To mark the end of a week in which the YEP has been celebrating all things Beeston, Times Past presents a potted history of the township.
Believe it or not but at one point Beeston was one of the most rural spots on the outskirts of Leeds.
Before coal was discovered and the area became industrialised and built up, its name was carried far and wide, made famous for its production of lace and straw hats.
Around the reign of Elizabeth I, Beeston was the centre of the bone lace industry and abounded with experts so proud of their skills they demonstrated them to the French, Flemish and Germans. Ironically, the end result of this was that their pupils eventually robbed Beeston of its bone lace trade.
Not to be downtrodden, Beeston picked itself up and brushed itself off and became famous again for another product, this time straw hats. For that it had to thank the ingenuity of a widow named Isabel Denton, who, with a large brood to feed, began making the hats and found to her surprise, a ready market for them.
Such was the demand for straw hats in Leeds that during the reign of Charles I (1600-1649), one business was selling £7,000 worth a year.
The industry thrived in Beeston during the 1700s and 1800s but by the time Charles II was on the throne (1661-1700), coal had been discovered and that altered the fate of Beeston forever.
Thousands flocked to the rural township and mines sprang up (or down) all over the place. It sounded the death knell for the kind of life Beeston folk had been used to. It was the coming of the modern world.
It yet managed to retain some of its rural charm even into the 20th century, its streets replete with quaint folds, yards and closes.
Beeston Old Hall, having stood for several hundred years, did not succumb to the demolition hammers until 1936.
In the 1890s, Beeston Hill was the ultimate in urban respectability, with its large houses offering long gardens – they were swept mercilessly away to make way for the introduction of trams.
Wholesale change continued into the 20th century and in 1957 New Row, a terrace believed to have been over 200 years old, was pulled down and at that time it was thought that only nine houses from the original village were standing.
Beeston has seen its fare share of drama down the years. In 1797, workers rioted in protest over the introduction of mew machinery at a cloth mill owned by Messrs Jonson, of Holbeck.
In May 1847, an explosion at Beeston Main Colliery killed nine miners, among them a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old.
Among the most gruesome of tales was that of the murder in 1679 of the minister of Beeston Chapel, Leonard Scurr, whose own morals were very much in question. He was hacked to death in his home, together with his mother and servant girl, who was beheaded.
Scurr had a lot of money on him and he fought for it, killing two of the five-strong gang before succumbing to the others.
His murderers were eventually caught in Ireland and the leader, called Holroyd, was hanged in 1682 on Holbeck Moor, before a crowd of 30,000, his body then left hanging in chains for weeks.
Perhaps one of the oldest buildings left in Beeston, if not the city of Leeds itself, is the now dilapidated Stank Hall Barn, opposite the White Rose Centre on Dewsbury Road.
It is thought to date back to the 15th century, possibly as early as 1448. It is a scheduled Ancient Monument and was restored by Leeds City Council in the 1980s, but has now, once again, fallen into ruin.
A chapel next to the barn is known as Major Greathead’s Chapel, after Joshua Greathead, a major in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War and later involved in the Farnley Wood Plot – he is believed to have worshipped at this place.
In fact, to bring the past right up to the present, there are moves to save Stank Hall Barn from ruin and to this end, a residents group has been formed and will meet later this month to discuss ways of doing so. The meeting will be held at 7pm on Thursday, February 21 at Beeston Village Community Centre.