The Friends of Stank Hall Free Food Grow Scheme

On the closing day for applications here’s another entry for the St Luke’s CARES Community Awards, submitted by The Friends of Stank Hall. For details of how YOUR community group can enter please click here. The deadline for entries is 5pm today (28 February 2018).

The Friends Of Stank Hall have been working to preserve the Stank Old Hall, New Hall and Barn site from further dereliction for the past few years and have been able to work onsite for the past three, via a negotiated licence with the owners, Leeds City Council.  Currently the site has been put up for sale, as it has periodically over the past couple of decades by the council, and the Friends are bidding to move the site forward into community ownership which would work with the restrictions in place on the site through its registration as an Ancient Monument and the listing of the buildings as we continue with our free food grow scheme.

Historically, Stank New Hall and the Barn were added to the site after the Wars of the Roses when the De Beeston family acquired it from the new king and set about turning it into a manorial farm site, with the addition of another wing onto the Kings Hall, another wing was added across the front in the 17th century before the u -shaped construction was partially damaged by the underground explosion of the Beeston Mining Disaster in the mid 19th century.

Stank Old Hall is what remains of a 13th century Royal Hunting Lodge attached to Rothwell Castle. In the early medieval period Beeston, Middleton and Rothwell were important areas, spreading to Woodkirk where there was a major priory and a large trading market once a year gathering merchants and traders from all over Europe and across to Tingley which had been the site of a Viking Parliament.

Today, with South Leeds chopped about with the insertions of major roads and motorways you need a good chunk of inspiration to look at a modern map and see the historical landscape, but it is there!  Start with the earthworks all around us, enhancing Beeston as a defensive area, putting Dewsbury Road as a dividing line between Middleton and Beeston, and viewing the two Iron Age defended settlements, one sited directly behind the Stanks site on what is now the golf course and the other on Beeston top itself.

In the current icy weather it is easy to contemplate how even a slight rise of a hill is difficult to get up , in early history when everything was mud and ice outside the warmer months getting through a bank and ditch defence and then trying to get up a steep hill could slow down an attacking force and make them extremely vulnerable. So in 1322 when the Scots Army invaded Morley for the winter, destroying and consuming everything, they didn’t touch the heavily defended and rich in resources Beeston or Middleton, because they couldn’t.

Today we battle different enemies. Lack of money, rising costs and zero hours contracts for a lot of local people mean that the Friends of Stank Hall Free Food Grow Scheme have been able to provide fresh fruit and vegetable to help out where we can to local families and residents.  It isn’t nearly enough, but it does provide a bit of help where the money isn’t stretching in the way that local people need it to. We have also been able to provide practical support and advice to local householders wanting to grow a bit of food in their own yards or gardens, even in back to backs where space is at a premium.

Last year a major theft and vandalism event on the Stanks Site means that this year we are needing to fundraise for wood, compost, water butts and seedlings to carry on our work in 2018 – the amount of archaeology and finds on the site mean that we are only allowed to grow in raised beds and we have to build these ourselves (and with the help of local business volunteers). We need an injection of cash to keep going, and hope that by applying for a St Lukes Cares Community Award that we can get a stronger start with our spring planting. Thank you for considering us.


This post was written using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.