BACK TO MY ROOTS
PAT REECE (nee Brown)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Pat Reece is the author of
'Determined to Survive',
one woman's remarkable story of her fight to survive the crippling disease