Village signs

Village signs come in all shapes and sizes.  There are the ubiquitous simple road-side notices telling you the name of the community you are entering (not to be confused with boundary stones, being rarely on the actual boundary).  And then there are the big round yellow signs put up by motoring organisations (mainly the AA) in village centres a century or so ago, many of which survive.

There is, however, a growing trend for local communities to show off their village with large attractive signs, illustrative of interesting or historical features of the place.  “Village signs” is sometimes hardly an adequate term for what are often little works of art. 

To promote and record these the Village Sign Society (www.villagesignsociety.org.uk) was founded in 1999.  Perhaps originally an East Anglian phenomenon (Norfolk has the most), they have recorded over 5,000 across the country, and over 200 in Yorkshire.

The sign pictured here, at Millhouse Green, on the Barnsley-Manchester road near Penistone, is typical of recent, more elaborate signs.  It was designed and made by local businessman Nigel Tyas and sculptor Jim Milner (www.jimmilnersculpture.co.uk), and unveiled at the village’s Jubilee Fete in 2012.  Featuring a typical local scene it also has the logo of the village community association, designed by pupils of the village school.

RWH / Nov 2020

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IWB: 19th century engineer and graffitist

Isaac Watt Boulton was born in 1823 in Stockport, and allegedly related to the more famous Boulton family, Matthew (1728-1809) having manufactured steam engines in partnership with James Watt.  Living in Ashton, Isaac built and repaired steam engines of various kinds, and was the inventor of patent block wheels for traction engines and a pioneer of narrow-gauge railways.  He started to hire out railway locomotives, constructing in 1864 Boulton’s Siding, alongside the Oldham branch of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway.  This lasted until 1898, the year before he died, a lauded local worthy, a JP and an alderman.

What, you may ask, has this to do with milestones and waymarkers?  Well, Isaac was a passionate believer in fresh air and free access to the countryside.  He was a keen rambler, an authority on the Peak District, and campaigner for public access to ancient paths over Kinder Scout – half a century before the famous “mass trespass”.  Rambling was his great recreation, and there were few things that pleased him better than the suggestion of a good walk over the moors.  He also operated the first pleasure-boat on Hollingworth Lake, which he was convinced could be made into a pleasure resort.

In May 1893 the Ashton-under-Lyne Herald published an article from IWB describing a walk done the previous weekend “that may help some of your younger readers who believe in walking as a healthy exercise and are anxiously looking forward to the Whitsuntide weekend for the purpose of going on a long tramp over mountains and moorland.”  He travelled by train to Woodhead, arriving at 8 am, and breakfasted on “oatcakes off the flake, fresh butter and a glass of beer” whilst chatting with “the genial landlady” of the Millers Arms at Saltersbrook – now long gone. 

He left his mark on the district in ways we would not approve of now, and the initials IWB can be found carved (sometimes quite crudely) in several places in the district.  Opposite the ruins of the Millers Arms against the wall can be seen a milestone inscribed IWB.  On the old saltway, this milestone, the last in Yorkshire (or the first if coming from Cheshire), marks the halfway point between Rotherham and Manchester – 21 miles each way.  The stone is very eroded, but the original inscription was to “Wortley XII Miles Rotherham XXI Miles”. The initials IWB can just be made out at the bottom of the photograph (above right).

Two miles west of this, on the same old saltway, north of the present A628, the 19 miles to Manchester stone has been incorporated into a wall; it also bears the initials IWB – pictured left.  Originally in Cheshire, this is now Derbyshire.

The Lady Cross

Nearer Rotherham on the same track, now south of the A628, is the Lady Cross.  Its exact date is uncertain, but it is referred to in documents from the early part of the 16th Century.  It stands on the eastern edge of the manorial lands of Glossop, and will also have acted as a marker to indicate the direction of the track over what was a featureless landscape.  The initials IWB are clearly visible on the base.  Nearly a mile further south, near Dean Head Stones, just over the county boundary, a tapered stone also bears his initials.

Sources: Stocksbridge & District History Society; Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History; obituary of Boulton from an un-named and undated newspaper cutting made available by the New Mills History Society at www.newmillshistory.org.uk/sbook/sbook1_001.pdf

RWH / October 2020

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Some Yorkshire bridges

Wakefield’s mediaeval bridge and chantry chapel. The nine-arched bridge, over the River Calder, was built between 1342 and 1356, when the chapel was also consecrated. The new bridge was built alongside in 1929-30.
Marsden’s Eastergate packhorse bridge, on an old route to Rochdale. The original bridge would not have had walls, or the horses’ packs would not have got through.
Aldwark toll-bridge: one of a small number of old toll-bridges surviving in the UK. It is the only crossing of the River Ure between York and Boroughbridge, connecting the villages of Aldwark (in the old North Riding) and Great and Little Ouseburn (in the old West Riding). It was built in 1772 by John Thomson, who had formerly ferried people across in a rowing-boat: he obtained a private Act of Parliament to build the bridge. It’s quite scary crossing it, but well worth the 40p it now costs – though the toll-collector is said to go home at 7.30 pm.
North Bridge, Halifax: a magnificent cast-iron Victorian gothic structure built in 1869 over the rather insubstantial Hebble Brook (and the railway).
Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge, completed in 1911.
Scammonden Bridge: photo taken in 1970, when the M62 in a huge cutting below was still under construction.
The Humber Bridge, from the Barton-on-Humber side; opened in 1981. Photograph on Geograph: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © David Wright  https://www.geograph.org.uk/browser/#!/q=humber+bridge/image=263502

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A milestone on an East Riding war memorial

In Sledmere in the East Riding there are two war memorials, near the church and Sledmere House, home of the Sykes family from the mid-18th century when it was built, replacing an earlier manor house. 

The Wagoners Memorial

One is a copy of an Eleanor Cross, erected at the end of the 19th century as a village cross and converted into a war memorial in 1919 for the men of the estate. 

The other is known as the Wagoners’ Memorial.  It celebrates the Wagoners Special Reserve, a unit set up by Sir Mark Sykes, the 6th Baronet.  He enrolled farm labourers and tenant farmers on the Wolds to serve as drivers of horse-drawn wagons; they had a vital role moving essential equipment during the war.

This memorial, designed by Sykes and constructed by Mr Barr the estate mason, has a sculptured frieze curving round a central column.  This was done by Carlo Magnoni, an Italian artist living in London.  It shows scenes from the wagoners’ history: from enlistment through tearful farewells to active service against a caricatured enemy.  The milestone appears as they leave for France: it marks (correctly for Sledmere) 8 miles from Driffield and 24 miles from York.

“Farewell, old friend”

The milestone does not resemble those on the western section of the main Driffield-York road (the A166), which runs about four miles south of Sledmere: these are of the mounting-block style.  It is, however, the same shape as the three surviving stones on the B1251 section of the road between Sledmere and York – that is, through Fimber as far as Fridaythorpe – and two on the A166 outside Driffield.  But we cannot be certain what these originally said on them.

Source: Ian Sumner: The Wolds Wagoners: The story of the Wagoners’ Special Reserve (Sledmere Estate, 2000)

RWH / September 2020

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Boundary stones in and around Clapham

In the north-west of the old West Riding over a dozen stylistically identical boundary stones can be found, all in an area between Giggleswick and Ingleton.  They are made from a single slab of Helwith Bridge blue slate, from a local quarry – Helwith Bridge, over the Ribble is about four miles north of Settle. 

They have a triangular top and a v-shaped groove down the centre, with the parish or township names attractively carved on each side.  Historic England, who have listed many of them, describe them as early 19th century, but they may be later as they do not appear on Ordnance Survey maps until the 1890s.

Nearly all the surviving ones are in Clapham parish, which comprised the townships of Clapham, Austwick and Lawkland, and the hamlet of Newby.  Others can be found on the borders of half-a-dozen nearby townships, including Ingleton/Horton, Horton/Stainforth, Stainforth/Arncliffe, Stainforth/Giggleswick and Langcliffe/Settle.

The one illustrated here, marking the boundary between Austwick and Lawkland townships, is near a bend on the A65 (Milestone Soc ID YW_AUSLAW01pb; grid ref SD 7793 6745).  There are three more on this boundary, including one on the lane leading into Lawkland.  This is no longer the parish boundary, however, it having been moved to run along the main road, probably in the 1930s.

A similar stone can be found on a minor road between Ingleton and High Bentham.  Made of the same material, it differs in that the I and the B are in larger capitals while in all the others all the letters are the same size.  The top is level rather than triangular, but this may not always have been the case.  This stone is illustrated on the front of Angus Winchester’s Discovering parish boundaries (Shire Publications, 1990).

Clapham township extended over five miles south of the village onto the moors, to an area called Clapham Common.  Austwick does the same to the east, and they share a long straight featureless  boundary.  (A detached portion of Lawkland between them to the north was transferred to Austwick in 1884).  Near a place known as Dovenanter is a much earlier boundary stone: a square block with A for Austwick on one side and C for Clapham on the other.  Winchester’s book pictures this standing up, but Humphrey Bolton’s 2018 photograph on Geograph shows it has fallen over – see www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5871545.  [Unless, of course, there’s more than one].

Who had the slate stones made and put up is not known.  While most of them are in the parish of Clapham, it was the townships rather than the parish who would have had the responsibility for marking their boundaries.  Similarly, while turnpike trusts might have erected boundary stones, most of these are not on the turnpikes.

One possibility, therefore is that a newly-formed district Highway Board erected them in the later 19th century.  They took over responsibility for all roads, including turnpikes, and this could explain their uniqueness to this area.  I have not, however, traced any reference to a Highway District covering this district (eg for Ewecross, the wapentake which included Clapham parish).

Another possibility is that they might be related to tithe maps.  These were produced in the 1840s, following the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836.  Tithes were a local tax on agricultural produce, and the Act allowed tithes to the church, which had traditionally been paid in goods (eg crops or animals), to be paid in cash.  Large-scale maps were produced for most townships, showing every building and feature, natural and man-made, and land usage.  [Tithes were not abolished until 1936].

A tithe map for Clapham-cum-Newby township was produced by John Watson (Junior) of Kendal in 1847.  It shows “manorial boundary, buildings (named), vicarage, school, boat house, old mill, gardens, sundial, grotto, boundary stones, field gates, sheepfolds, pinfold, parkland, plantations, quarry (sand), pot hole, named hills, hill-drawing (slopes, knoll), woods, waterbodies, wells, springs, bridges, railway with station, footpath and/or bridleway. Turnpike roads distinguished; toll bar” at a scale of 1 inch to 3 chains.  The same surveyor produced a tithe map for the combined townships of Austwick and Lawkland, also in 1847.  Further research is needed here.

Another possibility is that they are somehow related to enclosures.  Similar maps were produced, often by the same surveyors, at around the same time, eg for Clapham in 1849.  This was surveyed by John Greenwood of Gisburn, who had assisted in the production of the tithe map for Giggleswick in 1841-43.

None of these possibilities, however, explain why the boundary stones can be found in unrelated townships.  So maybe a final possibility is that they began life in one township and others decided to copy them – or the quarry owners did an effective marketing exercise.

Please let us know if you have any further information on these attractive stones.

RWH / Sept 2020   

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Handstones: guide-stoops on the North York Moors

The ruling about the need for guide-stones in moorland areas was acted on by the North Riding County Justices in 1711 (eleven years after the West Riding).  They ordered that guideposts should be erected throughout the county; they were to be hewn from huge pieces of stone and set up in locations where roads, trackways and  footpaths, used by the numerous packhorse trains (as well as solitary travellers even more likely to get lost on a bad day) crossed.

We call them guide-stoops but locally they are referred to as handstones.  They were relatively plain four-sided upright stone slabs, with the names of villages roughly inscribed on the four faces.  And hands: very crudely chiselled but very distinctive.  The stone-masons, probably illiterate, often had difficulty with the letters and their spacing.

They can be found on Blakey Ridge (north of Hutton-le-Hole), Urra Moor (very worn), Ingleby Moor (with the date 1757) and elsewhere.

Here is a selection.

Sources: Historic England website; anonymous article on ‘North York Moors: guide posts or stoops – known locally as handstones’ (no further details).

RWH / September 2020

The north-facing side of the Blakey Ridge stone. Guisbrough is roughly 15 miles north of the stone, so presumably the hand pointing up in the air means “It’s behind you”. .
The west-facing side of the Blakey Ridge stone. This points down what is now a mere track to Lowna and on via Gillamoor to Kirkbymoorside.
The east-facing side of the Blakey Ridge stone points south down the road to Hutton-le-Hole, about 2 miles away – whence Pickering or Malton can be reached. The stone (Milestone Soc ID YN_XSE6992) is at SE 6936 9255.
The stone on Ingleby Moor in the north-east of the district on a very old track between Ingleby Greenhow and Kirkbymoorside. Milestone Soc ID: YN_XNZ6004. Grid ref: NZ 6040 0422
On the road between Commondale and Kildale, just outside the former. Three hands point to Whitby, Stokesley and Jisber (Guisborough). Milestone Soc ID: YN_XNZ6510. Grid ref NZ 655 105.
A very weathered handstone on Urra Moor. Milestone Soc ID: YN_XNZ5901a. Grid ref: NZ 5943 0150.

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Some Yorkshire toll-houses

On the A669 at Greenfield
At a private bridge at Copley, Halifax
Stump Cross, Halifax: junction of A6036 and A58
At Scarcroft on the Leeds to Wetherby road, A58
On Rowley Lane, Lepton, once part of the Wakefield Austerlands Turnpike
On the county boundary at Sharneyford, A681 between Todmorden and Bacup
Replica table of tolls on the A616 at Brockholes, New Mill District Roads
In Sussex (sorry!): original toll-keeper’s cottage at the Weald and Dowland Open Air Museum

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Towler milestones in the West Riding

While the plates for most of milestones erected for the West Riding County Council in the 1890s were cast at Brayshaw & Booth’s foundry in Liversedge, a small number were made at William Towler’s Globe Foundry in Leeds.  We have no evidence regarding why he was involved, but possibly he was brought in later in the project to ensure it was completed in time.

Towler’s plates can be found on at least four roads in the north of the county: the A629/A65 Keighley to Kendal Road (at Farnhill, south of Skipton, Long Preston and Thornton-in-Lonsdale); the B6255 Lancaster to Richmond Road (on the section in Ingleton as far as the old county boundary); the A683 Sedbergh to Kirkby Stephen Road, at Cautley (illustrated); and the A684 Sedbergh to Hawes road.  From the style it is probable that the other stones on these roads were also Towler’s: the name is not always discernable, but they are slightly different from the Brayshaw & Booths.

Spot the difference

The original foundry was in existence in the early 19th century.  The 1847 OS map shows a foundry off Water Lane on Globe Road in Holbeck, and Towler is first mentioned in Kelly’s West Riding Directory of 1881, where Dyson & Towler are listed as ironfounders on Globe Road.   The firm also had a warehouse or showroom on Assembly St in the centre of Leeds.  This building was originally the east side of the White Cloth Hall, opened in 1777, with assembly rooms on the top floor for the well-to-do in Georgian Leeds.  It has been much altered and the other three sides demolished since, but it survives, is now listed, and is called Waterloo House.

The warehouse advertised chimney pieces, tiles, ovens, ranges, set-pots, mangers, stoves and all kinds of fire-places according to a photograph of around 1900-1910.  [A set-pot is  a stone boiler or ‘copper’, with a fire-grate under, for the purpose of boiling and ‘stewing’ dirty linen, according to Robinson’s Dialect of Leeds and neighbourhood].  They also produced coal-chute covers and grates for drains, which can still be found in the district.  And, of course, milestones.

The company flourished for another half-century, but finally closed down in 1959.

Sources: various items turned up by search engines under ‘towler globe foundry leeds’; the photograph at the top, from the four miles to Sedbergh stone at Garsdale on the A684, is taken from a Milestone Society journal; illustration and listed building detail of Towler’s warehouse at http://www.leodis.net/display.aspx?resourceIdentifier=2003103_38804263&DISPLAY=FULL and https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1375290

RWH / rev Jan 2022

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Milestones on the roads west out of Halifax

The main road west out of Halifax, King Cross Street, splits in two at King Cross, just over a mile out of the centre.  One road, now the A646, leads to Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, and into Lancashire.  The other heads down to Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden, where it splits in two again: the A58 heads over Blackstone Edge to Littleborough and Rochdale, while the A672 heads over into Saddleworth (still in Yorkshire) towards Oldham.

All three roads have interesting histories and different milestones.

The Blackstone Edge road

This is a very ancient road, and was the first to be turnpiked, though the actual line has altered over the years.  Parts are thought to be originally Roman: the Ordnance Survey describes three sections as Roman Road.  Later it was a packhorse road: the paved section coming west off Blackstone Edge is thought to be mediaeval.  It was turnpiked in the 18th century, the enabling Act of Parliament of 1735 connecting Rochdale with Halifax and Elland.  Rather than continuing from Halifax to Elland there were two branches, one from each town, combining at Ripponden.

Milestones: for some unknown reason, the original milestones were not replaced by the West Riding County Council in the 1890s, and many survive.  From Halifax the first is three miles along the road, just past Sowerby Bridge, though very little of it survives above ground level.  Thereafter all but no 6 survive up to the county boundary, many well-cared-for.

The Elland branch also has a run of the same milestones, all four of which are still in position.  There is also a stone at the junction in Ripponden acting as a guide-stone.  This was refurbished, and the Golden Lion public house opposite renamed The Milestone, in 2011.  Some had their destinations erased to foil any German invaders during World War Two, and some have been re-carved.

The road to Todmorden

The Act of Parliament – for “diverting, altering, widening, repairing and amending the Roads from the Town of Halifax, and from Sowerby Bridge, in the County of York, by Todmorden, to Burnley and Littleborough, in the County of Lancashire” – was passed in 1760, though the road was not completed until 1781.

The road to Burnley (still today’s A646) continued to follow the River Calder through the narrow valley bottom – replacing the earlier Long Causeway which ran over the moors between Burnley and Heptonstall.  The other branch, to Littleborough where it joined the Blackstone Edge road, provided a longer route to Rochdale, but one less susceptible to bad winter weather.  A westward branch off this road led to Bacup and Rawtenstall.

Milestones: from King Cross to Todmorden an almost complete run of very attractive milestones survives.  Most are flat with a sort of roll-top, such as the one illustrated, which is at Luddenden Foot.  They show the mileages to Todmorden and Halifax, with crudely-carved sleeved hands pointing the direction.  The township name is also given, but not always visible now.  Two of the milestones, near Todmorden, are of a different style, being two-sided.

While the milestones were thought to date from the late 18th century, Luddenden Foot was not created as a separate district until 1868.  It would not normally, therefore, have been named on a milestone. This would mean that they date from the later 19th century – but before 1878 when the turnpike trust was wound up.  Being still quite new when the County Council was established this may explain why they left as they were.

Identical milestones exist on the roads beyond Todmorden – as would be expected when they were all part of the same turnpike trust.  On the road to Burnley there are eight: three in the West Riding and five in Lancashire (one is lost).  There are just two on the road to Rochdale, with none in Lancashire.  The Bacup road has three, but again all on the Yorkshire side.

The road to Saddleworth and Oldham

At Rishworth: in need of some TLC

The last of the three roads (now the A672), this road was completed in 1798, following an Act of Parliament in 1795 creating the Oldham and Ripponden Trust.  It left the existing turnpike at Ripponden, climbed up to the watershed and went down, briefly through Milnrow and (even more briefly) Crompton (both in Lancashire), back into Yorkshire (Friarmere, the northern part of Saddleworth),and into Oldham, to join what is now the A62 at Waterhead.

Milestones: curiously this is the only one of the three roads to have had its milestones replaced by the Brayshaw and Booth stones of the County Council.  Most of these are still in situ, and there is one of the originals (though scarcely recognisable) just over the border on the Lancashire side, in Milnrow (then officially known as Butterworth).  The Saddleworth mile-posts use the old division name of Friarmere.

1735 guide-stoop near Booth Wood

A pre-turnpike guide-stoop still stands, just off the present route, but on an earlier line, possibly moved slightly to be a gate-post.  Dated 1735, it has directions to Halifax (7 miles), Huddersfield (8 miles) and Rochdale (8 miles).  The distances are the old customary miles, and the routes a traveller would have taken to reach both Huddersfield and Rochdale are barely indiscernible now: the Huddersfield route presumably led through through Scammonden, and the track to Rochdale could have taken various directions.

RWH / August 2020

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Mile-posts on the Harrogate to Ripon Road

This eleven mile piece of road (now the A61) was originally part of the Harrogate, Hewick, Ripon and Pateley Bridge United Turnpike which was an amalgamation of two Trusts in 1852.  Hewick to Pateley Bridge is the current B6265 which also runs eastwards through Boroughbridge to join the A59 at Green Hammerton.  

Harrogate had developed and grown throughout the 19th century because of its spa waters. What had been a small village was taking precedence over nearby Knaresborough with its castle.  Killinghall was at the end of the Dudley Hill (Bradford) and Killinghall Turnpike, at its junction with the Harrogate to Ripon one.

Although the West Riding extended to the north of Ripon the mileposts on this route are different to those found virtually all over the old County Council area. They do not have the backing stone but are cast in a simple V shape. The inscription is rather elegant. The places names with serifs on the letters curve round the numbers and a prominent raised hand points the way on each side.  On the top triangle is the distance to Leeds, with the mileages to Harrogate and Ripon and pointing hands on the two sides.  Underneath these, on both sides, is the name of the iron-founder: J Ingram / Maker / Ripon / 1822.  These details are not visible on all the mile-posts, but are clear on the one illustrated (picture by Christine Minto).

James Ingram is listed as a brass and iron founder in Baines’ 1822 directory, working in Kirkgate, Ripon.  The foundry was actually down Peacock’s Passage.  This was a very narrow covered ginnel between nos 13 and 15 Kirkgate (which leads from the Market Place to the Cathedral).  Ingram was born in 1773, and descendants (presumably) of his are listed at the same address in trade directories later in the century: John George in 1866 (White’s), and William in 1881 (Kelly’s).

Maybe the mile-posts were still in good condition when the County Councils were formed 60-odd years later and the prudent West Riding Highways and Finance Committees didn’t want to spend more than was necessary and replace them.

There is a good run of these posts with only the 7 and 9 miles from Harrogate 9 missing, while the 3-mile post, near the bridge over the River Nidd, is a modern replica.  When the Ripon bypass was built the 10-mile post was relocated near the traffic island. near the bridge over the River Nidd.

Source: a revised version of an article from the Milestone Society’s On the Ground, No. 5 September 2008, p 12.

RWH / August 2020

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