“Come on 13, give them hell!”

On the morning of Sunday 1 July 1923, eminent Yorkshire solicitor and Conservative MP, Arthur Willey, was getting ready to attend church near his home in Roundhay, Leeds. He and his wife were marking a sombre anniversary which was also to be commemorated in a notice which Arthur had arranged to appear in the following day’s Times:

WILLEY – In proud and loving memory of SEC. LIEUT. TOM WILLEY, Leeds Pals Division, killed in the Somme attack on 1 July 1916.

At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Arthur had been a prominent member of the founding committee of the Leeds Pals which sought young men from the same workplaces, clubs and communities to enlist and fight together. His son, Tom, was just seventeen years old and an articled clerk in Arthur’s legal practice (which is now subsumed within the firm in which I work) when he signed up with the Leeds Pals in September 1914. He accepted a commission three months later.

At 7.15am on 1 July 1916, Second Lieutenant Thomas Willey led his platoon into no-man’s land at the start of the Somme Offensive. They took cover and awaited the start of the attack. At 7.30, Tom gave the order to attack with a cry of “Come on, 13. Give them hell!“. Moments later, a German shell ripped Tom’s legs from his body, killing him instantly. He was amongst the first of one million casualties in what would turn out to be the bloodiest slaughter in history. His remains were never found.

One of the men in Tom’s platoon, Private Arthur Hollings, paid a moving tribute to him in a letter home which was published in the Leeds Mercury on 15 July 1916:

Seven years later, as Arthur got ready for church, he was struck by a terrible seizure and collapsed. He never regained consciousness and died the following day (the same day on which his tribute to his son appeared in the Times). Such was Arthur’s reputation and popularity that thousands turned out in the streets of Leeds to mourn on the day of his funeral.

Arthur was just 55 years old when he died, his life possibly cut short by the terrible burden of grief for his son who fought and died for the very division which Arthur had helped to form.

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Joseph Rhodes – a blameless life?

(This is the second in a series of posts about my patrilineal Rhodes ancestors. The first post can be found here )

It is a feature of genealogical research that the better behaved one’s ancestors were, the fainter the footprint they leave in the historical record.

This aphorism certainly applies to my 5th great-grandfather, Joseph Rhodes. To the inevitable disappointment of readers of this blog, there is no evidence to suggest that he had any affairs, fathered any illegitimate children or committed any crimes; he and his wife, Sarah, remained together till death them did part after 44 years of marriage.

Joseph was the youngest of Miles and Jane Rhodes’s eight children (although Mary had died as a toddler before Joseph was born and John passed away when Joseph was just four months old). His actual birthday isn’t recorded but he was baptised in Baildon on 27th December 1752.

He married Sarah Newby at St John’s Church, Baildon, on 10 August 1773. They had three children: Anne (born 1775), Miles (my 4th great-grandfather, born 1778) and Dinah (1784). Sarah died in September 1817, at the age of 64. Joseph survived her by 18 months and was buried in the St John’s Church graveyard on 15 March 1817. He was 67 years old.

Joseph is, however, notable for being the first of the patrilineal Rhodes ancestors for whom we have some details of property ownership. His name appears in several land tax records for Baildon in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and, in 1786, he is recorded as having a tenancy in two closes of land at Broachfield and Latherbanks (later known as Ladderbanks). The former, “containing four days’ work“, was close to the church; the other was a steep tract of cultivated land on the line of Ladderbanks Lane towards Hawksworth. In his later life, he was recorded as being a landowner rather than a tenant, but I’ve not yet been able to establish which plot(s) of land he owned.

Joseph’s farmland may have led to the family’s interest in butchery, a trade in which each of the next four generations of Rhodes men would work, starting with Miles whose history will be covered in my next Rhodes family post.

Map of Baildon dated 1842 (source: National Library of Scotland). Broachfield was situated close to the church and Latherbanks along the line of Ladderbanks Lane heading north-west out of the village.

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Miles ye bastard

The earliest of my Rhodes ancestors for whom I have documentary proof is Miles Rhodes (my 6th great-grandfather) and his first appearance in the historical record was an act of extra-marital sex.

As a proud Yorkshireman, it is immensely gratifying to know that the surname ‘Rhodes’ has a long and ancient association with God’s own country. The name itself derives from an old English word, ‘rode’, meaning a clearing in a wood. The name has no connection with the Greek island of Rhodes, or with the roads that we drive on, but later spelling variants, such as Rhodes, Rhoads and Roads, have undoubtedly been influenced by them.

Although my patrilineal history begins with a sex scandal in eighteenth century Baildon, its association with the West Riding village may be much more ancient. In 1160, Hugh de Lelay (the lord of Baildon manor) granted land in Rodes to Bolton Priory. Rodes (which, I presume, was originally a clearing in a wood) was in Menston and is now remembered in the name ‘High Royds’, which later became the site of a psychiatric hospital in Menston (and therein lies another story entirely!)

By the beginning of the fourteenth century, one of the most prominent residents of Baildon was Thomas del Rodes (Thomas of Rodes). Several decades later, Adam del Rodes “et uxor” (and wife), and Alice del Rodes were listed amongst Baildon poll tax payers. In 1615, a Jane Rhodes was living in one of ten Baildon cottages which were mortgaged by Gervase FitzWilliam to William Hawksworth. Whether we are descended from these earlier Baildon residents is, however, pure conjecture.

At the turn of the eighteenth century, Baildon had a thriving coal mining industry, in which Miles Rhodes (born c1705) worked as a collier. In 1731, Miles impregnated local woman, Mary Whitaker and, nine months later on 10 April 1732, “Miles ye bastard child of Miles Rhodes” was born. Miles ye bastard was baptised five days later in the Church of St John the Evangelist in Baildon.

Baptism entry for Miles ye bastard

It is unclear what became of Mary and Miles ye bastard but what we do know for sure is that Miles senior did not make an honest woman of a Mary. Rather, he married Jane Rawlings just over one year later, in the same church, on 24 June 1733. Jane was born in Yeadon in June 1713, the daughter of Thomas Rawlings (about whom nothing more is known).

Together, Jane and the prolific Miles had eight children between 1734 and 1752. The youngest of those was my 5th great grandfather, Joseph Rhodes , who was born in December 1752 and baptised on the 27th of that month.

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“The Beestons of Beeston” by Jim Marsden

At the time of the Conquest, and in the period immediately after, it was a custom amongst Norman individuals for the principal families, having lands in any locality, to be known by the name of the district. Examples of this at the time were the Rawdons of Rawdon, the Burleys of Burley, the Arthingtons of Arthington and, of course, the Beestons of Beeston.

The Beestons were a most notable and eminent family. Its members were to hold sway in the whole district for an amazing unbroken period of some 600 years!

Sadly, forensic and detailed information about the earlier members of the family has been obscured by the passage of time but, thankfully, many interesting glimpses of these individuals can still be obtained.

There are indications that the real patriarch of this remarkable family was Herbert de Bestone. The name has been spelt in various ways ranging from Bestone, Beiston to the present Beeston, which will be used for simplicity’s sake.

In the years between 1121 and 1127, King Henry I gave to the Priory at Nostell, a Charter in which is recorded a gift to the Priory of 12 acres of land at Morley which had been given by Robert son of Herbert de Beeston.

Some 40 years later Ralph de Beeston, no doubt the son of Robert, inherited the Manor of Beeston in 1166. (Incidentally, the Christian name Ralph was a favourite in the family and one frequently given to the make issue in various forms, Raff, Radulpho, Ralph).

The next representative was Adam de Beeston who married the daughter and heiress of the [illegible] family. Adam was a witness to the [illegible] Charter of Leeds in 1207. He was also involved in a heated and long-standing dispute with the Lord of the Manor of Middleton, one William Grammary. The reason for their animosity was the disputed boundary between their respective lands which ran through the Middleton Wood.

At the time of the dispute, Grammary caught a Beeston forester in the disputed area of woodland. Having taken the forester’s cap, mantle, sword and staff, and removed his gold ring, the poor fellow was placed in the stocks.

The ill feeling between Adam and Grammary resulted in Adam taking court action and Grammary made a gift to the king of 100 marks and a palfrey (a horse) no doubt hoping to colour opinion to further his cause. Eventually the court authorised that the two litigants should settle their differences by fighting a duel. Unfortunately, the outcome of this encounter cannot now be ascertained. What we do know is that the agreed boundary between the two estates was marked by constructing a man-made ditch through the woods which was still in existence hundreds of years later.

Adam’s son, another Adam de Beeston, married a lady named Plompton [check – spelling indistinct]. In 1265, he was witness to a deed in which Adam de Bramley granted timber from the common woods of Bramley to the monks of Kirkstall for lighting and heating the abbey buildings. Adam de Beeston also made a gift to the monks of four acres of meadowland at Beeston known as Palizings.

Ralph, son of Adam, followed and he, in turn, was superseded by his son, John de Beeston, who confirmed to the monks of Kirkstall the gift of four acres made by Adam, his grandfather.

Next came William de Beeston, another son of Ralph and brother of John. In 1257, he made an arrangement with the Prior of the Holy Trinity at York that the cell or reclusary at Beeston Church should be discontinued. It was agreed at that time that no anchorite or anchoress was to establish there in the future except with the consent of the Prior and the monks of Holy Trinity.

In 1303, a son of John, also called William, who held land in Beeston and Morley was granted free warren in Beeston, Churwell and Cottingley. He married Margaret [spelling indistinct].

In 1319, William was ordered by the King to raise troops in the area to meet the marauding Scots who were ransacking the district.

He was wounded at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and was knighted in 1324. In 1351, he was directed by Royal Commission to convey to York the fellows who had murdered Sir John de Eland in a notorious family feud.

Sir William died in 1369 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Bryan de Beeston.

At about this time, one of the more notable characters of the Beeston family appeared upon the scene. This was Ralph de Beeston who is believed to have been a brother of Sir William. He was a trusted servant of the Lords of Pontefract for, when Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, died in 1311 the Castle at Denbigh was in the charge of Ralph de Beeston. On being ordered by the King to give up the castle, Ralph transferred his allegiance to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, the new Lord of Pontefract and Ralph was appointed Constable of Pontefract Castle.

He was an outstanding and undoubtedly a wayward character.

In 1313, he was granted a royal pardon for his adherence to the Earl of Lancaster in the troubles which resulted in the death of the King’s favourite, Peter de Gaveston. In 1318, he was again pardoned for his part in the rebellion which brought about the death of the Earl of Lancaster.

In 1316, Ralph was the subject of a complaint made by John de Goldsburgh that he had assaulted him at [illegible]. It was alleged that in addition Ralph had killed his horses and carried off his goods. In the same year, Alice, widow of John [illegible] of Goldsburgh, impeached [? spelling indistinct] Ralph, with others, for causing the death of her husband.

The following details shed some light on the life and times of Ralph and his contemporaries. In [illegible] at Conisborough [? spelling indistinct] there used to be on display a list setting out the expenses incurred by Sir Ralph de Beeston and Sir Simon de Baldwinston [? spelling indistinct] at Conisbrough on 15th and 16th September 1327:-

12 gallons of ale at Doncaster 1s 6d

16 gallons of ale at Conisborough 1s 4d

To woman who fetched it 1s

8 fowls 1s

2 geese 8s

10 pigeons 4s

2 lbs candles 3½s

The two knights aided by the retinue had also consumed an additional five gallons of wine and four gallons of ale so they appear to have disposed of 32 gallons of drink between Monday morning and Tuesday evening which was the occasion of the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.

Ralph was shown in the Poll Tax of 1379 as Radolphus of Beeston was married to Isabel de Burlay, sister of Robert de Burlay, who were members of another notable local family. There were three sons of the union:-

(1) Anthony who died without progeny. He is recorded as having lands at Beeston, Snaith, Cottingley, Morley and Ardsley.

(2) Thomas who is referred to as brother of and heir to Anthony, son of Ralph when he [illegible] to the monks of Kirkstall Abbey in 1422 those meadows at Beeston which they held as a gift from Sir William de Beeston. He apparently made over his lands previously referred to to his brother, Bryan.

In 1453, Bryan witnessed the deed in which William Scot of Scot Hall gave the vicar’s croft for a manse for the Leeds Parish Church.

Bryan was a defendant, with his son also called Bryan together with others, in an action brought by Gilbert to Legh of Middleton in 1454. He married Joan [? spelling indistinct] daughter of Sir Hanlith Mauleverer [unsure of spelling] and died in 1466 when administration of effects was granted to William de Beeston.

In the case against Legh in 1454 there was also a Ralph de Beeston involved with Bryan as a co-defendant. Sir Ralph could have been a further son of Bryan. In any case, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Langton, and he died in 1496 leaving as issue:-

Ralph who died without progeny





William succeeded and married Elizabeth, daughter of John Bosville of Chevet and had issue. William it was who declined [spelling indistinct] to accept a knighthood in 1499.

Ralph succeeded in 1496(?) and married Jane, the daughter of Richard Green of Newlay. Ralph was a leader at Flodden Field in 1513. He died on 19 March 1549 and was succeeded by his son, also called Ralph who was 40 years of age. Both father and son died in 1549. Ralph junior’s will was proved in September and in it he refers to his wife Margery, daughter of Robert Nevile of Liversedge, his son and heir, Robert de Beeston, his younger sons Bryan [spelling indistinct] and Leonard, and to his daughter Ellen.

This will is in the language of the time and it gives an invaluable insight into the piety of the inhabitants of that time. There is also a reference to his “Coyle mine” at Beeston.

Ralph was succeeded by his eldest son, Robert, who was then 5 years of age and already contracted to enter into marriage with Margaret, daughter of Sir William Calverley, knight, of Calverley. This marriage took place in 1550 and their issue was:-

Ralph, son and heir who became known locally as “Captain Beeston”

Robert, who died without progeny in 1604

Frances, a daughter who also died without progeny

Anne, a daughter who also died without progeny

Dorothy, who married Sheffield Savile, the uncle of the first Earl of Sussex. Dorothy died on 11 February 1588.

Robert, who died on 31 March 1566, and in accordance with his will was buried in Leeds Old Church near his father. His wife, Margaret, nee Calverley, remarried to Christopher Danby.

His son and heir, Ralph (later to be known as Captain Beeston) was a mere 9 years 8 months 5 days of age when he succeeded Robert. Because of his tender years, he was made a ward of Queen Elizabeth. This was most fortunate as, in 1569, the Northern Rebellion occurred and his step-father Christopher Danby was a prominent adherent of the leaders of the Rebellion, the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland and could quite easily have been swayed into being implicated.

On 6th January 1570, Danby is known to have had the lease of a “coyle” mine together with lands in Beeston during young Beeston’s minority. Sir Thomas Danby, brother of Christopher, laid claim to Christopher’s leases and goods.

Ralph Beeston was eventually married twice. First he married Ann, daughter of William Swift [unsure of spelling?] , and Ann died without progeny. He then married Susan, daughter of Henry Hall, and there was one child of this union, a daughter Dorothy who married Thomas Roche of Collier Row, Essex on 5 January 1619.

Ralph “Captain” Beeston was the last of the noble line of the Beestons to hold the Manor. In 1608 he conveyed his holdings to Sir Henry Hobart, Attorney General, who then conveyed the Manor, in the same year, to Sir John Wood.

In 1715 the Lord of the Manor was a Nathaniel Bland and he disposed of it to Thomas Kitchingman, a Leeds notable. Upon his death, his son inherited.


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“The History of Beeston” by Jim Marsden

After my late grandfather retired from the Police force in the late 1970s, he began to extensively research the history of Beeston, South Leeds, where he was born. Over many years, he accumulated a vast amount of notes, documents and photographs but never came close to writing it all up. I now have his considerable archive of research material and, in honour of his memory, am starting the process of assimilating and making sense of it. In the post below, I have transcribed the early part of his history of the Beeston family. Unfortunately, his handwriting was so ornate that it is, in places, very difficult to decipher.

The first part is here .

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The tragedy of Malcolm Melhuish Yendell

One day in 1954, Mrs Joan Yendell, from Armley, called the Police in a highly agitated state to report that, in a telephone call, her estranged husband had just threatened to shoot her, her mother, their two young children and himself. He then said that he had the gun to his head and would shoot himself unless Joan told him she still loved him. Joan said that she couldn’t answer then heard a shot and nothing more.

Police found 35-year old Malcolm Melhuish Yendell dead at his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, still holding the phone in one hand and his gun in the other. By a remarkable quirk of fate, Joan and Malcolm’s young daughter Jane later attended the same school as Hilary Marsden (my mum) whose father, Jim (an officer in the City of Leeds Police), had met Joan in the aftermath of Malcolm’s suicide.

Malcolm, originally from Bridgewater in Somerset, was one of Mr & Mrs Tom Melhuish Yendell’s three sons. Tom was a long-serving employee of P & O and spent almost the whole of World War One aboard an armed merchant vessel, HMS Macedonia, in the South Atlantic. The Macedonia gained honours during the Battle of the Falklands in December 1914 after capturing two German coalers and all on board. This photograph of unidentified members of Macedonia’s crew was taken shortly afterwards.

A letter which Tom wrote home to his family during this time is held in the archives of the Blake Museum in Bridgewater and I’m trying to obtain a copy. He returned to civilian naval duties after the war before retiring on ill health grounds in 1928.

Young Malcolm, after leaving school, became a motor apprentice and, in 1936, was prosecuted for holding onto a car whilst riding his bike. The case against him was dismissed as reported in the Taunton Courier, 11th March 1936:

Five years later, Tom was tragically killed in a car accident near Basingstoke whilst en route to London. He was 72 years old. His funeral was reported in the Somerset County Herald on Saturday 9th August 1941:

Meanwhile, Malcolm had enlisted in the RAF at the outbreak of World War Two and flew Sunderland flying boats which were primarily used to spot German submarines. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to flight officer and was de-commissioned on health grounds in 1946.

After the war, he married Joan and they lived together in Leeds with their two children until the tragic events of April 1954 as recorded in detail in the following newspaper report on the inquest (the Northern Daily Mail, 19 April 1954).

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“Lost Two Sons in Two Wars”

I recently wrote about my great-uncles, Cyril and Lawrence Marvell , and their respective deaths in each of the World Wars. The original post included two newspaper stories reporting that Cyril was missing presumed dead and, eight months later, that his death had been confirmed.

Since writing that, I have now come across two similar stories relating to Lawrence. The first, published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 5 July 1940, reports that nothing had been heard from him following the evacuation of Dunkirk.

The story also included this picture of Lawrence:

It wasn’t until more than one year later that the Yorkshire Post reported, on 26 July 1941, that Lawrence had been killed.

It is hard to imagine what the family must have been going through during these two long spells of desperately awaiting news.

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