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Sandy Beck Bar

(Written by Bronte Bedford-Payne, May 2009)

Bronte Bedford Payne

12/11/28 - 06/08/2017

Bronte at a signing for one of her books in 2016

My father was born at Sandy Beck Bar in 1901.  He was the youngest child of Louisa and Owen Griffiths, who had moved from Halifax as employees of the Standeven family of Scale House, Rylstone.  Owen, my grandfather, was the coachman and then the chauffeur until his retirement, after which time he went daily to tend the boilers and keep an eye on any minor technical jobs around the estate.  He had been born in Swansea, and spoke with a distinct Welsh accent, whereas my Grandmother Louisa came from Blackheath in South London, and was probably thought of as a cockney Londoner.  I guess they had met in service in Halifax.  My father had two brothers, Albert and Alfred and a sister Emily, who was named after Emily Norton of Wordsworth’s famous poem, The White Doe of Rylstone.


My father told me that he owed his success in life to the Vicar of Rylstone, the Reverend Lowe, who not only encouraged him to sing regularly in the church choir, but who also coached him through the entrance examination for Ermysted’s Boys’ Grammar School.  All this took place before the First World War, my father being too young for conscription.  He cycled daily to school, and then became an apprenticed draughtsman with George King’s engineering firm in Keighley.  I guess he would travel there by train.


His brothers moved to London, and while Albert became a watchmaker, Alfred became a driver of Green Line coaches.  Emily married Jack Peacock of Cracoe, and they too, moved to Blackheath where she became a secretary at the Russian Embassy.  One of her daughters, Phyllis (Pat) married Bill Collier and had one son, Geoffrey.  She spent the war years with her widowed grandfather at Bar House (as they called it), while Geoffrey went to Cracoe School.


Whilst at school in Skipton my father became friendly with a family of boys named Chester, whose home was at Low Trenhouse, on Malham Moor.  Through many happy holidays spent helping on the farm he met and married one of their sisters, Margaret, who later became my mother.

According to Mary and Hannah Smith of Threshfield, Owen Griffiths had a lovely garden.  So much so, when travelling to school on the bus to Skipton, they sat on the upper deck in order to see it.  As a child, I remember bursting ripe poppy heads as I wandered up and down between the neat rows of vegetables and peas and green beans.

My father is a case of ‘local boy makes good’.  Without any formal education other than his apprenticeship, he joined the Ford Motor Co. in Manchester, and during the 1930’s moved with the company to Dagenham, where Henry Ford was engaged in draining the marshes of the Thames Estuary in order to build his innovative new factories thereon. Throughout the Second World War my father worked in the Time Study at Ford’s and then sought promotion by joining the family firm of Perkins Diesel Engines in Peterborough as Production Manager.  In 1953, he was awarded an OBE for his part in the post-war production drive, having sailed to America and back on the liner Queen Elizabeth. (note: before the age of general aircraft travel).

He was then head-hunted by the Daimler Motor Company, where he was offered and accepted the post of Managing Director.  Finally, he moved to Crewkerne in Somerset, where he became the Director of his own firm, Sintered Metals. He died in 1963.

Grandfather Griffiths remained at Sandy Beck Bar until he died in 1944, whilst on a visit to his daughter, Emily.  He and Louisa are buried in Blackheath.  Since then the old Bar House has been unoccupied, and having lost its roof tiles, it is now in a very sad state.  The small stone building to the rear is considerably older that the cottage.  Two openings in the wall facing the Old Coach Road to Rylstone are evidence to show that this was once the actual Toll Bar.

[Please refer to the article entitled ‘The Old Coach Road’, compiled from notes written by Helen Lefevre and others for the book ‘People and Places in Upper Wharfedale’  Pub. 2007. Brontë Bedford-Payne.

Members of the Vernacular Buildings Study Group, Upper Wharfedale Field Society intend to record the cottage and the Toll Bar in September this year, 2009 (by kind permission of the owners)].

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