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Barwick Days
by Bart Hammond

Barwicker Nos. 7 - 12
September 1967 - December 1988

Part 1

Pausing in my evening stroll around the village, I seated myself for a few minutes rest on one of the cottage steps behind the maypole. The evening sun was slanting down over Hall Tower Hill, casting long shadows from maypole and cross, and tinting the church tower in a roseate glow. I reflected on the evenings sixty or more years ago, when all these cottage steps along the row were fully occupied with cottagers enjoying the tranquil scene of the village street. This was the thing to do in those halcyon days, long before TV and "Soap Operas". The only soaps we knew then were of the healthy carbolic and Lifebuoy varieties!

All the rain we have had this summer - I have never known such a wet, cold June and July - set me thinking about our becks carrying all the extra water away. The becks around Barwick ("beck" itself is a word peculiar to the north and an Old Norse relic) are some of our attractive features. They include Rake Beck, Potterton Beck, and of course the famed Cock Beck which all meander through our lovely valleys, and with the stream at Long Lane almost ring the village. In old days, without modern land draining, they would have presented an obstacle to intruders, with deeper water and mar-shy surrounding land. The beck at Rakehill has been seen in spate in recent times, but usually presents a peaceful scene with its footbridge, formerly with craftsman-made timber handrails, but now, alas, vandal-proof iron piping. This bridge, I have heard described by a Barwicker as "Sulking Bridge", presumably where the love-lorn or others could go, lean on the handrail and meditate on their real or imagined grievances.
To meditate at this place has long been a pastime of mine. Children of the village play and paddle about here in the cool, bright water, but the feeling of history that it engenders is, in my case, the attraction. The ford across the stream, with the steep descent down and the climb to the picturesquely named Dark Lane brings one in touch with t he pack-horse men who travelled this 'way. Then on Sundays or Saints' days, the Ellis's of Kiddal came riding or walking down with their retinue to Barwick Church, where they were eventually carried to their rest. Nowadays, surrounding cornfields and grazing continue the Barwick farming tradition, and two of our surviving "Green Roads" make this area one which should be preserved for ever.

The sight of open-top buses which pass through the village in summer, taking Leeds passengers to visit the gardens at Lotherton, remind me of the days of my youth when nearly all public transport was roofless! I am pleased that people today can enjoy this wind- blown experience. Well remembered are those times, when full below, one had to climb to the upper deck in weather that was unkind to say the least. London buses, I recall, had tarpaulin covers attached to the seats which could be pulled up to protect you from the worst effects of rain and wind. The early open tram-cars in Leeds had no such refinement. We were all pretty spartan and uncomplaining in those days!

Part 2

As we are fast approaching the season when our landscape is covered with winter's mantle, it is perhaps time to recount the story told by a number of older Barwickers. This concerns their great childhood experience in sledging, with the right icy conditions, from a start at Hall Tower Hill with a non-stop run to Ass Bridge on Aberford Road. This was in the days when it could be guaranteed that nothing was coming up the other way!

Mr William Stead, that mine of information about his young days, 60 years ago, tells me that when the snow covered Hall Tower Hill, they could create a toboggan run from top to bottom with a final leap covering twenty yards or so. Born within a few yards of the field, he and other village children used it as their happy playground.

Judging by the number of occasions one sees cars parked there, The Avenue on Aberford road must be considered as our most attractive view-point. Here, between cathedral-like grey columns, the boles of the great beech trees, we can enjoy a vista across the valley of Cock Beck, to the village on the opposite hill, with its cluster of houses embracing the tower of the Parish Church.

This approach to Barwick must have been in the mind of the Parlington squire who had the Avenue trees planted two centuries ago. Regrettably a number had to be cut down in 1968, which destroyed the full beauty of the setting as remembered, and pictured in photographs (see page 45 of "Bygone Barwick").

In past days one could rest here in peace and quiet with little more than the sound of bird song. Now and then, wind-borne came the uplifting sound of church bells, perhaps celebrating a wedding. Church bells have a long history, in use from the seventh century. The oldest of the six bells in Barwick Church tower dates from 1604. Another bell heard in former days was the curfew which "tolls the knell of parting day". A bell high on the outside of our fifteenth century Old Rectory may well have been used for a similar purpose.

What's in a name? A great deal when it encapsulates as much history as does Barwick-in-Elmet. This thought has been given emphasis by the recent attempts by the people of Thornton Dale to have their old nomenclature of Thornton-le-Dale restored. This attempt by the authority to deprive a community of its historic name is something that we in Barwick-in-Elmet should be watchful about, and the full name of the village should be used as much as possible in written and printed material.

There are other Barwicks, but none with the "in-Elmet" suffix. Of a number of places which had this name from the old Kingdom, Sherburn-in-Elmet is the only other survivor. There were Saxton-in-Elmet, now simply Saxton, Kirkby-in-Elmet (South Kirkby) and Alta-Methelton-in-Elmete (High Melton). Burton Salmon-in-Elmet, Sutton-in-Elmet, Kirkby Wharfe-in-Elmet, Clifford-in-Elmet, Micklefield-in-Elmet; all these have now lost the reference to the old Kingdom in their titles. A saving in writing time and ink perhaps, but what a loss otherwise.

Part 3

It is said that the music we now have "on tap" in our homes deprives us of the incentive to make our own. Nevertheless, there are still some enthusiasts who entertain at functions, and give their services for the enjoyment of the elderly or handicapped. But instrumentalists are becoming rare. It was not so in the days of the "Barwick Band" which was in its heyday during and after the last war, when it played at the local dances, held at the Institute, Chapel Lane. The band comprised George Pullan (the timber yard owner) on the piano; Elsie and Pat Murphy, violins; Albert Warner, accordian, and drums played by Dick Walton and later by Alva Prince. These were augmented by players from among the soldiers billeted at Potterton Hall.

The band was also much in demand for garden fetes etc. Mr Donald Pullan, accomplished amateur accordian and concertina player, tells me he is the third in line with this enthusiasm for making music. Apart from his father, his grandfather always took a concertina with him when he travelled round by pony and cart, sometimes giving impromptu performances in village squares. A great character by all accounts!

It is surprising how old words some back into common usage, and the fairly recent ones disappear. I was thinking of this when one of the pensioners' coach trips pulled away from the John Rylie centre. Our village now has motor coaches for public hire, locally owned. Coach is a word that covered all our earliest means of transport, but not so many years ago, everyone referred to the vehicle we used for day trips as the "chara". In the country or at the coast we all went by char-a-banc!

Described in a late Victorian dictionary as "French, a long four-wheeled carriage having several seats", my early recollections of the chara were of a high, somewhat bulbous motor vehicle with a folded, pram-type hood at the back. which might provide some flapping protection if it rained - it seldom did! They held upwards of thirty happy passengers; if they had known it, the pioneers of our now thriving "coach" business.

Part 4

I am always fascinated by old words which have associations with country crafts. One told to me recently, which I have not heard before, is "spelks". Woodland in this area sixty or more years ago had a lot of hazel bushes, from the branches of which were cut lengths of 1 to 1½ foot used when thatching hay and corn stacks. These the thatchers called "spelks", and the longer pieces were inserted at the end of stacks to prevent loosening in high winds. One good source of supply was the thickets which used to crown the hill between Rakehill footbridge and Kiddal.

There was, at one time, a place called the South plantation, an extensive woodland, the trees of which were felled to enable Becca Hall estate to pay its way. This turned out good for Barwickers , as it provided them with a paradise for blackberries. A 12 lb. basket could soon be filled and youngsters would go twice a day at weekends to make a few coppers. It was a long walk , nearly to Becca Hall, but, as one 75 year old remembers, well worth it

A mushroom bonanza occurred in the days of Tom Stead, 70 odd years ago. He had been leading manure fro Scholes station and spreading it in the narrow rows of a potato field beside Long Lane on the way to Garforth. The field had been planted in the Spring to crop later in the year. A very mild spell at the "back end" set the mushrooms growing. Never had there been so many in one field and they provided a gold mine for the colliers on their way home from night shift at 6.00 am. For a fortnight they gathered mushrooms by the bucketful, and people came from all ever to pick them. So many covered the field , it is said, that it nearly failed the potato crop.

A mystery! We have good variety of birds in this village and a number are regular visitors to our bird-table. But in 1987, the green finches did not appear at all. Please come back this year; we miss you!

Part 5

One of the few enjoyable things about getting up of a morning are the brightly coloured postcards which drop through our letterboxes, usually from fortunate members of the family or friends holidaying abroad. In my case, these always seem to arrive when the holidaymakers have been home for a week or two!

The use of the postcard now appears to be mainly for this purpose, and not for day to day messages as in former days. Introduced in 1870, picture postcards enjoyed a tremendous popularity up to the first world war. It is recorded that in one year (1914), 880 million were posted. This was no doubt due to the low cost of cards and just one-halfpenny postage. Postcard publishers covered every part of the country, and for the Barwick area, for instance , there were several firms producing view cards. These included Bramleys and Hagues of Crossgates; the Phototype Co. and Parkinson and Roy of Leeds.

There being no such thing as first and second class mai1 at the time, all items received the same treatment, and considering that there was little or no mechanisation , post was delivered with surprising speed, Often cards posted in the morning would be delivered locally in the afternoon. One card I have of Barwick (1904) posted here on Sunday afternoon arrived in Scarborough on Monday morning.

Popular views of the Village were of the Main Street with its thatched cottages, and The Avenue then in the full glory of its beech trees. This Village is an ideal subject for postcard photographs, and it is good to see that many are still produced for sale. A number of the pictures in our publication "Bygone Barwick" are from old postcards. If by chance you have any very old cards, the Society would be pleased to see them.

A postcard photograph of Main Street taken in the early years of the century, shows a single cart trundling along in the afternoon sunshine. Today, cars, buses and trade vehicles of all types pass over the same spot every few seconds, all through the day - and much of the night. I never cease to ponder on the great upheaval to our lives since, say, the 20's or even the 30's, when it was possible to cross this road without a long wait at the kerbside. Maybe soon they will treat us like hedgehogs and toads who have been provided with their own tunnels under busy roads in some places.

Part 6

Living near the roadside , as I do, brings with it the intrusion of street noises, the latest being the rumbling on pavement made by roller skates, which appear to be enjoying something of a revival. A few years ago it was skateboards, those expensive updates of the scooters of our childhood which all youngsters seemed to own. Our scooter, inoffensive by comparison, except for the squeaky wood wheels, were I remember, rather hard on the leg which did all the work. Prior to these, iron hoops were the thing. Noisy, propelled at speed by Deans of an iron hook, they were great fun until the hoop departed down the road on its own, threatening persons and property. The girls had their wooden hoops driven by a stick; not at all for boys!

We also had those early vehicles, the soapboxes built on old pram wheels, in which one could carry younger passengers or collect chumping material, etc. This reminds me of the excellent boxes on wheels once made by the late Albert Lincoln of this Village. He made a number, chiefly for use by Barwick allotment holders to transport their produce and tackle to and from plot and home. On his allotment, which he named Ponderosa, he ornamented his greenhouse with a self-made windmill. His metal work skills were also used for making garland brackets for our maypole.

I paused at the end of Chapel Lane opposite the Church. The roof was in the process of being re-tiled and seated lacing each other astride the topmost ridge, two workmen were in earnest conversation with arms gesticulating. In other words, no hands holding on, just legs and knees! No criticism is intended; from that remote distance they could easily have been discussing the finer points of roofing repairs. But the mere thought of being at that height made me feel dizzy. Climbing a short ladder is a torture, and my life has been one long avoidance of situations involving heights. I make no apologies for being acrophobic, and take my hat off to those not so afflicted.

"Christmas is a'coming", but in the previous days there is, ror me, one day much looked forward to, that shortest of days, December 21st. Every dawning now brings nearer the blessing of spring. Awake early on the 22nd. last year, I heard the excited crowing of roosters from adjacent Lime Tree Farm, and at 3.00 a.m. one could not imagine a glimmer at daylight tor at least four more hours of this long moonless night. 'What do our farmyard clocks find to crow about at this ungodly hour? Perhaps they were celebrating the season's change.

Part 7

The privatisation of water supplies would not have worried our forebears, who nearly all had wells and pumps in their own gardens. There were scores of these in Barwick, in addition to the invaluable Parish Pump. Upon the installation of piped supplies, these wells rapidly fell into disuse, except where retained by farmers. They also provided a useful dumping place for unwanted items. I was told by the late George Goodall that their well situated alongside the old cottage on Leeds Road next to Verity's Glebe Farm on a field once owned by the Gascoignes, was used in this way. He personally threw some old clocks down. And he said that a former occupant of the cottage tipped a piano down the well. I wonder if the people living in the modern homes now built on the site are troubled by midnight chimes or the occasional "water music".

Most of us at some time or other have been bitten by the "collecting bug". In schooldays it was foreign stamps, also in my case, cigarette cards. Then during adolescence we lapsed, perhaps because we were busy collecting members of the opposite sex. Settling down in later life, we started once more, maybe with antique figures, jugs, teapots or whatever. This leads me to think as our village is rapidly Extending, it is only a matter of time before some entrepeneur opens an antique shop: we shall then certainly be classed as "ye olde worlde".

Today hair care is regarded as an essential for both sexes, except for those with pop musical tendencies. How did older Barwickers cope with their locks? There are no references to hairdressers in our lists of old trades, so we presume that the pudding basin came into use. For the girls, we have on record a Maypole Queen having her hair Marcel-waved at Scholes in 1928.

Walking round the village, I often pick up pennies, and I still have a pot-full of the now obsolete halfpennies found in this way. Today people can apparently afford to lase the odd coin, but what a calamity it must have seemed to our ancestors to lose even one penny. Once this was the price of a tankard of ale, or a meal at the inn. Old Georgian pennies are occasionally turned up in gardens, and a greater number by those permitted to use metal- detectors. A few single Roman coins have been found in Barwick, two were dated 250-300 A.D. and 300-370 A.D. The Romans must have been off the beaten track if they came this way, and it is more likely the coins were thrown away by some disgruntled medieval local who got them in his change.
B R Hammond

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