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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

MEMORIES OF MY NATIVE YORKSHIRE


FRANK LODGE

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 garden.

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.

Ferrybridge 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 farming.

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.

I attended 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.

There were 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.

Mother did 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.

My mothers 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.

There were 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 another.

A favoured 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!.

Before the 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.

Another place 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.

The local 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.

Another 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 one occasion.

I finished 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.

Although I 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.

Frank Lodge
Ivy Cottage, Hatfield Park.

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