Source:Wickersley Christian Institute brochure produced by A. P. Woolley
Often in my mind, I have pictured our old-world village in varying times and in my imagination have peopled it with figures connected with each stage of my life from early times to the present day. Such pictures however, are more difficult to communicate than to receive. One is reminded of these lines from Thomas Hardy:
Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half-asleep, as they stalk.
Only thin smoke without a flame
From the heaps of couch grass;
Yet this will go onward the same,
Through dynasties pass.
I must express, what a pleasure it has been to look back into the past, and compile this modest handbook. I hope and trust that these thoughts of mine, together with the historical data, will be welcomed by those who have sympathy with, and a general interest in the Wickersley Christian Institute.
A. P. Woolley
During the last century, the Wickersley Christian Institute has become a landmark in character and interest. Built on the edge of the village, its position must have commanded a glorious view of a pastoral countryside as yet unspoilt modern industrialisation, looking out over a far-reachiog expanse of meadow-land and fertile fields, rich in industrious farms.
The story of how the Institute came to be built is not without interest. Dr. Holt Yates was the son of William Yates of Knightsbridge near London, a druggist, who sent him to the University of Edinburgh where he received his degree, after which he settled in London. On the death of his father, he inherited the estates in the parish of Wickersley. His family had been principal landowners here, from the time of King Charles II.
Dr.Holt Yates was a scholar as well as a physician; he was an enthusiastic patron of Literature, and the appearance of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, "Ivanhoe" delighted his antiquarian interest in local history. He wrote many articles on his travels in the Middle-East, Hungary, Poland, and other parts of Europe, and established several Missions in the Middle-East. His literary and missionary interests made him a keen supporter of the British and Foriegn Bible Society.
It was, however, during his stay in the picturesque village of Wickersley, where he resumed his practice of medicine, that he began to dream of a building that would be adequate for the needs of the inhabitants for their social and spiritual welfare. His first essay in this direction was to provide a library and musuam; unfortunately the bulk of the Collection was allowed to be misused, and cast away as rubbish, although some items are still preserved in private hands.
The inaugural meeting of the Institute itself was held on December, 1862, in aid of the British and Foreign Bible Society. This was the sixth meeting of the Wickersley branch of this society; the first meeting having been held in 1857. In the present Billiards Room at The Institute, there is a tablet which reads:
This Christian Institute was founded in the year 1862, and was inaugurated with a Bible Meeting by Dr. and Mrs. Holt Yates
It is recorded that on the day following the opening of the Institute, 220 persons enjoyed a social tea.
In 1862, a printed pamphlet was circulated to all people living in the parish of Wickersley and its vicinity which gave the objects of the Christian Institute as follows:
The objects proposed to be obtained by this Institute are the diffusion of general and useful knowledge, thereby to increase the respectability, happiness and welfare of Society; also to encourage whatever is calculated to secure the real interests of the inhabitants of Wickersley, and its vicinity. The following are the means of obtaining these desirable objects, namely, a Library of useful and interesting works; a Reading Room furnished with newspapers, periodicals, etc., the delivery of lectures on popular and useful subjects; a Provident Society for Adults and a Penny Bank for Children.
A set of rules was prepared and laid down in detail for the attainment of these objects. The principal rules with regard to the conduct of the Institute were:
A committee was formed by Dr. Holt Yates to carry out the work, consisting of the following gentlemen:
The following is a selection of some of the early meetings and events :
Dr. Holt Yates died at Wickersley in the year 1874, in the 71st year of his age, and was buried in Wickersley Parish Churchyard. A memorial window was placed in the church, a gift of his wife and friends. He was greatly honoured and loved by the inhabitants of the village, and his death was regretted by all who knew him.
The Institute was left to his widow, Amelia Mary Yates. It was not until September 10th 1874 that a meeting was held, presided over by Mr. Henry Wigfield, Mayor of Rotherham, to form a Committee of Management. This meeting was addressed by Dr. F. A. Le Fevre of Nice, France, brother-in-law of Mrs. Holt Yates.
The Institute continued its activities on the rules laid down by its founder, until the death of Mrs. Holt Yates on April 13th 1889, when she was laid to rest beside her husband. In her will, Mrs. Holt Yates bequeathed to the Trustees for continuing all or part of the original objects, the sum of £3000, in £3 per cent Consolidated Bank Annuities, these securities to be purchased and appropriated by her Executors, Frank Grierson and Wm. George Stuart, for definite purpose of continuing the Institute with power to appoint further trustees.
Legal difficulties arose in connection with this bequest. It was necessary to bring an action in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division. This was heard on July 28th, 1890 in "Re Yates deceased, Grierson v. Titcomb and others (1890 Y.488) "; Mr Justice Chitty ordered that the Income from the Endowment should be paid to the Treasurer of The Institute, subject to compliance by the Trustees with the objects of the Founder, and that so much of the Securities, should be sold as would reimburse the duty paid by the Executors.
These securities still survive, except that they are now represented by two and a half per cent Consols vested in the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales.
The committee at the time of the death of Mrs. Holt Yates consisted of ;
and continued to function with the assistance of Mr. William Holt Yates Titcomb.
Mr. F. C. Moss, J.P., acted as Secretary from 1923 - when the premises were purchased by the Trustees. He was a wise counsellor anid administrator, intimately informed in the affairs of the parish. A memorial stone was placed in the Institute, honouring his good work. His wife, Mrs. D. Moss, J.P. was also very actively connected with The Institute for a considerable number of years. Her charming residence, Wickersley Hall, standing amid lawns, trees and flowers, was the scene of many happy associatons, including the Annual Garden Fete, which was one of the outstanding events in the village, during the summer.
Today, the Institute still continues after one hundred years, to carry out its activities according to the rules laid down by its founder. The Ladies Guild continues its Christian activities under the Presidency of Mrs. E. Kennen.
It is interesting to note that in the year 1862 Wickersley was a small parish consisting of 156 houses and cottages, with a population of 709 inhabitants, and a rateable value of £2,066 14s. 0d.
William Aldam Esq., was Lord of the Manor, which consisted of 1250 acres of land. The Revd. John Foster, Sir S. R. Sitwell, Bart., Dr. Holt Yates, Mr. Charles F Shackles, Mr. John Styring and Richard Wheen Esq., were the principal landowners.
As our village entered upon the nineteenth century, a much wider field of enterprise was already coming to the fore: a radical change had, in fact, come over the village as a new industry developed. The farmer turned his attention from the quiet agricultural life to new energies in the stone quarries that were extensive in the immediate vicinity of the parish, and from which great numbers of grindstones were formed to be used in the new industrial enterprise of the times. Many well-known names are listed as quarry owners and trough makers, and many of the family names of the old inhabitants are recorded in our village history, some of which continue to survive in the parish today.
Mrs. Holt Yates also bequeathed the furniture, fittings and contents of the building to the aforesaid Trustees, but the building itself formed part of the settled estate of Dr. Holt Yates, and therefore passed into the possession of Mr. Wrn. H. Y. Titcomb the son of Dr. Yates’ cousin, Bishop Titcomb.
The Endowment bequeathed to the Trustees by Mrs. Holt Yates. was entirely separate from the building in the legal possession of Mr. Wm. H. Y. Titcomb, but the objects of the Institute continued to be carried out for many years from 1889 onwards, with varying appointments of Trustees and Committee.
In Oct 1903, along with other activities, a Woodcarving Class was formed, and so enthusiastic were the members of this Class, that it continued for the next ten years. It is interesting to note that the Hymn-board made by that Class is a fine tribute to the Rector of the period, the Rev. C. P. Morris, M.A., who died Noventer 13th, 1913; it is still in constant use in the Church.
The British and Foreign Bible Society Meetings continued each year up to the present time.In the early part of 1923, it was found necessary to sell the settled estate of Dr. Holt Yates, including the Institute building and there was danger of the Institute coming to an end.
At this time, however, nine gentlemen of the village, viz. F. C. Moss, A. Blenkinsop, the Rev. H. C May, R. U. Robinson, G. Barrick, W. Marsland, U. Swift, J. E. Ward and J. W. Wadsworth, met together and called a public meeting, at which it was agreed that these gentlemen should arrange to purchase the premises for the use of the village under their name as Trustees, together with a number of other guarantors. The premises were, therefore, purchased in May 1923, and a mortgage of £700 was created.
Following this, a considerable sum was spent in repairs and improvements and the Institute has since been carried on under the original conditions, and under the Trusteeship of the gentlemen referred to, with additions and replacements where neccessary
Read more about William Holt Yates and The Titcomb family»