MY CHILDHOOD IN KNOTTINGLEY
KATH SPENCE (nee Ryall)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.