100 YEARS ago, Whinfield, the home of mill owner Thomas Dewhurst was sold. It had been bought for £1,250 with the purpose of turning it into a YMCA as a war memorial, but failed to win popular support.

MORE than a year after the end of the First World War and Skipton was very much at odds over how to remember those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

There were several public meetings, similar to every other town in Craven, and the forming of a special ‘war memorial’ committee, made up of town dignitaries.

In August, 1919, a contract for the purchase of Whinfield House and its grounds in Keighley Road, was signed by the committee.

The intention was to turn it into a YMCA for the people of the town, and Whinfield - the former home of mill owner, Thomas Dewhurst, was offered by executors of the estate at the much reduced price of £1,250, which needed to be raised by the town by the end of the year.

But, the scheme was not popular with the people of Skipton and at the end of November, 1919, the War Memorial Committee admitted defeat, and resigned, en masse.

In a letter to the Skipton Urban District Council, committee chairman, Mr T Lumb, tendered his resignation, saying it was the ‘honourable’ thing to do. Mr Lumb said he had spent ‘scores of hours’ on the scheme but that ‘innumerable’ charges had been made against the YMCA project, and although not one to his knowledge had been substantiated, the ‘lie had grown’ and had created in the town a ‘considerable amount of opposition’.

The Craven Herald, in an editorial, said it had long been evident in the town that the idea of a ‘non-sectarian, non-political social centre’ as proposed at Whinfield did not have the backing of the town, but that the committee, fired up with good intentions, had forged ahead anyway. People did not want to contribute to the cost, and returning soldiers from the war had made it clear they did not want a branch of the YMCA as a war memorial.

The swiftly formed new committee, after much talk about whether the resignations ought to be accepted, was then tasked with what to do with Whinfield, having already paid a deposit and entered into a contract with the trustees. There was also the question of a fee, if the council was to pull out of the contract.

Councillors suggested the substantial building could be a museum, a hospital, a museum or a cinema - all of which would cost money, but not a branch of the YMCA. As for a suitable war memorial for the town, the idea of a cenotaph was not one that was popular with councillors at all, who referred to it as an ‘empty tomb’. Whatever form the memorial took, it should be a credit to the town, and it was imperative that the council knew where it stood, before seeking public opinion, councillors agreed.

After much discussion, and more meetings, it was decided to sell the Winfield Estate at public auction, to be held at the Ship Hotel in Skipton.

An advertisement on the front page of the Craven Herald of December 5, 1919 announced the sale of the estate. To be held on December 15, 1919, it was offered in two lots. The first package, included the ‘commodious residence’ known as Whinfield, and described as having been ‘acquired for Skipton’s War Memorial, and now abandoned’. Lately occupied by Mr T H Dewhurst, but now unoccupied, with stables, coach house, motor pit, garden and paddock, amounting to just more than four acres.

Lot two, was ‘the cottage’, known as The Old Bar House, with adjoining garden in Keighley Road. This lot was leasehold, and expired in November, 1970.

The Craven Herald, again in an editorial, said the council had taken the only sensible option open to them, and had decided to sell the property - ‘their decision not to purchase was right from a ratepayers’ point of view’, wrote the Herald. The paper went on to tell its readers that monies already paid by subscribers to the failed scheme, would be paid back.

Meanwhile, it added that the town waited with anxiety the new war memorial committee’s decision on how best to perpetuating the memory of the ‘brave men of Skipton who have given their lives for the common good’.

On auction day, the lots were first offered together, and then separately, but elicited no bid. Eventually, it was bought by Thomas Lumb, of the Victoria Paper Mills, Skipton, for the same price the war memorial committee had paid, £1,250.

The Herald said of the purchase: “It is now a private speculation, and we hope Mr Lumb’s pluck and enterprise will be rewarded.

Old photographs reproduced by kind permission of the Ellwood family, Mrs V. Rowley, and North Yorkshire County Council, Skipton Library:rowleycollection.co.uk”