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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other articles about the battle:

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

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

Letters From America

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

Edward Kershaw

Edward KershawHerbert Richard KershawHerbert Richard Kershaw

LETTERS FROM ST LOUIS, MO, USA

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

23 November 1908

My dear niece

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

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

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

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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29 January 1909

My dear niece

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

I remain your ever loving aunt and God bless you.

Mrs R Kershaw

April 20th 1909

My dear niece

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

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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

1338 Maine Street, Racine, Wisconsin.

July 21st 1909

My dear niece

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

I remain your loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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1307 A S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO.

23rd July 1909

Dear Cousin

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

Elizabeth Kershaw

Fred McNeledge Kershaw
Above: Fred McNeiledge Kershaw

31st October 1909

My dear niece

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

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

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

 

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

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

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

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

Bridge-and-Drive-Forest-Par

City Hall, St. Louis, Mo.

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

City-Hall

Compton Heights Water Tower, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Compton-Heights-Water-Tower

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

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

Custom-House-and-Post-Offic

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

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

Eads-Bridge-and-Wharf-Boat

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.

Grant's-Cabin

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.

Lake-At-Hyde-Park

McKinley High School, St. Louis, Mo.

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

McKinley-High-School

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

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

Museum-of-Fine-Arts

New Coliseum Bldg, St. Louis, Mo.

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

New-Coliseum-Building

Pagoda, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Pagoda-Forest-Park

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

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

Smith-Academy-and-Manual-Tr

Soldan High School, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Soldan-High-School

St. Lukes Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.

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

St-Luke's-Hospital

Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Union-Station

Vandeventer Place, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Vandeventer-Place

Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Washington-University

Yeatman High School, St. Louis, Mo.

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

Yeatman-High-School

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!

Storm Damage

Written on 5 December 2013

Storm damage

Damage from last night’s storm in the UK. A branch from an old horse chestnut tree in the village of Walton, near Wakefield crashes into a car on Shay Lane.  I spoke to one of the chaps trying to clear up the mess – apparently the tree has a tree preservation order on it.  It would appear that Mother Nature thinks otherwise!

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Pontefract Castle In November

Written on 10 November 2013

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

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

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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

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Banana Split: The Great Banana War Rages – Is No Tropical Fruit Safe?

3_Bananas with size reduced from 1563 x 1321 to 640 x 541 px

Above: 3 bananas on a yellow background. 19 February 2007. Originally posted to Flickr as [][2]. Uploaded using F2ComButton. Author Rick Harris. Republished under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Modifications: File size changed from 1563 x 1321 px to 640 x 541 px. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#/media/File:3_Bananas.jpg Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

The Yanks, a curious group, when they’re not dropping bombs on our lads in the Gulf (friendly fire, etc.) they’re starting a trade war with us!

Well, what are allies for, if you can’t piss them off what can you do with you time[?]

In late 1998, as our bombers were being deployed to back up our American cousins in their quarrel with Saddam, a far more serious and heinous plot was being hatched against the Euro-banana.

What I call the Euro banana, is the fruit produced in former British and French colonies, which is distinguished from its American multinational-produced counterpart by its size, it’s a bit smaller (well, size isn’t everything!).

The problem of course, as with many Euro-American disputes, is that we give a trade preference to bananas produced in countries with wish we have historical links and responsibilities.

Naturally the greedy American companies which produced those bendy yellow pieces of fruit, are a bit upset that they can’t monopolise yet another market, that of the EU.

Oh, what a shame how will the American economy ever survive[!]

We have strong cultural and economic links with our former colonies (America included), and some are very poor countries.

When will the US come to realise that some countries take their international responsibilities seriously?

Sometimes we put historical commitment before stuffing our pockets full of cash and claiming to be the most moral and the most correct country in the world.

How many countries does the United States want to offend with its overbearing economic presence, its swaggering attitude, and its imposition of sanctions on countries [whose] leaders or policies it does not like[?]

Well, what do you expect, history has ended, Uncle Sam’s the only remaining superpower, and everyone else has to tow the line.

As Europe moves towards political unification, we might be able to actually have a truly independent foreign policy, a policy that allows a more benign social market capitalism to assert itself on the American version.

Perhaps the real reason behind the dispute is that Europe’s social market capitalism, with its welfare states and social safety nets, is too much of a diversion from the true faith that produces the deprivation and social malaise that is apparent in the US.

At a time when Europe is asserting its independence with a new currency that is a threat to the pre-eminance of the Dollar, the Americans have to come to terms with their decline. The American Century is all but over, and they are beginning to worry about what the future holds. American leaders may ultimately come to realise that the American way may not necessarily be the ultimate destiny of humanity, and that alternatives do in fact exist. The future is a very uncertain place indeed, and as America’s power wanes it will needs its European friends more than ever.

If America continues its aggressive economic posturing, Europe and America could suffer a banana split with serious implications for both. AMERICA BE WARNED!

By Chris Knowles

Originally published in the REaction! the political magazine of Wakefield District Young Labour, ISSN 1464-8105, Vol.2 no.1 April 1999.