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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories


KATH SPENCE (nee Ryall)

I was brought up by my grandparents, John Henry (Jack) and Gertrude Ryall.  I had a happy childhood even if it was strict. We lived on Womersley Road in a semi which my grandparents paid rent for to the owners who lived next door, Mr. and Mrs. Leeman. We had gas lighting downstairs but had to use candles upstairs and down in the cellar. After I had gone to bed and my candle burned out I would go and sit on the bottom of the stairs until someone came to bed. I didn't like the dark. There were three bedrooms, a lounge, dining room and kitchen plus a cellar, part of which was used for storing the coal. There was also a stone table or slab which was used for keeping food cool. Down a slope in the garden was an earth closet and someone would come during the night with a horse and cart to empty it.  The seat had to be scrubbed to keep it clean. We would cut up newspaper into squares which were hung on a nail behind the door, there were no toilet rolls in those days. We did get a flush toilet in later years.

A young Kath Spence A young Kath Spence

On washdays we had a copper in the kitchen which was filled with cold water and a fire was lit beneath it to heat the water up. Then we had peggy tubs where the dirty washing was put into, this was then agitated with a posser and after a while the clothes had to be mangled and rinsed. I would turn the handle of this wooden and iron mangle to get as much water out as possible. Some clothes were left to steep overnight. We then put out the line on which to hang the newly washed clothes though they had to be put in a certain place. My Grandad's long john's had to be out of sight so no-one passing by could see them.

We had a long garden which reached down to the lime quarry. In the garden there were blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes, these I would pick for my Gran to make jam and pies. A pear tree in the next door garden had overhanging branches which allowed pears to drop down on our side. These I would pick up and eat before the wasps could eat into them.

I had two rabbits which I was told had been struck by lightening. Looking back now, I think they went into the pot for a meal. I had a dog named Laddie which got canker. The cat (Flickum) ate or killed my canary and I don't believe the goldfish had a long life either.

The lime quarries were our playground where we would play cowboys and Indians, kick can and hide and seek. We would make dens out of old tree branches. Our bonfires were held in one of the disused lime pits. We picked wild flowers, I especially remember Fingerladies, Bee Orchids, Margarite's and not forgetting Trembling Grass. The latter we adorned with coloured silver paper which made a pretty decoration in a jam jar.

After a shower of rain we would look under the limestone slabs in search of Askeds, a small black creature with four legs and a long tail.  I think the correct name for then was 'Newt'. When winter came and ice formed on the water filled limestone pits, we were warned not to go anywhere near the quarry. Did we listen? No! I remember playing follow your leader and we all went through the ice.  Thank goodness the water wasn't very deep. Of course I couldn't or daren't go home so I went to a neighbour Mrs. Westerman's to dry off. My Gran never found out (I hope).

There was a lady who lived with Mrs. Westerman's family called Aunt Alice. She used to make toffee with currants in. We could always smell the toffee cooking and we would hang around for a taster. Next door lived Mrs. Thorpe and family. Mrs. Thorpe made herb beer.

We would often go on picnics to the Bluebell Woods. Quite a few of the families children were taken by Mrs. Thorpe, I was also included and we would really let go and enjoy ourselves. For my picnic I would have a bottle of spanish water and jam sandwiches. By the time we got home we were 'blackbright' an old saying for being dirty or grubby. After a good wash we were all ready for bed. Bluebell Wood isn't there anymore, like everything else, things and people change.

My grandfather was a fisherman and he won several cups and trophies. In 1922 he caught a fifteen pound pike which was stuffed and mounted and housed in a viewing case, courtesy of Shaw Brothers, Forgehill Lane. That fish was part of my life until I left home to be married. Every week the glass had to be cleaned and the back and top dusted. It had pride of place on the sideboard.  As a matter of interest, this fish was recently sold at auction for over 800 and the proceeds went to the England Lane nursery school.

Kath's granddad was a keen fisherman

Grandad used to wash bait and sell it for fishing. The maggots were coloured with cochineal and then put into sawdust to keep them cool otherwise we would have been inundated with bluebottles. When grandad went off to a fishing match I was left to sell the bait 4d a pint and 8d a quart. A bit different from today's prices I imagine. Customers brought tins with very tiny holes pierced in the lid for the maggots.

With neighbours children I played shops and houses using broken pottery for silver and bits of limestone for copper. We used the seeds of the Rosebay Willowherb as tea-leaves. We would make mud pies to sell as cakes, when Gran would let me have some water that is!

One of my favourite picnic teas, sat outside at the back of Uncles garage was mashed banana and condensed milk. We had Quaker Oats and sugar in newspaper (the print didn't come off in those day's), and sticks of rhubarb with a paper cone of sugar to dip the rhubarb in.

From Mr. Albert Maeer, who had a shop on Womersley Road, we would get sacks and strong string from empty orange boxes. This gentleman also grew flowers where we would get good value for our money. From the sacks we would make cowboy trousers held up with string. I pinched clippings out of the hearthrug to put in the sides of my trousers. We then cut cardboard into a circular shape, cut out another ring from the middle and hey presto, we had a cowboy hat, using the string once again to hold the hat on. We didn't have much money but our playtimes were fantastic.

Skipping, hopscotch, whip's and top's and a chalk drawn snail where we targeted buttons to get to the middle. We also played marbles which we called 'taws'. Many of these games were played in the middle of the road, there was very little traffic in those days. Two South Yorkshire buses would pass each other on the hour, every hour and there was the odd motorbike or van. What a difference it was compared to today's mad rush of traffic.

Tuesday night was bible class at Ropewalk Methodist Chapel where my friend Molly and I went to. The odd evening we would go instead to the Salvation Army and spend our penny collection on hot peas. Of course we were always found out as Mrs. Birdsall, the bible class teacher, would ask Gran if I was ill as I had missed bible class. I then had to own up. Yuk!

Molly and I would go off on bike rides, mine was a sit-up-and-beg type. We would smuggle a pair of white ankle socks out and once out of sight of our homes we would change out of our long black stockings and garters. We were always told 'Don't cast a clout (clothes) until May is out' Sometime on these rides we would make our way to Fairburn Ings where Molly's uncle had his ice cream cart. We knew he would give us both a cornet free of charge.

One Christmas Molly and I went carol singing. I took along the piano accordion my uncle had bought me. I could only play it with one finger, however, one house we called at gave us half-a-crown, two shillings and sixpence - a fortune for us to share in those days.

My Gran would make me egg custard and I would have sugar and milk on my Yorkshire pudding (whatever turns you on eh?) On Saturday evenings Mr. Sam Doubtfire (senior) came round with his fresh fruit and vegetables plus lucky bags costing either half-penny or one whole penny. I could either have a lucky bag or a pomegranate, the latter lasting ages as the edible seeds were picked out with a straight pin and kept me quiet for a long time.

I went to Ropewalk school where Mr. Luke was the headmaster.  I sometimes caught the South Yorkshire bus home, the fare being half-penny from the Town Hall to outside my home. One day after getting off the bus and forgetting to look and see if there was any traffic coming the other way I was knocked down by a large Co-op bread van. Dr. Murphy wasn't far away and had the wound to my wrist stitched while I was still out cold, the scars remaining with me to this day. The poor van driver was very upset but it wasn't his fault at all. After that incident there were guidelines to road safety in all the local schools.

I attended Chapel three times on Sunday, sometimes going off on day trips.  On one of these trips I remember sitting on a form on the back of a lorry and being taken to Golden Acre Park in Leeds. We were each given a paper bag containing buns and sandwiches. On another occasion we went to a quarry along England's Lane where we had races and other games, plus of course our bag of goodies once again. If we had good attendance at Sunday School we were given prizes such as books. I once received a bible which I still have and which must now be over 60 years old. These were treasured gifts.

At Whitsuntide I always had a new frock. Our Sunday clothes were kept for best and as soon as we got home we had to change out of them which I did so that I could then go out to play. I was always dashing about and the result was many grazed knees and elbows.

I'm sure I did lots more things in my childhood, but that's yer' lot for now.

Kath Spence

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