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Barwick cries "Hands of our Rectory Estate!"

from The Barwicker No. 84

This was the headline of an article in the Yorkshire Evening News of late 1946, written by one of their reporters. It clearly shows that the controversies concerning new housing development in Barwick were present in the village sixty years ago. The article proceeds:

"Barwick-in Elmete (sic), the old-world village of 1000 people near Leeds, planning to revise its centuries old Maypole Day next Whit Tuesday with a new pole, has had its rural peace shattered by a housing problem.

Talk in the village today was all of last night's mass meeting of villagers - one of the biggest in Barwick's memory - when in the crowded schoolroom it was decided to oppose Tadcaster Rural District Council's scheme to build 35 council houses on the Rectory Estate in the heart of the village.

The villagers want new house building. But not on the Rectory Estate. They have hopes of all the estate being preserved for all time as a social centre where sports, feasts and garden parties can be held as they have been in the past. Over 90 per cent of those at the meeting decided that their protest should be forwarded to all authorities, including the Ministry of Health.

The Parish Council is indignant because it was not consulted by the District council. Mr Tom Robshaw, gardener, has spent all of this 60-odd years in the village - 27 of them devoted to Parish Council services - and is one of the prime movers of the opposition.

'Barwick needs new houses,' he told me today. 'There is much bad property in the village and nobody in the village is against building. But why chose the Rectory estate when there are alternative sites in Potterton-Road, Aberford Road and Leeds Road .- all of them excellent. Our old-world charm is famous. We don't want to lose it.'

Mr R A Gray, the village schoolmaster, said the site had been surveyed and chosen 'right over the heads of the Parish Council. Homes must be built in the village, but there is any amount of suitable land without selecting the very core of the village,' he added.

Mr J Heaps, a Barwick resident, has offered to buy the land and hand it over to the village in gratitude for the safe return of his son from the war.

The question now is who will succeed in purchasing the land - the Parish or the Rural District Council? Tadcaster RD have drawn up the plans for the proposed houses and their scheme has been approved by all departments, including the Ministry of Health. They are now negotiating to purchase the land from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. If they succeed the village school will lose the land where the boys are taught gardening and an orchard of heavily-fruiting apple and pear trees will have to be felled.

Part of the Rectory gardens will be taken over but the Rector refuses to take sides in the controversy."
A Yorkshire Evening News Reporter.

Well, clearly the villagers won - at least in part. Jack Heaps purchased that portion of the estate which adjoins Main Street and donated it "in perpetuity to the villagers of Barwick-in-Elmet" as revealed on the plaque at the entrance. On 28 July, 1954, Jack Heaps opened the children's playground on the site, (see Editions Nos. 35 & 49). The tennis courts are close by. The annual fair, the successor to the Barwick 'feast', is held there each October. The villagers have their sports and feasts, but what about the garden parties?

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