Poole Doles & Poole Feast

POOLE DOLES 1727- 1997

1881 “Wednesday January 5. Off to Pool by 8. The people down at Pool are chiefly

poor working people who are dependent on the paper mill and stone quarry and those

trades are very bad just now. But there are several gentlemen’s residences occupied by

retired tradesmen from Leeds.” John Dickinson. “Timble Man, Diaries of a Dalesman” by Ronald Harker – Hendon Publishing

1863 “Mr. William Milthorp has made his annual gratuitous distribution of coals and beef to the necessitous poor of Pool near Otley.” – Leeds Mercury

1873 “Little Bateman children have been kept at home” – mother unable to spare school fee of 3d. each. – Pool School log book

1873 “The Rev. J. W. Ridsdale called and left one pound one shilling at Pool School to be placed in the Yorkshire Penny Bank for the Pool Clothing Club” – York Herald

1875 “Annie, Maud, Edward and William Emmet are all absent from school because of their father’s house being stripped by the landlord.” – Pool School log book.

1896 April 24. Pool Parish Council appoint John Pullein and Herbert Pepper as overseers of the poor.

1896 “ Wm. Johnstone sent home for two days in a row, for not having boots” School Log book.

The dictionary meaning of dole is: a distribution of food, money or clothing to the needy. In this case money was given as a supportive charity to poor people of Otley Parish of which Pool, as a Chapelry, was a part. At the first mention of Pool Doles in 1727 Pool did not have the church we see today, but a Chapel of Ease which was demolished in 1838. The earliest reference to this Chapel is 1538. A Chapelry was dependant on the mother church, in this case Otley Parish Church. By 1749 the charity of Poole Doles was receiving income from the generosity of three Pool farmers. This money, or sometimes it was given in kind, was to be given for eternity, even when the land was passed to another owner or tenant.

As Poole Doles were attached to the Chapelry of Poole, the Vestry had the all important task of deciding which of the poor persons was to receive annual relief. These were chosen from the most deserving poor, usually old women or men with large families, without regard to religious opinions. So dependent were the poor of the village that if help from the charity was not received they could be moved to the workhouse which was the Poor House in Otley.

The Charity appears to have been founded in 1727 when farmer Laycock donated one pound annually from three of his fields in Pool, Lodge Close (a large field west of Pool Hall), Pith Hill Field (a small field to the north of the Caley footpath) and another now unknown. In 1728 William Hobson, a long established farming family in the village, joined him by giving 10/d, (50p.) from a field known as Rice Brigg Ing, near Pool Bridge and later Ruff Ings Field, a field to the west of the village when owned by Herbert Stanhope who lived at Pool House in 1892. In 1749 John Dixon gave 3/-d (15p.) from land adjacent to Park House/Plainville, which in 1903 was part of the Park House Estate. The owners of this estate were the ancestors of the Pool mill owning families of Milthorp and Nicholson who had intermarried in 1802.

So by 1749 the total amount given by the three farmers was £l.13.0d. a year. To this was added Pool’s portion of a grant given by Queen Elizabeth the First of 7s. or 7/6d. (37p.) a year. (This was taken from the total grant given to the poor of Otley Parish of £5.6s.8d.) All this was added to money collected at the sacrament to be distributed among poor persons of the Chapelry of Pool not receiving regular parochial relief. Two of the parishioners were receiving Poor Law relief in 1894. Originally the money was distributed at Pool Feast, which was held on the last week-end of July.

For some time calico and flour were given instead of money, but this was discontinued in 1863. (Calico is cheap plain-woven textile made from unbleached, and often not fully processed cotton.) According to W.F. Seals, in 1857 25 poor families received 274 yards, distributed in lengths from 6 to 22 yards of cloth .In 1862 when flour replaced calico, 33 stones of flour went to 24 recipients. At this time the total population was around 500.

The number of people receiving the dole money varied over the years.

1864 The sum of 3s.7 ½ d. (approx 18p) each. was received by sixteen villagers.

1887 Four people received sums varying from 8s.(40p) to 15s (75p) each.

1890/1 The number had increased again to fourteen people receiving the dole.

1895 A hope was expressed that this year there would be the “large amount” of £2.8s.0d. available for distribution! At this time the distribution was made at Christmas.

As time went on it became difficult to decide from which land the dole money in Pool was to be collected. It was for this reason that around 1888 some of the land owners refused to pay. However it not until five years later that the arrears were paid – just as writs were about to be issued!

In 1948 it was decided to invest the money in consolidated funds at 2 ½%. This was an unwise decision as the value decreased to such an extent that they became almost worthless. The last distribution was in December 1966 with only £4 to be distributed between four persons.

Collection of dole money from landowners remained a constant problem. A committee therefore met in 1994 when a decision was made to apply to the Charity Commission for the winding up of Poole Doles, Charity No. 223359, after being in existence for at least two hundred and seventy years. It took three years for the Commission to make a decision but the Charity was finally closed in 1997. There was an amount of £81 which had accumulated since the last distribution. It was decided to make this a gift to the charity of the Jane Whiteley Memorial Homes in the village.

It is interesting to note that the names which appear in the Dole documents are to be found elsewhere in our history. Walter Laycocke of Poole is described in the Huntington Archives as a yeoman in 1584. In 1674 William Hobson appears on the Boundaries of Manor of Kirskill and Poole (Creskeld and Pool). James Dinwiddie (1819) and James Fieldhouse (1840) lived at Pool Hall, the Pulleins (Lord of the Manor 1829-1902) at The Shrubberies (Penndene) and Stanhopes at Pool House in the early 1900’s. In 1760 the Milthorp family had three farms in Pool. It would seem James Furness may

have lived at Pool Farm Cottage, Stocks Hill as “ATF 1725”is over door of the cottage – Ann and Tobias Fourness.

A snippet of interest:

An Otley charity named “Barker’s Gift” dates from 1724, when Thomas Barker willed 50s. be given annually to his Charity, for poor housekeepers and poor of the town. This was given in the form of twelve penny loaves “of substantial household bread”. These originally to be distributed each week to those “attending Divine service on Sunday morning”. Unfortunately the bread supplied was at one time considered of bad quality and the parish officers were told to “correct the abuse”!


Alongside the annual event of Poole Feast was the distribution of money to the poor people of Pool through a charity called Poole Doles which was established in 1727. Another mention of the Feast was made in 1754 when the Curate of Pool is recorded as being entitled to his annual pay of five shillings a year for preaching a sermon at Tollerton on Pool Feast Sunday.

The Feast was held on the last week-end of July, which was during the holiday week for the village. It took the form of stalls and side-shows which stretched from Stocks Hill to the Half Moon Inn with games and races being held at the rear off Mill Lane which was then the “village green” with a well. Swings and roundabouts were sometimes on spare land alongside the church, now the Memorial Gardens. (Otley Feast, a two day event, began in 1222 when a charter was obtained by Archbishop Grey from Henry the Third)

The following is an extract from the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer of 1882:-

Aug. 4th. 1882 “The annual Feast (Pool) was celebrated during the early part of this week. Shooting galleries and the other country fair concomitants have been pretty busy. But the greatest feature this year was the presence of a number of ponies and donkeys which were put into requisition by the children. During Monday and Tuesday the animals were worked very hard.

On Monday a good number of people assembled in the Half Moon grounds to witness a number of sports which created considerable interest. The first race was a 200 yds. handicap, the prize being a copper kettle, which was won by a very promising pedestrian named James Fox” “The second race, 100 yds. handicap – prize a silk handkerchief – after a re-run because of a three way tie, was won by John Bland by a foot.”

The year of 1880 is reported by the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer as having few people attending due to bad weather. There was a nut and spice stall and shooting gallery.

At times it must have been an unruly affair as reported in 1847 in the Halifax Guardian. The full account is given below:

“Poole Feast was this year signalised by a disturbance of rather alarming character. The neighbourhood, it appears, is inundated with navvies employed on the Leeds and Thirsk railway, now in course of construction, and a young man named William Mounsey of Otley went with his dulcimer to the Half Moon Inn where a number of these semi-barbarians were assembled for the purpose of having a dance. Mounsey played for while, but not receiving adequate remuneration for his services, left the house and went to the White Hart Inn. There, meeting with a fiddler, they played to a select party of villagers, among whom were Messrs Thomas Bray and Milthorp.

At a late hour, the house was attacked by a number of navvies who had come to demand back their musician and a scuffle ensued, several of the dancing party being severely treated. Mr. Bray escaped under a bed but, being discovered, was dragged forth in a brutal manner. The constable, with the assistance of several of the dancers, attempted to clear the house. This was affected, but not before several of them had suffered rough treatment, Mr. Milthorp narrowly escaping strangulation.

Whilst this was going on, Mr. Ackerby, the landlord, rather injudiciously fired some small shot out of the window, hitting but not injuring some of the riotous gang. First throwing a stone through a panel of the door, the rioters broke it open with a crowbar and, after breaking doors and windows in all directions, ransacked the house in search of the landlord, whom they threatened to murder. Mr. Ackerby retreated into the spirit vault, where he was locked in by his servant. The rioters, baffled in their search, went into the dairy and cellar, where they amused themselves by dashing bowls of milk, bread, meat, etc. upon the floor, and trampling them.

Mr. Akerby’s servant, fearing for this master’s confinement and rushing from the house, he buried himself in a stack of hay, not far distant. The landlady had a narrow escape. One of the villains attempted to plunge a knife into her breast, but the deadly weapon slipped on one side, passing through the sleeve of her dress.

The report adds, “We are glad to find that four of the villains were secured. They were brought up at Otley the following day, heavily ironed and being taken before F. Bilham, Esq. on the charge of riot and assault, were by him committed to take their trial at the next Wakefield sessions. Seven of the gang made their escape and have not yet been apprehended.”

In the early days of Pool school, when summer holidays were only for three weeks, an extra days holiday was given to celebrate the Feast. 1873 Aug. 2nd “School thinly attended in consequence of this weeks Pool Feast”.

So popular was Pool Feast that Holmes Whiteley, in his “Recollections of My Native Village”, shows that one year around 1900 so many horse drawn caravans arrived with their usual equipment, shooting gallery, coconut stalls, Aunt Sally, Try Your Strength, etc., that the field they normally used behind the Half Moon, was so full that the field opposite, now occupied by the Methodist Church, had to be used. Around 1910, during Pool Feast, a Mr. Mansfield would put his hand operated children’s roundabout on the area which is now the War Memorial land.

It is possible that the enthusiasm for Pool Feast began to wane after Arthington Show began in 1906. Local memories suggest the Feast ceased to be held around the time of WW1.

GoldenJubilee Pool Feast 2002

At the suggestion of Pat Lazenby in 2002, Pool Feast was re-introduced but was once again discontinued in 2016

A New Beginning

Pool Feast – Golden Jubilee Year, 2002.