Archive for the ‘Leeds Corn Exchange’ Category

March 1, 2013

The laxative Joke

And

East Leeds Lads on Holiday in Devon

By Eric Allen

The Laxative Chewing Gum. An amusing little tale (well to me anyway – possibly not to those it affected) was instigated by me in the 1950s. Beech Nut chewing gum could be bought out of vending machines located outside shops usually on street corners. On this occasion the machine in question was outside a shop in Fewston Avenue.

To recap: there had been an intense sales drive to advertise BONO  MINT laxative chewing gum and samples of this product had been pushed through the doors of local households. On the day in question my mates, Bernard, Pete and I were off to the Market District Boy’s Club – Bernard and Pete to play football and I was to play my game, rugby. Before setting off I took a packet of Beech Nut chewing gum and swapped the contents for BONO MINT laxative chewing gum. On the way to the club I offered a piece each to Bernard and Pete, who both, innocently, accepted. Of course I had carefully positioned a piece of the proper Beech Nut gum in the packet for myself.

After the game we met back at the club where I was advised that Bernard had been taken short during the match and had to make a hasty retreat off the pitch. It did not seem to affect Pete until later that night when we were coming back late at night from dancing at Pudsey baths. Pete had to quickly get off the bus and get behind a hedge. He caught the next bus but unfortunately the same thing happened again and as this was now the last bus he had to walk all the way home (on his own). Unfortunately it was still affecting him while serving at St Hilda’s Church the following morning. Fortunately the incident did not affect our friendship and we embarked on a holiday in Devon.

The Holiday in Devon It would have been around 1956/57 when Pete and I decided to have a week’s camping holiday in glorious Devon. We were in our mid teens and this was going to be an adventure. Our route was to be by steam train from Leeds to Bristol where we would change trains for Barnstaple, another train to Bideford and finally a bus to Clovelly, which was to be our ultimate destination. There we had arranged to camp at the delightfully named ‘Wrinkleberry Farm’. The site had already been recced by Pete’s mother and father as being a suitable spot for us.

We allegedly carried everything we would need for the week on our backs, including two small tents, one for sleeping and one for stores. In addition, we had with us, or thought we had with us, a Primus stove for cooking. We got off to a bad start by falling out over whether or not we should risk dumping ourselves and all this gear in a first class carriage; which looked much more attractive than those afforded by our third class tickets and werekleberry Farm for Blog

full anyway. Somewhere along the way, it dawned upon us, with a sickening impact, that we had forgotten the Primus stove; it was still sitting on our kitchen table at home. This was a major blow for two growing lads for it meant no hot food unless we bought out, this was a ‘double whammy’ as take-a-ways were as rare as rocking horse dung in Clovelly and anyway our financial resources, being young lads, was very limited. We decided, after debate, that our best course of action would be to buy another stove and this we did at Barnstaple. Now, whether we couldn’t afford a proper Primus stove or whether we just could not locate one in Barnstaple I can’t now recall but we finished up buying a Butane stove instead. The Butane stove was a small blue affair; the canister, which contained the gas, came separate from the base of the stove. To start the thing one needed to locate the canister onto the stove and push into position by forcing it onto a spike and securing it with two clips. That in turn pierced the canister and allowed the gas to be released in a controlled manner for igniting and cooking. Unfortunately, the first time we tried to use it we managed to spike the thing but did not have it located properly. This caused it to take to the air like a flying saucer propelled by the escaping gas and emitting a smell like rotting vegetation as it flew. By the time we retrieved the canister it was empty. So that was it, as we didn’t have access to another canister in outback Clovelly, so we were back to square one again without a means of cooking.

Happily, Wrinkleberry was a great place to camp and Clovelly itself, in my perception, one of the most beautiful villages in England. Of course we had probable been indoctrinated by Pete’s mother and father, who made pilgrimages to spend their holidays there almost every year. That was in the days when a Ford eight had to meander through countless town and city centers (before motorways) and an overnight break in Bristol on the way down, which meant four days of the holiday were lost already in the travel.

Pete’s house in Leeds was a shrine to Clovelly; there were pictures of the place on almost every wall and a Devon pixie doorknocker. For those not lucky enough to have visited Clovelly when it was a living village rather than a virtual museum it can best be described as one long, narrow, cobbled street which reached from a car park at the top to the quay far below. Motorised transport was not allowed in the street: it was far too steep and narrow anyway. All goods, including: milk deliveries, groceries and even the dustbin collection and funerals were carried out by means of donkeys pulling sleds. At that time, the whole village was under the ownership of Lady Hamilton, who lived at Clovelly Court, a grand house out of bounds to the rank and file.

We must have been fit at the time for we would be up and down that street from Wrinkleberry to swim by the quay, three or four times a day – all four or five hundred feet drop of it. I certainly wouldn’t like to have to tackle it even once a week today! One day we looked back from our swimming in the quay to see all our clothes floating on the water, the tide had come in and we hadn’t noticed; the salt water ruined my new watch. About the third day a most amazing thing happened; we were lazing about on the big pebbles by the seaClovelley for Blog (2), like a couple of great porpoises, probably thinking what we would have for dinner. We were still without the stove – One day as I was laid on my stomach on the beach looking up the winding street, I gasped: ‘Your Lill and Bill are coming down the hill!’ We called our parents by their first names, they said we were cheeky b’s but I think they liked it really. I suppose we were a bit avant-garde for the fifties. Anyway, I remember Pete saying, ‘Come off it. How can they be? They’re at home three hundred miles away!’ It was a bit like in The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy when the main protagonist who is on a distant isolated planet sees his old aunt walking down the road towards him. However, in his case he was hallucinating – I wasn’t – it was Pete’s Lill and Bill. They had made the three hundred mile plus journey, all the way from Leeds, to bring us the Primus stove. Well, that and the fact they didn’t need much of an excuse to have an extra holiday in Clovelley at the best of times. Thereafter, for a few days, we slept in our tent and Lill and Bill slept in the van alongside us at Wrinkleberry Farm. And we were able to cook on the Primus stove; in fact, I suppose we had the advantage of Lill doing most of the cooking for us too.

The week proceeded idyllically and sunny for the next few days, we had a memorable trip to Lundy Island on the old Waverley paddle steamer, which would arrive from Ilfracombe and anchor out in the bay where the local fishermen would row the folk who wereWaverley paddle steamer
going to make the trip out to join it. I admired the lifestyle of those old Clovelley fishermen. Many of them had been born and bred in Clovelley and worked the fishing boats as lads before getting ‘wanderlust’ and joining the Royal Navy or perhaps the merchant navy and going off to see the world. Finally they would return to finish their days back in Clovelley, pottering about in their boats, setting a few lobster pots, making few bob rowing holidaymakers around the bay etcetera but mostly just to sit around smoking on the harbour wall chewing the fat with their old mates. What a lovely way to spend a life! I believe the old Waverley, which incidentally made the trip to Dunkirk to bring the lads back, is still plying its trade among the Scottish Islands even at the time of writing. Lundy, a windswept rock in the Bristol Channel was at the time home to a few lighthouse keepers and a puffin colony. I recall a steep climb to an old stone church, a post office making good profit out of selling the island’s own puffin stamps and a having a picnic. A good day was had by all.

About Thursday the weather changed and it started to rain and I mean rain, ‘stair-rod time’. Now, there is not much to do in Clovelley in heavy rain so good old Lill and Bill said they would take us on to Newquay in the van, where there were chances of a few more foul weather attractions. So, off we bumped to Newquay in the back of that seatless, Jowett, Bradford van. We still intended to camp but the rain was no better in Newquay: probably worse if anything. We paid an old farmer for a campsite but it quickly turned into a river and we had to abandon the idea of camping altogether and seek ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation. We were boarded the first night by a nice lady who then passed us onto her daughter for the rest of the week. Both houses were located on a bend in the road into Newquay near to where a circus was being held. Neither of us has been able to pin point the exact location of these two houses on subsequent visits to Newquay.

Then followed the longest train journey home either of us can remember. First the train went to Plymouth, were we were delayed and had to make a change of trains. Eventually we arrived in Bristol where we had to spend a cold night on the station platform as our train did not leave until the next morning. That night spent on a cold seat was memorable in that it was so cold and miserable. Ironically, as we were told later, our carriages were standing alongside the platform unlocked where we would have been welcome to spend a warmer, more comfortable night than on the station bench. We arrived home in the afternoon of the next day. It was seventeen hours after our departure from Newquay by time we saw the grimy old face of Leeds Corn Exchange, which always confirmed our holidays were well and truly over. But what an adventure it had been!

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Great tale Eric. I remember it well – especially the laxatives!!!

Last months pic? St James Infirmary (Jimmies) Taken from Becket Street Cemetery
Now for this months’ Remember these two Schools?
.Beasts in the top school belles in the lower schoolCentra & Thorseby for blog

The Great Disappeared Pubs of Old Central Leeds

August 1, 2012

 

The Great Disappeared Pubs of Old Central Leeds

By Pete Wood

Sometimes, in fantasising mood, I conjure up my ultimate night of booze and debauchery:  the venue is Leeds City Centre and the decade is the 1890s –‘The Naughty Nineties’. I’m starting off up Briggate for my night on the town. From The Royal Public House Yard comes the sound of hooves on cobbles. There are horses steaming and black and ready for off. Merrymaking floats out on the night air: a tinkling piano, raucous laughter, the occasional breaking of glass. Inside, revellers in ‘Billycock’ hats and ‘bum starver’ jackets, swill back the ale, while their ladies polish off the gin.

            Alas it’s only make believe, in reality pubs like that are long gone and in their place: ‘plastic palaces’ with contemporary music played very loud and the flashing lights that are necessary to draw in the twenty-first century youth with their vast discretionary spending power. City centre sites now need money a plenty to survive. Well, I’m far too old to enjoy their style of pub, but unfortunately, not old enough to have enjoyed the true sawdust and spittoon era. Fortunately, there was an intermediate era – a good night was still to be had in the fifties sixties and even the seventies in the great old ‘mucky pubs’ of Central Leeds; where there were still colourful characters

enough to light up a room. I loved those ‘mucky pubs, in fact I never felt as though I’d really been out unless it took in Central Leeds. Even my stag night was a crawl around my favourite joints.

            Gone now, regrettably, are The Royal in Lower Briggate and McConnell’s with its barrel filled window. Gone too the round Wine lodge in City Square, The Mitre, King Edward, King Charles, Robin Hood, Nags Head, Dolphin, Scotsman,  Market Tavern and The Marquis of Granby. The Star and Garter near the Corn Exchange is an amusement arcade and the Central Market, Golden Cock, Hope and Anchor, Brougham’s Arms and Yorkshire Hussar have either gone or changed their names, some several times over and with the changing of their names has come a changing of their special character too. Not all is completely lost, at the time of writing those left of a rapidly diminishing bunch are: The Whip, bless it, where Woodbine Lizzie used to stand by its three stumps and where I first saw a ceiling spinning round after sampling barley wine. The Palace, The Duncan, Royal Oak’ The Regent, Scarborough Taps and The General Elliot totter on. The Ship, Whitlock’s, Piccadilly Bar, and the Pack Horse were up ginnels and never quite aspired to my favourite category of: ‘mucky pub’. The Headrow pubs and above were out of my frame.

            Through the years I think The Star and Garter became my absolute favourite; you certainly saw life in the ‘Star’. For a start there seemed to be three or four different sexes in there, I was never quite sure who was supposed to do what to whom. Then there were the ‘ladies of the night’ plying their trade, they were a lively bunch; always laughing: their antics made the pub a fun place. Mingled in were the old ‘down and outs’ – old kids who had been in there drinking since the pub opened. By the time I would be going in there at nine or ten o’clock they would have an inch of ash on the end of their cigs and beginning to fall asleep. They would nod and nod, getting lower and lower until they heads would finally touch the table, over would go the beer and the glasses would shatter. The ‘star’ had a barmaid who had developed a technique for dealing with this; she was only a slip of a lass but she couldn’t half shift them on. She would grab them by the collar and flick the stool away with her foot, then using the momentum of their fall she would drag them out backwards to the door and then bump. Bump down the two steps onto the pavement of Call Lane. I can recall two bodies still lying there one night as I was trying to enter the pub.

            Often there would be undercover police in there on the look out for stolen goods or trying to locate the whereabouts of some rogue or other. You would hear a commotion and they would have someone spread-eagled against the wall being searched; accompanied by a great commotion from the recipient.

            There was a an old kid who collected glasses, I’ll swear he broke more than he got back to the bar – there would be a c-r-a-s-h and a couple of minutes c-r-a-s-h again. No one seemed to notice or worry about it, the floor was always swimming in ale and blood and you could feel broken glass forever grinding underfoot. I saw a lesbian give a guy a crack who was getting too familiar with her friend. Another night I went in there and it was so crushed there was nowhere to stand but I could see there was plenty of room at the far end, so I pushed my way through, folk were looking at me strangely, when I got to the space at the front I realised why; a naked woman cavorting about there, then I had to try and push my way back. Perhaps the strangest sight I ever saw there was a bloke having his hair set on fire. It happened like this: there was a couple of chaps talking to each other, pints in hands – I saw this woman pass behind them and then suddenly his hair was alight, flaring right up to the ceiling. The funniest thing was he didn’t seem to notice, he continued to talk to his friend: ‘rhubarb – rhubarb’ etc. and there was his hair actually blackening the ceiling. Finally his mate must have noticed and I imagine he said something like: ‘Hi up Joe, your hair’s on fire!’ Anyway they managed to put it out between them, he seemed no worse for wear in fact, incredibly, although his hair seemed to have been burning for a considerable time it did not seem to have been noticeably consumed. ‘It’s that bloody woman!’ he said finally and chased out after her into the street.

            Surprisingly I never found the place to be dangerous. If you didn’t cause trouble, no one would trouble you and you could observe to your heart’s content. The punters were streetwise to an amazing degree so much so it made you feel naïve. And there was total equality, if Prince Philip had gone in there for a pint or even the Queen they would have had to wait their turn at the bar like everyone else.

            To round off the evening was to have fish and chips from the Crown Fisheries, eaten in alcoholic fuzz, out of the paper, on the Corn Exchange steps – observing every species of humanity rolling home up Boar Lane in jovial state. And that old blackened Corn Exchange observes on too and if those old Victorians couldn’t shock him – then I’m sure neither will me or you.

(Unfortunately even more of these great old pubs are ‘mort’ since the writing of this piece.)

 

Following on from Eric Sanderson’s picture question (the alternative ‘Slip’) which he now reveals is actually in Harrogate – here is another poser. East Leeds veterans will surely recognise this magnificent building now seemingly under renovation for something other than its original use. But can you remember where it is? I bet no one will remember the name of the side street?