Burley Meeting Report 6 June 2019

Chairman Lynda Balmforth welcomed speaker Eric Jackson who presented an excellent illustrated talk ‘Remembrance – War Memorials & the Unknown Warrior’.

War memorials are a common sight throughout Great Britain with the exception of 54 (5 in Yorkshire) Thankful Villages where all the men returned home from the Great War. Prior to WW1 there was little or no commemoration of war dead; monuments such as Nelson’s Column & Wellington Arch celebrated victory but did not include names of the dead. By the end of C19th commemorative memorials began to appear for those who fought & died in the Boer War (one such plaque can be found in Queen’s Hall, Burley). The hitherto unknown enormous loss of life during WW1 prompted widespread commemoration of the dead.

Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware 1869 – 1949 who joined the Red Cross in 1914 was struck by the lack of system for marking graves of the dead & founded the graves registration system, later Imperial War Graves Commission, now Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Government policy was not to repatriate bodies home & it was not practically possible for most families to visit overseas graves. Commemorative war memorials therefore provided a focal point for remembrance.

The blueprint established by most places was to establish a committee to oversee the raising of funds & commission of designs & construction. Memorials took many forms from plaques, crosses, statues of soldiers to more practical construction of village halls.

Military chaplain Rev David Railton 1884 – 1955 conceived the idea for the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the burial place of kings. One body was anonymously selected & escorted to London (Victoria Station) via Arras, Bologne & Dover. Burial at the Abbey took place 11 November 1920 using soil from the main French battlefields. The black marble tombstone is the only one there that it is forbidden to walk upon. Among the guests of honour were 100 women who had lost both their husbands & all their sons during the war.

The poppy has become symbolic of remembrance since Moina Michael 1869 – 1944, American War Secretary, inspired by McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Field’ first sold poppies in aid of war veterans in 1918. The idea was adopted by Haig’s Fund & the British Legion & continues to this day.

Meeting Report 2 May 2019

The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 2 May. Following a brief AGM for the newly formed Society Chairman Lynda Balmforth welcomed popular speaker Jackie Depelle who presented an illustrated talk ‘Which Website and Why?’.

Inspired by Sunny Morton from a RootsTech conference Jackie led us through the pros and cons of various popular family history websites. RootsTech is an annual family history conference held in Salt Lake City and will also be held in London in October 2019. Helpful videos and other downloads are available on their website.

Some basic things to consider when using the internet websites for family history research are cost, ease of use (can you download to your ipad or mobile?), the amount and quality of available data and coverage (place and time) and the availability of family tree building tools. An essential starting point for family historians is information on births, marriages and deaths and these are available from the following free websites[i]: freebmd.org.uk; gro.gov.uk; ukbmd; familysearch.org; irishgenealogy.ie and scotlandspeople.gov.uk. They are also available on the main two subscription websites findmypast.co.uk and ancestry.co.uk (which can be accessed for free in some libraries). Freebmd provides a reliable dual input transcription by volunteers for births, marriages and deaths in England & Wales for the years 1837 to 1983. It should be borne in mind that transcriptions of original records can differ between websites and it can be helpful to view an image of the original record where this is available. Gro provides births 1837 to 1917 & deaths 1837 to 1957 but not marriages. Importantly this site also provides mothers’ maiden surnames as well as age at death.

Ukbmd.org.uk is an umbrella site and areas of coverage are explained; where parish records (England & Wales) are available these are original records and not transcriptions so can prove very useful.

Findmypast and ancestry have much overlapping information but some information such as parish records is unique to each site so you can select that which is most useful to you (check findmypast A-Z index & and ancestry card catalogue). Findmypast regularly adds new data which it informs users about on a weekly basis. Scotlandspeople provides valuable information for Scottish ancestry but is only available on a pay per view basis rather than subscription. Irishgenealogy has limited coverage due to the loss of many records.

Census information from 1841 to 1911 is another main tool for family historians and transcriptions plus original images are available on the main subscription sites findmypast & ancestry plus scotlandspeople and nationalarchives.gov.uk (which has some 2500 archives available to be searched).

Thegenealogist.co.uk provides unique access to the tithe collection & the 1910 valuation office survey; britishlibrary (bl.uk) can be used to identify British newspapers that may not have been digitised; and myheritage.com is useful for European & Jewish ancestry.

Lynda Balmforth gave a vote of thanks at the close. The Society’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 6 June at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Eric Jackson will present ‘Remembrance – War Memorials & the Unknown Warrior’. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.


[i]Websites should be prefixed with www.

Meeting Report 4 April 2019

The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 4 April. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed speaker Gillian Waters who gave an illustrated talk ‘To New York, Chicago, Wakefield or Otley’.

Gillian is the archivist for the Washburn Heritage Centre at Fewston and her association with the Fewston Assembly was the inspiration for her talk. The Fewston Assembly was a project undertaken to identify and research people whose graves were removed from the Fewston churchyard to make way for the heritage centre. The title of her talk refers to destinations of former Washburn Valley residents.

The Washburn Valley was a prominent location in Roman times as a Roman road ran through the valley to Ilkley. One of John Ogilby’s C17th strip maps depicts a coach route with directions through the valley featuring places such as Fewston, Blubberhouses, Keskin Moor and Swinsty Hall. Alan Godfrey’s C18th maps illustrate the turnpike roads enabling faster stage coach journeys through the valley. The Hopper Inn at Blubberhouses was a coaching inn at this time. In addition to coach travel many also travelled by horse or on foot. Joseph Holmes of Timble was a long-distance runner who successfully raced a coach from the valley to Wakefield.

As industrialisation came to the valley late C18th horses and waggons transported equipment and building supplies to aid the construction of a number of cotton and flax mills and the local population increased significantly to include a new workforce and associated tradespeople. By mid C19th many of the mills had failed and the workforce dispersed. The population of Fewston fell from c.900 to c.3/400 within a decade or so around this time. West House Mills at Fewston was the largest in the area using cheap female and child labour. Many orphan apprentices were brought from places such as London and Hull often travelling by river and canal to live in apprentice houses in the area. Robert Colyer spent his early life working at West House Mills. In 1850s he became a blacksmith and walked to Ilkley where he married. The couple subsequently travelled by packet ship from Liverpool to America where Robert eventually became a very successful Methodist preacher in Chicago. In 1892 he returned to Timble for the opening of the Robinson Gill Library. Robinson Gill was a former Timble resident who made his fortune in New York and provided the funds for the library.

During C19th the valley once known as England’s Little Switzerland took on a very different appearance as reservoirs were constructed to provide water for the industrial centres of Bradford and Leeds. Many navvies lived in the area during this time at Lindley Wood Navvy Camp. The coming of the railways into the region mid C19th opened up opportunities for travel and tourism with links to the local towns of Otley, Ilkley and Skipton. John Dickinson describes in his Timble diaries various journeys from the valley as far as London.

President Stanley Merridew gave a vote of thanks at the close. The Society’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 2 May at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Jackie Depelle will present ‘Which Website & Why?’. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.

Burley March Meeting Report

The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 7 March. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed speaker Nigel Grizzard who came to tell us the story of the Jews in Ilkley. Nigel is an expert on local Jewish heritage and leads guided walks around Leeds, Bradford & Ilkley & is co-founder of Heritage Project ‘Making their Mark’ a Bradford Jewish Heritage Trail.

It is thought that Jews may well have been in the Ilkley area during Roman times as soldiers, traders & slaves. A Jewish coin of Herod Aggrippa was found on Bingley Moor near to the site of the Roman road. Many Jewish emigrants came to the UK during the 1890s as a result of pogroms in the Russian empire. Between 1881 & 1914 2.5 million plus Jews migrated from Eastern Europe. Little Germany in Bradford is the site of one of the largest collections of historic warehouses in Britain. Many were built for German Jewish merchants who helped establish Bradford as the Wool Capital of the World. During C19th many Jewish merchants came out of the city to Ilkley for respite as it grew into a spa town.

Well known Jews connected to Ilkley include Charles Semon 1814 – 1877 textile merchant who became Lord Mayor of Bradford in 1864. He built Semon House in Ilkley as a convalescent home in 1874. This stood at the top of White Wells Road and has since been demolished. Victor Edelstein 1842 – 1921 partner of Jacob Moser, Bradford textile entrepreneurs was a member of the Ilkley Bridge Committee and his name can be found on a plaque on the road bridge over the Wharfe in the town. Victor Anglicised his name to Elston in 1915 as did many German Jewish immigrants during WW1.

In the late 1930s Kindertransport arranged the evacuation of thousands of Jewish children to the UK. Ilkley’s Jewish Refugee Committee 1939 was chaired by Mr F. Sugden who explained how they were ‘taking boys out of Vienna to save them from the concentration camps and were educating them in English and getting them onto farms’. These boys lived in a house called Loxleigh on Mount Pleasant Road, Ilkley. Jewish religious services were held at the Ilkley Masonic Hall on Cunliffe Road.

President Stanley Merridew gave a vote of thanks following questions and comments from the audience. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 4 April at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Gillian Waters will present her talk, To New York, Chicago, Wakefield & Otley. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.

Susanne Young

2019-0207 Burley Meeting Report

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 (www.beckettstreetcemetery.org.uk) 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