The village of Stanley is situated in LAT. 530N and LONG. 10W to the North of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Stanley was inhabited by different races of people in the past. Wakefield Museum has a collection of very old weapons which have been found in the area. For example, two flint hand axes were found in Lee Moor in 1889. Several flint knives were found in Lake Lock in 1892 which date from the pre-Palaeolithic period. Neolithic arrow heads were found in the area at Kitchen Farm and Newmarket House together with a number of axe heads in 1835 when digging out for foundations for the Stanley Aqueduct. At 18 feet below the surface a dugout canoe was discovered.
Neolithic people made their canoes from solid tree trunks, hacking out the interior with axes and burning out the rough with fire. The canoe was well preserved and was on display at the Yorkshire Museum at York.
Then there is evidence of the Roman era. Roman coins have been found in Stanley. A good number were found in 1812 by workmen who were working in a field of the Roman Camp Farm near Aberford Road. They weighed over 40lbs. There was also found a pot containing 7,198 third brass coins in a field belonging to Smalley Bight Farm in 1905. These belonged to the first half of the 4th century and were found near the river hank where the earth works constructed by the Romans are noted.
Now, as a point of interest, the name 'Stanley' has a Danish derivation. The words 'Stan' meaning a stone and 'lean' meaning a meadow, thus we arrive at the meaning 'a stony meadow', which gives evidence of the presence of the Vikings. Other evidence in names left behind by these intruders were the villages they founded around the area. These were known as 'Thorpes', several around the Wakefield area being Alverthorpe5 Chapelthorpe, Wrenthorpe, Woodthorpe and Ouchthorpe which means 'Uches Village'.
When mention is made of the Danes during their stay in Yorkshire, it reminds me of a story which may have been the origination of our Yorkshire Pancake Day. Perhaps it all started in Stanley?
The story - It was in the early part of the Danish occupation. A Yorkshire village was invaded by a party of Danes. The menfolk, fearful of their lives, fled into the surrounding woodlands leaving their womenfolk in the village. It was the day previous to Ash Wednesday. The women formed a plan to rid the village of these intruders. They decided to make a feast of delicious 'pancakes', sweetened by honey and juices from berries. The Danes were invited to this feast of pancakes, with generous helpings of strong-brewed ale and wines. Soon after the feast they were all in a sound sleep; the women sharpened their knives and, within a few minutes, they pierced their hearts and were killed as they slept. It is said that this event was the first 'Pancake Day' and it has been celebrated in Yorkshire ever since.
The east side of the village of Stanley is bordered by the River Calder which begins its journey from the Pennines ranges of hills. The crossing places for the Stanley inhabitants to gain access to the other side of the river appears from old plans and documents to have been Bottomboat and Stanley Ferry. Stanley Ferry became a place of great interest as a crossing when the coal mining industry developed.
From research on old plans and documents which have survived, Stanley was mainly agricultural land which gave good crops of corn, vegetables and fruit, and the population for many years lived from the land of plenty which also gave food for all the animals which were required to support this simple way of life..... horses for working the land, cattle for milk, pigs for meat and poultry for eggs and meat, whilst the River Calder would supply fish. The ample surrounding woodlands would supply fuel, and sheep and goats would provide clothing in addition to the meat they supplied.
Then coal was found very near to the surface, followed by a market for an increasing population and the technology to use coal to benefit industry. Around 1770 there was a substantial tonnage of coal mined from these shallow workings, some coal very near to the surface was dug by removing the dirt and stone from above the seam and then back-filling in to the cavity left behind. This was a reasonable working method for the first 5 to 6 feet, depending on the hardness of the strata above the seam of coal. So when seams of coal were at a greater depth, Bell pits were sunk and the coal extracted and the roof supported by timbers so far as ventilation would permit. There were many of these pits; a 1850 plan of Stanley shows the position of some of these shallow shafts.
In the area of land around Hatfield Hall there is shown seven groups of these pits. They extend in groups beyond Rooks Nest Road into the Lofthouse village. There is also evidence of many in the Lee Moor area. The extraction of this coal led up to an improvement needed in the roadwavs to market it in the City of Wakefield and towards Leeds.
The cost of improvement and maintenance was borne by a levy; payment had to be made for the use of these roads and so we had the Toll Houses in 1770, one of which was situated at the end of Bar Lane. There was also one at the end of Lake Lock Road and payment had to be made for using this length of Aberford Road,
As the coal seams near the surface got deeper, twin shafts were sunk in order to ventilate the workings and extract coal over a much larger area. The 1850 plan shows three shafts on Stanley Ferry, two shafts Victoria, deep drop shafts off Lime Pit Lane, and shafts in Intake Lane, Stanley Lane Ends. There were two shafts known as Parson Pits at the top of Bottomboat Hill, just off Aberford Road; the Charlesworth's shaft Newmarket at the foot of West Road and there was also the Bottomboat Colliery in the Bottomboat section of Stanley.
So Stanley developed from 1750 to 1850 into a coal mining village. Population increased, houses were needed and many were built from the sandstone in the Stanley Lane End Quarry and Lee Moor Quarry. Lime was obtained from three lime pits at the south end of Lime Pit Lane.
The demand for coal grew greater and larger collieries were sunk producing higher outputs of coal Transport of coal to meet this high demand was eased by the use of canals and rivers. To this end the Aire and Calder served a useful purpose. Coal from the Lofthouse area was transported on a Tram Road to the ferry to be loaded into vessels and transported to coal distribution points over a distance of many miles. There was the need for an Aqueduct at Ferry Lane in order that the canal could cross the River Calder, making transport much more efficient. The scheme was undertaken by the Aire and Calder Navigation Company.
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