Oxenhope Online

Image: Oxenhope from the wind turbine (near Haworth) Image: Crowds at the Bay Horse during the Straw Race 2002 Image: The stream running through the Millennium Green


A Brief History of Oxenhope

Taken from 'A Brief History of Oxenhope' published in 1996 by David Samuels with many local contributors. Proceeds from the sale of the book are to support the Multiple Sclerosis action groups.

Snippets from Past Oxenhope (David Samuels)
The History of Oxenhope (Mr R Hindley)
Daily Life (Mrs Freda Feather)
Life on a hill farm (Mr Joe 'Bodkin' Feather)
Mill Life (Mrs Lucy Shackleton)
Village Life (Mrs Winnie Cowgill)
Education (Mrs Pauline Sheffield)
The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Mrs Margaret Hindley)
Religious Life in Oxenhope (Mrs Norma Mackrell)

Daily Life
as told by Mrs Freda Feather

Oxenhope before the Second World War was a quite different place to what it is now. With very little traffic it was safe to play ball games in the streets which were lit by gas light, a man being employed to light the lamps at night and then put them out in the morning.

Children from the Higher Marsh side of the village met children from Lower Marsh at the bottom of Old Oxenhope Lane to walk to the school which was situated on the site of the tennis court. School hours were not much different from today; 9am - 4pm, finishing a little earlier in the winter. The children cans with food and tea in them, and when they arrived at school the teacher put the cans on the stove so that the contents would be heated up by lunchtime and the children had a hot meal. In summer the children would possibly go home for lunch.

Discipline was much stronger than it is now. Children had to sit at their desks either with their hands on their heads or behind their backs. The desks stretched the width of the classroom and were arranged in tiers.

Lessons were reading, writing, arithmetic, composition, drawing, painting and drill (PE). The boys went to Haworth for woodwork lessons.

The school nurse visited as well as the dentist, who put his chair in the teacher's room, and performed necessary dentistry there and then.

The children were taken on outings, usually by train. Once a year they went to Cliffe Castle, and sometimes to Kirkstall Abbey, Roundhay Park or Malham.

Mrs Feather visited Free School Farm on Marsh Lane where the farmer's wife made her own butter, and was skilled enough to make the pats by hand. There were shire horses on the farm, and she was able to ride on them, sitting sideways and hanging on to the horse's mane. Sometimes in bad weather she went home in the block cart, covered with a soldier's overcoat.

Her own family had a pony and trap, with a governess car (cart) for Sundays. If these were not used the only means of getting about was to walk. That is until the Bronte Bus started in the 1920s.

There was a small shop on Marsh Lane which sold everything a family would be likely to need. The lard was sold from a barrel and tobacco was weighed out on special tiny scales. In the village proper there were shops of
every kind. The Post Office, of course, a newsagent, chemist, bakery, wool shop, butcher, and fish and chip shops. This was as well as the Co-op which had its own drapery and kept a stables at Uppertown by the old Church School.

There were plenty of mills in the village, eg Dunkirk Mill (rope mill), Russia Mill (also at Dunkirk). Feather Mill was by Hield's Mill at Lowertown, and on Station Road was a row of houses called Feather Mill Row whose bedroom windows were at road level. Leeming Water housing estate now stands on the last two mill sites.

When boys started work at the mill, it would usually be as a doffer. This was removing - doffing - the bobbins. At the end of a year, if he was lucky, he would be offered an apprenticeship in one of the various departments. Girls and women worked in combing, spinning, twisting, reeling, winding or warping. Weaving was considered the top job but it was extremely noisy and workers learnt to lip read as it was the only way to make themselves understood.

The millowners (mesters) lived in considerable comfort and style in large houses, having as servants young girls, who usually came from other areas to work, known as 'being in service'. These girls often stayed and married local boys.

One of these mill owners, Kershaw Barrett of Moorhouse, made stringed instruments, mostly violins, as a hobby.

Language was a little different as well, with dialect being spoken. Many of these words have fallen out of common use; words which were descriptive of household uses, eg. midden - the outside building where the ashes from the fire were kept, or the domestic rubbish was taken. It later came to mean the outside lavatory, as the two were often next to one another. The word 'laik' - to play, and 'laikens' or 'laikings' - toys. 'Firepoint', self-explanatory really - the poker. 'Jock'-food. 'Buffit' - a small stool. 'Mullock' - a mess or muddle. ’Nipcurrant' - a miserly person. 'Pawse' - to kick. 'Sile' to sieve, therefore 'sile down' - to rain heavily. 'Throng' or 'thrang' - busy. 'Winter-'edge'- a clothes airer. These are just a few which can still be heard occasionally, though usually spoken by the older generation. Modern children are not encouraged to use dialect. It is not fashionable; not considered to be 'nice'. But, of course, everyone bemoans its passing!