Characters World War 1

Wilfred Howson – Letters of Condolence

Wilfred lost his life during the battle of Paschendaele (3rd Ypres) on the 6th October, 1917. This after being wounded in July, 1916 during the battle of the Somme and returning to ‘Blighty’ for treatment and recuperation.

All documents, including personal letters, letters of condolence and military communications were faithfully retained by his mother, dutifully handed on to her daughter Ellen Hazel who passed them on to her son Peter who has now presented them for copy to the Methley Archives group and this village web site. Selections of those documents will be displayed on this page.   Some of the correspondence has been retyped to be more readable and for that reason I have included some of those. 
The last item is a transcript of a hand written poem included in one of his letters from the trenches. 



Characters World War 1

2nd Lieutenant Smith Green

This account is in memory of Second Lieutenant Smith Green, 70th Squadron of the Royal Air Force who died aged 28 on the 18th February 1919, in Germany.

Smith was the second son born to Joseph and Martha Green on the 19th January 1891 at Boatstake, Methley in Yorkshire.

Joseph was a miner and Martha a gardener who grew flowers which she sold on her stall at the local market in Castleford.

When Smith was born he had an older brother Young and four older sisters, Emma, Una, Josephine and Elizabeth Hannah.   After Smith two more  sisters came along, Mallie Claudia and Lily.

In 1910 aged 19 Smith joined the Territorial Force of the Yorkshire Light Infantry whilst still working as a gardener and domestic with his mother at Boatstake. Sometime between 1914 and 1915 he became a Corporal and served in France during the First World War.

Afterwards  Smith was to join the Air Corps, which was later to become the Royal Air Force. He served in France and died in a flying accident just after the war had ended. The family story says he crashed whilst flying very low under a bridge.

Smith is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave in Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany.

Characters World War 1

Wilfred Howson

My mother was Ellen Hazel Howson born in the Foxholes Cottages in Methley Parish in 1910. Her brother Wilfred Howson is commemorated on the war memorial in Methley churchyard (however with the incorrect spelling of Wilfrid).

I myself remember staying there (in Methley) as a small boy during and at the end of WWll, when it was still a miners cottage. Before my mother died she gave me all the documentation relating to her brother Wilfred, who was killed in Belgium in 1917, I also have various letters from him, and some letters and photos he was carrying when he was killed.
There are also a number of letters of condolence from friends and neighbours far and wide, which make interesting reading as well as may provide various names and addresses.
I have, of course, done a military research into his service with the 10th Bn. Yorks & Lancs Regt., from his attestation at Castleford, being wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, convalescence, returning to France, up until he was killed 6 months later.

From Peter Greenall in Kettering – Peter provided me with further documentation relating to Wilfred which will be published separately. For the moment below is a copy of a poem entitled Someone – Somewhere penned by Wilfred from the trenches.

Someone   –   Somewhere

Someone’s  sitting in a dugout, writing home by candle light.
cheery letters for the old folks, for the post bag goes tonight.
And he knows his Mother’s anxious now her boy is far away.
So he tries to put on paper all the love he feels to-day.
Things he never thought to tell her while he had the chance
Someone’s learnt a lot of lessons somewhere in France.
Someone used to be a waster in the days of long ago.
Not a very long time either, only eighteen months or so;
But it feels more like a lifetime, every day feels just the same.
Still he’s learnt to give up grousing, someone’s learnt to play the game.
And he’s all the better for it, someone’s got his chance.
Someone’s found his missing manhood somewhere in France.

Has Nellie started her lessons yet, if so, I hope she is getting on alright.
let her know if you get the book alright and I hope you have not to pay another 2d for it.
Well I have no more news so I will close.
                   With best love

                    From Wilf     xxxxxxx
(ps)        Give my kindest regards to Willie


Castleford Rugby Union Club

Its 50 years on from the date (season 52/53) that Castleford RUFC moved into Methley.  After having looked at pitches/grounds at Hightown, Whitwood, Lock Lane and two sites at Methley previously. The club finally made a move to secure the grounds at Pinfold Lane for a permanent base.

Lew Pritchard a then teacher at Mickletown School and Hon Sec at Castleford RUFC was the architect in this move but all the committee of that time (which included Methleyites Ken Cookman, Will Illingworth and Les Tate) were in agreement.

Assistance with finance was made through Harry Harrison a local Estate Agent and an approach was made to the Min. of Works to purchase the ‘hutments’ (former prisoner of war buildings).

Work commenced in the late summer of 1952 to convert those old buildings into changing rooms/showers.

The section which converted into a bar with lounge and kitchen benefited with the assistance of locals for work and decorations.    The most appreciated feature of  the lounge was a large brick built coal fireplace with champagne and brandy bottles laid into the brickwork.  You could tell the visiting players from non coal mining areas – they all made a dash for the fire and you couldn’t shift them away after the match.

Training Night
There were no floodlights in the 1960’s at Pinfold Lane (The temporary lighting erected on scaffold poles had been dismantled because they said the sparking from the cabling was dangerous – huh).

Mid-winter training was restricted to a variation of running circuits of the village in the dark.
I was never a good jogger and soon lost yards and interest on the runs, usually trailing in as a backmarker.  

An experiment to improve my placing proved to be both unsuccessful and painful.    I decided to take advantage of my knowledge of the local footpaths and after falling behind on the next training run I took a shortcut at Coney Moor farm, past the Low End Club with the intention of galloping out well in front of the pack at Green Lane and racing in to the changing rooms in first place.

All went well for the first 20 yards, then I found I had to drop my slow pace to allow for the rutted path and the pitch black vision, so I knew that this pace would not bring me out in front and I decided to cut across the fields.

Visibility was confused by being able to see the road lights and traffic 500 yards away and despite the darkness the land appeared flat.   Well it was not as flat or as visible as I thought  and I ended up in the hedge bottom a couple of times, the final indignity being when I went full bore into a drainage ditch.  I could have broken a bone or even suffered more serious consequences and I was left to limp in with abrasions to skin and pride and covered in mud.

Never did achieve that objective of leading the field in from the village circuit training session.

19th Century Social

Sobriety v Intemperance – Briggs Family

The Briggs family were more than interested in many social aspects at their sites, introducing schooling, furthering adult education and supporting the churches and chapels (they were ardent followers of the Unitarian teachings at their church in Leeds).

By 1882 there was a Briggs built Reading Room at Hopetown, Normanton Common. Mrs Briggs also sought to establish the same at Methley (in which she succeeded in doing).    She also sought to introduce Cocoa Taverns as alternatives to the many alehouses in the area – don’t know if she succeeded with this one. However at the time these institutions were being promoted successfully in towns and cities throughout the country in order to promote abstinence.

Displaying her desire for the well being of miners and their families, her mission also included the aims of her church to support these objectives in introducing standards of sobriety and where possible total abstinence. Significant numbers of workmen (miners) as a result did embrace the values of abstinence.

History Industry

Briggs’ Early Days

Adventures in Coal
The booklet by Wakefield historian the late John Goodchild concentrates on the collieries owned and managed by Henry Briggs and his successors in the Whitwood and its surrounding areas of Castleford.
The notes are extracts relating to collieries in Methley abstracted from that publication.

Coal worked in the Whitwood and Methley areas required agreement from the landowners (mineral owners). In both cases this was the Earl of Mexborough who at the time resided at Methley Hall. Such arrangements provided the mineral owners with compensation (royalties) for the material extracted.

The Briggs’ company purchased Methley Junction Colliery in 1866 which had been worked by the Burnley company and which had been under the management of Thomas Rayner son in law of the owners. The mines at Foxholes were released again following the death of Benjamin Burnley to Thomas Rayner and Wm Wood.

Construction of the rows of terrace houses at Methley Junction commenced during the Burnley ownership and included completion of the primitive Methodist Chapel on vacant land there.

Henry Briggs its recorded, despite being a religious man (Unitarian) was affected by the rise of trade unionism within the ranks of colliers. His approach to disputation being at times quite radical. In 1862 he evicted 41 colliers and their families from their cottages along with other extreme actions relating to disputes in 1860.

Briggs was later to allow a letter which he had received during this time to be published. The contents of the letter threatened death to both himself and his son.

The deterioration in owner/workmen relations could have been a motivation to institute a revolutionary method of incorporation making the men shareholders in the company. The scheme was not universally accepted by all the men despite much promotion by the company.

However both mining operations and trade improved and dividends were welcomed. But the scheme became a victim of the economic depression of 1874 and profit sharing was abandoned in 1875.

Discipline was important to the safe working of the mines – in 1902 boys at both the Junction and Savile pits were prosecuted for riding horses underground. Workmen could be sacked for loss of tools or for involvement in delays to coal production.

Ill health to Henry Briggs in the years up to 1868 was to be noted in a letter from his son Harry who wrote to his brother with the message that their father was seriously ill and that the loss of his false teeth during a recent long journey added greatly to his discomfort and his bad looks.

As directed in his will, he was buried in a freehold plot in Dundee (where he was staying) and that on his instruction no unnecessary expense nor any pompous display was to be applied following his death.

Expense and display was evident in the headstones in the churchyard of St Phillip’s church in Whitwood for his successors.

Little were they to know that their local church would be demolished  and the headstones that had been laid as memorials to the late Briggs familia would be displaced and left in an unseemly pile adjacent to the building of the former vicarage.


Residents Association


The Residents Association has been saved following the appointment of new members.   They are keen to make their actions visible by publishing transactions of the group on Facebook.

Following the call for help in the Messenger, I am pleased to report that the Methley and Mickletown Residents Association will continue. Their new chair is Julie Hardaker, the new secretary is Anna Walton and Hannah Hackett will be the treasurer. They will be supported by committee members: Martin Hodgson, Mark Robins, Gillian Brennan and Ruth Stephens.

Minutes of the Meeting  held Monday 6th November


Julie Hardaker (Chair), Anna Walton (secretary), Hannah Hackett (treasurer), Ruth Stephens, Mark Robins, plus approx. 17 residents.

David Hodgson

We have heard the sad news that long-standing and much valued MMRA committee member David Hodgson passed away today. Our condolences go to his family and friends.

Minutes of the last meeting were agreed as an accurate record.

  1. Apologies received
    • Martin Hodgson, Gillian Brennan, Cllr James Lewis, Cllr Mary Harland, Cllr Keith Wakefield, Peter Kerins.


  1. Police report (PCSOs Andy Hurley and Adam Hick attended)

Andy has recently taken over from Dave, who has now moved to Halton Moor.

There have been 35 crimes over the last 9 weeks (including domestic crimes). There has been an increase in burglaries, one violent but an arrest was made for this. Extra patrols have been put in; Andy has been out every day. He reminded everyone to please be vigilant and lock doors and ground-floor windows as many burglaries involve people entering through an unsecure door or window. Andy noted that there is often an increase before Christmas. One resident mentioned that there was an increase in crime the last time there was work being carried out on the M62 through the village and that work was currently being carried out on it. Action: PCSO Andy to look into any link.


Speeding – Andy has been out with a speed gun in Lower Mickletown; he didn’t observe anyone breaking the speed limit on this occasion. One resident raised asked if Andy could take the speed gun to Pinfold Lane.  Action: Andy agreed to do this.

Julie asked about the community speed gun scheme where residents are trained to use them. Action: PCSO Andy will look into this.

One resident raised an issue with people speeding on the main A639 near Rivers Meet and asked whether it was possible to get a speed camera.  There was some confusion over who decides whether to put up a speed camera. Action: Ask Cllrs what the procedure is for requesting a permanent speed camera.


  1. Play areas and green spaces (Vicky Nunns from LCC Parks & Countryside Service)

18 months ago Vicky started working with some parents about improving the parks in Methley.  Adele Britton from Housing has been looking at the possibility of putting a play area on the Embleton Road estate.

Vicky showed and outlined the plans and discussion documents that had been developed following the consultation with parents.  There are three LCC-owned parks; Coney Moor, The Junction and Savile Road. Vicky is hopeful that all three can be developed. She would like feedback from residents on the plans to check if they are suitable. Action: Anna to post on Facebook and encourage parents to attend the village hall and view the plans via the Facebook page.

Vicky also mentioned that there may be some money to spend on the Church Lane pitches e.g. car parking.  There was some concern about this if it would impact nearby houses.

One resident raised that there were no litter bins at the area in Low End, near Coney Moor. Vicky suggested it might be possible to put a bin on the park land and that perhaps her colleagues in street cleansing would agree to empty it. Action: Vicky to follow this up and speak to Simon from Cleaner Leeds.


  1. Matters arising:

Quad bikes: PCSO Andy was not sure if his colleagues had spoken to Shaun Taylor about this issue but confirmed that he had caught some quad bike users and warned them.

Speeding: The Cllrs had not received a reply to their contact with Sergeant Lund at the time of our meeting.

Trees: Martin was not able to attend this meeting.

Barratt Homes’ sign: Cllrs Lewis confirmed that the sign had been removed from that location by the Church Lane junction. It has, however, been moved to the cricket club and this is being looked into by LCC Planning dept.

Flood money: Cllr Lewis confirmed that the payment was received at the time it was agreed.

Flooding on Park Lane: Cllr Lewis has been in contact with the Highways and Flood Management teams about Park Lane. It is a low priority for flood management action as there are other sites in the city with houses being effected. There was further discussion about the state of the road. Action: Mark Robins from Mexborough Estates will follow this up further.


  1. Flood group report – nothing available as the meeting is next week.


  1. Methley Wombles – Jim Kerr

Jim gave an update about the litter picking group. They currently have a group litter pick once per month which are usually well attended by a variety of residents of all ages. Anyone is welcome to join in. They have been given some equipment like pickers, hoops and hi-vis vests from LCC and some more hi-vis vests were donated by Arla. They estimate collecting over 200 bags since starting in May. They have received a further donation of money from the Cllrs from the MICE fund and asked the MMRA to handle this as they do not have an account of their own. Julie agreed that this was fine.


  1. Items from residents

Shrubs on the Longbow estate – concern was raised that there were a number of shrubs which were growing on the paths in the Longbow estate. Some were on private property but some on the shared property. Action: It was agreed to ask the Councillors for some steer on what could be done.


  1. Any other business

Emergency gate on Station Road – one resident raised that there was no sign to keep clear for emergency access and that LCC had put the sign in the wrong place. Action: email Cllrs about this issue.

Dog waste bin for Ings Lane – one of the residents confirmed that he had followed up on the request for a dog waste bin at the parking area near Ings Lane and Watergate and that this should be provided shortly.


Christmas lights switch on event – One resident asked if there was any chance of not having the fireworks where they currently are set off from. It was agreed that it was possibly too late to change this year’s event but that it could be raised with the Cllrs for future years. There was also some discussion about their being limited suitable places.


Parking on Station Road – One resident asked about the parking for the RSPB site on Station Road and whether it will be policed. There was an RSPB consultation event which was publicised. Action: email the Cllrs to see if this issue had been raised with the RSPB.


David Hodgson – one resident suggested the MMRA make a donation to the Prince of Wales Hospice in memory of David. Action: Julie agreed that this would be a good idea and will ensure a card is sent from the MMRA also.


Date of next meeting: Monday 8 January 2018 at 7.30 in Mickletown Community Centre.

If you would like the meeting to discuss a particular issue/topic then please email the details to so it can be added to the agenda.

We’ll open the room from 7pm and provide tea, coffee and biscuits.


Reminder: Your local ward councillors are available in the Methodist Chapel on the third Saturday of every month between 10am and 11am.






Architecture Industry

Newmarket Cold Store

West Hall Hill – Newmarket Site
Cold Store Construction

Construction commenced on this immense project in May 2014 and the builders claim it is on schedule and will commence with the introduction of cold on 1st April 2015. Their web site update advises that the site will employ 150 staff and will operate on a 24 hour basis.

The proposed site between Methley and Stanley was the subject of a brave and organised fight by the local residents who were overcome after Wakefield Planning Dept referred the matter to the Communities Department under Eric Pickles, MP.      This was a dual application for the placement of a modern sports complex on behalf of Wakefield Wildcats RLFC along with associated warehousing based around the junction 30 of the M62.

The Yorkshire Evening Post in September 2013 reported that Leeds councillors had criticised the ill thought-out and unsuitable wider plans, which they feared would harm the green belt between the cities. David Nagle (Lab, Rothwell), said he would like to support any scheme bringing jobs to the area but he shared residents concerns about the impact on the green belt and traffic. He claimed the green belt is under constant threat and must be protected. No scheme, in his opinion, should go ahead over the legitimate objections of local residents, who are very concerned about the green belt and traffic.

Objections included approval of the height of the cold store at 42metres which is 138 feet considerably higher than any nearby construction and well above the height of the upper tree line.  The site is unmissable from as far away as Normanton Town Hall and the distant Kings Croft Hotel at Pontefract.

We since learn that the proposed objective of Wakefield Wildcats to re-locate to this site is not now going to take place. The cynical among us may be excused for thinking that the rugby proposal was a contrivance in order to shoehorn the bigger warehouse proposal through.

Well, it’s August 2017 and the construction is being further developed after only three years.   It is astounding that the original application should take such a long drawn out process requiring approval by the Communities Department in London and the current visible extensions it would appear, are in the course of construction without so much attention.    Once again the cynical amongst us are left to wonder if this enlarged state would have have received central approval had it been put together at that time!

I can’t wait to observe information of section 106 awarding – I’m sure there must have been one.

For that matter I would be keen to learn of  incidences of generous collaboration with the local community as occurred with the previous site users.

One hundred and fifty employees – well that can’t be bad.  Covering three shifts that’s fifty men per shift for the primary installation!  I guess this latest expansion could attract more workmen and women.  I’m sure the local councillors would be pleased to learn of these advancements. 

Geography Social

Station Road Building Proposals

Latest in the August issue of Messenger are claims that the contractors have now applied for planning permission for 221 houses showing an increase of 40 on the number that was dangled at the village open day. I would be surprised to learn that the planning department would view this sympathetically.
Selected sections of the roadway have now had palisade fencing constructed in what appear to be gaps – it looks absolutely daft, The section pictured has been built on one of Methley’s ancient walls.

Circumference fencing of the whole site has now taken place sometime during September (2015). The Acts of Enclosure passed during the 1770’s enabled the wealthier and more acquisitive residents to fence and claim land thereby clearing labourers off the land and forcing them into the towns and cities for housing and possibly employment.

Apologists for the Act claimed that this was to fuel the labour market for the start of the industrial revolution. I can’t see any of those displaced families feeling a sense of satisfaction for bringing about the success of the the Acts given the appalling working and housing conditions that they would have experienced. Seeing the installation of the present day fencing one could be forgiven for being reminded of the year 1773.

2nd July, 2015

Bank’s Property announce in the local Express that Leeds City Council have granted full planning permission for 181 houses to be built on former farmland at the Station Road Site. They claim that the approval will enable works to be carried out offering flood protection relating to the River Aire.

As part of the scheme the developer – will also contribute finance towards school places (would love to know how they propose to do this) also provide funding to improve public transport and improvements to the highways through the village. Many would be keen to know who would monitor this!
They also claim having received a lot of local support for their plans to satisfy an increasingly urgent need to increase the supply of new homes across the area. They have certainly not been talking to many of the people who have discussed the proposals with me during the process.

Well it has taken a long time from the first suggestions, so it has not had an easy ride. It is still a probable increase in the village population of, say 500 and it still does not allay fears of further large scale housing proposals in this village.

15th October, 2014

Banks’ Property have written to various representative bodies within the village advising them that Leeds City Plans Panel at their last meeting have approved the recommendation made by officers for the Station Road Site. They advise that there are technical issues to be resolved with trial pits and boreholes and on completion of this they expect outline planning permission to be granted.

Station Road House Building Proposals

It would be churlish to pursue the view that the village should not accept and should challenge the proposal to build 200 properties on the Station Road area, given that we are told there is a significant housing shortage throughout the country.

However it would be foolish to accept such a proposal without further knowing that there are many large spaces in this village and to stand back without question would invite the vendors of the land and the proposed constructors to make further planning applications in the future.AStation Road Field

Building 200 houses would in effect be absorbing a further 500 souls into the village which would be a 15% increase in the population. Apart from being inappropriate development of a green belt area it is the opinion of many that such a construction would be beyond the structure plan for village services i.e. access and egress, sewerage, schooling etc.

Recent government relaxation of planning restrictions were aimed at less rural sites than the one at Station Road. There is however an adjacent unsightly area of shrubs and bushes which is on the old colliery site and which although being much smaller in area would certainly be suitable for building on and at the same time improving the outlook.

Looking at building land requirements further afield one has to ask are the major cities accepting a 15% increase in population increases due to house building needs – don’t think so. Therefore why are Methley, Oulton and Rothwell earmarked for big hikes in population. Would it be that similar building proposals are in place for North Leeds? Doubt it.

It would also be churlish to think that Leeds City Planning Dept. will not look at this critically, I am sure that they would not wish a moderately sized estate with minimal driveways and clearances be planted on this green belt area.

Architecture Social

Churchside Conservation

Methley Churchside conservation area appraisal and management plan was adopted by Leeds City Council in October, 2008. The document looks briefly at the history of the village and defines what contributes to its special character and sense of place. It also identifies opportunities for future enhancement and at the same time encourages its ongoing protection.

A draft version of the appraisal went through a public consultation process and was amended in light of comments received. The final document can be viewed on the website look under countryside conservation – Methley, Churchside