Hunslet

by

Hunslet

Our Neighbours across South Accomm Bridge

By Pete Wood

(Don’t miss some great little tales from my old mates near the end)

‘Click’ into pictures to enlarge them

When you passed over South Accommodation Road Bridge from East Leeds into Hunslet you passed from Leeds 9 to Leeds 10. But it was more than just a change of post code that we old East Leedsers met as we moved over the bridge on our way to work or leisure in industrial Hunslet in the 1940s/50s, for we moved out of our own albeit shabby Victorian/Edwardian housing stock into streets already in their death throes with demolition well in progress. A large percentage of the population had already been moved out into new estates particularly at Middleton and Belle Isle. Bit in spite of its decaying habitat I always perceived Hunslet to be full of character and the folk to have a wicked sense of humour and pride of place. I was annoyed that the demolition of that iconic old green suspension bridge which had stood for a hundred years with its great bowed parapet that Jimmy Thrush daringly crossed on his bespoke bogey, was demolished without any great notice of its passing, I would have liked to have recorded it before it went. There were tram lines still situated in Accommodation road and indeed there had sometime been a dedicated track for them but although trams didn’t cease running in Leeds until 1959 they had finished down South Accomm a lot earlier than that. So if you wanted to go ‘down Hunslet’ it was either on a bike, ‘Shanks’s pony’ or the number 64 bus.

South Accomm Bridge revised

It hurts me to have to admit that the lads from Hunslet, perhaps due to their hard environment, always seemed ‘tougher’ than us. When the Plevna lads or Pottery Field gang came over the bridge we didn’t get in their way and when we tried to cross the river by the lock gate at Knostrop the Stourton lads were liable to shower us with half bricks from their vantage point on the great green railway bridge (the swing bridge that never swung). The Stourton lads had plenty to be proud of, their school, tiny by modern standards, had a football team that won all the local honours and one year in the early thirties were crowned football school champions of all England. Please see photograph of the victorious team from the YEP. archives. Unfortunately the onset of WWII probably put paid to many of them having professional careers.

stourton football team

Within my own memory (born 1937) I recall that there were many other fine schools in the Hunslet area. My father, William Wood was born Hunslet 1903. He told me how he fell over the railway bridge in Beza Street and he had a great dint in his head, luckily he didn’t lose his hair so it couldn’t be seen. He had quite an adventurous life, my dad, as later, at age seventeen, he ran away to Liverpool to join the Royal Navy without parental consent. He went all the way from Hunslet to Liverpool by tram because there was a train strike ongoing at the time. It was quite possible to do that at the time alighting at the terminus of each conurbation and catching another tram at the next. Later he went to Egypt on the same boat as Lawrence of Arabia. Dad attended Low Road School and Later Jack Lane School. He told me how Hunslet Carr and Bewerley Street Schools and Hunslet Nash always had strong rugby teams and I remember myself how Hunslet Moor and St Josephs had good football teams not to mention the iconic Cockburn High School. And I recall with pride scoring my first goal for our St Hilda’s School team against Hunslet Lane School on Farmer Ward’s field.

the swing bridge that never swung

We lads from St Hilda’s school (on the other side of the bridge) ‘crocodiled’ down to Joseph Street Baths every Monday morning. We didn’t set off until after playtime, then with our trunks and towels rolled up under our arms – you were a geek if you had a shoulder bag in those days – we were off down South Accommodation Road, Atkinson Street, Goodman Street, Hunslet Lane and so to Joseph Street. By the time we got in the water it was nearly time to set off back. I think the girls from St Hilda’s attended the baths at Hunslet Lane School.  Many great lads and lasses enhanced our St Hilda’s and Ellerby Lane Schools when they had to leave South Accommodation Road Primary School and pass over the bridge at age eleven.

Of course we recognise that Hunslet had once been a thriving township in its own right with a theatre and sporting venues before being included in the Leeds conurbation. Folk who were old when I was a young man would talk about Hunslet in its heyday when Waterloo Road on a Friday night could rival Briggate. Pawn shops would disgorge suits for the weekend revelries – no doubt to be re-pledged on Monday mornings and under bright lights anything could be bought from Tripe and pigs feet to hardware.

I worked at three Hunslet companies during my career and worked at a furniture manufacturing company in Anchor Street for twenty years. Just after I had started in the early 60s they were demolishing some houses round the back, Powell Street I believe, there was a couple of little pubs: The Robin Hood and The Harrogate somewhere around there and a tragedy occurred when those doing the demolition work did not realise an elderly couple were still in situ and when they severed the gas pipes the couple were unfortunately gassed and died.

It was while working there I was given a copy of poem called Old Hunslet by an elderly work colleague, I had, it pinned to my wall for years than alas, it was lost in transit to another company and I thought I would never see it again but lo and behold thanks to the Hunslet rememberedweb site I found it again. This is an excellent site which I highly recommend for those who seek more than just this oral history of Hunslet from an East Leeds perspective. I hope Ms Sheila Gamblin will not object to me recreating the poem here for our enjoyment.

Old Hunslet

Have you ever been to Hunslet or walked down Hunslet lane,

Mid the dirt and grime of Church Street or heard the folks complain,

Have you seen the little houses with breadcakes at the door,

And found a real Leeds welcome with the folks who live next door,

Have you been to Stillhouse Yard on a Friday night,

To fix the kids with boots or clothes by flickering paraffin light.

Have you walked past Tolston’s tripe shop and along to Penny Hill,

Or had a drink in the Garden gate – the pub that stands there still.

Have you been on Hunslet Moor or in the Anchor Pub.

Or visited the old Swan junction or been in the Liberal Club.

Have you ever been down Balm Road where the steel works used to lie

Now they’re pulling down old Hunslet and we must watch it die

 

 

And coming down it was. I made this sketch sat in the car one lunch time of Norwich Place – near the old Hunslet Lake in the 1960s/70s a stoic lady is still trying to dry her washing amidst all the devastation.

goodbuy Hunslet

‘click’ on picture to enlarge

Mainly I remember Hunslet in the 1940s/50s as being ‘the boiler house of the world’ there were so many great manufacturing firms: Coghlans, Fawcett’s, Bison’s, Kitson’s, Yorkshire Copper Works, Henry Berry’s, Clayton’s, Hudswell Clark’s – where my aunt worked on munitions – Fowlers and McLaren’s, they were joined so closely that it was difficult to see where one started and the other finished, I worked at McLarens and there was a tale that an officious guy caught two men loafing about and said, ‘Haven’t you two any work to do?’ whereupon one lad said to the guy, ‘Who are you then?’ and he replied, ‘ I’m the new works manager of Fowlers’ and the guy replied ‘Well….off then this is McLarens!’ Hunslet Engine Company struggled on into the 90s and I believe at the time of writing Braims, in some capacity and Lax and Shaw still continues Many of them had cricket teams and either played on the iconic ‘Miggy Clearings’ or had their own bespoke sports grounds – swept away as takeovers found sports grounds not conducive to a balance sheet even before the firms themselves became defunct. My own engineering apprenticeship was carried out with a bunch of great guys at Midgley and Sutcliffe’s (Richmond Machine Tools) on Hillage Place, we would pour over the tiny bridge across the railway to play football on Hunslet Moor at lunch time. Later the building became the car auction rooms. When the factory hooters sounded at five o’clock thousands would flood out of Hunslet factory gates on foot or on bikes, there weren’t many cars for us in those days.

Hunslet had many great pubs (there’s a list of them at the end). I remember one night in the Adelphi, there was a trad jazz band playing in the upstairs room, I was facing the door and it opened and in walked Peter O’Toole. Sometimes when you see a famous person in an unfamiliar situation you don’t recognise who it is at first but on that occasion I recognised who it was straight off. Of course being a Hunslet lad he was on home ground.

My dad, being a Hunslet lad too, introduced me to Rugby league at Parkside in the ‘Alf and Walt Burnell’, era.

Hunslet Rl

We walked all the way there and back from East Leeds. At Parkside apart from the rugby there was also cricket and a dog track and the site of the famous Hunslet feast that annually would draw back old Hunslet residents. And although we then resided on the other side of the bridge he would regularly take us on Saturday nights to the Regal or the Strand cinemas. When we were a bit older we crossed the bridge on our own to visit the Premier Cinema in South Accommodation Road. The Premier was even down market on our own Easy Road ‘bug hutch’ we sat there on wooden benches and if I recall there was sawdust on the floor but it was only five pence (old money) and there always seemed to be lots of pretty Hunslet lasses to interest we eager pubescent lads.

Concrete seems to have taken over from character in Hunslet now but I still manage to have annual reunions with my old apprentice mates when the conversation invariable comes around to old Hunslet, when it was the ‘boiler house of the world’. Then as we are all over seventy and five of them are Hunslet lads I persuade them to tell me tales of old Hunslet

Barrie remembers: Maria, she lived in Varley Square just off Church Street. Her job was to go round Hunslet’s Anchor Street, Carris Street, the Askerns’s and Gordon Road knocking people up for work from 4 a.m. onwards. She used a clothes prop with a couple of socks on the end so she wouldn’t break the windows, all for six/nine pence a week. She was a right character not to be crossed. A case of déjà vu Maria also looked after a lad who fell off the same Beza Street Bridge as Pete’s dad. It must have been a favourite bridge for tippling off but this lad, Alec, was quite seriously injured but happily, he recovered and years later became my next door neighbour.

Gills (milk man): he had a house at the top of Anchor Road. He only had a small round but he was very reliable. He delivered milk from a milk churn on a special barrow. He poured milk from a ladle into a jug or similar. He delivered to my gran If she went out she would leave a jug on the window sill – large for two gills small for one gill. She covered the top of the jug with a lace cover with coloured beads round the edge to stop flies getting in. The jugs were safe from theft in those days.

Eddy Remembers: When we worked at Richmond Machine Tool Co on Hillage Place we didn’t have much time to get home for dinner and back, so Curly Lonsdale and I we were off on our bikes down Hillage Road, and down Anchor Street. A lady had been hanging her washing out – she had taken the washing in but left the line across the street; Curley ducked underneath it, but it caught me around the neck and pulled me off the bike buckling my wheel.

Brian, who attended Hunslet Nash, remembers a school teacher throwing the heavy board rubber at a lad; it hit his head and bounced out of the three story window. The teacher then blamed the lad for the loss of the rubber and made him go look for it. It took him three hours searching before it was found.

Gerry Remembers: the School Dentist in Bewerley Street. You went on your own; mams didn’t take kids to the dentist in those days. The waiting room was a place of purgatory. You slid along wooden benches listening to the screams from the inner sanctum moving to the front when it would be your turn. Often kids lost their nerve when it was there turn next and went to the back of the queue again. When you got into the surgery they put a horrible green mask over you face and a metal clip into your mouth to keep it open, if you needed the drill it was a foot treadle affair. When they had finished with you, you passed into another room with a line of sinks where kids were spitting blood. Everyone moved up a sink to accommodate the new arrival

On my way home from school Gerry said I had to pass a little yard where a guy kept ducks and chickens. One day I spotted two duck eggs could be reached under the wire. I pinched them and took them home. Mam gave me a right telling of for stealing – but we still ate the eggs.

Barrie Remembers: A foot coming through the ceiling at Hunslet Nash belonging to a lad who was foraging in the loft for bird’s eggs or something. Of course he shouldn’t have been up there in the first place but he was caught bang to rights because everyone recognised the shoe. Another time in Hunslet Church when they were ringing the bells one lad didn’t let go of the rope and it took him up and he hit his head on the ceiling where the rope passed through a hole.

General Banter: A guy walked into the Omnibus pub looking down in the mouth. His mates asked him what was the matter and he said his father had died that morning. They said he shouldn’t really be in here but he said he was trying to drown his sorrows. So the guys bought him his beer all night but just before closing time his dad walked into the pub. Then there was the guy in the Friendly pub in Holbeck he had a ‘Bobby Charlton’ type comb over which he used to keep in place with black boot polish. An old rugby league player had the Spotted Ox pub. He wouldn’t stand any nonsense from miscreants. On one occasion a guy continued to misbehave and the land lord had no option but to throw him out. He caught hold of his collar and the base his jacket and ran him into the door, they bounced back so he ran him into the door again after the third time one of the regulars said, ‘Alf the door opens inwards.’

Thanks to: the Yorkshire Evening Post, Hunslet Remembered, Leodis, Hunslet R.L.F.C.

Hunslet pubs

 

 

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3 Responses to “Hunslet”

  1. aussiepom Says:

    I didn’t know Hunslet very well but your memories of it seems like it was a very friendly place like East End Park was. I’ve seen lots of engines and farm machinery in the Queensland outback with the Massy Ferguson Hunslet name on them. Some are ancient machines and still going strong.

  2. Eric Says:

    Never knew there were so many pubs in Hunslet but I guess quite a few of them have bitten the dust by now, like many other areas.
    Some of those old names, Fowlers, Hunslet Engine & so on were world renowned Co’s in their heyday & Hunslet was fortunate in having so many of them in such a comparitively concentrated area.
    Another enjoyable stroll thro history.

  3. Sheila Says:

    My goodness this brought some childhood memories back. I went to Bewerley Street Juniors, leaving there to go to Matthew Murray when I was 11yrs old, (1967). I lived in Mario Street and the Beaulah pub was just round the corner, being well frequented by my mum and dad!. We were rehomed to another part of Leeds as Mario Street was next to be demolished. Oh the fun we children had playing in the rubble and soon to be demolished buildings. The “Big lads” built a helluva bonfire one year from old doors and the inside of the bonfire was even furnished LOL. 3 fire engines attended when it was lit that Nov 5th.

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