Harry Ramsden’s Fish & Chip History

On relection

Caught in Whitby, fried at Guiseley and eaten out of newspaper our Yorkshire fish and chips, mushy peas and all were part of our staple diet. The real Harry Ramsden’s of our youth is no more, no longer a chandeliered temple, no longer a unique experience but a ‘brand a plastic food emporia‘ with no queues and little ambiance. Who cares that there are 170 outlets all over the world from Jedda to Edinburgh or that you can buy tinned mushy peas and a Morphy Richards fish fryer packaged under Harry Ramsden’s name. We just want great value Fish ‘n F’nurks in a gradely plaice ( I mean place).

The food is OK, the chandeliers are still there in Guiseley and it has had a lick o’paint but the happy consumers have so many other chippy choices and the whole Ramsdens experience is diminished. It is best summed up by Sir Findo Gask ‘ I avoid Harry Ramsden’s like the plague. The name remains but all that was outstanding about the original Guiseley chippie has long, long gone.’
So regrettably I have little more to say about the current state of affairs but will offer my view of when things started to go wrong.

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Battered History

The business was started by Harry Ramsden in 1928 in a wooden hut at White Cross, Guiseley. Continue reading Harry Ramsden’s Fish & Chip History

Yorkshire Ridings Society

The Ridings are still with us but a little support from Yorkshire folk will keep them fresh and in the minds of this and future generations. The ‘Yorkshire Ridings Society’ is doing just that from every angle of the Yorkshire Ridings (I tried to avoid saying corner). The society also created Yorkshire Day celebrated on 1st August every year and for those reasons and the £5 membership it seem worth joining. More information on the Society can be found on the web site and in the article below reproduced with their permission.

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Yorkshire Ridings Society A Brief History

Continue reading Yorkshire Ridings Society

Worsbrough Mill and Canal


3 miles south of Barnsley, Worsbrough was noted in the Doomsday book for its Corn Mill. Now with a population under 10,000 it is a village over looking the Worsbrough Valley. At Worsbrough Country Park you can see the milling process in Worsbrough Mills 17th & 19th century buildings. From the grain arriving from the farm, the cleaning of the wheat, the actual grinding of the grain, through to the separation of white and wholemeal flour. And then the flour is available to purchase.
Go to Worsbrough Country Park and watch, learn and ask questions about the traditional flour milling processes.
Worsborough is the historic spelling in use when the milll was commercially active. The place name is usually spelt “Worsbrough” today.

worsborough black and white

The Canal was opened in 1804 and at its height it carried 2000 boats and barges a year. Landowners were authorized by parliament to construct railways to the local collieries. The tramway which runs at the side of the mill, up the south side of the reservoir was to serve Stoney Royd, Ratten Row and Top Pit. In 1832 it also carried coal and iron from Pilley Hills Colliery and Ironstone Works. Unfortunately it was the first part of the Dearne and Dove Canal to close, in 1906, following constant problems with subsidence. Many areas are now derelict or used for recreation.

Elizabethan buildings exist at Rockley Old Hall and Houndhill near the country park. Houndhill is built on a medieval site and was a strong hold during the civil war. For virtually 500 years it has been in the Elmhirst family who started the Dartington Glass Factory. The National Archives have a lot of accessible information from the 18th C.

The 13th C. church St Mary’s is built of crumbling sandstone and parts of the chancel date back to Norman times. Originally linked to Darfield Church the tower is 400 years old and the East window is 14th C.

Photo credits
cart by clogsilk and worsborough black and white by clogsilk CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Field Study Centre, Worsborough Mill by rusty_dragonfly CC BY-NC 2.0

Field Study Centre, Worsborough Mill

First Battle in the Wars of The Roses?

If you thought the Wars of the Roses were fought between 1450-1509 then think again.
The battle of Bramham Moor in 1408 could have been the first sign of the trouble to come. More likely problems already existed between royalists, Lancastrians and feuding Lords.

Pike and Musket

The War of the Roses Protagonists

Richard II was the grandson of Edward III but not of the same caliber when it came to war. A threat to Richard’s authority existed from the House of Lancaster which not only possessed greater wealth they were also of royal descent and likely candidates to succeed the childless Richard.
In 1399 whilst Richard was fighting in Ireland he was deposed by his cousin the son of John of Gaunt, Henry Bolingbroke aka Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby or King Henry IV.
Earlier Henry had be banished and Richard had seized Henry’s large Lancastrian estates. The usurper imprisoned Richard in Pontefract castle where he died potentially starved to death on the orders of Henry.
Henry then had trouble with Owen Glendower over Welsh independence and with rebellious northern lords.
The Percy family were one of the most prominent families in the North of England and amongst the rebellious lords who fought against King Henry.

Battle Of Tewkesbury #1

The Battle of Bramham Moor

‘Hotspur’ and his father Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland had fallen out with King Henry IV. They met a royal army at Shrewsbury in 1403 and Hotspur was killed leaving his father to flee to Scotland. Early in 1408 Northumberland returned to England building a small force as he journeyed south.
To the east of Bramham village Northumberland’s force was intercepted by Sir Thomas Stokeby a staunch supporter of King Henry, and the Sheriff of Yorkshire. The battle through the afternoon routed Northumberland and he was either killed or executed in York (history is a bit cloudy on that matter).

Sword against pike at a re-enactment of the Siege of Basing House, an event in the English Civil War

Bramham was a battle ground in the Wars of the Roses but since it followed as a direct consequence of the battle at Shrewsbury it may claim to be the first. However Bramham Moor was the first war of the roses battle on Yorkshire soil. Bramham lies south of Wetherby between Leeds and Tadcaster.

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Photo Credits
Pike and Musket by C.K.H. CC BY-ND 2.0
Battle Of Tewkesbury #1 by gripso_banana_prune CC BY-SA 2.0
Sword against pike at a re-enactment of the Siege of Basing House, an event in the English Civil War by Anguskirk, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bradford Architecture New Vic Gaumont Odeon

Gaumont dome

How many good buildings has Bradford got that it can allow this great 1930’s edifice to fall down around the politicians ears?

Well there was Swan Arcade, Busbys, two Victorian Railway Stations, Kirkgate and Rawson Markets but emphasis is on the ‘was’. I guess the ‘Penny Bank’ at North Parade / Manor Row is threatened and even the modern Yorkshire Building Society premises up Westgate and the City Centre police station are desolate.
Mills are virtually wiped out with an occasional white elephant housing conversion scheme or arsonists testing ground.

Meanwhile the great vision from out political elite is a moat around City Hall (sorry I mean a Park with a Mirror Pool). Not to mention the hole in the City Centre designed as Forster House by John Paulson. Come back Paulson even you can’t do as badly!

Returning to the Gaumont there is a full and interesting history by Colin Sutton ‘Bradford – New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon’
It is not too late ‘Save our Heritage Buildings’.

Mill on Thornton Road 2009

Highwaymen, Black Bess, Dick Turpin and Swift Nick Nevison

Is Black Bess the horse that brought Dick Turpin to York? As a noted horse thief and highwayman it is probable that dastardly Dick had many other horses to get him to York and the trip from London to York in 16 hours is part of the legend that has built up around Dick Turpin. It is thought more likely that it was a Yorkshire highwayman John Nevison, “Swift Nick”, born and raised at Wortley village near Sheffield and also a well-known highwayman in the time of Charles II about 50 years before Turpin, who rode from Gad’s Hill Kent 190 miles to York in about 15 hours. However, to accomplish this feat, Nevison had to use more than one horse.

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Dick Turpin Steals Black Bess
Escaping towards London after a criminal enterprise Turpin and friends, according to the Newgate Calendar, ‘came near the Green Man, on Epping Forest where they overtook a Mr. Major, who riding on a very fine horse, and Turpin’s beast being jaded he obliged the rider to dismount, and exchange horses.
The robbers now pursued their journey towards London, and Mr. Major going to the Green Man, gave an account of the affair; on which it was conjectured that Turpin had been the robber, and that the horse which he exchanged must have been stolen.
It was on a Saturday evening that this robbery was committed; but Mr. Major being advised to print hand-bills immediately, notice was given to the landlord of the Green Man, that such a horse as Mr. Major had lost, had been left at the Red Lion, in Whitechapel. The landlord going thither, determined to wait till some person came for it; and, at about eleven at night, King’s brother came to pay for the horse, and take him away: on which he was immediately seized, and conducted into the house.
Being asked what right he had to the horse, he said he had bought it; but the landlord examining a whip which he had in his hand, found a button at the end of the handle half broken off, and the name of Major on the remaining half. Hereupon he was given into the custody of a constable; but as it was not supposed that he was the actual robber, he was told, that he should have his liberty, if he would discover his employer.’

If you want you can read more about the myths and legends surrounding Dick Turpin prior to his execution in 1739 for horse rustling. Finally after the body was moved several times Dick Turpin was buried in quicklime across from St. George’s Roman Catholic Church in York near Walmgate Bar.

Other web sites contain details of Dick Turpin and his life as a highway man including Stand & Deliver

York Mystery Plays 2014 and Prior

HC & York 051

York Mystery plays were committed to writing by monks in the 14th Century as a cycle for performance by the craft guilds. 48 of the original 50 plays tells the the story of mankind from a middle ages interpretation of the bible. Starting with the creation, through the old testament to Crucifixion, Resurrection and Judgment Day. Even back in 1379 it is reputed that Richard II witnessed the festival from Micklegate Bar.

On 11th & 18th July 2010 twelve plays will be performed on waggons at various locations in York. ‘The waggons move through the city streets accompanied by music – a colourful and vivid spectacle. The open air performance using moving pageant waggons harks back to the original spectacle of the medieval Corpus Christi day festivities…

The plays were not performed after 1572 until 1951 when the manuscript at the British museum and an 1885 transcript were used in the revival.

Various organisations take part including old guilds such as the Scriveners and Cordwainers. The flags and banners of many old Guilds can be seen in the magnificently timbered Merchant Adventurers Hall. This is located between Fossgate and Piccadilly.


2014 Mystery Plays

Yard of Ale at Whitelocks The Turks Head

Whitelocks (sign), Leeds

Leeds Pubs hide there light under a bushel or in a back yard in the case of Whitelocks. Run by the Whitelock family for 90 years during the 19th century Whitelocks was renamed from the original ‘Turks Head’ but the long narrow passage way where it is located is now named Turks Head Yard.

A  ‘Yard of Ale’ is what you can expect or several yards of copper bar with numerous hand pulled and beer engine pumps to serve you a great selection of ales real and chilled. Beer at its best served in the old style. Whitelocks is worth a visit for the mirrors and polished copper alone but they have a long reputation as a luncheon bar and serve good Yorkshire grub. I remember being fascinated 40 years ago that part of a pub had white linen tablecloths and there were 8 tables similarly adorned at lunchtime last week.
If you don’t want food with your drink go in an evening or drink outside in the long thin passage way that leads from Briggate to Trinity Street (back of M&S to people in the Man Creche).


I ventured in to Whitelocks last week as I remembered they had a toilet out in the yard only to find it locked and accessible only through the bar so I felt I must enter. With the drink I then consumed I put in more than I took out so to speak!
It is over 40 years since I first supped in Whitelocks but a small time compared to the 297 it has been open. I must make a note to visit in 2015 when they celebrate their 300 year anniversary.

Other Reviews
Whitelocks is Leeds’ oldest pub (1715) hidden in the depths of one of the city’s more obscure alleyways. Bizarrely, despite tourists and legless students alike struggling to find it, the pissed OAPs seem to locate their place at the bar every time……. the itchy guide goes on in similar fashion but it is aimed at the drinking student class (or is that skipping classes).

Pub Humour

A man walks into a bar! – ‘Ouch’
A dyslexic walks into a bra!
A ham sandwich walks into a bar and asks for a pint and a pickled egg – ‘Sorry we don’t serve food!’
A man walks into a bar with a lump of tarmac under his arm and says: “Pint please, and one for the road.”
Descartes walks into a bar and is asked “Would you like a beer?” Descartes replies “I think not” and woosh! he vanishes.
A Black Sheep walks into a bar. The bartender says, “We have a beer named after you.” The Black Sheep says, “Bob?”

Whitelocks, Leeds #2

Photo credits
Adam Bruderer CC BY 2.0
Whitelocks by tricky (rick harrison) One of the narrow alleyways leading into Whitelocks pub (the oldest pub in Leeds). CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Otley Museum and Industrial Heritage

Navvies Memorial Otley

Otley museum is a Yorkshire treasure that charts the industry and life of folk in Otley though the exhibits and informative volunteers. There are currently good research facilities where you can access the principal Museum Archive or the Urban Development Archive and conduct family or historical research. Current exhibits include details of locally discovered Neolithic bodies 5,000 years old that are thought to have suffered from Spina Bifida type health problems through new Rag Rugs from local children to Victorian coat hangers from gents outfitters and photographs of old farming families.

Local industries provided many of the commercial exhibits with a lot of detail from the heart of the printing machinery industry and the birth of the Wharfedale Printing machine. Notwithstanding the industrial connection the heart of the collection is an accumulation of all things that have gone to make up the life of a great market town in the West Riding.

Currently the museum is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday 10.00-12.30 and staffed exclusively by volunteers. Visit the Museum soon as the Mechanics Institute or Civic Hall where it is located is due for refurbishment. All the exhibits will have to be put into storage and it not certain that the self-funding charity will be able to afford the rent due to the council when the premises are reopened. Local communities need connections to the past and the museum deserves to be given every chance to entertain and educate future generations. Otley also needs all the attractions it can muster to encourage day trippers and visitors to the market and the surrounding countryside.

One special collection is of ‘Concealed Shoes’ which are individuals shoes discovered in old buildings. Since the 13th century buildings have had shoes concealed in the fabric, in walls, chinneys, roofs or under floorboards. Probably placed there to ward of witches and evil spirits they were meant to bring good luck or avoid bad luck. if you find such a shoe it is worth reporting to the museum for deatiled record keeping but leave it in place in case evil spirits do exist.

Biblography on Concealed Shoes.
Otley Museum concealed Shoes found around Otley Research File by appointment.
Edwardd J C Swaysland Boot & Shoe Design & Manufacture 1905 Museaum copy
Swann, J.M. web story and , ‘Shoes Concealed in Buildings’, Northampton Museum Journal 6 (December 1969) pp.8-21.
Ralph Merrifield, ‘Folklore in London Archaeology’, The London Archaeologist (Winter 1969) vol.1, no.5.
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, Batsford, 1987).
Denise Dixon-Smith, ‘Concealed Shoes’, Archaeological Leather Group Newsletter no.6 (Spring 1990).
Olaf Goubitz, ‘Verborgen Schoeisel’ in Westerheem VIII no.5 (1989) pp.233-39.
Margaret Baker, The Realms of Gold (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1975; Penguin 1977) p.357.
J.L. Nevinson, Letter to The Times 5 February 1934, asking for reasons for concealments.
Col. Pen Lloyd, The History of the Mysterious Papillon Hall (Leicester 1977).

The Architecture of Otley is featured in the Otley Museum but there are many places for visitors to discover. The above photograph is a detail from the memorial to the Navvies who built and died during the construction of the Bramhope Railway Tunnel.

Classic Cars in Thirsk


 It is an expensive and time consuming hobby to restore a vehicle but I, like others, stop and stare at old cars on the road and it is great to see them loved and cared for. Keep up the good work in protecting our engineering heritage. Tois vintage Jowett was built in Bradford and is now a museum exhibity.

Our Yorkshire based badminton club’s annual trip in June took in the Daimler and Classic Car show at Ross on Wye ( Wye oh why did we leave Yorkshire I hear you ask). A similar garden was spotted along with some immaculate cars.


Continue reading Classic Cars in Thirsk