Archive for the ‘Bombing’ Category

Memories of Brian Conoby

June 1, 2008

blog-brian-conoby Brian relates his early life in East Leeds, particularly: air raids, trips down Black Road to Red Walls, the Princess cinema and the local pubs. And local characters: Charlie Athe and his bike shop and Bog Earnie ‘chucker out’ at the Princess Cinema. 

The East Leeds Memories of Brian Conoby

I was brought up at 65, Charlton Road from the age of two years until we left in 1950. My grandma Mrs Bridget Conoby lived at 3, East Park View. Near to the ‘Slip Inn’. Near to my grandma’s house was a flat roofed house on the corner of Temple View and the Grove. It was more like a farm than a house, a Mr Sowery kept hens and there were some stables too. There were some flat roofed houses in Temple View known as the ‘Sharp and Thornton’s’. Times laundry was just across the way in Glensdale Mount, next was Wrigglesworth’s shop, which sold bags of coal. At the junction of Glensdale Road and East Park Road near to the railway there was a vinegar works called U.L.Y.C.U.M.

East End Park before the war had a small lake where the playground is now and there was a café near to the bowling green. The park was locked up on a night. The park ranger also looked after the ‘Rec’ located near Welbeck Road.

Black Road 

I fished at ‘Red Walls’ in the Wykebeck. Black Road was a good road in the 50s. I achieved 75 mph on a 350cc BSA down there! During the war, the army camp was equipped with big guns and searchlights. On a moonlit night, ‘Jerry’ would follow the river Aire up to bomb Leeds. Then the guns would start up. In the 60s, the TA used the camp for a few years.             You could sit out at the back of the Bridgefield pub on summer evenings. Opposite the Bridgefield, miners would catch the train down to the Waterloo Pit. The track followed Black Road past the Red Walls.

            I recall prisoners of war clearing the snow on East Park Parade. They had a big patch on their overalls. This would have been the very bad winter of 1947 when 12 inches of snow fell.




Charlie Atha

Charlie Atha had a cycle shop at the junction of Pontefract Lane and Lavender Walk. He lived in a house next door to the shop. He would build cycle wheels in the window of the shop on a jig – he could do anything with a bike! When I left St Charles’s School I started work at Bellow Machine Tool Company in Ellerby Lane, as an electrician’s mate. On one occasion a sewing mechanic who worked at the firm came off his bike in the wet tramlines, he was OK but the tram went over the back end of his bike and tore the backstays to bits. He gave the bike to Charlie who fitted new stays and re-sprayed it; it finished up ‘just like new’.  I have often gone to his shop about 2.00 p.m. and there would be a note on the door: ‘Gone to the Shepherd pub, back at 3.00p.m!  Before he moved to Pontefract Lane I was told he had a shop on ‘The Bank’ where he would hire out cycles.

            Bellow Machine Tool Company made sewing machines and steam presses for clothing firms. When I worked there, Ronnie Hilton, the singer worked there too before he made singing a full time career.

            For many years there was a small engineering firm at the junction of East Park View and Charlton Street we called ‘Tippingsis’ I still have some tools from there, a spanner bears the name ‘Tipco’ on its side.

           Mr. Jim Stanton lived next door in Charlton Road. He was just too old for service so he became our local ARP man. I remember him coming round with small incendiary bombs, lighting them against the toilet walls and then showing folk how to put them out with the aid of sand and a stirrup pump. I often wondered how we would put them out if they became wedged in a gutter?  I had been told that in time they could burn right through slates. At the end of many streets there was a square, brick water tank. One was at the end of Charlton Road and another across from the Bridgefield pub – a steel one, which remained long after the war had finished. Houses with gardens were usually issued with ‘Anderson’ type shelters, which had to be sunk half way into the soil, with the extracted earth heaped on top.  My uncle, Mr Frank Muntage, an Irish Man, was a foreman for Mary Harrison, the building company. As Harrisons were extending the munitions factory at Barnbow he was exempt from front line service: he drove a Harrison’s lorry (which were always red). One Saturday morning he arrived with four other Irish men and dug out the Anderson shelter and built a proper bunker below ground level placing the actual Anderson shelter at the back. I don’t know where they got all the sand and cement from but they were at it all day Saturday and Sunday and the next weekend too. It was so strong other folk preferred to use it as being safer than their own shelters. Later my uncle had to work up the East Coast, near to Hartlepool, where Harrisons were building the Mulberry Harbours ready for the invasion. After the war my dad put two feet of soil on top of the shelter and grew vegetables on it. As far as I know the shelter may still be there!

Big Ernie, commissionaire at the Princess cinema, lived three doors up from the junction of Welbeck Road and Everleigh Street, facing the Rec. When I visited my grandma at number 3 East Park View I would see him about to go on duty at the Princess.   When he was on duty he would sit on a chair at the front, near to the screen. If you went more than once to the toilet he would shout: ‘that’s twice you have been to the toilet. If you go again I will throw you out!’ I recall there was a passageway down the side of the Shepherd pub, where you would queue for the cheapest seats.

                                                                                                Brian Conoby


Memories of war time life in knostrop east leeds and my mothers washing days air raids and carrying the shopping

May 1, 2008


No Mod Cons in Knostrop             

      (Pete Wood)

The houses of Knostrop were all bereft of electricity. The ones like ours would have gas downstairs and upstairs, nothing. When you went to bed you took a candlestick with you like ‘Wee Willie Winky’. The gaslight went up and down; sometimes it would be a bright greeny white at other times a sickly yellow, which made reading difficult. People would remark, ‘The pressure’s down tonight!’ Tall people who visited and were unused to the problems of gas would be forever knocking the mantels off with their heads; this would spark off much light-hearted hissing and booing at the culprit. Should you not have a spare mantle on hand the rest of the night would be spent in candlelight.

We didn’t have TV yet but without electricity even the radio; or rather the ‘wireless’ as we called it, still needed a source of power – to achieve this we used a system of batteries, a wet battery known as ‘the accumulator’ and another huge battery about a foot square which we referred to as, the ‘dry battery’. People would try to have two accumulators on the go if they could so that while one battery was working the set they could have another on charge. There was a shop at the top of Knostrop Hill that specialised in the charging up ‘flat’ accumulators (Burley’s).  The makeup of an accumulator was: a glass outer casing, with acid covered electrodes inside. When taking them to be charged you had to carry them with a flimsy detachable handle that located in a couple of half moon ridges moulded into the glass. One day while taking an accumulator for charging I was swinging it a bit too violently and I swung the handle right out of the half moon sockets and the thing crashed down onto the road smashing into a dozen pieces. Replacements were quite expensive so I thought I’d be ‘in for it’ but evidently I must have looked so scared I was let off lightly.     

With such a wide choice of entertainment available today those who did not experience wireless first hand would no doubt have believed it to have been, music apart, a most primitive form of entertainment but in the days before TV we would look forward to listening to plays and comedy programmes as well as music. For the older folk even wireless was a luxury for they had only just moved on from the scratchy crystal sets, commonly known as the ‘cat’s whisker’. A couple of my favourite programmes, which I couldn’t wait to come around each week, were: ITMA, (It’s That Man Again) staring the comedian Tommy Handley. This programme brimmed with early catch phrases like: ‘Can I do you now sir?’ spoken by the charlady, Mrs Mop, ‘Don’t forget the diver’ and ‘I don’t mind if I do’ by old Colonel Chinstrap bumming another drink. Appointment With Fear, a weekly horror story read by Valentine Dial – ‘the man in black’, had me gripping the chair, ‘what delicious fright’. TV has, not in my opinion bettered the pictures one conjured up in the imagination while listening to those weird stories. And those images didn’t seem to fade so fast either when the programme ended.

After listening to ‘An Appointment of Fear’ it became ‘an appointment of fear’ in actuality if one found it necessary to use the outside toilet in the middle of the night.

Every household will no doubt have evolved its own particular arrangement to deal with this event.  The rigmarole in our house was: first you had to feel your way downstairs, in pitch blackness (I wasn’t allowed to light a candle) and into the kitchen where you would try, if you could, to coax the dog out of his nice warm corner in order to accompany you. He wouldn’t be well pleased at this. Then you had to proceed through a stone pantry, up three steps and outside into the garden – all in complete darkness. By this time you felt a long way from the safety of civilisation. The toilet itself was a large brick affair in the garden, built in a veritable tunnel where the wind would whistle through the trees on a winter’s night. On one occasion I can remember the dog, which I’d managed to cajole along with me that time and was sat by my side, suddenly leaping up with his hair bristling and howling at something I couldn’t see. I thought Dracula and all his mates were after me.    

In winter the toilets, being outside, would likely freeze up and you had to take a bucket of water with you to compensate for the lack of a flush. In cold weathers an oil lamp would be placed alongside the pipes in an effort to offset this problem, usually without a great deal of success. ‘Its an ill wind that blows nobody any good’, goes the old saying however and being wartime there was little proper toilet paper around so you would find newspaper cut into squares in its place providing many a good read. I didn’t like it on two accounts though when it was The Woman’s Own; first the texture was dodgy and secondly, the stories were not for me     


Memories of Pauline Rushfirth(nee Brown)

September 30, 2007

Memories of Pauline Rushfirth (nee Brown),Memories of Pauline Rushfirth (nee Brown),These are the memories of Pauline Rusfirth (nee Brown) of living in Knostrop in the 1940s/50s, air raids, blackouts, yard games and attending Mount St Mary’s School.  



Air Raids at Knostrop    (Pauline Rushfirth nee Brown)


I remember my mam waking me up and wrapping a blanket around me to carry me out to the air raid shelter when the sirens were going and the guns were firing. The artillery guns were quite close, I don’t know quite where, further down the lane, I think, near the woods. It was very frightening the whole house would shake. The tiny windows had been taped with brown sticky tape in a diamond pattern so they would not shatter into pieces. One particular night when Mam was running to the shelter she went ‘smack’ into a black car, which had been parked outside the door. Being so dark, (remember we could not have any kind of light showing during that which we called the ‘blackout’) anyway Mam was heard to shout, ‘ They’ve got me!’ – They’ve got me!’  She thought she’d been shot.

Pauline (Brown) Rushfirth

In actual fact, between August 1940 and August 1942 in Leeds there were 87 alerts but only nine air raids. In this period 77 people were killed and 327 injured. 197 buildings were destroyed and 7,623 damaged.

(Illustrated History of Leeds  by Stephen Burt and Kevin Grady)


                                    Attending Mount St Mary’s School                                     

I attended Mount St Mary’s School, I think we were the only Catholic family living in Knostrop at the time. We were taught by the Holy Family Sisters. They were well known in the community and instantly recognisable by their black habits and large white headdresses and bibs (wimples were the correct name for them). They were very strict but fair. The classrooms were very cold, no central heating in those days, only a small coal fire. We would have regular air raid drills. A large shelter was located where the pre-fabs used to be. The children would assemble there and sing hymns. As far as I can remember we never did actually have an air raid while we were at school.


                                                   The Blackout


As a child I was afraid of the dark and  ‘Knostrop Lane was one of the darkest places of all to walk. When my sister, Pat, and I had to go to the ‘top’ I wouldn’t let her speak and would hold onto her for dear life. I can’t explain how dark it was, it seemed to envelope you. Sometimes there were not any lights at all, not even a gas lamp. When I could see the lights of the ‘top’ I felt a little safer. Coming back however it was a different matter, you left the lights behind, the further you went the darker it got. When I got older coming home from school was a nightmare, I would call on my guardian angel to see me safely home.’



                                                      Yard Games

We played a game called ‘Escape’. Someone would stand on top of the granary steps with a torch or a bike lamp, shining it on the shed gates and moving it backward and forward and we would try to escape in the dark bits. Pauline recalls it as: quite frightening.

‘My earliest memories are of my dad ploughing the fields with the horses, he was employed at the market garden. Looking back it was very hard work, long hours and poor wages. Back to the horses, one was called Tidy and the other Blackie, both were big shire horses, I liked to watch them being groomed and fed in the stable.’

I liked to decorate bricks, yes bricks! I would mix water with the lime that was heaped in a pile ready for use on the land and make it into a paste. Then decorate the brick with daisies, leaves and such. ‘They looked good enough to eat’.






Pauline (Brown) Rushfirth

Richmond Hill School, Ellerby Lane School & Evacuation

August 29, 2007

On March 14th 1941 Richmond Hill School in East Leeds was bombed. Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) tells her story of the evacuation of Leeds School Children that followedRichmond Hill School, Ellerby Lane School & Evacuation 


Schools: Richmond Hill and Ellerby Lane, Leeds.



Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins)

March 1941 saw the bombing of Richmond Hill School and brought to an end seven happy years there. The picture shows my classroom, which took a direct hit. Fortunately it happened at night when the building was empty, so no loss of life was involved. I remember seeing my knitting in the rubble. We girls were knitting socks and Balaclavas for the troops and my efforts looked so pitiful – a khaki Balaclava on broken blue knitting pins. I recall the same air raid resulted in the dropping of bombs in Butterfield Street.

From then on I went to Ellerby Lane School; I was there for just eighteen months before leaving at the age of fourteen years. The teaching staff was: Misses Kelly, Grinstead, Gibbins and Carr and Mr Bannell, Holmes, and the headmaster Mr Dennis. They gave us a good basic grounding for life, for which I have always been grateful. On Miss Kelly’s retirement I wrote to her and her reply I have kept for fifty two years as a reminder of a very caring lady – even though she could be strict at times.  Her sole aim in life was to teach young minds and prepare children for the many eventualities they would encounter.  Those who read this account may be interested in the following quote from the letter I received from Miss Kelly. She thought a great deal of us all.

Quote from letter dated 29th July 1952 from Miss Bertha Kelly:

‘I have always wanted the best for the girls in my care and it is boys too now that classes are mixed and if in any small way I have done anything to help them to appreciate education and to learn self discipline I am amply rewarded………..There are only Miss Gibbins, Mr Burnwell and Mr Holmes left of the staff you knew.

Mr Dennis retired some years ago and is living in Lincolnshire where he was born. These changes do come as we get older and we have to accept them.  I shall miss Ellerby Lane and the children very much. They are a grand set of boys and girls and I have been happy teaching there. I can’t realise yet that I shall not be going back……….I have spent all my life teaching in East Leeds and it will always be a part of me. 

End of quote.

One memory I have of Richmond Hill was of two children in my class: Jessie Cockroft and Kenneth Wainwright who both died at the very young age of six or seven years of age. The whole school lined up in the playground when Jessie’s cortege passed by and we all said our goodbyes.

I have a newspaper cutting dated 17th December 1938, of a much loved headmaster Mr Mulley. He retired in the late 1930s. Others who read this may remember him; he was headmaster at Richmond Hill School from April 1933 to December 1938.

Wartime Memories:

All the houses in the area had their cellars reinforced ours was no exception. Our cellar consisted of two rooms the smaller being used as a larder (before the days of fridges). The larger cellar was for the coal. Dad had made part of the coal area as comfortable as possible – a couple of easy chairs and a place for the baby to sleep.

Dad was always out on patrol during air raids as he was an ARP man. He always tapped on the coal grid of every house and asked if everyone was OK. I was told by neighbours that they found this reassuring.

I was one of the evacacuees who went to Lincolnshire in September 1939. My brother Alan (he was only five years old) came with me and Mum and baby Keith followed next day. Two brothers Norman and Raymond Clough from Dent Street were billeted in the same house as my brother and I, which was a sweet shop in the village of Tealby. It seemed a great adventure, nothing traumatic, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience; in fact about ten years ago I found myself in the same area once again and I called at the house of Mrs Roberts with whom we had stayed. The shop was no longer there and the current owners had no idea there ever was a shop. They were very welcoming and interested in hearing about those days. I have a picture (enclosed) taken one Sunday morning after a group of us walked from Tealby across the fields to North Willingham. The elderly gentleman and the small girl were residents and the other gent is my Dad, who as visiting for the weekend. All the rest of us were evacuees from Leeds.

Raising money for ‘Spitfire Week’ was something I became involved with – only in a very small way, being only twelve years old. I made a stall out of a couple of wooden boxes and with the help and generosity of neighbours I collected lots of small items to sell. I set up a shop at the top of Kitson Street. After sitting there for the full day the grand total raised was 10/- (ten shillings) fifty pence in today’s money. I thought I had done well enough to buy at least one wing for a Spitfire.

Ark Royal Week

Early in 1942 Leeds residents wanted to raise money to help replace the famous Ark Royal aircraft carrier that had been sunk during a sea battle. The objective to be reached was £5,250,000 (nationally). The children at Ellerby Lane wanted to do their bit and collected clean empty jam jars, which were stored within the school. We must have collected hundreds if not thousands. Moorhouses, the jam company agreed to buy them and the school received a cheque for £27.00 from the company (a tidy sum considering that at the time a man’s wage was about £3.00 a week). This was given to the fund. There were many other ways of raising money: dances, whist drives, raffles etc.  In the Leeds City Centre an indicator was erected showing just how much money had been collected. When the indicator was raised there was usually a notable person involved, an example being one of our gallant airmen who had been badly burned bringing home his burning plane. He was awarded the highest honour his country could bestow on him: the Victoria Cross. His name was Nicholson. We also saw the Free French leader: General De Gaulle raising the indicator. Princess Royal did the honours on another occasion.

Our Area:

The hub of our area must have been Accommodation Road, every shop imaginable was there, grocers, butchers, shoe shops, clothes shops, hardware, newspapers and sweets plus the Yorkshire Penny Bank, a pub, chapel and a dentist My mother never had to go into Leeds city centre for anything. Everything she wanted was nearby, what you couldn’t get there you could get in Pontefract Lane where there was a post office, a chemist, pea and pie shop, Coop grocers and butchers, barber shop and cinema – the Princess. What happy times we had at the Princess – Saturday afternoons watching the Three Stooges, and wild western films. Later on I graduated to more sophisticated entertainment.

Rudges bakery at the top of Kitson Street was a magnet – delicious smells of bread wafted out I always wanted a slice of new bread from the oven but it never happened. We had to eat the old bread first or Mam would make bread pudding, full of dried fruit, and sprinkled with sugar then cut into squares. This was always on the dresser when we arrived home from school and we just helped ourselves. From the age of twelve to fourteen years of age I worked at Rudges for two hours every day after school and earned 4/6 (four shillings and six pence), twenty-two and a half pence in today’s money for the week. Half a crown supplemented the family income and I was allowed to keep 2/- but made to save it. With this money I bought my first and only bicycle, which was my transport to work after leaving school. 

Lots of miners lived in our area and an early recollection: is being woken up at what seemed like an ungodly hour by a man tapping the bedroom windows with a pole. You could always hear him as he wore clogs. Not only did he wake the miners up, he woke everyone else up as well.  Most tenants were railway men, the houses being owned by the Railway, if you worked for the Railways you were able to get a house to live in.   Our next-door neighbour, Harold Bell, was a train driver, his wife, Sally, a lovely lady, made the most delicious chocolate cakes; every Saturday I would go to her hoping for a slice. I was never disappointed. Every chocolate cake I have tasted since those days has been compared with Mrs Bell’s and they’ve never come close.

I recall an occasion when my dad bought a settee, second hand of course, from a neighbour. It was many years later that I learned it had been bought from Mr Wiseman of Oxley Street, who was the father of Ernie Wise (of Morecambe and Wise fame). Decades later I met Ernie at a ‘do’ we both attended and reminded him of our association with East Leeds. He told me he had revisited his old home and one improvement made to the house was, it now had an indoor loo.

Other memories of my youth flood back when I see, for instance: packets of chewing gum. I would sit on the wall at the top of Kitson Street with a mate, waiting for anyone to put money into the chewing gum machine at the corner greengrocers. We would just have a half penny to spend but every third customer at the machine would get two for the price of one, that’s what we were waiting for. I was never the one with the money, so having someone who would share was a mate indeed.

Rhubarb reminds me of trips down Black Road where there used to be fields full of the stuff. Armed with a good tablespoonful of sugar in a bit of newspaper we would help ourselves to sticks of rhubarb, dip the rhubarb into the sugar and eat it. This was before rationing so sugar was still plentiful – it needed to be, raw rhubarb is not to be recommended.

Another treat for us youngsters was when we bought a pennyworth of chips from the local ‘chippy’. The first three in the queue got a ‘jockey’ (I have no idea where the name originated) it was just a small piece of fish, enough for a taster. We didn’t often have the luxury of chips but when we did we made sure we were first in line.

East End Park was an oasis for me, the only place nearby where we could see trees, flowers and any sort of greenery. There was a small area for children with swings, seesaw and a roundabout. There was also a tennis court. From one area you could see railway trucks unloading coal into a vast chute. So even in the park you were not far away from coal.

The Star Cinema in York Road was the newest and much larger that the Princess and more plush too as was the Shaftsbury. We didn’t go to the Shaftsbury as often though as it was quite a long way away to walk and we had no money for a tram fare. Occasionally we would go to the Star but the Princess being so local was always our favourite.

Mrs Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins)