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Colin Greenwood

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The first question I would like to ask you is – can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

Colin Greenwood, 7th of October 1924, across there, t’top house at that long row, East View it’s called, on…is it Savile Road ? Yes, Savile Road.

Can you tell me anything about your family – about your parents or brothers and sisters, or grandparents?

Well my mother and father of course lived there…my father worked for Dempster’s in Elland – he was foreman on the job when they built the gasometer in Hebden Bridge and he fell off the top of it and broke his hip, so he never went to the war because he was lame you see, recovering from it.

What did your mother do?

She worked in a sewing shop down Hebden Bridge – Hebden Cord Company whereabouts was that? it was a gent’s outfitters, and then it got turned into Nicky’s Café when I was a teenager. Everybody used to go there because it had one of these here things where you could pick records. It was a very popular meeting place for T’teenagers there, just over t’West End bridge it was at t’end of Old Gate.
And then they moved further down when there was a lot of old cottages came empty and they made it into a proper sewing shop and they had a place underneath for a warehouse and a shop what people could come and buy the things from.

What kind of things did she sew, do you know?

Well they made all sorts of things – breeches, men’s trousers out of moleskin and things like that, heavy stuff, riding breeches and things like that. But she used to come, daily she’d walk all the way from here down there to work and then at lunch-time she’d come home, make us a lunch for when we came home from school there, and then walk all the way back and I think sometimes ‘how the heck did she used to do it?’ because nowadays they wouldn’t do it would they? No, probably not.

When you were young, what kind of things did you do – what kind of games did you play?

Well here, Pickles’s foundry there was and they used to make wood patterns for the mouldings you know that they put in damp sand, and about five o’clock every evening they had a square chimney sort of thing and they’d tip the metal out into these moulds that they’d made, and the sparks used to come out of it – it was just like a firework display. We always knew what time it was and about half an hour after that it was just like a football match, all the men came out to the bottom there and there were buses going that away or Tod way and they used to pile on them and off they went, or walked down here into Hebden Bridge. These patterns when they used them, they used to put ‘em outside and we used to play in among them, and we used to get pieces of sand that had gone into a hard block with fire in this ‘ere and we used to carve motor cars because you could get pieces of the saws that they used for metal, just the saw blade itself and we used to be able to cut this sand into a solid block – we made motor cars and all sorts out of them, sat on the top of the toilet roofs at the bottom of the street.

Did they last a long time, the sand cars?

No [lauging] – one look at them and they broke up; when we’d toil over them and somebody would say ‘ooh look at that, oooh you’ve done a good job’ and then somebody would just grab it you know and it would fall into bits! Then there might be a bit of a scuffle ensue.

Did you play any other games?

Yes we used to play ‘kick can’ on the main road here – you couldn’t do it now. Mrs Dawson had a shop opposite – the King Street branch of the Co-op – and of course it was always lit up at night, so we used to play there on the pavement and put this can and kick it, then everybody had to run across the road and hide; if you were seen that was it, you were out then it was your turn to watch the can, then we used to run away
and hide, well we’d all that hillside and all over the canal at that side, sometimes we were hidden all night, they never could find us, we’d such a lot of places to hide.
We used to play in what we called the ‘G hole’, it was just a sort of cleft in the hillside (pointing to woods in direction of Savile Road from Mytholm Meadows) – we spent hours up there, we used to go out during holiday time at eight o’clock in a morning and we didn’t come home till eight o’clock at night, I mean you wouldn’t dare let them do it now, but there’d be about half a dozen of us you know, boys and girls climbing trees; there was two big rocks shaped a bit like horses; I’ve ridden many a mile on them things you know, doing John Wayne stuff!
And there was a big pond, a pool there where the stream came down and it were a bit boggy; we used to go fishing for frog spawn there. [pause] Funny thing after all them years, we came living back up there when I was married; our Andrew used to go to the self-same place and come back with a jar full of frog spawn. We had a bit of a pond in the garden up there and we used to put ‘em in there, then when they’d matured into little frogs they’d be on the lawn and I’d be mowing and there’d be legs, arms and heads flying all over the place! [laughing] Times don’t change do they really? No, some things don’t.

What school did you go to?

I went to St James School here, Junior Church School. I used to come on here until the river flooded at least three or four times a year – it came out on King Street and you couldn’t walk on there so we had to go round Savile Road and come down.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Everything bah English and Maths but I got through ‘em a bit. I went there till I was eleven then we moved down the valley to Fairfield and my mother insisted that I go to Central Street School instead of trailing all up here but I didn’t enjoy it because all my friends were up here you know, so I used to come up for so long and then winter time came and then that was it, my Dad says ‘no, you’re going to have to go there’ so I had to go, but I’m afraid I never enjoyed it down at that school because my friends were all up here; I mean every opportunity I got, I came up.

How old were you when you left school?


Did you go into work?

Yes, straight away. Tommy Sut’s it were called, it was a sewing shop. I didn’t want to go in, I wanted to become a butcher but there was no vacancies so my dad must have gone round seeing if he could find me a job but he couldn’t, so they sent me from the dole place – I had to go into this sewing shop and they put me at the bottom of a big shute that came down from the sewing room and when they’d made the trousers they just used to throw them down there and they’d come hurtling down and I used to be stood there turning them the right way out and folding them ready for the pressers. There were about six pressers in the room and they used to take them in piles to press them.
Then I was promoted from there downstairs into the warehouse, helping to tie them up and sew them in big canvas bags ready for going to the station at night. They used to send a lot of stuff away; moleskin trousers, cord trousers; I stuck it for about three weeks I think and that was it, I’d had enough. My dad came home one night and he said ‘I’ve got you a job at the bottom of Bridge Lanes’ – it’s still there is the building – it isn’t a shop any more. It was bottom of The Cuckoo as they called it; there’s some steps to go up from the bottom of Bridge Lanes into Heptonstall Road. It was a double-fronted shop there, it was Mr Stuttard that had it and my father had seen him having a drink at night in t’Nep, the Neptune pub where t’Co-op is now and he asked him if he wanted a lad so I went on and that was it, I was started there.

What did you do there?

I learnt butchering, you know boning all the meat out, tying it all up, making sausages and things like that, and there was a slaughter house at the back so I learnt that part of the trade as well, getting the cattle in and they were shooting ‘em, dropping ‘em and skinning ‘em, disembowelling ‘em, hanging ‘em up, cutting ‘em up in big pieces, sheep and pigs. We didn’t do so many, I mean we’d do about one beast a week then happen three or four sheep, but it was all done there at the back of the shop.

Did they have a well there or a water supply?

No no, it were on tap, they had taps and the water was there on tap, there wasn’t any…

Who did you say owned that?

Mr Stuttard – It used to be Broadbent’s for a start then he took over…I can’t remember his first name now, Stuttard they called him. I had quite a happy time there and then the war came along of course and he got called up because of his age so I was left without a job because there was nobody there then and I weren’t old enough to take over, so the manager at the Co-op who knew my parents very well asked me if I’d like to go and work there because all the lads there, they were taking them away, so I went to the Co-op and I stayed there. I used to go to the slaughterhouse in a morning because we lived over Fairfield and it was just sort of next door but two from where I lived was the slaughter house, and we used to kill the animals for all this valley right up to Todmorden and Cornholme there. I can remember going down to the station because they had some fields up at Old Chamber where they used to get these sheep come, about three or four hundred sheep and eight or ten of us lads gone down to get them up, and it was a devil getting ‘em up there and trying to stop them going into folk’s gardens you know. Wives were coming out with umbrellas and all sorts, chasing them out – ‘keep ‘em out of our gardens’ sort o’ style [laughing] Then we had to get them all up the road and into the fields at the top – that wasn’t the end of it because we had to bring them all down again when it was slaughtering day, just a few at a time.

Was that the same slaughter house, the one at the bottom of Bridge Lanes?

No, this was over Fairfield, it was a Co-op slaughter house and it was a lot bigger, then the Government took it over and they had offices in there, and there was butchers from Halifax that they recruited and they used to come and oversee it all and then they’d ration it out you see to different shops because it was rationing at that time, so everybody had to have this many because he’d so many customers and that sort of thing. All we did was sort of killing, I mean I’ve killed fifty or sixty or sheep at one go. They didn’t shoot ‘em in them days, they just used to stick their necks and break
their necks, twist it; it was hard work when they came in with wet wool, lifting ‘em on to these here things.

So you did that all during the war? You were still a butcher?

Yes, and then of course when I got enough I was called up, then I had to go and I joined the Navy.

What ship were you on?

I went to Skegness first, you know the show place – what a carry on! Butlin’s Holiday Camp – I’ve never wanted to go to Butlin’s Holiday Camp for a holiday again – we had to march about, march about, march about till we were proficient in swinging us arms and saluting and all this sort of business. I went in for a wireless operator – I learnt the Morse code and that sort of thing…I was in there…how many years was I in… nearly five years till I was twenty and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my period in there – I did, I enjoyed it very much.
The first boat I had was an American Destroyer, HMS Broadway; it was built for Pacific and my god, didn’t it roll! We went on a convoy from Thames Docks down there at London all up the east coast to Rosyth and from there they gathered all these ships there and then we set off for Vermansk then when we got half way there it broke down – weren’t we glad! We turned back and we were glad about that.
Then I went back and I was transferred to the coastal forces down at Portsmouth and we used to patrol the Channel and round Southern Ireland; I enjoyed that. I never saw any action or anything like that, the only time was when I was when I was in Portsmouth barracks there, they came over flying, dropping bombs and we had to dive down under t’barracks square and that’s the only thing I ever saw.

Can you still remember any Morse code?

[Colin tapped out his name in Morse code]. I still sometimes get it on the radio, you know you’re just trying to get a station and all of a sudden it comes up and I’ll sit there and try and read it – I don’t do so bad. I don’t bother writing it down, I just do it in my head. It’s surprising what you come across.

Have you ever been a Radio Ham?

No, I couldn’t afford all the tackle. When we were getting de-mobbed they asked us if any of us would to join the Merchant Navy, well I would have loved to have done, but my mother was old and had a bad heart and my father was going blind so I felt obliged to come back and look after them, so I came back here, met my wife and married, then came back up here where I were born

Whereabouts did you live when you got married?

Top of Savile Road down Campden Road at number six I think it was, and then from there we’d saved up and there was the headmaster of Heptonstall School lived across, and there was four houses with bay windows, modern ones, and he was leaving so we went across and had a word with him and we bought it through the Halifax Building Society. Peggy had an old aunt who came up and played Holy Joe with us and I said ‘I’ve married your niece, not t’family – we shall be paying less for this and it’ll be our own at t’finish up than we would if we’d got a council house rent’

How much did you pay?

I can’t remember now, but it was only…I don’t think it were thirty shillings, I think it might have been about twenty-five shillings and some pence happen a week but we paid monthly; I think it worked out something like that.

Can you remember what you got paid when you first started work when you were fourteen?

Yes – half a crown and what meat I took home, then it went up to five bob and then up to ten bob but when I reckoned the meat off that I’d taken home, there was nothing left! [laughing] Yes, it was ten bob and free meat but I used to have to pay for it, it weren’t free really.

Did you have any brothers or sisters?

I had a sister seven years older than me. I was nothing – at that age when she were in her teens I mean I was nothing, they didn’t want to know I were about.

Did she stay in Hebden Bridge?

No, she didn’t; in fact she met a bloke that was working for the Government across at the slaughterhouse when I was there and he used to go to my aunty’s who had the Cabin Café opposite the park, and my sister used to go there in her spare time helping serving on a bit for extra money when she worked in the sewing shop you know. She got going out with this lad from Halifax and finally they got married and they went living to Bradshaw on a farm. And then from there, where did she go then?…just outside Doncaster, Misson, a big farm it was; it was lovely there, I used to go.

Was he a farmer then?

Yes, he was a wholesale butcher with a farm. They had two children so I have a nephew and a niece, and my nephew carried on the business then they took a place over at Keighley and when this foot and mouth came on it wasn’t doing so well, so they sunk a well and he bottles water now and he’s doing well – he says it’s a lot easier than the meat trade, so he’s not doing so bad and my niece has a factory in Halifax, she makes children’s clothes for t’White House, in London and New York. She has three daughters, all married now; the youngest got married last Christmas. I don’t see my nephew and his children very much, but my niece I do; she’s more like a daughter to me because when I had the shop she used to come and help because she went in for being a school cook and she used to come to me to learn all about meat.

Was the Cabin Café always called that?

It was just like it is now really. Half of it was a sweet shop and the other half was a small café and my aunty had a kitchen at the back to make meals. It weren’t a big place, it was only small.

How long has it been there?

It’s been there a long years. They bought it really for my cousin Harry; he used to have a shop on the market that sold sweets, he took it over from somebody else and he carried on with that, this market stall. He’s dead now; his widow’s still alive, he married a Scotch girl, I think she lives just over the top near Burnley…what the heck do they call it now? I have her address, I write to her. I’ve no family left, they’re all dead now nearly. There’s only one at Mytholmroyd, my cousin Maurice, but Richard and Norman, they’re both dead, my cousins.

Did they have the café for very long?

Oh yes they had it for a while and then my aunty died and my uncle, they lived down Hebden Bridge and then they came and lived across at Adelaide Street and they got somebody to come and help him. They took over this café but she lived there, and he lived with his daughter there as well and this girl came from Liverpool and they ran the café, him and his daughter and that, then I don’t know how it finished or whatever happened to it; somebody must have bought it. I think Kenneth Taylor got it that’s there now, then he retired and he’s come back.

Somebody told me that it was one of the buildings from Dawson City.

It could have been; there were a lot of them like that. There’s one across there now, a bloke that had a rag and bone place at t’bottom of Bridge Lanes…well he used to sell all sorts, buy all sorts of stuff; Maurice…I’m terrible with names. But he bought one of these and he put it down there and made it into a bungalow and then he’s had it clad with stone since and it looks very nice there.

Do you know which one that is?

It’s the first one, as you go over the bridge it’s on your left hand side, it’s the first one on Stubbing Drive, straight opposite the pub. And now somebody has it and they’re building a house down where the garages were – there were two garages there, wooden garages that they’ve pulled down, they’re building a house there for his
daughter. Last time I walked round, it looked like everything had come to a sudden standstill, I don’t know why; they might have run out of money, waiting to save some more to get on with the next batch.

To go back a little bit – you finished the war, you came back to Hebden Bridge, you got married – where did you work then?

I went to work for Barker’s Caterers; they had a grocers and they did a lot of cooked meat and I was interested in that side of it then, I got more into it so I went there to see if I could learn a bit more about that job and I was there a while, then my brother-in-law wanted me to go and work for him in Halifax, Market Street, Halifax; he had a butcher’s shop and he bought the next one to it so he asked me if I’d go down there in that shop, so I went down to Halifax. I used to catch the bus from the bottom of Mytholm Lane – ten bob a week it cost me to go to work.

What hours did you work?

I used to catch the bus at seven o’clock because they started early down there then because he was wholesale as well as retail, so we had to go down to the slaughterhouse and help to get the meat ready to go out in the vans and things. I stopped there for a while then a chap that had a butcher’s shop up Bridge Gate, John Lumb – it was a wooden hut opposite The Swan just by the old bridge – he was getting on and he came there and asked me if I’d come back and work for him, he said ‘I’ll pay you the same wage and you won’t have bus fares’ then he said ‘when I’ve finished with it altogether I’ll let you buy it for what it’s worth’, so I snapped his hand off and came back. I worked there and worked it up a bit and then he decided he’d retire after two or three years I’d been there. We’d been saving up and buying us own house up there and not having much money, an I went to the bank to see how much I’d got in – I hadn’t so much but anyway he said ‘you can pay me so much a week’ which was alright, like a rent but I were buying it, so I took it on and started; my wife kept working, she worked at Cresswell Crabtrees Accountants on Market Street, and I just carried on from there. I had to sell the first week’s meat before I could pay for it [chuckling].

That was opposite the White Swan?

Yes, it was a wooden hut; it isn’t there any more now. I had to keep applying…it was some sort of a thing…it belonged to the council; they’d let the land to him and you had to apply every so many years to be able to carry on the business then you paid so much to them.

How long did you own that for?

Ten of fifteen years I think it was; I can’t remember nowadays.

Can you remember any special days, things you did on special days like holidays, Christmas, Wakes Week, Whitsuntide?

For a start, I didn’t have holidays, I couldn’t afford them. My wife used to go off with my son; we had a son, and my mother would go with them and they might go to Blackpool and stay there, but I didn’t go on holidays, they always had a week’s holiday somewhere. We used to go on holidays before I got the shop, we used to go to Filey a lot and have a house or a flat there with my sister and her two children, and my mother and father used to go with us; we’ve had some very happy holidays there at Filey. Some would go out shopping, some would be clearing the breakfast things and make the beds, then we’d make sandwiches and go down to the beach and have a beach hut and stay there all day till about tea time, then some of them would go up to make a dinner, and then we’d all come up and have our dinner. My Mother and Dad would wash up and put the kids to bed, then me, my sister, my wife and brother-in-law we used to go out and play golf on the top of the cliffs or go for a drink; they were very good years were them, we had some very happy times.

When did you go on holiday?

The holidays were in Wakes Week, I think it always started around July the 13th or something like that. I tried to get them all to agree to us having a holiday off, the butchers in Hebden Bridge – I went round them all and said ‘would you close your shop for a week and we’ll send all us customers to you or vice versa’ and there were
about five butchers. I said ‘if we all join together we should get at least a week’s holiday and I could go with my wife and kids instead of being stuck there and you are doing t’same thing as I am’ – they all agreed bah one and he would not agree; I think he were frightened of losing his customers but I weren’t, because when I told my customers they said ‘you’re doing right’. At t’finish up I got so fed I said ‘I’m going to shut for a fortnight’…’well you’re doing right – you deserve a holiday when you’ve worked hard for a whole year’ so I just used to close down and go for a week’s holiday.

You said earlier about how it used to flood down King Street – was that a regular occurrence?

Yes, three or four times a year. There was a row of cottages there and I used to think ‘how on earth do they keep doing it year after year, having to lift their furniture up on to orange boxes and cleaning up after all the mud and that?’ They used to be swilling it out; it used to baffle me did that. I think if I lived there and it happened once, that would be the last time; I’d live in a tent on the top of the hill before I’d stop there, but they all did – whether they got compensation or not I don’t know.
Jimmy Atherton they called him, he lived there – he used to drive the fire engine and the ambulance; it was in a garage at the side of the council offices; I don’t know who has it now, they have it for like a shop, not Oxfam – it’s just where they take their clothes and they try to sell them and all sorts in there, if ever you go down on a Thursday. There was an old lady in the end house who had a shop in her house, well it was just a table top with boxes of sweets and things on a table. She had a long table under the window with them all propped up, oh and when we were kids and we had our bit of spending money we used to go in and get those big gobstoppers; we used to finish up with really sticky fingers because you were sucking them then you had to take ‘em out to see what colour you’d got to! We all used to go there and buy these things; there were aniseed balls and oh what else were there…..she was the Poet Laureate’s great aunt, they called her Polly Hughes.

Can you remember anything about Ted Hughes?

No ‘cos he was a Mytholmroyder and that was a different country from here, I mean us and Hebden Bridge, it was us and them, I mean to go down Hebden Bridge come Christmas and look at all the shops all decorated with things for Christmas, it was like going on a day off. You didn’t recognise people down there, you didn’t recognise people over Charlestown – they were in a different class over there.

Can you remember any sort of characters about, you know – people out of the ordinary?

Yes I can [laughing] – there was Mrs Bailey, I remember her distinctly because she wore a long black coat, a black hat with a big hat pin in and she had a fox fur, one with a head on that used to clip to the tail part; she’d stand in the middle of the road at Holt’s corner, not like it is now, and she’d be waving the traffic on; she wore those black boots with buttons all up the side that they used to have to lace up with an article, I don’t know what it were called, a hook, and she used to be there regular.
And there was another chap, I don’t know what they called him, who lived at the top of Machpelah and he had a walking stick. I never saw him use that walking stick except to swing it; you used to have to get out of his way if you saw him coming because he just swung it round all the time. And you’d think ‘he’s gonna clonk you with it’ you know and you’d get out of the way quick’! They were two odd people, that were about all I can remember.

Can you remember any old sayings?

I can remember a friend of mine, we’ve always been friends, they lived – these houses were top and bottom houses, they were bigger houses on top with smaller ones underneath, and the people above where I was born, they called them Greenwood as well, no relation but they were Greenwoods, and they had about five daughters; the youngest one, Olive, was just a bit younger than my sister but older than me. Her mother was crippled with arthritis and I know when we were kids, when the coalman came we could hear him, he’d be shouting ‘coil’ and my mother used to say to my sister ‘now then, get a bucket of water and that long brush – go on up and push t’coal down, them when you’ve swept it up and put the thing back on the..swill the coal dust away for Mrs Greenwood because she can’t do it and the girls will all be at work and
she won’t want it to tread in, so you go up and help her then you can fetch another bucket of water’, so we had to go up and clean it all up. I used to have to go into the kitchen when he was delivering because I used to have to stand with my back against the door for the coal, it used to come thumping down against this door. My mother used to say ‘for God’s sake, don’t let that door come open’ or else it would have been right across the kitchen floor [chuckling].
And then there was a chap used to come round with vegetables, old Ned – I can’t remember his last name – but he used to fascinate me because he’d have dead rabbits hung all along the back you know and they’d be swinging about, poor things – dead.

I know there’s been a lot of change in Hebden Bridge – what things stick out most in your mind most about what’s changed?

Oh I don’t know really, well…alterations you know, buildings that weren’t there before, like across there now where these houses they’ve built, it was a wooden garage and it was at the other side of Adelaide Street. Sharps had it that lived over on the streets at Stubbing and then they moved it here and made it a bit bigger, the garage, then there were some stone houses there and there was a little house next to what they called the toll house, this side end of the small cottages and that used to be the toll house, because my mother talked about this when it was a muck road, not tarmac like it is now and this wall here was very low, you could trip over it if you weren’t careful in t’dark into this field. I can remember coming in this field to help when it was hay-making time; they used to call it the four day work this field, because it took two Irishmen four days to mow it by hand with scythes, really, they used to be following one another all t’way round.
And we used to come and pick docks at that end, I forget the Latin name properly ‘cos they aren’t like the big cow docks, we used to call ‘em cow docks that if you got a nettle sting you got them and rubbed on it…it cured ‘em. Many a bag full I’ve got there when we were kids. You couldn’t fill the damn things and we only got sixpence for ‘em you know, so we used to put grass in t’bottom and docks on top, but if they got wise to us they used to have a look and tip ‘em out before they paid us! [laughing]

Who did you sell those to?

Anybody round about that wanted ‘em, ‘any docks? Do you want any docks?’

What did people do with the docks?

Made dock pudding. Oh right, yes, of course. It’s delicious but most people that look at it thinks it looks like cow droppings. They have a dock pudding competition here you know, they have it at Mytholmroyd every year.

Do you have a recipe?

Well I only make it like my mother used to make it.

How did she make it?

Well, she cooked it with a bit of water in the bottom and then she’d drain it off and chop it up with a knife, oh and she’d chop an onion up very fine and mix that up with it while she was cooking it, and then she’d drain it off nearly and put fine oatmeal in, sprinkle it in and stir it and then put it in dishes and bowls to keep it.

Did you like dock pudding?

Oh it was lovely, I could eat it while I fell off the buffet, with a fried egg on top and a bit of bacon, oh yer it were a good meal that didn’t cost a right lot, only bit of effort.
Oh yes, I still go and make some because I’ve suddenly realised that there’s some luscious ones in the graveyard over there. They do grow well in graveyards, I think it’s the feed they get!

Is there a special time to pick dock leaves?

Yes, when they’re coming out at first during May. I used to be in the choir there and they had a ritual – if you joined the choir, you had to suffer these here things that the elder lads did and there was about half a dozen of us all joined together at one time, but one lad went off screaming down there – they used to duck us in the Colden stream that goes past the church, and then there was a wall at the top with a flat bit and they used to lay us on there and roll us off into a bed of nettles, but there was very conveniently a lot of docks growing away, so we weren’t really bothered about it, but he ran screaming off, then his parents came playing Holy Joe about it so the vicar tried to put a stop to it, but he’d a job – he didn’t. We’d been done and we weren’t gonna suffer on us own, so anybody else that came were going to have to suffer like we did, even t’girls – when they started having girls in t’choir, we tried to grab them but then the hue and cry went up and we had to stop then. The headmaster came about t’job as well, but we had lots of happy times there and we used to look forward to the choir trip. We always went to Southport – ‘where do you want to go lads?’…’Southport’ because it was flat and you could hire a bicycle for a whole day for about a shilling or something like that. Well of course round here, a bike was no use at all because you had to push it up then you could come down a bit but then it were pushing it back up another hill so you never got the chance to ride it properly, well out there you could ride about all day long, and we did. I remember we used to go to those machines on the station when they weren’t looking and you got two Black Cats with a match for tuppence or something like that, then we used to be in t’loos on t’train when they weren’t looking, keep ‘em occupied, t’grown ups, and we used to go in there for a quick drag! We thought we were great then [laughing].

Did you used to frequent pubs at all?

No, I never used to go in t’pub because only once I were with my wife and we were in t’car, we’d been over to the slaughterhouse at Oxenhope; I’d got some extra meat and I came back with this lamb in t’back and we called at t’Robin Hood. We went in and ordered a drink and we sat down and there was this chap looking at me; he came across and sat down, and said ‘are you going to buy me a pint? I’m one of your customers.’ I said ‘if I start buying pints for everybody that’s my customers I’ll have nowt left’ so I came away and I said ‘that’s the last time, we can get it and have it at
home.’ It were every time you went anywhere ‘oh, we’re customers of yours – are you gonna buy us a pint? Well you get a bit fed up with it don’t you?

Were you a church-goer?

Yes, I used to be in the choir, I was christened there, confirmed there, married there at St James’s. My grandparents are in the graveyard, my mother and father’s in the graveyard, my . My sister was cremated and my sister’s buried there. She was cremated, then my niece didn’t know what to do with her ashes; she was going to put them in their garden in an urn, I says ‘for God’s sake’ and anyway she couldn’t make her mind up what to do, then my youngest great-niece came over and said ‘oh uncle, I’ve been home for my dinner and when we sat round t’table I looked at Rachel which is the eldest and she said ‘where’s my gran?’ [whispered] she says ‘in t’cupboard behind you!’ [laughing] I rang her up and said ‘for God’s sake, will you get your mother down, I’m beginning to get nightmares about it, she says ‘well what would you do?’ I says ‘Put her in with her mother and father at Mytholm, it’s just as simple as that and then t’job’s done.’ She didn’t want burying up Bradshaw where her husband was buried because she hadn’t had a right good experience with people up there in the church, because when my mother was up there and very ill, he wouldn’t come down to give her communion. The parson here, Trevor Bone, used to go all the way to Bradshaw to take my mother communion while she died and he never missed a week; he was very good was Trevor. My wife used to be in t’choir as well; she was the PCC secretary. I was on the PCC as well, but they used to come to our house like coming home; in fact Trevor Bone used to come up, he might about ten o’clock at night and knock on t’door [knocking on table] ‘oh er, have you got t’telly on? Are you watching so-and-so?’ and I’d say ‘why’; he’d say ‘well I’d like to watch it – would you mind?’ I’d say ‘well we’re going to bed in a bit because I’ve to get up at five o’clock in t’morning you know, you’ll be alright’ so we used to go to bed and leave him sat watching it – we used to say ‘don’t forget, turn t’lights off and lock t’door when you go out.’ and he used to do. He used to come up regular. There were curates as well, and they always used to appear just as you were laying the table – I’m sure they could smell it!

Did you ever go on the praying walks up Colden?

I’ve been once that’s all up there, because they were nearly all chapellers that went up there and the chapellers and Church of England didn’t mix, well they do now but they didn’t used to. Baptists were Baptists and Methodists were Methodists. The thing I remember about being a kid was that my father was a Baptist and they were brought up at Hope Chapel opposite the picture house because they lived down there at the bottom of Birchcliffe and of course my mother was brought up here because they lived up here and so we went here, but if there was anything on at Hope – anniversaries and then of course there was the Messiah, we always had to go to that. And then they buried people there from Wainsgate because they hadn’t a graveyard of their own so when it was Wainsgate anniversary we had to go up to Old Town to that. Anything special that was on, we had to go because my father were a Baptist, a Hoper and we had to go there. I used to say ‘he’s hoped all his life and nowt’s ever come of it!’ [laughing]

The one time that you did go on that walk, what was it like? Where did it start from…?

Well it started at Slack and we just wandered down into what they called t’Priest Hole – it was just a hollow with a big stone where t’parson used to stand…and they used to sing a few hymns and say a few prayers. When I got older and I used to go all round there with my dog because I lived up Heptonstall after we moved where I were down Hebden Bridge we lived over the shop and they were going to pull them down so we bought a house up Hirst Road, it was a big house – it was far too big for me, my wife and son but it felt so nice to have such big rooms after we’d been cramped over the top of the shop in a flat sort o’ style, so we went living there then it got far too big and my son was talking about getting married, so we looked up Heptonstall and found a little cottage up there so we went living up there then.

“Was it Slack Methodist Church that did the walk down to the praying hole?”

They used to come from all over and meet at Slack, then march down. Is it a Baptist chapel, I think it is at Slack? It used to be at the end there. I think you’re right. It
was a Baptist chapel because my cousins were Baptists and a lot of them’s buried in the new graveyard there, it’s a big graveyard is that – there’s some of the biggest graves I’ve ever seen in my life, because I once went having a look round to see if I could find any of my forebears, and there are huge things – they must have been able to put a whole family in, some as big as that room there, with big cenotaphs in the side and wrought iron railings all round, all their names on, but a lot of my father’s side were buried at Wainsgate. My grand-daughter wanted to start a family tree, so we went up there looking for the graves; we found my grandparents, a cousin that was buried there and my aunties – we knew they were there. I couldn’t tell where my grandfather’s was but we went to see the girl that has all the books and she told us where to go and we found it. It didn’t have a big headstone, it just had some round with their names on the side. He was a joiner and cabinet-maker.

“Do you know any jokes?”

Do I know any jokes? Not fit for this! [laughing]

I’ll tell you some of the things we used to do when we were kids up there:

There used to be some underhouses as they called them; them that went in at the end and they had steps down with railings across, and everybody had those sneck doors. We used to go into t’hen pens across and get a tack or a nice fat drawing pin, put some hen muck on it, go back and stick it on the latch thing; then we’d bray on the door and when they came out and chased us, one that had hidden round the corner used to come and carefully pull it to so that when they went back and went like that, what do you do when you prick your thumb? Well you go like that don’t you? [sucking finger] – weren’t we mucky little beggars? [laughing]

There was a ginnel on the cottages there and we’ve sat there many a time with a purse, borrowing one of our mother’s old purses and tied some black thread to it, then lay it in the sneck between the flags so they couldn’t see it. They’d come on and they were just going to reach down to pick this purse up and we’d drag it away from them, then they used to curse at us and chase us!
We used to knock on doors and windows then run like mad when they came out.

What do you think about young people today, do you think they have the same values that you did?

There’s a lot of kids and they’re just daft – they don’t have the simple pleasures that we did. We hadn’t a lot of money, I mean I got thre’pence if my dad had a thre’penny bit in his wage packet, that was my spending money and I had to work for that; I had to fire t’boiler up for my mother on a Monday morning when she was washing and I helped my sister to black lead t’fireplace; she used to have to scrub t’doorstep and window bottoms and put t’edgings on. I can remember going down Hebden Bridge, she’d say ‘go and get some donkey stone, a yellow one and a white one’ and I used to t’Penny Bazaar and I used to bring them home and put t’edgings on and wipe ‘em. Some of ‘em were very houseproud – they use to scrub the flags outside their houses and then wipe them all over, and woe betide you if you walked on ‘em when they were still a bit wet; they’d come out and clip you round ‘earhole would some of ‘em! Even our dog used to walk in the garden, it knew – it used to walk down and then go in the garden out of t’way while it got back on the flags after it had passed this house!

I would like to just follow up on that a bit; you have grandchildren and nieces and what have you – do you think that they have the same kind of values that your family did when you were young?

No, not at all – they’re spoilt nowadays – they’ve far too much. I used to go up to my son’s, he still lives at Heptonstall, when the kids were only about six or seven and if they misbehaved, they didn’t get a crack on t’bottom like I would have given ‘em which I have done. They used to come to our house after school while their parents came home from work and if they misbehaved themselves I gave them a crack on their legs, I never hit ‘em around the head but I’d crack ‘em on their legs you know and make ‘em do, but up there they’d say ‘oh you are naughty – go up to your bedroom.’ Well I used to look at ‘em and I couldn’t help it, I used to say ‘well that’s a bad punishment, isn’t it? He’s got his computer, television, all his game things – he’s having a better time up there than what he were down here!’ No punishment whatsoever. There’s a lot of that goes on, I think they’re spoilt with that. I mean
there’s a lot of good kids up and down in their teenagers, it’s same as here now on a Sunday, there’s a girl that comes and she has these lads that’s…what do they call it? That’s been naughty boys and they’re on probation. You’ve never met a nicer lot of lads – they’re very polite and they’re most helpful. I’ve seen them come to people that can’t cut up if they’re crippled with arthritis and they’ve cut their meals up for them…’there, now can you manage?’ – how many would do that, yet they’re in these sort of places for correction. I look at them sometimes and I think ‘what on earth can they have done?’ Yet you get some that’s really daft – they come on here and they swing on the trees, running round and kicking a ball against things but you don’t take any notice because if you do, you get a mouthful back of swear words. When I were their age I didn’t understand what them words meant. [chuckling]

In the house where you were born, can you tell me what it was like – how many rooms there were…

There was one living room and a scullery, a staircase up and then it was a big landing that could hold a single bed, then there was a single bedroom – my grandparents had that; not when I was a child, but when my sister was there because she slept on the landing after she moved out of my father and mother’s big bedroom, they had that, my grandparents had the smaller one. That was it, there was no bathroom – we had a grey one hung on the kitchen wall, which used to have to be lifted down and filled out of the pan. We’d a garden at the front with a seat in; we used to have some lovely times up there – there were six houses in the row but you could go into any of them, it was just like going in home at every one. The lady in the middle house, she’d no children of her own and my mother used to pay her half a crown a week I think and she used to look after me when I came home from school while she was working, and at school holiday time she’d have me all day and give me a meal and that sort of thing. I went and looked after her when she was ill and old; she was like a grandma. Her mother came from Doncaster and I used to call her granny because I didn’t know me own – I was born in 1924 and they’d both died within a fortnight of one another in the March of that same year when that ‘flu epidemic was on; in 1924 there was a bad ‘flu epidemic. They both died within a fortnight of one another so I never knew my mother’s parents, my grandparents on that side. All I can remember about my father’s parents was that they lived in a house down Hebden Bridge. I can remember going
when my grandfather had died, and all I can remember is they’d laid him out on a trestle table underneath a row of windows and it was covered with a white cloth, and he had a silver cup on his chest with some roses in, and that’s all I can remember about him but I can see that as clear as day, even now.

Were there any other shops up this end between King Street and Church Lane?

The first lot of shops was at the top of Bridge Lanes; there was a butcher’s and a sweet shop and Fletcher’s newsagents. Half way down there was the Co-op butcher’s and the Bridge Lanes branch of the Co-op. Opposite there was a shop there that used to sell all sorts, pint pots – Nancy Bob’s it was called, it sold all things like that. There was a little place next door where the cloggers used to go; you sat on a wood bench and took your clogs off to have new irons put on, then all you did when you came out was touching t’pavement with ‘em so they made sparks, wearing ‘em out quicker!

Did you always wear clogs when you were young?

Yes – we had shoes for Sunday but as soon as we came back from church, ‘get ‘em off and put your clogs on then you can play out’.

Was that the same with everybody?

More or less, well with all my friends it were, yes, they all wore clogs. I think that’s why I’ve good feet now. The chiropodist said ‘You know, you have some good feet, have you done a lot of walking?’ I said ‘Well I have done but I’ve never had a lot of bother with me feet.’ He says ‘I bet you wore clogs when you were young didn’t you?’ I says ‘I did’. My mother used to wear ‘em, I can remember her wearing ‘em; she had ‘em on a Monday when she used to wash in the cellar then she’d go out of some French windows into the field to hang her clothes and she always had these clogs on when she was washing and going out like that.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to say?

I don’t think so – I’ve been going on haven’t I? It’s time I shut up! No it’s very interesting.

One other question – how do you feel about talking about this?

Well it doesn’t bother me at all – it’s interesting especially if there are two or three of you because one thing leads to another – they might remember somebody you know, they’ll just mention ‘em then you remember something about them and it all comes out.

Until this finishes, there are one or two little things…

I remember this place before this was built. There was Mytholm Hall there; oh, did you ever go inside? the Pickles lived there and that little stone wall there is the ‘ha-ha’ so the cattle couldn’t get up into their gardens at the front. Oh, really? It went in a big round, and a drive came in at that end. There was a farm here, Holme Farm it was called; it wasn’t very big because there was only this field but they had some fields, one or two of those fields across there connected with it, they used to take their cattle up that way.

Who owned that farm?

Pickles’s owned it but Mr Chapman had it, he lived in it; he had a milk round with a float and we used to go and help him hay-make there, we thought we were real if we went out there. Mr Tennant used to come delivering milk up there from Pecket Well and his son comes here now – Kenneth. I said to him t’other day, I says ‘here, Frank’ he looked at me and he said ‘do you know what you just said?’ I says ‘ay, I’ve suddenly realised I’ve called you your Dad’s name haven’t I?’ he says ‘Do you remember me Dad?’ I says ‘I remember your Dad and your Grandfather’ he says ‘Why?’ I says ‘Well, living across there I used to wait for them at t’bottom of Savile Road because Frank would get out and walk the cart up; he’d let me get in and hold the reins – I thought it was the bees knees you know for me to be able to drive the horse and cart right to the top of Savile Road and the horse would not go any further, it just stopped there when it got to the top and waited while he came. That was the day when they had the tin and a pint/quart measure. They used to pour it out of the bigger one then they’d go back to t’cart and fill it out of the big tank, then they measured it all out; that’s why everybody had sets of jugs. When we were married, we got five sets of jugs, that were three in a set; a quart, a pint and a gill. She says ‘we shall never want for jugs as long as we live, shall we?’ I think I still have one of them.

There was two dams there and a path came along there and it came out by Mytholm House there, and woe betide us if we came on there and Mr Pickles saw us – by god, he’d be there with his walking stick…’you shouldn’t come on there – get back’ [high-pitched voice]. It was a short cut from school if it flooded there, it saved us going all round Savile Road.


About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
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