Barwick-in-Elmet is a village east of the centre of but still part of the City of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is one of only three places in the area to be explicitly associated with the ancient Celtic kingdom of Elmet, the others being Scholes-in-Elmet and Sherburn-in-Elmet. It is part of the civil parish of Barwick in Elmet and Scholes and lies in the LS15 postcode district. Barwick-in-Elmet is referred to locally as simply Barwick, with a silent 'w' pronounced "Bar-rick". In the Domesday Book of 1086 the area was known as Berewit and Berewith.
Barwick-in-Elmet dates back to between 200-600 BC. There are major Iron Age and Norman earthworks in the centre of the village called Wendel Hill and Hall Tower Hill. There is reference to an agricultural settlement in the Domesday Book of 1086. From a taxation survey, it is known that in 1379 there were 197 adults living in about 100 households.
In 1720 the first known school in Barwick in Elmet opened. By 1821 the parish had a population of 1,481.
The Cross Gates to Wetherby railway line opened in 1874, with a station in nearby Scholes, enabling residents to commute to Leeds city centre. This service remained running until 1965, when the line closed under the Beeching Axe.
Throughout the 20th century the village grew with many modern houses being built in and around the village by both private developers and the local corporations. During this period many of the older cottages in the village centre were converted into shops and other small business premises.
For much of its history the village supported a mainly agricultural community. From the late seventeenth century until the early twentieth many residents were employed in the local mining industry in Garforth, Cross Gates and Whitkirk. Today, whilst still having a rural agricultural feel, the village supports many trades as well as housing for people who work in Leeds and York.
Barwick iron age fort
The village includes earthworks created as an Iron Age fort, and used later as the site of a Norman Motte and Bailey castle and later as a World War II observation post. The land is currently under multiple ownership, which causes problems for its conservation. Ex-local MP Colin Burgon made it the subject of an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on 10 July 2007, and Minister of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Margaret Hodge, replied.
One of the most notable village landmarks is the wooden maypole (86 feet) that stands at the junction of Main Street and The Cross. The trienniel maypole festival (held on Spring Bank Holiday) typically brings large crowds to the area. Every three years, the maypole is lowered, inspected, maintained and re-erected. The festival celebrations include a procession (involving floats decorated by local organisations), children's maypole dancing, morris dancing, a street craft market, and the raising of the maypole ceremony. Traditionally the maypole was lowered and raised manually using an intricate system of ropes and ladders. Although methods have changed in recent years, the maypole is still carried by hand from Hall Tower Hill to the heart of the village. During the raising ceremony, it is tradition for a local villager to climb halfway up the pole to disconnect the guide ropes. The climber is then spurred on by a large crowd to climb all the way to the top of the pole, to spin 'the fox' weather vane (a custom thought to bring good luck to the village). The last maypole festival took place on 30 May 2011, and the next festival is scheduled to take place on 26 May 2014.
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