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A History of Pudsey by Simeon Rayner

 

 

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 larger towns.
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 character.

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 and teachers.

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. 45

"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.