Thought for the Day : Wednesday 13 January

Thought for the Day by Clive Barrett (St Michael’s)

Fairy-tale of Old Headingley (Amos 3)

The 8th century BCE prophet, Amos, hated inequality:

“I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end,”
says the LORD.

Amos 3:15

My lockdown morning walk goes from Becketts Park to the brilliant Headingley Development Trust greengrocers on North Lane. I’m captivated by one unprepossessing corner en route: an enchanting fantasy fairy-tale cottage, opposite a huge koala-inviting eucalyptus tree, the shredded bark and leaves of which often hide the urban shards of broken glass to lay a woody-green carpet to the cottage door.

The cottage, once off North Lane, was demolished and rebuilt when South Parade Baptist Church expanded in 1908. It had been the 19th century gatehouse for two estates: Headingley House, 36-acres up to Becketts Park, property of wealthy flax-mill-owner, John Marshall, MP (did he plant the eucalyptus?); and Headingley Lodge, near Ash Road, owned by Marshall’s son, also MP.*

Wealth for a few meant oppression for many. The establishment Lascelles family of Harewood House made money from slavery. Marshall – Dissenter, “philanthropist” – made money from child wage-slaves.

“They do not know how to do right,” says the LORD,
“those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”

Amos 3.10

But turn around… Immediately facing the original gatehouse, at St Michael’s Road corner, was briefly, 1844-46, the rented residence of Richard Oastler. Resisted by Marshall, Oastler bravely led the successful (1847) campaign to restrict factory working-hours. He is one of the great historic heroes of Headingley.

The big houses are gone; only the cottage and Oastler’s home remain. It’s not only in fairy-tales that good overcomes evil in the end.

Pray for all who work for justice, and against inequality, exploitation, any form of slavery…


[* History from Eveleigh Bradford, Headingley, ‘This Pleasant Rural Village’: Clues to the Past, 2008.

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