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Years in Focus




Knottingley in the 1960's as seen in the Pontefract and Castleford Express


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 war.

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 instrumental.

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 Matthewman.

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 charities.


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 pound.

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.


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.


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 obstacles.

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 difficulties."

4TH MARCH 1971

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 got time!

Councillor Nunns was born at Pontefract but has lived in Knottingley since she was 12.

25TH MARCH 1971

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

It 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.

I 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."

Getting 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.

The 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.

A 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 responsibility.

While 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 party.

Mr. 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.

"We’ve 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 explore potholes.

Mr. 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

Knottingley’s 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.

At 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.

Mrs 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 buffet meal.

12TH AUGUST 1971

Knottingley 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.

A 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."

Susan 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 the minority."

Tony 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 live."

One 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 school. Asked 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’ instead."

19TH AUGUST 1971

If 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.

He 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."

Mr. 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 business.


Knottingley’s 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.


"I 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.

"My 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."

"The 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."


It’s 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 him transfixed.

Let 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The ‘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 loved.

The 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 presence.

As the climax approached, even the more urgent note of the last bell, the apologetic rustle of latecomers, only deepened the charged and expectant stillness.

The 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!

At 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.

The 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.

Free 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.

But 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 emotion. "We love the place O God, wherein thine honour dwells". A sad reflection.

Attempts to ‘rationalise’ the position in best modern tradition were unsatisfying until he had recourse to the fundamental truths of the Christian faith - no less.

He 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."

That 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 language:

On 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.

The inward tears cannot be held back any more than the certainty.

Years in Focus is researched by Maurice Haigh and reproduced
with the permission of the Pontefract & Castleford Express.

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