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Mark’s History: Hanging out on Wood Lane, without the thieves and murderers

Words & Photos: Mark Stevenson

You know the saying “the area has gone downhill” – well, in the case of the Wood Lane area of Farnley it is the reverse. 

There was a time when if you wanted to hang out with thieves, murderers and terrorists then Wood Lane was the place to go.

A map of the Wood Lane walk.
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I did a walk down Wood Lane to see what the view was like as much as anything. It was more a case of there and back again. A mile there (to the best viewpoint) and a mile back again to Whitehall Road where the walk started from. There are footpaths all over the area, so you can make the walk as long or as short as you like.

Just at the beginning of Wood Lane to your right, you can see some buildings that are marked on the maps as Wentworth Farm.

As you walk further down Wood Lane after about 200 meters you will come to Wood End Farm, possibly so-called because it was at the end of Farnley Wood that once covered the area.

Wood End Farm in Farnley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Farnley Wood is where a group of terrorists met up to plot the overthrow of Charles ll. Up until around the 1850’s most of what is now Wood Lane was in the woods. Up until at least the 1850’s the first half mile or so of the lane was called Trench Lane.  

The two main landowners in the area in the 1840’s were Earl of Cardigan and Edward Armitage, James Armitage, John Leathley Armitage and William Armitage as Lords of the Manor.

Views over to the Gamble Hills in Bramley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

By the 1890’s Farnley Wood had all but gone, the trees being replaced by coal mines and ironstone mines. 

There were a few farms dotted around the area, I wonder if the product had a hint of coal in its taste?

Views over towards Wortley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The 1861 census has the Towler family as living at Farnley Wood. You have Joseph Towler, a farmer of 13 acres, and possibly his two sons. John Towler who was a game watcher, three of his five daughters were Cotton Mill Hands whose ages were eight, nine, and ten.

Then there is Thomas Towler, who also had a ten-year-old daughter who was a cotton mill hand. In 1881 Thomas was still living at Farnley Wood and still working in the mining job he had been doing for at least 20 years.

A view from Wood Lane over West Leeds. Photo: Mark Stevenson

You also have the Dixon family, who is also down as living at Farnley Wood in 1861. Edward Dixon was a farmer and three of his seven children were working. Two sons, aged nine and 13, were working in the mines and an 11-year-old daughter was working in a mill.

Edward was also still living in the area in 1881, as was one of his sons.

In 1911 John Downs was living at Wood End Farm as a farmer. In 1939 he was retired and living at Springfield, Whitehall Road, with his wife Lucy.

The views of Leeds along Wood Lane are well worth a look.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Mark
    I always enjoy your pieces. Today’s has me puzzled as you say Wood Lane Farnley, but I believe it is Wood Lane New Farnley. I lived in Old Farnley as a child until most of the village was pulled down in 1957. I have lived in Farnley, off the Ring Road nr McDonalds , for 54 years. I am very close to Wood Lane here.
    My parents were Chairman and Secretary of the Farnley History Group for many years and and I am sure I recollect the Farnley Wood Plotters ( New Farnley), from their records, which I still have. I am a subscriber to WLD
    Best wishes Sheila

  2. Hi Sheila
    Wood Lane is a fairly common name around Leeds. New and Old Farnley I think is a fairly modern thing so the Wood Lane in the article would just have been in Farnley. On the 1840’s map the Wood Lane in the article is named on the map. The Wood Lane near McDonalds can be seen on the said map but is not named (not sure if that means anything or not). Your Wood Lane I can first see named on a 1889 map of the area

  3. Mark, thank you very much for this. I hadnt taken into account the fact that New Farnley…obviously now you point it out….came long after just Farnley. Interesting stuff. Keep up the good work

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