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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories



Yes!, we had a library centre in Ferrybridge. 20 years ago it closed down due to council cut backs in 1984. We had over 700 members.

The library used to be housed in a big cupboard and boxes in a classroom of the old school many years ago. Later it was moved to the Mission Room and in those days Edie and Sheila Holbrook used to look after it. Then others! I started as an assistant in 1962 working with Tony Branch, the then Vicar’s son. It was run by the West Riding County Council in those days.

I can remember going for an interview for my full time job at Stephen Toulson’s sand and gravel depot one Saturday morning in July 1962. Later that morning I had an interview at Knottingley library for the two hours per week assistants job at Ferrybridge. Mrs Largent, the then librarian at Knottingley, did the interview. Mrs Largent was very strict but knew her stuff. I was given the job so each Tuesday and Friday evening, 6.30 to 7.30pm, I worked at Ferrybridge. Tony gave up his job soon after because he was moving away so his Mrs Mary Cawthorne came from Knottingley to help out. Later my very good friends (still) Doreen Leach, Winnie Wright and Margaret Bramley, who worked at Knottingley library for many years, all used to do a stint at Ferrybridge with ‘our Paul’ as I was known. We all used to get on so well together and we still do.

I worked at Ferrybridge from 1962 to 1984 when the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council closed it down to save cash! It was a wonderful experience for me, a young lad of 15. We had five cupboards fastened to the walls inside the Mission Room. Two fiction, two non-fiction and one children’s bookcase, all packed full of books. Not many people bothered with the non-fiction books. The children’s section was always busy. As for the fiction, all we needed were loads of Historical Novels, Catherine Cookson’s, Cowboy Stories and Mills & Boon. We got so busy that the hours had to be changed to two hours on Tuesday’s and two hours on Friday’s; 6pm to 8pm. When we had a book exchange one a month, all the customers loved it and took extra books home. Many of the customers were at every opening session, they loved the library. It was more of a village centre. We would get lots of old ladies coming in and staying all the session, having a chat, a bit of company and a cup of tea when we made one at ‘half-time’

If ever you wanted to catch the Vicar Reverend Branch, he would always pop in at some time of the evening. As a lad of 15 I learnt a lot about life from all the folks and they are still all my friends. They used to say "If ever tha’ wants to know ‘owt about what is going off in ferrybridge, call and see Paul in the library – he will know!"

The Mission Room was a cold, draughty place in those days. Many of the windows were full of holes. Mary Cawthorne and I, used to paste bits of old paper over them to keep out the cold. The heaters were up in the ceiling and used to be very temperamental and sometimes didn’t work, so we used to huddle round an old gas stove to keep warm. But we managed to give a good service to the community. In the summertime I used to have a big vase of lovely flowers on the table in the middle of the room to brighten up the place.

For a few years I was on my own but it became very busy. My friends, Paul Gordon and Barbara Burton used to stay and help me put all the books away and tidy up – they were invaluable. After a while we got June Johns (Langton) to come and help. June also worked at Knottingley and was with me until the service closed.

We had lots of real characters over the years, too many to recall. I can remember a few. One especially was when the book Lady Chatterley’s Lover came out. We had a long waiting list for it. It came to my dear friend Peggy Carter’s turn. Peggy read it and brought it back and said, "That book is disgusting Paul, you should take it off the shelves". So I said, "Well Peggy, a lot of people like to read that sort of book, did you read it all?"

Peggy said, "Yes – five times!" We did laugh!!

Mrs Battye from Lock House was a local historian. She used to request many local history books which we used to get brought in for her. I got many volumes for her about Lord Houghton from Fryston Hall. I used to read them all myself. Also Mrs Battye knew lots about the history of this area and used to tell me a lot.

Sometimes people forgot to return their books and had them out for weeks. There were no fines in those days. Winnie used to say "It's time you wrote to all those people about their books being overdue Paul" (but you had to fill in three forms each time) So I used to say "Don’t worry I will see them." I would often spot them in the village or at the church for a wedding or a funeral. I would then say "Hey up, what about your library books? Get them back to the library as soon as you can, or take them over to our house if you can’t get in." They always did.

We used to get paid once a quarter 1s3d per hour it was for a few years, £20 per year. You had to fill in a form to claim that also.

Very often, children would walk in with their pets. They would say, "We have brought our rabbit to see you Paul". Cats and dogs also used to come. One time, someone brought a goat. Often when two people brought dogs they used to have a fight and I used to have to say "Get those dogs out of here!"

I could go on much more but will save some for another time.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed working there. It was wonderful and a laugh a minute.

Paul Hansom

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