Imperial Stormtroopers on Patrol in Wakefield

‘These are not the droids you are looking for’ – Imperial Stormtroopers spotted outside Debenhams.

'These are not the droids you are looking for' - Imperial Stormtroopers spotted outside Debenams in Wakefield.

Of course the above line is from Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope when Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are talking their way past an imperial checkpoint at Mos Eisley Spaceport on Tatooine. However, instead of that ‘wretched hive of scum and villainy’ (another line from the film) they were outside Debenhams in Trinity Walk, Wakefield.  Judging by the presence of the person with the green buckets nearby it seems that rather than looking for the Death Start plans this time they were helping to raise money for charity. So good of the Imperial Starfleet to send personnel the assist in such a mission. The Empire cannot be all that bad!

UPDATE: Looked on Twitter and it seems that they were collecting for Wakefield Hospice – a very worthy cause. And TrinityWalk has it on its website – shows how much I have kept up with current events in Wakefield this week!

Technological Change in the Recruitment Business

Uriah Heep from David Copperfield art by Frank Reynolds.jpg
Uriah Heep from David Copperfield art by Frank Reynolds” by Artwork by Frank Reynolds (1876-1853) – From The Personal History of David Copperfield, pg. 480-81, Toronto : Musson Book Co., 1910.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Above: old ways in the office – now, thankfully, supplanted by technological progress.

You know when you apply for a job and you are certain there will be thousands of applications? When the final decision will, as a result, seem random and arbitrary? When the necessity of making a choice between equally matched applicants will mean that a small mistake unrelated to the job will make a huge difference to your future or for that of  your company? This is the situation that employers and jobseekers alike are confronted with in the modern chaotic labour market.

Something I experienced today suggested to me that this situation may be beginning to change to the delight of both recruiters and jobseekers. I am currently looking for the next opportunity in the development of my own career and saw a position that caught my interest so I put forward my CV for consideration.

Shortly afterwards I received an email from Recruitment Genius, the CV finding service who had advertised the position. It said that my application was been considered along with others, but that I could increase my chances of success by answering some additional questions. They said that I could do this via an app called JobChat or via a local rate number. Intrigued, and in accordance with my forward looking nature, I took the more intrepid option and downloaded the app.

To use the app I had to enter a unique PIN that was provided in the email. I was asked to take a photograph via the device and then given the opportunity to do practice question. Then came the questions that had been provided in the email. You were given up to 30 seconds to think about each question and a similar time to give your answers in video form.

While I might have been better from a performance point of view using the familiar telephone, I think the app approach is very interesting and I am glad to have experienced it. I think I messed things up a bit with the app and suffered a bit of “stage freight” in this new environment under the “klieg lights” of my iPad video camera. I think I would do better with practise and increased familiarity with the app, but I certainly think that the technological route is the best one to reduce the randomness of the recruitment process and the frustrations and inefficient expenditure of effort and resources by recruiters and applicants.

This new approach also allows an employer to get a better impression of an applicant before inviting them to interview. This is particularly advantageous to a person already in a post and having to take annual leave to attend interviews. One of the most frustrating things about spending leave to attend interviews is the feeling of wasted journeys across town and wasted time.

I think what I experienced today is a beginning for recruitment rather than an end. Nevertheless it represents a significant move in the right direction. I love innovative approaches like this! It could even develop into something where employer and candidate can interact directly in the early application process and thus cut through the usual brain numbing bureaucracy. Furthermore app based first interviews could well become an important efficiency saving for the future.

With sometimes thousands of people applying for a single job, this sort of technology has the potential to revolutionise the job hunting experience and is urgently needed. It is great that someone is devising creative ways to make things better and making applying for jobs less random than the current process which to me is not much different from an employer drawing up an astrological chart as the basis of decision making.

Many thanks to Recruitment Genius for paving the way in this important area and for helping to bring things from the Dickensian world illustrated in the picture at the top of this blogpost and into the twenty first century! Hopefully in the future the best people will always be matched efficiently to the most suitable jobs.

A Snowy Tour of South Wakefield

Last night we had the first snows of winter so I thought I would go on a photographic tour to capture the essence of this time of year.  I started at Sandal Castle, then moved to the area around Chantry Chapel, then went to Heath Common before finally finishing up at Crofton Church.  The following are the photos that I took:

Sandal Castle

Sandal Castle Sledging - Copy

Sandal Castle - Copy

Sandal Castle 2 - Copy

Sanda Castle Keep - Copy

Sandal Castle Ruin 3 - Copy

Sandal Castle Moat - Copy

Sandal Castle Ruin 2 - Copy

Views from Sandal Castle

Manygates Lane - Copy

Wakefield View 4

Wakefield View 3

Wakefield View 2 - Copy

Wakefield View 1 - Copy

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Chantry Chapel

Wakefield Bridge

Chantry Chapel 3

Chantry Chapel 2

Chantry Chapel 1

Chantry Faces

Chantry Chapel Plaque

River Calder

City of Wakefield

Heath

Kings Arms and Snowman

Heath Hall

Heath Hall 2

Heath Tea Rooms

House at Heath

Heath Snow

Heath Telephone Box

Crofton Church

Crofton Church and Stocks

Crofton Church

Crofton Church 2

Which Way Now! Walton’s Historic Fingerpost Sign

In Walton at the intersection of Shay Lane and The Balk there is a small piece of our local historical heritage that often goes unnoticed – the black and white cast iron finger post.  Wikipedia describes these signs as follows:

“The posts have traditionally been made from cast iron or wood, with poles painted in black, white or grey and fingers with black letters on a white background, often including distance information in miles. In most cases, they are used to give guidance for road users, but examples also exist on the canal network, for instance. They are also used mark the beginning of a footpath, bridleway, or similar public path.” (1)

It appears from the article that these signs are related to an important invention of the early 20th century – the motor car. The car transformed villages like Walton, increasing their size and changing their economic basis.  Before cars the people of Walton were employed on local farms or in the coal mine at the edge of the village. Today, the mine is gone, agriculture is much less labour intensive and Walton is a village in which most of its inhabitants commute many miles to earn their living. To a large extent the car made all this possible. Here is what the article says about the impact of the car and other aspects of our history impacting on the signs:

“The Motor Car Act 1903 passed road sign responsibilities to the relevant highway authority, although no specifications were set. Guidance was given in a 1921 circular that road direction signs should have 2 1⁄2-or-3-inch-high (64 or 76 mm) upper case lettering on a white background and white supporting poles. It also recommended that the name of the highway authority be included somewhere in the design.

Mandatory standards (The Traffic Signs (Size, Colour and Type) Provisional Regulations) were passed in 1933 which required poles to painted with black and white bands and lettering to be of a different typeface. Signposts were removed during World War II, lest enemy forces use them for navigation, and replaced in the late 1940s.” (1)

I’ve not measured the letting on the Walton sign, but it is all upper case, the sign is certainly black and white though the poles do not have alternate black and white bands described – perhaps this has been overlooked in any post war maintenance. The sign does appear to be missing a finger, the one that should point down School Lane. Perhaps they lost this during the second world war while the signs were supposedly in storage – amazing that they did not get melted down!

I am assuming that the highway authority in the case of this sign would be Wakefield RDC (Rural District Council) displayed in the white circle at the top of the sign.

According to another Wikipedia article suggests that were quite unique, though the Walton sign bears no evidence of this:

“Fingerposts erected in the West Riding until the mid-1960s had a distinctive style. At the top of the post was a roundel in the form of a hollow circle with a horizontal line across the middle, displaying “Yorks W.R.”, the name of the fingerpost’s location, and a grid reference.” (2)

There is not “Yorks W.R” and no grid reference on the Walton sign.

At the bottom of the post it says “Royal Label Factory Stratford on Avon” which according to Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History (3) was established in 1874 to make signs for Queen Victoria’s Sandringham Estate and later made signs for local authorities across the country. Wakefield Rural District Council was obviously one of its clients. The company survives to this day as Leander Architectural based in Buxton which says the following about the current work of the Royal Label Factory:

“The Royal Label Factory, also based in Buxton, concentrates on traditional signage and retains many of the casting patterns it developed in the 1930s for county and town council signposts and fingerposts. Major elements of the workload also include blue plaques for civic trusts and societies throughout the UK and signs of all kinds for heritage agencies – particularly the National Trust, Historic Scotland and Cadw-Welsh Monuments.” (4)

Royal Labels Factory 2

It is good to see that there is a market for these attractive types of signpost, it would be good to go back to them at least in villages across the county.  They look much better and fit in with their surroundings improving the feel of a place.

Anyway, I’m glad the sign survives as it adds to the character of the village. Here are some more photos of the Walton Fingerpost.

Walton Finger Post Closeup

Crossroads

Walton Finger Post

(1) Fingerpost https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingerpost

(2) West Riding of Yorkshire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Riding_of_Yorkshire

(3) Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Royal_Label_Factory

(4) Leander Architectural http://www.leanderarchitectural.co.uk/about-us.html

Family Meetup At Hardwick Hall

Today I met up with the Derbyshire wing of my extended family at Hardwick Hall.  It’s a grand Elizabethan house built by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s who was famous, in a kind of feminist critique of Henry VIII way, for having four husbands and becoming incredibly wealthy as a result.

Bess-of-Hardwick

Above: Bess of Hardwick – portrait from 1550s.

Built in a renaissance style that originated in Florence, the hall is known as a Prodigy House, ostentatious in design and large enough to accommodate the Monarch and their army of attendants when they upped sticks from London and went on a Royal progress around their realm.

Wikipedia (1) describes the Hardwick Hall as follows:

“The house’s design also demonstrated new concepts not only in domestic architecture, but also a more modern way in which life was led within a great house. Hardwick was one of the first English houses where the great hall was built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.

Each of the three main storeys has a higher ceiling than the one below, the ceiling height being indicative of the importance of the rooms’ occupants: least noble at the bottom and grandest at the top.

A wide, winding, stone staircase leads up to the state rooms on the second floor; these rooms include one of the largest long galleries in any English house and also a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze illustrating hunting scenes.”

This description put me in mind of another house, far less grand though more local to me, in the town of Normanton, called Hanson House. I may appear to be digressing here, but bear with me, trust me – this does have relevance to my story.

The reason it put me in mind of Hanson House was that I recall reading something in Wakefield library that this house, the older part of it, was also of architectural significance.  Apparently it was a kind of transitionary piece of architecture that represented the move from houses based on the Medieval great hall to the multi-storey houses of the Tudor era. (2)

Now, back to the main story  – Bess of Hardwick was the daughter of Elizabeth Leake and that’s where a possible link appears in relation to Hanson House, and perhaps even my own family.  In my own family tree there is a link with a family called the “Leekes”, slightly different spelling, I know, but there it is! Following the death of my grandfather in 1988 I found an old book in a pile in my dads’ garage which I promptly rescued.  In it were some hand written copies of letters between a man called ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson (c.1748-1814) and his Yorkshire based cousin Thomas Leake (3).  Levett Hanson of course lived in Hanson House as did the person he was writing to – Thomas Leake. In some of the letters, Hanson alludes to Thomas’ family being a branch of one with a very ancient lineage, so that link with Bess of Hardwick could be a distinct possibility. Perhaps something that I may look into in the future?

That’s the end of my family links but another fact that I found interesting was that the descendants of Bess of Hardwick and her second husband Sir William Cavendish were the Dukes of Devonshire. People may remember the film, The Duchess, in which the glamorous Georgiana married into the influential Cavendish Family.  Georgiana herself was a member of the Spencer family – think the Duke of Marlbrough – John Churchill, Winston Spencer Churchill, and Lady Diana Spencer – Princess of Wales (4).

Duchess-of-Devonshire

Above: Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire – painting by Joshua Reynolds.

Bess’ descendants, the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire, were to have important and influential roles in future British politics, society, and history.

References and footnotes
(1) Hardwick Hall, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardwick_Hall
(2) There was a time when this house was derelict and the newer Georgian part can be seen HERE in a state of disrepair though thankfully it has since been renovated as can be seen HERE (the old building is behind the Georgian part of the house).
(3) I previously wrote about this subject here HERE.
(4) Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgiana_Cavendish,_Duchess_of_Devonshire

 

The weather today was pretty dreadful in typical English fashion, with constant rain which will probably mean more flooding.  A nearby stream at the bottom of the hill near the Hardwick Inn where we had lunch was getting pretty high. Still managed to take some photographs though not as many as I would have liked.

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Above: Hadwick Hall with carefully maintained garden.

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Above: Close up of Hardwick Hall.

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Above: Hardwick Hall from a distance.

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Above: Me in front of the Hall, clearly uncomfortable in the rain!

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Above: Hardwick Inn

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Above: Out of the rain in the pub!

Well worth a visit. I hope to make another visit to this wonderful house, when the house itself is open and with hopefully better weather.