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Alverthorpe and Low Laithes Part 7

Appendix A.

Reminiscences

The houses on Milners Court were on the small side, one room downstairs with a coal place under the stairs which gave entrance to a small cellar built on at the back of the house.

From the front outside wall there was a shallow sink with one cold tap. Next was a set pot boiler with fire grate which fed into the main fire chimney.

Set into the chimney breast was a cast-iron kitchen range which comprised the usual oven with small space above which was used to keep plates warm and gave access through flues to clean the soot from around the oven. Then there was the usual fire grate about 18 inches above the floor, adjoining this was the cast-iron hob, usually this space is taken up with a water cistern with a tap at the bottom.

The alcove between the chimney breast and the back wall was occupied by cupboards from floor to ceiling. The stairs steps where stone and the upstairs rooms were divided by a wooden partition into a small landing bedroom and the main bedroom was just a bit bigger. These houses had electric light and there were four toilets to be shared by the eight houses, two houses to a toilet and a communal ash midden which was emptied regularly by the council.

Because my father had been a miner before joining the army in 1939 he was allowed tree coal from the pit. This came about four times a year and was tipped outside our house by the colliery lorry. My mother and I had to get this in and carry it through the kitchen to the coal cellar under the stairs. It was sorted into four different lots, large lumps, ordinary coal, slack or slate and dust. The large lumps were used to build a wall at the front of the coal place to hold back the rest of the coal which was stacked behind it. The slack was dumped into the ash midden and the dust saved for banking up the fire at night, etc.

On the opposite side of the road to the entrance to Milners Court was Willow Lane. At the time I lived here 1938/46 there was on the right hand corner a bit of waste ground enclosed by a wall, then four old cottages at right angles to the road, the first one was a fish & chip shop, on the right of the fish & chip shop was a house in which a Mr. Talbot lived, a partner in the Talbots Sweet factory, then came the railway embankment.

Across the road from Mr. Talbots house was a three storeyed building built of hand made bricks, at the time it was known as the battery station, this was because the ground floor was used for the re-charging of accumulators that powered the radios of that time, no such luxury as plugging into the mains then. We children had the job of taking the discharged accumulators to be recharged, if our families possessed a radio.

The accumulators were made of glass 3 by 4ins width and about 6ins high with lead plates inside, covered by acid. The tops were sealed and had the terminals for connecting to the wireless plus plug holes to top up the acid.

I remember in 1940 what few men were left in the street got together to build a communal Anderson shelter. First digging a trench two to three feet deep to fit the frame, then putting in the sides and bolting the tops together, we children had the job of filling sand bags or bags of soil to go around the shelter.

Later that day we children were down by the W.M. Club bowling green getting conkers from the chestnut trees around the green when the sirens went. This was followed almost immediately by a great big bang, (German aircraft had dropped a bomb on Thornes road), we set off home as fast as our legs could carry us only to find everyonein the shelter.

During the war every time the sirens went one of the large vans belonging Talbots would set off driven by a Mr. Jessop to somewhere in Wakefield to stand by to be used as an emergency ambulance.

We lived about 200 yds away from the railway but if I was laid in bed and a train went by it used to shake the wardrobe and make it rattle. I remember when I was little and went to Alverthorpe Infants school I hated having to go through the bridge on my way home when it was windy. It was really very windy under the bridge and I had to fight my way through. In winter when it was frosty some large icicles used to form under the bridge and we had a great time throwing stones at them until they crashed onto the road.

During the war the people who owned cars were unable to use them because of the rationing of petrol, consequently they were parked up for the duration. There were three in our immediate area which I remember. One parked in the lane at the back of the club. One in an open shed belonging the detached house at the bottom of Milners Court and one behind Talbots garage. We used to get into these and play in them, we had a rare old time and none of them seemed to be locked up.

Eric Gibson was the son of Fred Gibson the sugar boiler at Talbots who lived on Lincoln Street. We used to play together in and around the factory and got into trouble on many occasions. Ernest Crawshaw was the man who made the gums, but during the war these were not required so he fired the boilers. I spent many hours talking to him and watching how he attended to the fires. He also lived on Acute Terrace and I remembered him from when I lived there.

We used to collect empty cigarette packets to see who could get the most way out ones. Our parents wouldn't have been pleased if they could have seen us going through all the rubbish bins in the hope of coming across an odd empty cigarette packet. I remember one brand called Passing Cloud and it was fantastic if you found an American one, Camels, Lucky Strike, etc.

Another craze was to collect shrapnel, pieces of exploded shell cases or bombs, we found some which we thought were shrapnel but were never able to prove that the pieces were actually what we said they were.

During the war the Auxiliary fire service used go down Bective Lane to practise. They lowered the suction pipes from their pumps into the beck and pumped water out into their tanks. Sometimes they gave us a display by hosing water high in the air.

As a young lad of 11 or 12 I used to play football for Flanshaw Wasps. The other teams we played against were Lupset estate and Alverthorpe, they were just friendly matches as most of us attended Snapethorpe school and knew one another. The fields we played on were 1604, 1605, near to the church and 1852/53 between Batley road and Bective Lane. (see fig. 6.) When we played at Lupset we played in the field where there was a recreation ground (swings, see saws etc.) just off the junction of St. Oswalds road and Hall road.

Up to the twenties Alverthorpe station was quite busy, As there was no other way to travel the railways had the monopoly, but during the twenties motor buses were introduced. At first they only ran from Wakefield to Alverthorpe school, anyone wanting to go to Kirkhamgate had to walk from Alverthorpe. My mother used to work at Silcoates school and when she went home to Castleford she had to walk to Kirkgate station.

We used to catch the train from Alverthorpe station to Wakefield Westgate it was only about a penny. It was very exciting if we managed to be at Westgate when a hospital train came in from London bringing wounded men bound for Pinderfields Hospital. To unload the stretcher cases the train had to be drawn up the line and backed into platform I so that the ambulances could get close to the platform. The walking wounded were all dressed in light blue uniforms with white shirts and red ties.

The local passenger trains during the 2nd world war consisted of a great variety of coaching stock left over from when the railways were amalgamated in 1923. We used to love to explore them while we were waiting in the local branch train delayed while waiting for the express from London.

Some of the coaches had about four third class and four first class compartments separated by a toilet. The toilet being for the first class passengers who had access by corridor from the individual compartments. There was no corridor for the third class.

The passenger trains running on the line through Alverthorpe consisted mainly of stopping trains from Wakefield to Bradford Exchange and there were some trains which ran from Leeds Central to Leeds Central via Holbeck, Beeston, Ardsley, Lofthouse, Alverthorpe via Wrenthorpe fork, Flushdyke, Ossett, Earlsheaton, Dewsbury Central, Batley Carr, Batley, Woodkirk, Tingley and down to Beeston and back into Leeds.

Some trains went from Wakefield Westgate to Leeds Central via Dewsbury, Batley, Woodkirk, Tingley and Beeston junction. I remember riding on this train as late as 1948. Both the Leeds to Leeds trains and Wakefield to Leeds trains ran in the other directions as well. There was the occasional express between London and Bradford stopping at the principal stations like Batley, Dewsbury and Ossett.

The buses today tend to be diverted onto numerous housing estates whereas twenty years ago they ran direct from one place to another on the main roads. If you lived away from the main road you had to walk to the nearest bus stop which could be fifteen to twenty minutes away.

The buses that ran during the war and after were a bit dilapidated having been due for renewal when the war started. Some of them had wooden seats like park benches and there was no heating in them. Quite often in winter there were icicles hanging from the roof inside upstairs.

Everyone wore overcoats hats and scarves in those days in winter, there would be no one getting on the buses then as there is today with just a thin shirt and trousers on. The waterproof clothing industry was thriving in those days umbrellas, raincoats and wellies, etc. We always made sure we were appropriately dressed in bad weather.

The following poem was written by Mrs. Marion Jackson mother of Lorna Jackson and Stanley Jackson sometime of Brick Street.

Dear Alverthorpe so worn and old,
The lovely church upon the hill,
Where all is peace within the fold,
And down below the farm of Lill.'

Walk with me down to the road,
Gone are the houses that were there,
And the horse with many a heavy load.

The old Cock Inn could tell a tale,
Of men who sat and drank their ale,
Of those who worked from morn till night,
Providing shelter food and light.

September comes the Village Fayre,
Swings and side-shows everywhere.
All would join with lots of fun,
Until the end of the day was done,

The School and Chapel still stand by,
And there across the way,
A weaving mill where Shuttles fly,
And the Albion Pub so gay.

The village station is no more,
So handy for the folks nearby,
But Beeching' thought it was a bore
And so it had to die.

Dear Alverthorpe so worn and old,
And yet in some parts new,
Memories will live like burnished gold,
To us who think of you.

Joe Lill was the farmer who had the farm at the bottom of Church Hill and he used to deliver our milk. He rode around the village on his sit up and beg bike with a milk can on each handle bar with pint and half pint measures inside the cans. From these he poured the milk into the various jugs or basins which were offered to him at the customers door.

I remember some of the walks we used to take along Willow Lane right to the top where the boundary is between 2241 and 2238 (See Fig.6) the lane now dwindled into a footpath and turned left between 2233 and 2236 then right. This line marks the crest of the hill right up to where the lane comes across from Dewsbury road to Low Laithes. Where 2228 is was the colliery railway from Roundwood which connected with the line from Wakefield to Ossett. At this point the colliery line was in a cutting spanned by a narrow bridge made of railway sleepers.

Once we were playing at the bottom of 2242 by the ditch or small stream which ran along the bottom. The ground was boggy and I inadvertently put my foot into a hole made by a horse or cow. My leg sank right down into the hole up to my short trouser bottoms, when I managed to extract my leg it was covered with horrible black slime. It took me ages to clean my boot, sock and leg in what water there was in the ditch.

The beck along Bective Lane had lots of lovely stickleback fish in it, but the same beck higher up by Low Laithes only had whiskeys and bulleys in it. The whiskey is about half an inch wide and about four to five inches long and has three spikes jutting out between its eyes and mouth. The bulley has a wide head and is about three inches long its body tapering towards the tail. I never saw any trout all the time I lived in Alverthorpe.

One day I was walking up the path between the bridge over the beck and the railway crossing, on one side was the golf course fence made of barbed wire and I decided to get through the fence and look for golf balls. I pulled two of the wires apart so that I could squeeze through and in doing so I scratched my leg near to the knee on the wire, my goodness it made a mess of my leg I still have the scars to this day. On looking at fig. 1 this footpath was in existence in 1851 and joined up with the one that ran from Willow Lane along the crest of the hill towards Flushdyke.

In field 2056 the beck has two meanders, the one bordering on 2239 is what we used to call the island. One day the committee of the golf club decided to make a cut across the meander and make a dam of three railway sleepers to stop the water going round the island. At first this worked alright and the water round the island started to dry up, sometime later we found the dam made of three sleepers fastened by cross pieces being used as a raft on the beck and the water flowing round the island again. Whether this was caused by vandalism or a flood I do not know but we certainly enjoyed playing on the raft.


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