Leeds nostalgia: Oakwell Hall history revealed

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A woman whose ancestor lived in Oakwell Hall in Birstall and helped save it from being torn down in the early 1900s, has spoken of the family connection for the first time to Times Past.

Hunni Hindley-Maggs, who now lives in Lincolnshire, is the great niece of one George Edward Hindley-Maggs, a solicitor, who was born in the 1800s and lived ‘to a great age’ until his death in 1957.

Lost in Austen'Oakwell Hall, Batley. 16 August 2004

Lost in Austen'Oakwell Hall, Batley. 16 August 2004

He was one of two men who made a stand against plans to demolish Oakwell Hall in the early part of the 20th Century and ship it wholesale to America and he helped raise the £2,500 needed to keep it intact.

The hall dates back to the 15th century and has a rich history, having been involved in the English Civic War, not to mention its Bronte connections.

Hunni, 60, said: “He lived there for a while, he rented the hall. He convinced the local authority to purchase it - at the time it was in danger of being pulled down and falling into disrepair. That is why he removed much of the furniture, because if he hadn’t it would have been ruined or lost forever.”

The items include a dining table and a settle, complete with original horse-hair cushion.”

Hunni also has connections to the Bronte family. Indeed, listening to her talk on the phone, it is almost as though the people she references died only a short time ago.

“There’s also the Bronte chair,” she begins, casually. George Edward Hindley-Maggs’ father was Dr Oliver Maggs, who was the medical officer for Howarth. Branwell Bronte had paid the landlady of The Black Bull for board and lodgings (and a bar bill) by giving her some furniture and she in turn paid Dr Maggs with the same for his services - that furniture then ended up at Oakwell Hall and was that which was later removed.

“I grew up with all these tales, so they don’t seem that strange to me.”

She added that although she had never been to Oakwell Hall, she harboured a wish to do so at some point and moreover, would be willing to return the settle to the hall.

The picture of the boy next to the tree (above), is thought to be David George Charles Maggs, Hunni’s grandfather, possibly taken in the late 1880s.

Oakwell’s history dates back to the 15th century - it featured in the English Civil War and has Bronte connections.

Hunni was also kind enough to produce a document dating to 1798, also relating to Oakwell Hall. Indeed, we covered the story in February.

The land agreement is a lengthy legal document governing the usage of the two fields which adjoin Oakwell Hall house and which today form part of the country park which is administered by Kirklees Council.

In the document, they are referred to as the ‘great field’ and the ‘little field’, those being in the ‘townsfields of Birstall in the county of York’. It appears that the document was an attempt by various landowners at the time to bring some semblance of order to what was, by all accounts, a chaotic system of cattle grazing.

It calls on the 15 signatories of the document to maintain their fences to prevent cattle from roaming onto neighbouring land.

Oakwell Hall is set to close for a short time later this month, so that important electrical wiring updates can take place.