Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Marshland, Howden and Goole Grammar sports

Looking out of the window it is a lovely bright, sunny day but once outside it is obvious that there is a cold northerly wind - one of those lazy ones which goes straight through you. So back to winter coats. As for the garden I think growth has stopped as plants adapt to a coating of hail. So it's a good time to cook a lamb stew in the slow cooker and catch up with inside jobs.

Last night I gave a talk to the Marshland Local History group who meet in Swinefleet village hall. They are good friends and so the atmosphere was relaxed. I talked about Howden and was fascinated to listen to the memories of a 90 year old lady who had been brought up in the town.

She remembered living down Thorpe Road, taking an old pram to the Co-op down Churchside first thing in the morning to collect her mother's groceries [her mother always shopped at the Co-op so she could get her 'divi'] and then walking home. She then walked to school which was where the health centre is now, walked home again for her dinner, back to school and then home again after school.

Later, when the family moved into the middle of Howden, it was her job in wartime to deliver the Hull Daily Mail to the many evacuees from Hull who lived in the rooms above the shops in Market Place. They wanted to read the lists of names of those killed in the bombing the previous night - hoping not to see names of friends and relatives.

I bought a copy of the Marshland group's latest publication on the history of Ousefleet. It is very interesting.

The Howden Heritage centre is now open and we are beginning to accept donations. We have ordered copies of the Monumental inscriptions for the local churchyards. I know I get a lot of queries in summer as visitors visit local churchyards looking for ancestors.

Finally I am sorting my old pictures and wondered if anyone could identify these pupils who are pictured in the field at the rear of what was then Goole Grammar School.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Howden heritage centre

Friday sees the opening of the new Howden Heritage Centre in what was the old HSBC bank in Howden Market Place. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Philip Mepham a small team has worked hard to transform the ground floor interior  from bank into heritage centre.

I have been involved in the production of a set of poster sized display boards and am loaning items from my own small museum collection. Ken Deacon has a display about the airship R100, built at Howden. So we hope to see a good crowd at 12.30 to look at old pictures and other displays about the history of the town.  Once open the centre will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 11am to 3pm.

Last Friday  afternoon I gave a second presentation in the Manor House about the history of The Ashes Playing Fields. It was very well attended - no doubt the lovely free tea and cakes helped draw the crowds -  not everyone who came could actually get in. Some stood along the walls but it was lovely to see so many people interested in Howden's history.

In between history projects we have been working in the garden. The daffodils are just finishing but the turnip seeds in the raised bed have germinated, the potatoes are showing and courgette and tomato seeds in the greenhouse are doing well.

The bees have come safely through the winter and  we are hoping for a good honey crop. But perhaps best of all are our chickens, laying as many eggs as we can eat, sell and give away to friends.  We have noticed that the chickens enjoy pecking around the hives and a bit of internet research suggests that this can be a good thing as they peck up dead bees and other detritus. Not sure yet whether chickens get stung!

A 1970s view of High bridge and the United Carriers depot taken from the church tower.

The Midland Bank, later HSBC and from Friday the home of the town's heritage centre.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Charles Briggs of Howden

Almost a month has passed since I last wrote here and a lot has happened in between. The snowdrops are now dying off and being replaced by daffodils. The bees are flying and seem to be  particularly enjoying the hellebores which apparently provide nectar for them at a time when little else is in bloom. Daffodils, I understand are too highly bred to provide much food for the bees but I have several varieties and will watch to see if the bees go on any of them. Looking forward to lots of honey this year.

 I am looking forward too to spending some time outside in the garden but it has been very busy on the history front. Last week I gave my presentation in Howden Manor House about its history and the history of The Ashes Playing field. It was a lovely evening - it rained but the atmosphere was friendly and the wine and cheese was popular.

 Towards the end of the talk, when I showed pictures of local people playing cricket, tennis and bowls and of Howden show, they stirred lots of memories. Although perhaps the picture which stirred most memories was one of the giant slide which I was assured was 40 feet high. I only went down it once as the climb up was quite frightening.

Here is the slide. Does anyone recognise the boys?

I am pleased to say that The Ashes Trust has asked me to give the talk again as several people have said that they would have liked to have heard it but did not want to come out on a dark, wet evening. So, if you are interested it will be on Friday 7th April in the afternoon. I am not sure of the timing as yet.

While researching the Ashes story I looked into the background of Charles Briggs who was the local benefactor who gave Howden the manor house, the Ashes and the Shire hall. I knew that he was born in Hailgate where his father ran a brewery. I had assumed that this was where he obtained the funds to give his gifts to Howden.

But I was wrong and am still finding out more about him. I think he and his brothers and sisters inherited property but he and one of his brothers were also civil engineers in the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa.

Charles was the last surviving member of the large Briggs family and there were no descendants so  he left his fortune to Howden. He loved his native town and would, I think, be pleased that there is now a street named after him.

Charles Briggs

Sunday, 12 February 2017


It is now February- but one of the coldest weekends of the winter so far. There is a cold wind and it is raining and dark. We have not seen the sun for some days but I suppose this winter has not seen heavy snow and lingering frosts - so we must be grateful.

Our snowdrops in the garden are putting on a brave show this year. I have tried to identify the variety from pictures on the internet but there are too many to choose from!

It is definitely a time to keep the Rayburn going and work on local history.  I have been looking at the histories of two houses in Eastrington and Newport.  I think that the Newport house, known today as Newport Grange, was once the home of  James MacTurk  and then his son in law Thomas Moss.

James MacTurk was one of three Scottish brothers who came to Yorkshire to work on digging the Market Weighton canal in the 1770s. Where the canal crossed the Cave Causeway beds of clay were found and this led to the growth of a brick and tile making settlement. James probably built the Turk's Head inn and was certainly the first landlord. His brother moved to South Cave and it was his son who was the doctor who attended Branwell Bronte.

Thomas Moss married James' daughter and they lived at Newport Grange. It is believed - but not proven - that their son, another Thomas was transported to Australia after stealing a sheep from a field near Hull. He and his accomplice hid the sheep's head, which had identifying marks on it, under a heap of coal where it was easily found by  a policeman!

Other projects I am working on are the family background of William Hamond Bartholomew and a Goole lady who owned a stone quarry.

And of course I am preparing for a talk on 28th February on the history of The Ashes Playing Field in Howden. It will be at 7pm in the Manor House and will launch the Ashes Sharing Heritage Project.

Bowling in The Ashes
I would be pleased to know the names of these gentlemen and also to have any more pictures to use in the talk. If you do have any please contact me through my website [ Images sent through Facebook are a bit blurry for projecting at a large size].

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Howden church history

 It is a grey time of year but at least we were not flooded on Friday 13th. We received a flood warning from the Environment Agency and  went out to check the high tide on Friday evening but the Ouse was firmly where it should be.

I am often asked why half of Howden church is in ruins - was it Cromwell? was it a fire? I recently listened to a local radio discussion on this very subject where various theories were suggested so I thought it was maybe time to try to answer the question - although briefly.

There was a church at Howden in Anglo Saxon times and it is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. We know little about it although it is said that some of the stones from an earlier building were re-used in the present church.

Howden was given to the Bishops of Durham by William the Conqueror. In 1267 the church became collegiate which meant that many more priests were involved and more money was available. So a new church was begun. One of the priests, John of Howden [the prebendary of Howden and a former adviser to Queen Eleanor], foretold that what he had begun during his life he would complete after his death.

This prophecy came true a few years later when a miracle took place at his funeral Mass - he sat up in his coffin. The nave and chancel were soon completed but so many pilgrims flocked to John's tomb in the church that their offerings enabled the original roof of the church to be heightened only 50 years after it was built. Both rooflines can be seen from Howden market place.
Howden honours John with a street named after him - even though he was never officially a saint he was known as one.

You can see the two rooflines of the choir  on the tower

But in the sixteenth century King Henry the Eighth broke from Rome and in the rearrangements that followed Howden church lost its source of wealth and became an ordinary parish church. The people of Howden who were responsible for, and worshipped in the nave applied in 1609 to close off the choir  as the tithe owners who had been granted the income previously used by the Prior of Durham to maintain it were not doing so. Both nave and choir roofs leaked and so Howden parishioners took lead off the choir to make their bit of the church waterproof.

There is a story that Parliamentarian solders on the way to Selby in 1644 stabled their horses in the nave, destroyed the new organ and carried off the pipes, blowing them as that passed by Wressle castle. This event was dramatised in a nineteenth century work of fiction but the basic story may well be true.

Meanwhile the weather did its work, water poured in and first the choir [1696] and then the chapter house [1750]  roofs collapsed. That is why we have the beautiful ruins today. It was not deliberate, it was not the work of Cromwell, nor the result of a fire.

Little was done to conserve the ruins until Victorian times when iron bars were used to strengthen the stonework. The nave was re- roofed in the 1850s and the tower floors removed.

In retrospect this was unfortunate as in 1929 the tower was set on fire and the flames quickly went straight up like a torch to the top of the tower and destroyed the ringing chamber, bringing the bells crashing to the ground.

Howden church tower on fire

Bostock and Wombwell's visiting circus was parked around the Market Cross and the wagons had to be quickly moved. They including caged lions and keepers walked alongside them carrying guns

The fire was  started by a gullible farmworker who was was persuaded by a disgruntled and recently sacked fair worker to set the church on fire.

The tower was badly damaged and  took three years to repair.

In 1971 the ruined part of the church was taken into the guardianship of English Heritage and the chapter house was reproofed in 1984.

This is a very  short summary but I hope it explains something of our church history.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Howden in the Middle Ages

Tomorrow my WEA history of Howden class restarts after the Christmas break and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again. We are beginning by looking at the history of Howden church.
So it seems appropriate to put here a link to a new website created by a member of the group.

The history of Howden in the Middle ages is both fascinating and upto now not as easy to read about as it might be. This new website, which is a work in progress, seeks to remedy this.

New members who are interested in the history of Howden are welcome to join the group. Send me a message through my website for details.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Year's Day meet at Howden

So it's 2017 and almost time to take down the tree.  We enjoyed our turkey and watched fireworks over the river on New Year's Eve. The chickens are still not roosting properly and not laying particularly well but seem happy and are eating all the scraps as we clear the fridge after the holiday.

It's back to local history too as I research the whereabouts and history of Thorntoft[s] near Yokefleet. It was a medieval settlement with possibly its own chapel. Also I am researching the history of The Ashes Playing Field in Howden in preparation for a talk I am giving in February.

But I took time out on Monday to watch the  NewYear's Day meet in Howden Market  Place - not actually on New Year's Day as it was a Sunday. Large crowds gathered and we saw several friends.

[ after several queries I am clarifying that although the York and Ainsty South often did meet at Howden earlier in the twentieth century I believe that  the  New Year's Day meet  that took place on Monday is a more recent tradition - maybe of around 10 years!]

I found this picture from Edwardian times.

Compare the view above with the video I took  of yesterday's event. Some buildings have been demolished and rebuilt - but otherwise the event was very similar.


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