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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories





One of my dads more inspired purchases at Selby market was an ancient wireless set which stood for many years on the shelf above the sink in our cottage. It was powered by a battery and an accumulator. The batteries measured about nine inches square and four inches deep and lasted for about two months.

The accumulators were made of glass and were about ten inches tall and about five inches square. They were filled with acid and lasted for about a week depending on how much the wireless was used.

The dead accumulators were taken to Mr. Proctor who lived in Vale Terrace, Pottery Lane, for re-charging. For sixpence a time he would take our old accumulator and exchange it for a freshly charged one. Shelves along one side of his garage displayed rows of them, all connected by a series of wires to the electricity supply, which fed new life into each one. Dad usually made the trip to Pottery Lane, as he didn’t like us to carry them in case the acid leaked out and burnt us. When I got older however, I was sometimes allowed to go, if dad was working.

The wireless was our lifeline, especially during the war when everyone was hungry for news, however grim or upsetting it might have been.

Four aeroplane engine-testing sheds were built next to the old bone-mill on Cattle Laithe lane and to Mr. Bugg and my Dad, who sometimes worked night-shifts at the glass works, they were a nightmare. Invariably, the ear-splitting din went on for two or three days and night’s non-stop, making sleep almost impossible.

Dad and Mr. Bugg used to help out in the fields at harvest time to supplement the family incomes. I can remember them coming home after their shift at the glassworks at 2 o’clock and then going straight out to work in the fields until 10 o’clock at night.

Harvest time was a treat for us children, especially if our dads were working there. We were allowed to help pile up the sheaves of corn which were then left to dry out – if the weather was favourable – until the threshing machine arrived.

We would watch the reaper go round and round the field starting on the outside edge and gradually, the waving corn was replaced by a blanket of short golden stubble dotted with string-tied sheaves of wheat.

Before the final two or three yards of wheat were cut, we were ordered out of the way to allow the farmer to shoot the terrified wild rabbits that were now hiding in what was left of the swiftly diminishing crop. I used to pray that they would escape, but they rarely did.

We were sometimes allowed to ride on the backs of the huge carthorses when work was finished. I remember clinging on to the horse’s mane for dear life, terrified in case I fell off. One of these horses was named Bob and no one ever dared to walk immediately behind him because he suffered from Flatulence!

In those days we children would visit Fishers Farm on a regular basis. We wandered around most times without being challenged, and only on rare occasions would we be asked to leave, such as if the huge bull was to be released into the farmyard.

We watched the cows being milked (by hand in those days, no milking machines then) and saw the milk being poured through the cooler, and transferred into huge milk churns to await collection. Then we would help to hose down the floor of the dairy and leave the place spick and span when milking was over.

We helped to collect the eggs and occasionally would find a hidden cache of a couple of dozen or so when a hen had been ‘laying away’ for some time. In a barn, or a hole in the wall, anywhere quiet really.

My mum worked out in the fields too doing seasonal work. Lifting potatoes, mangolds or sugar beet etc. She worked for some time at Isle’s Farm in Darrington and seemed to have found her ‘niche’. She enjoyed the work but following the death of the farm owner and the sale of the farm, she had to leave and began working at Fisher’s Farm. She didn’t enjoy the change of employment and missed her old workmates so she left after a short time, although she still went out pea-picking each year.

Dad bought me a Coventry Eagle bicycle and I recall feeling guilty for weeks afterwards because I let him know how disappointed I was when he presented me with it. I wanted a Raleigh with shiny chrome handlebars; this one was black all over. It cost him nine pounds and five shillings and it must have taken him ages to save up enough money to buy it. Years later, I reproached myself many times for being so ungrateful. I soon discovered that as long as you had two wheels it didn’t much matter what colour your bike was!

Olive Skinner and I covered quite a few miles together on our bikes, and I did get my Raleigh with chrome handlebars a couple of years later, thanks to dad.

Doveroyd Farm was now occupied by Mr. Jim Ross and his wide and children. Margaret was the eldest girl followed by Joan and Mavis, and the two sons were Kenneth and Peter. Sadly, Kenneth died some years ago. Peter the youngest son founded Ross Travel, which is based in Featherstone.

As kids we all played together. The Ross families, June and Olive Skinner, The Scotts, The Wakefield’s, George Barker, the Beltons. We played Kick-Can, climbed trees, rode our bikes, walked and explored the woods and fields around us. Life was idyllic for us although maybe not so for our parents.

One evening we were playing a game of cricket and it was my turn to bat. I whacked the ball and started to run, but I fell and cut my knee badly. Fortunately, Mr. Sutcliffe (father of Pete, the barber from Ferrybridge) was sitting down chatting to my dad whilst they watched us play. Mr. Sutcliffe was an experienced ‘First Aid’ man and quickly told my mum not to bathe it, but to get me to casualty as soon as possible. I was put into Mr. Ross’s car and taken to Pontefract General Infirmary where I had four stitches put in my knee. Two weeks later Olive came round to call for me and showed me her newly bandaged hand. She had cut it the previous night and had to have stitches too!

On numerous occasions Mr (Jim) Ross, who drove a battered, muddy old car, would give us a lift up the lane. He never simply ignored anyone and drove past them, no matter who it was, but you had to be prepared to share the back seat with a piglet or two – or a box of chickens!

I remember Mrs. Ross as a lovely, kind woman who always wore a gentle smile and always had time to stop and listen, not only to her own children, but to me too on occasions! I recall being invited to the farm one day by Joan and when I arrived I saw Mrs. Ross sitting outside the kitchen door in warm sunshine making butter. Since then whenever my thoughts stray back over the years I have a picture of Mrs Ross sitting there turning the handle of that wooden butter churn.

Once a week every Wednesday, we had a delivery of groceries and provisions from a shop named ‘Broughs’ in Featherstone. The driver was a Mr. Parker. He drove a green painted lorry with waterproof curtain covers that protected his boxes of groceries from inclement weather.

Each one of his customers received their orders, which they paid for and then gave him a new order for the following week. Consequently, Wednesday was a day that was always eagerly looked forward to by everyone.

Mum always ensured that a large chunk of fruit slab cake was on her list, everyone loved it. Of course, during the war a considerable part of the order was often unobtainable. Some items would be in such short supply that we didn’t get the amount we had ordered, or they would be substituted with something else or crossed off the list altogether.

I recall one occasion when a packet of biscuits led to a misunderstanding between my Mum and Mrs. Bugg. After the usual orders had been delivered and Mr. Parker had left, Mum and Mrs Bugg were comparing notes on what they had received that week. Mum said she had got a packet of Lincoln Cream biscuits in her box. Mrs. Bugg angrily said, "Well! the cheeky beggar told me they didn’t have any cream biscuits!" Mum explained that Lincoln Cream biscuits were not in actual fact cream biscuits, but were plain biscuits with a creamy taste.

When I was almost 12 years old Mrs Bugg asked my parents if they would let me take George top Pontefract Statice. Having younger children to look after she didn’t have time to take him herself. I remember she gave us ten shillings to spend at the fair, a huge amount in those days, plus our bus fares there and back. I don’t remember much about the fair but I remember our journey home very well.

When we got to the Knottingley bus stop outside Pontefract Market Hall, a thick fog developed. We waited in the queue for ages then an inspector arrived and told us that there would be no more buses that evening; they had all been cancelled because of the fog.

We had no option but to set off and walk home in pitch darkness, hardly able to see where we were going. Outside Wilkinson’s sweet factory, just before we reached the three arched bridge on Knottingley Road, we heard the sound of voices and a truck pulled up beside us. A soldier with a torch in his hand jumped off the truck and asked us where we were going. I told him and he said "follow me" He walked in front of us all the way, shining his torch to guide us, until we eventually reached the roundabout at the crossroads. He left the truck and his mates outside what was then Oxley’s Garage, to see us safely across the road to the bottom of Cattle Laithe lane. There waiting by the fence with his trusty old bike was my Dad. I don’t think I was ever more relieved to see him!

The soldier explained to dad how he came to be with us, and Dad thanked him for his kindness. As we set off up the dark lane, now simply guided by Dad’s bicycle lamp, my Dad said, "They were Americans". George and I of course had no idea that they were American G. Is. To us they were just soldiers who showed us the way home.

A visit to ‘The Palace’ on a Saturday afternoon was a fairly regular treat for us children. I usually got a shilling to spend - sixpence for sweets and sixpence to get into the cinema.

The sweet shop opposite The Palace was the most popular place to spend our precious coppers. Sometimes we couldn’t resist the choice of goodies and ended up spending most of our money on stuff to eat. Our parents gave us money for seats in the circle and we would only be able to afford the ‘chicken run’ because we had overspent on sweets. We soon learned to be less impulsive though when we discovered it wasn’t much fun sitting on the front row downstairs looking up at the screen until your neck ached! We sometimes walked back home through ‘The Greenhouse’ which was then a series of winding paths between colourful flowerbeds.

A drink from the water fountain at the entrance was a must, especially after all the sweets and chocolates. Then we walked up Spawd Bone Lane and across the fields past Simpson’s Farm where there was a flock of geese keener than the most vigilant guard dogs, and even though we tried to pass by quietly, we never succeeded in fooling them. When we reached the half way mark across the field, the geese would come charging at us, wings outstretched and hissing loudly, as they voiced their indignation at our intrusion on their territory. Now and again we would go directly down Simpson’s Lane instead, past Kershaw Row and the Morris family’s cottage.

Just beyond the brow of the hill was a small spring, where crystal clear, icy cold water bubbled out of the ground and formed a small stream that ran down the left side of the lane. The water was quite safe to drink and many times we cupped our hands together and slaked our thirsts there on a warm sunny day.

I recall Simpson’s Lane as being quite a steep hill and on one occasion after I had been to my Grandad’s at Good Hope Cottages, my Dad gave me a lift back home on the crossbar of his bike. As we rode down the hill, the brakes on his bike failed and Dad couldn’t stop. He shouted "Hold on tight – were going to come a cropper here!"

We shot past the rear entrance to Greggs Foundry and right across Cattle Laithe lane where we ended up on the grass verge looking down into the water filled ditch. A narrow escape and apart from a couple of grazes we were fine.

Jean Norfolk (nee Hobman)
February 2004

[Memories Index]


Other articles by Jean Norfolk

Christmas at Cattlelaithe
Charles Burton Hobman
Mrs Madge Holman

Pontefract Website:
Memories of Holmes Printers, Pontefract
M.L. Jennings, Ropergate
William - A constant Companion

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