The effect on Scholes of the arrival of the railway. Back to the Main Historical Society page
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The effect on Scholes of the arrival of the railway.

From the Barwicker No. 99
September 2010

Scholes, like Barwick-in-Elmet, is largely a commuting village and had a head start on Barwick in this role because of the provision of public transport (railway) to the village well before Barwick acquired a bus service in the 1920's. We know that about 50 people commuted from Barwick using the train from Scholes (see The Barwicker No. 25) by walking along Rakebeck Lane. This article has been written to record the results of a search of the Scholes entries for the census in 1851, 1881 and 1901 which would show how Scholes was affected by the coming of the railway.

In 1851 before the railway was opened Scholes had only 25 houses and a population of 111. The main occupations of the inhabitants were associated with agriculture. There were 8 farmers and 23 agricultural labourers or sons and daughters of farmers, a total of 31 directly employed in agriculture. In addition there were two corn dealers who were reliant on agriculture. There was a button huckster (street trader or a hawker or pedlar), shoemaker, basket maker and a chimney sweep who would be reliant on a larger population than Scholes for their living. There was one coal miner who travelled to a pit out of Scholes. That makes a total of 7 out of 111 people who would have to travel from Scholes for their daily work. Scholes in 1851 could be described as a quiet farming hamlet. The wealth created from agriculture was almost the whole wealth of the population as few were receiving income from outside the hamlet.

In the late 1870's things started to change. The railway from Leeds to Wetherby which passed through Scholes opened in 1876. A station was built in Scholes. Land for a brickyard was acquired in 1876 and the yard opened shortly afterwards. For a fuller account of this period see The Barwicker No. 85, ‘The Leeds - Cross Gates - Wetherby Railway’ by Tony Cox.

In 1881, five years after the railway came and the brickyard was founded, there was a census. It shows us that in the thirty intervening years, the number of houses had grown by about a third to 34 and the population had increased by a quarter to 138. There were two houses under construction and the village now had a Chapel of Ease and a Wesleyan Chapel. In addition it had acquired a railway (and a station) and a brickyard. There were 5 farmers and 26 others employed in agriculture (the same total as thirty years earlier). There was one corn merchant and a mole catcher who depended on agriculture for a living but would have needed to cover a larger area than Scholes to have an economic return for their work. Others who would have depended on travelling to other places for their work were a cooper, a basket maker, and a boot riveter; these may have used the railway to travel but it would only be for short, occasional journeys. As in 1851, there was just one inhabitant who was a coal miner. The village had acquired a carpenter, a wheelwright and a blacksmith.

Five people living in Scholes were employed by the railway. None of them were born in the village although all were born in Yorkshire. Only two residents worked at the brickworks; one was James Chippendale, aged 27 from Leeds, described as Brick Manufacturer and the other was Charles Dunwell, aged 26 from Hopperton, who is described as Manager of the Brickworks. This is perplexing for one would expect some labourers or other employees to have lived locally. It appears that there were ‘chiefs but no Indians’. It might be that the brickworks had not started production by 1881.

In the 1881 census there was one person describing her position as “Annuitant” and another as “Dependent on Properties.” It is possible that in spite of the creation of industrial infrastructure, there was a recession for one house was empty, one head of household did not declare any occupation and three women normally in domestic service are listed as unemployed.

There are no signs of an early growth of commuting nor a large scale diversion of wealth creation towards industry from agriculture. There were signs of predicted expansion from the construction of houses and places of worship. However, Scholes remained a small village highly dependent on agriculture. In 1901 there were 45 houses occupied in Scholes (one third more than in 1881) and the population had grown by a quarter to 179. Occupations included 6 employed by the railway company and 5 by the brickyard. Farming was still a major employer but much less so than in 1881. There were four farms (one fewer than in 1881) and 9 others worked on them (one third of those employed 30 years before).

The village supported 13 employed on mostly local work :- It was also home to 11 people who were either retired or ‘living on own means’.

There were 19 people working out of area involving commuting or regular travel: So by 1901 the village was more reliant on work outside the community than on local employment. Of the 19, only 5 were born in Scholes or Barwick-in-Elmet. The rest were from elsewhere. Their jobs would mostly be in Leeds and involve commuting. Did they use the train to get to work? We will never know but there were no bus services to compete with the train and they were not the type of jobs which could support the daily use of horses and carriages (and the associated stabling costs). It is interesting to note that the commuters were not employed in particularly well paid jobs but they were, on the whole, genteel occupations requiring them to wear a suit rather than an overall.

It can be seen that the Scholes of 1901 was quite different from the farming hamlet of fifty years previously. It had risen from a hamlet of 111 people living in 25 houses to a commuter village of 179 people in nearly twice as many houses. It was quite small however when compared to the Scholes of 2001.

The big expansion of Scholes started after 1901 when it was possible to cycle to Cross Gates to catch the newly installed tram into Leeds and particularly after 1920 when bus services were introduced and again in the 1960's when the railway was closed and cars increasingly were used by commuters. It seems that the railways had only a small role in the expansion of Scholes.


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