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Life in England in WW1
WAKEFIELD & DISTRICT FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY On Saturday 5th December we had Ian Dewhirst to give a talk to an eagerly awaiting audience. Ian is no stranger to the Society and once again he delivered in his inimitable style which is both informative as well as very humorous. His topic was ‘ Life in England in WW1.’ Ian is from Keighley in West Yorkshire and much of what he had to say was based on archive material from that town. He was in praise of the excellent archives that can be accessed at the library. However he emphasised that much of his research for his topic was resourced from personal items such as the correspondence left by the Mayor of Keighley written by him as well as letters received. In them are is his thoughts about the Pals Regiments; advice to the Ministry of War of the need for protection against zeppelin raids; food shortages and the anti - German riots when any butcher’s shops with Germanic names were attacked. Other material accessed were newspapers, government leaflets, diaries and correspondence from ordinary people and school log books. We learned of the 13,000 war casualties being treated in local hospitals ; that there was a threat of strikes from women workers demanding equal pay with men in the munitions factories and transport services. However women were apparently felt to be’ temperamentally unsuited’ as drivers of trams! Belgian refugees who were provided with accommodation in Keighley from 1914 were reportedly of an ‘ almost superior’ type coming as many did from the Belgian Telegraph Office in Brussels. A particularly intriguing resource was that of an autograph album found in a skip that had been kept by a Miss Collett who collected entries from the war wounded in nearby hospitals. Many of the entries provide an intriguing insight of the human condition. Ian concluded another very enjoyable talk by emphasising the importance of what might seem the ordinary or mundane resources outlined above. He urged other potential researchers not to overlook the smaller, private material that can often be found in our archives. There will be no meeting in January. The next meeting is February6th when David Scriven will talk on ‘ Women in 19th century Ossett.’ Enquiries to:
The Two Esthers
The guest speakers on Saturday 7th November were Shirley Levon and Lesley Taylor. They had researched the lives of two 18th century ladies who shared the same name, Esther Milnes. The research, initially based on twelve letters written by one Esther to the other, led to the publication of a book, “The Two Esthers.” The letters were written between 1771-1773 and were written by the elder of the two who was the widow of a prosperous merchant Robert Milnes of Wakefield. Her maiden name was Shore and originally came from Sheffield while the younger Esther was from a branch of the Milnes family in Chesterfield. The 18th century had seen a growth in letter writing due to increased literacy and the postal service had developed correspondingly. Women’s roles in this period was on the whole very much subservient to that of the man. However in the case of the two Esthers they were born in an age of ‘ urban renaissance’ and one in which rational and scientific thinking was developing in an era known as ‘The Age of Enlightenment. They were also from wealthy but also dissenting backgrounds. The elder Esther entered into correspondence with Esther from Chesterfield and the latter would often stay at one of the four Milnes family houses on Westgate in Wakefield. The letters shed a light on the social, religious and leisurely activities for this period but also often stressed the constant worry about personal health. Comments were made on leisure activities such as visits to the theatre, race meetings and attending chapel. The Milnes family were at the centre of the chapel community in Wakefield as well as being the richest ‘ gentlemen merchants’ in a city that was gaining wealth from the wool trade. Anyone wanting to know more about the social life in Wakefield and other northern towns and in particular the part played by wealthy women would benefit by reading the excellent book researched by Shirley and Lesley. Next meeting is 5th December when Ian Dewhirst will talk on ‘ Life in England during WW1. Enquiries to Ron Pullan:
From Merchants to Mansions
                            From Merchants to Mansions                           
The talk on Saturday 3rd October was provided by Norma Thorpe a volunteer at Nostell Priory near Wakefield. She is a room steward, a guide and researcher at Nostell. It is the latter role that led Norma to  carry out research on the property that came into ownership of the Winn family in the 17th century. The Winns were originally woollen merchants in London and a George Winn had been Draper to Queen Elizabeth I.
With his accumulated wealth George bought land and property in Lincolnshire at Thornton Curtis in the early part of the 17th century.
Norma’s brief was to provide an account of the pedigree of the Winn family from the purchase of land at Nostell in 1654 by George Winn up to the current 6th Baron, Charles Winn.
It was George Winn who was given the title of baronet in 1660 and it was his grandson, Rowland Winn 4th baronet who on returning from the Grand Tour in 1729 set in motion the building of the house we can see today which was started in 1731.
With suitable marriages, and in one case one that was regarded as not so suitable [a reference to the marriage of the 3rd Baron, Rowland Winn to the showgirl Eve Carew], the family’s wealth grew and additions were made to the property.
The 1st Baron created was another Rowland who in 1885 was also given the title of Lord St Oswald. The priory that had once stood near to the present building had been dedicated by the religious order to St Oswald.
The property was presented to the National Trust in 1953 and the Winn family maintain an apartment in the main building. The current Lord St Oswald, Charles Winn , is also our Society’s patron.
The next meeting is 7th November when Shirley Levon and Lesley Taylor will give a talk based on a book they are jointly responsible for ‘ The Two Esthers.’. Enquiries to Ron Pullan at:
Lewis & Clark: explorers of American West
In 1803 the USA President Jefferson initiated an expedition that would eventually lead to the settlement and exploitation of the rest continent which lay beyond the settled east. This vast area was made up of land recently known as the Louisiana Purchase and the Spanish territories of the south west. An area largely unexplored and unchartered.
A group of army volunteers under the leadership of Captain Meriwether Lewis and 2nd Lieutenant William Clark assembled at St Louis on the Mississippi in the autumn of 1803. Their objectives were to explore, to map and find a suitable route to the Pacific coast and establish a presence there before other European powers. Secondly they were to accumulate scientific and economic knowledge of the territory and study the wildlife, the geography and topography and make trade links with the Native Americans.
The expedition set off in the spring of 1804 and followed the Missouri and then the Columbia rivers through to what is now Oregon.
The expedition took two years and would gradually lead to the opening up of the West for settlement and development.
This story was recounted to our members by Susan Clark .[ No relation to William Clark]. Using a series of slides Susan explained how she and her husband and their friends, coincidently called Lewis, planned to retrace the route taken by the explorers at the anniversary of the expedition in 2004.
They took several weeks to complete the trip but retained many happy memories and recalled how they became minor celebrities once the many local people they met found out about their namesake heroes from England.
The next meeting is October 3rd when Norma Thorpe from Nostell Priory will tell us about the Winn family ‘From Merchants to Mansions.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 email:
Deceased Online On Saturday August 1st Jamie Burges-Lumsden , the founding Director for, gave a talk that family historians would find very useful. He explained that his website enabled researchers to gain access to: computerised crematoria and burial records, scanned burial registers , photos of graves, memorials and maps of cemeteries. Jamie only started this work in 2008 and is obviously ongoing but already there are millions of records available. He advised that to start with a researcher should put in a name and a date and maybe an area of the UK or Ireland a deceased may have been buried. That part is free but a charge is made for a further search for a photo, burial record or memorial inscription. This can be done on an individual basis but for further research an annual subscription is available. There is data protection for more recent records which can vary depending on the authority providing the information. Other useful information that can be gleaned, that might not necessarily be immediately apparent, is the manner of some deaths might be inscribed on a headstone eg ‘drowned’ or ‘killed’ or records might show that there are more persons buried in a plot other than the one being researched. Records can also show where deceased ashes might have been scattered. Jamie’s talk was greatly enjoyed by those in attendance and the interest shown was evident by the many questions asked at the end of the talk The next talk is September 5th with Susan Clark on ‘ Lewis & Clark: Explorers of 19th century USA.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310.

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