Gleaning Teeming Brains 3

Yeadon Wes Circ Plan 1832

The hill down which John and his friends road the out of control wagon.

The hill down which John and his friends road the out of control wagon.

The ‘Lords Day Plan’ picture is the Methodist Preacher Rota for 1832 covering the area centred on the village of Yeadon in West Yorkshire. John Yeadon has been allocated the number 3 on the plan.

I have been researching my family history for about eight years. During that time I have gathered together the basics for about two hundred of my ancestors. When they were born, married and died, and how many children they had. For those who lives reached over the census years between 1841 and 1911, I have greater amounts of information, including their occupation and if they had a severe disability. Occasionally one of them performed some action which resulted in them achieving immortality on google. One illiterate multiple great-grandfather built the monumentally incongruous, grand town hall in Yeadon, where I come from. His identity was unknown until a photo was published in a local history book and my grandmother recognised and put a name to him. Others only survive and are known because of one of a thought which crossed their mind and found its way into an action which was just as soon forgotten. I know of one ancestor because he placed an advert for his grocery business in a flyer for a chapel Christmas Fair. The results can be very unfair. All I know of one ancestor is her date and place of birth and marriage, the name of one of her children and how she bizarrely died (hit by a truck whilst cycling home from the pub with a soldier). That must be unfair to her and my conscious would only be eased if I spent a few moments adding up the total of known facts, look for a best fit in regard to possible motives and let the mix suggest its own story. Was it calculation or impulse? What could have been going through their head? The further you travel back the sparser the information. Lots of dates but diminishing returns in terms of interest.
A few years ago I got very lucky though. Whilst researching the family of my paternal grandmother Ida Wilkinson, I had been struck by how many of her mother’s ancestors had surnames in common with children that I was at school with in the 1960’s. Most prominent were the names Dawson, Myers, Butterfield, Slater, Denison, Dean and especially Yeadon which I had a double helping of.
A man named John Yeadon, born in the town of Yeadon 1764 cropped up again and again. Baptised at the parish church in neighbouring Guiseley, he lived all his life in Yeadon and worked in a trade allied to the woollen textile industry.. He had fourteen children. Eleven survived and most married and produced their own tribes of children. Lots of spokes and he was the hub.
It was around this time that I spent a morning in the library whilst visiting my mother who lived in the town of Yeadon. This is the place that I grew up in as did most of my forbears who had been agricultural labourers or textile workers there for at least four hundred years. Some ventured as far as the next village but one but generally they had not gone far in all that time. The habit of having surnames, keeping them and passing them onto our kids only really took hold in the fourteenth century. Where you lived, what you did for a job, a personal characteristic, or whose son you were the most common ways of getting one. So and so of Yeadon had become so and so Yeadon. This habit no doubt took some time to reach this particular bit of ground but I can put names to people as far back as the sixteenth century when parish records became more generally established.
Some of the holders of this name ventured over the parish boundary and were scattered to the four winds. A name sake of my John Yeadon, an immigrant from England was living in Nova Scotia in 1811 and raising a legal petition which made mention of a neighbouring settlement of Rawdon. I don’t know where about in England he came from but maybe he would have known that in Yorkshire Rawdon is the village over the hill from Yeadon.
My ‘Yeadon’s though had continued to look over the hill at the original Rawdon for a very long time. They had not gone very far.
In the library i glanced through a local history book. In the appendices I found an extract from a diary written by my John Yeadon. I knew he was mine because he had thoughtfully put together a table listing all of his children! It’s not at all unusual for family bibles to contain this kind of information, but this was from a diary which had survived goodness knows how. Alongside the table was a number of short extracts from that document. An ancestor of mine was ‘talking to me’ from two hundred years ago. He spoke about his family life, international affairs, local incidents as well as his life as a local preacher in the Methodist church in Yeadon and in his home valley. He wrote about the French Revolution and the execution of the king as a news event.
The table was written on New Year’s Day in 1839. It’s the credit side of the balance sheet of his life. Eleven children (a twelfth had died) and forty nine grand children. The daughters are listed in their married names.

Tuesday January 1st 1839. New Year Day
On my Family John Yeadon Sr.
Aged 74 years two months

Number Names When Born Grand
child The age of my children today
1 James Yeadon Aug 7 1788 9 49 and 5 months
2 Hanh Yeadon Oct 1 1790 47 and 9 months
3 M. Fieldhouse May 5th 1792 5 46 and 8 months
4 Joseph Yeadon December 22nd 1793 10 45 years
5 Nany Rawnsley July 26th 1795 / 43 and 5 months
6 Benj. Yeadon April 4th 1797 3 41 and 9 months
7 Betty Murgatroyd June 1799 5 39 and 6 months
8 Ruth Claughton Feby 1802 5 35 and 10 months
9 Sam Yeadon Aug 1804 4 33 and 5 months
10 Martha Fieldhouse May 1806 2 32 and 7 months
11 Jacob Yeadon Jan 22 1808 4 31 nearly

We have all had experiences where something special seemed possible and then evaporated. It was one thing knowing that this document existed but something else to actually be able to hold it in my hands. There was bound to be something that would prevent this. People don’t generally have ancestors who kept diaries, which survive intact for two centuries. Probability is stretched further if we add in that it became available just at a time when an ancestor was researching the life of that person. Moving the scenario back at five year intervals the chances of this discovery quickly recede to just short of impossible.
When I got back home to Norfolk, I ‘googled’ John Yeadon Methodist Local Preacher, and I immediately came up with a full reference for the diary which had been transcribed by a local historian Mrs Brenda Telford , and was currently in the archives of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds. I have repeated the same search today and got the same result.
1. John Yeadon, Methodist lay preacher, Yeadon, diary 1764-1842 … › … › Access to Archives
Yorkshire Archaeological Society. You are here John Yeadon, Methodist lay preacher, Yeadon, diary 1764-1842 (photocopies and transcript) …
Phone calls to the YAS archivists, visits in person, kind permissions given by the Mrs Telford, photocopying fees paid and I I was in possession of a copy of the original diary and its transcript. It must have been a nightmare to transcribe. Every last bit of each page was crammed with inky, Victorian micro script. A reminder that paper has not always been cheap. Over the next two years I botched together a John Yeadon biography for my family and to donate to local libraries. It seemed wrong that this diary could have survived and that only archivist and family history obsessive’s would know about it.
I have spent a lot of time in the company of John. Trawling through the diary, if he made mention of an event, a book or place that he’d been I have followed up and learnt what I could about it. I liked the idea that I was looking over his shoulder. Getting to know him by immersing myself in what he did. The big themes are self education, the Methodist chapel, launching out as a lay preacher and apparently being highly respected and sought after, family dramas and a view on events in the wider world. Reading over the materials as I have done recently has given me a slightly different perspective, especially on the last quarter of his life. People don’t seem to like him as much as they once did.
This time I have been more aware of what was unsaid by him. On the same New Years day that he gave the table of his children and grandchildren he also made some notes on his weekly expenditures and how he could reduce them to match his income of 3 shillings and six pence. He was seventy four years old, in poor health, no longer really capable of work and was close to being destitute but no mention is made of help from his family. They did help at times as did some of the Methodist Society. It just feels less than it might have been.
In old age he comes close to altogether giving up on the chapel, after a life time of intense involvement. There is bitterness to some of his comments on preachers and members of the congregations. When he might have been playing the role of respected elder, people have been quietly dropping him. Most of all there is less mention of friendships and a social life than might have been expected for a man whose life had been so busy. His deteriorating hearing, accompanied by noises in his head, must have been a factor here. The last pages of the diary now feel sad.
Looking at the papers again I can see that the tone of the journal changed in July 1820 when something happened to his learning disabled daughter Hannah. He made this brief entry on the 13th July ……”about 6 O’clock our Hannah met with that insult and assault”. There are then very few entries for almost two years. Eventually at Easter in 1822 he makes the following note, “Not withstanding the incurable blow I received in July 1820, which seemed to paralyse all my powers, yet I had so far recovered as to preach twice at Yeadon”. He vividly describes his distress without every actually saying what happened. Whatever it was, he was not the same person again.
The sadness of John in late middle age contrasts with what I know of him in earlier years. A few stories will provide an introduction to him and the community in which he lived.
John diary tells the story an incident which happened when he was thirteen. This would have been around 1777. John was playing in the graveyard of the parish church at Guiseley which served the neighbouring communities including Yeadon which was about a mile away. He was with a group of friends, who could have been the 18th century stand in for hoodies. The story gives a flavour of the times.
“I was one day with others playing at noon about the churchyard and I swore a profane oath. Mr Willoughby the vicar overheard it, and made a sudden appearance, asked who it was, and after some time my companions informed him. He took me by the legs (being set) and dragged me on my back towards the fishpond and roundly declared that he would throw me in. However he stopped at last and asked if I would swear no more. I think this check from the vicar had a good effect on my mind, for it never left me”.
I can only guess at how far he was dragged as no pond exists now, but from knowing the ground it must have been at least fifty to a hundred yards and over bumpy ground.
John and the vicar could have not come from more different backgrounds. John’s forbears were home textile workers, producing cloth on a handloom for sale at Leeds market. The Rev. James Willoughby (1731- 1816) who was Rector at Guiseley was the son of Thomas Willoughby, 1st Baron of Middleton and a member of parliament for Cambridge University. It’s tempting to wonder what he had done so wrong to end up in Guiseley. He was a fifth son so running out of patronage may have been a factor. Three of his four sisters married into the church so it may have been an intensively religious family. Either way it must have been a posting to another world.
The parish church of St Oswald’s at Guiseley
The parts of the diary written before Johns mid twenties were written retrospectively. Most entries relate events which he casts as shaping his character and religious mindset. He is firmly of the belief that God had a purpose for him and that these incidents illustrate what he calls providence. John does not believe that he is singled out exclusively. His belief was that God intervenes in the life of many people and that this was an ever present influence. This sounds odd in a more secular world, but it was the belief of most people, at least some of the time. John was only slightly different in that it seems to have been part of his internal dialogue much of the time. What was God’s plan for him?
The following incident occurred in about 1780 about three miles from his home in Apperley Bridge.
“When in my 16th year of my age a great revolution took place ……..and much for the worse. I broke through all restraints, gave up attendance at church, nor did I go to any place of worship. This must have been a grief of heart to my parent and guardian. I was unrighteous and wicked”.
“I was however greatly checked in this my evil course by the following circumstances. One day about this time Mr Claytons tenants that live in Yeadon were ordered to carry boon coals to the landlords at Carveley it being the rent day. I was one of these cart lads (i.e. who was to transport the coal) and Samuel Yeadon and William Yeadon was another, and several others. This Samuel Yeadon was a little older than me, as was Will. I think he took too much liquor at Carveley when we left the coals. Let this be as it may. We set off through Carveley Wood with our empty cart and came down to the Navy Wood Bridge near Mrs Leavensies. Samuel sat on the cart side and was the first, about twenty yards below the bridge to fall off. His skull was broken to shivers and blood came through his nostrils as from a cock. We carried him to Mary Castilles, a public house at Apperley Bridge. He never spook, he only breathed a short time and went into eternity”.
I often drive past the spot. All the essential features are still there. I have some difficulty placing the exact spot but this is probably due to a realignment of the main road at this point. The pub is now called the; George and Dragon’. On a wet and melancholy Boxing Day in 2012 I walked the road through the woodland between Calverley and Apperley Bridge. It is now a footpath but the remains of a cobbled road can be seen. The hill is steep and it is easy to imagine a young man losing his grip as the cart gained speed, spilling off and striking his head,
The hill running down to Appereley Bridge. The trees are probably a modern intrusion.

The pub at Apperley Bridge to which Samuel Yeadon was probably carried. The building dates from 1704.

When he was 18 years old John saw a meteor pass over his home town of Yeadon. True to form John interpreted this as a personal sign that he was in some way remiss.
“On Monday August 18th being Yeadon Feast Monday in this year 1783 at night I saw that remarkable large meteor pass over Yeadon. It took its rise in the North West and went in a direct line to the south east. It shone only less than the meridian sun. I had heard a report from it some ten minutes or more after it had passed, like the report of a long distance battery”.
“I was a poor uninformed boy, granted but I was terrified with a witness and I knew that I was a sinner very unwilling to die in that situation. From then on I went to more of the prayer meetings as well as preaching than I had done”.
He was not the only one to describe the event-
The ‘Mechanics Magazine and Annals of Philosophy (Vol. 5, 1826) described the 1783 Meteor as follows-
“A particularly remarkable one, August 18th 1783, whose distance from the earth could not be less than 90 miles, and its diameter not less than the former (observed by Dr Haley in the month of March 1719, i.e. diameter 2,800 yards), and at the same time its velocity was certainly not less than 1000 miles a minute……….(it was) succeeded by explosions and according to the testimony of several people a hissing noise was heard when it passed”.
The Gentleman’s Magazine for September 1783 mentions it, and quotes… it was seen at Bath, as appears by the following extract of an authentic letter from a person of honour there to his friend at Bromley, in Kent, dated Bath, Aug. 19. A Curious phenomenon, or meteor, appeared in the atmosphere about nine last night. Its direction was from East to West and its movement very rapid. It gave a light equal to that of half dozen rockets, which it resembled in appearance. In passing through some clouds the noise was like that of hot iron put into water. Its explosion was very loud; and it seemed, when scattered, to descend like a shower of fire.
I don’t know if these events (and others) really were the driving force for John to immerse himself in Methodism which he subsequently did or simply pegs to hang his justification on after the event. I am dubious. People rarely have such road to Damascus moments. What is clear though is that such things were personally significant in his world view. Reminders of mortality were sent to prompt action.
In the same year, William Penny, who might have been associated with the fledgling Methodist Church in the town, approached John. John describes events in the following way-
“He (God) brought in my way a Christian Wm Penny, clothier who did in private conversation described to me days of trouble, while under conviction he then proceeded and enlarged on the place, the time, nature and circumstances of his first finding pardon. I felt under it, and afterwards, a far stronger resolution to seek in good earnest this real heart change”. This conversation occurred on a Saturday night towards the end of 1783.
Parish records show that William Penny was baptised on the 6th December 1729. The diary gives his occupation as Clothier or home textile worker.. He must have been a prosperous one because In 1794 a he paid tithes of 7 shillings and ‘Modaces’ (?) to the value of 1 shilling and two and a half pence. He would have been about 54 years when he approached John.
During the night following the conversation with William, John describes a dramatic religious experience-
“Entering my bedroom about 10pm I fell down before God. I prayed, wrestled, groaned pleaded, agonized and waited before the Lord. Near 12 I began to plead for it (the blessing of pardon). Now I had no candle and something persuaded me that Satan or an evil spirit was standing behind me, but not much intimidated I cried on. My belief increased my expectation was raised and with power this sentence passed my mind “open thy mouth wide and I will fill it”. I believed this report“. The instruction, i.e. to open his mouth comes from Psalm 81:10. The full verse is “I am the Lord thy God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth and I will fill it”. John goes on then to describe the intense feeling’s that “The blessing of pardon” that he believed had just been experienced produced in him. After a night of prayer John opened the bible at random, and describes reading “This day is Salvation come to this house (Luke 19.9)”. John saw this as confirmation of the validity of his experience.
As a mildly agnostic early 21st century man reading this I think that he must have been having a psychotic episode. It all sounds bizarrely delusional and maybe it was. Alternatively he is a man of his time seeing the world through the cultural lens of the period and place. I also remind myself also that he is describing the event a number of years later when he had become a local preacher. This explanation seems s the more likely option, but if I am honest his vulnerability strikes me.
Within a few years he had been through a form of apprenticeship in the Methodist Church and had become what was known as a local preacher. That is someone who was not an ordained minister but who preached, conducted some services and mentored a group of church members. Every weekend saw him preaching at one of maybe twenty churches and chapels on his allotted ‘circuit’ Aside from possibly two years of part time schooling in a local dame school the Methodist church and the autodidact habit where his education
Does he have anything in common with his great-great- grandson my father Rowland Kitchen? On first reading John’s diary the parallels struck me. The rest of this booklet will first be about exploring these commonalities and then deciding if they mean anything. I think John and Rowland were a certain type of widely recognised archetype. The shorter version of their stories is heroic. The longer version is messier.



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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

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