FLOCKTON - Pits, Pubs and a Prison
Nov 28 2005 By The Huddersfield Daily Examiner
It is described in guidebooks as a village `halfway between Huddersfield and Wakefield'.
It has Wakefield postcodes and phone numbers, but is part of the Kirklees Council area and has a cricket club that plays in the Huddersfield Central League.
So people living in Flockton, as well as visitors, might be forgiven for being somewhat confused as to whether they are Huddersfielders or Wakefielders.
There is similar confusion surrounding the identity and origin of settlement of the village.
The name Flockton is of Scandinavian origin and is believed to mean Floki's farmstead. This suggests that Flockton was first settled by the Vikings who came to this country some time in the 10th century.
But the suffix `ton' usually indicates an Anglo-Saxon settlement.
The first half of this heterogeneous group, the Angles, settled in Yorkshire from the sixth century onwards.
The Saxons made the elementary mistake of not coming to Yorkshire, but choosing to settle in the south in places like Sussex and Essex.
Whatever the case, it is certain that by the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 a small number of people were living in Flockton.
Their stay, however, was a relatively short one, many of them being murdered or forced to flee by Norman soldiers when they visited the area in 1069 to inflict their retribution for the north's rebellion against their leader, William the Conqueror.
The devastation caused by the Conqueror's troops is evident in the Domesday Book entry, which describes the village, previously valued at 20 shillings, as `waste'.
Like many villages that had been reduced to `waste' it took Flockton many years to recover.
But by the end of the 13th century, when Edward I was on the throne, records show that the village was populated and that farming was once again under way.
It was also during this time that what has been referred to as `the most significant development in the medieval life of the Dearne Valley' took place - the arrival of the Cistercian monks from North Yorkshire.
The monks, with their iron furnaces and sheep breeding, encouraged economic and population growth in Flockton and nearby Emley.
Unfortunately for the enterprising monks, the Black Death struck in the 14th century.
Although the bubonic plague did not have the same devastating effect that the Norman soldiers had had three centuries earlier, it did cause a significant setback.
But the monks continued their activities for a few hundred years more, until they were finally evicted by Henry VIII in the 1530s as part of the dissolution of the monasteries.
One can, however, still find evidence of monastic activity in the area. The bell pits are still visible and the name `Grange', indicating monastic ownership, remains in use today.
Fortunately for the residents of the area, coal mining, an industry with which the village would later become inextricably linked - a pair of local coal seams were named Flockton Thick and Flockton Thin - had begun.
Indeed, records show that as early as 1515 digging of coal was under way in Flockton and it continued on a small scale in the 17th and 18th centuries.
However, the demand for the fuel - a consequence of the advent of the steam engine - led to a dramatic growth in the industry in the 19th century.
So much so that in 1840 the village was reported to `abound' with mines. Just 20 years or so later the number of mines in the area had more than doubled.
While the growth in the mining industry meant that employment was plentiful, life in the village during Victorian times was hard for most people. Men, women and children often worked long hours in terrible conditions.
Flockton was not the only place where working conditions were bad and a team of government inspectors were dispatched to assess working and living conditions in the industrial areas.
This was part of a wider campaign to regulate work in the first half of the 19th century which was launched by middle- class reformers who wanted to end what they saw as immorality - which was apparently rife in the industrial areas.
A group of the inspectors visited Flockton in the 1840s, as part of their inquiry into conditions.
They were shocked to witness many men were working down the mines `stark naked' in the presence of young girls.
They were, however, pleased to see that the village had what they referred to as "substantial dwellings, good educational resources, sports facilities and, more importantly, temperance societies".
However, by the end of the 19th century, the lack of transport - the railway did not pass through Flockton - meant that the coal produced in the village was not able to compete pricewise with that from other mines.
Railways provided a more economical form of transport at this time and after miners went on strike for 16 weeks in 1893, Lane End Colliery did not re-open.
Nearby Caphouse Colliery, which did have a branch line to Calder Grove at Wakefield, became the main employer for local miners.
Flockton today is one of the many villages in Kirklees that enables commuters to combine the benefits of working in the city with village life.
It has two pubs, a beautiful church, a post office, a village shop, a fish and chip shop, a small school and fantastic views.
Emley Mast can be seen from almost every point in Flockton, and no doubt Flocktoners, given the collapse of the previous mast, are glad to be looking down on it from a distance.
There is no doubt that Flockton is an idyllic village.
But is has not forgotten its past and there are reminders of the village's industrial heritage.
Proof of this are Flockton Green Working Men's Club and the street named Manor Drive, the site of the former home of the Milnes-Stansfield family, owners of Lane End Colliery.
Anyone who wants a more enlightening journey through Flockton's past can visit the nearby National Coal Mining Museum, formerly Caphouse Colliery.
There, they will be able to sample what life was like for their predecessors.