||Extracts taken from the diary of John Yeadon and shared with us by David Kitchen
"My Grandfather or my father’s father was Joshua Yeadon married to Eliz. Wilkinson. My other Grandfather or my mother’s father was another Joshua Yeadon married to Grace Holmes. My father was John Yeadon and my mother Hannah Yeadon before marriage. My two grandfathers and their wives must have been born about 1700 or upwards. My father and mother born 1741. My mother died 1765, my father died 1810”.
The first time I put together a family tree for my (surname) Yeadon family I was struck by how many of the surnames Holmes, Wilkinson and a dozen others were held by other children in my primary school classes at South View School in Yeadon. It was as if all these families had been living as an extended group for at least the last three hundred years. Each generation the genetic cards were getting re-dealt. The current representatives of each surname sat alongside each other at school desks unaware that they were only the most recent individuals to occupy that position.
The grandparents here are a link with the late 17th Century and the time of the Restoration. John’s granddaughter Isabella could be spoken about by a daughter Cora to a woman that was my aunt. The 1600’s are not so far away.
Things seem a little sad for Johns father John Senior. He was born in 1741 in the village. His occupation was clothier which just meant that he made cloth which at that time was mainly a home industry. Change was coming though. The first centralised factory was established in the locality in the 1780’s. John Senior married a Hannah Yeadon (not a lot of surnames in this history) when he was twenty one. They had their first and only child two years late in 1764. That was our John.
Hannah died when John (junior) was seven months old. That would have been around June 1765. John senior remained single for the next 20 years living with his mother and her second husband Thomas Denison. When John junior writes about his upbringing it is his grandmother and her husband that he is describing although he spent his very early years with an aunt.
John senior remarried in about 1782. This long delay seems odd at a time when it was not at all uncommon for people to be widowed early in life. People married again for practical reasons such as child care, and home making as much as anything else. John Senior is not much of a presence in John’s diary until the very end of his life.
John Senior died on the 2nd October 1810 at Yeadon. His son made the following entry in his diary-
"In September this year my father was taken worse. He had had tender health for 2 or 3 years before he died October 2nd at the age of 59 years. His disease was Asthma ending in a slight dropsy. I was with him when he departed this life. He had been long willing if not desirous of good men praying with him, which he did preaty (sic) often”.
Who knows what arrangements John senior made with his life. Not everything gets recorded in the parish register then or now.
Losing one’s mother so early in life is now rare but would have been far more common then when maternal mortality rates were much higher. Research by B.M. Dobbie ( Med Hist. 1982 January; 26(1): 79–90 ) in a number of Somerset Parishes shows that 3.67% of wives died within one year of marriage in the 17th and 18th centuries, The rate for the first five years of marriage was 10.19%. The comparable rates for men were 1.07 and 4.07% respectively. It is assumed that the difference in these rates is accounted for by gender specific issues the most common of which for women would have been pregnancy and childbirth. Women were choosing to do something, to get pregnant and go through childbirth that was dangerous, and far, far more so than anything else they might do.
Johns mother of course did not die in childbirth, and in fact we do not get to know why she if fact died. It could have been something entirely unrelated. She was a young woman no more than twenty two years old at the time of her death and so likely to have been generally healthy. Therefore the temptation in my mind and possibly in John’s to link the cause with his birth. Maybe the effects of some post partum infection or haemorrhage weakening her health and ability to withstand other illness...or she might have fallen out of a tree. We don’t know.
John’s parents had married at Guiseley on the 8th November 1762. Hannah would have been nineteen and her husband about twenty one. All of Hannah’s ancestors, in both the male and female lines for at least three generation back had been born in either Yeadon or neighbouring Guiseley. In all probability, if records were available they would show continuity of residence over a much longer period as the population in the area seems remarkably settled and remained so until the 1960’s. The geographic horizon of most people, especially women was how far you could walk, there and back in one day. It extended to their own and neighbouring villages. Possibly a six mile radius excepting special events or the obligations of work such as those to do with the trade in cloth. John mentions the local clothiers taking their produce on pack horse to the cloth market near Leeds bridge several times a month.
My maternal grandmother born in 1903 mentioned once that she went the six or eight miles to the nearest cities of Bradford or Leeds a handful of times before the Second World War. For most practical purposes, at least for women the edge of their geographical and social world was the village after next. Trains were too expensive she said and the tram when it came was half the price but travel was a little more than a fast walking pace.
In 1813 John wrote in his diary the following account of his ancestry. The big shift came with the war and the 1950’s. At that time more people got jobs in Leeds and Bradford. My generation who grew up in the sixties and seventies were the ones who went to higher education and moved away from the district entirely.
We tend to marry those people we encounter in the normal patterns of our days. For a twenty five year old in 2013 this can be a man or woman from the opposite end of the world with wholly different antecedents. The grandson of a Whitby fisherman marrying the daughter of a Taxi driver from Port Louie in Mauritius or a refugee from the conflict in Sudan. Lots of us as a nation make for odd couples in that sense.
John Senior and Hannah and most of those known to them would have married people whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents knew each other. Things were not so different for some in 1960’s Yeadon when a new girlfriend would be introduced by listing her close relatives and where they had lived and worked. The fact that they both had the surname Yeadon showed that their families had been linked to the place since at least the fifteenth century.
The Yeadon which would have been familiar to John in his early childhood, and which would have formed the physical and social world for many of its inhabitants.
This map shows the basic lay out of the town before the industrial revolution. This template was preserved during the years of rapid population growth in the 19th century and is still recognisable today. John lived near the intersection of the tracks at the centre of the map. Yeadon Dam or tarn as is called in this picture is just to the north east. The hill known as The Haw which is the highest point of the town is at the head of the vertical branch. The town is situated on the side of this hill. Its southern boundary is the River Aire which runs along the bottom of map. The parish of which Yeadon was a part is centred on neighbouring Guiseley which is the village one third down on the left edge of the drawing.
John junior spent the first three years of his life with an unnamed aunt before returning to live with his grandmother and her second husband Thomas Dennison. As far as I can see this was Thomas’s first marriage and he was fifty two at the time. This new family which included John senior at least part of the time set up home on a small farm. We only know that it was in the village of Yeadon and a miles walk from Guiseley church. Our John makes mention of the distance because that was the walk each Sunday with his step-grandfather.
Thomas seems to have been the fatherly influence on John. There are many references to him in the diary. A couple of snippets will give a picture..
"A good moral man of a patient spirit, kind to his neighbours, a rigid Church of England man”.
We hear about Thomas’s strong dislike of Methodism and here the ‘patient spirit was no so evident. Apparently he had opposed the introduction of Methodism into Yeadon. There was a family tradition that he had kept a "great Bull Dog”, and as part of a mob had he had set the creature on an early Methodist evangelist Jonathan Maskers who was preaching at Yeadon in about 1750.
I have found an account of the same incident written by a Mr Thomas Mitchell (1726-1784) in his autobiography quoted in a booklet ‘The Story of Aireborough Methodism’ (1991).
"One evening while William Darney was preaching, the curate of Guiseley came at the head of a large mob who threw eggs in his face, pulled him down, dragged him out of the house on the ground and stamped on him. The Curate himself then thought it was enough and bade them let him alone and go their way. Sometime after, Jonathan Maskew came. As soon as he began to speak the same mob came, pulled him down and dragged him out of the house. They then tore off his clothes and dragged him along upon his naked back over the gravel and pavement. When they thought they had sufficiently bruised him they let him go and went away. With much difficulty he crept to a friend’s house where they dressed his wounds and got him some clothes. It was my turn next. No sooner was I at the town than the mob came like so many roaring lions. My friends advised me not to preach that night and undertook to carry me out of the town. But the mob followed me in a great rage and stoned me for near two miles so that I was several weeks before I got well of the bruises I then received”.
Rum stuff. Step-grandfather Thomas was in his late thirties when he set his "Great Bull dog’ on Mr Maskew and not some idiot young lad. Maybe this was very much out of character. A case of doing things in a crowd which would never occur to do if alone.
The bond between John and his step-grandfather is evident from this account of the latter’s death forty years later in 1810.
"On March 9th my step grandfather was taken very poorly, very unwell indeed at which I was greatly troubled. Oh how I loved him. On Sunday 10 I read with him. Monday 11 no better, death is in good earnest, Tuesday 12 , I asked who should pray with him and I was glad to hear him say ‘any good man’. I got a good man Jonathan White a real Christian of the right stamp, a Methodist class leader. My grandfather loved to hear him. May we all three meet in heaven. He was aged 74 year”.
By that time John and most of the village had taken up with the Methodists. What goes around comes around!"