Abraham Cowling was Woodlesford’s main cobbler for over 40 years up until his death in 1942. The shop where he repaired boots and shoes was in a wooden hut at the bottom of Church Street just below the Methodist chapel. For most of his time in the village he lived with his family about 200 yards away in houses on what is now Woodlesford Green.
Abraham was born in Batley in 1876 where his father Issac worked in a mill as a cloth finisher. Both his parents died when he was young and he was brought up by two older sisters who also worked in the mills. His elder brother was apprenticed to be a printer but Abraham appears to have chosen not to follow him and by the time of the 1891 census he was a boot maker’s apprentice.
Quite where he lived after he finished his apprenticeship isn’t clear although electoral records indicate he may have begun working for himself in Morley.
In 1899 he married Alicia Noble at St. Paul’s church at Hanging Heaton near Batley. Her father was a blacksmith from Braham and she had been born at Tadcaster but by 1891 the family had moved to the Batley area where Alicia worked as a dressmaker.
Abraham and Alicia must have moved to Woodlesford shortly after their marriage because their only son, Harry Simpson Cowling, was born there in 1900.
Later in life Abraham became extremely deaf, probably due to all the hammering which went on in the repair of shoes. There were no such things as hearing aids as we know of them today and he had a copper trumpet down which people had to shout to make him hear.
All of his work was done in leather and he had many customers in the area. Villagers recognized him as a true craftsman and his work was highly thought of.
One family anecdote was that Lady Lowther from Swillington House took a size 12 in shoes and Abraham could charge her no more than anyone with smaller shoes so probably there would be very little profit from that job.
The photograph above shows Abraham, Alicia and Harry at the back door of 8 Church Street which overlooked the parish hall. Nearby was a large allotment on which Abraham grew rows of dahlias. A relative remembered that some of the flowers standing by the pathway were huge but were never vandalized.