Methley is a dispersed village in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough, south east of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is located near Rothwell, Oulton, Woodlesford, Mickletown and Allerton Bywater. It nestles in the triangle formed by Leeds, Castleford and Wakefield, and is between the confluence of the River Aire and River Calder. The latter is crossed by Methley Bridge, the A639 road, (grid reference SE409258) about a mile south east of the village. It is often claimed that the village is the second largest in England (in terms of area).
Location and history
Today, the village is often described in terms of the area around Church Lane, Main Street and Pinfold Lane. However, the buildings on these streets largely date from the 20th century - and this area does not represent the original geographical centre of the village. The original village was established near to St. Oswald's Church, and in particular along Churchside. This is reflected in the 17th and 18th century buildings along Churchside and parts of Watergate.
Part of the village (the area south and west of the M62 motorway) was ceded to the City of Wakefield Metropolitan district council in the 1990s. This area, which includes the hamlets of Newmarket and Scholey Hill, was subject to a planning dispute regarding an industrial and leisure development as villagers feared increased traffic levels - particularly along the A642, B6135 (Newmarket Lane and Watergate), Park Lane and Churchside. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government approved the development on 21 June 2012. The new stadium for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats Rugby League club will form part of the development and should be completed by 2015.
Methley was surveyed by the Tudor cartographer, Christopher Saxton, author of the first atlas of England (1577). However, the map is now lost.
The village has a long history of coal mining. At one stage there were five mines in operation in the village - Savile Colliery, Methley Junction, Foxholes (Scholey Hill), Newmarket, and Newmarket Silkstone. The last pit (Saville Colliery) closed in the mid-1980s.
Methley Hall was the former seat of the Earl of Mexborough. The Hall, which featured in a 1907 edition of Country Life, was demolished in 1964, although the Mexborough Estate are still important landowners in the district. Queen Mary (Mary of Teck), consort of H. M. King George V, visited the village in 1935 and stayed at the Hall as a guest of the Earl. Titus Salt appears to have leased Methley Hall from the Earl of Mexborough between 1856 and 1865.
St. Oswald's Church had a spire from the mid-18th century to 1937. The spire became unsafe and was dismantled. The Castleford-born artist Henry Moore was a frequent visitor to the church. Nikolaus Pevsner documented the church and Methley Hall as part of his Buildings of England series in the late 1950s. Alan Bennett visited the church in December 1998 as mentioned in his collection of writings Untold Stories (2005), a visit which was filmed as part of a special The South Bank Show charting the writer's early life.
“Fatty Cake” School House
The “Fatty Cake” school house was built at the junction of Watergate and the main Leeds to Pontefract Road in 1637, with the purpose of teaching 10 local children to read and write. In subsequent years the curriculum was expanded to include basic Latin, Arithmetic, and Religious Education. The origin of the name is unknown. It was sometimes referred to as “The Dame School”. The school closed in 1881. It is now a private residence.
Methley was once served by three railway stations - Methley North (closed 1957), Methley Junction (closed 1943), Methley South (closed 1960). The original railway line through the village was built by the North Midland Railway in 1840, as part of the Derby to Leeds main line. This route now forms part of the Hallam (Leeds - Sheffield) and Pontefract Lines. The proposed route of the Birmingham to Leeds HS2 rail line passes to the west of the village between Scholey Hill, Clumpcliffe and Lemonroyd Lock, with the high-speed line curving west at that point to take trains into Leeds city centre via Woodlesford. The new line is scheduled to open in 2032.
World War II POW camp
Methley was the site of a German POW camp during the Second World War. The camp was located on the north side of Park Lane near to The Lodge. The foundations of the POW huts are still visible on close inspection. POWs were used as agricultural labourers on the Mexborough Estate as many villagers had been recruited into the armed forces. The POWs were invited to perform Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (Silent Night) in German during a Christmas Eve service at St Oswald’s Church – an event still remembered by some villagers.
BBC ‘Inside Out’ (5 December 2011) reported that Artur Braun, one of the inmates of the POW camp, produced a large painting (size 8 ft x 8 ft) entitled ‘Our Lady of the ruins’ during the winter of 1944/45. It featured the Madonna with child in a ruined city surrounded by desperate people appealing to God for protection from war. The painting is believed to depict the artist’s wife (as the Madonna) in the ruins of the city of Freiburg im Breisgau in Baden-Württemberg, Germany (the painting clearly shows Freiburg Munster in the background). Braun may have produced the painting after hearing of the death of his wife during an allied air raid on Freiburg im Breisgau (Braun's home town) during November 1944. For many years the painting was owned by a convent in Lancashire, but following an auction in 1997 it came into the possession of Dr David Milnes of York.
Local points of interest
The famous Yorkshire Imperial Band, formerly the Yorkshire Imperial Copperworks Band, used to rehearse in the village. The band who have won in their illustrious history the Champions of Great Britain title and three British Open titles is one of the country's most famous brass bands and have a long history in producing quality recordings and concerts are also featured regularly on the BBC.
The composer Edward Elgar was friends with the former owner (Mr. Embleton) of 'The Cedars' - now a residential home - and often stayed in the village. Nick Hodgson, drummer of the Leeds band the Kaiser Chiefs, has family connections with the village. The band officially opened the new village primary school in 2006.
Media related to Methley at Wikimedia Commons