Archive for the ‘Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew’ Category

East Leeds Champions replying to Bernard Hare’s Derogatory book on East Leeds

November 1, 2011

Comments from the ‘Champions of East End Park’ replying to the book: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew.

In October’s blog the question of the publication: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew was raised and a few old East Leedsers across the world were sent copies for their comments. Of course if you haven’t read the book you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The author of the book, Bernard Hare, purports to be an ‘Eastie’ himself, born in East Park View in 1958. Returning to the area in the 1990s he finds: feral children, car stealing joy riders, drink and drugs, underage public sex, lawlessness and living standards of absolute squalor. Unfortunately, this book is finding its way into the hands of folk new to the area that are unaware of its provenance and think the area was ‘ever thus’

            I think Mr Hare’s book strikes us so violently because he is so detailed in naming the streets and places that were dear to our hearts hence giving  credence to his story: Mount St MaryEast Street, Batty’s Brush Works, Mount St Mary’s Church and Steps, (we used to train for football running up and down those steps), Richmond Hill, East Park Drive, Glensdale Terrace, East Park View, Accommodation Road, Londesborough Grove, East End Park Bowling Green, and the Slip Inn are all mentioned and his finely detailed description of his walk back from the Royal Armouries crossing  over that which can only be our dear old ‘Paddy’s Park’ to finally arrive in Glensdale Terrace.

            Perhaps we shouldn’t shoot the messenger but rather accept that we, who were lucky enough to be born in East Leeds in the 30s 40s and 50s, have probably created a utopian vision of the area when really it was just that we were young at the zenith of the generations and it has been down hill for everyone ever since?

 Here is what our old champions – all born within a stones throw of East Park –   have had to say about the book:

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Wendy, East Leeds Lass, born in the Charltons, who now lives in Perth, Australia, has this to say:

Sorry, I just can’t read anymore of this book, ‘Urban Grimshaw,’ I was in conflict about the authenticity of the author’s story. I lived in the Charltons in the 1940s and my grandmother lived in the Ecclestone’s. I would cut through the streets mentioned in the book while walking to work at East Street Day Nursery in the 50s and I can honestly say I never witnessed anything Bernard Hare describes. Good writers should entice you into their story not turn you off at the very beginning.

I found the writing alienated me in the very first chapter and my mind was closed and resistant through the next chapters. I think the author needs to be seen as valuable. Perhaps he was overlooked as a child, and saving others gives him a ‘feel –good’ appreciation.

Sorry not interested in reading anymore.

Wendy said after that she had to put the book down and have a glass of wine.

The Slip

Eric, born in East End Park – travelled the world, says:

I have to say that I barely recognise the portrait described in this book and there is very little resemblance to the East End Park that I knew.

I lived slap bang in the middle of Bernard Hare’s described boundary and roamed its highways and byways for over 20 years. I can therefore claim to know the area pretty well

I would differ from his boundary description, it was much less defined than that and in some parts I would not go so far and in others extend further. For example I would consider the true EEP to be roughly bounded on the west side by the railway cutting so far as Ascot Avenue, then a line across Ascot Avenue, Vinery Terrace, Ivy Avenue Street to Skelton Terrace Road then down to Ings Road along to Osmondthorpe Lane cutting south to Neville hill Railway Sidings. People either side may consider themselves to be in or out of the EEP area but it’s a matter of opinion and there was certainly no rigid defined boundary.

It was never described or considered to be an ‘estate’. An estate was generally characterised by several features which distinguished it from the mix of housing which even today prevails in the area. An estate almost always comprised:

(1) Council/Social housing all of a similar style and construction (although   now there are a few private estates).

(2) All had medium to large gardens (mostly neglected)

(3) More structured layout with wider streets, grass verges and some tree lined avenues

(4) In general better facilities than many EEP residences, such as indoor toilets, H & C running water, indoor toilets, bathrooms etc.

The EEP area was never an homogenous area such as this with it’s mix of 19th century terrace housing, some back to back along with more modern housing, preceding any general understood notion of an ‘estate’ in Leeds.

I’ve never, ever heard the soubriquet ‘Easties’ applied to the residents or the artefacts (he refers to Eastie Curtains when describing shutters) {or perhaps could he be referring to boarded windows?}

The author clearly knows the area in general, most of his descriptions of the streets are quite accurate but some are not. For example he describes Londesborough Grove as tree lined. It never was and still isn’t. It was as he also describes, too narrow for street trees and even today has no garden trees. Even the lower part, which runs on to East Park Parade was wider but still devoid of trees ‘till well into the 60s but now has the odd garden tree on the east side. Nor was East Park View blocked off by the Slip Inn. True it was diverted but not blocked off

So much for the geographic content but it is the anthropogenic theme of the novel which is dour and depressing and portrays a community which is alien to that I remember through the 40s, 50,s and early 60s.

My clear memory of the area and community was one of vibrant, friendly, safe and relatively crime free environment. There was little anti-social behaviour and the streets were generally free from the litter and detritus. Indeed most houses took particular pride in keeping their own stretch of pavement and road well swept. The pavements were periodically swilled with water, brushed clean and the doorsteps ‘donkey-stoned’ on a weekly basis. Some rented houses were granted 6d a week reduction in their rent just for keeping the flags and doorsteps in a clean state.

Of course there was the odd bit of drunkenness and punch up in the pubs etc, but rarely, if ever the extreme violence which is so common today for the most trivial of reasons, nor the gratuitous profanity that seems to be everyday language by almost everyone. ‘Bad’ language was usually reserved for the tap room or the workplace and never in front of ladies or children. Drug taking was unheard of .

The appalling feral behaviour described in the book just wouldn’t have happened in those days. The parents would have brought the miscreants to heel and failing that so would the community. Although EEP is now described as an inner city area with crime rate attracting the priority of the West Yorkshire Police, it is the Glensdales, Templeviews and the Charltons which has the majority of the  crime. The bulk of the remainder is still a respectable working class community.

It’s difficult to believe the accuracy of the depth and range of the behaviour, it seems extreme. So much so, that I wonder if the author has used the technique of many authors. They take scenes of unconnected events and people, weaving them into a composite picture to try and portray a reality. It may well be that contemporary residents have created their own ‘turf’ boundaries and glossary of terms but I think he has used his knowledge of the area to create a contrived and sensationalised urban story of decay, crime and social breakdown. Although it’s a novel, it’s presumably intended to portray life in the real but its gratuitous use of profanity, lewd and lascivious behaviour is, in my opinion, the only thing that sustains the ‘plot’ i.e. it’s junk.

Whilst parts of the area are now undoubtedly dreadful and unpleasant places to live, unlike the days of yore I can’t help feeling it’s an exaggerated perspective, designed to sell a few books.

I’m only grateful the EEP I knew and remain intensely fond of is light years away from the Hogarthian nightmare described in this book.

Something else has just occurred to me that should have been blindingly obvious. Londesboro GroveThe book claims ‘the shed’ was located between Londesborough Grove and East Park View and that was where the chicken coop of my friend, JT’s grandparents lived. Those houses had quite big gardens and the coop was big enough to hold a few of us from time to time.

 

John: an East Leeds lad who had a career spanning the continents before retuning to Leeds has this to say:

It wasn’t the easiest of reads – I could only manage a chapter at a time: drugs, thieving, car burning, glue sniffing were never part of my life – or my peers. What a sheltered lot we were.

I’m not sure if this makes sense but the reading of it gave me a feeling of claustrophobia, hemmed in and uncomfortable, hence one chapter at a time.

I left East End Park in 1964 and returned toYorkshire in November 2001.

I cannot equate with the people or portrait of lifestyles. The Svengali/Fagin character, who I assume was the author, was unrealistic in that context. He writes well but unconvincing. It’s not theEast Leeds I recognise.

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Audrey Lived in Charlton Place – now long time removed to Brisbane. She observed a general deterioration of the district when she returned for her father’s funeral in 1987. Audrey concurs nearest to Bernard Hare’s description of the old district.

          Unfortunately, I can relate to how some kids have been abandoned, Not abandoned as in left on the road side but left to their own devices with no structure whatsoever. In our day neighbours would step in and give kids a bath and a meal or take them in when their parents were having a fight. Charlton PlaceThere are so many ‘do-gooders’ quoting rules but not prepared to roll up their sleeves and take charge and the kids are left to flounder along spiralling out of control. No matter where you live there is an area of survival of the fittest which turns into ghettos of squalor. In 1987 my mam still lived in Charlton Place. I was there for Dad’s funeral. Only about three houses had the same long term occupants I remembered when I lived there.  I don’t know how much rent Mother paid but it must have been cheaper than most areas as almost everyone was on the dole or some welfare payment. I was upset at the state of the houses with their grimy appearance. Mum had a window cleaner who came once a week she was the only one in the street he cleaned for

If the area had been in BrisbaneI would have avoided it like the plague. Strangely I didn’t feel any fear at all. At that stage I had to use a walking stick to get around but I still didn’t feel vulnerable but I wouldn’t have left a car parked outside overnight as I fear it wouldn’t have had its wheels in the morning.

All the shops were still operating but had wooden padlocked shutters over the windows after closing up.  The streets were extremely quiet after dark, no sound of people walking home from the pub or chip shop. I found it eerie. About twelve months later my brothers got Mum a unit down near Upper Accommodation Road, somewhere round about The Yorkshire Penny bank and The Hampton Pub. It was units for elderly people. My brothers said it was safer as the Charltons had become like a war zone. What is the answer to the problem? EDUCATION, its no good blaming society. Everyone is responsible. Don’t be afraid to stand up and have a say. Make those who have the power to alter things take notice of what you have to say.

Doug: born in the Glensdale Terrace in the 1930s and now lives near Adelaide, Australia

As for Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew I don’t know where my feelings end up.Glensdale Terrace It seems to pretend to be autobiographical, with Bernard Hare talking about himself. But, while he certainly writes as an insider to that culture, it doesn’t seem credible to me that a grown man in his thirties would join such a young bunch as the shed crewers. If it is really true, it is equally incomprehensible that he wasn’t lynched somewhere along the line for being a ‘nonce’. Whether he was innocent or not it would have been hard for him to avoid accusation.

But even as fiction from an insider it paints a depressing picture. I can believe there are pockets of such deprivation and sub-culture, but it’s harder to believe that it would be widespread over an entire district. We have pockets of extreme ‘delinquency’ here in some suburbs ofAdelaide. The gang of 49 is currently at war with society, with car thefts and ram raids, only the other day there was an abduction if a mother and child. The police know them, the courts have put them away in prison for periods but as soon as they have served their time they repeat the offences. Sadly they are mostly drop outs from school, from families absent of parents, and no hope of future other than what stunts they can pull and where they can get their next fix. So I can fully believe there are such pockets in Leeds and in East End Park.

Again I link back to your memoir. We were lucky to be part of a social class that had a positive culture. Though lowish in the social pecking order we were encouraged to finish school and do apprenticeships. As a youth I really cared about the impressions that the good citizens of Glensdale Terrace had about me. We were poor but decent. How awful that the whole fabric of socialisation has crashed for these young people.

Whether it is appropriate to blame Maggie Thatcher and those she represents, I do not know. But something essential has been stripped from society. People have to have a sense of future. If they are continually belted byBabylonthey will sink to the depths of this poor bunch unactualised kids, who in the postscript are not doing too well as adults either.

There is a sense of approval that the author seems to bestow on his own efforts and on the kind of integrity and loyalty to each other that these kids have. I’m sorry I can’t endorse that approval. Sigmund Freud (whose views I do not always subscribe to) once wrote that each new generation of children is like an invasion of the barbarians and it is the duty of parents and societies to socialise them and bring them under control Somehow, socialisation has failed. Somehow the id has to be brought under the control of the ego and superego.

Authoritative parents, good education, and prospects of some kind of respectable work, have to be reinstated.

Well at least Mr Hare has given us a talking point. Perhaps he will reply with a comment on this site?

East End Park

                                  

               

                                       

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In Defence of Our Old East End Park.

October 1, 2011

In Defence of Our Old East End Park

In the next couple of month’s the champions of our Old East Leeds will be replying on this site to a circulating book with the title: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew by Bernard Hare. The author portrays our area in the 1990s as a very dark place filled with crime and drug abuse – and the resident ‘Easties’  are describes in the credits by Christopher Cleave of the Sunday Telegraph as,

‘A true story of a terrifying joyride through Britain’s hell-bound underclasses.  

 

Was this the legacy we set down for them in the 1940s/50s? Were we ever an ‘underclass’? Whatever happened between the fifties and nineties? Read it and weep – or better still leap to its defence with your comments as I hope our champions across the world who enjoy this site will strive to do in the coming months.

 

In the meantime here are a couple of tales of East End Park in better times. Stan Pickles sets the scene in the 20s and 30s and Eric Sanderson in the 40s and 50s.And I take a nostalgic Sunday afternoon stroll around the park today.

 

 

 

Remembering East End Park in the 20s and 30s

By Stan Pickles

East End Park  had a little duck pond with railing around it, which was so attractive with mothers and young children throwing titbits for the swans and ducks to dart after. The flower gardens, the grass with its neatly cut verges and the lovely landscaped floral arrangements all combined to make the park a delight for everyone. All presided over by Dolphus, the ‘Parkie’ who kept a lookout for any mischief-makers and woe betide any troublemakers.  You will note I didn’t say ‘vandals’. There were no such people in that day and age.

Recollections of the ‘monkey walks’ in the 20s and 30s when young men and girls paraded up and down in innocent flirtation come to mind. Our walks began in East End Park on Sunday afternoons, when we paraded up and down the main drive past the little duck pond and beautiful landscaped flower gardens. The park was always a picture with its newly painted forms in a lovely green and the lawns a ‘sight to behold’. Always on the lookout for our favourite girls strolling by, we would sit around talking of the films we had seen the previous night at the Shaftsbury, Princess or Regent cinemas or in noisy argument about the rugby match at Headingley on Saturday afternoon. Of course, when the girls came round the conversation changed and there were other things on our minds.

Often we would make for the big area of grass near the bandstand to join the crowd lounging about and listening to the band rendering overtures from: The Maid of the Mountains, The Desert Song, The Merry Widow and all the rest of the popular music of the times. Just before we left to go home for tea we would have the last half-hour enjoying an ice cream or a bottle of pop with the girls and our last chat. On leaving the park our parting words were usually: ‘See you up the Beck tonight.’ For the ‘Monkey Walk up Killingbeck was our Sunday night rendezvous. It was always well packed on the paths between the Melbourne and the Lion and Lamb, boys and girls chatting up within the range of the old gas- lamps. All though our teenage years we looked forward to being: ‘Up the Beck’.

 

Remembering East End Park in the 40s and 50s

  East End Park- a Neighbourhood Gem.                                  By Eric Sanderson.

Those familiar with East End Park will be remember its extent and facilities – always very well maintained by a team of groundsmen and patrolled by a very strict “Parkie”.

From the wide, sweeping lawns, well used tennis courts, bowling greens and beautiful Rose garden to the extensive football pitches, garden allotments and large children’s playground complete with paddling pool/model boating pond, it was a paradise. There was even good train spotting facilities for those so interested as the Neville Hill sidings ran alongside the southern edge of the park.

A wide tree lined avenue crossed the park fromEast Park  Parade Railway Bridge to link up withVictoria Avenue at the other end. At each end was a huge set of wrought iron gates which were always locked & I never saw any traffic passing through. Indeed, it was prohibited to ride your bike within the park boundaries in those days.

During the late forties & early fifties, it was even forbidden to walk on the grass and the lawns were littered with signs enforcing this.

Of course , these two prohibitions provided endless opportunities for a bit of harmless fun & to tease the Parkie, who as I remember was a feisty little chap who always carried a stout stick with which he could whack any errant youth who happened to cross his path. In those days, he would think nothing of such treatment & most parents felt he was fully justified in exerting such discipline.

We would run across the lawn, shouting from a safe distance, to attract his attention and then disappear into the hills before he could catch up with us.

These “hills” were another attractive feature with winding, foliage lined footpaths through perhaps a couple of acres of elevated landscape giving fine panoramic views over south Leeds & beyond.

At other times, we would sweep along the avenue on our bikes, much to the parkie’s rage but he could never catch us until one day, he managed to put a savage & final stop to this particular piece of sport.

As one group whizzed through and passed him standing in the middle of the avenue, he jabbed his aforementioned stick into the wheel of one of his tormentors. This brought the offending cyclist to a sudden halt and accompanied by a hefty cuff around the head brought the practice to an immediate & abrupt end.

            The undulating terrain of the park provided many grassy embankments and slopes & many’s the time we were laid back, taking in the sun & gossiping whilst watching Skelton Grange Power Station being erected.

Yes,East End Parkwas truly a gem in those days and many an idyllic summer day was whiled away within its treasured grounds.

A Stroll around East End Park Today

By Pete Wood.

I am happy to relate thatEast EndParkhas lately had a spruce up and is now looking in fine fettle. The children’s play area has had a make over as have thebowling greenfacilities and the tennis courts’

I love a wander around the old district on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  I park as near as I can to the site of oldSnake Lane. There is a beautiful new rugby pitch on the site of ‘the top pitch’ all level, railed and well grassed – far superior to that of our old ‘Snake-pit’ days. If it’s the rugby season the East Leeds Rugby Club may be playing a game on here that I can stop and watch for a while, or if it’s summer perhaps East Leeds Cricket Club will be playing at home. Well done East Leeds CC – top in the longevity league amongst the East Leeds Institutions – still batting away after all these years.

Continuing my walk I find the Copperfields standing much as always but the line to the coal staithe has gone along with the ‘MonkeyBridge’ and the ginnel. Daredevil lads still scale the precipitous navvy but now with the aid of ropes. Several of the streets in the Cross Green’s and St Hilda’s have been removed leaving grassed spaces in between giving a less cluttered look and the housing stock has been renovated. The Charlton’s, Glensdale’s, Londesbro’s and Garton’s are tidy but metal grating door securities are much in evidence.

The ‘watering holes’ have been severely culled. The Bridge field, Black Dog,Waterlooand Prospect pubs are down. The Cross Green, Hampton, and Fish Hut are closed.  The Spring Close and Cavalier are open but ‘to let’ and the slip is a supermarket leaving the Shepherd and the Yew Tree to stagger on alone. The old school buildings of St Hilda’s,Ellerby Laneand Victoria are no more. TheEast EndParkSpecialNeedsSchoolis ‘last old school building standing’ but put to a different use. I believe there are bits of old Mount St Mary’s Primary School in the old Victoria School yard and bits of old Victoria Primary on the Shaftsbury playing fields. There is a modern All Saints Primary School near toYork Roadand a Richmond Hill Primary near to the site of the old Zion Chapel. Mount St Mary’s still flourishes as a major college. The Easy Road Picture House of course is long gone; the Princess is a fish and chip shop, the Regent a tile warehouse the Star a health gym and the Shaftsbury a shell.     

            So I wander onto the park itself. The Parkie’s House remains unchanged. Sometimes there is a bowls match in progress, I set myself down in the bowling-green and watch for a while. Better still if there is a brass/silver band playing near the tennis courts. I settle myself down beside a tree and listen to the band and let my mind drift back to a time when the park had a proper band-stand or when we chased the girls on here, diced with death on the mighty long-boat on the way to Cleggy’s woodwork department at Victoria School on Friday afternoons, or perhaps the times we played tennis, sometimes with the hell of having only one ball, or played football a hundred a side on one of the three football pictures near to the railway on Sunday afternoons. I remember on one occasion when the referee did not turn up for a formal match that I had to referee the game myself – timing the game by the clock on the old engine shed in lieu of a watch and waving a handkerchief in lieu of a whistle.

My life unfolds before me and I’m thankful to have spent some of the best bits of it here on good oldEast EndPark.

               Brass band near tennis courts                                 Parkie’s house still stands