Friends of Middleton Park


Charles Brandling
1733-1802 ...


    (covering the years 1751 - 1802)

    Brief Life History...

    Religious Life at Middleton

    The Middleton Colliery

    Other Events Related to Middleton


To view a PDF of the Brandling Family Tree Please Click here.


Brief Life History

Charles was christened the 5th July 1733, the second son of Ralph Brandling and Eleanor Ogle, On coming of age in 1754 Charles acquired a considerable fortune. On the 3rd September 1756 he married Elizabeth Thompson of Shotton, Durham, by whom he had thirteen children:

  • Barbara Brandling (died in infancy). Buried 1st June 1759 at Rothwell: 1759 June: Barbara, daughter of Charles Brandling, Esq. Buried the first day from Middleton Hall.
  • Eleanor Brandling. Born 1758. Married (i) William Ord of Fenham (4th March 1779) and (ii) Thomas Creevey, M.P. Died at Brussels in 1818.
  • Margaret Brandling. Born 1759. Married Rowland Burdon, M.P. (27th June 1780). Died 17th February 1791.
  • Elizabeth Brandling. Born 1760. Married Ralph William Grey (3rd July 1777).
  • Barbara Brandling. Born 1762. Married Rev. James Ord (2nd August 1787), for a time the vicar of Rothwell, whose position as vicar was purchased by her father. Died 2nd January 1836.
  • Charles Brandling (died in infancy). Buried 30th April 1766 at Rothwell: Charles, son of Charles Brandling, Esq. Buried the 30th day from Middleton Lodge.
  • Mary Brandling. Born 1764. Buried 26th January 1788 at Easington.
  • Ann Brandling. Born 1766. Married Lieut.-Col. Frederick Griffith in 1799. Buried at Southampton on the 18th March 1839.
  • Charles John Brandling. Born 1769. Married Frances Elizabeth Hawkesworth. Member of Parliament for Newcastle 1798-1812. 1822-1826. Died 1st February 1826.
  • Sarah Frances Brandling. Born 1770. Married Matthew Bell on the 9th June 1792. Leeds Intelligencer June 11 1792:

    On Saturday last was married (by special licence) at Middleton, near this town, Matthew Bell, Esq. of the County of Durham, to Miss brandling, youngest daughter of Charles Brandling, Esq; of Gosforth House, member of parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Died 14th August 1866.

  • Ralph Henry Brandling. Born 1771. Clerk in Holy Orders. Vicar of Rothwell and perpetual curate of Castle Eden. Married Emma Bowls (12th April 1796). Followed James Ord as Vicar of Rothwell and served from 1796 to 1829. Died 26th August 1853.
  • John Brandling. Born 1773. Mayor of Newcastle 1832. Died 20th November 1847.
  • Robert William. Born 1775. Barrister. Married Mary Jacques of Leeds on the 8th October 1803. Died 12th February 1848.

In 1751 Charles inherited the Middleton estates. He also owned other properties in Northumberland. Since we are only concerned with events in Middleton, and Charles never made Middleton his home but commuted when business demanded, we will give a brief account of Charles life and then concern ourselves only with local events.

In 1760, Charles moved the family seat from Felling to Gosforth, where he built himself a mansion - Gosforth House.

From the mid-1750s to 1802, Charles devoted himself to his business interests, particularly his collieries at Gosforth, Felling and Middleton. He became High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1781; and Member of Parliament for Newcastle in 1784 (to 1797). On retiring from Parliament (through ill-health) his seat passed to his son, Charles John. Charles died in 1802.


Religious Life at Middleton

Within a year of Charles Brandling taking up his inheritance at Middleton, he closed down the 'mass centre' [Catholic Private Chapel]

By 1749, Fr. Worthington had been joined at Middleton by Fr. Edward Antonius Hatton. Born in 1701, Hatton was probably the son of Edward Hatton, yeoman, of Great Crosby, Lancashire, who registered his estate as a Catholic non-juror in 1717, and whose family appears in a number of recusant rolls. Educated in the Dominican college at Bornhem, near Antwerp, he was professed on the 25th May 1722, taking the name Antoninus. He filled the role of teacher, was ordained a priest and on the 7th July, 1730 he left to do missionary work in England. He acted as chaplain to several Yorkshire gentlemen. The year prior to arriving at Middleton was spent as Chaplain to Ralph Brandling of Felling (mentioned earlier as the first inheritor of Ralph Brandling's Middleton Estates) and within three weeks of Ralph's death he had moved to Middleton.

Fr. Worthington's writings include the "Moral and Controversial Lectures upon the Christian Doctrines and Christian Practice"; "Memoirs of the Reformation of England; in two parts" ; "Miscellaneous Sermons upon some of the most important Christian Duties and Gospel Truths".

In 1754, Worthington died and was buried at Rothwell: 1754. Mr Worthington, buried from Middleton Hall, Popish Priest. [26]

In July 1754, Charles, as a Catholic, registered his estates at Middleton:

5th July 1754:

To the Clerk of the Peace of the West Riding of the County of York, or to his lawful Deputy.

I, Charles Brandling of Felling in the County of Durham Esquire., in pursuance of an Act of Parliament made in the first year of the Reign of his late Majesty King George the First, institutes an Act to oblige Papists to register their names and Real Estates. Do by this present writing under my hand desire you or one of you to Register or cause to be Registered my Name and Estate in the said West Riding of the Sd County of York in the manner and words following (to wit)

The Capital Messuage or Chief Mansion House called Middleton Hall and two parcels of ground called the Pasfarm Hill and Calf Close in my own possession ...

[five pages of inidividual items are omitted here]

... A Colliery or Coalmine within and under the said lands and premises ... in my own possession.

All which said Capital Messuages or Chief Mansion House, messuages, farmholds or tenements, cottages, colliery or coalmine and premises are situate lying and being in the manor or lordship, or reputed manor or lordship, village, town, precincts or territories of Middleton in the Parish of Rothwell and County of York and are charged and subject to, and with, the payment of one annuity or yearly rent charge of One Hundred Pounds by the year to Eleanor Brandling, widow, mother of me the Sd Charles Brandling during the term of her natural life.

Of and in which said Capital Messuages or Chief Mansion House, messuages, farms, tenements, cottages, colliery or coalmines and promises subject and chargeable as aforesaid are seized and possessed of land in an estate for and during the term of my natural life.

Cha. Brandling. [35]

In 1755 Eleanor, the wife of Ralph Brandling of Felling, sent orders for the Middleton chapel to be stripped and its contents to be taken to Felling. It was during the removal of the contents of the chapel that the (supposed) 'miracle' occurred:

Mrs. Brandling of Felling, sent positive orders to Mrs. Humble and Mrs. Betty Rawson to strip the chapel of all its furniture and send it into the north. Accordingly, on Wednesday Dec 10 1755, after they had packed up the vestments, they proceeded sacrilegiously to plunder the tabernacles, and having taken out the chalice, ciborium, etc., they attempted to take down the picture you mention, when behold the prodigy; a bloody sweat broke out, and ran trickling down the picture in great drops, as big as peas (as my informants express themselves). This happened between 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning. In the afternoon of the same day I was sent for, being informed (by a letter from Mrs Humble) that Mr Ralph Ogle had express orders from his sister Mrs Brandling to lodge in the late Mr Worthington's room; that he had demanded the key in a very insolent manner, and was not to be denied. Upon my arrival at Middleton, Mrs Humble told me what had happened to the picture, when going up to it I perceived upon it one single drop of blood, blood I think I may justly call it, since to me it seemed to have both the colour and consistency of blood. This astonished me very much. But as we were all very busily employed the whole afternoon in removing the books, etc. out of the late Mr Worthington's room, no further notice was taken of the picture for that day. The Wednesday following, Dec 17, they ventured to take it down in order to pack it up and prepare it for a journey into the north in compliance with Mrs Brandling's orders, but as soon as it was taken down three drops of blood appeared again upon its surface ...... Saturday Dec 27 ..... a third bloody eruption was perceived to occur. [27]

Another version of this letter exists:

Mrs Humble, the housekeeper and Mrs Betty Rawson packed up the vestments, and took out the chalice and ciborium, etc., out of the tabernacle. But when they came to take down the picture a bloody sweat ran trickling down it in great drops as big as peas. On the 17th they ventured (again) to take the picture down, to pack up for a the north. But as soon as it was down three drops of sweat appeared again upon its surface. They carried it into a room adjoining till Dec 27, when they determined to bring it back to its old place, and while they were doing this a third bloody eruption appeared in drops as large and numerous as the first. [28]

It has been suggested from these letters, that Charles Brandling was responsible for the closure of the Middleton chapel, and the subsequent eviction of Edward Hatton, due to him changing religion. However it is recorded that it was not until some 15 years later that Charles became a Protestant:

About the year 1771 Charles Brandling of Gosforth Hall, renounced the Roman Catholic religion and became a Protestant of the Church of England. [29]

This is confirmed by the 'Returns of Papists 1767' for Gosforth:

Names     Age     Occupation     Resident      
Charles Brandling 33 Esquire 7 years
Eleanor, dau of C Brandling 9 7 years
Margaret, dau of C Brandling 8 7 years
Elizabeth, dau of C Brandling 7 7 years
Barbara, dau of C Brandling 5 5 years
Mary, dau of C Brandling 3 3 years
Ann, dau of C Brandling 1 1 years
George Errington 50 Yeoman 10 years
Margaret, wife of George
40 10 years

Signed Geo. Stephenson. Curate 31 August 1767. [30]

Since Eleanor Brandling of Felling was herself a Catholic, it is likely that she wanted the contents of the Middleton chapel for herself. After the closure of the chapel, Hatton was evicted and surprisingly he was offered accommodation at nearby Ebor House. This property belonged to a member of the (Protestant) Fenton family. It may well be, however, that this gentleman's wife may have been the Elizabeth Fenton, who was confirmed as a Catholic in 1753. [31]

Ebor House was referred to by the (Protestant) Vicar of Leeds in 1769, in a letter to the Archbishop of York asking:

..... whether any notice should be taken of this Mass House, and in what manner, if Any, it will be most effectual. [32]

In 1767 the Catholics of Middleton are again listed:


Male     Female     Age     Occupation       Resident    
T.H. 60 Priest 4yr
M.F. 50 his housekeeper 4yr
R.H. 50 steward to C.B. esq. 15yr
A. wife to JT 50 4yr
D. wife to J.H. 50 15yr
W.H. widow 60 60yr
F. wife of J.N. 60 50yr
4 girls under 18 [33]

Recognisable initials are: T.H. - AnTonius Hatton, R.H. - Richard Humble and C.B. - Charles Brandling.

The mass centre at Ebor House moved in 1776 to Sturton Lodge and later to St Mary's in Lady Lane. Hatton died in 1783:

Burials 26th October. Mr Edward Hatton, Me[a]ss Hall. 81. [34]


The Middleton Colliery

Charles gave the managing of his colliery at Middleton to Richard Humble. Humble was from Northumbria, a Catholic, and clearly already known to Charles. It was under Humble's management, that the Middleton colliery began to quickly expand.

Demand for coal was growing rapidly and so the market for coal was becoming increasingly competitive. Middleton Colliery had two major competitors, the Fentons who were mining on Rothwell-Haigh and the Wilkes who were mining at Beeston.

The Fentons were a long established Leeds family who in the late 1600's had entered the coal trade. By the 1730's they were expanding their coal pits in Rothwell (on land owned by the Hon. Edward Howard, Esq.) and had begun using barges on the nearby River Aire to transport their coal:

A colliery belonging to the Hon. Edward Howard, Esq. in the Parish of Rothwell, One Mile from Leeds, is now set on Foot, and we the Undertakers do promise to furnish all Persons with good Fire and Smith Coal, at reasonable Rates; and for Encouragement of the Inhabitants of Leeds, Coals will be brought up by Water ......... Thomas Fenton, James Fenton. [1]

And at a later date:

...... to communicate to your Readers the agreeable News, that the first Boat, freighted with Coal from the New Colliery, at the Fire Engine near Rothwell-Haigh, was received last Thursday at Leeds Bridge, under a Triple Discharge of our great Artillery ...... [2]

Middleton, being on much higher ground, had no river or canal. The movement of its coal to Leeds, and other local markets, relied on the use of pack horses; and in order to compete, a cheaper form of transport had to be found. Brandling and Humble, with their knowledge of the Tyne-side coal trade, embarked in 1755 on the planning and construction of a horse-drawn wagon-way (long used in the north-east). The initial wagon-way was to commence at the collieries at Middleton and end by the River Aire at Thwaite Gate, Hunslet. But for the waggon-way to reach the Aire it was necessary for it to pass over the Fentons' Woodhouse Hill estate, and of course the Fentons refused to give Brandling permission.

A writ containing Fenton's objections, dated 29th March 1755, was given to the Quarter Sessions, signed by the Duke of Norfolk, Samuel Armytage and James Fenton. The Sheriff of York was invited to investigate the complaint and to enquire:

..... whether or no it be to the Damage and Prejudice of us or any other if we should grant to Charles Brandling Esquire Licence that he the said Charles Brandling may make or lay down with Timber Wood and other Materials a Waggon Way of the length of three hundred and twenty yards or thereabouts ..... along a certain Lane & publick Highway from the Village of Middleton to the Town of Leedes called by the Name of Woodhouse hill Lane ..... [3]

Within the document is the proviso that Brandling do make good and keep in repair the section used for his waggonway that all Passengers and Travellers & all carts & other Carriages may ..... travel & pass along the same. [4]

An 'inquisition' took place in Leeds on 28th April before the Sheriff and a number of Leeds merchants and gentlemen. They agreed that Charles should be given permission to cross the Fenton land since it would cause no 'damage or prejudice.' This wagon-way was to remain in use supplying coal, via the river, to Leeds, Knaresborough, Ripon and other local towns until 1807.

Two years later (1757) Brandling and Humble began to plan a second wagon-way. This time the wagon-way would terminate at a place called Casson Close, situated near Leeds Bridge. To do this required the granting of 'wayleaves' from landowners across whose land the waggon-way would cross.

Brandling knew that the 'leasing' of such land was a precarious business. Many instances of landowners granting wayleaves, and then once the wagon-way was laid, astronomically increasing the rent were well known in Northumberland. To avoid this complication, Charles and Richard Humble began to sign agreements with local landowners and then turned to Parliament to guarantee the agreements in law.

Clearly confident that his new venture would succeed Brandling placed an advertisement in the Leeds Intelligencer:

To the gentlemen and all other inhabitants of the town of Leedes, 10th January 1758.

As the scheme for reducing the price of coals, proposed by Charles Brandling, Esq. has met with all proper encouragement at two meetings held for that purpose by the gentlemen and principal inhabitants of the said town, and a most generous subscription set on foot for establishing the same, it is therefore desired (as it is hoped the intentioned waggon way will be completed about Lammas next [1st August] ) that the inhabitants of this town will all concur to encourage the said scheme, and decline to give ear to any insinuation that may be offered to the prejudice of so laudable an undertaking, which, when once completed, Mr Brandling will stand obliged to serve the inhabitants of the said town with coals of as good quality as any other coal, and much cheaper than they can be supplied with elsewhere. And for the benefit of the said town, this is to give notice that attendance is this day given and will continue at the Three Legs [Public House] by the Agents of the said Mr Brandling, to contract with gentlemen and others, to serve them with coals of the best quality from Middleton Colliery at sixpence per corf at their respective dwelling-houses, and the corf to contain 7,680 cubic inches, which by late experiment is found to weigh sixteen stones and upwards - Richard Humble. [5]

The same issue of the newspaper carried advertisements for William and Thomas Fenton, advertising to contract with gentlemen:

..... freshly drawn clean dressed Bottom Coals at sixpence per corf of three bushels (Winchester Measure), unheaped, and to weigh 16 stones.

John Wilkes also advertised, selling coal at 3d per corf at his Colliery at Beeston (although his coal was considered to be of inferior quality).

Further advertisements followed:

Mr Charles Brandling (wishful to do a larger trade with the Leeds people) proposes to reduce the price of coal, and in order to more speedily and completely supply their wants he intends to have a waggonway from Middleton Collieries to his Staith in Leeds. He offers to serve with coal for the term of sixty years at 4¾d [approx. 2p] per corf, containing 7680 cubical inches, and weighing 16 stones and upwards; but if delivered at their respective dwellings they will be charged sixpence per corf. Signed Richard Humble. [6]

In February the adverts continued:

The Bill for reducing the price of coals in this town, proposed by Chas. Brandling, Esq. was laid before the Hon. House of Commons last Wednesday.

Leeds 31st January. To all gentlemen and other inhabitants of the town of Leeds. As the scheme ..... [same as 10th January advertisement] ..... when once completed, Mr Brandling will stand obliged to serve the inhabitants of the said town with coals at his coal yards in Leeds, for the term of 60 years, at 4-3/4d per corf ..... and at 6d per corf delivered at their respective dwellings. [7]

Advertisements from Brandling, Wilkes and the Fentons were to continue in the newspaper until the end of March.

On the 9th June 1758 the Act of Parliament, authorising the construction of Brandling's waggonway, was given the Royal Assent. Entitled An Act for Establishing Agreements made between Charles Brandling, esquire, and other Persons, Proprietors of Lands, for laying down a waggonway, in order for the better supplying the Town and Neighbourhood of Leeds, in the County of York.

The Act states that Brandling will supply two hundred and forty thousand corfes of coal at 4 3/4d per corfe, each year [24,000 tons of coal at £0.21p per ton, annually] for a term of sixty years, or .... longer time as the said Mines or any of them shall continue to be used or wrought ..... . That the coal will be deposited for sale at his coal staith at Cassons Close, by the Leeds Bridge. That any coal sold over the 24,000 tons could be sold at the 'market price'. That in order to deliver the said coal, a wagon way would be laid down and that agreement had been reached with landowners for the wagon way to cross their lands. Further, that Brandling has authorisation to have access to all parts of his wagon way for purposes of repairs, etc. That agreement had been reached on the payment of wayleaves .... and so on.

The purchase of the above named Casson Close is recorded:

Henry Ackroyd, yeoman, was involved with others in 1758, in selling land in Casson Close, east of the White Cloth Hall, to Charles Brandling for his waggonway, to the coal staithe built north of the Hall. [8]

In September the first coals arrived:

On Wednesday last, the first Waggon Load of Coals was brought from the Pits of Charles Brandling, Esq.; down the new road to his staith near the Bridge in this Town, agreeable to the Act of Parliament passed last Sessions. A scheme of such general Utility, as to comprehend within it, not only our Trade and Poor (which ought to be the grand Objects of our Concern) but also beneficial to every Individual within this Town and Neighbourhood; on this occasion the Bells were set a ringing, the Cannons of our fort fired, and a general joy appear'd in every Face. [9]

By reducing his transport costs, Brandling was to hold a near monopoly of the Leeds coal trade until the early 19th century.

The wagon way did have a human cost [1760]:

Last Saturday one of the Coal-waggons, belonging to Charles Brandling, esq; coming down a Hill, nigh Hunslet, overturn d upon the Driver, and crushed him so terribly, that he died in a few hours after. [10]

In 1779, Brandling was to enter into partnership with Joseph Wilkes on the opening of his New Colliery:

The New Colliery commonly call'd Beeston New Hold in Partnership betwixt Charles Brandling, Esq. and Joseph Wilkes, Esq.

To be Lett, the Working of the abovesaid Colliery, by the Great or Tentale, as practised in the North. The Undertakers to defray all Expenses, as Colliers, and all other Workmen's Wages, to find Materials of every Kind, necessary for the Working of the said Colliery, as well as for Keeping in Repair the Large Engine, lately thereon erected: as also the Roads already made, as well as making and repairing new Roads necessary to new Pits; to make and repair all Ginns and other Utensils necessary for the same; to sink such fresh Pits as will be needed during the Remainder of the Lease, having 12 years unexpired next Candlemas; and likewise to pay all kinds of Assessments and Damages for the Spoil of Tenants Ground ... The Agreement or Proposal to be Lett at so much per Dozen, or Twelve corves, ... not less than Ten Thousand such dozens per Ann., and as many more as the sale will take in Proportion.

Any whom this will suit may send in their proposals (the sooner the better), sealed up, to Mr Humble of Middleton, Agent of Charles Brandling, Esq., or to Mr Wilkes of Black Bank, near Leeds.

N.B. Workmen's Fire Coals, and for supplying the Engine are not to be included in the above. The Dozens of corves above-mentioned are expected to Weigh not less than 36Cwt. of well-dressed Coals. [11]

After 1770, the Fentons concentrated on supplying coal for the river-borne trade; not re-entering the Leeds market again until the early 19th century. Other rival collieries were still, however, able to sell at Leeds, as a Brandling complaint of 1781 shows:

Brandling's Colliery. Whereas great impositions have been put upon the Public as well as Charles Brandling, Esq. by the Vendors of Coals in the Neighbourhood of Leeds. Several of whom have sold an Inferior Sort to their Customers, as and for Mr Brandling's Coals. And others the better to deceive the Customers have called such Inferior Sort by the name of New Brandlings - Notice is hearby given, That if any Person or Persons, be hereafter found Offending as aforesaid they will be prosecuted with the utmost Severity of the Law.
Richard Humble. Agent to the said Charles Brandling. April 3 1781. [12]

But with a regulated system, guaranteeing Brandling the sale of 24,000 tons of "cheap" coal and supported by an Act of Parliament, the quantities of coal supplied by rival coal-owners remained small.

(in Tons)
(in Tons)
1758...... 1769......
1759...... 1770......
1760...... 177136,089
1761...... 177231,674
176229,063 177332,226
176329,384 177432,548
176431,782 177534,411
176530,870 177636,544
176632,384 177737,923
176731,195 177839,581
1768......         [12a]
          [..... indicates figures not known]

Rising production costs throughout the 1760's and early 1770's began to create financial problems for Charles Brandling. With the price of his first 24,000 tons of coal delivered to Leeds rigidly fixed, he began to develop the river-borne trade to markets where no price regulation existed. Coal sales at Brandling's Hunslet Staith for the riverbourne trade are shown below:

(in Tons)
(in Tons)
1758...... 176923,943
1759...... 177022,713
1760...... 177117,198
1761...... 177221,815
176215,631 177322,426
176315,808 177422,811
176415,139 177524,842
176515,863 177623,164
176622.226 177723,943
176718,800 177833,174
176819.982         [12a]
          [..... indicates figures not known]

By 1778, rapid industrial development in Leeds meant that the annual allocation of coal under the Act from Brandling's pit was becoming totally inadequate, and once the fixed price quota was delivered coal could be sold at the "market price".

In June of that year the township of Leeds began to show concern:

Leeds Coals. Whereas the towne and neighbourhood of Leeds, have not of late years, been sufficiently supplied with Coal from the Coal Staith; notice is hearby given, that a meeting is intended to be held at the Moot Hall in Leeds, on Thursday the 2nd day of July next at three o'clock in the afternoon, in order to consider of some method for the better supplying of the said town and neighbourhood in future. Thomas Barstow. Town Clerk. Leeds. June 18 1778. [13]

Brandling proceed to give notice that he intended to complete his delivery of "cheap" coal by September and then to "starve" the town of coal unless a new agreement was reached:

Notice is hearby given, that the quantity of Coals specified in the Acts of Parliament, amounting to 20,000 dozen (240,000 corfes) to be yearly delivered at the said staith, will this year be delivered on or before the 1st September next; after which no coals will be delivered at the said staith, till the commencement of the next year, unless in the meantime, if agreement be entered into for obtaining an Amendment to the said Act, for supplying the inhabitants of the towne and neighbourhood of Leeds, with a larger quantity of Coals than stipulated in the said Act, at an advanced price, then and in that case, Mr Brandling will continue supplying them with coals, as usual, for this year at the present price. Leeds July 3 1778. Cha. Brandling. [14]

The town, in reply, called a meeting:

The Inhabitants of the Town and Neighbourhood of Leeds, are desired to meet at the Moot-Hall in Leeds on the 30th July inst. At Ten o clock in the Forenoon, in order to take into consideration Mr Brandling's advertisement for better supplying them with Coals, By order of the Mayor, Thomas Barstow. Town Clerk. [15]

An agreement was entered into to amend the first Act. In February 1779, the second Act of Parliament was passed:

An Act for rendering more beneficial an Act made in the 31st Year (1758) of the Reign of King George the Second ..... And whereas the said Charles Brandling is willing to engage and undertake, for the remainder of the said Term of Sixty Years ..... to carry and convey ..... forty thousand dozens or four hundred and eighty thousand corves ...... ten thousand dozens or one hundred and twenty thousand corves, to be carried and conveyed in each Quarter of the year ..... at the Rate and Price of five and a half pennies per corf.

The Act states that neither Beeston nor Hunslet coal may be sold at Brandling's Staith (since both are of inferior quality). If Beeston Coal is sold by Brandling at his Leeds Staith he loses his rights. Also coal could now be sold at convenient points (including Hunslet Moor) along the waggon way in the Borough of Leeds, as well as at Brandling's Staith. Under this Act the amount of coal Charles could deliver had doubled from 24,000 to 48,000 tons. The price too had increased, from 21p per ton to 24p per ton.

A further restriction in the Act was reported:

Whereas the Act to enable Charles Brandling, esq. to supply the town and neighbourhood of Leeds with double the quantity of coals as specified in the old or former Act, has lately passed both Houses of Parliament, and only waits the Royal Assent, and as a clause is inserted in the said Act, prohibiting the Agents and Servants of Mr Charles Brandling from leading, or in any ways concerned in the carriage of Coals from the Coal Staithes.

It is therefore thought necessary to inform the town of Leeds and neighbourhood, that from and after the 10th March next, that no coals will be sold at the said coal yard but for ready money. Richard Humble.

A table of prices of Leading Coals within the Borough of Leeds as fixed by the said new Act, With Heads of other Clauses will be put on a board in the said Coalyard as soon as the said Act receives Royal Assent.[16]

Though the new Act allowed for a delivery of 48,000 tons each year to Leeds, the supply from Middleton exceeded the demand. As Brandling's production costs rose throughout the 1780's there was no way he could pass on these costs through "unregulated" coal prices (as he had been able to do under the first Act, once the first 24,000 tons of rigidly priced coal had been delivered). Charles once again turned to the unregulated river-borne trade to cover his increased costs; coal supplied to the distant river markets soon equalled two thirds of the coal sent to Leeds.

Middleton Colliery's rising costs again forced Brandling to seek a further amendment to the second Act. The third Act of 1792 increased the amount of coal to be delivered to Leeds to 56,000 ton per year, at the increased price of 28 pence per ton. In return Charles agreed to "run-down" his river-borne trade. Although supplies delivered to this market continued (in dwindling amounts) until 1808.

In the mid-1700's Brandling coal pits were situated in the northern end of Middleton Woods moving southwards until by the end of the century they lay in the vicinity of Town Street and thence as the new century passed they moved further south. In 1780 a steam engine driven pumping house, designed by John Smeaton, was constructed to draw water from Brandling's ever deeper pits. In 1786, Richard Humble was corresponding with Boulton and Watt about the viability of steam driven "pit gear" for the drawing of coals. Such gear would have to match, or exceed, the performance of their existing horse gins ...

Depth of pitts 80 fathoms to 60 fathoms.
Weight of coals in the Corf 3 ½ Cwt.
Weight of 60 fathoms rope 2 ½ Cwt about 1 ½ diam.
They want to wind 32 corfs per hour at 70 fathoms by 2 horses working together. [17]

On a number of occasions Brandling's coal production was interrupted by industrial action:

Middleton. June 27 1769. Whereas the Colliers of Middleton Colliery refuse to work at the Task they hired and agreed to, and for which Agreement each Collier received 10s 6d Entrance money on the 19th instant - These are therefore to caution all Persons against employing any of the said Middleton Colliers under Contracts, for whoever does will be prosecuted as the Law in that case directs. Any Colliers wanting Employ, and not under Contract to other Gentlemen, may meet with good Encouragement by applying to the Stewards of the said Colliery. The work by good Judges, is allowed to be as good, safe and easy as any in the County; Colliers of Sixty Years of Age earning Two Shillings per Day and upwards in about Nine Hours. [18]

By the following week the strike was over and production resumed:

These are to Certify whom it may Concern That Middleton Colliers are now at Work. And all Customers may be serv'd at the Coal Staith in Leeds as usual. [19]

Again in 1786 industrial action was again reported:

Coal Mining - A Caution - The Colliers of Middleton Colliery, Belonging to Charles Brandling, Esq. having without any reasonable cause, refused to work the said colliery unless an advance be made to their wages. It is thought necessary to inform the Public that part of such colliers have constantly earned Two Shillings and Sixpence or Three Shillings per day, by working Eight Hours in each day only, and that none of them, even men of Sixty Years of age and upwards, earn less than Two Shillings per day, yet, notwithstanding such high wages, the Colliers have combined, left, and laid up the said Colliery. These circumstances are published to prevent the said Colliers from imposing upon the Public by asking Charity under false pretences. Richard Humble, Middleton 9th Dec 1786. [20]

Again in 1796 industrial action was taking place:

We cannot but lament that the inhabitants of this town should so frequently, in the winter season, experience the want of a supply of coals at the coal-staithe, by the Colliers at Middleton colliery refusing to work without an advance in wages; and the present combination of workmen is certainly deserving of severe punishment, as we are informed by undoubted authority that the pitmen in the above colliery have each a house and coals for a bare acknowledgement and have, or might have, earned from 3 s [shilling] to 4s per day ..... Such men are not objects of charity ..... [21]

As well as industrial action, Brandling's coal-pits were also subject to the hazards associated with coalmining, as the following description of an accident in 1758 shows ...

A short Account of an Explosion of air in a coal-pit, at Middleton, near Leeds in Yorkshire. Some miners, renewing their operations on the shaft of a coal-pit, which had formerly been sunk to the depth of sixty yards, in order to penetrate a stratum of very hard stone, drilled holes, and filled them with gunpowder. From the top, they afterwards threw down fire to blast the stone, which made a report little louder than that of a pistol; but the blaze communicating with the foul air, produced very alarming effects. The whole wood, which surrounded the coal-pit, was shaken, the works at the mouth of it were blown to pieces, and the explosion is said to have been such as cannot be described. The vacuum in the air was so considerable, that oak trees, of a load or more each, at a great distance from the pit s mouth, that had before stood upright, all of a sudden inclined greatly towards the pit, and must have entirely fallen down, had not the equilibrium of the atmosphere been instantly restored. [22]

On the 27th November 1764 it was reported that Middleton Colliery had returned to full production after an outbreak of fire:

We have pleasure to inform the Inhabitants of this Towne and parts adjacent, that Middleton Coal-Pits (which have been closed up for a month past, occasion'd by one of the Pits accidentally taking fire) are now open'd and work again as usual. During the said Misfortune Coals advanced from Five Pence Farthing a Corf or Horse-load to Eight-Pence or Nine-Pence. [23]

On Friday 13th June 1783 a loss of life was reported:

At Middleton colliery, seven men and two boys lost their lives by some foul or stagnated air unsuspectedly lodging in some part of the workings, which it being necessary to open to let off some water, the foul air took fire at the workmen's candle, though at a great distance, and caused a small explosion or two, by which four of the above men were killed; the other five had no marks of fire or violence about them, but were suffocated by endeavouring to escape through the sulphurous stife or damp left behind. Eight men made their escape, but with great difficulty. [24]

On the 16th October 1799, Charles leased land to William Walker for 11 years; reserving his own mineral rights. [25]


Other Events Related to Middleton

On the 1st June, 1756, wood was advertised for sale at Middleton:

To be Sold at Middleton Wood, three miles from Leedes. A large Quantity of Oak Timber Trees, of all Sizes, fit for Carpenters, Coopers, Lath-Rivers and Building Timber ... Handsomely grown and well hearted ... The Buyer to pay One Shilling per Pound to the Saleman. [36]

On the 14th August, 1781, a warning was issued regarding poaching on Brandling's Middleton estate:

Game. Whereas the Game in the Lordship of Middleton near Leeds, in the County of York, belonging to Charles Brandling, Esq, hath of Late been greatly destroyed by Poachers and other unqualified Persons.

Notice is hearby given

That if any Persons shall be found carrying Guns, or making use of any unlawful means of destroying the said Game, will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law. Proper persons are appointed to preserve the Game and lay information against anyone for Offending; and if any Hounds, Pointers or any other kind of Dogs shall be seen straggling in the said Lordship, they will be shot.

N.B. It is desired no Gentlemen will shoot, hunt or course in the said Lordship, without Leave for that Purpose. [37]

About 1794 Charles constructed new houses at th 'hamlet' of Belle Isle. Made up of three rows of houses, they were constructed as homes for his colliery workers.

A reference to 'Newbel-ile' in the 1762 Rothwell Parish registers suggest that an earlier settlement may have been situated here. There was no gas or electricity so the rooms were lit by paraffin lamps and hot water supplied by whatever could be boiled on the fire in kettles and pans. The only entrance to the village was a rough track.

In 1871 Belle Isle is described:

At the foot of Middleton hill lies a wretched-looking hamlet absurdly called 'Belle Isle', if we are to judge it by its present condition; but if ever the name was correct that must have been conferred in happier days than ours, for now neither of the words by which it is known is in any sense appropriate. It is rickerty and dirty, and almost buried beneath tramway embankments. [38]

Charles was a public benefactor giving both to the new infirmary and to the workhouse in Hunslet. He was also responsible for providing a temporary bridge when Leeds Bridge was under repair:

... was also erected a Temporary Bridge (as an Arch in our Bridge is taken down in order to be rebuilt) over the River Air in this Town; entirely at the expense of Charles Brandling esq.

In 1786 Charles Brandling purchased the 'advowson' [living] of Rothwell Parish Church. He placed his son-in-law, James Ord, as the 'nominal' vicar. James was also the curate at Benton, part of the Brandling estates in Northumberland. He was provisionally appointed and took no part in Rothwell's church affairs; this was left to the curates. When Charles's son, Ralph Henry Brandling, was ordained a priest in 1796, Ord resigned and Ralph Henry became Vicar of Rothwell.

In 1783/84 Joshua Green, a farmer of Middleton, was applying for a patent for:

A new, expeditious, and advantageous method, by a particular kind of machinery, of drying and tentering, all sorts of woven manufacturing goods, such as broad cloths, narrow cloths, worsted goods of all denominations, likewise Noewich and Manchester crapes, cootons, velvets, stuffs and all other woven manufactured goods whatsoever, whether, made of wool, cotton, silk, flax or hemp. [39]



[1] The Leeds Mercury, July 1730

[2] The Leeds Mercury, February 1735

[3] A History of the Middleton Railway Leeds. 8th Edition Page 6.

[4] A History of the Middleton Railway Leeds. 8th Edition Page 6.

[5] The Leeds Intelligence 10th January 1758.

[6] The Leeds Intelligencer, 17th January 1758.

[7] The Leeds Intelligencer, 7th February 1758.

[8] West Riding Register of Deeds B3.

[9] The Leeds Intelligencer, 26th September 1758

[10] The Leeds Intelligencer, 29th April 1760.

[11] Thoresby Society Publications Volume XL. Extracts from the Leeds Mercury 1779. Leeds Mercury Tuesday 21 Dec 1779.

[12] The Leeds Intelligencer 17th April 1781.

[12a] Rimmer. G. Middleton Colliery near Leeds.

[13] The Leeds Mercury. June 1778.

[14] Leeds Mercury 7th July 1778.

[15] Leeds Intelligencer, 7th July 1778.

[16] Leeds Mercury 23rd February 1779.

[17] Goodchild. J. The Coal Kings of Yorkshire.

[18] Leeds Mercury, 4th July 1769.

[19] Leeds Intelligencer, 11th July 1769.

[20] Leeds Mercury, 22nd January 1786.

[21] Leeds Intelligencer, 25th January 1796.

[22] Philosophical transactions of the Royal society Volume 63 December 1773 p.217-218

[23] Leeds Intelligencer, 27th November 1764.

[24] The London magazine, or, Gentleman's monthly intelligencer, Volume 52. Isaac Kimber, Edward Kimber 1783.


[26] Rothwell Parish Register.

[27] Gillow. Biographical Dictionary of the English Catholics.

[28] Waugh. History of St Anne’s Cathedral and the Leeds Missions.

[29] Surtees Society Publications. Volume 118

[30] Catholic Record Society: Occasional Series.

[31] Public Record Office. RG4/4423

[32] Borthwick Institute. R.Bp. 20. C61.

[33] Catholic Record Society: Occasional Series.

[34] Rothwell Parish Register.

[35] West Yorkshire Archives

[36] Leeds Intelligencer, 1st June, 1756.

[37] Leeds Intelligencer, 14th August, 1781.

[38] William Banks. Walks about Wakefield. 1871.

[39] Mechanics Magazine - JC Robertson

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