The Old Scouring Mill

Old scouring mill
The original drawing is an inch and a half, 4cm, across.

I’ve drawn the old scouring mill at Horbury Bridge several times this year, not because I’m particularly interested in the old buildings but because of the attraction of overlooking the mill, scribbling in my sketchbook as we wait for coffee and croissants at Di Bosco, just across the road.

Overlooking and scribbling . . . (with apologies for that terrible link) . . .

‘Scribbling Overlooker’

Arthur Pearson, a scribbling overlooker, worked in one of the woollen mills at Horbury Bridge until shortly before the start of World War I, when he started working for a large woollen cloth manufacturer in Freiburg, Bohemia. After getting into an argument about the Emperor and the Kaiser in the local barber’s, he was interned from March 1915 until December 1918, when he made his way back to Yorkshire.

Speaking to a reporter from the Leeds Mercury, he said that in Vienna ‘food and clothing were only purchasable by the very rich people; in fact, money at times could not buy food, and he had seen gold watches given in exchange for a loaf of black bread.’

Tea was selling at £2 per lb, salmon 30 shillings a tin, jam 25 shillings per jar and rice £2 per lb. A suit of clothes sold for anything from £80 to £120, but, Mr Pearson noticed, ‘the cloth was of very poor quality’.

Scribbling was the initial process of combing the wool prior to spinning it into yarn.

Casualty Lists

War Office Casualty lists for 8 October 1918, a little over a month before the end of hostilities, listed Private B Clark, 46532, of Horbury, who was serving in the Durham Light Infantry. In the previous month Private J Heald, 40981, of Horbury Bridge was listed as a casualty on the 10th.

In June two soldiers from Horbury Bridge had been listed as casualties, Private W H Osterfield, 48495, of the West Yorkshire Regiment and Private D Hall, 242319, of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.


At Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, the piglets are getting to the stage where they’d be better being separated from the sow. She’s getting increasingly irritated by the continual rough-and-tumble of her nine little porkers.

Rough-and-tumble except for the numerous occasions when they’re taking a break.


Rhea eggs laid in the paddock in May.

Two of the rhea eggs in the incubator at Charlotte’s have hatched, although we haven’t yet had the chance to see the chicks as they have to stay in there for a while. Rhea eggs are large but, even so it’s surprising how large the chicks are – about a foot tall apparently – so, they must have been well folded up in there.


In the lovebird aviary, a female quail is being pursued by an insistent male. He keeps grabbing her by the feathers of her nape so she’s starting to look a little the worse for wear.

The View from the Café

On Sunday morning when I drew the old scouring mill at Horbury Bridge from the Di Bosco Café, the temperature was climbing to 81°F, 27°C, so it was good to have the shade of their well-ventilated conservatory to draw in.

Yesterday, Monday, afternoon, I drew a buddleia-dotted development site through the open doors of Create Café, Wakefield One. The hoarding advertises the adjacent Merchant Gate development of flats, steak house and offices as ‘diverse & striking’. They seem to have given up on the ‘vibrant hub’ slogan.

Cushions in an armchair at Barbara’s brother’s.

The Old Scouring Mill, Horbury Bridge

After sorting and blending, the first stage in preparing raw wool is scouring: washing in hot water. The old scouring mill at Horbury Bridge is a reminder of the Victorian heyday of the West Riding woollen industry, when there were several large woollen mills at Horbury Bridge.

The mill closed long ago and is divided into units, some of them workshops with the one facing the road housing an antiques and second-hand furniture store.

Di Bosco coffee & champagne bar

I drew it from a table in the conservatory in Di Bosco, the coffee and champagne bar, which opened yesterday. Workers from the scouring mill must have drunk here often but at that time it would have been ale and porter, as this building was originally The Ship Inn, which dated back to at least the time that Sabine Baring Gould wrote Onward Christian Soldiers at Horbury Bridge. In 1865 he set up his mission headquarters in a terraced house, which still exists, midway between the Ship and the Horse & Jockey.

He certainly entertained decidedly un-Christian thoughts towards these two public houses, in particular the Horse & Jockey which, in his novel Through Fire and Flood, he has washed away in flash flood of epic proportions which cascades down the Calder Valley like a CGI sequence from  a disaster movie.

In reality it survived and it now has a good reputation for resident chef Michael Oldroyd’s traditional Yorkshire food and, sorry about this Sabine, the landlord’s traditional Yorkshire beers.


Di Bosco coffee and champagne bar

Michael Oldroyd’s Nostalgic Kitchen at the Horse & Jockey

Giant Hogweed

mallard pairgiant hogweedA pair of mallards negotiate the rapids below the old weir at Horbury Bridge. The shady south bank of the river resembles a jungle with reed canary grass, giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and sycamore forming a green screen in front of the embankment wall.

The giant hogweed is starting to come into flower. This introduced species is a native of the Caucasus Region and central Asia.

The only native amongst these four plants is the reed canary grass, Phalaris. It’s like a smaller version of common reed, Phragmites.

Germander Speedwell

germander speedwellOn our front lawn, in the shade of the rowan, germander speedwell is in flower. I’m going to mow around it when I cut the lawn.

It’s considered a weed on lawns but I like it as much as the daisies.

Private Fishing

heronHorbury Bridge, May Day Bank Holiday Monday, 9.30 a.m.; a heron gets up from the edge of the old weir and flies downstream. The sober grey livery, black wing-tips and ‘wing light’ white patches on the leading edge of the wings give it the appearance of an RAF transport plane. The ‘black goggles’ eye-stripe makes it look determined. Will it fly over the bridge or under the arch?

cormoranttreeIt veers towards the arch on the Horbury side and disappears beneath. Then we realise why; a cormorant appears and flies off up the river. The pool below the weir is evidently private fishing.

Looking down on the action from such close quarters, we get a better view of a cormorant than any we had in Scarborough last week.

Heron and cormorant were birds from another world in my school days; spectacular  images in the Observer’s Book of Birds in romantic, rugged settings.

The Brig Barn Mystery

Brig BarnShip InnWas this outbuilding at the Ship Inn at ‘the Brig’ (Horbury Bridge), a barn or a stables? As there is a pulley to the left of the upper door/hatch could it have been a warehouse? Perhaps it was connected with the woollen or rag trade?

The lean-to, if we can judge by that matching window, appears to be part of the original building but the extension at the back looks like a later addition.

BarnfantailsTwenty or thirty years ago the upper storey was used as a loft for fantail pigeons. The entrance hatch and landing platform are still there in the middle of the upper door.

As I said the other day, there’s supposed to be a unique ladder or staircase inside but, from this side of the surrounding fence, I haven’t been able to spot it as the demolition continues.

I can see that the inner wall is modern-looking brick, the roof timbers sawn timber, so it is probably early twentieth century rather than early Victorian or Georgian. We can be sure that the stone-built, flag-roofed Ship Inn is at least 150 years old because it gets a mention (an unfavourable mention!)  in Baring-Gould’s account of Horbury Bridge in 1864.

Middups and Shippon

Ship Inn

What a shame that they’re demolishing this building that has been part of the townscape for so long. This was originally the rear of the inn, as you can see in the map below. The present main Wakefield to Huddersfield road through Horbury Bridge dates from the mid-twentieth century.

cowsThe field behind the Ship Inn was known as the Middups. Perhaps, like the place name Midhope this meant a secluded field in the middle of a valley.

It was in this field that local weaver and talented musician David Turton calmed a bellowing bull by tuning up his bass viol and playing a chorus from Handel.

The Ship sounds a likely name for an inn next to an inland waterway but alternatively it might refer to a shippon or cow shed.

Horbury Bridge 1906

Horbury Bridge
Ordnance Survey map of Horbury Bridge in 1906 superimposed on an Apple Maps aerial view. The old ‘barn’ marked in yellow.
Horbury Bridge, Ordnance Survey 1906

My thanks to Paul Spencer who pointed out, via Twitter, that there was a blacksmith’s close to the old ‘barn’. He sent me a copy of the Ordnance Survey map of Horbury Bridge for 1906 which I’ve superimposed on a present day aerial view. The ‘barn’, which I’ve highlighted in yellow, isn’t shown on the 1906 map but its footprint doesn’t overlap the older building – long demolished – immediately to the north, so it could be a century old.

Aerial view from the Apple Maps app.
Aerial view from the Apple Maps app. Note the new road which dates from the mid-twentieth century.

I’ve always wondered exactly how the Old Cut, abandoned and filled in during the twentieth century, fitted in to the layout of the Brig.

The river bridge of the early twentieth century was narrower than the modern version and crossed the river at a slightly different alignment.

Link; Account by Baring-Gould of the story of David Turton and the bull. This doesn’t mention that this took place in the field known as the Middups. My source for that was Horbury man Bernard Larrad, born (c. 1895-1980), who also told me that he had a photograph of himself as a baby sitting on Baring-Gould’s knee. Why he was so honoured wasn’t explained. As far as I remember, Bernard didn’t claim to be related to Baring-Gould.

Sabine’s Mission Impossible

Scapple NotesmissionI’ve been writing my Wild Yorkshire nature diary for the Dalesman for more than two years but the article that I’m working on now for the 150th anniversary of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers is rather different and I’m struggling a bit to decide what approach I should use. I’ve used a program called Scapple to pull my ideas together. Scapple is like a looser version of Tony Buzan’s mind-mapping technique where you start with one idea and make all kinds of connections to it.

Baring GouldCertain aspects of the story stand out vividly for me; the encounter between Sabine Baring Gould (who wrote the hymn) and local tough guy ‘Old Nut’. Or the way meetings in the upstairs Mission room were sometimes interrupted by street urchins throwing stones or even dead cats through the window.

old nutI like the way that Baring Gould later used his literary talents to exact a fitting revenge on ‘Old Nut’s’ favourite pub, The Horse and Jockey. In his novel Through Fire and Flood, which is based on his experiences at the ‘Brig’, he has the pub swept away in a flood. He evidently derived so much satisfaction from this literary method of settling old scores that he introduced a thinly disguised version of The Horse and Jockey into a later novel, The Pennycomequicks, and, would you believe it, it too gets swept away again by the raging waters of the River Calder!


Scapple, the mind-mapping program, seems very versatile. I printed out my mind-map and added the cartoons by hand.


Wood Street Roofline

roof windowA coffee break drawing from Marmalade, Cross Square, Wakefield of a Dutch or Flemish style attic window of the building at the end of Wood Street which for many years was a branch of Barclays Bank. There are impressive terra cotta panels on the facade and the dates 1810 and a later date (1870?) which must refer to a rebuild.

The Stables at ‘the Brig’

The long disused Crown Court at the top end of Queen Street is at last getting restored but it looks as if, for a humbler building back at Horbury Bridge, time is running out. A builder’s fence appearing just before a weekend around the old stables or barn next to the Ship Inn at Horbury Bridge might be a sign that they’re going to demolish it, to make way for a proposed convenience store.

It sounds a bit cynical but I always assume the worst because tree-felling and demolition of historic buildings often seems to take place over a weekend, sometimes a bank holiday weekend, when it’s impossible to get in touch with the local authority. I’m still waiting for a planning officer to get back to me, to clarify what might be going on*.

Horbury Bridge
Horbury Bridge

As I’m researching an article for the Dalesman about the first performance of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers at Horbury Bridge, I’m interested in the history of the ‘Brig’. Local historian Christine Cudworth tells me that these stables have a unique kind of ladder in them. The land that they are built on formerly belonged to Horbury’s centuries old charity, The Common Lands Trust. The building has a slate roof so I’m guessing that it’s not as old as the Ship Inn next door which has a stone flagged roof.

I'm sorry that I missed photographing the old stables a couple of weeks ago. They've gone now unfortunately.
I’m sorry that I missed photographing the old stables a couple of weeks ago. They’ve gone now unfortunately.

Latest news; Wakefield planning department got back to me and explained that although the present scheme requests permission to demolish the stables, the developers had applied in 2014 for permission to demolish and, after due consideration, that was approved, so they didn’t need any further permission to proceed this weekend, even though their latest proposal has yet to be considered.

I vaguely remember seeing a planning notice last year but was so busy because of mum’s illness that I didn’t make any comments on the proposal. I’ll photograph what’s left of the stables – if there is anything by now – next time I pass.

* I’m impressed that Wakefield planning department got back to me on the Sunday afternoon.

Salmon or Sea Trout?


mystery fish - a sea trout?Today I saw cormorant and goosanders on the Calder; the increasing number of ducks on the river is an indication of how water quality has improved. I was delighted to see this photograph (left) in an e-mail, taken on a mobile phone by local angler Keith Inglehearn, who had been fishing for pike in the River Calder at Horbury Bridge on 31 December.

“I caught the fish pictured on a whole mackerel and it weighed 6 pounds.” Keith tells me “It was returned carefully to the water and swam off strongly.”

To me this looks like a salmon so I contacted Kevin Sunderland, who has been monitoring their return into the Aire and Calder. Kevin tells me: “I’m no expert on these things but my initial thoughts are that the fish isn’t a salmon but is probably a sea trout. I base this solely on the fact that the tail does not appear to be forked as in a salmon.

“I went to Knottingley on 5th November to see what the effect the flooded river would have on Knottingley Weir. I believe that any fish below the weir would have got up. I went to Kirkthorpe on 15th November and witnessed numerous large fish attempting to ascend the weir, presumably the fish which had got up Knottingley a week previously. Maybe the fish which Keith caught was one of these.”

mystery fishI’m hoping that the experts at the Environment Agency will be able to help us identify the species. If Sea Trout can migrate up river and find their way up Kirkthorpe Weir at Wakefield it shouldn’t long before the Salmon follow them.

“It really is remarkable for the river to be holding fish like this.” says Keith, “I have lived around this area all my life and I have been an angler for the last 43 years. I remember very well what the state of the river and canal was like when I was a youngster!”