MEMORIES OF MY NATIVE YORKSHIRE
I was born in
Crewe Avenue, Ferrybridge, on the 10th April 1929 into what was considered
in those days to be an average sized family. Nowadays it would be classed
as a large family. Altogether there were seven of us, three girls who were
the oldest and four boys of which I was the second youngest. My father had
worked on his fathers farm which was at Water Fryston, and he had done so
from the age of twelve until he was twenty-five when his father died and
his older brother took over the farm as it was his right in those days. My
father then went to work at a sawmill for a short time before joining the
Railway Company as a tracklayer.
We moved to
Knottingley in 1931, living in a cottage which stood at the junction of
Morley Estate and Weeland Road where a small row of shops now stands. The
cottage had no hot running water this was all drawn off a boiler at the
side of the fire or boiled in a kettle on the open fire. Bath night was in
a tin bath in front of the fire while the toilet was outside down the
There was a
large orchard at the rear of the house running right up to the railway and
owned by the Railway Company. My father looked after it and we used it as
an extended play area and had lots of fun there.
Knottingley was a much
smaller place in those days and the main shopping area was down Aire
Street, where there were shops of all kinds, it was always busy there all
day long. The picture house was at the bottom and we used to go to the
Saturday matinee. I think it cost us 2d. Most of the houses were in and
around Aire Street and the low-end area.
was very much smaller with the shops and houses in the original square; it
was little more than a village.
One of my
earliest memories was when I must have been about three years old. Father
took me to the farm where his mother still lived and into the stables
where he sat me on this monster of a carthorse. I was so frightened. I
cried my eyes out until he lifted me down. Thinking of it since, it must
have seemed as big as an elephant to me. That was my first introduction to
When I was a
little older I used to walk with my brothers across the park, past the old
power station to Water Fryston. This took us through some woods to the
back gate of the farm. I recall a large hen house to the left as you went
through the farm gate and cart sheds and stables on the right. The
farmhouse stood on the left - quite a big house. Dad’s brother lived in
one part and their mother in the front two rooms; she was a dear old soul.
All this has
long since gone – the farmyard and house gave way to an housing estate.
I took dad back there some years ago and he was so excited when we
arrived. He was telling the lady who lives where the farmhouse used to
stand where all the farm buildings used to be. I think the power station
took over a lot of land as this is where the new power station now stands.
I started my
schooling at Ropewalk School and then at seven years old we moved to
Weeland Road until the age of eleven years when we moved back to Ropewalk
to complete our education. I recall playing marbles all the way home from
school during the summer months.
the Congregational Chapel from a very young age, (I think I was five or
six) and also Sunday school in the afternoon. We used to get stars for
attendance. I got a bible for good attendance dated 1939 which I still
have. When I was 11-12 years old I was asked to pump the organ which meant
that I had to attend both morning and evening services. I was not always
on the ball with my concentration and the organist would want to play but
had no air in the organ. Fortunately this did not happen too often.
In 1935/36 we
moved across the railway into a new house with hot and cold running water,
a proper bath, a flush toilet and gas lighting. This was No. 2 England
Lane later being changed to number 1 Spawd Bone Lane. As youngsters we had
watched these houses being built in a field that always flooded. In the
winter youngsters used to skate on the ice. We played in these houses when
the workmen had gone home, doing no damage I must add, we dare not do so
as we were afraid of getting a damned good hiding from our parents if it
should get back to them. In fact youngsters in those days never did
malicious damage. Tying cotton to someone’s door knocker then hiding and
pulling the cotton to knock the door and changing the garden gates around
was about as far as we went.
two rings of houses at the start with a large square play area in the
centre of each. At bonfire time we would collect wood and branches from
the quarries. There was great rivalry between the two rings when we would
raid each others fires to steal the others wood. On the night it was great
fun. Different families would make parkin, treacle toffee, and supply
potatoes for baking on the fire. Everyone joined in to make it a good
night. After the war broke out the council built four air raid shelters,
one in each corner of these squares.
We used to
play all sorts of games out on the road such as cricket, kick can, peggy
etc. The girls would play hop-scotch and we would also play with hoops –
not the real thing mind you - ours were simply old bicycle wheels. Even
the bats for cricket were made by our fathers out of off-cuts of wood, but
we enjoyed it all the same. We hardly ever got disturbed and when we did
it was for farmer Gardener’s horse and cart. A few years later it was
the odd lorry from Jackson’s glassworks but they were later stopped and
made to go over the Headlands.
I recall the
muffin man coming round with the tray of muffins on his head, calling out
to "come and get your muffins". Also the knife grinder on his
bicycle which he quickly converted to drive the grinding wheel. Then there
was the ‘stop me and buy one’ iced lolly man on his three wheeled
bicycle with the box on the front and Ringtons tea man who came round
every week with his well groomed horse and beautiful painted horse
carriage – they were a sight to be seen. Maserelli the ice cream van was
another brightly painted float with twisted candy shaped posts on each
corner and a tent shaped roof all beautifully decorated. You would take
out a dish or basin and have it filled to your liking. Then there were the
two brothers who used to run a greengrocer round, they came round twice a
week with their horse and dray selling their produce.
her shopping at the co-op across the greenhouse, everything being wrapped
and packed while you waited. No one was in a hurry to serve or be served
in those days.
week was all mapped out. Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing,
Wednesday bedrooms, Thursday baking, Friday downstairs and Saturday was
shopping day. These jobs took up most of the day before the intruduction
of vacuums and washing machines.
only the two rings of houses to begin with, the rest were built some years
later, so we had lots of open fields to roam over. We knew all the
families in both rings and as a whole we all got on quite well with each
walk was up past Goulding’s Farm, on past Throstle Farm and up to
Bluebell Wood. We would have a picnic which would invariably be jam
sandwiches made from home baked bread and a piece of home made cake. We
would return home taking the road towards Darrington turning right down a
lane that took us past the Bone Mill and right again down Spawd Bone Lane.
This was all on the edge of farmland and quite a walk but we enjoyed it,
we were so used to walking everywhere. We would catch the bus to
Pontefract to see the pictures. You had two choices then, miss the end of
the picture and catch the last bus home or see the end of the picture and
walk home – we would invariably do the latter.
Along with my
three brothers we spent a lot of time in Harker’s quarries. We called
them Harker’s for no other reason than the Harker’s lived and manned
the railway crossing near by. We used to pitch our tent up in the quarry
and spend most of the day there playing. We would leave it up there if we
did come home and no one ever touched it. I don’t think children could
do this nowadays, it just would not be safe – how times have changed!.
quarries were worked out we used to go up and watch the lime kilns being
built and then set alight. We would stand in the lime fumes as our Mother
told us it was good for clearing up colds and coughs. I don’t think
there was any truth in it really.
we would go to play was the Greenhouse. I think it was a much better place
in those days, very secluded. People would go there for a quiet afternoons’
read or a picnic or to do a bit of courting. Dan Driscol was the
caretaker, he was very strict and all the youngsters were afraid of him.
He would tell you off if you stood on the swings instead of sitting or
rocked the roundabout instead of pushing it round.
policeman was another person who we were scared of. You soon got a clip
round the ear with his gloves or cape if he caught you up to mischief and
you dare not go home and tell your dad otherwise you were likely to get
another clip. It never did us any harm in fact I think it made a better
person of you.
pastime during the summer was sitting on the railway fence watching the
cricket over the other side of the railway in the cricket field. On
occasions someone would come over with a collection tin.
We used to
enjoy the carnival which took place every year. All the floats were
decorated and people were in costumes. The one I enjoyed most was Happy
Joe Bagley dressed as a chimney sweep and his son William with short
trousers and brown scouring stone smeared all down his leg. He was eating
a great big round flat cake (it was about 2ft across) covered in jam and
he had jam all over his face. I think they got first prize on more than
school when I was 14 and went to work at Jack Hartley’s, a farmer at
Woodhall, Womersley. My sister Doreen already worked there as assistant
housekeeper. It really stood her in good stead for it taught her to be a
wonderful cook, cake and pie maker. I enjoyed my time there before moving
to Birkin where Jack had bought another farm.
By the time I
had reached seventeen I was getting unsettled and wanted more out of life
so along with two other lads from Birkin we went off to Leeds to enlist. I
joined the Navy because I was too young to go into the other services. The
other two lads were a year older than I was and one joined the army, the
other the air force. I passed my medical at Leeds and soon after was on my
way to Torpoint in Devon to start my training. I had signed on for twelve
years and after a year I transferred into the Fleet Air Arm. I spent most
of my time abroad. I was in the Far East onboard HMS Triumph, an aircraft
carrier, going to Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan when we
were diverted to Korea where we took part in the war there.
On my return
I was drafted to the naval air station at Yeovilton in Somerset where I
met my wife to be. I was then drafted to a naval air station in Malta
where I spent the next two years. On my return, my wife’s family had
moved to Hatfield in Hertfordshire. I joined her there where we were
married and I went to work for the Marquess of Salisbury on a 2,500 acre
estate, first as a tractor driver and then as the farms manager, never
returning to my native Yorkshire except for visits to see my family.
have now been away from Yorkshire for close on sixty years away I am very
proud of my Yorkshire roots. I have been a keen supporter all these years
of both Leeds United football team and of Castleford Rugby League both
going through a bad spell at the moment. I hope that they will soon return
to the big time. Living only 18 miles north of London I have often seen
them play, especially Castleford on their trips to Wembley when my family
came down to stay with me.
Ivy Cottage, Hatfield Park.