Leeds nostalgia: new book charts history of Menston

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A new book called Menston Remebered has been written by local author Jack Kell who has lived in Menston all of his life. The book will be of interest to the residents of Menston both old and new (and those who live beyond its borders), taking them on a trip down memory lane.

The book itself offers a valuable insight into local history but equally remarkable is the fact its author is 93.

Jack Kell was born at Stocks Hill House, Menston and has seen many changes in the village. Indeed, there was a time when he knew nearly all who lived there. Apart from his family, his main interests have been the cricket club, the Methodist church, Menston Arts Club and since 1986, the Retired Men’s Forum.

In 1980, his first book appeared, The History of Menston Cricket Club, coinsiding with the club’s centenary. Methodism in Menston was produced in 1986, again, at the time of the centenary of the present church.

The present book, Menston Remembered, gives a brief insight into early Menston and picks up his memories of the village from the 1920s and 1930s to the present day.

In his foreword, he notes: “I do not presume to be the ‘historical guru’ of the Menston district... but, as a Menstonian, having seen several decades of change and development, I feel I might qualify in a small degree,” adding: “There are occasional glimpses of the distant past ‘in and amongst’ but my main object is to take a closer look into modern Menston which really began ay, just over 100 years ago with the coming of the railway and the building of Highroyds Hospital or as it was originally known, Menston Asylum.”

About a century ago Menston was little more than a hamlet with a population of around 700 – excluding the inmates and staff of the

Asylum. The population had decreased in 1871 as machine looms in the mills at Burley, Otley and Guiseley superseded the old cottage hand looms.

The village began to expand in 1786 with the advance of the railway, which brought with it shops, hotels and the need for more housing, which of course was an opportunity for the landed classes to make some money but certainly bythe late 1800s, Menston was a much busiert place with a church and a school.

Jack notes: “As the village grew, mainly due to the asylum and easy access, by rail, to Leeds and Bradford, so did its social and sporting activities. In the late 19th century there was a lively Village Guild and frequent concerts by the Wesleyan Band of Hope, and Parish Church organisations.”

In a section on the expansion of the village, he writes: “Stocks Hill Estate, with houses to rent, was built by the Council on land bought from my grandfather Robert Kell, by a compulsory purchase order in 1927. Building took place in odd corners of the village. Sam Oddy built a bungalow, in which to spend his retirement, at the top of Bingley Road towards Matthew Dyke, (now Sunnymeade Kennels). He, or his wife, decided that the location was too remote from the village (there were very few motor car owners at that time) so, he bought a piece of land next to Croft Cottage in Main Street and built the existing, similar, bungalow.

“The greatest expansion of village housing, however, took place during the nineteen fifties and sixties. The population increased from 5,331 in 1951 to 6089 in 1971. New houses filled the wide open spaces north and south of Main Street, Hawksworth Drive, Derry Lane and Wentworth

Close on one side, and on the other, Croft Park, Park Road, Fairfax Road (once the ‘Station fields’) and Brooklands on the other. Park Road

(another old Green Lane) was extended to join Westbourne Drive which was also being built upon.”

The book offers an exhaustive history of the local geography, from stately homes and estates to country lanes and even railway gates and footpaths from a bygone era.

Mention must be made of High Royds Hospital, formerly Menston Asylum. The hospital, designed for the treatment of mental disorders, was opened in October, 1888. Taking three years to build, it was originally named the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. The name was changed to Menston Mental Hospital in 1923 and to High Royds Hospital in 1963. Jack adds: “Even today, in some circumstances, one can still get some funny looks if one admits to coming from Menston.”

The book will be sold in and around Menston and on the Croft Publications website at www.croftpublications.co.uk.

Telephone Josie and Terry Nicholson from Croft Publications on 01423 322558 or email: tnicholson@smithsettle.com

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