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by Bart Hammond
Barwicker Nos. 7 - 12
September 1967 - December 1988
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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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