LOCAL CUSTOMS AND AMUSEMENTS
Many of the simple and innocent customs which were incidental to the
life of Pudsey a century or more ago, are now lost to us for ever, and
in their stead we have a foretaste of the "fast life" of the
With regard to the festivals of the year and their observances, we shall
only make brief references. Many of the customs attaching to saints'
and other holidays in Pudsey were common to most of the villages in
the manufacturing districts of the West Riding, and have been described
by other local historians. *
* For descriptions of many of these ancient customs, see Smith's Morley;
Ancient and Modern, pp. 119-150.
CHRISTMAS and NEW YEAR'S DAY.-This season of the year was, above all
others, given up to festivity. The Yule-log was burnt on Christmas Eve,
the Christmas carol sung, and the "mummers" went from inn
to inn, playing their fantastic "Peace Egg." On Christmas
Day the brass band paraded the streets, and called at the residences
of the local gentry, who regaled the members with genuine Christmas
fare. The custom of sitting up on New Year's Even till midnight, to
see the New Year make its advent, was observed by large numbers who
did not attend the Watch-night services. A superstitious feeling was
entertained as to the proper person to bring good luck to the house,
and it was considered very unlucky if the visitor happened to have red
hair. A household so visited might expect much trouble during the coming
year. On New Year's Day morning the custom of asking for New Year's
gifts was observed by the children of the place, and the evening was
given up to games with pins, which had been received as gifts.
VALENTINE DAY.-This festival was duly honoured, but in a widely different
manner to what it is at the present time. The post-office and printing-press
did not lend their aid to any great extent in the transmission of the
love-epistles of a century ago; the "soft nothings" were not
conveyed to the "fair sex" of Pudsey on scented cards, elaborately
and artistically designed; but, on the contrary, the message was transcribed
in a fair roundhand, and was a work of time to the unskillful penman,
and when completed was carried by the lover to the residence of his
inamorata, and slipped under the door in a somewhat hasty manner. Now-a-days,
the factory and servant-girls of the place are the principal recipients
of these missives, which are ofttimes of a very burlesque or insulting
SHROVETIDE.-This season was a peculiarly happy one to the schoolboy
and the apprentice; for, after eleven o'clock in the forenoon, work
for the day ceased, and merriment of various kinds was indulged in.
"Collop Monday" was strictly observed, but at the present
time "collops and eggs" are scarcely recognised as specialties
of the day. The eating of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday is now about all
that remains to us of this festival.
APRIL FOOL'S DAY was made the occasion of much harmless, and at times
boisterous, pleasantry, for every one appeared to enjoy the delight
of making as many fools as he could.
MAY DAY.-The observances connected with this day, as also of the 29th
of May (Royal Oak Day), have all fallen into desuetude, and the decorations
of the horses' heads upon the anniversary of the Restoration (1660)
has become almost a thing of the past.
WHIT-MONDAY.-This festival has been kept with much enthusiasm during
the last fifty years, and is a day looked forward to by the children
connected with the Sunday schools with great delight. The new dresses,
the singing, with instrumental accompaniments, the parading of the streets,
and the subsequent tea, with a cake each to take home, made this day
of exceedingly popular. Now and again it would be a day of grievous
disappointment, however, for the rain would persist in coming down just
at the time when, in all the glory of new clothing, and with banners
flying, the processions of happy school-children should have started
on their way. The schools which took part in the Whitsuntide festivities
of 1886 were-Parish Church (three schools), teachers and scholars, 778,
conductor, Mr. John Parker; Fulneck (two schools), 334, conductor, Mr.
Geo. Baggaley; Congregationalists, 420, conductor, Mr. B. Dufton; Upper
Sunday School (U.M.F.C.), 332, conductor, Mr. S. Gaunt; Primitive Methodist,
Lowtown, 367, conductor, Mr. C.M. Sheard; Mount Zion, 256, conductor,
Mr. Albert E. Webster; Mount Tabor (U.M.F.C.), 187, conductor, Mr. William
Eddison; Roker Land (P.M.), 100, conductor, Mr. Ramsden; Baptists,
Littlemoor, 110, conductor, Mr. J.A. Hinchcliffe; Wesleyans, Church
Lane, 400, conductor, Mr. Wright Wilson; Wesleyans, Littlemoor, 250,
conductor, Mr. Stables; Lower S.S. (Free Church), 274, conductor Mr.
S. Rogers; Unitarians, 150, conductor, Mr. J.W. Varley; Bethel, 134,
conductor, Mr. S.W. Wilson; Rickardshaw Lane (P.M.), 346, conductor,
Mr. W. Cawson; St. Paul's Church, 230, conductor, Mr. Strickland; the
number taking part in the festival making a total of over 4,000 scholars
PUDSEY FEAST does not maintain the character for real or genuine hospitality
which attached to this annual holiday in former days. The inhabitants
now-a-days for the most part go to the seaside, and leave the "fun
of the fair" to those who are sticklers for keeping up the good
old customs. The feast, when held at Chapeltown, was a sight well worth
seeing. Pitching the bar, wrestling, hunting the pig, sack, smock, and
wheelbarrow races, were amongst the so-called amusements of our forefathers.
Something of the din and confusion of these old-time feasts is with
us yet, and the children and young people are still entertained with
swings and roundabouts, shows and panoramas, fat women, and gambling-tables
of many descriptions. Eating and drinking were formerly the principal
indoor attractions of the feast-time, and beef, pickled cabbage, and
home-brewed beer were the staple provisions of each household. Amongst
the caterers for the patronage of the pleasure-seekers at the annual
feast in former days was Tom Wild, a traveling actor, well-known in
his profession throughout the North of England. Tom closed his career
in the Market Place, Pudsey, in May, 1883, at the age of 70 years. "Wild's
Show," or theatre, was a "household word" in almost every
town and village in Yorkshire in connection with village feasts thirty
to forty years ago.
MUSIC, both vocal and instrumental, has been a conspicuous feature
in the recreations of the Pudseyites for many generations. More than
sixty years ago, the "Pudsey Old Reed Band" was a power in
the village, and amusing stories might be told of both performers and
their performances, but we refer our readers, for fuller information,
to a work recently published. In 1876, the Old Bank having ceased to
exist, a Brass Band was established in Fartown.
Fifty years ago Pudsey had its Choral Society, and gave oratoria performances
and choral concerts, at which many eminent performers, vocal and instrumental,
took part. Mrs. Sunderland, the "Yorkshire Queen of Song,"
made her first appearance as a vocalist in 1836, when sixteen years
of age, at one of the Society's concerts. On April 27th, 1862, Mrs.
Sunderland made her last appearance at Pudsey in the "Messiah,"
when a splendid folio copy of Handel's immortal work, handsomely bound
in morocco, was presented to this unequalled exponent of sacred song.
When the Society ceased its operations, a new one was formed in 1877,
under the name of the "Pudsey Choral Union, which has continued
up to the present time. This excellent body of musicians has contributed
greatly to the cultivation of good music amongst the inhabitants of
Pudsey, and brought before the public in a most creditable and praiseworthy
manner, music of the very highest class.
Amongst the British manly sports and recreations, which were at one
time supposed to do much towards the formation of the national character,
giving strength, pluck, and endurance, or furnishing recreation and
amusement, we find that Pudsey appropriated a considerable share.
In the Leeds Mercury of 1730, we find the following advertisement, showing
that Pudsey 160 years ago, had its race ground and conditions of racing:--
On Wednesday the 7th (1730), will be run for at Pudsey Upper Moor, a
three pounds plate, by horses not exceeding fourteen hands high, the
best of three heats, carrying nine stone, all under to be allowed weight
for inches. As usual, to pay four shillings entrance, and to conform
to articles. None to run for the said plate that ever won the value
of eight pounds. The horses, etc., for these races to be showed and
entered at William Hutchinson's, at the Shoulder of Mutton aforesaid,
upon Monday, between the hours of twelve and eight of the afternoon.
N.B.-No less than three horses to start (and excepting any horse, mare,
or gelding that is or ever was Mr. Parson's of Micklefield. If any such
horse running shall have no benefit of Stakes).
Many of the amusements of our forefathers were rude and barbarous;
as BULL-BAITING, which was very common during the past century. There
were persons living not long ago who could remember the last bull-baiting,
which took place in the croft, whereas the Fartown National
School now stands. The bull belonged to a man called "Jack Sheldon."
He and several others who had taken an active part in the disgraceful
sport were summoned before the magistrates and fined. This revolting
sport, as formerly practised here, is thus described :--On the opening
of this sublime amusement (?) the bull is fastened to a stake by a chain
which extends about fifteen yards in length, and terminates in a very
strong leather collarpassing round his neck, his horns being previously
muffled at the points with a composition of tow, tallow, and melted
pitch. The attack then commenced with dreadful noises of different kinds-bellowings,
hootings, huzzaings, and all the discordant noises which human savagery
could invent. Whatever could be brought to bear upon the poor animal
to work it into a state of fury was used; missiles were aimed at him
in front, and he was punctured with sharp-pointed sticks, and irritated
with repeated twists of the tail behind. The irritation being judged
sufficient, a single bull-dog is just let loose upon the prey, and if
he be found incapable on pinning him by the nose to the ground, he is
soon assisted by a second, and even by a third; and when these are tired
or gored, other bull-dogs, howling and impatient of control, and let
loose in their turn, till the poor exhausted captive faints beneath
the protracted attack, and falls a victim to a sport as barbarous as
ever disgraced the race of man." *
* Holme's History of Keighley, p. 192.
COCK-FIGHTING was another favourite diversion in the days long gone
by, but it was far different to the healthy game of football as played
now, with their well-drawn rules for the guidance of the players. The
game as played now-a-days, would have been voted tame and insipid, and
as only fit for children-not the manly game in which many were maimed
for life. Many are the stories which I have heard old men relate about
this game-tales which forcibly showed the folly and recklessness of
the young men of that day-the hairbreadth escapes, or the dangerous
wounds which some received from their antagonists, the foolhardiness
with which they entered into the contests which took place, when township
was arrayed against township, and village against village, or the Lowtown
against Fartown, Chapeltown, and Greenside. Great was the excitement
created by the great set matches. The ball was generally "thrown
down" in the field called "Greatrails," between Chapeltown
and Fartown. The Lowtown party had to take the ball down Littlemoor
to the beck, if they won the match, and the Fartown party had to take
it to the beck below Smalewell. The game of football has been revived
in Pudsey within the last few years, and a flourishing football club
is in existence. The club was formed in 1881, with Dr. Farquhar as president,
and a membership of sixty persons.
The game of CRICKET has been long practised in Pudsey, but was at
one time played in a very primitive fashion, generally on the highway,
or the village green. Bats, wickets and leather balls were then unknown;
a tub leg served as a bat, made smaller at one end for a handle, a wall
cape, or some large stone set on end for a wicket, called a "hob,"
and a pot taw or some hard substance covered with band. They were all
one-ball overs if double wicket was played; no umpires, and often those
who cheated the hardest won. ** All this has been changed, and the game
elevated into a science, and Pudsey has its cricket clubs, the St. Lawrence
and the Britannia, both of which are regarded as formidable competitors
by the clubs of neighbouring towns. In 1863 Pudsey received a visit
from the All England Eleven, who played with 22 selected from the players
of the township and the surrounding district. The match resulted in
a victory for the All England party, though by only seven runs. In the
following year the Eleven were defeated by 105 runs.
** Lawson's Progress in Pudsey, p. 63.
LAWN TENNIS has, at the present time, taken a prominent position as
an out-door amusement more particularly for ladies. In 1884 the "Pudsey
Lawn Tennis Club" was formed, with Mr. George Hinings as president,
and a goodly number of members. The "Hornblowers," once an
institution in Pudsey, are now extinct. Formerly there was in Pudsey,
almost within the memory of the "oldest inhabitant," an interesting
custom in vogue, by which apprentices and the inhabitants generally
were aroused from their slumbers by the shrill blasts of the "hornblower,"
or trumpeter, whose duty it was to go through the village every morning
during the week, at five o'clock, when the apprentices were obliged
to arise and commence their work.
The horn was also blown again at eight in the evening, when the apprentices
ceased working for the day. The last hornblower in this township was
Richard Anderson, usually called "Old Dick Anderson." This
quaint relic of bygone usages (when there were no mill-bells to
arouse the people to their work) is still practised at Otley, where
a trumpet is blown a la militaire, every morning, to arouse the mill-hands
to their work. One night in May, 1860, I was staying at Otley, when
early in the morning I was awakened by the shrill rattle of the trumpet,
and as I wondered what it meant, I could hear the trumpeter passing
along the streets making the little town ring again. On making inquiry,
I was informed what it meant.
"RIDING WEDDINGS."-It was formerly a custom in this neighbourhood,
for those parties who could afford it, to have what was termed "riding
weddings," namely, for those who went to the marriage to ride on
horse-back (sometimes two on a horse) to and from the Parish Church
at Calverley, and on the return to gallop home helter-skelter, as hard
as the horses could go, in order to be in first; sometimes a silver
cup was the prize for the first in. And it was also a custom, now happily
gone out of date, to seek up a number of old shoes to pelt or throw
at the parties as they rode along. When shoes could not be obtained,
sods were used for the purpose, and what is somewhat singular these
things were done in jest and good humour, not in anger or ill-will.
It is probable that this custom may have originated in the belief a
person was considered lucky." This custom was sometimes called
"trashing." I have heard of a person in Pudsey (named Greaves)
who offered to give his children £20 each, on their wedding day, if
they would forego their "riding wedding," but they would not-no,
not for £20.! *
* See Scatcherd's History of Morley, p. 195
"DUCKING STOOL."-There is, or was a few years ago, a large
pond, at the top of Tyersall-lane, known by the name of "ducking
stool." There was, about 60 years ago, at this pond, a chair fastened
to the end of a long pole, which worked on a pivot in order that the
chair could be made to descend into the water by working the pole. This
was the relic of an ancient custom for the punishment of scolds and
brawling women, who were placed in the chair and ducked, to the edification
of the bystanders. Sometimes this mode of punishment has been confounded
with the "cucking stool," which was in use as early as the
time of Domesday Book, and also with the "tumbrell," which
was used sometime after. In the "cucking stool" the culprit
was placed before her own door, or in some other public place, for a
certain time, and subjected to the jeers of the passers-by and of the
viciously inclined. On the "tumbrel," she, or he, was drawn
round the town, seated on the chair, and this was sometimes so constructed
as to be used for "ducking" as well, but the "ducking
stool" par excellence, was the one fixed, or moveable, but made
specially for the purposes of immersion. **
** See the Reliquary, 1861. Jame's History of Bradford, p. 293. Scatcherd's
History of Morley, p. 192, and Smith's Morley: Ancient and Modern, p.
"RIDING THE STANG," by the roughs, after a fight between
husband and wife, was a custom formerly common in this locality, and
has been carried out, within the last few years. A nominey was generally
said by the person who rode the stang or rail. If the wife had beat
the husband, it commenced thus:--
Ranty tan, tan, tan,
You may hear by the sound of my frying pan
That Mrs.--------- has beat her good man. ***
*** Scatcherd's Morley, p. 193.
The customs practised at Funerals were most objectionable, being the
remnants of practices handed down from the dark ages. In a description
of a funeral in 1541, it is said, "The corpse was then buried,
during which was sung the Te Deum, and the whole was concluded with
good eating and drinking." It was customary during the last century,
to have what was termed an "arvil." The persons attending
the funeral were supplied with warm ale and cakes, or a sumptuous feast
was prepared either at the house of the deceased or at a public-house
near, as if the visitors were rejoicing at the demise of the deceased-a
proceeding altogether unseemly on such a solemn occasion. In some country
districts this feasting custom yet lingers.
When we look around now, upon our town, what a change has come over
the scene. Long chimneys and gigantic manufactories have risen on every
hand, giving employment at good wages to hundreds and in some instances,
thousands of hands. The barbarities and
Degrading customs have, in a great measure, fled before the activity
of business and the educational institutions which have sprung up in
all our manufacturing villages throughout the country. The amusements
are generally of a higher order, if we except the dog-racing and rabbit-coursing
community, which, alas, is sadly too numerous. Sunday and day schools,
mechanics' institutions, soirees, lectures, and musical entertainments,
railway excursions, and holiday tours, cricket clubs, and other interesting
and healthy out-door games, now all come in for a large share of patronage.
There are now but very few who sigh for the "good old times"
to which in this chapter I have alluded more particularly.