Implacable

Recently, Garforth Historical Society has erected two blue plaques to notable men who have lived amongst us, here, in Garforth. The first, in 2006, was erected to Sir Augustus Walker, at the house in Lowther Avenue, where he was born. The second, to Albert Mountain V.C., was unveiled in April 2007, at 'The Miners' Arms' in Garforth. These plaques were tributes to two outstanding men, and were not intended to set any kind of precedent, the cost of erecting them tempering any tendency to festoon Garforth with their like.

At the same time, the plaques, once erected, prod us into recognising that, though expensive, they have characteristics unique to themselves. They add a feature to a building, at once pictorial and informative. Never again will we pass them by, indifferent to their existence. Never again will the association between building and person be forgotten, and it will probably be that curiosity of the ill-informed may be aroused to discover more about the celebrity in question. In this way a plaque is educative, and young persons growing up in Garforth will become aware that at least two famous men have lived amongst us.

Then, the question naturally arises whether there are other great men, whose lives in Garforth should be similarly remembered. And, given this, ought we not, likewise, to celebrate significant events which have occurred here? At Garforth Bridge, there has been a corn mill in continuous existence since 1160 A.D. To this day, the mill leet still exists, though the mill is now disguised as the G.P.O. sorting office. In terms of the existence of West Garforth as a manorial entity that mill is important. Ought not the casual visitor have this fact drawn to his attention? Likewise, the Gascoigne family were lords of the manor here since the Dissolution of the Monasteries until quite recent times. Should there not be some more explicit evidence of this than "The Gascoigne Arms" public house, now called "The Lord Gascoigne" (The Gascoignes were never lords).

Finally, there is the church, trying hard to look medieval, but a nineteenth century rebuilding of that ancient church building destroyed by the Gascoigne family in 1845. Should there not be some reminder of the overlordship of St Mary's Abbey, York, in the manor of Church Garforth? From Doomsday to the Dissolution the abbot of St. Mary's, York, was dominant here, and, at one point, made the township the centre for the entire Skyrack weapontake.

The route from East Leeds that approaches ' The Miners' Arms' by Barrowby ridge was ancient when the Romans came here. It led to what is now York, before the place could rejoice in that name. Similarly, Sir Gus Walker's house stands alongside one of the oldest roads in Garforth, indeed, a route which probably gave the place its name. Should not the antiquity of these sites be made known? Do not they all merit plaques?

Shoppers, making their way off the Grange estate, probably care little whether the road beneath their feet is, 'Lowther Road' or 'Kirkgate'as it was in medieval times 'Lowther Road' leads us back to the Seventeenth century, when the Lowther family purchased the manor of Swillington, and with it the lordship of West Garforth. But 'The Kirkgate', to give it its ancient name, was the northern edge of the spear shape, formed with the Leeds/ Selby road as the southern edge, where they met, at the Sheffield beck. Hence the 'Gar'of Garforth.

If the road sign 'Lowther Road' is seen as a kind of plaque, does it have the function of eradicating all earlier historical associations? Is this the datum from which Garforth's history begins? Clearly not, but yet 'Lowther Road,' is a sufficient title to stop us worrying about the earlier name, and so it drops into oblivion.

But there is yet at least one further aspect to this problem. How are we to mark the known occurrence of an historical event in Garforth, when its precise location cannot be fixed? It is known, for instance, that during the Civil War, Sir Thomas Fairfax, in the course of moving his forces from Bradford to Hull, determined to spoil the Gascoigne estates, en route.

In 1826, workmen demolishing some old property in Garforth discovered a hoard of coins secreted in a wall. The dates of the coinage clearly show that the coins were deposited during the time of the Civil War. Why were they left hidden for two hundred years? Do they point to the death of a Royalist in the village? Clearly one would like to know more, but the newspaper report does not specify a location within Garforth, and so an aspect of Garforth's history hangs in limbo. No plaque can be erected, and so the event slips into mute forgetfulness, as though it had not happened.