair of boots and held in York Castle gaol. Again he was deemed to be insane and then sent to the Asylum in Wakefield. There he got into trouble through fighting. He promised it would not happen again and following a few months of good behaviour was released. However he was returned to prison to continue with the original sentence. It would be five years before he got into trouble again which resulted in transportation to Australia. Several other cases were described but David then touched on the procedures used to treat inmates in the hope of curing them. These included clamping an individual in a chair which was then raised from the ground and quickly rotated to induce vomiting, electric shocks were administered and purging by using various emetics such as rhubarb. The latter was used to help William Winter who suffered from constipation. It is recorded that upon receiving a warm bath he parted with a stool measuring four feet five inches! Those admitted could spend a few weeks in the Asylum or several years but forty nine years for one patient was the record. David’s delivery was often humorous but one that dealt with great sympathy and understanding. He was only able to briefly touch on the lives of the many that he researched. His book is a testament to the intensive work he has done, one that can be enjoyed by the academic as well as the general reader. Next meeting is May 7th when Anne Batchelor’s talk will be ‘ A Batchelor’s Delight.’
THree Centuries of the Workhouse
The Workhouse On Saturday 5th March Peter Higginbotham gave a talk that took us through three hundred years from the The First Poor Law Act of 1601 to the formation of the NHS in 1948. Initially money was collected from the inhabitants of a parish in order to feed and house anyone out of work and in need. Later workhouses were built in local towns. Peter took the West Riding and in particular Wakefield as a basis for his talk using photos of workhouses in the West Riding, groups of inmates and plans showing the building layout. The 1834 Report made workhouses more self sufficient and ensured that when registered the inmates were put to work where possible. The 1834 New Poor Law ensured that workhouses were more regulated the high unemployment after the Napoleonic Wars coupled with the increasing price of corn caused a hard time for many people. Individual workhouses were grouped under a Poor Law Union. Wakefield’s workhouse was for many years situated on George Street however a new one was built on Park Lodge Lane which like others was built to a specific design. The main building was a T – shaped structure where work took place behind which were walled- off living areas where inmates were grouped into separate sections for men, women, children and the elderly. Entry was voluntary and inmates could leave whenever you wished. The regime was strict as the Guardians really wanted them to deter entry. People went there as a last resort for there was also the stigma of shame attached. An explanation of the rules for entry was given plus the type of work that was encouraged for the able bodied. The daily menu included a watery porridge known as gruel along with daily portions of bread and cheese though on several days of the week some soup, meat and vegetables would be on the menu often grown from the workhouse garden. Food did improve as the 19th century progressed and the work took the form of cleaning and laundry duties for women while men might be employed in gardening or breaking stones for construction work. The 1881 census for Wakefield showed 8 staff and over 340 inmates. One such was a lady who had been there for 34 years! A number had been there for10 years while others were more short term. Medical conditions also improved during the last quarter of the 19th century especially when trained nurses were employed. By the 1930s the Board of Guardians were abolished and the workhouses were taken over by the local council and by 1948 they fell into disuse as the NHS then became responsible for those in need. Many of the workhouses were then demolished, converted into apartments or turned into Old People’s Homes. Peter summed up an engrossing talk with advice on how records, where they survive, could be located at TNA at Kew or local archives. A useful website is www.workhouses.org.uk Here is listed a number of books written by Peter on different aspects of life in a workhouse. The next meeting is April 2nd when Beryl Sanders will give a talk on ‘ Potions, Polishes and Poisons’ set in Georgian England. Enquiries to Ron Pullan: ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk
Women in 19th Century Ossett
Women in 19th century Ossett. On Saturday 6th February David Scriven gave a talk on the roles that were allotted to women in Ossett, a textile town near Wakefield in the West Riding. His main sources were newspaper articles, census returns and parish records. He first made it clear that generally couples when married were usually about the same age, that divorce was infrequent due to legal difficulties, that families were often large and that infant mortality was high when compared with today. Diseases broke out periodically due in part to overcrowded living conditions, bad sanitation and maybe through neglect. This latter reason was thought to be because women had to go out to work and therefore leave their children in the hands of carers who were not always family members. However the middle classes did not always escape from high infant mortality. The image of the ideal family was provided by the royal family. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert produced nine children before he died at a relatively early age from typhoid aged 42. Yet violence to women by husbands was often reported in the local press when most incidents went unreported but were often known locally. Women were expected to continue work, mainly in the local mills, when they got married and often after they started to produce children. Sometimes they supplemented the family income by taking in lodgers or looking after children of neighbours or family. Opportunities for work other than that found in mills were few. Some worked in shops such as stitching for milliners or in dress making. Pay was always less than that earned by men. Lack of education held women back. It was noted that far more boys attended school than girls and when middle class girls were able to attend private schools they were taught subjects that were regarded as ‘ refined’ such as painting, music and maybe a foreign language. There are examples to be found of women with responsible roles when widowed such as in public houses, in high street shops, primary schools and Sunday schools. There were examples of strikes occurring for better pay but efforts were thwarted when factory owners would bring in cheap female labour from elsewhere. Generally women were held down like slaves. As the century progressed especially by the 1880’s and 90’s more women were found to be involved in fund raising especially for churches, the temperance movement and even in the Mechanics’ Institute. Women were even beginning to be more involved in sport such as tennis and even encouraged to cycle ‘ if done in moderation.’ Gradually greater emancipation was gained in more social aspects of society except in politics when they had to wait until 1928 before they gained political equality with men. David proved that he had researched his topic extremely well and judging from the number of people present who asked questions or made comments, many found his talk of great interest and value. The next meeting is March 5th when Peter Higginbotham will talk on ‘Three Centuries of the Workhouse.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan : ronaldpullan@hotmail.co.uk or 01924 373310.

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