ANother World of Darkness - Alpha Network
“Never in my house.. Ye abide by m’rules ya see…”
Ackworth, a small village about two miles South of Pontefract is a very old English settlement that seems to have been a central focus of the area since the very earliest bronze age times.
Translated as “Oak Village”, this was a big place of power and likely important to the whole area. This shows up in today’s evidence of how the main roadways come and go from Ackworth such as Wakefield Rd. Changing to Doncaster Rd. A small reminder of those lost, ancient times still exists in the form of Wake Wood that is close by, on the outskirts of Ackworth and keeps a strong secret there and still strong magic for those who know.
Investigating the small details still existing from the earliest times in the Village itself implies a community of Magic and Occult Lore and along with the name of the place iself, suggests a Druid Community…
We do have hints from history that Ackworth was around as a settlement
of some sort in Roman times. There are rumours of a Roman Baths in
Ackworth, and there is certainly evidence of a smelting works in the
village. There is of course the roman milestone, again with links to
the Heritage group. Roman life in Castleford is well documented, but
Harry Miles, one of our members has found plenty of evidence that the
Romans were busy here making iron. What they made, and where the items
went we won’t know, but perhaps , like the grindstones which feature
later, they were goods which went around the world.
However, the village we know was probably founded in Anglo Saxon times.
The English of course were not native, and came over in the 6thC.,
often displacing the native Britons. Being one of the Northern
counties we saw a big influx of Scandinavian visitors and both these
peoples have had an influence on our development. There’s been an
attempt of late to reinvent the Vikings as traders and spreaders of
culture, though I think their bloody past may be harder to wash! We
have to say though, as well as raiding they did come to settle, and
Thorpe Audlin bears an undoubtedly Viking name.
Ackworth, or, more specifically Brackenhill and Hessle have an
important historical battle under their belt. It’s been suggested that
this is the most probable site for the Battle of Winwaed, fought
between the pagan king Penda and the Christian king Oswy, brother of St
Oswald. At the end of the battle, when the Went ran with blood, the
Christian king triumphed and this part of the country started to put
its pagan past vehind itself, and started looking toward a Christian
future. The name of St Oswald continued as the name of the local
The name Ackworth is from the Anglo-Saxon, or Scandinavian. It
comprises of two words:-
Ake or Aken meaning Oak, and Uurt or worth meaning a clearing, a
farmstead or small hamlet.
We can say then that the village was established by Anglo-Saxon times,
possibly as an offshoot from the bigger establishment at Pontefract.
By the time of the Domesday book the village had two manors, which were
probably the growth centres for High and Low Ackworth.
So, we have a small development, growing in two distinct groups, but
nowhere near the size of the present village. Areas like Moor Top and
Brackenhill were later formations, though we must get away from the
idea that they grow with the boundaries of Ackworth. The Mill in
Ackworth dated back to the 1400’s, a timke when the rest of MoorTop was
The inhabitants were probably farmers who would trade in Pontefract,
around St Oswald’s Cross, where the Buttercross now stands. Here we
see more of our Scandinavian Heritage. Ackworth stood in what was
called the Wapentake of Osgoldcross. A Wapentake was a stretch of land
divided up for purposes of taxation, much as the Hundred was used in
Southern Counties. Osgoldcross was of course a contraction of
The Norman Conquest brought Ackworth into the hands of Ilbert de Lacy,
a Norman Knight who came over with William of Normandy, and from this
time Ackworth’s fate was linked with the Castle. The village became
part of the Honour of Pontefract, a massive area covering Pontefract,
Barnsley and Bradford. Pontefract was the Lord’s main seat, though he
had to spend all his time touring round his lands, and attending the
Ackworth was probably Christian from its establishment, and is a
possible site for the visitation of S. Cuthbert’s body.
When the Danes attacked the monks took up Cuthbert’s body to prevent
its desecration and carried it around the North. Tradition states that
where the body rested a Church was built in Cuthbert’s name. Another
link to this may rest in a clue from the nearby pub, The Brown Cow.
The monks also took with then a dunn cow, to provide fresh milk for
their travels, and 1200 years later the dunn, or brown cow still stands
next to S. Cuthbert’s. Research by Mr F. Davies will back this up,
along with information to be found in Durham.
We’ll look for a little while at the spiritual life of Ackworth. Over
the years Ackworth has been home to many denominations, predominately
Christian. We know there was a Norman chapel built on the site of the
present church, though the present building was put up in 1852
following a fire. Until 1534 it would have been a part of the
established Roman Catholic faith, until Henry VIII declared himself
head of the Church in England. The transition from Rome did not go
down well in the North , culminating in the Pilgrimage of Grace in
1536. Its leader, Robert Aske led 9,000 insurgents on York, which fell,
and the king was forced to come and agree terms at Doncaster which had
between 30 and 40 supporters gathered. The king agreed to an amnesty,
as well as to many other terms, and the gathering went back to their
homes to wait for a restoration. One of these residents was called
Nicholas Tempest and he paid for it dearly. The king went back on
all his promises and the leaders of the rebellion were executed.
The Tempests were to stay in Ackworth, but we return to them later. In
the 1640’s the church and village ran into difficulties. Dr Bradley,
rector of Ackworth was also Rector to King Charles I, and if the king
fell, his rector fell. We still see the Alms houses built by Bradley,
though they were rebuilt in Victorian times. It was probably at this
time that the Village Cross was damaged. The cross which presumably
stood atop was replaced with a ball. This may be due to the fact that
the Puritans felt the symbol of the cross to be idolatrous, and the
ball to be a symbol of the world.
The church was a popular part of village life, and at the latter end of
the 19th C. a chapel of ease had to be built for the expanding village.
Built in 1888 by Sybilla and Julia Wheeler, they died before they could
see the fruits of their kindness. While it can’t be said that there is
anything too stunning about this church it does have a warmth and
simplicity all of it’s own that makes it special.
The Roman faith never died out in Ackworth, and the Tempest family
continued to practice their faith, and in 1824 Elisabeth Tempest
bought a house called Ackworth Grange from Elisabeth Wilson. Here they
employed Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the designer of the interiors
of Westminster Palace, to build them a Roman Catholic Chapel. Those
who watched the State Opening of Parliament can’t help but be impressed
at the bold interiors which bring back the splendour of mediaeval
England This served as the village Church until 1920 when there were
plans to open a Convent at Eagle House. The plans fell through, but
they did create a new church . This served the village until the
present Church, Our Lady of Lourdes was built in 1939.
The Quakers, or Society of Friends, established their school and
meeting house here in 1779. The land was originally a Foundling
Hospital, built in 1757, an offshoot from the famous Foundling Hospital
in London, established by Captain Thomas Coram. It was though that
babies would fare better in the countryside, so they shipped them to
Ackworth. The presence of the Society of Friends, like their services,
is a quiet one in the village. They have their own burial ground in
Lee Lane, low Ackworth.
Another graveyard is that of the Plymouth Brethren, which is situated
in the grounds of the Howards School. Luke Howard, who lived at
Ackworth Court was a member of the Plymouth Brethren, as were his
children, though he started out like as a quaker. Howard was born in
1772 and has been described as the Godfather of Clouds and the father
of Meteorology. He named the cloud formations we are familiar with
today. In 1821 he became a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1864 he
died. An important man, and a resident of our village.
His Daughter, Rachel, founded the Howard School, the oldest surviving
school in the village.
Ackworth Methodist Church’s foundation was laid down in 1858, this
church was gutted by fire in 1912.
This wasn’t the only Methodist Church, with Hillside being built in
1863 at the bequest of an American gentleman called Mr Field, and
Brackenhill in 1907. Ackworth Methodist Church or the ‘Wesleyan’ as it
is known by older people in the village is the only remaining Methodist
Church in the village.
At Ackworth New Hall, on top of Castlesyke Hill, was where John Gully
didn’t have a Unitarian Chapel, though he did at a later house. Harry
Miles has taken extensive photos of some of the remaining buildings,
though the house is sadly flattened.
The latest development has been the community church which presently
meets at The Parish Rooms.
So, back to the story of Ackworth, I’ve said already that the village
is tied into the Honour of Pontefract. This came down the deLaceys
until 1311, when it passed to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who had married
Henry de Lacey’s daughter. When Thomas was beheaded by Edward II in
1322 the king seized all the lands. It came back into Lancastrian
hands along with the crown in 1399 when Henry Bolingbroke usurped the
crown from his cousin Richard II, whom he had put to death at
Pontefract. In 1603 the village was mortgaged to the City of London,
and in 1628 the village was sold outright, except the church which
remains crown property. The change that this brought about was that
the whole village was no longer owned by one man, and could develop
into a proper village, with different people buying and selling
property, buying land, and establishing roots.
The village continued to grow until the separate villages of High and
Low Ackworth became indistinguishable. Outside the village, on Moor
Top Common a Workhouse was built, well outside the village, so that the
poor were kept at a distance. In 1847 the Poor Law amendment act meant
the workhouse was untenanted, and it was converted into the four
cottages known as High Terrace.
The quarries in Ackworth had started yielding their stones, for local
housing and for further away, and the quarrymen had started to build
their own hoses, almost on site, leading to the establishment of Bell
Lane. At this time the roundabout didn’t exist, nor did the road from
the Boot and Shoe to the Roundabout. You’ll notice from the obelisk at
the end of Bell Lane that the road towards Barnsley says Hemsworth and
Sheffield. Where we would expect the sign to say Pontefract and Leeds
it says Wakefield and Wragby. This is because these places were
accessed by going up Bell Lane.
This brings us to another important aspect on the life of Ackworth.
We’ve seen its beginnings in farming, and a development into stonework
and quarrying. Ackworth’s other industry lay in its provision as a
stop off point for the coaches passing through. Ackworth lay among
important routes. The Angel Inn on Wakefield Road was certainly around
in 1587, and the Boot and Shoe is thought also to date back to the 16th
Century. In 1822 stagecoaches called at these public houses en route
to Scarborough, Sheffield, Lincoln, Wakefield and Doncaster.
In spite of refusals to name Ackworth as a former coal mining area it
has to be remembered that Ackworth had its own Colliery, and many of
the houses built in Ackworth, prior to the more recent rash were built
to house the workers in the local coal and stone industries. The
Wakefield Road started to develop and take on a character of its own,
to some extent leaving High and Low Ackworth behind. The
Micklethwaites built Heaton House, with its considerable amount of
ground behind it. William Nelstrop, a local corn factor had Cleveland
Lodge, a very impressive building in its day, now converted to a number
Rhyddings hose was once the home of Judge Cadman, who’s memory is
preserved on the walls of the library.
It was in part due to these changes in development that the size and
character of Ackworth changed, it would soon absorb Brackenhill as
well, a local hamlet of stone workers, and once home to a witch.
We can see then, that Ackworth has grown from 2 communities based
around 2 manors to a sprawling village encompassing High Ackworth, Low
Ackworth, Moor Top, and Brackenhill. The four elements still keeping
their identities still, but part of the bigger picture that is
Moor Top was home as well to the Flounders Institute. This was
necessary because Quakers were barred from University education, so it
became necessary for the Quakers to establish their own training
ground. Benjamin Flounder established the Institute by hi s will in
1845, when he left £40.000. The institute covered 5 acres,
and the stone used to build the institution was quarried from its own
grounds. It opened in 1848 and trained until 1894 when the students
transferred to Leeds. It remained empty until 1900, in 1902 it was
bought by Ackworth School and in 1903 became the North Midlands
Inebriates Home. During WWI it was S.John’s Army Hospital and in 1934
Mr & Mrs Dyson opened part of the building as a junior boy home. In
1946 it was converted into a residential block for staff of the School,
and in 1971 was pulled down to make way for the development that now
stands on the site.
Ackworth has always been ina state of change, and the Heritage Group
mhas been formed to try and keep hold of some of the more imprtant
aspects of the past.
The Obelisk project looks at restoring the obeslisks at Long lane,
Station Road and Bell Lane.
The station road obelisk once bore a simple globe on its top. A finger
pointer on top of the globe pointed to the School Inn, unusual in that
this was a pub with no beer. Being part of the Friends’ School the pub
was a temperance establishment.
The Village Green, once a focus of village life has seen many changes
too. Intersected with roads, it has lost the focus it once had. This gathering was probably celebrating one of Victoria’s jubillees.
The railway station, closed many years ago was built to the same design
as Pontefract’s Baghill Station. In this age of expansion, and the
need to use public transport, will we see it open again?
Finally, the age of monuments hasn’t finished. 1999 saw the building
of a War Memorial for the village, and dedicated to the spirit of the
people of the 20th Century. Another unusual feature of the memorial is
that it has women named among the fallen.