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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories



I was born on the 21st of January 1919 in a small two up two down cottage in Foundry Lane, Knottingley. I was the youngest child of a family of nine children. Large families at this time were not uncommon, most of the families living in Foundry Lane were similar to ours in size. Foundry Lane, in the main, consisted of rows of terrace properties, starting at the top end where the Foundry was situated and running down to the Aire and Calder Canal.The Foundry owners were Tranmer and Jagger who produced castings of moulds for different manufacturing markets. These were then passed on to Armitage’s who shared the same site for finishing off before despatching to their customer’s factories.

Other families who lived down in the immediate Foundry Lane area were the Hobman’s who were our next door neighbours, they were a family of nine. Sharing the same yard were the Addy’s with seven and in the next yard to ours were the Parkin family with nine children. One of the Parkin boys called Ernie was the same age as myself and we were always the best of friends throughout all our schooldays, until we left school at 14 years of age and found different types of work and lifestyles. Other family names I remember were the Swales, and Charlesworth's. Jack Charlesworth and Joe Swales from these families, were also good mates and we played football and other games after school. Foundry Lane had a bend in it but it didn't stop us playing footie even though the goalkeepers were unable to see each other. On Foundry Lane there was a combined house and shop owned by Fred and Betty Tomlinson. Her husband worked at Gregg’s Glassworks or as it was commonly known ‘Low Ducks’. I know we obtained most of our groceries there, which were put in a credit book until Friday's when you then paid up for them.

In summertime when the daylight hours were longer, we would go up to the Lime Quarries on Womersley Road and play there, or sometimes we would go down to Common Lane, which was a kind of cart track starting from the small bus terminal where the drivers and conductors used to have a break for a cuppa before their return journey. Passing ‘Downies’ farm on your right, you then carried on for quite a long way, (or so it seemed) passing fields of corn, potatoes, and turnips. We then turned right still following the cart track and passing over a level crossing, and after a while we would pass Ned Burdens house and his vegetable allotment, then onward over a field belonging to Mr. Scholey's farm and finally coming out at Cridling Stubbs. From there we joined the main road which brought us to the top of Womersley Road and back down into Knottingley. All this time we were messing about climbing the trees and fences and looking for birds nests, or frogs, because the deep cart tracks would be filled with water and frogs used to spawn and we could see tadpoles many a time swimming about.

I and most of the lads I have mentioned previously went to the National School at the low end of Ropewalk next to Huddlestone’s who were corn merchants, I started at four years old in the infants, and Miss Drinkwater was our teacher. When we moved up in class, which we did through age and not scholastic ability, Mrs Gilson was the next teacher, whose husband was a clerk at the Town Hall. Then came Mr. Haigh or ‘Daddy’ as we called him. It was in this class that we were introduced to inkwells and pens.

I was left-handed and ‘Daddy’ didn't like this, and threatened to tie my hand behind my back, but he never carried out his threat. For many years he was also the organist at St. Botolph's Church. Our next teacher was Miss Parkin who taught us music. She was also a strict teacher who was not averse to giving you punishment by striking you on the hand with a foot ruler. Many’s the time when the bell rang for dinner time or at 4 o’clock finishing time and we would have to sing the first verse of the hymn Jerusalem, which kept us behind the others for going home. Later when you reached the age of 11 or 12 you went into the big hall where Mr. Lightowler was the teacher. He left the school to take up another post and we then had a new teacher called Mr. Howells. Our head teacher at this time was a Mr. Treadgold, who later on went on to the Weeland Road School, which also had the name of a board school, but why I don't know as it was too small to have boarders.

When I was about 12 all the boys of my age were taken away from the National School and attended a new classroom in the St. Botolph's Parish Rooms. The powers that be must have decided we were too old to share with the girls in the large hall in the National School, but in any event Mr. Howells was still my teacher until I left school at fourteen years of age. Most of us didn't learn anything except the three R's, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic were what the majority of us mastered. Although Britain had quite a large adult population, many of them unemployed, most of us fourteen year-old's found some kind of job, which made our families grateful for the few shillings we were paid. Also, when we reached fourteen we were allowed to wear long trousers, because until then it was always shorts, and if you got a hole in them your mother would patch them up to make them last longer. In the cold winter months we often got painful chapping on the inside of our thighs and that’s when the dreaded snowfire cube was rubbed on it, and although it was painful for a while it cured the chapping.

Apart from our days playing it was good to go to the Palace cinema down Aire Street on Saturday afternoons. There was always a serial to follow which always seemed to finish at an exciting part. It was a big talking point amongst us at what would happen in the following week's episode. I can't recall what age I was but the first film I went to see was a black and white silent one, and the serial was called the ‘Green Archer’.

In those days the Palace cinema was owned by Mr. Howdle, and it was three half pennies to sit in the front seats, which were long wooden benches. There wasn't a curtain to cover the screen but a type of roller blind on which local traders advertisements were displayed. One Saturday afternoon they were raising the blind and it went skew-whiff all down one side, you can imagine how we all screamed and hollered every time it went wrong, but after numerous attempts it eventually came good. I remember when the ‘talkies’ came out, but it was a some time after the Pontefract cinema's had received theirs that Knottingley eventually followed suit.

After Mr. Howdle left the Palace cinema, it was taken over by Mr. Wood who closed it for a refurbishment and what a transformation it made. There was all plush seating all over and at the back were double seats for courting couples. I was proud of it because my Uncle George painted the inside and I did a bit of swanking to my mates about it. We never had much money to spend, but I can never forget the good times from my childhood in Foundry Lane.

William Mowbray

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