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The Days of Horse Transport in Barwick

Barwicker No 3
September 1986

In 1839 William Reed, my grandfather, ran away from his home in Bishop Monkton near Ripon. His father, Isaac, was a farm labourer. William, who was born in 1829, thus appeared in Barwick at the age of ten. Here he became tied to a farmer at ten pounds a year when he showed he could carry a scuttle of turnips over the fold yard. We know nothing of how he progressed except that eventually he became a tenant farmer of 95 acres of land owned by the West Riding County Council.

During his fairly early farmer's life, he bought a year-old Clydesdale stallion which he called Barwick Lad. It was a great success, travelling in the springtime for breeding purposes and working outside the mating season as any other horse. It was so big that William had to send to Sheffield for a special pair of hames, the metal pieces that go round the collar and are chained to the pulling area.

William's business grew. He sold fodder, such as hay and straw, not only from his Barwick base but also from a warehouse in Leeds run by his son Alfred, my father, who was always known as Fred. This warehouse closed down on William's death in 1899 when the business was taken over by Fred and all transferred to Barwick. Fred had a struggle for a few years as, although he had the business, all the money went to William's second wife and to his six daughters.

I was born in November 1912, in No. 5 Potterton Lane, the house which Tommy Kirk recently evacuated. Our house was really two cottages put together by William Reed. My father owned the property from there northwards unto Algie Robshaw's farm paddock.

Despite his early difficulties, Fred succeeded and built up a thriving transport business which reached its height in the decade 1910-1920. At this time, there were four to six men employed, with about 12 working horses. The types of business conducted and vehicles used can be summarised as follows:
(1) Light transport used to carry passengers and luggage, like a present taxi service, to Scholes and Garforth stations, etc. The vehicles included gigs, a cab, a landau for weddings, a governess cart and a hearse. For the wedding of one particular lass, he bought a special pair of greys, and for another, a pair of bays, but these were sold soon after.

(2) Public transport. A two-horse bus ran to Vicar Lane, Leeds, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

(3) Wagonettes, drawn by two or three horses, took parties about the district. Every Saturday either football or cricket teams were conveyed to local villages.

(4) Heavy transport. Wagons were used to carry hay and straw, wood for the local saw mills, and for furniture removal. In 1923, he took a load of furniture in a one-horse wagon from Barwick to Scarborough in one day, starting at l.00 a.m. and arriving in Scarborough at 4-00 p.m. Whilst they were unloading, a tram passed and the horse ran away with the half-load of furniture. This shows how fit and well Fred kept his horses.

(5) Carts were used for carrying coal for anyone in the district. The local miners had one ton a month. This load included slack, slates, etc. and when sorted there was 12-14 cwt. of burnable coal. Miners however did not like to pay cartage so, with some of them, my father had an agreement. They did not pay but he received one out of three loads. As a youth I remember having to riddle and sort this coal. The good stuff went into our coal house, the slack went to Pullan's saw mills to mix with wood for the boiler. We received fire wood in payment.

(6) Contract work for Tadcaster Rural District Council. We had three horses and carts continually employed emptying ashpits (lavatories) for Scholes and Barwick. In the 1920's, this changed slightly as dustbins and water closets became increasingly installed. A most important contract was the carrying of stones to make and repair roads.

(7) We carted thousands of bricks from Scholes station to build houses close by.

No work was done on a Sunday, except feeding and bedding the animals. My father thought the horses should have a day of rest also. One exception was fetching the Methodist minister from the tram terminus at Killingbeck to Barwick, Scholes or Thorner, and returning him at night. Father or his daughter drove so that the labourers did not have extra work. From the end of May until the frosts, the horses slept in the fields. In winter they were kept indoors.

Whilst Fred, my father, was not what could be called a horse dealer, he did buy and sell his horses as required. Many of the local farmers and especially the smallholders went to him, telling him of their needs and trusting him to find their requirements at the right price. Those who come to mind are Mark Hobson, Fred Lumb, Mark Helm (Barwick) and Mark Helm (Aberford). The latter was sold a Clydesdale mare and bred four generations from her.

The gas engine shown in the plan drove several pieces of machinery, including one for grinding oats and another for making chop. This was hay and straw cut into half-inch lengths for sale as fodder mixed with other materials.

The plan shows the two wells in the yard. Fred Reed would never let anyone drink from these wells. Each had a water trough at its head, for horses to drink, for mixing pig swill and occasionally washing down the various vehicles. Fred used to say that our well water was not fit to drink because of its origin; our yard with its many horses, pigs and a cow. He always made us use the town well. That water, he said, had drained through the churchyard - another way of getting "us own back".

Fred Reed always had the best turn-out for taking out w~ mother or any single customer. He always drove the fastest horse in the district. His hobbies were shooting and driving. Many were the pheasants he shot which strayed from Parlington. 'We had no rabbits on our farm. The local miners with their whippets made sure of this. Early on, he shot a whippet to save a hare's life.

In the 1920's, the wages dropped from £3.3.0. a week to £2.2.0. for one man who fed the stock on Saturday afternoon and Sundays, and £1.15.0. a week for the others, who worked from Monday morning to Saturday lunchtime. At this time, the horse- drawn vehicles gradually were sold as motor vehicles took over. Fred Reed never became motorised. The horse bus ceased in 1923/4 when Jack Mouncey. who had at one time worked for my father, started his own Red and White Bus Service, which ran two or three times daily. Motors killed the business and we had only three working horses when Father died in 1932, at the age of 62.

The straw and chop business was still in operation up to his death. The dust from making the chop over the years affected his lungs badly, hence his relatively early demise. At the time of his death he was farming about 107 acres with the help of my brother Alfred and one labourer.

Jack Reed

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