WAKEFIELD & DISTRICT FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY More than ninety people turned up for our Christmas special on Saturday 6th December. Not only was Christmas cake and mince pies on offer but one of the Society’s favourite speakers, Anne Batchelor. She didn’t fail to intrigue us once again with a story that began with a photograph and a few brown coloured documents. Anne had these passed onto her by two of our volunteers, Jo and Hillary. They in turn had been told that a relative, while in the British Army in 1946, had been given the task of helping to clear up a prisoner of war camp in Belgium. The relative had taken down a mirror in one the huts and discovered a packet which contained a photo of a man in his 30s and a Germany driving licence that produced the name Wilhelm Winter. Jo and Hillary passed the packet and its contents onto Anne and asked her if she could track down the family of Wilhelm and maybe give back what had been found behind ‘ the mirror.’ Anne being who she is could not resist the challenge and with only a name, a date of birth, and documents that showed he was from Germany, began her search. However on the document were further clues; a name of a university in Berlin and the word Engineering. After a number of dead ends and the realisation that the mystery man had a name that was a common in Germany, Anne made a breakthrough after contacting the Imperial War Museum in London. A son was tracked down in Germany who began a correspondence with Anne and she was informed that Willie, as he became known, had lived until 2000. Apparently, Willie had escaped from the camp and secreted the documents behind the mirror. He found his way back home eventually married, had children and did in fact work for an engineering company. His son was extremely grateful to receive Willie’s photo etc. and was full of praise for the work and effort undertaken by Anne. Anne in turn received many copies of photos relating to Willie and his family and she has now built up quite a collection. In conclusion to a very enjoyable talk given in Anne’s inimitable style, she emphasised what could be done with the most obscure bit of information that can lead to such a fascinating investigation. There is no meeting in January. We meet again February 7th when our guest speaker will be Richard Whimpenny whose topic is ‘ The Battle of the Somme with particular reference to local Pals Regiments.’
The Mystery of the Trunk
The Mystery of the Trunk Elsie Walton began her talk on Saturday 1st November by stating ‘ It’s not what you know but Who you know.’ An email, sent to one of our members, sparked off a voyage of discovery for Elsie when a lady called Alison wanted to know if the Society was interested in a travelling trunk that she had in her attic. There was evidence that it had a connection with a German Jewish woman, called Hannah, who had come to Britain in 1939 as a refugee from Nazi Germany. This whetted Elsie’s appetite to know more of this child. She decided to make her mission to find out more. She combed through the Wakefield Express cuttings from the period, then online for Jewish sites that might help, then read books on evacuees and the Kinder Trains. Nothing really helped until a friend suggested that a contact in Horbury might help. A break through occurred when contact was made with a Robert and his sister Margaret who said that their mother had taken in an Anne Marie, a Jewish girl from Germany in 1939. This led to a series of emails between the contacts in Horbury with Alison and Elsie. The latter suggested, in response to Alison asking what should she do with the trunk, that it be donated to the Holocaust Museum near Newark. Elsie then found out that Alison lived nearby in Denby Dale and she made arrangements to collect the trunk. The Horbury connection told Elsie that there was a photo and evidence that the name of the owner of the trunk was Anne Marie Salamon and that she was now living in America. Furthermore that Margaret in Horbury knew that Anne Marie had worked as a laboratory technician in Wakefield! Elsie’s detective work led her to finding out more regarding Anne Marie’s stay in an evacuee centre on the Isle of Man, that this in turn led to a contact with the National Archives at Kew and then onto the National Archives in Berlin. The latter rewarded Elsie’s efforts by sending her a full record of Anne Marie’s personal history which confirmed all what had already been discovered but also that Anne Marie had settled down in New York, had married and had worked as a medical officer for the public health department in that city. Finally Elsie received news from Margaret that Anne Marie had died in 2012. Elsie said that although we all know something of the atrocities that were committed on those sent to concentration camps, it is only through personal stories, such as that uncovered by Elsie, that had led to an emotional involvement in unravelling Anne Marie’s story.
Open/Research Morning The Society held its Open/Research Morning on Saturday 4th October. Members and visitors were able to access various websites on our computers such as Ancestry.com with the assistance of our experts. There was also publications and information desks available for family history research. Further help was also on hand from representatives from West Yorkshire Archives and Wakefield Public Library. Ian Laidler brought his display of military medals while Kevin Grundy had a collection of postcards of old Wakefield and books on Wakefield’s public houses past and present. Christine Ellis had samples of 18th century accessoriesfor ladies and Tony Banks had a display of mining memorobilia. He also organised a series of stills based on scenes fron Old Wakefield and a film provided by the Wakefield Historical Society on Wakefield’s Historic Waterfront. The next meeting will be 1st November when we welcome an old favourite, Elsie Walton, whose topic will be ‘Other People’s Rubbish.’
Women & the Great War
Women and the Great War Lucy Adlington, a costume historian and author of ‘ Great War Fashions,’ was our guest speaker on Saturday 6th September. Her premise is that clothes make an impression and that there is much that the social historian can use from studying fashion and in particular women’s clothes. Lucy with her formidable and theatrical delivery certainly grabbed attention of those in attendance. She demonstrated how a person’s lifestyle, class, income and political stance etc. are revealed by what clothes are worn. The Edwardian period and that of the Great War was one of the richest for fashion. Lucy had on display a large variety of items of clothing in order to illustrate what she meant. There was an original wedding gown, long, straight and with a high waist. A nurse’s uniform which projected an image of dignity and scrupulous hygiene. There was a display of a variety of hats all black that were perhaps suitable for wear when in mourning and Lucy displayed a pair of silk pajamas that became fashionable for women for the first time. During the War fashion magazines were published, Vogue was published in Britain for the first time in 1916, which encouraged women to play their part in helping the War effort. For example knitting magazines saw huge numbers of khaki socks being produced and sent to the soldiers in the trenches. The formation of the VAD saw many from the middle classes volunteer for nursing duties in hospitals at home and at the Front, after 1915, while women from the working classes undertook the more menial tasks. Large numbers of women undertook work that men had previously done such as in munitions factories, railway porters, tram and bus drivers. They became riveters, welders and stitches of frames for aircraft. Therefore special clothes had to be worn notably trousers, a tunic, socks and suitable caps that meant the development of suitable hair styles. Lucy demonstrated how a study of this period and of women’s fashions tell a story and that much can be learned about social history and the importance of the role played by women. The next meeting is 4 October when we have our Open/Research Day. All enquiries to Ron Pullan emial: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Story of Salts Mill Pt.2
THE STORY OF SALTAIRE On Saturday the 2nd August our guest speaker, Maria Glot, made a welcome return to continue with the fascinating story of Salts Mill. When Titus Salt died in 1876 his funeral was attended by over four thousand dignitaries in Bradford and one hundred and twenty thousand people lined the streets as the hearse made its way to Saltaire and Titus Salt’s last resting place in the mausoleum of the Congregational church. His youngest son, Titus Salt Junior, kept the mill going after the eldest of eleven children, William Henry, made off with the family fortune. Before he died, Titus Salt the elder, had gifted each of his children a mansion. Titus junior inherited Milner Field a seventeenth century house nearby. However the house had been cursed. It was said that the owner of the house in 1743 had thwarted the wedding plans of his daughter. The latter, in revenge, put a curse on her father who died soon after. His daughter later took her own life by hanging herself by a nearby tree. Titus junior married a daughter of the Crossley family, famous for its carpet business in Halifax. The old house was demolished and a new gothic pile was built on the same site. Soon after Titus died apparently in the billiard room.. The mill at Saltaire was taken over by his children but not having their father’s business flair, the mill went into bankruptcy. A local business man, James Roberts, took over. He made a success of the mill particularly when he gained a contract to supply uniforms for the Russian Tsar’s army. A later contract was secured to provide uniforms for the newly formed Royal Flying Corps soon to be named RAF. James Roberts moved into Milner Field with his family. Shortly after two of his sons died while a third was shot three days after Armistice was signed in 1918. Subsequent owners also encountered bouts of misfortune and ill health. Several unusual deaths led to the house gaining a sinister reputation and therefore difficult to lease or sell. During WW2 Saltaire boomed but once again hit hard times after the War. In 1953 with the initiative provided by the government through the Festival of Britain the Illingworth and Morris company took over. and through a connection with James Mason a famous English Hollywood star, business connections were made with many big names associated with those in the film industry. However business began to decline during the 1960s and then in 1974 the newly formed Bradford Metropolitan Council came into being and in 1978 formed the Economic Development Unit. It’s ambition was to try and encourage new business into the Bradford area . However Bradford had an image problem. This is where Maria Glot enters the story and it was she who was given the task to do something about Bradford’s poor image. Maria hit on the idea of promoting tourism for the Bradford area. She eventually, through her flair for publicity, was able to highlight the charms of Haworth, Ilkley Moor, and Saltaire. Businesses began to flood in and tourism increased. In the 1980s Saltaire became a listed site and this meant no alterations could be made to modernize the area. Business failed again. In steps Jonathan Silver who became the new owner. Working with Maria he hit on the idea of opening part of the mill to form a gallery for the works of one of Bradford’s most famous sons, David Hockney. Other businesses began to move in and with Saltaire gaining UNESCOs coveted World Heritage status helped to boost tourism and business for Bradford Metropolitan area, Such was the enthusiasm shown for Maria’s talk that it was decided to arrange a trip to Saltaire in October for a guided tour for our members. The tour will be conducted by Maria. The next meeting is September 6th when Lucy Adlington will give a talk on ‘ Women in the Great War.’ Enquiries to the Secretary Ron Pullan: 01924 373310 or email@example.com