Posts Tagged ‘ABC Houses’

Dandy Row (Dandy Island)

September 1, 2015


A visit to the mysterious Dandy Island was always an adventure, with no little danger for us East Leedsers in the 1940s.Mr Leslie Fielding has supplied these excellent pictures of the enigmatic Dandy Row and Mrs. Maurine Fielding (nee Horn) fills in the provenance
Remember to ’click’ on pictures to enlarge
But first I want to sketch you a picture of the Waterloo ‘paddy line’ system that allowed us access to the island. While working on this sketch it became apparent to me that anyone new to the area today would have no inkling of how it used to be when we were kids in the 1940s. All the ‘paddy lines are gone, so too the ABC houses, two of the bridges and even the huge Skelton Grange Power Station has been and gone since the early fifties; so you couldn’t get to Dandy Island by our daring routes now even if you wanted. But then it doesn’t matter that the bridges are down Knostrop has no inhabitants who would wish to cross now and today’s kids are into i-pods, tablets and lap tops, whatever, which give them virtual adventures but not the real life ‘daring do’ adventures we had.

dandy sketch revised

From the sketch it can be seen that there were at least four coal staithes where the paddy trains from Waterloo Colliery disgorged their coal, There was one at the bottom of Easy Road, one at Hunslet Goods Yard, presumable one at Neville Hill for a branch line went there and one on the canal bank on Dandy Island . This was obviously defunked even as early as the 1940s as the bridge that crossed the river in order for the train to reach the canal bank was devoid of many of its sleepers and probably only held up by the train rails themselves leaving gaping gaps to the raging torrent bellow, these we leapt over with the abandon of youth but our parents would have been horrified if they had known what we were doing. There was another way to access the island for us which was no less dangerous, probably more so. This was by walking across the weir, which was alright when the water was low but the weir was somehow controllable and water could be released which would wash away an unwary crosser. Even when it was low when crossing it could become a torrent when you wished to return that way marooning you on the island. From this it can be seen that a visit to Dandy Island was an adventure albeit a dangerous one and not for the faint hearted. On one occasion a couple of miscreants stole a chick from a bird’s nest they had found and bore it home in triumph at which their aunt went ballistic and made them take it back to the nest immediately, which meant they had to dice with the weir or the bridge four times that day. One of our number who lived in the cottages at Skelton Grange would ‘island hop’ Dandy and the locks at Knostrop on his way to visit the cinemas in Hunslet. I dread to imagine what it must have been like returning by that way in the dark – obviously he wouldn’t have been able to use the weir in darkness but on one sad occasion he remembers seeing them pulling a body out of the river on his way home.
Once on the island the western end seemed quite desolate and unwelcoming the soil was deep black from the river often overrunning it and you wondered if it would hold your weight, strange roots and vegetation abounded and then we always had the feeling we were trespassing, which we surely were. But if you could make it passed the mill, which was a putty producing mill at the time spewing out loads of white ‘gunge’ you were then into the eastern end of the island which was a different proposition, quite a green and pleasant land in fact and there we would encounter the enigmatic Dandy Row. Who lived there? How did they Exit the island? Where did the children go to school? Mrs. Maureen Fielding (nee Horn) has some of the answers, pictures provided by Mr. Les Fielding.

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It was the Horn family who operated Thwaite Mills and Maureen lived in one of the cottages in Dandy Row until she was eighteen. Maureen’s grandparents lived in that which is known today as the ‘Mill Owner’s House’. Maureen’s father was the highly skilled millwright and engineer who maintained the whole of the mill including the two waterwheels single-handed. The fact that the mill is now the water powered, working, Thwaite Mills Museum – is a testimony to the quality of his workmanship. Maureen’s uncle saw to the business activities and also lived in two adjacent cottages (made into one) at the other end of Dandy Row.
The residents and of course the mill traffic used to exit the island close to mill house where the canal narrowed slightly and it was served by a hand operated swing bridge during the working day by a gentleman called Billy Beck who occupied a cabin alongside the bridge and he would open and shut the bridge to allow pedestrians and traffic to cross and close it to allow boats to pass through. Of course a lot of supplies for the mill used to arrive at their wharf just before the bridge and the barges were unloaded by the steam crane which is still there today.
Thwaite Farm and the surrounding rhubarb fields, which were run by the Wade’s family and their fields stretched as far as the Ida’s, which were the streets next to Stourton Primary School on Pontefract Lane, another community now totally obliterated to provide storage for a sea of shipping containers.
Mr. Leslie Fielding has supplied three great pictures of Dandy Island. The top picture is of Dandy Row Cottages. Because this picture was taken from the other side of the canal it appears as if the cottages were adjoining the power station. However they were situated on Dandy Island with the river flowing behind the cottages and in front of the power station. There were eight cottages in the row and each had its own small garden area at the front and its own entrance gate. Although the cottages and the mill were so close to the power station they were never connected to the mains electricity supply.
The lower picture shows the steam crane and wharf where the barges used to dock when bringing in supplies to the mill, together with the narrow private access road to the cottages along the water’s edge. This picture was taken standing on the hand operated swing bridge which allowed access to the mill from Thwaite Lane. Just above the gable end of the first house on Dandy Row can be seen Skelton Grange Farm, which was on the other side of the river.
The third picture is of Thwaite House – nowadays referred to by museum staff as the Mill Owner’s House. The front downstairs room shown to the left of the entrance steps was used as the office for the mill and the rest of the rooms as family accommodation.
All three pictures were taken by Mr. John Horn (the engineer for the mill).
The original mill at Thwaite was built in 1641 and rebuilt in1823-25 along with the Dandy Row cottages. Dandy Row was demolished in 1968.

dandy row crain

dandy row large

dandy mill owners hous

Delivering the Sunday papers in 1950s East Leeds

June 2, 2009

blog eric sand del papersEric Sanderson tells of his trials and tribulations and some of the benefits od delivering the Sunday papers to East Leeds and Knostrop   

Sunday Morning Papers in East Leeds

By Eric Sanderson

For a couple of years in the 50s, I did the Sunday morning paper round for Oldcorn’s newsagents, which was on the short parade on Cross Green Lane between the church billiard hall and Easy Road Coal Staithe. It is no longer there having been replaced by a modern housing development. The only other establishment I remember on that parade was Fletcher’s barber shop.

            I took over from a lad called Wilfred Pickles who left to become a police cadet. Wilfred was a tall, fair haired good natured boy: I guess he made an excellent Bobby. The weekday deliveries were done in my time, if I remember correctly, by two girls called: Jennifer Chappelow and Beryl Morley.

            My job started early, around 6 a.m. summer and winter and often having had to awaken Mr Oldcorn. My first task was to lug in the huge bundles of newspapers, unpack and sort them and place them in rows on the shop counter. There was no paper or magazine racks in those days. I would then put the papers I had to deliver into two bags which finished up enormously heavy, leaving me at the end of my round with an aching back, shoulders and neck, but I usually slipped two or three ‘spares’ into bag number two – more of them later.

            The first part of the round covered: the St Hilda’s, the Copperfields and Cautley Road, which was covered on foot and largely uneventful apart from the odd man eating dog. The second bag didn’t have so many deliveries but covered a much larger area including right down to Skelton Grange and had to be done on my bike. This section started at a couple of rows of cottages on South Accomm, just before the river bridge [Falmouth’s and Bridgewater’s]. Without exception every house had a letter box with the strength of a rat trap and barely large enough to let a mouse in, let alone bulky (sometimes several) Sunday papers. Trying to push the paper through usually shredded it, especially if wet from the regular Sunday morning shower of rain. Tucking them behind the door knobs had equally unfortunate consequences and my only solution was to roll the paper up tight and jam the first few inches into the letter box, leaving them stuck out like sore fingers. This was far from the perfect solution as the newspapers would become soaked if it rained, Complaints were not unheard of but there was no practical solution. At the end with knuckles bleeding from the gin trap letterboxes, I could look down the row and see what looked like a line of sentinels with a fag in each mouth. Today I suppose they would have been rolled up and placed in plastic sleeves but no such high tech solution existed in those days.

            It was then up South Accomm, onto the Long Causeway and down Knostrop Lane. I had long been impressed by seeing at the cinema, American newspaper boys tossing rolled up papers from their bikes up to the customer’s front doors. My first wheeze was to try this but there were a couple of critical errors on my part. First my aim was not so accurate as theirs and my papers often finished up in the wrong garden or in a cabbage patch. Secondly, they didn’t have the waterproof wrapping that the US boys had. Legions of complaints quickly followed so my experiments at improving efficiency had to be abandoned.

            Next calls were the Old Hall and the New Hall, these were two fine if fading Jacobean and Georgian houses. One, the New Hall, with a round house feature was converted into what today would be called ‘apartments’. Winding marble staircases,  intricate wrought iron balustrades with floor to ceiling doors characterised the place – along with a horrible stench. Walking along the balconies, dropping papers by the doors (there were no letterboxes) usually whistling (the place was like an echo chamber), I was often shouted at from behind closed doors—“SHARRUP” – do you know what time it is?”  Consulting my one inch thick Newmark watch (with luminous dial I might add) I would shout back, “Yes, it’s seven o’clock” Then colourful ripostes shocked my innocent schoolboy’s ears and couldn’t possibly be repeated here.  Nonetheless, it was good sport and a bit of fun on an often dreary and lonely job. One resident of the New Hall, an elderly, kind lady who seemed to be living her life in a slightly shabby and fading elegance, would always eagerly await her Scottish Sunday Post. She kept about 1,000 cats and had a very impressive collection of antique firearms which she enjoyed showing and explaining the provenance of.

            On to the next call, round the double bend and onto the straight towards a row of cottages, which I think were called the ABC Houses (but I never knew why) adjacent to the water treatment plant. On the way my wheeze number two came into play. I invariably crossed with a van carrying workers from Skelton Grange Power Station. They would always stop me and ask me if I had any extra copies. Remember the few ‘spares’ I mentioned earlier? These were always profitably disposed of which earned me a bob or two extra with sometimes a tip thrown in.

            Next stop was the row of ABC cottages where I had to collect the money for the week’s papers as well as deliver the Sundays. The residents were always somewhat grumpy. Even though they wanted their papers early they didn’t relish getting up to pay the bill. They even had the temerity to suggest I come back later in the day for the money. Not a good idea.   

            Wheeze number three came into operation here, I used to keep a very small amount of change in one pocket and when proffered payment, said I had very little change. The residents would then often round up the payment which translated into another few bob or so for me. Of course, I couldn’t operate the scam on all of the people, all of the time but it was an occasional nice little earner.

            Just after the cottages a narrow gauge railway line crossed the road at a very acute angle. In wet weather this was quite a tricky hazard to negotiate on a bike and many is the time a tumble resulted in muttered profanities, bringing down curses on anyone who happened to be in my bad books at the time.

            Onwards to Skelton Grange and here was a short row of terraced houses in the shadow of the cooling towers. What a depressing windblown place this was but after avoiding the usual combination of scary dogs aggressive geese and deep potholes, I had finally arrived at my furthest point. One resident, a huge man, always in bib and brace overalls and hob nailed boots, had massive hands, a bald head and a mouth full of rotten teeth – he could easily have starred in the film – ‘DELIVERENCE’. Nonetheless he was a very nice man.

            Then turning for home, head down, peddling furiously, spirits rising, back past Old and New Halls and turning right into Snake Lane (some called this part of the lane which ran up to Black Road – Red Road but rightly or wrongly I always considered this part of Snake Lane). Up, the hill, turn left into the part of Snakey that ran into Cross Green Lane and stop at the farm (which later became the school but even that has now gone), my last call, parking the bike and walking up to the house which was about a hundred yards away, I first had to get past the snarling, slavering Hound of the Baskervilles, which was (thankfully) chained to a stout post. The chain was just about long enough to allow me to sidle past without having the brute sink its fangs into me and once past I approached the house deliberately looking dishevelled, forlorn and a bit of play acting came into play here for wheeze number four. The lady of the house was always very kind, enquiring after my wellbeing and my play acting stood me in good stead here, feigning cold and hunger, she would sometimes invite me in for a bacon sandwich and a steaming cup of cocoa, especially on cold winter mornings.

            Suitably refreshed and often with a nice tip (one shilling), I tripped back down the path past the dog, which strangely never bothered me on the way out. Feeling warm, replete and with spirits soaring, my round was complete and I headed back to the newsagents. Oh, bliss and joy, did bacon sandwiches ever taste so good? Back there, the good old Mr Oldcorn would give me my five bob and sometimes an extra shilling if the weather was bad (because I never let him down) and I would set of for home with nearly ten bob in my pocket, to 68 Charlton Road where I lived until I was eighteen.

My dear Mam would be waiting for me with a hot bath to warm me up and sooth away my aches and pains to be followed by a full breakfast, THE FULL MONTY.   

I never did tell her (until many years later) about my ‘early starter’ at Snake Lane Farm. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have got the extra sausage with my breakfast.