Houses of Interest: West Yorkshire

For more Yorkshire 'related stuff' you can find North Yorkshire hereSouth Yorkshire here,  East Riding here.

See also the Rupert Travelogue entry for Yorkshire, and the entry for Adwalton Moor

Oakwell Hall  was the inspiration for Charlotte Brontë's Fieldhead in "Shirley". More recently it has been used a number of times as a film set, including "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell".

Located close to the M62 and the Leeds branch of purgatory on Earth (aka Ikea), this Tudor manor house is beautifully maintained by Kirklees Borough Council.

The hall is presented as a seventeenth century home. I really like this approach, as so often historic houses have different rooms decorated for different eras, so it is really nice to see a house presented from one era in it's entirety.

Oakwell was in the ownership of the Batt family, who supported the King; John Batt was a captain and most probably fought at Adwalton Moor. The retreating Parliamentarian troops passed along Warren Lane (adjacent to the house) after the battle.

After the Royalist defeat at Marston Moor, John Batt surrendered the house to Black Tom in order to keep his family safe. John paid a fine of £364 to reclaim the estate in 1649.

What's there today?
As I have already mentioned, the whole house is presented as a seventeenth century residence.

One room documents the whole history of the house and has some cannon balls and musket shot from Adwalton Moor on display.

Another room, has a number of period costumes for you to try on; it also shows the construction of the building off nicely.

A fine portrait of Newcastle hangs in one of the rooms.

There is a beautifully maintained  walled garden, and the remainder of the estate is laid out as a nature reserve with a number of trails.

Of course there is a tea room (this is Yorkshire, it's a tea room not a café!) and gift shop.

The ECWS have assisted the Council with the Hall, and there are some Civil War themed gates into the shop and function room courtyard: resplendent with helmets, swords and breastplates.

Leeds Central Library has a number of Civil War Tracts in their collection. They produce a downloadable leaflet  which lists the manuscripts, and how to access them. 

Leeds University has a number of tracts, manuscripts and artefacts from the wars in its Brotherton Collection - the latest acquisition is an anthology of plays. A 1647 edition of Beaumont and Fletcher 'Comedies and Tragedies', that belonged to Charles II. The University plans to put the volume on display in their gallery at a future date.

Astronomer William Gascoigne's home in Leeds is commemorated with a blue plaque on the side of a corner shop. He was commissioned as an officer in the King's Army, falling in battle at Marston Moor. Gascoigne invented a micrometer, which allowed accurate astronomical measurement until recent times.

Temple Newsam was purchased in 1922 by the enlightened councillors of Leeds City Council, providing Leeds residents with an enormous green lung for the city. Temple Newsam was originally built sometime in the C11th, it is most famous for being the home of Lord Darnley (aka Mr Mary Queen of Scots). 

The current house owes its appearance to the significant remodelling started in 1622 by its new owner Sir Arthur Ingram. Prior to the immediate outbreak of the First Civil War King Charles and his family would reside briefly at Temple Newsam. It is believed that Sir Arthur died in York in 1642, his eldest son (also helpfully called Sir Arthur) would inherit the property and declare for the King. Interestingly Sir Arthur junior's second wife was Thomas Fairfax's second daughter Katherine. One of Sir Arthur junior's brothers would declare for Parliament - this really was a family by the sword divided. Sir Arthur junior would join the court in exile.

Lord Percy

In 1649, Sir Arthur junior was declared delinquent, he compounded his estates and would retire to Temple Newsam.

I approve

What's there now?
Much of the original contents of the house were sold off prior to 1920, but it has been refurnished and decorated from Leeds City Council's collection. There are a number of portraits of Charles I & II, Cromwell, Lord Percy, and a number of 30 Years Wars battle scenes by Antonio Marini. On the long corridor there is a beautiful Toft charger of Charles II hiding in the Boscobel oak. 

Temple Newsam can also claim to be the true home of tea in Yorkshire: a bill for several bottles of 'China drink' (i.e. tea) is included in the house accounts for the 1640s, and is one of the oldest British references to tea known.

12 Ivegate in Bradford was the site of a house that served as Fairfax's headquarters during the siege of Bradford.

Whilst in Bradford, take a visit to St Peter's Cathedral on Stott Hill where there is a plaque commemorating the sieges of Bradford.

Slightly closer to Chateau KeepYourPowderDry are Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall: which was the site of a battle in November 1643. Heptonstall was a Parliamentarian garrison, and nearby Halifax was for the King. 

Sir Francis Mackworth gathered his Royalist force in Hebden Bridge close to the medieval packhorse bridge (which is still in use), the River Hebden was in flood at the time. 

The Parliamentarian defenders, numbering about 800 men under the command of Colonel Bradshaw, knew the terrain well and used it to their advantage.  From the bridge in Hebden the Royalists approached Heptonstall via the lung busting steep road called The Buttress. Bradshaw's men had set a number of traps along the The Buttress, so when Mackworth's troops advanced rocks and boulders rained down on them. Needless to say they fled in terror, with the Parliamentarians in hot pursuit; many would perish in the swollen river. 

One of Parliament's men, Samuel Priestly, is recorded as spotting a wounded Royalist in the river, and went into the river to rescue the man. Sadly Samuel would die later in the month from the chill he got from the soaking.

There are a number of car parks in Hebden Bridge, the town can get very busy, so be prepared to visit a few. The packhorse bridge is still there, and The Buttress leads up to Heptonstall for the very adventurous. Sensible people will drive there, or catch the bus. 

The village is very small with narrow lanes, please follow the signs to visitor parking as there is no parking in the village. Heptonstall is 'very touristy', and rightly so: perched on top of the hill it boasts magnificent views. There is a small museum which has/had a display about the battle: unfortunately the museum fell victim to cuts, but a Friends Group has taken over and hopes to reopen it soon. 

The museum is located in the old grammar school building which dates from just before the Wars.

Carrying on down the footpath will bring you to the churches. The ruin of the old church is imposing, and witnessed the events of 1643. It was abandoned by the Victorians who built an equally imposing church next door. Take care when visiting the very uneven churchyard, which is said to be the last resting place for 100,000 souls. (If you want to find Sylvia Plath's grave, it is in the new graveyard. Find the central 'round garden bit' and it is to your left as you face up hill - quite easy to spot, it has become a bit of a shrine.)

Pontefract Castle was a Royalist stronghold, and would be besieged three times. The first siege (December 1644 – early March 1645) saw the castle undermined and bombarded: the Pier Tower collapsed as a result, but the siege would be lifted when Langdale arrived with the Northern Horse. The siege would resume a few days later, the garrison surrendering on hearing the news from Naseby in June.

This display board explains that the kitchens were possibly utilised as a mint for siege coins

A display of replica uniforms in the visitor centre

The Piper Tower: look carefully and you can see three cannonball impact craters in a line (a clue: find the one in the central one in the recess first, there's one on either side)

Parliament’s men would garrison the Castle, until June 1648, when Royalists took over the Castle by stealth rather than a show of arms. November 1648 the Castle would be besieged by the New Modelled Army; which saw tales of intrigue and murder (see the Doncaster entries in Houses of Interest:South Yorkshire)

The Castle would eventually surrender in March 1649 (after the execution of Charles), and it would be ordered to be slighted not long after.

What’s there now?
The Castle is beautifully cared for by the local council. Free to enter, there is visitor centre and café. The visitor centre has a number of artefacts found in the Castle grounds. It is possible to visit the castle’s dungeons (for which there is a charge) but only at weekends and on bank holidays. There is some graffiti dating from the Civil War visible in the dungeon. There is a guided tour app which is free to download. Signage and interpretation boards uses a Civil War theme throughout.

All Saint's Church is situated below Pontefract Castle. There was fierce fighting in the church and churchyard during the first siege. The church suffered extensive damage with 60 18lb cannonballs being fired on it in just one day from a battery at Monkhill. When the siege was renewed, earthworks were constructed around the castle and the church to restrict the Royalist defenders. 

In June, the Parliamentarian forces took the church. The soldiers began stripping the church of resources, pillaging the church of lead, iron and wood. By 1649, the church was roofless and a ruin. The church has been partially repaired and is still in use today, but the ‘body’ of the battle scared church is still a ruin.

An engagement took place at Chequerfield on 1st March 1645 involving Langdale’s relief force: the besiegers took their eye off the castle to confront Langdale, but were beaten when the castle’s garrison ventured out to attack them from the rear.

The Chequerfield battlefield has been lost under development. There is no visible evidence or memorial marking the events that took place here.

Pontefract Museum has a number of Civil War related items on display, most notably the Ackworth hoard.

Pontefract Castle by Alexander Keirincx, commissioned by Charles I in 1639/40

Part of the Ackworth Hoard

Colonel John Bright's armour...

...and sword

Not often you see a cabasset

Battle of Seacroft Moor, 30th March 1643. The Fairfaxes (both father and son) had been engaged in a war of manoeuvres with Newcastle’s Royalist forces in early 1643. Sir Thomas found himself returning to Leeds from Tadcaster when he was met by a cavalry heavy force led by Goring. Thomas’s men were predominantly clubmen, rather than conventionally equipped soldiers. Goring’s cavalry repeatedly attacked the tail of Fairfax’s column; the men were in some disarray when Goring’s men openly attacked at Seacroft. The Parliamentarian’s took a drumming, some 200 fell, and 800 were taken prisoner.

The view towards the A64 from Langbar Close (a sneaky bit of scrambling/trespassing across Cock Beck afford you this view)

What’s there now?
The name ‘Seacroft Moor’ causes us a few problems as there was/is no such place as ‘Seacroft Moor’; our knowledge of the battle relies heavily upon Sir Thomas Fairfax’s account, and he was no local. We do know that he was marching his men from Tadcaster towards Leeds, along a route that is more or less the route of the modern A64. We know that his army had passed through Bramham Moor, so the clues are pointing to Whinmoor Moor, which is/was close to Seacroft. Another contemporary report has Cock Beck being turned red with the blood of the fallen. It is more than likely that the farmland to the south of the A64, where it crosses Grimes Dyke, towards Scholes is the location of the battle. Until there is an archaeological survey of the area, sadly we shall not know for certain. There are no battlefield markers (not surprisingly), nor anything else to remind us of the slaughter that took place here. The road is phenomenally busy and fast, possibly one to view from satellite imagery on the internet. A footpath runs alongside Cock Beck, accessible from Langbar Close LS14 5EB.

Cock Beck

Howley Hall: the Parliamentarian command met at Howley Hall to plan an attack on Wakefield (in response to the debacle at Seacroft Moor) in May 1643.

In response to the Wakefield attack, Royalist forces would march to take Bradford a month later. On route, to prevent the Howley garrison launching a rearguard action, they laid siege to the Hall; the building somehow survived relatively unscathed.

The Royalists would eventually be met by Ferdinando Fairfax, who unsuccessfully attempted to head-off the Bradford assault, at Adwalton Moor (see here )

What’s there now?
The Hall fell into disrepair in the eighteenth century and is now a ruin, situated on the edge of Howley Hall Golf Club. The atmospheric (blink and you’ll miss them) ruins can be accessed by a footpath from Howley Mill Lane. Under no circumstances, believe the information on the Discover Leeds website that states that you can park close to the path on Howley Mill Lane. The locals have gone to very great lengths to ensure that you can’t park here. I can't stress this enough, trust me, there is no parking available on Howley Mill Lane (or turning space if you are foolish enough to think 'I wonder if it has changed, we'll just go and have a look'). The postcode I have given gets you to Howley Mill Lane, you’ll have to park on the road wherever you decide it is safe to do so. I parked on Batley Field Hill, not too far away.
Battle of Wakefield, 21st May 1643. Wakefield was a Royalist garrison town; the commander of the garrison, was Lord George Goring. On the 20th May Goring and his officers had been entertained by Dame Mary Bolles at Heath Hall, to the east of the town. While playing bowls and other games, the Royalists "drank so freely... as to be incapable of properly attending to the defence of the town". Goring, himself, had a reputation for being a heavy drinker. Some claim that the illness that confined Goring to his bed, on the day of battle, was a ‘fever’, which sounds like an excuse a younger me used to deny having a hangover. Whether it was ‘fever’ or ‘hangover’ is irrelevant, the garrison had no effective command or leadership at the time of the assault. 

Heath Hall, scene of 'the bowling'

Late on the 20th Thomas Fairfax led his force (1500 men) from Howley Hall towards Wakefield; he was unaware of the strength of the town’s garrison (nearly 3000 men). In the small hours of the 21st they engaged, and overcame a Royalist outpost at Stanley, arriving at Wakefield at about 4am. Wakefield’s defences were sufficient to concentrate fighting on the road ways into the town.

Fairfax would split his force and attack down Northgate and Warrengate. The attack on Warrengate would be the turning point: Fairfax’s men captured an artillery piece intact, turning it on the defenders. This opened up a large enough entry point for his cavalry. This cannon would be moved to All Saints Church (now Wakefield Cathedral) to fire upon the men defending the market place. They would be offered the chance to surrender, but initially refused. Heavy fire from the cannon and musket quickly helping them change their mind.

What’s there now?
Needless to say the battlefield has been lost to development. 

All Saints Church has been promoted to be Wakefield Cathedral, it would suffer considerable damage during the Commonwealth.

The Elizabethan Gallery is one of the few surviving buildings from the period.

The Elizabethan Gallery

Both Northgate and Warrengate have been redeveloped, they mostly follow the same routes that existed in C17th. The market place has been built over and has been rebranded as the ‘market quarter’.


The view up Warrengate towards the Cathedral

Wakefield Museum has a small number of artefacts on display (and some really grumpy rude security people): a window from Heath Hall, and a few fragments from swords and armour recovered from Sandal Castle.

Old Heath Hall glass


The remains of swords

Sandal Castle, on the outskirts of Wakefield was by passed by Fairfax’s men during the battle. The castle was a ruin, but had its defences bolstered by earthworks. It was garrisoned by about 90 men. The castle would be besieged twice during 1645, before it eventually surrendered in October of that year.

A bastion earthwork built to house cannon, which were never delivered

East Riddlesden Hall, on the outskirts of Keighley, is another Yorkshire Hall in the same vein as Bolling and Oakwell. 

The south front of East Riddleston

Cared for by the National Trust, the Hall is tucked away on the edge of a housing estate. The current Hall was built in 1642 by Royalist sympathiser, James Murgatroyd, a Halifax merchant. The Hall is mostly presented as it would have appeared in the C17th.

The Great Hall

Embroidery of the marriage of Charles and Henrietta Maria

In the great hall there are a number of pieces of military hardware on display above the fireplace; whilst initially piquing my interest, they are all of Victorian or Georgian origin. The helmet is a Victorian monstrosity made to look like a three bar English pot, and failing miserably.

Purists look away from the helmet - the stuff of nightmares!

Hidden throughout the house are a number of carvings which express Murgatroyd's loyalty to the crown.

Charles I?

Charles I and Henrietta Maria, Vive le Roi (on what is now the shop/cafe building)

Murgatroyd's estate was confiscated during the Commonwealth and the family had to pay a heavy fine for its return. This may well account why the Hall is unfinished.


Postcodes for SatNavs

Oakwell Hall WF17 9LG

Leeds Central Library, Calverley Street LS1 3AB
Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, University of Leeds LS2 9JT
(site of) Gascoigne's Home 10 Town St, Belle Isle LS10 3PN
Temple Newsam, Leeds LS15 0AE

12 Ivegate, Bradford BD1 1RJ
St Peter's Cathedral, Bradford BD1 4EH

Station Road Car Park, Hebden Bridge HX7 8AU
Visitor Parking (Bowling Green Car Park), Heptonstall HX7 7LT

Pontefract Castle WF8 1QH
All Saints Church, Pontefract WF8 2JL
Pontefract Museum, Pontefract WF8 1BA
Chequerfield, The Circle WF8 2AY

Seacroft Moor: A64 York Road LS14 2BL
Seacroft Moor: Langbar Close LS14 5EB

Howley Hall Ruins, access from Howley Mill Lane WF17 0BL

Wakefield Museum, Mulberry way WF1 2UP
Wakefield Cathedral, Northgate WF1 1PJ
Northgate WF1 3AY
Warrengate WF1 1SA
Elizabethan Gallery, Brooke Street WF1 1QW
Sandal Castle Manygates Lane, WF2 7DS

East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley BD20 5EL

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  1. Most excellent as ever. I sense a few scenic day trips into the summer. Mrs McH will be pleased...

    1. Thank you Dex. I'd recommend Adwalton/Oakwell/Bolling; Pontefract; maybe tack Sandal Castle onto a trip to the RA in Leeds; Hebden/Heptonstall; as separate days out. Quite a few places aren't really worth the effort unless you are local/in the area with an hour to spare.

  2. Nice work as ever. Google Maps, such a useful tool to accompany.


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