Walton Hall Sluice Gate

I would not have know the location of the Walton Hall Sluice Gate if not for the Barbara Phipps lecture on Charles Waterton. I visited the site today to record the sounds and atmosphere of the site. You can just hear the power of Charles Waterton’s engineering in this video.

I do remember when my cousin’s house on Elmwood was flooded, and the alleged cause was the opening of these sluice gates. Must have been like a tsunami running down the beck past Brooklands.

Walton The Village Where Nature and Industry Met



Walton’s Home Guard – A Story from World War Two

Originally posted at: Watertonswalton


This is a photo of men from Walton’s Home Guard during those perilous years during World War II when Hitler’s armies stood poised to overrun and enslave the United Kingdom.

Notice how these men do not look like they belong in Dad’s Army, made famous by the BBC television series. These were not doddering old men or even young ‘private Pike’ types. They were young hardened men of fighting age in the prime of their lives.

In peacetime they risked their lives to deliver the fuel of the Industry that helped maintain the pride of the nation. In wartime they did the same to support the war effort. Many of them would much rather have been serving in the armed forces, but they were not allowed to. They were forced to continue their dangerous peacetime jobs whether they liked it or not! However, their wives and children would, at least, have been pleased to have their menfolk close by during such difficult and uncertain years.

Perhaps, if German paratroopers had made the unfortunate decision of invading Walton they would, undoubtedly, have received short shrift. A gang of armed and dangerous Yorkshire miners with an axe to grind would have been a formidable force. The soldiers of a hostile Wehrmacht would have been greeted by a band of hardened fanatics, desperate to defend their hearth and home.

Walton Pit produced raw materials that were of great importance in the fight to defeat Hitler. The Germans did make an attempt to bomb Walton Pit, but ‘they missed’. There was a bomb crater in the field across the road from the Woodyard, near ‘the quarry’ – an old clay pit that in the 1950s was filled with water. They missed  by quite a bit – terrible shots.

After doing hard shifts to bring a critical and important strategic wartime resource, coal, to the surface – these men of the Home Guard did their duty to their country. They must have been absolutely knackered, but they turned out in uniform for the duration of the war.

The men in the picture from left to right are: Albert Knowles, Jack Williams and Tommy Williams.


Please note, the story above is a bit tongue in cheek in parts as the Home Guard, according to many of those who were part of it, was indeed very much like the way it was portrayed in the BBC sitcom Dad’s Army. I add this point in order to clarify the situation from the point of view of historical accuracy. If Germany had actually invaded in 1940 we would more than likely been in very serious trouble.

The Dangers of the Mine

Originally posted at: WatertonswaltonAlbert in drag with sister Elsie

The following account was written by my Great Auntie, Elsie Hebden in 1986. In it she reflects of her life in Walton and Crofton. I was lucky to go to her house with my grandma when I was a kid. The photo above might seem unrelated to this story but that is her above on the right dressed as a man, next to her brother, my grandad – Albert Knowles, dressed as a woman. I don’t know the story behind the picture, it must have been a fancy dress party or something; they never dressed like that when I knew them! It does demonstrate the wonderful sense of fun that those growing up and living in our local mining communities often demonstrated. They lived tough and often difficult lives, but that did not mean they had to take themselves seriously.

While the family lived in Ings Cottages (“The Spike”) near Walton Pit, tragedy struck when their father died in a mining accident. Indeed, my grandad recalls seeing a body being brought from the mine but had at the time did not know that it was his own dad.

The following account is quite moving in parts, though that might be due to my personal family connection. It brings me back in a kind of spiritual contact with people that I once knew and loved. It also gives us all an insight into how people viewed their local area, how they lived their lives and the how they responded to the challenges that fate threw their way.

I will now leave Elsie to give you an insight into the world of her own past.

I was one of a family of seven, and lived in a mining village. The houses we lived in were quite close to the colliery. I should sway there would be about sixty-four houses.

We hadn’t much of this world’s goods, but we were healthy and happy, there were good times and bad, and even as children we knew well the dangers of that mine. We knew all about the accidents that happened almost daily, fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins and friends were brought up from underground minus limbs, blinded or even killed outright by heavy falls of rock or coal, or gas explosions. You will of course have heard how they took down a canary in a cage to test for gas after an explosion. If the canary wilted or died, then the place was unfit for men to work there for a while. They have only recently stopped making that test, it had been going on for a lot of years.

In all cases of death through the Mine, there would be a collection from house to house, but the money collected would not go on flowers, it would be given to the widows or orphans as the case may be. Everyone helped each other in that little community in sad times or glad times. One thing we had plenty of, and that was coal. It was free in those days, and still is I think to anyone who works at the Mine.

If anyone was ill in bed, a fire would be lit in the bedroom. There were three bedrooms in our house, and all contained a small fire grate. I can well remember as a child getting undress in front of a lovely coal fire in the cold weather, as that was in those days the only form of heating. No-one thought of the extra work or dirt that the fires caused, electric kettles, fires or blankets were unknown to us.

The living room fire was only let out once a week and that was for cleaning, as it was the only means of boiling water. It had to be banked up at night and kept lit all through the working week. The man of the house had to be up at 4.30a.m., stir the fire into a blaze, then put the iron kettle which had been on the hob all night onto the fire to enable him to make a pot of tea. I would have his breakfast, then fill a glass bottle with tea from the pot to take down the mine with him, which helped to sleck the dust in their throats. The sandwiches had to consist of jam or dripping, as it was too warm for meat to be taken down the mine.

They were down the mine for as many as ten or twelve hours a day; you see, some had a long way to walk underground to reach the coal face where they worked, some as much as three miles. They only had a small pit lamp for light, so you can understand what the strong sunlight did to their eyes as they left those dark conditions.

A miner’s life was not easy in my childhood days. It is all mechanised now of course, but then the coal had to be got by pick and shovel, put into the pit tubs, then pulled away to the cage by pit ponies. These ponies only saw the light of day on Bank holidays, and my word it was lovely to see them galloping around and kicking up the grass, they were truly happy, so were we with all our titbits we had saved for them.

Dangers of the Mine 1

Now, when I was twelve, my father was killed at work, the roof caved in. The men my father was working with had time to get clear. The rescue party quickly came, but my father was dead by the time they got to him. Now my mother who was 39 years old was allowed a widow’s pension of 10/- per week, a little from the colliery to help with the pension until we reached the age of fourteen and able to work, so to keep us tidy and well fed, she did sewing or papering for other people. She was a good living woman, and she saw that we all went to Sunday school in the next village. Our Sunday clothes were brushed and put away every Monday until the following Sunday. I am proud of my mother, it must have been a hard time for her. When I was fifteen, we left those houses and came to live in the village I have just left.

I helped mum until the age of seventeen, when I was sent into domestic service. I went to live in a doctor’s house in Wakefield about four miles away. The doctor and his family were not church people, so didn’t care where I went in my spare time. I tried several churches and chapels, but didn’t seem happy at any but my own. I was only allowed home every alternate Sunday, so one Sunday evening (Summer time of course), I made up my mind to find out what the town had to offer one, so I powdered and rouged my face with materials previously bought from the newly opened Woolworths store (remember nothing in these stores was over sixpence), something my mother would not have allowed, but I was thrown on my own resources and could so easily have gone on the downward path, but God thought otherwise or so it seems, because as I walked along hoping to find something better than church, I heard a band playing. Thinking it was in the park close by, I went that way but lost the sound, so turned around and went the opposite way and came upon a crowd of people. I pushed my way to the front, I have never seen or heard Salvationists before, or heard public speaking, but I did enjoy the songs, choruses and prayers, I even marched down to the Citadel with them.

The hall became my place of worship for the next four years, along with my own church in between, but I do say here and now that God led me that Sunday as I could easily have gone the opposite way. I thank Him and pray that the desire to serve him will remain with me all my earthly life.

In 1935 I married a young man I had known most of my life, then in four years’ time came the war. My husband joined the R. A. F. in 1940 and stayed in for the next five years. In my village at that time of 1940 if you had room you were expected to take in evacuee’s. I had a house with three bedrooms and just me at home. As they had just brought about 100 or so people from London to our village to be housed, a lady with two babies was brought to me, she came from Plaistow and was very sad a having to leave her home in London, but it was God who sent her to me, having these children and their mother, as I had just taken a job as post-lady, so we got on well together, her with her babies and me having someone to come home to at the end of my day’s work (we still write to each other).

Now, to my job as post-lady I had to use a bicycle which I already possessed. I had to be at the post office at 6a.m., there were three of us sorting letters until 7.15a.m., then each of us off on our different routes. My job was less letters to distribute, but father to go. I loved the open air part of it. I had to face all weathers of course, my letters were for the outlying farms, colliery houses and lonely railway house, also amongst my letters was the daily paper which had to be posted as they didn’t have paper deliveries out there, so it meant going to most of the farms every day. I had quite a number of farms, sometimes as many as six fields between each, so it meant getting off my big, opening gates, even lifting my cycle over styles, and more over than not, cows would come to meet me, I was scared of them at first, but you got to know they wouldn’t harm you.

Dangers of the Mine 2

But one day there was such a lot all bunched together, I hid behind some dry walling, my bike, my letters and me. A gamekeeper came to my rescue as he had seen me then lost me, he thought I had fallen off my cycle. I mastered that fear and had many a pound of mushrooms from those fields. I was also given lots of farm produce which was very acceptable in those days of rationing. One farmer’s wife made me promise to call every day, letters or no letters, she could see me coming from the top farm down to hers, and she would have a pot of tea and poached eff on the toast all ready for me, and wasn’t I grateful as I was really hungry after all that fresh air.

All the dogs were very good, but did a lot of barking, but that was their job, once they got to know you their tails were wagging to greet you. I have almost been thrown into the duck pond trying to ride past duck and hens, and I have been chased by the geese, they were nasty sometimes.

On very heavy snowy days I was excused delivery at the farms as it was impossible to tell the roads from the fields. That only happened twice in my times as post-lady. I didn’t have to got the same way back as my round took me through a private estate known as Nostel Priory, something like your Addington Palace. The people who owned Nostel Priory had gone abroad for the duration of the war, and it housed about 100 soldiers, but their letters were all in a sealed bag, unsealed later by an Officer. This estate had a lake, a home farm, a riding school and a park for landing a private plane.

I usually reached the post office around 12 noon, then home for a meal, then back at 3p.m until 4.30p.m., I did enjoy the work. It was a happy job just to see people’s faces when they saw you making for their door (not many letter boxes in those days). I took glad and sad news of course, but they would confide in you, the next day you would have to listen to either good or bad. Of course I occasionally received an air mail letter from my husband who was abroad, I’d keep it unopened until I found a quiet lane or field to read it quietly to myself.

Then the years between then and now I’ve learned with the help of God to live a reasonable good life. I’ve left many friends in the two villages I’ve lived in most of my life. I’ve very two dear friends who have had to give up an active life through illness, quite sorry really, but they are fighting the good fight, their tremendous faith is upholding them and to visit them is a joy. You leave with the feeling that you must never grumble again.

I forgot to mention at the beginning of my story that amongst us seven that was left fatherless through the mine was a little baby sister just five weeks old. I am now living here in the South, something I never dreamed of, but we don’t know the plan God has for us; They way I look at it is this:-

Just where he needs me

My Lord has placed me

And where he has placed me

There would I be

And Since He has found me

By love He’s bound me

To serve him joyfully

Dangers of the Mine 3

By Mrs. Elsie Hebden 1986


Woodyard Cottages, Walton – Home Of A Mining Community

In this short article I aim to capture at least some of the essence of what it meant to live at Woodyard Cottages in the days of the old Walton colliery. I do this through the eyes of members of my own family and the photographs they took of themselves and their surroundings.

Woodyard Cottages were built for the miners and their families and were immediately adjacent to the colliery site. While there was more housing for mining families in the form of the Ings Cottages, known locally as “The Spike”, at the other side of the pit, I am going to concentrate on the Woodyard, because that is where my ancestors lived. The housing of working people was close to the work back in those days. Physically demanding work and long shifts meant that there was no time to waste on commuting.

Today the Woodyard Cottages are located next to the serene and peaceful nature reserve in a highly desired location. The photograph below is from the present day, taken from the road that was used as the thoroughfare for coal trucks.

This now secluded and peaceful spot was once the centre of a great deal of hustle, bustle and industry. These were the homes of miners who worked hard for modest wages. They lived and loved and brought up their families in this place they called home.

There used to be speed bumps in the road painted in broad black and white stripes to slow down the Hansons coal haulage lorries that hurtled down the hill to the colliery. I used to watch the lorries with my grandad, Albert Knowles, from the wall on the opposite side of the road, as they came down the road empty and went back up fully laden with dust sheets covering the top of the load to prevent coal dust getting into the air.

The wall opposite the Cottages was also a popular site for the taking of group photographs like the one pictured below.

Woodyard wall opposite group photo 2

The lorries would continue down the road and cross the canal that ran through Walton and then on through the pit site. This route comes as no surprise as coal was one of the main canal cargoes. The photograph below shows the road bridge over the canal on the left of the view. Woodyard Cottages are just behind the photographer. The building at the right hand side of the photo is the beginning of the brickyard. The structure above Albert Knowles’ right shoulder are the bunkers (more on that shortly).

Woodyard Albert Knowles with canal road bridge in background

There is an alley at the front of the cottages. A wall and railing and the alley are all that separate the homes of the miners from the road and the coal laden wagons that went up and down it day after day. The alley is where George Knowles is having a go on his young nephew’s tricycle in the photo below and appearing to have be having a really good time. In the pit, George’s role was to look after the hard working horses in the stables in the pit bottoms.

Woodyard George Knowles

The wall is still there today, but the railing is gone. However, there are traces of the railing embeded into the surface of the masonry.

There was another alleyway to the rear of the cottages. This ran between the cottages and the gardens of each house. The alleyway can be seen in the photos below that also show me at a young age with blonde hair, decked out in the latest 1970s fashions. The gardens can be seen on the left hand side of each photo below. On the horizon you can see the banking of the railway line that runs past Greenside, Oakenshaw Lane and Walton Common. The other railway line that runs to London runs beyond the bottom of the gardens and goes under the line mentioned above.

Woodyard Cottages Gardens

In the photo below my dad and auntie, in younger years, are having their photograph taken just as the local rooster is sneaking up behind them. The building behind the rooster is the detached cottage that is still there, further up the hill. To the right of that can be seen a bungalow that has since been pulled down. Between each of these buildings a stable once stood but has since disappeared.

Woodyard Siblings - Jean with young Albert Knowles

My grandad had a pigeon loft in his stretch of garden. He is pictured below with prize pigeon that he called ‘Little Hen’. It won a number of races for him. There is an amusing story about this bird after he sold it to a bloke in Outwood. In true homing pigeon style it kept returning to its Woodyard loft even after the sale meaning that its new owner had to keep coming back to retrieve it. What do you expect when you buy a homing pigeon!

Woodyard Albert Knowles with pigeon

The photograph below is another view of the rear alleyway. However, this time there are a few other features visible in the background. On the middle left at the side of the alley you can see the back of the bus shelter. Next to that is the building that managed the weighbridge that was immediately in front of it. This was used to measure the coal loads coming out of the pit in the lorries. On the far right of the photo you can again see the start of the brickyard mentioned earlier. To the right of the black vehicle at the top of the road in the centre left are the bunkers. These were used for the direct sale of coal to coal merchants. As part of this structure there were four coal shoots to feed into bags for coal wagons. Coal was brought here via a rail line from the pit.
Woodyard Albert Knowles snr with the bike of Albert jnr

The back of the bus shelter is seen closer up in the next photos. In the first photo (in colour) the ice cream man had just been and a miner awaits his ice cream from his wife at the top of the hill.

Bus Shelter and Weighbridge

The back of Woodyard cottages are faced with stone in contrast to the ordinary brick in the front. The following photo shows the family standing on the step at this side of the house with the stone visible behind them.

Woodyard doorway Albert Knowles Martha Knowles and Jean

The following photos show the inside of number five Woodyard Cottages in the 1960s. In the background of the first photo you can see a cooking range that was fuelled by an open coal fire. Before the appearance of bathrooms this would also be where baths were taken in a tin tub.

Inside Woodyard Cottages

In the following photo, my grandma, Martha Knowles, stands in front of the brickyard, kilns and chimney. Again, the bunkers are visible at the left hand edge of the photo.
Woodyard Martha Knowles with Walton pit stack in background

The final photograph, below, shows the view of the pit complex from the wall that separated the alley in front of the cottages from the road. The cooling towers, the chimney, three winding machines, and the screening plant are all visible in this photo. The two ponies in the field were called Royal and Boxer (which had a white blaze on its forehead). These horses did not go down the pit but pulled loads on the surface. The banking at the far end of the field is that of the canal mentioned previously.

Walton Pit CUT ENH

Charles Waterton – A Pivotal Figure From Walton’s History

Charles Waterton by Charles Wilson Peale, 1824, National Gallery, London

Charles Waterton by Charles Wilson Peale, 1824, National Gallery, London By Stephencdickson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35651312 Click: https://watertonswalton.wordpress.com/charles-waterton-by-charles-wilson-peale-1824-national-gallery-london/ to see changes made to original.

First published on my Waterton’s Walton blog.

Charles Waterton is a famous figure who was an inspiration to naturalist Charles Darwin who revolutionised science. On one occasion Darwin himself was Waterton’s guest at Walton Hall. Waterton is, in his own right, internationally significant in the history of science.

England’s most important historical attribute is that it was the world’s first industrialised society. Waterton helps place Walton right in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, a global historical turning point that began in the north of England and set off reverberations down the ages and across continents and impacts on daily life even today.

Waterton’s philosophy was a direct reaction to the negative impact of this revolution in human progress. It provided a message about how we can better manage this progress for the benefit of both humankind and the natural environment. It is therefore a message directly relevant to the challenges of our own time. Walton was one of the first places in the world where there were serious attempts to mitigate some of its negative consequences.

It was on his estate at Walton Hall that he created the world’s first nature reserve. This made Walton an important place in the history of environmentalism and as such it can be seriously argued that Walton was the village where nature and industry first met.

What happened in Walton in the early days of industry is something that has modern relevance. It is also something that could link the hard-working ordinary people of Walton’s industrial past to profound events that transformed our world. Due to its place in the industrial revolution Walton could exemplify the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society. This is of equal significance to the period when agriculture first emerged in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East which led to the development of the first cities. The transition from agriculture to industry is surely of equal interest as the transition from hunter gatherer to agriculture based societies.

It is the presence of Charles Waterton that helps differentiate Walton from other ex-mining villages and is something that makes the history of the village of much wider public interest.


Mapping the History of Walton

First posted on Wakefield Vistas.

I thought it would be an interesting idea to attempt to plot Walton’s main historical buildings, structures and features of interest geographically. I am also interested in looking at Walton’s uniqueness as an early centre of industry while also been the site of world’s first nature reserve. As a result I have highlighted the site of the nature reserve in red, and the areas of industrial activity in yellow. I have also included industrial transport infrastructure – the Barnsley canal (blue) and the railways (green).

You can access the zoomable map by clicking in the map below or by clicking the link HERE. It is probably easier to navigate if you click the “view larger map icon” at the top right of the map box or press the above link to go directly to the map.

KEY: Blue (route of the Barnsley canal); Red (Charles Waterton’s nature reserve); Yellow (industrial features); Green (railways); Bubbles (point of interest); Camera icon (points of interest).

If you click the bubbles the name of the feature and sometimes a description/explanation appears on the left. The same happens when you click the camera icons but in addition to the title and explanation a photo also appears. If you click the photo it goes to full size and gives you the option to press an arrow to the next one if there are two for that particular point of interest. You navigate back to the map by clicking the arrow accompanying 1 of 1, 1 of 2, 2 of 2, etc.

The placing of the data is done by eye so will not be perfectly accurate and some of the information displayed is based on asking people for information/recollections. It is unlikely that everything is perfectly correct and there may even be errors.

This is very much a work in progress, I want to add more information over time.

If you have any suggestions of historical locations in Walton then please let me know.


The Tale of the Miser of Wakefield

Wakefield Miser Clippings

The Wakefield Miser – Newspaper Clippings (newspaper title unknown)

Also posted at Wakefield Vistas

The letters that I posted yesterday were taken from an old scrap book that also contained some old newspaper clippings from the 1860s and 1870s. A rather interesting one relates to a story about the Wakefield Miser, Joseph Wright.

The story demonstrates how much things have changed and in many ways flies in the face of the contemporary doctrine of political correctness and shows some of the real progress that has since been made in domestic arrangements over the years. However, the account is written with witty turns of phrase and the old fashioned dead pan use of language adds additional humour to otherwise very serious events.

Of course there is a moral to the story and this becomes apparent at the end. This is a story about the great Yorkshire tradition of “being tight”, but also makes a judgement about the ultimate futility of such a policy.

The text from the newspaper clipping (I am not sure from which newspaper it is taken) is typed up below [paragraph spacing added]:

The Wakefield Miser, Joseph Wright

The following inscription is to be found on a Grave Stone in the Church Yard of “All Saints,” Wakefield: “In Memory of Joseph Wright, of Wakefield, Peruke* maker, who departed this life on the 4th day of December, 1826, in the 83rd Year of his Age.”

Some doubt exists whether the above singular and eccentric character was a native of Wakefield; he was at all events a resident for a great number of years, and during his latter days was known by the name of “Old Wright the Miser.”

It was said that through life he was notoriously mean and penurious, even to the extent, at times, of pinching himself and his family of the necessities of life. He purchased everything for his household, and was never known to entrust his wife with money for any purpose whatever. As may therefore be easily conceived, he kept strict watch and ward upon every article consumed within his domicile, as the following extraordinary story clearly bears out.

On one occasion in accordance with his daily custom, he carefully counted into the Posnet, as it was called in those days, one by one, the potatoes intended to be boiled for dinner, which he handed over to his wife for that purpose. When the dinner hour arrived, he again counted them, and found there was one deficient. On discovering the loss he was sorely annoyed , and charged his wife with the theft, which she, poor soul, at first denied, but afterwards meekly acknowledged, declaring that if he would only forgive her that time, she would promise him faithfully never to do so again; this appeal however, failed to appease his wrath, and he proceeded to inflict summary chastisement upon her, accompanied with the exclamation, oft repeated, that he would not have “things done in such a hurder murder sort of manner in his house.”

His residence was an old two-storied building which belonged to him, situated on the West side of Kirkgate, a few doors below Kirkgate corner, on the site of which was a shop has since been built, and is now occupied by Mrs. Pickles as a Repository; he was also owner of two or three others adjoining. His wife died some years before him, and he continued to live alone in the same house until his death. During the latter part of his life he kept close quarters, being scarcely ever visible in the day time, but on nights, especially when fine and moonlight, he might be seen peeping out from behind the street door which was kept partly open. At times he experienced considerable annoyance from the lads in the streets, who, having found out his nightly haunt, to a delight in throwing stones and other missiles at his door, and teasing him in various ways; he occasionally sallied forth after them without hat, his bald pate crowned with an old brown wig, and armed with a long stick, but from infirmity of old age, he seldom succeeded in capturing any of his youthful assailants.

He was generally dressed in an old-fashioned worn-out coat which reached down to his ankles, its original colour could not then be traced or even guessed at in consequence of the thick admixture of grease and dirt with which it was besmeared; his other habiliments partaking of the same worn out and savoury character were in strict and harmonious keeping. The house boasted of a bow window, such as appeared in small shops some hundred and fifty years ago, and in which he was proud in former days to exhibit on pegs his proficiency in the art of wig making; many of its panes were cracked, and the glass of others having entirely disappeared, divers small pieces of wood loosely stuck together supplied some of their places, whilst the rest were plastered up with old dirty brown paper. These counterfeit panes were not noticed by the street arabs, who frequently tested their strength, and as they were not able to resist much pressure from without, became easily dislodged to their great glee and to the no small worry and vexation of the fretful occupant.

It was stated that the interior of the house had never been swept of cleaned down since his wife’s death, which was fully corroborated by the great accumulation of filth and dirt found at the time of his decease. Having through life enjoyed good health, he was very loath in his last illness to incur the expense of medical advice, but a relative having accidently called to see him, and finding him very ill, at once summoned an eminent surgeon living near the church, who perceived his weak and exhausted state and prescribed for him the very best support, and amongst other things some wine; against the latter article the patient strongly protested, stating that he had never kept such an expensive article in his house, and that he had no money wherewith to pay for it; the wine was, nevertheless, procured and administered, but every effort that medical skill could suggest to prolong his life failed and ‘tis said that he died as he had lived, an embodiment of meanness and avarice.

His relatives, all distant ones, were not slow in asserting their claims to the filthy lucre, which, independent of the property before mentioned, amounted to upwards of seven hundred pounds, composed of the various sterling coins of the realm, which ranged in value from the old spade guinea down to the humble farthing, all of which were found secreted in various parts of the house, the greater portion of it having been carefully and securely tied up in old stockings and placed inside some of the chimneys.

When the time arrived to search for the hidden treasure all the parties interested were present, and the scene on the occasion can be more easily conceived than described; the eyes of the anxious and expectant beholders glistened with delight as the several grimy articles were lugged out of their dark recesses, and their contents on which their late owner had so fondly doted, were rolled out one after another on to the old and dilapidated table; the assiduity displayed by them in prosecuting these extensive researches was indeed truly marvellous. This whole pile was thoroughly ransacked, and there was not a nook, hole, corner, or crevice from the chimney tops down to and including the cellars, which did not undergo the most searching and scrutinizing examination at their hands.

Being ignorant as to the mode of proceeding in such matters, the relatives were only too glad to enlist the able services of the surgeon before mentioned, as well as those of the principal merchant of the town, to realize the property and wind up the business for them. The application to these gentlemen was accompanied with the handsome offer to pay what ever sum they thought proper to charge for their services in the matter. This was, however, declined, but it was at length agreed (as it may be termed, by way of compromise) that they should be entitled to a dinner at their meetings, which were appointed to be held half yearly, in order to divide the rents, &c, amongst the parties concerned until the affairs were finally closed; and it was also intimated at the same time that each of them should have the privilege of inviting a friend or two to the dinners, which they did not fail to do. The next important point to be settled was the place of meeting, and it was at length decided that the “George Hotel,” which was then looked upon as a house of some celebrity, should be the one selected. Mine hostess of the “George” on that day was renowned for being an excellent caterer, and famed for possessing a good stock of old first class wines.

The orders given were that the dinners should be of the most recherché character, to embrace every delicacy of the season, and that the finest wines that the cellar could produce were to be placed upon the table. After ample justice had been done on the first occasion of these sumptuous repasts, and the cloth drawn, the Chairman, who was the merchant (the venerable surgeon having declined to occupy that position), the proceeded, according of the good old custom in those halcyon and palmy days of Church and State, to give the usual loyal and patriotic toasts, followed by others, including that of “Prosperity to Old Merrie Wakefield.”

The toast list having been finished, and the decanters on the table emptied, the company were preparing to depart when the Chairman (who was a great wag) suggested that they should have just another bottle, as he should much like to give a parting toast, and impromptu one. This was at once cheerfully acceded to, and the Chairman having requested all present to charge their glasses to the brim, then gave utterance to the following couplet [bold text not on original]:-

“Here’s to the immortal memory of old Wright the miser,

We’ve had a good dinner at his expense and he’s not a jot the wiser.”

The toast instead of being drunk as such are which have reference to the memory of the dead, viz., with becoming gravity and in solemn silence, was received with expressions of hilarity, especially by the epicure, ths [sic] old doctor, who shook his fat sides with laughter, and having quaffed off his bumper at a draught, declared it with great emphasis to be a most excellent and appropriate toast, and as such he proposed that it should be given and drunk at all their future meetings. This proposition in its turn also met with a most hearty reception, and it is only right to add, in conclusion, that the suggestion was ever after most faithfully and scrupulously carried out.

* Whilst exercising his calling as an ordinary barber and manipulator of Wigs, he assumed the more dignified title of Peruke Maker, which will doubtless account for that description being placed by his relatives on the gravestone.



Letters From Scandinavia: Correspondence Between Sir Levett Hanson And His Normanton Cousin, Thomas Leake


Back in 2013 I posted about some letters that Sir Levett Hanson, of Normanton, wrote to his cousin, Thomas Leake – also of Normaton in West Yorkshire. I posted under the heading “The ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson Letters – Part of the History of Normanton, West Yorkshire“. Back then I only included the first letter. I have now found the file with my transcribed notes of the full series. I post hear to make them all publicly accessible just in case they are of interest to any local historians.

Also posted at: Wakefield Vistas


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

  1. 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.


Copenhagen, March 22, 1805

Dear Kinsman

You very justly begin your letter by calling me kind friend, which I really am.  I can assure you, and to this [assurance] I will add that it is my intention to consider you and your family as the persons to whom I shall leave the landed property I have to dispose of.  By this I mean what I [purchased] of[f] your late father and the farm at Whitwood, which is my property.  These two farms I mean to leave upon you and yours and in such a [contingent] manner that you will not be able to sell.

As to the mood of my dear friend, I have long since told you my mind about it.  The business was entirely entrusted to Mr Brooke, upon whom I depend.  In [any] respect, he wrote me word that he has sold it for 375£ which is 25£ more than you offered, and consequently makes a notable difference.  As such, you cannot blame him for his doing the best for my interest, nor me for reaping every possible advantage from the farms at Normanton and Snydale.  I have, however, desired Mr Brooke to present you, in my name, with five guineas, and have requested him to give you as much more, when my mid-summer rents are paid.  In this sum you see marked ten guineas, and this present I shall make you every year providing I have every reason to be satisfied with you.

A family of thirteen people, you and your wife and eleven children must ware out a good many pairs of shoes in a year besides food and raiment.  However, as the proverb observes, when God gives mouths he sends wherewithal to fill them, and that by means of [your] honest industry and labours, joined to the assistance of your friends, will, I am sure, be your case.

Upon my friendship you may count most assuredly, I do not fail [to acknowledge] what you say about your eldest daughter and so soon as I am somewhat more settled you may depend upon my taking someone of your family to be with me.  At any rate, it gives me infinite pleasure and satisfaction to find you and your family have so much confidence in me as not to make any difficulty about coming to live with me.  You may always, in return, depend upon my sincere regards and affection.

You see[m], my dear kinsman, to have not quite clearly understood me as to what I said upon the subject of good character according to your situation in life.  I never doubted that you have maintained one, that you exacted yourself to maintain it, and that you are well respected by your neighbours as any person in the Parish [aforementioned].

You see, I respect your own words and again, I repeat that I never doubted that the state of the case was as you represent it.  What I meant, my dear Thomas, was to indicate to you that you [are] doubly obliged to pay attention to such points.  First of all because it is your duty as a member of society and, accordingly, because you are descended from as good a family as any in the count[r]y.  We are all under the distinct obligation of maintaining our character as men who form the community in general, and as men [who] all do nothing which can dishonour our forefathers.  You see, I speak of those who are really well descended that circumstance will ever make a difference in civilised state.  I well remember to have seen, in 1786, when I was last in Normanton and I then thought you a modest young man.  I am sure that [in] time you are not altered.

As to your house and concerns, do not make yourself uneasy about them.  I shall, this spring, give instruction to Mr Brooke to draw up my will, and, you may be assured, that Sir Thomas and Lady Cullum will never have the means of disposing of what is my own property.  You and yours are my nearest of kin and are my heirs by adoption.  Sir Thomas and Lady Cullum are t[w]o selfish interested people, they always have been and ever will remain.  So, they may do what they will with the [entitled] estate, either now or when I am gone, but they never shall see a shilling of my money.  I know them of old and I promise you, my good kinsman, you shall not be left to the mercy of Sir Thomas Cullum.  I know the pride and naughtiness of his heart to which I was never a stranger.  Never put your trust in any south of the Trent, especially Suffolk people.  I thank you for your mentioning to me their intention of selling an estate enjoyed by the Levett family for many ages; but what is mine they shall not sell, I assure you.  I am ashamed and blush for their behaviour to you about the [bedding], that after they had given it to you they sent for it back again, and left you only the bedsteads.  But such measures on their part surprises not me, the one and thirty years they are married I have seen a hundred instances of it.  Thus you see, I am well acquainted with them.  Sir Thomas, as you observe, is a very ill tempered man, and my Lady, as a woman, is not a bit better.

I was much surprised to hear that your wife’s aunt, Mrs Brown, has been dead so long as 13 years ago.  When I saw her in 1786, she certainly did not appear an old woman.  I suppose you and your wife inherited her property.

You say when your mother has gone, you will have no one left on your other side.  I thought you have [a hundred] cousins.  Leakes and [Capers] at Horbury with whom, according to what I have heard of them, the less you have to do and the better you may always count upon my friendship, both you and your family.

I shall be very glad to see you when you can make it convenient to come and pass some time with me, and by so doing you will certainly be no loser.

Pray, who is the Mr Favell who married a daughter of Mr Torre?  Is he son to Richard Favell, the surgeon, who lived at York, and grandson of old Mr John Favell of Normanton?  Pray tell me when you next write.

I am very glad to hear my old worthy, honest, tried and good friend, Matthew [Hamilton], is well and intends writing to me.  I shall always be willing to hear from him.  If circumstances had allowed him, or rather allowed me to take him into my service in 1773, I should not have been so pressed upon as I have been, nor have met with the plagues and battles I have gone through.  I know some people in Wakefield who were not his friends, whom I could mention, but I do not love to breed mischief.  Enclosed, I send you a letter for Matthew, with kindest remembrance.  You may tell him I always consider him as my oldest and dearest friend and so do whilst we remain in this world.

I learnt with much pleasure that all [were] well when last you wrote to me and [am] much obliged to my kinsman, your mother, for her hearty and dutiful wishes as to my health and happiness.  I sincerely wish you all the same and request you to remain persuaded, my dear Thomas, that I am and ever shall remain your faithful and affectionate kinsman.

Levett Hanson


Hamburg, December 10th, 1805

Dear Kinsman.

You ought to begin your letter to me and conclude them as I do mine to you.  Certainly it is that you cannot be ignorant of my regard for yourself in particular, nor of my good will towards your family in general.

I am very glad [that] my last letter gave you so much satisfaction.  As to the one you wrote in answer, I never received it.  Had you sent it under cover to Messrs [Hammersley] [& Co.], [Bankers], Pall Mall, London, I doubt not I should have received it.  However, you must be more careful another time, since I expect some little attention from you.

I speak as from one relation to another, since you must know that I wish you and your family well and have already given proofs of the sincerity of my words and benevolence.  I shall certainly not forget my relations at Normanton, upon whom fortune has not smiled, as upon those at Bury.

I shall be glad to see you next spring, providing the journey will not be too long and too expensive for you, and in case it will not occasion your being too long absent from your family, your business and your domestic affairs.  You must weigh those considerations duly before you undertake the journey.  You have a pretty long road from Normanton to Hull, and the voyage from thence to Hamburg is not indifferent to a landsman.  However, there is time enough to think and make up one’s mind to these matters before the month of May, and when I know your intentions, I will inform you when your visit will be convenient.

It is with much satisfaction [that] I observe you are no more a friend to that [renegade], that [uncivilised] philistine Bonaparte than I am, and trust that providence will, sooner or later, put a stop to his career as well as it did to that of Turpin, [sixteen string] Jack and several others of the same class and description; in fact my good kinsman, our Yorkshire horse [was] [stolen] (aye), and the London highway m[e]n are honest gentlemen when compared to such a vagabond, to such a [ruffian], to such a merciless tyrant.

In case you do come next spring to Germany, and that, for the purpose of passing some time with me, I wish you could persuade my old true and tried friend Mathew [Hamilton] to accompany you.  You tell me that he is very well and sends his love to me.  Believe me my dear cousin, I have ever [treated] him as a brother since I was first acquainted with him.  He is an honest, good-tempered man, and I wish when [he] left the service of Mr [Shawlenge] that he had applied to me to take him into mine.  It would have been the saving of some hundreds to me.  I have now known Matthew since July 1771 and have always entertained the same friendship for him.  He is a person of much prudence and good sense and I shall ever love him as a friend so long as we continue on this world.  I beg you will show him this letter.  If he had accepted my proposals, he might have come and lived with me near 12 years ago.

It gives me great pleasure to learn you are satisfied and contented with the two small [enclosures] Mr Brooke has [assigned] you, and I rejoice much to hear that they will be so useful to you and your family.  My attention and goodness towards you must convince you what a blessing and comfort it is to have good relations and kinsfolk and [ought] to induce you to have all possible kindness and proper treatment for your aged and respectable mother.

You will be pleased to observe that it is your mother, and not you, who has a life estate in the house and orchard once belonging to your father, and I must tell you that I do expect you will have all possible ease of your parent and never let her want for anything.  Remember, you are a father yourself, and how would you, in your old days, like to be abandoned and ill treated by your children.  A fault and a crime very common amongst the English, I remember to have observed repeatedly, but less in Yorkshire than elsewhere.

Mr Brooke, by assisting you, has [conferred] a favour upon myself and, as such I consider it.  I repeatedly told him never to suffer you to want whatever is proper and reasonable, and observe with pleasure that you have returned what he was so kind to advance you.  Indeed, I am well [appraised] that your good sense will always prevent you from making an improper use of his goodness, or from being troublesome to him [for] the present of ten guineas he will assuredly make you in my name so soon as the purchase money shall be made for the wood and agreed upon […].

I think you will consider me as your friend and kinsman.  Believe me, I study to be so without pride or pretension.  You have much obliged me, by what you say upon the subject of the allotments, I observe you have [sown] your [enclosures] accordingly to what you consider to be the most advantage to your family.  Pray, is Mr Bailey, my Normanton tenant, one of the Baileys of ‘Lasco’ and is Miss Holdsworth still living.

I always supposed that the present Mr Favell is son of Richard Favell who lived at York and a grandson of the late Mr John Favell as he has now [united] all the concerns of that family he must have a good estate at Normanton, the greatest part of which was made out of the Levett estate by a foolish second marriage contracted by our great grand mother Levett with a forefather of Mr Favell.  Pray, has not this Mr Favell married a daughter of Mr Torre of Snydale.  How in the name of wonder, did that proud family consent to such a [match], and where is this cousin Favell of ours gone to live in the North Riding?

You are in the right to have nothing to do with your Horbury cousins, with the [Capers] in particular.  What Leakes what [Capers], you must have a regiment by this time?  I remember about 30 years ago to have seen one of your Uncle John Leake’s sons, who, my aunt told me was one of the best of the family.  As to your aunt [Caper], she did all she could to play [tricks], expecting what was left to your father and me.  She consulted old [Noyle], the attorney who lived, I believe, at [Ryekold] and endeavoured to do all possible mischief.  As to those Horbury men, they never came to Normanton but for money.

And so, my dear Thomas, God be with you.  My best wishes to your wife, your children and your mother.  In a word, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and believe me, ever your affectionate kinsman and faithful friend.

Levett Hanson


Copenhagen, June 9, 1807

Dear Kinsman

After a silence of near a year and a half you may be sure I was glad to hear from you, it is true the message of my writing to Mr Brook[e] provides you various and repeated occasions of hearing how I go on where I am, and what I am about.  But the reasons you assign for not writing sooner are by no means valid.  You have not the least occasion to lack of expense as to our correspondence, since I have, long ago, pointed out to you the mode of it being carried on without costing you a farthing.  I have, I am sure, more than once told you that you could always forward your letters to me, under cover, to Messrs Hamersley, my bankers, who live in Pall Mall, London; and they will not fail of transmitting them to me.  As to mine addressed to you, I always send them under cover to Mr Brooke.  Of course they cost you nothing, your excuse, therefore, about the expense is at best a very lame one.  It might have gone down some thirty years ago when you [were] Tommy Leake laking in the Town Gait or Church Yard at Normanton, but it won’t hold good [now] you are a man and the father of a family.

I was very glad to hear you are all well in health, especially your mother who is the only survivor of our old set of kinsfolk.  Fail not to lack care of her and treat her with kindness.  It is your duty so to do and an obligation where from nothing can unbind.  You remember so long as she lives, she has a life estate in the house and orchard you occupy and you are her tenant.

I need not tell you how thankful you ought to be to providence for having prolonged the lives of your parents until you [were] creditably and comfortable settled.  I had the misfortune to lose my mother before I was five or six and my father before I was eleven years old, and owing to those early loses I may well and truly ascribe almost every mishap that has befallen me.

Had my friend, Mr Matthew Hamilton, entered my service when he went to Mr Torres, the case would have been very different.  He is a prudent, reasonable man and would have taken the best of care of everything connected with my interests.

You once talked of coming to see me last year.  It was not quite convenient for me to receive your visit since my stay at Hamburg was very uncertain and it was equally so as to my returning to Copenhagen, which I consider as my home and favourite dwelling place.  I wish when harvest time is over, that you would come and pass two or three months with me at Copenhagen.  You must persuade Matthew Hamilton to accompany you.  You can go from Wakefield to Hull and so take shipping from [Ellesmere], which is only twenty English miles from Copenhagen.  There I will meet you and conduct you to this city, where you shall be treated as a dear kinsman and a good friend and Matthew like an old well beloved friend for whom I will always entertain and mention that regard and esteem which he so well deserves from me.  Think upon this and let me see you both.  I will pay all travelling expenses, as you deserve, my dear Thomas.

I have had a good deal of trouble to keep myself out of the reach of the French armies since the 23 October 1805.  I have undertaken several long journeys for the purpose.  Thank God I have succeeded so far and find myself very comfortable in Denmark.

It is my wish and hope, sooner or later, to be able to return to [???], the place of all others after [Madeira] which I, on all accounts and in all respects, ever found to be one of the most agreeable and desirable for a reasonable man to inhabit.  It is a small city where I would rather live and die than any other.

I thank you much for your information respecting the manner in which our late cousin Holdsworth disposed of his estate and property.  I am glad you came in for five pounds at least, he might as well have left you fifty.  He was a singular, good-tempered man to leave his estate to a person who was no [sense] related to him.

Mr Holdsworth[‘s] grandfather, by his father’s side, married a Levett and your grandfather by his mother’s side married a Holdsworth; brother and sister married brother and sister.  Insomuch as your father and Mr Holdsworth were second cousins, double blood, you and I and [all] the Leakes and Capers were as ourselves equally related to him as to my late aunts, Lady Cullum and myself.  It is not to be wondered at that he left us nothing, since in 1766, Lady Cullum refused him for her husband and he always thought that my aunts and I had persuaded my sister not to marry him.  I, for my own part, never expected a [sliver] from him.

I wish Mr [Mallory] much good look with [h]is fortune and long life and health to enjoy it.  Pray, is he a clergyman or what is he and what sort of character does he bear?  Does he live at ‘Lasco’ and, pray, what is the name of the present vicar of Normanton, and of the clergyman, who does duty there?  Tell me also, what are become of the Middletons, old Robert’s sons?  I remember William, Jack, Tom, Charles and Robert.  Tell me, likewise, what are become of the Crawshaws?  I once knew Jackey and Billy and Jassey.  Jackey, I know, died long ago.  What has become the two others?  Old Maude, Mrs Buckle[‘s] uncle ruined that family.  Did not the son of our cousin Richard Favell, the surgeon, marry a daughter of Mr Torre of Snydal?

I, for my part, should as soon have expected to hear that our King George had married one of his daughters with a court gentleman, as to have hear[d] that a young lady of the proud, stiff family Torre was married to a Favell.  To what place in the North Riding [has] this Favell gone to live at?  Answer me all these questions when church is over on a Sunday. You may as well sit down and write me a long letter as to walking about the fields or standing at the house steps near the churchyard gates, both which I well recall of used to be the chief Sunday morning amusement at Normanton in the spring, summer and autumn.  Your church in an afternoon on Sunday used to be empty almost….

For one to comply therewith, you must observe, my good kinsman, that since the 23 October 1805 I have been compelled to expend at least £400 more than I should have done had I remained settled and quiet at Copenhagen.  Add this to all the money I was under the necessity of paying away for Thomas Cullum and for other purposes after the death of my good aunt and all expenses and outgoings attending the enclosures of Normanton and Snydale and Whitwood, and you will perceive that it is totally out of my power.  We, at present, live in precarious, uncertain and [feckless] times, [when] a man has not ready money at command he may find himself in a sudden put to a non plus.

Be assured, my kind dear kinsman, that I am very far indeed from being offended at your applying to me for the loan in question; on the contrary I am much pleased with your candour.  I am confident that I am your [hearty] and sincere friend as well as an affectionate relation.  You are already….of and grateful sentiments you express these upon and are most highly accepted to me.  I am glad my friend Mathew was so well when last you wrote to me; enclosed is a letter you will deliver to him with my best assurance and kindest wishes.  When you answer this, spare not your paper, tell me how old you are, how old my cousin, [how old is] your wife, how many children you have, how many boys how many girls, how old each is and what their Christian names are.  I like to know such details and matters with particular exactness.  I am glad to see you and I entertain the same opinion on Bonaparte; no two honest people can passionately form two different opinions respecting such a tyrannical [monster].

It will give me much pleasure to learn, and to have occasion to inform you than the French [have] been defeated, most completely, in Poland.  It will, in like manner, give me much satisfaction to hear that you have happily as well founded expectation to be blessed with a fine summer such as fallen to our lot, and such as we expected in Denmark.  You, as a farmer, must feel interested in such matters.

I was glad indeed to find [by your] last [letter], that you were all so well in health, which is the first and greatest blessing, such as been my state for many years past.  I was never so well as throughout this winter at Copenhagen.  Would the state of the times allow it, I think I should be as well able to undertake a journey on [foot] from here to Copenhagen as I did in 1802 from Hamburg to that city.

My kindest and best wishes to your wife, children and mother.  Believing me, my dear Thomas, your faithful and affectionate kinsman.

Levett Hanson


Stockholm, June 23, 1808

Dear Kinsman

You will have found the time long since you wrote to me, and that I have suffered you to remain so many months in that giving you an answer.  But what between my own concerns and the particular duties of my office, my time has been so taken up that I have not had a spare moment to bestow upon you.

Moreover, the winter months in the country are extremely long and the days equally short.  That season, in December, we must light our candles at four in the afternoon.  But as a recompense for that inconvenience, in the month of May and the three following, we have no night and the sky, the heavens, are clear and as bright as they are in England at half past eight in the evening.

In addition to all these causes which have prevented me from writing to you, I must tell you likewise that from the first of November last until the beginning of May I was much enjoyed in company as the town was then full and we had many English, of good families, here at the time [of] our King’s birthday.  They are [now], most of them, upon their travels throughout Sweden, and many are returned to England.  The Swedish nobility and gentry [have] also gone into the country so that Stockholm is very empty at present.

I shall follow their example and go to some of our [Harrowgates] for two or three months by way of changing the air and living a little in the country.  This causes, I say, my good kinsman, as well as the others above mentioned, prevented me from writing to you with my usual exactness.

However, our worthy friend, Mr Brooke will hear me witness that I have always remembered you in my letters to him with that affection so justly due to you as a near relation, and that esteem which belongs to you as a father of a large hopeful family and an industrious honest painstaking man.

I was glad to hear from you, last, that it left you all hearty and well, especially my good cousin, Mrs Leake your mother, who I rejoice much to find holds out so well.  Forget not to make her old age easy and pleasant and comfortable, you cannot forget the commandment which orders you to obey your father and mother, and that commandment you must keep observed if you expect your children, in their time, shall love, honour and obey you.  My kind respect and wishes to your mother, your wife and all your family.  Continue, all of you, in the good way hitherto followed; steer, always, the same virtuous, honest course and you may rely upon, always, joining me, your affectionate kinsman and sincere friend.

I thank you for the information you gave me concerning the Crawshaws.  That family was ruined by the too great indulgence of a foolish and [ever fond] mother, who suffered them, the three sons, Jackey, William and Jassey.  I mean, to do as they pleased, and consequently, they run through everything in that business.  They were a good deal assisted by a person who had a view to get hold their estate, in which point, if he did not himself, his family has completely succeeded.

Jackey served his clerkship with one who gave him more than the [length] of his feather, for his particular pen passes.  I remember, his being in that situation and that very circumstance joined to their mother’s foolish fondness and indulgence, laid the foundation of their subsequent ruin.  I[t] was foreseen and foretold long, long before it happened in 1768, now forty years ago.

I recollect having seen three brothers, of whom it might be said that neither the three [ridings] of our county, nor any three other countries could provide three taller made, handsome young men in one and the same family.  But what is all this without prudence and good conduct?  You see, it leads to nothing.

So William, John and Robert Middleton are all gone.  In 1768 [and] 1770 when I was at Normanton to pass Whitsun Day holidays, we were all playfellows together, so were poor Billy Denton, Jassey Crawshaw, Tom Norton, Tom Priestley, Tommy Middleton and many others, when we used to play a hid and seek together.  I have [carried] them all in turn, and so have they me.  [Is dear] Thomas Middleton still alive, I can[‘t] well remember; assure him of my faithful remembrances and good wishes.  I liked all the brothers: William, Thomas and Charles, but Thomas the most of them.  We used to call him ‘the little fox’, he was so cunning in hiding himself, in catching others and escaping from being caught.  If I know of anything that would give him pleasure as a recollection [of] his old play fellow, I should be glad to give it as a remembrance of old times.  Endeavour to learn if half a dozen silver teaspoons, or such things, would be agreeable to him; pray do not fail to answer soon.  You can always put letters under cover to Messrs Hamersley, my bankers, who will forward them to me and that will save you [the] expense of postage.

I send this, for the same reason, to Mr Brooke, to the end that it may cost you nothing.  I hear all your children have been [inoculated].  Keep up to good old manners and customs, as our Uncle Levett did, and do not, either you or yours, run after expensive new fangled fashions.  My most kind and friendly wishes to my old friend, Mathew Hamilton.  Why does he never write to me? I have not heard from him these four years.

Pray, live neighbourly and upon good terms with him, and, if he ever be sick or unwell, let him want for nothing you and your family can do for him.  I will not fail to make good to you any expense you may be at on my account, as above mentioned Matthew may be assured that I have the same friendship and regards for him as I had in 1771, 1772, 1773, when I saw him for the last time.  Take care to show him all my letters, since there are no secrets and I wish him to read everything that relates to him.

As to myself, this leaves me tolerably well, but my health is not so good as when I was at Copenhagen.  The air of Denmark is much wholesomer than that of Sweden, and the climate much better.

Adieu, dear cousin, and believe me, your sincere and faithful friend and most affectionate kinsman.

Levett Hanson


Copenhagen, July 29, 1812

Dear Kinsman

Your letter of December last, without any precise date, reached me about the middle of January.  You seem to mistake the matter concerning my motives upon the subject of your voyage and journey by sea and land to Sweden and Stockholm.  I am far from thinking that your undertaking was either rash or improper.

What I [thought] and said, still do, and ever shall say, and, I think, was that you ought to have wrote to me and informed me of your intention in such a manner that I might have been appraised of it at least a month or six weeks before you arrived in Sweden, to the end that I might have taken [any] measures with my friend, Mr Smith, the English Minister, or consult rather at Gothenburg and with the gentleman messenger to the King our Sovereign, who when then, in waiting, whereby you might have been enabled to travel from Gothenburg to Stockholm with as much ease as from York to London, and instead of passing one month with me and my friends you could have easily and conveniently, to me, to yourself, to your affairs, and to your family at home, have remained three months in the capital of Sweden.

All this, is truth and fact, the consequence of your not having given me timely information of your coming.  You are in some measure better acquainted with, than I am, you [got] [inkled] with, Captain Clark and [the] race of riffraff coasting masters of merchantmen who kept you in their hands as long as they could and transferred you from one to another as it suited their purpose.

These honest fellows found out that you was a landsman, who never travelled, and they were determined to ransom and fleece you out of as much as they could and, in short, to make a penny out of you.  Thus, you [were] kept at sea upwards of six weeks, without been suffered to go on shore before you arrived at Stockholm, [and] exposed to all kinds of dangers.  This circumstance, of course, delayed your arrival at Stockholm [and] shortened your stay.  [These], very considerably threw you into the worst season for returning, made you wait a long time at Gothenburg in November [and] [retarded] your return to England.

Had you wrote to me, as I have already mentioned, in ten days could you have performed the voyage and journey from Hull to Stockholm.  Since you told me that, in five days, you sailed from Hull to Gothenburg, and you know by experience that [these] days at the utmost, the King’s messenger were up and down to and from Gothenburg to Stockholm, so allowing you, in the season of the year when you put in at Gothenburg, two days to rest yourself [and] you might, as I have said, have come from Hull to Stockholm in ten days without the smallest difficulty; but no more on this subject.

I beg of you, had you not talked of your rash attempt, I should never have said a word more upon the subject, but you have forced me to do so because I think it necessary to represent to you, in the strongest and clearest terms, where you [were] blameable in that transaction.

You have certainly delayed writing to me as long as it was well possible for you to do.  To tell you plainly my notions as to the point, I must [warn] that I am very seriously of [the] opinion, that had not Mr Brooke intimated to you that you [were] to give up the land you farmed from [me], you never would have given yourself the trouble of writing to me.

I am glad to find you have settled your creditors, but as to suffering the [Close] to remain in your hands, that I can never consent to.  You own me [now][:] four years rent, which amounted to forty pounds, [and] your journey to Stockholm, [which] cost me thirty pounds more out of my pocket besides your expenses whilst with me, which one way or other made ten more.  Here, then, is [four] [score] pounds, to which, if we add my annuity to your mother and my annual present to you, it will follow that since the beginning of October 1808 you received a full hundred pounds, which is much more than one third of my clear yearly income.  This, therefore, is a running sore, which must be healed, and the sooner the better.

I quite agree with Mr Brooke, [that] in this business, [as] in all others which relate to my Yorkshire concerns, presuming upon the near relationship which subsists between us, upon my good easy temper, and upon my past kindness to you, you could have gone on, my good kinsman, without ever paying me a farthing.  This, with regard to you, is somewhat of a family failing.  Your late father, whom I well remember, was an acute, shrewd, [and] sensible man.  But he always went upon crutches by depending more upon kinsfolk than upon his own toils or labours.  This sort of conduct you must avoid, as much as possible.

I myself do not fail to [bestin] my [stumps] [as] to augment the [shot] in the [lacker].  In 1802 I printed a work, by which I am no [loser], and in the course of last year I prepared and printed another, whereby I have gained one hundred and twenty Guineas.  It is true, my dear Thomas, well one may say that we cannot, all of us, be as you and I are, authors and carpenters.  But those who are carpenters and authors [may] stick to their trade and calling and, as far as depends upon themselves, endeavour to extract all the profit they can from their individual and respective situations.  This maxim must never be neglected.

What you have told me of [Askhan] does not much surprise me.  He is a [thoroughly] hearty, good fellow and a true Englishman.  You must no doubt still remember the very cheerful, rational, pleasant day we passed with him when we dined and [suppered] with him by his invitation at his lodgings.  [Askhan] is generous, hospitable and honest; he is no enemy but his own.  I wish him well in his new calling.

Mr [Ruhl] is much obliged to you for your kind and friendly remembrance of him.  As well as myself, he was very glad to have passed the [means] of doing anything that was useful or agreeable to you and begs to present you his best wishes so far as relates to everything [concerning] the interest and [real] welfare of yourself and your family.

Mr Steward, our old friend and companion, is as we hear, [placed] as land steward in service of some nobleman.  Since you left us in 1808, all the old set, which was so closely connected and held together for three years, nearly is dispersed in all quarters.

I am sorry that in your last [letter] you have not once mentioned my old friend Matthew Hamilton.  If he is still living, tell him that I esteem and regard him as much as I did in 1771 and 1772 and shall continue to do so whilst breath remains in my body.  I wish when he quitted Mr [Gream] in 1773, that he had been placed with me.  He should have been, had I known everything then as well as I do now, and we, neither of us, should have been losers.  But so it is in this world, and we must submit and bear patiently our disappointments.

So fare you well good cousin, may the Almighty bestow His blessings upon you and your family, and believe me to remain, most sincerely, your affectionate kinsman and friend.

Levett Hanson


No. 211 Westerwold Copenhagen

Wednesday April the seventh 1813

Dear Kinsman

When you will receive this, my answers to your letter [dated] February the 19th, I know not circumstances as matters are at present.  I do not recollect previously, the day when yours was delivered to me, but this I remember, namely, that it came very quickly, which indeed often happens with regard to the arrival of mails at Gothenburg, the only [cabal] whereby, at present, we can receive letters from England as far as the case requires it.

I beg you will accept my [consolatory] assurances of the interest I take in the loss you have experienced by the death of your only surviving parent.  However, my cousin, your mother lived to a good old age, far exceeding the accustomed bounds of life, and which providence grants only to a few of its creatures that you feel as you ought to do.

The full weight of such a family misfortune is matter, Mr Thomas Leake, of the truth whereof I am well persuaded.  You cannot but lament the death of the person to whom you [were] indebted for your birth, for the care of your infancy and the kind treatment which through yet a long life she never failed to exhibit towards you.  However, as she in this world performed all her duties as a patient wife, a tender mother and a sincere good Christian all may steadfastly hope, therefore, that she will receive the reward of the past and enjoy the blessing of a happy eternity in the region where the afflicted find comfort and [the] faithful enjoy everlasting rest.

As you justly observe, the premises and the jungle, as you call it, can become part of my freehold property, but for all that I am much inclined to believe that, with the exception of my being no longer in a state of paying the annuity to my late cousin, I shall not, by this addition to my said property, become much richer.

In your present situation, it is natural for you to wish for comfort, and what I can, I will administer to you.  Observe for the present, I shall not make you many great promises, not enter into any extensive engagement.  All I shall say at this juncture, is that so long as you and your wife live, it is my intention that you shall enjoy the house and jungle, or orchard, rent free and as to what more I may do, that will depend upon your conduct.

Upon my friendship you may depend; I have never ceased giving you proofs of it, you cannot fail remembering how I received and treated you when you arrived at and remained in Stockholm, the expense attending your stay and the sum of money I advanced you when you left me, are evident and solid proof at my acting towards you as a relation and friend.  I mention this to you not by way of boasting, nor of making you feel for the weight of the obligation, but for the sake of convincing you that the benevolence and generosity must be exercised with discretion as I have already observed to our mutual friend, Mr Brooke.  The above named items and the sum you are still indebted towards me amount to more than one third of my clear income.  In both your want of punctuality in paying your amount due to me fall heavily upon me when I was under the necessity of taking a long journey with Mr Ruhl and my housekeeper, the Christine you may remember to have seen at Master [Delquillion’s], from Stockholm to Gothenburg and from the latter named place to Copenhagen.

When I came here I had a small house to furnish, some outstanding old accounts to settle, which owing to the war, once subsisting between Denmark and Sweden, I had been prevented from doing sooner and then again in that year 1810, I was minus in my receipts an amount of the order to the tune of sixty eight guineas.  Last year I had to settle with the family of my predecessor in office, which at one stroke swept two hundred and eighteen sterling pounds out of my strong box.  Put all these items together and you will find that they form a heavy sum total, which prevents me from being over and above bountiful to either friends or kinsfolk.

This is a true statement of my affairs.  I can assure you with respect to what you mention concerning the raising [of] my rents.  I will candidly confess to you that what you have said to me upon the subject is, in fact, the first word I have heard about the matter.  From Mr Brooke I have not received a line, no, not since last year.  I think, however, that he might have mentioned to me your mother’s death, and have let me know his intentions as to increasing the rents paid by the tenants to the [sum] of Sir Edward Smith and Mr Favell augment their rentals.  I think [that it] is but fair that I should follow their example in a just proportion in due time.  I doubt not that I shall hear from Mr Brooke if he has not wrote ‘till now I [dare] answer for it that he has had good reason for remaining silent.

As you may well imagine, I was exceedingly glad to hear that my very old friend and dear and beloved friend, Matthew [Hamilton], is well.  May [he] ever command from what is in my power to give him.  Let the wind blow as it will with him, he may always count upon the half of my last guinea being at his service.  I know no one living for whom I have so much esteem, so much friendship and so heavy an affection, and I beg that you will not only tell him so for me, but take care, likewise, that he reads this letter.  Herewith are letters for him and Thomas Middleton.  Matthew and I have been friends these two and forty years and Tommy and I were play fellows in 1768, that is to say five and forty years ago.  I always had a great liking for all the Middleton family.

By this post I have wrote to Mr Brooke and have requested him to purchase half a dozen silver tea spoons and a pair of silver tea tongs, and to present them in my name to ‘little fox’ Thomas Middleton, who, like myself, is I suppose, now growing up as a fellow.  You will give these letters to him with my best remembrances and kindest wishes, the same to my cousin, your wife, yourself and your family.

I was sincerely glad to learn that you and yours, as well as dear Matthew Thomas Middleton and William [Walker], were well, may the Almighty grant that you may continue.

So as I have for him, Mr Ruhl thanks you much for your friendly enquiries and good wishes, as he never was a friend by halves to any one.  So [I] can assure you, he is a real and true friend to you, he is never prone to do the smallest enquiry in disservice to any one, and far from [invitations] [be] against you, he in all [ticklish] occasions as your warm [advocate] and never fails to plead your cause.

Thank God we are both in good health and are [enjoying] [even] [spirits] since my establishment at Copenhagen.  We have lived pleasantly and agreeably, but not so gaily, nor amidst much jollity as when you was at Stockholm.  This, however, is not to be wondered.  At Sweden and Denmark are different countries and Sweden and Denmark are different people; the same principle is equally just with respect to their capitals and, moreover, there is not that throng and overflow of our countrymen here as there at Stockholm.  When you were as kind as to come to see, besides, you know the English like to live well and are richer and more generous and sociable than are the people of other countries, you cannot have forgot John [Ascham’s] very pleasant [dinners].

You tell me that it is your intention to pay me the money you owe me.  This piece of information is highly acceptable to me and hope and trust you will keep your word, for I will tell you politely and sincerely once and for all, that if you expect any future favours from me towards yourself or your family, you must be exact and punctual in all money transactions.  I will not suffer my relatives to be a dead weight upon me.

You remember no doubt, Mr Ross, one of His Majesty’s messengers who treated you with a bowl of punch the night you left Stockholm.  Poor man, he died lately after only a few hours [of] illness.  The doctors could not make out what his complaint was.   He was not much on the wrong side of fifty.

I shall be glad to hear that this finds you and yours well and comfortable.  You should write to me oftener than you do since postage costs you nothing.  Why will not Matthew give me a line now and then.  I wish he would, if it was only to assure me that he bears the same good will towards me as he did in 1771 and 1772 when we were at Mycliffe and Wakefield together.

Dear Thomas, farewell, and believe me, to remain your real friend and affectionate kinsman.

Levett Hansen



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


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: