New Title: Pit-folk and Peers Volume I

Pit folks and Peers: The Remarkable History of the People of Fryston: Volume I – Echoes of Fryston Hall (1809-1908) by David Waddington

‘Meticulously researched, David Waddington vividly resuscitates the nineteenth-century lives of the inhabitants of long-lost Fryston Hall.’ Catherine Bailey, author of Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty

In the first volume of a two volume history of the pit village that raised him, David Waddington has dug deep to present with joy and relish the undiscovered history of Fryston Hall, which was, as he describes it, ‘the most important hub of Victorian society outside of London, attracting the most eminent poets, writers, politicians, adventurers and other celebrities of the era.’ And he’s not joking.

Central to the story is the larger-than-life figure of Richard Monckton Milnes, the first Lord Houghton. He’s best remembered as the first biographer of Keats and for almost marrying Florence Nightingale, but there is much, much more to him than that. He was the Victorian hostess with the mostest, famous for his parties and gatherings that brought together people from across the political and social spectrum. Possibly the best description of him comes from the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle: ‘Richard Monckton Milnes would make the ideal president of a Heaven and Hell Amalgamation Society.’

The people who pass through Fryston (and the pages of the book) include the cream of Victorian literary and political society, including the writers Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Robert Browning and Algernon Charles Swinburne, who Milnes introduced to the great adventurer Sir Richard Francis Burton and the works of the Marquis de Sade (Milnes’s library was filled with the biggest collection of erotica in Europe – he was an enthusiastic Libertine). The book is a ‘who’s who’ of Victorian politics too, with prime ministers Lord Palmerston and Benjamin Disraeli amongst the prominent visitors to Fryston Hall. Milnes was the long-standing MP for Pontefract and was a classic paternalist, fighting for help for the poor, for women’s causes and against public executions and religious prejudice (rife in the Victorian era). He was also a great instigator for free public libraries. Milnes sat on the House of Commons select committee on the Establishment of Free Public Libraries in 1849. The purpose of the resulting Act was not only to promote the emergence of public libraries, but also to establish and extend the presence of scientific and artistic museums for the education and recreation of the general public. On 2 September 1852 he sat alongside Dickens, Thackeray and Bulwer-Lytton as a guest speaker at the opening of the Manchester Free Library, the first to be instigated following the passage of William Ewart’s Public Libraries Act of 1850. In rising to speak at Manchester, Milnes ‘did not mention politics, except to applaud the ideas of community, reconciliation between different classes, and social amelioration’.

When Milnes leaves the stage, the story carries on with his children, notably his son Robert, the second Lord Houghton, and daughter Florence (named after her godmother, Florence Nightingale). Robert took on Milnes’s title and his mantle in the political arena, he married the daughter of Lord Rosebery and Hannah de Rothschild at the end of the century. Milnes’s daughter Florence followed her father’s footsteps as both a writer and great hostess. She was the object of Thomas Hardy’s attention, and is the inspiration for Sue Bridehead, the heroine of Hardy’s final novel, ‘Jude the Obscure’. We also see the birth of the coal industry that would dominate Fryston in the 20th century (and Volume II of this story) in particular the rise of trade unionism and long, protracted strike action, led by the two sons of Kippax, Benjamin Pickard and Herbert Smith.

That sounds like an exhaustive list, but it’s only just scratching the surface of this truly joyous romp through history. We’ve been working flat out to make advance copies of this available before Christmas. It’s at the printers now and we’re due copies back in just over two weeks. We’ll be shipping as soon as they arrive, so if you want to be amongst the first to read one, you can pre-order by clicking here

David P. Waddington is Professor of Communications at Sheffield Hallam University, where he has been employed since 1983. Fryston-born David has written extensively on the sociology of mining communities, industrial relations in the British coal industry, the regeneration of former coal-mining areas, and the policing of political and industrial protest. One of his previous books, Coal, Goals and Ashes: Fryston Colliery’s Pursuit of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup, was published by Route in 2013.

Read more about Pit-Folk and Peers here

RIP Pete Waddington

Pete Waddington (right) with the 1963 haul of trophies for Fryston Colliers FC

Pete Waddington (right) with the 1963 haul of trophies for Fryston Colliers FC

We are very sorry to report news of the death of Pete Waddington. He died on Wednesday 27 May 2015. Pete is the father of Professor Dave Waddington and the inspiration for the book Coal, Goals and Ashes. Pete captained the Fryston Colliery team to victory in the WRCC Cup in 1963 and the book is a loving tribute to this great achievement – by Pete, his colleagues and the whole village of Fryston.

The funeral takes place at the Holy Cross church, Airedale, at 1-45 on 17 June 2015.

>>Click here to see a trailer for Coal, Coals and Ashes
>>Click here to see the 50th anniversary presentation ceremony for the heroes of 1963

Backbone of the Strike


Women – ‘the Backbone of the Strike’
Dave Waddington
(Written for programme for the play Queen Coal, staged at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, Autumn 2014)

Two years after the ‘orderly return to work’ which signalled the end of the year-long miners’ strike, I formed part of a team of researchers from the former Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) which set out to examine the social impact of the dispute on the residents of mining communities in South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire [footnote]. We paid particular attention in our study to the experience of female adults in these villages, and we very quickly realised that, far from occupying a peripheral role in the conflict, the efforts of such women were arguably more vital than those of their men-folk, both in maintaining the miners’ struggle and in representing the case against pit closures.

‘Women were the backbone of the strike’ was how one striking Yorkshire pit canteen worker put it. ‘Women run a house, don’t they?’ she rhetorically asked. ‘They do the shopping and therefore they’ve got to make ends meet, whether it’s a hundred pounds coming in or ten pounds. I’ve got a big freezer and it was full to the top over Christmas and I felt like saying to Maggie Thatcher, “Come and have a look at this, all due to family and friends,” because I feel she thought she could starve us. Maybe she thought the women would push their husbands back to work, but it didn’t work that way, did it?’

In keeping with her day job, this woman was instrumental in setting up a community soup kitchen for strikers and their families. Other local women engaged in such equally important activities as collecting donations of food and money, holding raffles, going on demonstrations or attending picket lines. Not long into the dispute, they were joined by sympathetic women living outside of the locality, as Women’s Support Groups or Women’s Action Groups evolved in support of the strike. Regardless of the extent of their activism, the wives of striking miners underwent the kind of year-long ‘crash course in reality’ which forced them to question the fairness of key social and political institutions, and to reappraise their own self-worth and social positions as women.

Sometimes the lessons they received were especially harsh or unsavoury. Miners’ wives out walking at night with husbands who had never strayed close to a picket line found themselves taunted as ‘slags’ and ‘whores’ by marauding bands of locally billeted police officers, from ‘outside’ forces like Greater Manchester and (most notoriously of all, the Metropolitan Police), who were hell-bent on humiliating their menfolk or, better still, goading them into receiving a ‘good thumping’.

Such women saw at first-hand how ‘good, honest local men’ were being fined, sent down and subjected to debilitating curfews – often on the flimsiest and most unreliable of evidence – by a judicial system that seemed intent on sapping the collective morale. They were further incensed by media coverage of picket-line confrontation (such as television reporting of the so-called Battle of Orgreave) which habitually underplayed the police part in any violence that occurred. ‘They were definitely biased against us,’ the wife of one Yorkshire miner complained. ‘My husband was at Orgreave on the Monday and he came home and he felt ill. He said he’d seen the police on horseback ride over these five men and all you’d seen on television was men throwing wood and stones.’

Women activists who dared to step outside traditional gender roles by attending picket lines were in for an especially rude awakening. Police officers immediately set about ‘defeminising’ them as the ‘belt and braces brigade’. One heavily-pregnant picket was asked by a smirking police constable: ‘Who’d want to breed off a cow like you?’ Attitudes to the police were correspondingly and irretrievably transformed. As a member of one Derbyshire WSG explained, ‘To people outside of mining communities, many of them down south, these policemen were doing a wonderful thing. And there you are having your brains knocked out but, because you’re a miner on strike or because you’re a miner’s wife and you’re picketing, then you bloody well deserved it.’

It was not only female activists who began to re-evaluate their political standpoints. Dozens of the women we interviewed disclosed how they had developed far more sympathy towards those gay and lesbian communities which had been so wonderfully supportive of the strike. They also acknowledged a much closer affinity with other ‘oppressed’ groups, such a black African miners and British ethnic minorities. Reflecting on her own experience as a soup kitchen attendant, one Yorkshire woman remarked that one regular donor, ‘He was a Pakistani, gave boxes and boxes of food and he said, “The miners are treated like the scum of the earth and we feel for the miners because we’ve had the same treatment.”’

Feminist optimism that the experience of those men who took on more housework during the strike might induce a lasting realignment of gender roles was confounded by our evidence. While a minority of women maintained that the domestic division of labour had shifted in their favour, there was a much wider consensus of opinion that things had reverted to a pre-strike normality – albeit one that now involved a much greater recognition and appreciation of the importance of women’s unpaid labour. Any ‘emancipation’ of women resulting from the miners’ strike was most vividly reflected in those cases of individuals entering local politics, paid work, or further or higher education. Broader, yet more subtle changes were detectable in the growing tendency for women to be more assertive in their views and no longer be prepared to have their questions about work and trade union matters to be dismissed as ‘men’s business’. A small minority of marriages failed to survive the tensions caused by inevitable hardship, by variations in each partners’ commitment, or by disagreements concerning women’s role in the strike. However, most married couples reported that the strike had undoubtedly strengthened their relationship.

Few of the female strike supporters we interviewed regretted having participated in the dispute, and fewer still regarded the outcome as an unqualified ‘defeat’. It was almost universally maintained that the heroic rear-guard action of the miners and their families would prove inspirational to future political activists and that their struggle would surely be immortalised. The prevailing view was encapsulated in the stirring words of one Yorkshire woman who told us, ‘Well, I think a lot of people probably think, “Oh, well, was it worth it? ”, “Why did it happen? ” and “I lost a year’s money and for what? ” But I think the more intelligent kind of person would realise that it wasn’t all wasted; that it was all part of a continuing process; that if you just give in all the time over everything, then you just get more and more oppressed… I mean, it’s like when soldiers go to war and they say, “How can war be great?” But it’s not the war itself and killing people: it’s the comradeship that you’re all together and you’ve left those daily pressures that get you down behind. It’s like being in a free situation.’

[fn.] Our results were published in the form of a jointly-authored book, Split at the Seams? Community, continuity and change after the 1984-5 coal dispute, by David Waddington, Maggie Wykes and Chas Critcher with Sandra Hebron (Open University Press, 1991).

David Waddington
Professor of Communications
Head of the Communication & Computing Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University
Author: Coal, Goals and Ashes


From The Pit To The Pinnacle

Dave Waddington

Forget eye-watering salary bills, flash cars and WAGS, author David Waddington tells about the Yorkshire footballers who really summed up the spirit of the beautiful game. ‘From The Pit To The Pinnacle’ – a feature on Coal, Goals and Ashes in the Yorkshire Post.

Given the chance, the world of public relations would have a field day with the West Riding County Football Association Cup.

It’s not exactly snappy title for a club competition and even as an acronym it’s unpronounceable. What it needs is a rebrand and perhaps a high-profile sponsor to lend a bit of glamour.

However, back in 1963, when football’s greatest extravagance was a couple of half-time cigarettes, the world was a very different place and at the end of that season victory in the cup for Fryston Colliery Welfare, a humble Second Division team, would provide a fitting final chapter in a true David and Goliath story. To the 11 men who turned out that day, the WRCFAC was the equivalent of holding aloft the FA Cup at Wembley.

David Waddington is not sure whether he was at the match or not. He may well have been as his father, Peter, was captain, so he often spent his weekends on the sidelines. Even if he wasn’t, he’s heard so much about the game and the team’s surprise triumph over out-and-out favourites, Bradford’s Thackley FC, that he’s lived every one of the 90 minutes a hundred times over.

A few years ago, realising the 50th anniversary of the biggest victory in the club’s history was approaching, David thought it might be nice to produce a commemorative programme of the game, including a few memories from the players, who had once been drawn from the thousand or so miners who worked down the village pit.

However, David soon realised that the story of Fryston Colliery Welfare’s day in the sun deserved more than a few pages of a local newsletter.The story of that one small Yorkshire club blossomed into Coal, Goals and Ashes, a book which is as much a social history of a Yorkshire pit village and a glimpse back in time to when football was truly a working class game as it is a chronicle of an individual club.

‘When I started out on this project, my motivation was purely personal,’ admits David, professor of communications at Sheffield Hallam University. ‘I was six- years-old when Fryston won the cup and I really wanted to record the events of that day for my dad. But as I began to interview more of his fellow players I realised that they had a real story to tell, not just about that particular season, but about how life used to be. Someone once said that the people of Fryston’s whole world revolved around the village boundaries, many of them rarely even crossing the bridge to Castleford. They were right and that exact same spirit of togetherness manifested itself in the football team. Fryston was socially isolated, the working life was hard, and I think that toughness came out in the spirit in which they played the game.’

The story of Coal, Goals and Ashes (to explain the title would, says David, ‘spoil the final chapter of the book.’) features a benevolent pit manager who prized his workers’ welfare alongside productivity, a veteran hero in a man named Freddie Howard who would return to be Fryston’s lethal weapon on cup day and an entire side who while they may have harboured dreams of being spotted by a Walter Winterbottom or an Alf Ramsey, were also happy to play simply for the camaraderie and the promise of a post-match table reservation at the local social club.

It also follows the history of people whose fortunes were tied so closely to the colliery which was already struggling to break even. It finally closed in the 1980s.

‘These were the days when a side was reliant not on any scientific or systematic coaching regimes, but on natural skill and the spirit of togetherness,’ says David. ‘Back then the training, if it happened at all, consisted of a few stretching exercises, a couple of laps around the field and few shots at goal. Even on match days there was not any particular talk of tactics.

‘However, these players knew each other inside out. They were had either been born in Fryston or worked or lived there and most could tick all three boxes.’

While for the most part, the lives of the Fryston players revolved around the pit during the week and the often waterlogged football pitches at the weekend, the team did have an occasional brush with the big time.

‘During the war among the many Bevin Boys conscripted to work down the mines rather than being sent off to the front line were a number of the country’s top footballers,’ says David. ‘I guess it was thought to be a slightly safer occupation and eight ended up at Fryston, including the legendary Bradford Park Avenue player Len Shackleton.’

Shackleton, who was the original showboater, would later play for both Newcastle and Sunderland and his skill along with that of the other footballing Bevin Boys left a lasting impression on the Fryston side.

‘A couple of the players were talent spotted by some of the bigger clubs,’ says David. ‘However, one turned down an offer to move full-time to Halifax Town in a favour of a part-time contract so he could continue to play with his friends in the village, while another of Fryston’s stars, Freddie Howard, packed in an opportunity with York City because he said the 20-minute train ride from Castleford was too far to travel.’

Howard was to be the star of that cup final in 1963. By then a veteran who had been out of the squad for some time, he was drafted back in as an emergency measure. While Thackley FC might have been the superior side on paper, Howard, dressed in the club’s traditional blue and white strip, scored a winning goal which the Bradford players would remember for ever.

‘One of the players told me they could have beaten England that night,’ says David. ‘And you know what, I reckon they probably could.’

Click here for more on Coal, Goals and Ashes.

 Click here to read the article on the Yorkshire Post website.


Heroes Reunited

The heroes from Fryston Collieries and Thackley FC reunite, fifty years on from the cup final celebrated in Coal, Goals and Ashes. They all get presented with a book by Dave Waddington.

Dave Waddington’s Coal, Goals and Ashes: Fryston Colliery’s Pursuit of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup, is a story of sporting heroism and romance from the heart of the Yorkshire coalfield.

Click here to watch a short trailer for the book

Click here for more on Coal, Goals and Ashes.

Coal Goals and Ashes