First played in Methley in 1863 it is reported that in those days Methley had two cricket teams, Methley Moorhouse and Methley Gentlemen, presumably one team played at Moorhouse and the other team possibly played at the brickyard field, later the club was to adopt the name of Methley Victoria.

The two fields I suspect, were on the flatland adjacent to the river with the grass cropped probably with the use of goats or sheep, the brickworks field was most likely situated on the flat field to the front of Green Lane.

The cricket club relocated to its present Little Church Lane ground about 1874 and has played in the lee of St Oswalds Church in its archetypal village setting to the present time.

In his excellent book’125 NOT OUT !’ Ron Wolfenden a former Chairman of the club has produced a comprehensive and thoroughly researched record of the playing, the characters and the behind the scenes action. Ron charts progress from the formation of the club, through the two wars right up to the clubs tilt at the Rothmans Village Championship final at Lords the HQ of cricket. He has been able to gather some rare photographs and other material enabling him to demonstrate the evolution of the club from a small league village side to a highly competitive outfit in a more challenging league.

My memories of the club start as a teenage spectator in the early 1950s, like many of my friends I found the run rates a bit hard on the patience and the side a tad predictable. However, the midweek Knock Out competitions where each player got two overs and batsmen had to retire at 25 – well that was something else. Wheatleys Rhubarb Slashers, The Junction, Savile Pit top, Castleford RU, The Commercial and others – this was great entertainment both for contestants and spectators alike – plenty of run outs, a good few sixes, a big crowd and 3 pence if you got to carry the blackboard round the field advertising the next game.

Its still pleasing for all to see, after their later visit to Lords, when they came back having won the trophy this time how progressive and successful the club have become. However at the same time I wonder why in the past so many lads who had the talent and the ability at school never went on to play league cricket for Methley after school. Well done to such as Stuart Micklefield, Mick Smart, Steve Bell, Bernard Richardson and others who were at the root of this conversion. Indeed well done to those who have, in developing the grounds and club helped create the right conditions to achieve the playing improvements that have been secured.


Methley United – Post War

The side was highly successful during the 1950’s under the management of Haydn Duggan, and were able to attract talented players from outside the village. Big tough matches could be guaranteed against Altofts, Swillington and East End Park both home and away.

A number of the players progressed into league football – Colin Ahearne went to Mansfield, the Longbottom twins went to Queens Park Rangers there were others but probably best known was Bernard Ward who had trials at Leeds United.

Attached is a copy of a certificate Bernard won on selection for the Yorkshire County team.

20th Century Social

Football Methley Perceverance

Methley Perceverance played in the Yorkshire League during the 1920’s and were league winners on two occasions during that decade.

Yorkshire League Final Table 1923-1924

P            W        D          L         F         A         Pts

1   Methley Perseverance                                                          34         24         6          4         84       24         54

2   Frickley Colliery                                                                    34         22         8          4         96       41          52

3  Bradford Park Avenue*                                                         34        22         5          7          96       38         49

4  Monckton Athletic                                                                  34        17         8          9           71       41         42

5  Altofts West Riding Colliery                                                 34        17          5        12          67       47         39

6  Halifax Town*                                                                         34        16          6        12         65        56         38

7  Brodsworth Main                                                                    34        15          7        12         62        65         37

8  Leeds Harehills                                                                       34        15          5        14          51        54         35

9   Wakefield City                                                                        34        15          5        14          51        54         35

10  Castleford & Allerton                                                            34       13          7        14           51        52        33

11  Harrogate                                                                                 34       14          3        17           69       73        31

12  York City*                                                                                34       10          9        15           36       58       29

13  Bentley Colliery                                                                      34       10          8        16           46       56       28

14  Fryston Colliery                                                                     34        10          6        18           40      60       26

15  Wombwell*                                                                             34        10          6        18           46      77        26

16  Selby Town                                                                             34        10          4        20           68     81        24

17  Yorkshire Amateurs                                                              34          8          4        22           50     99       20

18  Rothwell Athletic                                                                   34         6           3        25           28    106      15

Bradford Park Avenue, Halifax Town, Leeds Harehills, Rothwell Athletic, Wombwell and Yorkshire Amateur all left the League. Frickley Colliery also pulled their first team out of the competition to join the Midland League, but continued their membership of the Yorkshire League through their reserves. The admission of Bridlington Town, Bullcroft Main, Goole Town and Leeds City meant a return to a membership total of 16 clubs.
Season 1924/25 saw Brodsworth win the league with Methley Perceverance coming in eigth with 28 points. Bentley Colliery, Bullcroft Main and Frickley Colliery Reserves left the league. A reduced league of 15 clubs was made up with the introduction of Scarborough Penguins, and Selby Olympia

1925/26 and Methley took the league title again in this general strike year winning 20 of their games pipping Selby Town on points difference. Castleford Town and Scarborough now joined for the next season, the league losing another colliery side when Fryston left.

1926/27 was a poor season with the side coming in a lowly 14th, one place below Altofts. The league were to lose Leeds City, Monckton Athletic and Scarborough.

1927/28 – another poor season for Methley who at 12th in the league were second to bottom winning only two matches and were unable to fulfil all their commitments missing 4 fixtures. The league were to lose Castleford & Allerton, Scarborough Penguins and Wakefield City. However it was brought back to full strength with the introduction of Bradford City Reserves, Hull City ‘A’, Pontefract Borough, Scarborough Reserves, Bradford PA and Halifax Town.

A recovery in form got the side to 6th position in 1928/29, Bradford PA taking the honours. They, as winners took on the ‘Rest of the League’ and were victorious by 8 goals to 4. Departures at the end of this season were Bradford PAvenue who went to play in the Midland League, Castleford Town and Pontefract Borough.

Huddersfield Town ‘A’ and Leeds United ‘A’ joined the league but the future of Methley Perceverance is somewhat of a mystery. They were listed to play the following season but did not compete. – Mystery solved thanks to correspondent Michael Gallagher (May 2007) who has been researching the history of Selby Town FC. Michael informs me that Huddersfield Town ‘A’ took over the Methley fixtures, or, Methley Perceverance became Huddersfield Town ‘A’.

I am indebted to Roger Hopkin of Middleton, Wakefield and formerly of Scarborough for the above and additional information which will be published at different times.

Methley Perseverance FA Cup History

1921/22 Extra Prelim. Round Home 5 – 1 Horsforth
Prelim. Round Home 1 – 1 Castleford & Allerton Utd
Replay Away 0 – 2

1925/26 Extra Prelim. Round Home 4 – 2 South Kirkby Colliery
Prelim. Round Away 0 – 8 Wombwell

1926/27 Extra Prelim. Round Away 2 – 7 Mexborough

1927/28 Prelim. Round Away 3 – 2 Monckton Athletic
Qual. Round 1 Away 3 – 2 Cudworth Village
Qual. Round 2 Away 0 – 1 Denaby Utd

1928/29 Prel. Round Home 3 – 0 Horsforth
Qual. Round 1 Away 1 – 1 Frickley Colliery
Replay Home 2 – 1
Qual. Round 2 Away 2 – 2 Denaby Utd
Replay Home 2 – 2
2nd Replay Neutral 2 – 3

1929/30 Extra Prelim. Round Away 4 – 2 Horsforth
Qual. Round 1 Home 2 – 7 Mexborough

Once again thanks to Alan Hodgson of Birstall who was kind enough to provide this information from his own research.

20th Century Social

Football – Methley United League Footballers

I am indebted to Alan Hodgson of Mirfield who in researching aspects of West Yorkshire football has sent abstracts relating to former Methley players who have gone on to play league football at a higher level :-
Methley’s League Footballers
Many talented footballers have worn the Methley shirt over the years with several having trials with Football League clubs and some going on to play at the game’s highest level. Below are the brief stories of eleven such men who in varying degrees left their mark on the game’s history.
Alan Hodgson
LAMBERT, Jack (born Greasborough, 22 May 1902; died 1940)
Known as Jack but actually christened John, Lambert is without doubt the most successful player to date ever to have donned the Methley shirt. Having played for both the Army and his hometown club Greasborough, his form whilst at Methley Perseverance soon attracted scouts from Sheffield Wednesday who invited him for a trial in 1922. The Owls however let him go and, although he had signed forms for Leeds United that November, he was then ‘poached’ by Rotherham County for whom he scored on his only appearance. Leeds complained vigorously to the Football League who ordered him to return to Elland Road and slapped a hefty fine on Rotherham! Back with Leeds he played just one game during their 1923/24 Division Two championship winning season before joining Doncaster Rovers. Some 13 goals in 34 appearances followed for the blossoming centre forward who was then signed for Arsenal in June 1926 for £2000 by legendary manager Herbert Chapman.

Over the next few years Jack was to experience great things at Highbury and in 1930 scored his side’s first goal in their 2-0 FA Cup final win over Huddersfield Town. During 1930/31 he then netted 38 goals in 34 games (including seven hat-tricks!) to create a new club record as the Gunners won the League title. After having played in Arsenal’s 1932 FA Cup final defeat by Newcastle United, he contributed 14 goals in a dozen games as the Gunners took a second League championship in 1932/33. The total included five goals in a spectacular 9-2 demolition of Sheffield United on Christmas Eve 1932. As Arsenal built for the future though the ageing Lambert was transferred to Fulham in October 1933 for £2500 and spent two seasons there before ending his career at Margate where he was player-manager. A tough centre forward, he had collected a formidable tally of 109 goals for the Gunners in 159 matches and returned to Arsenal in 1938 to coach the club’s reserve team. Tragically he was to die from injuries received in a car accident in Enfield in December 1940.

● LILLEY, Thomas (born New Herrington, 1900; died 1964)
Having started his football career with Methley Perseverance, full-back Tom was snatched from relative obscurity by newly promoted Huddersfield Town and was to play three First Division games for them during 1922/23. He then left in November 1923 to join Nelson for whom he played 14 times in their only season of Second Division football. He next moved on to Hartlepools United and played 60 times in Division 3 (North) between 1924 and 1926, being an ever-present during his second season there. A brief return to top-flight soccer followed with one game for Sunderland in 1927 after which he spent some time with Scottish side St Mirren. 1930/31 saw a nine-game swansong with Fulham in the Third Division (South) before he dropped back into north-eastern non-League circles. Tom would play there for Annfield Plain, New Herrington Welfare, Shiney Row Swifts and lastly Sunderland District Omnibus Company.

● LONGBOTTOM / LANGLEY, Arthur (born Leeds, 30 Jan 1933)
An inside forward who first came to prominence with Methley United, Arthur signed for Queen’s Park Rangers in March 1954 and became something of a fixture in the side over the next six seasons, playing over 200 games and netting 62 goals. He then joined Port Vale in May 1961 for whom he was an ever-present the following season. In January 1963 returned briefly to London to play for Millwall, and appears to have become so sensitive about his surname that he now changed it by deed poll to ‘Langley’! In August that year he then moved to Oxford United and stayed there until October 1964 when he was transferred to Colchester United. Despite his goal scoring efforts the U’s were relegated at the end of the season after which he left for Scarborough where he ended his career.

● PARKIN, George Henry (born Pendleton, 19 Feb 1900; died 1967)
A centre-forward, he played for works team Redpath Brown’s before joining Methley, later moving on to West Salford. From there he joined Third Division (North) side Southport and during the 1922/23 and 1923/24 seasons made ten appearances for the Sandgrounders scoring three goals. He then moved to Tranmere Rovers but never played a League match for them before dropping back into non-League circles. George was then to turn out for Chester, Northwich Victoria, Morecambe and BOCM before hanging up his boots.

● PELL, Dennis (born Normanton, 19 Apr 1929)
After playing for Methley he signed for Second Division side Rotherham United in May 1952. Something of a reserve winger he made twelve League and FA Cup appearances and scored four goals for the Millers over the next three years. January 1955 then saw him move to Grimsby Town where once again he was on the first team fringe. He played twice and scored once as the Mariners gained promotion from Division 3 (North) that season. but only featured in one more game before ending his career at Frickley Colliery.

● RICHARDSON, Stuart (born Leeds, 12 Jun 1938)
Perhaps recommended by Arthur Longbottom or Keith Rutter, the two ex-Methley United men who were then playing for Queen’s Park Rangers, wing-half Stuart Richardson joined his former team-mates at Loftus Road in November 1956. However, he was destined to play just once for QPR’s first team prior to his transfer to Oldham Athletic in July 1959. The Latics though were in for a torrid time and, as Stuart made 22 appearances, finished next to bottom of the old Fourth Division. Oldham gained re-election but Richardson decided to retire from the game at this point.

● ROSE, William W. (born Sunderland, date unknown)
Details are somewhat scant regarding Billy Rose although it is known that, following his time at Methley Perseverance, he played one game in the First Division for Bury during the 1925/26 season. The inside-forward switched to Barrow the following season and managed three goals in 14 Division Three (North) appearances for the struggling Shipbuilders who finished bottom but were fortunately re-elected. He then left to play for Spennymoor United before ending his career down at Aldershot.

● RUTTER, Keith Gregg (born Leeds, 09 Oct 1931)
Another former Methley United player who was to make his name with Queen’s Park Rangers, central defender Keith Rutter signed for the Londoners in July 1954, four months after Arthur Longbottom made the same move. He was to play over 400 games for QPR (being an ever-present in three seasons) eventually leaving for Colchester United who signed him for £4000 in February 1963. A further 68 games followed over the next two seasons before he retired from League football. Keith ended his career after further spells at Romford and Ashford Town.

● SHREEVE, Frederick Daniel (born Newhall, 17 Dec 1882; died 1962)
Full-back Fred Shreeve was to end his career with Methley Perseverance after playing most of it outside the Football League. He is recorded as having turned out for Stanton, Newhall Swifts and Gresley Rovers before Burton United (then a Second Division club) signed him on for the 1905/06 campaign. Fred notched up 34 appearances for them but after a poor season, in which they finished next to bottom, left for pastures new. Spells at still non-League sides Millwall Athletic, West Ham United and Doncaster Rovers followed before he wound down his career at Bentley Colliery and finally called it a day with Methley.

● WADE, Thomas (born Leeds, date unknown)
Another player for whom details are scarce is Tom Wade. Having started out with Methley Perseverance he was signed by Huddersfield Town in November 1927 and played just one First Division match for them in 1929. In May 1930 he joined Darlington on a free transfer but never made the first team there and subsequently disappeared from the record.

● WOOD, James Lindsay (born Byker, 15 Jan 1901; died 1982)
James Wood played centre forward for the Close Works team prior to joining Methley, and was to have a brief experience of League football with Hull City during 1922/23. He scored two goals in two Second Division games for the Tigers and also appeared in an FA Cup tie. After leaving Hull he returned to the north-east and later played for non-Leaguers Bedlington United and Jarrow before switching coasts and ending his career over at Workington.
•· ATACK, Sid
Sid went on to play for Halifax Town – joining them in 1937 but was to play only five times for the Shaymen in Division Three (North) before World War Two effectively ended his career. A centre-half or right-half, he also managed one goal which proved to be the decisive strike in an exciting 5-4 win at Rochdale in February 1939. Sid served in the Army during the war and was to die in 1983.

Industry Opencast Mining

Opencast Mining – Park Lane

Gamblers Twist in the Tail

It was 1956 and after landing the job of chain lad with Sir Lindsay Parkinsons (Outcrop Contractors) at their site at Park Lane.    Our mystery friend found that apart from toting the tripod and assisting the surveyor, probably the most important part of the job was cycling into the village each day for the buns from Radcliffe’s shop and also placing the bets. Good business for both bookies – Hodgsons and Harry Hawkins, and he shared it out equitably.

One or two of us with nothing better to do latched on to helping with the errands. Round about that time the Miners Welfare had a TV and games prefab erected for their retired members, here you could switch on the racing and watch the winners and then call round to pick up the winnings. Mind, you couldn’t be late at Harry Hawkins’ shed, Harry didn’t have a ticker tape and took his results over the phone. It didn’t take long to figure out the possibility of watching a certainty head for the winning post, say 2 furlongs out then racing round with all the bets including a small bet on the immediate race.

So that’s what we did, and it worked, trouble was our hero had an attack of conscience and had to ask another to collect the winnings. A second tilt on another day produced a horse that could not maintain its first place, then a selection the following week to back a horse to lose just to add authenticity saw the horse overtake all and come in first at good odds. Another attack of conscience and he decided that was enough.

In conversation with Harry Hawkins many years later I confided to him our misdemeanour, to which he replied ‘ Oh, I knew what was going on all along’ he added, ‘ I was only too pleased to be getting the business’ the twist was when he said that ‘ ***** could have had a small bet each week if he wanted, the business was too good to miss’

Industry Opencast Mining

Opencast Mining Moss Carr Extension

1st February, 2001

So, the application to mine opencast coal on the 77 acre site at Boat Lane has been rejected by Leeds City Council, the application, which was to obtain 100,000 tonnes of coal also included proposals to extract a considerable tonnage of sand and gravel.

The report in the Pontefract & Castleford Express much to the satisfaction of the locals, stated that Miller Mining who had made the application now claim the site ‘was no longer their responsibility as that arm of their operation had been taken over by Scottish Coal’. Scottish Coal, it says in the paper, also disclaimed responsibility for the site. (confused!)

Good News, but does it augur badly for the application by HJ Banks and Company Limited to opencast at the Moss Carr site, does it give Leeds City Council the moral high ground and a counter argument to agreeing to the much larger site along that ancient right of way at Moss Carr? I wonder. 

Methley has been saddled with deep seam mining for the last 150 years and opencast mining in pieces for the last 50 years, not forgetting the massive carbuncle that is the St Aidans site. I first heard night time pile driving for the St. Aidans site in the 1950’s.    Legislation in this country ensures that contractors reinstate the land to the state it had been, but quite frankly I think this village (the land) has had enough.

Well that’s it (March 2001), the application has been approved and the Moss Carr site will be another area of Methley to succumb to the earthmover and the excavations and mounds.   Livewire (Parish Magazine) reports that the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service will make a survey before work commences. I wonder if it will be a comprehensive survey, including metal detection?

I also wonder if a renewed application will be made for the Methley Ings site in, say three years time. If not perhaps an application could be made for the St Margarets area, or why not the Hollings?
There could be no end to it, perhaps the man whose name is on the deeds could let us know.

Archaeology Report – Moss Carr
An archaeological survey instigated by Leeds City Planning Authority as a requirement of the planning application to opencast was undertaken by the WYAS . The geophysical survey made up of field examination and aerial photography was completed by archaeologists retained by HJ Banks & Co. This was subsequently passed on to WYAS to complete along with a desk based assessment. The survey (greyscale gradiometer) indicated the following :-
•features associated with early drainage works
•possible archaeological activity on the escarpment
•infilled ditches of probable archaeological activity
•documentary evidence indicates mediaeval occupation in the Moss Carr area
•a settlement at Moss Carr is recorded on a map of 1787 (Whitelock)
•a small number of artefacts were recovered from trial trenches cut into the area
•no known roman artefacts were found on this site
•the extraction area consisted of glacial deposits – predominantly boulder clay with a band of sand and gravel. The site is situated on middle coal measures.

The report to WYAS was received 7th July, 2000 – the above list is my abstraction from information available at the WYAS,  Wakefield. I am indebted to Mr I Sanderson for assistance in providing the material and contribution.

September 2002
Following a request to make a personal visit, Banks Opencast arranged a viewing programme under the supervision of one of their assistant surveyors Mr. J Drinkall, undertaken in one of their vehicles. Many thanks to them for that – the tour in itself was both an education and an appreciated buzz.

I was able to see at first hand the clearing of a section of site in preparation for deeper excavation (development) and the removal of overburden.

The next stage went into the ‘pit’ where the seams had been exposed and coal extraction was taking place (coal face), it was interesting to see the layering of the strata inbetween the three working seams. The seams were Stanley Main, Methley Park Top (Kents Thick) and Methley Park Lower (Kents Thin).

We then completed the tour by seeing the back filling operations taking place prior to levelling and restoration. Throughout it was possible to note the efficient working of the pit maximising on robust earth moving equipment with minimum manpower requirements.

Footpaths Industry Opencast Mining Social

Former Opencast Workings St Aidans

RSPB Nature Reserve – like a phoenix from the ashes of the opencast mine the now restored site will be officially open from 9.30am on Saturday 25th May. It looks as if there will be no fancy scissors cutting or gathering of big wigs, so just turn up any time between 9.30 and 5pm to the visitor centre on Astley Lane between Allerton Bywater and Swillington.

Mind, you can access the site from any one of three gates alongside the river Aire from Methley (as we have been able to do for some months now).

The site has been restored by Harworth Estates – formerly UK Coal in collaboration with the RSPB who are to manage the 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat and interconnecting footpaths. Grassland, reed beds, woodland and open water with man made islands boasting any number of birds and mammals are there to view.

I expect there will be a lot of expensive binnocs and scopes on view with people looking for that great crested…..

Visit the site at this electronic connection


20th Century

Whitwood Colliery – Tragic Accident

Mary Alnie Kaye

When John Sigsworth  contacted me making enquiries about St Phillip’s church at Whitwood and then went on to ask about the young woman who was the victim of a fatal accident at Whitwood pit, I had to admit to having heard the story before.       Well, of course I had, it was from the same source that had informed John, it was one Sid Williams, Head Lampman at Savile Pit.

Detective Sigsworth then referred to Shirley Schofield’s excellent book entitled ‘Old Whitwood’ where he found that poor Mary Alnie Kaye had been killed underground whilst on an educational visit with a party of students in February, 1926. Equally sadly, the man in charge of that visit was her father, Colliery Undermanager, Redfern Kaye.

On visiting the graveyard myself in order to locate the last resting place of Mary, I chanced on Mr Colin Booth, a farmer of this district in the past. When asked. Not only did he know where her headstone was placed, but he was able to add that the members of the Booth and Kaye families had inter married in the past.

Very fortunately Mary’s headstone was in the place of her interment, unlike many of the grave stones at that site which had been bulldozed/moved together after demolition of the church in the 1970’s. which included  memorial headstones to the Briggs’ founding fathers of the mining company.

A later review if the inquest report printed in the Pontefract & Castleford Express revealed the following:-

Killed in Whitwood Mine

•A tragic story was related to the Coroner (Major Arundel) and jury at the inquest held in the Memorial Hall, Whitwood of Mary Alnie Kaye of 19, Whitwood Terrace. The inquiry was attended by Mr Geo. Clarke, HM Inspector of Mines and Mr Simpkin, Colliery Manager.

•Mr Redfern Kaye stated that on the day of the accident, a party of students was being conducted through the Beeston Seam by himself and two other colliery officials. He added that his daughter (the deceased) and her sister were also included in the party. He said that the tour party were walking back in single file after leaving the coal face with the officials and himself positioned at the front and one each in the middle and at the rear.

•On hearing something give way, Mr Kaye said that he turned and saw that a section of the roof support had fallen and a piece of stone had come down with it and fallen on to a member of the party.
Mr Kaye said that he found his daughter had been pinned down with the stone on top of the bar. The stone, he reported did not touch his daughter but it completely covered her. The stone being so large, they, himself and Overman Wm Hughes were unable to move it and had to resort to breaking it up in order to release his daughter. This took one hour during which time other material was falling from the roof cavity. On release of the body, Mr Kaye said that he thought that his daughter’s death would have been instantaneous.

•Mr Hughes of 3, Whitwood Terrace who had assisted with conducting the party stated that at the rear he was aware of a small, then much larger fall of the roadway roof. Mr Hughes went quickly to the site of the fall when called by Mr. Kaye. Mr Hughes told the jury that he estimated between three and four tons of stone had fallen out of the roof. He added that the large stone measured something like 10ft by 3ft 6ins.

•Robert Schofield of 3, Mosby Place, Normanton said that he had examined the roadway at 7.30pm that evening and that it appeared to be quite safe. On making a further examination after the accident, he suggested that a slight weight on the stone had knocked the bar out and released the roof. He added that more stone had come down after the accident.

•Dr. Hillard of Normanton stated that when he examined the body of Miss Kaye at 10.45pm at the pit top she appeared to have been dead for about two hours and that she had sustained a fracture of the base of the skull which was the cause of death.

•Summing up, the Coroner said that no doubt all precautions had been taken for the safety of the party and that it was the first time a woman had been killed in the mines in this district. The jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ and expressed deepest sympathy towards the bereaved family. Mr. Simpkin, on behalf of the mining company also expressed regret at the tragic circumstances.

Redfern Kaye as undermanager and former mine official had previously lived at Holmes Villa on Little Church Lane, Methley (a residence leased by the mining company for the use of undermanagers).

It was at this address where Mary Alnie had been brought into this world for a life that was to experience the hardships of the Great War and then to have her vitality taken away from her at the age of just nineteen.

19th Century Industry

Foxholes Colliery

Foxholes Pit Explosion

The following appeared in the Wakefield Express dated August 26th 1877. ‘Great excitement prevailed in the Methley district on Wednesday morning when it became known that about 3.30 that morning there had been a serious explosion of firedamp at the Foxholes Colliery, belonging to Mr William Wood of Oulton. The explosion took place at a part of the pit about one mile from the bottom of the shaft. When the explosion occurred there were only 14 men and boys in the pit.

Two men named Henry Howe and Peter Nelson, and two youths named Oliver Hartley and Joseph Cookson were working at the spot when the gas ignited. Howe who is about 26 years of age was slightly burned about the face, and the others were burned about the legs and back. The four were attended by Dr Taylor of Methley who did not consider the injuries of a dangerous nature.’

Death of a Boy

The very modest memorial headstone adjacent to the roadside in St Oswald’s churchyard was placed there in 1896 by Robert Benjamin and Anna Mary Shaw in memory of their son Harry. This young man who was only 14 years of age was killed in a tragic accident at Foxholes pit on 30th July that year. Engraved on the headstone is the simple message ‘Thy will be done’.

Little imagination is required to figure out that Robert and Anna were by no means wealthy, the fact that their son Harry had taken employment at the pit certainly confirms the view that the family had experienced or been near to hardship throughout their lives.

The grief and distress at the loss of their son must have driven those parents to have a headstone placed to his memory totally out of proportion to their means and indicates the great sacrifice made by them for this memorial. In many ways it is one of the biggest memorials in the churchyard.

The incidence of coal mining disasters during the 19th and early 20th centuries are well documented, what may be less well remembered were the individual accidents which occurred with equal certainty and effect during these times.

Examination of records produced by researchers from Sheffield University regarding mining fatalities from 1860 to 1914 add much more to the tragic loss of Harry Shaw.    During the 20 year period from 1881 to 1900 there were 13 fatalities at Foxholes 3 of which were to workers of 15 and under.  During the same period 3 men died in accidents at Savile Colliery and 1 at Methley Junction, a total of 17 – almost one death per year in the coal mines in this village.

19th Century 20th Century Industry

1911 Census

Census of England and Wales 1911 (Methley)

The census was carried out for all persons present in the identified dwellings of Methley over the period Sunday night 2nd April, 1911 to Monday 3rd April am. Analysis for the village identified 952 dwellings, each one completing the following information under the supervision of an authorised enumerator.

Name and surname of all those present.
•Relationship to the identified head of the family.
•Age at the last birthday – male and female separately.
•Whether single, married, widow etc.
•Number of completed years of marriage.
•Children born during the period of the marriage and recorded as to those living and those who did not survive.
•Personal occupation or trade.
•Industry or service.
•Whether employed, self-employed or employed at home.
•Place of birth.
•Number of rooms in the household.

A total of 4327 souls made up of 2256 males and 2071 females were enumerated on the date. At this point I am grateful to Jim Melvin for his permission to print census statistics published in his book ‘Methley2000.’

From this (1911) we can see that at the time of the census, there were 4.55 persons per house (A table of the population figures from the year 1871 to 1921 are appended at the end of this analysis).

Children recorded during marriages up to the 2nd April, 1911 is not a statistic of the year, however it is a reflection of the uncertainty of life during the period, say, 1860 to 1911. Here we observe that of 3840 births during this time 839 children did not survive.   The census does not quantify the final age for a child to be identified, however I take this to be 0 – 13 years.    Here, I think it would be reasonable to assume that the great majority of child deaths would have occurred in the very early stages of their lives. A mortality rate of the children of the families enumerated from 1860 to 1911 would be 22%, which means 1 in 5 children did not live to enjoy the benefits of Victorian industrial Yorkshire.

Equally surprising in this summary was the high number of boarder/lodgers which at 105 reflected both the number of migrant labourers seeking employment in this pit village (mostly from the West Midlands) and the limitations of shortfalls and inadequate housing stock in the village (see extracts from Council Minutes). This state of affairs is unlikely to differ with many of the developing industrial towns and villages in the country.

The total number of rooms was 3880 which works out at 4 rooms per house, (imagine a family of 10 in a two up and two down property, or for that matter a family of 5 and a lodger in a similar or smaller e.g two roomed accommodation).  Chronic overcrowding proving to be a regular feature on so many census returns.

Obviously the biggest employers over the census period and the earlier census records were the coal mining companies. Here the census did not identify which pits the miners worked at. It is possible that some of the miners worked at pits outside of the village but then local pits would also employ men from outside of the village. The pits being worked over the period 1861 to 1911 were, Foxholes 1 and 2, Parlour Pit, Methley Junction, Newmarket and Savile.

Methley men employed in Coal Mining :-

1871          1881          1891         1911
 626          887          999        1130

At the time of the 1911 census there were 104 men employed in farming.

Population Figures

Year                Houses               Population              Males                  Females              Inf
Total                                                                                                                                        Source

1871                   693                    3277                         1696                   1581                   Methley 2000

1881                   818                    4073                         2137                   1936                  Methley 2000

1891                   870                    4329                         2283                  2046                 Methley 2000

1901                   890                    4271                         2240                   2031                 Histpop

1911                    952                    4327                         2256                   2071                 Editor/Census

1921                                              4492                         2328                   2164                Histpop

Methley 1911 Census Most Common Surnames

Households with 4 Same Surnames
Atack, Beards, Brunt, Clark, Crewe, Dickinson, Dunnill, Ellis, Garforth, Grayson, Holmes, Jennings, Milner, Norris, Pyrah, Scott, Stainthorpe, Sunderland, Totty, Walton.

Households with 5
Ashton, Charlesworth, Cox, Hetherington, Miller, Hill, Potts, Shaw, Turner, Wheeler, Worrilow.

Households with 6
Anderson, Arundel, Backhouse, Firth, Fletcher, Harrison, Howson, Illingworth, Micklefield, Ripley, Sawyer, Websdale, Webster, Westmoreland.

Households with 7
Atkinson, Carr, Shillito. Wilkinson.

Households with 8
Bedford, Naylor, Robinson.

Households with 9

Households with 10
Bell, Kaye.

Households with 11

Households with 12
Taylor, Wilson.

Households with 15

Households with 16

Households with 17

Households with 21

Households with 35