MEMORIES OF KNOTTINGLEY
was always thought of by Knottingley folk as the smallest town and the
largest village in the country. In any event, it was a close knit
community especially to those people living down in Aire Street, the
heart of Knottingley. There were council estates at Broomhill and
Englands Lane but to us who were blessed to inhabit the streets, they
were outsiders living on the periphery of the village.
birthplace was named Buck Yard which was centrally located within the
street. At the end of the yard was The Buck Inn, a well frequented
Tetley pub. To the side of the Buck Inn underneath an archway was
a door leading into the Jug and Bottle. Wives and mothers would
stand in the little passage supping their gills of bitter. They
would also collect beer to take home to be served to their husbands
returning home from the afternoon shift at the local Bagley's and
Gregg's glassworks. These were the towns largest employers and I
worked there myself as a boy of 15 years earning £2.10 shillings per
was the heartbeat of Knottingley mainly because all the shops were
located there. The farm shop selling all dairy and grocery goods
was a national company. Next up was Carvers shoeshop who shod most
of the people in the street and then Firbanks bakery and shop where you
could purchase lovely fresh cakes and bread. During the war they
placed tables and chairs in the shop and started a cafe for locally
based soldiers and visiting troops. My auntie Dot worked as a
waitress there and in fact met her future husband, Albert Carlisle, a
naval petty officer born in the neighbouring village of Beal. He
was a very good looking young officer and they married after a short
courtship, first sharing lodgings with some other folk before renting a
small one up and one down in Racca Green.
Next to the
shoeshop was Smiths, a family butcher for over 50 years. Frank,
the son, carved and chopped the meat while his sister Annie served it to
their customers. Frank knew my mother was a widow and he would
occasionally give me an oxtail which he called a 'woofer' and say
"take this home to Ada and tell her to make some oxtail stew for
you all". This was a treat because meat was on ration as all
food was at that time.
along was Spires shop run by Alfie Spires. He sold us the Daily
Herald along with all our writing materials, Christmas cards and crepe
paper. On we go to Willy Wray's a quality greengrocer selling
fruit and vegetables as and when they were available. On a row of
hooks outside his shop he would hang locally caught pheasants, hares,
rabbits and pigeons, all shot in the surrounding fields, though only
those people with the money could afford to buy them so we were denied
the opportunity to supplement our diet.
next shop, sold sweets which were very much in short supply and if news
got out that Mrs. Lions had received a delivery a large queue would form
all hopeful of obtaining a Mars Bar in its brown wrapper. Her shop
always had a lovely smell of chocolate and when you were young your
memory of smells seemed to be better remembered. Much like Wrays'
which was always fruit tinged but which also had the smell of paraffin
from the shop heaters.
opposite side of the street was Sam Doubtfire's greengrocers shop.
Sam was an unassuming man and his wife was a slightly built, blonde
haired, very pleasant woman who helped her husband serve the
customers. They had two daughters, Olga and Dorothy and a son
named Sam. Both daughters were very pretty and always nicely
dressed. Sam junior in later life became the vicar of St.
Botolph's Church in Knottingley.
along the street after Lions sweet shop came the Yorkshire Bank and the
Midland Bank. The majority of the people able to make use of these
services were the local shop owners as the working class folk never
passed through the doors. Next to the bank was Jimmy
Hollingsworth's outfitters. He was the saviour of the working
class Knottingley folk. He dressed our family and a whole lot more
of our neighbours too. He was a marvellous character, always with
a cigarette hanging from his mouth that would have an inch or so of ash
at the end. I will always remember him this way. A lot of
the working class families would purchase a provident cheque from the
insurance company. This was normally for one pound and you would
pay 21 shillings back at a cost of one shilling per week. With
cheque in hand you would go to Jimmy Hollingsworth's and buy the family
clothing. Jimmy was also involved with the organisation of the
Knottingley carnival. I remember the innocence of this annual event with
the Cowboys and Indians and their feathered headdresses, the dancing
girls and the jugglers.
family butchers in the street was Taylor's. Arthur, the father,
had a slaughter house at the rear of the shop and I often watched him
kill beasts purchased at local markets. They were truly butchers
in those days. Next door to him was McDonald's grocery store,
quite a large shop employing about four girls, a wharehouse man and a
manager. Despite being only a boy of about ten, I remember arguing
with the manager about the quantity of food he weighed in accordance
with the ration allowance but I never won the argument. On one
egg, 2oz butter and 3oz bacon per person, we lived well!
the pork butcher made the most wonderful tasting pork pies and cooked
meats and I can honestly say I have never tasted better since
then. Ada Downes shop sold sweets and remedies for all your health
problems. For coughs you would take Indian Brandy which she
measured out from a large bottle into a cup you would normally take
along with you. Returning home with your cup of Indian Brandy it
was mixed with hot water to eases the symptoms of coughs and
fever. Beecham's pills were a small white, round pill wrapped in a
screw of paper and these were taken for flue, colds and headaches.
Fennigs Fever Cure was available for bouts of fever.
Next to Ada
Downes was the small bakery and shop of Randolph Backhouse. Mrs.
Backhouse served in the shop assisted by her two daughters, Monica and
Ursella. They also had a son Phillip who joined the Royal Navy and
remained in service long after the war. The smell of freshly baked
bread and cakes was enough to make your mouth water.
One of the
fondest memories I have of life during the war years was when my Auntie
Dorothy, Auntie Selena, Auntie Cissie along with my cousins Harold,
Mary, Rita, Christine and Anne would all come around to our house with
teacakes and buns. My mother would put on the kettle and make tea
and we would all be talking and laughing and really enjoying the
company. I think families were much closer in those days. I
remember one evening when Auntie Cissie was visiting with my cousins and
the air raid siren sounded. Our mothers put us under the kitchen
table with a candle for some light. We though it was a great
to the street our next call was the very posh outfitters of Longley and
Lees. They had carpeted floors, electric lighting, display
cabinets and window dummies. There were large mirrors in which to
admire your latest dress or suit and very elegantly dressed sales
assistants. This shop catered for the monied classes and we were
certainly not that fortunate.
the chemist filled your prescription requirements, Horncastle's were
Haberdashery and Clay's another family grocer. My mother had a
book of 'tick' at Clay's which enabled her to buy groceries on credit
until the end of the week when the widows pension was due at the Post
Office. Ernest Clay, the father, always weighed to order.
Butter and cheese was cut, tea would come straight from the tea chest,
sugar would be in blue bags and bacon would come straight off the slicer.
sweet shop was located directly opposite our only cinema, The
Palace. Young courting couples would use all their coupons on
whatever sweets were available to enjoy in the pictures. Clayton's
fish and chip shop was one of the most popular places on the
street. In the winter it was warm and the smell of the food
cooking was mouthwatering. The fryers were heated with coal fires
and Carl, the husband, stoked them up from metal buckets. Fish and
chips were not on ration and cost 2 pennies. They were cooked in
lard and to an hungry boy they were a real treat.
I must not
forget Haikings Ironmongers who had everything for the house such as
pans, buckets, crockery and paraffin which was stored in a large tank
fitted with a hand pump. My regular job was taking our can to be
filled with paraffin at the shop. Many families had paraffin
heaters due to a shortage of coal, industries were the priority
customers. All these shops had one thing in common, they were
family businesses and it made such a difference compared to the shopping
environment we have today.
behind the Aire Street shops were the old plaster rendered cotages and
brick built terraced houses. These were all recessed by ginnels and
arched passageways. In 1940 my mother left our Buck Yard cottage
and moved us to Anchor Yard some 100 yards further along the
street. Originally our house had been a pub and lodging house
called the Anchor Inn but it had been altered to form two three bedroom
houses with a live in kitchen and best front room. All the cooking
and heating of the property was by coal fire and a black oven range
which my mother black leaded constantly. The lighting consisted of
gas downstairs and the candles in the bedrooms. At the side of the
oven was a built in tank and this provided us with hot water. My
mother was an expert at turning out homemade teacakes, bread and on
Sundays, Yorkshire puddings. Our neighbours were the Turner
family, Frank senior, Sally and daughters Hilda and Alice. They
also had a son Frank who was serving in the army in India.
Anchor yard, separated by a ten foot wall was Downes Yard. Here lived
the Watson's, Wilson's, Taylor's, Etherington's and several
Horton's. One in particular was Gertie who was a very attractive
young woman who enjoyed life to the full. She married a Canadian
soldier who was tragically killed in the war. In Backhouse Yard
lived the Turner and Allsop's families while Buck Yard housed the
Hodgson's, Temple's Hardgrave's, Siddall's and Holt's. Further
along we had the Dearden family, Dennis and Tommy, and the
Smith's. Tommy Dearden in his later life became an Historian of
Knottingley History. When we were kids he used to carve Spitfires
out of perspex which in those days was used to make the cockpits for the
fighter planes and bombers. At the bottom of the street lived the
Ramskill's, the Rathmill's, the Askham's and the Robert's
families. There were many more Aire Street families, in fact too
many to recall.
As kids we
all had one thing in common, we all loved our picture Palace.
There were the western films with Roy Rodgers and his white horse
Trigger and films with Randolph Scott, Tom Mix and Gene Autry.
These were the heroes of the day from America while our homebred heroes
were John Mills, Jack Hawkins, Eric Porter and Alec Guinness who usually
appeared in most of the war films produced at that time. We
enjoyed watching the Home Guard marching and parading on the Flatts with
Sergeant Clegg in charge. They would march up the Gannah to the
triangular field and throw pretend hand grenades and fire plastic
bullets, but it was all very exciting to us.
living on Aire Street where everyone knew each other and used the same
schools, shops and frequented the same pubs, the Buck Inn, Sailors Home,
Cherry Tree and Wagon and Horses. Living closely together down the
same little yards, we were a community.
Also by Maurice Haigh
More Memories of Knottingley
Final Thoughts About Knottingley
Conclusions of Knottingley
Second World War Knottingley