YEARS IN FOCUS
KNOTTINGLEY IN 1971
REPRODUCED COURTESY OF THE
7TH JANUARY 1971
‘K’ SISTERS RAISE MONEY FOR CHARITY
One of the most widely read features in the ‘Express’ each week is
"This was news..." which recalls events of 25 and 50 years ago. These
recollections stir happy memories for many people who have connections
with the area.
An item in the 25-years-ago column recently prompted Mrs Marjorie
Dearman of Brunswick Road, Ealing, London, to write to the ‘Express’.
The item referred to the ‘K’ Sisters, of Knottingley, who had raised
£500 in 12 months of singing and dancing for charity. Mrs Dearman, nee
Kellett, was the elder of the ‘K’ Sisters. Her sister is Mrs Pamela
Peters, of St. Albans. During and after the last war, Marjorie and
Pamela became popular both as a team and as individual entertainers.
Marjorie started dancing when she was eight and at 15 had her own
dancing school at her parent’s home in Womersley Road, Knottingley. She
produced shows all over this area, raising large sums for charity.
Pamela began her dancing career at the age of three, making her first
appearance at the Town Hall, Knottingley. The sisters were also
accomplished musicians; they both learned to play the piano and
incorporated the accordion and xylophone in their acts. Marjorie told
the ‘Express’ she still does charity work on a semi-professional basis
at old peoples homes and similar institutions. She now has two children,
Julie aged six and Colin, aged two. Pamela no longer entertains. She
also has two children Karen aged two and Melanie, aged 15 months. Many
local people who knew the ‘K’ Sisters may probably be wondering what has
been happening to them over the years so let’s go back to just after the
In 1946 and 1947 Marjorie appeared at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, and
afterwards had several summer seasons at Cleveleys, near Blackpool.
During the pantomime season the sisters appeared in ‘Goldilocks’ and
they recall having "coaches of local people coming to see us. It was
good to recognise the familiar faces."
In 1954 they joined the Royal Kiltie Juniors, toured Denmark, and
appeared on television during 1954 and 1955. Afterwards they toured
Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa and Libya. The sisters had
many highlights during their careers in the late 40s and early 50s.
Pamela appeared with Frankie Howard at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool.
Marjorie won a beauty contest at Castleford when she was 21 and had a
week’s holiday at Butlins as part of her prize. During the holiday she
won every competition she entered including fancy dress, vocal and
When the show ‘Happiness Ahead’ came to Castleford, Marjorie
entertained with a cheeky little trumpet-playing, choirboy-come-comedian
Roy Castle. Roy Castle recalled working with Marjorie in his life story
which was recently published in a television magazine; her stage name
then was Marjorie Kendall. Her first professional debut under this name
was when she was 16. She was a speciality dancer in ‘Dick Whittington’
with George Formby at the Grand Theatre, Leeds.
In 1953 Pamela appeared in a production of ‘The old woman who lived in
a shoe’ at the Windsor Theatre, Birmingham. Just before that she had the
leading role in the successful road show ‘Peep’ in 1960.
There are many people in Knottingley who remember the ‘K’ Sisters, one
in particular is Mrs Ethne Matthewman, ladies hairdresser, of Aire
Street, Knottingley. Mrs Matthewman recalls attending the same dancing
school as the sisters. "They used to have dancing lessons four nights
each week and music lessons one night. At that time their mother kept
the Morley House fish and chip shop in Weeland Road." Mrs Matthewman
recalls Pamela’s "beautiful long ringlets" and Marjorie’s speciality tap
dance on her toes. She also remembers the sisters giving concerts during
the time they had their own dancing school. "They would put on shows for
anybody, and everything they did was for charity. They loved every
minute of it. They often had to do quick-change spots when they put on a
show by themselves and never seemed to have time to relax," added Mrs
Miss Mary Britain, of Pontefract Road, Knottingley, has kept in touch
with Marjorie for many years. She used to live near the Kellett’s when
they had the fish and chip shop. "Marjorie still visits me and keeps in
touch with friends in Knottingley. I remember they used to do an awful
lot of fund-raising all over this area", she said. I am sure many other
people also remember the worthwhile work the ‘K’ Sisters did for many
D (FOR DECIMAL) DAY IS MONDAY 15TH FEBRUARY
Less than a month away, this is the day we say goodbye forever to the
currency we have known all our lives and start getting to know and to
use an entirely new set of coins. Let us take a look at what is
happening and why.
The decimal system is used in almost every country in the world except
Britain, so by joining the ‘decimal club’ we shall no longer be the odd
one out and we should gain obvious advantages. Our decimal currency will
be based on the pound sterling, and the familiar pound note will remain
- we therefore start off with an old friend in our pocket or purse.
Instead of consisting of 20 shillings, or 240 pennies, however, the
decimal pound will be divided into 100 new pence. This is the first
essential we must understand - that 100 new pence equals our decimal
In February we shall have six new coins to deal with, three of which,
the 50 pence, the 10 pence and the five pence, we have been using for
months. The other three, the two pence, one pence, and half pence we
shall be seeing for the first time next month.
Since April 1968, we have been getting used to the 10 pence piece,
which is similar in size to the two-shilling piece (sometimes called the
florin) and the five-pence, which corresponds in size to the
one-shilling piece. Actually the florin was originally minted in 1849 as
a first step in an intended change to the decimal currency system so the
idea of establishing a system of currency common to our neighbour’s is
not entirely new.
28TH JANUARY 1971
ARTHUR NO LONGER HAS HIS NIGHTLY DOZEN
Arthur Armitage, of Southfield Road, Knottingley, sits in a chair. A
number of people around him are examining his huge body. A blind girl
presses her hand just below his chest and it sinks in a good bit. Arthur
nonchalantly tells her it’s all muscle; but she obviously does not
believe him. She asks how much beer he drank and commented that she had
heard it was around 14 pints a night.
Arthur opens his eyes a little wider and smiles before declaring it was
not has much as that. "How many pints do you drink then?" she asks;
"About 12 a night!" replies Arthur. This sequence can be seen in a film
called ‘The Body’ in which Arthur takes part.
The film, which is being shown all this week at the New Star Cinema,
Castleford, takes an interesting and sometimes frightening look at the
human body from conception to death. Arthur crops up in many of the
scenes as an onlooker during experiments. At the time the film was being
made he was the heaviest man in Britain at over 37 stones; he later
reached 40. Now, only two months after the film’s general release, he
has lost about 16 stones and that nightly 12 pints has been cut
completely out of his diet.
18TH FEBRUARY 1971
DECIMALS WITHOUT TEARS
D-Day dawned and died in the districts without any of the confusion and
panic forecast by some pessimists and opponents of decimalisation. The
changeover from £sd was a relatively smooth operation, a relief to the
elderly, and presenting few problems to the rest of the community.
To all intents and purposes it was ‘business as usual’ and most of the
housewives took to the decimals with good humour and a willingness to
learn quickly. Railway stations reported the usual number of commuters
using the ‘pay on the train’ services, and Baghill Station, Pontefract,
coped with passengers without incident. The need for food and a
determination to master the new currency defeated initial hesitancy on
the part of the shoppers.
In most shops dual prices were on view. Not all shops provided this
useful guide, however, but the good humour and tolerance of the checkers
in the supermarkets and counter assistants elsewhere, quickly overcame
Some shopkeepers placed shopper’s price guides on the protective glass
over their wares. These enabled the customers to check the comparisons
and to learn decimals at the same time - it also got them used to having
the correct change ready. It was an experience watching the shoppers
making their purchases in decimals for the first time. There was the
teenager, dashing around the stalls during her mid-morning break,
pushing jam tarts, a loaf of bread, some sausage, cosmetics and a pair
of nylons into a basket. Breathlessly she reached the cash check,
unhesitatingly pushed a note into the checker’s hand, and as swiftly and
unsuspiciously pocketed her change without a glance at the variety of
coins she received.
Some people were careful not to part with their money until they were
absolutely sure the price they paid in decimals was the price they would
have paid in £sd.
Mr. K. Sharpe, the manager of W.H. Smiths, described D-Day as "a good
anti-climax after all the training we’ve done since June." He added that
everything had gone well. "We were a little bit quieter than usual for a
Monday but the customers we served seemed well versed in decimalisation.
We’ve sold stacks of conversion charts and the smaller handbag-size
decimal currency calculators. We’ve been preparing for months for this,
and have everything in the shop priced in decimals". Mr. Dennis Winter
(Chief Officer) said D-Day had gone "very smoothly, with very few
4TH MARCH 1971
YOUNG HAVE ENVIED HER
Councillor Mary Nunns has been both the envy of teenagers and the
object of miner’s wrath, but not because she was Knottingley’s first
woman councillor. On the contrary, everyone was delighted at her
success; other women had tried to make the council chamber, but had
failed. Mary Nunns aroused the envy of teenagers during one of her two
terms as chairman of the Urban Council when Gene Pitney opened
Knottingley Carnival. As chairman, it was her job to entertain him. She
incurred the wrath of the local miners when she refused to let them
speak at a council meeting. They marched to the Council Chamber shortly
after rents on Simpson Lane Estate were increased. Councillor Nunns
eventually closed the meeting.
She was elected to the Council 18 years ago and has been a member since
then without a break. What spurred her on to enter politics? Was it her
husband, a former councillor? Her interest in people and their problems?
"Something to do with both," she said, but the main factor was that
"involvement in local government was a family tradition."
Her great-grandfather, Alderman D. Longstaff, was a Mayor of
Pontefract, and her husband was a councillor, but retired when she was
elected. Later he served another short spell on Knottingley Council, but
retired because of business commitments.
Mary Nunn’s main interest as a councillor concern old people and
education. She has been chairman of the Housing Committee six times and
as such was many people’s confidante. "They often found it easier to
talk to a women than to a man," she said. She has served on every
committee of the council and says throughout her time in local
government, she has never felt out of place as a women councillor and
has been "treated perfectly" by her colleagues.
Besides council work, she has done much social work. She has belonged
to the W.R.V.S. for 31 years, joining during the war when she worked in
the hospitals. After the war she helped found the Knottingley Derby and
Joan Club. Now she is Centre Organiser. "Social work gives you a broader
outlook," she told me. "It removes some of the drudgery of household
chores." Councillor Nunns sometimes has to do washing and other chores
in the evening, but the satisfaction given by her work more than
compensates for every smaller hardship.
Both her social and council work have "become part of my life" which
she say she would find very dull without any outside interests. She
thoroughly enjoys the way she lives but trying to encourage other women
to join in voluntary work is not quite as easy. They say they haven’t
Councillor Nunns was born at Pontefract but has lived in Knottingley
since she was 12.
25TH MARCH 1971
PUB TO CLOSE AFTER 135 YEARS
The Red Lion Inn, Low Green, Knottingley, is closing on Monday. It has
been sold to Gregg and Co., Ltd., glass bottle manufacturers, who own
adjoining property. The licensee and his wife, Mr. and Mrs L. Foster,
who have been at the Red Lion for four years, are moving to the Royal
Oak, Selby. They were formerly at the Boat Inn, Sunnybank, which was
closed in 1966 and later demolished.
A spokesman for Whitbread (Yorkshire) Ltd, said the Red Lion was the
second of their public houses to close in Knottingley in recent months.
The Wagon and Horses, Aire Street, closed last year. The spokesman also
added that closure of the Ropers Arms, Sunnybank, was imminent.
A spokesman for Gregg and Co., Ltd., said the Red Lion would be
demolished. "We hope that when the site is clear we will be able to
build a new engineering department."
The earliest records of the Red Lion go back to 1836, when it was
occupied by William Atkinson Wasney. In 1842 Wasney died and his estate
sold the property to Carter, Gaggs & Co., forerunners of Carter’s
Brewery, Hill Top.
15TH JUNE 1971
LIVING EDUCATION IS FUN IN GREAT OUTDOORS
has been estimated that on each school day about 100,000 British children
play truant, and there are forecasts that the problem could become worse,
especially when the school age is raised. Some people say pupils who have
a phobia about school need the help of welfare officers and child guidance
clinics. For others who just can't be bothered to attend school, it would
be difficult to do much on all those lines. Really, there is only one way
the truant problem can be solved - by making school so attractive that
children will feel they are missing something if they don't go.
thought of this (says Allan Tunningley) as I drove home after
spending a few hours with Knottingley High School pupils based at their
field study centre at Helwith Bridge, in the Yorkshire Dales where I
witnessed an invaluable approach to education. Knottingley High School is
without doubt one of the most progressive schools in the area, proving
itself time and again in the varying aspects of education. At present it
is the only school in the area to have a field study and outdoor centre,
though Pontefract Boy’s Secondary School at Carleton has launched an
appeal for £1000 towards establishing a similar centre in the Lake
District. From the start of this year’s summer term, weekly parties of
pupils from Knottingley have gone in their school coach to the picturesque
Dales to sample the delights of what I call "living education."
into the countryside and studying geology, history, geography and biology
at first hand must be better than studying the same subject under clinical
conditions in a stuffy classroom.
pupils I was with at Helwith Bridge, really proved the advantage of
studying ‘in the field’ - I could see their interest had really been
aroused. They were unanimous in preferring Helwith Bridge to the
classroom. One of them commented: "it’s a pity there’s no
advantage in learning maths, English and French out in the wilds."
You have to draw the line somewhere, though.
pair of good strong jeans, heavy climbing boots and a thick, woollen
sweater makes up the average uniform in the Dales. With each child armed
with a notebook and pen, the class is ready for work. An additional
advantage of this type of education is that it gives youngsters some
I was at Helwith Bridge, the teacher in charge was Mr. William Bailey, the
deputy headmaster. I saw him establish a precedent. He told pupils they
could go off in small groups for the first time, instead of in one large
Bailey explained that he thought them responsible enough to be able to go
out and work without constant adult supervision. They split into a number
of small groups. Some went to nearby Horton-in-Ribblesdale, while others
made their way to Settle. I observed some of the groups as they worked.
Lauren Best and Sonja Bailey (Mr. Bailey’s daughter) both aged 15, and
Katrina Sefton, aged 16, were studying the history of houses in Settle.
What had they learned? Well, they told me, more than they would have done
in a normal class. If the subject seems to you to be rather narrow, then
your mind is narrow. The result of their work, though not of any real
educational importance, is only a small part of what it is all about. Like
the words of the song, it’s not what you do it’s the way that you do
it. I found Mandy Hamilton, Margaret Brannon and Susan Smart drawing
bridges. They all agreed it was interesting "to see the other side of
geography." They were joined by Maureen Carr, who told me of the
attitude of the Dales people when they were invaded by schoolchildren
asking questions. Some were beginning to get "fed up" but a lot
more were "right helpful" to them, she said. Ann Metcalfe,
Janine Sefton and Sharon Mellor were studying old churches, I found them
examining Stainforth Parish Church.
learned a tremendous amount in the past week," Ann declared, and the
others nodded in agreement. Susan Dudley and Pat Robinson had just
finished following the River Ribble from Helworth Bridge to Settle when I
asked if they would agree that youngsters had things too easy at school
nowadays. "It’s easier at school than before" says Susan,
"but it hasn’t made us soft." The two adventurous youngster’s
were Antony Wood and Geoffrey Hardy, who climbed Pen-y-Ghent, one of the
three highest peaks in the Dales, to measure solution holes. They told me
of their interest in Outward Bound subjects and expressed a desire to
Gerald White, who assisted Mr. Bailey at the centre, told me he would like
to see the opportunity of visiting Helwith Bridge for a week in term time
open to every pupil. Some could not afford to go, so the West Riding
County Council is being approached for financial aid. The schools
headquarters at Helwith Bridge were opened last year after standing for
eight years gathering dust and cobwebs. It was a village school and a
youth club before being closed.
29TH JULY 1971
NEW H.Q. FOR ST. JOHN'S AMBULANCE
new St. John’s Ambulance Brigade headquarters were officially opened on
Sunday by Mrs J.A. Fox, the wife of the Brigades Divisional Surgeon. The
new headquarters are in Marine Villa Road, on the site of the original
premises - a wooden hut which was burnt down in November 1969. After the
fire an appeal was launched to raise money for new headquarters. The
appeal closed earlier this year after £1,300 in materials and cash had
been given. The new building is worth £2,500.
the opening, the vicar of Knottingley, the Reverend J.S. Pearson,
dedicated the new building. The St. John Area Superintendent, Mr. R.S.
Wilson, presented a £50 cheque from the Order of St. John (West Riding)
towards the cost of the building and a medal for 15 years service to Mr.
H. Duffel, ambulance member.
M. Rhodes received her honorary member’s warrant and badge from Mrs Fox
who received a bouquet from Nursing Cadet, Angela Moore. Mrs Fox was
thanked by Sergeant Eric Simpson and the opening ceremony concluded with a
12TH AUGUST 1971
TALK OF TOWN IN BRIGHT NEW SCHOOL MAGAZINE
High School’s first magazine committee set out to produce a magazine
with a difference - and succeeded! Called
‘The Communicator’, the magazine has been highly praised by the Deputy
Chief Education Officer for the West Riding, Mr. P.A. Newsom. Its content
is bright and varied and the presentation pleasant. There is a generous
sprinkling of humour, though many serious notes are struck, writes Alan
Tunningley. It is not a magazine concerned solely with internal school
activities. This probably makes it something special - something of which
the townspeople may like to take note.
story by fifth former Mary McKinnon, for example, declares that "Knottingley
is not a dirty town." Mary writes that at first she considered the
town to be "... one of the dirtiest places I had ever seen." An
interview with the Public Health inspector, Mr. L. Barber, made her face
facts about the industries of Knottingley and she was forced to change her
opinion. She has a meaningful message: "The one fact we who live in
Knottingley must realise, is that if the town seems to us to be ‘a dump’
it is because we have made it that way."
Eccles, a fourth former, writes about pupils who have spent many hours
during the past year helping elderly people and keeping them company. She
declares: "It is surprising to us how many older people appreciate
the company of the young. It may also be surprising to some adults to find
that many of the younger generation do help the elderly. We are so often
talked of as a thoughtless, selfish generation that perhaps it would be a
good thing if more people read in the newspapers of the good done by
teenagers instead of the wrong-doings of hooligans and vandals who are in
Harrison and Vincent Bradley take a long look at K.U.D. Council’s
proposed sports centre at Hilltop and other suggested sports facilities.
They conclude that when these plans became reality "... Knottingley
should be a better and certainly more interesting place in which to
of the most interesting subjects covered is wrestling. The questions
asked: "What is it A dirty game or a superb sport?" Mr. George
Bell, a well-known amateur wrestler until his retirement in 1952, was
interviewed. Mr. Bell who lives at Ferrybridge has a son who attends the
why he thought wrestlers were a better class of person than the average
sportsman. Mr. Bell replied: "Well they are friendly, pleasant, very
fit with lots of confidence. A wrestling friend is a friend for life. Such
a friend to me is Georges Hackensmidt, the famous 'Russian Lion'. He was
born in Darpot in Russia in 1878 and served with the Russian Life-Guards.
He became a professional wrestler in 1900 and later became champion of the
world, having learned the finer points of wrestling in the North of India.
He befriended me in 1950 and was planning my career to follow the same
course as his own. Then in 1952 I met my wife and took up ‘husbandry’
19TH AUGUST 1971
KNOTTINGLEY DISTRICT BEST FOR HONESTY
Knottingley, Ferrybridge, Cridling Stubbs and Womersley were to have a
joint motto it could well be; "Honesty is the best policy." Why?
- because the honesty of townspeople and villagers has earned the praise
of Mr. Joseph Fitton, who because of ill health has retired from running
his mobile shop. Mr. Fitton, who is 61, gives this verdict; "You
could not find more honest people anywhere than the people of Knottingley
and the neighbouring villages." And Mr. Fitton should know, because
this is the area in which he has traded for the past 14 years and he is
qualified to make comparisons, for he has been in business in various
parts of the country virtually all his working life.
says; "You hear so much about bad debt and businesses being forced to
close down. My wife Margaret and I have never had any trouble like that in
our 14 years with the mobile shop". Mr.
Fitton thanks his customers who have supported his service over the years.
He says: "It is a great pleasure to my wife and I to know that we
have been so much appreciated."
Fittton, who was born in Huddersfield, came to Knottingley in 1953 as a
wholesale potato merchant. He and his wife are planning to move to Brigg,
Lincolnshire and Mr. A. Woodhouse, of Castleford, is taking over the
30TH SEPTEMBER 1971
WEDDING OF FORMER CARNIVAL QUEEN
1966 Carnival Queen, Miss Jennifer A. Whitwell, only daughter of Mr. and
Mrs T.C. Whitwell, of North View, Knottingley, and Mr. David J. Peart,
youngest son of Mr. and Mrs G. Peart, of Rossiter Drive, Knottingley, were
married at Knottingley Parish Church on Monday. The Vicar, the Reverend
J.S. Pearson, performed the ceremony. A reception was held at the Fox
Hotel, Brotherton. The couple are to live in Knottingley.
28TH OCTOBER 1971
FOOTBALL POOLS WINNER BUYS COAL
still don’t quite believe it," was the reaction of Mrs Beatrice
Williamson aged 69, of North View, Knottingley, to a £25,000 pools
success shared with her daughter-in-law, Muriel. The winning coupon was
only their second this season with the particular pools firm.
late husband Fred, used to do the pools every week, but never won
anything. I used to tell him he made all the profits for them," said
Mrs Williamson. "We are not planning any family celebration because
of my heart condition, but next year I’m going to Filey where Fred and I
used to go every year, and as a special treat I hope to go to a holiday
camp at Blackpool with the grandchildren."
first thing we are spending some money on is new clothes for the kids and
some coal. I’ve had to make do with three fires a week now that the coal
concession is so low. The only other plan I have is to frame the cheque
and hang it on the wall when I get it back from the bank."
21ST OCTOBER 1971
THAT THE FIRE STILL BURNS; AN A CHURCH DIE
strange how oddments of everyday life suddenly trigger abiding and
powerful memories that have lain hidden - the gaudy jacket of a disc, for
example. Why should the perpendicular lines of Christ Church, Knottingley, suddenly
blot out the street from vision when a former Knottingley churchman saw
the name ‘Ketelby’ on that disc jacket, and project him, so vividly,
into the atmosphere of another day, that he seemed to have opened a door
into a neglected room. What would have happened if the door had closed
behind him? The answer will never be known, because the door of the
present was re-opened and he was dragged unwillingly over the threshold by
an assistant who inquired if he would take the disc that seemed to hold
the churchgoer, then, try to explain, as best one can who faces Tennyson’s
nostalgia: "The tender grace of a day that is dead will never return
to me." That day did and does return; otherwise the poet would never
have written ‘Break, break, break...." He mourns only, that he
cannot bring it back in time, to the present.
churchman’s grandparents were among the first to marry at Christ Church,
Knottingley. All his maternal kin were reared spiritually, beneath that
vaulted waggon roof. The banns of his marriage were called there, there
his eldest child was christened and there, successive vicars guided his
own formative years. A host of Knottingley acquaintances expressed their
faith in its service, family after family - the Parkin’s, the Hobman’s,
the Fozzard’s, the Lawson’s, the Thompson’s, the Miller’s, the
Askin’s, the Arnold’s, the France’s, the Harker’s; and on, and on.
churchman found Ketelby’s music recalled this and more and something has
now happened which urges him to say why. His young church life was divided
between Christ Church and St. Botolph’s, when Christ Church still
represented the Parish of East Knottingley. In student days he tried to
reserve evensong visits for Christ Church.
‘Deng Deng’ of the one hurrying bell had not begun its summons when he
took his seat. He did not wish to miss one moment of the sequence which
followed, or of the organ voluntary played by Walter Miller, who first
awakened his appreciation of Albert Ketelby by including such pieces as
‘Sanctuary of the Heart’, ‘Moonlight and Roses’ - quite a
departure from tradition in those days. The hand-pumped organ’s fluting
sang in the familiar waggon roof with a sweetness so haunting that a
lifetime’s devotion to mood in music has never reproduced its like for
him. "We love the place O God, where in thine honour dwells".
Today our churchgoer is certain that many will grieve as they remember the
times when they sang that hymn, for Christ Church was indeed greatly
evensong ‘sequence’ at Christ Church had acquired a very distinct yet
definable aura. But oh, he wishes those who scoff at "the odour of
sanctity" were sufficiently sensitive to recognise so charged an
atmosphere of deep peace and togetherness and the unspoken deference to
it, which Christ Church offered. Withdrawal from the world was total;
inspiration and release inevitable. The silver haired and mild verger, the
late Mr. Crossland, expressed all this in his muted movements and gentle
the climax approached, even the more urgent note of the last bell, the
apologetic rustle of latecomers, only deepened the charged and expectant
bell ceased, the organ note sank low, the congregation rose as one in
silence. The clergy and choir issued in silence, from the vestry in the
chancel - no processional hymn. All knelt in silence; this atmosphere was
the ‘introit’ to evensong. Showmanship? Anglican emphasis? What an
utterly unacceptable thought to anyone who knew Christ Church!
festival times, especially harvest, when the richly-decorated church was
crowded and extra chairs set in the aisles, the pre-service stillness of
packed congregations was an even more potent experience. At such times
congregations could take half an hour to disperse. As our churchgoer
listened to the Ketelby music from the spinning disc, faces,
characteristic and personalities re-emerged.
late Reverend J, Snowden, grasping the pulpit brass as he preached; the
gentle figure of the late and beloved choirmaster Dick Rhodes; the
Reverend H.K.A. Schwabe, the late Canon Walter Musgrave - kind friends, if
sometimes insistent taskmasters. And why not, when they fully believed in
what they were doing? Young people of many families were our church-goers
friends at church and at school; all part of one-another, before youth
clubs were even an idea. Green waves of countryside at the door flooded in
through the seamed lined town into the church, binding all. The record
player impelled the disc player back to the present, and he surfaced for a
second time to "Sanctuary of the Heart". Convalescing from a
long illness, he knew Christ Church was to be demolished, but had lost
count of the time. He must experience that sanctuary, just once more,
beneath that very roof.
to go, he went immediately. The journey was not very pleasant. The
merciless crash of traffic on Hill Top, once a lovely promenade of white
walls and towering chestnut avenues, was already notorious. The desert of
Aire Street, where Knottingley (The Marsh) across the river, had already
hurt him as much as it could. On these he shed no tears, for around the
new Cherry Tree Corner into the Croft, would be home, that reminder in
dark stone carted by local men over 100 years ago - Christ Church.
it was not. Despite previous knowledge of the church’s imminent
demolition, at first he could not comprehend the space before him, as
cleanly swept as an empty car park. Realisation that once again the world
and events had beaten and robbed him fell like a butcher’s pole-axe when
the significance of a site-for-sale notice dawned. He
can only ask anyone not reared in the atmosphere of that church to believe
that the shock was postrating. Later came self-accusations and reproaches
as if he had killed the church. Remorse can be a savagely destructive
love the place O God, wherein thine honour dwells". A sad reflection.
to ‘rationalise’ the position in best modern tradition were
unsatisfying until he had recourse to the fundamental truths of the
Christian faith - no less.
can offer no censure for those who had the unenviable decision left to
them, as their dilemma is all too familiar; but aversion of those who have
promoted the current ‘way of the world’. Its physical demise cannot
wipe out the impulses generated 30 years ago. Posterity will certainly
deal with any enemy while it is in the gate with him. Whether the church
should continue to remove sacred buildings, where they have been estranged
from the spirit which gave life to them, is another matter, Christ Church
was only 120 years old. But surely, for all its Christian adherents over
100 years, the memorial to Christ Church must be not a sale notice on a
building lot, but "I am the resurrection and the life". The
people whose symbol of life - a cross - is also erected above their mortal
remains have yet to speak and when they do they will shake "the
heavens, the earth, the sea, the dry land."
there are others who share the writer’s feelings for Christ Church is a
gable stone rescued from Christ Church rubble, and sent to him by a
friend, knowing he would treasure it. Meanwhile, grief at this passing, if
a human failing, reminds him strongly of the reputedly finest verse in our
Some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires,
E’en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E’en in their ashes live their wonton fires.
inward tears cannot be held back any more than the certainty.
Years in Focus is researched by Maurice Haigh and
with the permission of the Pontefract & Castleford Express.
[Focus Years Index]