Archive for the ‘Evacuation’ Category

Evacuated from East Leeds to Ackworth

November 1, 2010

Evacuated from East Leeds to Ackwoth.

This month’s tale revisits the experiences of two East Leeds school girls: Mrs Kathleen Fisher (nee Lane) and Mrs Molly Browning (nee Smith) evacuated in 1939 from East Leeds to Ackworth, and their slightly differing  ‘take’ on their adventure..


                                                         Kathleen’s Tale

I was interested to read in the Yorkshire Diary (YEP) about children who were evacuated from Leeds at the beginning of the war and note they mostly went to Lincolnshire and the Dales. It made me think about my own experiences of evacuation – we went as a school group to Ackworth, just outside Pontefract. My seven-year-old brother, Michael, and I (aged 10) attended St Hilda’s Junior School on Cross Green Lane, Leeds 9. Early in September 1939, we walked down from school to the railway goods yard near the river Aire at Hunslet, with our belongings and boxed gasmasks over our shoulders. We got on the train and were taken to Lower Ackworth School where we were given a carrier bag containing, amongst other things, a tin of corned beef and sticks of barley sugar. People then came into the school and ‘chose’ which child/children they wanted – boy or girl, two boys or two girls but nobody seemed to want a boy and a girl whose mother was arriving next day with two babies!!

After much discussion, we were taken to stay in the headmaster’s house overnight (the house was called ‘Graystones’) and a home was found the following day with room for us all to stay together. This was the house of a lady who ran it as a private school and I think we were unwelcome guests!

            My brother and I had a long walk across the field to the village school and were glad to meet up with our pals from Leeds, we all soon made friends with the local children – but back in our ‘billet’ it was not so good. The house rules had to be obeyed, no speaking at meal times, no noise around the house, early bed (thought the sirens went occasionally so we were up again). My mother was very unhappy and took the three younger children back to Leeds. After as couple of weeks (most of the other children were returning too) but as our school back in Leeds was still closed my parents decided I should stay at school in Ackworth to continue my education.

            One morning I woke up to find I was covered all over in spots and wrote to tell my mum (no mobile phones then!) She quickly contacted the lady of the house who was quite cross when she realised I had chickenpox. I was put into strict isolation – away from the girls in the private school and life was even more lonely and difficult. A couple of weeks later I returned home and went to Richmond Hill School. This suffered in one of the air raids and St Hilda’s School was reopened.

            Looking back I think our evacuation to a venue so close to Leeds was an expensive mistake made in panic and to send children away from home to stay with strangers would not be considered a safe idea now. I have talked to some people who were happy and stayed with very nice families, all I can say is – they were the lucky ones!!


                                   Molly’s Tale

On the 1st of September 1939, with only a few days warning and not knowing our destination, we were marched in crocodile fashion to Hunslet Goods Yard to catch a train, carrying only our gas masks and a change of clothing. Before we got on the train we were handed a brown paper carrier containing a sandwich, an apple and to our delight some chocolate, which I still believe to this day was Kit-Kat or something similar. This was supposed to be for emergency but most of it was consumed by one and all before we arrived at our destination – Ackworth, near Pontefract!!. I was one of the older evacuees and had the responsibility of counselling the younger ones, who were totally confused.  I found it hard to hide my own fears.  we were taken to the local C of E school, where prospective foster parents came to choose who they would like to have. My friend (Mary Pearson) and I lowered our heads if we thought we were going to be picked by anyone we didn’t like the look of. It must have been late in the afternoon when this warm looking man and his wife for us – the last two left. We were later to discover that, as they couldn’t get there until late and wanted two girls we had been held back for them.

Mr Taylor was the caretaker of Ackworth Quaker School and Mrs Taylor was the cleaner. They were kind and jovial and we loved to go the Quaker school to help out and pretended we were posh pupils there! Apart from missing my mother and brother I quite enjoyed the luxury of being billeted at a house with a bathroom, as our home, number 12. St Hilda’s Road didn’t have one. I very much enjoyed the country life, picking fruit etc. One downside of the evacuation was that my best friend, Audrey Smith was evacuated to South Africa, which was a closely kept secret at the time because a few weeks earlier the Germans had sunk a ship carrying evacuees to America. I stayed at Ackworth until the following Easter, most of the other evacuees had returned long before that, some only staying a week.  I never returned to St Hilda’s School, which had closed because of the war, but went to Cockburn High School in the following September.

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)