Remembering Ardsley Reservoir

ardsley resSome memories of Ardsley Reservoir, north-east of Wakefield, from Brian Asquith, a reader of my booklet ‘Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle’;

Westerton Wood
Westerton Wood

From 1938 – 1947 my mother and father ran Thirlmere Stores, at the entrance to Thirlmere Drive (now a private house). From my bedroom window I looked out across what we called the Red Wood (you call it Westerton Wood) to the reservoir. During the war trees were felled in the wood and strung across the reservoir to prevent seaplanes landing there.

In the wood was a mine shaft with a wall around 10/12 feet high and we used to lob stones down it and they made a loud noise as they descended the shaft. The larger the stone the louder the noise. Apparently the shaft was sunk around the same time that the reservoir was constructed and the owners were not allowed to tunnel under the reservoir. This apparently ended in a court case which eventually went to the House of Lords. The mine owners lost and the shaft was never used.

Jowett Pond

ardsley laneThere were several ponds in the area, all gone now with the building of so many houses, where we caught sticklebacks. I seem to remember some stringy looking spawn with black hyphens in the middle rather than the spherical black dots of frogspawn which we took to be newt spawn. Later on I think we found it to be toad spawn. 

One of the ponds was what we called the Jowett Pond, in Haigh Moor Road, near the entrance to the reservoir but on a map  I have, dated 1938, it is shown as Jude’s Pond. Around the reservoir was a ditch where we used to find crested newts but I don’t know if they are still there. We had to climb over the wall surreptitiously as the reservoir was not open to the public in those days.

No doubt you know about Lee Gap Fair, which was a horse fair held at Upper Green, (the western end of Westerton Road, which started with a Royal Charter, in the 12th century and was still going when I was a boy.

The fields it was held in were built over many years ago.

The Rhubarb Asquiths

The Ardsley Reservoir page from 'Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle'.
The Ardsley Reservoir page from ‘Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle’.

I asked Brian if he was related to the rhubarb-growing Asquith family, or to the prime-minister of a century ago, H H Asquith;

Sorry I am not from a rhubarb family (we used to call rhubarb “tusky” – I don’t know if that is a West Ardsley word or a Yorkshire word).  My grandparents worked in the pits. My grandfather Asquith was a miner at Topcliffe pit (Tingley) in, I think, the 1900 census but in the next one for 1910 he was a screen operator, which usually meant you weren’t fit to go down the pit. My mother’s father was also a miner.

My father worked at Armitages Brick Works at Howley Park. I don’t think I am related to HH although, if asked, I usually say that I was born in the same town as him but he was born in the big house, which is now a furniture shop (probably a bit of poetic license), whilst I was born in a terrace house, near Morley park, which is still a terrace house near Morley park.

Link; My booklet Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle

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