All Our Stories – The Spirit of An Old Tannery at Kelcliffe

Driver's Gravestone, Guiseley Churchyard.  Source; W Sutherland,

Driver’s Gravestone, Guiseley Churchyard. Source; W Sutherland,

It started with a newspaper cutting from the Leeds Intelligencer,  24 October 1780, found by local historian, Barbara Winfield just after Christmas 2012, on the British Library Digitised Newspaper Archive website – the first indication that Kelcliffe might have originally been a tannery for the local area.  Remembering that Guiseley would have been a good walk down Kelcliffe Lane to Town Gate at that time: and, that tanneries were sited away from villages because of the dreadful smell.

An advertisement in the paper said that on the 16th November 1780 a freehold messuage (dwelling, and barns) at Kelcliffe, with tan house, tan yard, and drying houses, with 45 acres of rich arable, meadow and pasture,  and common rights on Guiseley common would be sold.  The current occupiers were given as Samuel Kitson, and Joseph Maud, the owner was Thomas Gill.  The advertisement added that the area was ideal as a tannery, being ‘well watered’ and having every ‘convenience’ for that trade.

Subsequent research by Barbara in February 2013, at the The West Yorkshire Archives at Calderdale,  found that Thomas Gill himself was a tanner, and that a previous owner came from another well-known Guiseley family – William Driver.

The next ‘happening’ was more spooky.  Barbara was walking back home late in February, and decided to short cut through Guiseley Churchyard – she pushed open the side gate, and walked around the back of the church; it was then that a grave she’d never noticed before, jumped out at her – “Joseph Driver of Kelcliffe, son of Richard Driver of Horsforth, died April 20 1715, aged 31”.   William Driver born 1707 son of Joseph Driver who died in 1776, is mentioned on the same gravestone.   The sudden appearance of ‘people from the past’, just when you are looking for them, is a common phenomenon known to family and local historians – who often joke that some ‘spirits’ actively want to be found, whereas others do everything they can to keep, often guilty, secrets hidden.

As well as Calderdale,  Barbara and Nicola Denson, have also visited the Registry of Deeds at Wakefield to look at other owners of Park fields; and later in March Barbara is off to the Borthwick Institute in York to look at wills of known owners of parts of Parkinson’s Park.

In addition,  the Airborough Historical Society Archive Rooms in Yeadon look as if they may have a box of interesting documents relating to Crompton Parkinson’s which will be examined at a later date.  Once the society have finished reorganizing their files.

About Jennifer Inskip Kirkby

Director and Vice Chair of Friends of Parkinson's Park CIC, Chair of Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum and Facilitator of Inskip One-Name Study. Has a degree in Local History (University of Cambridge), and Economics (University of Leeds). Now retired after a career as a Business Analyst and Advisor.
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