The Todds of Crag Farm


One such tenant was George Todd. Born in 1851, he became the new tenant of Crag Farm, famed for his skill as an animal doctor. He kept a wide range of herbs and medicines in horn containers and people came from far and wide to seek his help. When George first leased the farm from the Lane Fox family it was in a poor condition but they valued his skills and invested in the property to bring it up to modern standards. Eventually it consisted of a farmhouse, barn, hayloft, stables, granary and large stack-yard to the rear of the premises. The ‘best’ room was to the left of the front door but this was reserved for visitors and special occasions and the family spent most of their time in the living room to the right, where the Yorkshire Range was located. A large picture of George Lane Fox hung majestically on the wall to remind them of their benefactor!  The kitchen was to the rear of the building and an unusual feature of the room was the square hole cut in the ceiling that gave access to storage areas. A long wooden ladder extended up to it. The kitchen sink was fed from the rain butts located outside on the other side of the external wall. Oil lamps and candles were used to light the house and water was obtained from rain butts or the pump in the yard. The ‘necessary’ took the form of a double-seated privy located at a short distance from the house. There was a large midden for rubbish.81



Another major boost to Lane Fox’s income came from a change in land use. The ‘middling sort’ who moved to the more prosperous northern suburbs of Leeds displayed a growing interest in gardening. This provided a burgeoning market for trees and plants of all description. In White’s Directory of 1853 William Davison and William Rider are listed as ‘nurserymen’ of Alwoodley.82 Davison was 63 at the time and had been born in Northumberland. He lived with his wife, Mary, and their three children James, Elizabeth and Hunter at Alwoodley Nursery, located at the junction of Stairfoot Lane and King Lane.83 George Davison, wheelwright and joiner of Adel, possibly a relative, regularly undertook work there. In 1857 he records a final bill of £2 0s.6d which included putting a new wheel on a barrow, replacing shafts on two hoes, two rakes, two axes, a new ‘prooning chisil shaft’ and labour for six days making posts and rails.84

Black Moor with its sand and peat was an ideal place to set up a nursery. The 1851 census lists William Rider, 45, of Brixton, Devon, as the proprietor of Heath Nursery.85 On 11 May 1876 George Lane Fox leased Heath Nursery to Richard Humble, oil merchant, and the solicitor John Rawlinson Ford for a period of seven years at an annual rent of £60. By this time the nursery covered an area of 13 acres and 18 perches and included houses, cottages, outbuildings, nursery buildings and sand. Though they had the right to shoot all game, conies (rabbits) and foxes at any time, a later clause insisted they must seek to ‘preserve’ such wildlife! 86


Despite such advantageous changes it must have been frustrating for the Lane Fox family to watch other tenants let their farms go to rack and ruin. When a farmer finally wished to give up his lease he sought a valuation of the crops left in the field and reimbursement for any improvements to the property. It is fortunate that among the Lane Fox papers is a detailed valuation dated 9 August 1878 made by Lodge and Bartle of Garforth of Thomas Jaques’holdings including fixtures and ‘away going crops upon a Farm at Alwoodley given up… to the owner George Lane Fox.’ He held almost sixty acres on which he was growing rye, barley, wheat, grass and oats. There was a stack of hay in Rye Croft and another in the stackyard while in the garden were shrubs, fruit trees and quickwoods. In the mistals he was leaving six cow chains and in the yard a lead pump, two stone troughs and a soft water tub.

White Cottage
Towards the end of the nineteenth century the Lane Fox family began to lease the White Cottage on King Lane as a holiday home. A postcard dated 1 February 1909 and addressed to Teddy Collinson reads 'Here's the promised P.C. at last. How do you like it? Don't forget Saturday next + bring your music and we'll have a ____ time. As near 7 p.m. as poss. With love from, Freddy'. Teddy is the man with the straw cap.

In the out kitchen was an iron set pan and in the kitchen itself an oven range, a boiler ash grate, a reckon crane, three reckons, a loose rib, a delph rack and a pin rail, while in the pantry was a wooden corner cupboard.  There were fire grates in the sitting room, nursery, drawing room, dining room and one upstairs. Throughout the house were five Venetian blinds and an additional oven range and boiler in the nursery. In the cottage was an oven, fire range and set pan. But the valuer had to deduct money for ‘…dilapidations in gates, fences and buildings’ and by the time Thomas had paid half the valuation fee and £135 in back rent, he was left with just £78 10 shillings.87

However most farmers worked extremely hard even on the morning after their wedding! William Arthur Todd of Buckstone Farm and Susannah, his wife, married on 14 September 1876 at Adel Church. They left a fascinating account of their marriage at the celebrations that followed:

In those days I had a milk business. Honeymoons were not known then, but it was usual to have a drive in a carriage and pair, and so we had one. Then at night we had a right old-fashioned country dance. We danced the polka, the waltz, single steps – and there were jighs an’all. We had a fiddler from Meanwood village, where there were two or three good fiddlers I’ those times. It’d be maybe two or three o’clock in the morning when we stopped dancing, and I was away wi’ t’milk by five or so.’ 88


81. Oral Testimony of David and Pauline Todd.
82. W.White, Directory and Gazetteer of Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield and the Whole of the Clothing Districts of the West Riding (Leeds, 1853) p.395.
83. 1851 Census 2284 1st folio 50.
84. The Account Book of George Davison, Adel, Wheelwright and Joiner, private collection.
85. 1851 Census 2284 1st folio 50.
86. Indenture 11 May 1876, private collection.
87. WYAS LF 129/8.
88. Yorkshire Evening Post, 14 September 1926.


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