Anniversary of The Drunken Defeat of the “Merrie City ” of Wakefield During the English Civil War

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This Saturday, 20 May 2017, marks the 374th anniversary of the 1643 Battle of Wakefield. This Battle should not be confused with the far more famous and historically significant battle that took place during the Wars of the Roses in 1460. Our battle took place during the first year of fighting in the near decade long struggle between Cavaliers and Roundheads that was the English Civil War.

This conflict between King and Parliament was important in the development of our modern institutions of parliamentary democracy and in many ways the system of government that emerged in the United States. It is gratifying that my home city of Wakefield was involved in these momentous and world changing events. It is also interesting that there was a unique Wakefield twist to what happened at the time battle was joined.

Since the Middle Ages Wakefield has been known as the “Merrie City” and has had a reputation as a place where people can have a good time. Westgate is still known as a place where people go out drinking on Friday and Saturday nights. It is ironic that ‘revelry’, although this time outside the environs of the centre itself, was the cause of the Royalist defeat.

An informative article (1) about the battle can be found at BritishBattles.com. I paraphrase the key information from the article as follows:

On the eve of battle, the officers were at nearby Heath Hall next to today’s Heath Common. The royalist officers were playing on the bowling green there and to put it in modern parlance ‘getting hammered’. By time of the Parliamentarian attack the royalist officers were seriously worse for ware leaving the rank and file effectively leaderless. It is quite possible that the party at Heath Hall may have been a deliberate ruse on the part of the Hall’s Dame Mary Bolles to allow Wakefield to be easily taken by the parliamentary forces.

The article notes that Parliamentary forces attacked from the north focussing their efforts on Northgate and Warrengate that those familiar with the modern city will know well.

(1) The surprise attack on the town of Wakefield in West Yorkshire by Sir Thomas Fairfax on 20th May 1643 http://www.britishbattles.com/battle-of-wakefield/

Other articles about the battle:

http://bcw-project.org/military/english-civil-war/northern-england/yorkshire-1643

http://www.information-britain.co.uk/famdates.php?id=260

Grand Opening of Lock Eleven, New Inn Walton

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Also posted on my WakefieldVistas blog

It just so happened that my most recent meal at the New Inn fell on the night of the grand opening of the new restaurant – Lock Eleven.

The New Inn is my local pub and I have been there many times for both food and drink. It has a good range of beers, the food is excellent and the staff friendly. However, my main purpose here is not to give a pub or restaurant review but to discuss the newly refurbished pub itself and the history that it helps to evoke. To some extent I adopt the role of art an critic or local historian.

Throughout the New Inn there are framed photographs of a wide range of Walton views that, for me, were an inspired form of decoration in the first place.  They capture the essence of contemporary Walton. These have remained in the newly refurbished setting and continue to provide a necessary sense of place.

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In the main part of the pub, the ‘old part’, there is new carpeting, new wallpaper and new lighting. The use of new lanterns of various colours creates a warm atmosphere and the new wallpaper is of exquisite quality. The whole ensemble blends together well and continuity is created between the newly refurbished ‘old’ part and the previously non public component that has been newly incorporated.

Moving down the steps into the lower part of the restaurant, the part that opens onto the car park and has its own set of patio doors, is the entrance part for the restaurant. It has its own welcome desk for diners and the room is tastefully put together. Hopefully this arrangement will prevent diners monopolising the bar area and maintain the New Inn as a traditional pub as well as a restaurant.

The next part that I am going to discuss is where things get really interesting – the part of the building that was previously out of the public sphere. There is a passage way that links to some new dining areas. One of these areas is next to the kitchen and you can see the food being prepared via a large serving hatch. This linkage to the heart of the restaurant, the kitchen, works very well. It also gives you an opportunity to appreciate the work of the people who prepare the food.

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Then we have another new previously unseen area, the upstairs part. This is the exclusive part of the the new restaurant, Lock Eleven. To get a seat in this part you need to book in advance. This part is airy and opens out onto a balcony where people are able to enjoy al fresco dining on fine days. There are views of the village from here and I could even see the House in which I was born, back in the 1970s.

Lock Eleven was an inspired choice for a name. I love it when people think about local history in such decisions, it is an important consideration when creating an authentic sense of place. Walton was once on the route of the Barnsley Canal that was started in 1793. The canal was a key transport link during the Industrial Revolution. Lock Eleven was the lock that stood next to the New Inn Pub. Walton still has places where the canal infrastructure can still be seen and many of these are set in beautiful countryside. The fact that then North of England was at the epicentre of the industrial revolution is of global historical significance.

As for the atmosphere on opening night, you could sense the excitement and enthusiasm about the place when you walked through the door, the pride of the staff was palpable. The pub has already received a significant transformation when Ria and Iain took over from Tommy. However, the new look is on a completely different level – it is spectacular! The feel is luxurious and there is great attention to detail. The ornaments are amazing too, note the grizzly bear and the rhino in particular.

I am sure people will come to the restaurant from miles around – the surroundings are as excellent as the food and the atmosphere is great.

Perhaps the diners might also choose to explore the surrounding countryside and its history. There are other things to see in addition to the remains of the canal. Walton is also the site of the world’s first nature reserve (1) that was built on the estate of the local squire – Charles Waterton. His seat, Walton Hall, which is now a hotel is well worth seeing. Much of the wall that surrounded the nature reserve is still standing, though it could do with some repair given its historical importance.

Walton is well worth a visit for people who like natural history, conservation, environmentalism or wildlife – Charles Darwin himself once visited (2) (3) Squire Waterton at Walton Hall. Pollution from the Soap House in Walton inspired what must have been one of the earliest instances of environmentalist litigation when Charles Waterton took on soap manufacturer Edward Thornhill Simpson and won (4) (5). Soap House Yard is, incidentally,  located only a few meters away from the location of the New Inn.

After such a visit, environmental tourists to Walton could do a lot worse than checking out Lock Eleven and having a meal. Creating it was obviously a labour of love by people who are deeply attached to the Village of Walton and its heritage.

Lock Eleven, The New Inn, Walton.

(1) Waterton’s Park

(2) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin

(3) Charles Waterton: A Biography, by Brian W. Edington

(4) Charles Waterton 1782 – 1865: Traveller and Conservationist, by Julia Blackburn (Chapter XV page 144-155)

(5) Charles Waterton – Life & History – An Introduction 

Some other interesting articles about Charles Waterton:

The Gentle Art of Political Taxidermy: Charles Waterton, Squire of Walton Hall 

Mr Darwin Welcome

A Rare Species of Eccentric

Scientist of the Day – Charles Waterton

Skulduggery In Sandal: The Arrest of John Nevison at the Three Houses

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I’ve spent quite a few hours in the Three Houses, having meals, attending wedding receptions and having a drink or two on a Saturday nights.

It is located in the next village to mine – Sandal which goes back to William the Conqueror’s Domesday book that mentions the local Church dedicated to St Helen, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the great who was declared emperor in nearby York and who made Christianity the empire’s official religion.

Wakefield has quite a bit of history and this pub represents some of that history. It was here that the notorious highwayman John Nevison was arrested while boozing in 1684. The inscription on the blue plaque affixed to the pub in 2009 to honour of the event reads as follows:

“John Nevison (1639-1685), the famous robber and highwayman, seen by some as a latter day Robin Hood, was reputedly arrested at the Three Houses Inn at Sandal prior to his conviction and execution at York in 1685.”

Some of Nevison’s exploits became erroneously associated with the most famous highwayman of all, Dick Turpin who was the hero of the TV series in then late 1970s and early 1980s staring Richard O’Sullivan:

Its nice to drink in places with a degree of historic texture, makes you feel part of the continuity of civilisation. Something to ponder while enjoying the company of friends while enjoying the company of friends while dining or drinking.

More on John Nevison at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nevison

Letters From America

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The following are letters sent to my ancestor from her aunt who migrated from Wakefield in England to St Louis in America. There is also a letter and some postcards from her American cousin. In the section below showing the postcards I have tried to link to modern pictures of them to create a sense of historical perspective (click the corresponding links to see). The descriptions that accompany the postcards were written by Elizabeth Kershaw in 1909 and were on the postcards that accompanied the letter dated 23rd July 1909 and were referred to in that letter.

Edward Kershaw

Edward KershawHerbert Richard KershawHerbert Richard Kershaw

LETTERS FROM ST LOUIS, MO, USA

1307 S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO, USA.

23 November 1908

My dear niece

I received your welcome letter and was glad you are better; I have been very sick but I am glad to say I am well for an old woman, as I cannot expect to be very well at my age and in my seventy seventh year. I did write [to] you and got no reply to it and in 4 mo9nths time I got word that Mr Cole was dead but who got the letter I do not know and I am glad to hear from you. We will try to send you some pictures of the 3 girls next time we write to you. They go to high school and they have so many lessons to get a night and then they have to practice the piano lessons so that they do not have much time for anything else but they will have a week holiday at Christmas and then they will have their photos taken and I will send them to you.

How many sisters and brothers have you, give my love to them as I often think of all in Wakefield and wish I could see all of you but I do not expect to see you this [side] of the grave but hope to meet you all in the beyond and the meeting will be a grand reunion for all will be there to meet us.

I will close with love to all of you and God bless you all and hope to hear from you seen.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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29 January 1909

My dear niece

I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner but I hope you are well as I am for my age. I do not expect to write many more letters but will as long as I can. I send you the 3 girls’ photos and the boy but Elizabeth’s is not good of her for it doesn’t do her half justice for she is much better looking but will send a better [one] when she gets some more taken and would very much like you to write to Elizabeth and she will write to you in return so then you can keep in the way of knowing about us all the time all joins me in love to you and all your brothers and sisters not forgetting yourself.

I remain your ever loving aunt and God bless you.

Mrs R Kershaw

April 20th 1909

My dear niece

I received yours sometime since but have neglected to write but please excuse me as I am old and it is a trouble to write so do not think hard of me if I do not answer you just at the time. I should but will as soon as I can. Elizabeth is the oldest and Ruth the second and Edna is the third and Elmer is the boy and youngest. Elizabeth got your letter but she is looking for some posties for you and she will write you soon and send you the posties at the same time. She cannot write as soon as she would for she has so many lessons to get and her practising on the piano for an hour so you will see she does not get much time but in June they get a vacation for 10 weeks and they you may get a long letter for she does write very long ones but the one she [writes to] you in a few days may be short but make it up later. All is well at present and hope you are well. I will close for time hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love to your brother that is 20 I wish I had his photo and yours. I should be very glad all here joins me in love to you and God bless you is my prayer.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

I will be 77 on the 17th June so you see I am old.

1338 Maine Street, Racine, Wisconsin.

July 21st 1909

My dear niece

I received your welcome letter and I send you some photo[s] these are old but they’re what I have so I send you them. Fred is called after your mother McNeledge so I though you would like to have them. Edward is the one I make my home with in St Louis and I hope you will write to them in St Louis. My son here would very much like some postals on Wakefield. He was 8 years old when we left there. I am here on a visit for 3 or 4 months, but I will be in St Louis by Christmas all being well. I am between 300-400 miles from home. I am well and hope you are well. All joins me in love to you and if I can get any cards I will send them to you but being old I cannot get round as I would like. I am in my 78[th] year and not so sprite.

I remain your loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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1307 A S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO.

23rd July 1909

Dear Cousin

I will now take time to answer your very welcome letter and thank you ever so much for the beautiful views from England. I guess it is never as warm in England as over in America. Sometimes the heat is so intense that we do not know where to put ourselves but at other times it is very cool and pleasant. Grandma is gone a week today. She has gone to Racine, Wisconsin to visit her son Fred [Fred McNeiledge Kershaw???]. I am going to a picnic Sunday, on the 31st and then again on 14th of August. I am getting so tiered of picnics, I have gone to 6 since the last week of school and then to so many other entertainments that I am tired of vacation besides picnics. This is my last year at high school. I hope to be a graduate in June if I pass in all my studies. I am sending some views of St Louis which I hope will please you as much as your English postals please us Americans. It seems so nice to be able to correspond with someone living across the ocean. I guess I will have to close now as I have to help cook supper because papa works nights.  Mamma and papa sisters and brothers send love and best wishes from your ever loving cousin.

Elizabeth Kershaw

Fred McNeledge Kershaw
Above: Fred McNeiledge Kershaw

31st October 1909

My dear niece

I received your ever welcome letter and was glad you are going to be married and I hope you will get a good husband for if he is good it will be a blessing but if on the other hand I will be very sorry.  I wish you all the happiness in the world can give you I only wish I could see you but I cannot so my love to you and your intended husband with best wishes and I hope God will bless you in the undertaking. All is well here for they are getting ready for a mascarade ball on the 24th of November. The 3 girls and the mother will go to watch over them. I hope they may have a good time.

I do not know what is the matter with Mrs Southwell as I have not had a word from her since last winter is she sick or what is it.  I am back home again and will stop home now. I will write more next time so I will close with love to you.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

 

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John P Kershaw John P Kershaw (Son of Mrs R Kershaw)scan0005

POSTCARDS ‘SOME VIEWS OF ST LOUIS’ THAT WERE MENTIONED IN ONE OF THE LETTERS ABOVE:

Bridge & Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

The drive-ways in this part are very nice but this is extremely pretty [??] this park was where we had the World’s Fair and that time we certainly had enough people in St. Louis during the whole of the Fair. (These postcards are from Elizabeth Kershaw.  Although my name is Elizabeth I am called Libbie for short).

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City Hall, St. Louis, Mo.

This is our City Hall, it is very handsome old building but could be in a better locality. Its grounds are beautiful always so pretty and green.

City-Hall

Compton Heights Water Tower, St. Louis, Mo.

We get our water from this tower, it is in a park which is about 8 blocks from our home. In this park we spend much time in summer and have often climbed to the top of the tower whre we could get a birds eye view of the city.

Compton-Heights-Water-Tower

Custom House and Post Office, St. Louis, Mo.

This building is one of our most useful buildings in the city. It is very large but it is not so extremely beautiful. But we are having a new post office built right across from Union Station.

Custom-House-and-Post-Offic

Eads Bridge & Wharf Boat, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a very interesting place as well as beautiful. Hundreds of people stand on this bridge to view our big floods. This bridge has very large traffic.

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Grant’s Cabin, St. Louis, Mo.

This is an interesting cabin to the St. Louisiana. This used to be the home of one of our presidents in earlier days.

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Lake at Hyde Park, St. Louis, Mo.

This is not a large park but for all is very beautiful. The lake is grand and a pleasure to sit by during summer and fine for skating in winter.

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McKinley High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This high school is the one that Ruth and I attend. I have been going 3 years this June, only one year more and Ruth has been going 2½ years this June. We have lots of fun at school and cause the [?teachers?] lots of trouble.

McKinley-High-School

Elizabeth Kershaw graduated in the class of 1910:
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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Louis, Mo.

This has the [?name?] of having a grand front. It contains many beautiful pieces of statuary besides the wonderful paintings and other art works.

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New Coliseum Bldg, St. Louis, Mo.

This is our new Coliseum, a very pretty building. I was there to [?hear?] [?Gyspey?] Smith. He was fine. They had to hurry this building last fall to hold the [?different?] conventions here. In this building we are going to have a large May Festival in May for three days. I expect to take part in the High School [?chorus?].

New-Coliseum-Building

Pagoda, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

This is one of the prettiest scenes in St. Louis, and is located in the park where the World’s Fair was held in 1904.

Pagoda-Forest-Park

4058 – Smith Academy and Manual Training School, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a school for boys and is situated in a beautiful part of our city. They have fine times at this place.

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Soldan High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This one is the new school and was named after the late superintendent of the public schools Mr Soldan. This is not yet finished and will be a handsome school, being ready for work the beginning of September

Soldan-High-School

St. Lukes Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a very pretty place. Grandma Kershaw has visited there when my aunt [?Jennies?] mother was taken there when she was very ill.

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Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.

This good old depot to proud of. It is the largest in the country. It interest many tourists besides its own people.

Union-Station

Vandeventer Place, St. Louis, Mo.

This is where many of St. Louis’ wealthy citizens reside. It certainly is pretty, especially so during the summer months.

Vandeventer-Place

Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

After I am through High School and care to go to college this is the one that I will attend. It is a very large place and interesting. From Elizabeth Kershaw.

Washington-University

Yeatman High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This is one of the four High Schools in St. Louis. It is the second to being the newest. It is built on the same plan as McKinley but this school has more grounds than McKinley and the trees are older.

Yeatman-High-School

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

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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

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Wakefield View 3

Wakefield View 2 - Copy

Wakefield View 1 - Copy

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Chantry Chapel

Wakefield Bridge

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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

555 Year Anniversary of the Battle of Wakefield Where Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

I visited the monument that is believed to mark the spot where Richard of York fell in the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460. Somebody had left a white rose on the spot presumably to mark this anniversary.

ROYGBIV

The mnemonic Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain that is used by school children to remember the colours of the spectrum was based on events at Sandal Castle in Wakefield.

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Richard, a claimant to the throne of England during the Wars of the Roses died at the Battle of Wakefield that took place just outside the castle’s walls.

Back in October 2013 I visit Sandal Castle during some quite blustery weather and was rewarded by the opportunity to take photographs of the famous battlefield while appropriately a rainbow arched over it.

The Battle of Wakefield took place on 30 December 1460.  More details about the battle can be found inTHIS Wikipedia article.  That article makes the following interesting observation about Sandal Castle’s place in one of Shakespeare’s plays:

“Shakespeare’s play Henry VI, Part 3 (Act 1, Scene 2) is set in Sandal Castle. It describes Richard’s sons urging him to take the crown before news is brought of Margaret’s approach. Act 1, scene 4 then depicts the death of Richard at the Queen’s hands.”

The photograph below shows the battlefield of the Battle of Wakefield.  A map at warsoftheroses.co.uk depicts this view showing the position of opposing forces.

Sandal Castle View Wakefield

Above: Part of the Battlefield where the Battle of Wakefield was fought. The is a monument marking the position where Richard of York fell is somewhere under the rainbow in the area of buildings beyond the right hand side of the field.

Below: The view of the City of Wakefield from Sandal Castle.

Wakefield From Sandal Castle

Pontefract Castle In November

Written on 10 November 2013

Today I went for a walk around Pontefract Castle and since it was a nice day took a few photos which I post below.  Wikipedia identifies the following historical anecdotes about the castle:

  • King Richard II was supposedly murdered there, a crime immortalised in Shakespeare’s Richard III.
  • Henry VIII fifth wife, Catherine Howard is said to have committed the act of adultery at the castle for which she was later executed.
  • Mary Queen of Scots stayed there in 1569
  • It was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War and it was then that it was reduced to ruins

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W.A. Ismay Collection By Matthew Darbyshire – Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Written 23/10/2013

Chris Knowles Hepworth Gallery 300

Above: Chris Knowles at the W.A. Ismay Collection by Matthew Darbyshire – Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield.

Today I have visited the W.A. Ismay Collection by contemporary artist Matthew Darbyshire at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.

My visit was, primarily, a homage to my grandfather who was a friend and neighbour of Mr Ismay whom he knew as Bill.  It was my first visit to the Hepworth Gallery as I am usually not that impressed with modern art.  However, I liked what the gallery had to offer and would certainly recommend that others pay it a visit.  In addition to the art, it affords excellent views of the river Calder and allows you to view Wakefield from a different perspective.

My grandfather arranged for my mother and myself to view Bills collection when I was a teenager back in the 80s.  However, at that time it was at Bill’s house on Welbeck Street.  He told us in no uncertain terms not to tell anyone because the collection was very valuable.  It was certainly not the sort of thing that you would expect find behind the net curtains of a modest terrace house.  To a trained eye, not mine, it was an Aladdin’s Cave of exotic ceramics.  To me it was simply like a museum.

Darbyshire has arranged the collection using the footprint of Bill’s house as his canvass.  This includes the front room, and the living room, but omits the kitchen.  The gap in the middle of Darbyshire’s work is the position of the steps down to the cellar. It was interesting to compare this piece of modern art with my own memories of Bill’s home.  I think he captured the essence of the atmosphere in the house very well – organised clutter.  The house was jam-packed with pots covering every last space on more than one floor.  Frankly I was amazed about how Bill actually managed to live in his own house!

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There was one occasion when Mr Ismay was out when a delivery from Japan was made.  Naturally they asked a neighbour to sign for it and look after until he returned home.  That neighbour happened to be, much to her chagrin, my grandmother.  She was a woman of a nervous disposition at the best of times and was horrified about having a fragile and potentially valuable piece of art being left in her care.  The ceramic article survived, even though my grandmother was well known for dropping crockery in the kitchen due to her arthritis.  I think she was very relieved when Mr Ismay finally took possession of the item.  My mother thinks the item is the large circular object in the photograph [above] this paragraph. Darbyshire’s portrayal mixes in white goods such as the washing machine which contrast marvelously with the pottery.  I do not remember any white goods when I was back at the house, but they could have been completely covered in pots!  The juxtaposition of ancient and modern technology is an excellent way to draw attention to Bill’s collection. I took quite a few photographs at the Hepworth.  In the first group below, I wanted to show the collection as a single united work of art by Matthew Darbyshire. The following photograph shows the view from what would have been the kitchen. The cabinet in the foreground would have been below the living room window that looked out into the back garden.

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The following photo shows the view from what I would presume would have been next doors’ kitchen if the walls had been made out of transparent bricks.

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Below is the view from what would have been the view from the garden of Bills other next door neighbour.  You can see clearly where the chimneys were located.

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In the photograph below, you can see the living room on the right with the mirror above the fireplace, the front room which has shelves above another fireplace, and in the middle the blank space representing the stairs down to the cellar.

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The next photograph shows Matthew Darbyshire piece in the context of the room in the Hepworth Gallery.  It shows it as a work of art in its own right that happens to incorporate many works of art within it.

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In the following set of photographs I have tried to focus on specific items of Bill’s collection within Darbyshire’s work of art.  This is one of the remarkable things about the piece – you can see it as both a single work of modern art and a collection of less modern art forms put together by a single human being.  The photograph containing the bert, the magnifying glass, and the typewriter seem to represent Bill the man.  He seemed quite the English eccentric, exhibiting a unique appearance when he was out and about, being easily identifiable from his beret.  He was an intellectual, a friend of my grandfather and a very nice man indeed.

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Finally the following video, that can also be found on the Hepworth Gallery website, talks about Bill Ismay himself who left the country such a great artistic legacy.

The exhibition runs from 12 October 2013 to 26 January 2014 at: The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW.

The ‘Sir’ Levett-Hanson Letters – Part of the History of Normanton, West Yorkshire

Written on 21/10/2013

Following the death of my grandfather in 1988 I found an old book in a pile in my parent’s garage which I promptly rescued.  In it were hand written notes and old newspaper clippings from the 19th Century.  This included what appeared to be some hand written copies of letters between a man called ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson (c.1748-1814) and his Yorkshire based cousin Thomas Leake.  Some years ago I wrote a biographical summary of Levett-Hanson based on information derived from these letters and some rudimentary research.  What follows is the summary that I wrote together with a transcript of the first of the letters (I may publish the rest in due course).

Biographical Summary

Levett Hanson was born in 1748, in the village of Welton-with-Melton near Beverley in North Yorkshire.  He was the only son of Robert Hanson and Elizabeth Jackson (nee.), but had a sister who would later marry Sir Thomas Cullum of Bury-Saint-Edmunds in Suffolk (who also had holdings in the Normanton area).

Fate dealt Levett a cruel blow early on in life, when he was  only 5 or 6 years old (c.1743) he lost his mother and this was compounded at age 11 (c.1749) when his father died.  The legacy of this double tragedy dwelt within him for the rest of his life.

He was born into a proud and influential heritage; as far as the History of Normanton is concerned, his family ties with the Levetts and the Leakes, both families playing key roles in its development for much of its history, are significant.

From around 1790 to his death, while he was overseas, he entrusted his Normanton interests to a manager called Mr Brook, who would have dealt with all his business affairs in the local area such as collecting rents, selling land, etc.  He communicated with his manager via his bankers, Messrs. Hamersley, based in Pall Mall, London.

Out of all these cities it was Copenhagen that captured his heart; this was the place where he felt most at home, and showed great affection with relation to it in correspondence back to Yorkshire.

From c.1790 to the end of his life, he resided in cities of the Baltic Sea region, most notably Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg.  It seems likely that it was around this time that he acquired the title of knight.  He was an officer of the knightly order of St. Joachim, which was founded in 1755 by members of the German nobility.  He was an officer of the chancery of this order of chivalry and it seems reasonable to assume that his duties were of a diplomatic nature.

In a letter to his cousin, dated Copenhagen, 9 July 1807, he said that he had been evading the French armies since 23 October 1805.  This must have related to the increase in British involvement in the anti French coalition; it was only 2 days since the Battle of Trafalgar, which took place on 21 October, giving Britain naval supremacy.  It was also a time when, it would be reasonable to assume, there was considerable unease in the areas where he resided and had links with (Copenhagen and Hamburg).  Indeed, the French defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Ulm (in southern Germany between Stuttgart and Munich) on 21 October of that year; it must have seemed that Bonaparte could have pushed north at any moment.  It was just after this time that Napoleon scored one of his most impressive victories at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805.  The armies of the great general must have seemed invincible to the officers of his enemies at that time.

Sir Levett Hanson died on 22 April 1814, at Copenhagen in Denmark; he was 59 years of age.  The war against the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte, of which he seems likely to have played a role, would wage on for over a year until it reached its climactic conclusion at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Chris Knowles

***

First of the Letters – Correspondence Between Sir Levett Hanson And His Normanton Cousin Thomas Leake

Copenhagen November 27th 1804

Dear Kinsman

Your letter gave me great satisfaction.  Had I not been favoured with yours, I meant to write to you.  I do not doubt you and your family have lost two good friends by the death of Mrs Elizabeth and Mrs Catherina Hanson.  However, [if] you and your family conduct yourself properly and [you] remain an honest respectable character, you will always find me to be a sincere and good friend.  I have already said as much in my letters to Mr Brooke.  Whenever you have the misfortune to lose your mother, I have told Mr Brooke that you will continue to live in the house and have the orchard, both rent free, and in case of sickness or misfortune I have desired him never to let you, your family [or] your mother want for anything.

I can never forget that you are my nearest of kin on the Levett side, and, though fortune was not favourable to your father and grandfather, I beg you never forget that on the side of the Leakes and the Levetts you are as old [and] good a family as most in Yorkshire and as many in England.  The past Lord Scarsdale was a Leake, and always acknowledged your grandfather as a kinsman, although he could not come in for the Estate and Title.

The Smiths, the Torres and the Favells are [Fiz Gigges], as the late Robert Holdsworth called them in comparison with you, like father like sons.  I suppose the Baronet of Newland or the Squires of Normanton and Snydale are not a bit better than their fathers, where you do not posses the estate and fortune, these people do.  But that is nothing, remember manners maketh man, and an honest man is God’s masterpiece.

When I tell you never to do anything unworthy of your name and character, and [to] never forget whence you are sprung, I do so to [excite] you and yours to live [as] honest decent people and not to make you foolish, vain and proud, which behaviour is improper even in those who are rich and really great.

I have known you these one and thirty years, I think you must be about four and forty.  How many children have you in all and how many lads and lasses, as we say in Yorkshire?  What is the name of your [mother’s] aunt at Wakefield and is she living, she used to be my snuff merchant.  As to your son, I wish he was eighteen or twenty instead of fifteen.  I want a companion and not a servant.  My manner of living would not suit a lad [of] fifteen, although it might a young man of one and twenty.  I live much a[t] home and [am] very [retired] and do not like those who are with me to be running about.  This is hard for a lad of your son’s time of life.  Nevertheless, I do not give up the matter but he must wait [u]till I come to Hamburg.  I would wish your son, in the meantime, to stick to county business and beg you to assure him [that] I shall not forget him nor his father neither.  If you have lost two good friends in my aunts, you have found one in me.  If I have never any reason to the contrary, I shall always look upon you and love you as my next of kin.  Remember our Grandmothers were sisters.

As to the wood you wish to purchase, it is a matter upon which I do not pretend to determine anything.  Mr Brooke has my power of selling it for me and if you and he can settle the business, I shall be satisfied.  I have sent to him, by this post, that half of your letter which concerns this business and if you and he can agree, I think you ought to have the preference, but I must tell you once [and] for all, my good kinsman, that it is my firm and decided resolution never to take my business out of the hands of Mr Brooke, which I have [since] trusted to him, first of, all because he well deserves my [continued] and unlimited confidence by his past probity and attention for my interests, and secondly because, situated as I am and at so great a distance, Mr Brooke is far better able to judge of what is right and proper than I can possible [do].

When you talk of the ‘jungle’ near the house you live in, I suppose you mean the orchard.  I beg you will take great care to keep up the hedges and fruit trees.  Our Uncle, Mr Robert Levett, had made it, for its size, one of the best orchards in the parish.  It is your duty and interest to preserve it in a good state and plant choice trees when necessary.  I mention these things since you are old enough to pay due weight upon what I say.

I am glad to hear the [e]nclosure advances; certainly I would wish you to have a [close] for the convenience of you and your family and [Harpin’s Close], likewise, when he dies; but for these I expect a fair rent.  All these are things you must talk over with Mr Brooke who, I am sure, wishes to befriend you.

As to the complaints you make that the wood for repairing the house and homestead was not given to you, I must tell you I do not think you have such a great reason to be satisfied.  Mr Brooke agreed with the tenants Bailey about putting all the buildings in repair, and it was not extraordinary [that] Baily should wish to favour his brother-in-law.  So close as a man’s [shirt] sits to his…you may be sure, I as your kinsman, ever wish to give you everything.  But there is no rule with an exception, and on the outset of this rule [you] might to have made application to Mr Brooke, God knows, I never wish to take the meal of any man’s table, and least of all yours.

I heartily thank my cousin, your wife and your mother for all their kind remembrance of me and for their long and delightful assurance.  My kindest remembrances and wishes to Matthew, who is one of the most honest and best of friends I ever met with.  He has enjoyed my confidence for years and deservedly so. I don’t know anything his [quarters] with me as a friend.

But ‘tis all to no purpose, however, that will never prevent me from having more regard for him than for any other friend or acquaintance in this world and, am sure, his heart is the same towards me.  Pray let me hear from you in answer to this and write to me often.  Tell Matthew I have wrote at least two letters to him to which I have received no answer. I am very glad to hear he is well in health and spirits and I pray God you will continue so.  Remember you are a relation which is more than friend or acquaintance.  I must repeat it that I expect you will not fail to answer my letters regularly.  Be kind and neighbourly too to Matthew, when it is in your power.  I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and remain with truest regards and friendships dear Thomas.

Your affectionate kinsman

Levett Hanson

PS. Your letter gave me great pleasure, when you write again speak to me as your near relation and make use of no ceremonies; common civility is all that is required between kinsfolk.