Once again, I am
going to publish a piece of history just as it arrived with me this time from
David Kitchen, I don't think any editing by me is required.
As a hobby i write family history booklets for my family. The one attached is of
a multiple greatgrandfather of mine, John Yeadon who lived from 1764 to 1843 in
Yeadon. He kept a diary for much of his life and this was transcribed by Brenda Telford (who I think was a
member of the history group) a few years ago. She gave me permission via the
Yorkshire Archaeological Society to copy it.
John worked in a trade linked to
the textile industry but from his late twenties became a local (or lay preacher)
with the Methodist Society in Yeadon. He had a fairly eventful time, meeting
people like John Wesley but also writing about events in Yeadon at that
I wondered if you would want to upload it onto the website as it might
be of interest to some people.
John gives a
few stories from his childhood. This part of the journal was written many years
later. This colours the accounts. By that time he was fully immersed in
Methodism. He takes some of these incidents as a kind of retrospective evidence
of God’s plan for him.
The first event though is straight forward and
factual. Getting through the first five years of life was an achievement.
"I was about 5 years old when the Smallpox visited me and many children
died at that time. I just escaped with my life after lying in them (the
Smallpox) two months and came out with a countenance spoiled forever. I can
remember this event. Inoculation was unknown then at Yeadon in any
Every few years the town was visited by this infection and its
population thinned out like seedlings.The horror of the illness is graphically
described in an article by a Dr. Barquet from Spain. "The symptoms of
smallpox-or the speckled monster, as it was known in 18th-century
England-appeared suddenly and included high fever, chills or rigors, cephalagia,
characteristic dorsal-lumbar pain, myalgias, and prostration. Nausea and
vomiting were also common. After 2 to 4 days, the fever relented and a rash
appeared on the face and inside the eyes; the rash would subsequently cover the
whole body. These maculopapular skin lesions evolved into vesicles and pustules
and finally dried into scabs that fell off after 3 or 4 weeks. This sequence of
events was characteristic for variola major...
The case-fatality rate
associated with smallpox varied between 20% and 60% and left most survivors with
disfiguring scars. Many persons went blind as a result of corneal infection. The
case-fatality rate in the infant population was even higher; among children
younger than 5 years of age in the 18th century, 80% of those in London and 98%
of those in Berlin who developed the disease died.
(Dr. Barquet: Centr
d'Assistencia Primaria Gracia, Institut Catala de la Salut and Hospital de la
Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain).
John was obviously very fortunate
to have survived. Many years later he helped over many weeks nurse his
grand-daughter (and my great-great grandmother) Isabella Yeadon through the same
John’s education like most children at the time would have been a
patchwork of experiences. Before national legislation in 1870 introduced a basic
template for education to be provided to five to twelve year olds, education
would have been a mosaic of instruction provided by the church, parents,
apprenticeships and local one room subscription schools often run by a woman
with some education. The ambition of any of these was limited. Presumably the
aim if people had been made to pin it down was to provide a foundation of basic
literacy numeracy, religious knowledge and vocational skills necessary to the
subject’s station in life. Education for what was assumed to be destined, rather
than for what the person could become.
As a young child John attended a
school run by a Mistress Mary Webster somewhere in Yeadon. Many years
afterwards, John remembered a comment made by her about a classmate John Dawson.
"He (JD) would be a Parson” because his school work was so good. John mentions
that he "envied the prophesy, and wished it my lot”. Maybe I’ve underestimated
Ms Webster’s ambition for her students.
His education was almost brought to a
halt in 1772, when he would have been about eight years old, John describes a
near drowning at Yeadon Tarn, or ‘Taren’ as he spells it. He describes the place
as a "large pond upon Yeadon Common”. The stretch of water is still known as the
Tarn but many local people prefer to call it ‘The Dam’. Its boundary is now
enclosed by rocks and pathway. John knew it though as a slight dip in the
landscape just down from highest point in the village where water collected. It
is believed to have given the village its name. Yeadon; the water on the hill.
John gives an account of what happened to him there-
"It was common for
people to bath there, and so had I many a time, but one day when about 8 or 9
years old, I went for that purpose I was near losing my life. There was none in
but me and not one ashore could have helped me. I walked in too far before I was
aware. So that when I stood upright there was water running in my mouth. I could
not swim, and felt as if an invisible power drew me into the deeper waters. It
was put into my mind not to plunge, I not having learned it anywhere. I stood a
tip-toe, gained my turn round by inches got safe to shore with a glad
My daughter lives nearby. She together with other young mothers
regularly takes a walk around the circuit of the Dam with their babies and has a
natter. Her grandmother also did this with my brothers and me but in the
1950’s.She would have said she ‘Call’d rather than nattered. My daughter and her
mates are in the National Childbirth Trust. Her grandmother was hanging out with
the Methodists Young Wives. Same thing different time.
I like to think of
slices of time in one place. I imagine over to the left, beyond most of the
other members of our family who have been in this same place, the very young
John on the points of his toes trying to keep his bottom lip above the lapping
water! When I walk around the Dam I give him a nod.
Yeadon since the middle
ages had been a place for wool. The church owned much of the land and used it
for sheep and because of its juxtaposition with plentiful running water and the
right kind of moist air a woollen cloth manufacturing trade grew up in the
place. In the late 18th century this was done almost entirely by Independent
operators known as Clothiers, working from home. The product accumulated until
there was enough to justify taking it to the specialist market in Leeds. John’s
father was such a Clothier who needed to visit Leeds Cloth Market on a regular
basis. In 1774 a pony was purchased to help transport the cloth the eight miles.
Some of the care of this animal was given to John