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Nellie Dawson

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[the beginning of this tape did not record for about one minute until the tape jumped to here. Nellie began by saying her parents were farmers]


I don’t really know – I don’t think I was very keen on the animals really.

Did you grow crops as well?

Well they used to make the hay during the summer but we hadn’t anything else.

What were your parents’ names?

My mother’s name was Annie – Sarah Annie and she was Robertshaw before she was married, and my father was John Speak.

Your sisters – have they all moved away?

Well there are only two of us left now. My older sister, she was twelve years older than me and then I had one sister that died very young and she was only in her fifties, so there was just myself and my sister who lives in Mytholm Court now, she’s older than me.

Where did you go to school?

Heptonstall until I was twelve then I came down to Hebden Bridge, to the Middle School it was called then.

So that was Central Street?


Did you like school?

Yes, yes I did, yes.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Well I used to like history and geography and I think I were pretty general you know. I didn’t go onto anything further than leaving at fourteen.

A lot of people in those days, as soon as they finished at that age, they went out to work.

Yes that’s right.

Did you leave to go to work then?

Yes I did, yes.

What did you do?

I worked in a sweet and confectioner’s shop on Market Street in Hebden Bridge.

What was that called?

Well it was Winifred Moss’s and we used to make home-made cakes as well.

So did you do baking?

I did yes.

What did you bake?

Little buns, scones, all sorts of small cakes, and we sold them for four for thre’pence ha’penny. That stands in my mind plain you know, four for thre’pence ha’penny!

You wouldn’t get that now.

No [laughing]

How long were you there?

I was there until after I was married, eleven years altogether.

When you got married, did you just raise your children or did you do any other work?

Yes I left when I was expecting my daughter.

How many children did you have?

Just the one girl.

What was her name?


Does she live locally?

She lives at Greetland, Halifax.

Not so far.

No, not too far away.

When you were a child, what kinds of things did you do during the holidays?

Well when I was young and lived on the farm at Stoneshegate [Stones Hey Gate – local dialect] I remember we used to be able to skip across the road you know, no traffic to stop you, and play whip and top all along the road you know, there was no traffic to interfere with us at all.

Did you go into the woods or down by the riverside?

Yes we did, we went down Hardcastle Crags, there was no fear of being…what shall I say, kidnapped or anything like that then and yes, we used to go down and play down there, a group of us you know.

Very interesting. What kind of special days did you do – I’m going to ask about Christmas or Easter, or Wakes Week – what kind of things did you do on those times?

Well we always had a jolly Christmas, just the family.

Did you have a Christmas tree and presents?

Oh yes, we had a Christmas tree and all that goes with it sort of thing for Christmas, always presents hidden and you were wondering where they are [laughing]. I mean we didn’t get away on holidays with the farm, but after the hay time was over my dad always booked a taxi. There was a man who had it that lived at Slack and he booked this taxi and we had the day off; it was always on a school day you know, and we always went to Blackpool of course but it was such a day that was the holiday sort of thing.

So you took a taxi all the way to Blackpool?

Yes that’s right, yes. It was the old-fashioned type you know with the hood, yes I can just see it now and it always seemed to be a nice day, we always had the hood back you know and it was quite an event.

What type of things did you do in Blackpool?

Well we always went to the Tower Circus, yes we always went to the Tower Circus – I suppose we went on the beach a bit before or after, but we always went to the circus.

So having been a farmer, you wouldn’t have Wakes Week then really, would you?

No, no, we hadn’t, no.

Because it’s an all-year round job.

That’s right, yes.

The farmhouse that you lived in – what was it like?

Well we had a great big living room – I can just see it now you know, and a great big kitchen as well, then we had a little sitting room and of course there was the cellar where they used to keep the butter and cream. Then upstairs we had a great big bedroom, I think it’s been made into quite a few now; we had three bedrooms upstairs. From the living room you went down into the kitchen where we had the separator for the milk and the cream, the wash-house down below and all that so it was quite a big place. It’s all made into cottages now; I can still see our animals though in them.

When did that change then, when did it stop being a farm?

…well during the last ten years I think, yes, maybe a bit longer – I can’t just say.

When your family left the farm then, who took it over – do you know?

Well my cousin, he’d been…he was my dad’s nephew and he’d been left without parents when he was quite young, and so we were really brought up with him you see, he was much older than me but he was brought up with us.

He took it over?

He did yes, we left him there.

What his name?

Hilton Sutcliffe.

A Sutcliffe!

Yes a Sutcliffe. It was his mother who was sister to my dad.

How did your dad come by the farm then – was it left to him?

No it wasn’t left to him, I suppose he just rented it, yes I think he did.

Do you know who the landlord was?

Oh yes, we’d a lot of land. We’d eight fields altogether; there was four with the farm and then just a little bit further along the road there was the big house at Stoneshegate and we had the fields from them as well.

Who was the landlord?

It would be George Sutcliffe. Camelial Sutcliffe, the…I’m saying the old man – I can just see him now, I used to be a little bit frightened of him. When I was walking on the road he used to walk out a little bit and he always had a stick, and he had a habit of just poking me because I was only small and I used to feel a bit frightened of him, and then it was his son who followed him like into the big house.

Were you a church-goer?

I used to go to Slack Chapel.

What was it like there?

Oh we had some good times – concerts, good weekends you know; we were regular attenders there.

Were there lots of people went to it?

Oh yes there was in those days.

How many?

Well at anniversary times it was always full; I’ve known them bring forms down the aisle for people to sit on you know, it was always packed.

And Sunday School – was that different?

Yes, we went to Sunday School every week without fail.

What kind of things did they teach you in Sunday School?

Well we used to have little classes with a few in you know, and we used to read the Bible and the Psalms and all those things.

Did you do singing?

Yes we did.

What were your favourite hymns?

It was a favourite with the man who used to take us, it was always ‘Tell Me The Old Old Story’, it always used to be his tune did that you know – ‘Tell Me The Old Old Story’ – ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ isn’t it?

Who was that – was he the vicar there?

Well his name was John William Arnie.

Was the there a long time?

Yes, yes he was, yes. He would be…well, he always seemed an old man to me- I’ll put it that way, when you’re small.

I’ll just stop for a minute and I’ll go on to you, and then we’ll come back.

So again, it’s the same sort of questions. Your name and where and when you were born.


Well I’ve just put Douglas there but actually I’m Richard Douglas, but I always went under the name of Douglas you see. I used to say to my mother late on ‘why did you put Richard first if you were going to call me Douglas – why not Douglas Richard?’ she said it didn’t sound right and Richard Douglas sounded better, and Naylor’s me last name.

I was born on the 29th of the tenth 1916, in Hebden Bridge up Birchcliffe on…well Eiffel Street I was born on and that was just a living room and one bedroom and a kitchen, and underneath – ‘top and bottom houses’ was what we called them and we were in the bottom one. I had a brother you see who was two years older than me and of course when we got a bit older one bedroom was rather not the thing and so my grandparents lived in the next door to us and eventually, I should be about…seven or eight, me brother would be a little bit older, they decided to move onto the top which were the top houses, the street above you see, you know what the top and bottom houses are like, so we moved into Edward Street with our grandparents as well because there were four bedrooms there so there was me mother and father, me grandparents and me brother and myself up in the attic bedrooms.

What number was it?

Number seven Edward Street.

Which number on Eiffel Street were you in?

Twenty-four, the end one right at the end next to the wood.

What did your parents do?

Well me father was what they called a stiffener, it was to do with the dyeing process. When pieces – it was the CWS Mill at Nutclough. When the cloth came in it had to be stiffened

How did he do that, do you know?

Well it went through great big rollers. I once went down, it was a rather foreboding place to go into, it was part of the dying process; it were dyed and then stiffened or vice versa, I’m not just sure which, over big rollers and they used to come out stiffened; it was the old worsteds and corduroys and things like that you see and that’s where me father worked, and me grandfather worked at the same place.

Did they work there a long time?

Oh yes, well me grandfather retired from there – they retired at seventy then you know, that was the retiring age and me father worked there, he retired at sixty-three through rather ill-health actually, but that was his main job and then he was a part-time fireman, a voluntary fireman in Hebden Bridge, hence these photographs. He joined when…they couldn’t join the Fire Brigade until they were twenty-one, so as soon as he was twenty-one which would be in 1904 he joined the Brigade you see and that was his hobby and part-time, every spare moment.

Did they let him off work to go and be a fireman if there was a fire?

Oh yes – in those days if a fire happened, there used to be what they called the buzzer; there was one on at the gas works on Crow Nest by the station at Hebden Bridge and the other one was at Pickles’s mill on here, and when these buzzers went they were allowed to go – they had to run on to the fire station you see, and in the early days it was a horse-drawn fire engine and the horses, there were two horses pulled the fire engine and their other work was going round the street with what they called the ash cart, gathering refuse you see and if the buzzers went these horses just stood still till they were unharnessed and then they ran; they knew the way to the Fire Station and then they got under the harness straight away. They were like human to a certain extent you know.

What school did you go to?

Well in the first place I went to Stubbings School, that’s up the Birchcliffe side and then when I was eleven they had what they called the County Minor Scholarship then; if you passed that you went to the Secondary School, it became the Grammar School. If you just missed you went to where Nellie went, to the Middle School. I just missed so I went to the Middle School at Central Street.

The Central Street School now, it’s been built for about twenty years; what was the old school like?

Oh massive, a lot bigger than that – four times as big. There was an upstairs and a downstairs. We were in form in the Middle School and the other half was classes, they weren’t just as brilliant you see, so there were classes in one half and forms in the other.

Did they separate the girls and the boys?

No, they were mixed.

What were your favourite subjects?

Well I’m a bit like Nellie; I used to like geography, I was pretty fair at everything you know. I got quite a good report when I left at fourteen.

And did you go to work then?

Yes I went into what was the Hebden Bridge Co-operative Society, into the grocery department, that was my job.

In those days there were many co-operatives around weren’t there – which one did you go to??

I went to…well there was the centre and then there were ten branches, well over the years I worked at every one of them, you used to get moved about a bit you see.

Always in the groceries?

In the groceries, yes.

What kind of foods were there in the groceries?

Well I mean everything then – well a lot of things – they weren’t pre-packed; we used to have to weigh flour you know. There were three lads and every Thursday morning we were in the ‘back hole’ as we called it, weighing flour for a full morning; one filling the bags, another one weighing ‘em and the other wrapping them up. There were stones, half stones, four pounds and two pound bags you see, and the sacks they came in were two hundred and forty pounds weight and they used to go down the shute, then we used to dish it out into the bags so it was a full morning’s jobs for three lads. Sugar was…Tate & Lyle’s sugar had just started pre-packing but there was still quite a lot that we weighed out into two pounds bags.

Were there different types of sugars?

Yes, there was granulated sugar, Demerara sugar and icing sugar, but they got onto the pre-packing then you know, and currants and sultanas, they all had to be weighed out but they weren’t in packets then, coffee was the same, we had a coffee machine you know and it ground the coffee beans and then weighed out into quarters.

So a lot of your work was weighing?

And serving customers you know, and you didn’t have a reckoning up…what do they call ‘em…calculator? that’s it – it was all done with a pencil on a sugar bag!

Were you good at maths then?

Well you had to be really. If there were only a few items you just reckoned ‘em up in your head. Sometimes if there were more other customers they’d say ‘are you sure you’re right?’ I’d to check it over with them you know, but that’s what I spent until I had to go into the forces eventually.

When was that?

I was twenty-three, it was…1940. I was called up, I didn’t volunteer.

What service were you in?

I was in the Artillery Company and I served in that for six years.

Where did you go?

Well we did our training in various places in England and then eventually we went to North Africa, then after the North Africa campaign was successful we went across into Italy, right the way up through Italy up into Austria and then the war more or less finished. I wasn’t at the D-Day, I was at the bottom end.

Did you shoot a canon as it were?

Well we started off with what they called twenty-five pounders, a twenty-five pound weight shell and then we went onto self-propelled ones – those with 105 millimetre guns on a tank chassis. They went better and better; they were more mobile – the twenty-five pounder was drawn by a vehicle you know with the gun and the limber. They were better when they were on the tanks because everything was on the tank chassis you see which was more mobile across country and all that.

Were there a lot of people from Hebden Bridge – young men went?

I didn’t meet anyone from Hebden Bridge in the same regiment but when I was called up, there were quite a few went on the station at Hebden Bridge waiting for a train. I started in Harrogate training you know, the first place we went to, and we thought ‘this is the end of the world’ when we got there!

One other question about the Co-op really – did the ten other shops were that connected to the central one – can you remember where they were?

Yes – starting up towards Todmorden, there was one at Charlestown, and just along the road here there was one at King Street, and then going along down Bridge Lanes there was one down Bridge Lanes, then there was the centre one, there was one on Hangingroyd by the market on there, and then going up the Keighley Road there was Lees Road, Keighley Road and eventually Pecket Well – well they had their own society but Hebden Bridge took it over eventually, and then there was one at Old Town and one at Hawksclough on the way to Mytholmroyd. Oh and Blackshaw Head, now Blackshaw, they had their own society – there were all individual little societies then they got took over and eventually it went into liquidation when the big supermarkets came out and they couldn’t compete.

Did you like working there?

I enjoyed it yes, people say – I know you go to work for what you can get – money don’t you, that’s the idea, but if you’re going to be miserable all the time it’s not very nice is it? I enjoyed it, I had some good companions there.

Were you there all the time then – did you work your full working life there?

Yes, as I said I just had those six years in the army and then I went back into the trad again.

Did you move back to Edward Street when you came back after the army?

No, I got married in 1940.

Just before you left?

I was in the forces and my fiancée, I said ‘we’ll wait while t’wars over – it’ll be over by Christmas’ – we all said it would be over by Christmas you know. Anyway as time went on during the year I said ‘this’ll never be over by Christmas’ because there was D-Day and all that you see, so we decided to get married; we got married in December 1940, and of course she lived in Rochdale.

Was that alright, a Lancashire lass marrying a Yorkshire lad?

[nurse calling in]

Well, she worked in Hebden Bridge actually – that’s how I met her. She came to work in the millinery and drapery department at the Co-op, that’s how I met her like, so she was naturalised eventually!

When you were younger, when you were a child, what kind of things did you do?

There was plenty of room to play, as I say when we lived on Eiffel Street; there was a wood just over the wall as you might say and we used to go roaming in there, climbing trees, making sod huts as they used to call them. There was a dam there which was connected to the water for the mill, Nutclough Mill and we used to make rafts – we were warned against it – ‘you’ll get drowned!’ anyway we’re still here!

Did you have Wakes Week in the Co-op?

Well you had a holiday week but it had to be staggered you see, you couldn’t all go off at the same time so you used to have a little bit of choice and we used to pick the time when we liked the best.

When was that – when was your favourite time?

Well I used to like September actually. We had some good weather in September.

Where did you go and what did you do?

Well…you mean pre-war?

Well either or both.

Well pre-war when I went with me mother and father, when we were too young to go on our own, we used to go to Cleethorpes, New Brighton – nowhere exotic like– Blackpool you see, and then as I got a bit older, when I got to about sixteen and seventeen when you wanted to go with your mates like, we used to go to the Isle of Man and we used to go on the Friday night, get the train at Hebden Bridge station and it was nineteen and sixpence (19sh 6d) return to the Isle of Man; that was a train to Fleetwood, then the boat to the Isle of Man, nineteen and sixpence. There was what they called Cunningham’s camp at the Isle of Man and it was for males only, on top of the hill just above Douglas and it used to be two guineas a week there – that were a lot of money – so if you have ten pound before your holiday started, you had a bonanza!

Did you like the Isle of Man?

Yes, we went several years – there used to be four or five – there were chalets in this camp you see for four people, four camp beds as you might say, and a big dining room.

Did you used to watch the TT Races?

Oh yes.

Was that the reason you went?

No, I was a bit older when we went to the TT; we got a bit more affluent then you see and went in a boarding house on the front you see, we could afford a boarding house. I used to go to the September amateur TTs in September because quite a few local fellas rode in the TTs.

Was there a big motorcycle club around this area then?

Not really no, I mean I wasn’t a cyclist myself….you were better off if you had a motorbike, the ordinary bloke couldn’t afford one you see; you had to be a bit better off like, your father had to be a mill owner or something like that. But yes, I enjoyed it.

Were you a fireman as well?

No I wasn’t, me father was the fireman. You see I worked in the Co-op and they wouldn’t allow you to leave the shop. I was never so interested meself like.

Can you remember any of the big fires?

I have a list of them in here.

Very interesting – we’ll do that later.

Can you remember any of the floods?

Which one? There have been so many.

Tell me about one or two.

Was it 1947 when all Albert Street was flooded?


Market Street.


Market Street – I mean it has been just recently, but this was a really bad one. I worked at the central Co-op then


Forty-six I think it would be.


Yes it was the year I came out of the forces.


It was while I was still working.


I de-mobbed in March and it was later on. Well the central premises where I worked, the cellar – there was a big cellar underneath and all the electrical gadgets and things you know for all the building and it got about three foot high and the caretaker was panicking, he says ‘if it gets any higher it’ll blow all those electrical things’ – fortunately it stopped before it got any higher, but I mean it was really serious; all down…well all over was flooded, all the lower lying places like Market Street, Albert Street, King Street along here, this was like a reservoir in this field here you know, it was all flooded.

How long did it take to kind of drain away then?

Well it was funny you know – once it gave over raining, the river went down very quickly and of course the water drained back into it. Sometimes they had to pump it out, you know if it was very lower lying, they had to pump it out back into the river.

Can you remember any sort of characters shall we say – people who…you know what I mean?

Oh there’s quite a few. There was Old Mrs Adams; when they built the reservoirs at Walshaw they had – Draper Corner – that’s at Slack – what they called Dawson City and Mrs Adams and Mrs Nolan, they were two ladies, proper characters, and they were in charge of the canteen; they could rule the navvies better than any man – they were in command you know and they wouldn’t stand any hanky-panky! Mrs Adams wore a flat cap and smoked a clay pipe, she were a proper character. Mrs Nolan – she was fairly hefty was Mrs Nolan; eventually after they finished up there, she had a little café in Crown Street for years, before she died like you know – well before she got too old.
There were lots – Sammy Pie, he had a little bakery up Heptonstall Road and he made some lovely…in that book it says pork – they were beef pies that Sammy Pie made. Have you ever seen the ‘Milltown Memory’ book? Oh I have yes. Aye well, there’s an article in one of them about – Sammy Holroyd was his name but they always called him Sammy Pie – and he used to make some lovely beef pies – he used to take two big baskets down onto Calder Holmes when the football match was on, on Saturday afternoon and come round with these pies and they’d be about thre’pence each, and if he didn’t sell up, he’d go into the pubs and finish off selling them there. He was a character was Sammy Pie.
And Ben Shipin’Garret [laughing] oh you won’t know him Nellie – he was a fella called Ben but I don’t know what his last name was, and he built a boat int’garret, that’s the attic – they used to call him Ben Shipin’Garret – he built a boat in the garret and then he couldn’t get it downstairs! [all laughing] That was at Wood End.

Were you a church-goer as well?

I used to go to Salem – the old, big Salem. Sunday mornings me brother and meself in our Sunday best had to go on to Salem.

Did you sing the hymns?

Oh aye, we used to sing the hymns. They were very strict with the music, the teacher – John Emmy Thomas. If you did it wrong, he had a baton you know, [whack] start again – very strict you know, I was glad when I was fourteen when I left school and left the church as well [laughing].

Did you go to the Sunday School then?

Yes it was the Sunday School I went to you know and then of course anniversary time – I didn’t go to the church much because…well I think it was mostly for the older people, except for anniversary time when we all had to go and sing a bit you know.

When you say ‘anniversary time’ I’m not quite sure I understand what that is.


It was Sunday School Anniversary they used to talk about – every year you see, they all had the certain day for it. Up at Slack it was always the third Sunday in May and it was always kept to that.


There used to be a bit of a friendly competition between the different churches who got the most collection. We’d get a hundred pounds – ‘oh we’ve done better, we’ve got a hundred and ten’ you know, it was like a collection for the school funds you see, that was the idea.


To give you the Whit Monday field treat you know, things like that.

What did you do on Whit Mondays?


Have races, play games and I can see again the old man, he was always old as I say to me; he used to walk around with a tin of toffees and throw them up you know, and we all used and see how many we could get.


They call that slutching ‘em, slutching ‘em, that was the name wasn’t it Nellie?

I don’t know.


Oh didn’t you know that? Oh dear, I’m teaching her something.


I remember them up at Slack, letting balloons up your name on to see how far they went.

Was there a prize for that?


Yes there was a bit of something for it, but I remember standing watching them all go up you know, wondering where they were going.


From Salem we used to go right up Horsehold, up the road up there to a field right at the top there – it was a right walk up there, I mean your parents used to go and whole families used you know, dozens – well hundreds of people really, an then there’d come the horse and cart with…well they were like hot cross buns, but they were currant teacakes and tea or coffee you know – that was the treat half way through the proceedings. The horse and cart used to come up the road with it, it would be one of your relatives [to Nelllie]


It might be! [laughing]

What kind of games did you play?


Well there was racing, mostly racing – egg and spoon races, three-legged races,
sack races, things like that you know; tug of wars you know, there’d be the young men versus the older men, there’d be something like that you know. Oh yes, it was quite an event was the anniversary and the Whit Mondays.

Can you remember any shops that were down Bridge Lanes and on to Market Street, because I’ve been told that there were shops along Bridge Lanes – can you remember any of those?


Yes, there used to be the Co-op shop for one.

Was that the end one opposite the Fox and Goose?

No, no it isn’t there now. As you’re going down to Bridge Lanes, you know where you turn to go on to Stubbing Holme, well it used to be there. There’s a car park there now; it was a big building, and Barbreck was there, they’d a big mill there that got burnt down.
And on the other side there was who-is-it’s sweet shop across the road…Norah Dodd’s little dress shop, a fish and chip shop, and a pub – The Bull Inn


Well there was steps up and there was the painter and decorator, Horsefield & Spencer’s, and there was also Hayes greengrocers.


Yes next door to it, and across the road was Mary Beswick’s parents had a little sweet shop and there used to be a tailor’s shop at the top – James Arthur Mitchell’s, and a butcher’s, and then there was the mill – Waterside Mill. There was Ballard’s newspaper shop and a tripe shop across the road just at the bottom, and a gentleman’s convenience as they called it.

On High Street there, where they’re all knocked down now, were there any pubs inside all of those houses that were there?


There was a Working Men’s Club, I think it was the original Working Men’s Club was on there. Before my days I think there used to be a couple of pubs up Heptonstall Road, I think I’ve read it in one of those ‘Milltown Memories’ you know, but I can only remember the Fox and Goose at the bottom, that’s the only one I can remember.

Who ran the Fox and Goose in your earliest memory?


…were it Truearthur?


I wouldn’t know Douglas.

I think it might have been a fella called Truearthur but I wouldn’t just be certain about that you know; I was too young to go in pubs then you see.

Did you go in pubs later on then?

Well occasionally we might go in and have an odd one you know [laughing]

What was your local pub?

….I think a few of us used to congregate at The Neptune – it isn’t there now – up by the Co-op, you turned up there, Neptune. Hebble End. Yes that’s right, there used to be a few of us used to go in there.

Was that a good pub then?

Oh I suppose we thought so then, yes.

Did you go for the company or did you go for the beer…?

I think it was the company you know, they were all lads about us you might say that used to congregate there – I forget who the landlord was, it’s such a long time since, you forget. There was The Railway on the main road, that’s where Marjory was, Marjory Greenwood – King.

When you had your children, what types of things did you have to do – I mean you were like a housewife, did you have special days when you did certain jobs?


Oh yes – Monday was always wash day and then I used to have a certain day for upstairs and downstairs, and doing the outside was Fridays, you know – the windows and the steps, I used to do that.

Did you have a baking day?


Oh yes, yes, I had a baking day.

I mean being a baker…


Oh yes, I still kept that up.

What day was that?

Well I don’t think it was a particular day really – perhaps Tuesday I used to do it if I could.

When you did the washing, was it the tin bucket and posser?


To begin with it was with a tub and a posser, yes, and then I got to a little Hoover hand-turned one, that was the first washer I had.

[Douglas leaving]

What did your children do?


Work wise do you mean?



My daughter, she went to school – well she began at Colden because we lived up there, then she came down to Heptonstall cos we moved into Heptonstall and then of course she went to Calder High School, and she went as a hairdresser to begin with. And then we were living in Heptonstall and after she was married, there was a little hairdresser’s shop in Heptonstall that was for sale and so she had that for quite a few years.

What was the shop called?

I think it would just have her name on, Margaret. They left there and she had her family, she had two boys and she went in an office then and she ended up as a school secretary at Greetland but now she’s just retired.

When you first started working in the bakery, how much did you get paid?


Ten shillings a week.

How long did you work?


Well I always used to have to work till after seven o’clock on Saturday nights because it was always the time when the men came for chocolates, you see we used to sell a lot of boxes of chocolates in those days, that was the time when all the men used to come for boxes of chocolates before the picture time you see, so I’d alwaysto work until after seven o’clock then; it was long hours, and Friday was a busy evening as well. They wouldn’t do it now, and I know iIt went up half a crown when I had my next birthday – that was twelve months so it was twelve and six then, it was a bit slow-moving [laughing] but I enjoyed it.

There’s still Waites isn’t there who does their own baking now.



You don’t get many of them these days do you?


No. And then after my daughter started school I started work in the Co-op then, part-time, so we’ve both been Co-opers.


That’s how I got to know Nellie.

What did you do in the Co-op?


Well I was in the grocery, just the same.

[Douglas came back]


I was her boss, and she’s my boss now!

How do you think Hebden Bridge has changed from when you were younger until now?


Well all the mills, you know there used to be sewing shops as they used to call them, there was the engineering next – Pickles’s used to be on this big spare land there, and there was Ormerod’s on Hangingroyd – that was engineering – that’s where my son started his work – F & H Sutcliffe’s, that was a wood place by the station there, that was burnt down.


No smoke from mill chimneys now.


Oh yes it’s a cleaner atmosphere, but of course all the people who we knew, most of them have passed by. We never go down now because it’s difficult with Nellie and if when we used to go down a few years ago, you’d go round and you’d not see anybody you knew hardly, they were all off-cumdens as they call them. It’s vastly different.
I can remember horses and carts on Market Streets with the sets in the olden days.

Has any of it been good do you think, any of the change?


Yes I think so.


I think there are a lot of things for the better but unfortunately other things have come in that have worsened.

Like what?


Well vandalism and all that – you didn’t used to get a lot of that in our young day. You could go and leave your door open and people never bothered locking their doors at night and nobody would think of going in or anything like that.

Do you think younger people had different values then, when you were brought up?


Yes, I’m sure they did. I remember Sunday nights when we’d got into our teens, we used to come down to Hebden Bridge and go down the monkey run as we called it. There’d be crowds between Station Road and Fallingroyd and you’d stand about talking, no trouble; lots of boys and lots of girls but there never seemed to be any trouble, no fights going on or anything like that. It was just a happy, friendly meeting place.

Why do you think of young people today are like that?


I think they’ve too much money. We hadn’t any money then – well, not the money to do what they can do now.


It’s drugs and drink that’s spoilt it.


Well I mean going into a pub – I don’t think you went in at fourteen, fifteen or sixteen like they do now and get away with it.


I was married before I ever went in one.

Some people say that there’s nothing for young people to do, and that’s why they go that way – what do you think about that?


No, we used to make our own pleasures – why can’t they?


We used to go to the Sunday Schools and we had concerts, social evenings and there wasn’t the computers and televisions and all that.


There used to be the Co-op Hall Dance at the Carlton, when the Co-op was there, they had a ballroom on the top floor and on Saturday night it was the thing to go dancing; we used to do proper dancing then, man and woman, not…it was nice. Some of these what they called the special dances – the Ambulance Ball, t’Police Ball, t’Farmer’s Ball – they were really lovely affairs you know, big occasions and enjoyed; you’d a job to get a ticket. You had to be ‘in the know’ to get a ticket.

Nobody had motor cars; I can remember….don’t think there was above three or four motor cars in Hebden Bridge in my early days. One of the doctors had one, Dr Fullteron (there were two doctors) and if you were a mill owner you’d probably have one but not like now – as soon as they get old enough to pass their test, they want a car don’t they?… I think I was forty before I got my first car.

I learned to drive when I was in the forces, they taught me to drive and when I came out, you could apply to have – you could get a civilian licence easier and I said ‘I shall never have a motor car so it’s no use bothering’ and it was quite number of years when eventually, my brother-in-law was in the trade and he says ‘I’ll get you a car’ but I mean I should be forty then I should think, well getting on that way.

The house that you lived in on Eiffel Street, did that house come with the job then, the mill job?

No, no – they were privately owned; the rent man used to come round every…I don’t know, every fortnight or something like that you know, yes there used to be a rent man; it would be about five shillings a week then you see.

Were there any houses that went with work around this area?

I think there might have been just the odd few but I just…can’t think where they might have been. I think they were mostly privately owned, they might have been owned by the mill owners you know, but…no, I can’t remember any that went with the works.

Did Hebden Bridge have its own sort of dialect, its own way of speaking that was different from like Heptonstall, Widdop or Cragg Vale or different places about?


Well there used to be different comical Yorkshire sayings as one might…

Can you remember any?


You can’t when you want to do can you? [laughing]


There was a difference between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, and also Halifax and Hebden Bridge, you know you could tell – ‘oh he comes from Tod, he comes from Halifax’ but I mean I think they went out with some of the old-timers did these dialogue things you know; the old timers used to…use these bits of sayings but you can’t remember them when you want to

Well maybe you could think about it over the next week or two and write some down and then we could do a little….


Colin will probably have…he’ll be able to remember summat; he’s pretty good on things like that isn’t he?

We’re getting up to nearly an hour, so I’m just thinking –

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


Well thinking about Hardcastle Crags, I said we used to go down when I was very young, but when we got into our teens we got going down there roller skating – there was a roller skating rink down there, of course that isn’t there any more, but we used to go down there and it was quite a popular place.

Did a lot go then – did quite a few people go then?

Oh yes, yes they did.

Was it open every day or just the weekend?

Well I just can’t say about every day; it would be at holiday times I’m sure, yes; we used to go down a lot at holiday times, paddling in the river and on the swings and all that you know. They used to make teas down there and there was a sweet shop on the end of the building, and boats on the dam round the back of Gibson Mill.

Oh did they have boats?


Yes they did.

Did they charge money for you to go on them?


Yes, I can’t just remember what it was…it would be coppers wouldn’t it? It – you know, a good sporting place really.


I’ve just remembered a little ditty that we used to say when we were kids; in Hebden Bridge there was four schools; there was Mytholm here and the Headmaster was called Mr Potts. There was Central Street School and it was Mr Glue; Stubbings School was Mr Seal, and the Secondary School which was the Grammar School on by the Post Office, Riverside, that was Mr Wager and we used to say ‘Mr Potts broke a pot, Mr Glue glued it, Mr Seal sealed it up and Mr Wager paid for it!’ That’s what we used to say when we were kids, there were four headmasters and then there was the four schools.

The tape will run out in about five minutes or so I think.


Are you interested in looking at these?

What I’ll do is – just one last thing – I’d like you to say, I know you’ve got the form to fill in – what doyou think about what we’ve just done?


I’ve enjoyed it.


Yes we’ve enjoyed it very much.


It’s nice to talk about old times.

Do you think it’s important that you pass on your experiences to other people and share it around the community?


Oh yes I think it is.


Whether they’ll be interested or not remains to be seen.


But it’s nice to think you’ve left a few memories behind.


I was born during the First World War…


Douglas has many photographs of the Hebden Bridge Fire Service:


They’re all to do with the Fire Brigade; now these are the old originals.

That was the Hebden Bridge Fire Brigade in approximately 1904. Me father’s where…he was the young lad, the one at the end. He’d just joined then, he’ be twenty-one probably.

And this is…that’s one of the first…it’s a single horse, what they call a single horse tender there are five of ‘em on it! yes, and then they got a bit better and they got a double horse tender.

Oh this is King Street, just along the road there – a Carnival procession you know, with a horse-drawn fire brigade. It’s Mytholmroyd Fire Brigade is that actually, not Hebden Bridge, and that’s Mytholmroyd. There’s the church in the background there.

That’s the Carnival Day 1923.

That’s when there were a fire at Thornber’s, do you remember Thornber’s? the chicken.. yes, but they had a woodworking place in the centre and it got on fire and that was the Hebden Bridge Brigade – they worked Elphin Brook where they got the water from so they pumped it out of the river? Yes, they used to put a basket in to stop the slush getting in you know.

You’ll know where that is Nellie…Stone what do they call it? It’s on the back.

NELLIE DAWSON: Stone Slack yes, Slack Bottom that in’t it – Slack Bottom.

DN: That’s an old one, it’s…1909.

That’s a Carnival Day, they got a bit more affluent then did they parade in the Hebden Bridge Carnival then? Oh yes – well they used to take the engine you know, and be part of the procession.

Oh that’s the same, aye.

Well these are the same, only they’re just blown up. Those are the old originals you see, these are blown up a bit like you know. [looking through the blown up photos]

Would it be alright then if I scan these into the computer?

DN: Yes – are those better than these?

Well I’m just trying to have a look – if you have a comparison…there’s not a lot in it really is there?

DN: It’s just the same with this one as before – that horse has got three legs, only it hasn’t – there are two horses [laughing]

These days you can actually enhance these on computers; some of the shadows – you can lighten them up to see things.

[Tony setting things up for scanning]

ND: It’s been very good – I’ve quite enjoyed it, have you?

DN: Yes I have, yes.

He looks young there does my dad, doesn’t he?

ND: Did you say he was twenty-one? You wouldn’t think so like to look at him would you?

DN: No.

[still setting up for scanning]

Is that list all of these photographs then?

DN: Yes, that’s the list…

Well I’ll put that in as well because you’ve got dates on them which will be quite interesting. I’ll have to do them one at a time. Is that alright then?

DN: Yes.


Those are all the fires and what not that he attended in his…

Is that what your father went to, all the fires?

DN: Yes, he was from 1903 to 1936 when he…that’s fascinating

There’s a lot of false alarms on it you know!

Were they mostly mill fires or were they house fires as well?

DN: Oh there were all sorts, there were a fairground fire – a stall on the fairground set on fire.

Was anybody hurt, do you know?

DN: No – I can’t remember any serious injuries you know, or anything like that.

Mytholm Mill that would be, just across there weren’t it, Mytholm Mill?

ND: Yes I suppose it would wouldn’t it?

DN: house at Heptonstall; it weren’t your house were it?

ND: not to my knowledge! [laughing]

DN: cottage at Sunny Bank

Salem Mill.

Freeman Hardy and Willis, Market Street.

ND: I didn’t know we had a Freeman Hardy and Willis on Market Street.

DN: it was 1908.

Bankfoot House. Oh aye – a doll stall on the fairground it was. I don’t know how that had happened – before my day were that.

[still scanning]

The battery’s run out – oh well, we can’t do any more. I’ll have to do this another time because the battery’s run out, but I got those two and I was just starting that one and it went.

DN: well you know which you’ve done don’t you?

Those two there, yes – the one where your father joined – oh sorry, the one from..

DN: the Carnival day.

Well I’ll have to give those back to you then – I’ll have to make another time when I can come down.

DN: Yes, okay.

It would be great to get those as well really – the list of the fires there. I live next door to a fireman and he – well he’s a bit younger than me now, but he said he’s been to quite a few so it would be good to sort of join the two up, because I believe he’s in his…mid- forties

DN: He’ll be a modern day fireman.

He’s a postman as well, and so what he has to say would join up on the back end of that so we could get quite a long history.

You’ve got some amazing stuff here though – was that in the local paper then?

DN: yes, that’s a cutting out of the local paper, yes. That’s when the engine had solid tyres it did, yes. not a very comfortable ride I should think – hang on to the side!

Lots of people say ‘the good old days’ but they don’t really mean it, do they?

DN: oh no, no.

ND: they weren’t all good were they?

What are all these letters then – out of curiosity – I’m a nosey bugger, you see! [laughing]

ND: I don’t know – you know now what they are don’t you? [pause] I’m afraid I haven’t anything old like this that I’ve kept at all.

Well no, I mean I’ve never thought about it much, but I’ve started doing it now and finding different things – you’ll be surprised what you find in the cupboards and in the drawers

ND: yes that’s right, and probably after my parents had gone, when the home was broken, I think my older sister had…you know most of the…the things that were…

My sister’s started collecting things off me now, ‘cos I have stuff from my grandparents – my granddad went to sea…

DN: that’s a list of where all the fire hydrants are in the – what they used to have to use – you know the knew where they’d to go to – you’d to…whichever area they were going to and you knew where the hydrants were. Oh, well that would be a good document to have, I must admit. They had to know where to get their water from when they went, if there wasn’t a river or a dam handy.

The Fire Brigade Friendly Society, which me father was a member of when he got excused payments after I don’t know how many years….1934…I say he was a member and then they get…he was a paid up member as they were what they call ‘em oh, well that would be interesting as well [looking through cuttings and photos]

Me mother used to cut these things out and save ‘em and of course they were handed down to me when she died – oh that’s when me father, about when me father retired – he was a Superintendent when he retired. Oh was he? Quite distinguished. And he was the oldest member – oh that’s the…that’s the…behind there is the harness for the…when they had the horses, you know. Oh I see, there – those two. The collars or whatever they call them. Oh well I’ll have to come back and then…it’s silly that that’s gone off because I’d charged it up and obviously it’s drained away somehow. Oh that’s when me father retired from the council.

I’m just trying to think – when I come next Friday, I suppose – I don’t know how you’re fixed but I could come either early or I could stay later.

ND: Well it wouldn’t make any difference to us would it, which way?

DN: Well it just depends – you mean in the afternoon? Yes. Oh well the nurse comes in the morning usually, yes – it’s immaterial.

Hi Christine – she’s the Assistant to the Town Clerk, I’ve worked with her for the last two years before I started doing this all the time. She lives up at Pecket.

DN: Yes, we can do any time really.

Okay, well I’m thinking maybe afterwards, so if I talk to the…whoever I’m speaking to next week, it takes a little while to set up so from two to like quarter past three…and then do it after that, ‘cos it seems to be a quiet time and I can…will that be alright?

ND: Yes that will be alright to us wouldn’t it?

DN: I mean, we’re on the ground floor, we’re at number six so I mean we aren’t hard to get at.

Now, there’s these…that’s the sort of…the release form – again it’s just your name and address, but there’s these parts here – if you want to leave your name out or leave your address out, or if you don’t want us to use it for public , then we’ll just keep it in the archives so many years, or if there’s any section of it that you’d like to cancel then we can cancel a particular section, or if there’s anybody that you’ve talked about that you’d like their names changed – then we’d do that as well…and this is the evaluation which basically says did I give you the full information about it and were there any concerns – it says here did I complete the work, well basically did I do what I said I was going to do, and then really all this bit is how you felt – did you feel valued, or did you enjoy doing it, something different or sharing local knowledge with other people within the community – if you felt any of those things, then you can just sort of put them.

ND: I think it’s been quite interesting.

DN: Yes, yes.

ND: And I hope you found it so from us as well.

**Well I’ve found it fascinating, I mean to be perfectly honest I could sit here and talk for another hour or two easy, you know, but I’m on a sort of schedule and I have to kind of try to limit it to about an hour really and then see where we go from there. I’ll leave those with you then you can both ND: sign it now and give it back to you? Yes, if that’s okay – if you don’t mind. **

So, what’s this first one?

DN: That’s the old photograph, it’s 1904 is that – that’s the Fire Brigade of 1904. That was the year me father joined – that’s me father at the end. Now I don’t know…the names are all on the back, I mean they were all dead and gone before I appeared more or less you see, so that’s like the oldest one and then this is the…that’s the first, they called them tenders – horse and tender, not horse and cart or whatever – horse and tender, that was the first one and that was way back in…well, it would be when me father – that’s me father in the centre on the front row – that’s more or less 1904 approximately, that’s the first one they had you see, when he joined, after he joined, this is the second one –
This is a Coronation Day Procession 22nd of June 1911 and there again they’ve extended to a two horse tender then – they called them tenders in those days.

Oh and this is, well it was a Carnival Day, this was taken outside the Old Fire Station you know on…St George’s Street Yes.

Well those are the old photos – I mean I have some of the literature of where the fires were, if you’re interested in that.

I’d love to see that. What I’ll start doing, is I’ll start putting these in – it’ll take about a minute to do each one, I could do them one at a time so they’re all separate.

[scanning photos]


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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