Posts Tagged ‘St Hilda’s School’

The Night they Bombed our old Richmond Hill School Down

February 1, 2019

THE NIGHT THEY BOMBED OLD RICHMOND HILL SCHOOL DOWN

 

 

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 TO THE EDITOR (from East Leeds)

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
Reply
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
Reply
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
Reply
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
Reply
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

Reply
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

Reply
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.
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JEAN’S TALE

November 1, 2017

Just a reminder before Jean’s Tale that The East Leeds Old Codger’s Reunion for 2017is to be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane Leeds 9 on Tuesday 7th November from around noon onward all welcome.
St Hilda’s School Cross Green Lane, Leeds, was a grand little school in the 1940s/50s. Unless you were of the elite and passed your eleven plus and off to high school you stayed at the same school with those same class mates all the way from five years old until you left school at fifteen. In those ten years we got to know each other pretty well and had a great affinity with each other. Of course we didn’t always appreciate it at the time. So imagine what a treat it is to meet up with old class mates, hale and hearty, from that old school seventy five years after the day we all started school together. I recently had that pleasure when I bumped into a couple of old mates from that class; the twins; Joyce and Jean (nee Burrows). Jean has a tale to entertain you with from that old school
JEAN’S TALE.

I was eight years old when attended St Hilda’s Church of England School. It was December 1945 and Mrs Duckworth was our teacher in class 2b, and it was the day of our school Christmas party, I still remember the day well. My twin sister, Joyce, and I shared an attic bedroom and as soon as I awoke that morning remembered it was the Christmas party. It was so cold in the attic that morning that the window was covered in ice. I crawled out of bed and felt the shock of my feet on the cold attic floor. Quickly I pulled the large hand pricked rug from the bed onto the floor and sank my toes into the warmth.

Mam had made the rug last winter on a large frame in front of the living room fire. Within the rug could make out the vestiges of the red material from our lovely red coats which had too been made by Mam, this time on her treadle sewing machine. How Joyce and I loved those coats, but alas they were now too small for us, at least now, along with some of our other old clothes they were having an afterlife here in the rug.

I walked over to the large mahogany washstand beneath the window and scraped away the ice from the pink and blue patterned jug, and poured water into the bowl. When my ablutions were completed and I had fully dressed in my school clothes I pulled Joyce out of bed too, reminding her it was the day of the school Christmas party. Downstairs Dad had lit the fire but it had barely caught hold yet and was throwing smoke into the living room. I remembered we were awaiting the chimney sweep and hoped he would arrive to do his job while we were away at school. Mam was stirring the porridge in the kitchen and, Pauline, my other sister, was busy setting the table Mam had washed our socks and gloves for school so I checked the coal oven which was alongside the fireplace to make sure they were dry. Joyce came thundering down from the attic and we all sat down for breakfast. Mam poured the porridge into the bowls and in no time at all we had polished it all off.

The morning lessons dragged on, nobody seemed to want to work, even our teacher, Mrs Duckworth, seemed to lack enthusiasm. At twelve noon Joyce and I rushed home for dinner. Mam had just cooked us egg and chips as she knew soon we would be starting the Christmas party. The parents had all donated various types of delicious party foods for their children to take to school. Mam had prepared jelly, custard and iced buns for us to take.

At 1.00 p.m. the kids trooped into the classroom but we were to do little work before the big event. Eventually we were told to make our way into the big hall where we all sat on mats laid out in rows on the floor, the sandwiches, buns, cakes and various fancies were brought round on large trays. Everyone was allowed a choice and when it was my turn I greedily chose a Swiss roll from the centre of the tray, which I had decided to take home and share with my family. I put the Swiss roll on my lap and was busy talking to my sister and our friends when all of a sudden the Swiss roll was grabbed from my lap by a group of boys who started breaking it into pieces and throwing it about the hall. Pieces were going everywhere, children were screaming and teachers were all over the place trying to sort out the chaos. Eventually when, everything had calmed down Mrs. Duckworth dragged me from my position on the floor and took me into her classroom: I was trembling with fear wondering what she was going to do to me. She started shouting at me – demanding that I tell her why I had started throwing the Swiss roll about. I tried to explain what had happened and how I was not to blame but she wouldn’t listen, she called me a liar and pushed me into a corner of the classroom closing the door behind her. She then left the room herself closing the door behind her. I had felt so happy that morning now I felt so miserable and frightened: I could hear all the happy children enjoying themselves and wondered what would happen to me. Time passed and I could hear everyone leaving the hall to go home. Eventually Mrs Duckworth came back into the classroom and told me that when I returned in the morning I was to be severely reprimanded.

The dreaded morning arrived and I dragged myself to school feeling sick with fright. I hid in the cloakroom until the religious study period was over and then crept out to be confronted by adversary; she grabbed me by the jumper and marched me into the hall where she said I must stand until I admitted throwing the Swiss roll.

To cut a long story short I stood in that bloody hall for two and a half days. I was so bored and so cold as each day went by that I finally decided I would admit to the dirty deed but the injustice of the situation still infuriates me, even after seventy years. All through my life I have regretted my decision to actually LIE about the event. It was such a tiny episode but to an eight year old child it felt quite monumental. I realize now it was just a childish prank by the lads, but if anyone remembers who threw that Swiss roll I’d still like to know.
**********************************************
WOW Jean! Anyone know who threw the Swiss roll?
I was at that Christmas party all those years ago I don’t remember the Swiss roll but I remember my mam sent a blancmange in a fancy glass mould and I was worried it might get lost. A lot of water has run under the bridge since then Jean. Sigh!

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

 

 

Smokey’s tale

April 1, 2015

SMOKEY’S TALE

(‘Are Smokey, ‘E wer a great dog’)

Those of us who have had our three score years and ten have seen many changes to society: the demise of back street boozers and there dinner time ‘dommy’ schools, illegal bookies, holiday’s in Blackpool, a pint o’ mixed, falling church attendances and the loss of suburban cinemas. When I think back to Friday dinner times in East Leeds in the 1940s/50s when folk had an hour to get their meal down and be back at work or school inside an hour the fish and chip shops could turn a queue of thirty round in the same time it takes now for a guy to make you a cup of espresso coffee!

But I digress this tale is about the demise of something vital to this tale: mongrel dogs. To own a dog in the 21st century is an expensive hobby, particularly the initial purchase cost, astronomical vet’s fees, insurance and kennel fees etc. So if folk are going to the expense of having a dog they usually go in for the breed of their choice or a designer dog bred from two pedigree lines. This aligned to dogs not being allowed to roam on their own and seek out their own partners has drastically cut the mongrel population. This obviously cuts down pavement fouling and nuisance and is generally a good thing. But you know mongrels are usually great, they are as tough as old boots and don’t normally have in bred diseases and neurotic hang ups. You get bits of all sorts ’Heinz 57 varieties’ they were nick named but diversity gives strength and you hardly ever had to take them to the vets and when you did it was just a coin in the box at the P.D.S.A. You opened your door on a morning and let the dog out and it just got on with the business of being a dog and how they enjoyed it! We had such a dog when I was a lad, I’ve had lovely pedigree dogs all my life but there was never a dog that could match the heart of that little mongrel. As you read this I imagine some may feel we were reckless with old Smokey’s safety but it was a different world then, we folk were products of our time and Smokey was no ordinary dog and I bet he had the best life a dog ever had. So please forgive us.

SMOKEY’S TALE

As Smokey was a dog and couldn’t write very well I’ll have to tell his tale myself. He arrived when I was about six or seven with just his head peeping out of my aunt’s coat and we had him right up to my national service call up. He came the same night as Hunslet feast, so it was double joy for me that day. I recall hitting my head on a lamppost on the way to that feast my mind was so full of that little dog. ‘Can we call him Smokey?’ I asked. Smokey it was and what a dog he turned out to be! The folk across the yard from us got a dog shortly after and called him Smokey too. Smokey must have been the ‘in’ name for dogs that year. It would be about 1945, the war was just about over; there had been a film about a horse called ‘Smokey that year and that was probably why it was such a popular name. It wasn’t a fantastic arrangement though for when you went to the door and called out for Smokey two dogs would appear. A natural compromise seemed to be reached when their dog became known as ‘Black Smokey’. Previously to Smokey’s arrival, I had always shared other people’s dogs. They would be waiting for me when I went out to play, I would throw stones for them and more or less just let them be with me. I was a ‘dog person’ and they knew it. He got off to a bad start, our Smokey. First, he caught the hairless part of his stomach on the hot flat iron, which had been standing in the fireplace and it burnt him badly. Then he contracted: worms, eczema, and distemper. The latter nearly caused his demise before he even got started. We took him to the PDSA on Dewsbury Road where they recommended he be ‘put down’ as he would never be properly right and never make anything of a dog now etc. My Aunt Edie said we would take him home and think about it. I was in tears so was my mate who had come along with us. But nobody had reckoned on the heart of that dog, he was only a little ginger mongrel with a bit of Irish terrier in him – but he had a heart like a lion. He pulled through on his own and I don’t think we ever had to take him to see the vet again in his long life and he turned out to be just about the best dog a lad ever had. Things have moved on a pace since the ‘forties, practices which were commonplace then would be frowned upon today. We lived in the semi-rural area of Knostrop and it was normal for folk to just open their doors and let a dog be about the business of being a dog. Free to roam though it has to be said our Smokey did develop a lot of bad habits, one of his worst was chasing cars, he would yap away at the front wheels, try as we could we were never able to properly break him of this; it’s a miracle he never got run over. And fighting, he’d fight anything up to goat size and he’d usually win, except for a bull terrier that lived down the road, he got a bloody nose more than once from him but he’d always go back for more. As if this wasn’t bad enough he took a dislike to people who wore black. This wasn’t wise of him for policemen wear black and so do the clergy. A lasting memory is of Father Tregear, curate at St Hilda’s Church, who stood six feet four and weighed in at nineteen stone, turning a circle in the middle of Knostrop Lane with Smokey swinging around three foot from the ground, his teeth clasped onto the hem of his cassock. He had to wear a muzzle for a while after that but he took it all in his stride and even continued to fight other dogs while he had it on. People would eye him sideways while he wore the muzzle, I suppose they must have thought he must be fierce, but he was nothing of the sort, he was great with kids and the best pal you could ever hope to have. If I pulled a face at him he’d go bananas, if I moved an inch he’d be on his feet. He did howl a bit when I was practising plying the clarinet, but that was a hoot for the rest of the family When we were on holiday from school he would go everywhere with us, woods, fields, ponds – if we were on bikes he would keep up with the bikes. In addition, he could perform every trick in the book on demand. If you threw a pebble for him amongst a pile of a million pebbles he’d come back to you with the correct one you had thrown. When we went back to school (St Hilda’s Cross Green Lane) after the holidays he couldn’t handle it and as soon as Mam let him out he would be off up to school where he would sit by my coat in the cloakroom, sometimes he would pull the coat onto the floor and lay on it. When the classroom door was opened he would be in and searching among the desks for me. At first, it was a novelty and the teacher had the class writing an essay on ‘Smokey’. Afterwards I had to stand at the front of the class for a question and answer session on him. I can remember the kids asking me all sorts of daft questions about him that kids do: like can he climb a ladder etc? The teacher, Miss Busby, told them not to be so silly. After a while the novelty wore off and he became a nuisance – he was disrupting the class and he got so he would guard the door and not let people in. It came to a head one day when he wouldn’t let the school inspector in and the teacher told me not to let him come anymore. So I had to ask Mam to keep him tied up during school hours, this kept his visits down but never stopped him completely and I’d get into a panic when he’d managed to escape by chewing through the rope or something and I’d feel his wet nose under the desk seeking me out. On these occasions now I would have to take him home, tearfully rebuking Mam for letting him free – but she couldn’t keep tabs on him all the time he was quicksilver, if no other avenue was available he’d even jump from a bedroom window into a flower bed as a last line of escape. We lived in an old rambling house with neither gas nor electricity and the toilet was a huge brick built thing out in the wild garden. I hated it on the few occasions I needed to use the toilet after being in bed. I had to feel my way down stairs without any light – I was not allowed to light a candle in case I burnt the house down, when I got into the kitchen I would try to coax Smokey out of his nice warm corner near the oven range to come with me, he wasn’t well pleased to be disturbed but he always came with me. I was in my phase of being scared of vampires and our dark garden and huge toilet seemed an ideal lair for them. On one occasion while I was seated in-situ Smokey gave a great howl and the hairs stood up on his back I was off like a shot I thought Dracula and all his mates were after me

smokey and me
(Remember to ‘click’ on pictures to enlarge)

If you met up with him outside there was no way of getting rid of him. He was a real lad for the ladies, so often he would stay out all night. Sometimes when he was returning from a night on the tiles he would meet a member of the family on their way to work, on these occasions he would cross over the road and look sheepish, he knew he was not supposed to stay out all night. Then he would latch onto the person and follow them at a respectable distance, no matter what you did you could not shake him off, and of course it was the norm for people to be too late to take him home again. You could throw stones for him to chase, you could throw stones at him, but you could not shake him off. If he was still with you when you arrived at the bus stop you were in deep trouble for buses were open at the back at the time and when the bus came there was nothing to stop him jumping on with you – bar the conductor of course, but generally they weren’t keen on trying. The remedy was to call him to you as if you were going to give him a stroke, then just as the bus was coming, you grabbed him, picked him up, he wasn’t very big, and dropped him over the adjacent vicarage wall. Then he would have to run around to the gate by which time you would hope to be on the bus and off. But he wasn’t beaten even then, he’d chase the bus to the next stop and if there were a few people waiting to board the bus he’d be on between the conductor’s legs. Then, believe it or not, you had to lose him amongst all the legs in the busy centre of Leeds. You would imagine that this would be a most reckless course of action requiring the aid of the RSPCA to find him for again for you and it surely would have been for any other dog I’ve ever come across but not our Smokey, he would just be a little later arriving home that morning and due for an even bigger telling off. He never, ever, became truly lost and far too smart to get captured and taken to the pound. His roaming was legendary; people would report seeing him all over the city of Leeds, even in the Quarry Hill flats, which were miles away from his home in Knostrop. He once turned up in my Aunt Doris’s shop in Becket Street, which was almost on the other side of the city and through an absolute warren of streets. Aunt Doris told of how this dog came into the shop and she had said to her sister, ‘Isn’t that dog like our Smokey?’ Upon hearing her voice he went potty, it was Smokey. At least he got to walk home with them on that occasion. The same problems arose if he caught up with you on the way to the cinema. If you threw a stone for him to try and be rid of him his pride made him follow it although he knew it was a ploy to lose him. Even if you made it into the queue, he would come and smell you out and should you make it into the cinema itself you still weren’t safe. One night he got into the Star Cinema on York Road, you could hear the commotion, voices complaining, ‘Who belongs to this ruddy dog? On such occasions you would keep quiet and hope he would eventually be ‘chucked out’ if he did, he would still be waiting for you when you came out at the end of the film. At about the age of thirteen we moved away from Knostrop and Smokey continued to live with my aunts. After that he made a regular shuttle service between the two houses carrying notes in his collar. The lad had one or two near squeaks in his eventful life: once he jumped into the filter beds at the sewerage works thinking they were solid ground, it was a good job I was on hand to lean over and pull him out. Another time someone unthinkingly threw a stone into the Sludge Lagoons at Skelton Grange Power Station: Smokey went after it as usual. The sludge lagoons were just a white crust covering the black sludgy water, anything which went in there didn’t come out again but the lad just managed to get back with the crust breaking up just a few inches behind him all the way back to safety. As I got older, new mates coming along quickly came to adore him – luxury home or park bench he didn’t care where as long as he could be with you and it would be him you’d want along too. He managed to avoid all the hazards and pitfalls he set himself in life and died of natural causes at the age of fourteen – a goodly span considering his lifestyle. Wouldn’t it be great if there is a heaven and he’s up there waiting for me! I wonder how many of these kids from Miss Busby’s class remember Smokey?

m b's class for blog

Hunslet

July 1, 2014

Hunslet

Our Neighbours across South Accomm Bridge

By Pete Wood

(Don’t miss some great little tales from my old mates near the end)

‘Click’ into pictures to enlarge them

When you passed over South Accommodation Road Bridge from East Leeds into Hunslet you passed from Leeds 9 to Leeds 10. But it was more than just a change of post code that we old East Leedsers met as we moved over the bridge on our way to work or leisure in industrial Hunslet in the 1940s/50s, for we moved out of our own albeit shabby Victorian/Edwardian housing stock into streets already in their death throes with demolition well in progress. A large percentage of the population had already been moved out into new estates particularly at Middleton and Belle Isle. Bit in spite of its decaying habitat I always perceived Hunslet to be full of character and the folk to have a wicked sense of humour and pride of place. I was annoyed that the demolition of that iconic old green suspension bridge which had stood for a hundred years with its great bowed parapet that Jimmy Thrush daringly crossed on his bespoke bogey, was demolished without any great notice of its passing, I would have liked to have recorded it before it went. There were tram lines still situated in Accommodation road and indeed there had sometime been a dedicated track for them but although trams didn’t cease running in Leeds until 1959 they had finished down South Accomm a lot earlier than that. So if you wanted to go ‘down Hunslet’ it was either on a bike, ‘Shanks’s pony’ or the number 64 bus.

South Accomm Bridge revised

It hurts me to have to admit that the lads from Hunslet, perhaps due to their hard environment, always seemed ‘tougher’ than us. When the Plevna lads or Pottery Field gang came over the bridge we didn’t get in their way and when we tried to cross the river by the lock gate at Knostrop the Stourton lads were liable to shower us with half bricks from their vantage point on the great green railway bridge (the swing bridge that never swung). The Stourton lads had plenty to be proud of, their school, tiny by modern standards, had a football team that won all the local honours and one year in the early thirties were crowned football school champions of all England. Please see photograph of the victorious team from the YEP. archives. Unfortunately the onset of WWII probably put paid to many of them having professional careers.

stourton football team

Within my own memory (born 1937) I recall that there were many other fine schools in the Hunslet area. My father, William Wood was born Hunslet 1903. He told me how he fell over the railway bridge in Beza Street and he had a great dint in his head, luckily he didn’t lose his hair so it couldn’t be seen. He had quite an adventurous life, my dad, as later, at age seventeen, he ran away to Liverpool to join the Royal Navy without parental consent. He went all the way from Hunslet to Liverpool by tram because there was a train strike ongoing at the time. It was quite possible to do that at the time alighting at the terminus of each conurbation and catching another tram at the next. Later he went to Egypt on the same boat as Lawrence of Arabia. Dad attended Low Road School and Later Jack Lane School. He told me how Hunslet Carr and Bewerley Street Schools and Hunslet Nash always had strong rugby teams and I remember myself how Hunslet Moor and St Josephs had good football teams not to mention the iconic Cockburn High School. And I recall with pride scoring my first goal for our St Hilda’s School team against Hunslet Lane School on Farmer Ward’s field.

the swing bridge that never swung

We lads from St Hilda’s school (on the other side of the bridge) ‘crocodiled’ down to Joseph Street Baths every Monday morning. We didn’t set off until after playtime, then with our trunks and towels rolled up under our arms – you were a geek if you had a shoulder bag in those days – we were off down South Accommodation Road, Atkinson Street, Goodman Street, Hunslet Lane and so to Joseph Street. By the time we got in the water it was nearly time to set off back. I think the girls from St Hilda’s attended the baths at Hunslet Lane School.  Many great lads and lasses enhanced our St Hilda’s and Ellerby Lane Schools when they had to leave South Accommodation Road Primary School and pass over the bridge at age eleven.

Of course we recognise that Hunslet had once been a thriving township in its own right with a theatre and sporting venues before being included in the Leeds conurbation. Folk who were old when I was a young man would talk about Hunslet in its heyday when Waterloo Road on a Friday night could rival Briggate. Pawn shops would disgorge suits for the weekend revelries – no doubt to be re-pledged on Monday mornings and under bright lights anything could be bought from Tripe and pigs feet to hardware.

I worked at three Hunslet companies during my career and worked at a furniture manufacturing company in Anchor Street for twenty years. Just after I had started in the early 60s they were demolishing some houses round the back, Powell Street I believe, there was a couple of little pubs: The Robin Hood and The Harrogate somewhere around there and a tragedy occurred when those doing the demolition work did not realise an elderly couple were still in situ and when they severed the gas pipes the couple were unfortunately gassed and died.

It was while working there I was given a copy of poem called Old Hunslet by an elderly work colleague, I had, it pinned to my wall for years than alas, it was lost in transit to another company and I thought I would never see it again but lo and behold thanks to the Hunslet rememberedweb site I found it again. This is an excellent site which I highly recommend for those who seek more than just this oral history of Hunslet from an East Leeds perspective. I hope Ms Sheila Gamblin will not object to me recreating the poem here for our enjoyment.

Old Hunslet

Have you ever been to Hunslet or walked down Hunslet lane,

Mid the dirt and grime of Church Street or heard the folks complain,

Have you seen the little houses with breadcakes at the door,

And found a real Leeds welcome with the folks who live next door,

Have you been to Stillhouse Yard on a Friday night,

To fix the kids with boots or clothes by flickering paraffin light.

Have you walked past Tolston’s tripe shop and along to Penny Hill,

Or had a drink in the Garden gate – the pub that stands there still.

Have you been on Hunslet Moor or in the Anchor Pub.

Or visited the old Swan junction or been in the Liberal Club.

Have you ever been down Balm Road where the steel works used to lie

Now they’re pulling down old Hunslet and we must watch it die

 

 

And coming down it was. I made this sketch sat in the car one lunch time of Norwich Place – near the old Hunslet Lake in the 1960s/70s a stoic lady is still trying to dry her washing amidst all the devastation.

goodbuy Hunslet

‘click’ on picture to enlarge

Mainly I remember Hunslet in the 1940s/50s as being ‘the boiler house of the world’ there were so many great manufacturing firms: Coghlans, Fawcett’s, Bison’s, Kitson’s, Yorkshire Copper Works, Henry Berry’s, Clayton’s, Hudswell Clark’s – where my aunt worked on munitions – Fowlers and McLaren’s, they were joined so closely that it was difficult to see where one started and the other finished, I worked at McLarens and there was a tale that an officious guy caught two men loafing about and said, ‘Haven’t you two any work to do?’ whereupon one lad said to the guy, ‘Who are you then?’ and he replied, ‘ I’m the new works manager of Fowlers’ and the guy replied ‘Well….off then this is McLarens!’ Hunslet Engine Company struggled on into the 90s and I believe at the time of writing Braims, in some capacity and Lax and Shaw still continues Many of them had cricket teams and either played on the iconic ‘Miggy Clearings’ or had their own bespoke sports grounds – swept away as takeovers found sports grounds not conducive to a balance sheet even before the firms themselves became defunct. My own engineering apprenticeship was carried out with a bunch of great guys at Midgley and Sutcliffe’s (Richmond Machine Tools) on Hillage Place, we would pour over the tiny bridge across the railway to play football on Hunslet Moor at lunch time. Later the building became the car auction rooms. When the factory hooters sounded at five o’clock thousands would flood out of Hunslet factory gates on foot or on bikes, there weren’t many cars for us in those days.

Hunslet had many great pubs (there’s a list of them at the end). I remember one night in the Adelphi, there was a trad jazz band playing in the upstairs room, I was facing the door and it opened and in walked Peter O’Toole. Sometimes when you see a famous person in an unfamiliar situation you don’t recognise who it is at first but on that occasion I recognised who it was straight off. Of course being a Hunslet lad he was on home ground.

My dad, being a Hunslet lad too, introduced me to Rugby league at Parkside in the ‘Alf and Walt Burnell’, era.

Hunslet Rl

We walked all the way there and back from East Leeds. At Parkside apart from the rugby there was also cricket and a dog track and the site of the famous Hunslet feast that annually would draw back old Hunslet residents. And although we then resided on the other side of the bridge he would regularly take us on Saturday nights to the Regal or the Strand cinemas. When we were a bit older we crossed the bridge on our own to visit the Premier Cinema in South Accommodation Road. The Premier was even down market on our own Easy Road ‘bug hutch’ we sat there on wooden benches and if I recall there was sawdust on the floor but it was only five pence (old money) and there always seemed to be lots of pretty Hunslet lasses to interest we eager pubescent lads.

Concrete seems to have taken over from character in Hunslet now but I still manage to have annual reunions with my old apprentice mates when the conversation invariable comes around to old Hunslet, when it was the ‘boiler house of the world’. Then as we are all over seventy and five of them are Hunslet lads I persuade them to tell me tales of old Hunslet

Barrie remembers: Maria, she lived in Varley Square just off Church Street. Her job was to go round Hunslet’s Anchor Street, Carris Street, the Askerns’s and Gordon Road knocking people up for work from 4 a.m. onwards. She used a clothes prop with a couple of socks on the end so she wouldn’t break the windows, all for six/nine pence a week. She was a right character not to be crossed. A case of déjà vu Maria also looked after a lad who fell off the same Beza Street Bridge as Pete’s dad. It must have been a favourite bridge for tippling off but this lad, Alec, was quite seriously injured but happily, he recovered and years later became my next door neighbour.

Gills (milk man): he had a house at the top of Anchor Road. He only had a small round but he was very reliable. He delivered milk from a milk churn on a special barrow. He poured milk from a ladle into a jug or similar. He delivered to my gran If she went out she would leave a jug on the window sill – large for two gills small for one gill. She covered the top of the jug with a lace cover with coloured beads round the edge to stop flies getting in. The jugs were safe from theft in those days.

Eddy Remembers: When we worked at Richmond Machine Tool Co on Hillage Place we didn’t have much time to get home for dinner and back, so Curly Lonsdale and I we were off on our bikes down Hillage Road, and down Anchor Street. A lady had been hanging her washing out – she had taken the washing in but left the line across the street; Curley ducked underneath it, but it caught me around the neck and pulled me off the bike buckling my wheel.

Brian, who attended Hunslet Nash, remembers a school teacher throwing the heavy board rubber at a lad; it hit his head and bounced out of the three story window. The teacher then blamed the lad for the loss of the rubber and made him go look for it. It took him three hours searching before it was found.

Gerry Remembers: the School Dentist in Bewerley Street. You went on your own; mams didn’t take kids to the dentist in those days. The waiting room was a place of purgatory. You slid along wooden benches listening to the screams from the inner sanctum moving to the front when it would be your turn. Often kids lost their nerve when it was there turn next and went to the back of the queue again. When you got into the surgery they put a horrible green mask over you face and a metal clip into your mouth to keep it open, if you needed the drill it was a foot treadle affair. When they had finished with you, you passed into another room with a line of sinks where kids were spitting blood. Everyone moved up a sink to accommodate the new arrival

On my way home from school Gerry said I had to pass a little yard where a guy kept ducks and chickens. One day I spotted two duck eggs could be reached under the wire. I pinched them and took them home. Mam gave me a right telling of for stealing – but we still ate the eggs.

Barrie Remembers: A foot coming through the ceiling at Hunslet Nash belonging to a lad who was foraging in the loft for bird’s eggs or something. Of course he shouldn’t have been up there in the first place but he was caught bang to rights because everyone recognised the shoe. Another time in Hunslet Church when they were ringing the bells one lad didn’t let go of the rope and it took him up and he hit his head on the ceiling where the rope passed through a hole.

General Banter: A guy walked into the Omnibus pub looking down in the mouth. His mates asked him what was the matter and he said his father had died that morning. They said he shouldn’t really be in here but he said he was trying to drown his sorrows. So the guys bought him his beer all night but just before closing time his dad walked into the pub. Then there was the guy in the Friendly pub in Holbeck he had a ‘Bobby Charlton’ type comb over which he used to keep in place with black boot polish. An old rugby league player had the Spotted Ox pub. He wouldn’t stand any nonsense from miscreants. On one occasion a guy continued to misbehave and the land lord had no option but to throw him out. He caught hold of his collar and the base his jacket and ran him into the door, they bounced back so he ran him into the door again after the third time one of the regulars said, ‘Alf the door opens inwards.’

Thanks to: the Yorkshire Evening Post, Hunslet Remembered, Leodis, Hunslet R.L.F.C.

Hunslet pubs

 

 

Eileen’s Tale

October 1, 2009

Eileen’s tale is a delightful little tale of life in East Leeds in the 1940s, including time spent with her grandmother in Knostrop New Hall and as a pupil at St Hilda’s and Ellerby Lane Schools.

Eileen’s tale

Eileen’s Tale

Mrs Eileen Ramsey (nee Tootle) is the niece of the legendary George Tootle and sister of Barbara who has herself written her tale in these pages.

Until I read the pages of this book I thought Knostrop was just my magic place and never realised there were other children like myself who understood the magic of Knostrop and the way of life of the community as well as me. Although Knostrop New Hall was a wonderful place for me the owners had left the property to rot and decay instead of the upkeep it deserved. Every flat should have had a bathroom, toilet and even the electric light was late to arrive although there was the massive Skelton Grange Power Station just down the road.  Why do they call it progress to allow small communities like Knostrop to be wiped off the face of the earth to make way for concrete monoliths? Lord Halifax had long resisted building on his land on the north side of the Aire. Industry used to be in Hunslet on the south of the river and the fresh air that the people needed on the north. What happened?

                                                        ******

This is my story. I was born on the 27th of April 1932. My father was Roland Tootle, whose mother was Charlotte Wright before her marriage. My paternal grandfather’s name was Christopher Howard Tootle. My first memories are of being looked after by my maternal grandmother, Ellen Maud Smith, whilst my mam, Hannah Tootle, went out to work at J.W. Plant and son Ltd (flag and bunting manufacturer), Elsie Crescent, Upper Accommodation Road. Leeds 9.

            My gran lived with her second husband, Thomas Smith. They had two children, a boy Charles and a girl Ellen, or Nellie as my mother used to call her and who tragically died of a mastoid in the ear aged ten. This is what was told to us when we asked Mother if she had only brothers and no sisters. She said Nellie was her half sister – she died in 1928 the year before my eldest sister, Celia, was born.

My maternal granddad Thomas Byron Holmes and Grandma came from York to Leeds seeking employment as they had a young family of six to support. My granddad was from Southwark in London and served as a soldier in the 26th Scottish Borderers. My grandma Ellen Maud Holmes had a position of nanny, at which she was very good. Granddad (Thomas Byron Holmes) was tragically killed in a freak accident at Waterloo Pit on the 8th of January 1913 aged 36 years. He had been working with another man on the surface, loading and unloading when a sharp gust of wind suddenly arose as they were untying a tarpaulin cover from one of the wagons; it snagged my granddad and carried him up to the wheel of the gantry, which took him round and round. When they finally got to him he was left in just his socks and boots. The inquest was held at the Irwin Hotel, Halton, Leeds. Compensation amounted to just £157. 2/- and 3d to be paid to his widow (my granny) at the rate of £2 per month. 

My gran eventually re-married Thomas Smith, who was a widower twenty years her senior, they moved into the big mansion, Knostrop New Hall, as caretaker and wife. Among their duties were: the collection of rents, upkeep of the interior, cleaning the upstairs and downstairs toilets etc, also the wash-house, hen-house and stables.  

A pony trap was kept in the stables and a gentleman would arrive with a horse, which was stabled elsewhere, and ride around the countryside in the pony and trap. There was a large weeping willow tree, with initials carved upon its trunk on the front lawn facing the lodge (better known as The Round House). I used to climb the huge tree and sit reading my comics within its branches and leaves. I would follow with my eyes the flight of birds into the thick ivy that covered the ten foot high boundary walls and then I would head unerringly and find the nest with tiny eggs inside, usually about four of eggshell blue. They were very high walls to a child and it was only when I was older and more daring that I managed to scale those high surrounding walls of the New Hall Estate and stare over at St Saviour’s Orphanage, where the children would emerge in a long crocodile with one lady in front and another behind.

            I had a sister three years older than I her name was Celia and somehow we only really got together when I was about three years old. She must have stayed with a neighbour while my mother went to work as a sewing machinist. Celia had an accident as a child after coming downstairs very early one morning and playing with matches. She had climbed up on a buffet and reached up to the high mantelpiece for the matches and her pyjamas went up in flames. Her screams brought my dad running downstairs but the naughty girl had slid the bolt on the downstairs door and it took precious minutes before he could kick the door open. He wrapped her in the fireside rug to douse the flames but she had to be taken to the infirmary as she had sustained bad scaring on her chest and arms.

            I don’t know why but I had lived with my grandma for as long as it was possible and I couldn’t pronounce my sister’s name properly, it was nearer to ‘Ceeley’ than Celia. I must have been a two year old at the time for I can remember my gran wheeling me up and down Knostrop Lane in a pram and then through the ginnel into Easy Road and up to Archie Place.

            It was Knostrop Hall that I regarded as home along with Grandma and Granddad Smith. My uncle, Charlie Smith married Ivy who became my aunt. Their first child, Brian, arrived and I had a cousin. Gradually I was taken back to live with my sister Celia and Mam and Dad in Archie place and began to attend Ellerby Lane Infants School. It was a really bad winter and when we were sent out to play Mam came to the school railings in the snow to bring us hot drinks of cocoa from a flask. She was more than loving towards us; she would give me a ha’panny to ask at the grocer’s shop at the bottom of Easy Road for broken biscuits for my morning break to have with my little bottle of milk.

            Mrs Nelson used to take the infants class and around two of the walls were little linen bags that had embroidered animals on them for us children to pop in our biscuits. Unfortunately for me I always forgot which bag I had put my biscuits in but Mrs Nelson wouldn’t wait for me to find them, she would clap her hands and usher us all out of the room at playtime no matter how hard I protested. Well, in my little mind I thought that was most unfair and I was also fed up of having to lie on a hard camp bed with just one grey blanket in the afternoons. So I decided not to go to school at all. I hid away in the passages and only joined the kids when they were coming out of school at tea time. My sister, Celia, said the teachers had played pop with her because I had not turned up at school and it was her responsibility for taking me to school. So my mam sent me back to my gran’s down Knostrop – or Knowsthorpe – to give it its posh name.  My sister thought I was causing her trouble and upset her, so any explanation of mine was unacceptable. I did eventually begin to attend school again and happily they had started giving us things to do in the afternoons to keep us occupied.

            I remember going for walks in a crocodile down Knostrop to the big house at the entrance to Jawbone Yard to see the monkey on its little stand and the parrot of many coloured feathers that her sailor husband was supposed to have brought her. They also had had a grey/white/brown/black sheepdog or collie with a blue eye and a brown eye {Rex}. Just around the corner on Knostrop Lane was the petrol station yard where huge tankers full of petrol would come and go. Grandma always taught me to walk on the pathway and listen before crossing the road.

            When I was back in Archie Place my sister and I would make numerous trips to The Premier Picture House down South Accommodation Road on Saturday afternoons to see Flash Gordon. The friends my sister had were: Teresa Towning, May Beckwith, Audrey Smith and Margaret Headley and they attended Ellerby Lane School. Jean Clapham attended Mount St Mary’s. Celia being three years older than I didn’t want me around her and her friends so I played with their younger sisters and my own school friends: Sheila Thrush, Maisie Wilcox, Dorothy Jackson and Marion Eastman. We bought two comics a week each and then we swopped them so that we managed to read them all eventually.

            When I was seven years old war broke out. Dad said it would begin with air strikes so we ran out and looked up at the sky but all we saw was a large barrage balloon. Then we had to practice putting on our gas mask, which we carried in cardboard boxes suspended by string around our necks. They smelt horrible and I couldn’t breathe down or up my nostrils anyway because I was a mouth breather like my mate Maisie Wilcox.  

            My sister and I were evacuated to Market Rasen along with lots of others. Celia and I and another two sisters who lived in the Cavalier House Flats in East Street were sent to a posh house. We were allocated attic bedrooms and after being scrubbed down in hot baths and given dry cream crackers and cocoa, with no sugar, we were sent to bed.

The house was owned by the misses Kelly and had its own orchard and lawns and a cook and servants. It was like living in a dream world, far away from all we had known. But the older girls were rebels and they said it was like living in a jail. They caused trouble and the Miss Kellys wrote to both our parents asking if they could keep the youngest sister of each family because we were the quietest. We attended church twice on Sunday and travelled in luxury in a chauffeur driven car with one, or sometimes both of the Miss Kellys (I think now it was probably a taxi).

            But no! Our parents would not split us up and my dad said Celia and I would have to stay with a young couple who had a baby daughter. They were Mr and Mrs Saunders, they were a lovely couple and I used to rock their baby daughter to sleep on Saturday afternoons. I was seven years old and I still couldn’t read but I promised to try harder if the teacher would try to teach me how to read. It was hard for me as I had missed a lot of my early schooling. Gradually though it sank in and I was over the moon it was like solving a very hard puzzle. It didn’t come easy for me because the classes were so big as a result of the evacuees, and most of the village children could read already, so the teacher just wrote things up on the blackboard and expected us to understand. what was expected of us.

My mum came for us eventually and took us home to Archie Place, Leeds.           We then attended Richmond Hill School; that was a great school. They put on a pantomime at Christmas. In 1941 the German planes bombed Richmond Hill School while we were sleeping in the cellar at home. We were frightened and Mam started taking us to the Princess or the Easy Road cinema just to give us some light relief from the war which was going on around us. We then had to attend Ellerby Lane School and as I couldn’t sleep properly on a night I often fell asleep in school. Miss Gibbins was the teacher in that all girl’s class. Then in standard three we had an awful teacher (we shall call Miss W) who caused one girl to wet herself because she would only let us use the toilet at play-time. On one occasion she sent me to see Mr Dennis, the headmaster, because I had accidentally broken my wooden ruler. He was teaching a boy’s class next door and I was so terrified, not of being caned but of being shown up in front of all those boys. I broke down a sobbed, but surprise, surprise, Mr Dennis realized it had been an accident and how dreadfully I felt about it all so he sent me away with a stern caution.

            Thank Goodness my next class was standard four and the teacher was Mrs Darnell, her husband was in the armed forces and we were all given wool to knit scarves for our soldiers, sailors and airmen. Ellerby Lane School for me holds memories of lads waiting to snowball us as we went out of the big gate.

My mam said that now I was going to go to St Hilda’s School so that I could take Barbara to school and bring her home at dinner time. Barbara was two years old at the time and I was eleven. That was 1943 and the war seemed far away from us kids but by that time we had become used to eating ‘specky’ apples, raw carrots, ‘tusky’ (rhubarb) and liquorish twigs from the chemists, cough lozenges were treats

My granny had us climbing the trees within the New Hall grounds and shaking down the fruit so she could store it for the winter months. While we were at Ellerby Lane School we had cooking lessons one day a week, I enjoyed that. We also used to march down to Joseph Street baths. Although Maisie Wilcox and I used to enjoy Joseph Street Baths we learned to swim at York Road baths after school. Then we were sent to the Dispensary because the doctors were doing a mass cull of enlarged tonsils and adenoids. When we came round the pain and the blood we had swallowed was horrendous. Our swimming days were over after that, water used to go up our noses and straight down our throats, that was something that had not happened to us before, we were choking and spluttering if we let our heads go under the water. Both Maisie and I were devastated. Maisie came to live in Cross Green Lane, so she started to attend St Hilda’s School too. Our teacher was Mr North. He wore a cap and gown and sat on a high chair at an Edwardian desk. Behind him was a bookcase filled with books and I enjoyed reading many of them. We could borrow them to take home but we had to return them for others to enjoy. There was no one checking the books in and out but we were honest and our parents knew what we were up to most of the time so we had to accept their code of honour.

            The one thing I look back with in sorrow was that some of the other girls caused Maisie and I to quarrel and we never really sorted it out satisfactorily and that makes me sad. I had another friend, Joan Hitchen, who lived across Easy Road; we called for one another to go to school together. Then she moved to Blackpool with her parents and little brother john. We also visited Easy Road Picture House together, regularly. Frank Sinatra had just started out in films (1943) he had a nice singing voice but from what we saw of him he was thin as a skeleton. It was four pence for children on the front seats, even in front of these were about six wooden forms where kids could sit for a penny at the Saturday children’s matinee. My favourite star was Mickey Rooney he played in a saga which would now be described as a ‘soap opera’ on television. In these films Mickey’s father was called Judge Hardy and Mickey had many different girl friends, one was Judy Garland. The seats further back cost sixpence and those right at the back for adults, nine pence.

            My dad had started a large allotment off behind Knostrop New Hall with the help of Mam, Celia and me. He had made a hut, greenhouse, cold frame and a lean-to shed for the horse-muck we had to collect from the stables of a funeral director in Lavender Walk, Richmond Hill. He had huge black horses and we paid him five shillings for him to fill our wheel-barrow with horse-muck for us to wheel back down Knostrop. I wanted to go by way of the Long Causeway as I didn’t want my mates at St Hilda’s to see me wheeling a barrow load of horse-muck. I was ashamed in case they would laugh at me at school because unlike me they didn’t have to work at an allotment.

            We supplied quite a few of our neighbours with food produce. I had a list of customers to supply in summertime with: lettuce, radishes, potatoes, carrots, peas, beans, cabbages, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. In winter it was Brussels sprouts before the first frost set in. And we grew beautiful chrysanthemums too. Dad had us working all the summer holidays clearing the land and double digging the soil. He said we had to carry the stones away in buckets and pile them up inside the twelve foot walls of the estate. There must have been a well because we moved so many stones they piled up to within three foot of the top of the twelve foot wall. We could then look over at Farmer Allison’s fine detached house and the little ‘Humbug House’ close by. We could also see the ABC Houses further down the road. When the farmer came home with his big shire horses he would let them out of the cart they had been pulling and into the field beyond the New Hall walls and they would kick they heels up and run about in a happy way because their work was over for the day.

My Uncle Charlie was a soldier who served in Burma during and after The Seconds World War. I stayed with my Aunt Ivy and Brian for a while after my tonsillectomy, while she was living in the Lodge or The Round House as we called it.

They had a tiny black, white and tan rough haired terrier called Paddy. Brian and I were sent into the Hall to live with Grandma when another baby was due.  I didn’t know any of Brian’s mates and Grandma would not allow me out of the gates of the grounds to seek new friends while I lived with her. When Grandma was busy cleaning she would often send me up to keep Mrs Barker company for an hour in her rooms upstairs. Mrs barker was a lovely lady who smelled of flowers and talked and talked about her family who had all died either in the First World War or later. The stories she told me about them meant she loved them and didn’t feel lonely talking about them it was as if they were still with her. She gave me a book to read, it was called ‘Little Women’. I really enjoyed reading that book: Mrs Barker was a grand lady, she died at Christmas 1952.

My father’s brother, George, lived in the Hall too. My dad told me George had      been brought up by his granny and his father made him chop up wood into chips and take them around the streets selling them to householders to start off their coal fires.  Later I was told he had been blinded by being repeatedly hit in bare knuckle fights. He took in stay dogs for company and he would walk them the front lawn every couple of hours. He was a giant of a man well known to all and always cheerful in spite of his blindness.

My grandfather’s name was Christopher Howard Tootle and he had a mule in a shed behind Ellerby Lane School. He would get wooden crates and chop them up for firewood then get an Ellerby Lane School lad, I think his name was Ginger Rhodes but I was never sure, to jump up on the cart and sell the chips to householders as they drove around the streets.

Life was full of people, some relatives that you didn’t really know and some you didn’t acknowledge as being related to you. It was very confusing to a child, especially if you were always sent out to play if mothers came to gossip together, ‘Hush! The kids are coming in.’

I had to go up and down Knostrop to collect the greens and potatoes from the allotment for the neighbours because Dad was working on the night shift and Mam said I would need my own bike as Dad needed his to go to work; he was head shunter at  Hunslet Goods Yard. On one occasion when I was about eleven or twelve I was sent to the allotment by my dad at dinnertime and I nearly ran down a string of children who were holding hands across the road just around the sharp bend on Knostrop Hill. I raised my head and prayed to anyone up there to help me for in the seconds that I saw them I realized I couldn’t stop the bike in time. Suddenly a gap appeared in the line of children and I managed to get through but I finished up down on the cross bar of my dad’s bike and crashed into the brick wall on the right hand side of the road. A panic attack or an adrenalin surge stopped my feeling the pain immediately and I ran back towards the little children who were only about six or seven years old, they were dazed too, apart from one little girl who had started to cry, with shock I suppose, because I examined her and there were no marks anywhere on her arms or legs and I didn’t see any marks on any of the other children either. They must have seen me, grazed and bleeding from the wall, and asked what they should do now. I told them to knock on the door of one of the little white cottages and someone might look after them for I still had to carry on to the allotment and get my dad the cabbages he was taking to work and I still had to get his bike back to him in time for his shift. If only I could have got the bike going again but the wheel was buckled and kept catching as the wheel went round. My arm, elbow and knee on my right side were hurting too but I carried on. Upon reaching home I was more worried about what my parents would say about the bike. They finished up arguing, Mam saying that Dad should have made the trip down Knostrop himself and not sent me. He said he would have to catch the bus now or he would be late for work and he would look at the bike wheel later. So Mam said to me, call at Benn’s shop and ask him to make you up a bicycle for ten shillings. I already knew Mr William Benn from Knostrop Old Hall and his sons, Alf and Bill. Bill had a shop at the bottom of Easy Road dealing with bicycles, batteries and tyres etc. So I called in and asked him about getting me a bike for ten shillings and he said he would see what he could do as he knew my granny and knew that if I had a bicycle I could do errands for her. Within weeks he had a bicycle for me; it was a light blue man’s bike with drop handlebars. I thought it was a beauty and I didn’t mind it having a crossbar as I was used to riding my dad’s bike anyway.

I started working full time on my fourteenth birthday. My mam got me a position at Lewis’s on the Headrow in the town centre. Monday to Saturday with a half day off on Wednesday for the sum of twenty two shillings and six pence. I thought I was in prison! I had to pay my own bus fares, for my dinners and still give Mam fifteen shillings. When I found out that I could leave at two minutes notice I took the chance after working for three months there just taking money out of the little containers and putting in the change then putting them back into the tubes that used to shoot them back up to the shop counters. I told my mam that I had been working in the cellars, where they took all the money and at first we used to get a break in the morning and an afternoon break as well as a dinner break but the adults conveniently forgot about the breaks and we were too young to speak up for ourselves so I left there at two minutes notice. My mam was furious with me and took me down to Great George Street Junior Employment Exchange and I landed a job at Joseph Kay and Son, Accommodation Road, as a junior clerk 9 am to 5 pm with one and a half hours for lunch, five and a half days a week. They also paid for me to go to Osmondthorpe Night-School to learn typing.

At St Hilda’s School Vera Wood and Joan Dobson were in the same class as me and the twin sisters, Sheila and Shirley and the greengrocer’s daughter, Pat. As for the others I can’t recall their names only their faces. We were all in Mr Child’s classin1945/46. I recall a party at school when the war was over. Our mothers had been baking and spending their precious food coupons, there were jellies and custard trifles as well as sandwiches but I was appalled when the boys starting a bun fight after they had scoffed everything else. I thought what a waste of food after all that effort our mothers had put in and how they had deprived themselves of their precious coupons. I came away disgusted. I suppose boys will be boys but we girls couldn’t understand them at all and I thought it would be a long time before I looked at them in a different light.

About this time coloured plastic wire became popular at school. The girls would thread different colours into designs and made them into bangles for themselves. And I remember going to the St Hilda’s playing fields to play near the tennis courts.

Happy days!

It was disappointing to me when I returned to the site of Knostrop New Hall in 2008. I had hoped to take a photograph of that lovely old weeping willow tree but it had long gone beneath the concrete jungle.

So sad! 

Knostrop New Hall.

Drawn by Eileen from memory. On the left of the picture can be seen the northern servants entrance, carriage house, wash house, inner yard and backdoor entrance,

Baths and Bladders

April 1, 2009

blog-baths-and-bladersThe author remembers school swimming lessons at Joseph Street Baths at Hunlet, Leeds and School Football training on Snake Lane in East Leeds 

    BATHS AND BLADDERS

 

                                                 Pete Wood

In the Course of the week we had two sports lessons at St Hilda’s. The first was swimming on Monday mornings. Pupils of Ellerby Lane and Victoria schools tell that they attended York Road Baths but we had our swimming lessons at Joseph Street Baths in Hunslet.  We didn’t set off until after playtime, so it would be approaching eleven o’clock already and we had to be in and out of the bath by twelve! Note: I said ‘playtime’ not break or recess – good old playtime – that’s what we had. How often have you heard someone say: ‘You’ve had it now – I’ll get you at playtime!’ Anyway we’d set off walking in a crocodile, no school buses for us. We had our trunks rolled inside towels and under our arms – you were a ‘geek’ if you had a shoulder bag! Then we were off down South Accomm, Atkinson Street, Goodman Street, across Hunslet lane and so the baths. You changed two to a tiny cubicle, it was a bit of a tight squeeze, and you were lucky if you managed to get your own socks on at the end of the lesson. Then we were through the slipper baths and lined up along the side of the pool.

Those who were training for certificates were allowed in first – first class certificate candidates had to execute life saving procedures, diving for the brick and a neat dive in addition to the actual swimming. Then it was the turn of those taking the second-class certificate – three lengths breaststroke and one length backstoke. Finally, the last of the certificate takers had their chance – those who were going for the third class certificate, which was just the one length of the bath. There was also the advanced ‘bronze medallion’ but I cannot remember any of our lot attempting that one although Pat Brown who lived next-door to us and attended Mount St Mary’s was successful in achieving such a medallion.

There was also a seldom attempted fourth certificate, if my memory serves me correctly this was a speed certificate which necessitated completing four lengths of the bath (100 yards) in under 110 seconds. There was just one lad at our school capable of achieving this: Norman Gibbs. Norman was a great lad but somehow or other he always seemed to have a note from his mother excusing him from the swimming lesson, which meant we hardly ever saw him at Joseph Street, making it all the more extraordinary that he was an absolute fish when he actually managed to get into the water. I can only remember being privileged to see him swim a couple of times in all the years we attended swimming lessons but when we did it was an absolute treat, he would churn up and down that pool – over arm crawl – just like a motor boat. As he hardly ever seemed to go to the baths it was a puzzle as to how he managed to be the best swimmer among us!

By the time we ‘gash hands’ were allowed to have our thrash about in the pool it was time to come out and make the long crocodile trip back to school. 

            Our other physical training lesson – the one we all liked – was football practice on Wednesday afternoons. We didn’t get set free on Snake Lane until after ‘playtime’ for that either. But as the footballs needed to be prepared – they had invariably deflated from the previous week – a couple of lucky lads would be given the task of making sure the balls were ready for action; it was a bit of a ‘skive’ that we carried out in a cloakroom away from the classroom. The leather footballs we had then could not be re-inflated, merely by sticking in an adaptor and blowing them up, for us it was a work of art. First the lace had to be removed and the neck of the bladder fished out from under its protective piece of leather. The neck had then to be untied and the ball re-inflated, then the neck had to be doubled over and retied with string, this completed the neck of the bladder had to be tucked back in beneath its leather protection and the ball re-laced. There was a special tool to facilitate the re-lacing of the ball, which had to be carried with the expertise of a surgeon as the ball had to remain perfectly spherical even though it had a neck and the lace must be so neat that it did not pose a danger when the ball was headed. The whole ball then had to be covered in ‘Dubbin’ to protect the leather.  With a bit of guile you could make the job spin out for the whole of the first period if it were a lesson you didn’t fancy. School footballs were only supposed to be size four (normal men’s footballs are size five) but we had to make our footballs last and as they were leather they tended to stretch and get bigger, so by the time we had worn them out they were probably size six! There was as bonus with our footballs though: if they sustained a puncture you could pull out the bladder and mend it like a bike inner tube and you were up and running again. Today if they burst they have to be sent away for a panel removing the puncture mending and than the panel stitched up again, as you can imagine it all costs a bob or two and you can be without a ball for weeks; plus the balls cost twenty times more to buy in the first place! I see them kicking those modern plastic balls they can tickle them in from the corner flag or to the half way line from a goal kick and they bend and swerve all over the place, you had to give our footballs a real ‘thwack’ to get them moving but if you hit one right they went as straight as a canon ball; when Alfie Duckworth hit the woodwork with one of his shots on Snake Lane you could hear the noise Easy Road!