Chantry Bridge, Normanton All Saints Church, St Catherine's Font Belle Vue, Heath Water Tower, Sharlston Pit Wheel
Wakefield & District Family History Society

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Death & Disease in Victorian Leeds
Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds On Saturday 1st September our guest speaker was Patrick Bourne. He is Assistant Community Curator at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds. Like most other growing cities in 19th century Leeds there was a high death rate at a young age brought on by overcrowded housing conditions, bad sanitation and lack of personal hygiene. The most common diseases were cholera and typhoid. Patrick, with the aid of maps of Leeds, photos of back to back housing and the overcrowded yards of Quarry Hill area to the east of the city centre, showed how statistically this area was where high rates of the above diseases occurred. The work of Dr. Robert Baker of Leeds , John Snow of London and Robert Koch in Germany, proved that cholera was a water borne disease caused by infected water. Periodic outbreaks of cholera in 1832 and 1848/9 prompted eventual legislation to empower the creation of fresh water from reservoirs at Fewston and Swinsty, the building of sewers and improvements in domestic sanitation. In the meantime those that could afford to moved to better housing provided in the suburbs in Park Square, Little Woodhouse and Headingly. Patrick went onto describe how improved hospital treatment occurred with the new Infirmary on Great George Street opened in 1868, the provision of a House of Recovery on Vicar Lane and a dispensary on North Street. New cemeteries were opened once the local churchyards became full. These were at St George’s Field, Beckett Street and Lawnswood. Patrick concluded his talk with a description of funeral arrangements. Black suits for men and fashionable outfits for women. Popular also were funeral jewellery, brooches, lockets and earrings, often made using jet from Whitby. The wealthy might have black horses pulling a glass covered hearse while the less well- off might have a bier pulled by hand! Patrick’s talk provided a huge wealth of information which was delivered at some pace but one which certainly had the attention of his audience. Next meeting is October 6th when John Brown will talk on ‘Crime & Justice in 19th century.
One-name study: The Dowles of Romney Marsh
On Saturday 4th August our guest speaker was David Burgess. He is a representative for the Guild of One-Name Studies. He wanted to explain first the value and purpose of this organisation and then go onto reveal his connection with Romney Marsh in Kent. With the Guild you can register the name you want to research which there may already have on record. The origins of a surname really got under way in the 13th and 14th century when it was becoming apparent that with a growing population and the need to prove who you were for inheritance purposes. David then went onto explain that surnames were taken from a number of sources such as occupation, place where you lived or taking the name of a male ancestor. Such a study could help with isolating a name and its variants and to share findings with others. After starting your research in the usual way such as use of IGI, Parish Records, census returns etc. you create a collection for analysis, synthesizing your findings and then submit your research to the Guild. You may help others and in return you can get feedback too. There are many benefits of joining the Guild from receiving a journal to making your research available world –wide. David then went on to explain his connection with Romney Marsh. His father was from Kent and this entailed several trips to this county in order to access records that were not available online. Through his family tree he showed the link with the name Dowle. Apparently a swamp area in Romney was called a ‘dowle.’ He then went on to show how one or two members of his family tree had some status in the past. One became a mayor while another branch was local gentry and further information could be accessed via Pedigree Heraldic records. David has managed to breach the 16th century through parish records but access to archives at Canterbury Cathedral showed a link with the 15th century! Next meeting is 1st September when Patrick Bourne will talk on ‘Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds.’
AGM and Ideas for researching Non-Conformist ancestors
AGM – Ideas for researching Non-Conformist ancestors. On Saturday 7th July the society held its AGM which was attended by the society’s patron, Lord St Oswald. The proceedings were opened by Deborah Scriven as President of the society. She reminded us that although the formal part of an AGM was important so was the part played by the many volunteers who help to keep the society going. That such organisations are a means of gaining and sharing knowledge. Lord St Oswald made reference to this year’s commemorations being held nationally to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. He reminded us of the many men and women who were awarded medals for gallantry, some who survived but many who did not. Once the formalities of the AGM were over a talk was given by Jackie Depelle. She lives at Fulneck, Pudsey which is the location for a Moravian church, museum and school. Her research was inspired by the discovery that many of her ancestors were non-conformists. Jackie demonstrated how to research ancestors in this country who were not members of the Church of England. To begin with she advised that an indispensable guide is ‘Dictionary of Genealogy.’ Then various archive collections were referred to such as those at The National Library of Scotland, the Borthwick at York University and our own West Yorkshire History Centre. The National Archives at Kew have much to offer which are accessible by the website‘findmypast.’ Then there is the British Library facility at Boston Spa, the website ‘deceasedonline,’ and parish records must not be ignored. Many other ways were illustrated by Jackie but it was her sense of fun in carrying out such research that will provide new avenues to explore. Next meeting is 4th August when David Burgess will give a talk ‘ One- Name Study: The Dowles of Romney Marsh.’
Hats and Huts: Ladies of the YMCA
Hats and Huts: Ladies of the YMCA On Saturday June 2nd Sue McGeever gave an illustrated talk on a subject that had long fascinated her. She reminded us that the organisation, that is symbolised by the famous red triangle, was founded in London in 1844. Within ten years its influence had spread worldwide. However it was the outbreak of WW1 when large numbers of women joined the organisation that gained Sue’s interest that she decided to carry out research on the topic. Thousands of women from mainly middle class backgrounds volunteered to work in the ‘recreation huts’ that were set up in Britain as well as at the Front in Belgium and France. In 1914, 40,000 of these women of means provided home comforts for soldiers who found temporary reprieve from the battle field. At these ‘refreshment huts’ Tommies would be provided with hot drinks, newspapers, stationery for letters home, games equipment and even the odd concert. Sue highlighted her talk with reference to individual women who served at the Front. One in particular, Betty Stevenson from Harrogate, died from shrapnel wounds at the age of 21. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and given a military funeral. She is also commemorated in her home town with a large wooden memorial at Christ Church. Many members found Sue’s talk exceedingly interesting especially as so little is known about the subject. Next meeting on July 7th is the AGM followed by a talk by Jackie Depelle on ‘Ideas for researching your Non-Conformist ancestors.’
Wood Street - The heart of Wakefield
The Heart of Wakefield – Wood Street. On Saturday 5th May Dr Phil Judkins demonstrated how the changes over 200 hundred years had transformed an area that had once consisted of only an inn and a yard. His research, with twenty other volunteers, revealed that Wood Street gradually became a busy and lively thoroughfare. The street was named for the Reverend Wood, who along with Thomas Lee, owned much of the land in question. With the aid of slides Phil revealed how over the 19th century plots of land were developed in which many of the public buildings we see today were built. There was the Court House of 1810, the Assembly or Public Rooms 1801, the Police station 1848, Clayton Hospital 1852, an Exhibition Hall 1865 since demolished and replaced by the Town Hall which was built in 1880 followed by the County Hall in 1898. Many people present will remember Holdsworths Iron mongers which started life in 1825 and continued until 1984. Then there was The Eagle Press, printers and stationers, which was in business for much of the 20th century. There was even a store in the 1930s that made small boats and steering gear! However the street was witness to many public events. These ranged from a hot air balloon being launched in 1827 from the site where the Town Hall is now. There was a visit from Pablo Fanque’s circus in 1847 which caused a great deal of excitement. There were prospective MPs on the hustings who were accused of bribery and corruption that led to public outrage and riots. Wood Street was witness to recruiting drives for both World Wars, a Royal visit in 1949 and the Olympic torch was paraded along the street in 2012. Phil’s talk was delivered in his usual professional way and with a great deal of humour. We next meet June 2nd when ‘Hats and Huts’ is the intriguing topic by Sue McGeever.

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