From being a young boy I have fished, as did my father and grandfather. When David Wraith, a friend, lent me his grandfather's first fishing diary from 1893 to 1903 I knew I had to get it recorded for anglers to come. There is a link to the full diary that I have copied onto The Ossett and Gawthorpe Community Archive WordPress page. The diary has inspired me to write a little about each generation of this angling family.
I have just been told by David that there is a second diary by William covering the next ten years or so. William's son and David's father, Walter, also kept an angling diary as did David himself. Eventually I hope to copy these for publication in some way.
I have included this story under the “Weaving Ossett’s History” project because, early in his first diary, he has recorded many days fishing in the mill dams in Ossett. He has mentioned the mill owners, what they charged for fishing permits and what fish they caught in the mill ponds. These seem to have been mostly small, ornamental carp. It is also interesting to read how often the anglers transferred fish from one pond to another. Unfortunately it is not clear from the diaries whether the owners of the fisheries had given permission or even knew what was happening.
From entries in the diary it can be seen that William was often accompanied by “father”, Robert Wraith. Robert was born in Wakefield about 1846. His father, also a William, was born in Kent. On the 1851 census William was a Station Master living at Kirkgate, Wakefield and as Kirkgate Station was the only Station in the town at that time he must have been Station Master there. We do not know whether William was an angler. Robert certainly was and in 1869 he was a founder member of Wakefield Angling Club as "Member Number 3". We do not know if Robert ever kept an angling diary.
William Wraith (1877 - 1957), son of Robert Wraith kept angling diaries from 1893 to 1914 when he went off to join the army during WW1. There are two diaries 1893 to 1903 and 1904 to 1914. I have done a transcription of the first diary and have photographed all pages of the second diary which was recorded in a purpose printed "angling diary" book. For those interested in the full diary a link is attached as an "Item" to this passage.
As an angler, also interested in social history, I found the contents of the diaries absolutely fascinating. At times William seems to have fished just about every day of the week - or it seemed like that to me when I typed the first one up.
Often William fished with his father, Robert, who in 1891 was a bookkeeper aged 45 and living at No. 4. Navigation Yard in Wakefield with his wife and four children. Navigation Yard lies between Kirkgate Station and the River Calder and very near to the canal - handy for fishing! William, the angler, also fished with "Uncle David" quite often. After some research I think he must have been David Oliver, William's mother's brother who lived in the Catleford area.
On the 26 December, 1901 William got a day off fishing and work (it was Boxing Day after all) and got married to Mabel Hoole at St. Helen's Church, Sandal. Mabel's father was Isaac Hoole and they lived on Barnsley Road, Sandal. Isaac is described on the 1901 census as a "Waterman" - did William meet Mabel on the canal side whilst fishing? He makes no mention of it or his wedding in the diary! On 14th November 1903 their son, Walter was born. His sister, Rose, was born a year before him and his brother, William a year after. Brother Edward (Ted) was born five and a half years later all three brothers became fanatical lifelong anglers.
From the 1911 census which illustrates the first passage of my story it can be seen that William worked as a Clerk at the Robin Hood quarry belonging to the Armitage family. From the diaries it seems that the family liked to have the ponds on their property well stocked with fish. William regularly fished and stocked their ponds for them and in the diary he fished on two occasions with a "T. Armitage." I am not sure whether he was a relation of John Armitage the founder of the quarrying and brick-making firm. The diary entries regarding the Armitage family are given in the next passage.
Mentions of "Armitage" - Diary 1.
28 Dec Took 19 perch to J.H. Blanes to stock Capt. Armitage’s pond.
3 May Put 73 of above carp into Armitage’s Cold pond at Robin Hood. At the time of writing these had spawned and hundreds of small fry were to be seen. Also W.S. bought 50 goldfish from me and put them in & these fish were doing well.
24 Jul Fished Bottom pond for 2 hrs. Caught 1 perch & 4 Tommy ruff. 2 ruff were alive 3 hrs after being caught & 1 alive next morning so put it in Armitage’s pond.
25 Oct Fished Armitage’s Cold pond. Caught 2 gold carp which I put back. Also caught 9 large* & 1 small bronze carp.
* some of my putting in on 3rd May – grown very well. Put these 10 carp into pond at Thorpe New 2y for John Armitage. Put 51 gold & 7 bronze carp in Thorpe pond for J. Armitage.
2 Nov Put 62 gold carp in Armitage’s pond at Thorpe for John Armitage.
22 Nov W. Put 17 carp & 18 gold carp in Thorpe 2y pond for John Armitage.
22 Jun W. & T. Armitage Worms. Warm night. Fished Oulton Park Bottom Lake 6 to 9.30pm from boat -about 1 yd deep half of time. W. caught 19 perch. T.A. caught 10 perch.
26 June W. & T. Armitage Worms. Dull and sultry. Fished Oulton Park Bottom Lake from 6.45 to 9.30pm. T.A. caught 4lbs of perch – not counted. W. caught 4 perch.
27 Jul W. Maggots. Raining in torrents. Fished Armitage’s pond for 1¼ hrs. Caught 2 gold & 12 bronze carp 1.13½.
13 Aug W. Paste. Fished Armitage’s pond for 1¼hrs. Caught 1 bronze carp 5ozs, 2 gold & 9 carp 1.04.
28 Aug W. Paste. Very windy. Water very low. Fished Armitage’s pond for 1 hr. Caught 1 gold & 1 Bronze carp0.02.
16 Sep W Maggots & paste. Fished Armitage’s pond for half an hour. Caught 2 carp. 0.03ozs.
19 Sep Put 2 roach in wayside pond at Thorpe and 23 roach in Robin Hood pond – 1 died.
31 Oct W. Paste. Fished Armitage’s pond 2.30 to 4.30. Pond very low & dirty. Caught 5 gold, 1 white & 6 bronze (3 large).
This shows the lack of control on stocking waters at this time.
I have fond memories of fishing Armitage's pond at Robin Hood as a school boy when we lived at Newton Hill about 5 miles south down the A61 from the pond. When I was 17 and thinking of leaving school, one morning whilst fishing this pond, my mother appeared at my side taking me by surprise. She had come on the bus to find me to tell me that she had taken a telephone call inviting me to go for interview in three hours time at the County Hall for a job. My father had worked for the County Council all his working life and when I was 12 and showing an interest in angling, he had joined the West Riding County Officer's Association Angling Club who had the fishing rights at Bretton Lake. You could only join the Club if you were a N.A.L.G.O. (trade union) member working for the West Riding County Council. By this time I loved fishing at Bretton so I was keen to get a job with the County Council so I could join as a member. Fortunately I got the job, joined the Club and am still a member of Wakefield Metropolitan Angling Club (the successor Club to the W.R.C.O.A.A.C.) having been over the last 62 years, Match Secretary, Secretary, President and now Past-President.
After that brief interruption about my own angling life I must get back to the story about the Wraiths. In the passage before last I was talking about how lax things were about the removal of fish by anglers from some waters to be placed into somebody else's pond. No thought at all seems to have been given about spreading diseases, etc. I'm not even sure if they got permission to take the fish. Now, if you took fish to stock waters without approval you would be committing multiple legal offences. If you would like to see the entries in the first diary about stocking if you click on the link with the First Passage you will find in the full diary that the text about stocking events is in purple.
Transport and lodgings.
In his diary William often describes how he got to his fishing venue or match peg (fishing position). He often mentions going on “the machine” which I can only take as being on a motor cycle. On the 11 June 1898 he says “went on machine (pneumatic)” which seems to indicate he had just got some pneumatic tyres for his motorbike. These had been patented in 1888 by John Boyd Dunlop for use on bicycles. He mentions “on machine” on 30 Oct 1895 when he says “Severe frost. Should have gone to Walton Hall but same frozen over so went to Barnsley on machine - solid safety.” Used "machine" 31 Jul 1897, 29 Jul 1901, 25 & 26 & 28 Jun 1902, and 11 Jul 1903.
On 26 Jul 1897 William fished a match at Bishopthorpe. He traveled from York to peg 14 3 miles down the Ouse from York on the Steamer "White Rose” On 29 July 1899 William fished "Horsforth Estate" - Walked 3 miles to Thwait Gate, took tram to Leeds, thence to Kirkstall Abbey, then bus. Walked 3 miles to the lake. Fished for 3½ hours.
20 Aug to 4 Sep 1900 after being invalided out of the Army. "Went down to Boston. Stayed at Thompson's, White Bridges till 4 Sep then went next door at Shearman's."
19 Sep to 2 Oct 1900. Back in Boston "Stayed at Mrs Burgess', 4, Witham Street, Warmgate. Lodgings 3/- a week for bed. Bought myself dinner and tea first week at Mrs Leek's on side of Fortyfoot at 4½ pence a meal. Second and third week bought my own food in.
27 May 1901 Fished at Fairburn. Train to Castleford then walked about 4 miles.
6 July 1901 Boston holiday. Lodged at Newall's 110, Carleton Road at 2/6d a day. On 14 Jul noted "Only had about 3 meals off bank not counting suppers. Left by 2.50 train to Lincoln, then to Doncaster arrived 5.45. Left 8.42 arrived Wakefield 9.15. Fare 7/3d, bicycle 2/-? On 3 Aug 1901 ". Fished Grundy's pond, Brigg. Lodged at Mrs Lowmans, 1 Long Place, Elives St on side of Ancolm. Paid 9/- Sat night to Tues night. Clean lodgings. Cont. next passage.
Transport and lodgings continued.
On the 17 & 18 Aug 1901 William and his uncle David went to Crowle to fish the Keadby Canal. They left Wakefield at 2.15, changed at Doncaster and arrived at Crowle at 4.30pm. d for 4½ hours on Saturday night. They stayed at the Commercial Hotel until Sunday night. - beds 9d per night and breakfast 1/-. Commenced fishing at 4.15am to 6.30pm 13½ hours. In total caught 4lbs of fish.
2 Aug 1902. Started holiday - went to Boston. Lodged at Mrs Newalls, 110, Carlton Road at 2/6 per day. Ardsley to Boston via Peterborough 7s.7½d.
30 Aug 1902. Fished Campsall Lake "Bacon Frank's place". Left Kirkgate to Askern at 1.45, changed at Knottingley. Arrived Askern at 3pm then walked to Campsall. Started fishing 4 to 7.45pm.
1 Aug 1903. Holiday in Boston - stayed at Mrs Ward's, Hydell St., - 2/6d per day, £1.1s.0d per week. Left Boston on the 9 Aug at 2.50, arrived Doncaster 6.30, 1hr and 15 minutes late. Caught 7.15 and arrived Wakefield, Kirkgate 8.18.
6 Sep 1903. Fished Campsall Lake. 1.45 train from Kirkgate changed at Knottingley and arrived at Askern 2.55 (half day trip 1/6d). Arrived Campsall at 3.20 and started fishing at 3.30.
20 Jul 1896. Fished 4 hrs in Annual Match at Wainfleet with father. William (Peg 20) caught 4 fish for 3ozs and father 3 fish for 4 ozs. Put up at Red Lion. Had meat tea - 1/6d.
27 Aug 1896. Fished Home Match on Barnsley Canal. (Peg 56). Caught 1 roach and 19 perch (trolling?) - total weight 9ozs.
19 Sep 1896. Fished match at Crofton Hall. 5 fished - put in 1d each entry fee. Started 2.30 finished 6.30. William won first prize of 3d withh 22 perch & 6 roach for 1lb 8ozs. Second prize went to H. Hartley (tumbled in - fished with stick) who had 19 perch for 1lb 1oz.
26 Jul 1897. Fished match at Bishopthorpe, York. Went to peg on Steamer. Fished 4hrs - depth 5ft 6ins. Caught 5 roach, 2 eels & 2 dace for 1lb 1oz.
18 Jul 1898. Fished river Ouse in Annual Match (Peg 52), Caught 6 eels for 3½ ozs.
24 Jul 1899. Fished Annual Match at Bishopthorpe, York (Peg 25). Water 2ft 6ins deep. Fished 3hrs and caught 8 eels for 4ozs. Won prize of 6/- for largest basket.
20 Jul 1900. Home Match at Cold Heindley downwards (Peg 28) with 3 arches to my back. Caught 7 roach, 3 gudgeon & 5 perch for 14½ ozs. Won prize alarm clock.
12 Oct 1901. Fished Canal Mile pond in match for 2½ hours (Peg 27) Caught 1 very small perch but won 6th prize - pipe and tobacco.
25 Aug 1902. Fished Away Match with father at Nun Monkton (on Ouse) from 12 to 3.15 (Peg 3). Fished about 10ft deep. Went up in Steamer from Lendal Bridge - fare 6d each - 1/- for member's friends. Very pleasant day. 3 roach, 1 gudgeon & 1 ruff.
18 Oct 1902. Fished match at Mile pond (Peg 12) for 2 hrs. Caught from weighing in! ( Why would this be? Some unscrupulous anglers had been known to take fish to matches so there was a "no dead fish rule". Had his 1 fish died? Had he not fished at his peg? Did he start early or finish late? We will never know).
13 Jul 1903. Fished match on canal (Peg 60) - 3.45 to 7.30 pm. Caught 1 perch, 3 roach & 1 ruff - 4½ ozs. Took prize.
Cont. next Passage.
7 Sep 1903. Away Match. Fished Fortyfoot, Boston in Buckfield (Peg 48). Caught 2 eels & 2 roach - 3ozs. Took prize.
26 Sep 1903. Fished match on canal (Peg 32) 2 to 5 pm. Much disturbed by boats. Caught 5 perch - total 9 ozs. Took 4th prize but also 5/- for largest perch caught in match.
Anglers falling in:-
19 Sept 1986. Already mentioned in "Matches" H. Hartley who won second prize fishing with a stick also "tumbled in" at Crofton Hall pond.
The following Saturday 26 Sep, E. Wilson tumbled into Holdsworth's pond by slipping on rotten plank and "Got wet".
6 Apr 1897. A Plows had the misfortune to tumble out of the canoe into the water whilst trying to get a broken line of his with float and fish on.
Public falling in:-
21 Jul 1899. Short pond at Agbrigg. Girl fell in lock and was saved through Mr. Drennan shoving my landing net down into her hands whilst going down for the last time, myself holding on her arm until assistance came.
31 Aug. Whilst fishing Walton Hall on a windy day William broke his rod "throwing out".
The ones that got away!
27 Aug 1897. Fishing Walton Hall. Curious experirnce - broken by a fish & last fish i caught, a roach foul-hooked under the belly, had my hook with the maggots in its mouth.
22 May 1899. Fishing Kettlethorpe Hall. Caught a trout 7ins long on worm. Broke me first time of hooking then, striking hard a second time, caught him and found my hook in his mouth.
7 Jul 1901. Fishing off the wall on Grand Sluice Boston - Note - a peculiarity of the take of bream was the fact that none took the float under, just raising it slightly until the cap was seen. Was broken first thing in the morning (2.15 am on a 20hr fishing session) and last thing at night but hooked and lost 7 bream.
14 Jul 1901. Fishing Witham at Boston off a barge. Broken twice by "big bream".
3 Aug 1901. Fishing Grundy's pond at Boston. Broken by a large fish. Peculiar bites here, only slight rising. Few took float under.
26 June 1902. CORONATION DAY - postponed (took place 9 Aug). Fished Halfmoon Broken 4 times on roach tackle.
9 Aug 1902. Fishing Fortyfoot at Hubbert's Bridge. with T. Flint. I had a large pike on 3 times and nearly succeeded in landing it. J.T. also had it on 3 times and was broken by it.
30 Aug 1902. Fishing Campsall lake. Hooked, played and lost some splendid fish which, on being hooked, leapt clean out of the water and broke loose - about 20 in all. Caught 1 bream in the tail & 2 in the belly fin.
20 Jul 1903. Fishing Oulton Park bottom lake. Lost float and 20 yards of line. Was broken by a large fish - think carp.
9 Aug 1903. Fishing on the Witham at Boston. Hooked large bream by belly fin about 4am. After exciting play it broke away within a few inches of the net.
A few other interesting bits from those typed in blue in my version of the diary.
21 Oct 1893. William kept fish alive in bowl for 3 weeks - died.
4 Apr 1896. Fishing Northfield Mill dam, Ossett with George & A. Plows. Caught 171 small carp between them. "After filling own can filled A.P.'s".
17 Jul 1896. Fishing Barnsley Canal. "Also got a 1½ pound tench which had been hurt by a boat.
9 Aug 1896. Day trip to Boston 2/6d. Fished Baygate drain, Cowbridge free.
27 Aug 1896. Started 10 day holiday.
31 Aug 1896. Started 8 day holiday in Boston (these last 2 entries conflict!).
7 Nov 1896. Fished Walton Hall. Lake frozen over - made hole. Caught 9 roach & 4 perch.
20 Feb 1897. Fished Speight's pond, Ossett. Caught 10 carp total weight 2ozs. "Pond had been netted - only small ones left".
14 Aug 1897. Started 12½ days holiday. Went to Boston. 17th fished Fortyfoot - ticket 1/-. 21st Caught 1 butt (had to research this - Norfolk name for a flounder).
29 Aug 1897. Fished Walton Hall "Fish very thin and slimy - finished holiday".
1 July 1898. "Fished Pugneys beck for 1hr at dinner time. Caught 1 roach.
2 July 1898. Day trip to Boston.
9 July 1898. Started 10 day holiday. Went to Boston also went there on day trip 1 Aug - coming back train 3½ hours late.
16 Sep 1899. Fished the Canal basin. Caught 2 14½ ins long roach - weighing 1lb.0½ oz & 1lb 3ozs. "The 2 largest roach I have ever caught together".
23 Oct 1899. Fished Bickles' dam, Ossett. William caught 10 small carp and G. King 6 carp. All died.
These are a sample of interesting entries. More can be found marked in blue text in the diary between 1900 and 1903.
In 1900 William's fishing was interrupted for Army Service.
22 Jan. "Went up to Pontefract for 12 months service".
23 Feb. Sailed to Africa with Special Service Co. 1st 13r K.O.Y.L.I.
3 Aug. Arrived home from Netley being invalided with dysentery but contacted enteric fever the day before leaving Cape St. Vincent on voyage home.
6 Aug. Went to boston on day trip. Caught 5lbs of roach.
14 Dec. In Pontefract Hospital from 14 Dec to 9 Feb 1901 then went to York. Went before Board 11 Feb 1901. Came home "Furto?" 13 Feb. pending discharge. Finally discharged 6 Mar. 1901 to pension of 1/6 per day for 12 months conditionally for partial disablement to left leg through effect of enteric fever.
Walter Wraith, one of William’s sons also kept a fishing diary from 1921 to 1947. This can be found on the Ossett and Gawthorpe Archive Wordpress website on https://ossettarchive.wordpress.com/.
I had the pleasure of fishing on a few occasions with Walter later in his life. For a time he ran fishing sessions for disabled children and I had the job of refurbishing donated tackle.
Walter was a life member of both Wakefield Angling Club and The West Riding Anglers.
David Wraith’s full fishing diary can be found on the Ossett and Gawthorpe Community Archive Wordpress website under “The Fishing Diary Of David Wraith, grandson of William Wraith”