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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Last Meeting

Nurse Nellie Spindler

Nurse Nellie Spindler - A Queen Alexandra Nurse

On Saturday 3rd March guest speaker, Mavis Sellers, gave an intriguing talk on a local and national heroine, Nellie Spindler. She was born 1891 in Wakefield and became a trained nurse at Leeds General Infirmary. She specialised in abdominal injuries. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, she along with many other nurses, volunteered to

serve as a Queen Alexandra Nurse. This organisation had been formed in 1902 and had Queen Alexandra, consort to Edward VII, as its President.

In 1914 there were about 3000 nurses but by 1918 that number had increased to 23000.

Nellie served in a Casualty Clearing Station which was close to the front at Brandhoek

in Belgium. These stations consisted of a number of large tents and the one that Nellie was posted to in 1917 had over 800 beds. With the commencement of the battle at Passchendaele near Ypres in July of the same year, Nellie, along with other nurses were soon overwhelmed with casualties. Injuries sustained were often horrific and if possible had to be treated as quickly as possible in order to prevent infection and gangrene from setting in. Not only were the nurses working around the clock but were constantly in danger from artillery fire from the enemy. Amid the confusion and chaos a shell did explode nearby and Nurse Nellie was fatally injured by shrapnel. She was buried at Lijssenthoek War Cemetery near Poperinge. She is the only female buried there among 10000 men.

The Spindler family received a letter and a medal from the King and a memorial is dedicated to her and two other nurses, who died from disease, at Leeds General Infirmary.

The next meeting is 7th April when Lynne Schofield will talk on Locating Irish Ancestors.

Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310


The Holmfirth Blue Plaque Trail
At the meeting on 4 February over 100 members braved the forecast snowfall and enjoyed a fascinating talk by David Cockman, from Holmfirth Civic Society, on the recently- erected blue plaques in the town. The Civic Society wanted to provide something for visitors to enjoy once they had taken their photographs on Norah Batty’s steps and had a cup of tea in Sid’s café.
            The town has a long industrial heritage, but much of the evidence has now been lost. The Society’s aim was to keep what was left at the forefront of people’s memories and David’s talk was illustrated with slides and film showing many of the highlights of Holmfirth’s past commemorated by the plaques.
            We saw the town’s last iron foundry which is probably the only one left in the country still able to produce cast iron guttering and fall-pipes.
            The different standards of dress in Edwardian times compared with today were illustrated by pictures of a suffragist meeting and a crowd at a football match. In both cases every single person was wearing a hat. The suffragette movement had strong support in the Holme Valley area. One local mill-girl achieved fame, or notoriety, when the photograph of her being arrested by two burly policemen was on the front page of national daily papers. Her conduct was branded as disgraceful by the magistrate at her trial.
            A more sombre note was struck by photographs of the terrible flood which hit Holmfirth on 4th February 1852 - exactly 160 years before today’s meeting. 81 people died in the flood and one of the bodies was only found in the 1960s. The disaster a nationwide appeal resulted in the raising of £70,000 for relief of the victims. Some of the money was used to build five almshouses in the town dedicated “to the poor of all the surrounding townships for ever” as shown on the blue plaque.
            In 1944 another flood hit the town, but this time it was kept a secret because it had been caused by a violent thunderstorm and there was an embargo on any news relating to weather in the run-up to D-Day.
            Before “Last of the Summer Wine” the most well-known products of Holmfirth were probably Bamforth’s postcards. In his early days James Bamforth produced many short silent films and David showed some of these, all filmed locally using local people as actors. One of the slapstick comedy stars was “Winky” whose antics rivalled those of Chaplin. Had it not been for the First World War Holmfirth may have been Britain’s Hollywood. David also had examples of Bamforth’s later works, including the famous “saucy seaside” cards showing large ladies and their hen-pecked husbands. Precursor to Norah Batty and Wally?
            David finished his talk with film of some Holmfirth residents singing the Holmfirth “anthem” - Pratty Flowers.
            The blue plaque walk was instituted to encourage visitors to the town and David’s talk certainly did that for our members.
            At our next meeting, on 3rd March, Mavis Sellers will talk about the life of a Queen Alexandra Nurse. Doors open at 9.00am for a 9.30 start.
           

Christmas Past
Wakefield & District Family History Society Well over one hundred people turned up on Saturday 3rd December in high expectations to listen to our guest speaker, Ian Dewhirst. With his inimitable style, his fund of knowledge and hilarious delivery, he soon had the audience entranced and in stitches with his topic on ’ Christmas Past.’ He recounted how much of how we celebrate Christmas originated from ancient Rome. 25th December was when the god Mithra was born but was also the period when the Romans held a festival held in honour of the god Saturn in which feasting and self- indulgence took place. Bell ringing in churches was regarded as a way of warding off the devil and on Christmas Eve at All Saint’s church in Dewsbury a bell is rung for every year since Christ’s birth! Ian reminded us that stories of the origins of Santa Claus, from St Nicholas of Asia Minor, such as filling stockings after climbing down chimneys or his giving away sacks of gold, are fables that help with the joyful spirit of give and take at Christmas. He also reminded us that Christmas, as we now celebrate, it really took off in the Victorian period and was greatly enhanced by the writings of such authors as Charles Dickens. Prince Albert introduced the idea of a decorated Christmas tree from Germany and the first Christmas card was introduced by John Calcott Horsley in 1843 and could be bought for the princely sum of one shilling [ten pence]. The original Santa Claus, St Nicholas, was allegedly a thin man dressed in a green cloak. However, the Americans introduced a somewhat more robust figure dressed in red with white fur trimmings.[ Did you know that the American Santa Claus is characterised by him wearing a separate hat while the British version has him with a hood?] Ian illustrated his talk by referring to reports taken from the local Keighley newspaper in 1879 when it was reported that it was probably better to be in the Workhouse on Christmas day when a sumptuous feast was prepared for the inmates when conditions for many in the outside world was often desperate. Also in 1878 a well known auctioneer in Skipton cleared the sales rooms and financed a feast for all who cared to turn up! Finally we were reminded of some of the games that would be played at Christmas such as Hot Cockles when a person is blind folded and is struck by another party-goer and has to guess who struck him. There was Blind Man’s Buff and then there was the rather dangerous game of Snapdragon when raisins had to be retrieved from a container of burning brandy and popped into the mouth. The winner was rewarded with a gold coin! Ian talked for almost one and a half hours in which the audience hung onto every word and gave him a well deserved and enthusiastically round of applause. There being no meeting in January we next meet on February 4th when David Cockman talks on ‘ A Guide to Holmfirth Blue Plaque Walk.’ Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310
Searching beyond England - Scotland, Ireland & Commonwealth
Searching beyond England At the meeting held 5th November Allan Stewart Kaye was our guest speaker. He began by admitting that like many family historians, he had become frustrated by coming up against the occasional brick wall. This is when a particular ancestor appears to have disappeared from England. His talk was to encourage researchers to look beyond England to places such as Scotland, Ireland and the Commonwealth. The latter included countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Caribbean, India and the USA. He began with a brief history of each and then went onto show which records could be accessed such as census returns, civil registration certificates from a country’s General Record Offices, immigration passenger lists, church records, transportation records and National Archives etc. Allan showed that not all countries had complete census returns or that in some cases such as Ireland only 1901 and 1911 returns are available. Unlike England Ireland doesn’t have a GRO index. Australia and Canada’s records have to be accessed province by province. America had it’s first census in 1790 while Jamaica’s started in 1860. However there are slave reports from 1812 to 1834. Canada has church records going back to 1620 whole America doesn’t have an established church and searches may entail looking into the individual denominational churches. For those interested in India there is a wealth of information that can be researched at the British Library in London or Families in British India Society.{ FIBIS]. In each case the records of the East India Company and British government are available. Our speaker also provided a number of useful websites such as scotlandspeople, ancestry.com, Find My Past, castlegardens.org, [ for immigration to USA] and proni.gov.uk [ for Northern Ireland] etc Over ninety people were present and many will have learned a great deal from an extremely detailed and informative talk. Next meeting is 3rd December when we welcome a very popular speaker, Ian Dewhirst whose topic will be on “ Christmas Past.” Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310
Research and Information Morning
Wakefield & District Family History On Saturday 1st October the Society held its Research and Information day. The use of laptops, microfiche readers, publications and information help desks were made available and used by a steady stream of visitors. Further help and interest was provided by representatives from West Yorkshire Archive, Local Studies dept. from Balne Lane Library, Ian Laidler and his collection of military medals, Christine Ellis and her collection of historical costumes and accessories and on display samples of mining memorabilia. The next meeting is 5th November when A. Stewart Kaye will talk on “ Searching beyond England - The Commonwealth, Scotland and Ireland.” Venue is Outwood Memorial Hall. Doors open at 9.45am for a 10.30am start. Inquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310

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