Waterlooville the Lost Village


My old school teacher, who knew a bit, said that Leeds was at the most northerly point of the Yorkshire Coalfield. We were at the last point of ‘The exposed Coalfield’ where coal was relatively easy to win before it went much further underground to that which was known as ‘The Concealed Coalfield’ and became much harder to mine.
It would seem the earlier Victorians and those who mined even earlier (coal was mined in the area since the 17th century) made the most of coal being at hand and sank shafts all over the place, unfortunately they were reckless in their infilling of them and neglected to mark their positions on maps, the result is: they keep opening up. I recall one opening up on East Street another in the precincts of Mount St Mary’s Primary School which caused them to re-locate to Porta Cabins in the old Victoria School Yard. Others were found when excavating the railway cutting for the line from Richmond Hill to Neville Hill and yet others halted the construction of St Saviour’s Church. Further evidence of coal extraction is also to be seen by the pit spoil heaps at the Shaftsbury (Black Hills), Knostrop (red Hills) and in East End Park itself, also in many streams in the area running with orange mineral water from the old mine workings and the smell of leaking methane gas.
We were all used to seeing pit head gear at: Allerton Bi-Water, Rothwell, Swillington, Featherstone, Stanley and Lofthouse but our last and most familiar pit was Waterloo (Temple Pit – 1913-1966). This was the pit from which our lovely old paddy engines: Kitchener, Jubilee, Dora, Antwerp and later Sylvia were familiar sights delivering coal to the staithe on Easy Road or ferrying the miners to work at the pit itself. Temple Pit was located to the south east of Temple Newsam House near to a little road Called ‘The Avenue’, now disappeared too and not far off Bullerthorpe Lane at Swillington. The shaft was located in a deep cleft in the land so it was hard to even see the pit head gear; they sunk them in places where the land was lowest so they didn’t have so far to dig down to the coal seams.
There were three old shafts at Knostrop when I was a lad, two behind Knostrop Old Hall had not been filled in at all and had crumbling brickwork housings across the top which foolhardy kids would climb up and look down to the water which always rises to the height of the water table in old shafts. One was broken away at the side and I once saw a chimney sweep getting rid of his soot down there. The third shaft (Dam Pit) was located between the two plantations at Knostrop and the provider of the red shale spoil that hard cored our two ‘red roads’. The shaft was brick filled to about five feet from the top and there was still a bit of the pit head gear in place. We would dangerously play in the shaft oblivious to the fact, we later learned, that the shaft had only been capped off with timber that would probably have started to rot. I have visited that site lately, it was where the rifle club used have its pitch so that the red hills was a back barrier for its bullets, the whole area has been grassed over now but I can see a little ‘dimple’ forming where the shaft is. I wonder if anybody realises what that is? I wonder if anybody cares about the danger?
Now I’m coming to the disappeared Waterloo village. The first sod for Waterloo Colliery was taken on the eve of the battle of Waterloo, (1815), hence the name. Many shafts have been and gone between the first shaft and the end of mining in 1966. I have made a study of the shafts in the area and made my own map, as you can see there were a lot of shafts. I must point out that the map is a composite of several maps and covers a time period of over a century; they were not all in production at the same time. Please ‘click’ on maps to enlarge writing. In later years open cast mining has dredged the whole area. Once that has been completed they put the land back and leave it in good order but any historical landmarks are gone for ever. I did read where a Viking settlement had been found near to the River Aire but I cannot see any evidence of that been left for us to see. But I did speak to one of the operators on the open cast scheme and he said they had opened up galleries where the old Victorian miners used to work, he said they were like worm casts and he had recovered an old green bottle left by a miner after having his ‘snap’,


In David Joy’s Regional History of Railways in Great Britain he tells of a rail service to service the pits in this area as early as 1750, that began as wooden wagon ways that ran from Thwaite Gate to Temple Newsam that a decade later there were seven pits a network of wagon ways and an iron works.
A further search of the records showed that a pit village – the earliest purposely built pit village in West Yorkshire was built on a site between Thorpe Stapleton on one side of the canal and river and Rothwell on the other side.

The village originally called Waterloo colloquially grew the name ‘Waterlooville’. Although I must point out Temple Newsam in their guide book seem to refer the village as ‘New Market’ and they ought to know but I always thought Newmarket to be the colliery at Stanley. Anyway I shall continue to call it Waterlooville and it has completely disappeared. It is not unusual for pit villages to die when the mine is exhausted that is the nature of the beast but in the case of Waterlooville, on our very doorstep there does not seem to be a stick of evidence that it ever existed, no ruins, nothing. I have placed the village on the map (Please see map) as seemingly between the river and the canal, there were two streets a square and a school cum Sunday school. It is quite obvious there was a connection to the Temple Newsam Estate as the square is called ‘Irwin ‘Square’, the Irwin family were incumbents of the estate at the time and probably had a financial input into the village especially the school/Sunday school. There was also a bridge ‘Waterloo Bridge’ across the river to allow miners from the village to cross over the river on their way to work on the north side of the river. Of that too there is no trace.

Over a period of time I searched both sides of the river and the canal bank for the merest sign of Waterlooville, nothing. I did find some huge blocks on the side of the canal which I thought might have at one time been anchor points for the bridge but they were inconclusive. I regularly asked folk I met along the canal bank if they had ever heard of a disappeared village but without success, then speaking to the lock keeper at Fishponds Lock I finally stuck gold, he said he had once heard about the village from an old timer who had said there were remains of the old school wall beneath the old cement bridge, the one carried the trains that took coal from Fanny Pit at Rothwell to Skelton Grange Power Station, but that he hadn’t seen them himself. So I clambered across the Paddy bridge to the north side of the river and had to descend the steep banking at the other side which looked quite treacherous but some kind soul had attached a rope to a tree to make the descent just about possible and there looking back to the south side of the river I saw the old brickwork that the lock keeper said was the remains of the old village school wall. I took this photograph – I have had to whiten the brick work on the photograph so it would show up.
On another occasion I attempted to climb down the other side of the river onto the top of the wall that I could see from the north side to see what else I could find but the bank was very steep and slippery and covered in brambles and I could see the river was running very fiercely at the bottom and I could sense that a slip, and I’m not as nimble as I used to be, would have seen me washed away in the torrent, so I decided the better part of valour was to abort that particular quest

Thankfully some kind organisation has now built a bridge across the river near to that old cement bridge making it easier to see across to the remains of the wall of the old Waterlooville School building also making it possible for walkers from Woodlesford and Rothwell to walk all the way across to Temple Newsam.

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13 Responses to “Waterlooville the Lost Village”

  1. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Excellent piece of research Pete, I enjoyed the tale, I always remember one of my old foreman saying after the pit closed. In the future after the oil has gone they’ll reopen the old shafts and we’ll still have coal, we were a productive nation in those days, and he could never have anticipated the demise of our Industry, sadly the capital investment needed to regenerate our industry in my opinion will never be forthcoming. They serve who only stand and wait.

  2. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thank you Peter, very interesting and informative. I had always thought that it was the woollen industry that transformed Leeds but you are making a strong case that coal had a lot to do with it. I think the proximity of the coal deposits to the waterways made it an attractive mining proposition. Some of my ancestors came from places down the river, I want to say Knottingley but my memory may be playing tricks. Anyway, they were boatmen and one of their principal cargoes was coal shipped down to London and the south coast. It is interesting how quickly local history gets expunged by time; a village and a school disappear into the dust in just a century or so. A lot of my grandfather’s tribe worked “downt pit” and my parents vowed that their three lads would all have a trade instead.
    Careful you don’t fall down any of those holes Pete when you go out walking. Doug

  3. Eric Says:

    Fascinating Pete & well presented. I knew that there was lots of old pits around but not to that extent. Opposite where my grandparents lived in Crossgates, was a small wooded area with a hill in the middle and a capped off pit shaft , covered with timber beams. I think it was called (St) Mary pit. I shudder when I think of the times I clambered over it without realising the danger. I believe there was lots of similar pits in the Austhorpe area as I remember when my parents moved there, some of the documentation they had referred to the risk of subsidence due to improperly filled pit shafts. My grandfather, after being discharged from the Roya Navy after WW2, used to work for the then YEB ferrying coal along the Aire/Calder canal to Kirkstall PS & during the summer holidays, would occasionally take me along for the ride.

    A great piece of local history

  4. peterwwood Says:

    I’ll try not fall down any holes, Doug. The thing is though, I have always been fascinated and frightened with big holes in the ground with equal measure. When I was a lad about ten years old I went to stay with an aunt who lived in a cottage above Bramhope Tunnel and there was an air shaft which of course I climbed up the outside wall pulled myself across the lip and looked down. It was about 30 foot diameter at the top but it was so deep it tapered to a tiny circle at the bottom. I could just make out tiny lines at the bottom and smoke starting to rise up (it was in the age of steam trains) the walls were all festooned with green gunge. It frightened me to death I still dream about that b.… air shaft.

  5. Mark Wilson Says:

    Excellent piece of research and brilliantly written. I’m from Barnsley (Grimethorpe, actually) and I was told that men used to go to work in pits near Leeds for an easy life! We always thought of Leeds as being not dependent on any one industry; multi-talented; and extremely prosperous. I thought Pontefract was posh, but when I first came across the metropolis of Leeds, I realized I had to come and live here. Which I did.

  6. Edward Blackwell Says:

    You won’t believe this Pete, I used to do a lot of work from the sixties onward at the Lead Works, near the old Thorpe Hall, just the other side of the Motorway, I worked there on the Furnaces from building them new in 1960’s until the works closed in 2003/4 and in the early years I would cross the Wakefield Road at the Half Way House Pub, up and under the bridge then into the works. I always passed the old Robin Hood Pit Head just before the bridge over the motorway. I remember the pit closing and the Coke Ovens across the road. After reading your tale I thought I’ll look up the old Robin Hood Pit there was always a lot of activity around there after the pit closed, to my astonishment I discovered their is an Atomic Shelter built into the old works and a underground roadway that connects it with the old Middleton Pit Shaft as an escape route. I recall when they built the Housing Estate a lot of activity in that area, and I thought some unlucky person Is going to be living in a house built over a pit shaft, but an Atomic Shelter how cool is that.

  7. peterwwood Says:

    I remember that old pit head at Robin Hood, Eddie. It was at one time just the pit head brickwork and the wheel above and the thing had double doors at the front – locked I suppose, but I always thought if some foolhardy guy decided to beak in he’d have a shock he’d be straight down the hole!

  8. Mike Stirland Says:

    This is a fascinating piece of research Peter which I first looked at last summer (2018). I had just started as a volunteer researching the history of mining at Temple Newsam for an exhibition called Blot On The Landscape which has now opened and continues until October 2019. There is a small information board and a printed information sheet at the exhibition about ‘the lost village’ which is based mostly on information from John Goodchild’s book ‘The Coal Kings of Yorkshire’. Apparently the village had several names over its lifetime, starting with ‘Newmarket’ and then later ‘Irwin Square’ and ‘Ingram Place’ (both named after the owners of Temple Newsam estate). I also went down to the location, following your description, to see if anything was left. I wasn’t able to see any traces of old buildings (it was all too overgrown) and it seems, comparing old maps with modern ones, that the course of the river has been altered (moved further south to be closer to the canal) which means that the site of the old village schoolhouse is now possibly underwater! One small correction to your facts about Waterloo pit – the Temple Pit actually stopped working in 1968 (December) and not 1966 as you wrote and the buildings were demolished in 1973.

  9. Mike Blanshard Says:

    Excellent article Peter, I really enjoyed reading it. I’ve been doing a lot of research into Old Knostrop Hall, Thorpe Stapleton and Waterlooville. I have just been down to have a look around and as Mike (Stirling) says, I also could not find any trace which is a bit sad really. I live near Bullough Lane so plan to go back in the winter when the trees are bare and see if there are any remains visible. I really enjoyed Blot On The Landscape at Temple Newsam House last week. The whole thing just leaves me hungry to find out more. I was planning to visit the archives at Leeds Town Hall next. Best wishes, Mike

  10. Darren Says:

    I have recently been down and done an explore of the old Waterloo Village, I have found remnants of the old school house and an intact wall. I will be putting this up on my youtube channel called “AdventureMe” in the coming weeks.

  11. Mike Stirland Says:

    I will be interested to see your discoveries Darren. When I was researching for last year’s Blot on the Landscape exhibition at Temple Newsam I used the georeferenced facility on National Library of Scotland’s ‘old maps’ website, overlaying a modern map on a historical one, to locate the school. It shows there that the course of the river is different now to what it was in the past (changed by the open cast working?). Because of this it looked like the site of the old school is now under the river Aire! I went down to the site in summer 2018 but could not see any traces of old structures (although it was very overgrown). There is a 20th century bridge there (for the old Rothwell Haigh Colliery) spanning the canal and river where the village used to be.

  12. waveform06 Says:

    I’ve just watched Darren’s Youtube exploration of Waterlooville ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZv5a2Rnw_U ) and I think there may still be some remnants of the School/SmallPox Hospital on the north river bank. I think the old stonework under the current bridge was for the old wooden bridge as comparing maps the smallpox hospital is the old school. If you look at the side by side maps the smalpox hospital just touches the riverbank and there are some interesting radar shapes there that appear to be nothing from the satellite view. I’m up in Leeds next month and will go have a look myself https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17&lat=53.76668&lon=-1.48112&layers=168&right=LIDAR_DTM_1m

  13. peterwwood Says:

    Well done Daren you did Waterlooville proud. I originally found the stonework from the north side but I dare not climb down the south side of the river.

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