Monday, 6 August 2012

Milner Field - Bradford, Leeds And Airedale Psychic Research Society

The view towards Milner Field
Most people in the Aire Valley district will have heard of Milner Field, the house built between Gilstead and Shipley on the site of a much older property, also called Milner Field for Sir Titus Salt’s son, Titus Junior.

Much of the writing about Milner Field is either pomp or ceremony, forgetting how the poor people of the Victorian and Edwardian times lived, or how hard they would have had to work in order to make the mill owners rich and focusing instead on the splendour and wealthy connections of these rich mill owners and their equally wealthy associates.  Of course they held power jobs and knew all the right people; they had enough money to do so.

We are not sitting in judgement however, only it is probably safe to say that in some respects, the Saltaire village of yesteryear could be likened to the famous 1960’s television programme, starring Patrick McGoohan, (who spent some of his life in Sheffield) called The Prisoner.  The programme centres on a model village which the inhabitants are not allowed to leave.  In the original 1960’s series, a large white balloon called a Rover prevents inhabitants from leaving.  They are uniformly dressed and live in similar little houses, controlled by a person known only as ‘Number Two’ and his team.  All inhabitants of The Village wear a badge with a penny farthing bicycle on it and uniform jackets and clothes.  For some reason this reminds me of the Saltaire of yesterday, although of course it is a very different village now.

Our aim at the Bradford, Leeds and Airedale Psychic Research Society is to look in to the background of places to try to understand possible psychic activity, or even sick building syndrome.  We are not going round trying to manufacture ghosts, or to annoy anything that may be there, but we are very serious professionals in this field, as far as anyone can be a professional of the unknown, which is again open to debate as there is no right or wrong answer, however there are still laws of probability and codes which we go by.

In the last year a couple of books have been produced about Milner Field by different authors.  One is a background of the actual house and the people who lived there and the other expounds some theories as to what possibly made Milner Field so unlucky. Some of these ideas are pure physics, the others are paranormal.

Could the old photos of the house Milner Field be haunted?  Or is one in particular?  I have experienced the curious phenomenon in that if I talk about Milner Field or look at a certain photo of it, my feet start itching really badly, so much so that I have to stop whatever I am doing.

An example of this happened earlier just this last week.  I was talking about Irish ghosts and I said to my colleague that I wondered if anyone who had ever lived a Milner Field had Irish ancestry.  My feet began to itch terribly so I looked up, for some reason, Mrs Hollins who died at Milner Field of pneumonia in January 1926, aged 43.  In the book I was reading it showed Mrs Hollins in a First World War nurse outfit and said her maiden name was Anne Neilson.

I found her on the internet listed as Annie Neilson Garrett, from a family listed in the Irish peerage and her father who wrote a book, had attended Cambridge University and was a Justice of the Peace in Epsom, although he was born in Ireland as was her mother, according to the internet.  Both Annie Neilson Garrett and her husband Arthur Remington Hollins were listed on a website called Descendants of John Antill, basically listing virtually every family descended from John Antill who lived in the 16th century.  The odd thing was I also found listed on the same website, some very distant relatives of mine who must also have been descended from John Antill.

There is an account of a green ghost at Milner Field but there are also reports of other spirits being present.  The place was always thought to be haunted pre-1960.  One of the ghosts reported is a female.  Is it Mrs Hollins or someone else?

Milner Field Revisited

The South Lodge

The later managing directors of Salts Mill, Saltaire, married ladies whose families were more minor members of the peerage.

Eva Siggs had many siblings and she was one of the youngest members of her family, living at 98 Acre Lane, Lambeth, Greater London.  She was born in 1874.  In 1900, she married Ernest Henry Gates.  Their son, Ernest Everard Gates was born in 1903. 

In later life, Eva Gates suffered ill health; her sister, Laura, also mentioned in the peerage along with her father George, died somewhat prematurely in 1921.  Eva died around October 1923, presumably at the Milner Field home in Bingley.  

Ernest Gates met with an accident, injuring his foot and after going in to a private nursing home in Eldon Place, Bradford, he died on April 1, 1925.  His Will was proved later that year, when his son and successor, Ernest Everard Gates had moved back to Norfolk.

Ernest Gates’ family had an ancestral coat of arms and his family home was Old Buckenham Hall, Attleborough, Norfolk.  The residence later became a school which was destroyed by fire in 1952.

There is a rather crude ‘spoof’ Facebook page in existence suggesting that Eva Gates haunts Milner Field as she used to sit in the conservatory and would often request the gardeners to place bets on horse races for her, or so some say.

A book written some time ago about Hollins and Viyella, the latter a mixed fabric and later a brand-name also associated with a company called Courtaulds, mentions the family bearing the name formerly referred to.

Why would Eva Gates or indeed Annie Hollins haunt the ruins of Milner Field?  Well, it is difficult to say.  Perhaps they hoped for more from their physical life than it would ultimately offer either, or perhaps their illnesses made more of a dent in the ether.

The most obvious culprit for the destruction of anyone who later lived at Milner Field would be Titus Salt Junior.  He overspent and ruined himself, entertained royalty and funding his mining activities in America with the Dayton Coal and Iron Company.  

Yet he put on a splendid Jubilee Exhibition which lost him a lot of money and it is very sad because you can see the human side of him and his efforts in this marvellous attempt to create an amazing exhibition.  The problem was that, perhaps from a marketing perspective, Saltaire was too small, the exhibition should have been held in Shipley or Bradford.  Shortly after the exhibition closed, in November 1887, Titus Junior was found dead in the billiard room at Milner Field aged only 44.  

James Roberts is the dark horse; later Sir James Roberts, he was created a baronet by the same person who had been entertained by Titus Junior, the former Prince of Wales, King Edward VII.  Mr Roberts was a man from supposedly humble beginnings in Haworth, working his way up and looking for opportunities to take over both Salts Mill and as many of the directors’ residences as he could.  After wrestling The Knoll, in Baildon, from fallen Salts director Charles Stead, he then set his sights on Milner Field.

Sir James did suffer family tragedies whilst living at Milner Field, but he and his wife came through personally unscathed, owning both Strathallan Castle in Scotland and Fairlight Hall.  Both lived to reach a decent age.  He also bought the Bronte parsonage in Haworth and presented it to the local council, to be used as a museum. 

James Roberts was the man that the Salt brothers, Titus and Edward, should have kept the closest eye on.  Anyone who looks in to the situation closely can see that James Roberts waited on the misfortune of others, namely Titus and Edward Salt and even Charles Stead, in order to take what they had and keep it for himself.  Like Julius Caesar or Octavian, the Roman Emperors of classical times, he humiliated the Salts and Stead, building his own empire at Salts Mill. Some would call him the perfect businessman. 

As far as hauntings go, we have a lot of disgruntled persons both incarnate and discarnate, roaming around.  Then perhaps we forget to mention that Catherine Salt as a member of the Halifax-based Crossley carpet family, even in late Victorian and Edwardian times, would have expected a be shown a good deal of respect.  As a woman and lone parent, upon the death of her husband, she apparently had to mortgage Milner Field to her brother.  Upon vacating the property, James Roberts assumed residence.

Mrs Catherine Salt would have experienced an acute loss of status following the death of her husband and she would still have been young enough to marry again, but would not have been seen as a wealthy enough prospect by suitors within her social circle.  She may therefore have become both justifiably bitter and disillusioned to see others in her husband’s place at Salts Mill. It must have hurt her.

Who goes (there), you decide!