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Frank Stoker

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INTERVIEWER:This is the 10th of November 2009 at Scout Road Primary School.

What is your full name?


Where were you born?

Where was I born?


In Todmorden.


January 1947.

Did you go to a school in Mytholmroyd?

No, no, I went to a school in Cornholme which is part of Todmorden.

Did you ever go abroad when you were a child?
No, ooh no, no money to go abroad.

When you were younger did you like your job and if so, why?

When I left school I worked for..oh six years at the Co-op in Todmorden in the menswear department.  Yes I liked, yes I liked.

Do you think Mytholmroyd has changed and if so, has it got better or worse?

I didn’t know Mytholmroyd because we didn’t come down into Yorkshire, we tended to go into Lancashire so I didn’t know Mytholmroyd and I didn’t know Hebden Bridge really until I started working in Hebden Bridge when I was twenty-two.

Did you ever have a pet?

Yes we always had cats, never a dog, always cats – usually stray cats that were rescued.

Did you like where you lived?

…….not particularly no, it was very narrow valley and we didn’t get any sun in t’winter, it was dark and a lot of mills.

What did you do in your holidays?

Holidays – school holidays?  You mean when I was at school?


Not a lot, just played around because we hadn’t enough money to go on holiday.  A holiday consisted of perhaps once every two years to go to Blackpool for a couple of days and that was it, and that was quite normal, that was quite normal.

Did you do any clubs, and if you did, what were they?

What sort of clubs?

Sort of like after school clubs.

No there were no after school clubs.  You went to school in the morning for nine o’clock and it finished at half past three and that was it.  There was no such thing as extended schools, it was just in and out.

When you were little did you ever fall out with your family?

No, no.

What mischief did you and your friends get up to at school?

Ooh all sorts – at school! [laughing] All sorts of things that are very trivial now….but you didn’t step out of line a lot because if you stepped out of line in class you’d find a board rubber whizzing down the classroom, and if you got hit with that you knew about it, so you did tend to behave.

What is the worst job you’ve done?

I’ve never had a worse job, apart from working in a supermarket for a week which I didn’t like.  That was before I came here.

What adventures have you had?



Oh, very relevant.  I went to Berlin and went through the Berlin Wall when the Berlin Wall was standing.  I went through Checkpoint Charlie, one of the American checkpoints into the east of Berlin, that was exciting and I’ve been to Russia, to Moscow and to the Central Asia Republics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, that was exciting and we took the Chinese border.

Did anything bad happen on any of these…

  Bad?  Yes we got food poisoning in Russia, we got food poisoning.  Eight of us got food poisoning and we finished up in the isolation hospital in what was the Leningrad which is now St Petersburg, and it was like a prison camp.

At your primary school, did you stay in your primary school that you were in or did you switch any schools?

I started school in a nursery school from being four till seven and then I moved to Portsmouth Primary School until I was eleven, again that was normal to go from one to the other, and then we took an eleven-plus exam.

Have you ever broke any of your bones whilst in school?

No, no.

Have you had any really bad emergencies at work?

Oh I don’t think so, not at work, no, no nothing springs to mind.

Okay, what did you do at Christmas Day?

Christmas Day?  Present but not presents like you people have.  Only a few presents and perhaps very simple presents… always got a Christmas stocking but it might only have – this was when I was quite young – oranges, apples, some fruit, that sort of thing, simple toys, nothing electronic of course because they hadn’t come out.  Perhaps an odd board game.

What sports do you like?

I’m not a great big sporting fan.  I used to like cricket but not intensely.  I used to like walking if that’s classed as a sport.

Did you have decent clothes when you were young?

Decent in so far as they were clean, but not a lot of them, nothing like you people will have.  Perhaps a couple of shirts, a pair of trousers and that was it.

What did you have to eat in your house?

Depended which day of the week it was.  If you were lucky you got meat on a Sunday which was then resurrected the day after for made into rissoles or stews or things like that, and everything had to be stretched to its maximum because there just wasn’t the money around to buy extra things.

And did you have any brothers or sisters?


Did you have a fireplace in your house?

Yes, yes.

What was one of the best things in secondary school?

In secondary school?........I used to like geography.  I used to enjoy the lesson of geography and I liked history.  I didn’t like maths and English.  That probably still applies to you.

Where would you have gone on your holiday?

As I said before we didn’t have holidays.  Perhaps a couple of days in Blackpool in September every two years if we were lucky, and I only every remember as a child going on holiday once to Aberystwyth in Wales for a week, and that was quite a, quite a trip.

Have you any other questions?  Any other questions you want to ask? Or things we haven’t covered – a last thing?
………….Have you come to the end of your questions?

That was the last question.

That was the last question……if you want to know what was it like when I was quite young – completely different to what it is now.  I lived in Cornholme where there were a lot of big cotton mills, do you know what we’re talking about – where they wove cotton into cloth – big mills that employed seven, eight hundred people, and most people worked in the cotton mills.  There were a lot of cotton mills in Todmorden, but Mytholmroyd being in Yorkshire, they’d wool.  They turned the wool into cloth etc etc, so Todmorden was really in Yorkshire but it was really a Lancashire  town because Lancashire is associated with cotton.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

As a job?


I would have liked to have worked in a travel agents but there weren’t many travel agents around.  Nothing really shone…..stood out that I particularly wanted to do.  I worked at the Co-op in Todmorden for five years and then I went into the clothing trade in Hebden Bridge where we made trousers, and I worked in there for twenty-five years, so I’ve cut a lot of trousers out.

Were there any local shops where you could buy food freshly?

Oh yes, yes there were the local Co-ops and they had a lot of branches, smaller shops in the different valleys and they’d also have a butcher’s shop, a confectioner’s shop, a haberdashery shop, yes most of the shopping was done locally, no supermarkets, there weren’t any supermarkets, nothing like Tesco or Asda.  They were all small shops.

What type of toy did you used to play when you were younger?

Toys, toys, toys…board games – Monopoly.  Do you still play Monopoly?


Yeah I had Monopoly….various board games…dominoes, chess, a lot probably that are still around, but not as sophisticated games as you lot play.

ANOTHER CHILD:Risk – it’s a game..

Risk?  It’s a war game – conquering the world.

It lasts for ages

Yes it does, yes.

INTERVIEWER:Did you oh I’ve forgot what I was gonna say now, let’s think…..did you do any jobs for people when you were young to earn money?

Oh yes – shopping, as I say because there weren’t any supermarkets so you had to go to the local shops….people who couldn’t do any gardening, digging etc, mainly shopping.  Shopping was the biggest thing that you could do for people to earn a bit of money.

TONY WRIGHT:Have you asked all your questions?

INTERVIEWER:Yeah that’s about all of them.

TW:Well I’m going to ask a few myself, and if there’s anything that you would like to ask him following up, then just go ahead and ask.
One of the things that I found very interesting is that when you went to the Berlin Wall and Russia and other places, I mean why did you go there?

I just liked travelling and seeing – not particularly lying on a beach, but to see things that were interesting.

So this was like holidays rather than

This was a holiday, oh yes, oh on holiday.  I can’t put a date on when I went to the Berlin Wall but I know I’ve never been as frightened in my life, going through the checkpoint into the East.  I did think for once ‘what are you doing here?  Do you know what you’re doing?’

What did you see when you got on the other side?

On the other side?  What didn’t you see?  No traffic, a lot of military, of course you couldn’t walk up to the wall.  You went through the checkpoint and then you had to keep going through the – they’d cordoned streets off so you zig-zagged into the city so that you couldn’t just drive straight up to the  wall and crash through the barriers.  Nothing in the shops and you had to change…ten West German marks into East German marks, but there was nothing to buy in the east, but that was a way of making money for the eastern sector…yeah, really really frightening, really frightening, and Russia was just a fortieth birthday present to myself, and that was – cos I’d always wanted to see Russia, not the political side of it but I think Russia has its tremendous history and this vast country, yes I absolutely loved it apart from being in the hospital in Leningrad

If I could go back a bit to when you were younger and living in Cornholme.  What was your house like?

Oh…a terraced house, a kitchen and a living room downstairs, two bedrooms and aQ bathroom and that was it, and a back yard literally not much bigger than this table.  Quite just an ordinary terraced house that most of the streets in Cornholme, one after the other all alike, all alike….a range in the kitchen with an open fire.  When I was small, it had an open fireside oven that you cooked in or baked in, and of course you had to clean this out every morning.  Gas fires weren’t heard of, that was quite normal, quite normal.

So was it just you, your mother and your father?


What did they do?

They were both weavers, they worked in the cotton mills as most people did in Todmorden.  Todmorden was predominantly cotton, there was no wool in Todmorden which is Yorkshire…..and there were big mills that employed sort of a thousand people, and smaller mills that may have employed only fifty people.  There was a big mill in Cornholme called Joshua Smith’s; they made a lot of fancy fabrics on jacquard looms which was a French loom that wove patterns, they also wove silk and during the war they wove parachute material, or this sort of thing.  Yeah but a big mill, a big big mill.

Is that where your parents worked?

Both my parents worked at Smiths – my mother worked at Smiths for quite a long time, my father worked at various mills in the Todmorden area.  My father worked in Walsden, the old Waterside Mill in Todmorden which is where Morrisons is now.  There were a lot of mills, and you could walk from one job to another, there was no job problem within the cotton industry of course and then it fizzled out and a lot of the mills were pulled down, some were turned into flats more recently……..big, big mills, big mills

Why didn’t you follow into that trade?

By the time I was leaving school, most of the cotton trade had gone, it had folded due to a lot of imports being brought in from the Far East, in fact I don’t think there’d be above a couple of mills left in Todmorden when I left school because it caved invery quickly, it disappeared and there was nothing really to replace it only a bit of light industry.  Looking back, you can’t imagine how many people that the cotton trade employed, in Lancashire anyway.

You felt as if you were part of Lancashire and not part of Yorkshire then?

Oh Todmorden was definitely Lancashire but it was in Yorkshire according to the map, and yet Todmorden is in quite a strange position in that everything was Lancashire based.  There was the Lancashire Cricket League, you were in the Manchester telephone book, everything was Lancashire.  You didn’t come into Yorkshire.  If you went to a town you would go to Burnley, if you wanted a city you would go to Manchester, very seldom would you go to Bradford.  Nobody in Todmorden…that still applies to a great extent today, perhaps not as much as it did, but people still tend to go to Lancashire; its definitely a Lancashire town in Yorkshire

VARIOUS CHILDREN:When did you decide to come to be a cleaner at the school?

When did I start….I worked in clothing after I’d been to…spent six years at the local Co-op in Todmorden, and I worked for twenty-three years for one company and then I moved to Caldene down here who made riding wear, and I worked for them eleven years, and then that closed, I was made redundant and I didn’t know what to do, I thought ‘what shall I do?’  I’d worked in clothing all my life, I didn’t know anything else.  Anyway to cut a long story short, I finished up coming to Scout Road School as caretaker, and liked it.

Have you worked at any other schools?

No, no.

In your childhood, what were you a big fan of?  Superheroes and music…

We didn’t have superheroes – Beatles, when they started, that was the biggest thing…pop music….that era, rock ‘n’ roll, yeah! [laughing]  Elvis, yeah, I can remember Elvis Presley.

My mum went to see him when he died.

Did she, did she?

I was born the same day.

TW:Do you go back to Cornholme at all now?

Not really.  I pass through.

As it changed then?  Has Cornholme changed since you were a child?

It’s changed in so far as that there is no industry.  As I said there were a lot of cotton mills, big employer of cotton mills, and the shops, there were quite a lot of…not a lot of shops but there were shops that you could do all your shopping in Cornholme, as I say before supermarkets, so no, there’s nothing there apart housing.  People just live there and course it’s commuting to Burnley, Preston, Manchester etc etc etc.  No it doesn’t bear much resemblance to what it did.

Have you seen any change in Mytholmroyd in the years that you’ve worked in Caldene and school?

Oh yes, yes, I’ve spent most of my working life in Hebden Bridge – twenty-odd years – and that’s changed, that’s changed.  Hebden Bridge used to have a tremendous clothing industry….and they really more or less only men’s trousers.  I worked for a company called Thomas Sutcliffe’s and we used to turn out – it were only a small place – we used to turn out five thousand pairs a week and they were sent all over the world.  Hebden Bridge trousers were sort of a by-word, and they were what we called sewing shops, everyone knew they were sewing shops and some were small, they might only employ about ten fifteen people, some employed perhaps a hundred and fifty two hundred in fact there was a company called Redmans, Redman Brothers, and that was one of the biggest clothing companies in Europe.  They had factories in various places – Rotherham, Sheffied, and they made a lot of different things, not just men’s trousers.  Yeah, going back to has Hebden Bridge changed – yes, completely.  That has gone due to imports and of course then it went touristy where it pulls a lot of tourists in and now they have this drug problem, you know like a lot of other places but I think it’s pretty bad in Hebden Bridge, although I don’t really delve into that.

As a kid, did you used to catch buses to get to places?

Oh yes, yes there was a good bus service…….and a good train service.  I can remember the steam trains.

What were the sweets like?

Sweets…as in toffees?

As in like sugary

Sugary?  Not puddings?  

Yeah puddings, anything

Just basic steamed puddings, sponge puddings, rice puddings, probably a lot like you have now.  Apple pies if you were lucky, not with cream on, just apple pie and custard, this type of thing.  People used to make a lot of sweets cos you couldn’t buy them and you hadn’t the money to buy them, you couldn’t go to Tesco and pick up some sponge puddings because there was no such thing, so people had to cook and bake

Did the people from Cornholme have a different sort of accent to the people that lived like nearer to Mytholmroyd?

Apparently yes, cos if you went away people would say to me ‘oh you’re from Lancashire’ and I still kept my, apparently my Lancashire accent, I can’t pick it up but people still say ‘oh yes you come from Lancashire’ – yeah, Lancashire and Yorkshire were totally, totally different

So you’re definitely allied to Lancashire then?

I would have said, yes.

And when you came – when you moved into Yorkshire then, was it different?  Was there a difference?

People are different.

How so?

The people are different.  Lancashire people are much more friendly.  I don’t mean they’re hostile in Mytholmroyd [laughing] but the Lancashire people are I think more naturally friendly people than Yorkshire.  Yorkshire people tend to be a bit……perhaps not abrasive, but straight to the point.  Oh there’s definitely a difference, yes.

VARIOUS CHILDREN:Where would you have gone for a holiday?

Only to Blackpool if we were lucky….and we once went to Aberystwyth in Wales….I once went to Cornwall but we didn’t go abroad, we didn’t go abroad cos there was no money.  People didn’t go abroad then, it just wasn’t an option at all.

If you wished to go to any place now, where would it be?

New Zealand.

And why?

Why?  Because I think it looks so lovely, uncrowded, nice climate, it just looks brilliant.

If you chose to go anywhere when you were younger, where would you go?

For a holiday?


If I could have done?


If I could have done – oh, I would have liked – I would have chosen somewhere like Switzerland or Austria with mountains because we did a lot of walking later on.  That would have been my choice, but people didn’t go abroad like you lot do.

Did you ever see the illuminations?

Yes, yes.  We used to go…on the odd occasion we went to it every two years, they always used to switch them on at the local Wakes weeks and we always tried to go for the Friday night where they had a celebrity to switch them on, which doesn’t sound very exciting to you I’m sure.

When you were younger did you play out a lot?

Yes.  Yes, on the hillside and in the fields.

Did you like the countryside?

Yes, very much, very much.

TW:Did you ever go mumming?

No.  no, that was a Yorkshire thing rather than Lancashire.  It wasn’t something that I remember; that’s going back beyond my sixty-three years.

VARIOUS CHILDREN:Did you see the first illuminations

No.  No, I can remember going as a child to see the illuminations…..but that was quite a treat, that was quite a treat.

Did they have rides at Blackpool?

Rides – on the Pleasure Beach?


Oh yes.

They had the Big Dipper didn’t they?

Yes, I remember going on the Big Dipper, but not as a small child; later on I went on the Big Dipper – not the big one.

That’s the Pepsi Max

Pepsi Max [laughing]

Would the people have nicknames in Tod?

Yes, very much so, very much so.

What kind of nicknames?

Well, in Todmorden or in Cornholme particularly there were a lot of Greenwoods, people called Greenwood and I was associated with a chapel on the hillside called Shore. My mother went to a Baptist chapel which was on the edge of the moor and there were so many Greenwoods that each one had a nickname because otherwise you didn’t know who they were talking about, and two spring to mind – there was Little Teddy and Long Cissy – they were brother and sister, and one was tall and one was short, they were you know most extreme, and then you’d get Ada at Parrock because Ada lived at Parrock Farm, and this is how nicknames tied up, otherwise you didn’t know who..if they talked about Tom Greenwood there might be four Tom Greenwoods, so everyone had a nickname, usually associated with where they lived or some feature about them that was easy to pick up on, but yes that was quite common, in fact some people, that more or less became their name.  If you spoke about….didn’t refer to them by nickname then people didn’t know who you were talking about, yeah that was very common.

Did you think later life in these days was gonna be like… spaceships and loads of technology?

No, I can remember at the primary school when they launched the first satellite, the Russian Sputnik, I can remember that….but nobody realised… I mean space travel and everything…nobody envisaged that it would finish up as it did.  We couldn’t imagine going to the moon, that was something out of a book.

Did you have a TV in your house?

Yes, but not until I was in my teens, early teens.

What kind of stuff did you watch?  Did you watch like…the news or documentaries or something?

There weren’t a lot of programmes on; it didn’t broadcast all day as it does now.  It didn’t start till five o’clock in the afternoon.  We’d children’s programmes, sort of half past four till half past five and then at six o’clock there would be the news, and then perhaps another programme then they would have a break, they would have a break for an hour.  In the middle of a play they would have an intermission because a lot of the broadcasts were filmed live, they were done live, they weren’t recorde,d then it would finish at ten.

Did you go to grammar school?

No I didn’t.  I went to Scaitcliffe Secondary Modern School.

Okay, and did you get…did you get a good education at your school, or were you kind of naughty and got whipped?

[laughed] I wouldn’t have said it was brilliant, you did tend to get pushed in at one end.  If you didn’t go to the grammar school, you were pushed in at eleven at one end and spat out at the other unless you were – there was no such things as GCSEs and O Levels, it was just a case of getting through.

Did you still have to do…hymns?

Oh yes we had assemblies.  We had assembly every morning, every morning in the hall.

Is that real different from ours?

Well you have assembly, what – once a week?

I mean do you like do it any differently or did you like stand up?

Oh yes, yes.  There were four hundred children at Scaitcliffe School where I went and we stood in lines in the hall, there were no chairs.  You stood…and it was always the same format every morning.

Was there any particular talents you had?

[laughing] Not particularly, I don’t remember excelling at anything.

Were you good at any instruments?

No I was very unmusical, in fact I could wreck a tune without trying.

What was your favourite instrument that you would like to get?

I would have liked to have played the piano but that was totally out of the question because I have no sense of rhythm and no sense of time…so music doesn’t feature highly on my list.

Did you something that is well known now, was Doctor Who around?

I remember the first Doctor Who starting.  I used to watch Doctor Who.  I can’t put a year on it or how old I was but I remember the first Doctor Who.

Was there Sesame Street then?

No, no I didn’t watch Sesame Street because I’d be…twenty-three when Sesame Street started.  I think I’d got a bit past Sesame Street.

Did you like doing sports?

As I say not particularly.  I enjoyed a bit of cricket but not, not – I’m not a sports person.  I used to like walking rather than sport.

What type of clothes was it in your time?  Was it like bunjees – not bunjees…..dungarees?

[laughing]  What when I was little?

Yeah, what did you wear?  Did you wear like hats?

No, no.  Short trousers.  All the boys wore short trousers because you didn’t go into long trousers until ten or eleven.  Short trousers…shirts, caps, you know a sort of cap with a neb on, that sort of thing, and a pullover.

Did you…well, did you…were you popular at your school and had many friends?

Yes, well I don’t know if I was popular or not.  I had quite a lot of friends…but they tended to be round a village because when you moved school you’d come from a village and you did tend to stick together.

TW:Were there any sort of unusual characters around that you can remember, like when you were a bit older, not just at school but like in your teens or in your twenties?  Were there certain people that you’d sort of say ‘oh they’re a real character’ and what did they do?

Yeah, a lot of the old farmers were characters, but I think that is something that’s died out, which you don’t get the characters that you used to get, but a lot of the hillside communities had characters

What made them characters then?

Well, they may perhaps dress differently or….things that they did…villagey things……I can remember me father saying ‘oh yeah they’re right characters’ but they were just, perhaps just slightly people that did things that were just a bit out of the norm, nothing  tremendous.

Was it perhaps the way they spoke?  Were they a bit more forthright or…

Maybe, yes, anything that was out of the ordinary that made them slightly different.   Looking back, I don’t think they were a lot different from most people but you did tend to get what they used to call characters in small hillside communities, of which there were a lot, but they tended to be…quite self-contained, you know, not as they are now.  You get hillside communities like Midgley and Cragg Vale, but they still mix in because that’s the way things are,  you know, people tend to live in the area and then they commute to different places and they all go to the same supermarkets etc.  There was nothing like that so everything did tend to keep together.

Were you a church-goer?

Yes I was brought up at St Michael’s Church in Cornholme which was Church of England.  Me father went there, me mother went to Shore Baptist Church which was a Baptist chapel on the hillside above Cornholme….and I went to both, I went to both.  I was officially Church of England but it was really fifty-fifty.  I spent a lot of time at both, a tremendous amount of time.

VARIOUS CHILDREN:What type of DVDs and books do you like……like fantasy or mystery?

I like travel books, I like a good novel, DVDs I’m not really into, not really.

Do you like reading?

Yes, but I don’t have a lot of time….time tends to be, I spend most of my time here [chuckling]

What do you do in your spare time then?

Oh spare time, which isn’t a lot, gardening, we have a big, a decent sized garden which I like to spend a lot of time with that, especially in summer.  Walking.  We take a dog so it takes quite a bit of time up……………….we go shopping like other people, and we like to go to other places locally.

You know you said you walked with a dog.  Is it your dog?

No, one we borrow.

Oh right.

No, he comes to stay with us.  Most days he comes at some point

Does it just – not run away, but just leave the house that it’s actually living in and just comes round

No we go and pick him up

Oh right.  Why?

Well because his owner has arthritis and she can’t take him out for the walks that he should have, so he comes to us and we take him out and he usually stops for a couple of hours, or if his owner’s going out he comes to us for the day; he’s a border collie.

I was going to say is he a border collie, but when you…do you have cats now?

No we used to have a cat, we had a cat up to about…eighteen months ago, but it died, it died, a black one, called Purdy.

I thought it might be the one that was in the newspaper


No, no, no.


TW:Are you married then?


Do you have children?

No.  My wife came to Scout Road School and…her uncles and her mum came to Scout Road School.

Oh really?

Yes.  We found their names on the intake register that Mrs Barry has in her office.

I see yes.

So my wife is very very Mytholmroyd [chuckling]

So she’s lived here all her life?
She’s lived her – well, she lived in Bradford for a few years…and then came back to Mytholmroyd, but yes, Mytholmroyd through and through, Scout Road School through and through.

What did she do as a  job then?

She worked in the clothing industry.  She was a supervisor for Gents in Halifax, and she was a supervisor at TS Trousers down in the valley, and when that folded, she just did various sorts of jobs just to fill her time in till she came to retiring age which she was only a couple of years to being sixty.

VARIOUS CHILDREN:When you played out, did you usually play on your own or did you play with some of your friends?

Oh friends, friends, usually on the hillside…or of course…I won’t say you could play in the road but of course when I was quite small, there wasn’t the amount of traffic, there was very few – little traffic on the road.

And what type of toys would you play with when you played with your friends?

At home?  Oh just board games and things, quite simple things.

Yeah, I mean like outside.

Outside?  Oh, well we used to – we made what we called a trolley on wheels, a board with wheels on and you could play in the road then because there was virtually no traffic, or very little traffic.  Quite simple things looking back.

Were you kind of surprised that the technology you have in these days, like…

Oh yes, you couldn’t have foreseen the technology`.

Like what was one of the most things you were kind of confused how they made it?  Like that you were thinking in your days, or that you would never think or thought in your days?

Well you would never have thought of the internet would you?  You would never have thought of the internet because there was no such thing as a computer.

Computers didn’t exist.  Everything was book form, hand written, just transformed everything.

Your main friends – who were they? Was there anyone that strikes you ….

Well no-one what you would know.  I still keep in touch with one or two from way back

How far back?

How far back?  Well, from being children, from being perhaps five, six, I still keep in touch with them.

Did they go to the same secondary school as you? 

Some went to the grammar school, some went to Scaitcliffe where I went, but you lived in a village which was a very close-knit community….it wasn’t spread out, you didn’t tend to go to many other places.

Did you get really excited when it started to snow round about in the winter?

[laughing]   Yes, but used to get a lot of snow.  Every winter.  Winters were proper winters, and it weren’t a case of if it snows it’s when it snows and it would stay on the ground for weeks at a time, but it would close – in a bad winter it would close the roads, it would close the hillside roads, traffic couldn’t get up but of course there wasn’t the snow moving equipment that you have now.

Did you start sledges

Oh yes

Were they wooden or plastic?

Wood.  There wasn’t plastic.

Oh right

[chuckling]  Wood, with metal runners on to make them go faster.

We’ve got one at homelike that.

Yeah so have I.

Have  you?

With a string on at the front where you…yeah

You can like actually hurt yourself going down on metal

Oh yes, yes you’d fall off [laughing] fall off with great regularity!  We used to have - when it snowed – you knew exactly where to go cos the hillside in some places would be better for sledging than others until they put fences up and that sort of – clip your wings –

That would have hurt

That would have hurt if you went into it.

Did you make your own sledges


Or did you buy them?

No you couldn’t buy sledges.  If you didn’t make one, that was it, you couldn’t have one.

Did your father make them?

Yes, yes, and then you got the local blacksmith to make some irons to go on the bottom for runners.

What were the title of comic when you were at home…

Oh there were Dandy, Beano, Eagle

Was it Our Willy cos that was


Was it Our Willy…cos that was...that’s Welsh

No, we didn’t have that

TW:You said earlier that you went to both churches.  Was there any difference in them when…you know, different kinds of people or different kinds of things that they believed in?

No – well, a bit, well basically the same……no I would have said they just people, but people tended to go where their parents had gone, like Shore Chapel was on the hillside, so that tended to attract the local hillside community, whereas the churches in the bottom, although there were chapels in the valley, but people tended to go where the parents and family thinks, where a family had always gone to – St Michaels or Cornholme Methodists or there, they didn’t really swap, they didn’t swap, but it tended to be the centre of village life.  If there was something special…it did dominate a lot of sort of recreational things cos there wasn’t much money so the churches and chapels tended to be the centre of…entertainment.

What kind of things did they do?

Well the churches, for recreational things, the church would have dances which the Baptist didn’t have…but again, quite simple things like people would bring slides, colour slides, and give a slide show of things, perhaps holidays where people didn’t go abroad except only very few people; they’d bring these things, you’d sit in wonder looking at these things, yeah, it was a centre of entertainment and sort of harvests..the preparation would be quite amazing and they all had anniversaries, what they called anniversaries; nobody seemed to know what it was the anniversary of because they all tended to be at a certain time of the year…..and there’d be weeks and weeks of preparation would go into this one day and people would come from a long way off who’d been associated with the – with the churches and chapels, all for this one day, that was quite normal.

Was an anniversary then, like a birthday of the church or

Well, yeah, but that’s what it was, it was always a chapel anniversary, a church anniversary but they were all within a sort of a six week period, so it couldn’t have been that each church had opened in that six week period.  I think it was just…..a sort of a celebration of the church and possibly they had them in the summer because in the winter a lot of the village communities were cut off, the hilltop communities were cut off, but they were all relatively within a six week period and they couldn’t have all started in

Were they tied in to the Wakes weeks then?

No, nothing to do – there was nothing in the Wakes weeks because the Wakes weeks, the whole town shut down.  Everyone…two weeks’ holiday and the entire town shut.  There was nothing, even the shops would shut for a week.  There would be a perhaps – I don’t even remember the two week Wakes weeks, it used to be a week originally, but the shops would shut for a week which sounds quite amazing now, and there were..noboby worked, everything closed, the whole thing, and the railway station at Todmorden on the Saturday morning would be absolutely heaving with people cos everyone went at this particular time……and then there was a September break which was initially two days in September and again, the whole town had this.

VARIOUS CHILDREN:Were there any lessons in school, in your school, well, in our school, that you don’t have now?

Oh yes, yes, ours was very basic.  English, maths, history, religious education

No art or


Art or P.E.?

P.E. but again, not featured highly….it were…science which covered a multitude of things…, it was pretty basic, it was pretty basic, especially at primary school.  There was nothing like you lot have, nothing at all.

Did you do D.T.?


Did you do D.T. and making things in secondary school?

What’s D.T.?

MANY CHILDREN AT ONCE:Design and technology.

VARIOUS SEPARATE CHILDREN AGAIN:We had woodwork and metalwork, we had woodwork, metalwork, that was it for the boys and girls took cookery, and that was it, that was it.

Did you and the girls – did you do all the same lessons or did you sometimes do separate lessons?

The only thing we did separate was….what they called domestic science for the girls which was cookery and….woodwork and metalwork for the boys, and that was it, but later on they did swap, they did swap.

What did you make in woodwork?

Useless things, like I made a cupboard, made a stool with seagrass tops with sixteen mortise and tenon joints… metalwork a paper knife, a copper dish, nothing very useful or very exciting.  It took a long time to make.

Would you have tried to make any instruments?

Ooh no, no.  Do you mean musical instruments? Like ukuleles?

No, no [chuckling], no

TW:Were boys and girls in the same class?

Oh yeah mixed classes but as I say the only time we split up was for woodwork and metalwork for the boys, which was a full afternoon, a big – which you had alternate weeks…….not the best teachers I don’t think, I think they could have extracted a lot better things out of us.

If you didn’t have a fireplace in your house, what did you keep warm with?

We did have a fireplace.

You did?

You did have a fireplace

I mean – I mean I asked you and you said you didn’t.

No I didn’t, I said we had a fireplace with a fireside oven.

Oh right, I though you said you didn’t.

[school bell ringing]

Did you have an Aga?

No, no.

TW:Did you have what they called a range?


With an open fire
With an open fire with a fireside oven and a hot cupboard on the top of the oven, and you could pull a lever and a door came back to take the draft - the hot air through, but we had an oven as well.

ONE OF THE CHILDREN:What pubs were round about when you were a young man and  that’s still here now?

Not many, not many.  One or two in Todmorden – the White Hart, George, they’re still there but in Cornholme I don’t think there’s any.

TW:Were there a lot of pubs in Cornholme?


How many do you think?

Oh…..six or seven, and for a small village…some were pretty rough….

Can you remember the names of any of them?

Yeah there were t’Jocky, Frauherst, , t’Glen, t’Wagon…..Cornholme Club which is still going……Robin Wood….Freemasons…..

VARIOUS CHILDREN:Is Robin Wood a puff?  What you’re on about?

Robin Wood is an area

Oh right

That was the pub

Was there still the…oh there was something in Robin Wood like a church but I can’t remember what it is…something to do with going there for residentials

Yes…no, it’s an old mill I think, Robin Wood.  Are you going to an activity centre?


Yeah, it was a mill, I think.  I don’t know much about it, but Robin Wood is the area, it’s like in Todmorden on Burnley Road.

Is there anything else that you think you would like to talk about from your past?

……..I can remember, if we’re going back to when I was quite small, I can remember the cotton mills in Cornholme, the big one St Joshua Smith’s and they used to – before electric motors – they used to have to fire big boilers, but with coal, and you always knew when Smith’s were firing up, cos if you had any washing out, the cry would go down the streets to get your washing in, Smith’s are firing up because the valley filled with smoke and big flakes of soot would come down on to washing, I can remember that distinctly, Smith’s firing up, and when the….I say people going to work and wearing clogs, and you knew who was going up the road because you could hear the sound of the clogs and everyone walks different don’t they?  Some are quite distinctive and you knew so-and-so was going up to work, that was quite early in the morning.

Were the mills very noisy then?

Extremely, extremely noisy, so you got this…lip-reading, sign language that they used to – so the weavers could talk to one another above the noise of the looms.

Could you hear the noise in the street, like in the house where you lived, was there a kind of noise in the background?

…no, well we lived quite a bit from the mill but if…in summer when they had all the windows and doors open, you walked past and oh yes, you could hear this…the, the looms, very very noisy indeed.  You couldn’t possibly talk, and of course no ear muffs or anything and a lot of people finished up deaf but…it was never a problem working with noise… did get used to it, I don’t remember anyone saying ‘ooh it was so noisy’ that’s just the way it was and you just got on with it, there was no…I don’t think it was a problem.  The problem was when it stopped and you got this silence, that was the strange part, when you’d been in this noise all day and then this deafening silence, when they switched the motors off, cos they were driven by…shaftings and leather straps onto the machinery, so of course everything was noisy cos the metal wheels that turned the looms were noisy, and they switched the shaftings off and it just went [fading humming] and then it was silence and that was the strange part.  It wasn’t the noise, it was the quiet.

ONE OF CHILDREN:In Lancashire, in the summer part, in like the summer part of the year, did you see any Morris Men dancing on the streets?

Only on special occasions, like Easter, but not normally, no

Did you enjoy it?

….I think so.  We sort of went to look at them and watched them in the park, they didn’t come through the streets of the villages, well not in Todmorden anyway.

But like, at the special occasions, were they…just like walking past, were there some at a car park, some at a pub?

There were no car parks, there weren’t many cars

Oh right.  Would there be some at like open areas, were they mostly all around one area?  Because they dance and then they get together and dance again

Yeah in village squares and this sort of thing, is that what you mean?


Like down in Mytholmroyd they could be down at the bottom where the green is

Somewhere where you could gather and people could stand…yeah, yeah

TW:Is there anything else you would like to ask?

CHILDREN:No, no if that’s alright…no

TW:Okay, well thank you very much and I think you four should go back to class now and I shall finish off with Frank, and thank you very much.

CHILDREN:Rights thanks, bye Frank

See you later.  Go and have a break.

TW:I would just like to ask you…how you felt about this interview.  How did it…what did you think?

Well I think it went okay.  I thought….I didn’t know what was going to come…I’d no idea as to what sort of questions there were going to be, I didn’t know how much preparation they had, I’d no idea, it was just a blank wall when I walked in but I thought I went alright….I thought it…..children…they’ve not……it went better as it went on, perhaps that was because everybody got relaxed.  I think it needed you for a bit of input.  If you’d just sat there and done that and left it up to them, it would have fizzled in ten minutes, that’s how it came across to me.

Do you think it’s important then that we document people’s lives from the past?

Oh definitely, definitely, especially with the way…the rapidity that things change, or have changed, I mean it’s….well you know, you keep interviewing people, they’re two different worlds aren’t they?

They are

From even when I was a kid to now, there’s stuff that….you just can’t believe what, what’s changed and what you’ve done.  Things that you would never ever have dreamt of as a child…cos there was no money, there was no money to do anything.  We were talking about this this morning in the office, she said ‘people say ‘`I’m hard up`’ – they don’t know what hard up is…they don’t.  We had nothing, nothing, you’d hear them say ‘we didn’t know where t’next meal were coming from’ – they didn’t know where the next meal were coming from… you know, you said ‘what did you have to eat?’ you know well, it was resurrected most of the week….you wouldn’t want to go back to that.  There’s a lot of bad, there’s a lot of bad now, like there was no drug problem and this sort of thing, but I mean nobody would want to go back – they say t’good old days, but if you went back you’d have a fit – you would wouldn’t yer, you’d just have a fit because you forget – you do forget how hard it was, everything was…oh washday…there were no washing machines….

TW:Right, okay



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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