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Alverthorpe and Low Laithes Part 9

Mrs Clara Oxley (nee Lindley) Born 1908.

"Mrs Clara Oxley lived in Blacksmiths Fold Alverthorpe when she was a girl, (see back cover) she left there in 1921 to live on Rufford Street off New Scarborough or Alverthorpe Road. She told me that there was a blacksmith who had premises on part of the fold. Mrs Oxley remembers Ernest B. Fletcher living on Shires Row on Green Lane.

Mrs Oxley's grandfather was the sexton and grave digger at Alverthorpe Church. Clara can also remember that the village pump was at the end of Green Lane by the school wall.

The Lindley's also used to go for walks on the lane at the other end of Shires Row by the mill dam and either over the foot bridge up the footpath to the railway crossing and down Willow Lane, or alongside the Alver beck towards Low Laithes and Park Mill Lane all walks which the writer remembers vividly.

Mrs Oxley said the firm of Westmorland Coach builders were in existence in the early part of this century and probably started as wheelwrights making horse drawn wagons, carts and coaches. The name of the actual owners has changed over the years, but they still continued trading under the name of Westmorland. I was once asked by a lady who lived near Milners Court to take a message to her husband who worked at Westmorland's. It was quite interesting being shown through the premises to where the man worked, seeing all the men busy planing, sawing and putting screws in the various vehicle bodies which they built in the 1940's. There is a Westmorland Brothers mentioned in the 1892 Trades Directories as Joiners & Wheelwrights and also a William Westmorland Joiner.

Near to Blacksmiths Fold is Cross Pipes Road which climbs up the hill behind the Cock public house. This road or lane which was not made up contained a lot of broken pieces of clay pipes in the make up of the road. The trades directories list a James Walker as tobacco pipe maker and beer retailer in Alverthorpe from 1847 right up to 1892. It was the thing in those days for licenced premises to have clay pipes made with the name of the Inn or the Inn sign on and these were given free to the customers.

Mrs Oxley does not remember clay pipes being made on Cross Pipes Road in the early part of this century. If the James Walker listed in 1847 was the same person listed in 1892 he must have been an old man by the later date and probably finished pipe making before Mrs Oxley was born.

There was a Sarah Walker listed as pipe maker at Silcoates in 1838 but the name has changed to Sarah Bailey in 1842, whether she was a relation of James Walker we do not know.

The habit of smoking tobacco was brought back from North America by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1580's. It is a demonstration of its popularity that it spread very quickly indeed and by the middle of the 17th century there were at least two or three kilns at Wrenthorpe or (Potovens) producing clay pipes.

There is both documentary and archaeological evidence for this. Pipe makers are recorded in the Wakefield Manor Court Rolls and in the Quarter Sessions Rolls from the middle of the l7th.century and in the Manor Book, 1709. There were also many pieces of clay pipes found in the siege levels of Sandal Castle with the initials of Wrenthorpe pipemakers on them.

It would seem that Sir Walter has a great deal to answer for when we read today's medical evidence for not smoking. Even the writer was a cigarette smoker up to 1969. The clay pipe making industry in Wrenthorpe was a continuing process alongside the pottery industry from about 1620 until the turn of this century. There were one or two offshoots at Alverthorpe, Snow Hill and Silcoates.

People nowadays tend to think of Alverthorpe as being just the village itself, the church and Alverthorpe estate. Whereas in fact Alverthorpe stretched from Dewsbury road at Roundwood to St. Michaels as one boundary. The Foster Ford Beck which rises above Melbourne House is another boundary and flows down through the centre of Wrenthorpe past the filter beds and parallel to Silcoates Street then on round Wakefield Prison and joins the Alver Beck near to the bottom of Westgate.

The northern boundary is about 200 yds from the southern side of the motorway just north of Kirkhamgate village across to not far from where the Alver beck rises and flows down to just past the bridge on Park Mill Lane then across the golf course towards Flushdyke. The eastern boundary of Alverthorpe just about chops Wrenthorpe village in two.

The Wakefield Manor Court Rolls refer on occasion to potters in Alverthorpe. The question is are they referring to Alverthorpe proper, or to that part of Alverthorpe which is near to the centre of Wrenthorpe, i.e. the eastern boundary. It is an intriguing thought although as far as I know no pottery kiln has ever been found in Alverthorpe village. There are signs of pottery kilns near to Silcoates School and a 15th century clamp kiln has been found at the side of Lindale Lane. A late 16th early 17th century kiln site has also been found at the Nooking' opposite Lindale Lane on Brandy Carr Road.

Anyone digging foundations or trenches who finds evidence of burnt clay and broken pot sherds should report this to the West Yorkshire Archaeology unit at St. John's North telephone 01924 296791.

Appendix B.

Photographs of Alverthorpe village 1905/8.

Photograph A taken in 1905 from the railway embankment looking along Alverthorpe road towards Wellington Street. On the right is the entrance to the field below Highfield House where the feast used to be held. The scene is the festival on 27th.May of that year.

Graphic36 - Photo A.
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Photograph B. This time taken in May 1908 from in front of the railway bridge in the centre of the road. In the centre of the picture is the Post Office on the right side of the road. In the distance along the road is the Wesleyan Methodist Church and behind the houses on the right is the Parish Church on top of the hill.

Graphic37 - Photo B.
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Photograph C. This is taken from the wall looking towards the railway bridge with Alverthorpe signal box on the embankment. The telephone post in front of the box carries the local telephone wires. The railway telephone post appears to be immediately to the left of the box. The gentleman stood on the causeway is said to be the Chief Constable no wonder the lad passing him is shielding his face.!!

Graphic38 - Photo C.
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Photograph D. This photograph is taken on the 27th.May 1905 on the hillside between the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the church at the top of the hill. The Wesleyan Methodist Church can be seen right of centre and over the top can just be seen the five rows of houses around Mona Street off Flanshaw Lane. On the left just above the roofs of the houses can be seen Alverthorpe signal box on the embankment.

Graphic39 - Photo D.
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Graphic40 - Back Cover. Map of Alverthorpe.
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