Barbara’s Tale

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   Mrs. Barbara Curran (nee Tootle, niece of the legendary, George Tootle – ex boxer and Hunslet Rugby League player – blinded as a result of his sporting activities) has added her memories of Knostrop, especially her childhood times in Knostrop New Hall in the care of her grandmother, Mrs. Smith.                                             

Barbara’s Tale        My memories of Knostrop and the old mansion started when I must have been just a toddler and Granny Smith looked after me while Mam worked. I never remember getting bored down there, it was different world to me than being in the streets back home in Easy Road, there was always someone coming in for a natter (years later I found out that my granny was the caretaker). At the back of the mansion were some allotments and my dad had a fair patch including a greenhouse and a hut where he kept his tackle. I used to help my dad take caterpillars off the cabbages and my granny’s gooseberry and raspberry bushes. Then of course there was the rhubarb which I enjoyed after Granny had baked them into pies. I remember the courtyard that led to the wash-house and the huge weeping willow that stood in the centre of the grassed area bounded by the circular path at the front of the mansion. The whole was enclosed by high walls and huge gates. In my mind I still see Granny with her long black dress and extra long pinny complete with quaint old shiny boots, her long hair platted and pinned up at the side of her head. When she had a bit of time she would sit me at the corner of the table near her chair and ask me to comb her hair. I obliged because I liked doing it. I recall the huge winding stairs inside the mansion that led to the upstairs rooms where my Uncle George lived. I remember the long hot summer days and the darkness of the night around the place, there were just a few gas lamps on the lane outside. In the autumn I used to kick my way through the fallen leaves on crisp cold nights. When the snow had settled on the road and the moon was out some found it quite eerie but to me it never was. My Uncle Charlie and Aunt Ivy – Mam’s brother and his wife – lived in the Hall, My Dad’s brother, Uncle George, lived there too. He was blind and had two dogs, which everyone seemed afraid of. I never knew why because I didn’t see much of Uncle George. I was born in 1941 and went to school first at St Hilda’s while the war was still on. Things being tough where money was concerned Mam got me into St Hilda’s because they said I was too young at Ellerby Lane. The school virtually faced onto Knostrop lane where I felt so much at home. To me everything was mesmerizing, even as to how the seasons changed the scenery. In a nutshell I felt safe down there and never lonely. Although we had no toys there were lots of outside games; weather permitting. I never really settled at St Hilda’s School because all my mates from the streets where I lived went to Ellerby Lane School. So I too moved to Ellerby Lane School. I must have still been quite young as I was put into the last year of the infants. I still spent holidays down Knostrop with my Gran. Uncle Charlie came home in uniform with his hat perched on the side of his head, which made him look like an Aussie. He had lovely blue twinkling eyes; he was our Brian and Neville’s dad. A gang of us from around the streets at home spent lots of hours looking for frogspawn in Oxley’s Sports Field – not far from Knostrop. While the war was on I remember us all going down the cellar but being too young I didn’t really realize what was going on. I just accepted it as normal. I remember the flags going out in every window and people were laughing and everyone was happy I’m not sure but I think there was some sort of street party. My dad worked on the railway shunting wagons so he got concessions for free travel for us and we had a holiday in Scarborough or Bridlington most years. As the years passed I heard they were pulling down the mansion to make way for industry. I felt sad about that. I don’t believe they should have done it. It was lovely living just a stone’s throw away from the countryside. I suppose the people who lived down there have bettered themselves housing wise, but it took away the innocence of a special place for me. Although looking back I realize I was only a child and life was hard for the grownups: there was no electricity it was just gaslight and candles; there was a wash room for collecting cold running water to take back to the rooms but there were no baths in the place at all. Everyone had some job or other to do, rain shine or blow. I suppose its demise was for the best but I will never forget Knostrop New Hall. Much later I ventured down Knostrop Lane and looked at the site of the Mansion. I was aghast to see its place had been taken by a big ugly Trumix cement yard. The lane was the same and it looked out of place, somehow. I walked away but by the time I had passed Grumwell’s field at the top of Knostrop Lane it was the old memory of the mansion that had returned to my mind. Now I am older I can understand how the Bronte sisters came up with all their stories. As Howarth was in the countryside too they’ll have spent long hours on winter nights writing to pass time along. Perhaps their tales were part real and part fiction but like Howarth the memories of those who lived and experienced Knostrop will never die.

Thanks for a great tale Barbara.

While we have plenty of pictures of Knostrop Old Hall we have not as yet been able to locate any pictures of Knostrop New Hall, but Eileen, Barbara’s sister, has made a good effort of an impression from her memory.   Knostrop New Hall and Knostrop House (Riders) was both Georgian, Knostrop Old Hall was Jacobean and Thorpe Stapleton Hall was 14th century. No credit to us that these four noble buildings that had graced Knostrop for so many years were all four demolished on our watch.   The second picture (please remember to ‘click on pictures to enlarge) indicates the location of our favourite old Knostrop locations on a 21st century map.

new hall for blog revised

pink blobs for blog revised

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5 Responses to “Barbara’s Tale”

  1. Eric Says:

    A very interesting tale Barbara. In the mid ’50’s, I used to deliver the Sunday newspapers & Old & New Halls were on my round so I remember them well – the grand designs, the sweeping staircase & mezzanine floor. I also remember an elderly Mrs Smith (could it have been your G.Mother? ) who used to take the Scottish Sunday Post & would occasionally show me her prized antique gun collection. Part of my job was also to collect the money for the week’s papers & I can tell you that the comments weren’t always complimentary when I had to knock on their doors, early on Sunday morning to ask them for money. I wonder if you were still living there at the time?.
    As you (and Pete) say, it’s a great shame these grand old buildings with a rich history haven’t been preserved

    • Margaret Walters Says:

      Hi Barbara lvy and Charlie Smith were also my aunt and uncle aunt lvy was my mums sister my brother Arthur and l spent some summer holidays with aunt lvy as my mum worked l was born I 1939 Arthur in 42 l remember the willow tree well ,and you are right uncle Charlie had lovely blue eyes and l have seen the photo of him with the Australian hat when he came home from the war .Margaret Walters .

  2. Dave Carncross Says:

    I enjoyed this tale very much. Barbara. You have an engaging way of describing things as they were then. Of course, it helps if one has seen the buildings personally as well but I wouldn’t have got anywhere near describing them as you have I could see them in my minds eye reappearing as I read along. Go to the top of the class.

  3. Doug Says:

    Thank you Barbara, I never knew the Old and New Halls but your description brings to life the happy memories of people who lived there. It is interesting to be reminded of how few amenities some houses used to have in those days. Hot and cold water, indoor toilets, abundant light and power at the flick of a switch – how easy we have it these days. And I remember those cold nights with a later of snow on the ground and a pale moon – sometimes it felt a big spooky.

  4. aussiepom Says:

    I too enjoyed your story very much Barbara. Every line was filled with descriptions so good It felt as if I was actually there. I was at Ellerby Lane school the same time as your were. I remember your name but can’t put a face to it. Looking back on those years it doesn’t seem like all that long ago. I hope you will write many more stories, you are so good at telling them

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