Dandy Row (Dandy Island)



A visit to the mysterious Dandy Island was always an adventure, with no little danger for us East Leedsers in the 1940s.Mr Leslie Fielding has supplied these excellent pictures of the enigmatic Dandy Row and Mrs. Maurine Fielding (nee Horn) fills in the provenance
Remember to ’click’ on pictures to enlarge
But first I want to sketch you a picture of the Waterloo ‘paddy line’ system that allowed us access to the island. While working on this sketch it became apparent to me that anyone new to the area today would have no inkling of how it used to be when we were kids in the 1940s. All the ‘paddy lines are gone, so too the ABC houses, two of the bridges and even the huge Skelton Grange Power Station has been and gone since the early fifties; so you couldn’t get to Dandy Island by our daring routes now even if you wanted. But then it doesn’t matter that the bridges are down Knostrop has no inhabitants who would wish to cross now and today’s kids are into i-pods, tablets and lap tops, whatever, which give them virtual adventures but not the real life ‘daring do’ adventures we had.

dandy sketch revised

From the sketch it can be seen that there were at least four coal staithes where the paddy trains from Waterloo Colliery disgorged their coal, There was one at the bottom of Easy Road, one at Hunslet Goods Yard, presumable one at Neville Hill for a branch line went there and one on the canal bank on Dandy Island . This was obviously defunked even as early as the 1940s as the bridge that crossed the river in order for the train to reach the canal bank was devoid of many of its sleepers and probably only held up by the train rails themselves leaving gaping gaps to the raging torrent bellow, these we leapt over with the abandon of youth but our parents would have been horrified if they had known what we were doing. There was another way to access the island for us which was no less dangerous, probably more so. This was by walking across the weir, which was alright when the water was low but the weir was somehow controllable and water could be released which would wash away an unwary crosser. Even when it was low when crossing it could become a torrent when you wished to return that way marooning you on the island. From this it can be seen that a visit to Dandy Island was an adventure albeit a dangerous one and not for the faint hearted. On one occasion a couple of miscreants stole a chick from a bird’s nest they had found and bore it home in triumph at which their aunt went ballistic and made them take it back to the nest immediately, which meant they had to dice with the weir or the bridge four times that day. One of our number who lived in the cottages at Skelton Grange would ‘island hop’ Dandy and the locks at Knostrop on his way to visit the cinemas in Hunslet. I dread to imagine what it must have been like returning by that way in the dark – obviously he wouldn’t have been able to use the weir in darkness but on one sad occasion he remembers seeing them pulling a body out of the river on his way home.
Once on the island the western end seemed quite desolate and unwelcoming the soil was deep black from the river often overrunning it and you wondered if it would hold your weight, strange roots and vegetation abounded and then we always had the feeling we were trespassing, which we surely were. But if you could make it passed the mill, which was a putty producing mill at the time spewing out loads of white ‘gunge’ you were then into the eastern end of the island which was a different proposition, quite a green and pleasant land in fact and there we would encounter the enigmatic Dandy Row. Who lived there? How did they Exit the island? Where did the children go to school? Mrs. Maureen Fielding (nee Horn) has some of the answers, pictures provided by Mr. Les Fielding.

12-08-2015 21;04;38

It was the Horn family who operated Thwaite Mills and Maureen lived in one of the cottages in Dandy Row until she was eighteen. Maureen’s grandparents lived in that which is known today as the ‘Mill Owner’s House’. Maureen’s father was the highly skilled millwright and engineer who maintained the whole of the mill including the two waterwheels single-handed. The fact that the mill is now the water powered, working, Thwaite Mills Museum – is a testimony to the quality of his workmanship. Maureen’s uncle saw to the business activities and also lived in two adjacent cottages (made into one) at the other end of Dandy Row.
The residents and of course the mill traffic used to exit the island close to mill house where the canal narrowed slightly and it was served by a hand operated swing bridge during the working day by a gentleman called Billy Beck who occupied a cabin alongside the bridge and he would open and shut the bridge to allow pedestrians and traffic to cross and close it to allow boats to pass through. Of course a lot of supplies for the mill used to arrive at their wharf just before the bridge and the barges were unloaded by the steam crane which is still there today.
Thwaite Farm and the surrounding rhubarb fields, which were run by the Wade’s family and their fields stretched as far as the Ida’s, which were the streets next to Stourton Primary School on Pontefract Lane, another community now totally obliterated to provide storage for a sea of shipping containers.
Mr. Leslie Fielding has supplied three great pictures of Dandy Island. The top picture is of Dandy Row Cottages. Because this picture was taken from the other side of the canal it appears as if the cottages were adjoining the power station. However they were situated on Dandy Island with the river flowing behind the cottages and in front of the power station. There were eight cottages in the row and each had its own small garden area at the front and its own entrance gate. Although the cottages and the mill were so close to the power station they were never connected to the mains electricity supply.
The lower picture shows the steam crane and wharf where the barges used to dock when bringing in supplies to the mill, together with the narrow private access road to the cottages along the water’s edge. This picture was taken standing on the hand operated swing bridge which allowed access to the mill from Thwaite Lane. Just above the gable end of the first house on Dandy Row can be seen Skelton Grange Farm, which was on the other side of the river.
The third picture is of Thwaite House – nowadays referred to by museum staff as the Mill Owner’s House. The front downstairs room shown to the left of the entrance steps was used as the office for the mill and the rest of the rooms as family accommodation.
All three pictures were taken by Mr. John Horn (the engineer for the mill).
The original mill at Thwaite was built in 1641 and rebuilt in1823-25 along with the Dandy Row cottages. Dandy Row was demolished in 1968.

dandy row crain

dandy row large

dandy mill owners hous

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7 Responses to “Dandy Row (Dandy Island)”

  1. maureen.beanland@sky.com Says:

    Thank you so much for such an interesting and informative read which includes all the great pictures and scetch.

  2. Doug Farnill Says:

    Amazing that, though I was so close geographically, just by East End Park, I never knew about this area and the adventures of some of the kids I must have known at school. A very fine detailed account and great pictures to preserve this local history,

  3. Eric Says:

    A great piece of local history & information. I used to pass close by every Sunday, delivering the papers, including the ABC houses & Skelton Grange but never actually got onto the Island. If you Google the area, there’s quite a few good photos , including the Mill Owner’s House, the weir referred to in your story & many others.
    The old crane looks as though it could well be an old Smith (Rodley) steam derrick.
    I also seem to remember seeing Dandy Row cottages from the road coming back from Skelton Grange P.S. but for some reason, never had to deliver the Sundays there.
    Didn’t you also use Dandy Island as a location for one of your “supernatural” novellas ?.
    Anyway, enjoyed the piece.

  4. keith batty Says:

    from being quite young aged about 9 years old i can remember going to dandy island to visit a school friend who lived in one of the houses on dandy row his name was david langton and seem to remember his grandmother living adjacent to the crooked billet before it was extended then her house became the pubs lounge,Dandy island was quite sandy and we used to dig underground tunnels to play in not realising the potential of the tunnels collapsing fortunately it never happend.Adjacent to the mill was probably the only orchard in Stourton where i grew up in the Idas our route to dandy island was across the fields (wades rhubarb fields) and over the old brick bridge this was also our exit when mr Horne used to chase us after catching us in the orchard,Later in years (1969) i can remember going to the mill to purchase a bag of whitening for work to whitewash some walls and in about 1981working on the restoration project doing some scaffolding taking a loaded wagon full of scaffolding over the old bridge was also a feat as the corners were really tight and the front and back of the wagon would scrape on the brickwork

  5. Peter Blower Says:

    A great read, as a point of interest my uncle and aunt were the last tenants of Skelton Grange Farm Arnold and Violet Blower before moving to Ida Street. As a boy spent many happy hours there, both my uncle and father (Joe Blower) worked at the Power Station.

    • Wendy Breakwell Says:

      Hi Peter as part of Leeds Museums and Galleries I am doing a history of Hunslet/Thwaite/Stourton but just taking personal histories. I could possibly lead to an exhibition at Thwaite Mill next year and if you would like to be involved in this or have stories/photos etc that we could use, please contact me – wendy.breakwell@leeds.gov.uk

  6. Torrent Project Says:

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    to go back the prefer?.I am trying to find issues to enhance my website!I guess its good enough
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