A special train calls at Woodlesford.

This website was conceived, written and designed by Howard Benson. I grew up in Oulton and Woodlesford and I’m a former pupil of Rothwell Grammar School. For a couple of years I was a part time reporter for the Rothwell Advertiser.

I was born in Wakefield and brought up by my parents, Frank and Betty Benson in houses at Quarry Hill. 

My grandfather, Ernest Benson, was a miner at Water Haigh colliery at Woodlesford after he moved from Royston in 1939. Four years earlier he had been lucky to be convalescing from a motor bike accident when there was an explosion at North Gawber pit where he worked in which 19 men died. A year later South Yorkshire’s worst mining disaster at nearby Wharncliffe Woodmoor colliery claimed 58 lives.

Both incidents probably explain why Ernest was adamant that my father wouldn’t follow him down the pit. When he started work in 1943 a word was had with the manager, Billy Williams, and a surface job as an errand boy was arranged. He soon became a wages clerk in the time office and stayed there until Water Haigh closed and he moved to Lofthouse Colliery where he was to witness the disaster in 1973 when 7 miners died.

Frank Benson started as an errand boy at Water Haigh, age 14, in 1943. He’s pictured here at the door to the Time Office a few years later. On the left is the window where the miners and surface workers collected their weekly wage packets.

As a toddler I remember walking down Fleet Lane with my grandad to feed the pit ponies which had been brought to the surface for their summer holidays. My other memories of him include his constantly worn flat cap, a liking for bread and dripping, his preferred brand of Park Drive cigarettes, and his lengthy visits to the tap room at the New Masons Arms. Not forgetting the thick leather belt which was a constant threat against childhood misdemeanours!  

My grandmother, Nellie Benson, worked as a cleaning lady in Oulton. My mother’s father, Bill Alderson, was also a miner working at Fanny Pit in Rothwell where he lost part of a finger. He was a trombone player with the Rothwell Temperance Band, and died in 2006, aged 99.

On my mother’s side of the family we can trace our ancestors back to Boyes Taylor from Lincolnshire who moved to work at Bentley’s brewery in the 1860s and married a daughter of John Denkin, a foreman at the paper mill in Woodlesford. My Benson roots go back to the Barnsley area and before that to Thornhill near Dewsbury.

Before I left the area for university and the bright lights of London I mis-spent part of my youth hanging around Woodlesford station. I can remember the first steam engine I spotted there was 45602 British Honduras from the Jubilee class on a stopping train from Sheffield.

When I grew bored of simple trainspotting I moved on to help the porters by calling out the station name and later I helped deliver parcels throughout the Rothwell district. I can also remember pulling off the signals for express passenger trains, something that would now be deeply frowned upon by the railway authorities.

I started this project in 2004 to record the history of Woodlesford and its station. What I find fascinating are the snippets of information which I keep discovering which take me along many different paths of local history.

If you go to Woodlesford station now there’s little trace of the activity that once went on there. The station building was quickly pulled down after it became an unstaffed halt in 1970, and the Midland Railway designed signalbox has long since disappeared.

There’s lots of historical interest surrounding Woodlesford and its little station. How can you help? I’d like to hear from you if you have memories or memorabilia of the area including the station, the pit, the quarry, and the brewery. Do you have old photos, tickets, or posters that have a connection with Oulton and Woodlesford? Maybe your research into family history has thrown up a local connection? Please get in touch at bensoh10@WoodlesfordStation.co.uk