Middleton Life: Murder and mining in Middleton Park

Middleton park
Middleton Park in all its glory

The long history of Middleton Park – which includes death, mining and some really colourful stories – was featured in a talk to the Middleton Life local history project by a couple of community stalwarts.

Alan Shaw and Jim Jackson, of the Friends of Middleton Park group, spoke to 15 residents at a sunsoaked Tenants Hall about the landmark events which have shaped the historic park and its rich mining heritage, which at one point saw a network of deep mining pits under the park estate.

Mr Shaw kicked off his talk by focussing on Middleton’s first mention in the history books – the Domesday Book. The first mention of coalmining in the park wasn’t until 1632, he said.

In the twelfth century the boundary between Middleton and Beeston became the focus of a protracted legal dispute between William Grammary and Adam de Beeston.

The dispute was over where the boundary lay through the dense woodland which then covered the area. The dispute was settled in 1209 by “single combat” and the construction of a boundary bank and ditch, a stretch of which can still be seen in Middleton Woods.

The murder of Emily Young in 1934 drew much discussions. Apparently she lived in Garnett Drive, off Dewsbury Road, met a male friend and was strangled.

Mr Shaw showed photos of the two tram stops in the park – and also the number 12 tram. It was noted with irony that the number 12 bus now comes through Middleton!

Jim Jackson focused on mining. He said there was no evidence to support the popular myth that the monks from Kirkstall Abbey mined in the park. The first pits in Middleton were shallow ‘bell pits’ followed by deeper mining from the 1700s.

The park is now a scheduled monument by English Heritage due to its coal mining past.

By 1755 wooden ‘waggon ways’ ran from the woods to the staith at Thwaite Gate in Hunslet, ahead of the railway. There were accidents a plenty – four miners were killed in 1733, one in 1745.