Monthly Archives: December 2012

Rhubarb Festival – Wakefield

This years Rhubarb Festival will be a 3-day event, running from from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th February.  This year is going to be bigger and better than ever with a market in the Cathedral precinct, cookery demonstrations, walks and tours.

Wakefield was traditionally the centre of rhubarb growing with the Rhubarb Triangle covering the Wakefield, East Ardsley, Rothwell, Carlton and Morley areas.  For over 150 years the fruit has been growing here, as conditions were ideal. There was plenty of local fuel – coal, and a large number of market gardeners.

A large amount of rhubarb was grown in ‘forcing sheds’, they bring an early crop and some can still be seen locally.  It is said that in the sheds, lit only by candles you can hear the rhubarb growing and as candles are moved to keep the rhubarb straight the light green tops turn to face the light – this could be the noise heard by the growers as the leaves are still uncurling. themselves

Years ago rhubarb was sent to Leeds on overnight trains full of rhubarb for the London markets.  Along with Champagne, Parma Ham, Yorkshire Rhubarb has protected status and joins British foods such as the Melton Mowbray pork pie, Stilton cheese, Arbroath Smokies and Jersey Royal potatoes to name just a few.

p.s. keep the event quiet as I want to be able to get a parking space!!

Wakefield – history and heritage here

Facebook page

For information and tours visit here E Oldroyd & Sons

Who Are You?

A few years ago I sorted through all the family photographs and put them in family folders. There were lots of people I knew – aunt and uncles, family members, family friends and lots of people who were totally unknown to me.  Some of the photographs, mainly from my mum’s time in the war had a short sentiment followed by a single name, others bore no wording.  Why should mum right on the reverse who they were – she knew them!

My dad also had photographs, not so many, but they also had either a few words or nothing.

In a moment of frustration of trying to find out who these people were Who Are You? was born.

Taken by C. Wilkinson

The pictures were scanned and then put into an online photo album with as much information about the picture as I could find on the reverse or deduce from the image.  I was loaned pictures, begged pictures, scanned them all and indexed them – cross referencing them if I knew they were from one place but the photograph was taken elsewhere.

All in all there are pictures of unknown and known people from the British Isles, Canada, America, Ukrkaine, Africa and a section of WW1 & 2.

Just to give you an idea as to some of the pictures – there is a family photograph in the Morley section of a couple and a small child written on the reverse is ‘ Aunt Mary ‘ but, who was Aunt Mary ? Is she the lady or is she the child ? Other images from the Morley section include members of the Donkersley  Worrel, Kershaw families  – most of the Morley photographs were handed to me as one group, so therefore I have kept them together and linked to other sections, but a photograph of a young man taken by Chas. A. Saylon, photographer, S. E. cor. Sixth & Penn Sts, Reading, PA. ( or South East corner of Sixth & Penn Streets). Who is this young man ? Was he visiting family or did he live in Pennsylvania ?

This section of my site Wakefield Family History Sharing has not been available for a while, but is now available and shortly with have the addition of extra pages with a connection to Victorian and Edwardian photographers.

Wakefield Family History Sharing

Who Are You?

Christopher Saxton – Dunningley

Christopher Saxton – Dunningley

Extracted from The Registers of Topcliffe & Morley

Dunningley, within half-a-mile due east of Topcliffe, is noted as being the birthplace of Christopher Saxton, an eminent cartographer, and also as containing the residence of a sweetheart of Nevison, the highwayman.  In Dr. John Dee’s Diary, 1596, appears this entry:- “July 10th, Manchester town described and measured by Mr Christopher Saxton.”  Mr. J. E. Bailey, writes of this as follows :- “This Manchester survey which would be a valuable addition to out local topography, is not now known to be in existence.  C. Saxton was the author of the first maps of Britain from actual survey.  The series of maps was nine years in preparation and was first issued as a complete atlas of maps in 1579.  Thoresby remarked that the maps had never been surpassed, scarcely equalled for exactness.  Each map contains the arms of the Queen, who gave Saxton a patent for publishing the charts for ten years, and of Thomas Sackford, Master of Requests, who was employment, Saxton was at the date of the patent. Saxton was encouraged by Sir William Cordel, Master of the Rolls.  His skill as a chorographer is set forth in his epitaph”.  Thoresby says that in all probability he was buried in Batley Church.** Dunningley at the present time, consists of a few farm-houses, not remarkable for theit antiquity of picturesqueness.

** In Dugdale’s “Visitation of Yorkshire,”1666, “Birkbeck of Sheffield and Castleford” – Christopher Saxton, the geographer, here called Surveyor and Compiler of Maps of England, is said to have been of Dunningley.  The Saxton’s were to be found at Mirfield, &c., a century afterwards.

Photo D Knowling 2012

Additional Saxton information – Saxton probably born c1540 in the parish of Dewsbury and grew up in the hamlet of Dunningley.  He, as a young man, was in the employ of John Rudd the vicar of Dewsbury and Thornhill, a keen cartographer who passed his skills on to Christopher.  In 1570 he started a commission from Lord Burghley to survey the whole of England and Wales.  He died after 1610 as he is named in the will of his elder brother Thomas and before 1626 when the will of his son, Robert, was proved.

Wakefield – Its History and People says that Saxton was educated in one of the chantry schools within the town (Wakefield), before furthering his education at Oxford.

Much of Saxton’s work was used for many years and his atlas published in the late 1500’s was continually being re-issued and adapted until the late 1700’s. The issues were : William Hole and William Kip re-engraved Saxton’s maps and reduced them in size for the early 1600’s edition – Saxton being given credit for most of the map work. Later editions followed in 1607, 1610 and 16378.   The Atlas – Atlas of the Counties of England & Wales is in the Special Collections Department of Glasgow University Library.

Christopher was granted arms and received lands from the crown, both showing how he was respected for his work.  His grant of arms refers to him as “Christopher Saxton of Dunningly, gentleman”.  But Wakefield has also laid claim to him.

Harry “Brusher”Mills

In the past we have made a couple of visits to the New Forest area including Brockenhurst, but earlier this year I spent time walking around the churchyard.  As most who know me will be aware I tend to home in on war memorials and CWGC headstones, so after photographing the CWGC memorials I continued walking around – it is amazing what you can find out on some headstones.

One in particular caught me attention, quite plain from behind and if I had walked the row behind this headstone would have missed its interesting front.  The stone is pale in colour and shaped like a medieval church window but the carving on the top is wonderful.

Who was this headstone remembering and why did they have such an elaborate memorial.  Were they much loved in the area or a character who would be sadly missed by the local people?

C Sklinar 2012

The headstone is to one Harry Mills born around 1840 in Emery Down, Hampshire. In the census of 1861  with his parents Thomas Mills aged 60 a gardener and his wife Ann aged 59.  There are other children including :- Sarah, 22 dressmaker, Lucy 18 ; George 14, scholar and Edward Mills, grandson aged 5.  There is an entry on the 1871 census for a Harry Mills b 1842 in Lyndhurst  with Thomas Mills aged 67 a general labourer and his wife Ann also aged 67 who works as a laundress.  Along with Harry there are 2 other children ; Lucy aged 26 a laundress and Ann who is aged 2 and classed as a daughter (is she the daughter of Thomas and Ann or of Lucy or of another child of Thomas and Ann?) all living at Clay Hill, Lyndhurst.

Harry was later to become well known as a hermit and snake-catcher – eradicating many local areas of their snakes.  He could be seen around the communities with his sack and a forked stick. Harry supplied snakes to London Zoo for their mammals, birds of prey and other snakes.  Harry was also said to have made potions, lotions and ointments from various parts of the snakes to help with rheumatism and boiled snakes to sell the skeletons. It is estimated that during his time as a snake-catcher he caught tens of thousands.

Harry, became a tourist attraction following an article in the national press and many curious tourists and visitors had their photographs taken with him and listed to his tales.

During this period Harry lived in an old charcoal burners hut near Brockenhurst but decided to build himself larger accomodation. The 1891 census has Harry as a single man born in Lyndhurst with his address as  ‘hut at Westly Wood’. One night his hut was vandelised, it was thought this could be to stop Harry claiming squatters rights on the land and claim ownership as he had lived their for so many years.  After his home was destroyed Harry lived in one of the outbuildings at the Railway Inn, Brockenhurst and died shortly after  on 1st July 1905 aged 65 years.

C Sklinar 2012

The inscription on the headstone that was paid for by the locals reads:

This stone marks the grave of Harry Mills, (better known as “Brusher Mills”,) who for a long number of years followed the

occupation of  Snake Catcher, in the New Forest. His pursuit and the primitive way in which he lived, caused him to be an object of interest to many.  He died suddenly July 1st 1905, aged 65 years.

After Harry’s death a friend of his, George Waterbridge took ofer the task of snake catching and it is said he inherited the famous sack and forked stick.

The New Forest today is protected by both the Wildlife Act and local bylaws, so Harry would not be able to live or ply his trade in the forest