Tuesday, 31 October 2017

There's a Ghost in My House!

Spooky Tales From the Village

Arksey has never been renowned for being haunted, although given the age of the village, one would expect to hear the odd ghost story now and then.

Now I like a bit of ghost hunting, so after putting out an appeal on my Arksey & Bentley Bygone Years Facebook group, I was able to gather a good few personal experiences to share.

This lighthearted look at 'things that go bump in the night' shouldn't be taken too seriously. As with any subjective topic, you either believe or you don't, and as nothing here can be proved, this little diversion from factual history should either interest the believer, or entertain the non-believer.

Please note, all stories are told as submitted but in my own words. I provide a little of my own historic research too for information purposes.  Anonymity has been preserved where requested.

The Spooks of Almholme Lane

Terraced Houses in Almholme Lane

The terraced houses in Almholme Lane were built in the early 20th century but they seem to be home to some very active spirits.


Lorraine Smith, who lives in one of the terraced houses has witnessed a picture 'flying' off a wall in her home, but it is the sheer amount of 'orbs' seen zooming around her rooms that has her mystified. Lorraine has captured some amazing footage of these orbs, which regularly put on fantastic light shows for her. Here is a video she shot one winter's morning before sunrise.

Video courtesy of Lorraine Smith

Chopping Wood

A neighbour of Lorraine Smith's claims to have seen the apparition of a woman chopping wood in her garden. An indication maybe that even when you're dead the work doesn't stop! 


A story of a possible reincarnation is told by Clare Holmes who hasn't lived in Arksey for some decades. She recalls driving past the terraced houses a few years ago with her young son, who said 'I used to live here with my other Mummy and Daddy, I fell out of the window and died'.

I haven't been able to find any records of any children falling to their deaths from those houses, but maybe you know differently?

A Secret Room

Another strange little tale from Almholme Lane isn't a ghost story at all, but is rather odd. A newspaper cutting I kept from 1992 recounted 'Strange Tales from Bentley'. In one passage an Arksey woman born in 1909 recalled that she once lived in a cottage in Almholme Lane. When it was pulled down they removed a fireplace and cooking range to find behind it, a secret door into a secret room! 

A full transcript of the cutting can be found on the Scrapbook page. 

Newspaper cutting containing the 'secret room' story

A Psychic Tour of Arksey

Nicola Barber recalls the time she accompanied a psychic medium friend of hers on a visit to Arksey one evening, to see what he could 'pick up' on. They started at the Plough Inn where spirits of a different kind were on offer that night!

The Plough Inn, home to spirits of a different kind

Nicola and her psychic friend - we'll call him 'Ian' in the absence of his real name - walked into the pub and over by the fire he saw a plumpish man sat in a wooden chair smoking a clay pipe. Ian thought he belonged to the 17th or 18th century, which means that rather than sitting in the present 1904 building, he would have been sat in the previous building - a long low beer house called The Horseshoe.

There is a private door next to the door into the ladies toilets, and this piqued Ian's interest. Going over to the door he placed his hand on it and had a vision of a horse. He returned to the door again and this time 'saw' a farmhand. Well, there is stabling for horses at the rear of the building and with Brook House Farm right next door for many decades it's what one would expect to sense I suppose. 

Next, Ian put his hand on the door to the ladies toilets and a voice said 'you're not allowed in here!' A warning he heeded on this occasion!

Witches of Arksey

Marsh Lane leading up to the railway line

Nicola says that Ian got a picture of a house in some woods, a house they pinpointed to an area over the railway line at the top of Marsh Lane. Ian said that a witch once lived there. There may be an element of truth in this story because this stretch of Marsh Lane was once a through road to Shaftholme, not the footpath that it is today. So it is entirely possible that there was a house up there once, in a wooded area. As for the resident being a witch, well, wise women who concocted herbal potions for medicinal purposes were targeted as witches at certain times in history, so it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility that such a 'wise woman' lived near the village.

Arksey Almshouses

Nicola and Ian made their way over to the Almshouses where Ian placed his hand on the wall. A rhyme came to mind which went like this:

'Black witch, green witch, anyway you want witch, up witch, down witch, you're gonna die witch.'

Whether this rhyme originated from the Almshouses themselves or the school next door, one cannot say, however it does sound very much like a school yard rhyme. 

By the way, a green witch was said to work with nature and energies. They were often skilled herbalists very attuned to natural elements. A black witch, as we all know, works with black magic. Dealing in negative acts to cause harm to others. Apparently, Wells Road in Wheatley had three wells and rumour has it that hundreds of witches were executed there and thrown down the wells as punishment. This may just be rumour as no records exist of any witch trials taking place in Doncaster. Mind you, Wells Road is not that far from Arksey, just over the river Don as the crow flies.

Echoes of Playtime

Arksey School in 1895

As Nicola and Ian moved on to the Old School next door to the Almshouses Ian sensed a boy throwing a ball and a girl skipping. Nicola (who is also sensitive to these things) says she felt that there were children playing with sticks and hoops. 

This is probably a case of residual energy, like memories stored in the stone, rather than dead children still playing. 

Lost in the Churchyard

Restless dead in Arksey churchyard?

As Nicola and Ian approached the churchyard Ian sensed that someone was buried outside the church walls and that someone may have been mugged nearby too.

Walking through the churchyard Ian could see a boy in a corner, crying because he'd lost his Mum. Ian tried to help him 'cross over' but the boy wouldn't trust him as it had been a man who had left him there. As Nicola and Ian passed the vicar's door, the security light was activated and the gave nearest to the door attracted their attention. Dating from the 1700's, the grave remembered three children, they felt that the boy they had seen was probably the 'Robert' carved into the stone.

The grave they saw belongs to three children of the Crawshaw family (of Almholme), a very tragic family. They lost three of their eight children in the space of one month. Seven year old Robert Crawshaw followed his two sisters Ann and Jane to the grave in June of 1784. A few years later two more of the Crawshaw children died, making that five out of eight. If it was Robert Crawshaw that Ian saw then maybe his sudden death means he's still looking for his mother, and maybe he remembers the gravedigger who filled in the plot and 'left' him there? 

The Crawshaw graves, Robert is buried in the one front left

Ian and Nicola went over to the other side of the churchyard, by the vicarage boundary to a grave enclosed by iron railings. They noticed that it belonged to woman from the 1800's. Ian put his hand through the railings and felt it was 'grabbed', he said he thought she was 'quite crabby'. 

This is interesting because no-one is actually buried in that plot! It's not a grave at all, just a memorial. The lady it commemorates is Mary Chadwick, believed to be related to the Chadwick family of Arksey Hall, who originally came from Leeds. She died in Doncaster in 1804 at the age of 73, and was interred in St Peter's Church Leeds, but wasn't buried there until 1809! She certainly was never buried in Arksey as no burial record exists for her, so where was her body kept for those five years? No wonder she is crabby! 

The enclosed memorial to Mary Chadwick (1731 - 1804)

Many thanks to Nicola Barber and her friend.

The Restless Baronets?

The Cooke Vault in Arksey Church

When the Cooke family (Wheatley Baronets) vault inside Arksey church was opened in May 2013 after 162 years, it was a thrilling moment. Unable to witness this historic occasion myself, a friend of mine (Symeon Mark Waller) who was involved in the opening process managed to photo-document the events as they happened.

When Symeon sent me the photos I noticed one of them had an 'extra' feature. The photo, which depicts overturned lead coffins left strewn across the vault floor by previous flooding, seemed to have something like a chain of little white 'orbs' snaking in mid air; here is the photo below:

Inside the vault, lead coffins to the right and a strange light anomaly above left. 

Now I know some will say it's just dust, and while the jury is still out on the subject of orbs (are they spirit or dust motes?), there does seem to be a distinction between photos of dust particles and these brighter anomalies (such as in Lorraine Smith's video, above). On examining other photos from the vault collection, many of them have these semi-transparent dots and circles floating around, as in this particularly good example below:

Dust 'orbs' in the vault

I think most paranormal experts accept that these types of orbs are nothing more than dust, and the vault was a very dusty environment after 162 years! But there is something about the 'snake' orb that seems different.

Close up image of the 'orb'

I did show this photo to a psychic friend of mine and he said he could sense two male spirits here. So are the spirits of long dead baronets still trapped in the vault, or does the place just need a good clean? You decide.

The full story of the vault opening, including many of the photos taken that day can be found on this site, in the article Secrets of the Vault

The Haunting of Arksey Hall

Arksey Hall. Photo courtesy of Mark Waterhouse

Arksey Hall on Marsh Lane has a long history in the village, believed to date from Tudor times it has seen Civil War conflict, and been home to a succession of village squires. It has also been sub-divided into a family home and even housed a dry cleaning business. More recently part of the Hall has been converted into a residential care home for the mentally impaired called Beech Tree Hall. 

But it was during its time as a care home for the elderly in the late 20th - early 21st century that our next stories come from. My source, who wishes to remain anonymous, worked at the care home for a number of years and told me some truly hair raising tales.

The Soul Taker

The first story told by my source - we'll call her 'Jane' to make it easier, was about a very strange occurrence when she was on night shift one evening. Checking in on a lady resident in her room, Jane found her sitting bolt upright in bed facing the window next to the bed. As Jane entered the room the lady swung her head around to look at Jane and uttered some Latin words in a gruff tone, quite unlike her own high, girlish voice. Alarmed, Jane fled the room to fetch a colleague, who thought it was highly amusing, however, on returning to the room they found the lady resident quite dead. 

Jane remembered some of the Latin words she heard being uttered, and we worked out that they meant something along the lines of 'I possess this soul!'

Evil Presence

Stained glass window above the door

There certainly seems to be something very nasty at the Hall because Jane also mentioned an incident in the area behind the small stained glass window, above the main entrance. This area is said to be associated with a ghostly presence referred to as 'Father Brown'. 

Jane recounted how during a summer heatwave all the night staff had requested to wear shorts during their shift one evening, as it was exceptionally hot. Later on as Jane passed the area by the window she stepped into a freezing cold mass of air, such a contrast to the heat of the rest of the building. She said the freezing air felt like 'pure evil'. Was this 'Father Brown' or the 'Soul Taker', or are they one and the same? Perhaps we'll never know.

The children


Jane recalled how some of the elderly residents talked about 'the children', although no children were in the building. They used to ring for staff and ask them to take the children out so they could get some rest. The ghost of a little girl has also been seen at the Hall, although no-one knows who she is.

There were some French doors in one part of the Hall which were always kept locked, but one night Jane went into the room where they were to find them wide open and orbs of light flying through them.

In another incident, one of the staff had mopped a floor and left the room empty. On returning to the room a few minutes later, there was a circle of small footprints visible on the damp floor.



Finally, a classic 'time-slip' experience as recounted to Jane by one of her colleagues. The Hall has an old dining room containing a Tudor fireplace, perhaps the last original feature in the building.

On one particular occasion a staff member entered the dining room, but instead of seeing their functional tables and chairs, she saw a large wooden table with people sat around it wearing old fashioned clothing and large hats. It goes without saying she made a hasty retreat! Had she just stepped into another time or witnessed an echo of the Hall from long ago? 

Arksey Hall seems to have many secrets within its walls and also under its grounds, for it is a known fact that a tunnel stretches underground from Arksey church, all the way to the back gardens of the Hall, where it emerges in the old well. One can only wonder at the things that might have gone on here in times past.  

Ghostly Hands

Before we move on from the Marsh Lane area, Graham Force recalls a story from a previous owner of his mother's house. 

Graham thinks it would have been the early 1960's when this occurred. Apparently the lady saw 'hands' coming out of the bathroom wall while she was taking a bath. 

He also went on to say that his sister thought she saw 'hand shapes' on the wall in the back bedroom. However, having used that room himself for many years, he thinks what she saw were headlights of cars passing the Willowgarth and shining through the moving trees.

Strange Sounds on Station Road

Terraced houses on Station Road

This next tale took place when Kim O'Connor lived in one of the terraced houses on Station Road in the 1980's.

One  night Kim had just got into bed when she heard a woman calling out in the distance. The voice sounded anxious as if calling out for someone lost. the voice seemed to get closer and then there was the sound of running feet on wooden stairs, but not at the same level as they were at the time. All went quiet for a few minutes, then she heard a sigh right next to her and someone stroked her face. She flew out of bed and went in to her Mum's room for the night! 

This seems to have been an isolated incident as she never heard anything like it again. 

Bentley Ghosts

Bentley High Street

As far as ghosts and hauntings go, Bentley seems to keep them well hidden. I didn't unearth many stories at all, so if you have a spooky Bentley story to share then please get in touch (details are on the About and Contact page). 

Coliseum Ghost

The old Coliseum cinema

Norman Fareham recalls how his mother used to be a cleaner at the old Coliseum cinema on Bentley High Street. She often had to open up and walk through the place in the dark. It was known there was a ghost there and the staff used to say 'good morning' to it.

In later years the Coliseum housed Woods supermarket and Norman's wife worked there. She said the ghost was still there then.

The supermarket is now a Tesco store, but with the Coliseum ghost seemingly quite at home in supermarkets, maybe it is still there? 

A Sinister Spirit

Askern Road, Bentley

The following story has been on the internet for a few years now, so here I present a short version of the story with a link at the end to take you to the full story.

This experience took place in a mid-terraced house on Askern Road around the year 2000, and is told by the occupier at the time.

The man and his partner (we'll call them Andy and Sue in the absence of their real names), who was expecting her first child, moved into the rented Askern Road property in the winter of the year 2000. This was despite hearing rumours that nobody ever stayed the full length of their contract and that an old lady had either slipped or was killed on the stairs a few years earlier. 

After a few weeks of living in the house the couple noticed there was a 'sudden shift in the overall feeling of the house'. Things started to disappear, only to reappear later. The stair carpet would also slip from its fixings causing stumbles.

One evening, Sue was preparing dinner and she had her back to the kitchen door but felt a presence standing there, even seeing a figure out of the corner of her eye. She assumed it was Andy, so continued a conversation they had been having earlier unaware he was actually in the lounge. She turned to face 'Andy', but there was no-one there.

The activity worsened. More things went missing, only to turn up again in bizarre locations or not at all. One night Andy and Sue went out visiting, making sure all their electrical items were switched off. When they returned later all the lights were on and the TV and CD player were on full blast.

They blamed their landlord for unauthorized access, but a neighbour confirmed that no-one had been seen entering or leaving the property, and there were no signs of a break-in.

Andy and Sue began to spend less and less time in the house and once, while they were out Sue's father called round and knocked on the door. He saw a figure peep out of the front window but when no-one answered the door he shouted through the letterbox. He then rang Andy on his mobile phone to ask why they weren't answering, only to be told they weren't even at home! 

One night Andy was woken from a deep sleep by a terrible racket downstairs. He jumped out of bed hearing the voices of a man and woman having a blazing argument in his living room. With Sue panicked he picked up a wooden stick and went to investigate. The floorboards creaked as he walked towards the bedroom door and he heard a voice say 'Shhh, be quiet someone's coming!' Andy ran down the stairs making as much noise as he could an turning all the lights only to discover no-one there at all.

It wasn't long before they felt a presence on the stairs again, so Andy got a Polaroid camera and took some shots on the stairs. On two of the photos Andy describes he saw what looked like a glowing, Christ like energy.

The next day Sue's father called round again so they told him about the voices and showed him the photos. Later, as he was coming down the stairs the carpet gave way again (despite having been fixed down securely), as he turned to stop himself from falling he had the feeling that something passed through him. The experience scared him so much he ran from the house and refused to set foot in it again.

With the baby soon due to be born Andy and Sue found a new home and moved on. However, they later found out that the previous tenants had also been forced to move out for similar reasons.

As for the incident which may have started all the activity, Andy and Sue found out that an old lady who had lived there was pushed by an attacker on the stairs. She slipped on a loose carpet and fractured her skull, later dying.

To read the full story When I lived in a Haunted House please click here.     

A School Haunting

Don Valley High School, Scawthorpe

This story is also taken from another online source. Retold here in my own words, a link to the original post is available below.

This story concerns Don Valley High School in Scawthorpe. Not the new, bright shiny building which has just been built, but the original 1960's school which many of us attended, including myself.

The story is told by a former pupil, Sarah, who was in a drama class near the main stage when this strange thing happened.

The students were not allowed on the stage without permission, but one day Sarah climbed on without being seen and went behind the curtains. She felt someone push her, although she was alone. She looked around but saw no-one. Then she looked around again and saw the ghost of a boy with a 'pole swinging through his head'. She was terrified and ran out.

Sarah and her friend were acting a Hogwarts scene from Harry Potter, and she warned her friend not to go behind the curtain but she wouldn't listen and went anyway, only to have her T-shirt pulled by something unseen.

Later, the drama teacher told the students what had happened in the past. There was a play taking place on stage and a boy was stood in the side wings as the curtains were closing. The curtain fell off the rail and a pole hit him on the head causing his death.

After the lesson they all went behind the curtain in quiet remembrance and saw the ghost again.

The ghost was believed to only appear to those performing on that stage.  

Unfortunately I could not verify the story of the boy being killed.

The stage in the main hall at Don Valley School

To see the story in Sarah's words, click here


Things we would like to know more about.

Whilst gathering stories for this article a number of comments were made on my Facebook post. Snippets of things people had heard about but couldn't expand on. I list a few of them now in the hope they will jog a memory or two.

Perhaps some of you have heard tales of Roman Soldiers on the Roman Ridge? Or how about a Blue Lady behind houses on Coney Road, Toll Bar? Have you heard any stories about a Red Lady or Red Legs on the old Bentley pit tip? While on the subject of coloured ladies, how about the White Lady of Daw Wood? Maybe someone knows about the now demolished Drum & Monkey pub at Shaftholme being haunted too?

If you have answers to any of these questions or have any stories of your own there are a variety of ways to get in touch, all of which are set out on the 'About and Contact' page.

Last Note

I have to confess, when I started to put this article together I was racking my brains trying to come up with a more interesting title than 'Haunted Arksey'. Anyway, I had music playing online while writing this and the song 'There's a Ghost in My House' by R Dean Taylor came on, and hey presto, there was my title. Spooky eh?

There's a Ghost in my House by R Dean Taylor

Happy Halloween!

Alison Vainlo 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Famous of Arksey

It is a little known fact that Arksey has some rather famous names associated with its history, from Robin Hood and Shakespeare, to Worzel Gummidge and the Pilgrim Fathers, they all had their origins here. 

Read on to discover just how Arksey played its part in bringing these famous stories to light.

The Merry Man of Arksey


Around the years 1319-21, the parson in residence at Arksey was one Richard de la Lee. A man who was known for constantly being in debt.

It seems that Richard was the inspiration for one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. Well, not a Merry Man really, just someone who was helped by Robin Hood and who, in return gave a hiding place to the outlaw and his band of men.

Richard appears in an early ballad, A Gest of Robyn Hode, as a knight called Rychard at the Lee. In the story Robin loans the poor knight some money to pay off his debt to the abbot of St Mary's in York. Robin then recovers his losses by robbing the monks from the abbey. Another story in the Gest tells how Robin and his men hide in the castle of the knight they helped, namely, Rychard at the Lee.

Of course, Richard de la Lee wasn't a knight, nor did he have a castle, but of all the possible candidates for the real man behind the story, Richard is the most compelling. And whether true or not, the story is a nice detail in the history of Arksey church.

A Shakespearean Knight in Arksey


Around the year 1446 a new parson was presented to the church of All Hallows (later All Saints) at Arksey. His name was Richard Tregone, but it wasn't he that was famous, it was the knight who presented him, who became immortalized in three of William Shakespeare's plays:
  • Henry IV, Part 1  
  • Henry IV, Part 2
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor 
In Shakespeare he appears as Sir John Falstaff, the rotund, vain and cowardly knight who leads Prince Hal into trouble in the Henry IV plays. But as with Richard de la Lee (above), the real man behind the character in the plays, is altogether different.

The real Falstaff (of whom the character was based) was in fact called Sir John Fastolf. He was a medieval knight who had fought at the Battle of Patay against Joan of Arc, which the English lost. Fastolf was made a scapegoat for the loss, as he was one of the military leaders who escaped death or capture, and while he seemed to show no cowardice, he was temporarily stripped of his knighthood. Which is presumably why he appears in Henry IV, Part 1, as an abject coward.

How he came to present Richard Tregone to Arksey church is not recorded, but maybe this was one of his expected duties as a knight of the Realm.  

The Vicar's Daughter and the Scarecrow


Between 1895 and 1910 the vicar at Arksey was the Rev. Thomas Todd. What many people do not know is that he had a writer daughter, who went on to create one of the best loved children's literary characters, Worzel Gummidge. 

Thomas Todd, who was originally from London, had moved to Doncaster by 1890, where he can be found on the 1891 census for Spring Gardens.

He married Alice Maud Mary Bentham in 1894 in Harlesden, Middlesex. The couple settled in Arksey, where Thomas became the vicar.

Thomas and Alice's only child, Barbara Euphan Todd was born in Arksey on the 9th of January 1897, and the family stayed in the village until 1910. After that, they can be found on the 1911 census in Kirk Sandall.

1911 census for the Todd family at Kirk Sandall

It is unclear how long the family stayed in the Doncaster area, but Barbara is known to have spent some of her childhood in Soberton, Hampshire. She was educated at St Catherine's School, Bramley, Guildford, Surrey, and following her fathers retirement, lived with her parents in Surrey, which is where she began her writing career.

Barbara Euphan Todd

She married Commander John Bower RN in 1932, and collaborated with him on some of her books. She wrote mainly children's books and her first Worzel Gummidge book was written in 1936. She wrote ten books featuring the character, who was a scarecrow that came to life. 

The books were adapted for radio in the 1950's, and featured on the children's TV programme Jackanory in the late 1960's. However it was the ITV, TV series starring Jon Pertwee which ran from 1978 to 1981, which is the best remembered.

Barbara continued to write until 1972, and later moved into a nursing home in Donnington, Berkshire, where she died in 1976. 

The Pilgrim Father's Grandfathers

The Mayflower Compact

Now we all naturally associate the Pilgrim Fathers with the village of Austerfield near Bawtry, after all it is where one of the most famous of the colonists, Governor William Bradford was born in about 1590. However, William's forebears were not originally from that area, they had their roots in Arksey and Bentley.

The Bradford name and it's variant spellings (Bradforthe, Bradfurthe, Bradforth, Bradforde) are quite prolific in the Arksey parish registers. With properties and lands in Bentley, Arksey and Almholme, their roots were firmly established in the area.

Governor Bradford's ancestors can be traced back to at least 1460 when Peter Bradforthe was born in the parish. He was the 2x Great Grandfather of William Bradford. Peter married twice and fathered as many as ten children with his wives. His third son Robert (1487 - abt 1553), with his first wife, also married twice. He left the parish and went to live in Wellingly near Tickhill, this was the start of the migration to Austerfield for this branch of the family. Robert was Governor Bradford's Great Grandfather.

Robert Bradford's first son, William (1515 - 1595) was born in Wellingly and upon the death of his father, he inherited all his lands at Bentley. William, who also married twice, left Wellingly for Austerfield in about 1557. His first wife gave him three children, the second child being another William (1559 - 1591), the future father of Governor Bradford. 

Austerfield Manor

William married Alice Hanson in Austerfield on the 28th of June 1584. Following the birth of two girls, Margaret in 1585 and Alice in 1587, their son and future Governor of Plymouth Colony, William was born about 1589/90. It is widely thought that William was born at Austerfield Manor, although it has never been proven. He was just over a year old when his father died in 1591. His mother married Robert Briggs in 1593 and died soon after giving birth to her last child in 1597.

The story of the Pilgrim Fathers is well known, but to summarize - William became interested in religion at an early age, especially in the non-conforming preachers he came into contact with. As a youth he became a member of a separatist congregation at Scrooby church where William Brewster was an elder.

In 1607 church authorities discovered one of the meetings and they were forced to flee. They firstly sailed to Amsterdam before settling in Leyden. In 1612 William married sixteen year old Dorothy May, and in 1615, their only child John was born.

In 1620, the group, seeking freedom in the New World set sail for Southampton on the Speedwell. The Bradford's young son was left behind to sail on at a later date, however it would be seven years before he would make the crossing. 

In September that year William and Dorothy Bradford joined 130 other passengers and crew, and left Plymouth on the Mayflower. After a miserable two month journey, the Mayflower finally arrived in New England, many hundreds of miles further north than intended. 

The day after their arrival, the famous document The Mayflower Compact was drawn up (in Brewster's hand) and Bradford was the third signatory as a leader of the group. 

The next month was taken up by looking for a suitable settlement area, while the passengers stayed on board ship. On returning from one reconnaissance trip, William Bradford discovered his wife Dorothy had fallen overboard and died. 

The Mayflower colonists finally came ashore at Plymouth Harbour in December. As the colonists began to build their settlements a great sickness struck the group wiping out around half of them.

The following spring Governor John Carver became ill and died. William Bradford was elected to the vacant post, a situation he would occupy for the next thirty one years.

Bradford married one of the later arrivals from one of the many ships which would dock at Plymouth. Widow Alice Southworth arrived in 1623, her two sons followed a few years later. The couple had three children, William (1624 - 1704), Mercy (abt 1627) and Joseph ( 1630 - 1715).

The Puritan settlers made Plymouth a prosperous colony and by the 1630's were beginning to widen their settlements to other areas across the eastern seaboard. 

When William Bradford died on the 9th of May 1657 he was the richest man in the colony and left an estate worth £900, a farm, a house, an orchard and a library containing almost 300 books. Of course, the larger legacy he left was a thriving community he had helped to start, one that would in time, occupy the whole of the continent of America and become one of the richest nations on earth. Quite a legacy for a man who could trace his ancestry back to a small Yorkshire village.

Many thanks to Tracy Tebo for sharing her research with me.      

Alison Vainlo 2013 (revised 2017)

Friday, 2 June 2017

Funeral for a Baronet

The coffin is carried into the church

The Funeral of Sir David William 

Perceval Cooke, Bt

On May 13th 2017 the 12th Cooke Baronet of Wheatley, Sir David William Perceval Cooke passed away in his home city of Edinburgh. His death followed a long illness at the age of 82.

His dying wish was that he would be interred in the Cooke family vault at Arksey All Saints Church. On June 1st 2017 that wish was carried out.

Arksey Village, A History was proud to be among the congregation to witness this historic moment. Here is an account of the day.

Sir David W. P. Cooke

David William Perceval Cooke was born on the 28th of April 1935 in Warwickshire. He was the son of the 11th Baronet, Sir Charles Arthur John Cooke and Diana Perceval. David married Margaret Frances Skinner, daughter of Herbert Skinner on the 30th of April 1959. They had three daughters, Sara, Louisa and Catherine (Katie).

Educated at Wellington College, Berkshire and at the Royal Military Academy, Sand Hurst in Berkshire, he was commissioned in 1955 in the service of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, and transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps in 1958.

He was decorated with the award of Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and graduated from the Open University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). He gained the rank of Colonel in 1984 and retired from the military in 1990. Since retiring from the military he was registered as an Associate Member of the Institute of Traffic Administration and was also registered as an Associate of the Royal Aeronautical Society (A.R.Ae.S.). He has also been invested as a Fellow of the British Institute of Management (F.B.I.M) and as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport (F.C.I.T). 

He became 12th Baronet of Wheatley on the death of his father, Sir Charles in 1978. 

Passionately interested in the charitable work of his forbears, when Sir David learned of the state of the Almshouses in the early 1990's (they were uninhabited and derelict), he immediately took action and with funding from the Cooke Almshouse Charity and Trustees, together with Doncaster Planning, Housing Services and other bodies, the Almshouses were renovated in the late 1990's and are now fully occupied again.

Sir David (left) accepting keys to the refurbished
Almshouses in February 1999

In later years Sir David made his home in Edinburgh and in 2013 became ill with Alzeimer's Disease. He died on May 13th 2017.

Final Wish

With the onset of Sir David's illness in 2013, he made it clear to his family that following his death he wished to be interred in the family vault at Arksey, alongside many of his ancestors and former baronets. 

Katie Cooke contacted a Doncaster funeral director to see if this would be possible, and after making enquiries with Doncaster Council it was decided to open the vault and inspect it. 

The vault had not been opened since the eighth baronet, Sir William Bryan Cooke had been interred there in 1851. So the question was would they find the vault entrance and would it be accessible?

The task to locate and open the vault was carried out on May 16th 2013. Thankfully the entrance was where everyone expected it to be and the vault was opened. 

The vault entrance

There had been some water damage from previous floods but seven coffins, their lead linings only left intact, were rearranged and it was ascertained that there was room for approximately five more. Sir David's final wish was possible.

For the full story and many photos of the vault opening in 2013, click here. 

Seven coffins in the vault

The Funeral

Sir David's long battle with Alzeimer's came to an end on Saturday the 13th of May 2017. 

The following obituary was printed in the Doncaster Free Press on May 25th 2017.

Obituary DFP May 25th 2017

The funeral and interment was arranged for Thursday 1st June at twelve noon, at Arksey Church. The family were keen that as many Arksey people as possible would attend; and so it was on a very warm June morning that we all assembled at the church gate to await the arrival of the coffin. There were quite a few interested locals present and more waited inside the cool of the church. 

Local dignitaries gathered, such as the Civic Mayor of Doncaster, Trustees of the Cooke Almshouse Charity, as well as residents of the Almhouses.

Forty five minutes before the service a quarter peal of half muffled bells rang out and continued until the arrival of the coffin.

Arrival of the coffin

The coffin was carried aloft into the church yard preceded by Rev. Dickinson and the Bishop of Doncaster, The Right Reverend Peter Burrows.

Into the churchyard
The Bishop of Doncaster (left) and Rev. Dickinson of Arksey and Bentley (right).
Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn
Carrying the coffin. Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn

Covering the coffin was a Union Flag, on top of which were placed Sir David's military cap and ceremonial sword, plus a wreath of simple white flowers.

Items atop the coffin
Preparing to enter the church

The coffin was carried into the church and placed on trestles in the centre of the crossing at the top of the nave. To the left lay the open vault entrance in the floor of the Cooke chapel.

Service booklets were handed out and everyone took their places.

Service booklet front cover

The service was conducted by Reverend Stephen Dickinson with The Right Reverend Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster, and Reverend Dave Berry of St Peter's church, Bentley in attendance.

Two hymns were sung during the service, 'I Vow To Thee, My Country', and 'Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven'.

Hymns from the service booklet

There was a reading from a member of the Cooke family, and the eulogy was read by Sir David's daughter Katie. Both spoke beautifully and with emotion.

Once the Commendation and Farewell had been completed the Committal was carried out. All the loose items from the lid of the coffin were removed and the coffin was moved, with it's trestles to the entrance of the vault. Members of the immediate family gathered around the vault opening.

Straps were attached to the coffin handles and it was prepared for lowering into its final resting place. Men inside the vault received the coffin as it was lowered at an angle down the five steps. 

After the coffin had been placed in the vault, Reverend Dickinson completed the Committal ceremony. The stone slabs covering the entrance were then replaced.

Once the Dismissal had been issued by Rev. Dickinson, he extended the Cooke family's invitation for refreshments at the Plough Inn to the whole congregation. Once again demonstrating the generosity of this family.

Donations were collected in aid of ERSKINE, caring for veterans with dementia.

Back cover of the service booklet

From My Perspective...

As funerals go, this was quite special. Sad yes, but very quiet and respectful. Reverend Dickinson's service was perfect in its simplicity and very comforting.

I was seated to the right of the nave, near to the south aisle, so I had an unobstructed view of the service.

It was just possible for me to see the opening of the vault and I was able to witness the process of lowering the coffin into the vault. 

During the whole process of the Committal you could have heard a pin drop in the church. Not one person moved from where they stood or made a sound. It was as if everyone knew what a historic moment this was for the Cooke family, the church, and the people of Arksey. 

As a historian I am more used to gathering the experiences and memories of others, however, this was one occasion when I could actually see history being made in my beloved village. 

I am very grateful to Katie Cooke, who I managed to introduce myself to afterwards, for allowing me and the people of Arksey to share such a personal family occasion. We have exchanged numerous emails over the past few years and it was so nice to finally meet her.


With no male heirs, it was believed that the baronetcy would expire with Sir David, but on speaking to another of the Cooke sisters, she told me that the baronetcy may not have expired with her father after all. There is the possibility that one of the Yarborough-Cookes could inherit the title. If he is a proven descendant of the third baronet then there is every chance the title of Cooke Baronet could live on.

Alison Vainlo 2017 

Click here for a history of the Cooke family.

Click here for an account of the last Cooke Baronet to be interred in the Cooke vault, Sir William Bryan Cooke.