Back in leeds for the First Time in 63 years

by

Back in East Leeds for the first time in 63 years!

Before John’s tale, a date for your diary: The 2018 East Leeds Old Codger’s reunion will be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane Leeds on Tuesday 6th Nov from noon for a couple of hours on.

By John Holloway

Finding the ‘East Leeds Memories’ site quite by accident two years ago did the trick – I was 9 years old when my family left Copperfield Avenue and I was determined to go back to have a look around the neighbourhood of my early years, well aware that it would be a very different ‘East Leeds’ and that I may not come across any of my old pals from childhood. I knew that my old school ‘St Hilda’s’ had gone – AND….. that the school building which replaced it on the same site had also been demolished some years ago! I suddenly felt very old! I was also well aware of the old saying ‘Never go back’. But things change – I was well prepared for disappointment.
With help and encouragement from Peter Wood and Eric Allen – both of who, I was soon to discover, were in my sister Linda’s class at school before she went off to Thorsby High School for girls – my wife Sue and I decided we would make a detour to Leeds on our way home to Orkney after our annual Holiday in Kent in November 2016, and spend a few hours in the Cross Green Lane area of Leeds. And what a treat it was!
Peter and Eric were waiting for us in the ‘Edmund House’ car park and instantly made us feel at home. We were right in the middle of my childhood ‘haunts’ – just 200yds from East End Park, and 100yds or so from my old house in Copperfield Avenue. We stepped out of the Taxi, and after warm hand-shakes and greetings, I took a long slow look around the immediate area. I was staggered! It all seemed so familiar – the mainly tree-covered East End Park looked the same (even the neat hedge around the bowling-green we later discovered); the curve of the railway lines past Neville Hill was still there, and further round to the right……yes, it was still there – the East Leeds Cricket Ground, tucked below the embankment up to the railway lines to the left, and Black Road to the right. I’m home! The only ‘landmark’ that had disappeared was the ‘Paddy’ railway lines across Cross Green Lane but hold on a minute, one major thing was missing – the whole of Taylor’s Farm to the east of where we stood. It now appeared to be one big industrial estate – no cows, no rhubarb fields! But hold on – one other important feature WAS still there – the recreation area including the football pitch where East Leeds used to play on Saturdays (and me and my pals after school for the rest of the week!). Wonderful. Peter Bradford (who I understand had a trial for Leeds Utd.), Ronnie Harvey, Graham Clarkson and Bobbie Taylor (all old school pals) instantly came to mind, and I do remember playing in goal for St Hilda’s School on the smaller pitch at the bottom of the sports field – with Paul Reaney (later to play at full-back for England) on the right wing. (Clever man Don Revie – he put his fastest runners at full-back and no ‘winger’ could get past them!).
Back in Eric’s car, our two hosts suggested a slow drive around the neighbourhood, and – once again – expecting the area to look nothing like it did in my youth, my first impression in the ‘Copperfields’ was that it looked almost exactly the same! There were a few porches added to the front of the houses, many of which had the same wooden fences to the small front garden as per the 1950s – and virtually no cars in the whole area – as per the early 1950s! It still looked possible to set up a washing-line right across the street as my mother and other neighbours did in the early 1950s, lifting it up with a ‘prop’ if a car or horse and cart should venture into the street. Looking up Copperfield Avenue, there was still the ‘gap’ in the houses along Cautley Road which gave us access to our favourite playing place – the ‘Navvy’ – yes, the one I fell down! Looking back down Copperfield Avenue towards Cross Green Lane, the only change seemed to be that one of our favourite ‘play areas’ (mainly marbles) to the right, had gone. It had remained the ‘bottom hollers’ (in fact a bomb-site from the war) until a small residential scheme was erected just a few months before our visit. Any chance of a quick game of ‘taws’ was foiled, but I looked down at my right thumb and forefinger which were already ‘tensed-up’, ready for the first ‘flick’ of the game. No exaggeration here – it just happened naturally. A sure sign I really was back in Leeds!
So all’s well with the world – the neighbourhood had hardly changed structurally and it appeared to be a very peaceful place to live, but standing outside my old house – No 10 Copperfield Avenue (at the front) and 10 Copperfield Drive ‘at the back’ – my mind went back to how everyone used the Copperfield Avenue entrance as their ‘front door’ for everyday use, whilst the ‘back door’ in Copperfield Drive was hardly ever opened except on Sundays. Everyone regarded the garden in Copperfield Drive as a place to relax (evenings and Sundays) and all the hustle and bustle of everyday life was confined to Copperfield Avenue. Driving a car up Copperfield Drive on Sunday was almost heretic, but traffic was hardly an issue in the whole area and we made good use of the flat road surface of Courtley Road for roller-skating – at any time of day!
As a young lad I had always thought that all the houses in the neighbourhood I lived in were fairly modern, like ours in Copperfield Avenue – built in around 1930 or so – but as we strolled towards Cross Green Lane with Peter and Eric I looked up at the houses and realised that those in Copperfield View were much older – perhaps Georgian or early Victorian? I then noticed a strange configuration of the windows at what appeared to be the ‘ends’ of each house in a row of quite substantial two-up and two-down houses. There are three windows (one above the other) in each house which do not ‘tie-in’ with a two-story house. Each house appears to have this ‘three-tier’ construction – some ‘inside’ the chimney stack and others at the gable end – outside the chimney stack. The chimney stacks would surely be the division between each household – other than the stacks towards the gable end of each row. The problem is far too complicated to explain in writing – hence the photos attached.(Myself aged 3 in Copperfield Drive – said windows along Copperfield View in back-ground, and one – taken at the same point from Eric’s car by Sue during our visit in 2017). If anyone can come up with an explanation please let me know! We have spent many hours during the long winter days here in Orkney trying to resolve the conundrum. (It is well worth ‘Google-earthling’ – ‘The Copperfields’ may have their own unique piece of historic architecture!).
Eric and Peter then gave Sue and I a ‘guided tour’ of virtually the whole area of East Leeds but I have to say that most of it was unrecognisable once we had passed the Cricket Ground heading eastwards. We did see the woods at Temple Newsam in the distance but everything seemed to be ‘new’.
Turning back towards Leeds through ‘Knostrop’ with Hunslet to the left was no more enlightening, but I suddenly realised that two things WERE missing – there was no stench from the Glue Factory where bones were rendered down – AND no huge fluorescent sign ‘Waddingtons’ where the ‘playing card’ factory formerly stood.
We had soon passed across Cross Green Lane and – after a quick look down the Navvy – now encased in chain-link fencing – we went for a slow look along Easy Road which I remembered as very ‘wide’.No ‘bug hutch’ Cinema in sight there but the area did look similar to how I remember it .
I quickly realised that my ‘sphere’ of activity as a lad in East Leeds was very small – virtually all between Easy Road and Cross Green Lane and I now wonder how on earth I managed to get all the way to Lady Pitt Place in Beeston every day for several weeks after school one year when my Mum was in hospital for several weeks. I caught the bus by St Hilda’s School into the centre of Leeds, changed to a No 5 Tram in Brigate (?) and got off near the top of Beeston Hill. My ‘nan’ there had Television (Wow! – Andy Pandey etc.) And I had beans on toast for tea every day. Sheer bliss. What else could a young lad of 7 or 8 want? I was back home by 7 o’clock, by which time Dad was home from work at Lever Bros Opticians. Great fun the Trams, and it is amazing that two brand new ‘single-decker’ Trams came into service in Leeds not long before we left for Gillingham in the early ‘50s.
There was still one more huge delight – and a real surprise – on the way back to the city centre to catch our train. The whole area directly before the brick railway viaduct was still a mass of flower beds – just as I remembered it as a lad. Not quite so colourful, being November, but an unexpected treat and a lovely ‘send-off’ as we approached the railway station.

So what was the biggest ‘change’ I noticed after 63 years away? The lack of small shops in the area around the Copperfields – no ‘Lightowler’s’ or ‘Mrs Woodward’s’ just round the corner. Where on earth would we get our ‘bubble-gum’ and ‘Dandelion and Burdock’ from today!

Sue and I would like to thank Peter and Eric for a wonderful 4 hours. Some people say ‘never go back’ – all we can say is: ‘It was worth every second!’

We hope to be able to come to the reunion this coming November. John & Sue Holloway.

2 photos to accompany text (at bottom?)

1) Myself in Copperfield Drive around 1947 (age 3?) note configuration of windows and position of chimney stacks on houses in the background (Copperfield View)

2) Same view in 2017 taken from Eric’s car, showing same ‘tier’ of three windows!

Great tale John Thank you

1) Myself in Copperfield Drive around 1947 (age 3?) note configuration of windows and position of chimney stacks on houses in the background (Copperfield View)

2) Same view in 2017 taken from Eric’s car, showing same ‘tier’ of three windows!

Great tale John Thank

5 Responses to “Back in leeds for the First Time in 63 years”

  1. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thanks John, enjoyed your description of the lovely day you had with Peter and Eric, visiting “home” after 60 odd years. The architectural puzzle that you show with the photographs is intriguing. I wonder if there is a clue in the drain pipes that come down from the guttering. I wonder if the 3 story end of the building was a later addition. The original plumbing seems to have had a downpipe at each end of the guttering, and then with the possible extension an additional plumbing arrangement was required. Just a speculation. East Leeds of nearly 80 years ago is firmly lodged in my mind, no bulldozer or roadworks or demolition will even change it. Thank you Peter and Eric, and you John for helping keeping it vivid.

  2. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for those few kind words, John. It was our pleasure to take an appreciative pair around the old area. ‘Good on ya too’ for remembering old East Leeds as it was and especially good for keeping that old photo ever since you were three years old.

  3. John Holloway \(Stronsay\) Says:

    Very many thanks Peter – has anyone come up with the answer to the ‘Window Puzzle’ ? My sister Linda is now ‘having a go’ as one of her pals lived in the house to the left of the ‘gap’ in the photo of myself (in Copperfield Drive). The girl was an invalid and rarely came out of the house – Sandra Bullock. One old pal of mine has just come to mind – Dennis Horton – any ideas? Thanks once again. Will try for the reunion. Fingers crossed. John

  4. Eric Says:

    Hi John.
    Your “window puzzle” looks to me to be :-
    Ground floor window is probably the kitchen window.
    The middle window looks to be a second floor bathroom as there’s a soil pipe coming from there & appear to have frosted windows in most.
    The uppermost window is possibly a landing window as the attic/lofts are clearly being used , some having had dormer type extensions on the roof . Many houses of that style & era had a permanent second flight of stairs leading to the roof space which were often used as storage or bedrooms.

    I knew someone who had a very similar house , in another part of Leeds, & that was certainly the arrangement there. They also had a basement or cellar used for storage & washing so they were in effect, 4 story houses even though the outside brick walls were only 2 story height.

    Hope you enjoyed your brief visit , you had good guides in Pete & Eric to the area

  5. Edward Blackwell Says:

    An interesting journey John thanks for sharing it, and the window configuration does seem odd. I think Doug’s and Eric’s suggestions seem to explain the mystery, the soil pipe coming from under second floor window indicates a bathroom, but as you rightly say it doesn’t conform to a two story floor plan. I think floor to ceiling heights had to conform to Building Regulations even that far back, and stairs were closely regulated on height of tread width of tread and height from tread to ceiling. Must have been a loophole some where in the regulations, possibly if a ceiling was less than so many square feet it was exempt, therefore a bathroom ceiling could be lower.

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