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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories


PAT REECE (nee Brown)

Pat Reece aged two years

I now live in Arizona -it’s great here with endless sunshine day after day- but I love reading about times gone by in Knottingley and seeing the wonderful old photographs on the website. I was one of the Brown family from England Lane but before then, we lived in Foundry Lane off Racca Green.

My name is Pat (obviously nee Brown) and my dad was Wilf and my mother was Ina. My dad is no longer with us but my mother, who at 87 now lives in Hazel Garth Nursing Home.  She is well cared for and leads them a dance half of the time apparently! My brother Tommy, sadly died a few years ago and my brother Alan died at the age of 49 in 1996. Alan had devoted a lot of his life to the town’s Rugby club.

This is me aged 7 School Photograph at Ropewalk School A visit to Knaresborough in 1958 Me aged 18

Select any image to view Photo gallery One

But to go back further, my grandmother Elizabeth (my middle name) was married to my grandfather Francis Forder who spent most of his working life as a Blacksmith in Knottingley. They lived firstly, in a cottage in a little row on Weeland Road at the top of Racca Green. (no longer there). They then moved to Rose Cottage on Spawd Bone Lane.  I remember that cottage so well.  My granddad was a keen gardener and I remember so well, the smell of roses from outside and my grandmother’s baking from inside! All she seemed to do was bake! But of course that was many many years before the age of ‘convenience cooking.

My Great Grandparents late 1800s My Grandmother Elizabeth Forder My Grandfather Francis William Forder My mother's sister May

Select any image to view Photo gallery Two

My mother’s sister Cissie who was married to Percy Dearden, lived in old Aire Street in a yard at the back of the Buck Inn. Can anyone remember that pub?  I can vividly remember visiting my aunt’s Cissie’s house and I must have been very young but I do remember the heavy brown curtains that hung on the inner doorways, presumably to keep out the draught. My aunt had three children – Tommy, who for many years, before he died, built up a wealth of history about Knottingley and he gave talks and slide shows (Tommy Dearden). There was also Dennis who moved to Cornwall many years ago and there is also Joan, who’s married Gordon Wiltshire and who lives in Springfields.

Group photograph including my mother My step-sister Joyce's wedding

My mother had another sister called Nellie. Her first husband (who’s name was Harry Sutton) died early in the marriage, and my aunt Nellie went on to marry Eddie Cousins from Purston. She lived in Purston until she died a few years ago. Boy could my aunt Nellie talk! She would have us spellbound with her tales of when she lived in Knottingley and working at (the then) Bagleys Glassworks. You never had to be in a hurry when you visited her! Once she started talking, she never stopped! But I have wonderful memories of the times when my sister Pam and I would spend a week with her in Purston for our ‘holidays’. I spent the night with Aunt Nellie in hospital just before she died and she still talked non stop, right up until she died. Just before she passed away, she was looking up at the ceiling and I asked her what she was looking it. Her reply floored me. She said she was looking at all those Christians. She talked non stop bringing up people’s names that I’d never heard of. Then she floored me again by saying that she was going to have a party with ‘proper people’ there.

A couple of years after she died, I visited a Medium and she told me,

"I have a lady here who died in the autumn my (aunt died in September) and she’s having a party!"

So I told the medium that it would be my aunt Nellie and I explained what my aunt had said to me the night she died, about having a party with ‘proper’ people there. The medium said,

"Oh she’s having a party alright and your dad’s there".

I had not even told the Medium that my dad had died. She said that my brother was there too and she said he’d died very quickly. Well Tommy died on his allotment and he was pronounced dead when the ambulance came.

My first birthday cards My first birthday cards My first birthday cards My first birthday cards
My first birthday cards

My First Birthday Cards
Now over 60 years old!

My first birthday cards

So that’s a bit of my family background of who’s who, but to return to my childhood in Foundry Lane, I remember going to John Harker’s butchers at the bottom of Racca Green for ‘half a pound of streaky bacon cut thin’ (it went further) and also going to Ethel Adam’s grocery shop just over Cow Lane bridge which is now the Chemist’s. When we lived in Foundry Lane, the house was a two up and two down with a yard at the back. This housed the ‘wash house’ and the coal store. I remember vividly, sitting in my green Silver Cross pushchair in the yard and even being stung by a bee! I remember my mother putting ‘dolly blue’ on the sting at the top of my left arm. I also remember Friday nights when the tin bath was brought in from the wash house and we were all bathed in front of the fire! Then my sister and I had to sit and endure my mother putting our long hair into ringlets. This was done by wrapping strips of rag around bunches of hair and then lo and behold, the next morning we had ringlets! These were then tied in two bunches with ribbon.

Times were hard when we lived in Foundry Lane. There were four children now – Tommy, Terry, myself and Pam. I remember going to school with cardboard in my shoes because they had holes in them! We all attended The Church School which was (and still is), at the bottom of Ropewalk. I remember those schooldays very well. The teacher in my first class was Miss Elm whom some of you will remember, and who lived on Pontefract Road. My daughter-in-law Rachel’s parents Maureen and Harold Holt, bought Miss Elm’s house and still live there. My teacher in the second class at Church School was Miss Elliot and I remember being taught by a Mrs Goodwin too, who ruled with a rod of iron.

My brother Alan Me, Pam and our nephew Colin

In 1951 our family was re-housed on England Lane – 9 Northfield Road. Eventually our family increased to six with the subsequent births of first Alan then Colin. All we ‘Brown’s kids’ went to the newly built England Lane school. I absolutely loved that school. I remember the smell of the new desks and the unfamiliarity of the surroundings at first. My teacher was Miss Wilson and the Headmaster was Mr. (George) Reynolds. I remember a huge fire at the then Bagleys Glassworks, and we pupils were allowed out into the playground to see it. Does anyone else remember that fire? These days, it would have been recorded on video!

There was a really tall girl in my class at England Lane school called Suzanne Haigh. Well I was on the short side, (still am) and Suzanne and I often swapped dresses! Comical, because on Suzanne, my dresses looked like ballet dresses and Suzanne’s dresses look like nightgowns on me! but ahhhhhhhhh, so many memories! I have millions of them and a lot of them are included in my next book.

School holidays then were just idylic in summer. My mother would make us jam sandwiches, plus bottles of lemonade and we would go into the ‘Greenhouse’ (as the playing fields were then called). There were hills and dales and long grass and after the swings, roundabout, and a session in the paddling pool, we would then sit in the long grass and eat our picnic. I spent a whole afternoon, learning to swim in that concrete based paddling pool, which was no more than six inches deep. I was wearing my new swimsuit on one occasion and I came out of the paddling pool with an enormous hole in the front of my swimsuit! It never dawned on me that you cannot learn to swim in 6 inches of concrete based water!

My sister Pam and my own closest friends, were Ann Shaw, Ruth Holden, Jean Holden and Judith Heckingbottom, (Judith’s mother, Marie Mowbray, had the grocery shop on England Lane), and we did everything together. We would be together from morning until dusk when our mothers would call us in. We were never allowed out after dark but during the day, we would all play ‘whips and tops’, hide and seek, hopscotch, or play in the garden with our dolls and have a picnic.

Sometimes, we would get on our bikes and cycle to Smeaton Craggs. We loved it there and we always took a picnic. However, on one occasion, we all managed to get stuck in the quagmire and our sandals disappeared! We spent hours trying to retrieve them, all to to no avail, and we had to cycle back home in our bare feet. On arriving home, we discovered that our mother had reported us ‘missing’ to the police!

From England Lane school, I moved to Ropewalk School when I was twelve. I was in class 1A which was taught by a Miss Wilson (not the same one as at the England Lane school). Miss Wilson at Ropewalk mainly taught geography but all the teachers had their own class too. Then we would move from lesson to lesson, teacher to teacher room to room. My favourite lessons were English and Art. English was taught by a Mr. Magowan whom I remember to be quite tall and thin and wearing glasses. He once gave me two shillings for the best essay! A tidy sum in those days!

Art was taught by Mr. Bilbrough. I remember him to be not very tall, wearing glasses and after one art lesson, when we had to paint a 'self portrait' he pinned mine on the wall and it was there for weeks! I still paint, and have sold my work all over the country and some abroad. However, living this laid back lifestyle in Arizona, encourages me to favour lying by the pool to painting!  I am also writing my second book, which is time consuming so I don’t get as much painting in as I would like.

So back to Ropewalk school – I remember our PE teacher –Mrs Wordswoth but I cannot remember the male PE teacher. Can anyone enlighten me on this?  I remember Mrs. Barton who taught needlework but attempted sex education too – like how to fasten a bra!  Her husband Oliver, was the science teacher. And of course there was the headmaster, Mr. Roebuck. Every morning, we had to sit in assembly and listen to his chosen piece of classical music for that day. I guess that’s where I picked up my love of classical music however.

I do still have my Bible, that everyone was presented with on leaving Ropewalk School and it has autographs of fellow pupils in when I left in 1958. These are: Marjorie Shaw: Ann Smith: Ann Byerly: Anne Spence: Allen Gould: Eileen Bugby: Kenneth Bastow: Michael King: Maureen Draper: Kathleen Parkin: Barry Pearson: Muriel Dawson: Barbara Wilson: Elaine Jackson and Joan Frost.

I have dug out some old photographs to be included in the Photo Gallery but the one I would love to see, which got lost over the years, is of class 1A at Ropewalk School. If anyone has one, I would love to receive a copy and I will cover the cost.

I think once you start, you could go on forever about your childhood because really, with life’s often hectic pace now, the memories are there but not brought out often enough. It’s only when we slow down and take stock of things, (while lying around by the pool in Arizona!) that these memories come to the fore. You sit back then and think ‘ Hey, I remember this and I remember that’ which seems like a lifetime ago! And it is really. But memories are like photographs in our minds, to be looked at and remembered whenever we choose.

Patricia E Reece
April 2004

Pat Reece is the author of 'Determined to Survive', one woman's remarkable story of her fight to survive the crippling disease Mastocytosis.

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