Pontefract Road, Featherstone
Featherstone is a town in the West Riding of Yorkshire, less than two miles southwest of Pontefract. In 2011 had a recorded population of 15,244. This is an old mining town, and like many of the pit towns of Yorkshire, it has undergone a dramatic decline in fortunes since the mines were closed from the 1970s, leaving it a poor town.
Featherstone railway station is on the Pontefract Line.
The name 'Featherstone' is from Old English. The original is suggested as from feowþa stan, meaning 'fourth stone', perhaps indicating a place at some waymarker or wayside monument of four stones. The village is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Fredestan, which may suggest other origins.
In 1848, the opening of the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole railway line through Featherstone, provided the basis for large scale coal mining in Featherstone, by opening up new markets across the country and beyond. Coal had been mined at Featherstone since the 13th century and remains of bell pits can still be seen to the north of Park Lane at North Featherstone.
Like many surrounding areas, Featherstone grew around coal mining, and was the site of a miners' strike in 1893. During the strike the town came to national attention when soldiers fired on striking miners, killing two. A distinctive sculpture marking the centenary of the Featherstone Massacre stands in the shopping precinct and a large mural depicting the town's heritage can be seen at the town's main crossroads. Ackton Hall Colliery was the first pit to close following the end of the miners' strike and this could not be contested as geological difficulties had made it impossible for the pit to continue production.
Despite most population growth taking place around the Industrial Revolution, Featherstone traces its history back much further than this. It is thought that a local public house, the Traveller's Rest, can trace its origins to the 17th century whilst the Jubilee Hotel is a listed building which once provided a resting place for wealthy Victorians and their horses.
Featherstone is undergoing continual change and as part of this a new, state-of-the-art £2.5-million community centre has been built in Station Lane. The "Pit Houses", the houses constituting a council estate which formerly belonged to the National Coal Board, have been demolished to make room for further developments.
Opened in the 1950s, Purston Park takes up a large area of space and offers a lake and a children's play area. There was also previously a bowling green, until being changed to a rose garden in 2004. It has been made out of the grounds of what was originally a private residence and a country estate, with the stately home formerly acting as the town hall. This building was sold to developers in 2007 and has since been converted into luxury flats.
Starting in the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, the area went into an era of sharp decline in the residents' quality of life. Historians and social scientists have put forward many factors. The gradual loss of the coal industry coupled with poor housing and education. This has begun to improve in recent years with new housing developments, better schools and plans to breathe life back into the local business community by various climate-friendly projects.
Built from traditional Yorkshire sandstone, St Thomas' Church and the adjacent vicarage were built in the 1870s. Due to a lack of funding the church has no bell tower, and instead the bell hangs outside on the church’s south wall. The original vicarage is now a private residence.
Churches in the town include:
- Church of England:
- St Thomas
- All Saints'
- Evangelical: South Featherstone Gospel Hall
- Methodist: Featherstone Methodist Church
Featherstone has a railway station on the Pontefract line. The M62 motorway runs close by.
- Rugby: Featherstone Rovers (professional), whose stadium known as Post Office Road was renamed "The Bigfellas Stadium" in January 2010 following a sponsorship deal with a night club.
- Football: Featherstone Lions
Local history & folklore
It is believed that heroic outlaw Robin Hood spent much of his time in the area. Locally it is said that he used the 'Travellers Rest' tavern in Purston Jaglin as his base in the region.
- 'Oxford Dictionary of British Place-Names', A.D. Mills, Oxford University Press.
- "Featherstone Rovers make a big step to name stadium". Pontefract & Castleford Express. 7 January 2010. http://www.pontefractandcastlefordexpress.co.uk/featherstone/Featherstone-Rovers-make-a-big.5960756.jp. Retrieved 5 June 2010.