AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ALWOODLEY
The Alwoodley Park Estate
The ever-expanding public transport system of Leeds acted as a stimulus to the growth of the suburbs of the city, with many desperate to escape the smoky atmosphere of the central districts. One of the first to realise the potential of Alwoodley for permanent housing was the solicitor, J.H.Milner, who, in 1918, skilfully negotiated the purchase of the King Lane Farm Estate from the Lane Fox family. In 1921 advertising literature appeared for the Alwoodley Park Estate ‘situate in one of the most healthy districts in Yorkshire, 500 feet above sea level.’ 108 Milner proposed the formation of the ‘Alwoodley Park Estate Association’ to facilitate the development of the estate. The complex rules were submitted to a General Meeting of Members held in Leeds on 24 August 1921. The Association offered 207 plots ranging from 1,260 to 8,000 square yards at one shilling per yard, adding that special features of the estate were free recreation ground, no back roads, freehold land, no tithe or land tax, free conveyance, bracing air, good roads and ease of access. The rules permitted an owner to use their plot for gardening, the erection of a temporary dwelling for a period of years or for the building of detached houses, semi-detached villas or bungalows.109 Unfortunately for Milner the location of the Alwoodley Park Estate was still too remote and development was slow.
The Ward Family
Ironically one of the first plots to be sold was King Lane Farm, a delightful old stone house near the junction with Stairfoot Lane, which was snapped up by Mr.Ward. His son, Peter, has vivid memories of life there. Apart from the main accommodation there was a separate cottage to the side which his Auntie Alvena came to live in and below that an extensive barn, the upper floor of which his father let to George Gill the cabinet-maker. When they moved in water was provided by a well but his father erected a railway tanker on bricks above the house and installed a petrol engine that pumped the well water in to store so they could have a supply in the house. Like most of the properties in Alwoodley they had to make do with an outside privy with associated midden.
Peter had a delightful childhood here, one of the highlights being Bonfire Night when children spent weeks ‘chumping’ to see who could build the best bonfire. He struck up a close friendship with Arthur Todd of Buckstone Farm, a ‘smashing bloke’ who taught him how to keep ducks. He also showed him how to kill the birds which he then sold to his mother’s bridge friends along with any spare eggs. Another money making scheme involved ‘tickling’ trout in Nanny Beck, placing them in a zinc bucket and swiftly taking them to Mr. Clegg’s house which had a stream and a massive pond at the back. Clegg paid him a shilling for each fish and allowed him to swim in the pond. Today the site is occupied by Alwoodley Methodist Church.
Other highlights were sledging in the field opposite, trying to aim to get through the gateway at the bottom without crashing. Nearby was the excellent orchard of Crag Farm, which he raided on many occasions despite ‘Toddy’ being on the look out on Crag Lane! He remembered the big house, Adel Brow, being built on the site of Alwoodley Nurseries, on the corner of Stairfoot Lane and King Lane. They were oil people from Hull and their children built a den in the corner of the garden. Peter and his brother pinched peas from the ‘sledging field’ and threw the pods in the den where they went mouldy and stank to high heaven! The Hull family wanted ‘Toddy’ to prosecute but he only needed to threaten to tell P.C.‘Bobby’ Mons, who lived at Alwoodley Gate and that was enough. All the residents of whatever age feared this notorious enforcer of law and order!
Two school-related events stood out in Peter’s memory above all others. As a very young child he attended a prep school on The View. He can vividly remember his teacher asking him what he was staring at out of the window and Peter replied an elephant! His teacher thought he was ridiculing her and reprimanded him severely only to realise that the travelling circus had stopped to let the animals graze in the nearby fields before moving on to Woodhouse Moor. When old enough, he attended Adel St. John’s and regularly cycled the route down Stairfoot Lane. One day, he decided to go ‘extra fast’, lost control and crashed. When Peter came round he was in Stairfoot House by the bridge. Dick England and his wife lived there. He was the Eddison’s odd-job man, chauffeur and gamekeeper and a regular at the New Inn! Mrs.England decided Peter ‘would live’ but persuaded her husband to drive him home in Eddison’s posh car.110
Hawk Nest Estate
Private transport was important for those who lived in the more distant parts of Alwoodley away from the tram termini and Harrogate bus route. Leeds City Tramways timetable shows that the first tram left Briggate at 5.53 a.m. and the last one returned from Moortown 11.20 p.m. - a cheap, dependable service! In August 1925 the magazine ‘Yorkshire Homes’ carried a half page advertisement on behalf of W. Thompson and Sons, building contractors, of Stony Rock Lane, Leeds, who were constructing the Hawk Nest Estate, Alwoodley. The advert stressed that this was a high-class residential estate only ten minutes walk from Moortown Corner and the electric tram terminal but with prices ranging from £1000 to £1500, it was far too much for many potential buyers. Nevertheless the estate boasted delightful views over undulating country and woodland but more importantly all the detached, semi-detached and bungalows of ‘artistic design’ were served with Leeds Corporation gas, electricity and water.111 Modern amenities were brought to Alwoodley not by Wharfedale Rural District Council to which the ‘parish’ belonged but by its powerful neighbour, Leeds. Charles Wilson, Conservative leader of the Council from 1907 to 1928, was an unashamed municipal imperialist, who actively canvassed support amongst the residents of Alwoodley for inclusion in the next Leeds Extension Bill. 112
108. Sales Details of The Alwoodley Park Estate Association, 1921, private collection.
109. Rules of The Alwoodley Park Estate Association, 1921, private collection.
110. Oral testimony of Peter Ward.
111. Yorkshire Homes, August 1925 p.56.
112. M.R.Meyer, Charles Henry Wilson: the man who was Leeds, Thoresby Soc., Vol. 8 Second Series (Leeds, 1998) pp.78-96.
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