Meeting Report Burley 7 Feb 2019

Grave Concerns

Speaker: Stephen Miller

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 7 February. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed speaker Stephen Miller our society’s webmaster and co-founder of Leeds Indexers (now Yorkshire Indexers) who presented an entertaining and informative illustrated talk about his Grave Concerns.

As a dedicated family historian Stephen is rather fond of cemeteries since he first searched for family graves in Harehills Cemetery. Having secured a map of this cemetery he began indexing the graves there but returning one day to resume his task he was shocked to find that a large number of stones had been vandalised. This incident spurred him and like-minded friends to set up the Leeds Indexers as they set about the enormous task of indexing cemeteries in the Leeds area before more gravestones were lost. 

Sadly this can happen for any number of reasons such as ground subsidence, weathering, neglect, vandalism and deliberate cemetery clearance either for development or ease of maintenance. Many former cemeteries have been lost such as the Quaker burial ground site which is now occupied by Asda House and its carpark in Leeds. Early OS maps show the large graveyard of Leeds Parish Church, St Peter’s which was subsequently intersected by the railway and the final remaining section providing space for Leeds bus station. The large municipal Woodhouse General Cemetery opened at St George’s field in 1835 but by the 1930s it was terribly neglected and in 1965 wholesale clearance of the gravestones took place which led to the formation of the Leeds Cemetery Defence Organisation. A sparse number of listed memorials remain including the Firefighters’ Memorial but many notable gravestones have been lost such as that for well-known Yorkshire artist Atkinson Grimshaw (1836 – 1893). 105 war graves were also removed from the site and replaced by a screen wall of names in Lawnswood Cemetery. 43 bodies from the vaults of the former St James Church, New York Street were re-interred when the site was demolished and as yet a list of their names remains illusive.

Many local councils have conducted or are in the process of ‘wobble testing’ grave stones in their cemeteries, marking out stones for laying flat or removal where they are considered a safety risk. Memorials are also stolen from cemeteries, it must have taken a lot of effort to steal a 12’ high memorial from Beckett Street Cemetery in 2003. The marble headstone for William Forster 1818 – 1886 (Bradford MP, education reformer and local mill owner) went missing from God’s Acre Cemetery in Burley in Wharfedale in 2008 and has since been replaced with a replica stone.

Burial registers, grave books and cemetery maps are important aids in the task of indexing a cemetery as not all graves are marked by a stone and they can provide information where the stones have been lost or are indecipherable. Leeds Indexers have made use of such records (copies of Leeds burial records and an index of cremations are kept by Leeds Library). Original records are also at risk of destruction such as water damage to the Lawnswood cremation registers and the recent wanton vandalism of the remembrance books kept there.

It is not all bad news however. Many cemeteries have been recorded by local family history societies and other groups. Permission to do so must be obtained and great care taken not to damage gravestones. Leeds City Council acted recently to rescue a number of gravestones at Beckett Street Cemetery by restoring the ground and re-setting stones. These include the ‘guinea graves’ where many poor were laid to rest and their names recorded on the reverse and front of stones. A good number of Friends Groups have also been established to protect and preserve cemeteries such as the Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery ( who have transformed a once dangerous, neglected and inaccessible graveyard. The recently formed Friends of Hawksworth Cemetery have set about preserving the cemetery there which had fallen into a sorry state and have established an ‘adopt a grave’ scheme. The missing burial registers for Hawksworth miraculously turned up in an Otley office together with a number of burial certificates. 

Grave recording can be a hazardous occupation as Stephen learnt early one morning as he photographed stones when he fell into a large burial hole. Emerging unhurt he gave an early dog walker quite a shock. However the recording and maintenance of our cemeteries not just for family historians but also for those who visit to remember loved ones and preserving our heritage is a most worthy task.

President Stanley Merridew gave a warm vote of thanks following questions and comments from the audience. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 7 March at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Nigel Grizzard will present his talk, History of Ilkley’s Jewish Community. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.

Report by Susanne Young

2018-11-01 Burley Meeting Report:

Subject: History of Chocolate in York

Speaker: Norman Simpson

The Wharfedale Family History Group met Thursday 1st November and the meeting opened with a short extraordinary general meeting in which members unanimously approved a change to the Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society incorporating Wharfedale and Keighley family history groups with effect from 1st January 2019. Chairman Lynda Balmforth welcomed our speaker for the evening Norman Simpson who presented an interesting illustrated presentation on the History of Chocolate in York.

Chocolate was originally consumed as a drink made from crushed cocoa beans in South America around 2500 to 3000 years ago. Aztec Emperor Montezuma I 1398 – 1469 is said to have drunk large quantities believing it to be an aphrodisiac. European chocolate drinking first became popular amongst the elite in France and was introduced into England around 1659 when it was consumed for its apparent medicinal qualities. The cocoa drink as we know it today was not made until 1828 when most of the cocoa butter had been extracted and sugar added so that it was more palatable. 

The first dark chocolate bar was made by Frys in 1847 and Lindt invented milk chocolate in 1879. The first chocolate manufacturer in York was Mary Tuke in 1732 and Henry Rowntree purchased the Tuke business in 1862. He was joined by his brother Joseph who eventually took over the business. The Rowntrees were a Quaker family as were all the major English chocolate manufacturers including Cadbury, Fry and Terry. Joseph Rowntree was a noted philanthropist who treated his workers well. He introduced sick pay and pension schemes but also vetted new employees in their own homes and punctuality was essential. Joseph grew the Rowntree business which employed 1600 staff in York in 1899. The Rowntree factory moved to its familiar Haxby Road site in 1904. Rowntree confectionary produced popular pastilles and gums and their first chocolate did not compete well with market leaders Cadbury and Fry. However the company had its first major breakthrough in chocolate with Black Magic in 1933 followed by the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp in 1935.

The other major chocolate manufacturer in York was Terrys (originally Terry and Berry founded 1823). Terrys first produced chocolate in 1867 and their famous chocolate orange first appeared in 1932. Rowntrees were taken over by Nestle in 1988 and Terrys by Kraft Foods in 1993 prompting an end to chocolate production in York which at its height employed some 1800 staff in the city. 

A lady from the audience showed us a family heirloom Rowntrees WW1 chocolate tin. In December 1914 the City of York sent Rowntree tins of chocolate to all York men serving in WW1. Lynda Balmforth gave a vote of thanks.

The group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm Thursday 6th December at the Salem Church Hall, Burley when we shall be holding our annual general knowledge Christmas Prize Quiz. Members and visitors all welcome, refreshments will be served.

2018-10-04 Burley Meeting Report:

Subject: Otley to Nidderdale in Pictures

Speaker: David Alred

The Wharfedale Family History Group met Thursday 4th October and apologies to those who were expecting speaker Norman Simpson who will be joining us next month. In the event our actual programmed speaker Lynda Telford was unfortunately unable to join us so David Alred came to our aid at very short notice with a fascinating slide show of vintage pictures featuring Otley, Nidderdale and the Washburn valley. David collected his pictures from various sources including many kind donations from farming families around the district.

David’s pictures and commentary included early C20th Otley street scenes, street parties and skating on a frozen River Wharfe. There were many local country-side scenes featuring early farming methods of hay-making, sheep shearing and ploughing as well as stone quarrying around Nidderdale and local reservoir construction. David’s excellent collection also included local farming families, road gangers and other interesting local characters including Otley’s Neddy Emmott 1852 – 1913 and Betty Simpson born 1844 of Wonderful House, Norwood. Chairman Linda Balmforth gave a warm vote of thanks at the close. David’s book Nidderdale Yesterday: A Pictorial Record of Life in a Yorkshire Dale ISBN-10: 1858251591 ISBN-13: 978-1858251592 may be of interest.

The group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm Thursday 1st November at the Salem Church Hall, Burley when Norman Simpson will present his talk The History of Chocolate in York. Refreshments will be provided, everyone welcome.

2018-06-06 Burley Meeting Report:

Subject: No Place like Home

Speaker: Peter Higginbotham

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 7th June. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker Peter Higginbotham whose illustrated presentation was ‘No Place like Home’: the institutions that housed Britain’s children. Children’s homes over the years have been in many different guises. One of the earliest was founded by Thomas Coram in 1739. His Foundling Hospital was London’s first home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them. This large establishment was supported by a number of wealthy individuals and artists including William Hogarth, Handel and Charles Dickens. The Coram Charity continues to this day providing support for vulnerable children and their families. Many early orphan asylums had strict admission requirements determined by legitimacy, health, wealth and race. Entry was often determined by election or payment of a lump sum.

One of the most well-known figures in child care was Dr Thomas Barnado 1845-1905 who established Barnado’s Homes for children from 1866 following his encounters with many destitute children in London’s East End. Many homes were established including cottage home developments in the style of a village. One early Barnado’s home was the Home for Little Incurables in Bradford. The Barnado’s Charity is still well-known today continuing to provide help for vulnerable children. Perhaps less well-known is Thomas Bowman Stephenson 1839-1912 a Methodist minister who founded what were to become National Children’s Homes in 1869. Hilton Grange in Bramhope was Yorkshire’s first National Children’s Home opened in 1907. Another influential figure was Edward Rudolph 1852-1933 founder of The Waifs and Strays Society (now The Children’s Society) which ran a number of smaller homes around the country including St Chad’s Home for Delicate Girls in Headingley, established 1889. Here the girls ran a very successful cottage industry producing and selling a variety of high quality knitted stockings.

Aside from these larger organisations there were many other smaller independent institutions which cared for children such as Ilkley Orphanage for Girls (now Margaret’s Court) and Joseph Nutter’s Orphanage for Boys in Bradford. There were also a number of occupational homes such as the Sailors’ Orphan Institute of Hull established 1837 and St George’s Northern Police Orphanage in Harrogate established 1897. Various religious groups ran their own homes including the renowned Magdalene homes for ‘fallen’ women and their babies. Certified schools were established from 1862 to remove children from the influences of the work house. Other types of institution include borstals, emigration homes, industrial schools and many more.

Local authorities took over control of children’s care in 1930 and their role was extended by the Children’s Act 1948. During the course of the twentieth century there was a gradual decline in residential care for children with a growing emphasis on vulnerable children staying with or being restored to their families. Today’s remaining children’s homes mainly cater for children with special needs. Local authority children’s homes were often located in large houses such as Inglewood in Otley, Wheatley Lawns in Ben Rhydding and Hill Top House in Ilkley.

Family historians can approach organisations that still exist such as Barnado’s for information and records and photographs may be available for a fee. Many former children’s homes have become schools and may have retained historic records. County archives may also hold records for local institutions. Peter’s websites and provide lots of useful information and details of his popular publications. Finally Lynda proposed a warm vote of thanks following questions from the floor. The group’s next meeting will be a research evening 7.30 pm Thursday 5th July. Access to all the main genealogical internet sites will be available, members and visitors all welcome, refreshments provided. If the latest series of Who do you think you are? has inspired you do come along and we’ll help get you started with your research or perhaps find a way of breaking down your brick walls.

2018-05-03 Burley Meeting Report:

Subject: Letters from a Faraway Laddie – from the Nidd to the Nile’

Speaker: Sue McGeever

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 3rd May. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker for the evening Sue McGeever who presented her illustrated talk ‘Letters from a Faraway Laddie – from the Nidd to the Nile’.

The subject of Sue’s talk concerned her grandfather Harry Gill born Summerbridge 1858. Harry came from a family of rope and twine makers and was a lay preacher. In early 1899 he embarked upon an educational cruise aboard the steam yacht Argonaut, organised by Henry Lunn, for the princely sum of £21. Whilst he was away he wrote a series of letters to his fiancée Maggie Morton who lived with her family on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. These letters are still in the possession of the family together with a collection of rare holiday snaps most probably taken by Harry on an early folding pocket Kodak camera. Harry addressed his letters to his Lassie and signed them from a Faraway Laddie and they provide a wonderful description of his travels, taking in many locations associated with the Bible.

After travelling to Marseilles he boarded the ship to Naples then on to Katakola in Greece from where the party visited Olympia then went overland by train to Piraeus, calling at Mycenae and Corinth along the way. The party spent time in Athens before reboarding the ship which took them to the island of Patmos and then to Jaffa (Tel Aviv). They stayed in Jerusalem visiting many Holy sites including the River Jordan where Harry experienced a full immersion baptism. He also brought home a phial of river water in anticipation of his own future children’s baptisms. The group then travelled to Alexandria, staying in Cairo and enjoying the Pyramids and the Nile. Harry was delighted by Egypt as he was by most of the places he visited with the exception of Jerusalem which he thought rather spoilt.

Departing Egypt for Malta Harry was by this time rather unwell which he blamed on sea-sickness but he was also missing home. He purchased some beautiful Maltese lace which he brought home for Maggie, who he married later that year. The couple settled in Summerbridge and had 6 children together. Harry’s letters express his delight in his journey including cold water sea baths and cricket on board ship but towards the end of his one month trip he was missing simple home cooked food.

Lynda Balmforth gave a vote of thanks and following refreshments a short AGM was held during which the existing team of committee members were re-elected for the coming year. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 7 June at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when well known historian Peter Higginbotham will present his talk, No Place like Home. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.