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The Leeds Book of Days
By Margaret Drinkall
The History PressCopyright © 2013 Margaret Drinkall
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1870: On this date, the Leeds Express carried a report of an entertainment for the inmates of the Leeds workhouse and Industrial School, which was held on Thursday December 29th last. The report stated that: 'Through the kindness of Councillor and Mrs Whiting, the dining hall of the workhouse was filled with about 400 adults and 300 children. After a magnificent meal of roast beef and plum pudding, the son of Mr Whiting made his appearance in the guise of a veritable Father Christmas. Under his genial influence, three well imitated snow balls of immense size were transformed into baskets laden with toys for the children. This was a pleasing surprise to the young people of the workhouse and industrial school, every one of whom obtained a gift from so unexpected a source. The drum and fife band of the school performed a number of airs during the evening, which were very pleasing. Several members of the Leeds Board of Guardians including Mr Middleton (the chairman), Mr Ingram (the vice chair), Mr W.H. Conyers and others, were also present at the festivities. Mr Middleton gave thanks to Councillor and Mrs Whiting and to the master and matron of the workhouse, for their efforts in providing such a welcome treat'. (Leeds Express)
1872: The Leeds Mercury reported on an exhibition, by Mr Hardy Gillard, at the Leeds Music Hall. The show contained a panorama of the United States, on which the Mercury wrote, 'It differs greatly from similar entertainments as the object is of an educational character and the display is so well arranged and so new and faithful in details, that it is highly interesting as well as instructive. It opens the country from New York to the Golden Gate, taking the track of the Trans-Continental Railroad. In a series of carefully painted views, the spectator has placed before him a tolerably vivid view of the many topographical features of the country and of its industrial resources.' The report agrees with the descriptions furnished in such works as Mr Rae's Westward by Rail and the displays are 'supplemented, not only by a judicious lecture, but with a bird's eye view of the whole journey. The view itself measures 40ft by 8ft and supplies at a glance a splendid geographical representation of the country and of its railroads'. Mr Gillard stated that the performance would continue for the following two weeks before the panorama continued on at Wakefield. (Leeds Mercury)
1855: A short distance from Leeds Central Station, a serious accident occurred involving a Great Northern Railway train. A passenger carriage was thrown from a viaduct where it landed, 27ft below, onto a goods wagon. The accident was caused by some irregularities on the points, which threw the forward part of the train off the line. It was recorded that Robert Hall Esq., the Recorder of Doncaster and Deputy Recorder of Leeds, sustained serious injuries of the most extensive and dangerous nature. At the same time other passengers were injured, though, incredibly, not seriously. The carriage in which Mr Hall was seated was, unfortunately, the one which had been thrown over the viaduct. The carriage itself had been a complete wreck – the roof, sides, and ends being broken into splinters, and scattered in all directions, Mr Hall's injuries included a wound to the scalp, and severe bruising of the head. He also sustained fractures to the right arm, right thigh, left leg, and left forearm. The doctor who treated Mr Hall stated that 'he was lucky to have survived the accident'. At the York Assizes on July 21st, Mr Hall recovered £4,500 damages from the company. (Leeds Times)
1872: Printed in Fraser's Magazine was a criticism of a person at the Leeds parish church. An unnamed character, who regularly reported on his travels, stated that 'There is little time today to do more than hasten through crowded streets to see the outside of the parish church. I found the outer door open and penetrating into a vestry, where a very churlish person was turning over some music. A little door beyond him entered the church; and half a minute would have sufficed for him to open it and afford a glimpse of the interior. But the churlish person, in answer to a civil request, stated that it was not his business to show the church; and then went on turning over his music. On asked whether he was forbidden to show the church, he sulkily replied "yes". Of course there was nothing to do but retreat. If the statement was true, which I am bound to believe, the authorities of the parish church at Leeds may be esteemed as what some people call "a caution". Urging the authorities of the church to "deal" with this rogue summarily, in order that a better welcome is afforded to the traveller'. (Fraser's Magazine)
1870: It was reported in the Leeds Mercury, that the teachers of the Baptist Sunday School on York Road had invited the school's old scholars to tea: 'Upwards of 600 persons from the town and surrounding villages responded to the invitation. The schoolroom was specially decorated for the occasion, having in the centre a banner which stated in large characters:
A HEARTY WELCOME TO OLD SCHOLARS
After tea, half an hour was allowed for conversation and the shaking of hands, which was seen to be "long and continuous". Old faces that had not seen each other for fifteen, and in some cases upwards of twenty years, were brought together all around the room. There were even a few present who had been admitted as scholars the first morning the school was opened in 1843. After several speeches, Mr John Purchon, one of the founders of the school and one of the first superintendents, gave a few kind words of advice. He stated that "he was delighted to see some of his old pupils; and urged them always to remember the teachings of the school". This brought the meeting, one of the most interesting and longest to be remembered in the school room, to a close'. (Leeds Mercury)
1850: A man named Charles Culley and three young girls who had stolen for him, were brought into court. A custom house official stated that as he was walking down Duncan Street, he saw the three female prisoners standing in a court. One had a bundle under her arm, but on seeing him, dropped it and ran away, along with the other two girls. The bundle was found to contain eleven woollen mufflers which had been stolen. A detective found the girls in Culley's house on Hudson Street, and when the house was searched, other stolen goods were found. The oldest girl told him that the old man encouraged them to steal and to bring the goods to him in order to sell them on. One of the girls was only eight years of age yet, despite her young age, had been before the bench on seven different occasions and discharged because of her extreme youth. Her aunt, and a father of one of the other girls, told the court that the children were harboured in Culley's house and they could not be kept at home. The magistrate remarked that they were, no doubt, under the training of the old fellow and decided that the best thing to do was to send the whole of them to trial. (Leeds Mercury)
1866: A fatal accident occurred at the building site of the new infirmary, Leeds, which was, at the time, in the process of being erected. Six men were engaged in turning two arches in the portion of the building known as the Angle Tower, which was situated at the south-west corner. Three labourers arrived at the top almost simultaneously, and threw their loads of bricks heavily on to one of the centrepieces – it unexpectedly gave way, and threw four of the men to the bottom, a distance of about 20ft. The four men were found to be so severely injured that they were transported, at once, to the old infirmary, where they were promptly attended to by the surgeon, Mr Dale. One of the men, Bartholomew McGrail, was found to have received an acute fracture to the skull and was in the most dangerous condition. Another man named Peter Dean, had an abrasion on his chest and a broken leg. The third injured party, William Greetham, had received a scalp wound and contusions to various parts of his body. The fourth man, John Jackson, was treated for minor injuries and was able to return home. (Leeds Mercury)
1854: The family of Mr Longbottom of Hunslet were involved in a most extraordinary and mysterious occurrence. It appears that Longbottom's son, Thomas, had married on the previous Christmas Day. On the night of January 7th, the newlywed couple retired to bed about eleven o'clock, apparently on most friendly terms. The next morning, about seven o'clock, looking out of his window Mr Longbottom saw his daughter-in-law laid on the stone landing outside of the house, in a state of insensibility and in her nightdress, evidently having fallen from the chamber window which had been open. A search then began for the son, who was ultimately found drowned in the River Aire; also in his nightdress. When the wife had recovered sufficiently to give evidence before the coroner's jury, she stated that she could not remember how the accident had happened; that her memory was a complete blank from retiring to rest on the Saturday night the 7th of January, to Thursday morning following, when consciousness returned. It was later reported that the father of the same young man committed suicide on the night of May 30th 1859, by throwing himself down the shaft of his own pit at Hunslet. (Leeds Times)
1860: A Mr Radcliffe, the medical officer of health, brought to the attention of the Leeds Board of Guardians the alarming state of the workhouse. He stated that each week the workhouse became more and more overcrowded, and, as a consequence, was in a very unhealthy state. He told the guardians that, at that present time, there were 104 inmates and two dead bodies in the house. Of these, thirty-forty inmates were ill and, because of the overcrowding, there were one or two deaths daily. He urgently impressed upon the board the completion of the new workhouse as quickly as possible. Mr Thompson, the chair to the guardians, confirmed the statement, after which several on the board expressed their regret that they had not known this before – as they had only that day made orders for more persons to be admitted. Mr Thompson stated that it was quite clear that no more persons could now be admitted to the old workhouse. He then read the report of the building committee to the other members of the board, which stated that it was fully expected for the new workhouse to be completed around spring of that year. (Leeds Mercury)
1814: It was on this day that Leeds heard about the death of Mr Joseph Linsley, who, for more than thirty-four years, had been the master of the Leeds workhouse. It was said that he 'fulfilled that important though often unthankful office with infinite credit to himself and advantage to the town'. The benevolent, yet economical, guardian of the poor was often visited by the philanthropic Mr Howard, who wrote as follows: 'The poor of Leeds are well fed, and taken care of; indeed they, and the people at large, are happy in having a worthy and very honest man for the master of the workhouse, a Mr Linsley, who was formerly a manufacturer in the town. His temper and disposition, as well as those of his wife, seem peculiarly adapted to their charge; mildness and attention to the complaints of the meanest, joined with the firmness of manner, gain the respect of the respect of those who are placed under their care. I am at the same time convinced, by his open manner in showing me the books, that he transacts the business of the town with rectitude and economy'. (Leeds Mercury)
1856: The mayor convened a preliminary meeting today, for a group of local gentlemen – who later became known as the Nightingale Fund – with the view to commemorate, with a testimonial, the devoted, patriotic and laudable services of Miss Florence Nightingale, in the Eastern War. The mayor took the chair of the meeting, which was held at the Town Hall, to decide what course of proceedings to adopt with regards to the character of the testimonial. It was finally agreed that a committee would be formed in order to establish the variety of testimonial the people of Leeds would like to send to Miss Nightingale – as well as public subscriptions to be open at banks, and other public places, for the people of the town. One of the Aldermen, Mr Gott, stated that, 'The public minds were full of the heroism of Miss Nightingale and that the citizens of Leeds would be anxious as to show their appreciation'. A discussion then took place as to whether a public meeting should be called, but it was agreed that no point would be served and that the committee would decide what form the testimonial should take. (Leeds Express)
1832: On the evening of this date, there was a performance by the celebrated Paganini at the Leeds Music Hall. A reporter from the Leeds Mercury attended the concert and described the evening. He stated that Paganini delighted his audience and it was later said that 'there was something unearthly about him ... his face is on the whole agreeable, and his smile indicative of a great good nature'. The report stated that: 'We do not feel ourselves competent to speak of what may be termed as his miracles; we can admire his delightful harmonies, his cadences, his extraordinary dexterity, the more than musical sound of his fiddle. He can make it squeak and squall, and laugh and cry, and nearly speak. He can express mirth and sorrow, tragedy, comedy or farce. His performances were hailed with unbounded applause, but he declined to obey the cries of "encore".' Messrs Sykes & Son, who had brought the maestro Paganini's performance before the Leeds audiences, liberally donated £50 of the proceeds to the Leeds Poor Fund. At the end of the performance it was announced that the Great Signor himself, in a very magnificent gesture, had also gave twenty guineas to the same object. (Leeds Mercury)
1825: It was reported that an explosion had occurred at Middleton Colliery, near Leeds, at about 7 o'clock in the morning on this date. A bang as loud as a cannon was heard for miles around. Nearly all of the men who were working in the area of the explosion were killed, apart from a lucky few who were taken to the infirmary at approximately 2 a.m., but they were unable to give an account of the explosion themselves. It was thought that foul air collected in a space where the men were working, causing it to catch fire and explode. Upon investigation it was suggested that some of the men who were killed had neglected to cover the naked flame of their lamps and more injury was claimed by something called 'black damp'. There were ten men in a distant part of the pit who, although they had felt the effects of the shock, received no further injury apart from being knocked down by the violence of the explosion. It is thought that the number of men to have been killed was twenty-four, including a young boy only five years of age. The newspaper urged that a subscription be started in the neighbourhood, in order to alleviate the distress of the families from their losses. (Leeds Intelligencer)
1844: A man named George Nicholls of Pottery Field – who was taken into custody the previous week charged with having married three wives – was brought into court on this morning. The three women, who at the time of their marriage to Nicholls had all been widows, were also in court. The first wife, then Miss Sarah Illingworth, married Nicholls at Manchester parish church in the year 1830. They lived together as man and wife for only three months, at the end of which she left him, suffering from three broken ribs, and did not reside with him reside with him again. His second wife, Miss Elizabeth Brown, he married at Leeds parish church in July 1837. He lived with her for a month before leaving her; she had suspected at the time that he had another wife. They agreed to live together again at Churwell near Leeds, but they were not together long before she had him bound over to keep the peace. The third wife, Miss Sarah Holroyd, Nicholls married on July 31st the year before. The two previous wives had made acquaintance with each other in the past, and, meeting him on Leeds Bridge, they gave him into custody before finding out that a third wife had been involved. He was sent for trial at the next assizes, where he was sentenced to be transported for seven years. (Leeds Mercury)
1844: The state of the local streets was discussed in today's Leeds Mercury, which reported that: 'Since the thaw of the present week, the deep covering of black mud rendered the streets all but impassable. The quantity of ash from the engine furnaces used in repairing the roads, harmonize with the clouds of smoke from the chimneys of the same furnaces. This pours into the loaded atmosphere making a trial for the lungs as well as the tempers of its inhabitants'. The reporter requested that 'something be done to make the roads more passable'. (Leeds Mercury)
* * *
1873: During the destruction of some old buildings at Bramley, near Leeds, a curiosity in the shape of a 'witch's box' was found secreted on the top of an oaken beam in one of the buildings' roof. It was stated that the box was in a good state of preservation, neatly lined, and contained a rusty nail wrapped in a cotton wick and about half a dozen pins in an upright position, for the use of the witch. Behind the door of the house was nailed an old horse shoe, which was formerly considered to be a charm against witches. (Leeds Express)
Excerpted from The Leeds Book of Days by Margaret Drinkall. Copyright © 2013 Margaret Drinkall. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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