PUDSEY THE BEAR, THE TOWN, THE PUDDING
By Wendy Hughes
A trip to Pudsey in West Yorkshire starting me thinking; I knew little about the town, although the national mascot of the BBC’s ‘Children in Need’ campaign is well known. Did Pudsey have any connections with the town? Of course he did. Pudsey was designed in 1985 by graphics designer Joanna Ball’s home town where her grandfather was once mayor. He was originally introduced as a brown bear, but the following year (1986), he was changed to a yellow bear with a bandage over his right eye, and in 2009, Pudsey was joined by a brown female bear named ‘Blush’ who has a spotted bow with a similar pattern to Pudsey’s bandanna.
Surprisingly the market town of Pudsey was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Podechesaie and then in 1086 as Podechesai. The origin of the name is unknown, but it is thought more than likely to have derived from the personal name Pudoc and the word meaning island, therefore it would mean Pudoc island of ‘good ground in moorland. Another suggestion is that in the early 6th century the district was in the Kingdom of Elmet as it seems to have retained its Celtic character for perhaps two centuries after neighbouring kingdoms had adopted the culture of the Angles
Around 1775 a cache of silver Roman coins, many predating Julius Caesar, were discovered on Pudsey common at the place called King Alfred’s Camp
During the 18th and 19th centuries Pudsey was famous for its woollen manufacture, and at the time of the Industrial Revolution was one of the most polluted areas in the UK. This was due to its position in a slight valley between the two industrial cities of Leeds and Bradford, which resulted in whichever way the wind blew Pudsey, was covered in thick soot. This meant that as the temperature in the valley rose, the soot become trapped leading to thick dense smogs, which in turn led to a saying that pigeons in Pudsey Park flew backwards in order to keep the soot from their eyes. Today there are a number of recreational parks in Pudsey featuring Pets Corner, an aquarium, bird houses and a Pudsey Bear (made of vegetation) as well as plenty of playing areas for children.
The town was also famous for cricketers. Yorkshire and England cricketer Sir Len Hutton was born in Fulneck and was called ‘the man from Pudsey’. Ray Illingworth, another former England captain was born in Pudsey as well as fast bowler Matthew Hoggard. The England opening batsman Herbert Sutcliffe attended Pudsey School and learned the game with the Pudsey St Lawrence and Pudsey Britannia cricket clubs. For over 100 years the Yorkshire County Cricket Club had at least one player who came from the old borough of Pudsey. The Yorkshire cricketer John Tunnicliffe was born in Lowtown.
What about the famous Pudsey pudding and how did it come about? 1846, the year the Corn Laws were repealed is a memorable date in British history. The people of Pudsey were almost solidly ‘Radical and Free Traders’, and as the era of free trade was dawning and the hope for cheaper bread, the radicals of Pudsey wanted to mark the occasion with a suitable celebration, something that would be remembered by all. A ‘little committee’ was formed, meeting in the house of Mr John Baker to plan how this great event would be celebrated. After much discussion they decided on a pudding, of which everyone in the town could have a share and it should beat all records for its size and quality.
One of the dye-pans from Crawshaws Mill was thoroughly cleaned and filled with spring water. The pudding was to be made up of twenty stone of mixed flour, suet and fruit, and the ingredients were divided between twenty housewives, with each bringing her share for the final blending. The mixture was then tipped into a large canvas bag, and my means of a windlass, fixed over the pan, hoisted into the vessel. For three days and nights the pudding was kept boiling, along with half a dozen smaller puddings. Finally on 31 July 1846 the 1000lb pudding was hoisted out of the pan and placed on a light rowing boat, loaned by Mr R Wood, where it sat surrounded by the smaller puddings. A procession headed by Mr J. R Hinnings and Mr Samuel Musgrave on horseback. Four grey horses were yoked to the boat and driven by James Wilson, a former sailor who was now watchman at Priestley Mill. Tickets were sold at a shilling to those who wished to eat a share of the pudding, but each diner had to provide his own plate and cutlery. The procession wound its way around the town with several thousands of people looking on. In Crawshaw Fields tables were arranged to form a large square and a special ‘spade’ provided to ’dig up’ the pudding to serve to the crowd. In no time at all the pudding was eaten, but the story of the pudding went down in Pudsey history.