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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Roddy Boyse

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Geoff Garner

    [TRACK 1]

    Can I ask you then what your full name is, and where and when you were born?

    My name is Geoffrey Robert Garner – Geoffrey with a G – I was born in Dagenham in 1940, and I worked at Ford Motor Company for…thirty-four years.

    I left school when I was fourteen, started work on the farm where I stayed till I was twenty-one and then I did various jobs travelling round the country on building sites, whatever was going.

    Me dad never – he never really knew where I was until I came home [laughing] you know, so yeh – I had a good life, it was interesting, no complaints.

    What kind of farm was it that you worked on?

    [someone coming in]

    I started off on arable farming, all the various parts of that, early morning milking – we started at quarter past four in the morning, then I ended up on a pig farm in Suffolk – that was interesting, that I enjoyed. It’s always given me a love for pigs, let’s put it that way! They’re one of my favourite animals.

    What work did that entail then, raising – doing pigs?

    Pigs was breeding, rearing, cleaning out, feeding…when that was done first thing in the morning, yes, we used to go out to you know, various jobs – doing various jobs on the land, then we’d start again of a night-time, back for cleaning out, feeding then of course we had the castrating of the litters and things like that so, yes, it was – like everything else, no two days were the same – it was interesting, I enjoyed it, but at the time I think I was earning three pound a week you know, which, yes…I also managed to keep a motorbike on the road for early morning milking ‘cos I lived six mile away from the arable farm and dairy, so I had to get there early enough, so yeh, I managed to keep a small motorbike on the road, mind you I think at the time, I think petrol was only about 10p a gallon!

    Then, various jobs you do – none sometimes as good as others, but I worked for a supermarket firm – I was warehouse manager on the night shift, in charge of the fruit and veg and the packing, getting the goods to the stores and I got made redundant from that, so that’s when – I’d been doing the hand-carved leather just as a hobby, and when like I say I got made redundant from the supermarket firm, I went to Cordwainers College in Mare in Hackney to learn handbag design, handbag making, construction, various things like that, so it was just basically to combine the hand carving part with the handbag side, and I started doing craft fairs and you know – country fairs and things.

    When was that?

    That was in…1970..the very early seventies, yeh – and as I say I went to Cordwainers, I got all me bits of paper that you’re supposed to need, left the college, I got a job in a light leather goods firm – that’s making wallets, note cases, various stuff – I was there for two years and I was taken on originally to build the firm up, because at the time their monthly turnover was £800 a month; I had six girls working alongside me and in two years I’d built it up to over £2000 a month, but what I didn’t know at the time was we were one of three companies, and one day two gentleman walked in with briefcases and said ‘send your girls home – we’re closing you down’ and it was the taxman because the owner of the companies had been using the company I was running as a tax loss against the other two companies – he hadn’t paid company tax for two years on it, so came out of there, still kept me own, you know, little hobby side of it, but then all the machinery from the firm was sent to auction, which was sewing machines, diving machines and varying other hand machines, so I went to the auction and bought them all back again! And then I just used to do it sort of spare time you know, at the time it paid the bills and everything, and then I went to a heavy leather goods industrial, industrial leather goods firm, and that was in Beckenham in Kent and we used to do a lot of government work – Ministry of Defence stuff and yes, again, I managed to work meself up to…factory manager and then my managing director at the time wanted to get out of Kent, wanted to get out of London shall we say, so he moved up to Telford and I could not get on with Telford – God awful place! So I gave him three months to set the factory up, I kept staff so he didn’t have to be looking over their shoulder every five minutes, and I came to Hebden Bridge.

    Why did you choose Hebden Bridge?

    Well when I was at the college in Hackney, I made a lot of friends and they were from Skipton, Silsden, Steaton from all round there, and they kept on saying ‘come up, come up, come up’ so I did do – I came up here to Hebden Bridge and they are the three main friends – two are in Japan and one’s in Australia, so I moved up and they moved out!

    When did you move to Hebden?

    1989 – January 1989, and I opened for business on January the 9th and in my first week I made the grand total of ten pound, and I thought ‘what have I done?’ [laughing], and I’ve been between Walkleys and Mytholmroyd and Hebble End here – that’s where I’ve been ever since. All my work is all commission work and I seem to get enough work in just to keep me head above water, pay me bills which I’m quite happy about, so yeh – it’s not ideal, but I’m happy enough.

    So can you tell me a bit more about the work involved in leather work then?

    Well as I say most of my work is all commission work, and I do – if I can show – I do that sort of work which is for – that’s for the front of a pair of clogs. [showing Tony his leather work] I do a lot of work for Walkley’s Clogs in Mount Pleasant Mill. [more leather work] These are for the Spanish Civil War Society which I do quite a bit of work for – I do work for The Sealed Knot Societies, I do archery, motorcycle, shooting fraternity and one of the – one of the jobs I’ve just finished, if I may get it out [unpacking some work] – these are for a gentleman who’s got himself a 1929 Chrysler 75, and these are the bonnet straps that fit over the bonnet and there’s two – one at front, one at back, and the end of this month, February, he’s off to China – he’s having the car boxed up and shipped over to China where he’s doing the Peking-Mongolian Rally in it, so he needed these in a certain way so that when he does the Mongolian Desert, he can just undo these and take the whole bonnet off to put in the boot, because seemingly it’s going to be quite hot there, so I do those and I’m doing a bag at the moment here, I’ve got three bags on the go from briefcase I’ve got on the go, I’ve got to do a gun belt holster for a gentleman, various repairs, you know – put new zips in bags for people and make sure the bags will last them for another few years which has given me a good overall knowledge I suppose of the leather trade.

    What kind of and where do you get the leather?

    Well I use all different kinds of leather – there’s…I use hides, cow hides, mainly shoulders which is the part of the leather – there’s the back and then the shoulders which they have got the least amount of scratch marks and stuff like that on them. I use upholstery leather because I re-cover stools and things like that, clothing leather – I’ve got a coat in here that a gentleman wants repairing, where I’ve got to replace a whole panel in the coat because he’s ripped it and torn it, you know, climbing over barbed wire fences, things like that, so…and I get the leather from Skipton, Manchester, right down to Margate in Kent – it all depends what I’m actually looking for and working on at that particular time.

    Are there like different grades of leather?

    Oh yes, yes – there’s Grade One, Grade Two, Grade Three and the Grade One is the top, and then that is split which then comes down to the Grade Two and it is sanded all over to make it nice and smooth, then you come to the Grade Three and then there’s the suedes and things like that. At the moment I’m using Italian leather which is beautiful leather, but then you come down to the Spanish which is not so good, but again it – it tells you in the price; the leather I’m using at the moment for these belts and also to do the gun belt and holster, at the moment you’re talking…the one I’m using is four pound sixty a square foot, now I buy them in shoulders or butts and it is about eighteen square foot. A big piece then Big piece, yeh. When I use the upholstery hide, I have to buy it in a whole hide which is – can be from forty-five square foot up to fifty-two square foot and that is working out at the moment – you can get that round about two pound seventy-five a square foot, so it’s all money going out, you know, that’s why I get people come in and they say ‘oh you’ve got a bit of scrap leather’ well there’s no such thing as scrap leather looking at it that way, because I’ve had to buy the whole hide, so you know when you’re cutting – when you’re cutting the stuff out, you try not to waste any, or waste as little as possible shall we say. Normally I have a tub outside the door you know – large off-cuts and I sell them for 50p, you know people come in and ‘oh that’ll come in handy for what I want’ and they’re quite happy, so am I!

    To go back about this Grade One Two and Three, is Grade One really thick then?

    No, leather’s – when the leather goes into the tannery, right, they’ve got…orders of what they need, you know, and they will tan than and depending on what orders they’ve got for it, they will split it, stretch it, various you know – various things. The thickest, the thickest leather I use is about five-mill thick and then you go down to the very thin stuff which is eight point nine, which you can make wallets and note cases and that sort of thing out of.

    Do they do all that in the tannery then?

    They do all that in the tannery – the hides come in, they’re washed, the fat is scraped off them, like I say they’re washed again, tanned – if it’s veg tanned they tan it with the you know vegetable oils and that, and then there’s chrome tanned which is really hard leather you know, so yeh – it, it’s what orders they’ve got for the hides that they’ve got coming is you know, controls the thickness and whatever they want.

    How do you split a hide then?

    They’ve got a great big machine, and it is enormous and you lay the whole hide on this machine, and it’s taken through and it’s set to whatever thickness they want, so as it goes through it takes the underside off to leave the top that thickness and then, yes, they could put it through again, but you can…some leathers you can get and they’re just like tissue paper, whereas like I say, other leathers are – they’re thick, heavy, they make ‘em…banding belts and sanding belts and that sort of thing out of.

    So is the thin stuff more expensive because they have to process it?

    No – very often the thin stuff, again- depending what leather it is, if it’s seal skin, which yeh is expensive, but small stuff which I can show you here [getting some leather out] – that is expensive, that’s a lizard skin, that’s a full lizard skin that one – tail, back legs, front legs, back, but that is expensive – you’re talking about thirty pound for one of them, and then you come down to [getting some more out] things like that, snake skins – you can get snake skins with the head still on them can you? yeh, and then you come to very thin – this is just like tissue paper; that’s a snake skin again but it’s so thin, and to do anything with those, you have to put a backing on, and then as I was saying, there’s a small piece of seal skin – it’s quite tough.

    What kind of backing do you put on the snake skin?

    The snake skin, it’s a iron-on backing, it’s like a cotton iron-on backing, it just gives it – it just gives it that little bit more thickness so you can you know work it.

    Do you have any problems with people complaining about using like animal products, that sort of thing?

    Yes you do get people coming in – they don’t exactly…they don’t exactly complain, but they always say ‘don’t you feel…ashamed?’ and I always give them the same answer ‘with the cow hides and stuff like that, the leather is a by-product because the animals are killed for the meat trade, so what are you going to do with the hides – just let ‘em rot, burn ‘em? That’s why when we had the foot and mouth on…my leather went up practically twenty pence a square foot every day because there was nothing going through the abattoirs because they were just slaughtering the animals and burning the whole lot, whereas in the sixties when they had the foot and mouth then, they were cutting the heads and the feet off and still using the rest of the body, so there was still hides going through, but this time the whole lot was just burnt and my supplier, he was going all over the world to sort of get leather because, yeh he wanted to stay in business – he had customers to supply, and he was going everywhere to you know – he’d hear of some and off he’d go, but – yeh we kept going, but it’s the same old story – everything goes up, you never see it turn round and start coming down again! [laughing]

    So why is Italian leather the best – what do they do to it?

    It’s just in their tanning, it is absolutely – I can show you…where are we [finding some Italian leather] this is stuff I used for belts and cases – I make hand-made jewellery boxes and cases and stuff like that, which are all hand-stitched, but this has got – it’s soft and supple but it’s got the thickness there, and yeh – with Italian leather against Argentinian, Spanish and stuff like that, you’ve got very very few – you might get…you might get a horn scratch or something like that, a bit of barbed wire, but you’ve got no – Italy, English leather – you’ve got so little diseases that you know, to put marks on leather – you’ve got…in Spain, Argentina and places like that, very often you’ve can have a great big hole in the leather because that’s where one of the weevils, you know, burrows under the skin, so of course you’ve got a mark on your leather, but…and then you get the leather coming in that’s still got the skin on and the hair on. I had a lady recently buy herself a skin – it was black and white and she wanted me to make a particularly kind of bag so that the pattern on the skin was you know in various places, so yes, I made her that – I’ll show you this [getting more leather out] that is a calf skin with hair still on it, but I don’t – I don’t make anything out of these because they’re such nice skins that I keep these to show – we have school children and you know – school children come through, we have the Jewish children, they come through and they like to see that they would not normally see. That’s why I keep the you know, various snake skins and lizard skins and stuff like that.

    So is it mostly for showing kids then rather than making things out of?

    This – yeh, yes, they like to see, like I say, things that they wouldn’t normally see, you know – most people, when I say to children ‘where does leather come from?’ and they automatically go ‘cows’ which…but then when you say ‘what’s this?’ and show them the lizard skins, and they don’t realise that yes – everything is leather, you know – you and I are leather because…I’m waiting for the day when somebody comes in and says ‘this is me grannie you know, can you make me a suitcase out of her! The Japanese did it, the Germans did it in World War Two – they made lampshades out of human skin so yeh- lizards, there’s even a firm now that do salmon skins and they make – there’s a firm down in London making shoes out of them and they’re over a thousand pound a pair, and to show you how resilient leather is, there’s another firm that are making bags and things like that off the leather from the Mary Rose which was Russian leather. Really? Yeh, and that’s been what…in salt water for about was is it…three hundred years? And yet the outer of the bundles, but the inner because of the way they were packed, the inner ones are perfect, yeh.

    How do you know it was Russian then?

    Well that’s – I’m going by the information that came when they brought the Mary Rose up, but as I said, it was Russian leather, yeh, the inner bundles were fine – it was just that the salt water had got to the outer ones, I mean to say, Roman – they go on Roman digs and they’ll come up with Roman sandals, leather sandals, so it shows that once it’s…once it’s made, yeh, leather will last forever as long as it’s – as long as you take care of it.

    I have people come in and bring cases in and say you know ‘it’s gone dry and it’s starting to crack’ – that’s because it’s leather, you’ve got to feed it because it is a natural substance, you’ve got to feed it. People come in and say ‘how can I make my shoes…waterproof?’ Well as long as they’re leather, you just go to the chemist and buy a little tin, a little jar of ordinary castor oil and just rub a bit in and that will waterproof, and if they’ve got – if they’ve got a leather sole as well, you can do the sole with it, so that will make, like I say, that will make it, it will soak in to the fibres and it will seal them.

    Do you have to do a lot of processing of the leather when you get it then?

    No, no – that’s all done you know, I’ve got the finished item, all the different processes that it goes through at the tannery are already done.

    So do you do a lot of – the designs that you have for the shape of bags and this sort of thing, and like holsters and whatever – do you work out your own designs?

    I work t, yes – that’s why I went to Cordwainers College for, and that was a course of design of bags, construction of bags, how to cut the patterns to you know, whatever shape and everything you want, One of the things I always say to people is ‘if your paper pattern doesn’t go together, then your leather pattern never will, and all my patterns are cut on just you know fairly stiff brown paper, but – could you pass me that carrier bag behind you? [getting carrier bag] This is one I’m working on at the moment – now that’s a case I’m making for a chap; it’s just waiting for the top and handles stitched on; I’ve got – ‘cos what I do, I work on them until they’re – I work on them in here to a certain stage, then I take them home and sit of an evening while I’m watching television and do all the hand stitching which is down there and there, but that – that case there, that is all the patterns for that case, and everything, where the – where the locks, where the straps and everything, they’re all marked on your paper patterns [looking through patterns] – where they go and everything, what sort of – you know, what sort of construction you’re going to have – you mark everything on there, you know, the paper costs me what…those patterns there have cost me, that paper’s cost me about 15, 20p but this bag, when it’s totally finished, it going to cost the customer about a hundred and forty, hundred and sixty quid you know, so – and this that I showed you right at the beginning, this leather is for – what did I say – four thirty, four forty a square foot, so by the time you’ve got all your bits and pieces, there’s quite a few square foot there.

    Then again, whether I’m going to construct – put it together on me sewing machine or whether I’m going to hand stitch it, you know, everything has got to be taken into account.

    How do you decide that then?

    The customer tells me what they want, then it’s my job to produce it, you know – how long they want the – how long they want the handles, whatever. This bag I’m working on – I’ve got so many jobs on the go [getting bag out] then you’ve got a lady who wants this bag, now this is machine stitched – now she wants it – told me what length of strap she wants, she had a rough idea of you know, how wide, how deep and everything, so yes – when it comes down to the actual patterns, that’s my job – to – the idea that she’s got in there, then I’ve got to make it come to life. One thing I do love about my job is the fact that no two days are the same; as I say, the next job I’ve got, to come up – that’s me pattern, you work it all out, and work out the curve, and that’s for the belt, for the gun belt and holster. Me holster pattern’s up there because you…again each gun’s different so you’ve got to cut the pattern in a different way.

    They’re for the – you know, these Western societies and stuff like that, Country and Western clubs, but it’s just one of those things – the gentleman with the car, he brought his car in – I had to do all the measurements, where everything – you know, where he wanted everything to go.

    Did he have a..like the original straps?

    No, no.

    So you had to work out how it should fit?

    Yes, I had to work out – you know, he told me that – yes, the bonnet had to come off and this had to go, so yes, you’ve got to work out everything to you know, because sometimes – it’s like yourself, sometimes you’ve got an idea up there but you don’t know whether it’ll work, so it’s down to me – I’ve got to make it work for you.

    I get ladies come in and they say ‘Oh I’ve got an idea for a bag but I don’t know whether it will work’ ‘right, lets get together, let’s draw – you know, let’s draw a rough sketch’ and from that sketch if she says ‘well I want it so wide or so high’ then it’s up to me to get the cutting of the patterns so everything is how she wants it.

    I’ve got a hand-carved guitar strap to do for a gentleman who’s just been in the honours list because he does a lot of work for charity, and I made him a strap, oh quite some time ago but he reckons he needs a new one now because his old one’s getting too well known, so I’ve been making him another one.

    Here’s another one I’m working on, that’s another guitar strap

    I must come in and look at that detail. [pause] So do you work out those designs as well?

    Yes, very often the people come in and say – you know, they say ‘have you got a favourite design’ or ‘have you got a design in mind’ and they’ll say ‘no, I wanted something Celtic’ so you know, again, you work out the pattern, they get in touch and come down and say ‘yes, that’ll be brilliant’.

    How do you do that kind of work – do you carve it out or..

    No, nothing is carved out; it’s all beaten down – you put your pattern, ‘cos leather is its own drawing board, you know – and it will just leave a very faint stain so you can see my nail going like that – well you put your pattern on to the leather and then you cut round the whole of that pattern so you’re pressing everything down to leave the pattern raised, nothing is taken out, and then when that’s finished it’s all got to be dyed and painted to various colours.

    What kind of paint do you put on?

    It’s – it’s the background is a spirit dye, a leather dye but the actual colours on the pattern itself, they’re like – they’re like acrylic paint but it’s specifically for leather. Unfortunately, a lot of these – a lot of my stuff for this work originally came from – the only place you could get it was in Fort Worth, Texas so I just sent off originally for a starter, you know, they do a small starter kit and then it’s like everything else, what starts off as a hobby, it takes over, you know.

    You said you worked in the clog factory as well.

    Yeh, I help – when she’s got special orders, she sends ‘em down to me and I do all the hand carving and you know, various patterns that people – there’s your Morris Dancers and the Clog Dancers and everything, ‘cos they all belong to various dancing troupes and of course most dancing troupes have got their own design that they’re known by and it’s up to me to you know, put it on to the leather for them, and it’s like everything else – depending what size clogs, because you’ve – you’ve got to allow an inch and a quarter all the way round the clog so that when they put them on the last and stretch ‘em round to shape the clog, you know, it’s not good having a pattern that hangs right over the edges because you’ll get some of it cut off, you know, so you’ve got to work out how much room and where the pattern’s got to go and everything. Celtic is the most popular, but I’ve done – I’ve done clogs with elves on, and the stipulation from the young lady that I did that pair for was the elf had to have a happy face. I did a pair of clogs with a galleon in full sail and they were – they were dyed green, and the full sail was in white and the gentleman was getting married in them, so you get – you know, you get all different – you get everything.

    I’ve done them with snakes on, I’ve done them lions on, horses’ heads, dogs, flowers, it’s just what that person wants.

    Is there like a Guild for leather workers?

    There is a Leather Workers’ Guild, yes and there’s also…[someone coming in] Hello, we’re looking for advice. Interview stopped then resumed.

    So some of these tools that you’ve got up there, what are all those tools for – how do you use those?

    That’s what they call a round knife, that’s a paring knife, that’s what they call a French paring knife; why they call it a French one, I don’t know, then up there you’ve got your various punches, these here, they’re called saddlers pricking irons and depending on when…they mark the stitch for when you’re hand stitching and I’ve got – I’ve got five – I normally use five six and seven, but they do go right to about twelve to the inch which is very very fine, but I – with the leather I use being more robust, you know, normally you know, five or six you can get away with. The – as I say, they just mark how many stitches you’ve got in a line so that when you start hand stitching, you get your awl and you push it through and you get your two needles and one bit of thread, and just keep on going down this way; you’ll always find people who do hand stitching, they – down the side of their little finger where they’re pulling the waxed thread all the time, you know, it gets nice and hard. But that tool there – that’s for doing the end of belts, you know cutting your end to make it a nice, a nice end.

    Does it have a name?

    [pasue] Do you know, I honestly don’t know…been in the trade over thirty-odd years and…but I’m one of those people who sort of – I know what I need to do it with, you know – they come in, you can get them in all various sizes and various shapes, whether you want you know, a dead pointed end or a slightly rounded end, and things like that. It’s just – some of my tools, in fact, most of my tools originally were given to me by a Lithuanian prisoner of war, and when I worked in the light leather goods factory he used to do all our framing for purses and bags and stuff like that, and unfortunately when he died, his wife got in touch with me and said he’d left me all his hand tools, and I’ve got a drawer full of them there, and you go on to you know, different stages and I hardly use any of them these days, because…yeh once upon a time I used to do a lot of framing on purses and that, but, like a lot of firms, they do a minimum order and you know, I could have – if it’s say a hundred frames I could have – I might only want one, you know, so there’s a lot of things that I have stopped doing that I used to do, you know.

    What is framing then?

    Framing is putting the metal frame on purses – I haven’t got any to show you, no – shows you how often I do it when I haven’t got anything to show you, but it puts the metal frame you know, so you can open your purse and close your purse and that, and again, it’s all different – it’s all different facets of leatherwork, different – each one is a different skill.

    What’s your favourite task then?

    My favourite – well I’ve got two favourites – pattern cutting, which, yeah you’ll, because you have to use that (pointing to his head) and then the other one is the hand carving, because it’s very therapeutic because you can sit there and if you’ve had an argument with somebody, you can bang bang bang bang, you know – they’re my two favourites; working out – I’ve got a picture to do of…Nature of an American Indian, I got to carve that on leather and then it’s got to be coloured and everything, and then it’s got to be framed you know. That is the template of you know, everything as you can see, everything is worked out on paper first, where everything’s got to go – I’ve got to carve that in leather, then I’ve got to paint it and then it’s got to be framed.

    So that’s going to be like a picture on the wall?

    Yes. I do – not so much, I haven’t done any this last year – I do hand carved clocks and things like that you know – leather with a backing the I get the clock works and you know, mount it all and again, I’ve been asked to do elephants, frogs, lions, unicorns – you just sort of go through your books or work out you know, work out the pattern and everything – where it’s got to go, because when I said – the carving, because you can see what you’re doing start coming alive you know, you’ll put – you’ll put a little mark on it you know, and that’ll bring that part up – the picture is growing as you’re doing it, then the pattern cutting – yeh, cut the patterns and then you see this gradually growing and coming to – the idea you had in there ends up there.

    I was asking you about the Leatherman’s Guild.

    Yeh, there is a…Leatherworkers’ Guild and then down in…Wolverhampton and round there, there’s a leather museum and then there’s the saddle makers, shoe makers, there’s various – you know, there’s various ones. As I say when I was at college and I got the bits of papers that you need, they show you that you’ve reached that standard, but then it’s – you’ve got to build on that standard to you know, to be able to do all the various types of jobs that you know, get coming in.

    I make jewellery boxes for people you know, and you’ve got to work out the size of the lid and you know, everything – binocular cases I’ve made. Each one has got its own…slightly different you know, way to do things.

    Is this trade a dieing trade do you think?

    …the leather goods trade, no, because…most things now are mass produced you know, I get people go to Tenerife, you know, places like that, and they come back and say ‘oh I bought this bargain – it’s a bag and can you put it back together again ‘cos it’s falling to pieces’ you know, because they don’t use the same types of material, thread and stuff like that you know.

    China…a lot of their leather that’s coming out now is what they call fibre pulled, which is…all the scrap leather which is all churned up into you know, bits and pieces, then it’s mixed with the resin and rolled out in a sheet. Yes…you can say it’s leather, but…then it has a finish lacquered on it, but after a while you can get that finish and just pull it apart you know, that’s why you’ll see a lot of belts these days – they’re thin but suede underneath with a lacquered finish, with a piece of cardboard in the centre, yeh. After a while, the leather is so thin, it just breaks and falls to pieces, yeh, but they most likely only paid about three pound for that belt – one of the cheapest belts I do is fifteen pound because I know it’s the good quality, best leather that I can get you know, the buckles I buy – again they come from Italy, they’re solid brass and then the chrome ones are chrome over brass, you know they’re the best ones I can get at the moment.

    I consider, yes, people might say some of my stuff is a little bit over the odds, well yes, when you can go and buy a brand new belt for three pound, but I can guarantee that my belts nine times out of ten will see you out! I’ve got one belt – I made this about eighteen years ago; it comes off these trousers, goes onto me dress trousers, comes off them, back onto me working trousers – it’s the only belt I’ve got, plus the fact that I can’t afford my stuff! [laughing]

    But yeh…in…when was it – in the sixties, you used to get an awful lot of plastic stuff started coming in and it was cheap, but again, people, when they realised that the plastic doesn’t last because after a while it dries out, it cracks, right? So they started creeping back to leather but they thought that they could have leather goods for plastic prices, but you can’t, you now – they needed re-educating shall we say.

    I know you said you showed some of your stuff to children –do you think that what we’ve talked about today, do you think it’s important to kind of – say this, the kind of work that you do and this information?

    Yes it is, because [pause] people – it’s like every trade, if there’s nobody taking to it, after a while that trade starts dieing out and, same as today – there’s an awful lot of saddlery stuff coming from Poland, but it’s subsidised and it’s cheap. A friend of mine went to…Royal Saddlers College, and he…I think he done altogether, I think he done about four years and the saddles that he made were absolutely – you couldn’t find a finer saddle anywhere…and he went a few years ago, he went and did the Yorkshire Show for the college; they asked him you know, if he’d go, sit there and demonstrate a bit of you know, hand stitching, talk to people, things like that about the college, you know, what they try and do – standards that they try and reach, and he said ‘yes, certainly, I’d like it’ and he sat there all day and he was talking and a horse box pulled up next to where he was, and they lowered the back tail gate and that was full of saddles, bridles – all from European, and people – he said people were throwing money at it and at the end of the day, that was empty – put the tail board up, drove away – saddles, bridles, cheaper than he could go out and buy the leather.

    Is that Eastern Europe?

    Most of it is Polish these days yeh, he said it’s just not worth it.

    So is the quality good?

    It’s passable, you know – nine out of ten people, they want a saddle, you know – yes if you want just an ordinary every-day saddle, yes it’ll do, but if you want something you know, a little bit different, better quality English saddle – no, you can’t compare them. It’s the same old story, like everything else, if you want the best stuff you’ve got to pay for it, but these Polish saddles – yeh, they do the job they’re asked for, so yes – you, you know, that’s one more – he’s working in a glass company in Bradford now. As I said, if he wants anything doing he brings it to me, so that’s one more we’ve lost – one more person, yeh. But like I say, you get all these purses, bags and stuff like that from China, Taiwan, you know – you can understand it, but it’s carrying on all the time, you know.

    So the other practices or these colleges that teach the leatherwork, are they still going then?

    Well, the Cordwainers College which was…handbags, light leather goods, purses, note cases, footwear – they’ve now been amalgamated in with the Royal College of Fashion, so yes they’re still going, but under another side, you know, it’s now the Royal College of Fashion whereas before, Cordwainers College, they got students from all over the world there, yeh.

    I would say yes, it is a dieing art. I’ve got a customer of mine who comes from Middleton, Manchester and according to him – how true this is I don’t know, but according to him there isn’t anybody between Hebden Bridge and where he lives at Middleton who does the same sort of thing and the…variety of stuff that I do, you know. A lot of people yes, they do it for a hobby but of course they’re doing it for a hobby – I’m trying to earn, I’m trying to keep me head above water like, you know!

    Is Hebden Bridge then a good place for…

    Yeh, yeh – I find, because Hebden Bridge is unique because…everything I look at is an art and you’ve got an awful lot of artistic residents you know – just in here, we’ve got Robin makes candles, we’ve got Donna who is an artist, we’ve got Stuart next door who makes jewellery out of old coin of the realm and things like that, yeh – he used foreign coins, again all his stuff is hand done, yeh – you know, you don’t just get a stamp and ‘bong’ – he’s there with his little saw and his little file all going round the – you know, the fleur-de-lys on the old thru’penny bits, the galleon, the robin on old farthings – each one is cut out individually you know, and…yeh, it’s nice to see because again, people can come along – nine times out of ten they can see us working, they can stop, they can ask questions and things like that, yeh.

    And then you know you get enquiries of – ‘oh, can you make – can you make this, can you make that?’ ‘yeh course I can’ and then the people go, you think ‘how the hell do I do that?’ like you know [laughing], but you know – that’s one of the things that you stand there and you tear up an awful lots of paper until you get it right.

    Right okay – is there anything that you would like to say that I haven’t asked about?

    No, I think we’ve covered – practically covered everything…yeh, I started off leatherwork as a hobby…and one thing leads to another, and yeh- you just do it you know, in your spare time but then it gradually comes a bit more and comes a bit more, comes a bit more and you fall out of the… you know, when I was saying I worked for the firm who did an awful lot of government work and Ministry of Defence, I was – I was working seven days a week and I was out of the house fourteen hours a day. I still work seven days a week but there’s no pressure on me. I say to my customers ‘right, I’ll get it done as soon as I can’ and they’re quite happy with that, you know, but if I’m getting anybody saying ‘oh I need it by such and such’ well go somewhere else pal! I’ll get it done for you but I’m not going to say in the, you know – the first month or so, and yes, if I want to take a day off, yeh I’ll take a day off; I’ve got nobody on my back saying ‘you can’t do that’ – you watch me!

    Yes, I’m quite happy in my own little world shall we say. You get to a certain stage in life where there’s nothing really you want, and as you can see, I know where most of the stuff is; some bits yes, I have to look a bit harder, [laughing] but I’m quite happy with it.

    Okay well that’s great – thanks Geoff. I’ll just turn that off.

    And the lady who brings that in, she…she goes round antique fairs and any leather stuff that…I’ll do it up for her and you know…

    That’s the top hats?

    Yes, that’s the top of – an old Victorian top hat case.
    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Jelma Bates

    Jelma Bates’s Gallery can be found here

    [TRACK 1]

    [Zelma has a strong Yorkshire accent so this is reflected in the transcript]

    This will last for about an hour – if you want to stop before that, you can do.

    My life story will take a lot longer than an hour, if you want the whole story – you won’t get the whole story, no way!

    We can always do another one later on, if you want to.

    The first question is – can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    Zelma Bates, I was born 28th of May 1939 at Smithy Farm, Blackshaw.

    Right – were your parents farmers then?

    Yes, I was born on a farm.

    And what kind of farming did they do?

    Poultry and cows. It said on my birth certificate ‘poultry farmer’.

    Did you have to help out?

    Not really because we left there at ten and went to live at Widdop, whereabouts at Widdop? the reservoir. We’ve jumped thought haven’t we now – we should be back in Blackshaw [laughing]

    I’ll come back, don’t worry – I do a lot of jumping back.

    Can you tell me what it was like on your farm?

    My dad were a fairly heavy drinker so we’d never any money. When he used to take school dinners from…they made ‘em at Colden School and he used to take them on t’horse and cart to Heptonstall School and many a time he didn’t get past Shoulder of Mutton at Blackshaw because his parents owned that [laughing] so he wouldn’t have got home when I would have got home from school and I had to walk to school from Smithy Farm to Colden which is about two mile when I was five. My brother and my cousin both started together when I were seven and they was allowed to go on a later bus because my brother had bad feet – he were club footed, but my mother had manipulated them till you wouldn’t know now. They could go on t’bus; Sylvia were allowed to go on t’bus but I were seven and I still had to walk. I think I’d be about eight or nine by t’time a bus came because there got to be more children going you see, right from past Kebs on to this bus. There was only me you see so they wouldn’t do it for one, so when I were about eight or nine I were allowed to go on t’bus. But I remember getting to school absolutely wet through because it was a long way for a child to walk, two and a half mile on their own. To Colden School? Yes.

    Whereabouts is Smithy Farm?

    It’s below t’Kebs, it’s in between t’Shoulder of Mutton at Blackshaw and t’Sportsmans Arms. It’s first farm coming from t’Sportsmans Arms on your left and my uncle had the one on your right, first one on your right, my uncle lived at. Was he a farmer as well? Yes, he was a butcher farmer.

    So did he have beef and pigs?


    How many chickens did you have?

    Oh I’ve no idea.

    Was it ten or a hundred?

    Oh no we’d a lot more than that, and cows and a horse you see, because I mean in them days you needed a horse to pull t’mowing machine to get your hay in.

    So you sold eggs?

    Yes, on t’black market! [laughing] Killing pigs in t’black market.

    Was there a big trade in that?

    Oh yes, yes, I mean t’police used to come for their ham and their eggs and we used to have dried eggs ‘cos my dad had sold them you see on t’black market and there were none for us! Can you believe it!

    So how about your mother then – did she just work on the farm or did she do anything else?

    Yes, she worked now and again when they needed her in t’canteen at Colden School but yes, she helped my dad on t’farm.

    You said earlier about making the meals for the school.

    Yes, Colden School made them and took ‘em to Heptonstall, then when we left, my uncle went to Smithy Farm because my dad only rented it. He was left a farm – my granddad did leave him a farm, but he rented this one and then my uncle took over.

    Where did your father go after the farm?

    Widdop. He was t’reservoir keeper at Widdop.

    What do you do as a reservoir keeper?

    Not a lot! Just…you had to go and see how much rain fell in these rain gauges you know and walk round t’reservoy [dialect] to see no sheep had fallen in; it were an easy life really.

    You know those two barns that were there – were they working barns back then?

    Not when we were there. They were good stone, in fact our Jim said ‘what good stone’ – we used to go and play in there, playing ‘house’. The one next door, somebody came to live in that one…once or twice that worked in t’gang at Gorple. There were only like one room downstairs, two small bedrooms and a bathroom.

    One of those has gone now hasn’t it?

    Yes, it’s been pulled down. Jim said ‘all that good stone…’

    Do you know where that went?

    No, my brother probably would. I have a picture – we went up didn’t we [to friend] t’other Sunday. We lived in both those houses. The little cottage below was…t’relief reservoy keepers and then the other one was t’reservoir keepers, the big one. Mind you tey’ve built on to that now. I always thought the cottage was t’nicer house, the little cottage.

    How many rooms did that have?

    Wash-house, kitchen, sitting room and front room, two bedrooms and t’bath was in t’bedroom. T’sink were on t’landing, although it was a big landing, but then again everything were a lot bigger weren’t it when you were kids? [someone came in and brought a chair to listen in]

    How long did you live there?

    Eight years…then we moved to Ramsden Wood Reservoir but we weren’t there so long because my dad didn’t like for some reason so we came back to Hebden Bridge.

    What did he do after this?

    He worked for a man called John Norman Butterworth; he had a vegetable business you know…on Bridge Gate and he worked there, and then he were poorly. He didn’t work after being forty-eight and he died at fifty-two of cancer, he had liver cancer did my dad. My mother, she didn’t really work – oh, she did some cleaning and then she went to be a housekeeper to a Cannon in Barnsley. He was a vicar when he was at Hebden Bridge, he were at St James’s, what was his name? Trevor Bone. He got a living at Barnsley so he asked my mother to go and be housekeeper but I didn’t want her to go; how dare she leave me with four kids and I wanted her here! [laughing] Oh it were awful when she went, I remember I felt heartbroken but she was a determined woman; she only died last year at ninety-two.

    What did you do at school – what were your favourite subjects at school?

    English – reading. I was hopeless at Maths, absolutely useless, but I liked reading.

    Can you remember anything special about schooldays?

    Yes, I remember Mrs Featherstone, our headmistress, read us ‘The Cloister and The Hearth’ and I’ve read it since I grew up and I couldn’t understand it then, so how the hell she thought a ten-year old could understand that, I don’t know! I’ve forgotten who wrote it; my mother were an avid reader and she had a book, it had all these ….and me mother had a book it were a Sunday School prize – I should have ‘kept that book, I bet it was a first edition, I threw ‘em all out. ‘A Girl of the Limberlost’, Jean Stratton Porter wrote that – I went to the book shop on Market Street and they got it for me. It were an American book and I’ve read it again, it isn’t as good as you get older, but…what kind of a book is it? it’s about a girl that lived in t’marshes and she collected moths and her mother weren’t right good to her because…her husband had gone off with somebody else and she blamed this baby, because she didn’t really want it you see, so she blamed this child and she weren’t right good to her till she got older. This child went to school and she wasn’t dressed like t’others so of course she was bullied; it was sad really but it all turned out all right in the end.
    But this ‘Cloister and the Hearth’ were about…were in Holland. There were a Burgomaster in it and he were a right bad ‘un. They called her Margot and him Gerard, and he went to be a…priest, I think that’s why it were called ‘The Cloister and the Hearth’ but he loved this Margot you see, but all in between this it were right ..I only read it again to see if I could understand it! Well I did understand it better, but what the hell she…and I’ll tell you what she took us to see – Great Expectations – well, all us kids from Colden School you know that had been brought up in t’country – and then that there convict jumping in [laughing]– oh my God, I remember my dad playing hell, he said she should never have taken us! Where did you see that? Hebden Bridge pictures, we went on t’bus, t’Hebble bus.

    When you finished school, did you work?

    I went into lodgings because it was too far to go from Widdop because my dad hadn’t a car. I worked in t’sewing shop – CWS it was then. I wish I’d never seen a sewing shop because you get in a sewing shop and you never get out of it somehow. Is it boring work? I never took to it but you loved it didn’t you Pauline in t’sewing shop?

    What kind of things did you sew?

    Bloody men’s trousers – oh I swore! You’ll have to cut that!

    Where was the sewing shop?

    It were up Nutclough, where Calrec is now. There’s still that fire door, that were open and you could see right in to t’sewing shop.

    How long were you there?

    Till I got married, from fifteen to twenty-one then I got married and I didn’t work again till my youngest was six months old; I’ve had six and I went on evenings to Cinder Hill, winding because I couldn’t claim owt you see – I’ve never been able to claim owt.

    How many boys and girls did you have?

    Three boys and three girls. One now lives at Tod, one at Hebden and four in Royd.

    So they all work locally then?


    Because these days a lot of young people move away because there’s not enough work.

    No, they’ve all worked.

    That last job that you mentioned – spinning was it, did you say?

    At Cinder Hill, yes – winding. What’s that? Winding cotton – it were a cotton mill; it hasn’t been closed down long has it? About four years happen. It were family run by the Marshalls; John and Richard Marshall, he lives on Caldene.

    Where is that?

    Oh you are thinking of Marshalls Builders are you? I was, yes. It was on t’road going to Tod, you know where the Rose and Crown is – there. I went there six till ten, every night.

    So when you did winding, what exactly did you do?

    …It were on bobbins and you wound ‘em on to cones, well the machine did it and you had to keep knotting it up to fill a cone, then put them in to trucks. It then went on to another machine to be put on to like big cheeses.

    Did you like that?

    Yes, I quite enjoyed that because you were moving; it was sitting I think I couldn’t stand. I would have done better working in a shop and meeting people; I’m good with my mouth!

    Can you remember how much you got paid when you first started working?

    Yes, two pounds fourteen and elevenpence (£2 4sh 11d) were my first wage.

    Did it go up every year?

    Well you went on to piece work – you were in what they called a ‘nursery’ for about nine months, then you were chucked out and you earned your own. It weren’t bad money, fairly good money, but it was so boring.

    Where did you live when you got married?

    I lived in one of their houses at Nutclough.

    So did the house go with the job?


    Did your husband work there as well then?

    No, my husband was a wagon driver when I met him for John Wormald…near Tuel Lane – Causeway Head – then he went for Michael Heap. Michael Heap is still going – he’s on Burnley Road. Then he went to Uttley & Ingham’s in Hebden Bridge, they made cylinders for…. – there were two parts; copper cylinders and hoppers. He worked in t’copper cylinders and then he did both, and luckily he did because the copper cylinders, nobody wanted them any more because these combi-boilers were coming in you know. The bulk feed bins were for animal feed, have you seen ‘em – they stand like on three legs. They put him on to that section. He used to go down Wales…

    When you worked at Nutclough, was that part of the kind of contract that you got somewhere to live along with the job?


    Was that normal practice? Did everybody get that?

    Yes, if you wanted one of them houses.

    Wherabouts – on Eiffel Street or Foster Lane…

    No, you know where t’mill is – there’s one or two up for sale now.

    There’s not that many there though are there?


    There must have been lots of people who worked in the mill who didn’t get a house.

    Oh yes but not everybody wanted one of them. They started then with estates, so they had bathrooms you see. But I lived there…I’ve had three children there or maybe four…then I left and got a house up Banksfield, a council house. Because I mean you were right on to t’main road there and I mean in them days, a lot of folk didn’t have children, I don’t know why but a lot of them in t’sewing shop hadn’t families were they young girls then? no, some off t’older end so they’d had no family you see so they weren’t badly off so they had managed to buy their own – this was just when people were starting to buy their own properties.

    Did you have special days then with the children – birthdays, Christmas, Wakes Week, Whitsuntide, did you do anything special on those occasions?

    We’d go to t’pub probably! [laughing] What’s wrong with going to the pub? Yes we did take them places – we’d go to Blackpool usually for us Wakes holidays when t’kids were little.

    When was Wakes Week at Nutclough?

    Oh I used to go to Butlins….Wakes Week…July, like it is now. Schools are different aren’t they now? It was about the second or third week in July.

    Were you a church-goer?

    My mother was. She used to make me go sometimes. I went to Sunday School at Blackshaw, but that was Methodist. My Mother went there only when it were t’anniversary because….she was born in Blackshaw and she had to go to t’Methodists you see, and she used to listen to them preaching and think ‘by God, if I couldn’t do better than that…’. Then she got confirmed you see at Heptonstall and that’s how she started going to the Church of England.

    Didn’t she mind that you went to Methodist then?

    Well we had to do really from Blackshaw because she wouldn’t have had us walking right to Heptonstall like she did.

    Did you like Sunday School?

    No I didn’t – I hated school, I hated it, and then you had to go to Sunday School on a Sunday and I mean it weren’t Sunday School like it is now….she used to read out of this paper and I was nearly asleep. They didn’t make it interesting for children – to me they didn’t anyway. But I did get confirmed when I was sixteen, when I was in lodgings.

    Was it all fire and brimstone?

    Yes, that’s how the Methodists are. It isn’t my cup of tea anyway. I like the Church of England service far better. It makes more sense to me.

    What do you like about it?

    I like the service itself and communion. I don’t go really but I feel better when I have been!

    What did you do on the anniversaries?

    We didn’t have Whit Walks up Blackshaw and when we moved to Widdop, well there were nothing were there but sheep. Blake Dean we went to…in fact my mother and Mrs Westall, her husband were a sheep farmer up Widdop at Clough Foot, they got Blake Dean going again. It were a Youth Hostel at one time.

    Wasn’t it quite big at one time?

    Yes, you went upstairs to go down and downstairs to go up because it were built into the hillside. After they got it going, we used to have a service there once a month and we had socials with pie ‘n’ peas suppers and I mean a lot of folk went; t’adults played whist (my dad didn’t – he didn’t go) and we had a Beetle Drive. Then one of t’Deacons of Slack, because it were an off-shoot of Blake Dean were Slack, they stopped it; we hadn’t to play whist, we hadn’t to have Beetle Drives.

    What was a Beetle Drive?

    You threw a dice and if you got six it were a body, five for a head… and whoever got a beetle first with all t’legs won. But they stopped it because you just didn’t do that in chapels; I tell yer, t’Baptists were worse than t’Methodists! I don’t think you’d better put that in, in case there’s any Methodists listening! Oh they were – they were terrible. I remember one anniversary, t’lads were playing cricket – well, they went berserk – playing cricket on a Sunday – I mean they weren’t smashing windows or owt like that. It were all stopped then, we didn’t have a social evening at all then.

    Do you think that’s part of the reason why the church has died away?

    I don’t know, but I mean I think a lot of this today is because we don’t go to church or Sunday School any more – kids don’t go do they? [sorting microphone out]A lot of the church people were narrow-minded. I remember when we lived at Blackshaw, one anniversary, my mother went washing up at t’Mutton just further up t’road ‘cos she needed t’money, my dad didn’t give her hardly owt, and they wittered – you could hear them in t’kitchen – ‘Winnie’s gone up there on an anniversary day, washing up in t’pub’…that’s what they were like. I still find Methodists a bit like that. You can put that in an’ all.

    Were you a pub-goer?

    Yes, when I got older.

    What was your local pub?

    Swan in Hebden – the White Swan.

    What was it like in there?


    Who was the landlord?

    When I started going in, the landlord was John Moyle they called him; I think he’s dead now.

    Was he a good landlord?


    What did he do to make people want to go into that pub?

    He talked about anything that anybody wanted to talk about. We had a pub up Widdop, that were t’Ridge – Packhorse. I didn’t go there though because I only went home same as at weekend with being in lodgings, up to being eighteen.

    When you had your children, did you still go to pubs?

    Yes, not so much till t‘latter years.

    I’m just thinking when you had your children, it would have been the Nutclough and Nutclough Tavern.

    Yes, Nutclough House was a house then when I had my children – it wasn’t a pub. Joe Shaw had that, he had a taxi business and he took children to school in his minibus – I think Glenda worked for him a bit. I’ll ask her about that later.

    What was the Tavern like?

    When I knew it at first, they could only sell beer because it was a port house, it couldn’t sell spirits; they hadn’t a spirit licence, it were just a beer house. The landlord & lady were Peggy and Ernest Petts.

    It never really changed very much did it?

    No, it never changed hardly at all. I remember Peggy sitting on t’juke box and saying ‘you’re not putting owt else on, you can go home now!’ [laughing] and then they sold it to Marian and Eric who have it till now, so that’s the only two landlords I remember in there.

    Did you used to go to Nick’s?

    Nicky’s Café, yes. It were lovely, well we thought it was.

    Loads of people have mentioned it, but what was it really like?

    It wasn’t so big, not really. We’d go there on a Sunday afternoon and just drink coffee and talk to folk; I mean it were t’first coffee bar really in Hebden Bridge, well it was the only one. We used to go up Tod on a Saturday night and catch t’last twelve o’clock train back and then call in Nicky’s. It was by t’Pet Shop, where that seat is now, by t’river. It stayed open quite late. Then I walked up Heptonstall with my friend to her house because I mean there were no taxis and buses that late.

    Can you remember any characters – individuals who had either funny nicknames or did things out of the ordinary?

    [pause] I suppose I can, but I’d better not…I can’t just off hand really.

    Did you always wear clogs?

    No, I did when I went to school – I aren’t not that old!!!

    When did clogs start giving way to other kinds of shoes because at one time everyone wore them?

    After t’War I should think. A lot of things happened after t’War didn’t they, I mean women didn’t smoke. That’s when my aunty started smoking, and she smoked up to dieing at eighty-four. My mother would have a cigarette, my other aunty smoked; I mean they wouldn’t have done that before t’War would they? Not in t’country anyway. They would have done in towns I suppose.

    Can you remember any old sayings?

    They used to say ‘it were siling down’ when it were raining, and ‘what comes today won’t come tomorrow’ and ‘if t’cat washed behind its ears you were gonna have company’…

    Can you remember the shops in Hebden?

    I can remember t’toy shop on Crown Street, Cottons Toy Shop.

    Where was that?

    Would it be Marian Mitchell’s?

    PAULINE: I would have said it was probably the Chinese.

    ZELMA: Yes, because Marian Mitchell’s has always been there hasn’t it? It had two windows hadn’t it?

    PAULINE: It used to have a thing going round.
    ZELMA: Yes it did Pauline that were when I were little, right up to…not too long ago is it? Well you can remember it.

    Were there any shops up Blackshaw in those days?

    We had a Post Office, Blue Ball, in Blackshaw Fold and the Breadmoors had a little shop, it weren’t right clean either; in fact I went in one day, I remember with my mother…a cat chasing a mouse – can you imagine it today? We were watching this cat playing with this here mouse in t’shop![laughing]

    What did they sell?

    Bread – we used to get us bread there…oh and there were t’Co-op; when I think about it, in Blackshaw Fold we’d three shops.

    Were there any down Colden way?

    We’d a little shop at Jack Bridge – we used to come out of Colden School and go down t’road for us kali [this is correct spelling – Linda looked it up].

    What did they sell?

    Kali, sweets…you know. Hmm…I’d forgotten about that, ‘cos Jack Bridge Mill were there, my mother used to work in there before she were married, at Jack Bridge Mill –I think Glenda’s parents would as well – she were a weaver.

    Your mother was a weaver?


    Did she ever tell you how it was?

    Yes, she said she wished she’d never seen a weaving shed – throwing t’shuttle, I mean my mother were born in 1912 and she were illegitimate – can you imagine being illegitimate in 1912? So she didn’t have a right good life, probably why she turned to God.

    Can you remember any major events that happened?

    I can remember when the War finished, I’d be six and I can remember D-Day – they had a big ‘do’ at t’Post Office. We had a bonfire, I think they put Hitler on top and flags we had, and everybody were so happy – I remember that. and I canremember we were off school for six weeks in that 1946-47 snow, and my dad used to take milk on t’horse and sledge on top o’drifts and my mother made some bread without any…it would be unleavened bread wouldn’t it, without any yeast in, ‘cos we just couldn’t get…so for six weeks that was Yes, we were off school, it were lovely. I remember the German prisoners of war coming to dig us out, well they dug it out during t’day then it just blew in at night, because they hadn’t stuff then like they have today had they? But it were lovely being off school.

    Where were the prisoners of war stationed?

    I’ve no idea, I just remember them coming to dig us out and us looking out of the window and saying ‘ooh – Germans!’

    Did any of them stop after the war?

    No idea; my dad were a bit…he’d say ‘don’t speak to ‘em’ But yes, it were a bad winter were that.

    How has it changed around here from your point of view?

    Well some things are better, like the bus service up here, isn’t it Linda? I mean we used to have to walk didn’t we and push your pram, I mean I’ve pushed prams with one toddler in and one sat on…..Yes, t’bus service is better.

    Is there anything gone worse?

    Well every generation’s said it haven’t they – every generation’s said ‘why bring kids into this world?’ and ‘the good old days’, well to me they weren’t really. I wouldn’t want ‘em back.

    Do you think it’s better now then?


    What do you think’s better about it?

    Well kids are better fed aren’t they? They don’t go to school dirty, they don’t go to school with…well some of them probably do, but they have shoes for their feet, they don’t have to go out…mind you it might do some of them good, mightn’t it…to go out to work and earn a bit when they’re fourteen and twelve – no, I don’t think they were t’good old days. I mean, my dad drank but years before then, they’d just starve wouldn’t they; there were no – well there were means tests but before that, when you retired, if your kids didn’t take you in, you ended up in t’workhouse didn’t you? No, it were horrendous I think.

    Do you think young people today have the same type of values that you did?


    Why do you say that?

    They’ve had too much…I know what you mean…they’ve had too much a lot of ‘em, far too much and mothers have given in I think sometimes because they’ve gone to work it’s easier to give in and they’ve felt guilty, but every generation wants to give them more than what they’ve had, but surely it’ll have to come full circle in a bit.

    What do you think’s missing out of the attitudes today?

    [pause] The family unit’s gone. We all lived near us grandparents didn’t we at one time and your grandparent stepped in…It’s just gone hasn’t it? Women get fed up, they just go with somebody else; they don’t consider t’kids really, so it isn’t all t’kids fault.

    When I was here the other day, did you say that you worked in a saddlery?

    Yes, after my youngest one went to school whereabouts was that?

    Up on Burlees Lane. Linda worked there, Pauline were an out-worker there weren’t you?

    What did you make?

    We made horse collars made of webbing, numnahs [correct spelling – Linda looked it up], Linda worked in t’office – numnahs.

    What’s a numnah?

    It goes under the saddle.

    So is it like a blanket?

    Yes but it’s shaped like a saddle and it’s made out of curled fleece and you sort of packed it with…foam and sewed it in so that it were comfortable you see for the horse.

    So you were sewing again in a way?

    I was sewing, but I didn’t mind that sort of sewing.

    How long were you there?

    When it closed…about fifteen year. I enjoyed that, it were like home from home, I mean we used to moan but I don’t know why; it were like home from home.

    PAULINE: it were in a lovely setting wasn’t it, just a bit further up

    Did they make anything else besides those?

    No, did they?

    PAULINE: It was all to do with horse clothing.

    ZELMA: He had Arabs.

    Did he? How many?

    You’ll (Pauline) know better than me – White Lightning hadn’t he, and Bay Shadow, they were the main ones.

    Were they like stud?

    Oh yes, well his ex-wife actually still has Elizabeth Greenwoods. I don’t know that. Well she’s just moved hasn’t she to somewhere on White Lee I think, or is it Moderna – where t’old Moderna was. It’s advertised Elizabeth Greenwoods

    And she makes horse clothing?

    Yes, it’s just the same. If you ever wanted to know anything about that more you’d have to go and see her.

    **That would be interesting. **

    She’s Czechoslovakian actually but she speaks fluent French, German doesn’t she? An intelligent woman. His first wife still lives on Burlees Lane.

    What kind of games and toys did you have when you were little?

    Not a lot – we used to play a lot of cards. I’d to play cards on my own, Patience – I’d sit hours, if I weren’t reading, I’d be playing Patience on my own. We didn’t have a Monopoly, I thought that were a lovely game. If I went to anybody’s house they had a Monopoly but I mean we didn’t have one. It were really cards and dominoes.

    Did you have brothers and sisters?

    I had a brother.

    Did you play with him then?

    Yes, he were two years younger than me. He has a butcher’s shop at Tod now, opposite t’York – J T Stansfield and Sons. He’s been there a fair while.

    Was that your maiden name?

    Stansfield, yes. It’s one of the oldest names round here I think.

    Well there’s a whole area called that isn’t there?

    Yes there is.

    Did you used to sing?

    No I can’t sing a thing, I’m not a bit musical!

    Did you have other toys then?

    I remember having a pram and t’handle were broken and I remember my mother saying to my dad ‘will you put her a handle on that pram?’ but he never did. I used to lug this here pram…it just had a thing on and I used to try and…somebody gave it us. Dolls… I remember one Christmas Eve…I’d got a doll and they were pot then weren’t they, and my brother had got a pop gun. At Cotton’s shop my mother had paid so much a week, wrapped ‘em together. My dad hadn’t come home, he’d been out and t’cows were bawling to be milked. My mother were upset and she went out to milk ‘em and she’d said ‘oh open them’ and we opened them – he’d wrapped ‘em together and the pop gun had gone through t’doll’s belly [laughing] and t’leg were off an’ all! So Christmas Eve – t’cows were bawling, my mum were trying to milk ‘em, I were bawling….my mother came back and were trying to put this damned leg on this doll, Christine I called it, she had a hole in her belly [all laughing]……I’ll never forget it! Christine Rose I called it. I think it would probably be t’first new doll I ever had. Sad weren’t it? [still laughing]

    Did you used to play out in the fields?

    Yes we did.

    What kind of things did you do?

    We used to play in t’hay field and then get told off because they’d have got them all into things and then we’d just knock ‘em all down. We used to run on t’hay cart with the horse but my dad were always saying ‘you’ll fall off…’ not that he were ever there to bother really, but he bothered about stuff like that. Hide and seek because my cousin was t’same age as my brother, two years younger, and she lived on t’next farm; she lives up Cragg Vale now. Then we used to play at house and stuff like that, ‘cos they were a bit better off – well, a lot better off than us and she’d got dolls like, so she let me play with her dolls.

    Can you remember any of the floods, I mean you probably wouldn’t have got them where you were?

    I can remember that one – it would be in t’forties wouldn’t it, there were one – I can remember my mother, I think it were one Monday morning and we didn’t go to school, oh I were glad – swilling t’lobby out, so we did get a bit of it but it didn’t get into t’house, just t’lobby because like these farmhouses had big lobbies hadn’t they – a porch and all that. I can just remember her swilling that out.

    Why does everybody remember that one so much?

    I don’t know…I don’t ever remember another one.

    One chap told me that it used to flood all the time, you know every year a few times a year, but whenever I ask anybody about the floods, it’s always that one they seem to remember.

    Yes, I can remember when I worked at Nutclough in t’sewing shop and t’buzzer went; a lady used to just run out and get her coat, she lived at Royd where it did flood you know, on Burnley Road. I remember that, and it also used to flood at Callis didn’t it? But that’s the one I remember, apart from that one a few year ago in Hebden when Keith James got his car stuck. It’s always that 1940-odd one that I remember.

    Can you remember any of the big fires?

    There was a big fire when we lived at Nutclough; it would be about 1962,63… It were a polystyrene place, it were just when polystyrene came out; I can remember that going up.

    Where was that?

    Up Bridge Lanes somewhere, ‘cos my friend worked there. It would be early 1960s, Bridge Lanes – I’m sure it was and it was a polystyrene place, it was when they’d just started making polystyrene. I’m just trying to think where that might have been. Well Stuart probably will know, he’ll know – who is it hasn’t come has he? What do they call him? Is Ken here? They’ll know just where it was, but I’m sure it were up Bridge Lanes.

    I want to go back to like the shops – were there any shops at Widdop at all?

    No, we got our milk from a farmer. We went to school by taxi then, and t’taxi used to stop and they used leave it – it were a black bag my mother had and every day he’f put two pints in this black bag and we picked it up off t’grass verge, and bread, we got in Heptonstall, we picked that up in t’taxi. Mind you, my mother did make her own bread as a rule.

    Did she have a baking day?

    Yes, Wednesday I think were baking day…or Thursday I think; washing Monday, ironing Tuesday, I think bedrooms were Wednesday, and baking day I think were Thursday, cleaning and black leading were Friday.

    Did you have to do any of that?

    No I didn’t do a lot. You see we didn’t do that much because my mother were at home, she didn’t go to work you see, so I think I got a shock when I got wed! [laughing]

    Do you know any jokes or funny things that happened – there must have been things that happened on the farm that were funny?

    I’m trying to remember – no there weren’t nowt right funny!

    Did you ever play dirty tricks then on neighbours??

    Well there weren’t so many neighbours you see about… my cousin lived at that farm just up t’road and then my godmother lived at t’farm…Daisy Bank, I see that’s up for sale, they lived there – they went to live at Leyland but they came from Leyland, so really there were nobody to play with really.

    Not when you were really young – maybe around the time when you left school or thereabouts – were there a lot of farmers about then?

    Well you see we’d gone to Widdop then.

    If you go up the Widdop road now, there were a lot of houses there but I don’t think there’s even one working farm left, so were they all working farms?

    Well yes, yes they was.

    Was it all dairy then?

    Yes, dairy – dairy farming.

    Can you remember any of the people?

    Pearsons…where we got our milk from, and Higher Greenwood. That were like a café, that’s just been for sale – they used to on a Sunday make dabs and they were really good.

    What’s a dab?

    A dab is potato done in batter – yes, and people used to come from far and wide to have their dabs.

    Was it like a scallop then?

    A scallop, yes, what we call scallops now, we called them dabs – well they were dabbed in t’batter weren’t they?

    So they did that just on a Sunday then?

    Just Saturday and Sunday, I think that’s on only time they did them unless a party rang up…no they could have done ‘em through t’week as well but it was more Saturday and Sunday because of the hikers and that, because folk hadn’t cars then like they have now.

    Did you ever go into Hardcastle Crags at all to play?

    No not really, we never go, you know you don’t look at it when you’re used to it. I mean at Widdop, it’s a lovely view looking across at that reservoy now it’s one of my favourites places of all is Widdop yes, you know to look out over there, I mean it’s beautiful isn’t it but we never really…we used to walk round t’reservoir because my mother liked walking – we used to walk round and there were t’rocking pig and t’camel…I saw a lizard the last time I was up there. Did I tell you I were playing in t’conduit, I mean that were all cleaned out then, it isn’t now – there’s some steps going down with t’water running, and one summer I saw a newt and I got hold of it and t’tail came off and it wriggled all in my hand; I’d be about eleven or twelve. That’s stuck in my mind.

    Was it part of your father’s job then, to keep those conduits clean?

    Yes, you see there’s no reservoy keeper now is there?

    Who lives in those houses then?

    I don’t know – they’re private, private houses. Now when I look, I think ‘this is absolutely beautiful’….We went up didn’t we, and I said about this here newt. There were all cranberries at t’other side in them rocks did you used to pick them? yes. Did you mum make jam out of them? Well she made summat – I think it would be jam, but we did use to go and pick ‘em. Folk used to come and stay – my friends from school and, they thought it were marvellous – from t’town they used to stop.

    Can you think of anything else that has changed in either Blackshaw, Widdop or Hebden Bridge?

    There’s all these new houses they’ve built at Blackshaw isn’t there? I mean, t’Shoulder of Mutton’s gone – my granddad had that and he also had t’Sportsmans Arms…I think my dad might have been born at t’Kebs…I’m not just sure where my dad were born.

    **He was a Stansfield then? **

    Yes, there were a lot of Stansfields. He left about four… lots of property when he died.

    So did he have a farm as well as run the pub?


    Did he own the pub?

    Yes, he owned the pub you see and it were a farm as well were t’Kebs.

    I didn’t realise that – was it just a beer house as well then?

    I couldn’t tell you – no, I don’t think so, I think it would be both.

    Do you know how long it had been in the family?

    No, I think he’d farm t’Rough which were a farm at Todmorden way and then they’d take t’Kebs; I think my dad could have been born at Rough Farm because my granddad left my dad Rough Farm. I think he’d sell t‘Kebs, but yes – he did own property.

    What do you think of what we’ve just done, how did it make you feel?

    Nostalgic, but I’m glad…it’s now and not then. I’m not one of these that looks back and thinks ‘oh it was so good then’ because a lot of it wasn’t.

    Do you think it’s either important or useful for the old tines to be told – the kind of experiences you had – told to the younger generation so that they know what it was really like rather than reading it in books?

    Yes, not as they’ll take a lot of notice till they get to our age!

    Did you celebrate birthdays?

    Oh no – just ‘Happy Birthday’, you didn’t got owt – you didn’t get owt for Christmas!

    Was that usual?

    We didn’t expect a lot, not really, no.

    I haven’t really celebrated birthdays much.

    I haven’t really with my kids you know; I’ve never made a big fuss of birthdays.

    Did you have a nickname or was there anyone around with a nickname?

    No – actually they called Stansfields ‘Kitty’ – I don’t know why, Kitty we were called, and the person I went to lodge with when I left school, he always called me Kitty and it was a nickname, yes – ‘Jim Bill Kitty’ – they called my granddad James William and they called him ‘Jim Bill Kitty’ for some reason. My mother had a coat hanger and Kitty were put on in…somebody had burnt it on, oh and I remember my granddad getting a…he hadn’t a lot of patience either, getting a piece of wood and burning two eyes in it and a nose and a mouth and that were a doll! [laughing]…a bloody doll!! Oh and my Auntie Janie tried to teach me to knit, well our Sylvia picked it up, my cousin, to hide away or I did, so she hadn’t a lot of patience either! Is this a family trait then? I can knit now, but I think my mother taught me – it weren’t my Auntie Janie! [laughing] She did leave me £100 when she died like, so she isn’t that bad! Well it were my dad’s share – he’d died.

    Can you remember any of the other shops in Hebden around the Nutclough area and coming down into town?

    Only Barkers opposite t’Nutclough, t’Nutcrack, that were a little shop that sold everything. Down Foster Lane there were a shop – Phyllis’s, I remember her dieing, I’d be about sixteen when she died was that right down the end of Foster Lane? No, it were at t’top – she were selling stuff off just before she died, and I bought some chocolate that were mouldy. I’ve never had a bit of luck! There were two shops farther down – Suthers…were Suthers and Adams’s t’same, can you remember ‘em? [To Pauline].

    PAULINE – I can remember Suthers – no, Adams’s were at t’bottom

    What did they sell?

    Everything really; Suthers used to make..peas didn’t they? You could go and get pie and peas for your dinner at one time. She were lovely were Mrs Suthers; yes, that were there.

    Were there any coming down Keighley Road into Hebden?

    Yes there were t’Co-op weren’t there? There were t’Co-op up Keighley Road. I remember going there and then Co-ops started closing down didn’t they – it were alright were t’Co-op. You forget don’t you and then all of a sudden you think ‘oh there were a Co-op there’ and a shop here and a shop there, and I remember ‘em widening t’pavement at t’White Lion – if you look you can tell it’s been widened can’t you, and I remember coming down with t’pram, the pram and my wheels always come off t’pavement because it were so narrow. There were a green window in – I always remember that green window…

    In the wall, when you come down Keighley Road along the wall down from Nutlough down, there’s lots of bits that have been bricked in or stoned in; can you remember what any of those were?

    No – I know what you mean; no I can’t, but I do know what you mean. I can probably find out for you – Margaret would know.

    That would be interesting because there’s a few and I thought ‘well maybe it’s like a bit of a well and there’s a pump or something for water’ but you look at them again and you think ‘no, it wouldn’t be that.’ If you could find out and let me know, that would be great.[people coming in] You haven’t got any old photographs or old things like that…

    There is one of my dad somewhere in…that snow, in that blizzard. They were all outside t’Blue Ball at Blackshaw; I’ll ask Jim if he’s got it.

    What I can do is, when all this gets typed up and gets put on to the web site, then we could scan it in – that’s what all that stuff is, and so we could have the picture next to when you’re talking about the snow that winter and we could have a picture next to it. If there’s anything like that that you can find or remember – or beg, borrow or steal…

    My brother will have some.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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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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