The Great War

PART 1/2                         BISHOP MONKTON IN 1914

The Village they left behind

Bishop Monkton in 1914 was a very different village from the one we know today, yet it was place which would still be recognised by a time traveller, with its pretty beck running past neatly thatched cottages but then with up to 20 working farms dotted here and there and with roads eerily devoid of transport except for a few horse-drawn wagons. 

Among the farms and smallholdings were The Old Corn Mill, Low Farm, Ivy House Farm, Albion House Farm, Glen Royd Farm, Ashbrook Farm, Hall Farm, The Limes, Village Farm, Hungate Farm, Well Farm, Yates Farm, Chestnuts Farm, Pear Tree House Farm, Ings Farm, Melrose Farm, Church Farm, Springfield and Laurel Bank. 

Just outside the village there were also Westwick Edge, Westwick House, Westwick Hall, Yorbus Grange, Southlands and Low Demains. 

Certainly harvest time on these farms was a highlight of every year. This task in 1914 was mostly done with old-fashioned threshing machines, pulled by horses. Tractors mostly did not arrive until after the war.

A team of workers would move from farm to farm to get the job done, mostly using pitch forks with the stooks being thrown onto a wagon, with a patient horse waiting to pull it away when it was fully loaded.Then came the threshing process, which was hard, dusty and dirty work.

Bringing in the harvest involved whole families and their neighbours, with work starting at breakfast time and continuing until dusk, with frequent breaks for bulky sandwiches, hunks of pie or cake all washed down by gallons of tea. As teenagers some of those young men who went off to war would have played their part in bringing in the harvest. This was all part of rural life and was enjoyed by all. 

Horses, of course, were vital for much of the work on the farm and were also used for transporting people and goods.  Blacksmiths were therefore kept busy, and the sound of the hammering on the anvil echoed round the village, while horses lined up to be re-shod.

It was undoubtedly a pretty village then, as of course it remains today.  In 1907 the village was proud to finish seventh from 50 villages entered in the Leeds Mercury’s competition to find Yorkshire’s Prettiest Village.

One of the big differences between Bishop Monkton then and now would be the openness of the place. This was long before many new houses sprang up and there remained many open spaces, some relics of the parkland and parcels of land which had existed since the time of the Township of Bishop Monkton in the mid 1800s. 

So what was everyday life like then? 

The farms and the Paper Mill provided employment for most of working age. 

This was a time when many families existing on very low wages, and there was even a ‘Parish Overseer of the Poor' taking care of the worst off (this post was abolished in 1925).   

Probably nobody in the village owned a car at this time, and few would even have ridden in one. Most walked to work. Not everyone could read, and many left the village school at 11 and in the war this meant that some of the soldiers were unable to write letters home of their own and relied on pals to it for them.

Bishop Monkton in 1914 had little in the way of leisure activities.  The Mechanics' Institute was  the only meeting place which, apart from providing educational night classes mostly for the young men of the village, also provided a venue for concerts, whist drives and dances, and some of these will have been enjoyed by our young soldiers before they departed for war.

Cricket was a popular pastime, with our picture showing a team from 1896. In those days players went round with a bucket to remove cow pats before play could commence!  

Church and chapel were well established and supported. 

In the houses open fires in most of the rooms were used for heating and oil lamps and candles for lighting, many houses would have had outside WCs, and cooking would have been carried out in a black leaded ovens or heavy old-fashioned stoves.  Many grew their own vegetables in allotments or their own back yards.  

However, one bonus that folk enjoyed at this time was a preponderance of public houses – no less than seven of them, which meant the population, probably half of today’s number, never went thirsty!   The pubs were The Crown Inn, The Mason’s Arms, The Anchor Inn, The Star Inn, The Lamb & Flag, The Coach & Horses  and Dove Inn. Today, of course, there are just two pubs surviving.  

Also there were shops dotted through the village, later a garage and two post offices – not like today when most of these facilities have gone for ever. 

In the years just before the war important modernisations were being introduced into Bishop Monkton.

These included the first sewage disposal system, installed in 1908.  

A few years later, to commemorate the coronation of King George V, public lighting in the form of gas carbide lamps, were erected at Albion House, the Chapel, the forge, the crossroads, by the Old Vicarage and near to Church Farm.

But the war temporarily put a stop to such progress, and further improvements had to wait for the return of peace.

So this was Bishop Monkton in 1914, and this is the village that 54 men left for the trauma and horrors of the war in France and Flanders. How often, in the trenches, must they have thought about their village far away and their loved ones at home.

The village, in fact, did not change much during those four years, although the way of life did. Women had in some cases taken over the work the men had left. Most families had someone at the front and waited anxiously lest a telegram boy should knock at their door one day bearing sad news.  

Four years later, when the war finally ended, most of the young came home again. For some it had widened horizons. For others it was a return to the old routines, but expectations of a ‘land fit for heroes’ somehow never materialised.

Before long the depression was looming with more unemployment and hardship of a different kind.  

And. of course, in 20 years this country was drawn into another world war, and a new period of hardship, privation and sadness descended. 


The village of yesteryear


Making hay while the sun shines

THE HAYMAKERS:  This wonderful old picture of haymaking in Bishop Monkton reminds us of a bygone age.

The old Central Stores

THE OLD CENTRAL STORES:  One stop shopping as it was years ago.

1hp transportation



1896 cricket


The Star - one of seven pubs.




Charabanc outing to The Mason's Arms.



On Friday we honour the memory of the first of five Bishop Monkton men who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War. He is Edwin Bowes, who died  aged 21 at Vimy Edge on 9 April 1917..

We will follow this by honouring the memory of each of the other four Bishop Monkton men who died in The Great War.

                                At the going down of the sun
                                And in the morning
                                We will remember them



Remembrance events 2018. (now on site)
A bombshell on 4 August 1914 (now on site)
Bishop Monkton in 1914 (now on site)

In honour of Edwin Bowes, who died on 7 September 1917. He was aged 21.  (To be posted on Friday, Nov 2 )
To honour William Heath who died on 24 February 1917. He was aged  37.   (To be posted on Saturday, Nov 3)
To honour John Richardson who died on 27 September 1917. He was aged 22.   (To be posted on Sunday, Nov 4)
To honour James Denison Cussans who died on 4 November 1918. He was aged 21.   (To be posted on Monday, Nov 5)
To honour Robert Lowther whose date of death is unknown.  (To be posted on Tuesday, Nov 6)

We name the 54 Bishop Monkton men who took part in the Great War. (to be posted on Wednesday, Nov 7)

More war stories of valour and bravery  (To be posted on later)

Conclusions. Did those who fought and returned find a 'land fit for heroes'?  (to be posted later)