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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories


Mrs. A. D. Groves

My father and mother moved with the family from a small cottage in a row of cottages next to where Racca Green News is now, to the newly built council houses of Quarry Avenue. That was in late June 1929 and I was born a few weeks later in August, the first child to be born in the new houses.

In those days, Quarry Avenue meant all the houses from just over the railway crossing on Womersley Road as far as the shop which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Horn.

It was a lovely place to live with a small garden to the front and a large one at the rear looking out onto a field where all the children used to play. This was a grass field which always had lots of wild flowers and elderberry bushes along the edge of a dirt track leading to the lime quarries; hence the name Quarry Avenue.

There was always something to do and someone to play with and we could safely play on Womersley Road because the only traffic was one bus an hour each way to and from Doncaster. We used to play whip and top or skipping ropes, just moving out of the way onto the pavement when the bus passed by when we saw them coming.

At the bottom fence of our back garden my dad made a stile for us to get into the field. Most of the gardens which bordered the field had a stile for easy access and most of the houses had a tall pole which had a wireless aerial leading to the house because wirelesses were becoming very popular then.

There were three lime quarries no longer in use behind Quarry Avenue and a fourth one at the top of Womersley Road which was still burning lime for agricultural use. We were not allowed to go into that one but children suffering from whooping cough were often taken for a walk around the top of the quarry to inhale the lime fumes, hoping it would help to cure the whooping cough I think.

My friend Olive and I used to spend hours roaming the disused lime quarries. We used to bring home tadpoles in jars or sometimes lumps of frog spawn kept in 2lb jam jars outside on the back window ledge. When they changed into tadpoles we had to take them back and put them in the quarry pools again.

The quarries were such a wonderful natural place to play, you could play football or rounders in the open spaces or pretend you were riding a horse and play Cowboys and Indians. You could make secret dens that only you knew about. Olive and I used to look under stones to find newts, frogs and toads. Some of the newts were as much as six inches long but as children we didn’t know them as newts – we called them Askads or Askerds. It wasn’t until we were doing nature lessons at school that I realised that Askads were in fact newts.  I do seem to remember there was a newt on the coat of arms at Askern so perhaps that is where it came from as a sort of local name.

The ponds in the quarries used to freeze over in winter, it was a winter wonderland then and sometimes grown-ups used to skate on the ponds and make bonfires to roast potatoes on.

My dad used to rent part of one of the quarries and he kept hens, ducks, geese and sometimes a pig. As I got older I sometimes had to go and feed them before I went to school. I didn’t mind the hens and ducks but the geese used to scare me.

When it was getting near to Bonfire night, all the bigger lads in Quarry Avenue used to collect stuff to burn and then have to guard it because raiding parties from other gangs would come and try to pinch it. Quarry Avenue lads used to cut Hawthorn branches from the Quarries and arrange it in a prickly ring around the bonfire in the field to make it harder to steal. I used to hate the jumping crackers on bonfire night, you never knew where they were going to land.

A lot of the Quarry Avenue lads used to have nicknames in those days, perhaps many lads still do today. I remember one boy called Roley, one called Gezzler, one called Sabu, and one called either Sylvest or Sylvester. One of my brother’s whose name was George was always known as Dillinger. The reason for his nickname, which by the way stuck with him for all his life, was because when he was in his last years at school between the ages of thirteen and fourteen, his teacher, a very tall, slim man and who in the boys eyes earned the nickname ‘Spider’, used to take the boys in his class once a week to St. Botolph's Parish Rooms from the Church School in Tythe Barn, to have a woodwork lesson. I don’t know what they were all supposed to be making but whilst the teacher was out of the room for a moment, my brother either found or fashioned a piece of wood that looked a bit like a pistol, and hearing someone behind him and thinking it was one of his friends, spun round, aimed the piece of wood and said in his best gangster accent, "Stick em up!"

It was the teacher, who said "Who do you think you are – Dillinger?" and he gave him six strokes of the cane and a nickname forever.

When I was little there was a fish shop on Womersley Road called ‘Kingsway Fisheries’. The front of the shop had a little garden with crazy paving and a sort of rock garden made to look like a fishing boat with coloured lights hanging from the mast like poles at the front and back of the boat and across the top. They looked very pretty at night. Its funny how things like that stay in your mind – maybe nobody else remembers it now but I do.

I remember standing at our gate and hearing Bagley’s buzzer blow at twelve o’clock and all the workers going past for their dinners. Then my Dad would come home on his bike from the chemical works at the other side of Skew Bridge and we would go in for our dinner which my mother always had ready on the table. We would all eat our dinners together as most families did back then. My Dad would set off on his bike at quarter to one to get there for one o’clock. My older brother would go to school for one thirty and my younger brother and I would go and play in the garden. I was quite a robust child hardly ever ill but my younger brother Dennis seemed to always be in hospital. Firstly with a Mastoid in his ear, he was ages getting over that and then he came down with scarlet fever, a long illness in those days. Later on he fell and broke his hip and was in plaster from his waist to his toes for months. My mother had a cot downstairs near the window so that he could wave to people as they passed by. Everyone liked him and they often used to send him little gifts because in spite of his illness he was very good natured.

I remember them starting to build a public house opposite where we lived, next to the railway crossing. It was finished just as the war started. They called it The Winston. I was ten years old then but that’s another chapter.

I don’t know if you will enjoy reading my memories, but I have enjoyed writing this small snippet as I have enjoyed reading all the other memories in previous issues of The Digest.

Good luck and keep up the good work; maybe later I will write some more.

Mrs A. D. Groves
April 2004

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