Around Aberford :: Tomlinson Memories
The header image is from around the time that the transcript below describes, the picture shows children on the bridge over the Cock Beck in the centre of Aberford. The scene is very similar to today, with the pavement on the west side of the road only, however the casual approach to playing is very different, as traffic passes through the village quite regularly and with little regard for pedestrians! The contrast between the predominantly horse drawn or ridden era, shown, to the mind numbing congestion in the years after WW2 before the village was by bi-passed by the A1 in the early sixties is marked and then on today where although the traffic is much less than in the peak years before the bi-pass it is a road with none of its early tranquility, as a car, motorbike or heavy vehicle can shatter the silence in moments.
The Tomlinson Memories
A verbatim transcript describing the village of Aberford around the end of the nineteenth century, by a villager from Aberford called Tomlinson, the interview was taken in the 1950's. The scrolling maps are from the early twentieth century, first loading and secondly the eighteenth century.
I have been asked to describe the inhabitants, customs, and surroundings of the village of Aberford on the Great North Road between Micklefield and Bramham, and will try to make you see it as it was 75 years ago.
The roads first; these were repaired by stone from Coldhill Quarry on the Lotherton Hall Estate belonging to Lady Ashtown. This stone was carted by farmers and other ratepayers in their slack time and delivered at places as required by the overseer, thus helping to pay for their own rates. The old men broke the stone at so much a load. In cold weather they sat on three-legged stools behind wind breaks of stakes and sacks, steadily making the stones with their long handled hammers. The road from the coal depot north to Boston Spa, Clifford, and Bramham, became very warm and cut up and in bad weather ruts were formed. The roadman had to fill in these and scatter loose stones to move the horses into another track. The mud on the roads was pulled from the centre to both sides with an iron scraper, left to drain, and then used to fasten any new stone-work.
At the north end towards Bramham cross-roads the farm house on the east side had a licence and the landlord, Mr Chambers, was the last to hold the licence. On Sunday afternoons in summer people gathered here to watch Hudson's Stage Coach complete with hornblower race past after changing horses at the Fox & Grapes, some little way up the Leeds road. They were travelling to York and always had a full load.
Southwards towards the village among the good farm lands of Becca and Becca Hall, the Hazelwood Estates, was a field with a circular depression at the far endwhich was known as Ranter's Field. It was supposed that this sect held their meetings here, having scouts out. If any stranger approached, the scouts gave warning and the gathering dispersed to the woods. Just past this field was a farm lane, the farmer, Mr. Connety, usually buying his horses from the Leeds Tramway Co. at £1 per leg. These made useful horses on the farm after years of work on the cobbled streets of Leeds.
In a nearby cottage lived Sam Moverley and his wife, an old pensioner of Sir W. Vavasour. To eke out his pension he had permission to chop up windfall timber and cut pea-rods from the undergrowth. The firewood in bundles called kids were tied with a withe from either willow or hazel and sold per dozen and the pea-sticks were sold per bundle. Then came a quarry with a fox earth on the roadside, and Nut Green Cottages. The first cottage was a bungalow in which lived Mrs. Spencer, a widow with two sons. Both sons, Joe, a joiner, and Fred, a painter, worked on the estate and Mrs. Spencer, or Theresa' worked all year round on the Black Horse Farm stonepicking, and harvesting. The other cottages were converted out of a school. All these tenants worked on the estate.
Next came the coach road to Hazelwood Castle, the home of Sir William Vavasour. Hazelwood Castle was a grand building facing south with a chapel and a burial ground. In the stable yard was a clock with only the m inute hand. In front was the park and the fosh pond complete with stately white swans. This estate was famous for its oak trees. In one huge old oak near the Castle gates was built a platform and young visitors often slept there in summer. Past the stable yard is the drive to the north lodge on the Tadcaster road.
Back to the village road lies Black Horse Farm on the left. The farmer, Henry Risworth. This farm was supposed to be one of the headquarters of Dick Turpin and his famous Black Bess. Then comes the Toll Bar, a small stone lodge with one of the deepest wells in the village which had about seventy in under a mile and a half. The Toll Bar gate was said to have been jumped by Black Bess. St John's Farm comes next on the Becca Hall Estate. The farm Bailiff, George Lindley, had a son Jack, very swift of foot. He once raced a hare in a harvest field downhill and caught it within 100 yards.
Still on the right is Little London, where quarrymen, miners, wheelwrights, dog breeders and pigeon fanciers, lived. They were a happy little bunch. On the left were well-cultivated allotments, and if one of the tenants was off sick the rest got together and kept his garden going. One tenant, John Cornell, a cobbler, had a small lean-to shop in his garden, with a glass roof and small stove; he was secretary of the Forester Friendly Society, which had its headquarters at the Royal Oak Inn. John was a very good reciter but only in male company. The members of this lodge had a parade every whitsuntide. The parade included a lad and a pony, dressed up to represent Robin Hood. This was followed by a dinner.
I joined this society and as a new member was asked to be one of the waiters. The menu was roast beef, roast mutton and rabbit pie with all the condiments. Before the dinner, the secretary, John Cornell, said to me, "when Mr arrives attend to him." I did and was surpirised; first he had a plate of beef, I asked what he would have next, "I'll have another bit of beef lad, lad, and tell't carver to give knife a bit more hand." He went clean through the menu and then said na lad I enjoyed that, I'll have a pint of bitter" and he only weighed about eighteen stone.
The Long Dale is a long shallow depression of grass land always flooded in winter and which became a grand length of skating in frosty weather. One winter, skaters and Scottish curlers had a grand time for eighteen weeks. Real winter that, with snow three feet deep with only a cart road and pass-by cut for weeks on end.
Joe Smith, landlord of the Royal Oak, had two brothers: one a wheelwright and Bob a saddler, whose shop was a little way down on the left. All three played cricket with the local team. The wheelwright cut all his hardwood by hand in a saw-pit. A plumber, Ned Watson, and then a butcher, Jim Cockram, had his shop net door to an archway built up one end with a window and a door to the street. Behind these houses up a flight of stairs lived Bob Locker, a bird catcher. The next house had a draw-well just off the front steps and close to the footpath. The wall had wood in covers over the roll and a pair of doors to cover the well, all in good working order.
In a grass field nearby Abraham and John Child had a band walk. The brothers made any kind of rope and sheep nets. Their bell ropes were a speciality. Opposite on the right Miss Mason's (Greenhill) boarding school for girls. in the school yard was the last well sunk in the village. In the next row of stone cottages lived Myria Wharton, who sold brewer's yeast. She had a donkey and cart and went to Woodlesford Brewery every week and sold yeast on the way.
She had a long stick to prod the donkey and passers by called to her "prick him Myria"; she said " he cares no more for a prick than me arse." Further along lived Mary Varley and her brother Jack. Mary was one of the best stocking knitters in the district. Her charge for knitting was the price of the wool. She had a cat that opened the front door by tapping on the suffolk latch until the door was opened.
Another tenant, John Monks, woodman, usually had a late visitor on Saturday night, an old friend who lived out of the valley. After chatting awhile both began to nod, but the visitor never moved. So John said "I'm off to bed and when tha's ready tak key out when tha goes, lock door and shove key under door."
A little way back on the left was Mrs. Smith's confectioners and mixed grocery shop. A mole catcher, Mr. Bulmer had a son Dick, a pupil teacher at the village school. Mrs Cockram a widow, travelled to all the local fairs and feasts with a stall. Mr. Worsley, a tailor, worked for Mr. Nettleton, who's shop was in the market place next to the Rose and Crown. Next, Grape Cottages, No. 1 Ted Heaton, painter and the best grainer for miles around, No.3 and Mrs Tomlinson (my mother) confectioner, noted for smalls and spice loaves and pork pies at Christmas.
Grove Cottages comes next. First lived Miss Hewitt and her brother, Walter, stone mason. Owing to an accident on a scaffold he could not follow his trade, but worked all kinds of small articles in stone with a pocket knife. Further along, Mrs. Spencer, the first woman to knit stockings with a machine. Then Mr Ben Teale, Verger. Ben could handle three bells at once. He was a wire worker by trade and made birdcages, riddles, firescreens, and also bred bullfinches and canaries. This row of houses had an enclosed yard with a big pen very near the back door. Opposite were gardens, backed , on the west by a plumb cut rock wall about ten feet high and a field above. The roads here were hewn out of rock. The contractor found this out when he laid the sewer years later. The site for the houses, built in pairs, was hewn out of solid rock sometimes as much as twelve feet thick. Most of these houses had cellars with stone slabs on pillars, on which they were able to cure their own bacon. I wonder what the bacon factory would think if they compared this bacon with the thin flabby sides they call bacon today; people those days called it pork, 6d per lb., legs and loins.
On the corner was Tom Prudence's grocer's shop and round the corner facing due south two stone cottages looking onto Pump Hill, a spare piece of ground used often by pot stalls, cheapjacks, etc. A little way on the left was Mr. Catley's Boarding School for Boys and Day School Mixed. Opposite Dr Ellerton's large square brick house with a surgery in the yard. In the surgery he had a chamber pot for the use of people having teeth drawn; in the bottom of this pot was the photo of the Duke of Wellington. The doctor used to say, "I have tried to drown that devil many a time." Past the doctor's going north, is Field Lane leading to farm land and to a footpath to Hazelwood Castle. Banks thrown up on the east side by the Romans protected the road. Looking across over the River Cock are the Raper Hills.
On the left is the old mill and over the hill is Woodhouse Grange Farm. Mr Smart was the farmer. In the river valley willows were grown. These were cut and delivered mostly to the blind institute at Leeds and local basket makers. Pump Hill, by the way was so called by the well of splendid water, only nine or ten feet deep, which was never known to be dry. The pump was kept in order by the blacksmith opposite, and expense incurred was paid by collecting from the surrounding users of the water. On Sunday afternoons in summer the Salvation Army gathered on Pump Hill, and one member, Notton' Sparling, was always 1d short of a 1/- on the drum collections. On the left row of cottages there lived a dressmaker; then a sweep, Jim Brooks, next a small shop, Youngs. They kept a cow called Dina Young.
At the Arabian Horse, next door, the landlord sometimes got "canned" and then thought nothing of turning customers out whatever the time might be, saying "goodnight I'm off to bed." The next house facing south was a long one-fronted building having a blank wall at the back with only a small window on the top landing. A very pleasant room inside and in the kitchen was a force pump to pump water to a tank on the roof. In the garden, which adjoined the river, was a very good puzzle walk. Mr Dixon was tenant and the Bloom family were the owners.
Across the road a row of cottages stood well back and had no front doors (so the women could not gossip in the street) these were the "Markham Cottages" belonging to Becca Hall. Next came a farmhouse where Mr W. Helm, farm bailiff for the estate, lived. On the corner of Becca Lane was a blacksmith's shop. The smiths, Charley Stone and George Danial, had not much room but the farmers kept them busy. Further along past Miss Smith's sweet shop lived a woodman, Bill Jowitt, called "Bott" Jowitt, owing to him cutting all the useful bottery or elder trees suitable, taking them home, sawing and splitting and making into skewers for butchers.
Nearby lived a cripple, Henry England, who had two short heavy walking sticks that took the weight off his body as he dragged himself along, the inside of his hands were as hard as iron through gripping his walking sticks. He was taken to see "Sequa" who visited Leeds at that time and who was reported to have made some marvellous cures. But he made very little impression on Mr. England. A few yards further on was a small enclosed square with two or three cottages with small gardens, stables and pig sties. Mr. W. Cockram lived in one. He also carted coal with a horse and cart and worked two allotments.
At Becca Hall Lodge lived Beau Banks "Beauty", the tenant trapper and game watcher who travelled about in a home made cart like a packing case pulled by a donkey. Further up the drive in the wood on the left is a water dam and pump from a spring. The man who fixed it, Mr. Malrey, lodged in Aberford, came 30 years later to do slight repairs, and again lodged with the same people. Becca Hall, half a mile further along, had a marvellous library. English oak shelves from ceiling to floor, and all were enclosed by panel doors. Here was the first time I saw Doomsday Books. The timber on Becca Hall estate was mostly ash and sycamore. In the centre of the village street we come to the bridge over the river cock. On its banks hard by a corn mill driven by a water wheel. Mr. R. Smith engaged the millar; he also lived in the farmhouse further along, and his land was on the north of the village towards Bramham Crossroads.
We are now at the entrance of Barwick Lane and on the left stands the Swan Hotel. Mr. Pearson was the tenant. The yard had large coach houses and stables. The Royal Mail van from Leeds put up here and returned to Leeds at night. "Horsey Ward" was the driver. Barwick Lane corner was a very busy place at feast times and hirings. A circus, seeds bazar, cheapjacks and stalls of all descriptions gathering there in noisy conglomeration! Farm lads and lasses seeking fresh bosses for the next year would meet and compare notes on their last place.
Irish cattle and their drovers spread half a mile up the lane. Farmers and dealers arguing and bantering one another down on prices, added to the fun and the din! Further up on the left is one of the coach roads to Parlington Hall, the home of the Gascoigne family. Walk up a little way and you come to a large stone arch built to commemorate the liberty of America. On the right a row of huge beech trees some of which two men could not span. This estate is noted for beech and larch. The Barwick maypole always came from this estate. Coming back to the village, the Aberford White Rose cricket ground is on the left and on the opposite side to the entrance gate is the Pike Head Lodge, the front door of which is level with the street, but you go down a sloping path to get to the back door. Mr. Waite lived here.
On the left is a ford over the river but the stepping stones were removed after the bridge was built and looking up the river from the bridge you could often see kingfishers fly swiftly just above the surface of the water. Waterhens were a common sight. One year when the dam that supplied the mill was frozen and fit for scating, the farmer hung ropes on the trees for emergency. A man fell through the ice and a spectator in a hurry got one of the ropes and threw it without opening it out to the man, but a ladder across the ice son had him out. The cottages on the riverside were called "Rotten Row". One tenant, Sam Perkin, was another with a horse and cart, coal leading and other carting jobs kept him busy. He had a son, Tom, who went to America and did well. Peter Hick lived higher up, he was brother to Sammy Hicks, the miller. Further along, living in one of a row of houses about seven feet below road level, "Dipper" Simpson got the name of "Dipper" because he made green candles used in all the local pits.
Higher up on road level was John Willie Lock, a chemist. His bedroom was over a stone archway, the ceiling of which was lath and plaster. One Christmas some young sparks wanted John to go out with them on the razzle, but he refused to get up, so these young lads got a pole and thrust it through both lath and plaster and also through the bedroom floor. John soon got up! Next door lived Jack Heaton, painter; he worked for his brother William, master painter.
We now come to a large stone house well up and back from the road with imposing wide stone steps up to the front, large gardens behind and a fish pond surrounded by sweet chestnut trees. Mrs. Wharton lived here. She was the sister to John Loyde Wharton, of Bramham Park. He walked most Sundays in summer to dine with his sister and walked back; he would not have his coachman out on Sundays. At the Post Office, William Cathercole was postmaster and his wife baked bread and helped in the shop. They always supplied buns and oranges for the Aberford Schoolchildren at Whitsuntide, to the order of Miss Cathercole. Mr. Cathercole was killed later while riding a horse that threw him into the sunken areas of the houses that were built below street level.
Next door was another chemist, Calip Waite, near the Boot and Shoe Inn. Shaws were the owners, they built a brewery behind the Inn, but never used it. Next a butcher's shop, Joe Scriven, who thought nothing of asking some lad "Just slip across the road and take me this meat to Becca Hall" a matter of nearly four miles there and back.
I remember a lady who lived in a house near the Swan Hotel. She kept a parrot in the kitchen. Anyone knocking at the back door would hear this parrot call "come in" and when the visitor went in the parrot would say "what the hell do you want?" Mr. W. Heaton, painter lived next door, then Amos Bloom, gardener to Miss Wharton, opposite. The east entrance to St Ricarius Church is at the top of two flights of stone steps. The east window does not show at its best outside, but is a beauty when seen from inside. The church is very large for so small a village but is well worth a visit. Entering by the far south door the font is on the left, then the entrance to the belfrey with pews on either side and a gallery over. There are four rows of pews with a centre aisle up to the pulpit, choir stalls and communion table with east windows.
All the wood used in the church is English oak, and the pew ends are all carved. The living of the church is for the eldest batchelor at Oriel college. In the churchyard are several stone coffins hewn out of the solid stone and shaped to fit the head. Miss Wheeles lived in the stone house adjoining the church, a grand lady, very generous to the poor. (Her maid, Miss Rook, was the daughter of Inspector Rook, who was the last tenant of the Pointer Inn, a few miles further south beyond Micklefield on the right of Newthorpe and Sherburn road). Walk up the path past the vaults through a small door onto the drive to the vicarage, a grand old stone building with a large entrance hall. The study is on the left, and if you ever visit here ask to see the picturein the study, it is well worth seeing. It represents "Hell" at its worst. Through the windows you will see a fine lawn surrounded by a sunk fence. The staff were cook, kitchen maid, two housemaids, and groom-gardener. Canon Eden, who then had the living, was a widower; his daughter, Alice, kept house for him; there also was a son Charles Page Eden, he was at home , only in holidays being away at school and college.
A door on the right of the drive entered into the village school yard. The school consisted of one large room for standards three, four, five and six with the headmaster, Mr. Freeborn and two assistants. A classroom for standard two and infants room with headmistress and pupil teacher. A sewing mistress, Mrs. Robinson, attended every Wednesday to teach sewing to the girls.. Mr. Freeborn was a grand man, strict but fair, and had no favourites. He turned out some grand scholars, later to be bank managers, accountants, and business people in general. Parents paid two pence per week and the school grant allowed only on the report of the Government Inspector, thus making teachers responsible for the result of his or her respective classes. The school yard was a long narrow yard with only a swing pole in the centre. No playing fields, football or tennis courts or weekly baths as now. No pampering, just learning and everyone was happy and contented. Two half-timbered cottages one for the headmaster and the other for Mr. Jim Moor, grave digger, and his wife, who was the church cleaner.
Coming back to the main street; Joe Nettleton's tailors shop employed one man, Mr. Worsley, and his own son William. Two daughters kept house for him. Next door was the Rose and Crown Inn. William Wood the landlord was also a farmer. His son, Sampson, kept hunters and was a rider at point to point and the local race meetings. This house has been a court house and in the tap room there is a small glass fronted space boxed in for prisoners and/or witnesses. Some years later the chief constabvle of Leeds read the riot act from the front steps owing to the disturbance and bother caused by the election that day. Further along we come to Mr Button's grocery and drapery store, with two assistants and wagon man and traveller. The drapery was attended to by Miss Precious. This was a good sound business, in later years taken over by G.H. Moon who had two other shops in nearby villages. Going down three steps into the road we cross over to the left and facing us Tallow Yard, so called because "Dipper" Simpson had his candle factory at the top end. The yard was very narrow only about fourteen feet wide with houses on both sides occupied by a cobbler, quarry men, miners, and poachers-come-miners. The first house one came to on the right fronting the street was a large house occupied by a vet and farmer who later moved lower down to the next farmhouse. In this yard was a drying kiln for the use of farmers in a wet or late harvest. The farmers kept men turning and bagging dried corn night and day. The kiln firing was done by slack from the coal depot costing about two shillings and sixpence a ton.
Next to the kiln was a large barn and when the villagers wanted a dance Mr Scriven, the farmer, always obliged and if twenty or thirty quarters of corn was on the floor he would borrow sacks from the NE Railway Co. and his men and helpers would fill them up and lay them two sacks high all round the room thus making seating for the dancers. The villagers would then sweep the roof and walls, and if required would lime wash and decorate the beams and walls with home-made streamers. Two violins made the music and refreshments were provided. The men all wore white glovesand always asked, "may I have the pleasure" and after the dance always took their partners back where they had been seated. A bit different today - go grab a girl and say "come on" and leave her in the middle of the floor alone when the dance finishes.
The following night the corn would be emptied out, the sacks bundled up and all left as found, and by the way, the barn floor was polished by paring wax candles all over and letting the kids slide on it to make a good dancing floor. We come next to Ned Lawn's wheelwright's shop. Ned built wagons and carts for farmers and the wheels were hooped next door by John Gibbon, blacksmith, who employed three men and an apprentice. One of the men, Jack Varley, worked outside going to the farms, different days, shoeing and doing general farm repairs. All the outlying farms had a blacksmith shop. This job suited Jack, plenty of work and plenty of beef and beer.
The next block of property was called "Lush Pot" but why I don't know, unless it was owing to its close proximity to a beer off-licence shop doing a good trade. This was open from six a.m. to ten p.m., the busy time being as the miners came home, about two p.m. and from eight o'clock onwards, when wives fetched beer for their men coming home from the pits. Beer then was twopence h'penny a pint, Woodbines five a penny, tobacco threepence an ounce. Bill Perkin and his wife kept the shop and their Amsterdam beer was a speciality and the only shop that sold "Blackman Tod", rather a crude name isn't it but kids who asked for it meant "Locust" the same as fed to deer in Parlington Park. Across the street and back a little way is Chapel Yard where stood six or eight houses and the Wesleyan Chapel, where Taylor Varley and wife were caretakers and Mr. Varley was a jobbing tailor, and beside working at home he spent a lot of time at farms and the large houses in the district, repairing and making up customers own cloth. Sam Risworth's farm house and butchers shop was a little way back up the main street.
A footpath to the village school ran through the farm yard, also a path to Parlington Hall. Next came the coal depot and builders yard occupied by W. Heaton who employed a few tradesmen to work on both Parlington and Lotherton Estate. On the left stands a large house and saddler's shop. John Piercy employed two men, whose main work, other than for farmers, was making harnesses for pit ponies at Garforth Colliery. It was a rule that every new pony bought had to have a new set of gears. Repairs to other sets were sent from the colliery on a coal truck which brought coal to the depot. Mr. Piercy was village constable long before we had a resident policeman. he had a coat helmet and staff, but I do not remember seeing the staff in use.
Mr. Dewey the coal agent lived in the house provided. Facing front was the office and weighbridge. It was a very busy place especially in winter. At the far end of the yard was a large room fit up with ovens and setpots, sinks and tables. It was used in winter as a soup kitchen, and was in charge of Mrs. Tomlinson, my mother who was a confectioner. She prepared soup and meals for the poor people and those with large families. Young women went there to learn to cook and to serve out to the people who fetched their own and to deliver to those unable to attend either by illness or infirmity. Everything was paid for by Mrs. Gascoigne the grandmother of the present Sir Alvary Gascoigne, besides this, every shooting day or the day after a groom and helper delivered rabbits to every house according to size of family. It did not matter whether they were tenants or not and if the groom was short he booked the name of the last delivery and started there the next day. This was carried out at both Barwick and Saxton, Golonel Gascoigne being the Lord of the manor.
Next was a small stone building with porch and inner door. This was the village library and reading room, also upheld by Mrs. Gascoigne. Close by is Parlington Lane and the entrance to the railway coal tips, also the starting point of the Fly to Garforth station; the Fly, so called, was an old railway carriage with three compartments for passengers and one for the conductor. The Fly left Aberford at nine a.m. three days aweek, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and the fare was sixpence return. The motive power was a horse.
The return journey left Garforth colliery siding at 5-15 in the afternoon. When the passengers got seated the conductor took off the brake and with a little assistance the Fly began to move and owing to the gradient of the rail road travelled to Aberford on its own momentum. A low platform was fixed behind the Fly, and the horse was trained to step on as the Fly began to move, and all the conductor had to do was watch his brakes and ring a large bell fixed to the roof to warn people who may be walking on the railway. The horse was used only if any tree branches or heavy weather caused a stoppage. It was very amusing to a stranger but a grand run between woods on both sides all the way and when passing Parlington Hall you could see all the front and the large lawn with very old cedar trees, with some of the branches hung up by chains and hoops to the bole. Further back large beech trees were protected in the same way and no woodman was allowed to cut any limbs without permission from Mrs. Gascoigne.
Under the grounds adjoining the railway was a cartway from Aberford called the dark arch, sixty or seventy yards long and in the woods on the left was an ice house built underground. In frosty weather woodmen would break the ice on the fish pond and cart it here and ram it down solid, We passed the fish pond just before coming to the dark arch, and next to the pond was the gas works and head keeper's lodge.
Home-made beer was brewed at Parlington Hall. At the back was a the stone paved stable yard, with stud groom office, stables, laundry and underground wine cellar. Near the back door to the hall was a large iron wheel at which a labourer sat and turned to pump water into tanks in the roof. An indicator on the wall showed when the tanks were full. On the right when entering the back door was a boot room and on the left a large scullery and kitchen. Round a passage on the right was the butler's pantry and back stairs, the staff were housekeeper, cook kitchen maid, three housemaids, scullery maids, two stillroom maids, two laundry maids, butler valet and boot boy. No man was ever sacked. If he got too old for his job in the woods, farm, or gardens he then, when it was decent weather, worked on the coachroads, of which there were six main drives, and where no weeds were allowed to grow. The men worked in pairs and their wages were paid in full. Nothing was ever stopped for broken time. This then proving the present day fanatics song "The idle rich living on the poor tenants on their estate" to be entirely wrong.
Colonel Gascoigne, Sir Avery's father was a soldier born, I remember some years later, he went out to the Boer War and took six of his own horses and his rough rider Harry Heap with him, Harry told me when they both came back how the Colonel was admired abroad and how he came at night and helped him groom his horses on the picket lines and share his last piece of tobacco and dog biscuit (iron ration) with him. Wandering back to the village, across the street is Windmill Hill. On the left stood John Atkinson's joiners shop. He employed two men and two apprentices. He was also the village undertaker. Opposite the shop was the pinfold for straying cattle. To get them back the owners had to pay a shilling for horses or cattle and sixpence for sheep or pigs. Another pinfold was at the north end of the village. Up Windmill Lane was Aberford Gas Works who supplied a lot better gas than we get today, and at a quarter the price.
The windmill was always kept working, wind permitting. Here the road forks, left to New Zealand Cottage, the home of Mr Young, retired auctioneer. A visit to his house was worth while. Old furniture, crockery, pictures, statues and guns and curios of all descriptions from all parts of the world, you could scarcely see any of the walls. Mr. and Mrs. Young had a large family, the boys named after boxers and jockeys and the girls after flowers. Up the right fork of the road was Coopers Wood, in the fields adjoining a race meet was held yearly, upheld by farmers, horse breeders and the hunting gentry. There were no money prizes, for saddles, bridles, bits, girths and brushes were awarded to the winners, all useful and thought a lot of by the winners. I can only remember the names of two horses competing, "Maid of the Mill" and "Miss Croft".
Further along is Coldhill with a stone quarry on the left and the lodge and gate to Lotherton Hall, the home of Lady Ashtown. The road on the left goes to Saxton via the Crooked Billet Inn and Lead Chapel and on to Grimston Park, the home of Mrs. Fielding and the one on the right to Sherburn Going back to the Aberford road we leave Collier lane on the left which is a narrow lane through farm land to Hook Moor and on to Garforth. Now turn left at Atkinson's shop, where there is a row of cottages and an off-licence grocers shop. Tom Naylor had a son, Charlie, a good bass singer and a daughter Nellie. On the other side of the street on the hill Mason Backhouse lived. He was very lame and had to be helped in and out of his trap when going visiting his workmen. Further south we climb Bunker's Hill, with cottages on the left, and on the right fifteen or twenty feet above street level more semi-detached cottages and behind these allotments.
These tenants mostly employed on the two estates, wood-men, joiners, gardeners, and gasmen, further along is a large rambling farm house. At one time it had been a pub. From the front door one went down a long stone paved passage into the kitchen which had been the taproom with a large long settle and large fireplace with meat jack complete. Out of the back door was the fold yard with stables and mistal pigs all over the place. John Braithwaite was one of those old Yorkshire farmers who hated to be called Mister. One day a traveller for tillage called at the door and asked for Mr. Braithwaite, John answered the door and said, "No Mister lives here. If tha's seeking Johnnie Braithwaite I'm him." Customers who bought milk from his wife were always supplied withwheat prepared for Fumity making at Christmas. Skimmed milk was about three half pence per quart and beastlings free. The front of the building formed a square with mounting stones at one corner and had been a pull-in for travellers on the Great North Road.
Next on the left was Miss Schofield's house with a large enclosed garden in front and orchards and outbuildings behind. Next door is the Catholic Chapel, well kept and attended.Father Fazackley the priest, was well thought of. He was one of the first to help with any distress in the village no matterwhat religion the people were. Further along lived the agent of the Gascoigne estate, Thomas Johnson Fox, he was agent and farm bailiff for Colonel and Mrs. Gascoigne, the grandparents of the present Sir Alvery. Mr. Fox was a terror to farmers and woe betide any farmer who grew more than two white crops in any field. He inspected and kept records of all crops every year, and at the rent day dinner many of the farmers were on the carpet about gates and fences and rotation of crops. For all that he was a good agent and "made" many good farmers in his time. Following any complaints of repairs required at farmhouse or buildings, Mr. Fox himself inspected the property, and soon had either Mr. Heaton or Mr. Atkinson on the job to make good.
Another good friend to the small farmer was Mr. John Bromet of the Home Farm, Lotherton. He was a large buyer of sheep at the backend of the year, and he asked these farmers to grow swedes or turnips for fodder for the sheep, when pulled and chopped. He supplied nets and stakes, troughs and hay and the farmer attended to them, making fresh breaks and received in payment sixpence per head per week. With the extra manure this made good wheat land.
Opposite on the right stands the "Almshouses", built for four old men and four women with rooms for matron and servant. The dining room at the north end and chapel at the south end. Each person had a sitting room and bedroom over off the corridor which ran the whole length of the building. The four men looked after the large garden with outside help for the digging, and in winter carried coal, water and shopping. They had good clothes with breeches and leggings. The women made the beds and did cleaning and washing. They all dined together, but had other meals in their own rooms. All was found and they each received a small payment each week. In the centre of the building was the entrance hall with a large oak door. The tower, built square, had a clock, and to reach it one climbed a circular staircase. A grand view awaited at the top. In fine clear weather you could see York Minster. At the south entrance to the grounds were massive gates, head and heal, top rail and thick centre stays were all turned out of oak and about six inches thick. On entering you could drive round the front of the building and out of the gate at the south end. The building itself stood about sixty yards back from the road with a grass field in front. Visitors passing through the village often enquired what building it was and could scarcely believe it was "The Almshouse". In the entrance hall is a brass plate with full particulars of subscribers and the cost of the building. Also in the entrance hall began the spiral staircase to the clock chamber.
Opposite this building on the east side of the main road is a bungalow on the drive to a large house of the then Parlington Estate agent, Thomas Johnson Fox. In the bungalow lived the coachman, G. Tomlinson, my father. I was born there, and the niece of the agent, Amelia Watts was my Godmother. I still have a silver spoon engraved with my name and date 20th April. 1871. She was supposed to invest £1 for me but I guess if she did it will be another of the unclaimed money class. Further down in the valley, two stone cottages stood on the left and just behind a windmill Sammy Hicks is reported to have knelt and prayed for the wind to blow so he could get on with his grinding for farmers.
Now comes Hook Moor, a place where five roads meet: Collier Lane, Micklefield, Castleford, Garforth. Camping on the spare land here I got to know a family of romanys ,(gypsies) the real article. A family of four, father and mother and two sons. They had two very large caravans and between the wheel spaces were built large boxes like cases, with wired front doors and sliding outside wood doors. One was built on the left side and the other on the right and housed half a dozen poultry and the other one a nanny goat. When the vans were in position exactly so far apart a large tarpaulin was hooked up to three rails and pegged down at the bottom, the space between made a snug stable for the two fine Cleveland horses they had. The top was also sheeted in in bad weather. A manger was fixed to the middle rail at the back. Water was to be had from the two lodges opposite another entrance to Parlington Hall.
The fronts of these two lodges were covered with Ivy, and squirrels could be seen any time of day amongst the shrubs growing in the front gardens. How long would they be there in these enlightened days I wonder? The two sons of the gypsies got to know the farmer and were sometimes employed per day, man and horse. I think the people were pretty well off. They were in no hurry. In their spare time they cut willows for making pegs and mats and small baskets. The boss went horse dealing; the mother made pegs and baskets. They were very friendly people and my dad and I were once invited to have a snap meal with them. It was roast hedgehog. It tasted good. This is the way it was cooked; only the entrails were taken out, the body was then rolled in clay and put in the centre of a stick fire and covered with the red hot ash. When cooked enough the ashes were removed and the clay split open. The hide and spikes cam away and the meat was dished up just as it was, on plates with bread only - grand white meat it was. The sons were very clever, they could catch anything that ran or flew, and they were never short of grub, and I think the keeper turned a blind eye.
Well, that's Aberford as I knew it. It was a village where no doors were locked and bolted or windows fastened, where everyone was happy and contented in the so-called bad old days.