Topcliffe Farm
Name: Topcliffe Farm
Description: Topcliffe Farm
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Contributor: Peter Aldred
Rights: Peter Aldred
Peter Aldred was born in Morley in 1933. He remembers a lot about the history of the area, including the rhubarb trade.
Morley Hall 2
Name: Morley Hall 2
Description: Photograph of Morley Hall, the old maturnity home where Peter was born in 1933
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Contributor: West Yorkshire Archive Service
Rights: West Yorkshire Archive Service

Peter was born at Morley Hall, the old maturnity home, and attended Morley Grammar School. The landscape of the area has clearly changed a lot since then. A large amount of the rhubarb fields lay in the Tingley Common area, which is now the site of a hotel complex and car dealership. Peter remembers seeing a car accident there many years ago where a loose tyre went running through the rhubarb fields.

Peter's brother used to work on Brook's Farm pulling heavy rhubarb roots, which was hard work especially in winter when the ground was hard. The Morley and Tingley area (along with Wakefield) transported a lot of its produce down to Covent Garden in London via the 'Rhubarb Special' train. This train line still exists today but not many people would guess that its origin lies in the rhubarb trade.

During the Second World War, Morley folk had to carry on as best they could using whatever materials they could find. One of Peter's friends used cylinders that had been dropped supplies by passing planes as a network to heat his rhubarb sheds. The rhubarb that was close by to the homemade pipes grew particularly well when times were tough. Rhubarb was also particularly useful in the jam making industry. It would often be used to bulk out other fruit preserves, such as strawberry, as the amount of pectin in rhubarb helped the jam to set well. This was a process that continued after the war was over.

Sadly, along with the thriving textile trade in Morley (there were once 44 mills in the area), rhubarb farming has declined. There are still some farms between Wakefield and Morley, such as Appleyard's, but a lot closed down. According to Peter, the land of Brook's Farm was bought by Morley Corporation to biuld a housing estate. Left with just the sheds, Brook's tried rearing chickens and growing mushrooms instead. Another farm put up wire netting and used the rhubarb sheds for fattening-up turkeys. Whilst it is unfortunate that the once-thriving rhubarb trade has declined, it is clear that it provided Morley residents with some wonderful memories.

You can listen to parts of Peter's interview and read the full transcript below.

Audio