Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Saltmarshe history booklet

At last it has rained and the vegetables are beginning to grow in the raised beds. I am looking forward to the first boiling of our new potatoes as I do not think you can beat them cooked with a bit of mint and eaten with lots of butter.

I have spent the last few Friday afternoons in the new Howden Heritage Centre. It is lovely to meet a mixture of visitors  as well as residents keen to learn a bit more about the history of their town.

We are receiving too a steady trickle of  photographs, objects, papers and DVDs to add to our collection. Recent donations include a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings all about Howden in the 1980s as well as two DVDs from Chris Goulden of Golden Media Productions, one of which records the unveiling of the blue plaques around the town. It is amazing how Howden has changed even in the last 20 years - and the people too!!

I have just completed an article for Lucy of the Howdenshire Magazine. For this edition I have written about Snaith and in particular about Joshua Barrett who was a 'quack doctor' selling remedies he made from the roots of the mandrake plant. He moved to Snaith in the 1890s and called his house Mandrake House

I have also been working on  a history of Saltmarshe for some time now and thought it might be a good idea to put some of it into a small booklet.

We see lots of cyclists now, some of whom I have to say are a hazard as they cycle two abreast on our single track road or down the middle of the road, refusing to move over. But most just enjoy the ride through the park and often stop to buy half a dozen eggs from our front porch.

As do visitors to Saltmarshe Hall  and residents of the local holiday cottages.

So now for £2.50 they can read about the history of the hall and the village houses, about the wreck of  the SS Aire in 1958 and about the connection between Saltmarshe and the Rank Hovis McDougall empire.

Here is the front cover of the booklet

Saltmarshe Hall dates from the 1820s

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Leak family - Balkholme flax mill to Utah

I was doing some research on Balkholme recently, looking at the history of the flax mill there. I was interested to come across the story of William Leak who became a Mormon and emigrated to Utah. A book published by the LDS  [Latter Day Saints] church in 1914 records the following information

'William Leak, an active Elder in the West Jordan Ward, Salt Lake County, Utah, was born June 15, 1849, at Balkholme, Yorkshire, England, the son of John Leak and Maria Pousom [Pawson].  He was baptized in 1867 by his brother, Robert Leak, and emigrated to Utah in 1868, crossing the Atlantic in the ship ”Constitution,” which sailed from Liverpool, England, June 5, 1868. 

 The company with which he traveled spent six weeks and two days on the ocean.  Traveling by rail as far as Laramie City, Brother Leak came with an ox team in Captain Gillespie’s company as far as Echo Canyon, where he stopped to work on the Union Pacific Railroad until Christmas, when he came to the Valley. 

 After staying a short time in Salt Lake City and in Weber County, he obtained employment on the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory, and in the spring of 1870, he settled permanently at West Jordan, where he soon became an active Church worker and laboured for many years as a Ward teacher.  In 1876 (June 19th), he married Ann Brown, by whom he became the father of eight children, five of whom are now living.  The names of his children are William J., Martin A., Lily Ann, Maria E., Angus, Reu M., Walter B., and Olive E.  His wife is the daughter of John Brown and Elizabeth Matthews.  Brother Leak is a farmer by occupation.'

But  how did  Robert and William become members of the church. Balkhome is a very quiet village with not many houses. Then I came across a much more detailed account of William's life, written by his daughter in law, Esther, the wife of William John Leak. I have edited it slightly. It explained that William emigrated with his parents, John and Maria, his brother Robert and other family members.

William Leak, the father of William John Leak, was born in Balkholme, Yorkshire, England, March 6, 1849.  He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England and was baptized by his older brother, Robert, in 1867.

His parents were John Leak and Maria Pawson.  John Leak owned a small flax mill where flax was dressed  and William started working in the flax mill when only eight years old.  Consequently, he had no opportunity of attending school and so was unable to read or write.

The family consisting of the parents, John Leak and Maria Pawson, together with their children, Robert, William, Aaron, Emma, and Isabella, who emigrated to Utah in 1868. Frank Leak, the son of one of William’s sisters, accompanied them.  However, William’s sister, Mary, had previously died in England and his sisters Tamar and Hannah remained there.  Isabella later died in Alta, Salt Lake County, and Aaron died in Montana.  He was married to a girl named Jane and had a daughter named Ida.  After Aaron’s death, his wife Jane discontinued writing and so hers and Ida’s whereabouts are unknown.

 The family left Liverpool, England, June 5, 1868, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the sailing vessel, Constitution, and arriving in New York on July 19, 1868, being six weeks and two days on the water.  The family came here as converts to the Mormon Church.

John and Maria Leak, William’s parents, lived first in Midvale, Utah, east of the sampling mill.  Later they separated and John Leak lived east of our house (9670 South Redwood Road) in a small house below the South Jordan canal.  Frank Leak lived with him until his grandfather died, when he made his home with William Leak.  After the parents’ separation, Maria Leak came and lived with her son and his wife, William and Ann Leak.

Maria was badly afflicted with asthma and sat in a chair day and night until just before she died when she asked to be laid down.  She died in December 1883 and is buried by the side of her husband, John Leak, in Wight’s Fort Cemetery in West Jordan, Utah.  Her parents were John and Hannah Chaffer (Shaffer).

[nb Maria was in fact born in Eastrington and was the daughter of Mary Chafer whose parents were John Chafer and  Hannah Pawson]

The family, after reaching New York, July 19, 1868, traveled by train as far as Laramie, Wyoming, then came with an ox train in Captain Gillespie’s company as far as Echo Canyon.  From there the family came on to Salt Lake City and later to Midvale, all but Robert and William, who stopped to work.  He was a cook on the train that ran from Echo to Ogden.  He arrived in Salt Lake City on Christmas Eve, 1868, walking from Ogden through a foot of snow.  After staying a short time in Salt Lake City and Weber Country, they obtained employment on the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory.

In the spring of 1870, William settled permanently in West Jordan, but in order to obtain funds to buy a farm, etc., he got a job herding sheep for the Irving Brothers of West Jordan – he and Edmund Price, another young Englishman.

While they were herding sheep out on the Weber River, they attended a dance at Oakley one evening.  They noticed two young English girls standing in the crowd, William said, “We’d better show these English girls a good time.”, so they walked over and introduced themselves and asked if they could accompany them home.  The girls were willing, so the two boys walked home with them.  These two girls were sisters who had come to Oakley from England with their parents.  They were Ann and Emma Brown, daughters of John Brown and Elizabeth Matthews.   

When Ann told her mother, her mother said, “He seems to be a nice young man.  I don’t want you to make a fool of him.”  It was love at first sight.  Ann said, “I’m going to marry him if I can get him.”  

This romance lasted until June 19, 1876, when they were married.  The ceremony took place before breakfast.  Later they were married for “time and eternity” in the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City by Daniel H. Wells.  Temple marriages were performed there until the Salt Lake Temple was finished and dedicated in April of 1893.

After their marriage they moved to the Van Etten farm in West Jordan, just northeast of Wight’s Fort Cemetery.  Here they lived in a two-story adobe house and farmed the place on shares.  Ann’s brother, William Brown, lived with them part of the time, at least, and helped run the place.  Here their first child, William John, was born June 24, 1877.  

 In the meantime, William built a three-room frame house at about 2500 West 9000 South on the South side of the road, just west of the canal, and they moved into this house when it was completed. 

[ further detail here about their house and life]

William could never read nor write.  He cooked the breakfast many a morning because of Ann’s ill health.  Each morning everyone gathered around the table and knelt by their chair and William offered the family prayer, praying for knowledge and wisdom.

William Leak died of the flu January 16, 1931, in his home after about a week’s illness. Olive and Angus lived home and cared for him faithfully and tenderly in his illness.  His wife, Ann, had preceded him in death twelve years.  Olive and Angus remained in the home and rented the farm to their nephew, Lawrence Leak.  They sold the sheep, cows, chickens and turkeys a few years after his death, and Olive obtained a job clerking at the Center Street Store in Midvale, driving back and forth each day in her car.

Mormon records are, as all family historians know, excellent and so I was able to find the following information about the voyage [ I am sure the dates below are the correct ones]

From the journal of John Thomas Lazenby. He was a Hull man, a widower with a young son, Walter.

I left Hull June 22nd after staying at my mother's, in company with Walter [Lazenby] and Annie Tether (who became my wife), Sister Tomlinson and her family, for Liverpool. A company of Saints joining us on the steamer to cross the River Humber to New Holland. Brother John Leak and his family, Robert J. William and two daughters, Brother Busly, Elder Hide came along. Stayed in Liverpool at the house of Mrs. Ramsden. Monday night and embarked on board the ship Constitution in the Bramley Moore Dock with a company of about 400 Saints, some Welsh, some Scotch, some Swiss, and English under the presidency of W. Cluff [H. H. Cluff], [G. B.] Spencer, [J. S.] Thorne and others and hauled into the River Mersey on Tuesday and towed down the river on Wednesday, 24th of June, 1868. After a six weeks voyage "to a day" we arrived and dropped anchor in the River Hudson.

A fascinating story. I have read around it a little about the many European Mormons who travelled to Hull and then on to Liverpool on their way to USA. But I still think about this family who had lived most of their lives in and around Balkholme making the giant leap into the unknown by emigrating to the USA and also embracing a religion which was then persecuted.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Marshland, Howden and Goole Grammar sports

Looking out of the window it is a lovely bright, sunny day but once outside it is obvious that there is a cold northerly wind - one of those lazy ones which goes straight through you. So back to winter coats. As for the garden I think growth has stopped as plants adapt to a coating of hail. So it's a good time to cook a lamb stew in the slow cooker and catch up with inside jobs.

Last night I gave a talk to the Marshland Local History group who meet in Swinefleet village hall. They are good friends and so the atmosphere was relaxed. I talked about Howden and was fascinated to listen to the memories of a 90 year old lady who had been brought up in the town.

She remembered living down Thorpe Road, taking an old pram to the Co-op down Churchside first thing in the morning to collect her mother's groceries [her mother always shopped at the Co-op so she could get her 'divi'] and then walking home. She then walked to school which was where the health centre is now, walked home again for her dinner, back to school and then home again after school.

Later, when the family moved into the middle of Howden, it was her job in wartime to deliver the Hull Daily Mail to the many evacuees from Hull who lived in the rooms above the shops in Market Place. They wanted to read the lists of names of those killed in the bombing the previous night - hoping not to see names of friends and relatives.

I bought a copy of the Marshland group's latest publication on the history of Ousefleet. It is very interesting.

The Howden Heritage centre is now open and we are beginning to accept donations. We have ordered copies of the Monumental inscriptions for the local churchyards. I know I get a lot of queries in summer as visitors visit local churchyards looking for ancestors.

Finally I am sorting my old pictures and wondered if anyone could identify these pupils who are pictured in the field at the rear of what was then Goole Grammar School.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Howden heritage centre

Friday sees the opening of the new Howden Heritage Centre in what was the old HSBC bank in Howden Market Place. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Philip Mepham a small team has worked hard to transform the ground floor interior  from bank into heritage centre.

I have been involved in the production of a set of poster sized display boards and am loaning items from my own small museum collection. Ken Deacon has a display about the airship R100, built at Howden. So we hope to see a good crowd at 12.30 to look at old pictures and other displays about the history of the town.  Once open the centre will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 11am to 3pm.

Last Friday  afternoon I gave a second presentation in the Manor House about the history of The Ashes Playing Fields. It was very well attended - no doubt the lovely free tea and cakes helped draw the crowds -  not everyone who came could actually get in. Some stood along the walls but it was lovely to see so many people interested in Howden's history.

In between history projects we have been working in the garden. The daffodils are just finishing but the turnip seeds in the raised bed have germinated, the potatoes are showing and courgette and tomato seeds in the greenhouse are doing well.

The bees have come safely through the winter and  we are hoping for a good honey crop. But perhaps best of all are our chickens, laying as many eggs as we can eat, sell and give away to friends.  We have noticed that the chickens enjoy pecking around the hives and a bit of internet research suggests that this can be a good thing as they peck up dead bees and other detritus. Not sure yet whether chickens get stung!

A 1970s view of High bridge and the United Carriers depot taken from the church tower.

The Midland Bank, later HSBC and from Friday the home of the town's heritage centre.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Charles Briggs of Howden

Almost a month has passed since I last wrote here and a lot has happened in between. The snowdrops are now dying off and being replaced by daffodils. The bees are flying and seem to be  particularly enjoying the hellebores which apparently provide nectar for them at a time when little else is in bloom. Daffodils, I understand are too highly bred to provide much food for the bees but I have several varieties and will watch to see if the bees go on any of them. Looking forward to lots of honey this year.

 I am looking forward too to spending some time outside in the garden but it has been very busy on the history front. Last week I gave my presentation in Howden Manor House about its history and the history of The Ashes Playing field. It was a lovely evening - it rained but the atmosphere was friendly and the wine and cheese was popular.

 Towards the end of the talk, when I showed pictures of local people playing cricket, tennis and bowls and of Howden show, they stirred lots of memories. Although perhaps the picture which stirred most memories was one of the giant slide which I was assured was 40 feet high. I only went down it once as the climb up was quite frightening.

Here is the slide. Does anyone recognise the boys?

I am pleased to say that The Ashes Trust has asked me to give the talk again as several people have said that they would have liked to have heard it but did not want to come out on a dark, wet evening. So, if you are interested it will be on Friday 7th April in the afternoon. I am not sure of the timing as yet.

While researching the Ashes story I looked into the background of Charles Briggs who was the local benefactor who gave Howden the manor house, the Ashes and the Shire hall. I knew that he was born in Hailgate where his father ran a brewery. I had assumed that this was where he obtained the funds to give his gifts to Howden.

But I was wrong and am still finding out more about him. I think he and his brothers and sisters inherited property but he and one of his brothers were also civil engineers in the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa.

Charles was the last surviving member of the large Briggs family and there were no descendants so  he left his fortune to Howden. He loved his native town and would, I think, be pleased that there is now a street named after him.

Charles Briggs

Sunday, 12 February 2017


It is now February- but one of the coldest weekends of the winter so far. There is a cold wind and it is raining and dark. We have not seen the sun for some days but I suppose this winter has not seen heavy snow and lingering frosts - so we must be grateful.

Our snowdrops in the garden are putting on a brave show this year. I have tried to identify the variety from pictures on the internet but there are too many to choose from!

It is definitely a time to keep the Rayburn going and work on local history.  I have been looking at the histories of two houses in Eastrington and Newport.  I think that the Newport house, known today as Newport Grange, was once the home of  James MacTurk  and then his son in law Thomas Moss.

James MacTurk was one of three Scottish brothers who came to Yorkshire to work on digging the Market Weighton canal in the 1770s. Where the canal crossed the Cave Causeway beds of clay were found and this led to the growth of a brick and tile making settlement. James probably built the Turk's Head inn and was certainly the first landlord. His brother moved to South Cave and it was his son who was the doctor who attended Branwell Bronte.

Thomas Moss married James' daughter and they lived at Newport Grange. It is believed - but not proven - that their son, another Thomas was transported to Australia after stealing a sheep from a field near Hull. He and his accomplice hid the sheep's head, which had identifying marks on it, under a heap of coal where it was easily found by  a policeman!

Other projects I am working on are the family background of William Hamond Bartholomew and a Goole lady who owned a stone quarry.

And of course I am preparing for a talk on 28th February on the history of The Ashes Playing Field in Howden. It will be at 7pm in the Manor House and will launch the Ashes Sharing Heritage Project.

Bowling in The Ashes
I would be pleased to know the names of these gentlemen and also to have any more pictures to use in the talk. If you do have any please contact me through my website  howdenshirehistory.co.uk [ Images sent through Facebook are a bit blurry for projecting at a large size].


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Howden church history

 It is a grey time of year but at least we were not flooded on Friday 13th. We received a flood warning from the Environment Agency and  went out to check the high tide on Friday evening but the Ouse was firmly where it should be.

I am often asked why half of Howden church is in ruins - was it Cromwell? was it a fire? I recently listened to a local radio discussion on this very subject where various theories were suggested so I thought it was maybe time to try to answer the question - although briefly.

There was a church at Howden in Anglo Saxon times and it is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. We know little about it although it is said that some of the stones from an earlier building were re-used in the present church.

Howden was given to the Bishops of Durham by William the Conqueror. In 1267 the church became collegiate which meant that many more priests were involved and more money was available. So a new church was begun. One of the priests, John of Howden [the prebendary of Howden and a former adviser to Queen Eleanor], foretold that what he had begun during his life he would complete after his death.

This prophecy came true a few years later when a miracle took place at his funeral Mass - he sat up in his coffin. The nave and chancel were soon completed but so many pilgrims flocked to John's tomb in the church that their offerings enabled the original roof of the church to be heightened only 50 years after it was built. Both rooflines can be seen from Howden market place.
Howden honours John with a street named after him - even though he was never officially a saint he was known as one.

You can see the two rooflines of the choir  on the tower

But in the sixteenth century King Henry the Eighth broke from Rome and in the rearrangements that followed Howden church lost its source of wealth and became an ordinary parish church. The people of Howden who were responsible for, and worshipped in the nave applied in 1609 to close off the choir  as the tithe owners who had been granted the income previously used by the Prior of Durham to maintain it were not doing so. Both nave and choir roofs leaked and so Howden parishioners took lead off the choir to make their bit of the church waterproof.

There is a story that Parliamentarian solders on the way to Selby in 1644 stabled their horses in the nave, destroyed the new organ and carried off the pipes, blowing them as that passed by Wressle castle. This event was dramatised in a nineteenth century work of fiction but the basic story may well be true.

Meanwhile the weather did its work, water poured in and first the choir [1696] and then the chapter house [1750]  roofs collapsed. That is why we have the beautiful ruins today. It was not deliberate, it was not the work of Cromwell, nor the result of a fire.

Little was done to conserve the ruins until Victorian times when iron bars were used to strengthen the stonework. The nave was re- roofed in the 1850s and the tower floors removed.

In retrospect this was unfortunate as in 1929 the tower was set on fire and the flames quickly went straight up like a torch to the top of the tower and destroyed the ringing chamber, bringing the bells crashing to the ground.

Howden church tower on fire

Bostock and Wombwell's visiting circus was parked around the Market Cross and the wagons had to be quickly moved. They including caged lions and keepers walked alongside them carrying guns

The fire was  started by a gullible farmworker who was was persuaded by a disgruntled and recently sacked fair worker to set the church on fire.

The tower was badly damaged and  took three years to repair.

In 1971 the ruined part of the church was taken into the guardianship of English Heritage and the chapter house was reproofed in 1984.

This is a very  short summary but I hope it explains something of our church history.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Howden in the Middle Ages

Tomorrow my WEA history of Howden class restarts after the Christmas break and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again. We are beginning by looking at the history of Howden church.
So it seems appropriate to put here a link to a new website created by a member of the group.


The history of Howden in the Middle ages is both fascinating and upto now not as easy to read about as it might be. This new website, which is a work in progress, seeks to remedy this.

New members who are interested in the history of Howden are welcome to join the group. Send me a message through my website for details.


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Year's Day meet at Howden

So it's 2017 and almost time to take down the tree.  We enjoyed our turkey and watched fireworks over the river on New Year's Eve. The chickens are still not roosting properly and not laying particularly well but seem happy and are eating all the scraps as we clear the fridge after the holiday.

It's back to local history too as I research the whereabouts and history of Thorntoft[s] near Yokefleet. It was a medieval settlement with possibly its own chapel. Also I am researching the history of The Ashes Playing Field in Howden in preparation for a talk I am giving in February.

But I took time out on Monday to watch the  NewYear's Day meet in Howden Market  Place - not actually on New Year's Day as it was a Sunday. Large crowds gathered and we saw several friends.

[ after several queries I am clarifying that although the York and Ainsty South often did meet at Howden earlier in the twentieth century I believe that  the  New Year's Day meet  that took place on Monday is a more recent tradition - maybe of around 10 years!]

I found this picture from Edwardian times.

Compare the view above with the video I took  of yesterday's event. Some buildings have been demolished and rebuilt - but otherwise the event was very similar.


Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas preparations

I am writing this post on the day before Christmas Eve - i.e. Friday 23rd December. It is a quiet moment with mince pies in the tin,  turkey bought, Christmas lights up - and working- and just a few presents to wrap. It is unseasonably mild although this afternoon strong winds are forecast and so I shall find the candles just in case.

Not surprisingly history has briefly taken a back seat but I  do continue to buy postcards of the local area. Here are my most recent purchases. One day, eventually, I shall get more of my old pictures onto my website but in the meantime I shall keep putting some on my blog. They are all available to buy.

Hemingbrough in Edwardian times

Newbald - Coronation clock

Snaith - thatched cottages.

And finally I would like to wish all readers of my blog a happy Christmas and a good New Year.

Merry Christmas too from Molly who has featured on the blog since she was a puppy
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