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Dougie Mansfield

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TONY WRIGHT:Okay, it’s the fourteenth of February 2010, this is Tony Wright and I’m interviewing Dougie Mansfield in Mytholmroyd.  So, can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born.

DOUGIE MANSFIELD:It’s Douglas Charles Mansfield and I was born in Croydon, South Croydon on the sixth of July 1947.

TW:Right.  When did you move to Hebden Bridge?

DM:We moved to Hebden Bridge when I was five year old which was 1952.  My father saw Lumb Bank advertised in the Exchange and Mart, came up, saw it, came up on his own, saw Lumb Bank, bought it for seventeen hundred pounds [£1700] and then came back down to Croydon and sort of shipped us all lock stock and barrel up north, and I think it’s my earliest memory – is the day we moved from Croydon.  I’ve no recollection of anything major in Croydon so I cannot remember living in Croydon and we used to opposite the airport next to a main road, on Brighton Road, Croydon Airport, and my memory is of arriving at Crown Point above Heptonstall, by the water tower, and we were in this big furniture van, which must have had a, when I think about it now, a very large cab, because we were all there – there was the driver, his mate, my mother, my father, my elder brother, me, we had a dog that had a litter puppies and she was in the cab as well, and we were in the cab of this Pentacnican, and we arrived at Crown Point, it must have been –it was pitch black, it must have been about ten o’clock at night, and we walked down the lane down to Lumb Bank and my – whether it’s got worse with age I don’t know but the sound of the river in this black hole to a five year old child is something I’ve never ever forgotten, and it’s my first memory of actually arriving you know

TW:Is it a good memory?

DM:Oh a wonderful memory, yes because it was the start of an absolutely....wonderful childhood you know, because although it nearly didn’t last because when we arrived at Lumb Bank, there was no electricity, electricity wasn’t there, there were dry toilets and they used to come once a fortnight to empty them, the tup, there was a cold water tap in the sink, in the stone sink, and my mother had been used to living in a semi-detached house in London with all mod cons, and then suddenly – and years later when we talked about it, she did say that she very nearly, the next day, caught a train back to London and took the children with her, but thankfully she didn’t and we stayed there, and she later realised what a wonderful place it was.

TW:Why did you move from London?

DM:We used to – my father started breeding mink and nutria and they were in the back, in this semi-detached house in the garden, in sheds in the garden, and I think he thought that he needed more land and that sort of thing, and when he saw Lumb Bank, when he came and saw Lumb Bank, he actually said that it reminded him of Canada where he’d spent a lot of his earlier life in Canada, and the hills, and he said it reminded him of Canada and that’s why we ended up there, and that’s when he started The White Horse Fur And Pony Ranch and we had a riding school at Lumb Bank and we were breeding nutria  and breeding mink.  According to my mother, not very successfully, but [laughing] it kept my father occupied I think you know, and for a child when I think back, if my father was going to Heptonstall when I was eight or nine year old and he had to go to Heptonstall during the day, I would ride a horse to school, tie it up outside school, and he would come and collect it alter on in the day, and you know, you had all this – all the woods to roam in and the fields, and it was just an idyllic childhood.

TW:When you say Lumb Bank, do you mean all those buildings that are still there now?

DM: All of them.

TW:You had the whole lot?

DM:The gardeners’ cottages in the enclosed garden, the big house, the sort of, it used to be the carriage house at the back, yes it was all part and parcel.

TW:It’s a huge property.

DM:Well yes, and….I suppose that’s really why we left because my father died when I was fourteen and my brother had already left home, so at fourteen year old there was only me and my mother left there, and it was a big house – how many bedrooms?  There must have been six or seven bedrooms and you know, it was just too big and too expensive and my mother decided to sell it.

TW:So was it derelict – well not derelict, but was it empty when you moved in?

DM:Yes…yes it was empty and it had been empty for quite a few years I think before we moved in I think, you know, maybe some handful of years, not decades of years, and Mrs Helliwell had something to do with it who lived at Windy Harbour, because I seem to have a recollection that she was actually down at Lumb Bank when we arrived, I seem to think she was there.

TW:I see, right.  Who did you sell it to then?

DM:I’m not sure,  I’m not sure who we sold it to….I think it changed hands a couple of times between us selling it and Ted Hughes buying it, I seem to think there was a couple – we lived there for sort of ten years and I know my mother sold it for two and a half thousand pounds [£2500] and it was sold quite soon afterwards for quite a lot more, I don’t know the exact figures, but there was quite a lot of money made between sort of selling it [laughing] and I don’t think my mother ever forgave the estate agent.

TW:You said there was some graffiti there

DM:On the main wall, yeah, it’s still there.  I noticed it the last time I walked up Ragley.  We also ran a tea room because there were quite a lot of walkers up Colden, and even today if you look across, on the main wall, it’s in about three or four foot high letters, it actually says ‘teas’ – very faintly, but it still says ‘teas’ which I suppose considering the paint’s been on for fifty years or so, says something for British paint.

TW:I mean did your parents do anything else besides run the horses and

DM:Yeah, my father, although when we moved to Lumb Bank, my father would have been….let me think….he would have been about sixty-three; he was sixty-eight when I was born so he’d be seventy-three when we moved to Lumb Bank, and I can remember, he worked on the Council for a period and he also did – up to just before he died when he was eighty-two, working at Melbourne Clothing Factory on Market Street as a sort of part-time job, so he always did something, and my mother also ran an antique shop in Hebden Bridge

TW:Where was that?

DM:On the end of Market Street, down the bottom of Bridge Lanes on the end of Market Street in front of the old chapel….next to Barbara

TW:What kind of antiques did she sell?

DM:…..sort of general antiques.  I can always remember breaking up grandfather clocks because they were worth more with the weight.  You could scrap  them and get more money than you actually paid for them, so we’d buy them at auction, grandfather clocks and smash them up, just for the lead, for the metal in the clocks and burn the wood which now seems rather traumatic to be honest [laughing] yes, I wish we’d kept a few.  At the time we didn’t know.

TW:So did your mother run that shop?

DM:Yeah my mother used to run the shop and then I suppose because of that I used to go to auctions with her, and at sort of thirteen or fourteen I used to go to view day and then I would go and actually bid at the auction when I was thirteen or fourteen years old and so that when I left school at fifteen I actually went to become an auctioneer at a firm in Halifax – Garside Waring and Robinson, that was what I always wanted to be, was an auctioneer

TW:And did you become an auctioneer?

DM:No unfortunately, after a year, his son, the chap in charge’s son, he had to leave university for some reason which was never quite clear, not to me [laughing] so he came in to the firm and unfortunately, as you can only have one articled auctioneer, I took a step back and thought ‘no it’s not really what I want to do now’ so after about thirteen months I left that place.

TW:Were there other shops around this antique shop down there?

DM:Next to my mother’s antique shop yes. She had the first shop and then there was…..I think it was, the cobbler’s was next door and Clay’s bakery was next door to that.  There was just three shops in a block and then you had the chapel.  You used to get round the back of the chapel, a big chapel, beautiful chapel, and then, she was there a few years and then she moved across the road to about the second or third shop at the bottom of Bridge Lanes as you’re coming down.

TW:Did she run that shop for a long time then?

DM:…..she would have run the shop between the two – I think she more or less packed up the shop when my father died, and then we sold Lumb Bank and then we moved to a farm up Old Town – Bog Edge or it’s actually Bog Eggs Farm which is by the reservoir, and I think then when we got up there, she started working at Pecket shed, you know, went to Pecket shed working because it was more convenient and we also had livestock so she had to come home at dinner time, so she needed somewhere where she could

TW:So was it, not a working farm as such, but a semi-working farm with animals?

DM:We had sheep that ran on the moor, we had a few sort of cattle – it wasn’t milk, it was just sort of  fat stock rearing, really, but…that was….

TW:When you’d finished being at the auctioneers then, what did you do?

DM:Auctioneering….after auctioneering….I got a job at Moderna, I was taken on as a weaver, apprentice weaver and they gave you a three months training period.

TW:What did that entail?

DM:You had to run two looms.  You had one at the front of you and one at the back of you and it was quite a shock because the noise, you know, they talk about these folk lip reading, and it takes years to learn, and also they put me next to a young Irish girl who was about seventeen and I must admit that the weaving…..took slightly second place [laughing] so after three months there they decided that I wasn’t really weaver material, so I sort of left.

TW:Were they automatic machines?


TW:So did you learn how to do weft and warps?

DM:Yeah you had to learn to tie, you know, if the weft broke you had to learn to tie that and re-load the loom and the shuttle and everything, but if – it was alright if it was just one, as I remember if it was just one you tied it yourself, but sometimes the shuttle would break and take you know nearly all of them and you had to get the mechanic in and he’d sort of do it all up and sort it out.

TW:So you didn’t take to weaving?

DM:No.  decided it just wasn’t quite right, and then after weaving I then went to Redman’s on Foster Lane – clothing factory – as a band knife cutter which…yes, it was interesting but didn’t pay a great deal of money and this time I suppose I was sixteen and living up Old Town, suddenly there was a vacancy at Cape Asbestos, sort of good wages, because they paid the best wages in the valley for reasons which are now obvious, so I went down to Cape Asbestos and worked there in what they called the dust and waste gang.  It was our job to sort of bag the waste from the cyclones and things and…..yeah, I was there about six months, and then I – a gentleman who worked there, one of the older end, said ‘you don’t want to be here son’ and I thought ‘hey up, what’s this about’ and he then said for some unknown reason ‘why don’t you join the Merchant Navy’ and it was…I’d never sort of thought of joining the Merchant Navy, and by this time my mother had re-married and I was like sixteen going on seventeen and although my step-father was an absolute gentleman, and I think at sixteen you think you know it and don’t want to be told it and these fold are just trying to tell you for your own benefit and we used to have, not lots of rows, but it seemed the right time to join the Merchant Navy, so I went and joined the Merchant Navy which was another eye-opener.  I went down to the HMS – not HMS, TS, training ship ‘Vindicatrix,’ which was somewhere down on the Bristol Channel, I can’t just remember where now, and then spent the next two or three years in the Merchant Navy, starting as a galley boy, galley boy, kitchen boy and then as a steward, I ended up being a steward on various ships.

TW:Which part of the world did you get to?

DM:First job I ever did was Montevideo on the ‘Picardy’, couple of trips to Montevideo then Buenos Aires and South America….and then the next trip would have been through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of America up to Long Beach and Vancouver, and then New Zealand, I did a couple of trips across to New Zealand, then met the wife when I was home one time in the Shoulder – not the Shoulder of Mutton, the pub that’s now closed opposite The White Lion, The Royal Oak, met my wife in The Royal Oak pub in Mytholmroyd, then sort of gave up the Merchant Navy because it wasn’t as appealing as stopping at home with the girlfriend, and went back to Cape Asbestos for a period [laughing] once again, still paying good wages, and there again I was there for six months and…another person said virtually the same words – ‘you don’t wanna be here son’ and he says ‘how about’ and then he came up with ‘why don’t you join the fire service?’ and I’d never ever, you know, it was another job, I’d never considered.  Looked into it, thought ‘yeah, that seems like a sensible job’ and applied for the fire service, got in the fire service.

TS:Based in Mytholmroyd?

DM:No, I…..the Mytholmroyd Fire Brigade was part time.  The one in Todmorden was full time.  You used to work twenty-four hour shifts; twenty-four one, twenty-four off which meant, it was a funny shift system which meant you never got a lie in bed; you were either in bed at work or getting up to go to work, you know, and it only lasted – it didn’t last that much time after I joined, they went on to a different shift system, sort of three days and three nights off which was far more sensible but they needed three watches then, whereas before they only needed two watches, so there was a big influx of men.  I think when I joined they were just in the process of going on to this new shift system, but

TW:Did you go to many fires then?

DM:….being at Todmorden, you didn’t go to that many fires….but….the thing that sticks in my mind more than anything else was the day I joined….you know, I went to Todmorden, and I think at that time you went to the station before you actually started to do training, whereas now you go on a training course for three months or whatever it is, and then go to the station.  Then you went to the station until there was a place for you on a training course, and I can always remember arriving at Todmorden station, nine o’clock, introduced to the station officer, leading fireman, and they said ‘well we’ll have to find him something to do – right’ so they found me a pair of overalls, and then they took the turntable ladder out – at this time the fire station was on Rochdale Road – and they took it across the road to what is Waterside and they put the fire engine with the turntable ladder, which was a hundred foot ladder, to its maximum extension, and they gave me a cloth and some grease and a can of grease, and told me to grease all the cables, so [laughing] I’d never been taught how to climb a ladder properly, so how they got away with this I’m not quite sure, but I can always remember climbing up to the top of this ladder, which was literally suspended in mid-air and the top was flexing by…at the time it felt like an enormous amount, it might have only been a couple of inches, but at the time it felt like it had a mind of its own, and having to grease all these wire cables, and whether it was a sort of initiation thing – if you could do that, you’d make a good fireman or not, I’m not sure, but…stayed in the fire service sort of, I was in there for about ten years, in the fire service, but I used to do other things as well, because in the fire service, because you’re working a funny shift system, three nights, three days, three nights off, you have sort of, if you sleep a good night’s shift, which you used to do if there were no fires, ten o’clock we used to go to bed, they had bunks there and beds for you, you could actually work six days during the day out of the nine, so I had a….I used to start with, I used to help a person called Peter Crossley, better known as Peter the Painter in Hebden Bridge and we used…Peter used to do jobs that nobody else were right keen on doing, or seemed to do, because I remember one day, I was at the fire station and he rang up, and he said ‘Dougie, what are you doing tomorrow?’ I said ‘I’ve nowt on tomorrow Peter – why?’  he says ‘can you meet me at Mytholmroyd at half nine?’  Well I finished work at nine o’clock so I said ‘yeah I can be down in Mytholmroyd at nine o’clock’  ‘alright’ he says ‘bring a crowbar and a lump hammer’  I says ‘right Peter, okay’ so I got down to Mytholmroyd, oh he says ‘Midgley Road, meet me at Midgley Road’ so I got down to Midgley Road and Peter was there, and this was before Russell Dean,s – it was the time when Russell Dean had just bought the factory that was on the road side before it was Russell Dean’s as it is now, because it was really narrow was Midgley Road, and it came right down to the road side, whereas now it’s sort of set back, but at the back of it, next to the canal, was a chimney and about…I reckon it was about eighty foot tall this chimney, and I says ‘right Peter, what are we doing?’  ‘oh’ he says ‘we’re taking this chimney down’  ‘oh’ I says ‘right, fair enough, whatever’ so this turntable ladder came and it wasn’t the fire service one, it was one Peter had hired, came down Midgley Road and it centre shot up, got up, and we walked up, got on to the top of the chimney and then the ladder went up – down, and dropped us off.  I sayd ‘Peter, the ladder’s gone’  he says ‘oh yeah, I’ve only hired it for t’hour, it’s got to be back in Halifax for ten o’clock’ so we were on the top of this chimney with a lump hammer and a crowbar each, and yeah, we got down, but at the time I thought….

TW:So did you chip away one brick at once?

DM:Yeah, we just knocked them down – started off knocking them inside and then when we got down to about sixty foot, then we could take some on the outside because the inside was getting filled up, and then when you got down to maybe fifty foot off the floor, there was metal rungs round the chimney about four foot apart which were obviously tie rungs and once we’d got down to them, we could get off, and we actually managed to get off just before two o’clock cos we got the last fish and chips in the chip shop in Hebden Bridge, which shut at two o’clock and we just managed to get in and have fish and chips…what else….funny things, cos they are funny things I remember…I also used to do some chimney sweeping.  It fit in well, you know, folk would ring up when I was at home, and when my wife was at home with the kids and then she’d take the booking and I’d go off…clean these chimneys, and I was using a big industrial vacuum cleaner.  I used to fit it to the bottom of this…like a steel plate that went on the fireplace, and had like a canvass centre with a bit of a nozzle that you could put your rods in and so you could move them around, and I always remember we went to a house at Todmorden, the other side of Walsden, a little cottage and this little old fella wanted his chimney sweeping, and I said ‘oh yeah no problem’ so I got down, got all my stuff out, tried to get my rod and my brush up the chimney flue, wouldn’t go, so I looked down, I got my torch and looked up, and it had a very narrow throat, only about an inch, inch and a half wide, and my brush wouldn’t go up so I says ‘what I’ll have to do is get my machine going and I says ‘I’ll go on the roof and I’ll have to sweep it from the top down.’  He says ‘fine, whatever son’ you know, so, got my ladders on to t’roof, set the machine going before I went up, rodded it all down, came back down, opened the kitchen door and it was a bit like looking in to a black hole [laughing] and this little old man was still sitting on the chair in the corner.  What I hadn’t sealed was where the rods went through the canvas sheath and it must have been a bit like an elephant’s trunk this, because it was flying, and the whole of his kitchen, all the shelving, all his plates everything was covered in soot and I was there….all afternoon washing this stuff you know….that was the worst [laughing] of my sort of chimney sweeping days.

TW:And he just sat there and watched it happen?

DDM:He just watched it happen and actually said ‘oh I thought that was what was supposed to’.. and I thought ‘no!’  ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ but no he didn’t……and I suppose then we’re heading then on to I suppose how I ended up with the shop, and….it was to do with the firemens’ strike which was in 1978, winter ’78 it must have been – ’78, ’79 and…they’d decided that we were under paid and that we deserved more money and before the morning of the strike, the day before, I was talking to the wife, and I just couldn’t justify going on strike because I was quite happy, possible because I had another job, I was chimney sweeping or something, it could have been that, but at the time it just seemed….it was fair to the general public to go on strike, it just seemed so…wrong for want of a better word, so we went in on the morning when the strike was supposed to start and at nine o’clock they said ‘right lads, all out’ and I sort of said ‘excuse me, I just can’t justify going on strike, forget it, I’m just not interested’

TW:That was a very brave thing to do.

DM:Well, I don’t know whether it was…it just felt right, so…but when I said it ended up with six of us saying ‘we’ll stop in like, we’ll man the machine’ so I think we stayed there for three days, three to four days, and it got, it got very……fraught….it got unpleasant……..and there were sort of threats, sort of veiled threats about your wife and children – who’s looking after those while you’re up here, you know, which… didn’t….well in the end we said ‘alright, fair enough, we’ll join the strike’ and within a week I was unanimously elected the union representative for Todmorden station, so…sort of nobody wanted to be on strike, and knowing what my views were….the strike went on for six months and I thought ‘I never ever want to be in the situation where I’ve got to be told what to do, so I then decided that I wanted to make my own decisions in life and work, because work’s such an important part of life and you spend…you know, if you’re not enjoying it, it’s just a….you know, a no end to it, you’re just wasting your life away, and I can always remember we used to take it in… turns to be the sort of night watchman and in Todmorden station at this particular time, the station officer or the sub officer, whoever was in charge of the watch at night and the night watchman would have sort of joint bunks in the station officer’s office and I was in there one night and I was talking to the sub officer and I said ‘what do you think?  To be honest I want out’  Once the strike had finished I was looking and I couldn’t find anything and he said ‘leisure.  That’s the way to go – leaisure.’  ‘oh right, leisure.’   Leisure to me at the time was cycling because that’s what I enjoy doing. I cycled a lot during the strike because there was no other way of getting around, so I thought ‘cycing, yeah’ and then on my way home I’m walking past Mr Robertshaw’s shop in Mytholmroyd where I lived and I had to walk past that morning after, and I actually walked in to the shop and Mr Robertshaw was there [incomp]  and I said ‘now then Mr Robertshaw, if you ever fancy selling this business, I might be interested in buying.  I says ‘I can’t be sure’  he says ‘well that’s very strange Dougie’ he says ‘because I was only talking yesterday to t’wife that it’s maybe time that we sold up, because at this time Mr Robertshaw was I think seventy-five, seventy-six and he’d been there literally fifty years and so I said ‘well in that case if you’d like to say who you’d want to value it, I’ll pay for the valuation and whatever they say, if I can afford it, then that’s the deal, we’ll go ahead with that’ and he said ‘fair enough, that’s dead straight.’  Got it valued, I could just afford it, sold my house and within three months I’d left the fire service and was then the owner of…my own boss of a little shop in Mytholmroyd.

TW:Did you do repairs or just sell or…I mean, how did it work?

DM:It was purely selling because that’s all Mr Robertshaw did.  He used to sell shoes and he used to sell bicycles but he didn’t, you know, he’d got to a time when he didn’t – you know, I don’t think he ever repaired bicycles and the shoe thing – he were more into electrical stuff and he’d only gone into shoes when the electrical business sort of died due to…like Comet and these sort of places coming in selling bulk white goods that he’d actually gone out of that and gone into selling shoes, so I will always remember saying when I bought it, so we were signing on this day, Monday morning when I was going to take over, and he said ‘I’ll come down and I’ll show you the ropes’ you know, because I hadn’t got a clue – totally sort of jumping in blind – any way he came down at nine o’clock, there he was, on the door, and at quarter past nine he says ‘you seem intelligent’ he says ‘I think I’ll leave you to it’ [laughing] and that was it – he never came back again!  Quarter of an hour!  So you tend to learn by your….so then it built up, and it provided a nice little steady wage, income and I’ve been quite happy being a one man band all my life, you know.

TW:I mean, you still sell shoes and bikes don’t you, so it’s the same business.

DM:It’s virtually the same business.  The shoe repairing side is something that he never did that we went into….maybe……how did we get into the shoe….across the road from the shop was a lad called George Butterworth.  He used to do leather goods; he used to make leather badges for like…festivals.  An excellent guitarist by the way, his big mate was Mike Harding from Rochdale.  He used to be part of Mike Harding’s band at one time in the early days, and he could play a guitar beautifully, you know, really very cleverly, and he used to do these leather badges and leather straps and stuff, and we were talking one day and he said ‘you know Doug, shoe repairing would be an option.’  and at this time the shoe repairer – there used to be one on the front next to the electrical shop opposite the Economic, and he packed up around this time and so it was a natural progression again, and George happened to know an old cobbler in Shore who was retiring, so we went across and we bought quite a lot of his equipment and put it in my cellar, and then sort of [laughing] by making mistakes – you only make ‘em once – you soon learn by asking questions, because in Halifax at the time there used to be a supplier of shoe repairing materials – Brearleys – down at Waterside and they were very helpful, you could go in there asking questions, ‘what do I do with this?’ and they would explain, sell you the stuff to do it, so it sort of went on from there.

TW:Very good.  You’ve never looked back really.

DM:[laughing]  Well no, it’s just been a very very, very pleasant way of life and now, you know, I’ve got to an age where I…..I still love going to work
TW:So you’re not going to pack it in and retire sort of thing, you’re just gonna carry on?
DM:Well hopefully it’ll always make enough that I think it’s justifiable.  If it didn’t make….for want of a better word, a wage, then I might think ‘no, I’m wasting my time’ if it doesn’t cover, you know, but the overheads are so low that I can’t….because that would be…..the first….well, here’s something.  The first day I bought the shop, after Mr Robertshaw had gone, an old gentleman came in, and I don’t know who he was, I’ve no idea, and he came in to the shop and he says ‘you’re setting up on your own Dougie, eh?’  so you know, he must have known me, and I says ‘yeah…yeah’  ‘can I give you two bits of advice?’  and I said ‘yeha, whatever, I’m really glad’  he says ‘well my first bit of advice is, business of your own, if you keep your overheads to a minimum., if there’s ever a recession, you’ll always ride it out which….I’m sure is absolutely spot on, and the other bit of advice was, which, a bit controversial, if ever you employ anybody, always employ a member of your family because no matter who they are, they’ll have their hand in your till, and at least if it’s a member of your family, it’s going in to t’family pot [laughing], and so I’ve never dared employ anybody, so I don’t know, but those are the two bits of advice he gave me [laughing]… true that is I don’t know, but I’ve never forgotten it

TW:Well to kind of expand that, you’ve had that business what….forty years nearly?

DM:Thirty years, just over thirty years

TW:Thirty years, and it hasn’t really changed that much, but there must have been a lot of other change around Mytholmroyd in those thirty years.

DM;Oh….well up at the shop I sort of made a diagram of New Road, of the shops that were in New Road.

TW:Oh really?

DM:When I took that shop on.


DM:And there’s not a lot left [laughing] no, there isn’t a lot at all, when you sort of go back.  ironmongers and decorators….butchers, greengrocers, barbers, leather shop, newsagents, bank, they were all on New Road.  You didn’t have to go off over the bridge.  You could get everything you wanted on this side of the river, but now you can get your hair done and possibly buy a bike but that’s all I can think of [laughing]

TW:Did you ever get flooded up there then, cos there’s been big floods.

DM:……it’s only ever once been heavy water.  Water gets in to the cellars which used to be the butcher’s next door to me, which is now Ansell Builders, that gets flooded but I’ve never ever had any water in, except when the lady upstairs in her flat, the joining one, seems to block the toilet up with sort of ladies….something, and it…that’s the only time when we had the whole drain prodded and stuff and it was alright, but that’s the only ever time water’s come in, it’s as dry as a bone is my cellar.

TW:Are there any other changes apart from the shops that you can – that you think are bad things or good things?

DM:…..well the latest…is the car parking.  In this day and age when we need more and more car parking space and there’s more and more families having two, three, four cars, and yet nice thought it looks, the car park in Mytholmroyd outside the church, the actual car parking has been – it’s now half what it used to be, just for a few fancy lights and some cobbles.  I don’t think that’s been beneficial.  It looks nice but as to whether it’s actually…

TW:There’s the Community Centre though, that seems to have a lot of car parking

DM:It’s got a huge car park, yes, but it’s still an extra hundred yards for folk to walk and unfortunately we’re getting more and more an idle race aren’t we?  Drive and park outside, we seem to prefer that than actually walking and doing it like that, and there again if they get a swimming pool there and this new sports centre they’re supposed to be having, then there won’t be that much car parking

TW:It’s a bit ironic though if they build a pool there, half the parking would disappear.  So many people would want to come swimming but there’s not gonna be enough spaces

DM:[laughing] I know!  Bit of catch twenty-two, unless there’s a multi storey car park goes with the swimming pool, I don’t know.

TW:But do you think they will get a pool there?

DM:…….swimming pool’s been going a long time hasn’t it, either Hebden Bridge or Mytholmroyd.  I sincerely hope so.  I think the place deserves one, because it’s a long way to Sowerby Bridge, it’s a long way to Todmorden, especially for children.   It would benefit the local kids if they could use the pool as a learner pool.  I think actually…..I think the money might be made available, a lot more folk seem to be pushing for it now.  It used to be just the Community Centre, now there seems to be a bit more of a ground swell that we need, and folk that will sort of rattle a few cages and know a few folk to ask, so I think maybe we’ve more chance now than we had.

TW:Do you think that will happen in the next year, five years, ten years?

DM:Five years.


DM:I’ll give you five years.

TW:You’re very optimistic [laughing]

DM:I think [laughing]….They’ve quite a bit of money haven’t they you see?

TW:I think there is money about

DM:Well they……they got the money didn’t they off the…this is nowt to do with the thing is it….off the land that was sold – was it Mr Parker, Derek Parker isn’t it, he owned that land in Hebden Bridge that went to housing and the money from that’s now gone in to the swimming pool fund.

TW:That’s right, yeah.

DM:So there is a started of money.  I doubt if there’ll be enough because once you start with architects and one thing and another, money tends to drift away doesn’t it?

TW:Well let’s just go back a bit to when you first moved to Hebden Bridge and you lived at Lumb Bank.  As a child, I mean, it must have been a wonderful place, but what kind of things did you do, you know, in the woods and everything?

DM:We used to have a gang.  Because I lived in this fantastic house, for kids, big cellar, which was the headquarters for The Black Hand Gang, which was about six of us. I can only honestly remember one person that definitely in it, which was a lad called Leonard Barrett and that springs to another thing in that it’s only about four years since I saw Leonard, and I hadn’t seen him for years, but one thing straight away he mentioned was the way I used to speak.  After sort of nearly fifty years he was still mocking me about the way I used to speak, because I think we were the first off-comedens in Heptonstall.  I was the first southern speaking child at Heptonstall School, and the other little kids don’t forget [laughing]

TW:I mean, did you find it difficult at school to understand the

DM:No, no, no, we still spoke the Queen’s English, but it was just the way I said certain words, like, I think, bone, I would say ‘bone’ in a very – I don’t know how I said it now

TW:A very Croydon type of way

DM:I think it must have been…now I’ve thought about it over a few weeks, I think my brother who was eleven and just starting at Calder High School, would have had a far worse experience than I had going to primary school.  I think, you know, he…I think he would have had a lot worse experience.  I know he used to play truant a lot, and it was a bit of a bad, you know, a bit of a bad time for him when he first went, and I think it was possibly down to the way we spoke, you know, when I think about it.

TW:Were there different sort of accents then from Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd and that sort of thing?

DM:I honestly don’t know.  It was definitely a different one from Cockney – to broad Yorkshire [laughing] that was you know, that was nearly an issue, but whether there were others I wouldn’t have a clue.  I imagine….I suppose it’s a bit like now if you go to…if somebody speaks from Bacup, straightaway you can tell – sort of Lancashire or Bacup accent

TW:There are people that have very good ears that I know that can hear it.  I don’t hear it at all

DM:Yeah, lots of people, yeah….yeah so it must be a different accent.  Even different, you know – Rochdale, Bacup, Whitworth, I bet they all speak slightly different.

TW:So the Black Hand Gang

DM:The Black Hand Gang, that was just a – we used to meet in a cellar at Lumb Bank

TW:And who did you fight then?[laughter from both]

DM:It was a meeting place, yeah, it was just our you know, I’d be I suppose eight or nine year old then…..cos it was like a primary school thing, but because we had you know, sort of, we had rabbits and wood and fields and big swings in the trees down in the fields, you know, kids were always coming to visit.  It weren’t a case of asking them to come, they’d just turn up you see.

TW:And you went to Heptonstall School?

DM:Yes, Heptonstall School, yeah, I got caned I think twice at Heptonstall School.  Once for fighting – it hurt!

TW:So did you always ride a horse or did you walk most of the time?

DM:No, we used to walk most of the time.  It was only on special occasions when I used to be allowed to you know, saddle the horse and ride to school.

TW:Well we’ve got another ten minutes or so on that…..I was thinking of various sort of characters that you might have come across in your time.  Can you remember any?


TW:Or sayings?

DM:……characters, characters…characters……well Peter Crossley was a character, Peter the Painter.  Granville Barrett was another one I used to do part time work for, shifting pianos.

TW:Oh really?

DM:A case of you hum it son I’ll play it, but you know, Granville was….I don’t know if you’ve ever come across Granville Barrett.  He died when he was forty-nine Granville did, but he was a worker.  If you can quantify a worker, Granville Barrett was a worker, a grafting lad, and he was a joy to be around and he used to…he used to have a little van and do furniture removals anda…oh what did we do once?  Where were we?  We were up Fairfield and we had this furniture shifting to do, and there was a wardrobe, and we shoved it on top of the…it was an open flat-back that he had and we shoved it on, everything on, on this van, and I don’t know why, but we went down – instead of going back down and coming out on Market Street by the Co-op, we went the other way and came out by the railway.  Well we just hit this bridge [laughing] and there was this almighty smash, and this wardrobe was a distinctly different shape.  It had hit the top of the roof and…..but you know, we spent the next half hour trying to straighten it up and we got it back to straight and put some more wood in it and got it back

TW:I have been told about him by one or two other people, yes.

DM:Oh you will have! [laughing] yeah, everybody forms their own idea I suppose, yeah.  Other characters – other characters……

TW:Or words, or sayings, that sort of thing

DM:Sayings I’m not very good at.  My memory isn’t good enough to sort of…….I always remember buying a dog, we wanted a sheep dog and a gentleman called Jimmy Pratt, lived up somewhere near below Stoodley Pike on a farm there, and I heard he’d got these pups, sheep dogs pups, and I went up there on my own, and I’d be….still at Lumb Bank, so maybe twelve or thirteen year old, and I went up to Jimmy’s and I bought this dog off him, Meg, absolutely beautiful, brought it back home, wonderful dog, two weeks later, Jimmy Pratt’s knocking on my door, or my mother’s door it was, wants to buy my dog back.  Something had happened to his dog and he’d lost it and he wanted to buy mine back, but I wouldn’t sell it – no, I wouldn’t sell it him back – lovely dog.

TW:So what’s your sort of generally, your feeling about this area?  What do you think’s really good about it?  You seem to really love it here.

DM:….yeah, I suppose it’s got everything this area to me, in that it’s convenient, you know, I can go East Coast, West Coast, Lake District, Peak District, North Yorkshire Moors, all within a couple of hours.   You can go to Leeds, you can go to Manchester – alright it’s a bit of a pain to go to London, but who’d want to go to London?  Everything comes to Manchester or Leeds in time… mother actually before she died, what she used to love to do, which shows that she’d altered, when she wanted to go back to London, that she couldn’t stand the sort of standard, no electricity, she loved the wind – the wind in her face, and I can remember, she’d had her knees done.  She’d got to the stage where the dog used to run through her legs; it wouldn’t run round because she was so bent, it used to just go straight through her legs to the door, and she went and she had both her knees done, and she used to love, even when she lived down in Mytholmroyd, she used to drive up to Skip and she would go on to the moor behind, sort of area above Skip up there you know, just for the wind, just for this wind in her face, and I think that’s I like.  On a Saturday or a Sunday when the shop’s shut I like to get somewhere where there’s….high up, yeah, and you can do that here, you know, within five minutes of leaving the shop you can be out of sight and sound of anybody, and in a most beautiful place sometimes.  That’s why I like it.

TW:Do you have children of your own then?

DM:Yes, yeah, a boy and a girl.

TW:And are they still in this area?

DM:Yeah, my boy lives sort of two doors down, three doors down there.  My daughter used to live sort of second door up there, but now she lives in Hebden Bridge.

TW:And they’ve stayed then.  They haven’t become ambitious in some other kind of way to move on?

DM:My daughter, when my daughter first got married, they went down to London.  She’s a nurse and she went working at St George’s, but once she’d sort of got where she wanted to there, then she came back, then she came back….there’s something about the Calder Valley; I think it’s…

TW:It’s quite special isn’t it really?

DM:I think it’s a place, you either love it or you absolutely detest it.  Now I know my brother’s wife absolutely detests it, that’s why he lives in New Zealand [laughing] she can’t wait to get away from it, but no, I can never see myself living anywhere else.

TW:I mean in Hebden Bridge, like you had the shop on Bridge Lanes there.  Now when you were younger, would it have been in the fifties, maybe early sixties I suppose, buildings were all black and they were high, and it must have been like a bit of a canyon valley of its own going Market Street and Bridge Lanes

DM:Bridge Lanes was…phenomenal when the houses were up, and the little steps, the little ginnels going up and through it, it was a bit of a maze, yeah, and the houses were, you know I don’t know if they were four of five storeys on Bridge Lanes, they were enormous, you know, or they seemed it.

TW:Do you think that it’s an improvement that they’re gone?

DM:……..improvement because they’ve gone….if they could have been made habitable I think they would have been better off staying.  I think they would have added more character actually, although you’ve still got these up and over houses like Eiffel Street and stuff, but you know, Bridge Lanes, it certainly had a….you know, Heptonstall Road, that area around Heptonstall Road and Bridge Lanes, yeah…I wish…..but I suppose folk pull these things down because it’s the fashion at the time don’t they?  With hindsight we can all look back

TW:Well they did it, well quite a lot of it really, like on King Street and going from Heptonstall Road down the bridge over Colden Water, Buttress, Commercial Street, all that

DM:Oh yeah, all gone.

TW:It’s all gone now isn’t it really, and it’s sort of opened Hebden Bridge up so it’s airier, lighter and this sort of thing.  But is that a good thing or is that a bad thing or is it a bit of both?

DM:I suppose it has its benefits, but you see, if you think about it, there was only one vote in Halifax Council that stopped them pulling the Piece Hall down.  Now, you know, thankfully the one vote was for it to stay where it was, because that is the most fantastic building and how anybody could ever envisage turning that in to a car park and pulling it down is just – but that was the norm at the time, and in my life time I don’t know if it was in the sixties they were thinking about doing that, but you know, you’d be pulling your hair out wouldn’t you if you saw the photos now of the Piece Hall and it had been pulled down.

TW:It’s a classic building really isn’t it?

DM:Oh it’s unique, it’s fantastic.  You go sort of half way round the world and would you see anything like it?  Maybe because it’s on our doorstep we don’t appreciate it just the same.

TW:That’s probably very true, yes.  When you were in the fire service the, there was a lot of controversy a year or two back about the fire service changing and the closed the Hebden Bridge one and they moved to Mytholmroyd, and all kinds of odd things going on.  Is that…does that have any effect on you, having been a fireman once?

DM:……..not really, no.  I don’t think the fire service to be quite honest does the job that we used to do, you know, because there aren’t now





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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