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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

1947 - 1957


Ian Swift

My 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.

Ian Swift's mum and dad at Blackpool

(above) Mum and Dad at Blackpool

My 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, 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

The Double-Decker Bus on which I used to play

In 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 kitchen.

Grove Cottage, Cattlelaithe, Knottingley

Grove Cottage, Cattle laithe

The 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.

At night we used to listen to the Archers and Quatermass on our battery radio (or was it called a wireless?)

Outside 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.

To 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.

I 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.

My 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.

Our 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 article.

If 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.

Through the gate was a large rock which was flat on one side so we stood it up and used it as a cricket wicket.

Above 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.

In 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.

John’s 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.

In 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.

John 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.

Granddad outside the Crescent Cinema in Pontefract

My Granddad outside the Crescent Cinema, Pontefract

I 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.

When 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.

From 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.

My 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 was missing!

One 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.

By 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.

When 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.

At 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.

Just 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 toffee.

My brothers Stephen and Paul

My brothers Stephen and Paul

In 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.

One 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.

On 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Ian Swift

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