Up until his retirement Geoff Beese was a well known tradesman for over 40 years with strong family and business links to the local coal mining community. Trained as a plumber at a Methley building firm he went on to work for the Rothwell council and then set up on his own, carrying out repairs and conversions for domestic customers and contracts for large and small businesses. In his words: “I never ever had a day when I’d nothing to do.”
Geoff was born in 1930 in Allerton Bywater where his father, George Henry Beese, was a miner. In fact the mining tradition in the family can be traced back to the coal pits around Staple Hill and Mangotsfield in Gloucestershire where John Beese and probably his father, Samson, were miners in the early years of the 19th century.
By 1861 John Beese was “a filler in a coal pit” and living with his family on “old coal pit land” at Lower Easton in east Bristol. It was his son George, Geoff’s great grandfather, who migrated to Yorkshire in the late 1860s. As a boy he had been apprenticed to a stone mason and appears to have travelled north to work in the ironstone mines at Rosedale to the north of Pickering.
It was there, in October 1871, he married Mary Turner, the daughter of a Pickering shoemaker. Two years later they were in Castleford where George was employed as a miner and their first child, Geoff’s grandfather, Charles Nicholas Beese, was born. In common with many of their generation they had a large family of 12 children, nine of whom survived into adulthood.
When he left school in 1943 Geoff Beese won a scholarship to the Whitwood Mining and Technical College. Built by the West Riding Education Committee in 1930 it ran full time and night school classes for boys in a variety of trades including woodwork, metalwork, and technical drawing. Girls were taught office skills such as shorthand and typing.
After two years at Whitwood Geoff was taken on as an apprentice by the Methley building firm, P.J. Parrott & Co. Ltd. He was expecting to be a joiner but the firm didn’t have vacancies so he was asked to become a plumber. He learned his trade installing outside water closets at houses which up to then only had dry ash middens for human waste.
The company had been established by Philip John Parrott, a wheelwright, joiner and undertaker. Before the First World War he employed three men but after the war he won contracts to build council houses and schools bringing in bricklayers and other contractors for the larger jobs which included Green Lea and North Lane in Oulton.
P.J. Parrott was born at Methley in 1864, and as with George Beese, his father, James Parrott, had come from the south of England to work in the mines. He was born at Stanmore in Middlesex in 1816 and appears to have acquired his mining skills as a navvy building a tunnel for the London and Brighton Railway near Balcombe in Sussex between 1838 and 1841. After marrying and working on the railway near Wellington in Somerset he too gravitated to Yorkshire. His second son, William Parrott, who was a pony driver at a Methley pit, went on to be a pioneering leader of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association and M.P. for Normanton.
Philip John Parrott died in 1944 but the firm carried on until 1967 run by his nephew, George Walker, and, despite a shortage of materials after the Second World War, they won more housing contracts including one for Albert Road in Oulton. Before he was 18 years old Geoff Beese became their chief plumber where he stayed until he was called up for National Service in the R.A.F. in 1951.
A further connection to mining comes through Geoff’s marriage in 1953 to Edna Sharp who grew up on Quarry Hill in Oulton. Her grandfather, Joseph Cooper Sharp who lived at Goody Cross, was a colliery engine winder . Her father, Percy Sharp, was a blacksmith at the Bower’s Row pits between Swillington and Allerton Bywater and lost part of his arm there in an accident in about 1945.
Edna’s mother, Gertrude, came from the extended Jeffrey family. They were mainly quarry men in Oulton but included miners in their ranks and were descended from William Jeffrey, a Knaresborough born gardener, who married Jane Chadwick, a blacksmith’s daughter from Carlton in 1856.
After their marriage Geoff and Edna lived initially with her parents on Holmsley Field Lane and Geoff went to work for the Rothwell Urban District Council mainly doing repairs on their growing number of council houses. In 1960 he decided to set up his own business, buying a small van which he kept in a workshop at Chapel Yard at Oulton.
From then on he was never out of work benefiting from the large number of householders in the area who wanted indoor bathrooms and gas central heating fitted into their homes. There were also contracts for repair work on houses owned by the National Coal Board and regular calls from local concerns including the brewery at Woodlesford and the Hygenic Paint Company. In 1963 he was able to take on an apprentice and also employed an electrician but he was cautious about expanding further.
Click on the link below to listen Geoff Beese talk about his life as a plumber.
At the bottom of the page is a video of an Oulton church carnival shot by Geoff in the 1960s.