• History of Beeston

History of Beeston

Researched and written by Frank Goddard

This is one of at least seven Beestons in England. The name means a settlement (ton) amid the bents (stiff grasses often used for hay). Our Yorkshire Beeston is set on a hill to the south of Leeds and is first recorded as Bestone in the Domesday Survey (1086) where it is described as woodland, pasturable but waste and held by Ilbert de Lacy, a Norman baron who came over with the conqueror. 'Waste' means that the manor had been forceably cleared by the invading Norman soldiery. In the past the name has also been spelled as Beston or Beiston.

Ilbert soon passed the manor to Ralph Paynel, a fellow baron. Within a hundred years it had been gifted to the Cistercian order at nearby Kirkstall Abbey. By the 15th century we had two manor houses and a large aisled tithe barn built to the south of the parish. In the mid-16th century a chapel subservient to the parish church in Leeds was established.

With the Civil War in the 1640s we find 28 years old Captain Joshua Greathead fighting for the Puritans nearby at the Battle of Adwalton Moor and later, as a Major, he fought with distinction at Marston Moor. At the end of the Commonwealth and with the establishment of Charles II Greathead became involved with the Farnley Wood Plot against the king. The plot was exposed and he turned king's evidence to save his life. Twenty-two plotters were executed. He is recorded as living at Stank Hall in Beeston but later died in poverty in London.

In the 18th century the first turnpike road leading south from Leeds passed through Beeston on the way to cross the Pennines. This was merely an upgrading of the various parish roads at the expense of the parishioners themselves. In the 1750s resistance against the payment of tolls included riots when soldiery arrested a carter who refused to pay the cost of passing through the bar into Beeston and a mob secured his freedom. By the 1820s two completely new turnpike roads were constructed through Beeston leading to Dewsbury and Elland. The latter became famous because of Leeds United's football ground built beside, it within the parish

By the 19th century Beeston was a coal mining community with many small scale pits scattered about the township. Farming, especially the cultivation of rhubarb, was an employer of labour. The presence of coal brought the building of an iron works, long gone. A small railway station, now closed, provided for the despatch of goods. The area was still largely fields centred on a small village but when mining on this small scale was no longer profitable at the start of the 20th century the company that owned the mining rights, and the iron foundry, sold its holdings and the land was snapped up for building. From this point Beeston quickly grew and became a substantial suburb of Leeds.

The earliest of the new housing was in the form of terraces of back-to-backs for a workforce that could now commute into the city because of the development of a tram service, later superseded by buses. Estates of semi-detached residences soon followed. In the 21st century we now have a large shopping centre to cater for not only the substantial population of Beeston but a larger catchment area in this part of West Yorkshire. We still have a few local shops and a fairly large Co-operative store in the village centre.