Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill’

I Fear Our Old East Leeds May be Unloved Today

July 1, 2018

Followed by a poem: A True Tyke by Eddie Blackwell

When I have a nostalgic wander around the old area (Cross Green, Richmond Hill and East End Park), that bit of terra firma that we old East Leedsers look back upon with great affection, I cannot help but think that the lifeblood has been drawn out of the area. These streets used to be alive with excited children on their way to and from school, usually tarrying to indulge in their children’s games. Now it would seem mams take they children to school, mostly in cars if they have them. I do not image the present incumbents will bother to take a trophy such as a street name plate, or as I have, secured a brick from the old demolished St Hilda’s School, to regale my back garden.

I do not blame the present custodians for the demise of the area, many do not have the East Leeds heritage and although the housing stock has been improved since our day and there are many satellite dishes adorning the walls, they have lost almost all their amenities. Motor cars or busses whisk them out of the area for shopping and pleasure whereas we, more or less a self contained society, lived cheek by jowl with each other and had most things at hand without having to leave the area. This resulted in the development of a good community spirit and a great street corner society. I do not traverse the area after dark but I cannot imagine, after taking in the metal grids on the doors and the large concrete semi-circular spheres blocking off our once friendly streets against ‘joy riders’, that they enjoy good natured banter under the street lamps.

They do not have any pubs, we had twelve or thirteen. They don’t have any cinemas; we had five within walking distance. Primary Schools: We had ten now they just have a new Richmond Hill School, A new All Saints School and a jumble of Porta Cabins.

Perhaps for those who wish to worship we have seen the biggest amenity loss of all. Here is a list of churches and chapels written down by an old Richmond Hill resident in the 1950s: Mount St Mary’s R.C. Church, St Saviours C of E Church, Richmond Hill Wesleyan Methodists Chapel, Bourne Chapel Primitive Methodists, All Saints Church of England, York Road Baptists, St Hilda’s Church of England, Bethel Mission Friends Adults, and Temple View Mission. Zion Clark Lane Chapel. Usually these institutions had Sunday morning service, Sunday school and sometimes even-song so we were kept busy on Sundays and pretty much in touch with community. They all had social attachments: clubs, Scouts, Guides, Boys Brigade, Parties, Jumble sales, outings, camps etc.
Today, St Hilda’s and St Savours survive with tiny congregations, Bourne Chapel, I think is the surviving chapel and Mount St Mary’s has removed to St Therese’s.
Shopping: Dial Street had as many shops in the 1950s as the whole area has today.

Perhaps the biggest difference of all between that which we had and that which is lost today is ADVENTURE! They can’t go for adventures down black Road – It’s a motorway, Red road it’s a grey footpath, Nozzy with its pond it’s an industrial estate. They can’t jump on the back of the paddy train for a ride home or down the navvy it’s all fenced in. They can’t even get chucked out of the Princess by Big Ernie or The Easy Road Bug Hutch by Abe, the local cinemas don’t exist anymore.
What they CAN do, that we could not, is sit inside on a sunny day with a lap top, a mobile phone, i pod, x-box, play station or tablet and while away the hours indoors.
Weren’t we the lucky ones?


And now a poem by Eddie Blackwell
.A True Tyke.
When I was a young lad there were twelve of us in our family
Mam and Dad nine older sisters and me I was the youngest,
We lived in a hole in the Cemetery covered with asbestos sheets,
Dad was a grave digger so we lived on the job so to speak,
We were that poor that the Church Mice used to leave scraps for us to eat,
And in return we used to chase away the cats to keep them safe,
Well my big sister always said one good turn deserves another,
And she should know she works outside the Town Hall but she says,
Business is slow yet one day she earned £2 and that’s a lot of pennies,
Dad beats us all to sleep with his belt when he gets back from the pub,
And we have a big hole in one corner covered with a wooden pallet,
It acts as a drain when it rains but after a while it starts to smell,
Then Dad fills it in and digs a fresh hole in another corner,
He says we may have to move shortly because the floors a bit muddy,
He’s digging another hole for us to live in at the other side of the cemetery,
They’ll be new neighbours but their always very quiet and reserved,
My younger sisters work in’t Mill 18 hours a day seven days a week,
The pays not good but they say it’s better than’t Town Hall steps,
Well I’m in my late 70’s now and I’ve lived through WW 2 and the 60’s and the 70’s,
It’s been a hard life full of drama and tragedies scrimping and scraping,
I’ve just had a walk through the City Centre it’s changed a lot,
People begging and complaining about living in shop doors,
They don’t know their born these days living in a shop doorway,
It’s like Buckingham Palace they just don’t know when their well off,
Well T.T.F.N. keep smiling be happy and don’t let the bugs bite,
If they do bite ‘m back they go down well with salt and pepper.


The Infamous ‘Navvy’

January 1, 2018

The infamous navvy
The three areas that formed our ‘Old East Leeds’ (and still do) are: Cross Green, Richmond Hill and East End Park. These three areas are neatly divided into three by two great gashes of railway cuttings. To the north dividing East End Park from the other two is the main Leeds/Selby railway line.

‘click’ on pictures to enlarge.

Built originally as long ago as the 1840s it was so deep that it was firstly built into a tunnel – one of the first tunnels to admit passenger traffic. Later it was opened up to an eighty foot plus cutting with six bridges of varying types. When you look over the retaining walls you see a 60 degree slope followed by a fifty foot vertical drop, with express trains shooting along the bottom. This was far too dangerous for even our notorious local nutters to contemplate a descent. But it did not deter them racing across the bridge parapets on the way to the Princess Cinema, one on one parapet at one side of the road and another on the parapet at the other side, when a fall would have surely meant certain death. The thought of it makes you cringe. Sensibly they have now put pointed top stones on the wall to render this practice impracticable.
I have been told, although I cannot authenticate this, that a guy being pursued thought vaulting over the bridge wall – thinking it was just a common or garden wall – would facilitate his escape. Some say his fall was fatal others that he only broke his legs and his back (only!)

The other cutting built in 1899, which spurred off the main line at Neville Hill and ran on between the Glencoe’s and the Fewston’s on one side and the Copperfield’s, Cross Green’s and St Hilda’s on the other side, on to Hunslet Goods Yard and then over the hills and far away to join the main London line. This cutting was colloquially and affectionately known as ‘The Navvy’. The Navvy at about fifty feet deep was still dangerous but not as deadly as the Selby line cutting, you would be maimed rather than killed should you fall all the way down unless you fell from a bridge, then you would be surely killed. But like all dangerous places it attracted us lads like a magnet and provided an adventure playground for us. It had five bridges with brick parapets and one – the one that allowed the paddy train to traverse across The Navvy to disgorge its coal at the coal staithe in Easy Road – this bridge had metal, horizontal, rail barriers that daredevils including sometimes girls, would dangle over and use as a trapeze. Not unnaturally, this acquired the name ‘The Monkey Bridge’
It became a sort of badge of courage to at least once descend the Navvy and stand on the lines (not many trains came along this cutting). Yes, I have my own virtual badge. The beauty of The Navvy was they were a number of quite easy descents that had developed names, Ginner Rock, The Town Hall Steps if you could get down the first vertical twenty feet in some places you could hurtle down the last part on screed. One descent, a bit more dangerous, was ‘The Devils Drop’ on the Glencoe side of The Navvy. This one meant you had to descend with your back to one wall and your legs to the other side like descending a chimney. Some got into more mischief by pinching the wooden blocks that secured the rails for their bonfires. The Glencoe kids had a game where they set a can on the line and then fished for it from a bridge with a magnet on a long string. Of course there were many cases of broken arms, shoulders and legs; lads would usually tell their mams they had done it in some other way as nobody was allowed to officially play in ‘The Navvy’.
The construction of these two great gashes into East Leeds has long past living memory and all is calm again but can you imagine the disruption to life in the area when they were under constructed, the deep cuttings being dug out by hundreds of navvies (I suppose that’s how our navvy got its name?) and carted away by horse and cart. Where did they all live for those years while the digging was going on and where did all the spoil go? I suppose it’s lucky that with railways no sooner is a cutting completed than they come to a place where the railway needs the spoil to construct an embankment.

The Devil’s Drop

There is a famous tale – which I know to be true – that one daring but foolhardy lad, David Wilson, jumped all the way down The Navvy for a bet – I think it was near to the old Bridgefield Hotel – for a bet, six pence and some comics. He broke his arm and to add to the chagrin it is said that he didn’t get the sixpence or the comics but he got much more, he is remembered as a legend – look I am writing about him here although David is long gone from this world, how much is that worth, to be a legend? If you’re looking down, Dave, congratulations you jumped the navvy, you’re a legend!
The Navvy is still there, old East Leedsers come back to look down and remember their daring doo’s. The ‘Town Hall Steps and Ginner Rock’ are overgrown now; no lads climb down there today. ‘elf and safety have now totally encased the Navvy and the bridge parapets with great pointed metal railings that would probably damage a lad more than the Navvy itself.
But this only emphasises the great freedoms we had in the forties and fifties that are denied to our counterparts today. Now they have only virtual adventures on iPods and Xboxes!

See also March 2014 ‘The Glencoe Railway Children’.

Happy New Year to all our readers.


Whatever Happened to Those Great East Leeds Pub Runs?

June 1, 2015

Whatever Happened to those Great East Leeds Pub Runs? Our parent’s generation is quite rightly labelled ‘The greatest generation’ (closely followed by ours of course). Life was certainly bleak for those who lived through two world wars and a depression, they knew what poverty and real austerity was about. But those who wanted could still get out locally for a couple of pints and a natter with their friends and neighbours at the end of the day, indeed that would have appeared to be the norm. What would our dads and uncles and those guys up the street think if they came back for a day and found no local pubs left in old East Leeds? And I suppose this is true for the rest of the country too.

I was about seven when the war ended and I remember an uncle of mine and a lad newly demobbed set up a garage in Knostrop to repair old cars and motor bikes. There were only old cars no new cars had been produced for private motoring since the outbreak of war in 1939. I haunted that garage taking in the smells of petrol, old leather and motor oil amidst the lovely yellowing windscreens and frantic activity, but religiously around nine it would be tools down they would pack up and jump into any available old banger and retire to The Fish Hut or The Black Dog (the pubs shut at ten but there were no MOTs or the breathalyzer to worry about) and I would think, what a glorious life, I’m going to have some of that when I grow up.

Well our generation did have a few decades around the old East Leeds boozers but not the present incumbents of the area, I’m afraid, for now they are all but gone. The Bridgefield, Black Dog, Waterloo and The Prospect are completely demolished (with nothing as yet put in their place) The Yew Tree, Fisherman’s Hut and Spring Close are closed and boarded up. The iconic ‘Slip’ is a supermarket The Hampton and Shepherd look as though they are being converted into flats or something and The Cross Green is some sort of Chinese restaurant that I have not as yet ever seen to be open. At the time of writing The Cavalier and the Hope Inn stand alone.

Rewind to the 1990s and there were still some great pub runs around the Richmond Hill area to enjoy. You could start at any point of your choice and work your way round until your capacity was filled or time was called. A choice run was to start at The Prospect and make a crawl in a clockwise direction. Let me take you with me on the Richmond Hill pub crawl

The Prospect: it was located at the highest point in Richmond Hill and the starting point for the annual Whit Walk. Like most pubs of the day it had a tap room where the old kids played their dominos and a ‘snug’ for the ladies to sup their stout. It was the ‘singing room’ that drew us in our youth. To start with the singing room was at the front and quite small for the artists they got onto the tiny stage, when Ronnie Dukes and Ricky Lee with the stony faced mother in law on the piano was engaged the noise nearly blew the roof off you could hear them in Dial Street. The venue was so popular that the singing room was first extended backward and then a massive extension was built at the back with a Wild West theme – swinging bar doors etc. We would repair to the Prospect after football training and on Sunday dinner time. The Prospect had a Sunday League football team that won The Sunday League Cup in the early sixties beating the well fancied Waterloo Colliery team 4-3. One night a few of us were having a quiet drink in the Prospect singing room and there were two huge parties of lads in there, there must have been about twenty in each party taking up about six tables each. One lot were easily identifiable as they were all decked out in ‘dickie bow’ ties. You could sense they didn’t like each other there had been a few words a bit of jostling and spilt beer, you could sense something was developing and it kicked off just before closing time. All forty lads started fighting, we took to the walls to give ‘em room buffets were flying there was glass and blood everywhere guys were laid out on the floor. My mate, George said, ‘look they are putting ‘em a fresh dicky bow on and sending ‘em out again.’ The room was completely trashed. There were no bouncers on hand to sort this type of thing out; pubs seemed to rely on a strong landlord to keep a lid on it. But this was something else. I think they had to close the singing room down for a bit after that to get it sorted out again. We referred to it as ‘The Battle of the Prospect’.

To return to the pub run the next on the list would be The Hampton

The Hampton I think the Hampton was my favourite pub in my halcyon days Nellie and George Barraclough were mine hosts (earlier the iconic Dolly Dawson – ex Hunslet rugby league player ran a tight ship there). They scrounged a barrel of beer from Hemmingway’s brewery for us when we won the Sunday League football Cup against the well fancied Barnbow in 1963/64. On match days they would fill a couple of tin baths for us to wash in the cellar (one for faces and one for the bums we would say). There was a fish and chip shop next door which could be quite handy. Funny the strange little things you remember the Hampton had frosted glass windows with the name ‘Hampton’ worked in, the frosted part stretched to many feet above the ground but one day I saw ‘Big John’ a local giant looking in for his mate, he was so tall he could look right over the frosted part of the glass.

After the Hampton you turned right into Ellerby lane and paid a visit to the Yew Tree: not really my favourite pub but it was on the run. I remember in the early days they had a team of seemingly old men that played on Snakey top pitch in blue and white vertical stripes The Yew Tree has only recently closed, there was an affair when a shot gun was discharged in there and then they took to opening strange hours and closing quite early in the evening.

We are now at the Spring Close the ‘Spring’ had a good name for the quality of its ale. In the fairly recent past an old mate Eric Wallitor ran the pub and we held our East Leeds Reunions there. I made my first visit to the Spring when I was probably underage to drink but recall there was a piano and on top of the piano and under a glass case was a crumbling piece of parkin and five woodbines and a note of explanation that these items had been sent by a mother to the front in the First World War but returned as her son had been killed before he could receive them.

By now we would have become quite merry and incredibly handsome on the run but as yet no one else would have noticed this transition. The ‘Spring’ has been closed for a few months at the time of writing but they had left exposed to the vandals a beautiful frosted glass window with the name of the pub worked within it. I have been holding my breath every time I passed expecting to see a brick had been thrown through glass that had stood probably since Victorian times. Happily now at least the window is boarded. I hope they protected it in time? A decision has to be made at this point, the run would always finish up in the Fish Hut and The Black Dog but did you have time or capacity to turn left and take in The Cross Green Hotel or right to take in The Cavalier.

The Cross Green was my absolute local as I actually lived in Cross Green Lane and it was always full of folk from our street who would tell my dad if they caught my drinking in there before I was eighteen, although there were tales that my old grandmother frequented that pub and evidentially often over indulged. One night I went for a pint in the Green and I saw an old mate seated across the room with a group of people not known to me. I saw him point to me and say something to his friends upon which they all stared at me. Then he came over to me and said, ’I’ve just told them you’re an unfrocked vicar.’ The Cross Green Pub used to have a good rival football team: The Cross Green Dodgers.

If you had veered to the right after ‘The Spring’ you could have taken in The Cavalier happily still functioning as a pub while I write this. The ‘Cav’ used to be the favourite watering hole for my wife and I in the early days, we loved to go in there on Saturday nights, It was close to Mount St Mary’s Church and there was a large Irish contingent to keep us entertained by their singing. I remember particularly Des and Barney O’Hearn regularly regaling us with a cheerful song and an old guy who regular brought the house down with his rendition of the Laughing Policeman. There would be a few rebel IRA. songs mixed in but no one seemed to take exception.

So to the final watering holes on our run: The Fisherman’s Hut and The Black Dog. These were the favourites of ‘The Greatest Generation’. By the time you reached these two it was the end of the run, the terminus. All those who had been making the run were crammed into these two pubs particularly The Black Dog, the very last one. You were lucky if you could find even standing room there was no chance of getting seated. As though it was wasn’t likely to be packed already occasionally a singer was engaged in there at the weekend; I remember a popular voice was that of Jonny Joyce. It was difficult to get to the bar at that late hour in The Black Dog there was no disciplined queuing and when last orders were called there was mad panic to get another drink. The place was a tinder box and there were many on short fuses it was sometimes more provident to return to the Fish Hut where there was more chance of being served after ‘last orders’. When it was ‘chucking out’ time the landlord would have a real job trying to clear his pub but if it had all ended good naturedly you would stagger out into the night air and being East Leeds locals your home was always within walking distance. No taxis required and you could sing away to your heart’s content and all seemed right with the world.

The Richmond Hill run misses out several of the great East Leeds pubs which those coming from the East End Park side of the railway would probably favour: The Shepherd and The White Horse were much favoured by the East End Park folk and we should not forget the great Clubs: East Leeds Working Men’s Club The Edmund House Club and East End Park Club these clubs were so good if you managed to get yourself signed in you would probable stay in there all night. Probably the most popular pub in the whole area would be The Slip proper name The New Regent but no one ever called it that. You used the Slip for big nights out when there was a big party of you. You had to ‘fall in with the doors’ to manage to get a couple of tables and put them together. There was waiter service in the concert room and the order of the day was to get a waiter on side early; they would say, ‘always buy him his own’, he’d just take the price of a half and then you would have his attention all night. The best waiter was the magical ‘Harry’, he would come waltzing through the crowded room balancing your round on a tray above his head and he never spilt a drop. Amazingly he would have already calculated the price of your round and anticipated the note you would give him and he already had your correct change ready in his top pocket.

So to return to my original question: what would our dads – those of the greatest generation’ – do if they returned for a day and fancied a night on the ale? Well I suppose they would have to do what the drinkers of today have to do now they have no locals – buy a few cheap cans from the supermarket to get themselves in the mood, then off to the clubs in the centre of Leeds, a taxi home, have their fights in the taxi rank and spend more money on the night than the old guys would earn in a week and be prepared to be going out at a time they’d expect to be rolling home. Somehow I don’t think that would appeal to them. It certainly doesn’t appeal to me! east leedd pubsClick on picture to enlarge

More Maud

October 31, 2008

blog-more-maudI promised more Maud – here she is. is she a star or is she a star? 

More Maud

                                       (Is she a star or is she a star?)

We all worked. We had to do. We didn’t get summat for nowt then you know. I were thirteen when I left school – an I’m talking about work. Just listen to this. It were World War One, t’others had got wed and there were only one left and it were [me] Maudie and young ‘uns were too young. So she had to go in shop with her mother, fish and chip frying. And in those days you know, you didn’t get it filleted, you had to cut it, carve it and cut it again. Oh, it were hard work yer know!  Then all of a sudden we couldn’t get any dripping, so me mother had to shut up. So I had to go out to work then, I went to work at match mill.   In them days they always filled the boxes of matches up. They don’t now you know; you pay five pence for a box and its half empty. True!

Then at sixteen or seventeen I started running around with lads, you know and it were hard working and I had to go back and work in the shop at night but I got one night a week off, got one night only and it were Wednesday and did I make good dos of that Wednesday? I came in when I were ready. Me and my pal, we got two postmen and we never told them what we did for a living. One said summat to me one day and I said I worked at Burtons. And she said same, because we didn’t want them to know you see. And they were postmen both of ‘em. Weell, every Good Friday, on my life, did that kit ‘o’ fish get lost. So I had to go lookin’ for it. So, me mother had give me a kit bag and I had to get on bus and get to Marsh Lane Station to get fish, see. When I gets to Marsh lane Station they said it wasn’t there, it’s at other station you know. So, up to other station I go. And when I gets there, there’s this big kit ‘o’ fish you know. Well, I couldn’t carry that. So this man that was on says, ‘I’ll tell you what to do love,’ he says, ‘I‘ll cut so much out of the barrel and you can get back to your mother with that and your mother can be cooking it while your father comes for some more.’ So, Maudie’s getting these big haddock out and you know and a GPO man comes in, driving one of those little things with all the parcels on. Well I sees it’s me chap. Oohh! I didn’t know where to put myself. I hid myself behind ‘o’ piece ‘o’ haddock but that wouldn’t do, neither. Oh, I thought to myself, he hasn’t seen me. So off I goes and then comes back and collects some more. Saturday night in shop, in shop with mother you know, telling tale of me life as usual, well she were awful for talking, that young Maudie – I’ve grown a bit quieter of lately. I’m frizzling away like, turns round, both chaps were in.  ‘e says, ‘This is a funny place to work,’ he says, ‘I though you said you worked at Burtons!’  That were one romance, oooh!    

            Then another time I missed the last bus home. I only had one night a week out and I came home when I was ready you see and it were awful for none of the others ever did. They were all prim and proper do you see and I were the black sheep of the family just because I liked a jig. And I missed all the buses, and I’m in York Road and at that time you could come home late, it didn’t matter nobody mugged you. You could come up Richmond Hill it wouldn’t matter would it? Well, I were right tired and a 32 seater came and stopped again the Hope Inn you know and ‘e says, ‘Do you want a lift up Richmond Hill?’  And I say, ‘Yes.’ So, I sat in bus, it were a 32 seater and he brought me right to Ellerby Lane stop. Now wasn’t that good of him? But then you know, they didn’t do no mugging then, did they? That’s a new name, that mugging, int it?