a Yorkshire Quaker
Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report. Speaker: Pamela Cooksey
Monday, 28 March 2016
Pamela Cooksey's talk to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society was a reminder of the addictive pleasure of local history research using original documents. Her subject was Joseph Wood, a Yorkshire Quaker who in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century travelled the country, recording his journeys, his thoughts and his impressions in a notebook he kept in the pocket of his long coat. One hundred notebooks survived, kept safe by the family, like a hidden treasure. Pamela's determination to transcribe them revealed the story of a remarkable man, and his varied and detailed descriptions of his travels shine a light on life two hundred years ago. He has been celebrated as the Samuel Pepys of Quakers.
Joseph Wood was born in 1750 at New House near High Flatts, Penistone, the eldest of seven children. His Quaker parents were clothier farmers, and after Joseph was educated at a small Quaker boarding school at High Flatts. It was expected that he would be apprenticed to his father. However the Quaker meeting recognised his 'gift of ministry' and so the course of his life changed, and he became a public Friend and travelling minister of the gospel. Along the way, he often managed to 'do a little business' trading in cloth.
The notebooks themselves, covered in a selection of brightly coloured Georgian wallpapers that belie the monochrome image of Quakers, include memoranda, journals, letters and articles. They detail the routes he took, the places he stayed, the people he met and his thoughts on some of the events of the time. Now transcribed, they provide a rich resource for social historians as well as a glimpse of a past time through contemporary eyes.
He visited the Calder Valley frequently, recording his amazement at the new Piece Hall, and the 'lately made canal'. He describes the delightful wooded valley and the 'moorish high mountains' and noted that the inhabitants of Heptonstall were 'much addicted to drunkenness'. When he stayed at the Cross Inn he complained he was kept awake until three in the morning by the 'drinking cursing and horrid oaths'. However his public meetings in Todmorden, Sowerby and Luddenden were very popular, and he commended the behaviour of the visitors.
The notebooks are packed with gems of contemporary journalism – detailed accounts of taking the sulphorous waters in Harrogate or using the special 'houses on wheels' which enabled him to enjoy sea bathing in Scarborough. He records serious disturbances in Huddersfield after the 1807 General Election, and notes his own support for Abolitionist William Wilberforce.
After ten years in his company, it is clear that Pamela came to like and admire Joseph Wood, and her enthusiasm and hard work has made these unique writings accessible for future historians. The original notebooks are now held in the Brotherton Special Collection at the University of Leeds.
The Hebden Bridge History Society lectures resume in September – but keep in touch by visiting the website www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk
With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report
Previously, on the HebWeb
Calderdale Conscientious Objectors in the First World War with speaker John Rhodes (22 March 2016)
Calder Valley Connections to Magna Carta with speaker David Cant (4 March 2016)
Railway Roundabout with speaker Paul Kenny (16 Feb 2016)
Restoring a Unique Organ with speaker Peter Jeffery (31 Jan 2016)
Tales along the Packhorse Way with speaker John Billingsley(18 Jan 2016)
Vanishing for the Vote with speaker Jill Liddington (17 Dec 2015)
Widdop and the Shackletons with speaker John Shackleton(1 Dec 2015)
The History of Calrec: part 2 with speaker Stephen Jagger(19 Nov 2015)
What's in a Name: with speakers Keith Stansfield and Barbara Atack. An insight into local dialects and surnames of the Calder Valley. (9 Nov 2015)
The Lost Kingdom of Elmet (1 Nov 2015)
When Oxford University Came to Hebden Bridge (29 Oct 2015)
The dam that isn't and the great floating plug of the Colden (1 April 2015)
Gruelling Experiences - in the workhouse (16 March 2015)
Pre-History on our hill tops (9 March 2015)
Growing up in Sowerby (16 February 2015)
Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)
Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)
Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)
Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)
Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)
Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)
The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)
Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)
History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)
Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)
Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)
Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner
More history reports in the HebWeb History Section