Walton Walks: The Canal

This is one of a series of articles that provide a photographic impression of walks around the village of Walton, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The idea is to provide something vaguely similar to Google Street View, so the reader as a visible indication of the walk’s progress.

The Barnsley Canal was opened in 1799 during the industrial revolution when the north of England was at the centre of the biggest historical change since the creation of the first cities on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East.

The canal was built to transport coal from the early coalfield around Barnsley to the wider region (1). It was part of the infrastructure of the world’s first industialised society.

This article is about a walk exploring some of the still visible archaeology of this earliest industrial age.

On this walk we are going to do our best to follow the route of the old Barnsley canal that ran through Walton and effectively linked Walton into the wider trade and communication network. It linked Walton to the River Calder, which linked to the Aire, the Ouse, the Humber, and ultimately the North Sea.

We start this walk at Bridge House on School Lane which is right next to a bridge. The bridge looks completely out of place because it does not seem to go over anything. However, this was one of the bridges of the the old canal.


After you turn right out of School Lane you can see the bridge as seen in the two photos below.



As you move forward crossing the bridge, if you look left you can see where the canal went as it moved North toward the point where it moved toward the River Calder at Heath Common. In the photo below the canal used to run on its course behind the bushes on the left. It ran toward the building on the right which was a lock keeper’s cottage and continued to the railway line, where there was was once a bridge that the canal flowed under. This bridge was filled in around the late 1970s/early 1980s, blocking the previous route to Walton Colliery.


If you look to the left you can see the embankment of the canal behind the allotments. The houses on the left in the photo below are built on the canal’s course.


Continue down the lane shown in the photo below.


Take the middle route (the smaller path) in the image below.


If you walk a short while down the left hand path you can look back and get an impression of the route of the canal you saw from the Bridge. In the photo below you can just make out the top of the bridge to the left of Bridge House. You can also see the bank of the canal where the green of the fields meets the fence.


The central path is shown below.


At the end of this path you turn right, and then right again into Walton Club playing fields.


The route of the canal is marked by the trees on the right, behind the Walton Club building shown below.  Locks were located at the position of the stone house to the left of the club house.


At the top of the club car park your turn right.


If you look to your back after walking a few paces left you see the road to Crofton and the blue sign that directs us on our route.


This is the entrance to the footpath to which the blue sign points.


You walk for a short while and you emerge into a small meadow. The path is in the middle of what was the canal.


A path goes off to the left to Cherry Tree estate, but our walk takes use forwards.


We are still in the middle of what was the canal, you are aware that you are at the top of the canal embankment because of the houses at the bottom of the bank being much lower.


If you look to your left you can see the rooftops of Cherry Tree, Elmwood and Brooklands estates and the Walton Colliery nature reserve beyond.


You can see from the incline of the path that we are moving up the contours. This is why locks were needed on the canal – so that the barges could effectively go up hill.


The image below captures the remains of one of the locks as the level of the canal rises up the contours.


The canal continues in the photo below to the left of the path under the green undergrowth.


We then reach the remains of the next set of locks seen in the images below.  These remains are far more extensive that they ones we passed earlier.


The next bridge we reach did not go over the canal in its heyday, but was only put there recently to link the new golf club house the the golf course.


The clubhouse can be seen on the right.


We then reach the next bridge that was part of the original series of bridges over the canal.


Follow the path forward ignoring the path going up to the bridge on the right.


Continue forward.


We ignore the path to the right and continue walking on the left towards the bridge over the canal.


In the photo below we are now approaching the next bridge on our journey, the canal is to the left and the straight line of the bridge just visible through the trees. On the right hand side you can see the rock out of which the canal was dug.


The bridge comes clearly into view and you can see what remains of the canal running underneath it.


The following photo is a close up of the stone of the bridge as it was built into the rock that was cut away to make way for the canal.


Another view of the rock cutting a bit further on, the canal remains on the left.


If you turn your vision to the left you can see the mud that indicates the canal’s course.


The rock cutting is visible on the far side of the canal.


As you move forward you may even come across parts of the canals course that actually still manage to accumulate water, especially after recent rainfall.


Continue to follow the path onward into the tunnel of bushes.


You then  come to the next bridge, this one had collapsed in the middle and repaired using metal rather than stone.



You continue round the bend in the canal. The block to the left of the path is part of the former canal infrastructure. This was used as an aid to make it easier for the horses to pull the barges round the corner.


Here is a close up view.


The canal continues on the left hand side, this part has water in it that has encouraged the growth of these aquatic plants.


The water becomes a bit deeper as you walk forward with duckweed on the surface. In the 1970s when I first walked on the canal route this was the appearance of the canal from the start of the wall, though it was still deeper than this.  Nature has gradually reclaimed this artifact of the industrial revolution.



The canal then all but disappears under recent tree growth as seen in the following image.


As you move onward, the canal has been filled in and is little more than a drainage ditch.


It then reappears at the left hand side as seen in the photo below. The steps in the distance go up to the next canal bridge which is just about visible through the trees.


If you are on foot you can take either the route under the bridge or the path on the right round it (both lead to the same place).



You then continue to follow the canal that though dry, can just about be made out on the left of the photo below.


You then come to another of the canal artifacts that we saw earlier.


We have now just about completed the canal portion of the walk. We can retrace our steps back to our start point or we can go back a different way. If you look to your left you will see the silver coloured rail; that is the way we will be going back on this walk.


If you look straight ahead you see the bridge in the photo below. The track to the left is our route to the silver rail and the way back. However, for a couple of minutes we will walk to the other side of the bridge.



From the middle of the bridge, if you look to your left you will see the reservoir that was presumably used to provide for the water needs of the canal and its locks.


If you look right you can see how the water flows into the canal.


Continue a little bit further and you can have a better view of the reservoir. On the other side of the reservoir, the canal continues on its way toward Royston and Barnsley. This could be the subject of another canal walk.


Head back across the bridge and continue in a straight line to reach the silver rail pointed out earlier.


Here you can see another part of the canal’s infrastructure in the form of a stone wall. I’m not entirely sure what its function could be, perhaps another lock. The OS map seems to indicate that the canal goes this way, presumably to get into the lake.


While you see evidence of a channel, it soon disappears.


So we now follow the path from the silver rail moving off toward the right. You soon reach a bench with the words “Fox Well” carved into it on your right hand side. Fox Well is a label on the relevant OS map. You continue past it following the path onward.



Continue right on the main path. To the left is what remains of a clearing, though it is now been colonised by silver birch trees.


Continue forward keeping the ‘clearing’ on your left.


You then come to another junction – you continue to go round the corner on the right.



If you look left before moving on to the right you will see a working wood yard.


Continue forward until you reach the next junction which has a useful sign post and a picture giving details about the wood for interested visitors.




If you look right at the junction you see the following gate. This leads to the Angler’s Country Park.


However, we now take the left turn and walk towards Waterton’s Watchtower, which was a hide in which the Naturalist Charles Waterton used to watch the wildlife without disturbing it. I am reliably informed that there were a number of these ‘watchtowers’ with underground tunnels connecting them. The information point pictured above mentions that Waterton’s Watchtower could have been one of the first ‘hides’ in the world. To see the watchtower you go through the metal gates in the middle of the following photo. However, we take the left turn and follow the wall.





We then turn right and continue to follow the wall.



We reach a cottage that is built into the wall and continue left over the bridge.




If you look off the bridge you can see the course of the canal. In the two photos below you can certainly see the canal, complete with water because these were taken a few years ago, but today you can still get the impression of the location of the canal.

Untitled Untitled

Continue up the hill and when you reach the top you have an impressive view of the surrounding countryside.


You continue by turning right, and moving round the bend. In the image below you can see Rose Farm in the left of the picture below.


If you look to your right you see the line of trees. This is where the canal is and that is the route we followed on the earlier part of this walk.


You then reach a junction with the lane to Rose Farm on the left. We continue on the main lane that turns to the right.


You continue up the hill where you join The Balk which continues to the centre of the village emerging next to the war memorial.

(1) Barnsley Canal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnsley_Canal


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:



Grand Opening of Lock Eleven, New Inn Walton


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.


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.


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


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


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


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



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



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




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


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Elizabeth Kershaw graduated in the class of 1910:
scan0016 Elizabeth Kershaw’s visiting card: scan0018

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.


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?].


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Imperial Stormtroopers on Patrol in Wakefield

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

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

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

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

A Snowy Tour of South Wakefield

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

Sandal Castle

Sandal Castle Sledging - Copy

Sandal Castle - Copy

Sandal Castle 2 - Copy

Sanda Castle Keep - Copy

Sandal Castle Ruin 3 - Copy

Sandal Castle Moat - Copy

Sandal Castle Ruin 2 - Copy

Views from Sandal Castle

Manygates Lane - Copy

Wakefield View 4

Wakefield View 3

Wakefield View 2 - Copy

Wakefield View 1 - Copy


Chantry Chapel

Wakefield Bridge

Chantry Chapel 3

Chantry Chapel 2

Chantry Chapel 1

Chantry Faces

Chantry Chapel Plaque

River Calder

City of Wakefield


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


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.


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.


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

Tour De Yorkshire Starts in Sandal

Stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire began near Sandal Cricket ground on Barnsley Road today.  I thought I’d go down and have a look and perhaps take some photos. Prior to the start of the race, the riders rode through Wakefield city centre, though I missed that as I was camped out in Sandal near The Castle Pub waiting for the official start.

The starting point was in fact quite close to the spot where Richard of York famously gave battle in vain. I am sure the competitors had to fight their own battle against fatigue on the grueling course ahead.

The ride past was over in about 10 seconds, as seen in the video below, as it was the beginning of the race and the riders were all bunched together. Quite a lot of locals turned out to watch. These photos were taken from across the road from the Castle pub on Barnsley Road.


I took the following photographs:

Crowds gather near the starting point at the cricket club.



Road officially closed, though cars were allowed for quite a while before the race.


Spectators near Sandal Church.

Crowds line the road.


Outrider ahead of “the pack”.


Riders approaching.


The race goes by.

TourDeYorkshire SANDAL

TourDeYorkshire SANDAL 2

TourDeYorkshire SANDAL 3

Riders are over the hills and far away – spectators begin to move on.