YEARS IN FOCUS
KNOTTINGLEY IN 1970
REPRODUCED COURTESY OF THE
15th March 1970
STARS ON SUNDAY A SURPRISE SUCCESS
Yorkshire Television’s ‘Stars On
Sunday’ - probably the first religious programme to make any impression
on the TAM ratings - returns to our screens this Sunday after a three
month break. It was a surprise success. YTV received over 1,000 letters
the day after the first programme and there were 28,000 requests for
favourite hymns and Bible readings during the programme’s 16-week run.
Sunday’s programme features James Mason, Harry Secombe, June Bronhill,
Vince Hill and Violet Carson.
The staff of the programme compiled
a list of most popular songs and the producer, Jess Yates, found that
top of the charts was ‘The Rugged Cross’ while second was ‘Bless This
House’. Promised items for the new series are ‘The Bell’s of St.
Mary’s’, Handels ‘Largo’, and ‘Oh For The Wings Of A Dove’.
YTV assure us the successful formula
won’t be changed, and regulars like Moira Anderson, Sir John Geilgud,
Sir Ralph Richardson and Maggie Fitzgibbon will be joined by newcomers
Tricia Noble, Matt Munro, David Hughes and Dame Anna Neagle.
19th MARCH 1970
A LOCAL DIALECT
Peter B. Draper, who signs himself
as a linguistics student, a member of the Students Union, Bangor, but
whose local address is St. Ive’s Close, Pontefract, writes of a death
"that does not qualify for a mention in the obituary column - the
Knottingley dialect". He recalls that when he was a boy (not so very
long ago) his father was the licensee of the Railway Hotel in
Knottingley. "Well do I remember the sounds of the clientele - those
harsh but nonetheless beautiful tones of true Yorkshiremen."
"When I returned to my home town
this year I went into the same pub, expecting to hear those Knottingley
tones but where were they? All I could make out were attempts at
imitation by people from North of the Border - the Yorkshire border.
Obviously the pits are to blame, but we need modern pits and the people
to work them, even if they have to be imported; that’s progress."
"The same thing is happening all
over the country; regional dialects are being replaced by socio-regional
ones. What a loss that is to the country as a whole. I appeal to those
natives of Knottingley who are left and whose accents are free from
foreign influence to make a conscious effort to preserve a waning
dialect - keep for Knottingley a linguistic heritage..."
19th MARCH 1970
SISTERS FAREWELL TO FISH & CHIP SHOP
Two Ferrybridge sisters, Mrs Sally
Popplewell and Mrs Lily Baker, retired on Saturday from the
fish-and-chip-shop their grandfather opened in 1915. The business has
been bought by a former Leeds licensee and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. L.
The reason for the retirement, Mrs
Popplewell told ‘The Express’ is: "We are getting older and none of our
children are interested in selling fish and chips." She added that she
would look back on her 36 tears in the business without regret: "I loved
every bit of it."
The fish and chip shop was started
by Mr. Joseph Hubbard, who was helped by his daughter, Mrs Sarah
Shepherd and Mrs Florence Law. Both women, although not recently active
in the business, have kept an eye on things. Mrs Shepherd recalls; "When
we started, fish was 1s.9d a stone. We had to take the heads off and do
the filleting ourselves. Nowadays, fish costs more than £2 a stone and
all the filleting is done before delivery." Mrs Popplewell believes the
demand for fish and chips is continually rising despite the increase in
prices. Mr. and Mrs Baker started working in the business after their
father, Mr. Tom Hubbard, took over in 1934.
2nd APRIL 1970
SAME OLD-FASHIONED BAKING METHODS
Mr. Derrick Hall, the proprietor of
Randolph Backhouse, Bakery, Knottingley, is sticking to the "same
old-fashioned baking methods." The firm is still using recipes handed
down over the years. Mr. Hall, who is 45, says that Knottingley people,
especially those from the old part of the town, still like home-baked
confectionery. "They demand something of quality rather than the cheaper
stuff which is mass produced in factories," he said.
And Mr. Hall’s customers today have
been patronising the shop and buying home-baked foods for many years. He
feels they are good judges in this respect. From where they stand in the
shop, customers can see the bread and pastry being taken out of the
oven, "Plant bakers will never beat us," boasts Mr. Hall. He says
conditions have not changed much over the years. "The work is still very
hard, even though we have the odd machine to help. For me it is just a
12-hour day most days." Mr. Hall also feels that the small family bakery
will survive in the future. He believes that where a grocer can be put
out of business by a supermarket, a baker cannot.
Mr. Hall is very proud of his staff
of 12. "Most of the staff have been with us from leaving school. It is
important that there is no discord between staff. Most of our day is
spent at work, so we try to make it enjoyable." he says.
The business was originally in Aire
Street, but because of the re-development scheme Mr. Hall transferred to
Racca Green. In 1900 the shop and bakery in Aire Street was owned by two
sisters, Polly and Hanna Peckitt. An oven, which was probably used at
that time, was in the shop right up to it being demolished last year.
Mr. Randolph Backhouse started working for the sisters as a boy in 1914.
After a period in the Royal Navy in World War One, he went back to the
In 1922 the sisters retired to Filey
and Mr. Backhouse and his wife, Marion, now a retired schoolteacher,
bought the business. Mr. Hall, who was a draughtsman, joined as a junior
partner in 1951 when he was 25. He married Mr. Backhouse’s daughter,
Ursula, and in 1955 when Mr. Backhouse retired, the couple took over the
business. Despite having retired, Mr. and Mrs Backhouse frequently visit
the shop and bakery to "keep an eye on things," and occasionally help
out at busy times.
21st MAY 1970
STILL FRYING AT 70
After 48 years in the fish-and-chip
business Mrs Ivy Ibbotson is still "frying" at the age of 70. Further,
she is eager to continue in this line of the catering business. She was
born in Knottingley, one of a family of five, and took over a
fish-and-chip shop at Racca Green, Knottingley, with her husband,
Alfred, in 1922. The couple built up the business with the help of their
two daughters Betty and Freda, and served three generations of customers
until 1964, when Mr. Ibbotson died.
Mrs Ibbotson continued to use coal
fires for frying until that time, because she felt fuel-fried
fish-and-chips were more tastier than those fried by gas. Because of the
six-day working week there was little time for relaxation. When her
husband died she went to live with her daughter Freda, at Norton, but
although she had sold the business she enjoyed her work so much that she
wanted to continue in it. She now works at a shop in Finkle Street,
Pontefract. Even after such a full and busy working life she says she
intends to carry on.
28th MAY 1970
KNOTTINGLEY GOLDEN WEDDING
Britain’s heaviest man, Arthur
Armitage, of Northfield Avenue, Knottingley, made a surprise
presentation to Mr. and Mrs J. Beckett of Foundry Lane, on Friday, when
they celebrated their golden wedding. He gave Mrs Beckett a large
bouquet, subscribed for by friends, the presentation being at the Red
Lion Hotel, Low Green.
Mr. Beckett, who is 72, worked for
most of his life as a bottle ‘gatherer’ at the old Bagley’s glass works
(now Rockware) The trade was extremely skilled and there are not many
veteran ‘gatherers’ left. Mr. Beckett also served in the Royal Navy in
World War One. His hobby is keeping poultry. His wife Violet, aged 71,
considers that youngsters today do not know what it is like to live in a
strict society. She remembers as a girl being terrified of the ‘bobbies’
who kept youngsters on the straight and narrow. She said: "If you just
stood in the street, especially up Hill Top, the bobbies would move you
along. They gave you a flick with their capes and you knew what it meant
and you were off like the wind."
11th JUNE 1970
BEN THOMPSON’S CONCERN FOR LAW AND ORDER, LIVES ON
The story about Ben Thompson, the
Knottingley born gun-slinger who became a famous lawman, which appeared
in ‘The Express’ on March 5th created a lot of interest among
Knottingley people. I find that descendants of the original Thompson
family still live in Knottingley and I have discovered how many people
have conflicting ideas of Thompson’s birthplace and where he worked in
Mrs Mary Dearden, aged 50, of
Broomhill Square, Knottingley, tells me that Ben Thompson was her
great-uncle. She said "I am proud to say that Ben Thompson still has
descendants living in Knottingley - myself, my sister, Mrs Ivy Aaron,
and my brothers, Mr. Leonard Knapton and Mr. Charles Knapton."
Mr. Charles Knapton, now retired,
was a detective sergeant in Oxford City Police. Mrs Dearden says; "Ben
Thompson was my mother’s uncle, so he was our great-uncle. My mother
used to tell us that he went to Texas as a young man, and she was told
by her mother, Ben Thompson’s sister, who stayed in Knottingley when the
family emigrated, that he was shot in the back in a Texas saloon when
somebody switched the lights off."
Mrs Dearden believes the Thompson
spirit and wanderlust still exists in her family. She also says that the
family have Ben Thompson’s concern for law and order. Her eldest
brother, now deceased, was Inspector George Knapton of the West Riding
Constabulary; another brother was in his younger days a member of
Birmingham City Police. "My son Paul must have the wanderlust, because
on leaving school he joined the Merchant Navy. He travelled all over the
world until he married and settled in Knottingley for a few years before
emigrating to Australia. There is a bit of Ben Thompson in all of us, in
one form or other, and I for one am proud of him. I am also proud to
have been born in Knottingley where many good men have been born who
have fought for their country, especially at sea." adds Mrs Deardon.
21st JUNE 1970
A KNOTTINGLEY BUTCHER
Mr. Tom Taylor is so disgusted at a
raw deal he claims he has had concerning the Aire-Street re-development
scheme, that he has sent his five Second World War medals to the
K.U.D.C. in protest. Mr. Taylor told the ‘Express’ about what he
describes as the unfair attitude of the Council in making compulsory
purchase orders. He said: "I suggest that property-owners are not paid
out on the face value of their property, but on how their faces fit.
Some owners have got four times what their property is worth whereas
others have been offered only one fifth."
"Some property in Aire Street is
worth six times as much burnt down as it is standing, according to the
council’s valuer. After more than 11 years war service between us, my
wife and I are stunned to think we are to lose all we fought for. When I
left Northern Italy in 1945 I thought we had seen the last of Hitlerism,
but in the past ten years we have been subjected to nothing else. In
fact, it is even worse than the war from my point of view. In the desert
we could fight back, and we did, but we cannot fight back at the
council, they hold all the cards."
Mr. Taylor ardently believes that
Aire Street has become a battle-ground. On the Aire Street project, he
said the council had wasted thousands of pounds. Ratepayer’s money had
gone on abortive plans and architect’s fees as they had on another
housing estate in Knottingley, where 200 houses were still empty.
"In Aire Street, four shops have
been built. It is a sin that the tenants were indirectly led to believe
that more were to be built, more houses, more multi-storey flats, a new
road an open market and a bus service which would flood the street with
shoppers. After ten years we have nothing but eyesores. I was born and
bred in Aire Street and my family for 200 years. It is sad to see the
massacre of old Knottingley."
50 YEARS IN CANADA, RE-VISITS BIRTHPLACE
In June 1920, a 16-year-old
Knottingley boy emigrated with his family to Canada. Last week, almost
50 years later to the day, he returned to his birthplace. He is Mr.
Harry Johnson, who came over with his wife Dorothy, to visit Mr. and
Mrs. Walter Miller, of Aire Street, Knottingley. Mr. Miller is an old
school chum. Throughout the 50 years Mr. Johnson and Mr. Miller have
kept in touch by letter. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson returned to Canada on
Saturday after visiting many places of interest in the area and reviving
a few old friendships.
However, Mr. Johnson, although
pleased to see familiar sites again, said he was rather disappointed in
Aire Street’s deteriorated condition. He remembered the many shops that
used to sell virtually everything when Aire Street was the undisputed
centre of the town. Surprisingly, after such a long time, Mr. Johnson,
who is now 66, can also remember many of the old Knottingley
personalities. He has distinct memories of his school days at the Church
of England School in Primrose Vale, and of his years as a choir boy at
the Wesleyan Church, Ropewalk. In fact, Mr. Johnson re-visited Church
School and even looked up his name and that of a brother, in the school
register. He also visited the Wesleyan Church and sat in the choir pew
which he and Mr. Miller used those years ago.
As a boy Mr. Johnson used to live in
Weeland Road, opposite Knottingley police station. He worked on a farm
at Byram Park when he left school and can remember walking all over the
Marsh to work each day.
When he emigrated to Canada he
worked on various farms for a while until he could afford to buy his
own. The farm he bought was in Alberta. He sold it after 25 years and
went to work at the Department of Agriculture, Victoria, British
Columbia where he met his wife Dorothy, who worked in an office on the
other side of the corridor from his own.
Mrs Johnson was born in
Worcestershire and her family emigrated when she was two. In Canada Mr.
and Mrs. Johnson are very good friends of two Knottingley brothers who
emigrated shortly after the turn of the century. They are Alf and Harry
Tranmer, who live about 70 miles away from the Johnson’s. Mr. Johnson
can remember the brothers from when he was a boy; he said he used to
watch them milking cows on Cow Lane. Mr. Johnson spent a little of his
time trying to trace some of his nephews and nieces who are members of
the Sweeting family. Said Mr. Johnson, "I’ve tried all over to catch up
with them, but nobody seems to know where I can find them."
17th SEPTEMBER 1970
STILL FEELS THE URGE TO 'REACH FOR THE SKY'
Whenever Mr. George
Reginald Lodge, of 45, Pontefract Road, Ferrybridge, sees an aeroplane
streak across the sky, or hears talk of the Concorde and supersonic
bangs, his thoughts go back to his own flying days. Those were the days
of the open cockpit; when top speeds were around 100mph; and when
pilots, often facing atrocious weather conditions, relied entirely upon
their own judgement for take-off, manoeuvre, and landing. Forced down
into an orchard during a snowstorm when snow lay four inches deep inside
the cockpit... shot down over no-mans land in France Those were but two
of Mr Lodge’s hair-raising adventures during his service in the old
Royal Flying Corps.
After joining the R.F.C. in
October 1914, Mr. Lodge was sent for training to Brooklands where many
of the scenes for the film "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying
Machines" were shot. Then followed a course of instruction in aeroplane
body and engine maintenance at Bristol. In February 1915, he became an
Airman First Class and was placed in charge of a flight. By September he
had been promoted to Flight Sergeant. "I flew such machines as the
Bleriot monoplane, the Maurice Farman biplane, a two-seater R.E.8
biplane, and the F.E.2b biplane," Mr. Lodge told me. "Most of these
machines were powered by 160h.p. Renault engines and flew at 100 mph."
"While flying from
Brooklands to Northolt in an F.E.2b, which was powered by a Beardmore
engine, with a Captain Summers as pilot, we had to land in an orchard
after being forced down in a snowstorm. By the time we managed to land,
there was four inches of snow in the cockpit. To start the engine one
man had to twist the propeller four or five times to ease the engine,
then the pilot switched on the engine and shouted ‘contact’. The prop
was given a gentle swing and with luck, the engine started."
In 1917, Mr. Lodge was
posted to France to serve with a night bombing squadron. "During the day
a spotter plane would go out and take pictures of German troop
concentrations," he said. "It was then the job of the bomber crews to
find and bomb these troops after dark. F.E. 2b’s were used. These
machines were pushed by a rear engine and were fitted with Lewis guns."
Mr. Lodge continued: "As observer and gunner on these aeroplanes, I sat
in front of the pilot. The observer was the one who dropped the bombs.
In the cockpit there were levers to release each of the nine bombs
carried. A 112lb bomb was slung under the undercarriage and there were
four 50lb bombs under each wing. When the observer dropped the bombs he
had to look over the sides of the plane and guess where the bombs would
land. There were no landing instruments in those days. We had to look
over the side to see how high we were and watch where we were going at
the same time."
While Mr. Lodge was
stationed at Northolt, a friend, Corporal Motteshead, shot down a
Zeppelin airship. "It was claimed as the first airship shot down," said
Mr. Lodge. "Corporal Motteshead was observer on a B.E.2b piloted by a
Lieutenant Robinson. The Lewis guns on the B.E.2b’s had a tracer shell
every sixth round. It was with the tracer shells that the Zeppelin was
shot down. Although Corporal Motteshead was the one who actually shot
down the Zeppelin, he received the Military Medal, whereas the pilot
received the Victoria Cross for his part. Corporal.Motteshead would not
wear his medal and got into a great deal of trouble, but he thought it
was unfair that a man who played the major part in an action should get
a lesser honour because of rank."
While on night bombing
mission, Mr. Lodge and his pilot were shot down over no-man’s land. "We
were forced down among the thousands of shell holes which made up
no-man’s land," Mr. Lodge recalled. "We were lucky to get the plane down
- it was pitch black. It’s a wonder we didn’t end up at the bottom of
one of those holes."
After being rescued by men
of the Gordon Highlanders, Mr. Lodge spent three days on a stretcher on
his way to hospital in Dundee. Six months later he left hospital and was
posted to Andover where he was placed in charge of the R.F.C. wounded
who were awaiting discharge.
"Pilots today don’t know
they are born," said Mr. Lodge, "They fly in comfort, with every
electronic device imaginable to help them. In my day we had nothing; in
everything we did we had to rely on our own judgement. Planes of today
have the speed to carry them through air pockets; if we hit an air
pocket at the speed we used to fly, we were in great danger of dropping
to the ground like a stone."
Last in an aircraft in
1917, Mr. Lodge often feels the urge to "reach for the sky," but he is
resigned to the fact that his flying days are over.
3rd DECEMBER 1970
ARTHUR CONTINUES TO SHED LOAD
Knottingley’s Arthur Armitage,
formerly Britain’s heaviest man, has lost a further three stones since
his "big slim" was reported in the ‘Express’ ten weeks ago. Now weighing
26 stones, Arthur has shed a total of 14 stones (his top weight was 40
stones) and he says he is feeling fit and well. On Saturday he received
a visit from 28-year-old Canadian student Angus Goldie, who is at
present working in the film industry.
Angus sketched Arthur at his present
weight and the end product will be a painting of Arthur. He is also
working on a painting of Arthur at his top weight and hopes to paint him
if and when he reaches 16 stone. Arthur has also been able to help a
lecturer and three students with the production of a play. The lecturer,
Noel Witts, of Leicester Polytechnic Theatre Group, visited Arthur with
the three students and asked his opinion about the "joys, horrors, uses
and inconveniences of being fat."
Arthur told an ‘Express’ reporter:
"I tried to explain things and they said I had helped enormously." Noel
Witts, with the help of Peter Brady, also from the Polytechnic, has
written a play simply called "Fat." The play was performed for the first
time this week and is a fantasy on the life of Daniel Lambert, the
famous heavy-man of Leicester. Lambert, who was born 220 years ago, was
said to be the fattest man in Europe. He weighed 55 stone at his death,
which makes Arthur sound like something of a ‘Skinny-rib’s’.
Years in Focus is researched by
Maurice Haigh and reproduced
with the permission of the Pontefract & Castleford Express.
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