For many years Henry Ward Walton, who was known as Harry, was a foreman stone mason working for George Armitage and Sons Ltd. at their quarry in Woodlesford.
He was born in September 1878 and lived in a house on Leeds Road in Lofthouse with his father John, mother Mary, and sister Annie who was two years older than him. He was baptised at Christ Church in Lofthouse in June 1879. At that time his father was working as a quarry man, most likely for the the Armitage company at either Thorpe or Robin Hood.
Harry went to Carlton Board School where he passed the First Standard examination when he was 7 years old in 1886. By 1891 the family had moved to Ward’s Row in Carlton and there were two more girls, Jane Ellen and Ethel. A few years later they moved again to a house called The Poplars at Ouzlewell Green. By this time John Walton was working as a semi-skilled “scrappler” in the quarry, a job which entailed scraping the stone with an iron tool.
Harry followed his father into quarry work, starting as an apprentice stone mason soon after he left school at the age of 13. In 1899 he married Rhoda Townend at Rothwell Trinity Church. She was two years older than him, the daughter of a miner, Charles Townend. They probably knew each other from a young age because she was born in Ouzlewell Green and later lived at Wogan or Woggan Yard in the centre of Rothwell. After she left school she worked as a shop assistant.
In the early days of their marriage they lived next door but one to her parents at Prospect Place in Rothwell. Their son John Reginald Walton was born in 1900 by which time Harry had completed his apprenticeship and was a journeyman mason. The photo above of him with four of his slightly younger workmates was probably taken at about this time, although the exact location isn’t known.
By the census of 1911 Harry and his family, which now included 7 year old Eleanor, were living at East View in Ouzlewell Green. But tragically a few months later Rhoda died leaving him a widower with two young children to look after.
In April 1921 he was married again, to a spinster – Etty Gibson, the daughter of William Gibson, a yeast dealer. At about the same time he moved to work at Armitage’s quarry in Woodlesford, probably as a result of being promoted to foreman. At first he lived at Claremont View, known locally as Titanic Row, built for their workers by Armitage’s in 1912, the same year as the sinking of the famous transatlantic liner. Harry’s house at No 29 was one of four larger ones at the bottom of the street for senior workers. Harry’s son John Reginald also followed in his father’s footsteps and became a stone mason at the Oulton quarry where he too became the foreman after his father retired.
In 1927, with growing prosperity, Harry, Etty and Eleanor moved into a new bungalow in North Lane, Oulton. It was built by Clarkson’s of Carlton, a family into which one of his sisters had married. The house was dressed with stone he had cut and shaped himself. Tragedy was to strike again though when Etty passed away, aged 55, in 1933.
On a brighter note, in 1937 Eleanor married “the man next door”, Edgar Massey Cooper, the son of a railway man from Foxholes at Methley, who himself was a clerk at Woodlesford station in the 1930s and later an official in the L.M.S. Control Office at Leeds station.
Harry’s grandson, Richard Cooper, remembers “mucking about” at the quarry in Woodlesford where one of his school friends was Tommy Poppleton, the son of Tommy Poppleton, aka Tommy Pop, the driver of Armitage’s steam locomotive and crane. The two boys would regularly take rides in the engine’s cab as it pulled trucks filled with grindstones from the quarry along the line to the sidings at Woodlesford station. He says his grandfather was mainly responsible for making sills and mullions for windows, and was also told that men from the Oulton Hall hospital worked at the quarry during the Second World War.
Armitage’s were regarded as good employers with members of the owning family taking a hands on approach to running the business. Evidence for their “caring” approach comes in a memorandum from one of the directors, Leonard Armitage, to Harry at Christmas 1943 when he was 65 years old. It expresses concern for Harry’s health and suggests he takes a few weeks rest before returning to take “a hand with the management.” A bottle of whisky was also sent as a Christmas present.
In his later years Harry Walton moved in to live with his daughter and son-in-law and despite being diagnosed with silicosis, a lung disease caused by dust from the stone he worked, he lived until the age of 92.