Young & Doggett took over from Minett & Jackson in the steam traction and steam roller business around Woodlesford in the 1920s, buying some of the former company’s equipment and using the same yard next to the Midland Hotel. The firm was established by Frank Young and Joe Doggett who had become friends before the First World War when they worked in Woodlesford driving steam road vehicles for Armitage’s quarry and brickworks and Bentley’s brewery.
Joe Doggett was the oldest of the partners. He was born at Oakington in Cambridgeshire in 1874, the son of Robert Doggett, a former soldier turned agricultural labourer who migrated to Yorkshire with his family in the 1880s.
Robert first worked as a labourer for Armitage’s at their Robin Hood quarry and then became a wagon shunter on the East and West Yorkshire Union Railway built by the Rothwell coal owners J. & J. Charlesworth to transport coal and stone out of the district. The Doggett family lived near the Half Way House at Robin Hood and towards the end of his life Robert was an engine driver at the Charlesworth’s Robin Hood pit.
After fighting in South Africa in the Boer War Joe was living in Hunslet when he married Sarah Ann Thomas, the daughter of a fishmonger, at St. Jude’s church in 1902. He was 29 and she was 25. At first they lived at Robin Hood where he too worked for the EWYU and where their first child, Reg, was born in 1905. A few years later they moved to Woodlesford where he worked for Bentley’s. They lived at Airedale Terrace where their daughter, Rose Mary, was born in 1910. Sarah Ann’s mother and sister moved in to live with them when her father died.
Frank Young, who was also the son of an agricultural labourer, was born at Frampton just south of Boston in Lincolnshire in 1881. He started working as a cook with a steam plough gang and within a year was promoted to be a ploughman. He was joined by his brother and worked for a company in the Sleaford area earning 17 shillings a week and commuting home at weekends by bicyle.
Over the next few years he gained more experience on the steam engines and was promoted to be a driver. He had several adventures including spending five days trying to extract an engine that had become bogged down in a muddy field. After that he moved to drive a road haulage engine on an estate in Hampshire, where, unfortunately, he managed to run over and injure an old Boer War soldier who he’d been friendly with.
Frank married grocer’s daughter Ada Mary Mabelson in Boston in 1906 and moved to Barwell near Nuneaton where he was promoted to be the foreman of a steam ploughing and threshing company and where he had to have part of a finger amputated after it was severed by the machinery. His first daughter, Grace Mary, was born at Barwell in 1907, but he decided to look for a more settled job because she didn’t recognise him when he got home from working away on the farms.
The following is the rest of the story of Young & Doggett as told to Derek Rayner.
Frank Young and his family arrived in the West Riding in 1908 where he took a job driving for George Armitage & Son. Their main base was at the Robin Hood quarry and brickworks but they had recently established, and were expanding, a similar operation after buying land in Oulton and Woodlesford.
At the Oulton quarry they had a McLaren traction engine, the driver of which was not very bright and this had resulted in several dropped plugs, the safety devices used to protect the boiler from blowing up if it ran out of water. Frank was put in charge of this engine and on his first trip as driver, it nearly jarred his teeth out. It was on springs and was tight in the bottom of the gears as the springs had weakened.
Old George Armitage had a word with Frank after his first day and enquired how it had been.“Rough”, Frank replied. “Can you alter her?”, he was asked. “Yes”, said Frank, “if you’ll give me tomorrow”.
So he had the next day and the one after that too and with two big jacks he had the wheels off, altered the bolts, tightened up all round and replaced the wheels. He steamed the engine the following morning and old Mr. George rode round the yard on it with Frank.
The difference was noticeable and he asked Frank if he thought he could do two trips to Kippax, a distance of some 4 miles, with hardly any level ground along it, in the day. They finished up doing eleven trips in the week and then Frank found there was a difference of a half sovereign in his pay packet to what there should have been.
He went back and told Mr. George. He asked him which side it was on and then told Frank to keep his mouth shut. It was a bonus payment for Frank for improving the firm’s deliveries.
Around tea time one day, Mr. George came across to the engine shed to tell Frank that one of Nicholson’s steam wagons, (a Hunslet contractor) had broken down with a load of 50 – 60ft. piles on board. They weighed about 6 tons and were at Hambleton, near Selby. Could Frank take the McLaren and tow them back on the following day? He agreed to do the job and as Nicholson’s were still on the phone, the two bosses agreed a price of £3 10s. for the exercise.
Early next morning saw Frank at the shed preparing the engine for the journey. By six o’clock, they were passing through Swillington and they called at the Boot and Shoe Inn on the Great North Road for some sandwiches and a beer before arriving at Hambleton at eleven o’clock.
They had taken a tow bar with them, borrowed from Minett’s, the threshing contractors across the road at Woodlesford, so they got coupled up quickly and away. They called at the Boot and Shoe once more and then at the Old George at Garforth Bridge.
The steersman, Jimmy Franks, had backed a horse in the November Handicap and whilst there, they learned it had won. It was called Admiral Togo the Third. They naturally had a celebration drink and then set off again, pulling into Nicholson’s yard, by Tetley’s Brewery, about five o’clock and went for a drink of tea in a cafe across the road.
Before they went, they’d put the pipe into the tank to fill the engine up with water and also lit the lamps. Unfortunately, whilst they were gone, one of the lamps caught fire and they had to go back to Nicholson’s to borrow one to see them home.
They were back at Woodlesford for seven o’clock and seeing a light still on in the office, went straight to enquire about expenses for refreshments. They were greeted by James Armitage who was surprised to see them at such an early hour. Such a journey would normally have taken a lot longer. However, they explained that the engine had run well. “Yes”, replied Mr. James, “she must have been well oiled, and I can see her crew are as well!” After a lecture on the perils of drinking and driving, they eventually received their expenses and also a replacement lamp for the one which went up in flames.
About the same time as Frank Young had started at Armitage’s Joseph Doggett, had taken a position as a driver with Bentley’s Yorkshire Breweries. Joseph had served as a railway locomotive driver in South Africa during the Boer War. He was captured several times and had his engine blown off the lines. He had come to the East & West Yorkshire Union Railway at Rothwell as an engine driver and then moved to the brewery for higher wages. There he was paid 25 shillings a week and drove a Mann steam wagon.
Naturally, being employed so close to each other and on similar jobs, Joseph and Frank met, exchanged ideas and formed a friendship which was to last for some 25 years. Joseph recommended Frank for a job at Bentley’s and so Frank moved his employment down the road to the brewery.
Bentley’s had run Mann’s Patent Steam Wagons and Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagons since 1904 but when Frank arrived, all the Yorkshires had gone, as had the Thornycroft they had new in 1900. He was given a relatively new Mann’s wagon, Bentley’s No. 7, and he looked after it very well.
On one occasion he was delivering beer to Selby and arrangements had been made for an important visitor from Spain to travel with him on the return journey. This had been done on behalf of Mann’s, as a demonstration of one of their products after it had been in use for some time.
When they got to Garforth Bridge, the Spanish gentleman alighted, to continue his journey to Leeds by train, and through an interpreter asked Frank if he was interested in going to Spain on a driving job as he had never, he said, been on a wagon which had run so sweetly. Frank explained that his family, he had three children by that time, must come first and despite the tempting offer, he declined it.
After about three years, the wagon had to go back to Mann’s. Frank had done about 20,000 miles, at a cost of about £30. The second gear had worn to such an extent that damage was imminent. As Frank drove into the Pepper Road Works of Mann’s, someone looked out of the office window and saw which wagon it was.
As a result of the Spanish affair and his good driving generally, Frank’s reputation had preceded him. A message came down to him. “Mr. Mann wants to see you”. “What for”, asked Frank, but an answer was not forthcoming. So he went into the office to see Mr. Mann. “Now then,” he was asked: “What’s your name. How long have you had this wagon?” Frank told him. “Well”, Mr. Mann replied, congratulating him, “it wouldn’t do for everyone to be like you, we should soon be out of work.”
This wagon used to do some 300 to 360 miles each week at about 5 m.p.h. (the maximum permitted speed). On one occasion in November 1912, Frank was caught by a copper for speeding at Doncaster. He had been to deliver ale to a large hotel opposite the police station and on leaving, went up the road at some 8 mph., it was alleged. He was stopped and the policeman said: “Hey, do you know you’re going too fast”. Frank’s reply was: “Not half as fast as my firm would like me to go.” The case came up in court and Frank remembered that the Mayor was on the bench. The fine was 10 shillings and 10 shillings costs.
After this period at Bentley’s Frank returned to Armitage’s and the job of delivering bricks. At the beginning of the First World War he was still driving the big McLaren engine and on one occasion he took two trailers and loads to the new munitions factory at Barnbow near Crossgates, being preceded by Joseph Doggett whose wagon at Bentley’s had been commandeered for war work.
Joseph again joined the Army and went overseas, again loco driving, but this time on the Egyptian and Palestinian Railways. When the war was over, he returned to Bentley’s on the wagons and again met up with Frank. They had a lot in common and eventually, after much discussion, Frank persuaded Joseph to go into partnership with him in a steam contracting business of their own.
Thus Young & Doggett’s was formed in the early 1920s. Their first premises were in the Midland Hotel yard, across the road from the quarry and, indeed, where Minett’s, threshing contractor’s had been before them. The two partners bought a threshing set and found that there was a big 13 ton Aveling & Porter roller left in the yard. This they also bought as they heard that Hunslet Rural District Council wanted a roller on hire. This was their first steam roller.
As time went on, the firm prospered and more engines and rollers were acquired. A Fowler roller came from Stamford Bridge in the East Riding and Reg Doggett, Joseph’s son, went with Frank Young to bring her back. She worked with the firm for quite a long time and did a lot of work for Rothwell Urban District Council in the early 1920’s. Even at that time she was an old engine.
The firm’s gang was photographed whilst working during this period on a road making job in Farrer Lane, Oulton, standing by this Fowler roller.
Reg was on this roller at Crossgates when the saddle broke, and he was also driving one of the Aveling rollers when the saddle and front fork fractured as he was rolling large rubble on a job not far from home. With some difficulty and some ingenuity, they were able to get the engines home as the firm did most of their own repairs in their own yard, eventually moving from the Midland Hotel yard to larger premises in a field near Armitage’s marl quarry off Fleet Lane. This site is now occupied by houses, adjacent to the Lidl supermarket.
They worked not only in the immediate vicinity, often supplementing Rothwell Council’s Green’s steam roller but, also for councils at Castleford and Garforth whilst Reg Doggett spent four years in the East Riding, on hire to the County Council as well as several periods on hire to the West Riding County Council.
For jobs such as these, he lived, with his wife, in the roller living van and did not come home to Woodlesford very often. Two experiences which Reg remembers from just after his long spell away were when he was prosecuted for making smoke at Oulton Lodge one day whilst he was driving a Marshall traction engine, this offence costing him a fine of £1. The second was when he was also fined £1 by Hunslet Rural District Council for drawing water from a hydrant when he was working at Halton in Leeds.
When Bentley’s sold one of their Mann steam wagons Young & Doggett bought it specially for use on a local contract. It was the brewery’s No. 8 wagon, a 6 tonner and well past her best by that time. However, she was used to take all the stone required for the making of North Lane, Oulton, from Armitage’s quarry, only a short distance down the road.
In the late 1920’s, they acquired a Marshall tandem roller from the road construction company, Limmer and Trinidad. This was a very easy roller to drive and had a quick reverse for asphalt work. It had twin tanks and a chain drive. The firm used this roller quite extensively in the West Riding on street work, even hiring her back to Limmer’s at times.
An Aveling convertible was purchased from Cole Brothers at Sleaford. This was a 13 ton roller, built for a council in Sussex in 1897. She was brought from Sleaford in about 1928 and photographed next to the Nookin at Oulton during a pause in work nearby. She was scrapped about 1936.
This photograph brought back poignant memories to Frank, for it was only a few yards from this spot that Joseph Doggett was knocked down by a motor van in 1930. He suffered a fractured skull and never recovered from his injuries, dying about a month after the accident. Thus ended a long friendship, but the firm continued.
The threshing set which went to Parker’s – a Fowler engine and a Clayton & Shuttleworth drum – was purchased to supplement the two sets which the firm were then operating but it did not last long. They preferred Marshall engines and drums and so this other set was sold.
Another incident which Reg remembered well was when he was driving one of the Aveling rollers, a big 19 ton engine with side tanks. He had left the yard and was travelling along Aberford Road towards Swillington. The exact circumstances were a little unclear, being overshadowed by the events which followed.
Perhaps he had stopped to change gear without chocking the engine, but what was clear is that the flywheel brake was on and the engine was stopped. She jumped out of gear on the hill under the railway bridge and ran away. Frank Young ran after her, but couldn’t catch her. Reg used all his skill to keep her on the road but was unable, with his other hand, to take the flywheel brake off and set the engine in motion. Had he been able to do this, he may have been able to get her back into gear.
One of Bentley’s wagons was approaching the bridge from the other side and fortunately the driver sensed something was wrong and pulled into the side, allowing Reg and the runaway free passage under the bridge. The roller pulled up just past the brewery, of her own accord on the rise to the bridge over the canal but the ride had been somewhat hair raising whilst it lasted.
The sight of a 19 ton roller careering down the road must have been worth seeing and Reg, who stuck to his post, like the captain of a ship, was literally covered with grease which had been flung up from the gears during the swift descent of the hill. Two bicycles which were being carried at the back fell off and the bolts holding the tool boxes snapped and they also dropped off.
Fortunately traffic in those days was light and no further damage was caused. Several local residents who happened to be chatting at the bottom of Station Lane at the time and who witnessed the incident, talked about it for years afterwards, much to Reg’s embarrassment.
An impressive engine which stood in the firm’s yard for some time was a Fowler road locomotive which was owned at the time by Kit Johnson, a local showman. Eventually, they were asked to take it to Driffield. Reg knew the roads fairly well, having spent so much time on hire in the area. They set off from Oulton about one o’clock and finally arrived in Driffield at midnight, having traversed much of the Yorkshire Wolds in the dark with the aid of two small oil bicycle lamps. This engine, “Lady Betty”, reputed to be the oldest showman’s engine in the world, is now in preservation.
Frank Young’s son, Arthur, worked for the firm before the Second World War but he died when he was only 40. Reg Doggett left shortly after the war because the dust from threshing was affecting his chest but Frank Young and the firm continued in operation until 1953, the traction engines having being replaced just after the war, when replacements became available, by Field Marshall tractors.
A 10 ton Aveling compound roller remained the sole steam survivor. This was sold for scrap at the final auction sale. Also sold were a living van, two threshing machines, two Scottish balers, and a chopping machine, together with a tractor and implements. Frank Young died, aged 92, in 1972.
Derek Rayner’s article, “A Steam Contractor Remembers” was first published in 1976 in Vol 19 No. 4 of “Steaming”, the magazine of the National Traction Engine Trust.