MEMORIES OF KNOTTINGLEY
1947 - 1957
father Norman Swift, lived in Carleton, Pontefract, from leaving
school until 1940. He worked on a farm as a tractor driver for Mr.
Reginald Tomlinson, before moving to work on another farm in
Darrington. My mother Rosemary Swift (nee Hesketh), lived in Darrington, though I
am unsure exactly where, and worked in the land army during the
war at a farm where my parents first met. I believe that while
they both worked on the farm there were some Italian prisoners of
war working alongside them.
(above) Mum and Dad at Blackpool
parents were married at the St. Luke and All Saint’s Church in
Darrington on the 31st March 1946 and by the following year were living in
Greenroyd Cottage where I was born.
My brother, Ivan, was born at 3 Westfield Avenue, Knottingley, in 1950 by
which time I believe my dad was working for Jackson’s Bros Glassworks.
We moved to Grove Hall in 1951 where my brother died of pneumonia.
Grove Hall, Knottingley, in 1951
Grove Hall was the first place I can remember. We lived in, what to me at four
years of age, seemed a very large room. The room was upstairs and my
mother used to chase me around the room when we played hide and seek. At
the front of the hall was a large mound of lime. One day I had my
wellingtons on and I ran over the lime but it gave way and I got stuck in
it. My Dad came and lifted me out but my wellies stayed in the lime.
At the rear of the hall was an old double-decker bus. I played on the
upstairs deck with my wooden garage that my Dad had made for me. One day I
went to play with my garage but I found to my horror that the bus had been
removed with my garage on it. I never did get my garage back.
The Double-Decker Bus on which I used to play
1952 my Dad had a reference letter signed by Jackson’s Bros., to be a
tenant at Grove Cottage, Cattle Laithe, Knottingley. This was a cottage in
a group of three all joined together. The middle cottage was always empty
but I remember the other was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Ross, and their
children Ann, Stuart, Linda and Jennifer. The cottage that we lived in had
three bedrooms and two rooms downstairs comprising the living room and
Grove Cottage, Cattle laithe
main room had a big black range that was black-leaded once a week. We had
no electricity and only a cold water supply. Lighting was by a
high-pressure paraffin lamp and I went to bed with a candle. At some stage
we got a bottled gas cooker and I remember us having a paraffin iron,
which was an improvement on the flat iron my mum had used previously.
During winter we often had no running water at all as the pipes would
freeze so we filled a pan with snow that we melted for water.
night we used to listen to the Archers and Quatermass on our battery radio
(or was it called a wireless?)
the house was a coalhouse, which was under the small bedroom at the left
and a partly fenced and walled garden with a path down the middle. At the
end of the wall was a pair of crossed whale jawbones. Situated in the
other corner of the garden was a pair of trees between which my Dad had
erected a swing.
the end of the house was the washhouse, which contained a boiler heated by
a fire underneath it. I remember a copper posser and washboard. At the end
of the block was the toilet, which was emptied once every two weeks by
council workmen. I think it was just a bucket. My mum used to quarter
sheets of newspaper and put it on string for use as toilet paper.
remember the Ross family next door had a lot of brass on their room walls
and sideboard and a big table in the middle of the room. They also had a
front door which was blocked by shelving.
Dad, apart from working at Jackson’s glassworks, had some pigs and
chickens down in the quarry where there were a few pigsty’s, a hen house
and a feed shed. Sometimes the pigs and chickens were put in the fenced
area next to the house. Mr. Ross housed his chickens up there as well.
play area was in the valley and to get there we walked down the incline to
a gate on a return spring. If you followed the path you would end up at
Cattle Laithe Cottages, which Mrs Norfolk spoke about in a previous
you walked to the left after going through the gate there was a large
rocky wall, which we called our ‘Playhouse’. We collected pieces of
broken pot, glass and other things from the ploughed fields and placed
them on small bits of rock as decoration for our house.
the gate was a large rock which was flat on one side so we stood it up and
used it as a cricket wicket.
the quarry and to the right of the gate was a place we called the Top
Garden. If you followed the rock mound to the right and you looked up
towards the top garden as you went round, in the rock you could make out
the face of a Red Indian - his hair being the trees of the top garden. We
used to run down the mount to another rock face, which was actually a
continuation of the rock from the gate. In this rock were two holes that
every year housed a pigeon’s nest. I was one of the few who could climb
up to the nests.
the valley and on the way to John Fisher’s house was a steep slope that
we used to sledge down in winter. We called it ‘The Edge of the World’;
it was very rough and dangerous.
Dad was the son of Mr. Fisher at Fisher’s Farm on the A1 and I think
John had a sister called Elizabeth. I remember one time while at Fisher’s
Farm they had to apply some ointment to the front leg of a large
carthorse. The horse jumped up and down to avoid the treatment so I
started to edge backwards out of the way. Little did I know that there was
a steel rim from a cartwheel against the wall and when I stood on it the
rim came forward and hit me on the neck. The only other thing I remember
was being pinned to the floor by the metal rim.
John’s garden was a pear tree with a barrel at the bottom where the dog
was housed. One day after climbing the tree to get some pears, I climbed
down but forgot about the dog and it bit me on the left leg. I still have
the scar to prove it.
Fisher’s house was joined to the A1 by a lane, but if you crossed over
A1 to the lane near the caravan showroom there were some fields where
liquorice was grown. I used to dig up the roots and you could also buy
them from the shop. I used to go down this lane to visit my granny and
granddad, Mr. and Mrs Swift, and my Auntie, Mrs A. Limb. My granddad used
to be the doorman at the Crescent Picture House in Pontefract.
My Granddad outside the Crescent Cinema, Pontefract
went to Ferrybridge School, which was on the crossroad in Ferrybridge. I
walked down the lane from home passing the farm on the corner (Doveroyd
Farm?), the cottages and the Bone Mill, to the roundabout and along the
A1. I passed under two bridges I think they were railway bridges, one I
remember had a metal sheet on it with an inscription I cannot remember
what it said. The only things I remember about the school were the pond
and the air raid shelters at the back. The shelters always had water in
them. I also remember the free bottles of milk we used to get every day,
and filling up the inkwells in the desks. I can remember, like Mrs
Norfolk, that we used to collect rose hips for school but I cannot
remember what our reward was.
I was seven I started to ride a two wheeled bike to school. One day on my
way down the lane I fell off and landed in a puddle and I was wet through.
I returned home soaking and said to my mother that I couldn’t go to
school as it was too late. She told me I had to go back to school but I
said screamed "No!" - so she belted me all the way. After that I
always went to school no matter what.
school across the A1 on the right was a large house. I remember the lady
had a St. Bernard dog and other smaller ones in the garden. Further along
the road was a ‘T’ junction with a pub on the left corner. I think the
doctor’s surgery was up the road to the right.
dad had a black van and one day we were driving down the lane near to Ross’s
Farm where there was a sharp corner. As we went round, the door of the van
opened and I ended up in the field. Dad came back for me when he noticed I
hot sunny day I found one of the pigs was lying down and would not move so
I had to walk all the way to the glass factory where my dad and his friend
Mr Fred Bugg worked. Mr. Bugg lived in one of the Cattle Laithe Cottages
and was my Dads best friend. I walked down the lane to the left hand
corner where another family called Ross lived in the farm (Dove Farm) I
turned right through the farmyard, up the track towards Hartinghams (Throstle
Farm) turning left before I got there. I went over a stile and through the
field along a footpath that brought me out on the road running past
Jackson’s Glassworks. I then told my dad about the pig.
the time Dad arrived home a little later the pig was already dead. It was
found that its death was due to sunstroke. From then on I had to make sure
they were always in the shade on warm sunny days.
dad moved the pigs up to an area next to the hen house I used to ride on
the backs of the pigs, the down side of this being that the pigs went
through the gooseberry bushes to get me off their backs. There were always
a lot of scratches all over my legs but I enjoyed myself.
hay making time I used to drive the tractor at Throstle Farm collecting
the sheaths and taking them to stack in the farmyard. When it was
threshing time I used to help throw the sheaths from the stack to the man
on the thresher who would cut the string and put the corn in to the
combined harvester which was driven by the tractor from a drive wheel on
the side. There was a large belt that connected the tractor to the
combined harvester. Bales came out at one end and the corn went in to
sacks at the other.
before bonfire night I used to go to the farm and cut mangles to earn
money for my fireworks. We always had a bonfire down the lane towards
Grove Hall and a lot of people turned up and we had parkin and bonfire
My brothers Stephen and Paul
1954 my brother Stephen was born at Walton Hall. I remember it as a
hospital with a moat around it. In 1955 my other brother Paul was born at
Grove Cottage (this was the day I rode my first two wheeler bike after my
dad had repaired the tyres.
day my brothers and I were playing in a ploughed field when Linda Ross
threw a piece of mud at me. I ducked and it hit my brother Stephen and cut
his head. He has a scar on his forehead top this day shaped like a
question mark but with the dot to one side.
a Saturday I used to go on the bus to Pontefract to do the shopping for my
Mam. On one occasion I thought I had lost the money I had been given. I
sat on the stairs in Woolworths and cried. A group of ladies took pity on
me and they had a collection so I could do the shopping and not get into
trouble from my Mam. When I got home I said nothing but my mum found the
money in the bottom of the bag and I had to tell her the truth.
1957 my Dad got a job in Doncaster working for British Nylon Spinners. I
remember we moved in a furniture lorry and I travelled in the back sitting
on a chair. I did not really want to leave.
the sixties I returned to Cattle Laithe on my bike with a friend from
Doncaster. We camped at Throstle Farm overnight and I revisited Grove
Cottage but the whalebones were missing. Can anyone tell me where they
went to and when? If anyone remembers me (I’m a little older now) please
get in touch through the Knottingley website.