Geography Railways

A Rail Mishap  16th November 1937

When a train of empty coal wagons was passing through Methley, on Tuesday noon from Gascoigne Wood.  One of the wagons left the rails at the bend just before reaching the Junction Station and bumped through the station doing a considerable amount of damage to the permanent way  and to the edge of the platform.  While near the signal cabin it caused two other wagons to leave the rails.   By working single line very little inconvenience was caused to the trvelling public and the damage was repaired as expeditiously as possible,  normal working was resumed in the evening.

Geography History Industry

Methley North station

Methley North station was opened on the 1st July 1840 on the Leeds – Normanton section of the London – Edinburgh LMS line. The station finally closed on the 16th September, 1957.
As with Methley North station, both the Methley South and Methley Junction stations are now closed – Methley South opened on 1st May, 1869 and closed on 7th March 1960 and the Methley Junction station which opened on 1st October, 1849 closed on the 4th October, 1943.

Travellers on the A639 to Leeds cannot have missed the metal track laid parallel to the railway line at ground level (Feb 2009).       It would appear that Railtrack, or is it Network Rail have examined the bridge under the elevated embankment some 400m from the main road and declared it unsafe . AMCO a civil engineering and mining contracting firm have been engaged to fill the bridge and make the arch safe.
The bridge has not been in use to my knowledge for more than 50 years, possibly longer, being only an occasional way through for the inquisitive. The bridge is known as Harrison’s Bridge and little if anything is known as to how it got this name – could it have been a tenant farmer requiring access when the line was constructed around 1840 on the Leeds – Normanton section of the London – Edinburgh line? Does anybody know?
A brief scan at the Methley Census 1841 extracted in Jim Melvin’s book Methley 2000 indicates a Mrs Harrison aged 75, a lady of independent means and with two house servants who lived at Churchside in what could be the cottages at the rear of the Cedars.
There were some 23 bridges in this village; what with two rivers and two canal systems, three railway lines, a major A road and the more recent construction of the M62 motorway. Right now (April 2009) there are 22 following the above construction works and the filling in of Harrisons Bridge.

Not very well used but certainly of architectural character and in keeping with the style of other under embankment bridges here – and its been here for 170 years. The end product is a breeze block fronted closure covering a liquid concrete fill which looks absolutely appalling.
A photo shot was held today (30th April 2009) of people gathered to challenge the outcome of this work and question the decision on safety. They were led by the triumvirate of Councillors Wakefield and Lewis and local enthusiast Terry Waite who are to proceed further with the matter.

Canals Geography Industry Rivers

Canal Diversion

In March 1988 after some unsuccessful piling repairs, the north bank of the river Aire (the old river) breached at a point some yards downstream from Lemonroyd locks. The Opencast Management suggested that the weakness was possibly a geological fault under the river. Water from the river and canal system was able to pour unchecked into the adjacent St. Aidan’s opencast workings completely flooding the site. All photographs in this article taken by Barry Seage.

Recovery of the workings included proposals to divert the river and canal and re-construct a single new course. After lengthy consideration and the need of an Act of Parliament to proceed, the engineers were able to commence the civil engineering works in 1993.

A large construction challenge, the work required, excavation, suitable lining of the new bed, construction of new locks and a weir, a dock for pleasure craft, two new bridges which included access for vehicles over the span on the former Caroline bridge site and closure of two original locks (Lemonroyd and Kippax locks).

The completed stretch would enable the largest items of canal traffic to pass, at the same time the banks would be of sufficient construction to protect against the worst projected flooding levels.

The new river and weir would also take account of the increased levels of fish. During construction the canal had to be closed for a period, however pleasure craft were able to ‘navigate’ the civil works by being elevated with a mobile crane and transported by articulated mover and re-floated by the same crane which followed.

Canals Geography Rivers

From Russia with…..

It was quite some time after completion of the new river construction that we decided to go and see it for ourselves. The plan was to drive to the marina car park and then walk down the new river bank and back again.. However, roadworks in Woodlesford had caused long traffic delays in Oulton and we changed course and headed back to Methley to walk from that end. We parked at the Commercial and walked down Pit lane to the new bridge.

We had only just arrived as a pretty young lass walking downstream approached us and asked with a foreign accent if this was the way to Castleford. Well it was, but the path would have taken her round the Mires to the Waterbridge at Three Lane Ends, neither Mary (my wife) or myself thought that she should be walking along the bank alone.

It turned out that she had become detatched from her parents pleasure boat after walking separately and she indicated that they may be in front and that they may have continued to their destination at Castleford. It was difficult to assess where the boat might be due to language difficulties but one thing was certain we were not going to let her walk on her own. We found out that her name was Irena and that she was from Russia (would you believe) and that her family were sightseeing on a canal boating holiday. The lass was a tad unsure about our offer to go back to the car and search for the boat, fortunately Mary was able to re-assure her of our intentions.

We decided against going to Castleford as I realised the probability was that the boat could be behind her. The first stop was the access to the river at the former Savile site. Here we asked one walker if he had seen any boats (what a question) or anybody looking for a young girl. The answer was no and there were no craft visible on the river. The next stop was the access at Methley Station, at this point it started to rain quite heavily and while we sheltered near the United Kingdom Inn two young lads on bikes went as far as the locks and then returned having seen nothing.

By now it was a bit worrying but we decided to drive through Oulton to the new marina and if that failed then back to Castleford and possibly the police.

Our journey took us down Fleet lane from Oulton, past the water treatment centre, under the railway bridge and what a sight met our eyes…… On the petrol terminal bridge were two police cars with flashing lights, one a dog handler van, the police helicopter immediately overhead and any number of searchers on bikes and on foot.

Mother and child were re-united, that was good to see, the police officers were equally relieved as were all the other people and Mary and I were heroes for a short while (if only we had gone there first). It seemed obvious now, that the boat had pulled into the marina expecting their absent rambler to be waiting for them. Well all’s well that ends well and the family were able to share an hour with us in the Bay Horse.

Irena, well she was studying music and had aspirations to become a concert pianist, she later sent us a postcard of her progress, and again thanked us for our help.

Geography Rivers

Ha’penny (Caroline) Bridge

The hamlet of Astley lies between the River Aire and the Aire and Calder canal (Yorkshire Evening Paper 1959) One of the houses was formerly the Caroline Inn. The toll was levied for those wanting to go to Allerton Bywater, Great Preston, Swillington,Bowers Row or Woodlesford.

Mr Lister is kept busy from 5am to 10.30pm opening and closing the swing bridge for barges, and pedestrians or carts and has been so employed since 1946. As the capstan revolves it winds in a chain which swings back the bridge on a swivel. The canal undertook a large trade in timber, fuel oil, coal and other traffic, and each time Mr Lister had to walk round and round unwinding the capstan to give access in the event of someone using the toll bridge in between canal traffic. Mr Lister said it could be lonely at night and especially in the winter, also it becomes a worry at times of flood.

The present wrought iron bridge was installed at Methley in 1909 but had been built and in use previously in the Goole area from 1895. It would have succeeded and earlier wooden swing bridge.

The cast iron bridge over the river Aire was built in 1876 and today requires continual examination.

The list of tolls start from half pence per person to increasing for 1 horse, 1 horse and cart etc.

20th Century Characters Industry

Major Donald Henry Currer-Briggs

Local Councillor and Chairman of Methley UDC at the critical time of amalgamation in 1929, Donald Briggs was able to make his analytical presence felt when he turned round a strong proposal to amalgamate with Castleford and in place direct the Council to join Rothwell and subsequently Leeds MDC.

His background in this village commenced with the family (Briggs) ownership of  Savile pit along with  other mines and interests where he joined the board in 1918 after military service in the Royal Field Artillery.  Previously he had attended Charterhouse public school in Surrey.

  He was to become Chairman of the Company after being  Deputy Chairman and Joint Managing Director.  His titles included JP., MA., AMICE., and  membership of the Midland Institute of Mining Engineers where he was President for a term, along with membership of the Institution of Mining Engineers.  He also became President of the National Association of Colliery Managers in 1938.    He held a number of positions within the coal trade including sales and exports, he was also on the board of Martins Bank which was to become part of Barclays and a director of the Halifax Building Society.

He was a man of much influence with interests in mining, banking, shipping, textiles and transport. He was a West Riding Magistrate for 38 years and Chairman of the Wakefield bench.

He lived at Hazel House, Methley during most of his working life where he became a member of the urban district council.

Throughout his time, and like his predecessors he was an active Unitarian being a warden of Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds. He wrote an account of the family history which turned out to be a saga of commercial life of industrial Yorkshire, the work entitled ‘A Merchant, A Banker and the Coal Trade’ was published in 1972 two years before his death at Headingley Leeds.

20th Century Characters Industry

Harry Wright (Snr)

He was to become the day shift overman at Savile Pit supervising day shift operations until the later arrival of the colliery manager. He applied himself to the task with some ease having worked his way up through the ranks, and with that experience having all of the answers at his fingertips. He could be stern and when necessary, unforgiving to those who displayed disinterest in the work including those in supervisory positions. Woe betide the deputy who failed to carry out his requests to his own high standards, likewise workmen showing lack of effort or attendance would hear the full blast of the displeasure of the day shift overman.

Mind he wasn’t always too keen on paperwork, when it came to working out the contract earnings in the early hours of the Saturday shift he would often say ‘thee see to that lad and I’ll go over it when tha’s finished’ to make sure its been done right.’

But lets go back a piece – born in Methley in 1898 he followed his father to Savile pit on leaving school (he completed 52 years there) with the exception of his service in the Coldstream Guards an achievement of which he was rightly proud.

His father James Arthur (was known at the pit as ‘Captain’) who in addition played the big drum in the Methley Silver Prize Band. No doubt that’s were Harry got his interest because he became a cornet player in the Altofts and Normanton Prize Band.

Harry and Edith on retirement moved into a bungalow in Woodhall Grove which is on the the old Dennison Square site where the young Harry was brought up.

His granddaughter Carole who provided me with some background information reports that she holds his certificate of 52 years service signed by Lord Robens the then Chairman of the National Coal Board. Carole tells me he was a dedicated and trustworthy man – I knew all that Carole, but she was also pleased to say how good a Granddad he was. I’m pleased to report that whilst making these enquiries and reading up on the web site Family History page, Carole was able to locate a distant relative who had made contact seeking family connections. This is one of eight electronic connections to my knowledge made through the web site.

Characters History Industry

Amos Illingworth

Amos Illingworth, builder of Woodrow, Methley followed on in the family tradition of building, his father William had built the kitchen wing of Methley Hall. Amos built many properties in the village but two of note were the Albert Place and the Rose & Crown public house.WAmos Illing.1837-1909
His wife to be, Elizabeth Siddall, worked in service at Methley Hall. On their wedding day (26th January, 1868) at St Oswalds, the bride walked from the Hall, through the woods and met up with the bridegroom who was building the houses in the Albert Place. They walked down to the church, were joined together in holy matrimony, they then walked back and parted company to enable Amos to carry on with his building work. Elizabeth continued back to her work at the Hall.
Their house was one of the cottages at the top of Fleet Lane. Amos had his builders yard off Station Road which backed onto the Albert Place. This was the disused site with stable, storerooms, slates, ridge tiles and drainage pipes that was used as a playground by kids from Woodrow for years. We never came across the well that was reportedly in the yard (B Robbins) It would like all the other wells in the village been filled in following the installation of mains water pipes in the 1880/90’s. August 2002 Will Illingworth E-mails me to say that the well was partly under the wall dividing the yard with the first small cottage (Mattinsons). Will isn’t sure that Amos used this yard although his Father Sid Illingworth worked in it whilst working for Mexborough Estates. The well was in good use up to WW2 producing putty lime and hair lime plaster for use on lathed ceilings, will adds that his Grandmother made her pin money making and selling buckets of lime at 1p for painting ceilings before distemper came in. Dulux beware.

Characters Savile Colliery

Bram Russell

Bram, born in Mill Lane was the thirteenth of fifteen children. He started work at Savile at the ripe old age of 13, at the time a small boy for his age.   The then Manager of the pit, the diminutive Freddie Adams said ‘ tha’s as big as me lad, and so tha’s good enough’.

Bram remained at the pit until his retirement in the early 70’s, during that time his involvement in the well being of his fellow workers led to him becoming Secretary of the Savile Branch of the NUM a position he held for some 25 years working alongside Arthur Wright who was also a long serving union official.

He was also a long standing member of the Mineworker’s Welfare Institute Management Committee.

He involved himself in local politics (he was a member of the Labour party when I joined for a short spell) and as a local councillor played a constructive role in improving domestic housing conditions along with others in insisting on the speedy introduction of water closets in sub standard housing at the end of the war.

Perhaps his most notable achievement was in collaboration with Ezra Taylor (Mr Castleford) when they were able to obtain central funding for the construction of the new bridge over the river Calder to Castleford whilst he was a councillor on the Transport group.

Bram continued his role in public service after retirement being a prominent figure in the Darby and Joan Club.

Characters Coal Mining Industry

Cllr Arthur Wright BEM

 Reported in the Pontefract and Castleford Express
When Cllr Arthur Wright, of Leeds Road, Methley, handed his riding check in at Savile Colliery last Friday, he ended 52 years of service there. In fact, he had worked at no other pit since the day he left school and took his place on the screens at Savile. Later he moved into the blacksmiths shop and then at 18 he went to the coal face as a ripper.

That was his work until his recent retirement.

From 1933 until the present time he served the National Union of Mineworkers as Delegate. He has been a member of Rothwell UDC through his connection with the Methley Labour Party.  And has been a representative of the Methley Ward since 1946 and was Chairman in 1955. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1956 in the Queens Birthday Honours List. His other voluntary interests included the welfare of the elderly, he was also a member of the National Playing Fields Association Council.