THE 1970s IN KNOTTINGLEY
GROWING UP ON A BUILDERS SITE
was born in a small village between Selby and Knottingley called either
Whitley Bridge or Eggborough, depending on whom you ask!
1968 my parents moved to Knottingley so that Dad could be closer to his
work as an insurance agent for the Pearl Assurance Company. We moved into
a brand new house on a brand new housing estate to be called Downland
Crescent which was being built by Knottingley Builders Ltd. Our house was
the first one to be built and was adjoining the show house. Next to this
was a different style of house, like a Swiss chalet, that sat at right
angles to the other houses and next to that there was a bigger
semi-detached house with four bedrooms whereas our house had three.
first memories of the new house was of the wooden floors that had
a certain springiness about them when uncarpeted. Of course, being
a three-year-old I had to race up and down the long open plan
living / dining room much to the consternation of the sales rep
next door trying to sell un-built houses.
was of course a mess to start with because we lived on a building
site for about two years as the estate was built up around us. Now
being a young boy at this time wasn’t the same as it is today -
there was very little to keep you occupied indoors. There was no
television, no video games or computers, and so most dry days were
spent outdoors footloose and fancy free.
builders were totally off limits to me and I can remember them being quite
scary as they went about their days’ work. In the evenings however, the
place was all mine (for a short while) and exploring was the prime
pastime. Every day a new bit of building had been done either deep
trenches for foundations or a new layer of bricks or a new levelling of
the access road that swept down the hill from Womersley Road.
of my most vivid memories of these early years was of the hunt rushing
towards the old quarry that still to this day stands behind Downland
Crescent. Dad heard them coming and rushed us up stairs to look out over
the empty fields behind the house to see a pack of hounds and a long line
of horses with riders in red jackets and white breeches. I couldn’t see
the fox but I remember the huntsmen’s horn and the rumble of hooves on
the ploughed fields. No sooner had they appeared than they were gone, down
into the old quarry that I had been banned from visiting as it was still
full of water and abandoned machinery. Where they went next was a mystery
to me and Dad didn’t go to find out either, but it left a lasting memory
to me of the ‘Badsworth’ as someone once said much later.
the housing estate was at the top of Womersley Road it was always a long
walk for young legs but my Gran lived at the bottom of the road in the
Kingsway Fisheries at the top of Broomhill Avenue. I can remember a lot
about my early years in the shop - being scalded for being in the way and
for stealing small sweets like McIntosh’s Highland Toffee bars, Black
Jacks, Fruit Salad chews, Mojo’s and Liquorice Allsorts etc. However,
the best times were behind the shop front with a little old lady called
‘mam’ who was of course my Great Grandmother. She was a short lady and
a lot closer to my height and a lot closer to my head to give me a swift
clout round the ear’ole too! I can’t say she was mean or nasty but
some days she was understandably cranky and I never knew how she would be
with me whenever we would go to help Gran Fozzard in the shop.
favourite memory of her is being able to pull her apron strings and run
away or hide under the large kitchen table. One day I innocently asked
where the little old lady had gone, only to be met with tears from Mum and
Gran alike as she had recently died.
Granddad was a large man who fried fish in giant stainless steel boxes
called the ‘pans’ and he would always wear a white nylon jacket and a
white trilby hat. He seemed to know everyone who came into the shop and
was always busy cooking or filleting the fish that he would swish in a
bowl of batter then drop into the pans to a loud sizzling sound. He had a
distinctive swish of a long handled see through (wire) shovel and would
bring out a pile of hot chips, one of which he would nip between finger
and thumb to see if they were done. Then he’d dump them in a glass
fronted tray in front of Gran who would start to serve the customers with
their ‘one of each’.
had a large, tall, round tub in the back yard that he would fill up with
potatoes and switch it on to make a loud rumbling noise. At the bottom
there was a chute and after a few minuets he would open a slide and catch
some miraculously cleaned potatoes in a large white plastic bucket. The
‘rumbler’ was in the back kitchen but the back yard was a playground
fit for a king. It was long and overgrown in places with a run down
chicken coup near the bottom. A clothesline ran diagonally across the one
small patch of grass and high thorn hedges ran on three sides to hem the
yard in. When it was sunny the place was hot and good for sunbathing but
being three or four there wasn’t time to lie down and do nothing! My
cousins would also come into the yard and we would race each other up and
down the flagstone walkway.
the kitchen Granddad would fillet the fish by hand – a smelly job in a
morning and I always remember the fish being delivered in white plastic
trays either covered in white ice or grease proof paper. The ‘tatties’
always came in brown paper sacks which were twisted at the top with a wire
closure with two neat loops sticking up like little rabbit ears. They were
really heavy too at a catch weight of 8 stone (or 50 Kg nowadays) but I
can’t remember where they were kept.
Granddad had a heart attack my Gran did all the cooking and mum had to
help out more. This was soon too much for Gran and they sold the fisheries
in the mid-seventies to move into a bungalow just round the corner from us
in Downland Crescent.
a long time ago now but I can vaguely remember other families moving into
the new houses that were being built further and further away from our
house. The new next door neighbours were called Sandra and Allen Cooper
and they are still to this day really good friends of the family. On first
meeting us as a family though Allan upset mum by giving me and my new
brother nicknames - Nidge and Codge - even though we were given names that
couldn’t be shortened – Nigel and Colin.
one good friend that I remember really well was Mark Campbell who lived a
few doors down the avenue. We spent most of the time playing out in the
many old limestone quarries that surrounded the new housing estate, most
of which have now been filled in and built upon. The main quarry was
directly in front of No. 73, as our house was now known, and access was
almost easy as there was a good ten-foot drop down into it straight
opposite our driveway.
small hawthorn bush had started to grow in the wall of this quarry and
before long it was big enough to climb around its roots and trunk to get
down into the quarry floor. The walls were good places to climb as the
local limestone is extremely soft and is ‘stratified’ In other words
it is layered but is easily cleaved and dug out to form tiny platforms or
steps to climb up. Many hours were spent forming handhold’s and pulling
out the horrible stinging nettles that seemed to grow back every week.
the top of the quarry a narrow strip of land separated the road from a
deep drop of about twenty feet near the top of the avenue. It was always
overgrown but never fenced off; there was just a drop! In the corner of
the deepest part of the quarry was our hardest climbing area and also the
scariest as the sun didn’t shine down there and it was dank and damp.
But the bloody nettles always grew and it wasn’t a good place to be