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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Tom Greenwood

    [TRACK 1]



    This is Tony Wright, it’s the twelfth of February 2010 and I will be interviewing Tom Greenwood. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?



    My full name’s Thomas Greenwood, most people call me Tom, I was born on the tenth of August 1944 in Halifax Hospital and I grew up on a small farm overlooking the Calder Valley.



    Whereabouts was that farm?



    That farm was called Higher Laithe Farm near the hamlet of Winter near Charlestown.



    And how long did you live there for?



    We lived there until…..1963, and then we moved to a small cottage, my mum and dad, just outside Heptonstall.



    Right. What did your parents do as jobs?



    Well my father had been in the clothing industry since he left school during the First World War but he began to take an interest in farming and keeping hens. Before the outbreak of the Second World War he’d got a small holding and he started keeping more hens and some cows and eventually pigs and things like that, so he moved out of the clothing industry and became a small farmer.



    Right. And did you do that sort of work when you were young?



    Well I grew up on the farm and I always say I knew how to do a day’s work by the time I was ten years old [laughing] because it was part of the….part of the growing up, dealing with the cows and horses and hay making and things like that.



    Did you like that sort of work?



    Well I didn’t take to it like some farm lads take to farming….otherwise I probably would have stayed in farming but I didn’t have that kind of interest in that kind of work. It’s hard work, three hundred and sixty five days a year, and I didn’t really take to it, but I grew up with it.



    Right. Did your mother help on the farm as well?



    Yes she did, yeah. It was mum, dad and me working together sometimes, I mean I had plenty of time to play as well, they didn’t work me too hard but I had to do my bit and my mum and dad worked hard as well.



    Did you have siblings?



    No, I was an only child. My mum and dad had been a bit unfortunate in that they’d tried for children for several years before that and in fact they’d had a daughter a few…that was born before and died of meningitis in 1943 aged five but I suppose my mum being forty years old, it was really the last chance to have any kind of a family when I came along like.



    Okay. When your father was in textiles did he ever tell you about the work that he did there?



    Well for a start we need to make the distinction between textiles and the clothing industry. You’ll be aware that textiles covers the manufacturer of cloth, whereas the clothing industry which was so important in Hebden Bridge in those days was the making up of cloth into garments and there’s always been a separation between those two sides of the industry, so really we’re talking….I could talk about the clothing industry, not about the weaving and dying side of textiles, but yeah, he did talk about it and I’m sure if my memory’s correct he was glad to get out, and he enjoyed his time as a self-employed person. My dad wasn’t content with the sort of claustrophobic side of factory work, I think that’s fair to say, and I think the twenty-odd years he spent as a small farmer were the best years of his working life.



    What job did he have though in the...



    He was a clothing cutter. He left school and he started working at Farrar Broadbent’s, it must have been around about 1915, something like that, in the middle of the First World War and he worked there for several years, and he did his night school work and his qualifications as a clothing cutter and he would have done some pattern design and stuff like that while he was at night school. I think I’ve still got some of his work from his night school time, but sometime I suppose in the 1920’s it would have been, he went to Hartley…..Hartley Sons and Co, to Hartley’s clothing company at Linden Works and he stayed there till as I say just the Second World War and he was a clothing cutter there.



    Did he sort of put you off going into the business from his experience?



    Well…I think part of it was to encourage me to work hard at school because factory wasn’t seen to be that pleasant and I was encouraged to work hard at school to avoid that kind of life. I should say perhaps that my mother worked in the weaving side of the textiles industry. When my mum….she was born in Darwen in Lancashire and worked in weaving, well they used to leave school at thirteen in those days and when she came to Hebden Bridge and they got married, she worked in the weaving for some years in Hebden Bridge so they were both involved in local industry.



    Right. What job did you do?



    Well, when I left school I went into the clothing industry because I didn’t do very well at school despite the ambitions or whatever, the encouragement, it wasn’t for me wasn’t school and I went into the clothing industry, and I went on a similar path to my father, I went to….it used to be called day release, probably still is, a day class from Hartley’s which is where I already worked. I think the idea was that I could go there because I’d be looked after because they knew my father. My father was a very well respected man and I think the thought was that ‘if he goes to work at Hartley's the people there will look after him’.



    Whereabout was Hartley's?



    Linden Works.



    Linden Mill as it is now?



    Linden Mill, yes.



    What kind of clothing did they make there?



    They were still in the 1960’s when I started work there, they were still making the traditional sort of Hebden Bridge stuff – corduroy, Derby tweeds, flannels, that the clothing trade in Hebden Bridge had been producing for eighty years, so they were a bit if you like behind the times. They were making heavy duty clothes for outdoor workers; farm workers, industrial workers and of course it was being superseded with denim and jeans, things like that, but they stuck with their old materials and methods and they were quite busy in the sixties, but it was inevitable that they began to decline.



    You know a fair bit about the history of textiles and the clothing industry as well. How did that interest come about then?



    Well after I’d been at Hartley's for several years and I moved on to Redman Brothers at Foster Mill which was a sort of more ambitious, more entrepreneurial organisation and people worked quite a lot harder there because it was a bit more pressure on the clothing cutters to produce mass production of lighter men’s clothing and I took an interest in the trade union and I suppose most people would say I was a trouble maker, maybe that was justified, only history can tell that, but, so….when I’d taken an interest in the trade union and a trade union official from Leeds said, one of them had said ‘why don’t you do some studies and go to Ruskin College?’ and I remember quite well the trade union official saying to me ‘Tom, are you going to spend the rest of your life in that factory?’ and I suppose that really galvanised me into action because I thought ‘well, no.’ I was thirty something at the time and the prospect of another thirty odd years was a bit daunting, and I took his advice and support and I went to Ruskin and while I was there I had the opportunities to do some research into the origins and development of the clothing industry in Hebden Bridge and I produced my thesis – eighteen thousand words it was – which I thought was quite a decent piece of work and it’s there for anybody to see now in the local library. It’s the one piece of work on the Hebden Bridge clothing trade, the only one that I’m aware of anyway, and I had a lot of support from people I knew and interviewed a load of people including some of my previous employers and I think it’s a decent piece of work; it was 1982 when that was written.



    What kind of conclusions did you come to then about the industry?



    Well I wouldn’t like to say I had a conclusion because my thesis covered how it started and how it developed rapidly into a mass industry in the town and I didn’t cover the decline.



    Can you tell me a bit about how it started then?



    Well I mean, I think I’ll have to re-read my thesis to be absolutely clear but the availability of woven cloth in the area was obvious. It was there and they began to realise that not only could they produce cloth, they could also make it up into garments because it was being produced in the area and it just took a bit of, if you like, entrepreneurial spirit and they said ‘we could make up our own garments’ and that if you like, combined with the developing market for ready made clothes; previously it had been made at home or made in small tailoring shops, made to measure, but the developing market for mass production coinciding with the invention of the sewing machine, produced a catalyst if you like the mass production system that Hebden Bridge had in those days, and of course if you look at the history that I’ve written, you’ll see how much it developed and how many people, how many firms, how many workers suddenly were drawn into this mass production of clothing, particularly heavy clothing for industrial workers.



    And was this sort of before the First World War then?



    It was, yes. I would speculate to say that the local industry reached its peak around about the First World War, and in fact, I think in my thesis that most of the naval overcoats for the First World War, the Royal Navy, were made in Hebden Bridge; my mum told me that, so yeah, the mass production of heavy duty clothing I suppose reached its peak around the First World War or just after, and then of course there began appearing what I would say was a slow decline but it was slow and it was still quite strong even in the 1960’s and early ‘70’s. In the factories where I worked, but particularly I remember at Linden Works, the men would say ‘there are eight of us now in the cutting rooms, there used to be eighteen, whereas there are twenty-five machinists upstairs, there used to be a hundred’ so even in the 1960’s you could say that a firm like Hartley’s was beginning to slow down or decline.



    Do you know which was the first firm then to actually begin making clothes?



    Well as I say if I had to look at my thesis again, I think I’m right in saying that a chap called William Barker was the first person to develop the mass production of clothing and that was on the site quite close to the Hebden Bridge Railway Station where there are some allotments nowadays. I think the mill was on that site. It burnt down in the 1960’s but I think that was the first one, but very quickly of course other firms began to grow not long after that and obviously the Nutclough Fustian Co-operative was a good example of a local firm that developed very rapidly, and there’s plenty of written evidence. They were very proud of their co-operative enterprise at Nutclough and wrote their own pamphlets about how they were expanding and developing in 1870’s and ‘80’s and ‘90’s so that was a good example of a local firm and there’s plenty of evidence there.



    So was it a kind of co-operative in the true sense that it was owned by the workers?



    Yeah, I think you could look at the documents they produced and it began as a co-operative with each worker contributing a small amount of money I suppose to start up and it retained its co-operative status even though it expanded to several hundred workers until after the First World War when it was taken over by the CWS from Manchester, but it was a co-operative for many years and it was seen to be a very important example of co-operative production in the late nineteenth century and people came from all over the country to look at it, how it was organised, and of course I wasn’t there to see it, but conditions of work were made to be as good as could be afforded and they were better paid than some of the factory workers in the town.



    Did they have their own housing to go with it?



    I suppose, I can’t say for definite, but I would suspect, like several of the other manufacturers, they would have built houses close by the mill. Certainly…Redman Brothers, the English Fustian manufacturing company, they built quite a lot of houses where their workers would live and I think the Nutclough Co-operative would have been very similar.



    Did you ever go on strike then when you were in the union?



    Well we had little bits of disputes with our management, usually over bonus payments and things like that, but there was never anything of an unpleasant nature. It was…we thought of ourselves as being quite militant, but conditions were pretty fair. We had troublesome middle managers sometimes, but….by and large they were good industrial relations, but we did stand up for ourselves on one or two occasions when we thought that we weren’t being treated properly, but by nature most clothing workers weren’t militant. Conditions were reasonable. Wages were never very good but if they were left alone, most male workers would be pretty happy at their job. It would be a bolshy few younger ones who would say ‘we’re not having this.’



    Can you give me some idea of what the wages actually were then?



    To give you an exact figure, for 1970, when I left Hartley’s I went to Redman’s, because I was concerned that Redman Brothers were more ambitious and were using more up to date methods, and I was feeling I was getting left behind by some of the people I knew in terms of the production methods and I thought ‘well, I should move really’ but I do remember in 1970 that I moved to Redman Brothers for six and tuppence [6sh 2d] an hour. Now you’d have to do the conversion to decimalisation, but it was a penny an hour more than what I’d been getting before, and I was told not to tell anybody that I was getting an extra penny, but of course it wasn’t long before I did and I realised that people doing the same job as me were getting another sixpence an hour on top and of course that was what really annoyed me of course. The idea of keeping wages secret was one of the employer’s weapons for dividing the workers up if you like, you know, you’d get a couple of pence more or a couple of pence less and that was something that we disagreed with as a trade union branch and we….tried to get everybody in the same job paid the same rate which we thought was fair but the employers, some weren’t too happy about that because some workers are faster than others etcetera.



    So was it based on ability then or the amount of production that you could churn out so to speak. Was that how your pay was determined?


    Well in the early days for men; women, most women were on piece work. The more they produced, the more wages they got, but for men it was when I worked at Redman’s it was a merit bonus which was….the managers had the right to decide if you like who merited what wages and of course that was leaving open the situation for disputes because amongst ourselves if we started to discuss the wages and realised that some people were paid more and some less, then it was a cause for a dispute cos we wanted everybody doing the same job to be paid the same wage, but later on in the 1970’s because of the dispute, and because we were very unhappy with the wages, we moved on to a production bonus based sort of group incentive scheme so rather than individual payments on effort it was a group effort, so we earned higher wages because everyone worked harder and it was divided up if you like.



    Right. What kind of teams did you have…like three or four men teams or were they whole sections?



    It was a whole section. There were probably around twenty-five workers involved in that, but in theory at least, they put in their best effort and everybody got the same level of bonus. We thought it was….a good system because it helped to support people who weren’t as quick, but of course the managers wanted to reward those who were faster, but certainly when that new incentive bonus came in we worked even harder to try to earn more bonus and it became quite intensive work.



    So did you like it at Redman’s?



    It’s difficult to say, I mean I stayed there nearly ten years so it can’t have been bad but I suppose the thing that sustains you in those circumstances is that everybody else is in the same boat. We’re all working to earn a good wage if we can and there’s a lot of camaraderie and a lot of solidarity as well, so I suppose it was pleasant enough work even though it was hard work sometimes, and we tried hard to make a bit more money and we had disputes and things like that and it was mass production. There wasn’t tailoring for individuals, it was really mass production and they used to say that when the firm was busy we could do fifteen thousand pairs of trousers a week. It rarely got to that level while I was there but the capacity was for fifteen thousand pairs of trousers a week and other jackets and things like that as well, so when the order books were really full we could really turn out a lot of garments, but it was said – I saw it – I did some background research into the company, they were the second highest profit making per capital outlay clothing company in the country, which I supposed we used as a tool to argue for better wages with the managers.


    They were a big firm weren’t they?



    They were. Round here they were by far the biggest, I think there were probably several hundred employees spread over a number of different factories from Todmorden to Cragg Vale, they had a small factory in Rotherham, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, so yeah, at one time they employed over a thousand people, most of them were machinists, women machinists, but there must have been several dozen if not more male operatives spread over the whole company, I mean it was a highly productive company and the employers were known to be innovative and ambitious I suppose.



    Were you based at Foster Mill then all the time?



    Yeah, when I worked for Redman Brothers I was at Foster Mill. There was a five storey mill there; was it five storeys? It disappeared overnight while I was studying art in Oxford into a pile of stones, a group of semi-detached cottages on that site now, but yeah, I spent my nine, ten years there in the cutting room.



    What would it be like, the daily routine in the cutting room then?



    Well, clock in before eight o’clock, be at your bench for eight and the buzzer went, you started work. Depending just whereabouts you were, you could be band knife cutting, you could be on a machine laying up cloth ready for ironing on what we used to call the lay, cutting that up into pieces when it would be laid up maybe ten thick, twenty, thirty, forty depending on the size of the order, you could be working laying up by hand for jackets and things like that, overcoats and various outer garments. Ten o’clock, knock off for a tea break, play cards for ten minutes then go back to the machine or the bench, twelve thirty till twelve forty-five, twelve o’clock till twelve forty-five, lunch, you had your sandwiches or fish and chips or you could go to the canteen and have something and then back to work on the dot, one o’clock, clocking in again one o’clock, worked till the afternoon tea break. We might get Radio Two on sometimes in the afternoon and get an hour or two of Terry Wogan and then clock out at five, and go and get your bus home, so it was pretty regimented in that respect and a fairly strict routine. You were expected to be at your bench and start at eight o’clock and there was no…..no down time; people worked from when they clocked in to when they clocked out, apart from the tea breaks, so it was quite intensive in that respect but factory work is isn’t it?



    Did you ever get out of the cutting room to go to other parts of the factory?



    Never, hardly ever. It wasn’t part of your job to leave your bench. If anybody had to go and do something elsewhere, then it was the managers or the foreman or whatever and we stayed at our bench from the moment we clocked in until we went home.



    Did you socialise at all with the people you worked with, the other cutters in the room?



    Yeah, younger fellas, we’d probably have the odd game of football. We used to play football at lunch time of course but we’d have the odd evening game. We used to have a Christmas dinner for the lads that wanted to come at Nutclough House, we had that a few years, and we’d socialise sometimes at the weekends, go for a drink with your workmates, yeah, after work sometimes but I wasn’t one for after work drinking in those days, but the lads were quite friendly; the younger fellas, they would go for drinks and stuff like that, go out on a weekend, so yeah, we used to socialise, yeah.



    Right. Before you were at Foster Mill then, when you were at Hartley’s, you said they had kind of older practices. Could you tell me a little bit about those then and if they hadn’t changed, like Redman Brothers had, what kept them down so to speak and what kind of routines did they have?



    Well they were still….they were still using the cardboard patterns and they were making garments in pre-war style, the garments they produced were not of a modern fashion, they hadn’t changed much. They’d still got a niche in the market for heavy wear industrial clothing made in the old fashioned way with an old fashioned design, so…..yeah, so they hadn’t really moved on if you like, and of course they still had their niche, they still sold hundreds and thousands of pairs of trousers every year, but I suspect the market for that style of clothing was declining, and they weren’t quite as innovative as some of the mills in the town, so they was still heavy weight clothing, there was still corduroy garments made which is what Hebden Bridge developed initially on, corduroy and moleskin trousers, hence the word fustian, so….yah, they were still producing garments in, if you like, 1930’s 1940’s style of fashion when I was working there in the sixties.



    Right. You’ve just used that word ‘fustian’. Can you explain exactly what that means?



    Well, it’s said to derive from a suburb of Cairo called Fostat where the heavy duty cotton was produced; Egypt was famous for cotton before the Americans even discovered it, and it covers the heavyweight corduroy and moleskin cloth that was being produced locally in the second half of the nineteenth century and it became like the staple product of the Hebden Bridge clothing industry - heavy duty industrial clothing – trousers, jackets, waistcoats made from fustian which is corduroy and moleskin.



    How is corduroy made? How is it different from just regular cotton cloth then?



    Well, not having been employed in the manufacturer of fustian, I wouldn’t like to describe its manufacture, but obviously it’s woven, and then the weave is opened with the famous fustian knife and once the weave is opened it’s brushed and it forms a pile, just like the ones I’m wearing, it’s brushed and it forms a pile and it’s hardwearing and comfortable for people who work outdoors.



    You said earlier Hartley’s had cardboard patterns, and presumably at Foster Mill they had a different kind. Can you explain how those patterns were made and what the differences were?



    Well, the cardboard pattern was the traditional method, designed by a specialist worker. A basic design would be made in cardboard, or paper I should say, and then cardboard patterns would be made from it, and you would design a garment and make a pattern for its manufacture and then you would do something called pattern grading, in other words you would start with a medium sized pattern and you would grade up and down for the different sizes, say from thirty-six down to thirty-four, thirty-two, thirty and up to thirty-eight, forty, forty-two, forty-four waist so the patterns were designed and graded and produced in cardboard which were then, the cardboard patterns were laid on the cloth and lapsor chalk was used to mark the cloth and the cutter's job was to be as, well one of the important parts of his job was to be as economical as possible with the use of the cloth, so you might mark four or eight sizes on the cloth and then it was laid up in layers so that it could be mass produced. You might have ten pair thick or you might have twenty pairs thick and then it was cut on the band knife for mass production, as opposed to a single garment which could be cut with shears, big scissors…….Does that answer your question?



    I don’t know that much about it so I’m just trying to gather information.



    Yeah…if you want to, you should look at my thesis and it will describe the production, I think in a reasonably coherent fashion, you know, it might be worth your while to have a look certainly.



    What’s it called?



    It’s called ‘The Origins of the Development of the Clothing Industry in Hebden Bridge’ and it dates from round about 1870 to 1920.



    This band saw that you used...



    Band knife.



    Band knife, sorry. Was that a machine or was it like a hand tool?



    No, it was a revolving blade. It was….driven by electricity round two or three wheels and the band knife blade would be probably sixteen feet long and driven at high speed without….like a saw blade, no teeth on it because that would rip the cloth rather than cut it, so it was a smooth blade that revolved at high speed and the thick layers of cloth could be pushed through the knife, cutting anything up to twenty pairs, thirty pairs thick, but it required careful handling of course, because cloth isn’t like wood. You can’t just push it through like you would a piece of wood through a saw. You have to make sure that it’s handled carefully otherwise you finish up with a real mess because it’ll flop around the cloth, you know, you have to handle it very carefully. We used to use clamps to hold it firmly while it was being cut out.



    Right. Sounds dangerous actually.



    Well….there were accidents and people did get cut. There were guards on these machines, of course there were, but occasionally even a skilled worker could suffer quite bad cuts like. It wasn’t a regular occurrence but it did happen occasionally, but you had to be very careful otherwise you’d cut your fingers right off.



    I interviewed Allan Stuttard...



    Yes I knew Allan Stuttard. He worked at Foster Mill as well.



    He said to me something about these band knives. He said the Hebden Bridge variety had a different design to most of the others.






    What was that then?



    Well basically the machine was the same as it would have been in the Leeds clothing industry, but our band knives were what they called push knives, whereas in other parts of…in other words you push the cloth through the knife, whereas in other parts of the country in the clothing trade they were pull knives, in other words you had to pull the cloth through. I wouldn’t like to argue which was the better concept, but we had push knives in Hebden Bridge.



    Right. So did you work with Allan then?



    Yeah. Allan was on the staff if you like, I mean he was a….on not quite the management side of it, but he had his own office and he was into….designing the lays for the machines, in other words setting out the patterns on a piece of paper which were then reproduced photographically, so he would be part of the production of the lay which traditionally would be what the cutter would do, the clothing cutter, but in a mass production company it was….it was done separately. The cutter would just receive a roll of paper with the design photographed on to it, the length of it was written on the end, you would set the machine up to lay cloth up at…fifteen feet or whatever and the machine would lay that cloth up as you were and feeding it and threading it through, and after that the lay would be ironed on; it had a sticky back and it would be ironed on, then you’d have the whole thing laid out ready for cutting up.


    Right. I mean it sounds to me if you have, you know, ten or twenty layers with like one pattern on the top, and of course as you say, cloth can be a bit floppy, it sounds an incredibly precise job cos you’re not just cutting straight lines are you?



    Yeah, curves and everything.



    I mean how do you acquire that kind of skill? Is it just practice?



    Yeah….it is just practice and it is handling cloth with great care. You have to handle it very carefully, and so there is quite a bit of skill involved in it, especially when you try to produce as much as you can for your bonus [laughing] and not everyone could do it. Some men were very accomplished at it, very precise, and others really who came into the trade later in life shall we say, and tried to learn how to be a band knife cutter really weren’t very good at it because it required that care, hand and eye co-ordination and not everybody could do it like.



    Right. It sounds like I said a very skilful job. I’d like to….presumably you got paid because of that skill. How did that compare like to the women who did all the sewing. How were the wages in comparison?



    Well they used to say, I mean people didn’t talk too much about what they earned, I mean piece workers, women, female piece workers I don’t remember them saying. There was a basic rate for the job but….I don’t remember women workers telling me ever how much they earned, but the fast machinists could earn more than the men, but the slow ones would probably be less than the men, but certainly it was always said the really fast machinists could earn more than the men could, yeah.



    Now, having studied hard at school, so you wouldn’t go into the clothing trade and then actually ending up in the clothing trade, did you stay in it all your life or for a long time, or did you change?



    I changed yes. I went to college in 1980 after my trade union advised me that it would be a good thing, but that coincided really with the collapse of the clothing industry, and where I thought I might go in to trade union work, perhaps as a researcher or a full time official, the options weren’t there for that after 1982 when I finished at Ruskin in the middle of what I think of the biggest post-war recession The local industry disappeared almost overnight down to one or two firms; it declined very rapidly, so there wasn’t an option to go back to the clothing trade and also the options for further study were suggested to me because I was quite a good student and I really enjoyed my studies and it was made clear that I could if I wanted do further studies up to degree level after a diploma at Ruskin, and to me it seemed like a good option. I couldn’t see how I was gonna get work because we were in the middle of this difficult time and I found the option to study for three years up to degree level really fortuitous, so I went to Manchester University and studied for three years for a degree in Politics and Modern History, and after that, still casting around wondering what to do, applying for jobs, not getting any, I did teacher training for nine months at Huddersfield Poly, and shortly after that I went into teaching part time in further education at Bradford, and I stayed there for fifteen years, and then eventually I was approaching sixty years and the job was getting tougher and tougher and I decided that, at first I was going to stay till I was sixty which would probably have made me the oldest in the staff, but I decided at fifty-eight that I’d better get out now because it was getting difficult.



    What was getting difficult?



    Well…further education had become something of a dumping ground for difficult kids. I know that sounds a bit brutal but where schools….a large proportion of the courses that I was teaching on, the students were less than well motivated, let’s put it that way. We had some excellent students, but we were having difficulties with substantial numbers of people who had drifted into further education without really feeling any real commitment to study, and that made life difficult for the teachers, and there were targets being set for recruitment and retention and for success that were to say the least, unfeasible and it was becoming more and more difficult to do your job in those circumstances. Lots of students were good but there were far too many that were really causing us real difficulty, and it was getting more and more difficult. I’m not sure what it’s like now; I’ve been left seven or eight years, but I suspect it’s not a lot better if anything, so I decided to get out and do something different. I didn’t know what, but as ever I drifted into self employment as a painter and decorator and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, and that’s what I hope to continue doing for the foreseeable future.



    Right. I’m just…..trying to think about, you know, the sort of, the differences or are they all similar, the different mills that there were in Hebden Bridge and in Todmorden and in Mytholmroyd. Were they all much of a muchness or did they do a lot of different things?



    Well not having worked in…I mean I worked in three different companies in Hebden Bridge as a clothing cutter, and basically it was very similar, the production methods were very similar. I have said how much more advanced a company like Redman Brothers was in its production methods, but basically I suspect that all the other factories that produced clothing followed a very similar pattern, you know, I think, I would say they are very similar.



    So do you think that making clothes was actually bigger than making cloth in this area?



    Yeah….yes, I should say, but it was…there was weaving and there was dyeing, but in terms of numbers the clothing industry itself was far and away the biggest employer in the town. I think I estimated there were over two thousand people employed in the industry at the time of its peak, which is far and away the biggest type of employment by miles from anything else. There were lots of smaller engineering, there was dyeing and weaving, but really at the time of its peak of production, probably around the 1920’s or around about the First World War, it was far and away the biggest employer of people – hundreds and hundreds of people.



    Can you remember the names of the different mills then?



    There were….well I can remember the whole lot of them, yeah. [laughing].



    Well just for the record, can you kind of get the names of them?



    Well if I had my thesis with me, I’ve got the full list of all the firms engaged in clothing manufacture at the time of the First World War, and there might have been twenty-five, thirty of varying sizes from the English Fustian Manufacturing Company



    Well what I’ll do is, I’ll go to the library and get your book out and I’ll get that list and in the transcript of this interview I’ll pop it in as an aside.



    Well you know, you can read, I don’t know how you’ll do that, but yeah, there’s a good list of them. I think I looked at three different firms, I think in a chapter on the firms if you like, I called it ‘The Firms’, The Fustian Co-operative, I looked at that, I looked at The English Fustian Manufacturing Company which incorporated Redman Brothers, and at least one other to give some detail of the different firms, so there is some information there about the different types of firm. It could have been a small company of about twenty people right up to a firm like The English Fustian Manufacturing Company with a thousand, but very similar in many ways.



    I’m trying to change this a little bit here. Actually you’ve lived here in Hebden Bridge or around Hebden Bridge all your life and you’ve talked about the decline of the clothing industry, but there must have been other changes happened in the last sort of sixty, seventy years sort of thing. What do you think about that?



    Well…it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with because you watch all the old ways and things disappear, and as you get older you look back with a certain fondness on those days, I mean not only has local industry declined to the point where there’s hardly any left. It was also a town surrounded by thriving hill farming, which has also declined, I mean as I said at the beginning, I grew up on a small farm. Those small holdings are no longer an economic unit. It’s….fallen to very few to earn their living full time in farming round here, whereas in the 1940’s,’50’s there were a lot of people grew up with a farming background, and I think nowadays there are people who perhaps keep a few animals or hens or something but work as well, so they’re not dependent on farming as their sole source of income. A lot of the hill farming land is redundant. It may come back into production some day because of changes in economics and changes in what people want to eat, but I suppose I’ve seen that decline and the local industry decline and it’s been replaced by other things, and so you can look back with a certain amount of nostalgia, when people who lived in Hebden Bridge made things…..because it seems to be fundamental to human existence that people make stuff; now it’s made somewhere else.



    Are there any other sort of changes that you….or changes that you’re glad about perhaps, you know, things that have been good?



    Yeah, I think…I think it’s fair to say that Hebden Bridge is a very lively little town. There’s lots of cultural activities, festivals of one sort or another, there’s live entertainment, music, theatre. That side of life is quite vibrant in the town and I think it’s a good thing. That’s not to say there weren’t forms of entertainment in the old days. I suppose it’s fair to say that a lot of people who’ve moved into the area have brought skills, ambitions, that have helped to liven the town up because most of the young and ambitious people moved away in the fifties and sixties. There wasn’t a decent living to be made here. If you were for the first time, if you were going to be a university educated young person then the idea of staying in Hebden Bridge was not an attractive one, you would move on, and quite right too, so I suppose it’s fair that the more ambitious people who were leaving Hebden Bridge, it left a vacuum and some people from outside moved in and brought with them skills and ambitions that in many ways I think have helped to liven the place up, and it is to all intents and purposes quite an interesting little town, although I can’t help feeling a little bit nostalgic for the days when people made things [laughing]…sorry about that.



    Oh that’s fine. There are probably a lot of people who would agree with you there.



    Well it is a bedrock of economy you see, but you see [paused recording for Tom to get a drink of water]



    I’d like to hear a little bit more, if you don’t mind, what it was like growing up on the farm. You said you had chickens and cows was it?



    Yeah, basically there was milk production and egg production, so we’d have half a dozen cows perhaps and the milk would be taken from the farm to Blackshaw Head by horse and cart. That was usually my job in the morning, to take the milk up to Blackshaw Head then it would be picked up by the dairy…Milk Marketing Board or….a wagon used to come and pick it up, but we didn’t have anything other than a horse drawn cart, and of course we needed to grow plenty of grass for the cows to be fed through the winter, that’s what you call hay making and the barn would be filled with hay by late August, hopefully no later than that, but it was very much dependent on the weather because the production of hay in those days was laborious work. We didn’t have tractors and so it was hand work with the horse and cart to take the hay to the barn, and it was very much dependent on decent weather to dry the grass out and make decent hay, so we were very much at the whim of the weather and my father would have to make a judgement when to cut, or when to get the grass cut in the hopes that it would stay reasonable weather to dry the grass out and turn it into hay and then as I say it would be taken into the barn, so there was a lot of hard work done in the late June, July, August period to make sure you had enough feed for the cows during the winter and we had several hundred hens, and the eggs would be cleaned and graded and taken to the Egg Marketing Board, and so I think they’d be collected every week in boxes. We had some pigs as well, but basically it was milk production and egg production.



    Right. Did you get people in to help you with the hay making?



    Very rarely. Sometimes if we were up against it the neighbours would give us a hand and, once or twice we had an itinerant Irish chap who used to help out. He used to sleep in the barn, and he’d call and help out. Once or twice he came, that chap. I’ve very vague memories of course of that, but mostly it was down to me and my mum and my dad like, and local kids would help sometimes but the hard work was done by my mum and my dad and me I suppose.



    Are there any sort of like superstitions to do with farming that you can remember?



    I don’t think my father was a very superstitious chap [laughing]…no I wouldn’t, I don’t remember anything of a superstitious nature with…I suppose he may have crossed his fingers but I think that was about it, he was more a down-to-earth practical man who didn’t have any superstitions, none that I recall.



    What kind of machines – did you have any machines at all apart from the horse and cart?



    ….by the time I was…I can remember when I was very young there was….a tractor would come to cut and he would have to contact the person who owned the tractor to come and cut the grass, so it wasn’t cut by hand or by horse at our farm, but by then, I suppose late 1940’s there were tractors around, although we didn’t have one and my dad would contact a local farmer who come and cut the grass for him, but after that everything was done by hand.



    That must have been a large call on this tractor by all kinds of farmers?



    Yeah, there’d be a few farmers who could afford to have tractors and they would sub-contract if you like, but yeah, they would be very busy times for small farmers to cut their grass and get it harvested, depending again on the weather.



    Did you grow your own vegetables as well?



    Hardly at all, hardly at all. We just didn’t have time. There wasn’t time to spend in a garden, or at least my mum and dad didn’t find time and I don’t remember any other local farmers who did much gardening as such. They were far too busy with six or seven hundred hens, half a dozen cows to spend any time in the garden. My mum used to go – we used to get deliveries once a week perhaps from the Co-op. They had a Land Rover by then, or a Jeep or a Land Rover and they would deliver some, but my mum would go to Hebden Bridge once or twice a week; walk to the bus stop, get a bus, get two big bags of shopping, get the bus back and then walk up to the farm, so she did that as part of her working time, so that in itself was quite time consuming. It would take half a day to get to Hebden Bridge and get back with the shopping. She baked her own bread and all the food was home cooked food, we didn’t eat out of packets or tins or anything, so she was full time helping on the farm doing the washing which was a long, laborious process every Monday, cooking the food, making sure there was tea on the table when I got in from school and when my dad finished work, so she was far too busy for gardening.



    Did you have one of those big ranges in the kitchen?



    Yeah we had a Yorkshire range in our house which had a water heater; a boiler on one side and an oven on the other side and of course in the early…up until 1953 we didn’t have electricity so we had to depend for all our cooking on the open fire and in the oven next to it and electric light – there was no electric so there was no electric light, we had paraffin lights and candles until I was seven or eight years old, so our life was very simple, very basic, but comfortable and we always had plenty to eat but it was very basic, no such thing as central heating in those days [laughing]



    How big was your farm, how many acres?



    I think it was about twelve and a half acres, so it was quite small. I would say two thirds of that was for hay production and the rest would be where the hen cotes were, they were free range hens of course, outside, they ran outside. We never moved into battery production. Some of the local farmers went through intensive egg production through the battery system but we never did and it was at the time when battery production was coming in when my dad realised it was no longer economical to make a living from a small farm and he went back in…when we sold the small farm he went back in to the clothing industry for the last few years of his working life.



    Right. Did you have any like pets?



    Well I was…I had a dog and several cats. My dog was my companion from…I don’t know…from the age of about nine to…it died when I was twenty-one, twenty-two, so he was my life long companion, my little dog but we had cats for the mice and stuff like that, and they were family pets really, but they helped to keep the mice at bay because a place like a farm would pretty soon be overrun by mice and stuff if you didn’t have a few cats and dogs about the place, but other than the cats and dogs, I think that was the limit of our pets.



    When you sold the farm, did you sell to another farmer then or what?



    I’m not sure you see because I wasn’t really party to the negotiations about it, but I’ve got a feeling a chap bought it with a view to farming, but it never took off and it’s never really been farmed since. That land has probably


    [END OF TRACK 1]














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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Florence Aykroyd

    [TRACK 1]

    I know I’ve asked you already, but for the camera, can you say your full name and where and when you were born?

    …Well I can’t tell you where I were born, no I can’t but I can tell you where I used to live – down Charlestown oh right you know, towards Hebden Bridge yes yes, and me father got killed on t’railway there oh did he? yes, he were a foreman platelayer I see and then me mother, we came a-living up Todmorden after that – we lived at Charlestown, you know yeh, I know and we came a-living up Todmorden because her mother lived at Knowle Wood I know it and you know, she said it were a lot better than living on her own because he left her with me and two more sisters and a baby in t’cradle really? hmm.

    How old was he when that happened?

    I’ve no idea.

    How old were you when that happened?

    …Well I can’t tell you really, no I can’t – I can’t tell you.

    Were you very small?

    I don’t know.

    You haven’t told me your name yet.

    Me name? Yeh. It’s Florence Alice Aykroyd.

    Can you remember when you were born?

    [pause] No.

    I went to work when I were twelve year old, half-time. I used to go to t’Shade School, Shade School, yes. and I went to work when I were half-time and then when I were thirteen, I went full-time, and I worked up at Dewsgate, up Bacup Road.

    What did you do there?

    I were a doffer.

    What’s that?

    Well they tek bobbins off t’weavers you know, when they’re full and put empty uns on. Right. [someone coming in bringing a drink] Where had I got to? Oh I know – we took full bobbins off t’weavers and put empty uns on, that were doffing.

    How long did you do that?

    Well till I were fourteen.
    And then what did you do?

    Well I went to work properly, I just forget what I did but – oh I were in ring. That’s summat same belonging to t’weavers you know. I went to Shade School and when I were fourteen we…I went full-time to t’school, I didn’t go to work, I went full-time. Did I? I can’t remember.

    Anyway, I were there when t’First World War were on, at school, at Shade School, and we had some evacuees came from France. Oh did they? Yes, and Belgium, and we had to learn their National Anthems before we started ‘God Save The King’ – every morning before we started us lessons, and I’ve never forgot t’French but I can only remember half of t’Belgian; I’ve missed half of it, so I know t’French in French, so do you want me to sing it for yer? Yes, that would be nice.

    I haven’t a right good voice you know – singing voice.

    [Florence sang the French National Anthem]

    Very good!

    I learnt that when I were fourteen year old and I’m a hundred now. Right – that’s a long time!

    Yes, and t’Belgian were –

    [Florence sang part of the Belgian National Anthem] – I’ve lost t’other part of it!

    How many were there – how many evacuees were there in your school?

    I’ve no idea.

    Did you make friends with any of them?

    Well, not really. They just treated ‘em like they were English you know.

    Can you remember any of your teachers from school?

    Well there were Mr Swaine, he were th’eadmaster and then there were – there were Miss Simpson and Miss….I can’t remember now.

    That’s very good. What were they like?

    They were alright, yes.

    Did you like school?

    Yer it were alright, I just…I lived at t’top o’ Butcher Hill if you know where that is.
    Butcher Hill? Yes. I’m not sure, no. Well you know where t’Shade is don’t you? I know where Shade is. Yes, well there’s a road that goes up past t’school behind it? Yes, well that’s where I used to live, at t’top of there. I don’t know where I were born, I’ve no idea, I’ve never heard me mother say, but you see when my dad got killed he left her wi’ this baby in t’cradle and I were the eldest and two more sisters, younger than me…yes. And me mother went a-living up Knowle Wood we lived at Charlestown then if you know where that is yes yes, well we went a-living up Knowle Wood then and I said ‘what have you come up here for mum?’ and she says ‘well me mother lives up here and me two sisters’ you see, so I lived up there till I were married.

    When did you get married?

    At Knowle Wood? Yes. If you know where Knowle Wood is.

    When – can you remember? When did you get married?

    Why did I get married?

    No, no not why – when?

    Oh I don’t know – it’s a long while since. I’ve only had one child.

    Was it a boy or a girl?

    It were a boy, and he’s called Colin. [sorting microphone out. Can I just move that for a minute, it’s getting stuck in that one. I’ll put it into that one if that’s okay] He’s called Colin Aykroyd.

    Does he still live around here?

    He lives up Lane Bottom, and he married a girl from Bacup, yes, and he’s just been to America to their house for six weeks and…yes, they got on with these girls – me son and his friend that lived up there, he were called Dennis Woodhead were this boy and they used to go every Wednesday to Bacup a-dancing, and they got on with these two girls, well our Colin’s wife were called Jean – I don’t know her last name, I’ve never known her last name, her maiden name I mean and this other girl were called Joan Woodhead and she married this Dennis Woodhead and she never changed her name, she’s still Mrs Woodhead, and they’ve been to their house for six weeks, yes.

    Wherabouts in America?

    Well it in’t just in America, it’s at t’top end of America – is it Canada? Yes. Yes, that’s where they’ve been.

    Can you remember the house in Charlestown? Can you remember what the house was like that you lived in?

    Well it were alright but it’s been pulled down since. Has it? Yes, it brings back memories when I go to Hebden Bridge you know – it’s at Charlestown, yeh there were two rows of houses on t’main road and we live at t’back facing t’railway you know, but this on t’front had a shop in t’middle.

    What kind of shop was that?

    Just…you could buy anything – bread or anything, you know, and then there were a pub at th’end, at th’end o’ these two streets.

    Was that The Woodman?

    I couldn’t tell yer, but I know there’s…there were a chapel…you know, I used to go to that chapel at Sunday, and me and me sister, we used to have to walk from there, all t’way down to…what do you call it…it’s like a what is it now…I can’t just explain it, but there’s a church up there, do you know where it is? I think I know where you mean, yes. Yes, before you go down into that road to Halifax in’t it? And we used to walk it from Charlestown to there every morning and then walk it back at tea-time. Good walk. Me and me sister, yes.

    Did you still go to Shade School once you moved to Charlestown?

    Oh no, no – that’s where we went to, that Church School up there, yes. Right – Mytholm School.

    Did you like that school?

    Well it were alright.

    When you started working, when you’d turned sixteen and you worked full-time, what job did you do then?

    I were a ring spinner, we used to make full bobbins for t’weavers.

    Did you do any other work there?


    And so you did that all your life?

    Yeh, I worked in t’mill all me life – well, I got married you know, and then I didn’t work you know – me husband were a window cleaner. Was he? Yes, he used to charge fivepence for a winder (window) Did he? Yes.

    Did he make a good living at that?

    Well [laughing]…I didn’t have a child till I’d been married five years.

    Was that because you couldn’t afford?

    No I don’t know – no I don’t know what it were, only…I went to Blackpool with me husband’s mother because she had a daughter lived there and it were ‘luminations and I went with her to ‘luminations and then when we came back, me father-in-law slept with me husband that night you know, and I slept with Jack’s mother because it were late when we got home, so t’night after when I went to me husband we had love – he said ‘I think I’ve done it this time Flo – I says ‘well if you have, you have’ and do you know, I’d only been…after about two days after that and I started with my periods and you would have thought it would have washed out what had gone in, wouldn’t you, but no – he’d made a good job of it… [laughing] and he’s seventy-five now is me son.

    Do you have grandchildren?

    Oh goodness – I don’t know how many great-children I have and grandchildren; I’ve only one grand-daughter among all ‘lot and she’s a carer is she?

    When you worked in the mill then, when it was Wakes Week, what did you do during Wakes Week, on your holidays?

    Well I used to go to me husband’s sister at Blackpool. Oh right, right – I see.

    Were you a church-goer then?

    Well I used to go to Knowle Wood Chapel, if you know where that is – I think they’ve pulled that down now but I’m not sure.

    So did you like going to church?

    Yeh, it were alright. I used to go to t’what’s it and then we used to come out and walk to t’chapel, it were only next door like.

    Was there a big social – a lot of social events with the church?

    Well we used to go and have social what-is-its, yes, and concerts you know.

    Was that just hymns or was it other kinds of music as well?

    Well there would be I expect.

    What did you used to do at Christmas?

    [pause] We used to put a stocking up, when we were young; me mother used to pin a stocking…we use to have like a mantelpiece you know, and it had a green velvet…green thing up at t’front and she used to pin us stockings on there.

    What did you get in your stockings?

    Well, we’d have a little doll or summat from Woolworths you know, and a bit o’ chocolate and that you know.

    Did you have a tree?

    No, no – we weren’t well off then you know.

    Can you remember any of the floods – did it ever flood in Charlestown?

    Can’t remember, no.

    Did you ever see any of the mills on fire then, any of the fires?


    Can you remember anything about your family then, like your sisters – what did they do?

    Well they worked in t’mill like me, but me two sisters, they…when me dad died you know, and me mother died, me two sisters died an’ all and that baby in t’cradle really? Yes. oh that’s very sad. ‘Cos I’m th’only one left in t’family.

    Has it changed much then, around here – in Todmorden, Walsden and Hebden Bridge?

    Oh yes, it has.

    How has it changed?

    Well…I can’t just explain, but it has – it has changed, yes.

    In what kind of way?

    I can’t explain. I mean, since my hundredth birthday I can’t remember nothing, no I can’t remember anything, no I can’t.

    Can you remember any of the shops in Hebden Bridge, or in Charlestown, or in Todmorden?

    Oh yeh – there were lots o’ shops but I can’t remember a right lot in Charlestown and Hebden Bridge, but there were lots in Tod.

    Which ones can you remember?

    Well there were Johnnie Mittens at ‘top o’ Water Street and there were…Redmans up Knowle Wood – Redmans, and there were t’Spinners Pub and there were two lodging houses – yes, we lived facing a lodging house – Sparks’s Lodging House, you know.

    Has Todmorden changed a lot from those days?

    Well I think it has, yes I do.

    Do you think that’s good – do you think any of it’s been good, or some of it’s been bad?

    Well I think it’s been good, yes.


    Well it’s more modern now, in’t it?

    Are the people in Todmorden still nice people then?

    Well I haven’t been out lately, since I’ve been like this, I’ve never been going out, I just – when I go home from Hebden Bridge you know, from day care, I lock me door and it’s never opened again while t’day after, while they come for me again. Course, if me son comes, he has a key you know.

    Where does he live?

    He lives up Lane Bottom.

    Right – so very close.

    Do you know where that is?

    Yes. What do you do when you’re at home then, now?

    Well I do nowt only sit and what-is-it, talk to my mysel [Florence said this instead of ‘myself’] and watch television ‘best way I can, and…no, I keep asking God every night to tek me but he doesn’t. I’m fed up of living.

    Can you remember any old sayings – like maybe your mother used to say; any old Yorkshire sayings?

    …no I can’t.

    They might just be regular things really – nothing special, just the way that she used to talk.

    We use to go on to t’park you know, on to Tod Park, and I haven’t been on there since me lost grandson got married, and it were raining that hard – t’photographer you know, he says ‘we won’t tek any photographs’ he says ‘we’ll wait while it’s a nice day’ and we all went to t’park and had us photographs tekken in t’park. They’ve had a little boy and he’s called A.J.

    Did you ever do mumming?

    Mumming? No.

    Did you ever do any maypole dancing?

    Oh yes, we used to do t’maypole, yes.

    Did you have special clothes for that?

    No. We used to go up like up Knowle Wood Road, you know – we didn’t used to go a long way away, we just used to…you know where we lived, you know.

    Was there a group of you then that did that?


    And where was the group from?

    Well they were round about, I couldn’t tell you who they were now – there were one called Carrie Lord, that’s all I know, and I don’t know whether it were her grandfather or her father that had this pub.

    Did you used to wear clogs?

    Clogs? Yes.

    Did you have the steel ones or the rubber ones?

    No they were leather, and they had wood soles and they had irons on, you know.

    Did you used to make sparks?

    Well you did if you went like that you know [demonstrated].

    Did you used to play in the woods at all?

    Well there weren’t any woods there.

    There were some up the back though.


    Did you ever watch the Pace Egg Play?

    I used to watch ‘em when they came, yeh, but I’ve forgotten what it were like now. My memory, it won’t tek me no farther than t’door and back now [laughing]

    Did you ever do any other things, like maybe – did you ever go swimming?

    Oh yes – I’ve swam in t’canal. Did you? Yes, and I’ve swam in t’Gaddings Dam if you know where that is. On the tops, yes. Yes, I’ve swam in there an’ all. [pause] ‘Cos I were in t’canal once – well we used to live down t’Shade when we were married, facing t’Shade School on that street and I got ready to swim in t’canal and I only had to just go across t’street and climb a little wall and go over t’railway and I were in t’canal, and I were swimming one day and somebody said ‘hey, there’s a rat at t‘back of you Florence, so I got out and I never went in no more! [laughing] Oh I used to like to go swimming…side stroke you know, and t’back stroke, and t’front stroke – oh I used to like to go swimming.

    Did you like to go dancing?

    No I never went dancing – no, me mother wouldn’t let me go dancing, but t’other two sisters could go, but I never went – I were th’eldest but she wouldn’t let me go.


    I don’t know.

    What was your mother’s name?

    Clara Ellen.

    Was she from around here?

    Well she lived up Knowle Wood – Clare Ellen Holden – no was she? No, Clare Ellen Haigh – that were it, her maiden name were Holden weren’t it, yes, her name – Clare Ellen Holden when she got married, but she were Clare Ellen Haigh afore she got married.

    Did she ever work in the mills?

    Well she did, but you see I didn’t remember.

    Did she not talk about it at all?


    Did you used to go to the Co-op?


    Did you get a divvy from them?


    What was the divvy?

    It weren’t so much, I’ve forgetten now, but it weren’t so much.

    Do you see any young people these days – what do you think about young people these days?

    I never see a reet lot of ‘em.

    What about your grandchildren – what are they like?

    Well I never see ‘em – I’ve only one grand-daughter and among all ‘lot and she has three boys and I never see ‘em; I never see her because she’s a carer, you know that’s her job – she’s a carer, she goes round to…you know.

    Do you think times now are better or worse than they used to be?

    Well they’re better in a way, you know but I think people got on better in th’olden days.

    Do you think there was more of a community?


    Did you have good neighbours where you lived then?

    Oh yes.

    Did you do things together?

    …well I don’t know…’cos we never neighboured much you know, no we never neighboured much.

    Did you ever go back to work after your son got older?

    I can’t remember – I cannot remember, no.

    What do you like doing now then?

    Well I don’t do nowt only sit i’ th’house.

    When you come here, what do you like doing here?

    Well I like to listen to ‘em you know…

    Can you remember anything else about Shade School – did you have pals?

    Not really no, but we used to have games you know, and…we used to have skipping, you know, play skippings and that in t’school yard….I can’t tell yer.

    Did you used to go on Whit Walks at Whitsuntide?

    Oh no, I never went any day trips or owt, no I didn’t.

    You didn’t play the games then?


    Did you know anybody with any nicknames – were there any people that had nicknames?

    No I don’t think I do.

    Do you know any jokes?

    I haven’t had such an exciting life have I?

    No it sounds fine to me. It sounds like you worked very hard. [pause] Do you like it around Hebden Bridge and Todmorden?

    Yes it’s alright, yes.

    What do you like about it?

    Well I don’t know – just normal. I know once when I were married, I was…t’headmaster lived up Bacup Road, in a house up Bacup Road and me husband used to clean the windows, and his wife…I put a bit o’ weight on when I got married, and she said to him one day when he were cleaning t’windows, she says ‘has your wife got a baby yet?’ he says ‘well if she has, it isn’t mine!’ [laughing] That were t’schoolmaster’s wife, Mrs Swaine she were called. [getting comfortable and having a drink of tea]


    When you were a hundred Florence last year – the children up at Mytholm made her a lovely book; they made her a scrapbook of the last hundred years as a project, it were lovely. Oh – very nice, very nice.


    I know t’vicar came oh yes? t’vicar came – I don’t know where he were from, but he comes about every fortnight here at Friday you know and gives a bit of a sermon you know, but this day when it were me birthday, t’Mayor and t’Mayoress came and t’vicar came from…I don’t know where it were from, but he brought a lot o’ children and they did a you know – song for me and that you know – oh yes.

    That sounds very nice.

    It was nice, yes it was. And me house, it were full o’ folk – I lived on Sunvale Avenue then, in a bungalow – I’ve lived by myself for years and years, and it were full o’ folk, yes it were but I never got any presents, but they all brought a card – I’ve ninety-odd cards under me bed you know, I’ve one of them beds that has a cupboard underneath, a single bed you know – well me daughter-in-law, she took all these…I’ve never seem ‘em, she took all these birthday cards and put ‘em in a carrier bag and put ‘em under me bed, and I’ve never seem ‘em haven’t you? No I haven’t.

    Oh well – you should try to get them out and have a look at them.

    I should, shouldn’t I? I keep forgetting. Well she’s about sixty-six now, is me daughter-in-law you know, and she married me son – well he’s seventy-four.

    Did you get a telegram?

    No but I got a photograph o’ t’Queen, yes I’ve got a photograph of her – she sent me that.

    That’s very nice. When you were little, did you have any toys?

    No, we couldn’t afford ‘em.

    Did nobody make any then?

    No, when it were Christmas we used to have sixpenny package from Woolworths – you know, sixpenny toys from Woolworths, that’s what we had.

    Can you remember some of the things you got?

    Well I mean, I had a doll for sixpence and I don’t know what me other sisters had, but I had a doll for sixpence, yes I did.

    What did you call the doll – did you give it a name?

    No [laughing]

    Did you make any clothes for it?

    No. It’s such a long time since I’ve forgotten.

    That’s alright. Did you ever know your grandparents?

    Oh yes I can remember me…well yes I can remember me…and I had an uncle that were in t’First World War, well he got killed and he were called Colonel James and when he went to register to go to t’war you know, they said ‘well you’re a Colonel before you’re a Private’ you see, yes and he got killed, yes.

    Can you remember your grandparents at all?

    Oh yeh I can remember ‘em yeh.

    What were they like?

    They were alright, yes.

    What did they do?

    Well they were old you know, they were too old for work.

    I know, what work had they done before?

    I’ve no idea, no I haven’t, I haven’t the foggiest idea.

    Can you remember your first wage when you left school and you started working – can you remember how much you got paid, your first wage?

    No I don’t, but it weren’t so much I know. I didn’t used to get much spends you know out of it.

    Did you give it to your mother?

    Oh yes I gave it to her, yes I did. I think she used to give me about a shilling back you know, for spends.

    What did you buy with your shilling?

    Well I used to go to t’pictures you know – t’matinee at th’ipperdrome down Halifax Road.

    What kind of films did you like best?

    Well it didn’t matter so long as it were a film [laughing] – I weren’t reet fussy.

    You know when you were a doffer, what other jobs were there – not the ones what you did, but what other jobs were there in the mill?

    Well there were rovers, and slubbers.

    What did slubbers do?

    Well they took you know…them what t’rovers had, we made bobbins for t’rovers, you know fill these bobbins and then they took ‘em for t’slubbers.

    So the rovers took the bobbins?


    And gave them to the slubbers?


    And what did the slubbers do with them?

    Oh I don’t know what they did with ‘em [laughing] – I mean it’s a long time is a hundred years to remember in’t it?

    It is, I must admit it is, yes – I just thought you maybe you might remember some of it.

    Were there any weavers in your family?


    Were there any sewing shops…did any of them do any sewing?

    No, they didn’t, no they worked in t’mill like me.

    When you got married, what was special about your husband then, why did you pick him?

    Well he were a window cleaner.

    But that isn’t why you married him – why did you marry him? What was special about him?

    Well he were a nice man – it were a shame for him to go through what he had to go through, you know when he died – he started with this, what is it?…pain and it were here [Florence demonstrated] and it pushed his heart – it were a cancer on his lung and it pushed his heart from his left side to his right, and I’d been sat up all night with him and I said to him…I’d been sat up all night with him and I said ‘will it be alright if I go down and make myself a cup of tea Jack?’ he were called John William but I called him Jack – and he says ‘course it will’ so I went down and made this cup o’ tea and I thought ‘oh I’ll light t’fire while I’m down’ because they were coal fires in them days you know, so I lit t’fire and when I went back he’d died.

    That must have been a shock.

    He were a grand lad, he weren’t deserving of what he got. He went somewhere in Yorkshire to be operated on but they wouldn’t do it.

    Was marriage like you expected then, when you were young and you got married, was it like you thought it would be, or was it different in any kind of way?

    I don’t know what you mean.

    Well, what was it like when you got married?

    Well it were alright – I lived with my husband’s mother and father for two year because we got a house down t’Shade and we went to Blackpool – he had a sister at Blackpool and we used to go there every holiday for a few days you know, and when we come home at night, it were full of cockroaches – all on t’floor – down t’Shade that were, facing t’Shade School, so we’d been after this house on Chapel Street up Walsden if you know where that is – do you know where it is? It’s near that bend isn’t it, near that bend, past the train station Yes, and so anyway this lady that had this house on Chapel Street, she’d just let it to somebody and she told us, she says – so when it were empty again, she come, she says ‘do you still want that house on Chapel Street?’ we says ‘Course we do’, so we went up on Chapel Street if you know where that is, just higher up na t‘Walsden Railway Station, yes, so we went and we lived in there for twenty years.

    Do you consider yourself Yorkshire or Lancashire?

    I don’t know, no I don’t – I’m not bothered, but I know we lived up there for twenty year and then my husband died you know there, yes he did. He were a grand lad were my husband.

    How did you meet him?

    Well down Burnley Road, walking t’what-is-it, you know.

    On the Monkey Run?

    Hmmm, and I’d lots o’ boyfriends but because they couldn’t have their own way wi’ me they used to sack me, if you know what I mean! [laughing] And I were a virgin when I got married. Well, that’s good. So there in’t so many like that is there?
    Well I don’t know, I don’t know – some are and some aren’t I think. But I know I were.

    Did they used to have Galas, Horticultural Shows, Festivals like that anywhere in Tod?


    Can you remember any characters – any people who were a bit unusual?


    Wasn’t there anybody like that at all?


    Did you ever go into pubs?

    Oh no, we never went into pubs, no – no, we never drank.

    Can you remember any other events that happened, like the Coronation – can you remember that?


    Is there anything that you’d like to tell me about that I haven’t asked about, anything that you can remember about that you can tell me about that I haven’t asked?

    About what?

    Anything, when you were younger.

    Well I used to go to th’ippodrome for t’matinee, you know – Tod Hippodrome if you know where that is, well it used to only be about three ha’pence and we used to sit right at t’back downstairs right at t’back you know, for three ha’pence ‘cos I didn’t get much spends.

    What do you think about what we’ve just been talking about then – what do you think about this?

    Well it’s the truth.

    I know it’s the truth. Do you think younger people will find it interesting – do you think it’s important that you share your experiences with other people?

    Well it were alright, yes it were alright…but I mean it’s such a long time sin’ I’ve forgotten about it you see.

    But you remembered a fair bit, you remembered a fair bit.

    I think I’ll probably stop now – are you alright to stop now?


    Okay…just the one last thing, I was going to ask about the house in Charlestown – can you remember what it was like – how many rooms it had?

    Oh no I can’t remember that, no, but I know there were this pub at th’end of t’street and it brings back memories now every time I go to Hebden Bridge, every day when I go down I pass this where these two rows of houses were and they’ve been pulled down, they’re all bushes now that’s growing now and trees you know – not trees but bushes you know, where these two rows of houses were.

    Did it have a number, your house?

    No I don’t know whether we did or not, I know there were some steps up t’side, you know to get to it and I know one day me mam says ‘go and look for your Aunty Gertie – go and sit on t’steps and look for your Aunty Gertie getting off t’bus’ – course I were a bit nosey; I came down these steps and I started waking, and I walked up to…I don’t know where it were now – somewhere up towards Tod and there’s a lot of arches you know, do you know where it is? Yeh, near Lumb Bank – no, Dobb Stables, that’s what’s there now – the horse riding’s there isn’t it? Well I walked there and a man came and he came to me and he says ‘who are you looking for love?’ I says ‘well I’m looking for my Aunty Gertie’ so he says ‘come on into our house’ so he took me in and he gave me me dinner, and I heard him say to his wife ‘this is Holden’s little lass, she just fathoms him’ – that were me dad, he were called Arthur Holden were me dad.

    So he knew your father?

    Yes he did, because he worked on t’railway an’ all you see, well in nineteen hundred and…were it nineteen hundred and eight or summat, eighteen…if my dad hadn’t have looked line there came a train off t’line – if he hadn’t have looked line he’d have got t’blame for it, and me mum said he used to have nightmares and dreams and all sorts, and I don’t think his mind were on his work when he got killed ‘cos it weren’t many weeks after…and he left her with three of us you know, and this baby in t’cradle, she were called Marie were that little girl and I had a sister called Gertrude and a sister called Dilly and I were called Florence Alice.

    Well I think I’ll stop now.

    Oh will yer?

    Unless – it’s five past three now nearly, unless you wanna carry on – we can carry on if you like.

    No, I might be going a-playing bingo.


    Florence – you could tell Tony your Christmas rhyme before we finish, that’s a nice one.

    Christmas rhyme?

    OTHER PERSON: The one that you tell us at Christmas time; Dear Old Santa Claus.

    Dear Old Santa Claus, turn your head this way
    Don’t you tell a single soul what I’m going to say.
    Christmas Eve is coming soon, are you dear old man?
    Whisper what you’re going to bring me, tell me if you can.
    When the clock is striking twelve and I am fast asleep
    Down the chimney broad and black with your sack you’ll creep.
    All the stockings you will find hanging in a row
    Mine will be the smallest one, you’ll be sure to know.
    Johnnie wants a rocking horse, Tom wants a bouncing ball,
    Nellie wants a story book, there’s something for them all.
    But as for me, what I’d like best I really do not know,
    I think the wisest plan would be to leave the choice to you.

    Is that what you meant?

    That’s good.

    I’ve done well to remember that all that time haven’t I?

    I’ve not heard that before.

    I’ll take this off now and just leave it there and we’ll fill these other two forms out if you don’t mind. One’s the release form. Is there anything that you talked about that you don’t want me to use, is there anything at all?

    [pause] No.

    I need to get you to sign this again.

    [Florence signed the sheets]

    Did I give you the right information about this – everything I explained earlier on, did you understand what I said?


    There weren’t any problems?


    Now these are just some of the things – basically just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ really:

    Do you think it’ important that what we’ve done today is keeping a record for the future?

    I don’t know.

    Do you think it’s important that people talked about what’s important to them, like what you’ve talked about – is that important to you?

    Well I mean I don’t talk about owt like that.

    Did you feel like it was important today?

    Oh yes, oh that were alright, yes.

    Did you enjoy being involved in doing this?


    Do you think that sharing it, like taking it to the school children, sharing the knowledge, do you think that’s important too?

    Well I don’t know – I never see any of ‘em you see.

    But if I take this and take it into schools and they get to listen to how your life was, do you think that’s a good thing?

    It might interest ‘em, I don’t know.

    Did you enjoy doing something different?


    Did it make you feel valued in any kind of way?

    Make me what?

    Like what you did was important?

    Not really no.

    Is there anything else you’d like to say about what we’ve done today?


    Thanks very much for taking part – I found it very interesting.

    I’ve missed my bingo lesson.

    OTHER PERSON: You know when Tony were asking you what you liked doing now – you love bingo; you won’t have missed it all Florence, I think they’ll have played your board for you.

    FLORENCE: I’m not bothered now. It’s five past four – they’ll have finished it nearly now.

    OTHER PERSON: It’s not five past four.

    It’s ten past three now.

    OTHER PERSON: It won’t have finished – you see, you weren’t going to tell him your Christmas rhyme were you?

    FLORENCE: What Christmas rhyme?

    OTHER PERSON: Your Christmas rhyme – Dear Old Santa Claus…

    Well I’ll let you get back to your bingo now, but thanks very much Florence for talking to me.

    It’s alright.

    [Florence leaves]

    OTHER PERSON: It’s bingo time!


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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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