20th Century Characters Methley Cricket Club

Reverend Ralph Emmerson

Revd. Ralph Emmerson 1913 – 2007
Suffragan Bishop of Knaresborough

Educated at Leeds Grammar School, Ralph Emmerson initially worked for Leeds Education Authority before obeying the call to study ordination into the church at King’s College London.

His later appointment as Suffragan Bishop of Knaresborough was historically awarded to former priests of St Oswald’s Methley.

Arriving at the village as curate in 1948 and already being perceived as a potential high riser in the church given his dynamic first experience at the parish of Seacroft in Leeds. The later position of Rector was the second such posting of three parishes where he was incumbent.

During his charge on becoming Rector his organisational skills enabled him to conjoin the existing two parishes of Methley and Mickletown.

His love of sport and already proven experience in the game of cricket, allowed his natural talent to communicate and also blend in with all, including the tail gate rippers and deputies at Savile pit.

His introduction in 1949 into the Methley cricket team had an immediate effect when he took the bowling prize with 33 wickets at a rate of 10.06 runs per wicket, standing out as he did with his individual white cap. Continuing, in the year 1951 the Rector took the batting prize and was now an important member of the side. 1952 saw him elected as vice-captain when he again succeeded to win the batting prize. Finally and deservedly he was elected club captain in 1954 where once again he led the batting averages.

1956 sadly saw the end of Ralph Emmerson’s association with Methley CC when he took up an appointment as vicar of Headingley (He surely must have engineered that one!). He departed as an all round club cricketer who would be greatly missed it was claimed as he was presented with a leaving gift.

My reflections go back to the garden parties held in the rectory grounds with the Rector showing me how to attract visitors to part with their money in order to throw wooden balls at bottles (in place of coconuts) stacked on shelves in the vacant triple garage.

Even an inexperienced adolescent like me could tell that the man was able to communicate and succeed with all he came into contact with. I was able to work that out when he introduced me along with others to confirmation lessons in 1955 culminating in bishopric confirmation at St John the Evangelist’s Oulton.

Ralph Emmerson left the parish of Methley in 1966 moving onto a higher plane (no, not that one) a bit nearer to HQ. That’s the trouble, you get a decent centre forward/leg spinner and they go and transfer them elsewhere above your head.

20th Century Characters Farming Football

Charlie Bentley – Methley Perceverance

Charlie Bentley
Perseverance was the name of the football side captained by Charlie in those successful years in between the wars. And perseverance was just one of the many qualities contributing to the stature of the man himself.

Charlie operated out of the Manor farm (opposite the Bay Horse) which was one of the many Mexbrough tenanted farms in Methley. During his time there, it would not be unkind to say that the farm buildings were a tad short of investment. Must have been one of the very few farms that had it’s own petrol pump (Derv).

Rationalisation and combination with Walter Riby and Stan Pyrah of Shann farm introduced the group into diversifying farm operations by marketing the produce. Yes, they were one of the earliest mobile farm shops. Reductions in arable land through building and coal mine expansion despite the excellent farming prospect available at Gamisker drove the need to add to their income and sell their produce directly.

After seeing the success brought about by Fred Riby in selling a surfeit of cauliflower from a wheelbarrow. The three partners embarked on an entrepreneurial business opportunity which was much welcomed in the village. A converted canvas covered farm cart including weighing scales with one horse power traction was enough to bring fruit, veg and forced rhubarb to the masses (village streets of Methley) o Friday evenings. This so as not to interfere with farming operations.

Charlie was perhaps better known and popular as a member and captain of the Methley Perseverance AFC (games played down Cutler Lane). Under his leadership the side won the Yorkshire League in 1923/24 and achieved high placings in that same league all that decade.

The Bentley family brought Stan Pyrah up following the death of Joseph Pyrah, his father at the battle of Arras in the first world war.   A letter home from Joseph carried the words “I will be glad to be out of this damned place,” within a few days he was killed.   His name is incorrectly engraved on the churchyard war memorial where it is recorded as Thomas Pyrah.

Charlie had been offered trials with Arsenal an opportunity which was denied him for family needs. They would of course have got a good ‘un.   A defender on the field who was as strong as an ox (noted when I saw him handling sacks of potatoes). I am also informed that he had on one occasion lifted the front of the tractor enabling running repairs to take place.

No less was his outstanding contribution to Methley cricket club where he excelled both with bat and ball.   Carrying on where he left off at Castleford Grammar School having been described as ‘another first class bowler from Methley’.   Also recognised at this school as a first class footballer. 

Highly regarded throughout his life, Charlie Bentley would engage in civic responsibilities often being involved in the coroner’s jury concerning local deaths by misadventure.

Winding up the partnership which could not compete with the onslaught of sales by the encroaching supermarkets, Charlie was later compelled to work directly for Mexbrough farming.
On retirement Charlie and Elsie moved into the larger section of Clayton Villa in Woodrow during the period of the 1960’s.

Would welcome any photo featuring the cart.

Characters Coal Mining Savile Colliery

Joe Sidebottom – Foreman Blacksmith

Joe Sidebottom
Blacksmith Savile Colliery

Imagine, it’s 5.40am on a winter Sunday in the 1960’s, and Joe the foreman blacksmith is already igniting the forge prior to starting work at 6.00am. He takes note of all the men in their bib and braces arriving after clocking on (Every Saturday and every Sunday except holidays). It’s minus 2 degrees centigrade out there.

Joe has a schedule of week-end maintenance covering examination and replacement of screening plant, surface conveying installation in fact all equipment involving moving or vibrating metals.

After deploying the blacksmiths and their strikers, Joe will advise the surface foreman of the repair objectives and update him of any absences etc. Most of that work will be carried out on the heavy duty anvils at the forge in the blacksmiths workshop.

Joe had recently taken over the reins from the experienced and equally long serving Chris Beilby. With slight appearance he didn’t look like the stereotyped blacksmith but looks can be deceiving certainly in his case hiding the power and his mastery of the huge hammers,tongs and clamps.

Could it be that such conditions including dust, rust and smoke would be an aid to longevity because Joseph Sidebottom survived in decent health until the age of 99 in the retirement cottages in Woodrow.

No, it is more likely that his advanced age was contributed to by his extended interest in the sport of crown green bowls. Not only a successful competitor, but also a long established keeper of the green in that picturesque Churchside setting.

Many of Methley’s beginners in the sport would subscribe to the view that the same man had throughout, offered coaching and advice to all initiates in the sport.

The club members so admired the man that they have instituted an annual knock out competition in his name, winner to be presented with the Joe Sidebottom Veterans Shield.

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19th Century Characters

Revd. Thomas Dawson Lumb – Curate

Thomas Dawson Lumb
Curate 1821 -1843
The Leeds Intelligencer reported the recovery of the body of Dawson Lumb of Methley on the 17th December, 1843 from the river Aire at Swillington Bridge as a ‘Distressing Occurrence’.
This blessed curate had served St Oswald’s and its parish faithfully from 1821 until his untimely death at the end of 1843. The incumbent at this time was the Hon. Archibald Hamilton Cathcart who was also the Rector of the church at (now nearby) Kippax where he resided, and at the same time who enjoyed the title of Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding.

One week earlier, the curate had left his residence at Churchside House to visit his uncle Richard Lumb at the Lowther’s Arms Hotel adjacent to the bridge at Swillington.  He did not return and his absence in those following days would have been a source of huge concern to his wife and their five children along with parishioners of the village.

The inquest held on the 23rd December, at that same Lowther Arms before the Coroner, a Mr Jewison delivered a verdict of ‘Found Drowned’.

All the possibilities of how he may have entered the water would have been considered. However, it was generally thought that an accident at the bridge to the poor man in extremely foggy conditions was the most likely cause. It was most unlikely that local people would have considered that he had taken his own life.

Looking back, it is possible to deduce that the curate did not enjoy a satisfactory level of income given the fact that he carried out private schooling from his home at Churchside. There is little doubt in my mind that he would have solicited support for an improvement to his stipend (salary) from Cathcart, his successor Yorke Savile and the church authorities. We would not know the outcome of any such overture.

At this point I am indebted to Debbie Cunnew, a descendant who was interested enough to raise the matter in the first instance, she was later kind enough to send me a copy of the will of Richard Lumb, the uncle of Dawson Lumb. The contents of the will indicate that Dawson Lumb may have borrowed and accumulated debt with his uncle over the years, and in an act of kindness his uncle had bequeathed the sum of the debt to his nephew in the will. Additionally, the will did not indicate that there would be anybody to benefit from the death of Thomas.
We are not to know if Thomas was aware of the contents of the will. However we know that the poor man had recently lost a favoured son in a tragic shooting accident. We can also ascertain that Thomas would have been acutely aware of the preparations for the introduction of an act of parliament which would improve the conveyancing arrangements of sites for the construction of new schools. This would certainly include one to be aimed at Methley and would surely aggravate his small but private earnings from the school.
The recent installation of Yorke Savile as Rector would also considerable reduce the income levels as that incumbent would take on more of the duties of priest with christenings, marriages and burials.

Characters History Mediaeval

Lord Welles Lord of the Manor

Cecelia, one of the daughters of  the young Sir Robert Waterton had married into the Welles family of Lincolnshire – her husband Sir Lionel Welles was later to be killed in 1461 at the battle of Towton where the White Rose of Rouen and the Ragged Staff won the day.   He fell at the battle of Towton, fought on Palm Sunday, March 29th 1461 known locally as Palmsunday Field.

It was said that from thirty to forty thousand Englishmen were left dead upon the field. It is alleged that the body of Lord Welles was brought to Methley concealed in a sack and buried at St Oswald’s, this to avoid his head being separated from his body and impaled on a spear to be placed at the Micklegate entrance to the city of York.   It is not recorded how many Methley sons may have lost their lives or indeed fought in the battle which surely some of them would have taken part, along with the Lord of the Manor.

Stories abounded in the village of his exploits at previous battles and skirmishes, and so they should. No mere baronial hanger on was our man. His import was noted having been a deputy governor of all Ireland, in addition to having witnessed the death at the stake of Joan of Arc at Rouen in 1431.   His mission there, was to observe and report back to the king (Henry VI) that the Maid of Orleans had been accounted for.

Lord Welles was up in support of the house of Lancaster in what was to become known later as the Wars of the Roses, his life had filled Methley with stories of the battles and engagements. He remained loyal to the losing side, loyal as others changed despite the fact that his father and grandfather had been pro-active Yorkists.

Methley recognised the 550th anniversary of the battle of Towton when on 29th March 2011 St Oswald’s church incorporated prayers for the dead of this immense and bloody battle at their mid weekly communion service.
Source : Thoresby, The History of Methley

That  30 years war took the life of his son the daring Richard Welles who could not make his peace with King Edward IV, as with Robert Welles a wild son who would skirmish in vain with the Kings forces and both were to suffer the loss of their heads.

Last of the Lords Welles, came John who reconciled himself to the king.   He was the uncle of Henry Tudor and led an uprising against Richard III,  John escaped to Brittany and joined his nephew.  He was present at Rennes Cathedral at Christmas 1484 when Henry Tudor promised to marry Elizabeth of York.   John landed at Milford Haven with Henry Tudor in August 1485 and was at the Battle of Bosworth.   After Henry was crowned and married to Elizabeth of York, John and her sister Cecily were married around 1487 when he was created a Viscount.

On his death the influence of the Welles’ was gone, in 1488 an act of partition instructed that the old Waterton estate be shared by :- Thomas Lawrence, Sir Christopher Willoughby, Sir Robert Tempest who received parcels of land in Methley including Dunford House, and finally Sir Robert Dymoke who received the Manors of Methley, Woodhall, Hazel House and the greater part of the village.