Posts Tagged ‘Knostrop’

The Night they Bombed our old Richmond Hill School Down

February 1, 2019




Events of the landmark night for East Leeds March 14/151941 when Richmond Hill School was bombed is remembered by Barbara Blakeney (nee Reynard) and Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) Eric Sanderson winds the entry up with a humorous finale.
At a recent East Leeds Reunion I spoke to Mrs Barbara Blackeny (Barbara) Her amazing memory can take us right back to the ‘blitz’ and that iconic night for East Leeds of the 14/15 th March 1941 when bombs hit our Richmond Hill School and the next morning the pupils of Richmond Hill School were transferred to other local school – mainly Ellerby Lane School or evacuation out of the city to places of greater safety. Betty Nevard, another of our contributors who has a story on the site was actually a pupil at Richmond Hill School says the bombing brought to an end her time as a school girl there she includes a picture of her classroom that took a direct hit. As it was though the night the school was empty and there was no loss of life. The next morning I visited the site, we girls were knitting socks and Balaclavas for the troops and remember seeing my knitting amongst the rubble 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 on Butterfield Street. From then until I left school at the age of fourteen years of age I attended Ellerby Lane School.

Brian Monk who lived just off Lavender Walk remembers that night of the bombs the blast blew a sleeper right out of the deep railway cutting that hit the gable end of their house. Afterwards his dad cut it up and made part of it into an air raid shelter. Another of the stick of bombs hit the Woodpecker pub.
Note: as a result of bombing in Leeds 77 people died (65 on the night of the 14th March), 327 injured 197 buildings destroyed and a further 7,623 damaged.

Here is Barbara’s story
I remember the night Richmond Hill School and Butterfield Street were bombed during the blitz of 14/15 March 1941. My dad used to be a fire watcher and was based at Wardle’s in Butterfield Street at the top end going into Lavender Walk. Wardle’s did stabling and the business included hiring out carriages and horse drawn hearses. Dad was in World War One so he was too old for war service in 1939. Fortunately he was not on duty in Butterflied Street the night of the bombing. Many streets had their own fire watching equipment. St Hilda’s Mount where I lived included. The equipment consisted of: ladders buckets, stirrup pumps, shovels and sand, all to deal with incendiary bombs. Drills were often organised but no incendiary bombs were ever dropped in our street. There was a club to witch residents contributed three pence per week towards their cost at the end of the war when I was about twelve the residue of the money provided a street party and each child received a brass three penny bit. Tables chairs and benches and believe it or not pianos were carried out of people’s homes into the street and a bonfire was lit. I have one of the old stirrup pumps but the rubber tubing perished years ago. I have some shrapnel too from the blitz part of an exploding shell probably fired from the guns at Knostrop. St Hilda’s School was closed at the beginning of the war and some children and their mothers were evacuated to Ackworth School near Pontefract. I don’t know when they all returned but my cousin, Eunice Johnson and I were taken to Lincolnshire to stay with my grandmother’s relations in the small village of Swinstead twelve miles from Grantham and nine miles from Bourne, We arrived there on Sunday 3rd of September (The day war broke out) and only stayed there until the end of January 1940. I think we were home sick.

Other childhood memories are of the pleasure we had walking or cycling down Red Road to the lovely blue bell woods near Temple Newsam Golf Course and up to the mansion or down Black Road to have a paddle in the Wyke Beck at Red Walls. Sometimes we cycled further afield to Leventhorpe Hall and then onto Swillington; my weren’t we in the country! Seeing the billets where the German POWs were and the big guns at Knostrop in the encampment during the war, it was another world away. Eddie and Edna Pawson lived in a farm down black road and at the side of the farm was a derelict little cottage that Edna professed had a ghost to try and frighten us. Nowadays places like that would be out of bounds due to health and safety, there was no compensation culture then. I must have been about three and a half when I saw a German airship flying over the Copperfields in a north westerly direction . From reports it was June 1936 when I started in the babies’ class at St Hilda’s School under a Miss Williamson. Until I was nearly four we had to sleep in the afternoons in camp beds with a blanket over us ( I remember those camp beds too but I could never get to sleep it seemed unnatural) There was a flat sheet with corner ties underneath which our mothers had to take home and wash every weekend. Miss Powell had standards one and two Miss Duckworth standards three and four and Miss Fewster standards four and five.
Eric Sanderson rounds up with imaginary letters to the editor

Letters sent to the newspapers are often a huge & important source of local information, often reflecting the metrics of the time. These might include comments on local affairs, complaints, compliments , information, responses to others & in fact, almost any other reason you can think of.
A tongue in cheek selection of a few from the archives might just jog a few memories about the matters which occupied our minds at the time.

9th Sept 1943
Dear Editor
Kept awake again by those damned Luftwaffe types dropping their incendiary bombs. They’re so indiscriminate, dropping them anywhere & not seeming to have any concern for the damage they cause. Last week, one fell bang on top of our rabbit hutch but, thankful for small mercies in these times of austerity, the roast rabbit was delicious, even if slightly overdone. Hope you can write to Mr. Hitler requesting him to be less careless
Yours etc – Al. E. Looya – York Rd, Leeds 9
Dear Mr. Looya
Believe it or not, we’ve had lots of similar complaints. We’re going to start a petition requesting Mr. Hitler to train his pilots to be less careless & to try & drop them where they cause no damage
Yours – Ed

25th Dec 1944
Dear Editor
Why do the lights keep going out? It’s as though there’s a war going on. My Xmas lunch was ruined due to the loss of power; the squirrel casserole was almost inedible. Surely the odd bomb can’t interrupt the power supply, especially when it’s dropped without notice. Damned ungentlemanly if you ask me
Yours – B. Uggeritt – Cross Green Lane, Leeds 9
Dear Mr. Uggeritt
Great shame. Why not try hedgehog next time. If you’re caught out with a power cut, don’t worry, it tastes better cooked rare – Yours etc – Ed

May 1945
Dear Ed
Thank goodness the war’s over but when can we expect rationing to end now that we don’t have to send all that food to our troops overseas? It’s like giving foreign aid when we’re skint ourselves & I don’t wish to sound ungrateful to our glorious soldiers but why can’t they scrounge it from those ungrateful Frogs?
Yours etc. – G. Reedy – Easy Rd, Leeds 9
Dear Mr. Reedy
I think dried eggs, POM dried potato, hen’s foot soup etc. can be delicious & wholesome, especially with a cup of lukewarm Acorn coffee
Yours – Ed

Sept 1945
Dear Editor
I’m trying to fatten my pigs in time for Xmas but there’s a huge shortage of potato peelings, cabbage leaves & fish heads on which my hogs thrive. It seems some are being selfish & keeping them to make soup & blaming rationing. So to those people, don’t blame me if Pigs in Blankets are in short supply this yuletide
Yours etc. – (Mr.) Ed Bangor – Pontefract Lane – Leeds 9
Dear Mr. Bangor – Have you tried killing off a few of your pigs to feed the others. After all, pigs are cannibals you know

June 1948
Dear Ed
At last, an end to rationing. I’m sick of those darned PASHA fags. Why can the Turks get their hands on so much tobacco & we can only get dog ends
Yours etc. – M. Fiseema – Temple View Rd – Leeds9

Reply – Dried cabbage mixed with used tea leaves aren’t a bad substitute – at least it’s much better than smoking those dreadful Pashas – Ed

April 1949
Dear Ed
My war time pre-fab is damp & draughty in spite of stuffing old newspapers into all the gaps. What can I do to get out of this hellhole?
Yours etc. – Y. Bother – Ellerby Lane – Leeds 9

Reply – Dear Mr. Bother, You could become a £10 POM & get yourself to Australia. You might get bitten by poisonous snakes & spiders, swelter for 9 months of the year & contract all sorts of horrible tropical diseases – but at least , that’s preferable to living in a pre-fab – Yours – ED

June 1950
Dear Ed
I wrote to you in 1945 about my pigs. Well here I am again with yet another porcine problem. Someone left the front door open & all my pigs escaped from where I keep them in the bathroom. By the time I managed to recapture most of them, they’d run off much of their bulk that I’m now going to have to fatten them up again. As well, I’m sure one or two are missing & I suspect strongly that they’ve been “accidentally” , captured, slaughtered ,butchered & turned into bacon & ham shanks. I would be grateful if those people would own up & at least send me a couple of pork pies – Yours etc. – Ed Bangor – Pontefract Lane – Leeds 9

Reply – Dear Mr. Bangor – I’m informed on the very best authority that you shouldn’t keep pigs in the bathroom. Try the front room, it’s much warmer & cosier and besides , pigs don’t like running up & down stairs – Yours etc. Ed

April 1960
Dear Editor
An establishment calling itself a “supermarket” has recently opened in our area. How can my small corner shop be expected to compete when they open all day, every day, even on Saturdays & don’t even have a mid week half day closing. They don’t even do “tick”, run a slate & their prices are ridiculously lower than mine. They even open up at 7am & go on ‘til 8pm instead of keeping sensible hours like I do, 9am to 4.30pm. Something must be done
Yours etc. – Hugh Shury – St Hilda’s Way – Leeds 9

Reply – Don’t worry Mr. Shury , it’s just a flash in the pan from America , they’ll never replace the much loved high street & corner shops – Ed

June 1970
Dear Editor
What on earth is happening to our precious local pubs? It’s becoming harder to find a decent pint of creamy, room temperature bitter these days. I thought we’d won the war but they’re all flogging some fizzy German stuff called Luger or Logger or something. I wouldn’t mind but it looks like a pint of p**s
& quite frankly, tastes like it too. It’s so cold, it nearly fractured my dentures. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.
Yours etc. – Al Kerhollick

Dear sir
We get hundreds of letters on this subject but don’t worry, it’s a passing fad. I feel confident we’ll not see the end of our Tetley’s, Melbourne’s, John Smiths, Ramsdens etc. They’ll be with us for years to come , just as will our local pubs. They’re part of our heritage & will never disappear.

June 2000
Dear Editor
Why are our libraries devoid of any serious literature? All I see on the shelves are fictional thrillers, romantic novels & rows & rows about someone called Harry Nutter.
Where can I find Proust, Nietzsche, Kafke, Solzenhitsyn, or even Tolstoy?
Yours etc. Hugh Jeego

Dear Mr. Jeego
You must be one in 10 billion who has a clue what any of those are on about and where each page doesn’t feel like having a pre frontal lobotomy.
If you like, I could lend you my well-thumbed copy of Rimbaud’s classic – “ My Week Long Pissup in the tap rooms of Middlesboro with my mate Horace“. That may fill the vacuum

Dear Reader
Letters to the Editor continue to this day, providing a window on current & locals affairs, giving a public voice to anyone who cares to participate & long may it continue.
Although the foregoing are obviously the (spoiled?) fruit of a tortured mind, some of the themes do reflect what were, & still are, concerns for some, then and now.

Gothic Horror Delicous Fright

November 1, 2018

If you ‘google’ gothic it says Gothic: belonging to our redolent of the dark ages, portentously gloomy and horrifying. This worked well with the Victorian’s morbid preoccupation with death and all thing black
I was born In the 1930s before the advent of TV and there were only black and white films at the cinema. This type of film seemed to revel in the gothic – Boris Karloff in ‘The Old Dark House’ was a prime example. If the film opened to a dark brooding mansion with lightening flashing you knew you were in for a bit of gothic horror and a fright.
There was a radio programme on Thursday nights at 9.30 p.m. called ‘Appointment with Fear’; these were tales of horror read by the velvet tones of Valentine Dyall. These tales terrified and delighted me in equal measure. Stories set your imagination racing to an extent that film can never match. My parents used to say, ‘You can’t stay up to listen to those awful stories it’s passed your bedtime and anyway they’ll give you nightmares.’ but I begged them to let me stay up and listen and they usually gave in to me. The Beast with Five Fingers, The Hands of Nekamen, The Middle Toe of the Right Foot and Mrs Amworth I think that tale frightened me most of all Mrs Amworth was a vampire who came knocking on a sick little boy’s bedroom window. Of course Mam and dad were right; when I went to bed I would look under the bed and hide under the covers.
It was not surprising that I was nervous in that bedroom as we lived in a huge Jacobean house on Lord Halifax’s estate in Knostrop. We only rented the house of course all the properties in Knostrop belonged to the Temple Newsam estate and all were devoid of electricity and not even gas in the bedrooms, I had to go to bed with a candle in a candle stick like Wee Willy Winky. The bedroom I slept in was a huge oak panelled affair and the ivy that grew on the outside walls had forced its way through the brickwork and was growing down the inside walls. Particularly scary for me was a panel which was of a brown fabric rather than the normal oak ones and running down the centre from behind was a ‘knobbly’ line of little bumps that had me in mind of the back bone of a skeleton being walled up behind. That is not to say I didn’t love that old house, I have never loved one more but it was a bit scary to a young lad with a vivid imagination.
I would have been about ten or eleven when a film came to our local big hutch of a picture house: Bud Abbot and Lou Castello in Abbot and Costello Meet the Ghosts. I suppose with those two in it, it was supposed to have been a comedy and probably it was to adults but for us kids it was a whole new experience, the class at school was buzzing about that film for a week, we were introduced to Wolf man, Frankenstein and particularly Dracula. The first time we see him we are shown a coffin with a candlestick on the lid, very slowly the candlestick starts to slide as the lid begins to open with a creak and then a hand grasps the edge of the coffin from inside. Wow! What an introduction to the vampire.
Universal Studios of America produced three vampire films in the early 1930s: Dracula, The Mark of the Vampire and The Vampire Returns. The main protagonist for the part of Dracula was played by Bella Lugosi – he of the black staring eye. Those early black and white vampire films might seem a bit jerky and corny today but at the time they were a new innovation, previously the monster had always turned out to be a man and brought to justice but Dracula he was the real McCoy, they shocked people and broke new ground.
So these films introduced me to ‘delicious fright’ and my imagination ran riot when I was in scary surroundings, for instance I was an altar boy at St Hilda’s Church at the time and sometimes I had to serve at the seven a.m. mass in the middle of winter when it was still dark. I would push my way through the great church door into the nave, which was pitch black, and no one else about some times there would be a coffin in the centre aisle where some poor soul had been left overnight before the morrow’s funeral. Then it was down a long dark passageway, still no light, and into the vestry where the cassocks and surpluses were kept behind a big black curtain, when I stood in front of that curtain I would think when I pull that curtain back ‘The Count’ will be waiting to grab me.
It was no better at home if you needed to go to the outside toilet in the middle of the night (which thankfully was rare at that age), I had to descend the oak staircase without a candle – I was not allowed to light a candle in case I burnt the house down – then into the kitchen where I would try to cajole the dog out of his nice warm bed to accompany me, he wasn’t happy but usually came with me then it was through a stone pantry up some steps into a washhouse and then out into the garden where the huge brick toilet lay in an veritable wind tunnel, by the time you got there you felt a long way from safety and civilization. On one occasion the dog who was sat alongside me suddenly gave out a great howl and the hackles stood up on his neck, I thought Dracula and all his mates were after me, I was back in bed and under the covers before he’d finished howling.
Knostrop in the ‘black out’ years added to the Gothic Horror there were a few old scary mansions there and one ‘Rider’s’ as we called it was necessary to be passed on our way to the ‘top’ as we called it. Knostrop was in a valley there were only houses no shops so if we wanted anything – fish and chips for instance – we had to walk to the top of the hill in complete darkness all the lamps were out due to the air raids. The gateway to Rider’s mansion was always the worst part it was always open and the interior seemed to lead to even deeper blackness. If you got past Riders you thought you were OK But of course you had to pass it again on your back down. Pauline, a lovely lass who lived next door, used to say, ‘When I go past Rider’s I call on my guardian angel to keep me safe.’

So, I had developed this fascination with vampire films, when we were lads a group of us used to go to the cinema and we’d take it turns to pick the film we would see. When it was my turn I always picked a vampire film which exasperated the rest of the lads a bit. Colin, god rest his soul once said, ‘Not another vamp film – you’re going to be a vampire you when you die, the fust fat ‘un’.
In the modern era I’m disappointed how the vampire myth has been prostituted and watered down to suit todays audiences who like crash bang films. I know it was only a myth to begin with but it was a good ‘un based on the tenets of vampire lore used by stoker in Dracula and those who set those tenets even before him: The vampire has to sleep in a coffin sprinkled with his native earth by day, direct sunlight can destroy him, he can’t cross running water, has no reflection in a mirror, doesn’t like crucifixes, garlic and holy water, he is invulnerable in the hours of darkness, has amazing strength, can change himself into a bat or wolf, can change local weather conditions usually making fog, can be killed by a stake through the heart but otherwise can live for ever.
My mother told me that when the stage play of Dracula was shown at the theatre Royal Leeds in the early twenties St John’s Ambulance Service personnel were on hand to minister to those who fainted with fright. Now vampires are not scary anymore they have vampire films for kids: The Little Vampire, Count Duckula. Instead of just the one vampire that nobody believes is slowly and climatically introduced they have armies of vampires being shot at by folk with wooden stakes

Max Schreck in Nosferatu
fired by crossbows. In the Vampire Diaries vampires are college students, heroes, lovers. One is tempted to think that making them vampires is just an excuse for giving ordinary guys super powers. If you dropped Max Schreck’s vampire as played in Nosferatu (1922) in among them I think those mamby pamby modern portrayals of vampires would have it away on their toes.

So, they debased my lovely vampire myth but I should cocoa, my fascination with the subject and my preoccupation with the rise and fall of the vampire myth has enabled me to write a dissertation on the rise and fall of the vampire myth which got me a Master of Arts degree.

Don’t Let Our Old East Leeds Legends Pass Beyond Living Memory

May 1, 2018

The East Leeds I fondly remember includes a few folk notorious for their good works or perhaps their eccentricity that brought them to the attention of the rest of us. I take the liberty of including a few iconic events and places, including some from the greater Leeds area This is not scholarly research but just from my own memories or heresy. Please forgive my mistakes or omissions. These must be written down and remembered, many are about to pass from living memory and will be lost. Embrace them while you can.
*Means other tales on the site have reference to the entry.

Remember to ‘Click’ on pictures to enlarge
In no particular order:
*BIG ERNIE: Was commissionaire/chucker out at the Princess Cinema. Who does not remember Big Ernie in his green uniform standing outside the Princess organising the queues or sat besides the screen eating his sandwiches and balling out miscreants who went to the toilet too many times or for general quiet. As everyone in the forties and fifties surely attended the Princess Cinema his voice must have been heard by more East Leedsers than anyone else’s.

DORIS STOREY: Doris was a great local, international, swimmer who trained at York Road Baths. She won the breast stroke gold at that which was then called The Empire Games and it was said she would have won the Olympics if they had not changed the technicalities of the breast stroke. She later ran the family fish and chip shop near the Star Cinema.

14th  of MARCH 1941: Big date in East Leeds history: Richmond Hill School hit by German bomb. It was during the night so no casualties but the pupils were scattered about around other schools and some evacuated.

*WILLIE KNOTT: Willie was a school boy champion in everything he attempted. He was a giant of a lad at school complete with moustache and legs like tree trunks already at a time when we left school at fourteen. Attended Victoria School but he was a hero to East Leeds lads in general He represented Leeds City Boys and Yorkshire at football, cricket, and Swimming. He was the best at everything he attempted including fighting, which ranks highly among schoolboys – when Willie walked past we stood aside in awe. He ran in the English School Championship sprints, some say he won others say he came third but whatever, the school bought him a bike. When he left school he signed for Leeds United but ironically, as he had been so huge at school he must have had his growth spurt early and he did not in the end grow tall enough for centre forward or centre half and he drifted out of the professional game. But which of us would not have taken that to have lived Willie’s school days as a tiger?

Willie is in the centre of the back row
*JILL ROBINSON MBE: Jill launched a group of amateur artists: The Show stoppers who raised a shed full of money for good causes.

*EAST LEEDS CRICKET CLUB: still going strong after all these years when the fabric of old East Leeds in general falls away.

*ABE WHITE: Genial, Jewish, roly poly proprietor of the Easy Road Picture House. He was always attired in his dress suit and greeted patrons with ‘I hope you enjoy the show tonight’. He was strict on miscreants but always a gentleman. His two sisters looked after the pay box and the interior. The Easy Road Picture house was not the most salubrious of cinemas but always claimed it had the best ‘Talkie’ in Leeds.

PAUL REANEY: Attended St Hilda’s, Ellerby Lane and perhaps Parkside Schools? He played for Don Revie’s great Leeds United team of the sixties and seventies. He could run like a stag and went on to play for England.

*‘CLEGGY’: Woodwork teacher at Victoria School and absolute legend for creating fear amongst the pupils. I didn’t attend Victoria Day School but attended his woodwork class on Friday afternoons along with lads from other schools. If you misbehaved he let fly with the pieces of ‘two by ones’. Before you met ‘Cleggy’ you would be painted a picture by those already attending they would say he lays you hand on the desk and asks, what do you want the chisel or the mallet. If you say mallet he lays you head on the bench and hits the bench with the mallet a few inches from your head so your head bounces up and down, if you say chisel he lays your hand on the bench and goes in and out the fingers with the chisel if you move your hand you’ve lost a finger. I have to say I never saw him do that trick but we were all terrified of him even the usual villians. The upside was: if you really tried he’d help to make you into a good carpenter.

*THE PADDY ENGINES: Kitchener, Jubilee, Dora and Antwerp In their green livery and later Silvia.

*MARY/VAL MILNER: Director of the famous film ‘Brought to Justice’ made entirely by the children of Ellerby Lane School in 1953.

LEEDS RHINOS: won 16 trophies in 13 years: eight Super League Championships, three World Club Championships, two Challenge Cups, and three League Leader’s Shields. In 2015, their finest year they won all three trophies – the Treble.

*HARRY BENDON: Who, who lived in our area in the forties and fifties will not have memories if Harry? He was a character and a half. He was a good singer around the local pubs and clubs but often could not resist blotting his copy book with vulgarity. I remember Harry in a smart camel coat with his a concertina. He is once said to have put his window cleaning ladder up against a bus standing outside the Corn Exchange and while whistling away started to clean the upstairs windows. I recall a night in the Scotsman Pub, a fracas was going on and the police were called, things were beginning to look really nasty. I expected fists to fly and arrests to be made when out of nowhere Harry turned up the middle of them all and started playing his concertina. The whole melee erupted into laughter and the situation was saved.

*TUSKY: (rhubarb). Our staple diet.

The 61,62,63,64 bus routes.

ROCKING HORSE: Rocking Horse was a bit before my time but those older than I remember him as a policeman with a rocking gate who had his beat in our area. This was at a time when gambling was frowned upon. ‘Pitch and toss schools’ of which there were many in the area were illegal. Rocking Horse would try to catch the culprits but the neighbourhood was friendly and would allow culprits to run into their houses and out the back door, if there was one. He was old school policeman and warmed to the locals by administrating a cuff behind the ear rather than to arrest.

REG PARKS: (Mr Universe) lived in the Saville’s.

*SOUTH ACCOMMODATION ROAD SUSPENSION BRIDGE: with its great, bowed, green, parapet that Jimmy Thrush daringly crossed on his bogey.

MR SHAW: Scary manager at York Road Baths.

DOLPHUS: The park ranger on east End Park in the 1940s.

MULLIGAN’S MANSIONS:  (Bridgefield Place)

*THE OLD PRIMAY SCHOOLS; Hilda’s, Mary’s Vicky, Ellerby, South Accomm, All Saints Saville Green, Charles’s, East End Park Special School. York Road board School, the Bombed out Richmond Hill School. All with their teachers good and bad.

*THE NAVVY: our dangerous playground

*THE PUBS: Gone but not forgotten: Cross Green, Bridgefield, Black Dog, Fish Hut, Waterloo, Prospect, Slip, Hampton, Shepherd, Yew Tree, Spring Close, Cavalier, Shaftsbury and Dog and Gun.

*HARRY: Waiter extraordinaire at the slip, He would come waltzing through a busy concert room balancing a tray of seven or eight pint glasses on a tray above his head without spilling a drop and he would have already calculated the note you were going to give him and have the correct change already worked out and ready in his top pocket.

*AGNES LOGAN STEWART: (Mother Agnes) opened St Saviour’s Institute a school and home for girls from dysfunctional families in Knostrop in 1872 and staffed it with sisters in holy orders. She wasn’t in holy orders herself but wore the dress of one. She was a woman of private means and boundless energy and also opened the St Hilda’s School for boys in Cross Green Lane, all from her own funds.

RED ROAD AND BLACK ROAD: Portals to adventure.

*EAST END PARK: Happily spruced up and still with us

*SNAKEY LANE: One pitch now instead of the two we had but it’s a good ‘un.

CHARLIE ATHA: Had a bicycle repair shop near the Princess Cinema. He could just about build your bike up from a single spoke but you had to catch him when he wasn’t in the Shepherd pub.

THE CHURCHES AND CHAPELS: St Hilda’s, St Mary’s, All Saints, St Saviours, St Patricks, New Bourne Chapel, Richmond Hill Chapel, Zion Chapel and others long time closed with their great incumbents that looked after our wellbeing and tried to keep us on the straight and narrow. Lots attended then, few now.

*THE KNOSTROP EXPERIENCE: Knostrop House, Knostrop Old Hall, Knostrop New Hall Knostrop Institute, Thorpe Stapleton Hall, The Humbug House, The ABC Houses. Most of them stood for hundreds of years but all sadly demolished during our watch.

*STOURTON SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM: a tiny school by modern standards but one year in the 1930s they became school football champions of all England.

*THE BASINS AND THE BLUEBELL WOOD: Pleasant features on the walk from Cross Green to Temple Newsam.

*ATKINSON GRIMSHAW: a bit before our time – born in 1836 but he lived in Knostrop Old Hall and was a wonderful moonscape painter – The way he deals with artificial light passing through windows onto wet pavements makes him my particular favourite painter. His pictures of Leeds, Liverpool and Whitby in particular hang in Leeds and national galleries and now sell for ‘telephone number’ prices.

WOODBINE LIZZIE: Lizzie was not particularly an East Leeds woman but probably the best known lady in Leeds in the 1940s. She would stand in the entrance to the Whip Public House In Duncan Street – near the three stumps – in a moth eaten fur coat and hat and ask you for a Woodbine when you passed , if she didn’t get one she’d let you have a barrage of obscenities not usually heard from the mouth of a lady.

JOHN CHARLES: John was not an East Leeds lad not even a Leeds lad he was Welsh but he played for Leeds United in the 1950s and his standing was so high amongst we East Leeds youngsters I feel he warrants and entry. He was 6ft 2ins when, not like today, when 6ft 5s are not abnormal. He was a giant on the field. A sight not to be forgotten was John dropping the ball down from his chest and accelerating up the field tacklers more or less melted away rather than getting a tackle in and there would be john tucking the ball into the corner of the net and walking back and he was impervious in the air – one season he scored 40 goals. When he was transferred to Juventus lads cried openly In the street. The £65,000 we got for his transfer (what would he have brought today?) helped us build the new West Stand He was always a gentleman into the bargain. Big John, the Gentle Giant.

ALMA: Genial conductress on the 61/62 bus and member of the Showstoppers troop

*THE CINEMAS: The Picture House Easy Road, Princess, Star, Regent Shaftsbury, Hillcrest, Victoria, Premier, Strand and Regal. (The Shaftsbury had double seats at the back for courting couples)

*THE QUARRY: Located at the back of the Easy Road Picture House. Dirty, but An adventurous playground for the Easy Road gangs.

*DAVID WILSON: He jumped all the way down the navvy for a bet, five comics and six pence. He didn’t get the comics or the six pence; he did get a broken arm but also legendary status for the feat – look he’s mentioned here sixty years later.

BOB BATES: Ran Mount St Mary’s football teams for years and years and better years and the boy’s club too. He could be seen marking the Snake Lane football pitch out before a match all on his own with little thanks, the lime we used to use for the job blowing all over his good suite. Sometimes his best players let him down and didn’t turn up but he just got on with the job. To me he was a prince among men.

RED WALLS: Where we would paddle and fish for tiddlers, and sometimes get glass in our feet..

*THE ARMY AND POW CAMPS DOWN BLACK ROAD/KNOSROP: With their ack ack guns an barrage balloons.

*CHUMPING: They only seem to have communal bonfires today.




LEEDS UNITED : THE REVIE YEARS: We won the cup in 1972 and the league championship in 1969, 74. And two European trophies. We won the championship again in 1992 but not under Revie.


*THE MARKET DISTRICT BOY’S CLUB: It was supposed to have been opened by The Parish Church to keep us lads off the streets but it became much more than that.

THE RICMOND HILL WHIT WALK: Disappeared with the demise of the pubs but before that it was run from The Cavalier and later The Prospect pubs. It went down Dial Street and on to a couple of circuits of East End Park. Crowds would turn out to cheer the walkers. There was a money prize and I can remember Jimmy Croll won it on a couple of occasions.

DOLLY DAWSON: legendary Hunslet rugby League player and genial ‘mine host’ of the Hampton Hotel.

THE PREFABS: Much better accommodation than the properties they replaced.

THE MONKEY BRIDGE: Iron bridge where dare devils would trapeze hanging above the navvy.

GEORGE TOOTLE: George was blinded by his time in the boxing ring, he too was an old Hunslet ruby league player’ He was a popular figure who lived in Knostrop Old Hall during the war. Knostrop was very dark during the ‘black out’ and George endeared himself to the folk of Knostrop by singing in a low rumble when he came home in the dark with his three littler guide dogs. so that females of the area knew it was only old George and not to be afraid.

THE GINNEL: Spooky little tunnel between Fewston  Avenue and Easy Road to allow the paddy train to pass overhead on its way to the coal staithe.

THE RED HILLS and the THE BLACK HILLS: The Red Hills at Knostrop the Black Hills near the Shaftsbury.

EDGAR STREET CLINIC: ‘Our own Little place of horrors.’


YORK ROAD LIBRARY AND SWIMMING BATHS: Have been closed for a long time and I thought we were going to lose them but they have put the clock back up and they say it’s going to be a gym

I’m sure there are more that deserve a mention if you can think of any please send them on a comment

A Day in the Life of our old East Leeds (Knostrop) Gang

August 1, 2017


This month’s tale is A Day in the Life of Our Old East Leeds (Knostrop Gang)

But before that can I announce that this is the anniversary of The East Leeds Memories site and we thank WordPress for allowing us to air and beautifully archiving our tales since August 2007 = ten years at one tale a month 10 x 12 = 120 tales which have linked up old East Leedsers across the world and I hope given enjoyment to many. Thank you WordPress may we long continue.

Ten years is a long time for us oldies and during that period a few who added their tales here in the full flush of life have now gone to join that great story teller in the sky. While this site remains their tales can still be picked up as sort of an epitaph. Within their tales they can still live. I’ll try to list a few here that readers might like to revisit. I apologize for any who may have dropped off their perch without my knowledge.

Sept 07      Pauline Rushfirth (nee Brown.) Air Raids.

Jan 08        Stan Pickles  My Life Between the Wars.

Apr 08        John Gibbins       My Early Life in East Leeds

June 08      Brian Conoby  Memories of Brian Conoby

Feb 09       Denis Gudgeon   Memories of Denis Gudgeon

Mar 09       Brian Conoby      More Memories of Brian Conoby

Nov 10       Frank Shires     Memories of growing up in East Leeds

Feb 11       Gerry Thrussle  Memories of Gerry Thrussle

June 12   Kenneth Heptenstall  Kenneth’s Tale

Oct 12        Stan Pickles  Cinemas and the Leeds Shopping Centre

May 15      Barbara Curran (nee Tootle)   Barbara’s Tale 


I hope WordPress continues to allow us to parade our tale on their great site and that we all continue to enjoy. Can I point out that there are some great comments after most stories too, don’t miss the comments they are sometimes the best part of the tale.

And can I point out that there must be lots of you out there busting to tell us a story of your own – you know the type of thing we do – it doesn’t have to be about East Leeds – to put on the site. Send me a comment that you may have a tale we can use – we are always on the lookout for new contributors, the comment will have your e-mail address included and I will contact you ref your tale and we’ll take it from there. Thank you if you have waded through all this. Now for my tale.

Pete Wood

A day in the Life of Our Old East Leeds, Knostrop Gang

It was August 1945, the year the war ended, and I was seven years    old. The iconic Jawbone Yard was our adventure playground, it was the summer school holidays and we were all incredibly happy.

I awoke to the pleasant sensation of the sun beaming in through the bedroom window and the exquisite smell of bacon drifting up the stairs. I sprang out of bed and dressed in my short corduroy pants and a check cotton shirt, but first I had to put on those terrible white underpants with the gaping fronts and the little loops for the braces to hold them up. I bounced down the stairs as only a seven year old can. Mam had my breakfast on the table. ‘Come on lad, have your breakfast, your mates are already playing out in the yard.’

I needed no encouragement gulping down my breakfast and making for the door. ‘Here better take this’, she thrust a Bovril sandwich into my hand and I recalled how she had always tried to fatten me up in case the Germans managed to stop the Atlantic convoys getting through with food from Canada and America and we all starved.

‘Mam I can’t go out eating a sandwich they all laugh at me, I’m too fat already.’ But she shoved me out into the yard and closed the door behind me.

They were playing football with a tennis ball – we did well to get even a tennis ball with the war in full swing.

‘Look who’s here and he’s eating a great sandwich already. Come on Fatso you’re on our side, were getting beat four one, although I can’t see how you’re going be much good munching a bloody sandwich.’ It was Harold; he was such a great player he could keep even a tennis ball up on his ankle.

Somebody took a great swing at the ball and it hit me on the fleshy part of my exposed leg. It stung for a moment but even so it felt good; onto the ground went the sandwich.

‘Well done,’ called one of the Peters to the kicker of the ball ‘Now that sandwich is out of the way maybe you’ll get stuck in Woody.’ The stable doors were one goal and the shed doors the other. We went at it hammer and tongs for half an hour until we were exhausted and then we sat on the grass together for a breather. It felt good – really good.

‘Let’s make a den,’ said Brian and we all agreed so we wandered out of the main yard and into a tusky field (rhubarb to the uninitiated) sampling the red rhubarb sticks as we went. Rhubarb grew in gay abundance in the area so nobody minded us pinching the odd stick or two (in truth it was far too sour to eat without sugar and we rarely made it to the end of the stick without wastefully discarding it). Then we set about fashioning a den out of a bush in one of the hedgerows. We made blow pipes out of the green stick branches and pretending to make bows out of the more substantial ones; of course we rarely had string to finish off the job properly. Presently it began to rain, gently pattering on the top of our green canopy and activating the scent of vegetation mixed with the perspiration of youthful   endeavour, bringing us close to nature at its best.  We squatted there waiting for the rain to ease, telling jokes, making, plans and the general banter of carefree youth.

It stopped raining and we wandered out of the den and down the lane. We had an old wheel-barrow and took it in turns to push and alternatively be pushed.  When you were in the barrow you had to close your eyes and try to guess where you were. We had a daily rigmarole and that entailed returning home for dinner at twelve o’clock – mams were quite insistent on that. We all disappeared to our various homes arranging to meet again in an hour, in our ‘Wellies’, prepared for a visit to the pond field. We called our mid-day meal ‘dinner’ not the ‘lunch’ they had at mid-day in the south and even up here in the 21st century. At five o’clock we had ‘tea’ which was another man size meal. Lunch did not figure in our curriculum but we had supper too; it sounds as though we should have been even fatter than we were – eating four square meals a day, but of course we could only eat what we could get with the war being in progress so we had to stretch the food we had out a bit.

Dad arrived home from work for his dinner too and we set about a real plateful each. I was pleased that today it was to be  sausage and a veritable mountain of lovely mashed potatoes big enough to make Alpine tunnels to allow passage for my lovely gravy. Dad told me off as usual for reading my Beano comic while I was eating. After dinner the gang met up again to go to the pond and collect frog spawn. Passing Knostrop Old Hall to the rear.


The girls, Pat, Pauline, Brenda and Rita had elected to bring some jam jars from home. We would collect frog spawn in the jars; watch it turn into little tadpoles, watch the tadpoles, lose their tales and turn into frogs – than we would let them go. Of course this metamorphosis didn’t all happen in one day. As usual we all ended up with wet feet and a telling off from our mams, ‘Just time for the chasing game before tea – remember we are off to the flicks tonight, it’s a cowboy,’ said Michael. We all liked cowboys.

We picked two captains and then two equal sides. We “dipped” to see which captain had the first pick:  ‘dip-dip-dip-my–blue-ship-sailing–on–the–water-like-a-cup-cup-and-saucer-you-do-not-have-it. The one who won the dipping contest had first pick and would pick the best runner and the other captain would pick the next best runner alternatively until everyone had been selected. There were: three Peters including myself (Peter must have been the in name at the time) Brian, Michael, John, Malcolm, two Denis’s Harold and the girls: Pat, Pauline, Brenda and Rita.

Off sped the first team and ten minutes later off sped the chasers. Miles and miles we ran; The idea was for the first team to run and hide and then make it back to base without being caught. We ran for miles – over fields, through woods, across streams and hay stacks, we were completely free to roam. It was wonderful to have young lungs to fill with air and feel the cold wind hitting above the knees. By the time the game was over it was tea time and arrangements were made for our evening visit to the ‘flicks’. It was to be at the Easy Road Cinema (the bug hutch) and as it was going to be an ‘A’ film children had to be accompanied by an adult. Pat, who was only a couple of years older than us herself said she would put her hair up to make herself look older and get us all in. It was a quite transparent ruse of course but Abe White, the roly-poly proprietor, wanted a full cinema and the place would have been empty if he had looked too closely at kids passing as adults to take their mates in. Lone urchins without an adult would accost strangers with the plea. ‘Tek us in, Missus.’ We were on the wooden sixpenny seats on the front row, so the actors were all long and thin and either walking up hill or down. You virtually got sand in your eyes when Roy Rogers rode across the screen on Trigger and we always got a little song from him when they were finally seated around their camp fire eating baked beans. It was brilliant. Then we were out running down Easy Road with our gabardine raincoats strung around our necks like cloaks and firing our fingers off like six guns at passing strangers. I loved it. Nearing home we saw there were ongoing road works and a watchman with a coke brazier. We sat with him for a while and ‘chewed the fat’ with the coke fumes permeating our nostrils. Then we accompanied him while he checked his lamps. Finally, my lovely day was ending and it was time to go home. As we entered the yard I felt a wet nose pushed into my hand. Joy of Joys it was the first dog I ever loved: ‘Peggy Parker’ a neighbour’s mongrel come Labrador. We were inseparable mates and Mam allowed her to come into the house and lay by the fire for a while until I went to bed, then she would have to go home. After the darkness of the night (there were no street lights because of the War-time black out) the gaslight in the sitting room was brilliant. One of my aunties was tinkling away on the piano, an uncle was playing a musical saw and a game of darts was ongoing. It had been a day of perfect freedom, one of many pure gold days. Weren’t we of our generation the lucky ones?

We Had to Eat Gravel!

February 1, 2017

We Had to Eat Gravel


When you look back along a reasonably long life you see that so many things have changed, most of the local pubs, corner shops and cinemas have closed down, open fires, decent ballads and lavies down the street are a thing of the past, church attendances are down, the coal mines are closed. The simple things we used to do in life have been usurped by modern technology. I find it hard to believe these changes have happened in just one life time. Perhaps most of all I remember how happily primitive general living used to be.

Do you remember that great old Monty Python sketch where a group of well healed old farts are sitting around in leather arm chairs supping their whisky and purporting how hard it had been for them on the way up, each one trying to outdo the last on the depth of the depravity they had endured in their early lives until it got brilliantly silly and towards the end one old fart said after the previous one had made maniacal claims.

‘Right, well listen to this then. We lived in a shoe box and all we had to eat was gravel!’

Not to be outdone the final guy said, ‘Shoe box! That would have been a luxury for us, we would have loved to live in a shoe box we had to live in the canal and every night our dad came home from work and murdered us.’


Well you know we East Leedsers who have been lucky enough to have had a reasonably long life can look back on times descending back to what now seems almost comic proportions of destitution. I’m going to put myself in the position of those old farts going back over my life. I’ll pretend to be different old farts getting more and more disadvantaged but really they will all be me and although it won’t be as exotic as Monty Python it will all be true.

Old fart number one. ‘When we were first married we never aspired to satellite television we just had a colour TV with the basic channels, no free view facility, just had an old dial  telephone on a land line, we were never  able to afford those magic mobile things that just about tell you what you had for breakfast.  And there were no ‘sat navs’ you had to know how to read a map. If your car wouldn’t start on a morning you had to swing it with a starting handle sometimes it kicked back and knocked your shoulder out Twenty pounds a week was a top wage – you could get a mortgage on twenty pounds a week we only had the one toilet of course and a galvanised dustbin.

Old fart number two. Colour television? You were lucky, we never dreamt of colour television. When I lived in Cross Green we had a 12 inch black and white TV which constantly rolled over and over and had one channel,  BBC one. We only had one electric plug to run everything off. We had no fridge or washing machine we had a keeping safe in the cellar to keep food going off and Mam washed our clothes in the sink.  If we wanted to telephone we had to go to the big red box up the road and I went to work for years on an old pushbike.

Old fart number three. ‘Television! We’d never heard of even black and white television. When I lived in Knostrop we didn’t even have electricity we had gas downstairs and nothing at all upstairs. You can’t run many appliances off gas so we had to make our own amusement. We had running water and a flush toilet but it was outside and froze up in winter. We had to sleep outside in an air raid shelter while the Germans rained bombs down on us. When it rained heavily, Knostrop being so low down in Leeds the water came out of the man holes instead of in and flooded us to the depth of about ten inches and floated everything about. Being a large old house I had a big bedroom but ivy grew on the inside as well as the outside walls, when I went to bed I climbed the stairs with a candle stick like Wee Willy Winky. The nearest telephone box was at the top of the hill so was school, where we always had to walk to on our own after the first day and where on a bad day we would expect to be smacked on our arms and legs by the women teachers and caned by the head master.



Old fart number four. Flush toilets! We would have loved a flush toilet. When I was evacuated to Aunt Nellie’s at None-Go-Byes Farm Cottage all we had was a dry toilet round the back that smelt terrible and was only emptied now and then when the midden men came round. We had no gas or electricity only oil lamps that smoked smelt terribly too. The only water was iron water from a tap in the yard. We had two bedrooms but you had to pass through one to get

To the other



there was no phone box at all you had to post a letter if you wanted to contact anyone and the post box was three miles away as was the nearest shop and bus stop. The Germans dropped flairs on us looking for the munitions factory. When the kids went to school they had to take their shoes off and walk in bare feet across the fields so they wouldn’t get their shoes muddy and be told off by the teachers.

Old fart number five. Two Bedrooms! We lived in The Humbug House, an old single story gatehouse. We never dreamt of having two bedrooms we had one room and one bedroom, neither gas nor electricity and it was so damp because it was below the water table that vegetation grew on the inside of the walls, I don’t remember what we did for a toilet perhaps we used a bucket?



Every word is true, it’s been a long road, when I look back and sounds as if it could have been unhappy but it never was. I never felt disadvantaged at any of those places.  Folk were all in the same boat getting themselves through the war, Mam and Dad were alive and love abounded. If I could go back to any one of those times I’d be there in a trice because I’d be young again and nowt fazes you when you’re young does it?


Comments welcome


The Magic of Aeroplanes

December 1, 2016

This month’s tale is about aeroplanes but there will be special Christmas tale by Eric Sanderson concerning dastardly deeds at the Slip Inn .

Look out for it on Christmas Eve

We have all spent our lives under the sounds of aeroplanes and I Say ‘aeroplanes’ not aircraft for that is what we called them in the 1940s and they landed on ‘aerodromes’ not ‘airports’, ‘Yeadon Aerodrome’ not ‘Leeds Bradford Airport’. Somehow the name ‘aeroplane’ seems to carry the magic better.
When we were young, in the 1940s, the air would be full of piston engine aeroplanes droning above us, there were so many and we were so used to seeing them we hardly bothered to look up. If we did look up we would see, Spitfires and hear their beautiful Rolls Royce Merlin engine note, Hurricanes, Mosquitoes with their snub noses, Blenheim’s, Lancaster’s, Halifax’s, Sterling’s, Wellington’s the American ‘Flying Fortress’s with its many gun blisters and the work horse Dakotas’ with one engine hidden behind the fuselage so it looked as though it had and engine missing. These were to name but a few. We recognised them by their wing tip arrangement some clipped some curved and by their tail fins. We were spoilt, we observed these beautiful aeroplanes oblivious that this was a unique experience which would not be repeated for future generations.  The German planes only came by night but you could recognise them by their sinister, irregular engine note. When an air raid was on and we were in the shelter and the drone of a plane could be heard overhead someone would say, ‘Is it one of ours or one of theirs’ even as a child I could always tell them.
There was an ack ack battery further down Knostrop in the middle of the woods. When they opened up they made a ‘pom pom’ sound so we called them the ‘pom poms’ the night sky would be filled with searchlights trying to light up the intruders. The raid would begin with the wail of the sirens and the boats on the river would blow their hooters too. My dad would say, ‘the mussel boats are going off it’s time to go to the shelter!’ When the guns went off they would rattle the door of the shelter and I, being child, was once heard to say, ‘Someone’s knocking at the door.’ Seemingly that lightened the situation but the dog we had, Bobby, ‘took his hook, and we never saw him again. When the ‘all clear’ sounded it was welcome and had a far pleasanter note, then we could return to the houses and bed.
In the mornings after a raid we kids would hunt for shrapnel for souvenirs. The Germans were dropping anti-personnel mines so Mam would say, ‘Don’t pick anything nasty up’; with her saying ‘something nasty’ I expected the mines would look something like dog droppings. A sea change event occurred on Friday night the 14th of March 1941 when a German Bomb hit Richmond Hill School. As it was at night no one was injured but the pupils of Richmond Hill School were scattered among the other local schools in the area or in some cases evacuated to places like Ackworth and to Lincolnshire. Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) in her tale on this site, see Aug 2007, tells of how next morning she could see her poor little knitting on pins (the girls were knitting socks, gloves and Balaclavas for our soldiers) among the debris.


At one point I was sent off to stay with my aunt in the country as seemingly being safer than Leeds but the first night there the Germans dropped a flare right outside her cottage, evidently searching for the massive Avro munitions factory
Towards the end of the war I recall a full week when nearing dusk the sky would be filled from northern horizon to southern horizon with endless formations of bombers their red and green lights winking. We were used to seeing a lot of aircraft but this was obviously something quite special. I wonder now, looking back if they were the 1,000 bomber raids or perhaps the build up to the invasion. It was such a sight I have never forgotten it. When the RAF lads came home on leave in their blue uniforms they were the celebrities, especially if they had wings above their left breast pocket, one wing for aircrew and a double wing for a pilot and a god.
Sometimes there would be an exhibition on a spare space in the centre of Leeds and there might be a Lancaster bomber and you would be allowed, as a child, to clamber in and wonder at how tight the space was inside and the marvellous array of dials and gadgetry and the smell that went with them, there seemed to be so much that could go wrong.
After the war we saw the first of the jets: the Gloster Meteor, De Havilland Vampire, with its twin fuselage, The Hawker Hunter and the English Electric lightening. All were beautiful aeroplanes getting faster and faster – the goal was to break the ‘sound barrier’ which at the time appeared to be some sort of a mysterious barrier where the plane would be buffeted about, some thought bizarrely that the controls would become reversed. We went to the cinema to see films such as Test Pilot and The Sound Barrier. 762 mph at sea level was the sound barrier but I remember 606 mph being the record at one time. Test pilots were now the new heroes; it was a dangerous job De Havilland lost three of their family testing planes
I would regularly take on the congested traffic around tiny roads to watch the air shows at Church Fenton. There’s a pub there still, The Fenton Flier, filled with photos of wartime aircrew and general memorabilia you can get the feel of the RAF guys piling into there for a few pints after sorties, having survived another day in the skies. On one occasion there was a Harrier vertical take of plane practicing the day before the show, it hovered about for a bit then it put on full power and climbed nose first vertically the back draught from its engines was so powerful caused huge mature trees to bow as if they were twigs.
Along came national service for me in 1959, I was drafted into the REME attached the Army Air Corps The Army Air Corps function was primarily to act as eyes for the Royal Artillery to help them target their guns but we also had a liaison duty, which entailed ferrying VIPs around. It did get a bit over the top on occasions. For instance, sometimes we would pick up a general and fly him for hundreds of miles to attend a meeting but then we would have to drive a petrol-tanker to the same destination to ensure the helicopter could be filled up with the correct fuel for the journey home. I recall going along for a ride with the bowser driver all the way from Detmold, in Germany all the way into France to complete such an operation.
At 652 Squadron we had fixed wing aircraft: Austers and Chipmunks and rotary wing aircraft in the form of the tiny Skeeter helicopter which could just hold the pilot and one passenger; later we acquired the larger French Allouette helicopter. The Auster actually had its tail wheel attached by means of a thick rubber band – this was the correct monoculture for the job but it enabled the RAF lads to have a laugh at us and our ‘toy planes’. In theory, the lightweight Austers could actually fly backwards. It is air passing over the wings of an aircraft, which actually keeps it in the air. So if the if the wind speed is 50 knots per hour and the engine is only making 40 knots per hour, then the plane is losing distance at the rate of 10 knots per hour but can still stay in the air. The advantage of the Auster, was it could land on a sixpence. When we went on schemes, any old field could present a landing strip. One had to take care around aircraft: if a plane came into contact with a solid object there was hell to play. Everything had then to be checked out with a fine toothcomb before it could fly again. There was danger too. The main rotors blades of the tiny helicopters dropped to below head high as they were slowing down so you had to keep well clear and the tail rotors were lethal, they revolved so fast that you didn’t actually notice they were there at all. On one occasion, walking blindly into a spinning tail rotor decapitated an unfortunate Alsatian. The method of starting the light aircraft was to ‘swing the prop’ but you had to make sure you arm was out of the way before the engine fired or there was a danger of losing it. That was not a job trusted to a humble clerk.
After a major servicing had been carried out on an aircraft the mechanic who had been responsible for the servicing was supposed to make the first flight with the pilot. This was a safety precaution to encourage him to carry out the job correctly but as long as someone went up with the pilot they were not too fussy as to whom it was. The safety procedure was quite rigorous though, loads of forms had to be signed and counter signed before the aircraft was released back into service. If the mechanic didn’t feel like flying I would often volunteer to take his place, I loved flying; couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes they wouldn’t have even have bothered putting the doors back on yet, when the pilot banked you were looking out into nothingness but we were strapped in and somehow looking out of an aircraft is not so frightening as looking down from a high tower or a bridge. Once in the air the noise from the engine was terrific, you were sat next to the pilot but you could only speak to him over the radio.
Flying was so exhilarating, especial when you went above the clouds after a dreary period of weather and saw the sun which might have had been missing for days: the sun always shines above the clouds in daytime of course. The servicing would likely have been carried out by one of my airframe, engine or electronic fitter mates from the billet, who might well be complete ‘nutters’ in their off duty periods but I never worried, I knew they would be spot on when aircraft safety was at stake.
Helicopter rides were my favourite, I recall a particular helicopter flight when the pilot followed a herd of deer running through the fire breaks of a forest at tree top height, and it was a sight you don’t easily forget. Helicopters sometimes have to encounter a phenomenon known as a ‘vortex ring’; these are pockets in the sky where the air will not support a helicopter. Apparently there is no warning when you are about hit one of these things


and the ‘copter drops like a stone. The pilot would practice the procedure for dealing with a vortex ring or indeed for engine failure should it ever arise: you cannot glide down a plane without wings. The method employed to prevent a helicopter from actually hitting the ground was to disengage the rotor blades and let the machine fall. The action of falling through the air causes the blades to rotate faster and faster, and then just before the ground arrived the pilot would re-engage the clutch that would alter the pitch of the blades, which hopefully would be just enough to hold the machine for a soft landing. Of course, when carrying out these exercises, it was the pilot’s game was not to warn you what he was about to do in advance, so when the plane dropped you turned green and left your stomach a few hundred feet above. The lads always had a laugh at my expense when I took a helicopter flight in the tiny Skeeters. These small aircraft were not advised to take off vertically, except in emergency when carrying more than twenty-five stone. As few pilots were under ten stones, our flights fell into such a category, to compensate for the extra weight the helicopter would take off along the runway like a normal aircraft, generating much laughter from the lads. We didn’t get much pay on national Service, If I recall it was about £2 10 shilling per week but the c/o helped us out by giving us an extra 7 shillings and six pence a week if we could become ‘observers’ for this we had to be able to recognise aircraft silhouettes from a card, which was a ‘piece of cake’.
Originally I had been posted to a small airfield in Detmold, West Germany but eventually I was posted with our flight to RAF Wildenrath, still in Germany. Here we were part of a huge RAF station. It stretched for three or four miles in every direction. One would have been talking about ten miles plus, to walk around the perimeter fence. It seemed a bit of an extravagance that our little Austers, which only needed thirty yards to take off, used their giant runway. The fact that the RAF did all the guards was a bonus too, as it meant we did not have to do any ourselves. The station was equipped with Canberra bombers they were bombers but handled like fighters and were flying somewhere in the world for almost fifty years.

All the three ‘V’ bombers: The Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor and The Vickers Valiant, would drop in from time to time. It was the time of The Cold war and all three aircraft producing companies had been commissioned to come up with a plane that had the ability to carry a nuclear bomb to Russia and return. It was a marvellous sight to see them landing and taking off. In my spare time, I would enjoy just sitting on the grass and watching them: there is an exciting smell and a sort of magic just to be around aeroplanes. There were regular open days at the station, when all sorts of exotic aircraft would arrive to take part and we saw it all for free. I recall one day prior to an open day air show two jets arrived one coming from the east and the other from the west and they crossed right over my head it was a memorable occasion another memorable sight and one I have never forgotten to this day because the odds against it happening were so great happened a night with a lovely silver full moon,

I looked up and a Vulcan bomber passed exactly over the moon and for a brief second its delta wins and the moon fitted perfectly together.
On one of these open day occasions I remember having the doubtful pleasure of sitting astride a nuclear bomb. From time to time, the RAF had to practice night flying, which could be quite noisy. It kept you awake the first few times then you got used to it and never seemed to hear it at all.
I would have loved to win a flight in a Canberra sometimes as a money raising effort the RAF would raffle a flight in the nose of a Canberra bomber they would whisk you out across the North Sea and back. Alas I was never lucky enough to win a ticket. That would have been something special for me.
The mighty Vulcan bomber made its finest and farewell flight – in fact its only flight in anger – in 1982 when it was already out of service making its daring flight from Ascension Island to the Falkland island to put the airstrip at Port Stanley, held by the Argentineans, out of commission. The flight was far beyond its range but a planned series of thirteen Victor Tankers continually refuelled it and had to be refuelled themselves to achieve the objective. It must have been a morale lifting sight for the subjected Falklanders to hear the mighty roar of the Vulcan delivering its pay load over runway and know that although Britain was 8,000 miles away they were not abandoned. After being refuelled by the last Victor it became apparent to the crew of the Vulcan the fuel load to complete the mission was inadequate they could carry on and complete the mission but not have enough fuel to return or they could abort the mission altogether. They decided to a man to complete the mission whatever. Only one bomb hit the runway, the first, but it was enough it put the airstrip out of action and could not be used for the duration of the war by the Argentineans. On the way back they met our fleet on the way out to the Falklands who thought the Vulcan to be an enemy aircraft and nearly shot it down. It would seem the Vulcan was out of fuel and out of tankers and they were preparing to ditch in the sea, then in the nick of time a Victor turned up out of the clouds to refuel the Vulcan and save the day. What a welcome sight it must have been for the brave crew of the Vulcan; surely a tale fit for a ‘Biggles’ adventure.

Today, faced with the enormous cost of producing a new plane from scratch it is beyond the scope of individual companies to produce their own new aircraft, it’s even beyond most countries and the European countries pitch in to produce a new plane between them. We have The Typhoon and The tornado fighters but you hardly ever see them in the sky and unless you are taking a trip on a faceless commercial airliner plane spotters are restricted to watching vapour trails in the sky and wondering how the bodies of tiny sea creatures produced so much oil to fuel them all.

Mother Agnes’s School for Girls at Knostrop

April 1, 2016

One School We Haven’t mentioned: Mother Agnes’s School for Girls at Knostrop

This is the story I have been wanting to air ever since I started The East Leeds Memories site. Now with the help of Mr Fred Harding, son of Merle, one of the pupils and Mr Stephen Savage whose book on Agnes Logan Stewart is the authoritative work on the institution I am able to write this account. This story draws extensively on Stephen’s research including the pictures, but mainly on the the memories of four of the former girls who attended the institution: the sisters Rose and Doris and the twins Merle and Averill. This story needs to be written down as the St Saviour’s Home closed its doors in 1940, nearly three quarters of a century ago, and it is about to pass beyond living memory. This story is quite long but I hope you will stay with it. It is very doubtful that any member of that old school still with us will be ‘surfing’ this site but I’m sure there are some among us who may have had tales handed down from girls who did attend ‘Mother Agnes’s. If this should be so please leave a comment on the site at the end of the story so we can have a ‘follow up’. Please remember to ‘click’ on the pictures to enlarge.

St Saviour’s colloquially known as ‘Mother Agnes’s’ was an institution set up in Knostrop, East Leeds, by Agnes Logan Stewart in 1872 for girls from broken homes. Agnes Stewart was a lady of independent means and boundless energy. She set the institution up for girls from her own resources and staffed it mainly with sisters in holy orders. She wore the habit of a sister herself but was not actually in holy orders. She later was also responsible for setting up St Hilda’s School for boys in Cross Green Lane, also in East Leeds.

mother agnes for blog

My own mother, born in 1906 attended the school as an ‘out girl’ along with lots of local girls who could have a private education for six pence a week. I still have a bible given her by the sisters on her twelfth birthday. I wish I had asked Mother more about the school but when you are young you are always busy, busy, busy and when you come to realise you should have asked more it’s too late and they are lost to us.

The memories I am able to provide here are however of a much later date, shortly before the Home (they liked to call it a home not an orphanage) closed down completely in 1940. The actual private school had ceased in 1924 after which the girls’ educational needs were transferred to St Hilda’s School on Cross Green Lane.

knostrop institute 1920

The major memories recorded here are those of Mrs Doris Harris (alas now deceased) who was a resident in the home in the late 1930s for seven years This is an abridged version of Doris’s story as the full version is too long to put on this site. Doris was born in London in 1929 her sister Rose was born a year earlier. The story which Doris’s children encouraged her to write begins when men in white coats took their mother away in an ambulance and Doris and Rose were left cold and alone.

st saviour'sme colour


Doris’s memories

.           Rose and I went to these people in black, with black hats on (nuns I later found out). Then it was a long train ride. I had something to eat in a box but I wanted my mum. I couldn’t eat. It was getting dark going through lots of tunnels, and it kept stopping and starting. Then the door was opened. We were in Leeds in Yorkshire and it was very dark; then a lady in black lifted me out and put me in a car. Rose was already inside. Then there was a high wall and a gate opened. Then a lady with white hair who we got to know as Sister was standing there. I was given a cup of white stuff to drink. I had never tasted milk. It was warm nice milk and I was put by a fire to get warm on my own. This of course was a children’s home. The home was called St Saviour’s C of E Children’s Home. As new girls arrived at the Home older girls were given the job of caring for the new younger ones. My carer was Hazel, who was about eleven. When I got there she helped me make up my bed and made me hurry up so we could spend more time in the playroom. She helped feed me. Not long after we got there we were taken into a room, put on a chair in the middle of the room and had all our hair cut off. I cried so much that Sister sent for Hazel. She took me to the playroom and read me a story. After that we always had our hair cut before it could get long. The whole time we were there our hair was cut like boys.

As the days went by I soon learned the routine: when a bell rang everyone did something. Everything went by the time the bell rang. We had to know what to do by the bell. The first one was at 6 a.m. on a morning to get out of bed, perform on our potties on the landing and then go out and wash, clean our teeth, dress. Next bell was at 7.30 a.m. By then we should be downstairs in the playroom. This was the time to go to the chapel for morning prayers. At 8 a.m. the bell was for breakfast in the refectory. The 8.30 bell was to be ready for school. At 12.30 we had dinner, at 1.15 back to school. At 4.30 p.m. it was tea time at 5.15 it was bath time and at 6.30 it was lights out until morning.

I must tell you about our clothes. Our sheets, nighties, knickers, and school dresses were made of men’s serge suiting, which was rather rough. We think this came from the mills around us. We were each given a number to use on our toothbrushes, flannel and clothing; mine was 19. The house we lived in was quite large and the grounds were all round. In the grounds we had a large rhubarb patch stretching the whole length of the garden about 50 feet wide. At the back of the house was a large yard where the chickens ran free. This went half the width. We had about thirty chickens; they had the free range of a large piece of the back garden. In the spring there were little pens for the baby chicks with a mother dotted here and there.

Then there was a high fence. My dormitory had eight beds and a very big window. After lights out we got out of bed and played in the middle of the floor, listening all the time in case anybody came. There were eight helpers: Matron Terry, whose room was next to our dormitory, then Sister’s room on the next landing. The rest of them were at the back of the house, but were often sent to check on us if they heard any noise. More fun was had playing hide and seek under the beds, in the wrong beds, dares to run out onto the landing. Then we would hear the goods trains passing the windows all day and evening. We would count the wagons and say what was on the sides: NE, LMS, GWR and SE.

School was the place I did not like. I was three when I first went there. Hazel took me in a pushchair. Because I couldn’t count I had a dunce’s cap put on my head and had to sit in a corner with my face to the wall. [This must have been St Hilda’s School]

st hilda's school for blog

Rose’s Memories: I have some very happy memories of the area and St Hilda’s School: Miss Powell, Mrs Duckworth and Mr Child. My favourite teacher was Mr Hardman in the juniors. My school mates in the infants were: Sylvia Hill, Peter King and Stella Couplan and a girl with the surname of Thistlewood. At Christmas we had a very large Christmas tree set up in the infant’s hall. The partitions were rolled back so everyone could see it decorated up with candles and celluloid toys, one year one of the candles caught the toys alight and we all had to run out. The candles were not lit the next year. There was also a small bag of sweets for every child donated by a named benefactor – I can’t remember his name. I liked Mr Child (he was always suffering from being gassed in the First World War. He left me with the memories of a very kind man if he asked a question and not many put their hands up he had a favourite saying: ‘Come on you half baked tea cakes. Put your hand up and if I pick on you and you don’t know I will tell you.’ And he always walked about the classroom with a huge bunch of keys – rattle, rattle, rattle. In the juniors there was Miss Fewster – not my favourite. The next class up was Mr Hardman. Everybody liked him. He had a voice that held everyone’s attention. It could be a story or poetry he brought everything to life.

On the way back to the home from school we would cross over Cross Green Lane and into the road at the side of the rhubarb triangle field On the left there was the blacksmith, he was ways busy in those days horse and carts was still a lot of transport system. In the winter when there was frost about the horses had trouble sliding about on the cobbles. Then further down the road past the cottages, then the ESSO oil works to Saviour’s Home (the institution). Then the Gurneys Gate House then further down past our wall and round the corner was the house we used to call the ‘haunted house’ [The Humbug House] as one of the children had looked over the wall from our garden and seen a window open and something white moving about. They say the Home closed in 1939 but in fact we left in July 1940. A group of us from Saviours would go for a walk on a Saturday afternoon past the waterworks over the fields and into the woods. Sometimes we went all the way to Temple Newsam it was occupied then and sometimes we would go inside and hear tales of the ghostly ‘Blue Lady’.

I wonder if they still have Children’s Day at Roundhay Park? I got a mention once for my good hand writing (not any more) arthritis has taken its toll but I’ll be ninety in a couple of years.

I was at St Saviour’s for seven years and we were treated very well, always well fed and well clothed, holidays by the sea every year for one month at a time About 1990 I had been on holiday in York and coming home on the motorway I said to my husband shall we go to Leeds and see the Home? We had no bother finding it but being Sunday morning no one was about. I was so sorry to see such a lovely home and the drive up to the front door full of barrels I wished I hadn’t seen it but my memories of the grand entrance up to the front door remain.

I have enjoyed writing this – hope you enjoy the read. Rose Williams (formally Harris).

Back to Doris’s Memories

In the refectory at meal times the children (all girls) about 25 of us sat at long tables down two sides of the room. A large round table was in the middle for the staff, and Sister would go onto a platform by the big bay window to say prayers and tell us anything she thought would interest us. She told us all about General Gordon of Khartoum; she was his god-daughter. She told us about when she went to Africa as a missionary and nurse and about all the starving people in the world and the depression. She always asked if we liked her food. We only ever had milk or water to drink. We had porridge or egg for breakfast, meat and veg for dinner, stewed fruit for pud, bread and dripping or butter and jam and cake for tea, hot milk in the winter cold milk in the summer. On Sundays we had two sweets and an orange or apple in the afternoon.

The gardener, Mr Gurney, sometimes asked us to help with the school garden. When we went for a walk we were always told to look round us to see if there was anything different. We usually went out of the gate, crossed the road and through a path next to the farmer’s field, then along the bi-pass with all the horses and carts on. There were very few cars, just a few buses; we would sit down for a rest by the side of the road among the daises. Sometimes for a treat we went under the bridge by the river [Gibraltar Lane?] We had to have two staff than as our ages, were: 18 months to eight years. It was a good job we had two staff for one day Lydia, aged three fell in the river. Miss Rees put down her bag and jumped in to get her. Two men working on a boat had seen Lydia fall in and they jumped in as well, Lydia was lifted out dripping wet and crying. The men went back to their boats and Miss Rees was soaked, her shorts were sticking to her legs. Then we all held hands and carried on walking. By the time we got home we were all dry.

When we went out there was always eight or nine of us; people stared at us, we just held hands tight and walked on. We heard them say, ‘Poor little orphans’. Their children pulled faces at us and tried tripping us up or kicking us. We just got closer together and the helpers got round us until their parents took them away. We got called lots of nasty names at school and church but Sister always told us to just walk away from them. The boys were best as they were much kinder and punched the girls for us.

In the classroom when I was eight or nine I always sat next to a boy. None of the girls would sit next to me as I was from another world. They did not understand us, even some of the teachers didn’t seem to understand us. Some treated us like babies without any brains others just tried to pretend we were not there. But we got used to it all, OK we were different from them, we had short hair, we had special clothes and we talked together. There were 25 or so of us, we had plenty of food to eat, central heating and water for baths from the taps. A lot of them didn’t have much food, none of them had proper heating or lighting and many had to go out into the garden to the toilet. We lived in a big house behind a high wall and big wooden gates.

When things got too bad Sister sometimes opened the gates and let some people in to see how we lived. When I was about six I was once invited across the road to a cottage for tea. They had three monkeys in a cage by the table; they stretched their arms out and took the food off my plate. I jumped up and ran out and had to ring the gardener’s bell to be let back home. I was very frightened, Mrs Gurney called Sister and she took me to her room, sat me in the big armchair and Miss Clouting, the cook, brought me some warm milk.   Sister told me she went to see Mrs Smith and I wouldn’t have to go there anymore.

The only times we had to be quiet was for meal times or chapel. In the chapel we had a long narrow carpet to kneel on. We would pick bits off it and roll them into balls to play with when we got bored. I never knew how my clean clothes got into my basket under my bed and the dirty ones went but they did about twice a week in the winter and every day in the summer. You see in summer we spent all day outside getting as dirty as we could, even at school we got dirty. I often leaned on the rails watching the horses and on market days the cows and sheep going along the road. There was a farm across the road from the school. He had chickens and geese. If we asked him nicely we could go and pick his daisies, they were longer than ours and we could make them into daisy chains. Sometimes he asked an older girl if someone would like to collect some of the apples and pears. The ones that had fallen to the ground didn’t taste very nice but I think we had them made into pies.

Christmas time was good. We were each given sixpence to buy Christmas presents and were taken to Lewis’s in Leeds at a time when the store was not generally open, to make our choices. I always bought my sister a pencil, a rubber and a notebook and a card for each member of staff. On Christmas Day we all went to church in the morning, then home for Christmas dinner, pudding, and nut and fruit juice to drink, and then into the big hall where we normally went on rainy days but now decorated with a big Christmas tree. The sisters came in all dressed up with Father Christmas carrying a big sack. Everyone had a present from the bag and one off the tree. Then all the sisters joined in the games. Then the carol singing – all the children had tinsel crowns and the older children had candles. Then we went back to the refectory for tea with Christmas cake. When we got to bed Matron Terry read us a Christmas story.

We were not always goody-goodies – like all children we were naughty and watching 25 children in a huge house must have been difficult. We often had fights and if they got bad we were separated and made to sit outside Sister’s room holding hands until Sister said we could go up. We often hurt each other; my sister had very bad eyesight. She took off her glasses to wash her face and once when she said the shoes that I was cleaning were not shiny enough I sat on them and broke them; I was aged seven. Then I stood at the door shouting at her. She slammed the door on my hand and took the top of my finger off. I went to Sister who poured Iodine on it and made me sit outside her room until it stopped bleeding.

Sometimes we were called into the small wooded area in the garden where we had rope swings on the trees. Mrs Rees told us there was treasure buried there, so we got sticks and searched for it. Sometimes we sneaked in there when we were not supposed to. If the gardener caught us we had to help him weed the garden. Always when we were naughty we were punished. We didn’t like washing our faces twice or watching the others play and not been allowed to play ourselves.

On saint’s days we went to St Saviour’s Church about a mile away. We would walk there and back. Sometimes the local vicar came to our chapel for a service or to baptise new children. If any of us were ill he came to see us in the infirmary. The infirmary faced the railway and the sister’s always let the train drivers know if we were ill. They played a tune for us on their whistles and waved to us as they went by. I seemed to spend a lot of time in the infirmary. There we had white sheets and nighties. One day when I was seven another doctor came to give me a vaccination. He pulled put a long needle and told me he was going to put it into my arm and out the other side. I cried; Matron Terry held my arm and then laid me down with a teddy to sleep.

We never knew what a mum and dad were like and although we had the material things we needed we never had any love but we were happy. On our birthdays Sister stood on the platform and wished the birthday girl happy birthday and the birthday girl went up and stood beside her while everyone clapped. Sometimes parents came. When it was Daphne’s birthday, in about 1938, her mam came and gave her candles and matches, a silly thing to do. That night after lights out she gave us the candles in bed and lit them. Then we heard someone coming upstairs, so we blew the candles out but there was a bright fire light in the dormitory. We were frightened and thought someone had set the bed alight. Audrey, a helper, came running in and shut the window. A big factory on the other side of the railway was on fire and smoke was coming in through the window.

One day in 1939 someone had phoned Sister and she took us out into the garden. Then we heard it, it was an air ship coming over very low. The people inside waved to us as they went by. Then it circled round and went by again. Being a large group of children we had the advantage of attracting things like this. In the winter, as we were in a valley the snow often came higher than the windows, so we couldn’t go to school until the gardener and the older girls and staff dug us out. There was no central heating in the individual classrooms at school. There was a coal boiler though that warmed the big room and the milk. The school was at the top of the hill. The playground sloped down and the boys made long slides in the snow from top to bottom. There were railings and then a drop into the field so young the young children went into the field to play because it was so slippery. [It obviously was St Hilda’s School]

Nearly all the children had a parent to visit them and take them out but the twins (Averill and Merle) had no one, so once a year Sister took them out for the day.


Averill and Merle too returned for a nostalgic visit to the Home and there was article in the Yorkshire Evening Post in the 1990s

orphanage pic part

After an absence of almost 50 years, twin sisters, Merle Harding and Averill Thomas, recently visited the Leeds orphanage where they had spent the first years of their lives. The sisters whose maiden name was Williams were evacuated from St Saviour’s orphanage at age six in 1940 and write: The present owners of the Home which of course is no longer used for that purpose are: T.H. Fielding and sons, they kindly allowed us to visit their premises and in fact Mr. Don Fielding and his wife with typical Yorkshire generosity spared us over two hours of their time to take us round their big old house.

We had a wonderful day down memory Lane with a trip which began with us going to St Hilda’s Church where Father Nunn showed us round – much of it still unchanged since we were children. We saw the site of the recently demolished St Hilda’s School and recalled the names of two of the teachers: Miss Powell and Mrs Duckworth and just a few of the children who attended the school back in 1939 came to mind: Mavis Hill, Noel Jarrett and a little blond girl with curls called Molly, who lived near the school.

The area around St Saviour’s Home has changed dramatically with new roads and an industrial estate being built but we understand the home itself had preservation order on it and is basically the same as we saw it in 1940 apart from the gardens [preservation order or not it’s gone now and a window making factory on the site]. Some of the paintwork in the rooms is still recognisable despite the premises being used by the Home Guard during the war and we even went into the chapel and saw the original pews and the organ. [When in the ownership of the Fielding family they always strived to keep the chapel sacred].

When we lived there with some 16 to 20 girls Miss Mary Rudge (pictured) was in charge she was always known as Sister Rudge, The daughter of a general in the Indian Army she was a god daughter of. Gordon of Khartoum, a great family friend and devoted her life to helping girls who had no families. She had a close connection with a religious order based in St Leonard’s on sea in Sussex and we visited her there shortly after the war. She died in the summer of 1960 with only two elderly ladies and my sister and I at her funeral, a lonely and sad passing for a great lady.

We also remembered on our visit to Knostrop, Mr Gurney and his daughter Marry who lived in the lodge, now also demolished, also Mr and Mrs Armitage who also lived the grounds too and understand Mr. Armitage he is now aged 90 and living in Wetherby.

So many memories were evoked by our return and we wondered how many of the children we knew at the orphanage and at St Hilda’s are still alive. In those days we wore shorts like boys and had our hair cut like boys too.

Is there anyone who can recall these memories, we would love to hear from them. We moved to Wales in 1940 and this was our first visit back.

(At the time of writing the twin sisters are still living in Wales)

st saviours composit pic


Back to Doris’s story

Sister sometimes went to visit someone in Brighten and then it seemed she was gone a long time Matron Terry was in charge when Sister was away, she didn’t seem to be quite in command as Sister was and we seemed to get away with more tricks. [I like the sound of Sister!]

When we got back from holiday one year, I’d be about eight, Sister seemed to be telling us about a man called Hitler, but we didn’t understand. That year at Christmas we went to church and we had to pray for the people Hitler had hurt and it seemed terrible. In assembly at school the headmaster said prayers for all these people. Lots of aeroplanes were going over all night and day and lots more goods trains going both ways.

I was now the next in line to be a carer. Just after Christmas a new baby arrived, it was early in 1939. She could just walk. Her name was Elizabeth. Sister called me into her room and said that even though I was still in the young dormitory I was old enough to be a carer. My carer, Hazel, was holding this little girl, she had big blue eyes just like my doll. Sister said Hazel would help with her too as I mustn’t carry her. We took her down to the play-room; it was too cold to play outside. She liked crawling around on the floor and all she could say was ‘Mummy’. We soon taught her to play she liked the rocking horse. When I had to feed her it was before my dinner was ready. She spit it out so Sister gave me warm milk for her in a cup and soup on a spoon. She wet her knickers sometimes. As Hazel had left school now she looked after her while I was at school; I had to make her bed while Hazel stood on the other side helping. I had to wash her and clean her teeth in the mornings and of course get her potty trained. By the time summer came she was cleaning her teeth and making her own bed, so I played with her more. I took her into the lobby on Saturdays and let her help clean the shoes and showed her how to slide down the banisters when the sisters weren’t looking; how to pick up stones in the yard and make spider houses – no spiders ever went in! She wanted to eat earth, I told hazel and she told me to keep putting toys in her hands so she couldn’t pick up earth, or to play ball with her. Then it was holiday time again, off we went to Whitby. Hazel stayed by Elizabeth and me. Elizabeth wanted to look out of the window. She had seen horses and cows before but sheep were new, she thought they were dogs. When we went up to Sleights she was put into old clothes so she could eat bilberries and pay with the sheep. She soon started making their noises, she sounded so funny.

[What a beautiful relationship must have developed between the carers: Hazel-Doris-Elizabeth. I wonder if they ever met up later in life?]

At the end of August we came back from holiday and went to church. On the way home we passed the refectory window to get to the door. Sister was leaning out of the window; she told us the war had started and to hurry into the refectory as soon as we had taken off our coats. Then she said we must get the benches out from the tables and sit in a circle round her, as she wanted to talk to us. She said we were at war with Germany and showed us on the map where Hitler had invaded. She said she did not know what was going to happen but that she would tell us everything we needed to know. A policeman came to speak to us in the afternoon; he told us what was good and what was bad. He said he had spoken to Sister and it was decided that Sister’s hall downstairs was the safest place from bombs, so if there was an air raid we were to go in there until the all clear. We didn’t quite understand but he said someone would take us there and bring us back. My father arrived but he was helping saw up wood to go on the windows. The older girls helped take food and blankets to Sister’s hall. We had all gone to bed and there was still noise from downstairs when we went to sleep.

Quite suddenly in the middle of the night, Sister, Matron Terry, and Audrey came in the dormitory and told us to get dressed. We all went downstairs; it was still dark all the others were there. We sat on pillows with blankets around us. Miss Rees had gone outside with father to see what was happening. Then quite suddenly this noise started outside. I was nursing Elizabeth and we were all crying – it was so loud. Sister said that’s the All Clear, now we can go back to bed. The next day we stayed in bed late.

While I was at the home Sister always told people that I was kept with the younger children because I was a delicate child and she often asked me if I was happy with the younger ones. I said I was happy.

This is the end of Doris’s life at the Home in Knostrop. Her next entry, not for this account, concerns her life back in London with her father and the cook from the Home who became her stepmother. Unfortunately she speaks of beatings for not being able to keep up to their requirements. All in all I find it hard to read this account with a dry eye.

Fielding’s no longer own the site of St Saviour’s Home. There is now a window producing company on the site. All the original buildings are gone except the pointed roof building which was Mr Armitage’s house, the square building behind which I’m told was the old school room and some of the boundary wall. While Messer’s Fielding were in charge of the site they always kept the chapel sacred and the bell which used to summon the girls to their various duties in carefully maintained in their own home. Sadly we have lost Doris but I have recently been in contact with Rose and the twins Merle and Averill and I am happy to report that at the time of writing they are still very much with us and in spite of a strange start to life they have all had satisfying careers and raised their own fine families.

Thank you ladies for sharing your memories with us.

St aviour's Home map



Where Did All Our Tuskey Go?

January 1, 2016

Where has All Our Tuskey Gone?

When we were young and had no care
Tuskey (rhubarb) sticks grew everywhere,
One has to wonder where they’ve gone?
Under concrete, every one!

In an earlier tale Sid Simpson relates our typical ramble from East End Park to Temple Newsam: When we were young boys a few of my schoolmates and I would meet up and go on an adventure to Temple Newsam. We were all pupils of Victoria School, York Road and about ten or eleven years old at the time, money was always scarce for us which meant to get to Temple Newsam we always had to walk. The easiest way to Temple Newsam was either down Black Road, which was the longest way, or down Red Road which was the shortest way. Four or five of us would meet up and set off on our way. Black Road and Red Road formed a triangle near to East Leeds Cricket Club. In the triangle was a field of wild rhubarb (tuskey) we would nearly always stop at this field to have our sweet. The tuskey grew so tall and the leaves were so huge we could sit underneath and keep dry if it rained. Out would come the sugar – for those who had been able to pinch some from home – and we would eat our fill. We avoided the thickest stalks as they were the


.rhubarb sheds
Molly & Peter Smith working in the rhubarb sheds in wartime.

When we rambled the area in the 1940/50s tuskey seemed to grow out of every nick and cranny all the way from Cross Green Lane eastwards to Temple Newsam, Knostrop, Skelton Grange, Thorpe Stapleton, Newsam Green and then on to Morley and Wakefield which formed the golden triangle of rhubarb growing. Rhubarb flourished it was said because the soil in our area liked the soot which fell from industrial Hunslet. So Rhubarb growing flourished due to the legacy of the previous phase in the history of the use of the land use which in our case was coal mining. The land itself is timeless but the nature of its use changes through the years and each phase leaves its fingerprint on the next hence soot produced from the industry that used the coal in the mining phase helped to grow the rhubarb in the next phase – the market garden phase. Academics call this process ’Synthesis’.
Taking an historical snap shot of area eastward to Thorpe Stapleton the earliest settlement recorded is probably the exposure of a Viking long house near Skelton Grange. This places it earlier than the Norman Conquest and this is substantiated by the Danish name ‘Thorpe’ –Thorpe Stapleton, Knowsthorpe etc. After ‘The Conquest’ William gave large tracts of land south of Leeds to his loyal military commander, Ilbert de-Lacy, who had successfully engineered the crossing of the swollen River Aire for William’s army on its way to York.
In the 13th/14/ century large areas of land were the property of ‘The Lords of the Manors’ and the so called ‘breadbaskets’ of Leeds and district were at Woodhouse in the north and the fertile area of Knostrop in the lower Aire Valley in the south. The Lord of the Manor of Leeds was at great pains to stop Knostrop falling into the hands of The Abbott of Kirkstall who was mopping up fertile land wherever he could. At Knostrop the fields were worked by ‘villeins’ no not ‘ villians’ they’re the ones the police are after. Villiens in this context were known as ‘bondsmen’ not slaves and yet not free men, they were the bottom of the pile in the social order, they were obligated to serve The Lord of The Manor and cultivate his land without any payment. For this they were allowed to live in a small cottage on the master’s land and have use of a small strip of land to grow their own food. They had to ask the lord’s permission for their son to become a monk or for their daughter to marry. In addition they had to supply 4 hens and 40 eggs to the lord at Christmas for his table. (Burt & Grady The Illustrated History of Leeds, 1994)
The Black Death Plague which devastated Britain in the 14th century was a two edged sword, it killed 40% of the labouring population but labour became a scarce commodity so those that were left were able to negotiate better terms for themselves and heralded the end of the ‘bondsman’ era. The legacy of this age was that it left us with the great estates and grand houses at Thorpe Stapleton (12thcentury), Swillington Hall and later the Elizabethan/Jacobean Temple Newsam Estate, still available for our 21at century leisure.
The next phase to dominate our land area was the winning of coal to service the industrial revolution. Coal mining was recorded in Knostrop as early as the 16th century but it really got underway with the sinking of Waterloo Pit – the first sod of which was turned on the eve of the battle of Waterloo in 1815. By 1825 there were seven pits a complex of wagon ways and an iron works in the area. A pit village, aptly named ‘Waterlooville’ built by Fenton to service his collieries and had two streets a square and a school between the river and the canal near Thorpe Stapleton is now completely disappeared. (Click to enlarge)

pit map correct size

I have constructed a map of all the named pits in the area from a variety of sources. It has to be pointed out that this map shows the existence of coal shafts across the extent of the mining years, and not all in production at any one time. Some of the land owners who made vast profits from allowing be coal to be mined under their land became too greedy and in the case of Swillington and Methley Halls they allowed coal to be taken from directly below their grand houses and the subsequent subsidence resulted in the Halls themselves having to be demolished. The legacy we have from the coalmining era is the danger of old shafts opening up the odd bit of railway line the red shale from Dam Pit, located between the two plantations at Knostrop which furnished us with the red shale for Halton Moor Road (red Road) and the narrow red road which ran from Black Road past the end of Snake Lane, and down to Knostrop. Of course and the pit hills now landscaped at East End Park which were great for our sledging forays.
So to the market Garden phase the source of our lovely ‘tuskey’ The land left after the mining phase was not the uncluttered fertile fields of earlier and more suited to small farms and particularly market garden enterprises we remember Allinson’s, Austin’s, Craven’s, Tillotson’s, Horner’s, Bickerdike’s, and Grumwell’s etc. Cabbages, cauliflower, Swedes and turnips were the staple diet of these small holding and of course rhubarb (tuskey) it grew wild in the fields where it was allowed to ‘bolt’ for a couple of years and then split and taken into low dark forcing sheds where it shot up to provide the lovely pink stalks for market. The legacy from this era is the odd tuskey root lurking in some forgotten corner or those taken and cultivated in private gardens.
So, moving to the 21st century. The army camps erected in the 1940s to house Italian Prisoners of war and our soldiers to guards them have gone and finally the open cast coal mining that followed the deep mines and blighted the area for most of our lives have also finally been exhaust but in their case they have left us a favourable legacy in the form of St Aiden’s Country Park – a huge pleasant area for water fowl and wild life and thankfully for us to roam. I thoroughly recommend St Aiden’s for a pleasant Sunday morning stroll either just a mile around the lake or a longer three miler around the perimeter But generally I see this as ‘the concrete age’. Personally I’m not a great fan of concrete, concrete production accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions and flattens everything in its path. I suppose it’s a necessary evil. The Cross Green Industrial Estate enveloped all of Knostrop, which has no inhabitants now. Skelton Grange Power Station Built in the 1950s has already been and gone.
To replace our lovely old primary schools: St Hilda’s Ellerby Lane and Victoria etc, a new school was built in the late fifties/early sixties first called, Cross Green School but later morphed into ‘Copperfield’s School’ with the slogan ‘Roots to Grow Wings to Fly’. It has already flown away leaving as its legacy a few Tarmac patches where the tennis courts used to be and a habitat for travellers’ horses. Black Road, our gateway to Temple Newsam is now an urban motorway with factories all the way down, engulphing Austin’s farm where we turned left for ‘Temp’. A huge incinerator is being constructed at the time of writing and there is a 300 foot plus wind generator to service the sewage works. Don’t look at this picture of today’s Black Road if you want to keep our great old Black Road in your mind’s eye. But hey! East Leeds Cricket Club stills stands proudly at the top!
Pity this generation of kids and those who follow on who will never have the pleasure of walking down Black Road to Temp and to feed on wild tuskey. They don’t know what they’ve missed

black road

Black Road today


Street Names

October 1, 2015

This year’s East Leeds Old Codgers Reunion will be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane, Leeds on Tuesday the 3rd of November 2015 at noon onwards for a couple of hours. All welcome.


Eric Sanderson gives us something interesting to think about

Wandering the highways and byways in the area of our youth, familiarity with street names automatically became a subliminal knowledge with names tripping from the tongue, usually without thinking much about them.

But street names can be a rich source of interest and a significant clue to the long forgotten history of an area , such that knowing a little about the evolution of the district in which you live, adds to the feeling of belonging to which so many “East Enders” still obviously attach some importance.

Some are self evidently named after an event or place which may have no immediate connection with the area, such as the Glencoe’s & the Pretoria’s, but have a wider, familiar historical significance & remind us of those events of long ago.

Others may be named after people or places, an event or even an occupation which play or played a large part in the community, such as the St Hilda’s ,East Park Parade/View, the Victoria’s & the Clark’s etc

Yet others simply describe where they’re leading to (or from), such as Pontefract Lane, York Road, East Street & so on.

But perhaps the more interesting ones are those which are a puzzle as to how they came to acquire their soubriquet & here are a few, from the East Leeds area which leave me mystified, but there may well be explanations that others have the answer to.

So let’s start with a very familiar one, Snake Lane. It certainly wasn’t because it twists and turns, snaking its way from Cross Green Lane to the red shale path connecting Knostrop and Black Rd.

In fact it was arrow straight between these two points. Could it, at some time in the past been a haven for Grass Snakes? On the other hand, has it acquired its name from the human variety which frequented the area, in much the same way as Lover’s Lane, Gypsy Lane etc.

Cross Green Lane itself suggests a lane or path crossing an ancient village green which may have existed long before it became a well built up area.

Easy Rd? Running roughly parallel to Cross Green Lane, could that have acquired its name simply as an easier & quicker connection between East St & Pontefract Lane than the rutted cart track that Cross Green Lane may have been?.

Take the Copperfields. It seems to describe an activity, similar to the Coalfields or the Goldfields, but very unlikely to have taken place in the vicinity. The name could have been given due to some distant connection with the world’s largest copper mines in Southern Africa.

The Charltons, where I used to live ‘til the late 50’s are unlikely to have been named after either Bobby or Jack, or even Charlton Heston but is a name not unfamiliar in other parts of the country, even London. It’s mentioned in the Doomsday Book & is derived from an old English word meaning farmstead of freemen or peasants. I hardly think the East Leeds Charltons of today could be remotely regarded as farmsteads, except in the context of clandestine cultivation of illegal substances.

Dial Street – could that possibly, at one time have contained “dial” or clock, similar to the one that used to exist at Halton Dial, & which was a significant landmark in the area.

Long Causeway – not the only one in Leeds but an unusual name because while it was no longer than many a modern thoroughfare it somehow suggests it was some ancient, possibly paved route connecting the rural hamlet of Knostrop towards the centre of a growing Leeds city, if so it may have indeed been a ‘long causeway’. The Long Causeway at Adel was said to be the remnants of an old Roman highway so there could be some traction there.  


Such as the Dawlish’s & Fewstons were fairly obviously named after well known places, as were many others whilst the well known Black & Red Roads were the given local names  for Pontefract Lane & Halton Moor Road, simply to differentiate their road surfaces but were never, in my recollection, known by other than their colloquially given names  

East Leeds certainly isn’t unique in its interesting street names and of course there’s hundreds of other, long established names, both in the area & elsewhere. Many of them don’t however appear to have much historical significance or connection, but who knows?

There’s sure to be many interesting examples & explanations from the area, those mentioned are but a few but hopefully, helps explain how an area may be somewhat defined  & characterised by some of the street names 

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.

12-08-2015 21;04;38

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