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.

20th Century Farming History World War 1

Harry Veal WWI

Harry was born in 1880 at Otley a son of Thomas and Mary Veal of that town. He took farming work and was employed there as a farm cattleman. At some time before 1911 he moved to Methley and at the age of 31 was recorded in the census of that year as a farmhand married of only one year to Edith Ella also of Otley aged 26.

The couple lived in a 3 roomed cottage at Woodend Methley and had a new baby under 1 month old recorded in the 1911 census.

He enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery and it was in their service that he suffered fatal wounds and passed away on the 13th June, 1918 his remains are buried in the Aire Communal Cemetery near St Omer.

A separate memorial headstone was placed in St Oswald’s churchyard following the sad loss of Mildred their eight year old child just thirteen months after the loss of her father in 1919 – ‘A Treasure in Heaven’.

Added to this tragic loss was that of mother Edith who died at the age of 42 in 1926, mother and daughter buried together and all three remembered on the one headstone. A memorial now only visible following the clearance efforts taking place in the churchyard.

Farming History

Commons and Enclosure – Methley Land Survey 1773

As with all villages, common land in the Manor of Methley was sub divided into strips probably based on the mediaeval ‘Three Field System’ of farming (1 year corn crop, 1 year root crop and1 year fallow).    Management of the land holding system was by the Leet or Manor Court and we know from early records that Methley had 4 major fields, each field, split into this strip system. These were :-  East Field, West Field, Church Field and Moorhouse Field.

 The fields were places where people talked while they worked, and they worked together.  The countryside was busy not empty.   You could tell the time of day by the regular comings and goings of common flocks and herds along the village roads, and the time of year by their disposition in the fields and pastures. A jury sat to ratify them and to hear complaints.
Jurors and fieldsmen met at an inn, and in public with an audience of commoners.  They drank together with the rest of the company or in earshot of them,  then they had orders cried round the village before they were nailed to the church door.
Once a year the whole parish met together and walked the bounds naming the field marks, remembering the line between what was theirs and what belonged to the parishes around them.   Every year after harvest the field officers opened up the wheat field to the gleaners and cried the hours of gleaning round the village.  After which the herds came into the stubble followed later by the sheep.   The pigs and geese picking up fallen grain in the lanes and streets.
Resistance to Enclosure created to following rhyme regarding the injustice of it all:-

   The fault is great in man or woman
Who steals a goose from off a common;
But what can plead that mans excuse
who steals a common from a goose?             Laxton, Nottinghamshire

Problems of protecting strips from misuse by other owners e.g. animals grazing on other holdings  and land drainage are well recorded in the book ‘History of Methley’ and no doubt these problems were experienced  throughout the country.

A probable result of this, along with the need to improve output, was a series of Acts approved by Parliament in the late 18th century giving power to those who could  fence or enclose specified land could claim it.  Invariably this would be the most wealthy and acquisitive landowner.

The enclosure awards made by the Commissioners were subsequently made possible on the basis of accurate land surveys.   One such survey was made for Methley by  Wm Pape, Surveyor of Wakefield in 1773.    The survey book showed that Methley now had 8 areas :- Low Field, Oaks Field, Church Field, Whitecross Field, Leatherforth Ings, Thorp  Ings, Gamisker Ings and North Ings.

Most villages increased their holdings throughout the mediaeval period by the gradual clearance of woodland and heath, known as ‘assarting’.   It would seem that in the case of Methley  additional land was developed by reclaiming ings (fens) as civil works were by now improving river draughts and working canal cuts giving improved river and canal banks.

Displayed are selected photographs of the survey book which include accurate drawings of the strips with numbered identification on the folding plans.    Then each plan was followed by a  breakdown of the owners, with areas quantified into acres, roods and perches and summarised at the end of the survey.    The lettering of the books  would appear to have been written by  hand but I suspect the layout and titles would have been prepared with the aid of a serifed stencil.

It was reported that some 5000 instances of enclosure took in some 6 million acres of common fields from 1760 onwards.    The result, it was claimed was an increase in poverty levels in the  countryside forcing a shift in the population to the coal mines, new factories and developing towns and cities.    It could be argued that with the drift and increases of the population to the  towns, the old feudal system of farming was incapable of feeding this increasing market and as a result an increase in the size of farms was required to make them more productive.

Farming Galleries Industry

Farming Gallery

Traditionally a farming area with the fertile soil created from the two rivers.      The land at Methley was worked by tenant farmers rented from the Earl of Mexborough during the greater part of the 20th century. Farms were mostly arable but some farms included animal husbandry.
Before the second world war there were as many twenty small farms in this village.
The area was successful at growing and marketing peas and potatoes etc. crops which were labour intensive, however with the introduction of mechanisation in the farming industry these crops can now be grown in the more rural areas of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
One other local speciality was the production of forced rhubarb with the rows of low sheds, although only isolated ones remain now as store sheds. This crop required copious watering, during the operation inside the dark shed you could actually hear the rhubarb growing.
The major landowner, Methley Estates has progressively rationalised farming operations largely away from the tenancy system and now concentrates on arable and cereal crops. The company have also released some farm houses into the property market in keeping with many other farming landowners.

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