The times they are a’ changing

The Water Works had had a marked impact on the population of Alwoodley. The 1841 census showed there had been an influx of 77 males and 36 females since the previous census ten years earlier. The men were listed as miners, excavators, masons, engineers and cart drivers, whereas the females were simply wives and loved ones. Ten years later the population had fallen back to 164 and, with 13 temporary huts removed, only 31 houses remained. But life in Alwoodley would never be the same again.

Nearby Leeds provided a ready market for produce from the agricultural community at Alwoodley but prosperity depended on efficient farming. The Lane Fox family desperately needed good tenants and it must have been a sad day for them in 1852 when Joseph Broadbelt decided not to renew his lease. He had managed the farm effectively for years and the valuation reflected this. In the fields he had potatoes, wheat and turnips to the value of £98 18s 9d and with the corn in stock, two wheat stacks, two oat stacks, two hay stacks and twenty loads of potatoes a further £66 was added to the total. In the farm outbuildings were 6 pig troughs, a watering tough, 4 stack stands, 14 cow chains and a pile of wood, while in the garden were 60 berry trees and 4 fruit trees. The farmhouse consisted of the great room, a back kitchen and a sitting room downstairs and presumably two bedrooms, the smaller of which had a ‘fire bowl.’ The fixtures were minimal - oven ranges, fire places, a large stone cistern, a bakestone for making oatcakes and ‘…a wooden partition at the staircase.’ In the cellar was twelve feet of stone tabling. The total value of Joseph’s estate was £175 17s 3d plus a further £3 17s for the pumps in the fold and yard, a considerable amount of money for the time! Thomas Kell, Steward of Bramham Park made the final payment to Joseph on 17 January 1852.76

That same year, George Lane Fox instructed William Smith of West Rasen to undertake a full evaluation of the condition of his Yorkshire Estates. This was no mean task as there were extensive landholdings in Bramham, Barwick in Elmete, Clifford, Wethersome, Collingham, Scarcroft, Rigton, Bardsey, Walton, Netherton,Wrenthorpe, Grimston, Bingley, Carlton, Elslack, Thornton, East Halton, Rimmington, Steeton with Eastburn, Fairhill, Hamblethorpe, Skipton and Alwoodley. Smith’s final report made grim reading. He recommended the need for vast expenditure to improve the fabric of the estates, including construction of new cottages, barns, cattle sheds and outbuildings, the replacement of large stretches of fencing, improved drainage and the demolition of a whole range of substandard buildings.

The Lane Fox family owned vast estates and the strain of the upkeep of such huge numbers of buildings coupled with the monetary excesses of certain members of the family meant many properties fell into disrepair. This delightful pencil drawing by John Dixon, dated 8 October 1873, shows one such property near Adel Crag.

He also identified which tenants were working the land to a high standard and those who should be removed.77

Alwoodley was typical. Smith reported that Barker’s, Burley’s and Rhodes’ farms all needed money spending on the repair of the buildings, whereas Elizabeth Smith’s farmhouse consisted of only two sleeping rooms and ‘…the back part of which is old and very bad, it should be taken down and rebuilt with three additional sleeping rooms made over it. 78

In addition he recommended that the barn roof should be repaired and a waggon shed and granary should be built at Lane Fox’s expense. William Todd had enclosed former common land himself and had built his own farmhouse therefore it was excluded from the list. Some tenants, like Jeremiah Johnson and William Sayner were singled out for praise for the way in which they managed the land but Smith was not impressed by the majority of farmers saving particular criticism for John Midgeley who lived in Alwoodley Old Hall. He accused Midgeley of letting the house, farm buildings and fences fall into disrepair stating ‘…the Tenant on this Farm ought to set a good example to the rest of the Tenants in the Parish, but on the contrary he does quite the reverse.79 Smith concluded that  ‘…there is a considerable quantity of poor weak land in this Parish, but it is capable of great improvement by under-draining and the use of clay and lime. A class of better Tenants is much wanted in this part of the Estate. 80


76. WYAS LF175.
77. WYAS LF175.
78. WYAS LF83/5.
79. WYAS LF83/5.
80. WYAS LF83/5.


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