History of the Village
Most villagers are familiar with the entrance to Dunald Mill Hole, but how many of us know what lies within?
You can now see for yourself with an online map of the cave on cavemaps.org! Click here to see the map of Dunald Mill Hole.
We also love this engraving from c.1845, but compared to more recent photographs (below), we suspect some artistic licence may have been employed!
This article was written by Isaac Towers and first appeared in Cumbria Magazine in April 1971. It is re-produced by kind permission of Cumbria Magazine.
CUMBRIA recently inquired about the late Peter Woods, who lived from 1835 to 1936 and was known as “Old Peter.” I knew him personally and have been told of incidents from his fascinating life.
The entry of his baptism in Bolton-Ie- Sands church reads: On March 9th, 1835, Peter son of Robert and Betty Woods of Nether Kellet, Labourer. Nether Kellet, five miles north of Lancaster, is famous for its limestone industries. As far as I know, Peter resided in and on the outskirts of the village all his life.
When he lived with his parents, his home was a cottage which is now part of the village school. Over the wall on the west side of the school stands the Congregational church, surrounded by a graveyard. Peter cultivated this ground as a garden before the church was built in 1869.
He told about growing vegetables on the very site of the building and also related that he travelled with his produce to the market at Kendal, nearly 20 miles away, using a horse and trap in his early life.
Peter delighted in attending Brough Hill horse fair in Westmorland, the fair being held on the last day of Septembcr, and no doubt would do some business there.
Another home at Nether Kellet known to Peter Woods was on the east of the village and known as Windy Harbour Farm. It is now in ruins. When his parents died he left the farm and became the owner of a ten acre field half-a-mile away further east.
These two properties, Windy Harbour and the field, are near to Donald [sic] Mill Cave; the mill was driven by waterwheel. Peter lived in a hut in the field until he died. He had his dwelling under a wall on the north side of the field and was monarch of all he surveyed.
His first hut burnt to the ground, and he suspected foul play, which was never proved. Until he procured another hut he found refuge with his nephew, late Mr. Henry Woods of Old Hall Farm. Nether Kellet. But a few weeks later he had returned to his field.
I remember seeing white-bearded Peter passing the school where I was a pupil. He lived all by himself until shortly before he died. His water supply was about 20 yards away, and not far from the living hut he had another hut, used for stores.
In his prime, Old Peter kept free-range poultry on his field and also on part of my uncle’s field nearby. Every week or so he carried his produce to town for sale, using large baskets slung over his back and arms. He thus trudged several miles to Halton railway station en route to Lancaster, disposing of his goods and buying food.
In his young days he worked for my grandfather, William Towers, of Stubb Hall and once, working in the field with one of my uncles, he took off his jacket and told his dog to sit down and guard it. When Peter needed the jacket he asked uncle to bring it to him saying:
“And mind how tha carries it; there’s a hundred pund (pounds) in it.”
This was true.
He remembered the last of the stage coaches passing over Halton Moor between Lancaster, Yorkshire and Westmorland. As a young man he helped to lay the track of the Furness Railway (Carnforth to Barrow).
When my late uncle, Frank Towers, bought his first motor car about 1922 he called for Peter each week and conveyed him to Lancaster, later bringing him horne again.
When Peter became a centenarian I visited him with uncle Frank, my father and nephew John Towers, a boy of nine. He sat in his armchair in the hut and, in excellent spirits, chatted to us about the Royal telegram he received and a birthday cake sent by someone over the Atlantic. Peter told my uncle:
“Cut intew it, and give lile lad some.”
We were privileged to get into his hut, for the hut was just one room and, all told, about five yards by three yards. The door was in the centre, the bed in the right-hand corner and a window on the left.
Peter’s stove was in the middle of the room with Peter’s armchair close to it. Something like a chest of drawers stood in a far corner.
The time came when Peter could hardly look after himself; he was feeble in body but not in mind, and when someone suggested that he needed domestic help this confirmed bachelor at once said:
“There’s naa woman coming here.”
A Lancaster man, James Merser, who was past his prime came to live with Peter and he stayed until the “hermit” died on March 23, 1936, aged 101 years.
l well remember helping the undertaker, Mr. Edward Stephenson, of Nether Kellet, to carry the coffin across the field to the awaiting hearse, which then proceeded to the Nether Kellet Congregational Church. My late uncle, the Rev. W. H. Towers,himself nearly 80 years old, conducted the service.
Peter had chosen to live a hermit’s life and remained unmarried to the end. Yet he was always tidy and respectable. He kept himself to himself, minded his own business and fully expected other people to mind theirs. Very possibly we shall never see his like again.
Cumbria magazine, April 1971 (cumbriamagazine.co.uk)
Local family “the Woods” describe their family history and ties to Nether Kellet…
Tucked away, these days, beside the M6 and a just a few miles from Carnforth and Lancaster, Nether Kellet is perhaps not the best known of Lancashire villages but its association with the Woods family is extremely strong and stretches back at least 200 years.
This particular history begins in the year 1800 with the birth of Robert Woods in Nether Kellet. Like the son and grandson to follow, Robert worked as an agricultural labourer in and around the Lancaster area and he didnít stray very far to find a wife; Betty Wilkinson was born in Ellel. Robert and Betty were married (most probably) in the late 1820s because their eldest son, Henry Preston was born in Nether Kellet in 1831. At the time of the 1851 census, we find Robert and his wife living in Nether Kellet with their four children: Henry P, Sarah (aged 18), Peter – an agricultural labourer (aged 16 – more of him later!) and Jane (aged 12). Also living with them was a lodger: Henry Williamson, a labourer, aged 74.
Robertís wife, Betty died sometime before 1861 because for that census we find Robert – now aged 61 – a widower. He has moved away from Nether Kellet and is living at Beaumont Cote, Bolton le Sands, presumably working on the estate. He is sharing accommodation with housekeeper, Ann Atkinson (52) and cook, Catherine Edwards (42). By 1871, Robert has moved to Broadgate, just north of Cockerham where he is employed as a gardener/servant and lodging with a James and Elizabeth Gibson and their two young children. In 1881 the old boy is still alive but has moved back to Bolton-le-Sands and is living at Windy Harbour with his unmarried son, Peter . We must assume that Robert died between 1881 and 1891 because he is not to be found on the 1891 census.
Henry P Woods also went “south” to find his spouse. At the time of his marriage on 27th April 1861, at Garstang Parish Church, he was living and working in Winmarleigh. He was lodging with the Bilsborough family. His wife-to-be, Jane Reynolds (or Wrenolds) was a local girl, born at St Michaels and at the time of their marriage, living at Kirklands – a district just south west of Garstang. It is interesting to note that the Woods/Parker story further unfolds in Wyresdale but that is for some other time!
Henry and Jane’s first child, (another) Robert was born in Churchtown in 1861/2 (I have yet to send for his birth certificate to be sure exactly when he was born). However, the call of Nether Kellet is strong because their second child, James was born there on 11th June 1864. James’ birth certificate tells us more about Jane; she registered the birth, signed with her mark and must have confused the clerk at the registrarís office because her surname is spelt: Wrendols!
By the time of the 1871 there are two more children, Henry (aged 4) and William (aged 2) both born in Nether Kellet where the family now live. On the night of the 1881 census, sons: James (now 16), Henry (14) and William (12) are all at home in School Cottage, Nether Kellet. Interestingly, they have a visitor, Elizabeth Bateson who is thought to be the benefactor named in Nether Kellet Chapel.
Also, of interest on that March night of 1881 is the eldest son Robert, now living at Ellel, apprenticed to Edward Winder, a Master Blacksmith. Did Robert’s grandmother, Betty (nee Wilkinson) provide the introduction because she was from Ellel?
By 1891, we find Henry and Jane with youngest son William (now employed as a Stone Quarryman) unmarried and living with his parents. In 1901 Henry (now 70 and employed as a Stone Breaker!) and Jane (75) are still alive but they have moved away from Nether Kellet and live with their eldest widowed son Robert at 104 North Road, Carnforth.
James (known to the family as Jim) becomes our next generation. Although I have yet to send for his marriage certificate, we know that the marriage to Elizabeth Ann Shaw was registered in Lunesdale in the second quarter of 1889. Elizabeth was born in Caton in 1865 and as a single woman in the 1881 census was employed as a domestic servant by Stephen Haythornthwaite at Town End, Caton. Her father and brother were Blacksmiths. (I have additional info concerning the Shaw family as I have for most of the families of the Woodsí spouses)
At some time between 1881 and 1891 James had “left the land” and gained employment as a Railway Guard. I assume that this happened before his marriage and, at the 1891 census, James and Elizabeth were living at 43 Highfield Terrace, Carnforth. James was a lay preacher and was no doubt influenced by his boyhood experiences at Nether Kellet Chapel; remember Elizabeth Bateson the family visitor to his home in 1881 when he was 16 years old.
The 1901 census reveals that James and Elizabeth had moved from Highfield Terrace to 118 Kellet Road, Carnforth and, by this time had produced four children: Elizabeth Jane (b.1891) (Auntie Jaynie later to marry Thomas Arthur Huyton then James Cock before emigrating to Canada), James Anthony, Maggie (b. 1894) and Alicia A (b. 1898). James died in 1935 outliving his son. Elizabeth died on 3rd May 1945 (coincidentally the day my own parents were married!)
The coming of the railways was especially significant for the busy junction at Carnforth. This new employer must have enticed many young men from their work in farming as well as causing people to set up home in the town. James Woods was probably typical of many and it was hardly surprising that his own eldest child, James Anthony (born at Highfield Terrance, Carnforth on 17th June 1892) chose to work on the railway.
Picture father and son walking down the hill to work at Carnforth station/engine sheds during the First World War period. At the end of that terrible war James Anthony married Lucy Ellen Marguerita Parker on 4th February 1920 at St Johnís Parish Church, Yealand Conyers.
James Anthony was an Engine Driver at the time of his death on 11th August 1934. The following obituary – with photograph – appeared in the local newspaper.
“Widespread regret was felt at Nether Kellet and Carnforth when it became known that Mr J A Woods had passed away on Saturday after an illness of nine days. Mr Woods was the only son of Mr and Mrs J Woods (of Highfield Terrace, Carnforth) and was only 42 years of age. A widow and five children survive. Mr Woods was a native of Carnforth and for 27 years had been an employee of the LMS Railway Co. He was esteemed by his employers and colleagues as a man of stirling character.”
Of course the history does not stop here and also there is much to tell about the Parker side of the family but some further interesting facts and figures are as follows.
With the sad exceptions of James Anthony and his own son John James Melrose, the Woods males seem to be a fairly healthy and long-lived bunch. Robert (b. 1800) and Henry P (b.1831) both worked until they were 70 and lived into their 80s. Robertís son Peter was the infamous recluse who, at the 1901 census was living at (and I quote) the Shed, Charity Field, Halton. He died aged 101. James (b. 1864) died aged 71 and my own father, Peter Anthony reached his 85th birthday gingerly before passing away in May 2007!
So, as I write a “surviving six” Woods males are keeping the Nether Kellet flag flying: thank you to Alan Robert (b. 1935), Richard George (thatís me, b. 1946), Peter John (b.1948), Alastair Richard (b. 1969), Simon Andrew (b. 1970) and, the latest addition, Connor James Mackenzie (b. 2005)
Geography also has its fascination. Until Connor’s birth in South Africa all the Woods males, since 1800, have been born within 25 miles of Lancaster; true Lancastrians.
Richard G Woods (June 2007)
I read with interest the article on The Willow Beds in the August (2009) edition of Round & About. I was born in 1930, next to the Town Well, at no. 4 Jubilee Terrace, now more commonly called by the more rural-sounding name Jubilee Cottages. It was in those days when farmers, at times, still brought their cattle to the town well for water. We did not have a sewerage system in the village, or electricity; there was no playing field or a children’s playing area or any play equipment of any description for the children to use – we had to make our own enjoyment.
The Willow Bed, and it was the Willow Bed and not Willow Beds as it is now called, there being only one. The entrance to the Willow Bed was open from Halton Road and at that point there was a deep depression in the ground, with a large willow tree – at least, being a child, it appeared large to me. The Willow Bed was mainly wet, dry at times in the summer, and it would flood during heavy rain, and it was one of our play areas. We would make a fire there and put potatoes in it and then having scraped off the burnt and blackened skin as best we could we would eat them. There were two barns on Halton Road, now converted into dwellings, and sometimes we would play in them. Our school was the Congregational Schoolroom and across the road was a field that ran up the hill, and there we were allowed to play. This field was where the houses of Ashmeadow are now built. However, we were not allowed to go and play in the field until we were seven years old, and when that day came we thought we had achieved something. It was a grand field for sledging, in those days we had winters where we would always get some snow.
It was handy living next to the Town Well. The pump there was our water supply as it was not until 1935 that the water supply was laid and it was not until after the Second World War that we had sewerage and electricity. The bungalow of John and Judith Bentham is built on what was at that time our garden.
The Main Road was not as wide as it is now and on the opposite side of the raod, above Hornby Bank was a plantation where we also used to play. Further up the road on the right hand side going towards Over Kellet was the village tip, and we would go there and collect pieces of crockery, the odd saucepan or similar and make ëhouseí in the plantation. When the road was widened the trees of this small plantation were removed. We played Rounders, Stoolball, Football (yes, and I have marks on my shins to prove it) Hop-Scotch, Skipping and other childrenís games; we were always playing and did not know what ëboredí meant. Happy days, and many happy memories of the village as it was then.
This is an extract from a letter written to Lancashire Civic Trust, written by an unknown author, received 29 June 1965
“In 1947 a Committee was formed, consisting of the then President of the Women’s Institute, Mrs. E.M.M. Moore, and other members of the WI, with the object of building a suitable place in which to hold functions for improving the social life of the Village residents.
The year following, a Committee consisting of representatives of all of the organisations of the Village under the Chairman Mr. W.T. Whitaker, Secretary Mrs. Moore, Treasurer Mrs. Corless, began work to raise funds.
The first set of plans were drawn up and ideas of the type of building discussed. The amount of capital available dictated what could be built. The population at that time was in the region of some 300 people.
A site for the venture was given by the late Mr. Butler-Cole and various donations followed from an appeal to the local tradespeople. Members who served jointly on the Parish Council and the Playing Fields Committee granted the use of the field to hold the usual functions for raising funds. The Parish Council were, by this time, made Trustees for the land.
With an Annual Sports Day, Christmas Fayre, Whist Drives, Car Rallies and an occasional Barn Dance organised over the period, the funds were beginning to build up and after some ten years the enthusiasm began to wane, as nothing in the way of a building seemed to materialise. This phase passed and finally in 1961, a London architect, Mr. G. Finch, drew up the design and in August 1962, tenders went out to the surrounding builders. Mr. P. Jackson of Morecambe was successful and his tender of £4,443 was accepted from 4 other tenders. Work did not commence until January 1964, with the foundation stone being laid by Mr. T. Quayle on 29 February 1964. Work proceeded slowly until the opening date, 28 November 1964.
The Opening Ceremony was performed by the late Mr. Butler-Cole’s daughter-in-law, accompanied by her husband who donated a further plot of land at the rear of the building, to be used as a car park or for future extensions.
Over the period of 17 years, form the commencement of the project, some 8 Secretaries and approximately 80 members of the Village served on the Committee, under the same Chairman and original Treasurer. Much help has been given by Village residents who were not on the Committee, which has been most valuable.
At the present time the Hall has Evening Classes on 3 nights, Whist Drive on 1 night, Youth Club, Occasional Dances, Concerts and Exhibitions, also occasional private bookings. No drink is allowed to be sold on the premises.”
The happy point of this story is that after so many years of hard work and some frustration, the building started its life free of debt, an effort of which we, a Village of approximately 400 population, are very proud indeed and hope to remain so for many years to come.
Thanks to recent work on “The Willow Beds” the village’s equivalent of a War Memorial now stands in a secluded but idyllic setting adjacent to the playing field. It commemorates the fact that no villager who fought in either of the two World Wars lost his life. The Roll of Honour displayed in St. Mark’s Church lists 21 villagers who took part in WW1 and a further 16 who served in WW2.
In his 1930ís book ìThe Kingís Englandî the author Arthur Mee coined the term “Thankful Villages” for places that did not lose a single man during the First World War. Amongst 16,000 villages, he identified 24 of them, but later research indicates that the number is probably nearer to fifty. Very few places survived both World War without loss; Lancashire possesses two; Nether Kellet and Arkholme, although there is some dispute regarding the death in action of Lance Corporal Fred Murray of the Border Regiment, who was born in Arkholme. However, it is believed that he moved to Kirby Lonsdale, and his name is inscribed on that town’s War Memorial.
The following men from Nether Kellet served in WW1:
- W.JACKSON DCM
Nether Kellet’s Peace Stone was installed to commemorate the end of the Second World War in which 16 villagers served. It bears the following inscription –
“This tribute to a lasting peace was planted by T.C. Butler-Cole, Esq of Tunstall House and Mrs S.T. Whalan of this village at the Nether Kellet peace celebrations on the 8th Sept 1945 to commemorate the cessation of hostilities in the 2nd world war, 3rd Sept 1939 – 15 Aug 1945”
For further information please click here. (http://www.hellfirecorner.co.uk/thankful.htm)