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Chapter 16

Local Government1

‘How these curiousities would be quite forgott, did not such idle fellows as me putt them down’

John Aubrey

Before the 19th century such local government as there was in rural areas was either in the hands of Parish officers e.g. Overseers of the Poor, Surveyors of Highways etc. or with the Justices of the Peace for the County assembled in Quarter Sessions. The first amendment to this system, which had not changed substantially since Elizabethan times, came with the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 which provided for Unions of Parishes to elect Guardians of the Poor (they survived until 1929), to provide workhouses and otherwise deal with paupers. The Public Health Act 1842 provided for local Boards of Health to deal with public health problems but was adoptive only and it was not until after the Public Health Act 1872 that Rawdon got its own Board of Health. 2 The first members were:

The first members were:

W.C. Forrest


Thomas Arton

(Larkfield Mill; Wesleyan)

Thomas Holgate

(Micklefield House)

James Wadsworth

(Micklefield Terrace)

Stephen Collinson

(Prospect Place)

Col. C. Payne Barras


Arthur Briggs

(the Major General’s agent)

Charles Barrand

(son of Nathaniel Briggs)

Stephen Barraclough

(Woollen Manufacturer)

The clerk was Thomas Hustler. It would not seem a very radical body. There are records of differences with Yeadon Local Board in the 1880s over the escape of Rawdon sewage into Yeadon. These went on for some years and were not resolved until 1890.

County Councils came in 1888 and Urban District Councils in 1894 and from then until 1937 Rawdon had its own U.D.C. U.D.C.s had very limited powers, public health, highways (other than ‘County’ i.e. main roads) and, after 1919, council houses, were their main concerns. The Government kept a tight control over their borrowing for capital works and they could only pass on the many complaints or suggestions to the County Council or Government Departments.

The first meeting was on 1st January 1895. Those present were:

John Hartley Pratt

(Micklefield Terrace)

Richard Mallinson


Stephen Collinson

(Ex Board of Health)

John Alfred Barringer

(Master of The Friends School)

Stephen Barraclough

(Ex Board of Health)

Stephen Collinson was elected chairman3 until April 1895, when Mr Pratt took over, an office which he held until April 1901. Herman Walmsley, a solicitor practising in Yeadon was appointed (part time) clerk which office he held until 1936, a remarkable record. His minutes are brief and factual, only giving final decisions and none of the arguments for or against.

To begin with they met in a room at Low Green belonging to the Quakers. At the first meeting they resolved to have a toilet constructed at the meeting place. In 1902 they agreed to buy some cushions and in 1907 that Councillors should be provided with writing pads. If this gives an impression of self-indulgence it is only fair to say that whenever they discussed a site in the village invariably two or three councillors or often all nine of them went to inspect it. It is difficult to imagine today that nine councillors from Leeds would come to Rawdon to look at anything!

The sewage works4 by the river had been built between 1895 and 1897 and as late as 1930 the council was still bringing pressure to bear on property owners5 to convert privies in to W.C.s. By 1914 they reported that there were 295 houses with inside W.C.s, 220 with outside W.C.s and still 271 privies. They were also much concerned with insanitary conditions in cow sheds and were continuously putting pressure on farm landlords to improve their buildings. This must have been effective as by 1916 they were able to say “the inhabitants of the village could congratulate themselves that the sources of their milk supply are all in healthy condition”.

For Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 they organised a bonfire on the top of the Billing and purchased some seats to place around the village. Within weeks there were complaints of vandalism to them. Plus ça change?

In 1897 they negotiated with Capt. Green-Emmott Rawdon, son of the Major General, to acquire his rights to what is now the Littlemoor open space. He agreed to waive any rights which he might have in favour of the Council and in 1898 Park Road was made at the Council’s expense. Seats were provided and 300 crocus bulbs (an anonymous gift) were planted. Originally it was called Victoria Park but later the Jubilee Recreation Park.

In 1899 they decided that no more back to back cottages should be built; Leeds still permitted them until 1937. They bought a snow plough in the same year whilst in 1902 a waterproof cape was purchased for the lamplighter. In the early years they were much concerned with plans for the Joint Isolation (later Children’s) Hospital at Menston (recently demolished) with Yeadon, Guiseley and Horsforth U.D.C.s.

In 1907 they purchased land from the Rawdon Industrial Co-operative Society at the junction of Micklefield Lane and Micklefield Road as a highways yard, for £450. (now the site of old people’s bungalows). As far back as 1910 they discussed a new bridge over the river at Rodley to replace the one of 1704. It was not until 1930 that it was built.

The outbreak of war in August 1914 did not attract much attention though in October 1914 they decided that a rifle range for Rawdon would be a good idea. As late as June 1916 the building of houses appeared to be going on as normal though appeals for ‘destitute Belgians’ brought in £22 and £47 and a flag day for Serbian relief £38. (These were the days of ‘Gallant little Serbia’). There was also a flag day for the French Red Cross. It was also decided that a telephone should be installed at the home of the Section Leader of the Special Constables for use in the event of an air raid. Air Raid Precautions were discussed in 1916 and also the painting white of kerbs and the tram standards, which implies some degree of ‘black out’.

In 1919 the council received from Sir Arthur Godwin6 the gift of the 14 acre ‘Victory Garden Allotments’ to the north west side of Pease Hill Footpath, which they had been renting from him since 1916. As a plaque still records “To the Glory of God and the Valour of Great Britain … for the benefit of the Residents of Rawdon” and added that his family had made their home in Rawdon for four generations. This would include the Rev. Dr. Ackworth (see p. 59). It is now used as a sports field.

In 1924 the Council co-operated with Yeadon and Horsforth Councils to build a joint fire station at Sizer’s Hill Yeadon, to the plans of George Foggitt (now rebuilt).

The Garden of Remembrance at the junction of Leeds Road and Micklefield Road was laid out in 1926, Heaton Naylor gave the land. The total cost was about £600 and was raised by public subscription, including a door to door collection. The cross is of Bolton Woods stone and was dedicated by Bishop Perowne. Maj. Gen. N.J.C. Cameron C.R., C.M.G., A.D.C., Commander of the 49th Division at York, attended the ceremony. The names of the 75 men who died in the 1914-18 war and the 35 (including two women) who died in the 1939-45 War are set out on tablets attached to the cross and listed in Appendix F. The custom of reading these lists aloud at the Armistice Sunday Service each year still persists.7

However, far and away the Council’s biggest project was the building of the Canada Estate of about 100 Council houses between 1919 and 1928. These had remarkably large gardens, the thinking being that tenants could grow their own vegetables and thus help themselves – some did, some did not! It seems that the Council had purchased a little more land than they needed and some portions were sold off, perhaps for ‘subsidy houses’ under the Housing Acts of 1923 and 1924. This was a scheme to subsidise private builders to build small houses for sale, slightly but not greatly, more luxurious than Council houses, at affordable prices. The old persons’ bungalows in Larkfield Mount followed in 1935.

There had been a branch of the West Riding County Council’s Circulating Library in the Council Offices from 1931 which had been started with 500 books, plus 60 “suitable for young people”. In 1936 it was augmented by a gift of 300 books from the Cragg Baptist Chapel’s library. The present library building came in 1962 in the Aireborough years. It cost £13,000 and was opened by a local writer Mr. G. Bernard Wood.

Before 1914 the Council’s attitude to motor vehicles was less than enthusiastic. In 1903 they wanted the speed of vehicles to be limited to 10 m.p.h. and in 1906 passed a resolution “to draw the attention of H.M. Government to the terrible nuisance and damage caused by motor vehicles in the district and to the damage caused by dust, especially to farmers’ crops, and that repairs to roads damaged by vehicles should not be paid for out of the rates but should be charged to their owners”. More practical however was for them to enquire in 1911 from Guiseley Council as to their experience with a tar-spraying machine, which they were considering purchasing. By the 1920s though, there was an ever increasing number of planning applications for private garages (including one from Hedley Verity, the cricketer) and also for petrol pumps, the pump of those days obviously considered a very hazardous object.

The Council acquired Micklefield House and grounds in 1930 for £4,500. Since 1909 the Council offices had been in part of the old Co-operative building, leased by them at a rent of, originally, £13.0.0 p.a. (later a bank, now offices and shops). Shortly after the acquisition of Micklefield House an extension to the northeast was built chiefly as a meeting room for the unemployed. By 1912 there was talk of an electricity supply and they asked Horsforth Council for their views. In 1916 they consented to the supply of electricity to the district by the Yorkshire Electricity Supply Company at 5d per unit. (Far from cheap at then values.)8

In 1930 they first discussed Smoke Abatement and they voted for the first Town Planning Scheme in 1935. In 1936 A.R.P. was again discussed. In 1936 there was concern over a bungalow which had been built on the Billing by a Mr Dawson without any apparent sanitary facilities. Ultimately they gave temporary planning permission but the building disappeared not too long afterwards.9

The most surprising tale the Minutes disclose is that in 1930 an approach was made asking what the Council’s attitude would be to a plan to build a zoological garden in Rawdon “on the Hagenbeck10 principles of natural surroundings for the animals, with rocks, trees and water”, on a site which would have included the whole of Acacia, Ashdown, Summer Hill and Wood Lawn, all of which were presumably available for purchase at the same time. We are not told by whom the approach was made but I suspect some show business acquaintances of Billy Gaunt (see p. 49). Rather surprisingly the Council said that they had no objection in principle but subject to further consideration of detailed plans. As Whipsnade did not come until 1934 did we miss hearing Whipsnade being described as the Rawdon of the South?

The Council did discuss graver matters, daylight saving in 1911, capital punishment in 1928 and disarmament in 1931 though the minutes do not disclose what conclusions they came to. However in 1917, rather surprisingly, they voted for decimal coinage “throughout the British Empire”. These general topics had been been instigated by circulars from other councils.

In 1913 Leeds Council made approaches for the incorporation of Rawdon and Horsforth into Leeds and Bradford also suggested incorporating Rawdon. Both were strongly rebuffed and the proposals dropped. The War then intervened but in 1919 it was again being suggested that many District Councils were too small.

Throughout the 1920s Rawdon Council strongly supported the status quo and would not even send delegates to conferences discussing the matter in general terms. But it would not go away. By the mid 1930s Horsforth Council favoured a union of Horsforth, Rawdon and Calverley (as we have seen there were substantial historical links with Calverley but it was “the other side of the valley” and “a long way away” before the advent of mass car-ownership). The result of a plebiscite in Calverley strongly favoured union with Pudsey so that was the end of that idea.

In 1935 Mr Walmsley wrote a highly indignant letter to the Councillors (which he set out in full in the minutes, no doubt prepared by himself) complaining that the Council, behind his back, had appointed another firm of solicitors in Leeds to prepare a scheme for the union of Rawdon, Yeadon, Guiseley, Horsforth, Carlton, Hawksworth, Menston and Otley into one unit. This was another non-starter.

There was a meeting in 1936 with representatives of Horsforth Council11 who were very hostile to the idea of a union with Rawdon, Yeadon, and Guiseley, thus in effect re-constituting the ancient Parish of Guiseley. Rawdon voted for a plebiscite of its ratepayers but no result is shown in the minutes. Mr Walmsley resigned (he must have been close to retiring age) and Mr C.J.F. Atkinson of Otley was appointed clerk for the remaining months. It became obvious that union with Yeadon and Guiseley was inevitable, the name Aireborough was coined and it came into effect on 1st April 1937 with its headquarters at Micklefield House.12

In the 1950s and 60s the idea was again being aired that many councils were too small to attract the ablest councillors and officials. There were endless enquiries, reports and proposed schemes of one sort or another but no agreement and ultimately the government of the day took the view that it had no alternative but to enforce schemes on councils. So on 1st April 1974, Aireborough13 was, for better or worse, rather unwillingly, forced into the City of Leeds.

There was of course an argument that some Councils had been too small and too parochial in their views but perhaps their greatest virtue was simply that they existed, a target for local complaints and a focus for local patriotism, essentially because they coincided with natural areas.

Population Growth

  • 1838 2,000
  • 1859 2,900
  • 1877 2,800
  • 1911 3,200
  • 1921 3,800
  • 1999 5,500
  • 2019 6,210

All approximate and, if anything, on the low side.

Aireborough U.D.C logo

Aireborough U.D.C


1. I am much indebted to the staff at Rawdon library for access to the Minutes of Rawdon U.D.C. 1894-1937.

2. Palliser says that he had seen a minute book of a Select Vestry for Rawdon but it seems to have disappeared. It would have been created under the Select Vestries Act 1831 to replace an open vestry i.e. a meeting of all adult parishioners. Some Anglicans favoured them as means of preventing nonconformists exercising civil power. There was one in Horsforth by 1842.

3. A list of Chairmen of the Local Board of Health and U.D.C is set out in Appendix G.

4. Rawdon, unlike Horsforth never had its own waterworks. Old Rawdon drew its water from the dam at the foot of the Billing, built by the Emmott Estate about 1858. Larkfield, Littlemoor and Little London, from the Yeadon Waterworks Co. Ltd, an private company, and Cragg Wood from Briggs waterworks near Yeadon Fountain. In 1899 the Yeadon company acquired the site of the Reva Dam at Hawksworth from the Fawkes Estate to increase supplies, amongst other places, to Rawdon. The Council battled for years with Yeadon Waterworks over the inadequacy of the supply to the Larkfield area and in 1916 spent money, jointly with Yeadon U.D.C. opposing the Waterworks Company applying to the House of Lords for a private Act of Parliament to increase their powers.

5. The Rev. Mr Mills at the vicarage was one who refused to convert to a W.C. Even the Diocesan Surveyor could not make him change his mind.

6. 1852-1921, the son of J.V. Godwin, Mayor and first Lord Mayor of Bradford 1906/7.

7. There is one more name on the Council’s memorial for 1914-18 than on the 1921 memorial in St. Peter’s Church. The list includes two names obviously of German extraction, Averdieck and Muller. The 1939-45 names tally.

8. Gas. Woodhouse Grove was making its own gas by 1849 and selling some to the Midland Railway. By 1858 Calverley Gas Company was supplying gas to Robert Milligan at Acacia.

9. There was an Ack. Ack. gunsite on the Billing during the last war of which the concrete emplacement is still visible.

10. Zoo owners in Hamburg.

11. The present writer’s father was one of the Horsforth delegates.

12. This is a summary of long and convoluted discussions.

13. Aireborough was a very artificial name. The Postal services, telephones and ‘bus operators never used it and few residents ever told strangers that they lived in Aireborough. It is said that in the earlier years of Aireborough U.D.C. there was much internecine squabbling between the representatives of the three townships. The Council’s badge was a mish-mash of the three shields of Guiseley, Rawdon and Yeadon which would have made a herald weep.