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History Observed

From the Barwicker No.33
March 1994

Writing, copying and editing the material for 'The Barwicker' is time-consuming work, with frequent long pauses when I close my eyes to think about the material in hand or I might gaze out of the front window. This is fatal if I am to continue with the work, as the view over green fields and grazing horses is pleasant and absorbing, particularly because it encompasses so much history.

Just below my window I see Leeds Road, Scholes, running a straight course from Stanks to the Coronation Tree, which was planted to commemorate the 1902 ceremony. It was formerly the Seacroft and Scholes Branch Toll Road. The road-side hedge over the way reveals to my inexpert attention one or two species of bush other than the original hawthorn in every 30 metre stretch suggesting that it was planted a century or two ago. This agrees well with the known date of construction of the road in 1840, when it was called the New Road, but time has rolled on. Now it is a very busy road from Aberford and Barwick to Leeds. Its comparatively recent construction is confirmed by the fact that it cuts diagonally across several old hedge lines.

Along the road to the right I can just make out the corner of the field where part of the an ancient earthwork is still visible, the rest having been buried under the road and the houses. It has been suggested that it was a fishpond, but a 17th. century survey of the Manor of Scholes says that it was the remains of a moated manor house. A more likely answer is that it was the lodge of the nearby Scholes Park. This field also contains some narrow medieval 'rig and furrow', parallel ridges and ditches caused by ploughing. This was done to provide drainage and also to form land occupation boundaries. Also in the field are all manner of hollows and 'humps and bumps', perhaps nothing more romantic than shallow quarries and spoil heaps, but who knows?

There is another field in front of my window separated from the first by a hedge and stream running at an angle to the road. This field contains some wider rig and furrow, one section running parallel to the stream and another parallel to the road, separated by an unploughed strip. Is this one of the baulks that divided the flatts in a medieval open field, or was the ploughing done at some later date? Perhaps in the future, some field work under expert guidance will provide an answer. About a couple of hundred yards along the road to the right, a stile in the hedge leads to a path which cuts across the field, and over another stile and bridge into the first field. Reference to the map shows that there are rights of way continuing along the line of the path in both directions, from Shippen House Farm to the south right through to Thorner to the north. Many rights of way were established in medieval times to allow men and their animals to pass over the land during their working days.

From my window I can see the backs of the houses in the old village of Scholes. Prominent on the right is Scholes Lodge, built about 1830, by Thomas Crosland, a wealthy and influential farmer. He and his wife Ruth were stalwarts of the Barwick and later the Scholes Methodist chapels, the latter building being visible from here across the fields. One of Thomas and Ruth Crosland's daughters Elizabeth married Edward T Gray, of Morwick Hall and he built the chapel in 1879, Thomas Crosland providing the land. His son, also Thomas, took over Scholes Lodge and he and his sisters Elizabeth Gray and Jane Furniss laid foundation stones of the new Barwick chapel in 1899.

I can also make out the old Anglican Church built in 1875 with its chancel, porch and vestry added in 1902. The original parish of Barwick-in-Elmet once extended far to the west but this area has been lost to Roundhay and Manston. Scholes has always been part of Barwick parish and so it remains despite the growth of the village. St Philip's, the new church, built in 1965 is also visible.

Half left, across the gradually rising ground I can see Scholes Park Farm. This takes its name from the medieval park and we learn from 'Scholes is our Village' that it provided venison for Pontefract Castle in 1292. But medieval parks had many uses. In the 12th. century, Barwick was the administrative centre of the northern parts of the Honour of Pontefract. When the lord of the manor and his retinue visited the area, grazing would be required for the horses and for the cattle needed to feed a large party. Could it be that Scholes Park was so used? A 1425 survey of the Manor of Scholes, when Barwick was less important than formerly, shows that much of the park had been enclosed by that date.

By putting my head close to the window I can just make out to the left on our side of the road, the hedge which once ran as far as a small wood which is said to have been cut down to provide pit props in the Second World War. On 16 June 1939, the 'Skyrack Express' reported that some horrified passers-by had found a severed human head in a parcel in this hedge. Later other parts of the body were found in different locations and eventually a man was convicted of this brutal murder and was hanged. I turn from this horror to the peace of the pastoral scene and back to the work in hand. As I continue my typing I cannot forget the history of the locality brought to life by looking out of the window.


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