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The Battle of Church Lane, Manston

From the Barwicker No.97
March 2010

Travel between Stanks and Cross Gates and you may use Church Lane, Manston. This links Barwick Road and Austhorpe Road passing the church of St. James the Great, Manston, with its churchyard and lych gate. Today the lane is like many others in suburban east Leeds, busy with cars and buses and the hustle and bustle of modern life. The area is mainly residential with a number of houses built in the nineteenth century but the majority constructed in the twentieth.

If, however, you travel back over 100 years to 1892/3 this road was the source of battle between the residents of Manston and Cross Gates and the Highway Surveyors of the ancient Parish of Barwick in Elmet over lack of repair. The Church Lane area would have been very different from today, the remains of the local mining industry would have been all around with a number of recently closed pits in the area. In 1854 the tracks of a wagon way ran up the eastern side of Church Lane, linking the Victoria Pit, Sandbeds Pit and Old George Pit at its northern end with the Leeds and Selby Railway at Cross Gates.

At this time the maintenance of the Highways was the responsibility of the Surveyors of the Parish, elected officials who could raise a local tax to pay for any necessary works. Whilst Church Lane lies in Manston Parish this had only been created in 1847 from land taken from Barwick-in-Elmet and Whitkirk Parishes. The Highway Surveyors however appear to have been left with the boundaries of the ancient Parish. The Lane was classed as an un-adopted highway and therefore not repaired from the public purse. I suspect the local colliery owners had previously repaired it, possibly with ash or pit waste. It would have been a main and increasingly important route, busy with pedestrians and horse drawn carts. It was not maintained and must have got into a terrible condition, especially in winter.

The battle commenced in 1892 when the residents of Manston sent a petition to the Surveyors asking them to adopt the road. They refused and so on the evening of Thursday the 23rd February 1893 a public meeting of local ratepayers was held in the Manston School Room. The Rev. H. Hamilton, Vicar of Manston, outlined the case for adoption and “his points were readily taken up by the audience, the cheering at times being vociferous” the Manston Parish Magazine reported. A number of speakers cautioned the meeting against over confidence. Mr Dewhirst said “we may be unsuccessful in our present action against the Surveyors, but that will only stimulate us to further endeavours.” Mr Clarke moved a resolution asking the Surveyors to take over the lane, it was seconded by Mr George Marshall and carried.

The Surveyors refused again and then things started to move quickly. John Hartop, Overseer, of Highfield House, Manston, charged John Lodge, Richard Helm and John Brook, the elected Surveyors of the Parish of Barwick-in- Elmet, at the West Riding Court held in Leeds on the 14th March with not repairing Church Lane, Manston. They denied any liability and contended it was a private road. The Magistrate however decided it was a Public Highway and out of repair and referred the case to a higher Court, the Quarter Sessions to be held at Wakefield on the 10th April.

To keep up the pressure on the Surveyors a further public meeting was held in the School Room, Manston on the 20th March. At this meeting it was explained that the Surveyors had called a special meeting of the Parish Vestry at Barwick on the 23rd March at 7pm
"for the purpose of testing the feeling of the Ratepayers, as to whether the Surveyors should defend the indictment against them out of public funds"

The Manston meeting, incensed, protested “that this meeting of Ratepayers of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet, emphatically protests against any of the public funds being devoted towards paying the cost of defending the recent indictment.

Nearly 150 people attended the Barwick Vestry meeting, which was presided over by the Rector, Canon Hope. A resolution was voted on ‘that public funds should be used to defend the case at Quarter Sessions Court that the Parish was responsible for the repair of Church Lane,’ lost with 71 voting for and 77 against. Mr Prater, who was Colonel Gascoigne’s Agent, on behalf of the Colonel, demanded a full poll, which was set for the 1st April. The Gascoignes, as local landowners, would be liable to pay a large part of any money required to pay for the road repairs. The results of the full poll are unknown but the surveyors defended their case at the Wakefield Quarter Sessions and lost. The evidence of John Hartop, and seven other witnesses influenced the Grand Jury. The final judgement was referred to the Bradford Quarter Sessions Court to be held at the end of June.

A further meeting of the Vestry of the Parish was held in the Vestry Room of All Saints’ Church, Barwick, on the evening of the 25th May to decide whether to contest the case a final time at the Bradford Court. Several people addressed the meeting and it is recorded that it was evident that the feeling, particularly amongst the Barwick section, was for compromise.

It was finally resolved to set up a committee with three persons from each side to reach an agreement. Barwick was represented by Mr Hartley, Mr Hollings and Mr Tankard and Cross Gates by Mr Dewhirst, Mr Speight and Mr Webb. They reported their results at a public meeting held on the 3rd June.

It was finally agreed that the Surveyors should adopt the road. The Manston, Whirkirk and Seacroft Parish Magazine for July 1893 reported the outcome in a triumphant tone.


"Settled at last! Yes, settled, but only after a long battle, doggedly and persistently fought. Cross Gates has triumphed, as all sensible people knew it would. We shall now have a good road to Church, and the people of New Manston and Stanks a good road to their homes. These residents up the lane have gone through this struggle with a patience remarkable; in the moment of victory, we offer them our congratulations.

What a stupid thing of the authorities to resist so long the inevitable. However “let the past dead, bury the dead.” The battle is finished, let us all forget our animosities. This course, at any rate, should be easy for us, because we have WON."

This case demonstrated that the local power in the district so long held in Barwick village through the Parish administration had been waning for a number years, it continued to be eroded as the State increasingly centralised and Cross Gates and Manston rapidly expanded and overtook its ancient master.

17 years later one commentator mischievously put it that “Barwick has to play second fiddle nowadays to Cross Gates and Scholes, and it does not take kindly to it. Cross Gates is the most populous ward, and Scholes is the seat of government, and Barwick has to be content with its maypole!

Next time you travel on Church Lane at Manston spare a thought for the local residents who fought the “battle” at the end of the nineteenth century, without them your ride might not have been quite so smooth!



The Aberford Railway and the History of the Garforth Collieries – Graham S. Hudson. David & Charles 1971
A History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet in the County of York. F. S. Colman, M.A, Rector – Thoresby Society Vol. XVII 1908
Manston, Whitkirk and Seacroft Parish Magazine – Editions for March, April, June & July 1893
Skyrack Courier – 10th June 1910

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