A Walk Down Light Lane, Alverthorpe. April 1911.


My name is Joseph. I'm glad you've taken the time to join me in Light Lane.

I hope you found this old place easy enough - on the right, just before reaching Flanshaw Lane on the left, as you leave the City on what you will know as Batley Road.

There was a workhouse off Light Lane in 1776 but now, as we walk up the Lane, all we'll pass is the end of Highfield Terrace to the right.

There are 11 properties in the Lane but number 2 is a lock-up shop which is closed today, so we'll be visiting the ten houses, starting with the odd numbers then working our way back down the Lane with the even numbers.

George married Martha Kell at Alverthorpe St Paul in 1872. Martha was a millhand in a weaving mill.

In 1881 they lived in Lofthouse, but ten years later they'd moved to Mount Pleasant, which is at the top of Light Lane, with their eight children.

I don't know exactly when, but obviously Martha has died since 1901, when she and George were living in Ossett Road, Alverthorpe.
Harry Riding, a house painter, greets us at number 5, where he lives with his wife of 26 years, Mary Jane.

They have had 8 children but, sadly, three have died.

Four of the surviving children live with them - Percy is 26 and is a mill hand at the cloth mill, Ada is 16 and is at home, and Doris is 9. 

20-year-old Amy works at a roving machine in a worsted mill. 

She tells me that, at the mill, fibres are drawn out from the wool fleece, by hand or machine, and twisted slightly to form lengths suitable for spinning. These unspun strands are the rovings, which her machine feeds through to the spinning process. I can only pass on what Amy tells me.

Harry has stayed close to his father's trade, for when Harry married Mary Jane Corbridge from Alverthorpe on 23 December 1883 at Holy Trinity Church, he was living in Warrengate and his father was a paper-hanger. Mary Jane was in Union Square, and her father was a miller.

I know that although Mary Jane will die in 1914 she will have the pleasure of seeing her daughter, Amy, marry Joseph Waite from 35 Quebec Street at the Cathedral on 20 September 1913.
Next door, we meet the nine, yes nine, members of the Wilson family who live in the two, yes two, rooms of number 7.

Thomas James is a bottle maker. He's 39 and his wife, Mary from Knottingley, is 34 and they have had nine children during their 17 years of married life but, sadly, two have died.

They have their four sons and three daughters living with them.

Thomas James married Mary Holgate at St Andrew's Church on 17 March 1894, while they were both living at 8 George's Square.

10 years ago, they were at 31 Bishopgate, which ran parallel to Queen Street, from George Street and towards the top of Westgate.
At number 9, we are greeted by Mary Taylor, who is a 44-year-old widow from the Chesterfield area. She is a feeder in a cloth mill which, as the title suggests, means that Mary feeds the cotton into a carding machine which roughly straightens the fibres prior to spinning. 

Mary was married to Irvine Taylor, a shoemaker from Halifax, and they lived down the road in Cooperative Stores Yard in 1901, but Irvine died soon after. 

They had ten children but, sadly, six of them have died. Two daughters and a son live with Mary today.
Emma Smith, a 74-year-old widow from Kirkhamgate, lives at number 11 with her granddaughter Ivy Towlerton 13.

Ivy was born at Beck Bottom and baptised at St Paul's. She is the daughter of Emma's daughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas William Towlerton.

Emma was Emma Riley and she, too, was born at Beck Bottom. She married Benjamin Smith in 1859 but he died in 1874, aged 46.

Emma will die in 1914 and be buried at St Paul's. 
Moving on, we are met at number 13 by another widow, Mary Jane Wainwright, who is 65.

She lives with her brother, John Alfred Padget who is 54 and single, and is a master tailor. 

They are both from Alverthorpe - and their father was a tailor, too.

Their parents had eight children - but Susannah died in 1848 when only 11 weeks old, William only lived for three years and died in 1839, and daughter, Permelia Haigh Padget died in 1856 at the age of 12.

John Alfred and Mary Jane's brother, Manasseh, a retired prison warden, died towards the end of last year.

On 9 March 1886, Mary Jane married Matthew Wainwright from West Ardsley, a local factory manager. By 1891, they were living in Union Square and Matthew was a night watchman.

Matthew died in 1898 but ten years ago Mary Jane was still living in Union Square, with three boarders - and brother John Alfred had joined her, and is still with her today.
At number 15, we visit Percy Johnson 23, a coal miner from Flanshaw, his wife Sarah Hannah 21 from Ferrybridge and their baby daughter, Doris.

Percy and Sarah Hannah Sinfield were married in 1906. Doris was born last July 24th and baptised at St Paul's on 7 August, while the family were at number 9.  
Let's cross the road and visit number 8.

There's some talk that a lad called Johnny Longden who will become a champion jockey in America was born in this house in 1907 but his family moved to Portobello a couple of years later.

Today, we can speak to Ernest Larkin, a coal miner, and his wife Lily. 

They only got married at St Paul's on 18 February this year. Lily was called Bedford before her marriage and her father was John Bedford, a fettler - that's a person who carries out repairs or maintenance, perhaps on the railway. 

All will not go well for Ernest, for my intuition tells me that he will die in the Workhouse on 30 October 1932.

Lily, however, will live until 1960. She will die on 16 September and be buried at Sugar Lane Cemetery four days later.
Next door, at number 6, we meet Edward Massey. He is a Railway Station Master, at the local station, I believe. Yes, we've had a railway station in the village since 1872 and it will remain open until 1954.

Edward and his wife of 20 years, Eliza (Ashley) have had 5 children but, sadly, three have died. Two daughters, Emily Frances 17 and Florence Edna 5, are living with them.

Their son, Frederick Stanhope Massey, a cloth scourer, was married in August last year and now lives in Kirkhamgate.

A cloth scourer? Fred hand-washes wool using soap or urine. I hope it's the former!
Our final call is to number 4 where we find Herbert (Bertie) Henry Pike, a railway signalman from Somerset, his wife Helena Jane who he married in 1902, and their daughter Margaret Jane who is seven. Sadly, they lost their second child. 

Bertie has worked on the railway since 1890 and, by 31 October 1939, he will be earning £2 15s 0d a week as a signalman at Roundwood box.

Son Phillip Thomas will be born in the next few weeks and will also work on the railway. By the end of October 1939, he will be a signal lampman at Wrenthorpe and be being paid 9s less per week than his dad.
So, that is the end of our walk - and what of me? 

Well, I can tell you that the birth of Phillip Thomas Pike at number 4 will being me great joy, for he will be my grandson.

Yes, his mum, Helena Jane, is my daughter.

I'm 69, and I was born and baptised in Cawthorne. I've been married to Jane (Charlesworth) for 45 years and we've had nine children but, sadly, three of them have died.

By 1871, following in the footsteps of my father, I had established myself as a gardener and was living in a cottage in the grounds of my employer's home, close to where we are today. Me and Jane are still there.

In 1871 I was gardener to the master but since he died in 1896 I've been fortunate enough to continue in the employ of his daughters.

In case you've not already worked it out, my full name is Joseph Blackburn and - as well as being the father of Hannah Jane at number 4 Light Lane - I have been the gardener at Alverthorpe Hall for over 40 years. 

Mr Henry Clarkson, who played a huge part in documenting the City’s history, through his book Memories of Merry Wakefield, was my employer up to his death in 1896 and since then I've been with his daughters Louisa Jane and Annie Christabel, who I believe you've already met. 

They are considerate people, but I must now bid you farewell and get back to the Hall, for there is pruning and weeding to be done. 

I've appreciated your company, and I've enjoyed our walk - and I hope you have, too.

Reproduced by the kind permission of David Simmonds

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