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.

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

Capturing Urban Texture

I love taking photographs and have been looking at ones that I have taken in different parts of the world that capture what I call urban texture. That is, the colours, textures, lighting, brickwork and contrast that my photographs captured within urban landscapes.

I have run these through filters available on Instragram to try to exaggerate the textures to increase their impact and then compiled them in a section that I have created within Flickr.

The images compiled so far cover places such as my home town of Wakefield, Siena, New York, Portofino, Paris, Warsaw, Provins, Beverley, Rome, York, Bridlington, Verona, Zurich, Copenhagen, Sorrento, Venice, Leeds, Pisa, Cefalu, Luca, Berlin, London and Jerusalem.

The following is my progress on this small project that I have achieved so far (click the image below to see the collection):

A) Urban Texture

Treasures of Tuscany – The Piccolomini Library

Above: Close up of the vaulted ceiling of the Piccolomini Library

The Piccolomini Library is located within the magnificent Duomo di Siena in one of my favourite cities in all of Italy.

I used one of its illuminated manuscripts to give a bit of colour to the article I posted yesterday. Today I thought it would be good to show people more of the library’s cultural treasures. It also gives me the excuse to showcase some of my photos.

Wikipedia describes the library as follows:

“Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini Library, housing precious illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, probably based on designs by Raphael.” (1)

The library is named after Enea Silvio Piccolomini  who became Pope Pius II. The frescoes on the walls by Pinturicchio depict his life. According to an article at DiscoverTuscany.com:

“The Library itself was built by Pope Pius II’s nephew, also a cardinal who also later became Pope Pius III…, the library was in memory of his uncle and to conserve the rich collection of manuscripts he had lovingly collected.” (2)

The Illuminated manuscripts on display are impressive in and of themselves but the library’s delights don’t end with the books. The vibrancy of colour is a veritable feast for the eyes.

Untitled Above: Illuminated manuscripts (choir books) on display

Above: Close up of an example of the illuminated manuscripts

Untitled Above: Vaulted ceiling and statue of the Three Graces with Pinturicchio’s frescoes in the alcoves. People looking at the choir books at the bottom of the shot.

Above: Piccolomini receiving his cardinal’s hat from the Pope

Untitled Above: Part of the fresco where Piccolomini introduces Eleonora of Portugal to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III

Above: Part of the fresco depicting the Diet of Princes at Mantua where Pope Pius II (Piccolomini) proclaimed a new crusade in 1459

If you are wandering around Italy and find yourself in Siena be sure to check this place out, it is well worth a visit.


(1) Sienna Cathedral: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siena_Cathedral

(2) The Piccolomini Library, a Treasure within a Treasure https://www.discovertuscany.com/siena/piccolomini-library.html

Old World Charm on The Bay of Naples: Albergo Lorelei et Londres

One of my favourite panoramic views in the world is one overlooking Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples from Sorrento.  In the foreground is a wonderful looking pastel red coloured hotel.  You can just about make out the cracked lettering to see the name of this old hotel  – “Albergo Lorelei et Londres”. This hotel helps make a magnificent view even better.


To me the view and this particular hotel represent the essence of Sorrento.  To find it you need to go to the eastern side of town a short walk from the main Tasso Square. It is located on Via Aniello Califano and set at the top of a shear cliff face, high above the main port, Marina Piccola.

I must admit, when I first saw this building it was love at first sight. Its vivid red colour contrasting perfectly against the blue Mediterranean sky. Nevertheless, I have never actually experienced the hotel itself. On the two occasions I was in Sorrento it was closed up and falling into disrepair.

I googled it when I returned home and it seems that it closed in 2007 (1).  A Trip Advisor forum speculated about what had happened to it (2). An article at Rebecca-East.com implies that it was particularly popular with budget travelers and that the roadside rooms were noisy (3). Reidsitaly.com refers to it as ‘one of the Secret Hotels of the Amalfi Coast, a tattered olde worlde budget gem’ (4). It made The Telegraph travel guide in July 2004 which said it had 50 rooms, 30 of which had a sea view and it refers to a price tag of £65 (5).

You would probably enjoy bread and water with the breath-taking views on offer, but it also seems to have had a reputation for good eating and drinking back in the day. It was mentioned in an article by Travelvivi.com under the title ‘The Best Restaurants With the Best Views’ (6), Thedailygreen.com had it as one of ’12 Restaurants with the Best Views in the World’ (7), and  an article published in May 2011 at Everything-Beautiful.com rated it as one of the ‘top rooftop bars in Europe’ (8). Some other reviews can be found HERE and HERE.

You also get the impression that it would be the sort of hotel that people would have stayed at while undertaking ‘The Grand Tour’. Edwardian elegance at the hotel pictured HERE and HERE present an insight into the lifestyle of that period.

The hotel itself may, in fact, have had its ultimate origins in the world of Ancient Rome, the Rome into which those Grand Tourists wanted to immerse themselves at Pompeii and Herculanium. An article at Famedisud.it entitled ‘Albergo Lorelei et Londres: un antico rifugio di pittori e letterati a Sorrento’, if I have interpreted the google translated version correctly, suggests that it could have been built on Roman foundations, probably the villas of the elite of that time – Senators, Generals, senior imperial officials, from where they could enjoy their leisure time, their wealth, and their privileged status in ancient Surrentum (9).

Above: View of Albergo Lorelei et Londres from on of the lidos at Marina San Francesco at the bottom of the cliffs.


Above: A closer shot of the hotel, with the remains of the old restaurant are in the foreground. The square structure is the lift that goes to the beach area at the foot of the cliff.


Above: A small pier and crystal clear waters at the bottom of the cliff.


I found photos of what the hotel looked like when it was operation and provide links to these below:

Outdoor restaurant on the terrace overlooking the bay: HEREHEREHEREHERE, HERE, and with Vespas parked outside HERE. In the days of what would assume to be times when people were still taking the the Grand Tour HERE (looking from the sea at the bottom of the cliff), inside what looks like the dining room HERE, and another indoor room HERE. Another great pic HERE.


(1) https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/lorelei-y-londres-sorrento
(2) Trip Advisor https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g187782-i162-k3598272-Albergo_Lorelei_et_Londres-Sorrento_Province_of_Naples_Campania.html
(3) Rebecca-East.com http://www.rebecca-east.com/traveltoPompeii.html
(4) Reidsitaly.com http://www.reidsitaly.com/destinations/campania/amalfi_coast/sorrento/hotels/hotel_loreley_et_londres.html
(5) The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/italy/southernitalyandsicily/730785/Sorrento-Weekending.html
(6) Travelvivi.com http://www.travelvivi.com/the-best-restaurants-with-the-best-views/
(7) Thedailygreen.com http://preview.www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/restaurants-with-views#slide-5
(8) Everything-Beautiful.com  http://www.everything-beautiful.com/top-5-rooftop-bars-in-europe/
(9) Famedisud.it http://www.famedisud.it/albergo-lorelei-et-londres-un-antico-rifugio-di-pittori-e-letterati-a-sorrento/

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

Poppy Fields View, Yorkshire

Written on 17 October 2013

I am quite a keen photographer, the following are some photographs that I took a few years ago in my local area.  The fields are different every year according to what crop is grown, etc.  The particular year when these photographs were taken seemed to cause poppies to grow.  I have not seen anything similar either before or since. I thought I would take this opportunity to showcase these vividly colourful photographs on my blog.

Poppy Field 1

Poppy Field 2

Poppy Field 3

Poppy Field 4

Poppy Field 5

Poppy Field 6

Poppy Field 7

Poppy Field 8

Poppy Field 9