Phase X - 1725 to 1988

 

At some time in the period 1725 to 1775 a new farmhouse was built at Wood Hall. During this period the property was sold by William Harvey, Tobiah’s son, to Henry Brown in 1739, and bought back by Stanhope Harvey in 1754. Jeffrey’s map of Yorkshire (1775) shows a rectangular building aligned east-west on the internal edge of the south arm of the moat, looking south across the open agricultural landscape to Womersley and the limestone escarpment. A further rectangular building, possibly a barn, is shown lying at right angles to and to the east of the main house.

 

 

Fig 51: Jeffrey’s map of 1775 showing Wood Hall

 

The farmhouse and its associated buildings had been demolished and almost completely removed in the mid-1980's, but a combination of archaeological, documentary, photographic and oral evidence has enabled at least some of the history to be pieced together.

 

 

Fig 52: Early farm features - 18th- early 19th century

 

The new Georgian building was constructed on the northern edge of the south arm of the moat, approximately 4 ms from the edge. It was of simple rectangular construction on shallow foundations, built in the main of the local flaggy Magnesian limestone, with fragments of earlier masonry re-used throughout. One late Medieval doorway or fireplace architrave, broken in two, was used as the foundation at the north-east corner of the core building. Most of this re-used masonry probably originated from the de Newmarch and Neville buildings demolished earlier in the eighteenth century, though the bulk of the demolition material seems to have been removed from the site - possibly for building works at the Harvey’s main house in Womersley, Womersley Park.

 

 

Fig 53: The moat looking east, clearly showing the eighteenth century re-cut at

the bottom of the picture. The dumps of rubble closer to the causeway

date to the early nineteenth century

 

 

The proximity to the by now stagnant moat, blocked by the replacement of the bridge by a solid causeway in the early eighteenth century, proved to be a problem to the inhabitants of the new house. The moat was re-cut once in the eighteenth century; by c.1810, however, it had been filled in - an operation accompanied by another general dump of rubbish including leather and glass, as well as every type of eighteenth century pottery from Nottingham stonewares, Yorkshire Blackwares and Slipwares, through Staffordshire Saltglaze stonewares and early Wedgwood Queensware, to Chinese porcelain. Pottery from kilns at Leeds and Castleford, and from the 'Wedgewood' factory at Ferrybridge, was also present, suggesting a date of deposition in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Topsoil was imported and the moat area was levelled up and made into a garden.

 

 

Fig 54: Pottery from the 'Wedgewood' factory at Ferrybridge

 

Very little of the original phase of the core building - that shown on Jeffrey’s map of 1775 - could be identified archaeologically, except for an internal well, which lay close against the south wall approximately half-way along its length. It also seems reasonable to assume that the main door on the south of the building, located approximately 6m from the east end, was an original feature. A sale document of 1781, following the eviction of the tenant, Howith, for non-payment of rent, and the seizure of his goods, lists the contents of the various rooms, which existed at that time. The rooms mentioned are the kitchen, the parlours and the chamber; even though a barrel, a cask and a brewing tub were sold, no mention is made of a cellar or dairy at this time.

 

Given the evidence of the sale documents, it seems likely that a small back-filled cellar or cool-room, constructed against the inside of the north wall, was a secondary feature within the building. The cellar measured 4.3m E-W by 2.0m N -S, and was 0.6m deep. Access was via three stone steps downwards in the south-west corner. The whole structure was constructed of brick and stone walls butted against the north wall of the farmhouse, and continued well below the foundations of this external wall. The floor was of flagstones (one fragment remained in situ) laid on a bedding of sand.

 

The cellar had originally been drained by a square section slab-lined brick-sided culvert, 0.75m wide by 0.65m deep, and over 24m long. It ran southwards below the external wall and into the garden area where it was joined from the north-west by a similar culvert which drained from the interior of the building adjacent to the well. Once the two were united the culvert line had continued below the garden and into Moat Croft meadow beyond. The cross-sectioned area of the culvert (0.39m sq.) would have allowed the discharge of large volumes of water.

 

 

Fig 55: The culvert draining from the farmhouse

 

The suggestion that the cellar and culvert system were secondary features is reinforced stratigraphically by the slab-lined culverts, which crossed the moat into the meadow to the south. These were cut through the backfill of the moat, which contained quantities of pottery (as stated above) dating at the latest to the first decade of the nineteenth century.

 

The first cellar or cool-room was eventually backfilled with a mass of wall and ceiling plaster and mortar, possibly from its own superstructure or perhaps from a larger refurbishment. It was replaced by another, very similar structure lying 1.8m to the east, in the north-east corner of the farmhouse, which had been almost completely removed by the demolition in the 1980s.

 

 

Fig 56: Wood Hall farmhouse - the second cellar

 

The second cellar was remarkably like its predecessor, with a Magnesian limestone rubble wall butted against the north and east external wall of the house. White-washed plaster survived on the interior surfaces of the walls forming the north-west corner. The sunken floor was of unbonded flat bricks and measured 4.0m E-W by 1.70m N-S. Three brick piers had supported a work surface of Elland flagstones, the remains of which had fallen between the piers. Two sandstone steps led down eastwards into the cellar from the south-west corner. The brick floor sloped gently into the north-west corner, where a drain had been cut through the wall and the backfill of the earlier cellar, curving through 90 degrees to join the original culvert. The drain was protected from blockage by a perforated slate filter plate, placed at its exit from the new cellar.

 

It is probable that these sunken-floored 'cool' rooms had functioned as successive dairies rather than being solely for the storage of perishables. Large volumes of water would have been used daily in cheese and butter-making, in order to sluice down containers and work surfaces. The large cross-sectional area (0.39m sq.) of the culvert would have allowed for the discharge of this while the slate filter-plate would have prevented debris from settling out onto the culvert bed and fouling the atmosphere in the rooms above. The culvert had been capped with flagstones as part of the farmhouse floor which had been taken up for re-use prior to the final demolition.

 

The main nineteenth century phase of the farmhouse seems to have had a scullery and kitchen at the western end, then two living rooms, with the dairy at the extreme east. The internal well was eventually back-filled, with quantities of plaster and mortar suggesting a major refurbishment of the building, and replaced with a new one, capped with an iron pump, located outside the south wall of the building adjacent to a new kitchen door. The pump may have eventually discharged directly into a water-tank and thence to a copper in the scullery, as described in a sale document of the 1930's:

 

" A Commodious Brick and Stone-built and Stuccoed FARMHOUSE

(at one time a Moated Grange) with tiled roof and having

a garden in front, and containing: Two Sitting Rooms; Dairy;

Cellar; cupboard under stairs; Kitchen with two cupboards;

Larder; and Scullery with fireplace sink and copper with water

supply from tank outside, which is supplied from a Well in

front with a Pump;.....Outside: Wash-house with two coppers;

Coal Place; Closet and Ashpit and Garden. "

 

The dairy mentioned in the paragraph above was the last in the sequence, lying east of the main farmhouse block and butted against the external wall. This room, also with a brick sunken floor, was entered via an internal door knocked through from the second phase cellar/dairy to the west. Four brick piers built against the east wall supported a stone working surface, and the internal wall surfaces had been white-washed. These two rooms functioned together for some time, and became redundant together. The doorway between the two was blocked with brick, and the internal cellar backfilled with rubble and capped with concrete to the same level as the adjacent floors. The external room was demolished and the area levelled up with the resulting material. Photographic evidence suggests that this took place in the 1940's.

 

 

Fig 57: The last farmhouse looking west. The third and final dairy lies at the bottom of the photo.

The cobbled fold yard is on the night.

 

Other alterations to the farmhouse included the addition and then removal of a number of small rectangular rooms (function unknown - possibly animal pens?) at the west end of the building, and the conversion of either the scullery itself, or a building on the same site, into a stallion box, where the 'gentleman horse' (pers. comm, unnamed source) could keep an eye on his 'ladies' in the main barn. A cobbled ramp was constructed to ease his passage into the fold yard between them. Photographic evidence shows that this area too was demolished in the 1940's, shortening the building and leaving a former internal wall forming the end of the house.

 

Fig 58: The last farmhouse looking east, showing part of the yard to the left.

It is difficult to assign a date to the various phases of alterations to the original farmhouse building, but at least some are probably contemporary with the addition of a range of barns to the rear of the house, with an enclosed fold yard between. This construction work, which seems to have taken place in the first decade of the nineteenth century, reflects a phase of modernisation undertaken on all the farms on the Womersley estate, using the same plan with only minor variations from site to site. The main range of barns, for instance, is almost identical at Wood Hall, at Spring Lodge a mile away, and at Home Farm in Womersley.

 

 

Fig 59: The later farm. Late 19th and 20th century

 

The barn range at Wood Hall was a three-part construction. The highest, central barn, with doors big enough to admit a loaded wagon, was built first, the flanking buildings being butted against it. It is not suggested, however, that there was any great time lag between the construction of any of the three sections. The yard between the rear of the house and the new barns was cobbled, flanked at the east by an open-fronted cart-shed next to substantial limestone gate-posts. A similar gateway lay on the west side of the cobbled yard. It is not known if any buildings enclosed this side of the yard, as the area has not been excavated, but the presence of drains within the yard and to the west suggest that other structures existed.

 

At the south of the yard a wall separated the fold yard from the path leading to the back door of the farmhouse. Two small buildings on the yard side of this wall were once the coal place and the wash house (pers. comm, unnamed source) as mentioned in the 1930's sale document. A well at the west end of this path served the yard and farm buildings in the nineteenth century, replacing an earlier one more central to the yard area. The final water supply to the farmyard was pumped from a twentieth-century brick well in the pasture annexe to the north of the moated platform.

 

 

Fig 60: Wood Hall farm some 5 years before demolition

 

 

In the 1950s the fold yard was concreted over and new sectional buildings were constructed. These were the last alterations at Wood Hall. The farm and parts of the farmland were acquired by the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1963 to form part of the Gale Common Ash Disposal Site. Farming continued, but because the farm had no long-term future it was never modernised, which in fact probably saved the archaeological remains from being bulldozed. The last tenants left in 1980, and in 1982, partly because of vandalism and partly because the buildings were in a dangerous state, the last dwelling at Wood Hall was demolished.

 

Phase XI - 1988 to 2001

 

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