To be or not to be?

Immediately after World War Ι Leeds City Council embarked on a carefully planned programme of expansion and sought to take over many of the townships abutting its borders. Alwoodley was one of the places they wished to govern and news of their advances was not lost on the residents who enjoyed the luxury of extremely low rates but few facilities. In 1920 most of the houses in Alwoodley were still lit by oil lamps, people continued to cook on Yorkshire ranges and most had to use outdoor privies. The roads were mainly narrow routeways, unchanged for centuries.

It appeared that residents had a stark choice: join Leeds, pay higher rates and obtain marked improvements in Council services, including modern sewage and power facilities; or stay with Wharfedale Rural District Union, pay low rates and remain in the Dark Ages. On 31 March 1920 interested members of the community were invited to a special meeting held at Chapel House, Alwoodley Gates, to discuss the intended incorporation of Alwoodley by Leeds City Council. This was chaired by William Emmott who confirmed that no-one had any definite information regarding the terms and conditions of the proposed ‘take over.’

Everyone agreed that a deputation should be sent to meet with Leeds’ Town Clerk to obtain up-to-date information.113    Over three months elapsed before the deputation was ‘courteously received’ at the Civic Hall. For many the meeting simply confirmed their worst fears - high rate rises in return for no firm improvement in services.  Vociferous opposition to the plans continued for the next three years and would have continued indefinitely had it not been for sizeable increases in rates demanded by Wharfedale Rural District Council.

The Parish Council meeting held on 26 March 1924 was a stormy affair.114 Mr J. Milner urged that a strong protest be made to the Wharfedale Rural District Council stressing that, in light of the recent rate increases, residents should at least be entitled to the benefits of gas, water and electricity supplies. Mr. Frais representing Moor Allerton Golf Club Ltd. and Mr Haswell of the Alwoodley Park Estate stressed the urgent need for road repairs, particularly on Nursery Lane. They received no reassurances from the representatives of the W.R.D.C. and so negotiations reopened with Leeds’ Town Clerk who was prepared to offer a period of five years of preferential rating if they agreed to join. Despite this concession, members of Alwoodley Parish Council remained unanimously opposed to joining Leeds.

Residents, however, were frustrated that they were still left without sewerage, gas, water and light and were not receiving any real benefit from the large amount of rates paid to the Wharfedale Council. As building in Alwoodley continued apace, this issue became more and more pressing and on 29 April 1925 the ratepayers insisted that Wharfedale Rural District Council took action ‘to utilise immediately the sewage works of Messrs. Thompson in order to deal at once with the pressing necessity of the Belvedere and Crescent Garden Estate.’115 Progress was slow and at the November meeting, held in the Sand Moor Golf House, owners of property on the Belvedere, Hawk’s Nest and Crescent Gardens Estate signified that they would be willing to do all that was required to gain access to proper sewage facilities.

At this point Mr. Newstead, Clerk to W.R.D.C, assured the assembled ratepayers that he would seek to obtain a loan from the Ministry of Health and would ‘…lose as little time as possible’ to provide them.116

At this point fate played a hand as J.H. Milner, now chairman of Alwoodley Parish Council bumped into Sir Charles Wilson, the most powerful man in Leeds, at the Civic Hall. Wilson asked him outright what it would take to obtain agreement of the parishioners to join Leeds. Milner swiftly replied that residents wanted all the modern amenities Leeds could provide but with fifteen years preferential rating at 8s 4d in the pound. 117 Sir Charles felt that this was acceptable and the Leeds Town Clerk officially wrote to Milner offering preferential rating, street lighting, electricity, gas and water, proper sewerage plus the widening of Nursery Lane at the Council’s expense.

Milner was ecstatic and immediately called a special meeting of the parishioners. Sand Moor Golf House was very crowded on 19 January 1926 with almost one hundred parishioners crammed into the main room. They listened in silence as Henry Barran, the clothing magnate and major landowner in Alwoodley, spoke favourably of the deal, stressing that Wharfedale were quite unable to give a remote parish like Alwoodley the facilities it required. Many in the room agreed. Poor Mr Newstead, Clerk to W.R.D.C., valiantly acknowledged that they could not compete and stated that if members of the Parish Council were unanimous in their support of becoming part of Leeds ‘…they would graciously help.’ 117 The die was cast and under the Leeds Extension Act of 1927 Alwoodley officially became part of the city.

113. WYAS LC/TC 1/1 pp.44-46.
114. WYAS LC/TC 1/1 pp. 63-4.
115. WYAS LC/TC 1/1 pp. 69.
116. WYAS LC/TC 1/1 p.74.
117. WYAS LC/TC 1/1 p.75/6.


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