Mark’s History: POW camps, quarries and prehistoric markings in Calverley Woods

Calverley woods hangstone
Calverley woods hangstone

Calverley Woods is a great place to explore as not only does it have loads of wildlife it has lots of history too, writes Mark Stevenson.

Trees have been felled and stone quarried in the woods since the 14th century. If you are really lucky you might find the really old stuff like the stone circles and prehistoric markings.

Calverley woods POW camp
Rremains of the old POW camp in Calverley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The woods have a hanging stone. Whether the name comes from or how it hangs off of the rock below it or because people were hanged there, I don’t know.

You can even walk in the footsteps of the Jaggers and their packhorses on the old walled packhorse route through the woods.

calverley cutting
Calverley cutting. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Calverley Cutting was cut to replace the old packhorse way through the woods between Carr Road in Calverley and Apperley Bridge. It was cut through sandstone rock in 1856.

It was meant to be part of a scheme to develop the area for the housing of rich people. No-one liked the steep new road and the scheme failed.

History: A small reservoir in Calverley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

It even has a reservoir of sorts, which is the remains of an 1861 agreement between the Thornhill Trustees and Woodhouse Grove School. The school wanted to lay a pipe from the springs in the woods to the school to supply it with water, which they did for the next 30 years or so.

The remains of buildings from WW2 can still be seen. When they were used by our troops during their training for D-day and to briefly house POWs.

Calverley woods POW
POW Camp in Calverley Woods. Photo: Mark Stevenson

After the war, these buildings were used to house soldiers and civilians who, for one reason or another, could not return home.

By 1947 the buildings were used as a fireworks factory and, as you might expect with the lack of health and safety at the time, people tended to get blown up and either seriously injured or killed.

The last explosion killed three people and the factory closed in 1957.

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  1. Interesting article Mark. Was the camp for PoWs or for displaced persons – I thought the latter. About the 1957 explosion: The explosion was in one hut at the Ferncliffe works of Guy’s Fireworks in Calverley Woods June 19, 1957. Three people died and four others were injured. An inquest was told the explosion occurred when a worker had been drilling into rockets and a spark from a steel bit ignited gunpowder stored in the same hut. The factory consisted of 16 huts in the woods which were formerly an Army and European Volunteer workers camp. The factory which opened in 1953 and employed up to 80 people at peak production periods was closed on December 31 1957. The three people who died after the explosion were Peter Lunnis, Elsie Thompson and Mary Conroy.

  2. I was 10 years old when the explosion happened and my best friend lost his mum Elsie Thompson. I lived in Carrbottom Road Greengates. The Thompson Family also lived in Carrbottom Road. I was at school with Elsie,s son I cannot remember his first name I think i called him tommo. He went to the scouts with me the 47 th Bradford east scout troop. I remember my mum being very upset as was i . My mum new Elsie. I used to play in the woods and climb in the quarry. their was plenty of ww2 huts etc to play in.My dad said the Canadians had tanks etc their .

  3. There is on the LH side of the path from Clara Drive that passes behind Champion House a Stone with several parallel engraved lines along it, Also near to the Leeds/Liverpool Canal as you walk towards Rodley along the South bank opp the Towpath there is a pylon just inside the wood as it borders the field there is a rock, hard to see unless the vegetation has died back a rock with 2 distinct cup marks near to 2 circular rings of stones.

  4. What do you think about Ivy taking over the trees. Has there been any thought to doing something about it. Volunteer groups spending a day now and again.
    Regards charles


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