Barwick and its Buildings 1890 to 1940 Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Barwick and its Buildings 1890 to 1940

Barwickers No. 34 (June 1994) & No. 37 (March 1995)



What was life like in Barwick 100 years ago? What standards of health and comfort did houses provide? How did the far-reaching advances in building and public services during the following 50 years affect the life-style and welfare of the inhabitants. These are questions I should like to look at and perhaps find some answers.

The following sources provide information on what was a period of considerable progress not only for the village but for the country as a whole.

The Ordnance Survey of 1893 gives an accurate layout of the village and its surroundings.
The official census of 1891 records interesting statistics of Barwick and its inhabitants.
Rector Colman's 'History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet' covers a wider field but also relates to this period.
Other publications such as church and school records provide interesting references.
The Historical Society's publications 'The Barwicker' and 'Bygone Barwick' and so on contain much useful material.
Finally there are family records and a fund of anecdotal material passed by word of mouth from one generation to another.

Regarding these last two items perhaps it will be useful to refer to my own experience. My father, William Hartley, was born at 'The Black Swan' in 1876 shortly after his parents Joshua and Mary moved from Park House Farm, Kiddal, to take over the tenancy of the public house. The family had farmed at Kiddal from the early part of the century. On leaving school, he went to work for his uncle John Heaton who ran a family building business at Aberford where he was given a good grounding in that trade. His uncle also ran 'The Swan Hotel', Aberford, and the farm attached. There is still today (i.e. 1994) a notice-board in the Swan yard proclaiming "John Heaton licensed to hire post-horses".

In 1907 my father started his own building business in Barwick and in more than thirty years up to the Second World War he worked on many of the old and new properties in the village. This experience gave him a wide knowledge of the buildings in the district. I remember we had many discussions about them and I often regret that I didn't take more interest at the time.

Both my parents were 'teenagers' in 1890 so it was no surprise that this period was often the subject of conversation in our house. In 1926 I joined my father in the business and cousin Gerald Hartley joined in 1932. Gerald was born at 'The Swan Cottage', Aberford, in 1906 when his father Joshua Herbert Hartley, a Boer War veteran, was also working for John Heaton.

What do these various sources tell us about Barwick in 1890? The 1893 Ordnance Survey map provides an accurate detailed plan of the village and its environs. It shows that there were some 148 houses together with other buildings clustered round the church, The Cross, The Boyle and Main Street with a couple of outlying groups at the Limekilns and the Mill, but excluding the old Workhouse.

This picture of Barwick is much the same as the one I remember more than 70 years ago. There were a few additions such as the new chapel and new houses in Chapel Lane, The Boyle and Leeds Road, one or two buildings had disappeared, otherwise there was little change. Indeed a walk round the village today will reveal a good deal of the 1890 layout. Many of the original buildings can be quite easily identified even allowing for the alterations and additions carried out in the intervening period. Some of them are illustrated in 'Bygone Barwick'.

The census and other sources suggest that Barwick could hardly be described as a prosperous village. There was no local benefactor to support the village economy and provide employment. The one-time close association with the Gascoigne family had lapsed long before. On the other hand their pits at Garforth provided work for some of the villagers and also attracted migrant workers to Barwick.

The person of most authority was the Rector, Canon Hope. He lived in the largest property and was the largest single employer having a sizeable staff of indoor and outdoor workers. An indication of his standing was evident when he and his wife walked out in the village and women were expected to curtsey and men to doff their caps. On the other hand it would seem that the Wilkinson family at Potterton Hall was not greatly involved in the village activities.

There were several businessmen with outside interests. A Mr Hick who lived at The Manor House, Main Street, ran a wine and spirit business in Leeds and was driven to work daily in a 'carriage and pair'. Such signs of affluence however, the Rector apart, were exceptional. Others together with some of the farmers and tradesman could perhaps be described as 'comfortably placed'. For many people however it would appear that life was much more of a struggle, added to which there was a fair amount of poverty.

Farming was the principal industry and was the main source of employment. 'The Barwicker' No.7 refers to a dozen farms existing in 1870. The census indicates that there was a similar number in 1891. It also reveals the following statistics. There were 152 inhabited houses in the village, including the property at the old workhouse, 79 of which had less than 5 rooms. There were 297 males and 318 females making a total population of 615 giving an average of just over four persons per household. From the census it is clear that Barwick must have been very much a self-sufficient community as reflected in the wide variety of trades and services available within the village. There were boot and shoe makers, tailors, dressmakers, seamstresses, a draper, grocers and butchers, carpenters and builders, a corn-miller and a blacksmith amongst others. This state of affairs developed, no doubt over the years, mainly as a result of social necessity underlined by the difficulties of travel. It would doubtless be common to many villages in those days.

Perhaps another consequence of this relative detachment was the spirit of neighbourliness prevailing in the village. It was indeed a closely-knit community where everyone knew everyone and their relatives - their history, their habits, their faults and virtues. On the other hand the census also reveals the rather surprising fact that quite a number of people were not natives of Barwick. Of the 615 persons named 274 or 44% were not born in the village. Many of the latter came from various parts of Yorkshire and some 47 were born outside the county.

It is interesting to compare these records with those for 1861. The census taken that year gave the number of inhabitants as 658. Included in this total were 60 people living at the old Workhouse and a further 21 at the girls' boarding school in The Boyle. Both these institutions had closed by 1891 when the premises they had used had a total of only 27 occupants. If we discount the abnormal numbers at these two establishments in 1861 we find that the revised total would be some 605, showing only a small change in population size over a period of 30 years. It is also interesting to note that in 1861, 269 or 40% of Barwickers were born outside the parish, 30 of whom came from outside Yorkshire. In addition 47 residents at The Workhouse were not born in Barwick.

These statistics provide ample evidence that even in times of restricted travel the composition of the population was changing considerably. Further, just as there was an influx of new people, with the total numbers remaining more or less static, there would have been a similar movement away from the village. This information provided by the census returns clearly contradicts the often held view that in the past villages consisted of small inward-looking communities that changed little over the years.

There does not appear to have been a resident doctor. In those days before the National Health Service patients were expected to pay for their medical treatment. It would seem that doctors accepted that some people could not afford the fees and would often waive them. As doctors had to live this meant that the better-off members of the community subsidised those less fortunate.

Colman in his notes on the geology of the district refers to Barwick being situated on the lower magnesian limestone. He states that the stone was quarried extensively for lime-burning up to the middle of the 19th. century and also refers to extraction for road-stone. However he does not mention quarrying for building stone which is rather surprising considering that some 120 of the 148 houses and many farm buildings, boundary walls and so on are thought to have been built with the local limestone. It is reasonable to assume that this stone would be worked as near to the village as possible and would be obtained over a period corresponding to the demand for new buildings. As there were quite a number of quarries in and around the village there would be plentiful local sources of supply.

This reference to quarries reminds me of certain incidents in my schooldays. Situated between Chapel Lane and what is now Jack Heaps Field was a field known as 'The Croft'. In the corner nearest the old chapel was a depression in the ground about 20 yards in diameter and 5 or 6 feet deep. Presumably in the past stone had been extracted there. A wall about 5 feet high ran on two sides bordering Chapel Lane which meant that the hollow was nicely secluded and tucked away from adult eyes. It was grassed over and was often used as a play area for children.

If, as was likely to occur from time to time, two boys had a disagreement during school hours which could not be settled on the spot one might say to the other, "I'll see you in the Croft Hollow after school". (Actually he is more likely to have said, "AHL SEE THEE IN T'CROFT HOLLER EFTER SKOOIL".) Now this was the ultimate challenge and no boy could afford to ignore it otherwise he would have lost face for all time. So at 3.30pm the two antagonists and their supporters would troop up Chapel Lane to the Croft Hollow. There after more heated exchanges they would resort to fisticuffs. After a good deal of huffing and puffing the action was likely to degenerate into a kind of wrestling bout with the two contestants ending up on the ground. I don't remember anything serious resulting from these exchanges except for the occasional bloody nose. However Croft Hollow had proved a point and honour had been satisfied.

To return to the buildings. A coarse sandstone (millstone grit) was used to face the external walls of a number of them. Its first use, except for the church, would appear to be on the old chapel already mentioned, now the Welfare Institute, and built in 1803/4. It was also used on the boundary walls to the north and west of the churchyard built at the time of the major restoration of the church in 1856. The school and school-house were built with it in 1861.

Some of the houses on which it was used and where it can be seen today are Ings House, Nos.13-21 Church Row, Church Farm House (front elevation), Nos.22 and 24 The Boyle (front elevation), Nos.30 and 32 Main Street and the Manor House. These houses are Victorian in style and may have followed the fashion set by the church and school which would date them around the middle of the 19th. century.

Another departure from local limestone was the use of hand-made bricks on several buildings. These included the old windmill, the row of houses Nos.9-15 at the south end of Main Street, a couple on the west side of Chapel Lane and a further two on the north side of Aberford Road, now demolished. Similar bricks were used on sections of the boundary walls enclosing the Rectory grounds. It would be interesting to know where the bricks came from and what were the reasons for the introduction of another alien albeit attractive material into the Barwick landscape.

The earlier reference to The Croft brings back another boyhood memory. Wilf Howard, Chris Burnet and I, being all of 6 years old, were returning to school after the dinner break (no lunch-times in Barwick in those days). As we made our way along The Croft footpath we noticed a man lying in the long grass in the middle of the field. Imagine our surprise when we returned after school and saw the man lying in the same position. We observed him from a distance with some disquiet and finally arrived at the conclusion that he must be dead. At that point we ran off home and told our mothers that there was a dead man lying in The Croft. The mothers organised a search which disclosed that indeed there was a man lying there and that man was 'Bricky Dick' and what is more he was certainly dead - dead drunk!

Later in the first world war the Croft was taken over for allotment gardens, one of which was worked by the schoolboys under the supervision of Mr Arthur Booth, the well-respected headmaster (see Page 39, 'Bygone Barwick'). Later still it became the site of the council housing estate. I wonder where the boys went to settle their differences in those later days!

In 1939, the present post office and newsagents shop were built on part of a site occupied by a row of five houses comprising a pair at each end and a house and shop in the middle. The middle unit had been run by Mr Wilson Speak as a newsagent's, general and draper's business. Previously it had been run by Mr Ralph Wright who also provided a tailoring service. Mr Speak later continued with his business in the new premises and Mr Wilfred Senior the Postmaster moved from the old Post Office in The Boyle.

The row of five now demolished houses in Main Street, Barwick.

The old shop and the two houses adjacent to the Gascoigne Arms were demolished to make way for the new buildings. On taking down the roof of the shop we discovered underneath it the timber frame of an earlier roof structure. Although clearly very old and showing some decay the roughly dressed rafters and other members were in a fairly complete state. The outer roof, covered in part with Yorkshire stone slates and in part with pantiles, was I estimate some 200 years old. Assuming a similar life for the earlier roof frame this would suggest a date for the building around the middle of the 16th. century or earlier.

If this estimate is anywhere near correct it is intriguing to wonder whether there might have been a shop there all that time. If so how many pairs of feet had crossed its threshold over those years? What kind of people had handed their pence, groats, florins and occasional guineas over the counter? Were they short or tall, dark or fair? We shall never know but one thing is certain, most of them were Barwickers.

One of my earliest recollections of the shop was being measured for my first suit by Ralph Wright when about 8 years old. The experience I remember did not excite me at all. On the other hand I do have some happy memories of Mrs Wright's delicious real cream ices made in the summer months. They were a very special, treat in those days.

During the demolition of the shop two more interesting 'finds' came to light. Built into the rear wall were the bases of two hand corn-grinding mills, formed out of sandstone. The larger measured almost 2 feet in diameter (photo opposite of Stewart and Rita Senior). It was given to the Leeds City Museum who estimated it to be 400-500 years old. The smaller quern was about 10 inches in diameter. One is tempted to enquire how and why they ended up in the wall. Could it be that some long-forgotten hen-pecked stonemasons who had grown tired of being made to carry out the daily grinding of corn had decided enough was enough? Indeed could this possibly be the origin of the saying 'the daily grind'?

Where the remaining two cottages stood is now the site of what was Poppy's shop. The one at the south end has been mentioned several times by contributors to 'The Barwicker'. Earlier this century it was the shop occupied by 'Uncle Jim' Walker. Part of the rear wall of this building was of half-timbered wattle and daub construction and was thought to be the only example of this type in the village at that time. It would appear that the rear wall had been retained when re-building took place as the remainder of the house was of typical limestone construction of a later date as can be seen on the front cover of 'Bygone Barwick'.

Recently I had a very interesting discussion with Tony Shinn who owns this property. He described how, when these two cottages were pulled down in 1950 they found underneath the outer roof the timbers of an earlier one just as we had done on the old shop. Further he told me how he had carefully dismantled the members of the old roof and the half-timbered rear wall and put them into safe storage. Readers will have seen with interest Tony's articles on the village in earlier issues of this journal and will know that he is a great supporter of Barwick and its traditions.

These various premises, as their successors are today, were very much the centre of the village and its activities. If only they could speak they could tell us so much of the ups and downs of Barwick life over the centuries. How many Maypole rearings, Barwick Feasts and other festivals had they looked out on over the years?

Here perhaps it might be appropriate to refer to another building thought to have a rather different kind of historical interest. In Aberford Road on a site now occupied by house No.13 stood an old cottage facing east towards the valley of Cock Beck and Parlington. Early this century it was the local belief that this was the 'Owlet Houses, TWO cottages mentioned by Edward Burlend in 'Amy Thornton'. It was pulled down around 1912 when No.13 was built. Although the Ordnance Survey shows only one cottage there in 1893 as Burlend was referring to a period some 80 years earlier it is just possible that there were two there at that time. On the other hand it might perhaps be Burlend making use of poetic licence.


Barwicker No. 37

In Part 1 (above), reference was made to variations in the size, type and age of the village's houses and other buildings existing in 1890. In the last 50 years or so much research has been carried out by historians, architects and others into the evolution of the English dwelling house from the Middle Ages up to the 19th. century. Numerous books and papers have been published on the subject. Some researchers found it useful to classify the houses into the following four groups:

  • GROUP A. 'Great Houses' - the houses of the large landowners and other wealthy people with important positions in the State, trade and industry.
  • GROUP B. 'Large Houses' - smaller than Group A but still of substantial size belonging to people of local importance and some wealth.
  • GROUP C. 'Small Houses' - also known as 'Yeomans Houses' - the homes of tenant farmers, successful local tradespeople and so on.
  • GROUP D. 'Cottages' - the smallest houses occupied by the most numerous and poorest members of the community, its labouring classes.

  • It will perhaps be convenient to make use of this classification when considering the situation in Barwick in 1890 at the same time accepting that the dividing lines between the groups are not always clear cut.

    As mentioned in Part 1, the village in the 19th. century could hardly be described as prosperous. There were no houses in Group A; the old Rectory was the only one that might perhaps be placed in Group B, although one or two outlying properties such as Kiddal Hall and Potterton Hall would probably qualify. There would be 38 in Group C comprising farmhouses, inns, and the houses of local tradesmen.

    This means that out of a total of some 150 houses in 1890, 110 or so would be in Group D, the small cottages of the labouring classes. Research indicates that up to the middle of the 18th. century these were simple one-storey dwellings built by local people using materials close to hand. Of these timber was the most widely used and formed the frames of the external shells, roofs and partitions; infilling for walls might have been stone, brick, lath and plaster and clay or a combination of these. Many roof coverings would probably be of thatch.

    The cottages are said to have had a short life span of one or two generations and this called for their periodic renewal. The impermanent nature of the structures meant that few if any have survived in their original form. However I recall a single storey dwelling in the Pump Yard which might well have been a renovated example of these earlier cottages. In Barwick it would seem that they were replaced in the late 18th. and early 19th. century by the two-storey more permanent limestone buildings which formed the bulk of the village's houses in 1890.

    On the other hand the early houses in Groups A and B and some in Group C were of more substantial construction and many survive today. Where they do, they provide valuable information on their history and architecture and have been the focus of much research.

    The accurate dating of buildings standing in Barwick in 1890 is not easy. However the following rough breakdown into broad age groups is an attempt to shed light on what is an unclear scene. As there are few historical records this can be only an approximate exercise.

    12th.-15th. Centuries (2 examples). Colman in his book states that sections of the church, including the chancel and parts of the nave date back to the early part of the 12th. century making it the oldest building in the village. The book contains a plan of the church drawn by Henry Chippindale, an architect member of the Scholes brick-making family. This indicates that the remainder of the nave was 14th. century and the tower and porch were added in the 15th. century. The 15th. century also saw the building of the east end of the old Rectory (see photo opposite). This was thought to comprise a two-storey dwelling used by the incumbent of the time. It would seem likely that there would have been an earlier priest's residence at or near this site.

    16th. Century (4 examples). It is thought that the old shop and the adjoining two houses in Main Street referred to in Part 1 were of this century. However major alterations had been carried out probably in the 18th. and 19th. centuries. Glebe Farm which stood at the south end of Main Street was probably of this period and had also been altered in later years.

    17th. Century (8 examples). Many people will have seen the stone head over the door of No.6, The Boyle bearing the inscription 'Anno Domini 1674' which suggests that the three houses in this block might be of that date. Other properties probably of this period were Nos. 34-36 Main Street and the old Post Office and two cottages in The Boyle. All had been renovated subsequently. The post office and one of the cottages in The Boyle were demolished 50 or 60 years ago.

    18th. Century (95 examples). The majority of the Group D limestone cottages are thought to have been built towards the end of the century together with 7 or 8 others and the Windmill built of hand-made bricks. There were also around 20 Group C properties mainly in limestone, comprising farmhouses and the homes of various tradesmen. The main centre section of the old Rectory was built in 1705.

    19th. Century (43 examples). Included in this period are the old school and schoolhouse in Aberford Road, the dozen or so sandstone houses already mentioned, some 25 limestone Group D cottages and the old Chapel. Also towards the end of the century several houses were built with machine-made bricks which were coming into use at that time and were to become the most widely used walling materials for the next 100 years.

    The Old Rectory showing the 15th. Century East End

    The above breakdown suggests that the re-building of the Group D cottages and some Group C houses probably took place between 1760 and 1860. If this is correct this period and those cottages and houses marked an important milestone in the improvement of housing standards between the post-medieval era and the more sophisticated dwellings of the 20th. century.

    It also shows that the middle of the 19th Century saw the end of the 'local limestone phase' and at the same time brought the brief surge of building with sandstone in the centre of the village. The end of the century saw the start of the building revolution that was to continue for another 100 years and has so far ended in the Barwick of today. One hesitates to contemplate where it will go from here.

    At this stage it is perhaps relevant to look at the quality of life provided in the village in 1890. To compare it with today's standards it is necessary to understand the extent of the austere conditions prevailing at the time.

    There was no piped water supply available to the public.
    No adequate drainage system existed.
    There was no electricity and no gas.
    Public health and medical services were very basic.
    There was no local public transport.

    It is perhaps difficult for the present generation to visualise the conditions prevailing before these vital services existed. As most of them did not arrive until after the first world war those of us who lived in the first two decades of this century can understand something of the austerity and privations experienced by people in 1890. For example most domestic water was hand-pumped from underground wells. Another source was rainwater collected in tubs. There were two public wells with pumps, one in a yard in Aberford Road known as Town Well Fold or Pump Yard and a second one in Main Street near what is now the entrance of Tithe Barn Fold. Other pumps around the village served farms and groups of houses.

    The absence of piped water presented many problems and caused much hard work for householders, farmers and tradespeople. The following examples will perhaps illustrate some of the more simple difficulties. Stan Robshaw tells me how the parish water cart, a barrel mounted on wheels and horse drawn, carried water weekly from the Pump Yard to the houses at the limekilns where his parents lived.

    Another example I remember is seeing Miss Polly Perkin carrying two pails of water on a yoke from Copple Syke Spring to her house at 56, The Boyle where she and her brother Charlie ran a small-holding. They kept a cow in a building at the rear of the house and Miss Perkin made excellent curds. As readers will know the spring is near the Long Tongues, about a mile north of Barwick and is approached along Dark Lane. They will also know that Miss Perkin had to climb two quite steep hills on the way home.

    Without mains water and an adequate drainage system modern sanitation as we know it did not exist. People used earth-closets which sometimes were shared by two or more households. Often 'ashpits' were attached to the closets to take household waste. Both were emptied periodically by council workers using horses and carts.

    What of the houses themselves? As mentioned they varied considerably in age and construction. They also varied in size and type. Most of the 110 small two-storye Group D dwellings had four rooms consisting of a main living-room and a small back room on the ground floor and a main and second bedroom on the first floor. The second bedroom was in some cases merely an open space at the stair-head. The stairs often led out of the living room. They were narrow, steep and often had winding steps.

    Within this group were some two dozen small houses which even at the time were considered sub-standard. They included the notorious Towler Fold alongside the Black Swan. When these houses were pulled down I remember being shocked to see the dreadful conditions in which people had lived. Most of them had been derelict for a number of years prior to demolition. There were other houses of a similar type in Pump Yard, Chapel Lane, Potterton Lane and The Boyle.

    All houses had solid outer walls. As mentioned earlier many were built with limestone rubble bedded in lime mortar, the lime no doubt being produced locally. Some were rendered externally with a lime and sand mix. It is interesting to note that recently several houses have had this external rendering removed to expose the limestone.

    The houses were built before Portland cement was introduced therefore concrete had not been available for foundations and other works. Walls had no damp courses which often led to dampness rising up the internal surfaces to a height of 3 or 4 feet. Windows were small and often of the Yorkshire sliding sash type where the opening section would slide sideways over the adjacent sash. The individual panes were also small.

    Roofs were covered variously with pantiles, Yorkshire stone slates (or thackstones) and blue Welsh slates. The hand-made clay pantiles came in to use in the late 18th. century. Welsh slates became popular with the coming of rail transport in the mid 19th. century and covered many buildings in 1890. It is thought that in many cases they had replaced earlier coverings including thatch.

    Ground floors in many of the older houses were paved with stone flags. Some back rooms had brick or clay tile paving. Another type of flooring which probably came into use about the middle of the century either for new or replacement floors was known as 'lime-ash'. This comprised a mixture of building lime and crushed clinker laid several inches thick, and trowelled to a smooth finish. It is thought the clinker came from engine houses of the Garforth pits. Timber board and joist ground floors were used in some buildings from about the middle of the century and may also have been used as replacement floors for older property.

    In the smaller houses the only source of heat was the open fire in the main living-room. It was also used for cooking. Early types of integrated 'Yorkshire' kitchen ranges would be in use at this time. They consisted of a cast iron frame into which were fitted an oven, a fire grate and a hob for heating kettles and pans. In some cases a water 'boiler' was provided on the side opposite to the oven. In some older houses separate ovens and fire grates would be built into the brickwork within the fire surround. Some of the more basic cottages did not have ovens which meant that the open fire was the only source of heat for cooking.

    In older houses the back room would have a sink which was usually a hollowed-out slab of sandstone supported on brick 'pillars'. A lead waste pipe would lead to an outside gully. Glazed clay sinks would be coming in about this time and may well have been fitted into the larger houses. In some cases a 'set-pot', used for heating water would be installed in the back room. This circular iron container was built into a brick surround and had a flue leading to the outside. Sometimes they were installed in out-buildings and were shared by two or more households.

    The two dozen or so larger Group C (Yeoman type) houses such as Ings House, Manor House, Elmwood House, some of the farmhouses and inns obviously had more accommodation and to that extent provided better living conditions. They were however subject to the prevailing limitations due to the absence of public services. On the other hand some occupants could afford to employ domestic servants and thus ease the work-load on the house-wife. In the absence of electricity and gas, people had to rely on oil lamps and candles for artificial lighting. Coal and wood were the only fuels available for heating and cooking.

    Judged by today's standards, most houses were cold, damp, ill-lit and lacked essential services. These conditions together with poor levels of sanitation were considered to have contributed to the prevalence of tuberculosis and other diseases at that time. Because of this, more than a quarter of a century later, legislation was brought in to enforce improved living standards.

    There is some doubt about the extent of the drainage system at the time. It would appear there was a drain serving the centre of the village and Main Street, which collected surface water and the small amount of domestic waste. Like the later sewage systems it seems to have followed the natural gradients and is thought to have delivered into the small stream to the east of Pump Yard.

    Old photographs show the village roads and by-ways were less tidy than they are today. Road surfaces were rough and formed from graded stone and slag consolidated by rollers. Some of this material was said to have come from the White Horse Foundry on York Road, Leeds. Stone flags were used to pave the main footpaths and were mostly well-worn and uneven; verges were not kerbed. There were considerable areas of unpaved ground at such places as Cross Hill, around the Gascoigne and Church Hill.

    I was intrigued to read in 'The Barwicker' No.32 the quotation from Edward Burlend's poem published in 1868 but obviously referring to a much earlier period, in which he refers to youths 'filliping' taws, spinning tops and bouncing balls on Cross Hill. In the early 1900s the boys of my generation filliped (we called it 'knuckled') our taws into holes scooped out of the firm earth and into chalked rings around the The Cross and the Gascoigne. We also spun tops and tossed balls as indeed the boys must have done in 1890. Which makes me wonder when this harmless custom ceased. Perhaps it was a casualty of the asphalt spreader and the invading motor car.

    The village by-ways such as Back (Elmwood), Richmondfield, Carrfield and Workhouse Lanes were all unsurfaced cart-tracks used mainly by farmers to gain access to their fields. In winter they would be churned up and muddy and not suitable for use by pedestrians.

    So what was life really like in Barwick in the year 1890? Clearly it could be tough. There was austerity and hardship and there were unhealthy conditions. Living standards were poor as were the rewards for what was mainly hard manual labour. On the other hand, in my youth I knew many people who had lived through this period who spoke of the happy times they spent in those days. Looking back I now realise that they had a very different approach to life from the people of today. They had something not easily defined, a calmness, a balanced outlook, a sense of true values and a belief in standards so often missing from the maelstrom of modern life. It is true that the times they lived in were more simple, more leisurely and far less complicated. Yet in today's relentless race for more and more so-called progress I feel that we might have lost something worthwhile on the way.

    Then again I think of some of the photographs in 'Bygone Barwick' (pages 10-14) taken around this period and showing Cross Hill and Main Street. They seem to reflect a tranquility long gone; not a speeding vehicle in sight, just the odd horse and cart. That on page 13 (shown below) especially for me portrays an aura of quiet simplicity, the warm summer day, two old men seated on The Cross basking in the sun and the lady with the old-fashioned push-chair pausing to glance at the photographer. One can almost catch the scent of the blossoms on the trees and hear the bees buzzing busily around them. It seems to embody the true atmosphere of village life in those bygone days.

    A Tranquil View of Main Street c.1900

    There it seems we have two very different pictures of Barwick 100 years ago. How they are seen will I suppose depend on whether one is a romantic - or a realist!

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