Hartshead: St Peter

Hartshead: St Peter

Hartshead: St Peter

Though the church originates in the medieval period much of what can be seen now is of relatively recent work. However, both the chancel arch and the south doorway have chevron moldings which indicate their Norman origin.

The dormer windows in the nave roof is an interesting survival. Many churches had these installed when the galleries were fitted in the 1700s/1800s. The windows were subsequently removed when the galleries were taken out again. The only other West Yorkshire church where I think they can still be seen today is the ruined church at Heptonstall.

For more images and information about Hartshead Church, click here

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Medieval Churches of West Yorkshire: St Mary’s Woodkirk

Woodkirk: St Mary

It has been suggested that Woodkirk is the St Mary in the Wood mentioned in the Domesday Book. Of course, this is hotly disputed by Morleyites who insist that their fire-damaged chapel was the site of the Domesday St Mary’s.

Whatever the truth of the matter may be, there is no obvious Saxon/ early Norman work visible in the church fabric today. The lower part of the tower probably dates to around 1200, but much of the rest of the building was rebuilt in the 19th century.

Woodkirk Church Cross

Base of a medieval churchyard cross. It now stands adjacent to the church porch but it is uncertain what its original position would have ben.


Woodkirk: St Mary

The pitch of the medieval rood is indicated by the sting course on the eastern face of the church tower. Below this the signs of another, less steeply picked, roof are visible.


Site of cloister

In the early 1200s the church at Woodkirk was granted to the Canons of St Oswald at Nostell. They established a small cell there. Normally, the cloister would have been built to the south of the church. However, archaeological excavations in the 1960s have shown that the cloister and associated buildings were located here on the north side of the existing church.  The south side of a church is the one normally favoured for burials and, perhaps, the Canons did not wish to disturb any pre-existing interments.






Remember, Remember: the last successful invasion of the British Isles

Revolution Well, Meanwood (Leeds, UK)

There’s a certain sort of historian that loves to create a national myth. One such myth is that England has never been successfully invaded since the Norman Conquest.

It’s just not true. The country was last successfully invaded on November the 5th 1688. On that date William of Orange, landed in Torbay with an army of 14,000 men determined to depose James II (a Catholic monarch) and to put a Protestant ruler on the throne. And he did. So why does next to no one know about this?

It’s all down to the way that many commentators talked about the issue at the time. They refer to it as ‘The Glorious Revolution’. James was hated in many circles, not because he was a bad king, but because he was a Catholic. And because of this popular sentiment, when William invaded, James’s army deserted. William achieved a bloodless victory.

So, you see the date of the invasion was no co-incidence. In the 17th century Guy Fawkes Night was not just an excuse to light a bonfire, let off a few fireworks and maybe have a beer or two. It was an expression of sectarian hatred. Nowadays, we joke about ‘The Only Man to Enter Parliament With Honest Intentions’. Back in the 17th century it was no joke. Catholicism was an outlawed sect: Guy Fawkes was considered a terrorist. Most (but by no means all) people were happy for William to invade the county and set himself up as king. Hence the lack of bloodshed. Hence the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

The event is commemorated by an inscription set up on a small wellhead on Stonegate Road, Meanwood (Leeds, UK). It is still known as ‘Revolution Well’.

Dedication: Revolution Well, Meanwood (Leeds, UK)

Witches Stone, Meanwood

Witch Stone, Meanwood Park

This is the Witches Stone in Meanwood Valley Park (Leeds, UK). It might seem an appropriate post for Halloween but I can’t find a story about it anywhere. I suspect that the current name is fairly new.  A friend of mine tells me that when he was a pupil at the nearby primary school it was called the Alligator Stone.

Nor can I say for definite whether it’s a real standing stone or not. On the whole, I tend to think not or else it would have received antiquarian notice in the 18th and 19th centuries. I’m inclined to think that it might have been part of the Edwin Oates’ landscaping of what was then the gardens of his house at Meanwoodside.

The house has long since been demolished and the grounds are now a public park. If you can, why not go along and see what you think?


St Peter’s Sunday School

St Peter’s Sunday School

National Schools were those run by the Church of England at the time, as opposed to British Schools which were run by Nonconformist groups. Large numbers of pupils could be accommodated at any given time as the teacher would instruct the older pupils who in their turn were supposed to help the younger ones.

The way the foundation date is recorded on the side of the building is rather unusual as the details are spread across two shields. I can’t think of another instance of this type of thing. Can anyone else?

Sunday School datestone



September 29th is Michaelmas Day, that is to say, the Feast Day of St Michael. He was a popular figure in medieval Christianity and many churches were dedicated to him. There are 5 in West Yorkshire alone (East Ardsley, Emley, Haworth, Thornhill and Wragby).

Michaelmas Day is also a Quarter Day, one of the days on which farm rents were due. The others are Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer Day and Christmas Day.

All of this was unknown to me when I was growing up in West Yorkshire sixty years ago. The thing I was told was that one shouldn’t pick blackberries after the 29th of September because that’s the day the Devil spits on them. I suspect that in less prudish times a different bodily fluid would have been involved. I can’t say that this ever stopped me picking wild blackberries – a practice which I passed on to my children. However, there is some logic in the old story: late season blackberries are often disappointing in taste.

And it could be worse. In some parts of Britain, the 21st of September is known as ‘Devil’s Nutting Day’. If you go out picking cob nuts on that day you are sure to meet Old Nick himself…




This effigy in All Saints church, Ledsham (West Yorkshire, UK), is that of Lady Mary Bolles. She was one of the wealthiest women in England. She had made two very advantageous marriages and was created a baronetess of Scotland by James I. But the facts of her life are unremarkable compared to what followed her death.

She lived to a ripe old age of 83 and died in her home at Heath Old Hall in 1662. Many of the provisions of her will are not particularly exceptional for a wealthy person at the time. Money was set aside for such things as funeral expenses and the creation of the tomb seen in the photo. The remarkable thing is that she was not buried until a month and a half after her death: she had set aside a fortune to be spent on a six-week long wake: a party to which it seems that almost everyone was invited.

Not surprisingly, this eccentric behaviour has given rise to many stories of her ghost having been seen in and around the Old Hall. The precise reason for these nocturnal wanderings is not known. Some say it is because several clauses in her will were not enacted. Others offer the explanation that she had lost money in playing at cards and that she ordered the gambling room to be walled off. A later owner had it reopened and Mary’s spirit returned in protest.

It’s also said that the ghost was exorcised into the nearby river Calder, the place still being called Bolles Pit. Others claim that the exorcism was not successful and that her ghost can still be seen.


St Mary’s churchyard, Whitkirk

St Mary’s churchyard, Whitkirk

On a tombstone in St Mary’s churchyard, Whitkirk (West Yorkshire, UK), you will find the following inscription:


world’s A City full of Crooked

Streets. Death is the Market Place

where all men meet.

If life were merchan

-dize that men

could buy, the Rich

would always live,

and the Poor die.

When I first came across this, I assumed it was just a verse composed for the occasion. Apparently not. Almost the same wording occurs in The Two Noble Kinsmen by John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. So, does the idea originate with Shakespeare and Fletcher?

I’ve begun to wonder.  The Two Noble Kinsmen is hardly a well -known play yet a glance at the internet will find the same verse being used on tombstones in Stoke Goldington (Buckinghamshire, UK) and Llanvapley (Monmouthshire, UK). The same verse can also be found in the church records of Iver (also Buckinghamshire, UK). These would seem to me to be too many examples to derived solely from the Shakespeare and Fletcher play. I think that what we are looking at here is a piece of folk verse that the two dramatists incorporated into their work. What do other members of the group think?

And can anyone come up with more examples of its use on tombstones and elsewhere?


Rosebay Willow Herb: the plant that was spread by the railway

Rosebay Willow Herb

When I was a child in 1950s West Yorkshire, I was told that Rosebay Willow Herb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) was what would be known in modern parlance as ‘an invasive species’. Back then, it was a common story that the seeds of these plants had blown across the Channel during WW2 and established themselves on the bomb-sites of war-torn cities. Perhaps other people can remember being told the same.

It’s a good story but it is an urban myth.

In fact, Rosebay Willow Herb was occasionally recorded by British naturalists in the early 19th century though to them it was a much sought-after rarity. By the end of the century it was ubiquitous. Why?  Because of the railway boom. Rosebay Willow Herb likes waste ground. Think of all those cuttings and embankments that had destroyed the plant life that lived there before. Think of all those trains whooshing up and down dragging wind-blown seeds in their wake. Occupying bomb sites was just another step in the plants seemingly unstoppable spread.

It’s ironic really to think that, just as railway time spread over Victorian Britain and made the economy seem a little more predictable, Rosebay Willow Herb was spreading through the countryside to make it too seem a little more uniform.

Anyone else heard the bomb story?

Historic Wells of West Yorkshire 5: Revolution Well, Leeds

Revolution Well, Meanwood (Leeds, UK)

This little wellhouse was erected by Joseph Oates of Weetwood Hall in 1788. It marks the 100th anniversary of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ which had placed William of Orange on the throne of England.

The rear of the wellhouse bears an inscription stating the purpose for which the wellhead was erected. It reads:

Bog in the adjoining field drain’d.

Spring open’d

&conducted hither

For the benefit of the Passenger

and the neighbouring House

Novr 5th, 1788

the 100th Anniversary from the land’g of


in memory of which happy AEra,

this is by Joseph Oates inscrib’d


Dedication: Revolution Well, Meanwood (Leeds, UK)

The well is situated at the junction of Parkland Crescent and Stonegate Road in Meanwood (Leeds, UK). To judge from old photographs of the structure, it’s not in its original position and I can’t help but feel that it ought to be moved again. A small traffic island hardly seems the best location for a historic monument.

For more information about historic wells click here.