Birstwith News


Jim Shipman

01423 772735

Fitness for All: fitness sessions take place in St James’s Church Hall every Tuesday evening starting at 6.30pm. We are a mixed group of very varying levels of fitness and a wide range of ages (teen to OAPs). Our aim is to enjoy an hour of varied exercise each week. Why not come along and join us? For more information ask in the village shop or contact Adrian Dixon on 01423 770116.

Birstwith Cricket Club: there has been a cricket club in our village since 1854 when it was founded by John Dury. Last month a rebuilt clubhouse was officially opened after a great deal of effort by many people over many months in raising the necessary funds and then putting them to good use. What the building could do with now is any memorabilia that relates to our vintage club to be exhibited on the walls. With this in mind if you have photographs or documents that could grace the clubhouse then please contact Sue Armitage on 01423 772413.

Birstwith History: the following extracts are taken from A Short History of St James’s Church Birstwith by Geoffrey Manock, published in 1998. ‘Birstwith before the Greenwoods. Birstwith in the year 1800 was a very different place to what is seen today. The main access into the village came from the Skipton Harrogate road, passing Menwith and down the church bank to what is now the village green. The road to Hampsthwaite was but a track suitable for horse riders. It was improved in 1821 to take a horse-drawn hearse and it was not until 1897 that it was given passing places in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The road from Clint continued into Nidd Lane with just a track leading down to a ford at Wreaks Mill. Wreaks bridge was built in 1811. Upstream at Newbridge or the Packhorse, there was a wooden structure and the present stone bridge was built in 1820 and still called Newbridge. So Birstwith was isolated. The people with few exceptions were very poor. It was an era hard to imagine these days when it was the custom for child labour, long working hours, poor health and cramped living conditions which were all part of the Industrial Revolution. Visitors to Birstwith in 1998 look with envy at the sweet little cottages and no doubt think how lucky to live there or even own one for holidays. Back in the 1800’s they were cramped with large families, sometimes more than one, disease was rife and life was cheap. The Greenwood Family (and some local history). Any account of Birstwith Church must include more than a mention of the Greenwoods. Without them there would have been no St James’s and the village would be very different. John Greenwood came to Birstwith to see the cotton spinning mill. He owned a mill in Keighley. He must have liked what he saw because in 1805 he bought Swarcliffe, the cotton mill and the corn mill that was on the same site at Wreaks, both powered by the river Nidd. A few years earlier Arkwright had invented his “water frame” which mechanised yarn spinning replacing hand spinning machines in the home with machines in the mill. Greenwood quickly enlarged the estate and bought more property in the village. The population was some 700 (similar to today) with most work in the two mills and some in the local coal mines. The coal was used in the gas works which was built in 1820 to provide lighting in the cotton mill. The cotton mill and the gas works closed in 1864 when cotton spinning concentrated into large Lancashire mills. It was to be another 50 years before gas was piped from Harrogate. The railway arrived in 1862 and was closed 100 years later by Dr Beeching’s axe. Soon after the arrival of the Greenwoods, social pressures mounted that more should be done to improve the lot of workers. There was the nearby example of Ingleby building the model village at Ripley and, of course, Sir Titus creating Saltaire. These trends were to influence the actions of the Greenwoods and the future nature of Birstwith.’